The topic of “technological determinism” came up for me during an interesting week in this course. I was in the middle of creating my first online course on the LMS Moodle platform because my school subscribes to this format, and I needed to get familiar with it. The exercise was incredibly useful and educational for me as I learned how to navigate through the platform creating a variety of lessons and activities for my students to eventually use. It forced me to explore the courses my school uses, and then to create my own unique unit of learning. The question “Do the tools you use guide your choices as an educator?” was timely because they most certainly do, and because of the nature of the tool, I am bound by the structures and design of the program as I construct my lessons. Most certainly, the tool guides everything I do. To a degree, there is only so much that can be done within the LMS and thus student learning and teacher creativity is limited. ‘Adams references McLuhan and “suggests that all media, indeed, all artefacts, exert invisible ‘lines of force’ that tend to develop into predictable trends” (2006). That being said, at this point in my learning I am deeply grateful for the structure, and modeling I can do by accessing this course, and others that operate in Moodle as examples for how to proceed with designing online learning activities. As a beginner, the structure has helped me be successful.
As an aside, while I was building my unit I can across an amazing pedagogically beautiful and sound website to support Aboriginal content and learning in the BC Curriculum that suddenly could not be accessed. I was dismayed because I had intentions to reference it in my unit. I continued to work through the unit development, and ironically toward the end discovered that the site had been re-imaged into a Moodle platform and looks better than ever. Things can only look so different when the platform is the same (bound by structures dare I say?) Please have a look and see what you think! An phenomenal resource, to be sure, and recognizable because of it’s Moodle influence! http://firstnationspedagogy.ca/learning/
The discussion around being mindful about the technology use (i.e. Powerpoint, LMS systems, etc.) is important because by being thoughtful “one way or another, teachers hope they are pointing their students in a right or worthwhile direction” (Adams, 2006). My son recently completed a term 1 social studies project where he had to answer the question “What is social studies?” from a personal perspective linking his life philosophy, childhood, talent/interests, family history, etc. to the bigger question. He used Google Slides (a close cousin to Powerpoint) and developed the entire presentation online with a friend. The collaboration that occurred, communication skills that improved, comprehension and critical literacy skills developed and technology use to enhance presentation and provide a structure all point to a successful use of technology. Vallance argues “that digital presentation tools can be utilized to facilitate conversational dialogue between students, their instructor, and their peers without much additional knowledge or effort” (2007). Nathan’s partner’s mom commented however that she was “a bit sad” that the boys did not have a concrete artifact to share with parents and that their presentation might have been enhanced with more of a blend between technology and traditional presentation techniques (i.e. posters, timelines, etc.). I asked my son why he chose to do it all “online” – his response was that it would be better saved for the long term and more convenient (i.e. accessible from home for both parties, easy to transport, etc.). All good reasons I think. Whether his teacher was thoughtful about the choice to allow the boys to use technology to “enhance” their presentation (or just provide them with choice), and whether they missed out because they didn’t have a more traditional presentation I’m not sure. From my perspective as a teacher in this case the boys were definitely not “limited” by the structure of the Google Slides program, instead took risks by using a whole variety of tools within the presentation to make it original, engaging and fun, and they learned a ton along the way.
The next question for the boys needs to be: “What habits of mind are being encouraged in students through the ubiquitous use of PowerPoint in their learning and class assignments?” (Adams, 2006). I disagree with Adams statement that: “Powerpoint supports a cognitive and pedagogical style inconsistent with both the development of higher analytical thinking skills and the acquisition of rich narrative and interpretative understanding” (2006). I think both boys achieved the opposite with their use of Google Slides and given the correct context, these tools definitely help grow the brain! Now the teacher needs to bring their awareness to the why, “informed use” (Vallance, 2007) and keep critical literacy forefront in the educational process. “When pedagogy is in the driving seat, the supporting and integrated use of ICT allows intellectual space to be created around learning tasks… develop higher intellectual thinking skills and positive habits of mind, respond positively to the unexpected, and allow significance to be highlighted in information gathering and knowledge construction” (2007). The task we have before us is an important one. Onward I tread.
Adams, C. (2006) PowerPoint, habits of mind, and classroom culture. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 38(4), 389–411. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.tru.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=21273498&site=ehost-live
Vallance, M., & Towndrow, P. A. (2007). Towards the ‘informed use’ of information and communication technology in education: a response to Adams’ ‘PowerPoint, habits of mind, and classroom culture.’ Journal of Curriculum Studies, 39(2), 219–227. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.tru.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=24590956&site=ehost-live
Adams, C. (2007). On the ‘informed use’ of PowerPoint: rejoining Vallance and Towndrow. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 39(2), 229–233. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.tru.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=24590962&site=ehost-live