Tools of the Trade

I had the privilege of participating in four presentations regarding educational technologies.  These presentations covered everything from means to learn to evaluation tools, each one being available online.  One of the reasons I chose the MALAT program was to learn about and add to my digital toolkit.  This course is helping me do exactly that!

As I listened to these presentations a recurring question came to mind.  With all these tools available to educators (both online and face-to-face), how does one go about choosing the right one?  With the abundance of options, it is easy to use the first thing that one comes across or spending numerous hours looking for the best tool.  I know that I can fall into the later category without intending to do so.  A concern I have is that it might be hard to find the balance between researching tools and committing to one.

My team is focusing on educational podcasts as the learning event.  As I read more about them it becomes evident that any fool with a recording device can make a podcast; however, that does not mean that it would be high of production or educational quality.  For my own critical inquiry, I am looking at to find out if podcasts can improve volunteer training.  As I began my research, the quality of a podcast did not enter my thoughts.  Now that I have participated in these presentations, I realize that I need to consider quality as I draw my conclusions.

I leave this post with a question to which I am not sure there is an answer.  With so many tools available, how does one know the best tools of the trade?

7 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade

  1. In recent years many scholars have noted that the landscape of educational technologies has exponentially grown, and the selection of tools has become increasingly complex (Arthur, 2009; Dron, 2018; Weller; 2020). Choosing the right tool can be a massive challenge for educators looking to deliver courses online effectively, and who may be struggling with selecting technologies to best support their pedagogical approaches. As you have pointed out in this blog post, “any fool with a recording device can make a podcast; however, that does not mean that it would be high of production or educational quality” (Moore, 2020), and this rings true for all educational technologies adding to the complexity for educators choosing to adopt them.

    The question you have posed, as you have speculated, may not have a concrete answer; instead, what exists is supporting literature for ensuring best practices. Weller (2020) examined the history of EdTech and postulated that the pervasive role of educational technologies would saturate our institutions, and all future learning will be technology-enhanced, demanding continuous examination and adaptation. Perhaps educators should not chase the “best tools” (Moore, 2020) but rather be aware that all educational technologies have constraints and benefits requiring careful consideration for the application in educational contexts.

    Arthur, W. B. (2009). The nature of technology: What it is and how it evolves. Simon and Schuster.

    Dron, J. (2018). Smart learning environments, and not so smart learning environments: A systems view. Smart Learning Environments, 5(1), 25. doi.org/10.1186/s40561-018-0075-9

    Moore, K. (2020, May 19) Tools of the Trade. Kathy’s Blog: A MALAT Student’s Blog. malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0108/tools-of-the-trade/

    Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press. doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

    1. Thank you for your thoughts Lisa. Weller’s point that you raised is perfect for this conversation I am surprised to see how many areas are adopting innovation in one way or another. Even in small ways on occasion (e.g., digital exams vs paper exams). I agree that it is best to consider technologies as they become known to us. The choice of tools can make or break a project or learning outcome so it is critical that we review them can use the best possible option. With so many options, each context should have an appropriate tool!

  2. Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions! I too, really enjoyed the privilege of participating in the four recent presentations in our LRNT 526 course. AWESOME stuff! They were all well done and lead me to some great learning and thinking about some of the various learning technologies available today…

    YES! Definitely building our Digital Toolkits! Which leads to your concluding question: “With so many tools available, how does one know the best tools of the trade” (Moore, 2020)? I absolutely appreciated and echo much of the thinking in Lisa Gedak’s (2020) response to your question: “Weller (2020) examined the history of EdTech and postulated that the pervasive role of educational technologies would saturate our institutions, and all future learning will be technology-enhanced, demanding continuous examination and adaptation.” It is this “continuous examination and adaptation” (Weller, 2020) that I see as a part of how, as educators, we can decide on the best tool for the task. As part of the ways I have strived to differentiate learning and instruction in my various K-12 classes over the years, I have constantly sought to learn about the newest and latest educational technologies, while holding onto the effective older ones, to decide on the best one for the task, the day, or the student; differentiating the tool, the technologies I choose to bring learning to the students. To me, it is about pedagogy, and then the choice of the best technology to meet the learning goals or students’ needs.

    In 2010, McCleod went as far as to say: ” I don’t see it as teachers spurning technology, or choosing not to take advantage of those new ideas and tools. I think most teachers don’t even realize that there’s a decision to be made. It’s not a matter of choosing the red pill or the blue pill… if you don’t know that there are even two pills available as options… I’m all for conversations about ‘big’ change. And yes, I agree, it’s not the technology, it’s the pedagogy. However, I also think that you need at least a minimal base to build from before you can have those conversations. And the vast majority of the educators in this country [USA] do NOT have that base yet” (para. 1, 3). There are many K-12 teachers in Canada who have embraced Professional Learning opportunities, as well as personal explorations of educational technology available today to augment their teaching and amplify student learning. However, there are a number of teachers who have also chosen to resist some of these new tools in favour of more traditional teaching methods. This divide has been made more apparent during the pivot to online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have seen gaps not only in students’ digital literacy skills, but in teacher’s digital literacy skills as well. In a recent article, Selwyn (2020) explores teachers’ digital competence as highlighted by Covid-19 forced the pivot to online learning or distance education. He posits that, “Of course, there has been 30 years’ or more discussion before the pandemic of what constitutes teachers’ ‘digital literacy’, ‘digital competence,’ ‘digital fluency’, and the like. These definitions and frameworks have understandably tended to focus on issues of technical proficiency, e-safety and information literacy. Yet, the COVID-19 shutdowns are highlighting the need to go beyond these previous descriptions – especially in terms of terms of better acknowledging the delicate social contexts and circumstances of online education, as well as the relationships between teachers and students” (para. 9). Amazing… that all of this online learning, confluence and influence of learning technologies has brought us back to putting relationships first, and recognizing the importance of social contexts and circumstances, the humanity of it all… first.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and prompting lots of new ones, Kathy!

    Best,
    Leigh

    References

    McLeod, S. (2019). If We Were Really Serious about Educational Technology. In R. Kimmons, EdTech in the Wild: critical blog posts. EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/wild/really_serious

    Moore, K. (2020, May 19) Tools of the Trade. Kathy’s Blog: A MALAT Student’s Blog. malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0108/tools-of-the-trade/

    Selywn, N. (2020, April 30). Online learning: Rethinking teachers’ ‘digital competence’ in light of COVID-19. Lens: Monash University. Retrieved from https://lens.monash.edu/2020/04/30/1380217/online-learning-rethinking-teachers-digital-competence-in-light-of-covid-19

    Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press. doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

    1. Hi again, Kathy!

      I just read this article and thought of you, your blog post, and your question. I thought you might appreciated Dr. John Spencer’s (2020) discussion about a “Vintage Innovation Approach” — mixing our old tools with the new! 🙂

      Here is the link: http://www.spencerauthor.com/distance-screentime/ . It is a great read for other reasons too…

      Best,
      Leigh

    2. I am glad to hear that you continue to use the older technologies that are still working for the purpose. Something I often talk about is using the right technology for the goal and not only using new things because they are new. I struggle with this in my workplace as often people want to use the new with no strong rationale to back-up the choice.
      You are right in saying that COVID-19 is forcing the non-technological people into using technology. I do not know if that is good or now. So often when someone is forced to do something, they come out hating it even more. I will be interested to see how the landscape looks as normal gets recreated.

      Thank you for the link. I will have a look!

  3. Hi Kathy

    Thank you for your post. I had not considered using podcasts for orientation as it has always been a responsibility that involved face to face instruction with new employees. However, due to the Covid 19 pandemic, our lives have changed and the way it ‘always has been done’ had to change. In my working environment, we are looking at a re-orientation process for employees returning to work since the pandemic. Our challenge is that we want to share information with them before they arrive on their first day of work, but we are challenged with the fact that not all employees have access to a home computer nor do they have internet access. If they do have access then we are challenged with ensuring they are comfortable using technology. We have had to be very creative in how we are going to provide this information to them. In fact, I put forth the idea of podcasts and we are now moving ahead on this initiative.

    To your point of what are the best tools of the trade? There are many tools available and they all provide their own specific reasons for why they are the best tool on the market. In my experience, it is a matter of determining the needs of your audience, the functionality you need, the platform you will be using for the podcasts together with the quality of each podcast you are producing and how that will be used with volunteers.

    I will be sure to keep in touch with you and share with you my lived experience utilizing podcasts for reorientation.

    Caroline

  4. Kathy and all, I’m glad you brought in Weller, as over the years he has been studying and writing about the ubiquity of both content and tools and, as you note, these issues are not going to go away. Lisa, I think you make an excellent point that there isn’t necessarily any one best tool for any particular job, but rather educators need to “be aware that all educational technologies have constraints and benefits requiring careful consideration for the application in educational contexts.” Tools will continue to come and go.

    Leigh mentions, “To me, it is about pedagogy, and then the choice of the best technology to meet the learning goals or students’ needs” and Caroline’s comments support that sentiment. That absolutely is the starting place, whereas all-to-often it ends up being whatever is available, cheap and easy for IT to support. (This is not meant to be hard on IT departments; all-too-often they are under-resourced and overworked too.)
    Knowing that technology-enhanced learning will continue to demand “continuous examination and adaptation” (Weller, 2020), as Leigh notes in citing McCleod (2010), the question then turns to, what training and PD are teachers and other educators receiving to accomplish this? And what kinds of organizational changes need to take place to better support and motivate educators to become skilled practitioners of educational technology pedagogical practices? What other things come along with chosen technologies? A critical inquiry quickly zooms (pun intended) from the micro “effectiveness” picture to a much bigger frame of reference.

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