Developing Educational Technology Courses

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m teaching a special topics course this summer titled Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0. I’ve enjoyed engaging with many people from around the world on the topic and content of this course and encourage anyone with an interest to join the fun.

Kimberly McCollum left the following comment regarding one of my previous posts on this topic.

I also teach a course about technology in k12 education, so I [am] really interested in your curriculum. What is the balance between pedagogical theory and tool training in your course? Also, with so many tools out there, how did you decide what will be included or excluded from the course?

I think Kimberly has asked some very important questions – questions that many others will be facing in the very near future – and I’d like to start a dialogue here. Here is my slightly edited reply to Kimberly’s inquiry.

Wow, these are good questions that do not have simple answers.

This course will primarily focus on teaching and learning with the understanding that the technology is meant to enhance learning. You can look at the draft version of the Course Topics and see that we’ll begin by looking at various instructional models, rationale for networking, the principles of web 2.0, related current topics and issues, and more before we ever look at any specific tools.

We’ll survey a variety of Web 2.0 technologies and the learners will have some flexibility in which tools they choose to use (For example, for the social bookmarking unit the learners could choose to use Diigo, Del.icio.us, etc.). Again, the tools are not the primary focus as many will be vastly upgraded or obsolete 18 months from now. The idea will be for the learners to become familiar with each general group or genre of tools and begin developing strategies for integrating them with teaching and learning in their own classrooms during the coming school year.

I’ve tried to group the tools according to use in the classroom. For example, I’ve grouped everything related to audio together. This class does not seek to be on the bleeding edge of innovation so we’ll look at tools that have examples of being implemented in classrooms and have at least a small community of edu-users. I intend to allow for some flexibility to allow for emergent learning opportunities as learners discover topics and technologies of particular interest to them individually.

The number of groups of tools that can be studied will likely be more than we can study in the course, so I anticipate that we’ll all learn some of the most common tools together (blogs, wikis, microblogging, etc.) and then I’ll allow the learners to customize their learning by picking 4 or so of the remaining half dozen groups as they deem most appropriate for their needs, interests, personal/ professional development, etc.

As we survey all these tools, we’ll always bring the conversation back to the educational merits each brings to the design of instruction. I do not believe in using technology for the sake of using technology, nor do I wish for anyone to leave my class with that misconception.

I encourage you to join in the development of the content through the course wiki and welcome your input, suggested resources, ideas, engagement before, during, and after the course.

Those are my thoughts at this point. I still have just over a month until the course begins, so let’s discuss this more.

  • How would you balance the "pedagogical theory and tool training" in a course like this one?
  • How would you suggest organizing the content?
  • With which technologies do you think it is most important for educators to be familiar?
  • What suggestions for improvement can you offer?

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Clif Mims

Clif Mims is a Christian, husband, father, teacher, cancer warrior, and fan of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Memphis Grizzlies.

11 thoughts on “Developing Educational Technology Courses”

  1. kamccollum,

    Yes, I plan on teaching TPCK as part of this course. It isn’t/wasn’t explicitly listed on the course topics, but it will be part of the early discussion (chapters and the instructional models and the like). I’ve grown to become a big fan of TPCK. I’m a bit concerned that some people are going whole hog into it too casually, but I certainly think it brings a lot to the conversation of effectively integrating technology with teaching and learning. Thanks for the comment. I welcome feedback from any and everyone.

  2. I’ve looked over your list of content on the Wiki and I see a lot of the similarity between your class and the one that I teach, except that I suspect your course is 3 credits while mine is only 1 credit.

    My course supervisor stresses the idea of “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge”, but I don’t see it on your list of topics. Is it a concept you are familiar with? As a result of the emphasis on TPCK, we’ve separated our course into sections by the content that students will be teaching. Our science course introduces somewhat different technologies than our English course, etc. This has been a recent, but valuable change to our course. However, the instructors of IP&T 286 (the course I teach)go back and forth about the value of teaching students the TPCK framework. Do they need to know TPCK to have TPCK? I’d be interested to hear others’ opinions.

    Thanks!

  3. Bea,

    No worries about the extra F, I’m used to it. 🙂

    One of the characteristics of Web 2.0 tools is that they have shallow learning curves and are often highly intuitive to use. As a result, the technology quickly fades into the background and doesn’t serve as quite the obstacle to learning that previous technologies have. I find it exciting to think that we are getting closer to that seamless integration so many of us have dreamed about for so long.

    John,

    Thanks for mentioning the ITRT program and providing the link. I’ll take a look at the information in relation to this and other courses and professional development activities that I lead.

    All the best to both of you!
    Clif

  4. Clif,

    I’m responsible in my school district (k-12) for teaching a lot of classes to teachers, and the “balance” issue you bring up is often something I attempt to address.

    In the normal time allotment I’m given (2 hours), there is not time enough for both sides. This past year I have used a lot of ideas on digital learners, digital literacy, and digital fluency to legitimize the use of online, read/write tools. Some teachers after using them, report back savings in time and ease in management. Others never buy into the “why” they’re using the tools they are. Still, other teachers report that using the digital tools often is more an engaging experience for students.

    I think the theory behind why we’re using these tools is important, but I am not sure a complete background is required. Instead, I have found some motivational highlights work well with practicing teachers, who then have “aha moments” as to why we’re using the latest technologies.

    The “how” to do some of these things is more important, ultimately, because we’re building comfort and confidence in using these tools. I have many times found introducing these tools first to teachers, then coming back later to address the use of these tools with the students themselves in a pedagogical setting, as worked best.

    I think the best approach, however, is pairing teachers with teammates at using the technology. We use this model in Virginia, with the ITRT program (instructional technology resource teacher). This expert in technology pedagogy works alongside teachers to a) cover the standards, b) choose the best tools and approaches, and c) support the use of the technology by students.

    I’ve written at more length about this relationship in my own blog post (http://www.johnhendron.net/digest/2008/06/02/sharing-a-two-way-street/). Good luck with your class… I’d encourage you to get teachers to interact online using socially-minded tools that mimic some of the behaviors we now see with 17-20 year olds. Maybe the class could come up with ways these tools support their curriculum?

  5. Hi Cliff.

    This balance between teaching the technology and showing teachers how it fits into teaching is tricky. I keep arguing that we need to spend more time on the latter. The way I see it, technology is becoming very stereotypical, or maybe I should say uniform. Once you know one piece of software, there is much in there you can transfer to another. The learning curve for the technology itself is (I hope) flattening. But as more tools are introduced, I think it is very important to help teachers find the right fit. We don’t need to get every teacher using every tool, but get teachers comfortable making the decision about which tools fit their style and their content.

    Cool plug-in, by the way. If I didn’t mind speaking into a microphones as much as I do, I’d give it a spin.

  6. Scott and Chuck,

    Thanks for helping me test out my new Seesmic plugin. It seems that everything is working correctly. It’s hot and sunny here, too, but actually a tad less humid than usual.

    Scott,

    I really hadn’t thought about discussing balancing one’s real-world and online identities as an outright topic because I was thinking it would work itself in and out of many conversations. Your video comment reminded me of lessons learned from Frontline’s Growing Up Online. It will be important that the learners in this course consider 1) how to balance their time online for their own well-being but to 2) also immerse themselves into the online culture to gain an understanding of what their wired students are experiencing. While we’ll certainly carefully discuss balancing the use of technology with teaching and learning (That’s one of my soap boxes) I’ll now be sure to discuss balancing online activities with real-world responsibilities.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. just a test {seesmic_video:{“url_thumbnail”:{“value”:”http://t.seesmic.com/thumbnail/eUMSCujsGk_th1.jpg”}”title”:{“value”:”just a test “}”videoUri”:{“value”:”http://www.seesmic.com/video/QIlTwwcCnP”}}}

  8. thanks, and a nod to “balance” {seesmic_video:{“url_thumbnail”:{“value”:”http://t.seesmic.com/thumbnail/KZl4DMZpGQ_th1.jpg”}”title”:{“value”:”thanks, and a nod to “balance” “}”videoUri”:{“value”:”http://www.seesmic.com/video/dTdx3Kpo6N”}}}

  9. Wow. I’ll soooo be looking at this during the one hour online time my family is affording me while on vacation in Mexico starting Saturday. I’m joining the wiki and hope to reap the love.

    Also will add your blog to the “wall of blogs” in the Blogger’s Hut on ISTE Island in Second Life, and to my own blogroll(s). Nice!!!! Thanks!

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