#ocTEL 1st activity

  • Can you identify the most important question about TEL that matters to you?

I am still wondering if there is a chance that TEL can be disabling for some people, who are not confident in using online or offline technologies, can find it intimidating and alienating. I would like all my students to be enthusiastic about experimenting with various technologies, but in practice, only few of them appear to be so. Perhaps it is due to the way I previously introduced technology to them, that I failed to make it relevant and exciting. To take a step back, a couple of situations where I ‘failed’ and a brief intro into what I do.

I teach first year PhD students from various Social Science schools and departments at the  University of Bradford. One of the first modules they take is – Foundations of research practice. The core objectives of the module are to encourage students to reflect on their own research identity, learn about good academic practice and various tools that would help them become more effective researhers. A coup’e of years ago I encorprorated PebblePad as a platform for developing module assignment: writing reflective journal, producing personal development plan and linking it with evidence, etc. This was a disaster as only a small minority of students embraced the tool, while majority complained and grambled about the necessity to learn the new technology. We ended up running numerous support sessions, to help them get started and progress in PebblePad. The feedback we received on the module was overwhelmingly negative about the use of this technology for assignment, that we had to drop it and revert to a reflexive essey instead of a portfolio. I am still considering how to reintroduce portfolio and what platform may be more effective.

Another example, is module on Data collection. It is based on the research practicum through which students in small groups formulate research question, decide on methodological strategy, collect data and do preliminary analysis of findings. The practicum is very intense and small group work is a major challenge. It is essential for groups to find a good way of communicating remotely, yet every year we get excuses that the result of the group work is not of a good standard because it was difficult to get together in person. Despite our attempt to encourage students to set up discussion forum, share documents on google or dropbox, they still seem to prefer working with each other face to face. Yet this way of working is preventing them from actually succeding, and more importantly results with intra group conflicts (strong personalities fighting for dominance, etc). I personally feel that working remotely, and concentrating on the task rather than on building relationships, is essential in the case of a small scale short project. Using technology would allow students to create a log of their activities, record what has been agreed, think about what they say to each other. Yet, they continuously choose against this option. I am at a loss here and cannot think of a better way to discourage them from relying solely on the face to face communication.

We also have a group of distance learners, that we try to engage with using blackboard collaborate. The attendance at seminars run through this media is very low, yet students report feeling isolated and disengaged from the course. I would be interested to find out about other people’s experience. participating in the online course myself gives me a valuable opportunityto experience it from the students’ perspective. I would ideally want to do something similiar for our students in the future. I’ve already realised that just by having this buzzing online space, wher something is constantly happening, gives a feelilng of engagement and excitement. This is something we have not done previously, and to be honest, I would not know how to set this up.

To wrap up, what is it I want to get from the course:

1) To be able to decide what technology may be useful and for what purpose, and make effective decisions about introducing it into my courses.

2) To expand my own user knowledge and about various technology options, and have a go at using them first hand.

3) I also hope that learning about technological affordances, will give me new ideas about what I teach (or help students learn).







4 thoughts on “#ocTEL 1st activity

  1. Hi, I’m Kathy, one of the support tutors on ocTEL. I see what you want to do with your students and why, I also see the problems that the students may be experiencing. For them, they are grappling with learning new content and content-related skills, and in addition to that, they see you as “requiring” them to learn “technology skills” in order to progress with their program. I hope you can see where their resentment might come in?

    One suggestion is identifying the technologies that a majority of your students already use and encourage them to work with those if you can. If you really want them to use specific technologies for your course e.g. peddlepad, dropbox etc, then you may want to ensure that they get experience with the technology before embarking on their content area work. Maybe have technology support workshops before or concurrently as they start on their course of study?

    I used to work in a technology studio at one university and my job was to collaborate with faculty and provide technology skills training for students who were required to produce multimedia assignments for their classes.

    One way, I guess to address the challenge that you are facing …..good luck!


    • Thank you for feedback, Kathy. Lots to think about. The challenge, I think is to not disadvantage students who are new to technologies full stop. E.g. last year I had some students who previously won awards for their social media activities, and others who only ever used word and internet (a UK based business consultant and a school teacher from Malawi end up in the same group on my course). I would like to encourage the second category of students to learn various software tools and social media, but when we are talking about assignment or even accessing information they need for it, they will need to spend disproportionately more time getting to grips with technology, inevitably spending less time on the content. I want both of them to do their best. So, just thinking on my feet here, making technology optional, rather than compulsory, may be best.

  2. Yes there is a definite chance that TEL is disabling for some students. Some people are “not good with technology” just like some people are “not good with maths” – in fact its not that they are “not good with” its just that they have had a poor experience previously which has dented their confidence and left them reluctant to try in case they fail again. (think Fixed and Growth mindsets)

    I would suggest that you try something very simple in class where everyone can take part – you mention google docs? Try emailing them all a link to a blank doc and asking them to add a single sentence – “What I am looking forward to on this course” or similar, ask them all to write it before class. Then in class ask them to answer another question on the doc (and have the doc displayed on the projector) enough students should have laptop that the class will see the documents being multiply edited AND they will already have seen how easy it is to edit because they have already added a sentence themselves.
    At this point when you tell them its useful to collaborate using google docs for their project they should have some understanding of why…..

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