Tag Archives: Educational Technology

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Final Paper Topic

Final Paper, ITP Core One

Examine at least one specific technological practice, piece of software, program, or course website in your discipline that uses digital technology to help teach and/or do research and publication. In what specific ways is this tool(s), practice, program or website effective? In what ways is it (or are they) ineffective? How might it/they be strengthened, expanded, or built upon? How might those uses of academic technology be improved and/or reconceptualized? You are encouraged to expand the analysis you began in your midterm paper to build this work, using the specific examples you choose to explicate themes you worked with in the midterm.

In your examination, you must make reference to the conceptual and pedagogical models and approaches described in at least three of our readings this semester (e.g., Dewey, Bass, How People Learn, Visible Knowledge Project, McGann, Stein, Gee, Benkler, Bogost, Keramidas, etc.). You might supplement your analysis with references to the growing body of scholarship of teaching and learning and the digital humanities in order to assess the ways in which your field might benefit from new, imaginative uses of technology in research and/or inside and outside of the classroom. You might consider technological practices like peer production and other forms of intellectual and social organization, as well as the ways in which some forms of technology-enhanced scholarship can lend themselves to adaptation as pedagogical or research tools.*

You must also couch your analysis in a broader discussion of the state of technology usage in your academic field. How does the subject of your examination compare to broader trends of technology use in the field? Which scholars and teachers in your field are pushing the edge of the envelope in their use of academic technology to teach and/or do research, and what makes their work with technology cutting edge? Also, what insights might be drawn from the uses of technology in other disciplines to help reshape the use of technology in your field?

* Online and print journals that you might consider consulting include, but are not limited to: Computers and Composition, Computers and Education, Educause Quarterly, The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy, The Journal of Scholarship on Teaching and Learning, Kairos, Pedagogy, and Radical Teacher, as well as numerous academic blogs and educational websites. The latter tend to be more current and useful than the formal journals (even the online ones), so feel free to mix and match what you use to help bolster your analysis.

Logistical Details

Due December 21 via email. Final papers should be approximately 15-20 pages, but you are not limited to “the paper” as a medium; please talk to Michael and Lisa if you plan to pursue a different format. Co-authored submissions are allowed with permission. Requests for alternate topics, formats, and co-authoring should be made no later than Dec 7.

Thinking through technology & learning: Bass’s Engines of Inquiry

The imaginary/conceptual “game of perfect information” holds that, with the right setup computers can satisfy all our informational needs. When the language of this game enters into the conversation about technology and education, the conversation goes awry. According to Bass, when attempting to discern the impact of technology on learning we must consider: (a) how teaching/learning is a complex process that occurs and builds knowledge over time and (b) how learning contexts must be analyzed ecologically with the understanding that learning does not happen in one place, one way, via one device or method.

Before considering technology, instructors may need to take a step back and ask basic questions about their own teaching. From these considerations, we can ask: “what aspects of good teaching, and contexts of good learning, do particular technologies serve well?” Rather than engaging with technology as an add-on to our pedagogy, technology can act as a medium for our own pedagogical goals and aspirations. According to Bass, as scholars, our questions drive our desire to learn and this also holds true for students who often engage and learn the most when they are driven by questions that interest them. Questioning our motivations to learn and our pedagogy allows us to better assess the role that technology can play in facilitating and energizing our students’ engines of inquiry.

According to Bass, technology can help facilitate 6 aspects of quality learning: distributive learning, authentic tasks, dialogic learning, public accountability, and reflective and critical thinking. With increased access to information, responsibility for knowledge creation can be distributed. Students are able to deeply engage with rich, diverse, and expansive resources via tech platforms and digital mediums. Technologies can open up lines of communication, leveling discussion and participation, making it less high stakes and more democratic. Digital spaces allow for small group interaction, collaborative writing, and active reading where students can go at their own pace and draw their own connections (which they could later share with others in the space). Often some or all of these spaces are public; students can be held accountable and often take their work more seriously. And often, if instructors desire that their students begin to think reflectively and critically, they must begin by reflecting and considering their own teaching structures and habits.

Integrating technology into a course may reshape overall course structure, requiring a reconsideration of location, course architecture, and assessment possibilities. Courses have always had multiple learning spaces; in the past these have typically been defined as the classroom and elsewhere. Thoughtfully integrating technology into pedagogy requires a re-imagining and deeper conceptualization of ‘elsewhere’. Technologies can allow instructors to choose and define these new engagement spaces and promote quality learning in these spaces. Technology can coherently and easily connect these spaces and foster deeper engagement and communication. Connecting these spaces may provide students with a better understanding of how different aspect of the course come together and technologies can help connect concepts, integrate new viewpoints and resources, and allow students to develop their own constructive projects connected to the course.

Reimagining the course structure rests on the assumption that the “course” should be an independent unit with specific goals. But if reimagining the structure and practice of courses, why stop there? Course, disciplinary, and institutional boundaries often divide people, ideas, and applicable skills. When re-thinking pedagogy and how technology can support our teaching, it might be fruitful to use the intersection between tech and pedagogy to rethink how higher education functions to produce a well-rounded, proficient graduate.

Which begs the question, in 2015, how do we define the well-rounded, proficient graduate? A person who can get a job? A person who has transferable skills? A digitally literate person? Someone who has found a passion? Fights for a cause? Our answers to these questions are both ideological and pedagogical. If our main goal in teaching is to help our students get a job, do we only reinforce the capitalistic structures that often oppress and dominate the very students we teach? Can certain pedagogies allow us to prepare our students for the workforce while also providing them with the vision and tools to resist oppressive and dominant forces?

Reading Bass, at some points I wondered if his view of technology was too utopian. For example, yes, technology can help level communication and open up dialogue. But, I have also encountered students who resist any type of online discussion or engagement. And, yes, public accountability can be beneficial but it also can put students at risk if they hold radical views or feel pressured to conform to the status quo. However, in the end, I think this is where Bass’s question regarding how technologies can serve good teaching becomes most salient. How do we choose the technologies that best support our pedagogy? What questions can we ask ourselves to be sure that the technology works with our pedagogical needs and goals? And, if attempting to break down arbitrary disciplinary and institutional boundaries, what types of knowledge and skills would we our students to develop in order to have coherent experiences across various courses?