- 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).