high tech learning

From blogs and podcasts to wikis and virtual worlds, everyone's talking about the dynamic technology tools and resources available to faculty and students. Let's separate the hype from what's realistic, relevant and practical for the classroom. What educational technologies are effective, efficient, and appealing?

This session explores the possibilities and potential for using social, collaborative, and interactive technologies in teaching and learning across disciplines. Regardless of whether you're seeking beginning or advanced applications, you'll find dozens of practical ideas to enrich the teaching and learning environment.



Television, music, cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging, social networks, computer appications, in addition to books, post-it's and pencils, today's students are bombarded with information. Beyond multi-tasking, many students are experiencing what Linda Stone calls "partial continuous attention". In other words, people are able to juggle many tasks at once, but have difficulty focusing and working on in-depth, deep thinking activities. Students taking distance learning courses are faced with enormous time management challenges as they motivate themselves and self-regulate their learning spaces.

The Face-to-Face Advantage is the luxury of having the capacity for 100% attention from your students three hours or more per week. They aren't watching TV, playing a video game, iming with friends, and trying to work.... they're "ready to learn". Whether you see students 1 hour or 20 hours per week, your instruction must be engaging and thought provoking. This time can be spent disseminating information. However it's even more important to motivate, set a context for learning, create shared examples and experiences, and promote an effective and efficient learning community.

Create a bridge between "school life" and the rest of the world. Create a foundation for out-of-class activities. Then, design engaging out-of-class activities that provide nine more hours of structured, course connections that incorporate a variety of tools and resources to meet individual needs.

To make this happen, we need to look at today's K12 teachers and college professors. Do you embrace a variety of resources and technologies or do you prefer to avoid technologies.

What's your "educator personality"? Are you using the most effective, efficient, and appealing teaching and learning tools and spaces? Each teacher is unique. You may embrace the power of audio, video, or even post-it notes as your technology of choice!

Ask yourself: What technology tools do you use? What teaching and learning spaces do you design for your students?


The New, Popular, High Tech Learning Spaces

The words social, participatory, collaborative, interactive, and mashup are all being applied to an emerging focus on using social technologies to create rich learning spaces for our students.

The new area of social technology is being linked to the popular topic of social intelligence. In his new book Social Intelligences: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman notes that employers seek people who demonstrate signs of empathy and can apply social skills in the workplace. In another recently published book on Social Intelligence, Karl Albrecht discusses how to apply multiple intelligence theory to social interactions. It's important to separate the hype regarding this latest trend from the reality of the classroom.

What do you want your learners to be able to do or talk about? How can technology help reach your objectives?

How would you like to evolve as an educator... more engaging, more organized, more dynamic, more visual? How can technology help reach your objectives?

Technology has played a role in teaching and learning for many years. For example, you might start by reading the book Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel. Students might then use a digital camera and software such as PowerPoint or Word to write their own story. In the last decade, the web has played an increasing role in technology-rich learning. Students might access online images of microscopic worlds and combine them with their own photographs. Some examples include:

The introduction of Web 2.0 technology allows students to reach beyond the classroom. For example, they might take their own microscopic photographs and submit them to the Small World Photography contest. Or, create a blog like Micro Images Blog that allows students to comment on the work of others. Smithsonian Encyclopedia of Life is a collaborative project by the US National Museum of Natural History to document the earth's diversity by scientists and citizens of Earth described by E.O. Wilson in The Creation. A related project is Consortium for the Barcode of Life. Check out the Barcode Blog.

We teach a course for graduate students in our school library media specialist program focusing on center management and administration. One of our in-class activities (these could be virtual or face-to-face) focuses on examining the characteristics of exemplary programs. We use professional resources, textbooks, websites and other resources for this investigation. For example, we learn about media specialist Joyce Valenza through a visit to the Springfield Township High School Virtual Library. I like using technology as a way to provide virtual field trips, explore authentic examples, and focus on the experience of professionals. This approach worked well under Web 1.0.

The addition of Web 2.0 and social technologies has provided an easy-to-implement way to go one step further with this assignment. A blog format is used for an activity called L553 Blog - SLMS Bridging Theory and Practice. Blogs are web logs that arrange postings (i.e., text, graphics, audio, video entries) in reverse chronological order. Generally a single author or team of authors post messages and encourage people to add comments. Blogs are a one-to-many type of communication space.

As an "out of class" assignment, students interact with professionals in the field about topics of interest and concern using this blog. Each professional is introduced on a blog posting containing an overview of their professional activities and a link to additional information. They are then is asked to be available for three days to respond to comments on their blog posting. Professionals are invited to participate in all the discussions if they wish. In addition, the blog is open to the public allowing others in the field to join in. The archives is available as a resource for further semesters.

Although this blog was designed for building a bridge between theory and practice, it could be done in any contact area. Start by contacting professional peers. Reach out to professionals who are already blogging. Consider people working in government agencies or other universities.

To create your own blog follow the directions at edublogs or blogger. University students can make blogs at uniblogs.

Also, consider other applications of blogs such as the elementary author blog, Duck Diaries, Plants that Bite Back blog, Turtle nesting blog, Podcasting: Young Hoosiers, Radio WillowWeb, or the high school instructional blog titled PreCalc.

For more information about social technologies, go to High Tech Learning: Spaces. and eScrapbooking: Blogging.


Social Technology

Social Technology is about -

  • Building a sense of community
  • Considering the interests and needs of others
  • Promoting interactions among participants
  • Facilitating connections and relationships
  • Exploring multiple perspectives

Get your family involved with social networking using My Family.

Our students use it for informal socializing using tools such as MySpace and Facebook. Why not apply this interest and skills to productive environments. Explore examples at Explore Library Thing. Check out Annette Lamb's LibraryThing Profile and Catalog. Explore the groups.

There's great potential beyond books including music, movies, maps, and other types of collections of information and data.

  • Lifetime Reading Log
  • Online Book Clubs
  • Literature Circle Forums
  • Locating Good Books
  • Ongoing Reading Portfolio
  • Accessed Anywhere, Anytime

Also, check out All Consuming (similar to LibraryThing) and EducationBridges.

But how does social technology and social intelligence connect to my face-to-face classroom?

My dad is chairperson of the business department at Emporia State. He's taught both face-to-face and distance courses. He's been frustrated by the instructional materials that come with the college textbooks. We discussed ways to engage students through the use of engaging technology and authentic situations such as team discussions, consensus building activities, and role playing using visuals, audio, and video to stimulate conversation and engage learners. Some of these activities begin and end in the face-to-face classroom, while others are connected to out-of-class activities that can more easily be evaluating individually. The key is to use technology to address learning styles and establish a context for learning.


Participatory Technology

Mud SoupParticipatory technology is a term associated with activities where people are encouraged to

  • react
  • survey others or vote on issue
  • collect data, chart, and compare
  • go into community and conduct interviews
  • take action

For example, students reading Mud Soup by Judith Head might share their recipes online at

Oral history websites are an excellent example of the use of participatory technology. Users are ased to read stories and add their own experiences. For example the Pearl Harbor Survivor's Project asks visitors to add a survivor and tell a story. Other projects such as the StoryCorps and TechnoSpud.

Also consider ways to design learning experiences that engage learners in participatory activities. Examine all phases of instruction including your introduction, information presentation, active involvement, and closure/transfer activities.

Focus on comparison activities such as 2 photos, 2 scenarios, 3 poems, 4 audio clips, or 4 perspectives. When students are required to make specific comparisons, it's difficult to copy answers and there's less need for tools such as TurnItIn.

Blogs are a great tool for sharing understandings and perspectives. They are also easy for the instructor to check. Be sure that enough different options are provided so that students don't replicate answers.

The dilemma in teaching is to balance coverage or topic with opportunities for students to share their deep understandings.


Collaborative Technology

Collaborative software allows multiple participants using tools such as blogs, wikis, and other creation tools to work together to build, expand, refine, edit, critique, and publish. Many people are able to work on a single project at the same time. This type of software can be used for collaborative writing, group decision-making, and other peer-based projects.

Provide students with PowerPoint Starters called Sidekicks. Ask students to work in pairs on projects such as Money .

Try collaborative concept mapping tools online such as Bubbl, Thinkature and Gliffy.

Try creating collaborative documents such as word processing and spreadsheets using Google Docs.

A wiki is a type of website that uses "open editing" collaborative software technology to provide an easy way for multiple participants to enter, submit, manage, and update a single web workspace. Users make changes by selecting from options and filling in forms on a web page.

Wikipedia is the most famous example of a wiki and a good place to explore the technology. Most wikis such as School Computing Home Page provide a link to edit.

Existing Wikis. Build student activities based on existing wikis. Ask students to find errors, elaborate on a topic, or provide an example. Then, require them to document their work and reflect on the outcome. For example, you might use Nursing wiki.

Creating Wikis. Why not write your own class textbook with your students? Ask students to create a unique contribution through additions to the class wiki.


Interactive Technology

Many schools have invested in audience response systems for tracking student performance and reactions. These tools can be used in many ways from checking correct answers to polling views.

Interaction occurs when two or more objects have an effect upon each other. In virtual learning spaces, this interaction often occurs between the human and the computer. When people design learning spaces for this type of computer-based interaction, they're sometimes called interactives.

Most commonly these interactives are designed in software such as Flash that combines, text, graphics, audio, video, and animation with interactive elements such as buttons, drag/drop, and media controls.

No longer are games viewed as just for fun. Interactives have specific learning goals with high quality content using effective instructional strategies. Explore lots of examples of the use of Flash technology. These make effective tools to discuss issues and problems.



The synergy found when combining technologies is resulting in a new wave of web-based applications based on Web 2.0. Called Mashups, these hybrid services use content and ideas from many different technologies to create something new.

You might use all of the following resources in building a lesson related to glaciers and global warming:

How can we build learning spaces that immerse our students in an experience where they can develop deep understandings? We can’t go to Walden Pond like Thoreau… or can we? Explore the virtual world of Second Life. Faculty are building worlds related to topics from oceanography to ancient civilizations. You can even attend a virtual Shakespearean play. Explore what San Diego State University is doing with Educational Gaming.

Put all these ideas together with collaborative projects such as Kids-Learn.


The Role of Technology

Technology provides a context for learning. The use of photographs, charts, and audio interviews to describe a fictional patient can bring health care alive for a nursing student. The role of technology is to:

  • Motivate and engage
  • Address learning styles - visual, auditory, tactile …
  • Provide multiple perspectives
  • Engage learners in authentic tools, spaces, & interactions

Choose the best technology for the job. Use the document camera to share an artifact, document, or photo. For example, it might be a fossil from Uncle Joe's Farm. Let's figure out what it is and explain it in both scientific and layman's terms.

Audio Enhancements

Make the most of each technology. Let's take audio enhancements as an example. Connect audio with teaching, learning, sharing understandings, collaboration, and assessment.

Poetry is most effective when it's read aloud. Listen to the impact of a Maya Angelou poem, listen to the Library of Congress poetry webcast, then share your own poetry on a podcast.

Podcast combines the words "iPod" and "broadcast" to create a word that decribes sharing audio recordings through Internet. Using tools such as Audacity to record audio, developers upload the audio (generally MP3/MP4) to a website, then create audio links from a website. A web feed can be used to subscribe and automatically download these audio files.

Podcasting is easy. Simply create an audio file using technology such as Audacity. Upload the file to a webserver. Create a web feed file. Audacity is a free, cross platform audio editor. These files can be used in class or attached to a class wiki, email, or Blackboard. Students can create their own podcasts such as a student project on leaves and fall colors. Listen to podcast from Colonial Williamsburg. Learn Out Loud has many podcasts for learning on their list.

Think beyond traditional term papers. Use audio for sharing symptoms and solutions, a 60 second Public Service Announcement, or an audio analysis. Talk with students about correct pronunciation, a concise script, and their authentic audience. For example, they might label the parts of an ear, then discuss a specific problem and solution. The audio ensures that they are able to verbalize their ideas.


Put it all together. Regardless of the age of your students, there are great opportunities. For example, try getting involved with one of Susan Silverman's online collaborative projects like Lucky Ladybugs.

What's best for face-to-face?

  • You!
  • Enthusiasm
  • Passion for subject
  • Full-screen multimedia
  • Gestures and tactile
  • Immediate feedback
  • Visual & auditory

What's best for out-of-class?

Give technology a try. You're already a great teacher. Be the best teacher you can be with a little help from technology.

| Eduscapes | Home |
Developed by Annette Lamb, 11/06. Updated 9/07.