While I cannot say that educational technology was demystified for me, in fact I believe it was more ‘mystified’, I did come away with some practical information on how technology can be used in a student-centered way. I have phrased this as if it is coming from the speaker so all information should be attributed to Andrew G McKinney (Except for a couple of words that I may have made up).
Student Centered Considerations
- Make sure course content is mobile friendly
When you give reading assignments for on-line material you have to consider how the student will access these documents. Sure, they could print at CUNY but anyone who has experienced this knows it can be a bit of a frustrating process and the students have a maximum of free pages they can print on campus.
Some students may not have a computer or laptop of their own. If they do have a computer at home it may be a shared computer. Even if they have a computer, many students choose to do their course reading during their commute. Because of this many CUNY students are using cell phones, tablets, and e-readers to access their course materials. Have you ever used Blackboard on your cell phone? It is far from a pleasant experience and some material may not be accessible.
One way to fix this is to have a static webpage with all of your course material on it so the students can easily access this. WordPress was recommended and you can make your website private so only the class can access the page. If you make a website for your class, or if you link to other webpages, make sure the websites adapt for mobile. Mobile friendly-ness can be easily checked by minimizing the window. If the webpage readjusts to the size of the window you are all set. If it doesn’t re-adjust then it is not mobile friendly and your students may have trouble viewing it.
- Blackboard is unlikely to aid students in professional development
After college, most students will never use blackboard again. If students learn to use website like WordPress or Wikipedia they have skills for the future. This may make it an easier to sell to some students. Gaining an in-depth knowledge of blackboard functionality is likely to help a select few (if any) in the future.
- Don’t overshoot
Technology can be overwhelming and requiring too much too fast will cause some students to baulk. Because of this make sure the technology is user-friendly (see #4) and broken down into steps so that it does not seem un-learnable. Also, it is courteous to offer a non-technological alternative assignment for those that are technology averse.
4. Make sure the technology chosen is student-user-friendly
The speaker gave us a list of websites/digital-tools that could be used to do projects with a class.
Bit.ly/322list . (technology fact learned = Bit.ly is a link shortener)
The 2nd link is to a ‘Digital Tool Evaluation Questionnaire’ which contains questions that will help you assess whether to digital tool you want to use is suitable for your classroom.
There is much more information about all of this on the tlc.commons website.
Picking up on the professional development thread – do you think it would be helpful to have students use a WordPress site in your courses instead of Blackboard? Do you think it would be confusing if you wanted them to post on a WordPress site as well as having to access Blackboard? How has it been in this class – having to use both Bb and this WordPress site?
I think two websites can work as long as they have separate roles. If I used a WordPress site that included course readings, important documents, and links, I would not include this material on the Blackboard site. Blackboard could then be used for grades, discussion boards, and other blackboard specific items. Information about the WordPress site would be on Blackboard. In this class I think it has been fine to have both because they have clearly delineated roles.
The WordPress site made me take more care in how I presented my posts to others. I generally am less concerned about posts that go on Blackboard. This in itself elevated the assignments for me and I was able to seem them in a professional context.
I love the point about Blackboard’s limited usefulness in terms of professional development. Plus I’ve always felt that the interface and functionality leave much to be desired. I think it would be great to integrate other tools that would be more transferable to skills students will use in the future, such as WordPress. I also really liked the links you referenced. There are some good ideas for assignments and projects in there that I’ll consider for my class. Definitely something to bookmark!