Reflecting on Week 3: Choosing Your Tools
I was really looking forward to the week’s activity – choosing your technology tools and building a more comprehensive and well-thought out “toolbox” to use in different teaching situations. I have to say I was disappointed in the experience; probably the disappointment was mostly due to my inability to participate as much as I would have liked as I was traveling north (nearly 3,000 km in less than a week) with a 9 week old puppy and dealing with varied early winter weather conditions in the mountain passes we had to travel in northern B.C./southern Yukon.
While the mini-session facilitators seem to address the learning outcomes that dealt with how to facilitate and work with the community, I didn’t feel that enough information was provided at the start about WHY we were exploring the tools (despite the scenario). As one of the participants pointed out, as B.C. educators, social media or Web2.0 tools couldn’t be used within educational institutions because the data would reside on a non-Canadian server. This opens up all kinds of additional questions for educators in how to explore the functionality of these tools while recognizing the concerns of conducting student learning in a potentially vulnerable learning environment.
Perhaps some of this was dealt with in the final group session on Sunday night but I missed it – too bad.
I do think that we need to deal with these concerns about using non-Canadian web services or apps or whatever. I’m not sure what the answer is cuz I vacillate between feeling as though engaging students in authentic learning experiences means I should be teaching some of what we’re pursuing using Internet, mobile devices, etc. On the other hand, the Internet is an increasingly controlled and negative environment. Should I be taking students into this world before they have learned about the hazards of participating in “free” environments, using “free” tools, and sharing without boundaries?
“Free” has never really been free, despite all the marketing hype. To some extent, students have been safe in formal education because there are laws about their privacy and how their information can be shared or viewed. The power of the massive open online courses (MOOCs) is starting to break down this privileged and protected learning place because the big educational institutions are modifying their practice in terms of your rights in their online learning environments. In an online writing course I am presently engaged in at University of B.C., I am forced to sign away my right to privacy to participate in the course. What amazed me is that there was no chance for me to reflect on the implications of signing away my rights; what happened to “informed consent”?
So, back to the point of the week – exploring tools. I may have missed where there was an explanation of why the facilitators chose GoogleDocs, WordPress and Blackboard Collaborate. I enjoyed the structure of the exploration:
- review help documents and play,
- document technical features and potential pedagogical impacts,
- apply what you learn by creating a learning activity using the tool, and
- prepare a presentation to share your activity, design considerations and findings.
Very straightforward, effective approach to a broad topic and it resulted in a lot of learning and the ability to express some creativity. Nicely done in terms of demonstrating a sound approach to learning and exploring a new tool. Good facilitation in terms of keeping the community connected and on track too. Kudos!