Technology a silver bullet for success and retention?

Technology a silver bullet for success and retention?

Over the last few years and more recently I have come across this question while in conversation with a number of faculty members. Can technology help increase my student retention and success rate?
A valid question but should we view technology as the silver bullet to remedy this issue?

My argument is yes/no. Technology certainly can have a positive impact on success and retention but not if it is situated in traditional teaching practices. It is how you use the technology that has the potential to impact on learning and teaching. It is the pedagogy of situating the use of technology appropriately in the learning process.

The potential use of TV and radio in the early days of its release in education are well documented. However the lack of pedagogical underpinning in its use has proved to be a determining factor in its
use to date. Of recent the Internet and all the emerging trends and tools associated with rapid development of technology is potentially facing the same fate.

You can use blogs, wikis, twitter, google+ or any other Web 2.0 tool but if they are situated within old practices, don’t expects things to change just because you are using technology. The emphasis is on pedagogy, and this is what should be driving the use in your teaching.

For example: Using Twitter as a tool for mass communication with the students. The use of Twitter here is for transmitting information to students, situated within transmission mode of teaching
(instructivist). A more pedagogical approach would be to use Twitter to create a community of learners. This empowers the students to be more communicative, collaborative thus creating a social environment that characterizes sharing of ideas, resources, feedback, and questions asked and answered, a process that is driven by the students depending on their need at the time (social constructivist pedagogy).

In my experience it has never been enough to just say to the class we are going to use Twitter or a blog. There is always an element of setting up the class, basically taking the students through
the process of setting up an individual account. If you are using a blog or Twitter, showing and allowing time in class to follow each other. But the most important element is the modeling of the use of the tools by the teacher. This is where you as a teacher show the students what’s possible and discussing how it is helping you as a teacher and discussing with the students how it might help them. We have heard and read about digital natives but knowing how and applying the know how for effective use is a process I have observed to a step too far for an individual to make without support or scaffold. This is why modeling and technological support for students by the teacher is important. The use of technology has to be shown to students as embedded in the course, the teacher needs to drive this process by modeling in class.

The effective use of technology is dependent on many factors but more importantly on how the course is facilitated and how (what purpose) the technology is used for.

This semester, I am involved in a project with languages students and staff. This wiki has more information on the project: http://projlanguage.wikispaces.com/

This is the 8th week since we started the project and here is a feedback from a staff member who is not directly involved in the project but has keen interest:

“I just had to signal to you the incredible work being done on this course – I’ve seen some great technology-driven initiatives in this institution over the past couple of years but the work that Lecturer 1, Lecturer 2 and Staff from the Central Unit (and the rest of the ESCP team – not to mention the students) have done on this course has blown me away.

It embodies so much of what we have been trying to achieve – learning that is situated in authentic contexts, is scaffolded, reflective and student-generated – all based on a conversational framework and all mediated by mobile devices. I think the ongoing blog/situated/mobile learning approach on this course opens up real opportunities for all our students to choose those areas that interest them (future employment or a particular mainstream study area).

This represents real innovation and a real success story for the programme, the department and indeed, the institution as a whole.” (Programme Leader)

The wikispaces link shared above has more information on how iPad’s and some Web 2.0 tools are used in the project with languages students.

The key is pedagogy not technology :-).

Love your iPad? Try out possibly the best app for blogging #edtech

Blogsy is a powerful app for use on the iPad! It is not free but the $7 paid is worth it! Having used a few blogging apps on the iPad (free and paid), I have to say blogsy is probably the best. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Advanced formatting bar, better then any app I have used on the iPad
  2. Brings most of the widely used Web 2 tools together into one easy to use user interface, some tools: YouTube, flicker, picasa, Google search, and many more you can add.
  3. Drag and drop interface – meaning you don’t have to now worry about HTML tags etc to insert YouTube videos or pictures from picasa or flicker.
  4. There are many things – you need to try Blogsy for yourself to find out.
  5. PS – I am not associated with Blogsy in anyway – just that as a user and having tried quite a few blogging apps, I just found this to be the best in every way. Specially if your students blog using their iPad ….

Example of a picture insert from picasa

Example YouTube video – just drag and drop

 

Future of Computing and Learning …iPad,iPhone – iDock

iDock

The problem

Okay so in brief this is the story …… I have an iPhone, iPad, a Netbook (Dell mini 9), MacBook Pro and and Mac Mini ….you would ask where do I use all this technology and what for:

  1. iPhone – almost everytime, probably the best investment of all the technology
  2. iPad – in meetings and as an entertainment unit
  3. Netbook – sometimes use it, haven’t used it for a while now …. but are handy in conferences due ti its portability
  4. MacBook Pro – @ work and home when I need something decent to work on
  5. Mac mini – well again use it only when I feel I don’t need to use the MacBook pro ……have to start it up, connect to power …….. Mac mini is always convenient, just jump on and get started….

So where does the iDock concept fit in the already long list of things at home and work?

Well the iDock is to solve the problem. The new iPhone 4 comes with a A4 processor (1GHz speed), 512MB RAM …… well if this is the way than future phones will be much faster with bigger RAM meaning almost as powerful as a normal desktop or a laptop or even faster …… let’s put it this way, there is more potential …. the number of apps on Apple store for iPhone is growing at an exponential rate … not just growing but growing with more features enabling the ability to do more on a cellphone. For example things possible on an iPhone: editing Videos, Audio, Pictures, Edit/Create Documents (excel, ppt, word an more), eMails, web browsing, entertainment (high end graphics better than same desktop and laptop games, geo-tagging, and more)

The iPhone (or other smartphones) will have the capability to perform complex and big tasks almost the same as a computer …… the iDock concept does what a docking station for a laptop does …. provides more power and ability such as USB ports, monitor out, printer port etc. The iDock will do the same and in doing so convert the iPhone into a desktop computer …. better, it allows the user to carry important documents and data on the phone and still have to power to do anything at anytime…… the iDock will provide a DVD drive, USB, Firewire and monitor out this of-course depends on Apple and other smartphone manufacturers to open the platform and upgrade the hardware in future handsets to allow these capabilities …… it’s not that we don’t have the technology or ability it’s more that we need time and perhaps vision from leading phone manufacturers to take this further.

How it will work?

Dock your iPhone on the iDock and away you go. Plug in the peripheral devices you use for example, USB keyboard, an external monitor and perhaps an external harddrive. The iDock is a dumb unit (meaning it has no operating system), the iPhone and the apps on the iPhone is the main unit. Although the iDock may have RAM and a processor to ease the load on the iPhone processor, it is to ‘enhance’ the ability on the iPhone. The apps on the iPhone are like apps you have on a desktop or laptop.

The way things are moving at the moment, you wouldn’t really need a huge processor to perform your tasks. Cloud computing is growing at the same rate as the smartphones are growing in power and ability perhaps leveraging off each others success and complementing each others strengths and weaknesses.

What is the future than?

The future is cloud computing and in mobile technology like smartphones. Ubiquitous computing – being everywhere and having the power of a computer and more in your hand.