What Lessons Have We Learned…25 Years of Ed Tech

Reading upon Weller’s 2002-2011 retrospective, I was hit again with various triggers that reminded me that I was now well into my working career during this period and experienced almost every chapter in real-time. Looking at the topics concerning my cooperative education work, going with the Educational Technology world’s cornerstone, Learning Management Systems (LMS), was the obvious choice. Having worked with various systems over the years, I attribute the LMS as the Atlas, holding up the other technology we would all use in education. The lesson learned here that I found most relevant to my work was that of Software Sedimentation (Weller, pg. 65). Having what I would consider a “knee-jerk reaction, the University I work at quickly adopted a new system to replace the aged Moodle/Coursespaces system and quickly structuring the latest model or processes to meet the demand for 95-100% complete online learning. It has quickly become apparent that as a course designer and instructor, this new LMS is already, as Weller mentioned, “stifling innovation.” (p. 65)

The second lesson learned from Weller’s book that I felt strongly contradicted my current practice was around E-portfolios’ use. As a Co-op practitioner in Engineering (specifically Biomedical and Software), we have not implemented an institutional requirement for students to use e-portfolios. However, we recommend that in addition to their resumes, they use said portfolio to supplement their competencies to employers based on their previous projects, reports and other relevant events in their lives. According to Weller, student engagement in the tool was not as appreciated and resisted (pg. 102). Perhaps this was in part to an implemented “off the shelf” software or program required for the students to follow? This solution was not the case with our students. We gave them the freedom and choice to use e-portfolios, and for the most part, students have no issue in creating a repository or portfolio to contain their work. In some instances, the Software Engineering students are using GitHub as their portfolio. I can only conclude the data pulled was perhaps from universities where Co-operative or Work Integrated Learning is not prevalent or practiced centrally on campus.

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.


On a lighter note, I thought I would share this meme about online learning/teaching shared on Twitter and in my class this week. They already know I am a Star Wars geek. Image taken from: http://www.joeydevilla.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/jedi-distance-learning.jpg

13 thoughts on “What Lessons Have We Learned…25 Years of Ed Tech

  1. Hi Ash,

    Interesting thoughts here. I too see that high school students appreciate the opportunity to showcase their work and have options for individual projects. In fact, my new plan for assessment is exactly that. Students will be submitting their weekly learning every Friday. I will be providing structured daily activities for those who thrive on that, but I also want to provide more flexibility- especially if we have an illness to deal with. Every collection will be different because I’m encouraging them to include current event reflection as well. Let’s see how that goes. New name: “Showcase of your learning”

    • Thank you for the comments Wendy. It’s great to hear self-reflection and an emphasis on showcasing student work is present in high school. Perhaps starting them early, will ease the “buy-in” we see from first year students in university. Having the students first identify where they want to see themselves or end up at the conclusion of the exercise is important as well. Goal setting and then self reflecting upon these goals, will ultimately either guide them in working towards their targets or help them self-actualize, new goals. What am I good at, what do I need to work on, I found this new thing I am interested in/good at…etc.

  2. First, I love the meme. Thank you for sharing.

    Second, I’m intrigued by your experience with e-portfolios. Our school uses D2L Brightspace, which has an e-portfolio tool that does not allow for export. When I heard about this, and explored it a little, it amazed me that anyone would use a system that was locked in to an LMS. My perspective is different from many, since I expect students to build their own creative portfolio that they would share with employers. Locking this into an LMS seemed so bizarre. Would you be able to provide more details on what programs were using the LMS’ e-portfolio and what their intended end goal might have been? I understand the GitHub side, but would love to hear more about other uses you’ve seen.

    • I knew you of all people would love my Jedi meme. Its interesting to hear about the portfolio capabilities that D2L Brightspace has. We also just made the jump in the summer, expecting all of the courses to be online with this tool for Fall 2020. I know our course made it, but still feeling we shoehorned a lot of our content into the LMS, without really having enough time to redevelop or play around with it. I agree, adding into a LMS seems odd, perhaps if you could be given creative control over the look and feel of the content for each portfolio it would be fine, but I can make a guess that the fact it is embedded in a LMS, it certainly has limitations that creative users would detest. Our student’s didn’t use our LMS (a Co-op program we call Learning in Motion, but it’s based off the Orbis Communications tool from Ontario) but there is an opportunity for users to add projects to the site to help compliment their resumes. I find that our Electrical, Software and Computer Engineering groups lean to GitHub more, with even some going further and creating their own webspace. The Mechanical and Biomedical groups tend to have more physical designs and prototypes, 3D CAD drawings so they lean on video more actually. Use of YouTube for them has increased, as they can put their real-time models online in quick 30 second videos.

      • That makes so much more sense, Ash! I have always been confused by the e-portfolio idea because I hadn’t experienced it outside of this D2L Brightspace environment. It can’t be exported or transferred from there. What was the point? But if what is called an e-portfolio is just what people have been doing for a very long time, only now it is online, that makes so much more sense. I’ve had an e-portfolio of my design work for years! I had to. That’s how you get jobs as a graphic designer. We never used the “e” in front of portfolio so I thought this whole academic e-portfolio was something that was meant to be specific to the academic world. GitHub and YouTube are wonderful options for that, especially when you’re doing 3D renderings. Every industry would have their own ways of creating useful portfolios and that should definitely be encouraged by educators. It would do a huge disservice to students if we just left them where they were after school without helping them create the necessary elements that will be useful in getting a job.

        As an aside, I’ve been using D2L for a few years now and if you need any help with it just let me know.

    • Great comment, David! What this makes evident is the notion that not all “e-portfolio” tools are the same (of course), but mor importantly that the intention behind the use of a particular tool matters a lot. Developing an e-portfolio within an LMS sounds a bit awkward and inauthentic to me, if we assume that the purpose of an e-portfolio is to showcase it to people other than the instructor. That’s also assuming of course that the aim isn’t to “help students learn how to create an e-portfolio so that they can create their own at some point in the future.”

  3. Hi Ash,

    This dialogue about e-portfolios has me wondering about resumes. I cannot remember the last time I heard of a hard copy of a resume needed. Employers want them digitally. The merging of e-portfolios and resumes is a natural one for sure (Linkedin). In K-12 education in BC, students are afforded some time to work on resumes and a sort of E-portfolio in. However, the platform we use as a depository of their work, MyBlueprint ( https://myblueprint.ca/ )is so prescriptive and doesn’t allow a student to really export after graduation…so what’s the point? I suppose it is for practice, for learning. I am glad that the new BC curriculum is addressing the gap in digital education at the K-12 level, but I wonder about the training and the expertise of a majority of teachers tasked to teach these things. Being in post-secondary, have you heard any undergrads talk about their digital learning in secondary school? If so, what do they say about resumes and e-portfolios, their digital identity, shall we say?

    • Thanks Sandra. I would say in the last two-three years, the intake of first year undergraduates into Engineering and Computer Science has show a high level digital competencies that they gained from high school. Students showcase their robotics competitions projects, some go as far as show their coding and web development skills. Normally, we would see these from university transfer students, who would come to university after a general first year of studies, but now the 17-18 years olds seem to have these beginning skills by the time i see them. As for the resume, there are people in the digital world, who say the resume is dead and to build a project portfolio instead, which i totally disagree with entirely. I feel there is room for both, and could go down the rabbit hole om this topic…perhaps i should do a blog post? I would be happy to talk to you about this offline, any time.

  4. Hi Ash,

    Great post! I think most of us choice to write on the sedimentation of technologies within education institutions. It is certainly an interesting topic, of which I believe has many deeply rooted causes. Since COVID hit, have you found the proposed changes to learning systems have increased? I have found this issue of sedimentation to be less significant in my schools since last winter. There has been a ton of restructuring of staff, with plenty of layoffs for those who cannot or refuse to adapt.

    • Thanks Jonathan. I feel sedimentation will always occur when new technologies are coated over older ones. Since March, yes, i have found that more emphasis has been given to updating to meet the demand of moving to the online world, and the LMS has been at the forefront. However, two semesters have since past, and now the changes to learning systems is coming internally. Now that we know the limitations/boundaries of the system how can we create new and meaningful courses for students. An exciting time for sure.

  5. You’re being very polite when you say it sounds only “a bit awkward and inauthentic.” When I first saw it I experimented with it a bit and realized it couldn’t be exported for use after graduation. Aside from transferring learning evidence from one course to another within the same institution, it would serve little purpose. But you’re very right, George. It depends on what you’re trying to teach. Could it be used to help students identify and curate key elements of their learning that might be useful in a portfolio they could create later? Very possibly. Often I have to *try* to remind myself that my perspective on education is informed by my past experience (or lack of experience) with it as well as the subjects I teach. While I may find a tool unfathomable, that doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly useful to someone teaching other subjects.

  6. David, have you ever had the pleasure of using iclickers? These 30-40 dollar devices seemed to very creative way to engage classes with quizzes and to assess student participation. They quickly moved to an iOS and Android version and it worked really cool in the class I co-taught. That being said, the tool was a complete disaster for another professor who couldn’t get it to work properly or work in the way “he thought” it would.

    • I’ve heard of them but haven’t used iclickers before. I’ve used Kahoot in classes and had some success with that for in-class interaction. Tools are funny like that. For some people they work perfectly and their class loves it. For others, it’s a total flop. We’ve had almost identical courses that both included discussion boards. One course had a lot of meaningful conversations in the discussion boards. The other had almost none. Why? Who knows.

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