There are a bewildering array of options you might use when choosing a technology for your teaching practice, either within the offerings available from your university’s learning management system or externally, using services, apps, or platforms available through the web. This course will help you critically evaluate the options available external to your university, so you can select the right tool for the job and take the privacy, sustainability, policy, and assessment issues into account.
As always, pedagogy first
We’ve discussed in previous courses the importance of choosing a tool that will meet the desired learning outcomes for an activity. If there is a mismatch between the type of technology and the activity that the students will be doing, it can have a negative impact on student experience and can hamper, rather than support, their learning. If you’d like to review the advice and ideas on how to design activities using technology-enhanced learning (TEL), we recommend you check out these previous posts to help you decide what type of tools you might use to best meet your learning outcomes.
One of the first things to consider is what is already available to you through your institutional learning management system (LMS). At ANU, this is Wattle, which includes Moodle, Echo360 Active Learning Platform, Mahara ePortfolio, Turnitin, and Adobe Connect. To get us started, let’s consider some of the benefits, risks, and challenges of using either the LMS or an external tool.
Take a look at the video, below, from UNSW’s Learning to Teach Online series. (Just a quick note: the video refers to the “open web” to mean tools on the web, external to the “closed” LMS, not open in terms of open educational resources.)
When might you use the LMS for an activity, and when might you use something else?
Open or closed?
The LMS is a guaranteed and safe environment, that is closed to anyone not enrolled in the course, authenticated, and grading and assessment are easily tracked and connected to verified student identities. Another key benefit is that institutions usually provide support, advice, and training on how to use the LMS. At ANU, you can get support from ANU Online (that’s us!) or your College-based educational design teams.
However, the LMS is often not as flexible, social, or innovative as other tools available online, and can be slow to change if what you need is not already available. The focus of the LMS on reliability and stability can often come at the expensive of openness and flexibility.
External or open tools are often designed to be collaborative and social. While the video indicates that students are generally already familiar with the open web systems, several studies have highlighted that this is not always the case. For example, Bennett et al (2012) found that most students had little prior experience with tools like blogging and wikis, and struggled to see the value of these tools for educational purposes. However, apps and platforms are usually designed to be extremely easy to use and mobile-friendly. Due to the range of tools out there, there is something available that will likely meet your specific needs as well, whereas the LMS is often more generic.
Keeping a critical eye
Many educational apps are designed to support knowledge sharing, collaboration and socialising, which can benefit a constructivist or active learning approach (Ajjan and Hartshorne 2008), but it’s important to stay critical when using them. As we’ve discussed in other courses, it’s not the tool that matters so much as how you use it!
Take a look at some of these apps and services, many of which are currently in use around the ANU and higher educator sector more widely. What are they claiming to offer?
- Poll Everywhere – Audience polling tool
- Socrative – Quiz tool
- Wooclap – Audience polling tool
- Kahoot – Learning games
- Padlet – Collaborative sharing boards
As commercial offerings, these apps are selling the product of engagement, better outcomes, and better learning for students, and while often appearing “free” they can have hidden costs – financially or otherwise. In the next posts, we will explore how to safely and effectively integrate apps and platforms into your teaching practice, so that you can take advantage of the affordances and manage the risks and challenges.
Why are you interested in using external or open web tools? Have you used them before? What have your experiences been?
A quick note on terminology
There are a huge range of terms which can be used to refer to the different systems. Here are a few that we will be using throughout the course.
- Cloud – services that are accessed and stored wholly online, and not stored on a particular device. For example, Dropbox and Google Docs allow you to store files in the cloud so they can be accessed from any computer.
- Apps – short for applications, these are computer applications or software. They can be a mobile app (run on a mobile device) or a web app (run on a web browser). For example, Twitter is a social media platform that has a mobile app and a web app.
- External tools – in this context, these are tools that are not managed by the university or institution. For example, using Wattle would not be an external tool, but using YouTube would be.
- Third-party apps – these are apps that are not created by the manufacturer or the owner of the website. For example, Twitter can be accessed using the standard Twitter app, or you can use a third-party app like Tweetdeck to use it, which is not owned or managed by Twitter itself.
- Platform – a digital system that is an intermediary between two groups, providing a service often based on user contributions. For example, Uber is a platform for ride sharing, which connects passengers and drivers.
- Web 2.0 – the “participatory web”, signifying the range of tools for collaboration, social interaction, and sharing. Using Web 2.0 has the user contributing to the platform by adding their own content. This includes a range of technologies such as blogging, social media, wikis, and so on.
Further reading and references
- Audrey Watters (2017) “Education technology and the power of platforms“. Hack Education.
- Lee Skallerup Bessette (2017)”Are apps becoming the new worksheet?” Hybrid Pedagogy.
- Ajjan, H. and Hartshorne, R. (2008). “Investigating faculty decisions to adopt Web 2.0 technologies: Theory and empirical tests.” The Internet and Higher Education, Vol 11, issue 2, 71-80. Available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2008.05.002
- Bennett, S., Bishop, A., Dalgarno, B., Waycott, J., and Kennedy, G. (2012). “Implementing Web 2.0 technologies in higher education: A collective case study.” Computers and Education, Vol 59, issue 2, 524-534. Available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.12.022