Utilize Online Tools for a Better Teaching Environment

Throughout my post-secondary career, only one professor has used any kind of online media within their classes. Sure, the others used Blackboard or Desire to Learn, or some other form of Learning Management Systems (LMS), but most in a not so effective way. Most LMS are used to simply drop course documents (slides, syllabus, essay topics etc.) and not create an online collaborative classroom. In my case, I want an accessible online classroom where I can log in from anywhere in the world (learning should know no bounds) to: check in to what the weekly plan for the class is, visit some discussion boards to have a meaningful and interesting discussion with fellow classmates and my professor, check my grades and see my work marked online and maybe, if the professor is really advanced, to check out a blog or some element of gamification incorporated into the class. I enjoy my in-class sessions (mostly), but for many of my classes, there is nothing about the in-class experience that could not be replicated to an online classroom, except the personal face-to-face element. For some, that is very important, it just isn’t for me. I enjoy lectures (when the professor is passionate and interested), but I enjoy lectures a lot more when they are recorded online and I can pause, rewind (do we still say rewind?) and go back and re-listen to them as I need to understand the point being made. I want accessible learning.individualized learning

Learning for me is an on-going venture; one I never plan to stop, and it does not make any sense why the way in  which we learn seems to have taken a stand still approach. The world has changed leaps and bounds from when I first stepped into a post-secondary classroom ten years ago. We have watches that can send text messages, TVs that bring 3-D graphics into the home, and social networks that allow you to instantly share information with someone across the world. With these advancements, why can’t instructors still not utilize online systems to allow a more universal learning environment? Not only will it allow the typical student to access the information anywhere and participate at a time and location convenient for them, but it also allows alternative learners (those who don’t learn via lecture and tests) to learn in a way that fosters their learning style. Having content online allows anyone to alter it to suit their needs in a way that makes sense to them. We have an understanding that each of us is different, and each of us learns in a different way- so why do we not utilize great tools that can help each person learn their way?

We students pay a lot of money to attend post-secondary education in Canada and yet we do not get a lot of say in how we learn. It’s time we get to make an impact on our own learning experience, use tools we find helpful and have professors who have a knowledge of these tools. I want to see a more universal online approach to learning, with the same caliber of education I can get during an in-class experience.

 

 

 

Digression: Dr. Strangeblog – Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media

Have no fear, Dave is here

I have been a fan of the films of Stanley Kubrick since I was a teenager.  I loved how Kubrick seemed to be a mystic of sorts.  He relied on the susceptibility of the audience to be entertained while also being convinced that what they were seeing was reality.  Kubrick constructed a fourth wall using meta-film.  To a critical viewer, his films showed the process of film making and showed how films were central to our understanding of what it means to be human in modern times.  2001: A Space Odyssey has always been a personal favourite of mine because I love to question the film’s symbolism and how it pertained to the Kubrick’s world and how it pertains to mine.

I think Kubrick and I thought similarly.  Would humans become so reliant upon technology that they would forfeit trusting their own instincts?  The black obelisk: it is terrifying, yet powerful.  It symbolism transcends its physical usage and prompts early humans to act on instinct.  Are we controlled by these instincts?  Or does something else – our technology – control these instincts?

The film brings up many questions, some of which I would like to apply to my first digression on this blog (there will not be many of these, since it is quite, ahem, unprofessional (;D).  Yet, it sheds light on an issue that is important: my initial fear of writing about technology.  To be honest, when I started out on my posts, I needed to update myself with the tech knowledge that comes natural to many of my peers.  My innocence, or perhaps it was ignorance, did come in handy.  My lack of knowledge on the subject made me seek it as much as I could this past summer.  Libraries, academic journals, scientific studies, and, most importantly, communicating with my peers, provided me with some excellent background information.  The posts have gradually become more creative and innovative.  I enjoy writing them now since I feel like I can finally swim through this knowledge; my grasp is getting stronger.

What did I have before?  Technophobia.  Perhaps.  Only a technophobe would take Kubrick, yet another tech skeptic, so seriously, right?  A motif has cropped up.  A very interesting one at that: how much the medium truly is the message.  Technology is the word; it is the language.  When we use it we are learning how to use that language.  We can look foolish.  We can use it incorrectly.  However, we also can shape it.  The blog allows for sculpting.  It becomes an art when you do not feel like you are working but creating.  I love to write creatively, so, my best pieces usually seem to come out of thin air.  They are seamless and, since I write poetry, the only source of their origin I attribute to a muse, or an inspiration.  Ideas for the posts have started to come from these inspirations; these muses.  One has been my concern for marginalized groups, another for the digital divide that I have personally witnessed in class.  Yet another post was developing on these ideas and proposing solution.  There will be more posts on these themes, however, I believe that the post will now explore the very essence of the medium: innovation.

Fear of anything is provoked my lack of knowledge of its essence [Aside: did that sound like Yoda?  Or perhaps Lao Tzu? Well read, I am ;)].

[Another Aside: Hal wasn't actually evil.  It was merely Dave's understanding of evil and, thus, his displacement of his irrational, human fears on Hal.  Dave was fearful of the unknown, so he made an irrational judgement - completely human].

The innovation will come from recent interviews with some very interesting, wonderful academics and digital media experts.  The research that I have done so far is very human focused.  The technology these people are using becomes a means for them to express their ideas; to express their humanity.  To follow their lead, I would also like to delve into my ideas for this technology.  Digital media has made me ponder how and why technology can help people communicate in ways they have never done before.  I tend to look at horizons: I like the future day that is coming.  The horizon begins to light up a world that will be more communicative.  It will share more – maybe even care more.  Not in a mushy way, but in an imperative way.  With digital technology in education students are able to progress much faster and easier than in previous generations.  The actual structure of education is changing.  Curriculum is changing.

Structure is changing.  Through language.  The semiotics that structure our online world are affecting our real one in ways never expected.  With this knowledge students can go into a world and build upon the logistics of communication.  A more communicative world is, hopefully, a less violent one.  With more communication, there is less misunderstandings and a desire to connect on deeper levels.

7 billion in this world.  Near 2 billion live in poverty.  Another several billion do not have fair access to technology and the internet.  It seems like we have a problem, Dave.

Really, we have a resource.  Infinite resources.  One medium: digital technology.  Before becoming afraid of this technology – and I am sure there are many of my peers who still will be – we need to see its benefits as they apply to our greatest needs and desires.

Ciao for now, Sara