Surfin the Next Wave of Ed Tech!

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Welcome to the first blog post from the spankin new Advanced Learning Technologies website! ¬†I finally found some time to learn WordPress ūüôā ¬†I’m Steve Joordens, Director of the Lab, and self-professed educational technology geek. ¬†Oh, I’m also somewhat opinionated, mostly appreciated, and apparently I have some strange “comfortable” sort of writing style. ¬†If you like it, you might want to check out my Introduction to Psychology MOOC on Coursera where I speak it on video.

Right then, on to the second wave, but first lets look back at the first. ¬†Not that long ago, at institutions all around the world, a very strange thing happened. ¬†Universities adopted learning management systems and demanded that all faculty use them to support every course they teach *gasp!* ¬†The truly amazing thing … they did! ¬†And they continue to use them today. ¬†For those of you not within academia, herding those cats called faculty with this level of total buy-in is exceptional, but there was a problem …

Yes learning management systems allow us to connect with our students and share content and information in powerful ways.  However when it comes to actually supporting the learning process, they generally fall short.  Yes, some systems have some tools to support, say, quizzing but the people who built these systems are engineers and business peeps, they are not educators let alone experts in the creation of effective educational technologies.  The good news is, they mostly seem to realize this, which brings us to the second wave.

Rather than create their own LMS specific technologies they have instead converged on a standard for directly integrating third-party technologies into their systems. ¬†This so-called “learning tool interoperability” or LTI standard has different levels (1.0, 1.1, 2.0) which allow ever increasing sophistication of interaction, and most are at the 1.1 level now. ¬†But as this standard evolves there is every reason to believe that rich interactions will be possible.

Hence the beach is ready for all of us third party creators of educational technologies to lay down a towel and show what we got!  Oh yeah, sometimes my analogies go too far, sorry about that.  But seriously, the time is right for us to do things right, and to provide the sort of engaging and active learning experiences that give our students the quality and depth of learning they will need to excel in life.  However, we need to do it right.

I will expand on these points in future posts but for now I want to suggest a few basic principles that I believe institutions should use to guide them as they decide which technologies to adopt and support. ¬†Without further adieu …

  1. Every institution of learning publicly states their learning objectives in terms of the skills students will have upon graduation, skills like critical thought, effective oral and written communication, etc. ¬†When choosing technologies the primary¬†question should be … “how does this technology allow us to reach some or all of these goals?”
  2. This “Primary Question” should become the basis of any pitch made to the university. ¬†That is, prospective companies should be asked to identify which learning objectives their technology impacts and how, and their claims should be carefully assessed
  3. In some areas money is king, when it comes to Ed Tech evidence should be king! ¬†We don’t have time to buy, support and push technologies that ultimately have no real effect. ¬†Any claim linking a technology to learning objectives should have a clear “evidence base”, and in addition technologies that themselves have had their efficacy and usability supported by research should be preferred.
  4. At the highest level, if a technology can “measure” learning outcomes as it positively impacts them, these technologies should be the most preferred of the lot as they have the potential to inform and evolve educational practice by providing clear feedback about what is and is not working

Of course it should come as no surprise that these are the very principles we embrace in our lab ūüôā

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