This is a more negative version of a submission.
(elss2011 refers to DRHEA eLearning Summer School 2011)
‘Think of the learners and don’t think about the technology.’ Dr. Richard Thorn (elss2011)
Online assessment and feedback present both challenges and opportunities, for students, lecturers and for programme design. The biggest challenge is to keep our pedagogical focus. Our pedagogical intent must be clear to students, lecturers, managers, stakeholders and ourselves. As Sally Brown ((et al) 1996) puts it in her Assessment Manifesto… ‘Staff, students and the outside world need to be able to see why assessment is being used and the rationale for choosing each individual form of assessment in its particular context.’
We can broaden Sally Brown’s assessment principle to include T+L and the use of technology in education. As DIT’s Fionnghuala Kelly argued (elss 2011) ‘We must always ask ourselves – why are we using this technology?’
In our privileged undergrad media courses, with small classes and big creative potentials in course content and in pedagogy, we’re lucky to have a very strong Real Learning Environment, with ample opportunities for face-to-face tutorial contact, peer support, team and individual learning. Towards the latter stages of our courses, we cut many pedagogical umbilicals, pushing students towards group work, self-reflection and increasing self-direction, in a version of Kolitch and Dean’s (1999) ‘engaged critical model, in which teaching and learning are seen as a creative dialogue.’
Central to this learning model is the student’s ability to assess and feedback. As Nicol (2010) asserted… ‘If you really want to improve learning, get students to give one another feedback. Giving feedback is cognitively more demanding than receiving feedback. That way, you can accelerate learning.’
As p.22 of The JISC book encourages such a variety of assessment strategies, alternative assignment formats and lists multiple appropriate technologies… podcasts, online assessment tools and e-portfolios. But many of these assessment innovations (alternative assessment strategies, alternative assessment formats, increasing the learner’s opportunity to self-assess and peer-assessment) can be introduced without any technology. Palloff and Pratt (2009) asserted that ‘the use of multiple measures of assessment is simply good pedagogy.’ I agree.
Technology presents dangers too… As Dr. Richard Thorn (elss2011) observed… ‘Technology is extremely seductive. Hardware is seductive. Software is addictive. It can take over your life. Technology is not an end in itself.’ In our media courses, we’ve long seen how the power of world-creation in CGI and in games technology can swallow students, effectively terminating studentship. Lecturers must be careful that they’re not just using technology for the sake of it, in some pedagogical form of ‘a solution looking for a problem’. Over the next few years, we’ll be faced with all sorts of non-pedagogical rationales for ‘alternative delivery’ and ‘new ways of doing things’.
In her webinar (230312), TCD's Michelle Garvey demonstrated Universal Design’s preoccupation with visual and structural design. I’m not convinced that UD adequately considers the psychological or theoretical aspects of software and online design. Michelle Garvey asserted that… ‘Universal Design must aim for low physical effort and accessible appropriate spaces – but this doesn't really apply to digital.’ I absolutely disagree. When creating a software learning resource, we are creating a communications space for human beings, an immersive space in which our users will have to function and learn. From a student perspective, even our current Moodle or Blackboard environments have hugely problematic aspects.
Students and lecturers are also faced with relentless, incessant digitisation. As DCUs' Jean Hughes said ‘we want this to be very much a real classroom, a real student experience.’ But a classroom with no time limits, no clock, no weekend, with little potential for escape, for reflection?
When I first introduced Blackboard Journals to my students, the notion was novel and exciting, for students and lecturer alike. By the end of the module, student and lecturer fatigue meant that alternative methods needed to be introduced.
I’m not arguing against technology, I’m merely pointing out that our focus should always be on learning, not on technology.