Thursday, May 30, 2013

End of term thoughts

We are sorry we missed the last session, fellow 2.0-ers!  Myself and some of my comm studies colleagues were inundated with the LaGCC Speech Contest that afternoon.  It all went quite well, and the good news (at least for me) is my 2.0 activity may have had some bearing on those very events.
Some of my students competed in the preliminary and final rounds of the event so it is not beyond imagining that they received and incorporated feedback to their speeches for the competition.  So, if that's the case, a good example of the virtual (peer review) having a positive influence on the real world speaking event.

Admittedly, I felt some frustration with how the activity went.  This is coming from a veteran as for using technology to teach, but I also need to acknowledge the shortcomings of how I set up the activity.  I have some students who are still wrestling with the posting/peer itself so they haven't given up.  But I think that from lessons learned, this activity will run much more efficiently, and be much more effective, during the next go round.

Beyond the technical issues... what did I learn?  (First, I'll talk about those technical issues, though).  Students' technology literacy (or lack of same) came up in the Academic Technology Committee meeting I sit in on with Patricia -- so this is a conundrum that is on the minds of all of us (or at least it should be).  We need to move past assuming that our students are technologically/technically literate.  Some are, but many ARE NOT.  I'm not simply talking about login/basic navigation issues but fundamentally not understanding how to use the technology properly.  For example, a number of my students did not post their outlines in the required space.  I thought it was obvious that they would post from the home page of the wiki to a link of their own page.  But several posted to what could be considered "personal" pages that the wiki automatically creates when a user registers.

To me this is a good example of technological determinism where the user does (or does not) follow the path that is suggested by the inherent usability of the technology.  I chose a wiki for my activity because of its instinsic openness/flexibility but that may have been a challenge in itself because it allows users innumerable ways to "skin the cat" so to speak.  This lesson has been learned.  Going forward, I will be much more explicit with respect to my instructions even for the simplest tasks.
The next lesson I learned is no less important, and is more of a content issue.  [But let's not underestimate the hurdles that the technology itself presents.  I am NOT a fan of Blogger.  Not only did it slow my system to a crawl every time I logged in from home or at a wireless venue (and therefore my enthusiasm to participate), but I think the technology is strangely unintuitive -- the simple act of posting is made unnecessarily complex.  I think some (highly paid) individual in Palo Alto had a good reason for setting up the technology up the way it is but to me it is a very inelegant design -- and inefficient -- design.  In all seriousness, I think this is central to the whole discussion we are having.  If the tech is not making things easier, it is not working and should not be used.]

Content-wise, what I will do differently next time is give the students more guidance in terms of the feedback they can give to the speech outlines.  I kept the feedback rubric (if you want to call it that) pretty general and much of the peer review material was, therefore, pretty pedestrian.  So I think our students have it in themselves to give feedback that is much more valuable, and deeper, than might have been given at this time.  But that's on me.  And that's also on the technology not creating barriers to adding the requisite substance of this kind.

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