Unit 1 | What are the histories of educational technology?


Welcome to LRNT 523! I hope you are looking forward to the next 9 weeks of class as much as I am!

At the beginning of each week I will be sending you an update. This update will often include a short video, as well as pointers, reminders, and suggestions. This update will show up in your email inbox (you should have received the first update already!), but for this week, George’s weekly video is embedded below as well! If you can’t see the video underneath the next paragraph, you can click here to watch in on YouTube. If you are wondering who George is, be sure to watch the Course Welcome video  or read the transcript here.

Our first unit lasts for three weeks. Together, we will explore the histories of the field. It might seem strange to study the history of a field that is so forward-looking, a field that is seemingly so keen to explore what’s new, what transformational, what amazing opportunities new technologies bring with them. A field, which, due to the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has been thrust into the spotlight.

An age-old adage goes something like this: those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The saying holds special significance in our field, because many individuals, organizations, and companies propose innovations to improve teaching and learning without having first investigated what came before them, what sorts of steps others took, what sorts of technologies were explored in our efforts to improve teaching and learning. What have we tried in the past that proved successful? What can we learn from our successes and failures? How can we use the history of the field to inform the future of learning and teaching with technology? What are the histories of the field? In Schools and Schooling in the Digital Age, Selwyn (2011, pp. 39) argues that our “curious amnesia, forgetfulness, or even wilful ignorance of past phases of technology development and implementation” is to our detriment. In this unit, we will examine some of our recent historical roots to carve a better-informed and (hopefully) better future for teaching, learning, training, education, and our society overall.


Learning Activities and Assignments for this unit

Activity 0 | Orienting yourself to the course

This is an independent activity that aims to help you ensure that you are ready for this class. In this class, our course learning environment consists of 4 spaces: Moodle, this WordPress site, your own WordPress site, and your own RSS reader (most people in the program use Feedly as their RSS reader).

I find that the first week of class is frequently filled with uncertainty and requires extra effort to get started. Being online increases the effort required, as distance often prevents serendipity and instantaneous exchange that might resolve questions that you might have. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the discussion board dedicated for this purpose. And, if one of you knows the answer to the question and gets to the discussion board before I do, please don’t hesitate to answer the question and provide help to your colleagues!

To be successful in this class, you need to understand the relationships between the 4 spaces that we will be using. Activity 0 essentially asks you to explore these spaces, set up your RSS reader, and make sure you know how to follow the course, how to follow your colleagues’ posts, and how to participate in conversations.

  1. This WordPress site serves as a central space of the course. Unit descriptions, activities, assignment descriptions, and so on are all listed here. My announcements will also appear here (see instructor posts on the right). They will also show up in your email and in Feedly. The course is guided by the schedule and each unit page (e.g., Unit 1).
  2. Moodle is where you will submit your assignments, and where we will complete activity #1.
  3. Your own WordPress site is where you will be posting responses to most of the activities for this course. You will also be posting comments on your colleagues’ blogs and responding to comments made on your own blog.
  4. Finally, an RSS reader (like Feedly) is the tool you will use to keep track of blog posts and comments on a central space. Once you subscribe to everyone’s posts/comments using the OPML files provided, you can visit your RSS reader to see if anyone posted anything.

I have created the following video to help you set up the RSS environment with Feedly and the OPML files provided

The program office has also created some resources that may be useful for some students. Students enrolled in MALAT have already engaged with WordPress and Feedly, but in case you need a reminder and for everyone else (especially on using using OPML in Feedly), please make sure you review the following:

LRNT Course Learning Environment

More WordPress Help (from main WebSpaces site)

Using OPML to add RSS Feeds to Feedly

Activity 1 | Introductions (Moodle)

The aim of this activity is to introduce us to one another in an interesting way. Many of you know each other, but we have people from multiple groups in this course, so the goal here is not only to introduce us to each other, but also to provide some new information about ourselves to people who already know us. I thought we should tackle this task by taking a walk down memory lane. That sort of trip aligns with the spirit of the course as well, which is to investigate histories and foundations. To introduce ourselves to one another, I would like to ask you to (a) locate a music video on youtube.com that reminds you of your childhood or teenage years, or (b) post a photo of you as a young child in the relevant Moodle forum. You can do both if you like, but one or the other is also fine. In addition to posting one or both of these artifacts, I’d like you to share a little bit about yourself. What do you do? Why are you taking this course? But, also, please do tell us what sort of memories the video or photo bring back. Aim for 5-7 sentences of text about yourself Please don’t just post a link/photo with no explanation. To show you an example of this task, I have completed this activity myself and posted it as a response to the discussion thread. A word of caution: A lot of music videos contain language and imagery which may be offensive to various groups of people. Please review the lyrics and watch the whole video before you post it to ensure that it is appropriate.

Activity 2 | Reflect on reading (Blog)

You should complete this activity after reading the first 1/3 of Weller’s book, up to and including chapter 8 which takes us to year 2011 (e-learning standards). Note that the readings page includes a link to an audio version of the book as well if you prefer to listen rather than to read the book.

Your task is to:

  1. Reflect on what you read and connect it to what you thought about the history of the field prior to reading Weller’s work. Here are some prompts to guide your reflection.
    • What do you find surprising in these chapters? Why?
    • What one to two arguments presented do you find compelling, challenging, or problematic? Why?
    • If you were to write a similar book, would you start in 1994? When does the story of educational technology start? Why?
  2. Write a 300-word reflection on your blog responding to one or more of these prompts (don’t forget to put your post in the ‘LRNT 523’ category). In your post, feel free to quote parts of the chapter in your post to highlight specifics.
  3. Next, read a few responses and post one comment on the blog of one colleague aiming to use what you are reading to expand our common understanding of issues that may come up.

Here is an overview of critical academic writing and a resource on academic blogging shared in LRNt 521 as you continue to develop your approach to academic blogging. Think of your blog posts as critical academic reflection where you are analyzing and synthesizing as you make connections between theory and practice.

As with all LRNT courses, you are expected to incorporate APA standards for citations, formatting, and references and to back up your writing with evidence and appropriate academic literature as necessary. You are required to pay attention to grammar and clarity and to avoid colloquialisms. References are not included in the assignment word count. Also, don’t forget the numerous resources available to you as you build your competence and fluency with APA formatting and writing style. In particular, check out the RRU APA 7 formatting checklists as well as RRU WriteAnswers where you can ask your APA questions.

Activity 3 | Apply reading to your context (Blog)

Read the second 1/3 of Weller’s book prior to completing the next activity, specifically the chapters that span the years 2002 to 2011. In the serialized version of the book, you will see that each chapter includes a “between the chapters” audio file, discussing the chapter. Pick one or two chapters of interest and listen to those conversations.

Consider the arguments, claims, and evidence presented in these chapters. Consider how and whether the technology and lessons Weller describes are relevant to your work or to current educational events. On your blog

  1. identify one lesson or idea from the years 2002-2011 that you see as having immediate relevance. Describe this lesson and explain how it is relevant.
  2. Identify a second lesson that you believe conflicts with or contradicts current practice at your work or current events. Describe this second lesson and explain how it conflicts or contradicts aspects of your work or current events relating to teaching, learning, and education.

Don’t forget to engage with the lessons that your colleagues posted. Remember that the goal here is not merely to post your own content and move on to the next activity. Engage with your colleagues and ask clarifying questions, suggest solutions, explore problems from a different angle, propose alternative ways to view a “lesson or idea”, and so on. I anticipate that you need at least 200 words for a substantive post. Follow-up comments and responses can be shorter than that. Be sure to put your post in the ‘LRNT 523’ category.

Activity 4 | Book Club # 1 – Discuss the book with others (live discussion)

Read the last third of Weller’s book prior to completing the next activity, specifically the chapters that span the years 2012 to 2018 and the conclusion.

Take some notes in preparation for a live discussion with others. These might be questions, points of confusion, ideas, or just general thoughts. Feel free to keep those notes private or post them on your blog.

I will host two conversations about the book. Think of this meeting as a book club discussion. You should come to it prepared to discuss the book. The first meeting will be on Friday September 15 at 9am-10am pacific, and the second on Saturday September 16 at 10am-11am pacific. They will be held in the course Zoom room and you can participate in one or both of these. For those of you that can’t make any of these times, I would like you to organize a separate meeting in order to discuss the book among yourselves, and I will provide guiding questions for your discussion. Please use this discussion board to identify others who aren’t able to make these two meeting times. There are no formal deliverables in relation to this activity. My goal for you is to think through the book, its lessons, its ideas, and discuss those with others.