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					eCPD e-Learning Professional Development
e-Learning: Supporting learners use of e-learning and technology 8.2 Select appropriate technologies to support learners

Unit 8

LEARNING OUTCOMES After working through this information sheet you will be able to:     Trial the different technologies with intended learners (8.2.1) Evaluate its appropriateness and suitability to meet the needs of the learners (8.2.2) Select the most appropriate and suitable technology to support learners and learning (8.2.3) Develop learners’ skills in using the chosen technology (8.2.4)

Trial the different technologies with intended learners Talk to learners about plans in order to prepare them effectively - do they need to know passwords? Do they need to practise logging in? Or register beforehand? Do disabled learners need to trial the technology with their assistive technology (eg screen reader or onscreen keyboard)? By involving learners in trialing new approaches you can generate a sense of adventure and involvement. Be aware of different learning styles though; not all learners are "digital natives'" and even those that are have different preferences. Ensure learners realise that a new approach will supplement existing approaches, not replace them all. Finally, get feedback on a regular basis. This may be an informal chat or a formal questionnaire but whichever approach you use remember the purpose of feedback is to improve and develop so ensure the questions you ask will draw out those points. Wherever possible, include learners with specific needs in the planning. They may have ideas to contribute or experience you could draw on. If a learning experience is improved for a disabled user it is usually improved for everybody. Evaluate its appropriateness and suitability to meet the needs of the learners Technology is only a small component of a learning experience. The pedagogical context in which the technology is used and the qualities of classroom management are also vital ingredients otherwise appropriate technologies can be put to inappropriate uses! Selecting the appropriate technology includes understanding learning and understanding learners: Understanding learning   knowing how the technology will add value to learning. designing tasks that will maximise the effective use of the technology.

Many technologies – and often very simple ones – have immense potential to meet the basic challenges of teaching such as differentiation, addressing different learning styles and providing accurate and timely feedback. Technologies can also engage learners by requiring more active involvement with resources. But technology does not exist in a vacuum and the best teachers use the well established research about what effective teaching (eg clarity of tasks, active learning, regular feedback, regular assessment, group working etc) and matches the task to the technology.

eCPD e-Learning Professional Development

Unit 8

A simple model of this can be found in the Learner Engagement Model on the Ferl website http://ferl.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?page=455. This model offers a simple way of plotting the likely level of learner engagement and uses examples to show how the learner engagement might be improved by:    using the technology more effectively, using a different technology offering more user interaction or designing more creative tasks.

Figure 1 - the Learning Engagement Model

Understanding learners   recognise that any new approach can create benefits for some but barriers for others. understand how to reduce or remove barriers to learning.

Having an engaging task built around an MP3 recording of a lively debate could be an excellent use of technology but if you are deaf - and you can’t hear it - the technology has created a barrier to learning. This should not discourage the use of the technology (technology generally removes more barriers than it creates) but it does mean the technology needs to be used intelligently and additional features (a text transcript in this example?) or alternative resources will need to be incorporated. When using any technology it is worth asking the following questions:      Is this accessible to non-standard interfaces – eg using a keyboard instead of a mouse. Is visual information conveyed in any other way – eg described in the text? Is audio information conveyed in any other way – eg transcript or summary? Can users customise the interface (eg font size or colour)? Are there off-screen alternatives (eg tactiles, models, discussion etc) you could use for learners unable to access onscreen experiences?

eCPD e-Learning Professional Development
Select the most appropriate and suitable technology to support learners and learning

Unit 8

Selecting the most appropriate technology is sometimes a luxury - in many situations the range available is very limited! The following checklists map out some of the issues that can be relevant. What is available?          What do the students own? Can you use SMS messages to student's phones? eg "Word of the day" to a language class with simple definition. Can you use the calculators on their phones for your application of number work? Do they have MP3 players to listen to podcasts? Do they have Internet access at home to make use of materials on your VLE, Blog or website? What could be available in the teaching area? Can you use a portable data projector with a laptop? Could you use a wireless mouse or keyboard or portable whiteboard device? Can you book laptops or PDAs?

What are your learning objectives?   Do you need to provide a wider range of resources to meet different abilities? This might lead you to using webquests; VLEs or your own web pages to make a range of resources available. Do you need to meet a wide range of learning preferences? This might lead you to experimenting with audio, video and simple animations (eg PowerPoint) or with social software like discussion boards or wikis. Do you need to help learners review their understanding? This might lead you to trialling online quizzes (like Hot Potatoes) or quiz software for PDAs. Do you need to develop particular skills in your learners? This might lead you to a wide range of approaches from collaborative writing to virtual field trips or spreadsheet based simulations. Do you have specific access needs within you or group? This might lead to specific approaches to create inclusive teaching - for example a learner with speech impairment may contribute to an online discussion board but not to a class debate. A useful way to explore technology to meet specific learner needs is the TechDis “Assistive technology genres” approach. Rather than taking disability or technology as the starting point it takes “tools for learning” and then examines the range of technologies that could act as different learning tools.

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eCPD e-Learning Professional Development

Unit 8

The mind-map below illustrates the key themes but much more information can be found on the PowerPoint show at http://www.techdis.ac.uk/resources/files/ATGenres.ppt . The PowerPoint comes complete with speaker notes (right click > Screen > View speaker notes).

Figure 2 - Mind map of TechDis assistive technology genres

Develop learners’ skills in using the chosen technology To gain most from using technology learners need to develop awareness of:    How to use it. Why they are using it. How they can personalise it.

Where technology becomes a normal part of the learning experience learners can develop a good degree of skill. It is more difficult when the technology is used very infrequently. From the teacher/tutor perspective it is also more difficult to evaluate the added value of using technology if it is used sporadically by learners with little familiarity.

eCPD e-Learning Professional Development

Unit 8

As with any resource, it is essential the learner knows how it might benefit them and what value it might add. Many examples exist where high quality e-resources have been produced but through poor promotion or indirect links to assessment the learners never used them. How they can personalise it Not all technology is capable of personalisation but where personalisation options exist (eg colours, font type and size, audio etc) these should be pointed out to the learner since they can add significant value - especially to learners with specific access needs. TASKS 1. Suggest the range of technologies that might be useful if you found yourself working with dyslexic learners in class. WEB LINKS           AbilityNet – assistive technology specialists – http://www.abilitynet.org.uk , see also My Computer My Way - http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/myway/ ACLearn.net – ACL oriented learning resources and ideas. http://www.aclearn.net/display.cfm?page=945 The BRITE centre - http://www.brite.ac.uk/resources.htm Ferl website teaching and learning section - http://ferl.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?page=8 Ferl website – Technology for E-Learning - http://ferl.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?page=9 Learning technologies website - http://www.learningtechnologies.ac.uk/ask/ Skills for Access –guide to creating accessible multimedia http://www.skillsforaccess.org.uk/index.php TechDis Creation of learning materials - http://www.techdis.ac.uk/index.php?p=9_7 TechDis Accessibility Essentials – http://www.techdis.ac.uk/accessibilityessentials TechDis staff training packs - http://www.techdis.ac.uk/getstaffpacks


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