Exploring the Potential: Innovating Uses of Technology in Teaching and Learning

Don McIntosh
An Old Curmudgeon’s View of Technology in Education

I put together a director of vendors of online learning products and services - more than 2000 products there, including hundreds of LMSs. It’s on teachonline.ca

I’m inspired by the people at this conference - I don’t want to rain on the parade, but I want to share some pet peeves. For context: I believe that online learning can be better than classrooms. There’s a myth about interactivity in a classroom setting. In a class of 30 people, 5 people are interacting. 15 are tuned out entirely.

Let me try a survey with you: http://www.getfeedback.com/r/VkVXyNK7/
Educational breakthroughs?
  • When I see educational breakthroughs of quantum leap, my crap detectors go up. The reality is that education is a slowmoving institution. We learn by doing, as we’ve always known - but are afraid top practice this.
Education trends seem to go in 15-year cycles. The ideas come back, but with new names. Problem-based learning, competency based learning, etc.

OK, to the technologies:

Video: we have things like YouTube, Khan, TED Talks, etc. But they’re still mostly just lectures. I hate seeing a video with information I could read in ten seconds. Video is best used for feedback, demonstrating skills, cat videos and pratfalls.

MOOCs: I have mixed feelings about that. 10 years ago they were exciting. They were about the democratization of education. We haven’t reached that goal yet. Corporate universities and MOOCs? Marketing nonsense.

Adaptive/personalized learning. There’s promise here, but the words are used without meaning. Personalization is what Amazon does. Adaptive learning also focuses on what people need, not just what they want. There are questions of privacy.

LMSs: do they improve learning? No. they are simply an administrative tool.

Faculty development: sadly, it hasn’t taken hold. Very few faculty have adopted the idea of teaching and learning - they’re rewarded for their research.

Gerhard Trippen
UTORMAT: University of Toronto Mathematical Assessment Tool

This is an online assignment automarker with multi-part randomized algorithmic questions.
I wanted to design a tool for myself, and I want a tool that would allow everyone to develop questions for themselves. It’s about one or two years old.

I needed questions with multiple parts. Eg. Here is the circle. (a) calculate the diameter. (b) calculate the circumference. Etc.

Motivations: make it free for everyone, and fully online. First attempt was a Python script with a lot of back and forth. Various types of questions. Has automated marking with partial marks (even if you get part (a) wrong, maybe you got the rest right). There’s also an interactive mode with hints/videos.

Dave Lane
OERu’s ‘Loosely Coupled’ Tech Platfrom

Two ways to develop a platform:
  • Monolithic created by an individual designer - great beauty but great fragility. Everything happens in a single product. Eg. The LMS. They tend to be VC funded and tend to be done at great risk. They are profit-motive and based on a ‘lock-in’ model to keep you there. They have well-integrated parts, but tend not to be best-of-breed for various components.
  • Cathedral loosely coupled components - chaotic at the surface - vibrabt thriving marketplace. The system works because it adheres to a set of simple rules. This is what usually emerges after the initial forays into a development domain, as standards emerge which allow loosely integrated components to talk to each other. This is also the place where free and open source software (FOSS) can emerge.
FOSS - four essential freedoms: use, share, study, improve.

OERu uses FOSS because we believe learning should be done in such a way as to preserve these values. We can identify software that will fulfil a niche within out ecosystem without any up front costs. We can very rapidly, and in very small increments, improve our system. Our learning environment is the broader internet.

We support learner freedom: they never have to log in or enter a password to access our materials. No learner should have to sacrifice their own freedom, privacy, or their own future access to their own created works. We want people beyond our institution to make use of these tools, and share. See http://tech.oeru.org And we want to promote self-reliance.

This talk: http://oer.nz/icde17 and http://oer.nz/tech

Pernille Stenkil Hansen
Using Padlet for Active Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

See: https://padlet.com/pha/ICDE2017
This application is very popular as a backchannel in our courses. Some examples:
  • preClass Padlets questions to consider, key points to an article
  • inClass Padlets discussions, brainstorming, backchannel, questions
  • postClass for peer review, post resources, or reflect on learning
Example: Anders Klitmoller, Philosophy of Science class.


Question. UTORMAT - is it free for my students? Or just yours? Response: it was funded by U f T. But it’s not open source at the moment.

Question: About OERu tools. Response: about OERu harvester.

Question: do you have a ‘top 10’ tools?

Question: security for open source tools. Response: open source more secure than non-open source.

Question: how to engage faculty? Response: that’s a question I’ve wrestled with for decades. But I think it’s an individual thing. The problem is the reward system - faculty are rewarded for doing research. That hasn’t changed in 40 years.


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