Sunday, June 14, 2009

On Richardson's Blogging Views

Being a student in a completely tricked-out online class (technologically speaking) has been an extremely valuable and eye-opening experience for me. Why you ask? Because nothing opens on my fine college-issue laptop with Internet Explorer (yes, with good ol’ version 7).

Let’s start with the YC main portal. Once I log on, rather than seeing the ever-helpful Electronic Student Services, My Services and YC Hotlinks, I get nuthin’. Just a message in each of the boxes that “this browser does not support inline frames.” Whateva, who cares, not needed in this moment.

So then I log in to the course I’m taking -- EDU 255 -- and I can’t open the Class Wiki (or any links in the class Blackboard site, for that matter). Instead, every time I click on any link, I get the message: “Navigation to the web page was canceled” and “What you can try: retype the address.” Well thank you very much, but I’m never given the URL, just the tricked-out link that I will click on & it will get me where I need to go. Yeah right.

Now, when I first logged on to my course and realized that this was happening, I did call the Help Desk because “maintenance” was done on my fine laptop before summer break. I actually spoke with the “maintainee” and he assured me that “nothing was done that would affect my Internet Explorer,” he “had no idea what the problem could be” and that I “should just download Firefox.” Thank You!!

So now when I try to do anything with the course, I need to have Internet Explorer and Firefox open at once because I can’t open a new tab in Firefox on my laptop. And Firefox seems to be so large that it just crashed my system and I had to start all over. My mistake, I was trying to read the Richardson blog, too.

So…to complete this assignment, I have my behemoth pc going and this ragtag laptop… And using my strategy of running back and forth between them with a flash drive, I’ll complete my assignments for the week, yay!

Seriously, now I know how my students feel when all of this tricked-out technology doesn’t work for them. And the lame-o suggestion to “come to the computer lab” is not really an option (well, for me, because I live in Phoenix) for anyone who lives say, more than 20 minutes away, has a full-time day job, a family and/or relationship, not to mention extracurricular activities. “Who has time for this nonsense,” I can hear them saying. It has really increased my sensitivity to “technology issues” in a very significant way.

So before I go trotting out a completely tricked-out class – or even tricked-out assignments – I have to really think through whether it’s “necessary,” to make sure the assignments are accessible in multiple ways, and that I even have back-up systems in place like listing URLs in case the “clickable links” don’t work. Now I generally do that, but now I know I must have these back-ups in place without fail. It is extremely frustrating otherwise and now I am keenly aware of it.

Which leads me to Point #1 in Will Richardson’s Blog:

“The other day, I was having a conversation along these lines with a good friend who serves as the Director of Technology at a local school. We were talking about change, about how hard it is, and how long it takes. While he’s done a great deal to move his school forward in terms of open source and social tools and technology in general, from a pedagogy standpoint, he had been racking his brain trying to figure out how to support individual teachers in these shifts. Finally, he came to the conclusion that the only way to do it was to create an individualized learning experience for each teacher, to take them where they are and mentor them, individually, to a different place. He’s in the process of surveying each teacher to determine what technologies they currently use, what their comfort levels are, and what they are most passionate about.”

Uh, yeah, how great would that be to have a “consultant” or mentor work with us on an individual basis and help us trouble-shoot our technology issues and make sure our students don’t experience technological frustrations and then decided to drop my class. This “consultant” experience actually happened for me with Todd Conaway when I debuted for my final presentation E-portolios It was an invaluable contribution, because all of this technology is absolutely useless if students become too frustrated in their efforts to use it and just give up. (Yes I have had that happen!) Great job security for TELS folks, too ;-)

This, though, is an overly simplistic statement from Will Richardson for my Point 2:

“Teachers are learners. If they’re not, they shouldn’t be teachers.”

Hel-LO – not everyone wants to learn about technology… Isn’t that crystal clear by now? (And yes, Will Richardson, it pads your bottom line as a consultant to make these claims), but look at the composition of our class – the flier went out college-wide and how many continuing-contract faculty members signed up for it?

No matter how much Richardson wants to proclaim as what teachers “should” be learning, not everyone will embrace technology (much like, “not everyone will embrace change”).

Still, tying the two points together, the best way to entice teachers to learn about technology is showing faculty what it can do for them, what’s in it for them. But then, I’ve been beating this horse since giving those Blackboard Bootcamps all those years ago when I was a probationary faculty member.

People will show up for what they show up for, teachers will learn what’s interesting and “worth learning.” And it almost takes marketing campaign to sell them on what technology can do for them – while being realistic about the very real downsides (e.g., not going so far into pimping this class that you lose half the class because they can’t open what you’ve uploaded and/or follow the “advanced” content).

P.S. Oh and my favorite, I can’t just copy & paste this from Word into my blog. Yay for me! Like I don’t already have enough going on to suddenly discover it just won’t work. Well, I remembered it from last week, but forget to say anything/ask about that. Yes, in the 11th hour, as is my way ;-) I have to switch to some Edit Html nonsense and then re-format. Bliss!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karly,

    So refreshing! An instructor who is willing to do what she requires of her students! Test the system, you go girl. I get so weary hearing the superior answer, "It's on the web." to the tone of "I told you so, dummy!"

    And what about those students who don't even own a computer?

    BTW, I learned a lot about how to create voice by seeing/reading your blog entery. Thanks!