6 Things Good Teachers KNOW about Technology in Education

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The following is based on my own observations and interactions with a range of teachers, both at university and in other sectors. I think good teachers are able to use technology in education effectively because they know some of the following things:

1. A critical mindset is key
Good teachers know that technology is not a substitute or replacement for good teaching and that there is no tool on the planet which can provide a ‘quick fix’ for educational challenges. They don’t see it as a delivery mechanism. They have a critical outlook and interrogate assumptions – their own and those of others.

 

2. Good teaching with technology is invisible
How does a teacher know when they are using educational technology effectively? When it becomes part of the learning experience to the extent that it becomes invisible. Its educational use becomes a natural part of classroom life (and outside). Good teachers use technology like an extended arm – it is part of his or her practice. Good teachers blur the boundaries between online, offline and formal and informal spaces. Their blended learning practices are seamless.

3. Good use of edtech is integrated rather than tacked-on
Technology is integrated in curricula and learning design rather than being treated as an add-on. Good teachers understand that technology isn’t like hairspray that can just be sprayed on. They build it in from the bottom up.

4. Is purposeful and used appropriately, matching learning tasks
Good teachers are able to make good choices – there is congruence between the tools they select to use, learning activities and outcomes.

5. Play is part of learning
Good teachers learn through play. They understand that they have to play with new tools to better understand their affordances. They have an open mind are are keen to experiment. When things don’t work out as planned in a classroom situation, they have a plan B. They don’t give up – they go home and play around some more.

6. Understand the importance of being agile and reflexive practitioners
Good teachers are able to adapt their edtech pratices and feel comfortable to learn through trial and error. This helps them to know where they need to adapt next time. They reflect on their practice as part of the process.

I am sure there are other points that can be added to this list – feel free to add them as comments:) Let’s see if I can make it to 10. Feel free to suggest any revisions:) Seems like I have a bit of a tension here between knowing and doing – how might I fix this?

I will then use this list to create an OER infographic.

Some other ideas I had was:
– they are able to do more with less
-are inspired by best practice examples but are able to adapt to local needs because they understand their students

Social Network Analysis with Marc Smith

On 19 November 2014 Marc Smith gave a public lecture on Social Network Analysis (SNA) at UCT. Afterwards he lead a workshop featuring short presentations by UCT NodeXL users working in social network analysis and visualisation. He came to visit us all the way from Silicon Valley, California, where he works as an adjunct lecturer and is also the director of the Social Media Research Foundation. As a sociologist specializing in the social organization of online communities and computer mediated interaction, Marc helped develop NodeXL. For more info on Marc, read this interview. My notes from the lecture can be viewed here. I really enjoyed the range of examples and applications of SNA and NodeXL that he discussed. I think there is a lot of scope for marketers to use NodeXL as part of social media strategies and to better evaluate the status of brands on social media platforms such as Twitter. But there’s so much more to it, as the rest of this post explains.

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From ePortfolio to interview

HR managers are turning to social media more and more as part of the recruitment process, as this infographic from GetSmarter shows. Sylvia Hammond agrees. She is an experienced HR practitioner who is currently a consulting editor for a range of online recruitment, skills development and HR portals, which grew from the skills portal started with her son, who now manages the websites as Portal Publishing. She is also doing her PhD in EBE.

Source: Personal Brand Guide 2014 by GetSmarter

PGDip Marketing and Entrepreneurship students created ePortfolios as part of their e-Marketing course (slides here and example site for students here) and were encouraged to think about themselves as an online brand. Graduation is around the corner for these students and many are navigating the job market or will embark on this mission in the near future. I chatted to Sylvia and asked if I could make this video for the class. I was a guest lecturer on the course and assisted the course convener, Steph Houslay, with the process of integrating ePortfolios in the course. Even if you were not a student on this course, you may find Sylvia’s tips useful. She shares good practical advice on how to modify your ePortfolio to get to an interview.

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OER showcase

Last year I created this OER (Open Educational Resource) with my colleague Rulisha Chetty.  You can find it on Open UCT here. However, you need to download it to watch the videos embedded in the PDF as they won’t show on ISSUU (click here to download PDF). Since then I have also made an infographic ‘A checklist for successful ePortfolios’. I believe that in addition to conventional academic publishing, we need to make our teaching materials and resources open, freely available and licensed through creative commons not only for our students but also for a wider, global community.

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When is an ePortfolio not an ePortfolio?

Interesting conversation happening with Prof Pat Thompson, Derek Moore, Simon Bailey and fellow tweeps. We’re considering how blogging and ePortfolios are similar or different. My question came as a response to Pat’s post ‘Should doctoral researchers blog’. I say yes:) I did during my PhD and for me it was a great way to network, share information about myself, observations, milestones I had achieved, etc (check it out here). When I tapped into an online community I could say ‘this is me, here’s what I’m about’ and refer people to that space. I appreciate that Pat lists the pros and the cons, getting folks to think critically before starting. I think WordPress is a great platform because it is user-friendly and there are lots of help guides and tutorials available online, such as this one.

The key questions Pat advises when one is considering setting up a blog are also very similar to those I ask early career researchers to engage in when thinking about setting up an ePortfolio. I work with a range of people in Higher Ed on blogging and ePortfolios. I’ve actually just finished a meeting with a Professor and showing him how to set up a WordPress blog so that he can share ideas with people from outside the university (NGOs, etc). He does not want to add his CV to it, just information and links to a book he wrote and from what I sense, plans on keeping the content very focused and his ideal audience is people outside of the institution and students. He also wants people to leave comments and questions, so there is this aspect of a conversation space as well.

A little while ago I read this article ‘Should graduate students create ePortfolios’ from 2011 by David Brooks. He says:

…graduate-student bloggers are speaking to a closed circle and using pseudonyms. In other words, we aren’t crafting professional, Web-based identities…

…e-portfolios include a CV, teaching philosophy statement, some videos of them teaching, student evaluations, transcripts, a biographical page, an explanation of their thesis or dissertation topic (maybe even an excerpt or two), as well as links to things like their favorite academic blogs, online articles on pedagogy, or upcoming conferences in their field.

All of the students I spoke with said their online presence was a great social-networking tool. It helped them meet people who were in their disciplines but outside their universities.

Nowadays graduate students can maintain very public blogs for networking with others, writing reflections, etc and are indeed crafting professional web-based identities, have an informative bio page and those who teach may include a teaching slant as well. Helen Barrett uses the word ‘bPortfolios’ to refer to ePortfolios created when appropriating a blogging platform. What about social media? I can use Twitter for more professionally-oriented conversations such as this and networking in a very public way and I think my tweets are evidence of my knowledge about particular topics. Are old distinctions breaking down? How do we conceptualise ePortfolio and blogging practice in a changing landscape? What does this mean for how we advise fellow staff and students?

This space is essentially my testing ground and I write to reflect on how I see boundaries blurring and how this impacts the work I am doing, advising on, etc. I invite discussion on these issues and look forward to your insights:)

Is is about purpose or platform? Is it about the kind of voice or identity one is developing? Inger Mewburn, founder/author of The Thesis Whisperer writes about forging a digital identity (useful contribution by her via LSE here). I read her blog during my PhD days and followed the #phdchat tweets and for me this digital identity also meant forging particular kinds of connections with others.

If we compare mine, Pat and Simon’s use of WordPress for example, are all blogs a blog in the same way or are mine and Pat’s more ePortfolio like? Simon also includes his publications, link to his research profile and thesis but it’s not an overt personal branding exercise. Is the distinction related to how personal or professional one gets or the way in which one blends these? Or is it about the artifacts one collects, links to, showcases etc and the broader argument one is making that these kinds of resources or reflections are meant to be evidence for something bigger? Are blogs and ePortfolios different kinds of digital dossiers for our identities? Or is a blog an artifact subsumed within an ePortfolio?

A little while back I told people the following:

While blogs are often seen as narcissistic ‘ramblings’, ePortfolios have a distinctive personal-professional dimension which also invite judgement of you by others on a professional level. However, a blogging platform such as WordPress can be appropriated to create an ePortfolio. Helen Barrett refers to this approach as the bPortfolio. Some institutions have custom ePortfolio templates for lecturers and students. UCT does not, but his is actually advantageous to us: 1) we have the freedom to choose which platform to use and how to design our templates (visual design, labels on navigation tabs, etc), and 2) should we ever move institutions, we do not lose ownership of our ePortfolios. 

And added this video (below). But I still question some of the definitions and similarities/differences that are assumed in particular claims. ePortfolios are not necessarily always closed and institutionally branded with standard templates. But in moving out of a ‘default template’ is one also moving away from a definition? In such cases, what are we moving towards when using more open and versatile platforms such as WordPress?

No napping on NAPP

We had a variety of thought-provoking sessions on NAPP (the New Academic Practitioners Programme at UCT) today. Jeff Jawitz started off the full-day workshop by mapping out some of the dimensions of diversity present in our classrooms and encouraged us to think through how we might address these challenges. I enjoyed reading various lecturers’ comments about their experiences of dealing with diversity in their own disciplinary contexts, some very different to my own. I found the table below to be a useful framework for thinking about what we do as reflective practitioners and how diversity plays a role across these levels.

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