Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Art of Design

I want the latest gizmo as I know it will change my students' lives!

I think at some point, most teachers have been sucked into some new piece of technology that has been promised to revolutionize learning in the classroom.  The new tool/ technology is taken out, used for the specific activity and then put back in the cupboard as it didn't quite work as during the demonstration at a staff meeting.

A tool could work well in one environment and epically fail in the next one.   Quintana et al.'s article illustrates the importance of  the backward design of technology for the learner.  If a tool is going to be designed for the learner, the learner must first be understood--and not from the perspective of the  ideal skill based learner.  

From the K-12 perspective, it is often reported in the media of how technically savvy today's youth are.    Assumptions are very dangerous thing.  From the technology designer's perspective, if he or she assumes that the targeted learner is computer savvy, he/she could build in computer functionality features that leave some learners confused and disengaged.  For the teacher who may be following a more learner centered practice, it creates classroom management issues as the learner can become more of a distraction then as a collaborator to the learning activity.    From the perspective of the teacher, if the teacher isn't proficient with the tool/technology, then the learner success may become limited  to the ability of the teacher's proficiency of implementing the use of the technology to be used.    It is imperative that the ease of use or learning of the technology is critical for learning success.  From the perspective the designer, checks and balances need to be implemented in the technology initial's build to better meet the learner's varying needs and therefore avoid growing frustration that could lead to abandonment of the technology

I think this is where web based tools (WBLT)have moved towards better meeting the needs of both the learner and teacher.  Help features can be turned on and off depending on the needs of the learner.  As a learner's skill set develops, more features can be added.  This can have a dramatic psychological effect with the student having the ability to master the technology at a basic to advance level.  

Therefore education technology designers must remember that their devices will be used at multi-level and checks and balances must be put in it's place in order to meet the needs of the learner--and teacher.

As budgets shrink, what we don't need is one more device shoved into a cupboard after a few use.  We need devices that are potentially multi-functional and can be successfully operated by learners and educators of varying levels.