As a lecturer and paper leader in Digital Media within AUT’s School of Communications that specialises in educational technology, I have been involved in many learning and teaching technologies in my teaching practice over the years. In this role I have not only implemented learning and teaching technologies in a range of subjects, but taught specifically on educational app design and supervised Masters students conducting research in the field of technology and learning. Through these various experiences I have had the pleasure of using various technologies, gained insight into the affordances and constraints, and been involved with implementing various ICT in learning.
Constraints and benefits of different technologies
An example that demonstrates my consideration and reflection in hindsight of the benefits and constraints of learning technology would be the creation of a simulation learning environment for the purpose of learning 3D animation skills I completed in 2012. The premise of the idea was rooted in the benefits I perceived technology having. On the outset of the project I immediately recognised how technology can be used to simulate a real world task to provide authentic learning. Additionally how simulation systems can afforded personalized feedback on errors and put the learner in charge of their own progress. From a purely pedagogical stance, the simulation environment demonstrated how efficient computer mediated learning can be. However, upon completing the research, which was received very well, I came to realise I had not thoroughly considered the constraints of such technology. Specifically I had not considered the scalability and sustainability of such a system. Because of the requirement to code all the error checking for the simulation environment, there was no easy way to scale the project. Additionally, as the simulation environment was aimed at providing learning for a rapidly developing industry, lessons would need to be re-written yearly and completely overhauled every second year. Given the amount of work that goes into a simulation learning environment this would not be a cost effective solution which lead to the project being abandoned. I am now undertaking a PhD that is exploring visual literacy education. Given the earlier failure, I have a keen interest on how learning content can be generated quickly and easily.
Technical knowledge and ability in the use of learning technology
The following is a list of educational technology I have been involved with and links to examples:
- Self-directed computer graphics simulation environment I created. This is a video of its operation and this is the thesis it was created for.
- Smartphone App design. This is a link to an app created by a masters student I supervised aimed at teaching literacy skills to adults on a work place course.
- Screencasting as a means of creating a flipped classroom, lecture notes, and providing feedback. This is a link to one of the online screencasts I created as part of a flipped classroom.
- Interface design using makey makey kits. This is a video where students created the worst game controllers they could imagine while learning about usability heuristics.
- WordPress websites as a means of students documenting and sharing their work as they progress, and as a means to submit assessments. Here is a link to one students blog from one of my web design classes.
- Google+ communities as an online environment for papers. This is a link to one such paper titled “Visual Communication” of which I am the paper leader.
- Facebook groups. This is a link to a photo from a current course in web design.
- Augmented reality environments. While I have no current peer reviewed or live outputs in this field, I am presently undertaking a PhD in this topic. Here is a link to a picture of me wearing a heads up display I am currently developing for to create an augmented reality tool for learning visual literacy skills.
- Using social media managers to drive learner engagement. This is a 2 minute discussion on the topic. Here is a link to a poster created as part of AUT’s LTDF funding that briefly discusses this also.
Off all the technology I have used in the classroom, I keep coming back to the key of success being sound pedagogical (or heutagogical) underpinnings. Given my current lecturing field of digital media it is very easy to get caught up in the tools and software, of which I have many. Every once in a while when a particularly expensive piece of kit comes in I will have to remind myself that there needs to be some benefit in terms of efficiency or effectiveness in learning before implementing it. In my early days I too often got caught up with new tools and software that produced no real benefit to the learners. Now I preform simple checks, such as refering to the SAMR framework below to ensure I am not playing another “fool with a shinny new tool”.
Supporting the deployment of learning technologies
I have supported the deployment of learning technologies in several different capacities. The roles that have had the most impact would be as a team leader of a LTDF (learning and teaching development fund) grant and as a educator of educational technology.
I gave a ten minute report at the end of 2014 to our center for learning and teaching that discussed some of the technology my team and I had deployed and supported :
The LTDF sees teams make competitive bids within the university to receive funding for research projects aimed at implementing learning technologies within the university. We have successfully acquired funding three years straight now in this competitive process. As the team leader, it is my role to support a team of lecturers in deploying some technology within their teaching practice. One year, for example, this involved supporting and resourcing the use of social media, mobile devices, and mobile airplay screens. The biggest challenge in this supporting role was not training staff as one might expect, but battling IT infrastructure within the school so both teachers and students could share their mobile device screens in order to create a learner centered classroom. The struggles of this were presented as a paper, and as Q&A panel at ASCILITE at the end of 2013. I honestly do not think these battles will end soon, as university ICT policies around securing and locking down networks and devices directly conflict the open and student centered approach to ICT technological constructivist learning asks for. For future bids to the LTDF, I think one of the things I will push for is some means of setting up a secondary network within the school to avoid such problems.
As an educator in educational technology I ran a post graduate optional paper for two years that explored educational app development. This practical paper used jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap to build educational apps that could be ported to all major smartphone brands. Students worked in teams to design and build a fully functional educational apps. As the lecture, it was my role to guide students into using appropriate technology to achieve their proposed learning outcomes. An example of some of the background work for one such app can be found here; this specific app acting as a Maori phrase book to help support novice learners of the language. As a masters supervisor I have also played a similar role with two thesis. The last, having just recently being completed, created an app for adults with low literacy to practice their skills. With these app creation projects in future, I am wanting to change the platform I have been using so far. At present I have been pushing for jQuerry mobile, however its UI elements are starting to look a little dated, and with newer frameworks out it is time to start exploring if there are any potentially better frameworks such as bootstrap3.
One theoretical framework I have found helps with considering the implementation of technology in learning is The SAMR framework. The SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) model is a framework with four levels of integration of technology and education (Puentedura, 2006b). The classification allows one to consider if technology used in learning activities is a substitute for a traditional tool, or something new that would be impossible without technology (Hockly, 2012). Puentedura (2006b) describes the four different classifications of the SAMR model as substitution, augmentation, modifications, and redefinition.
He argued in his 2006 presentation Strengthening Your District Through Technology (Puentedura, 2006a) that student achievement (measured using Bloom’s sigma model) is directly affected by use of technology, and that learner achievement can be enhanced through better integration of technology. The SAMR classification system seeks to push instructional designers from simply directly translating or substituting traditional learning activities to technology, to instead consider the affordances of technology and seek to better integrate education with that technology as a means of enhancing student achievement. In my dealings with technology in learning, I now often refer back to this simple framework to consider if a project is aiming for transformation in learning and if its not, is it worth undertaking.