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 instructions. This update will show up in your email inbox (you should have received the first update already!), but for this week, my 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.

Our first unit lasts for two 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. 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? 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 our historical roots to carve a better-informed and (hopefully) more successful future.


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.

  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) and 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 have our initial discussions.
  3. Your own WordPress site is where you will be posting responses to most of the activities I created. 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 get acquainted with the course organization and learning environment we will be using:

The program office has also created some resources that may be useful for some students. Most from the regular cohorts will be fine with all things WordPress by now, but in case you need a reminder (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 | Independent search on the history of the field (Blog)

Complete this activity prior to doing any of the assigned readings. Your task is to conduct an independent search on the history of educational technology and (1) write a 300-word reflection on what you discovered (don’t forget to put your post in the ‘LRNT 523’ category), (2) post one comment on the blog of one colleague. Don’t just search on Google. Search on Google Scholar as well. Or Wikipedia. Or YouTube. Cast a wide net!

Here are some questions to guide your reflection: What did you find? When does the story of educational technology start? Did you discover competing histories? What are the goals of educational technology? Has educational technology been successful or unsuccessful? What might be some stories missing from the histories that you found? Some examples of keywords to consider using in different combinations are the following: educational technology, past, history, media in education, instructional technology, plato, TCCIT, teaching machines, correspondence courses, educational television, educational radio. Consider combining the keywords above with countries (e.g., Canada vs. United States) or industries (e.g., military vs. K-12).

Activity 3 | Apply the readings to your context (Blog)

Read the articles by Reiser (2001) and Weller (2018) in depth.

Consider Reiser’s and Weller’s arguments, claims, and evidence. Consider how and whether what Reiser was writing about in 2001 is still relevant. Consider how Weller’s arguments support or contradict Reiser’s. On your blog identify one “lesson from the past” that you can apply to your work. Be sure to put your post in the ‘LRNT 523’ category. Describe this lesson and explain how it is meaningful to your work. Identify a second lesson that is in conflict with something that you do in your day-to-day work. Describe this one lesson in detail and explain how it conflicts, contradicts, or causes problems with your work. 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”, 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.