Welcome to LRNT 526 – Inquiry into Contemporary Issues in Learning Technologies
Welcome and course overview
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About this course
The picture below was created using the DALLE-2 AI application, and was generated with a few input prompts that included “online learning,” “the moon,” and “giraffe.” This example isn’t particularly impressive let alone artful, but it does begin to show a combination of widely disparate items in a single image generated by a computer program from a few words. Is it art? Who owns it? Could a student submit it for an art assignment? What could be the impact on artists, graphic designers and others in the arts and related professions? Similarly how might AI using LLMs (Large Language Models) impact education…or perhaps, how is is already impacting it, possibly more than we know? Who benefits from this technology? What concerns does it raise? Where is it going?
Artificial Intelligence has been getting a lot of press lately, but questions like these are part of a continuous development in the use of technology in education over the years, going back as early as the printing press and even earlier. Technology seems ubiquitous in our learning environments and while we usually take it for granted, as new iterations emerge the questions continue to arise – what is their potential use, how can they help and/or harm our learners and the society in which they live, and what are our responsibilities as educators? There are many such issues in education, and that’s what we’re here to explore.
This is the mid-point course in your MALAT program. This course is focused on contemporary issues in learning technologies.
- On one level, in our context issues are problems or questions that are being raised about learning technologies and their real or perceived benefits such as efficacy, cost, features and efficiencies. For example, the recent massive switch to online learning, in-home exam surveillance/proctoring and videoconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic is raising many questions about the best way to use learning technologies for various learning groups. There are ongoing debates about the benefits or drawbacks around use of networked devices in the classroom, data privacy for students, information systems futures and security, and recently with the emergence of ChatGPT, DALLE and other type of AI apps in education, what the implications may be or even how to incorporate them into learning activities. There remain discussions about online teaching and learning or digital textbooks. These Educause Horizon Reports give many more examples. Writings on issues in educational technology vary in quality of argumentation and evidence, but nevertheless they illustrate how educational technology continues to invite questions, claims, counterclaims and controversy in a wide variety of sectors of education and society more widely.
- On another level, there is also a wider level of inquiry that explores broader pedagogical and social implications of learning technologies and their impact on society. At this level political, sociological, economic and other aspects of society are explored from critical perspectives with a focus on justice and the functioning of democratic society. In relation to learning technologies, the penetration of market forces into the “classroom” is of growing concern, for instance. Questions of control and power wielded by learning technology companies (including textbook publishers), and their impact on teaching and learning, continue to trouble many educators.
Both of these types of issues – effective applications of technologies and their potential and actual roles in higher education, as well as their social impacts – may be explored in this course, and each of you will have the opportunity to identify and research an issue connected to a topic and context of interest to you. The purpose is to enable you to make thoughtful and informed decisions about the use of educational technologies in your setting, as well as consider some of the broader implications of these technologies on education and social equity more widely, including students and broader communities. As an important part of the course you’ll be promoted to think about how your coursework and research relate to your own position, setting, industry or other factor that can influence your big-picture understanding or worldview. While we look outwards, we also look inwards and around us to gain a deeper understanding of where we are in relation to the things we are studying and learning.
It is not the intent of this course to present a pre-selected set of issues and background information, including readings, about those issues. Rather, you will find your own issues and literature to study – and there is much to choose from. You will use a critical inquiry method to examine the issue you select. Each issue will not just be discussed in the abstract, but also studied in context, i.e. related to an example learning event, course or series along with the technology used for delivery. Examples of these could include technology-enhanced learning in such forms as MOOCs, open online courses, curated video libraries or reading lists, open textbooks or other substantive open educational resources, digital educational programs, educational games or apps, and digital simulations. Selected examples of these or other technologies will be investigated throughout the course at the group level, and each individual within the groups will also explore a unique issue of interest related to that learning event and technology.
Therefore it’s important to understand that this course will be somewhat different from the usual format. As noted earlier, there is no overall set content to follow. Your progress, work and readings throughout the course will be driven mainly by the path you create for yourself and team, guided by the course instructions and schedule, feedback from your peers and guidance from your instructor.
Following is a general description of the course work structure; more details will be provided at appropriate places throughout the course or through the menu at the top of this page.
Course work summary
- Ongoing – readings both as provided and as additionally uncovered during your research through the course
- Team work: The focus on teamwork in the course is an important part of the learning that takes place, with the assumption that learning is often a social activity, and also within educational technology individuals seldom work alone. Therefore efforts are made to build teamwork skills in this course, with a particular stress on the idea that within a team setting the group operates best with a focus on team skills and outcomes, rather than on personalities.
- Identify as a team a learning technology and related learning event, and deliver online presentation to rest of class
- Some team blogging required
- Individual work:
- Develop individual learning plan leading to final critical academic reflective paper
- Explore and participate in an external learning event delivered with the technology your team has chosen – a number of examples are provided
- Maintain your contribution to the learning community by blogging, providing feedback on others’ blogs, participating in discussions, providing feedback on other team presentations
- Participate in Collaborate sessions or review recordings if not able to participate
Readings are provided in the introductory section of the course and can be accessed from the menu above. There is little pre-required reading identified in this course; however, you will be asked to review some readings you encountered in earlier courses in this program as well as find some of your own literature that helps to shed light on your topic of interest.
Because you will be finding most of your own research materials for this course, in the second week there will be a three-day forum discussion in Moodle led by an RRU ibrarian to provide suggestions for effective research and resource finding strategies. This session will also help prepare you for year 2 of your program, where you will be conducting more independent research.
Teamwork: Each team will choose an online or other digital learning technology to explore as a team; e.g., mobile devices or MOOC learning environments to support training in the workplace. As part of studying the selected technology, team members will also participate in or explore an example of the technology being used in delivering a course or other learning event. For example, a team choosing to study mobile learning could decide on on tablet-delivered interactive video lessons focused on a new technology or process in the workplace. For a team studying MOOC learning environments, the focus could be on a MOOC-delivered course on electrical engineering. Your team will stay with that chosen technology and learning event or course throughout the course. Each team will deliver a general presentation on their learning event and its delivery technology during the course. The presentation will include an online live discussion facilitated by the presenting team. Class members will also provide feedback after the fact via an anonymous web-based survey. Teams will occasionally update a team blog, with the purpose of sharing information about their work with the rest of the class. The sharing of the work among individuals and teams greatly enhances the exposure to ideas, issues and feedback in the limited time we have together.
Individual work: Along with the teamwork, each individual team member will choose a particular issue related to the team’s selected technology and learning event or course to explore in more depth. For instance, a member of the team studying tablet devices in learning could select the issue of screen size or accessibility factors of units; a member of the MOOC team might select a question of a particular cultural bias. This part of the course work will require you to develop an individual learning plan that will form the basis for your explorations and end with a critical issue academic paper. The individual learning plan will help structure your approach to examining your chosen issue and its related opportunities, challenges and implications. You will gain hands-on experience using a critical inquiry approach to analyze this aspect of learning technologies. Through direct participation, a critical inquiry team process, interactive discussions, scaffolded assignments, and individual investigations, you will experience and become more in fluent in issues in the field. Blogging, providing feedback to others, participating in discussions and live sessions where possible represents a participation aspect that helps to build a learning community by sharing ideas and information. Blogging in particular helps encourage a practice of writing down your thoughts and sharing them with others.
At the appropriate time early in the course each student will schedule a brief 1-1 meeting with the instructor to discuss their selected issue and approach.
- Create a learning plan that defines an issue for inquiry.
- Conduct and share a critical analysis of area of inquiry.
- Critically reflect on your learning experience as outlined in your learning plan.
To the instructor
Beyond live sessions, as listed in the course schedule, there are no set office hours. Individual meetings will be arranged with each participant early in the course to discuss individual learning plans and topics of interest.
In addition, flexibly scheduled individual or team meetings with the instructor are welcome. Please use the contact information below. For team agreement issues it is recommended that you contact the team coach Julia Szucs, as below.
- Email: email@example.com
- Twitter: @irwindev – I’ve mostly stopped using Twitter due to the goings on there but I usually briefly check it once a day. You can also find me on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org
- Text: I will email my number for texting to the class early in the course.
- One-on-one or team online video or phone meetings: Please arrange a time with the instructor.
To the team coach Julia Szucs
To the class via the General Discussion Forum in Moodle (use this forum to ask course-related questions of the instructor that may be shared for the benefit of the whole class).
To each other via the course blog and your own WordPress blogs using Feedly. Don’t forget to add the ‘LRNT 526 Posts’ OPML file and the ‘All Comments’ OPML file to your Feedly.
To your team using the Team Forum on Moodle and other tools you may want to use.