A critical view: the importance of questioning the ‘hype’ around technology and learning

For this assignment, we were asked to write a collaborative blog post with one of our colleagues in the Master of Arts in Learning Technology program. The post was to be based on two pieces of published materials that demonstrated characteristics of techno-deterministic thinking. Published pieces could be from mass-media articles or media releases by technology companies. We chose an article from Forbes magazine, and another from the Microsoft Canada website. 

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash. 2018, February 23.

We were to summarize the claims in each piece, then comment on how we believed Richard Clark and Robert Kozma would respond to each piece. Clark and Kozma are respected researchers in Education Technology (EdTech,) and hold opposing views on technology’s ability to influence learning. 

Forbes, a well-known publisher and magazine, claims that technology in education can lead to better results in their article “Twelve ways technology can yield better educational outcomes”. This statement goes against Clark’s claims that media and technology do not result in any learning benefits (Clark, 1994). Clark’s position is that attributes of technology and media are replaceable by other means and, therefore, not influential to learning (Clark, 1994). The Forbes Technology Council counters Clark’s assertion by claiming that technology allows students to apply their knowledge and improve outcomes by employing self-assessment measures, creating personalized learning, and connecting with teachers and peers (Forbes Technology Council, 2021). Many of Forbes’ claims to improve educational experiences from technology focus on student engagement; Clark would take issue with this as he consistently claims that it is not the technology or media responsible for learning but rather the instructional method that is employed (Clark, 1994). Clark would argue that one could reproduce student engagement without technology, illustrating that technology is not influential in learning.

On the other hand, Kozma would side with Forbes’ claims that technology impacts learning because of the student’s cognitive and social interaction with the technology (Kozma, 1994). Forbes states that technology improves student engagement, connection, and collaboration by offering interactive learning opportunities like augmented reality, the creation of real-world simulations, and a game-play approach to learning (Forbes Technology Council, 2021). Essentially, Forbes is illustrating students’ interactivity and engagement with technology. This connects to Kozma’s position on technology and learning. Kozma would argue that because students are actively engaging and interacting with technology cognitively and socially, their learning is indeed being positively affected (Kozma, 1994). Kozma also states that to understand the connection between learning and technology better, one must look at how students use the capabilities of technology to aid in their learning (Kozma, 1994). Forbes’ provides multiple (although cursory) examples of this, including e-sports to foster connections, using augmented reality to simulate real-world interactions, and using subtitles on videos for differentiated learning (Forbes Technology Council, 2021). Kozma (1994) believes in the potential of technology in learning, which is echoed in the article, “The key to using technology for improvement is to focus on what can be done rather than replicating what has been done” (Osinick, 2021, as cited in Forbes Technology Council, 2021). 

Forbes’ article about the benefits of technology can be viewed in two different ways, as evidenced by Kozma’s and Clark’s assertions that either support or counter the benefits of technology. This illustrates a need to continue assessing and questioning technology use in our learning environments. 

In the blog post published on the Microsoft Canada website and titled “Unimaginable Circumstances, Teachers are Using Technology to Help Reach Students” and attributed to the president of Microsoft Canada, we are told how the company’s products such as OneNote, Teams, and Flipgrid met and exceeded K-12 needs in the early days of the Covid 19 pandemic, and how the Microsoft products continued to be used when in-class instruction resumed in the fall of 2020. 

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash. 2021, November 1

Using a Catholic private elementary school in Ontario as a case study, we learn as well through a video testimonial by one of the school’s teachers, who is also a credentialized Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), how technology played a role in helping students keep up with their coursework, and to generally thrive in the online learning environment.

The article’s author tells us that when in-class instruction resumed, the Microsoft products continued to be used, and continued to be a catalyst toward students’ engagement with their coursework. We are also told that technology can provide all students with equitable learning environments.

In her testimonial, teacher Kaylyn Dorland says, “When we’re able to use technology in the classroom, it helps to level the playing field. And when students feel they have the confidence and the support in the tools that they are using, it changes the game for everybody.” Which could lead the reader to conclude, as Dorland does in her conclusion, “When you use technology, it not only increases student engagement, but it also increases the amount of fun the students are having, but I also think it increases the fun that I get to have as a teacher.”

This post and testimonial align with Kozma’s assertion that media does influence learning and can thereby lead to innumerable educational benefits such as increased student confidence, engagement, which in tandem can lead to student success. On the other hand, the Microsoft post runs counter to Clark’s assertion that media and its attributes do not have learning benefits simply on their own, and instead require assistance to have any effect. 


References

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29. http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~bmann/0_ARTICLES/Media_Clark.html 

Forbes Technology Council (2021, January 26). 12 ways technology can yield better educational outcomes. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/01/26/12-ways-technology-can-yield-better-educational-outcomes/?sh=59855ae2157a 

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.167.4904 

Peesker, K. (2020, Dec. 10). In Unimaginable Circumstances, Teachers are Using Technology to Help Reach Students. Microsoft News Centre Canada. https://news.microsoft.com/en-ca/2020/12/10/in-unimaginable-circumstances-teachers-are-using-technology-to-help-reach-students/

Mikaela Jade: Bringing attention to Indigenous knowledge through technology

Indigenous educational technology is not yet a universal term in the ed-tech field, but it soon could be with the help of Mikaela Jade. Jade is an Indigenous Cabrogal woman from Australia who has deep connections with the land (Ball, 2022). Her initial career was as a park ranger in Australia where she soon realized that many visitors were unaware of the significance of the land from a First Peoples’ perspective and wanted to share this knowledge with others in a meaningful, relevant way. Her experience at university led her to an interest in augmented reality (AR) and the development of Indigital, an “Indigenous Edu-Tech company” (Indigital, n.d.). Indigital uses technology to educate and connect with both indigenous and nonindigenous people, focusing on a First Peoples’ cultural knowledge of the land (Questacon, 2017). Indigital’s goal is to also provide opportunities for indigenous peoples to gain access to a digital world (Indigital, n.d.).

Image retrieved from https://indigital.net.au

Jade illustrates the importance of perspective in a digital world. She identifies as both woman and indigenous, two relatively underrepresented groups in the ed-tech field (Lynch, 2018). Jade discusses her female leadership role, amongst other topics, in the podcast “The Leadership Lessons”, a series that showcases successful and influential women (Chowdry, 2021). As part of an underrepresented group, she shows the potential to provide unique perspectives, address potential biases, and illustrate that marginalized groups have a place in technology (Mone, 2017). There is evidence that diversity in technology can allow for innovative, creative, and effective problem-solving, and Jade illustrates this as the founder and CEO of Indigital (Mone, 2017). 

Jade’s innovative work with AR to share Indigenous knowledge can serve as an example for other countries to follow (Questacon, 2017). She discusses AR in an interview with NEC’s ‘Women in Technology” series (Ball, 2022). By implementing technology to share stories, Jade is marrying old-world knowledge with new-world technologies, bridging the gap between ancient and modern. Digitizing indigenous knowledge also helps to preserve history and allows easy access to key information (Lodhi & Mikulecky, 2010). Jade’s work with Indigital provides a template for others to build upon, an important first step in being able to share indigenous knowledge using relevant technologies.


References

Ball, C. (2022, March 6). NEC Women in Tech Series – Mikaela Jade, CEO and Founder, InDigital [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mvk6xFbYTnA 

Chowdry, S. (Host). (2021, July 1). Pursue the big idea regardless of your previous experience (Season 4, episode 4) [Audio podcast episode]. In The Leadership Lessons. Agenda Media. https://shows.acast.com/the-leadership-lessons/episodes/pursue-the-big-idea-regardless-of-your-previous-experience

Indigital (n.d.). Indigital. https://indigital.net.au/ 

Lodhi, S., & Mikulecky, P. (2010). Management of indigenous knowledge for developing countries. In V. Mladenov, K. Psarris, N. Mastorakis, A. Caballero, & G. Vachtsevanos (Eds.), Communication and management in technological innovation and academic globalization (pp.94-98). WSEAS Press. https://www.wseas.org/multimedia/books/2010/Tenerife/COMATIA.pdf

Lynch, M. (2018, Dec. 11). Analyzing ed-tech’s diversity problem. The Tech Edvocate. https://www.thetechedvocate.org/analyzing-edtechs-diversity-problem/ 

Mone, G. (2017). Bias in Technology. Communications of the ACM, 60 (1), 19-20. https://doi.org/10.1145/3014388

Questacon (2017, July 6). Indigital-using AR for Aboriginal storytelling [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noPFpWMdWcA 

Further pondering regarding Weller’s “25 Years of Ed Tech”

After reading the middle of Weller’s (2020) book, I connected more and more to some of the technologies he described. Chapter eleven (open educational resources: OER) resonated with me as being the most currently relevant topic.

Weller (2020) spends chapter eleven discussing the importance of OER and its significance in ed-tech. As part of the open education movement, I believe that OER is extremely relevant as it attempts to remove the barriers to content sharing, which increases accessibility. Creating licences through mediums like Creative Commons allows content to be shared while maintaining rights to the creator and allowing resources to be adapted and changed, increasing the potential for creating new and relevant content (Weller, 2020). OER’s relevance today is in promoting accessibility and removing technology barriers, allowing access to as many people as possible. As Catherine Cronin states in her discussion about Weller’s book, OER is not just about open resources but about promoting and allowing room for diverse opinions and voices from marginalized groups (Cronin in Pasquini, 2021a). This ‘openness’ is reflected in our society today in many ways, from the Truth and Reconciliation act in Canada to the Black Lives Matter movement; OER and open educational practice (OEP) gives room for all voices. 

As well as being relevant, Weller’s book also provides some insights into potential conflicts. One such aspect is his chapter regarding Twitter and social media. Weller (2020) highlights the benefits and potential of social media, saying it “…provides ed tech with… a set of tools and possibilities…” (p.114). He mentions that using social media comes with risks, but this chapter’s overall tone is one of optimism and possibility (Weller, 2020). 


This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Today Testing https://todaytesting.com/free-social-media-marketing-free-images

In my workplace as a K-12 teacher, social media platforms have essentially been established as hindrances to education. They have not even been truly considered because of the considerable risks associated with them (bullying, data management, privacy, etc.). In the audio podcast between chapters, Laura Pasquini and her guests, Chrissi Nerantzi and Sue Beckingham, discuss some of the dangers of social media. Nerantzi mentions that social media sites are exclusive and favour the voices of privilege: older white males (Nerantzi in Pasquini, 2021b). Pasquini (2021b) also touches on the larger, money-making corporations that fund and back many social media sites, which raises questions about data management, privacy, and purpose. These issues, as well as others, create a well-founded wariness in the K-12 educational system. 

Although I understand the risks of young adults using social media, Weller brings to light some benefits, such as collaborative learning and student engagement, that have potential in the K-12 system (Weller, 2020). It is also important to note that young adults are incredibly adept with social media, as it is being used consistently and constantly (AACAP, 2018). I cannot help but wonder if our education system considered some potential benefits and what the impact would be on our students’ learning. Do the benefits of social media outweigh the risks for the K-12 system? 


References

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). (2018, March). Social media and teens. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Social-Media-and-Teens-100.aspx#:~:text=Seventy%20five%20percent%20report%20having,not%20including%20time%20for%20homework

Pasquini, L. (Host). (2021a, January 21). OER (No. 12) . In Between the chapters. Transistor. https://25years.opened.ca/2021/01/27/between-the-chapters-oer/

Pasquini, L. (Host). (2021b, February 25). Twitter and social media (No. 17) . In Between the chapters. Transistor. https://25years.opened.ca/2021/02/28/between-the-chapters-twitter-social-media/

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

Initial thoughts on Weller’s “25 Years of Ed Tech”

For our new course, we are taking a look at the history of educational technology (ed tech), specifically the influence of the internet on higher education. Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech (2020)  has provided some insights into the beginnings of technology in education. 

One aspect I found particularly surprising was the relatively keen interest from higher education in the early years of the internet. As a university student myself (1999-2003 was my first degree), my institution was somewhat lagging regarding implementing technology and/or differing structure. Others too, have noted higher educational institutions slow movement to adapt and change (Lewington, 2019). So when Weller described Open Universities and their adoption of early internet technologies like Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) such as CoSy in the mid 1990s, it made me question my assumption that Universities lacked the initiative to embrace new technologies or ideas (Weller, 2020). That being said, in his introduction Weller (2020) is quite clear that he is being subjective and speaking mainly from his experiences in the UK, meaning that geography can play a huge role in institutional structures and willingness to change. This is a concept that I would like to explore further. 

Another aspect of Weller’s book that I found interesting was his chapter regarding learning theory and ed tech, specifically constructivism. He devoted a lengthy chapter to the ‘hype’ of constructivism on the implementation of technology in education. Weller (2020) illustrated educators’ keen interest in constructivism and online learning, as this learning theory centered around experiential learning that was student centered. He quotes King’s catchy phrase to elaborate on the shift in pedagogy: “…the professor, instead of being the ‘sage on the stage’, functions as a ‘guide on the side,’” (King, 1993, as cited in Weller, 2020, p.29). Weller goes on to elaborate on specific pedagogies that fit under the constructivist learning theory. It is clear from Weller’s (2020) description and evidence that constructivist learning theory played a significant role in online learning, but were there any other theories that were being discussed? Weller makes a comment that constructivism was the overwhelmingly popular choice for e-learning, but did that mean that other pedagogies were overlooked because of the immense interest in constructivism (2020)? Also, as web-based learning progressed, were other pedagogies and theories being explored? I have not yet read the entirety of Weller’s book, so perhaps he addresses this more towards the end. 

So far, I am learning the importance of looking back in order to move forward. 


References

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

Lewington, J. (2019, April 24). Why are Canadian universities so slow to adopt digital learning? Maclean’s. https://www.macleans.ca/education/why-are-canadian-universities-so-slow-to-adopt-digital-learning/ 

Our questions answered by esteemed researcher, George Veletsianos

Questions” by Oberazzi is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

One of our culminating activities was to pose questions to George Velatsianos, an esteemed researcher. It was an enlightening experience to hear him expand on our thoughts and offer some sage advice.

Team 1’s question was about how to affect change at a policy level (Veletsianos, 2022a). This intrigued me, as I have aspirations one day of being in a position to make changes. Veletsianos (2022a) expanded on both the skills necessary to create change as well as the importance of collaboration and building solid relationships. It is sometimes easy to focus on the skill’s aspect of change, but Veletsianos’ comment regarding strong relationships was a good reminder of our human need to connect. In my own practice, I strive to build relationships and make connections; it builds trust, which in turn allows for honest and effective discourse. 

Team 4’s question regarding innovation and ed tech provided much discussion from Velatsianos and gave room for some great thoughts regarding not simply the technologies being used but questions about our educational system as well (Veletsianos, 2022b). Veletsianos (2022b) brought up the fact that the technologies being used should raise questions about assessment, structure, and teaching practices. Two research articles I have read recently discuss online learning environments that have affected educational structures. Cartner & Hallas’ (2022) article brings up a perceived gap when it comes to effective and relevant assessment regarding online learning, and Pires et al.’s (2020) research illustrates YouTube’s potential as an informal learning tool amongst young adults. Both these research articles suggest adapting educational systems to allow for technology in education; Veletsianos’(2022b) response reflected these thoughts and questions around our systems. He brings up an idea that I’ve been pondering for some time as well and that also fits with team 1’s affecting policy change: if given the opportunity to develop a new system that reflect technology’s huge impact on our society, what could/should it look like? 

Who knows? Maybe one day I can sit in the seat of change and opportunity and work with researchers like Dr. Veletsianos and explore the possibilities. I’ll end this post with a quote from Socrates that gives a glimpse into the journey that lies ahead.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” (Higgins, 2022).


References

Cartner, H., & Hallas, J. (2020). Aligning assessment, technology, and multi-literacies. E-Learning and Digital Media, 17 (2), 131-147. https://doi.org/10.1177/2042753019899732

Higgins, S.(2022, March 14). 44 Inspirational quotes about change that will help you think differently. Hubspot. https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/quotes-about-change 

Pires, F., Masanet, M.-J., Tomasena, J. M., & Scolari, C. A. (2022). Learning with YouTube: Beyond formal and informal through new actors, strategies and affordances. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 28 (3),  838-853. https://doi.org/10.1177/13548565211020545

Veletsianos, G. (Executive Producer). (2022a). Team 1. [Audio Podcast]. https://www.dropbox.com/s/nixczg5texj1fba/team1.mp3?dl=0

Veletsianos, G. (Executive Producer). (2022b). Team 4. [Audio Podcast]. https://www.dropbox.com/s/n54h2hgtnmliezz/team4.mp3?dl=0

What makes a good research question?

There are several key aspects that go into a good research question. Based on several resources I have viewed, here are two characteristics that stood out to me as important:

1- Be specific, focused, and clear

Laurier library’s video recommends having a concise question that is not vaguely worded or broad in scope (Laurier Library, 2017). If your question is specific and clear, it can effectively address the issue, making it easier to find pertinent information regarding your topic. 

2- Be relevant 

According to McCombe’s blog post, a good research question should be relevant to your field of study. A relevant question should address a challenge or issue within your topic while also attempting to add new or additional information for others to consider (McCombes, 2022). 

References

Bunce, D.M. (2008). Constructing good and researchable questions [Infographic]. Flynn Research Group. http://www.flynnresearchgroup.com/group-news-blog/2020/2/22/developing-researchable-questions 
Laurier Library. (2017, December 12). Developing a research question [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oJNO6PYZe4
McCombes, S. (2022, May 7). Developing Strong Research Questions | Criteria and Examples. Scribbr. https://www.scribbr.com/research-process/research-questions/ 

Digital Learning in Rural Communities

We have talked a lot about the benefits of digital learning these past few weeks; how beneficial DLE’s, LMS’ and various technological tools can be to educators, and how students are adept at implementing and using technologies, but what happens when students are not able to access these tools?

I struggle with several barriers to technology in my own workplace: lack of computers for students, inconsistent and weak wifi connectivity, and students who lack the skills to manoeuvre within these digital environments all affect the usefulness and ability to use technology for learning.

To highlight both the benefits and challenges of digital learning, I worked alongside my peer, Megan, to create a visual that emphasizes what students in rural communities are facing.

What can affect our digital identities?

"A social network visualization" by brewbooks is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

We were asked to reflect on the impact that networks, sets, groups, communities and collectives will have on our digital identity and digital presence plan that was posted last week. 

My first goal is to be a more collaborative digital citizen; therefore, building networks would probably have the most significant effect. As Dron and Anderson state in their book Teaching Crowds, networks are fluid, promote social engagement, and “foster cooperation” (2014, p.135). Collaboration needs room to grow and change, and creating various networks would seem to have the most impact while working towards becoming a more engaged online citizen.

Secondly, I would like to share my resources in an open setting. I need more boundaries and limitations to protect what I’ve created to do this. For this goal, groups would be ideal. Dron and Anderson suggest that groups have clear boundaries, a purpose, and rules in place; certainly a more structured approach than networks (2014). To maintain ownership of my materials while still allowing them to be used is paramount for me. 

Collectives are also an interesting subject regarding both goals. Collectives are a collection of products, artifacts, and actions of people (Dron and Anderson, 2014), yet the ‘teacher’ aspect of a collective is not the main focus of either of my goals. This shows that I could have multiple modes of connections (some collective aspects, some network aspects, etc.) when I am working towards each of my goals; a kind of “mix-and-match” approach. 

As my learning continues, I am eager to interact with these various modes and see what impact they will have. 

References

Dron, J, & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781927356807.01

A day in the life of a teacher: visual network

In this week’s assignment, we were asked to create a visual representation of a ‘network’ that we belong to. I chose to show my working community as a teacher.

I have represented two main areas of contact in my community: Digital (which includes mainly Google classroom and email, but also Zoom) and face-to-face interactions. 

The blackboards represent me; all arrows originating from the blackboards are daily interactions I initiate (digital or in person, as noted). The arrows that arrive at these blackboards indicate the groups/people that initiate contact directed towards me. There are also arrows between groups that communicate with each other. The interactions stemming from other groups could represent face-to-face interactions, digital interactions, or both. All communications represent work-related discussions, although it is important to note that many work-centered talks often turn into personal conversations. 

At first glance, it’s messy, as it is in actual reality. There are many people I interact with on a daily basis, sometimes digitally and in-person during the same day. 

What was telling about this visual was how many people I interact with daily and the potential connections between interactions. For example, a discussion regarding a student with my vice principal (VP) turns into another conversation with the VP and the student’s other teachers. The VP may also contact the parent, and the student may talk with their parent. The other teachers may contact me and potentially the learning assistance team, counsellor, or EA. 

Our daily conversations can have an extensive reach, indeed.