ETEC 511: New Foundations of Educational Technology

This was a core course and to me the framing of the course was slightly confusing. We talked about tools, and the two phenomenological positions that tools might occupy (tools control and condition us; tools are controlled by us). To me that was the key feature of the course, but it was clouded with some distracting approaches to the readings – there was never a key linkage back to the core concept of the course, and while that makes for a challenging course… it also makes for a confusing effort. The assessments never made a clear connection to the theoretical approach – in fact the rubrics had to be consulted to see the connections, which again could be the way the instructor approaches the course, and could be the way the course itself was constructed. I liked the use of other tools, however, I really really wish this program would be really student-centered and allow US to select the tools we want to use for communication. There’s a lot of hand-waving about student focused (at one point, the instructor made a point of saying “the LMS is terrible for teaching” to which I wanted to respond, the LMS isn’t doing the teaching… it’s the place we the students are looking to keep track of stuff). We used Slack, which I have a personal set of problems with (the threading of the chat is limited at best; search is abyssmal; I really have a problem with the way sub-channels? group conversations? are managed) which seemed to be more of the instructor’s choice rather than a collaborative effort.

And if one was concerned about student data being in a private, for-profit, hosted in the US system like Slack when Mattermost is available free to any UBC user makes a ton of sense…. but alas.

Technical choices aside, although in an educational technology course I don’t think you can put them aside, this course was disjointed, the assessments were all over the place – the individual assignments worth 5% apiece – some were written; some required media elements to be designed. There was no equivalency in the time spent between them. I can write a page in about a couple hours of focused work. I can create a video in about a day. In the end, I didn’t really want to engage with any of them as they were all duplicating effort based on the weekly readings and discussions we had already on the topics. While I did find the variety of topics engaging, some of the assignments made some gross errors of assumption. Like I can’t control the use of my phone. Or I don’t use my technology critically. I’ve been working in technology related fields since the late 90’s. I was early in on designing web pages. I saw some of the first javascripts to alter peoples behaviour on webpages (this was in 1997 advertising to draw people’s mouse pointers to elements, think image maps with gravity wells to slow mouse speed and to subtly draw their pointer to hover over objects with pop up descriptions). I taught a course on searching the web as Google moved to a semantic engine for analyzing search results, thus shifting their focus on quality search to engagement on search and selling advertising. The majority of the general populace may not be attentive to attention; but the people in a Master’s level program about technology should be paying attention. Professionals in the field damn well better be. I’m sure that particular assignment about attention could be framed more neutrally.

I realize the design has to hit both audiences for these courses – teachers new to the field and educational professionals who are seeking a post-graduate level degree (like myself).

I was shocked that there was no readings whatsoever about danah boyd’s work, or Ursula Franklin or Neil Postman (beyond the one article) or well, any of the history of the Internet. I’m lucky to have lived through it, but if you’re talking about the foundations of educational technology, you’re talking about the foundations of the world wide web. If you’re talking about the foundation of educational technology outside of the basic roots of web-based instruction – you really need to start talking about Audrey Waters most recent book, Teaching Machines. If you’re talking about online communities you need to include Howard Rheingold’s works. I guess the foundations course I’d design is far-and-widely different than what UBC has done. That’s fine, and probably the perspective I need to hear, rather than the perspective I’d want to hear. Most of that work was done outside academia. It’s not lost on me that most of the educational technology work is historically at-risk as it’s been published on the open web and not in academic journals.

Outside of that, I really, really loved the first thing we did in the course, which was take time to think about settler relationships with indigenous populations through text analysis. It was a thoughtful exercise and I’m constantly thinking about how I can fold that into our work as educational technologists.