Archive for the ‘ Technology & Learning ’ Category

Active Learning and Technology – Compounding Technology on Virtual Training Technology

Objective

In the article, “How Technology keeps a 3000-Student Class engaged” (http://www.good.is/post/how-technology-helps-keep-this-3-000-student-class-engaged/), John Boyer successfully uses technology to engage his class of 3000 students in active learning. For instance, Skype interviews with guest speakers, announcing online quizzes only on Facebook and Twitter, etc. This is blended into his physical classroom.

Technology is moving the world into a Global Village paradigm.
Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Reflective

Upon reading the article, my reaction was, “I agree that technology can definitely create opportunities for active learning and engagement…but I am cautious. Can I use the technology in my virtual classroom in the same way that Boyer does in his physical classroom?”

Interpretive

Currently, technology is what’s holding my virtual classroom together. My department uses Webex technology and VOIP conference lines to share computer screens and conduct training sessions about market research technology. This has already closed the physical space between clients and my trainers in entirely different countries. For example, clients in Australia do not need to fly to our office in Vancouver to be trained or vice versa.

But what about using Skype for guest speakers? My company does host virtual webcasts using a tool similar to Skype providing discussion sessions similar to the interviews that Boyer incorporates into his classes. In these webcasts, an expert from another department in my company discusses tips and tricks for better research online. This is something the expert does outside of his/her daily operations at the company. As well, these do not happen during class time but at a scheduled time once a month and is accessible by all our clients – past learners, and current learners. They are also recorded in case our clients/learners are not able to attend at the scheduled time. This technology has enabled one expert to communicate to hundreds of learners in different cities and countries. This is slightly different from Boyer’s approach of having a guest speaker Skype in during class, but it is a better solution for my company as we can have up to eight sets of classes going in a week. If a guest speaker were to show up for all these classes, it would pull them away from their core function at the company which is not ideal. However, one should note that in this case, it isn’t Skype that is inappropriate for my classroom setting, but rather, the instructional strategy of using a guest speaker in class. It isn’t exactly scalable for the hundreds of sessions that we provide every month.

Currently, my company does use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the world with respect to company news, tips and tricks about online research, interesting resources, etc. However, the training department does not use Twitter or Facebook in the way that Boyer does in providing access to online quizzes. If these channels were to be adopted, they would be made private to learners only as my company is very careful about protecting how our products work. I wouldn’t be able to tweet a link to a quiz containing screenshots of our software product as it could easily be shared from one student to a competitor. Any quizzes are best completed during the training session. As well, having more than one Twitter or Facebook account associated with the company can be confusing to our learners as both the corporate account and the training department account would be tweeting resources about online research.

What my interpretations have shown me is that I can’t use the technology in exactly the same way that Boyer does in a virtual setting. However, with modifications, the technology/media can be appropriate for my teaching situation. More about this in the Decisional section.

Decisional

The article has brought to light that not all forms of technology and media are marketed to be educational tools. For instance, John Boyer found a way to make use of Skype in his classroom to enhance the learning experience of his students. Skype was not intended to be an educational tool, but it reminds me, as an educator, to consider new technology/media from a training perspective. I will write about new technology/media that I stumble upon in the department blog and encourage my trainers to do the same.

I’ve also realized that I shouldn’t force technology/media into my classroom just because I work at a technology company and it is expected that I would be a cheerleader for it. More importantly, what should happen is that when considering new technology/media I should identify whether or not it fits the needs of my learners and whether it balances the needs of my employer. I will sit down with my team and we will collaboratively come up with guidelines for analyzing the appropriateness of new technology/media and for adopting these tools.

As well, a tool can be used in more than one way that suits different educational settings. For instance, Boyer found that guest speakers via Skype works for him. Although this would not work too well for my virtual class, I could use Skype to stay connected with students who need to speak with me or my trainers face-to-face outside of class. I will meet with my team to discuss adopting Skype as a tool of communications with clients as soon as we analyze the appropriateness and determine the guidelines for adopting the tool.

With respects to the Twitter and Facebook, rather than setting up an account specific to the training department, the trainers (myself included) should pass on any resources to the Marketing department as they manage the corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts. The Marketing department can post on our behalf. We can then point our learners to one Facebook or Twitter handle rather than two. This reduces redundancy and any confusion.

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