Teaching in the twenty first century requires the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT). ICT is here to stay so we need to harness its power to enhance our teaching practices and our students’ learning. I’m not a ‘digital native’ but rather a late comer to ICT; slowly but surely I’m increasing my digital capacity and incorporating technology into all aspects of teaching, learning and assessment. I tutor students online, but there is a whole fleet of staff employed to ensure that all the learning materials are of a high standard, these staff include knowledge officers, instructional designers, on screen readers and the many technologists who monitor our online tutorials on the Virtual Learning Environment. I have my own website, and I’m on LinkedIn and have a number of email accounts to reflect diverse aspects of my teaching and personal life.
Slowly but surely I am pushing out my cyber boundaries and trying out new technologies to enhance my teaching and learning. I have a Twitter account but I need to make it part of my everyday teaching as there are valuable up to the minute resources and information that can be shared instantly. I also use a number of apps (Pinterest and Learnist) on my smart phone for educational purposes or for sharing interesting educational articles with my students. I have used mind-mapping apps such as Mindoro for designing lessons. I have used Edmodo for connecting with colleagues and TeacherKit for keeping track of students. Some lecturers use a special Facebook account for communicating with students, but I prefer to keep mine private and use it exclusively for keeping up with personal friends and family.
Processes of Communicating and Learning Online
Communicating with students online is an everyday part of my job. I author, tutor and assess modules online. Technology is embedded into all aspects of our teaching and our students learning because the programme I direct is 100% online. We also use a virtual online platform where students engage in forum discussions, blogs, wikis and can avail of podcasts – listening to their lessons as they drive to work each day or travel by public transport. On a daily basis I use the bulk email facility to communicate with students. I have used Drop Box to provide my students with addtitional learning materials. In terms of delivery of tutorials we use a platform called Black Board Collaborate and sometimes ‘Go To Webinar’. These technologies substitute for a physical classroom and provide facilities such as emoticons, break out rooms, polls and a whiteboard for teaching and learning. In addition, a Power Point presentation can be uploaded. The virtual classroom replaces the traditional classroom but has added benefits. If students cannot attend the synchronous tutorial they can simply listen to it at a later time because all tutorials are recorded and made available for students immediately afterwards. Our programme has a 100% pass rate since it was started in 2010 and we have received very positive feedback and testimonials from graduates. I have supervised students dissertations in New Zealand and China and simply use SKYPE to communicate with them. It was very validating for me to attend our annual graduation a few weeks ago. Students came from all over the world: Singapore, Kenya, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Morocco and Egypt to receive their master’s degree, and it was heart warming to see them mixing with the Irish students and forming communities of practice.
Using and Evaluating Technological Tools
It is important that we do not use technology mindlessly or engage in technological determinism but that we evaluate their efficacy and efficiency otherwise they simply add another burden. Teaching and learning has been going on for centuries but it is only in the last twenty first century that technology has become embedded in teaching and learning. The SAMR model (Romrell et al. 2013) was very useful in this regard for evaluation of what they call mobile or mLearning which is personal, situated and connected either through mobile phones, laptops or ipads etc.
We also have to exercise caution in the use of technology and ensure that we have protected our own personal privacy and that of our students.
Romrell, D., Kidder, L.C. & Wood, E., 2013. The SAMR Model as a Framework for Evaluating mLearning. Evaluating mLearning. Available at: olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/jaln/article/download/ [Accessed May 21, 2015].