New Technology 

I.  Definition of Training Piece

A.  Purpose for Instructor

You are comfortable using email and the Internet for communication and research for your own personal and professional purposes and have been doing so for some time. Some of your colleagues, however, have been using other technology resources for instructional purposes as well. Furthermore, your school's tech gurus have been looking at courseware delivery packages such as WebCT and Blackboard for adoption on a campus-wide basis. You feel it's time to familiarize yourself with these new technology options so that you can begin integrating them in the future.

The purpose of this module is to do just that--to introduce you to a variety of technology resources which are being applied to instructional purposes. "New" may not be an accurate descriptor of all these technologies--many have been around for a decade and even more, however "new" is an appropriate characterization still for many teachers and within the context of the educational environment.

B.  Material Covered

What do these new technologies include? They include synchronous forms of communication such as ICQ, AOL's Instant Messenger, and IRC; asynchronous communication meaning newsgroups, bulletin boards and listservs; virtual environments (MOOs) such as TappedIn, ActiveWorlds and Diversity University; and a wide variety of web-delivery tools such as TrackStar, Hot Potatoes, and Interactive Exercise Makers.

We'll only mention in passing WebCT, Blackboard, College, FirstClass, Web Course in a Box and others because these are comprehensive packages often incorporating a variety of the individual tools above. Additionally, these are not typically employed by a single instructor but rather adopted by a campus as its underlying course delivery system. None of these packages are daunting if you are familiar with the individual tools above, and when a school adopts one, they typically also commit to faculty training and development support.

"Dauntingness" is a key for our selection of tools to introduce to you here. There are many tools that we will not cover, including CGI and JAVA scripting, html, etc. Rather, our intent is to introduce to you tools which you can master and utilize fairly quickly and easily, those which do not require (of you or your students) a significant learning curve or time commitment to employ. You will leave this module with a toolbox filled with new devices for facilitating your instructional purposes.

II.  Foundation

A.  Definition of Concept & Theory

There are two significant impacts that technology has made on education. First, it has facilitated multiple new modes and means of communication. Both students and teachers can communicate now on a 24/7 basis--asking questions when they arise, sharing researched information, collaborating away from the classroom, as well as interacting with both people and resources across the surface of the earth.

Secondly, technology provides for the superaddition--or building upon previous efforts--of information, resources and knowledge in a way not previously possible. When considering student work, for example, this means that an instructor and/or student can assemble student production from multiple electronic sources (newsgroup postings, papers, web pages, listservs) to serve as a portfolio representation of the student's progress. It also means that faculty production of instructional materials--be they worksheets and other "simple" activities or full course development--is no longer limited to a local concern. As a result, web-deliverable or web-posted faculty-developed materials become the foundation for adaptation, further development and/or implementation in classrooms around the country and around the world. In other words, instead of re-inventing the instructional wheel locally, we are now able to begin building upon one another's efforts--and as a result, the resources of the profession itself--through the increased "shareability" that technology now provides.

B.  Summary of Relevant Research

Technology provides significant assistance to the teacher in addressing student learning styles. By reaching a variety of senses through a combination of text, video, audio and graphics, the Internet and computer programs provide a wide range of divergent learning stimuli (1). Web-based resources and tools offer students expanded opportunities to interact with one another and with materials. Thus, the student who is reticent to speak up in the classroom may feel more comfortable asking questions or proposing ideas on their own terms from the security of their position at the computer (2).

Using Internet resources often changes student-teacher interaction as well. As students take more responsibility and action in their own learning processes through the use of technology, teachers become facilitators rather than sole sources of knowledge. Furthermore, unlike traditional linear texts, the Internet requires active rather than passive interaction by students as they create their own learning paths by their choices of links during their web explorations.

III.  Benefits

A.  Instructor

One of the great advantages of the use of technology is the ability to extend the learning process outside the limited time typically allotted a given course:
In particular, in balancing the delivery of content (typically classroom lecture) with necessary processing and reflective opportunities. Listservs and newsgroups are particularly useful for this purpose. They provide both teachers and students with the opportunity to question, discuss and expand upon the topic at hand between classes and as further home reading or research stimulates further investigation.

At the same time, the use of virtual environments for synchronous group discussions or office hours helps the instructor to mortar the classroom experience and the traditionally non-contact time between classroom meetings into an ongoing learning experience.

A secondary aspect of using the technologies mentioned above is the opportunity it provides the instructor to capture student participation in a concrete way. What are the students' thinking processes? How much are they participating? These determinations are much more subjective when evaluating real-time, live student interaction than they are in real-time (synchronous) or delayed (asynchronous) online interaction which can be captured in textual form.

B.  Student

Students also benefit significantly from the expansion of the classroom into cyberspace. Take an Art History class, for example. In the past, missing a lecture often meant missing an un-recapturable experience of visual images and accompanying commentary. That is no longer the case. Slide shows with accompanying notes can easily be posted to the web. Web available lecture content can also allow students to review and explore further at their own discretion. In short, technology provides the student with more opportunities to interact with course content outside the classroom and at their own convenience.

IV.  Implementation

A.  Exploration Exercises for Instructor

Exercise 1
Go to Listservs and Newsgroups and investigate 2-3 listservs listed there that you find of interest. A triangle to the right of the "posting" icon indicates that there are responses to that posting. A posting and its responses is called a "thread" (as in "thread of conversation"). Click on the triangle to open the list of these responses. Note how postings in these various newsgroups are organized. Note also that you can click on the task bar immediately above the messages to sort them by subject, sender/recipient, and date. Try it.

Think about how a newsgroup might serve to help you meet your instructional goals; for example, do you have a class that could benefit from additional group discussion on a topic? Are there organizational and logistic activities for the class that could better be negotiated outside of class time? Are there learning activities (like project planning) that don't require students' physical concurrent?

Now that you have some ideas for how you might use a newsgroup, make an appointment with your campus Academic Computing folks, with your department administrative assistant, with your department's lab director, or with a colleague to find out how to establish a newsgroup on your campus. On many campuses, you will find the process is as simple as asking and it is created for you.

Exercise 2

Go to TappedIn, click on the "Guest Login" button and follow the instructions that are presented to you. Once you type in your name, you will be transported to TappedIn's reception hall. Someone from the HelpDesk will offer you his or her assistance. This is a real person. Accept their assistance! Tell them you're new, and they will happily answer your questions and show you around.

TappedIn is an environment that is particularly useful for synchronous group discussions. As you explore TappedIn (make sure to inquire about visiting some offices), think about how you might use it for one of your courses.

Once you have a plan, return to TappedIn and ask about becoming a member (no cost) and establishing your own office.

Exercise 3

TrackStar is one of a number of delivery tools for web-based lessons and activities. Go to TrackStar and click on "keyword search". At this search page enter your discipline (chemistry, math, etc.), college/adult level, and hit "Go." When you click on a track you want to view from the subsequent search results page, you will be transported to a title/development page. Click on "View in Frames." Now you've arrived at the lesson.

What you see in the left-hand vertical frame is the list of web sites for this lesson. In the horizontal frame across the top you will find some text containing information, questions, etc. related to the web page which is displayed in the main large frame. Explore several of these lessons to get a feel for how they're designed and the possibilities for your instructional purposes.

The beauty of TrackStar is the ease in which anyone can quickly create such web-based lessons or edit existing ones to customize for their own purposes. (Such editing does not alter the original but rather simply adds a new version to the existing corpus of lessons.) When you're ready and have 20 minutes free, go to "Make or Edit a Track" on TrackStar's main page and try to create or edit your own lesson.

B.  Student Exercises

The adage goes "beauty is only skin deep"; so it is with web pages as well. The Internet is wonderfully full of a multitude of information on almost any given topic; it also houses the greatest collection of junk, boasts and inaccuracies anywhere on Earth. One of the great disadvantages as students explore Internet resources is determining the credibility of the source. To help them learn to do this, try the following activity:

Ask each student to use a search engine to identify three random web pages on a topic you are currently exploring in your course. Using the newsgroup or listserv you established per the exercise above, have students post the URL and discuss briefly what they found content-wise at each site. Ask them to address the following questions regarding the content:

Could you identify the source of this information and if so what is it?
What is does this source signify to you?
What do you think about information from an unknown source?
Known or unknown, are there ways to confirm the information?
Do you believe this information is accurate?
Why or why not?
Rank your three sites in terms of what their "reliability" rating is.
As a result of this search and your analysis, are there any clues that you've been able to identify for yourself in determining what search engine results may be more productive than others?

C.  Skill Connection

1. Thinking Styles & Learning Styles: One of the greatest benefits of the advances in technology is the ability for students to explore the course content in a variety of ways, allowing for different learning styles. As instructors, it also allows us to present materials in ways that meet students' learning needs. The Thinking Styles & Learning Styles module offer suggestions for the type of material and presentation format that is needed for the different styles and suggestion for expanding students' horizons. (create link)

2.  Integrating Technology: Explore the Integrating Technology module for ways to put all of these new technologies to work in your classroom and beyond.

V.  Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does "synchronous" and "asynchronous" communication mean?

A: "Synchronous" refers to activities which take place at the same time as one another ("real time"). AOL's "Instant Messaging" is synchronous because two or more people are online and chatting at the same time, immediately responding to one another as in a verbal conversation. Email, on the other hand, is asynchronous; one person writes and sends a message and at some later time, the recipient receives and responds.

Q: What does MOO stand for?

A: MOO is an acronym for "MUD, Object-Oriented," which isn't much help unless you know what MUD is. MUD is simply a multi-user domain. That means several people can share virtual space simultaneously, much like a telephone conference call. MOOs offer participants the opportunity to construct spaces and objects of their own design.

Q: Where do I get server space for exercises I create?

A: Typically faculty are allocated server space on campus machines. Talk with your campus academic computing or instructional resource support folks to find out more about how this works on your campus. Make friends with them--you may need their assistance learning how to upload your materials to the server, as well as additional assistance as you advance into more sophisticated endeavors with technology (and they are often pleased to be able to assist faculty who are interested in doing new things).

Q: Are there workshops for teachers on this topic?

A: Keep your ears and eyes open for workshop announcements at your own campus, or simply let your faculty-training folks know what you're interested in. Again, they are often quite responsive to faculty interest in this area.

VI.  Helpful Resources

Synchronous ("real time") communication tools:
Including an IRC FAQ, Tutorial and Primer.

Asynchronous communication tools:
An Educator's Guide to Email Lists
Comprehensive survey by discipline plus an orientation essay.

Introduction to Computing for Staff at Stanford
An introduction to the how, what, and using, of news groups or electronic bulletin boards.

Listservs and Newsgroups
Many direct links to educational newsgroups.

Virtual environments (MOOs):
Educational MOOs
A list of MOOs dedicated to educational purposes

Moos Teachers Tip Sheet
Tips for preparing to take your class to a MOO environment.

MOO: Multi-user; Object Oriented
Moo command cheat sheets.

Teaching in Cyberspace
Includes links to "How To" pages; papers on a variety of MOO-centered courses from biocomputing to literature and writing; and other useful MOO information for teachers. Tools for delivery of content via the web

Online Activity Makers
This page from the University of Minnesota lists over a dozen resources for assisting you in creating online materials. Organized from "easy" ("create them and leave them where you created them" as in TrackStar) to "more complicated" (download software and find a server to house your creation as in Hot Potatoes and Interactive Exercise Maker).

Workshop Information to attend a workshop on this topic or bring one to your campus, visit this site or call Faculty Training at (800) 856-5727.