Enhancing learning with technology (part 2 in an occasional series)

You may have read my earlier post about my ‘erratic’ relationship with technology. However I am gradually gaining confidence and utilising tech to support my learning, and teaching. I still don’t ‘do’ Facebook and my entry level smart phone won’t let me use WhatsApp, which certain friends find hilarious. WhatsApp is an interesting example as recent (informal) research at Dundee University showed this is the one digital tool that has near 100% take up and engagement with Dentistry undergrads. Other evidence suggests that younger people (sorry for the terrible generalisation here) are more likely to use platforms like Pintrest, Instagram but may be migrating away from Facebook (for various reasons, including old folk and parents encroaching on their territory!) although this may say more about social group interaction than the technology itself. Another suggestion is that engagement with digital tools like Twitter may be superficial (example below?) and the full educational potential is being missed.

Use of Twitter for non-educational purposes!

As I explained above on a personal level I am gaining confidence with tech but this may be because I am beginning to see how it can be used. I have also been trying to get my head around philosophy (and the obvious question here is ‘why?’) and coming from a positivist natural science background this has been a challenge (Immanuel Kant? I’m more at home with Brian Cant). And here is where the tech comes in, having tried to read some philosophy texts I was getting no where fast. So I turned to the interweb, and an iPad. (I won the iPad in a competition and for the first year I used in occasionally to surf the net and possibly check email – then I started to experiment – first with downloading articles to read on the train, and also for things like blogging, and even streaming music and video to my TV – I was truly gobsmacked by that…!) I have now hit on using Podcasts to try and learn more about philosophy, and a range of subjects, and access all sorts of content that is not just work related. I now plan to link this to my teaching especially at Masters’ level.

The next step for me as a tutor might even be to encourage students to create and share their own podcasts. I dabbled with this last year during a science elective module, with vodcasting, but I think I understand it a lot better now, and where I went wrong. The big problem however is that my own slow development, particularly the adoption of these resources, is not unusual. Therefore for learners to make the most of tech they need time, and acknowledgement from educators and policy makers that a top down ‘do it because I know what is good for you’ approach does not, and will not work. Technology changes fast, but some old ideas, and views within education sadly do not.

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