In this section I will present examples of learning technologies I have been using most frequently, followed by a reflection on their application in everyday teaching and learning practice.
Examples of learning technologies I am familiar with
Blackboard (click the image to enlarge – opens in a new window)
I support the use of Blackboard on a daily basis, from ad hoc course creation and user management to more advanced pedagogical applications: group work, assessments, feedback etc.
I have also created Blackboard courses, including a Blackboard staff development course in learning technologies: a version of it is discussed in 1a. This course utilises the Learning Module functionality, which is useful as it facilitates a linear access to the resources and activities, which was deemed beneficial for skills-building in this specific case. The course is a combination of text, videos, links to external resources and activities.
Turnitin (click the image to enlarge – opens in a new window)
This is a screenshot of a resource I created for staff training in the use of Turnitin: I support the use of Turnitin at the university and train staff in aspects such as creating of assignments, marking with Quickmarks and bubble comments, feedback with rubrics, audio comments and grading forms, interpreting originality reports and similarity scores, using Turnitin to support academic writing, marking and syncing assignments with the iPad app etc.
WordPress and basic html (click the image to access the resource)
I am familiar with WordPress-based blog/website platforms, including edublogs and CampusPress. To create the above website I trained myself in html – it was a very useful experience! The resource is an online, open-access version of a previous internal resource.
I manage my own self-hosted WordPress blog at agatasadza.com where I (try to) blog about learning technologies and pedagogy.
Moodle (click the image to enlarge – opens in a new window)
This is an example of another VLE I’m familiar with (Moodle). I have designed and developed courses in Moodle using a variety of media: text, images, interactive images (Thinglink), videos, SCORM resources, quizzes, and others.
Xerte (click the images to access the resources)
Examples of a Xerte learning objects I created
I use Xerte to create learning objects. Xerte is an excellent tool for adding interactivity to online content and is relatively simple to use. An added benefit compared to other similar tools is accessibility.
Articulate Storyline (click the image to access the resource)
I am currently learning to use Articulate Storyline to create more advanced learning objects.
Poll Everywhere (click the image to access the resource)
I train staff in Poll Everywhere and also use it extensively in sessions I run. I find it an excellent tool to facilitate interaction in class.
Screencasting and video editing
Click here for an example of a Panopto video.
Click here for an example of a YouTube video.
I also discuss screencasting in Specialist Option.
Padlet (click the image to access the resource)
Padlet is a very visually attractive app stimulating interaction. I created this particular padlet for a training session for staff on Open Educational Resources I facilitated.
Slideshare / Google slides
An example is posted on this page.
E-portfolio: Pathbrite (click the image to access the resource)
E-portfolios are another very useful pedagogic tool, however they need to be implemented carefully so that their purpose is clear to the learner. Ideally they should be transferable and the learner should be able to keep their own portfolio after completing their formal study. Pathbrite is one of many tools that provide this option. I support staff who use Pathbrite by setting up their accounts and providing help when needed.
In my role of Academic Developer in TEL, I use and support the use of a range of learning technologies. There is a plethora of electronic tools available to support learning and teaching, which provide robust possibilities of content creation and delivery, assessment, feedback, and any other aspect of the learning process.
At the same time, however, I strongly believe that any technological intervention should have a clear objective and direct, immediate significance, and both need to be clearly visible to the participants. If there is no immediate relevance, there will be no motivation to undertake the activity, and, at the risk of sounding trite, we’re running the risk of letting the technological tail wag the pedagogical dog.
This brings to mind the notion of critical digital literacy, which I was first introduced to at Spotlight on Digital Capabilities 2016 conference. Critical digital literacy was defined, in brief, as the knowledge and ability in the use of technologies in everyday life, including understanding of how to use them, when to use them and when not to use them (Jane Secker).
critical digital literacy: knowing when to use technology and when not to use it – what an excellent idea! #udigcap @jsecker
— Agata Sadza (@AgataMSadza) 26 May 2016
In other words, we should always think what it is about a specific technology that makes it at least useful, if not indispensable, for the purpose at hand.
A good example of the above is a discussion forum, which all VLEs now include as a standard tool. It is relatively easy to set up and work with. However, my own experience and feedback from colleagues clearly indicate that it proves particularly difficult to engage students with this type of activity. Especially in face-to-face scenarios (and some blended learning ones with a considerable face-to-face component), discussion forums just don’t seem to work, mainly because it isn’t very clear to students why they should communicate in this way if they can do it much more efficiently in the classroom. This is where activity design and learning objectives come into play: I strongly believe there needs to be a clear purpose to an activity for it to be successful, and the choice of technological tool to best accomplish it should come later. It is possible to design very successful activities of this kind, as this article demonstrates, and I have also explored the challenges related to the implementation of a successful activity based on a discussion forum, which I discuss in this presentation and in 2b. Primarily, the key to the success of this activity was finding out what advantages communicating through a discussion forum had for the participants (in this case it was emulating professional practice in the industry and an off-campus character of the module).
In my everyday practice, in conversations with academics on using learning technologies in their teaching I always stress that it is crucial to consider the learning objectives first and only then think about the technological means to help students achieve them, so that the strengths of the technological medium are fully taken advantage of. It can be quite safely assumed that technologies available can do almost anything we can think of – however the main question is the pedagogical purpose behind using them.