Using a Horseman’s Pick to Hammer in Nails

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Maciej Szczepańczyk

The initial title for this post was going to follow the cliche of “technology as a double edged sword” – the basis being that a sword sharp on both edges wielded wildly could do you as much damage as your opponent.  Of course in education we’re hoping not to harm anyone; so the idea of a horseman’s pick – with a potentially useful tool on one side and a potentially painful mistake on the other – seemed more appropriate.

On the whole we’re very encouraged to see an increased use of Learning Technologies in appropriate scenarios; but some of these recent uses have encountered problems.  As well as being frustrating for academic staff and students, it is very frustrating for us to see somebody take a technology, apply it in an ideal learning context, but then be put off using it again because of problems encountered.

Sometimes the issues are technical.  For example, some students are having issues listening to audio in Adobe Presenter (prerecorded lecture) content.  Although the technology is so widely appreciated by staff and students that this (hopefully temporary) issue shouldn’t have an impact on its use as a whole, it would be a shame if a lecturer using it for the first time were put off.

Anyone experiencing problems should try pausing playback and refreshing the page, or plugging-in standard (non-USB) headphones and re-opening the web browser.  If that doesn’t work they should contact the IT Help Desk with as much information as possible.

In many cases though the problem is unfamiliarity.  There was recently a use of the Peer Assessment feature in Course Resources – which will hopefully form a future blog post.  The choice of technology was appropriate, but initial teething problems made it start to look like a bad choice.  It was actually a tool that we hadn’t needed to support before, and had to play catch-up in order to provide guidance.  Thankfully both staff and students have stuck with it, and it looks to be running more smoothly – turning the challenge of a large cohort into a resource.

The slightly dubious point of this post is that learning technologies can have surprising similarities to medieval weaponry.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, then there is a chance that things can go wrong.  Some training and advice can greatly reduce the risks, but please stick with it though the small cuts and scrapes.

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