Meeting Student Learning Objectives with Innovative Technology

CIRI Blog

Published: July 20, 2012 by Beth Wrenn-Estes

Over the past year Dr. Michele Simmons and I have presented at several conferences. Our topic “e-Portfolio from both faculty and student perspectives” renewed my interest in understanding how to integrate technological innovations especially Web 2.0 tools into my classes. I continually review my course objectives and consider how I can use tools to enhance the learning experience for my students.

My two of main research interests – disconnected youth and libraries and technology use and innovation in distance learning environments. I have attended three webinars of late that deal with effective integration of blended learning. Dr. Jolly Holden, Chairman Emeritus, United States Distance Learning Association defines blended learning “a systematic process of selecting the most appropriate media for specific learning intervention based upon the learning objectives.” An excellent resource for understanding the challenges and advantages of blended learning can be found in a presentation that Dr. Holden created for National Distance Learning Week in 2010. The link to that presentation can be found here: w.fgdla.us/uploads/Instructional_Media_Selection–Implications_for_Blended_Learning.swf

The definition of innovation is: “1: the introduction of something new and 2: a new idea, method, or device”. (Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovation). If tools don’t save energy we must re-evaluate why and what other tool might be more appropriate. What we may think of as a “cool” new technology may just create more frustration on the student’s part. Our main goal is to use technology tools to aid in meeting our learning objective. One of most important things to do is to ask for student input on the tool you chose for you as the instructor to deliver content or one that you chose for them to use to complete an assignment. Student input is a key to successful innovation. When students tell me they did more research into how to use the tool than doing the assignment itself I seldom use that tool for that assignment again realizing that the fit wasn’t good even though I thought it would be.

One of my great successes is having students in my YA Materials class (LIBR 265) create their mini YA collection using either a blog or a Wiki. Not only does the blog/Wiki fit perfectly for creating the assignment and helping to meet one of my learning objectives for LIBR 265: “Create an appropriate materials collection for older teens, including print and non-print materials and a variety of the digital resources currently available for this age group”. It also allows the student to see a practical application for learning how to create a blog/Wiki for work in their professional life or even taking the assignment and expanding upon it in their workplace environment.

We must continue to innovate simply because as educators in the distance learning environment we must use the tools that allow us to make our classes more interactive, more collaborative and more effective at community building no matter what level we are within the faculty hierarchy.

We have more and more digital natives entering our program and while they may be well versed in the social media tools available to them many of them don’t know the tools that they may need to use “on the job” which can include blogs, Wikis, collaborating using tools like Google Docs, mind mapping or Corkboard. It is up to us to have an understanding of what is available to us as educators and to look at each of the tools with a discriminating eye as to whether we can use it in our classes to enhance learning and thus introduce it to students.

Some instructors feel that learning and integrating new technology into their classes takes too much time or they want to keep things simple and only use the features provided through d2L or another program they feel secure using. It is acceptable to only work within the Learning Management System’s toolbox but I strongly urge instructors to keep up with new tools out in the market as well. Keep your mind open to hearing out students who may want to present an assignment to you using a totally new tool. Part of our responsibility is making sure that the student is prepared for jobs in the real world. A world that mandates skills with different technology tools in order to be successful at the 22nd century jobs we are seeing entering the profession of library and information science.

Distance Learning allows us so many opportunities to engage with our students and knowledge of what tools can help us be more successful at creating that rich learning environment we all strive for. Yes it is time consuming to learn new tools but pushing ourselves to try learn a new tool outside our comfort zone (d2L) might just see some positive results for making our classes more effective and also meeting our learning objectives in new and creative ways.