Week 3 – REFLECTION ON DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES 1
Technology is something that is natural to this author, since becoming “computer literate” was part of my personal development and work while I lived in Brazil. Therefore, becoming used to new trends and technologies was not an option, but a necessity to remain employable and, to certain extent, ahead of the herd.
I have had experience with websites, blogs and most recently some app development. Websites were always present in my academic and working life, I remember the “dot.com boom” in the mid 90s, when sites such as Yahoo, AOL and many others were like a must go place to get your information (also called content), check your webmail (every modern person had to have an email) and use the web chat. So in a sense a website is more like a formal place, where businesses and companies can sell products (remember websites started as .com). It is still used for selling, advertising whilst denoting an agenda (i.e. to sell tropical gold-fish!). It is also a way to communicate what a company thinks about something to a large audience. The appearance of blogs in the late 90s meant that now every person could be a content-creator, and consequently you could write a blog about gold-fish, guns, football and pretty much anything you want. Today, blogs still represent “your personal space”, where you are the single author and people that are interested in your ideas can comment and share their ideas, and you can even reject their comments if they don’t align with your ideas. A blog is personal, you post when you can or when you feel like posting, and it is a way to say what you think about something to a potentially large audience.
Fig. 1. Learning to surf the internet. Source: https://codexsplatter.files.wordpress.com
More recently, we have seen the establishment of apps and wikis. My first experience with a wiki was, lets say, not impressive at all, and, in the end, that came down to the way this author processes information. As a visual learner, Wikis look and feel extremely messy to this author and one cannot avoid asking, “who is controlling this wiki thing in the end?”. I still visit them on a weekly basis, and they work for me when I need to get information that is not usually commercial, such as how to configure my Linux Server or download the newest version of Android on my mobile phone. As a collective space, where many (hundreds sometimes) of authors can collaborate towards creating, managing and expanding a project, a Wiki is extremely useful and dynamic. However, there is always that feeling that you do things at your own risk when you get information from a Wiki, since new authors (who are they?) are added to the project all the time, some of those authors may or may not collaborate to the project, which tells us that a successful wiki presents many challenges.
On the other hand, my personal experience, although individually important, should be left aside for this week’s reflection, since the questions that need to be answered are directly related to how teachers, students, and even parents, can become involved during the implementation of an ICT tool inside classrooms or for learning. How can we effectively, as educators, expand students’ horizons with something that is familiar to them (connectivity), whilst promoting different learning theories in the background?. How do I convince my Principal that my blog should be used during my classes?.
The implementation of ICT tools in schools today is a challenge for a number of reasons including cost, liability, privacy issues and, most importantly, how efficient an ICT tool is to engage and improve students’ learning environments. It is also important to mention here that discussing the implementation of ICT tools is meaningless unless the school is open to such technologies and have the structure to support and maintain good internet access, fast computers and so on. Therefore, it becomes clear that schools might organise themselves as a business today, employing analytical tools to access what is the effective ICT tool to be used in a school. In this case study we will use a SWOT analysis, which is a simple analytical tool that aims to assist working out the internal and external factors affecting the implementation of an idea, product or strategy. This analysis works on building on strengths (S), minimising weakness (W), seizing opportunities (O), and counteracting threats (T). This case study uses the SWOT analysis to investigate the feasibility of implementing a Blog (ICT tool) in a Year 9 Geography class whilst promoting the principles of the SAMR Model in school in the Victorian countryside.
SWOT analysis results
It is remarkably simple to find online SWOT analysis software on the web. This case study used a tool called I-Swot (www.i-swot.com) to create the analysis for this case study (Fig. 2) in minutes. The image produced by the SWOT analysis speaks for itself, it seems clear that the implementation of a Blog for a Year 9 Geography class could be a very effective way to enhance student’s learning with a simple, yet powerful, ICT tool.
Although not perfect, since this SWOT analysis is based on the assumption that most important topics were actually covered during the analysis, this visual representation works not only to understand the magnitude of the project, but also to “sell” the idea that this ICT tool, in this case a blog, is the way to go. One important aspect that must be stated is that, although powerful, the SWOT analysis might not be implemented in this class because of a single potential threat (i.e. school policy). It is therefore the teacher’s job to “sell” the ICT solutions as best as he/she can, since the benefits of implementing a blog (in this case study) are obvious, and become even more evident when the opportunities that this blog presents correlate with some of the SAMR Model (Week 2 Post) principles (Fig. 2, Opportunities).
Conclusion: why a blog?
Blogs can be useful for a number of reasons; some already covered in this work. One of the most popular pedagogical reasons why blogs are used as a tool in the classroom is for the purpose of collaborative learning. For example, blogs allow students the opportunity to express their views and to take into consideration the views of others. In doing so, some students may be exposed to ideas they hadn’t considered themselves, thus prompting them to reevaluate their positions. In this instance, the collaborative tool has served its purpose – to engage students in critical thinking using a technique not possible prior to the online revolution. Traditionally, students would have been limited to sharing their views in groups or whole class situations for a limited time during class, most often without receiving their peers’ responses in a formal written document that they could refer back to. Blogs allow students to consider their positions, publish accordingly and have the opportunity to revisit the information when it is time for them to create their summative assessments. This could enhance learning outcomes because, hopefully, students’ summative assessments would include responses that are ‘richer’, more considered and based on a number of different factors – all a result of the collaboration they experienced with their peers.
Of course, a teacher must take into consideration the downside to using this technology. There is a danger that low literacy students may feel ‘exposed’ during the collaboration process. Blogs to do allow students to ‘cover up’ their work when teachers and fellow students pass by, so a good teacher needs to preempt these challenges. It is important that these students receive the help they need to feel they can contribute effectively. This also brings to light the issue of moderation. This can be quite time consuming on the part of the teacher, especially if the blog issue or topic is controversial, meaning that all contributions would need to be vetted appropriately. This ‘difficulty’, is not unique to blogs, it can happen in the day to day traditional classroom during class discussions. However, in that instance, the issue would be dealt with then and there, whereas the 24/7 nature of a blog can be quite cumbersome and time consuming. The question here is whether or not the extra time is feasible for the teacher to contribute so that learning outcomes can be improved (hopefully!).
Blood, R. (2002). “Weblog Ethics”, The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 2002. 114-121 http://www.rebeccablood.net/handbook/excerpts/weblog_ethics.html
Blood, R. (2000) “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” September 7, 2000. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html
Rebecca Blood, “Rebecca’s Pocket: Ten Tips for A Better Weblog,”. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/ten_tips.html
Charles Lowe, Purdue University, and Terra Williams, Arizona State University, “Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom,” Into The Blogosphere http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/moving_to_the_public_pf.html
Rebecca Mead, “You’ve Got Blog,” The New Yorker, Vol 76, Issue 34, p 102, November 13, 2000.
Blogging 101 – An introduction to reading and writing a weblog: Blogs – anatomy, Blogs – why read, why write. http://unc.edu/~zuiker/blogging101/readwrite.html
Kress, G,. (2005) Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge and learning, Computers and Composition 22 (2005) 5-22.
Meredith Badger, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Visual Blogs Into the Blogosphere, http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/visual_blogs_pf.html