Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Technology Resolutions
If you’re like me, one of your New Year’s resolutions is technology related.  With things constantly changing, it’s important to revisit your technology toolkit (the tech tools you have a working knowledge of and use in class or for personal use -- also see toolbelt theory) at least twice  a year... adding a few things and more importantly losing a few.  No one ever talks about the second part of that equation.  

Technology should not be a constant addition of skills, tools, software and websites.  In fact, it’s more like a canvas.  You only have so much room and clutter rarely looks good to the impartial observer.  For instance, I’ve pretty much stopped following Microsoft Office updates (Google Docs rocks!).  I mean, I know the basics, but when a new release comes out, I’m not really looking to learn the new bells and whistles.  For me, it’s more about transferring what I knew about the old version to the new version.  Better yet, I’d rather just keep the old version.  

Technology should be closely related to productivity, not abundance.  The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) is leading the way on standardizing the connection between performance and technology. They coined the term Human Performance Technology (HPT).   While not wholly related to higher education, though it could be, they describe HPT as:
a systematic approach to improving productivity and competence, uses a set of methods and procedures -- and a strategy for solving problems -- for realizing opportunities related to the performance of people. More specific, it is a process of selection, analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of programs to most cost-effectively influence human behavior and accomplishment. It is a systematic combination of three fundamental processes: performance analysis, cause analysis, and intervention selection, and can be applied to individuals, small groups, and large organizations. 
This semester, the blog will continue to focus on Blackboard.  However, there will be a greater focus on HOW and WHEN you use the tools, not just WHAT they do.  Emphasis will be placed in three areas:
    • Class prep: Technology related activities done prior to walking into the classroom
    • In Class: Technology Related activities which take place during class time (i.e. when the students are around/near you)
    • Post-class (reflection): Activities which take place post-class .  . I tend to call this reflection as it allows you to tie up any loose ends and start preparing for the next class.  
Over the next 6 days, the blog will host a series called “Supplement Your Course in 6 Days” (original, I know!). Supplementing a course using Blackboard, is not teaching online.  It means you utilize available technology to add an extra dimension to your face to face class.  A syllabus, extra reference materials, discussion boards, and announcements are all commonplace when supplementing via Blackboard.  Online quizzes and automated management of  assignments, and grade management are also features which you may find helpful.  

The goal of the series is to assist faculty in moving beyond just posting a syllabus and some announcements and the occasional quiz to creating a dynamic 'learning sandbox.' Please check the blog over the next few days. It's always more effective to begin a course using technology than to try and implement something half-way through. You can even subscribe to the blog and receive updates in Microsoft Outlook (or Google Reader).

For more on supplementing your course, view this presentation from University of Montana professor and IT director Dr Shawn F. Clouse.

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