Planning for effective use of ICTs in education necessitates understanding the affordances of different technologies and their potential in meeting learning outcomes. The careful blending on technologies can not only assist in achieving the BFL principles, but also assist in preparing students for lifelong learning.

As Hart (2011) points out, your choice of ICTs will depend on a number of factors:
  • the purpose
  • the kinds of functionalities you require
  • the level of privacy you require (institutional and private, intranet sharing, public)
  • the level of integration you require between tools
  • the cost of the tools.

Of course, there are institutional tools which have been provided for course teams. The two main institutional systems are Interact (a learning management system) and PebblePad (a personal learning system).

Both these systems also allow integration with other freely available tools, and many CSU academics are making excellent use of social media, especially in technology related subjects and in the later stages of undergraduate courses or in postgraduate courses. The most popular free social media tools can be seen on the list of Top 100 Tools for Learning 2011 As Hart notes, these fall into a number of different categories (Hart 2011, 25):
  • Social networking – for establishing and building online relationships with others
  • Micro-sharing (aka micro-bloggng, micro-updating and micro-messaging) - for sending, receiving and replying to short messages with others, in real-time
  • Social bookmarking – for storing and sharing web links
  • File-sharing – for saving and/or sharing files in all formats: pictures, videos, presentations, documents, screencasts, etc
  • Communication tools – for communicating in various synchronous and asynchronous ways
  • Collaboration tools – for working collaboratively with others to co-create documents, presentations, mindmaps, etc
  • Blogging – for reading, commenting on, or writing blog posts
  • Podcasting – for creating or listening to audio (MP3) files
  • RSS - Really Simple Syndication – for subscribing to blog and other web news feeds

The typical question that arises is, 'Won't students be confused with such an array of tools?' The best answer to that comes from considering context. If you are working with first year students with low levels of digital literacy in a non-technological discipline area, then the answer is a resounding 'YES!' If, on the other hand, your students have been working with a range of institutional tools over the early years of their course and through this developed their digital literacy skills, and you would like to prepare them for lifelong learning by exposing them to freeware available outside of the university system, then you'll have a different answer. To avoid confusion when many tools are being used, Lyn Hay, a former FLI Teaching Fellow, has had great success in 'branding' each tool with the same subject image. In this way, regardless of the tool, the students are aware that they are within their subject environment.

For more on this area, check our mini ICTs literature review.


Learning from others' experiences...

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In April 2011, FLI interviewed 9 of our Teaching Fellows who have been exploring blended and flexible learning in their courses/subjects. The interviews looked at what the fellows had been working on, and what they had learned in relation to BFL and in particular, to each of the five perspective areas. The videos of these interviews are currently being edited, and will be available from this site very soon. We are also currently writing up a series of case studies that highlight the approaches others have taken to blended and flexible learning. These will be added here, as soon as they are available.

In the meantime, these two sites al
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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by khalid Albaih: http://flickr.com/photos/khalidalbaih/5653817859/

so have numerous case studies and example of how ICTs can and are being used in higher education today:

Learning to teach online This is is a free professional development resource designed to help teachers from any discipline, whether experienced in online teaching or not, to gain a working understanding of successful online teaching pedagogies and how a range of media can be used in higher education.

Teaching enhanced learning exemplars This gallery of good practices displays examples from around the world and from within USQ. Each example includes a brief description of the strategy often accompanied by interviews with the developer discussing the joys and pitfalls of their innovation and hands on view of the activity within a course.

For further examples, check CSU's 'About ICT Integration' and 'About ePortfolios' sites on Interact, and check the 'case studies' and 'examples' tags in FLI's bookmarks on Delicious.


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Some questions for course teams to consider

What technologies are your students currently exposed to throughout their course? You might like to consider ICTs in terms of those used for information access, interaction, collaboration, communication and networking.
  • Develop a course plan for the choice of tools available to enhance the learning and teaching experience.
  • Provide clear and comprehensive information about the course/subject that includes an educational rationale for the use of ICT tools.
  • When determining the appropriate mix of tools, include institutional tools, social media and social networking tools.
  • Select tools based on tehir ability to support the needs and purposes of learnings and teachers and the learning outcomes, acccessibility to learnings and the diversity of potential learners. Consider the affordances of each tool before making decisions.

Is there any consistency in how different technologies are being used to support the learning process?

Is their use appropriate to the learning context, learner needs and learning outcomes?

How is their introduction 'phased in' throughout the degree?

How do you, as course team members, decide on an appropriate 'blend'?

What contingency strategies do you have in place to recover from technology-related interruptions? Are these consistent across the course and made explicit to students?

How does your course accommodate for rapid technological change?



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Arguably the best way to learn about ICTs is to follow Nike's slogan and 'Just do it'. There's an abundance of resources and help out there on a whole range of tools - both institutional and social. The more you extend your personal learning network, the more you'll be able to tap into those resources, and people. To develop your skills with CSU's institutional tools, your ED is your best bet for a first call. Also check the support sites for Interact and ePortfolios, and the two Interact sites, About ICT Integration and About ePortfolios. Remember that there's a wide network of your peers who are more than willing to offer guidance and resources on the Yammer community.

In terms of learning more about social media, an excellent starting point is the University of Manitoba's Handbook of Emerging Technologies wiki. Also see Jane Hart's Social Academy - she offers free resources and '30-day challenge' courses which will help you develop your own skills in using social media. Another great little guide is the Tools for the 21st century teacher handbook. If that doesn't suit, a quick Google search will usually uncover a wide range of 'how to' resources. We're collecting the best of what we find in our Delicious site, tagged to make it easier to find what you need. The most recent additions are included here: