This blog posting is in response to a course assignment regarding the impact of technology and multimedia. A funny thing happened along the way to writing this post. My muse got riled up. This course has been providing a healthy diet of information, everything a growing brain needs to function, but without any real spice. Imagine if you will the diabetic diet for the non-diabetic. It gives your body everything it needs to function, but without that erstwhile dose of sugar or jolt of caffeine, your body just seems to meander along competently allowing you live, but refusing to infuse you with brilliant inspiration. I suppose that has been occurring with my muse. She has been sitting on the sidelines refusing to participate because of a lack of enticing introspection on my part. Until today.
First, despite the numerous times I read the first question for this post “What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments” my mind just went blank. There seemed to be no new answer to this ambiguous question without some type of context. I read the required readings and the optional readings. I even forced myself to watch the video (I am not much into video). Still, nothing.
Second, I began preparing my response with the outline of questions, the information from the resources, but not real connection. Then, it happened! My computer at work did yet another asinine, inexplicable thing that made me want to scream, not to mention making me feel foolish (and, in front of my T-Rex boss no less!).
I began to recount to myself and now to you, my technology and multimedia experiences from just the last few days (hold on, it is relevant I promise).
- On Monday afternoon, I posted a response to the discussion board of my school website. I had to cut and paste because the interface only allows an approximate three inch square with less flexibility than CSS in blogs! Then, I spent three hours investigating why my brand new computer with this amazingly wonderful fingerprint technology suddenly refused to work with the most recent Internet Explorer update and attempting to reconcile the issue… to no avail. In addition, I still have not quite cracked the code on how to print out sections from an eBook on Kindle. It should work in theory.
- On Tuesday, I tried to print out billing statements for work only to discover that due to some unforeseen quirk in the program it would NOT sort the files in the manner I required necessitating manual sorting of approximately 150 bills and a significant amount of time in the near future reindexing the billing files within the software. I also watched my carbonite software index 0.05% of my hard-drive for a back-up in the four hours I had until I went to bed that night.
- On Wednesday, I spent some time playing with the app store on Apple and discovered a few TV. station apps that I made the mistake of telling my dad about. It was a mistake because then my dad wanted me to spend my time downloading them for him because he could not quite figure out how to do it. The irony is that only he will ever use those apps. I do not usually watch television. I also spent a good deal of time using a translation app in an attempt to find a new name for a business. I was a little frustrated because every time I input “Life’s Milestones,” the app translated it into “Stages of Life” in French.
- Today, Thursday was a big day. My dad came by my office to see about taking my car to the shop. He wanted the phone number for Sears and I suggested he use his iPad. After 15 minutes of grumbling and no joy, I finally handed him a telephone book, which he promptly used to find the number in less than three minutes. Myself, I would have found the number on the internet in less than three minutes. At lunch I entertained myself with reading discussion posts on my iPad (but I still cannot respond from the iPad), and playing with a couple of different apps. I downloaded a learning to speak and read Spanish app and promptly spent about 20 minutes playing games in Spanish. It was fun. I also played with my improve your reading app. This app trains my brain (in theory) to read and comprehend more quickly. This may or may not be true, but in the meantime, a few minutes a day will not kill me. Then, about 4:00 p.m., my boss realizes that our current legal form software is not updated correctly. How can that be I wonder? I dutifully update that software at least once a week. After a bit of research and contemplation I decide to test a working hypothesis that unless the server is updated first, the updates do not “take” on the workstations despite the claim of the software summary (which alleged the software was current to March 6, 2012). After 40 minutes of updating the server and reupdating my computer lo and behold, the legal forms were once again current.
What does all of this have to do with the blog posting? Let me explain.
1. What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?
As my post has already described technology and multimedia have permeated just about every aspect of our lives. It would also be fair to say that learning occurs in all aspects of our lives, unintentionally as well as institutionally, as I would wager my examples have demonstrated. In fact, just last Sunday my dad and I watched two senior citizens of the over 80 variety purchase three (3) iPads! Go senior citizens.
I would be delusional to believe technology does not also significantly impact online learning environments in many ways. I have mentioned in previous postings that technology, in and of itself, has provided the means with which online learning environments have been able to proliferate. Second, advances in said technology have allowed online learning environments to successfully iteratively modify their programs in furtherance of educating individuals from a wide variety of cultures, geographical regions, socioeconomic classes, and work / academic backgrounds. Third, and perhaps most important to this discussion, technology and multimedia have brought forth additional considerations in multimodal learning constructs in terms of efficacy of learning for learners. Specifically, due to the new technology and multimedia options learning theory has made new discoveries regarding learning.
It is foundationally important to realize that just as technology has made our lives easier in some ways; it has complicated our lives in others. How much of our time savings are spent learning new technology or learning to use existing technology better? I have an iPhone that I honestly barely use except to make telephone calls. I have texted and taken a few pictures. I took some video of my son’s birthday. However, for the most part, my phone is a phone. On the other hand, my niece who is seven has already asked my sister for an “iPhone” so she can text her friends and play games. At her age, I was still playing hide and seek.
2. What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?
Clearly, this is the part of the blog to address online instructor consideration regarding technology. I love technology. I have a broken laptop waiting for me to play with it (kind of like a torn apart toaster), and another laptop in need of a new hard drive, which I will also do myself. Fun stuff if you can find the right tutorial or information. However, what about the students who do not have the aptitude?
Technology has granted multitudes of people access to education when there was previously none. I personally know several individuals who have gone back to school while on disability, or unemployment. Many others went back for work and juggle work and family with school. Thus, time can be a significant factor. The new learners may have access to the basics, but what about more? I have a little aptitude for software. In addition, I am genetically engineered to be a nerd, so I love research and books. I like to figure things out. However, not everyone is like me. If my dad went back to school, he could post to a discussion forum. He could answer email and he can even use Microsoft Word. Asking him to go much beyond that without some significant tutoring could be a problem (remember, I had to help him download an app from the app store). On the other hand, it has been my experience that when people are surrounded by those who already fill a role, there is less need for them to learn how to fill the same role. For instance, in my family I am the tech mom. No doubt about it. My dad is the TV. mom and the grocery store mom. My husband is the video game mom and icky bug gross stuff mom. I am never going to be great at video games like my husband, but I also do not need to because he is. I also do not need to know what station some particular TV. show is on because that is my dad’s area of expertise. Similarly, good or bad, my dad and my husband have me to fix computer glitches or help with software quirks. However, if I were not here I imagine they would step up to the task.
The point is that just because we have the technology to do everything; it needs to be utilized only when necessary. If the participants want to go above and beyond, great for them. In the meantime, we keep those who are still catching up with the tech age in the group without losing them in the data stream.
3. What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online learning?
I had not given this much thought prior to this week. There it is that healthy diet of information again! It is good for you. There are some benefits and drawbacks regarding technology in terms of usability and accessibility in general, as I have already discussed. However, there are also issues of accessibility and usability for those with special needs. Sometimes it is easy to forget those less fortunate. Myself, I do not have great vision. I wear glasses or contacts; otherwise, I tend to walk into walls. On the other hand, I have great hearing and smell. I can hear amazingly well, even with earplugs. In fact, I have to wear earplugs to the movies or my senses are blown out!
How do other with special needs deal with technology and online learning? Some of these issues were addressed in the materials this week. There have been technological strides to address the special needs of learners, whether blind or deaf, or motor impaired. These considerations need to be garnering more attention as online learning continues to grow. For instance, there was discussion regarding the difference between accommodating a special needs learner and providing inherent accessibility. There is a huge difference. For example, my son and I are both ADHD. He could NOT make it in public school. We had to put him into private school because despite the policies accomodating his special needs, including a resource teacher, speech teacher, IEP, and a reading teacher, he was suffering emotionally, floundering academically and miserable. His needs were not being met at the public school level. On the other hand, at his private school the classes are smaller and he is given more one-on-one, personalized attention to help keep him focused. There are still accomodations, but he is not being held up as someone with a problem. Even as an adult, having gone through many years of academia and being a qualified credentialed instructor, I would not have pursued my Masters if I had to attend regular face-to-face night classes after work. Online learning made education more accessible for ME. However, there are others with other special needs that also need to be given the same opportunities.
4. What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?
I find the interactive technologies appealing. I have utilized wikis in different courses and really enjoyed the collaborative utilization. I find discussion forums are great ways to express ourselves as well as evidence our understanding of various conceptual ideas. There are varieties of other technology tools that I find appealing, but which would need to be necessary for implementation. As an example, at my job we have WordPerfect and Word, and Excel. My boss prefers WordPerfect. I prefer Word and Excel. There are benefits and drawbacks to all three. I use the “right” software for the job and/or desired outcome. If I am creating a spreadsheet, Excel is my first choice. If I am working with pleadings, WordPerfect tends to be easier. As an instructor, my purpose is to provide the means for the participants to learn, and not push them down the path of technology tools I enjoy using the most (unless the course is learning how to use those tools). The trick is to use the right tool for the right job, no matter how much you like playing with it.
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