26 February, 2010

Matching Learning Tasks with Learning Technologies

There are a wide range of tools and technologies available to support all types of Technology Enhanced Learning, but that range of tools can be overwhelming even to those teachers who are experienced users of technology.

There are some simple methods that Learning Technologists use to help teaching staff understand the potential uses of web based tools. Presenting categories of tools is useful. If you can look at technologies in terms of, for example, those designed for synchronous versus asynchronous uses, you can think more easily about which you will use for a certain purpose. If you can identify Twitter as a tool for public interaction rather than private you can think better about what information might it be appropriate to carry. If you categorise it as a Microblogging tool it allows you to then ask if other Microblogging tools might be more appropriate to use for your purpose.

Sarah Robbins-Bell showed a possible way to structure this way of looking at tools, based on work by Herring (2007 ), which in turn was based on work by Ranganathan (1933). She used Faceted Classification to look at dozens of tools that were identified as Virtual Worlds [presentation slides], and saw 10 facets emerge that would help users understand if each tool would match their learning tasks and objectives. They will only be of interest to those working with 3D Virtual Worlds, but are:
  • Dominant content form - Either Text or Image or a Mix
  • Dominant user to user communication form - Text / Voice / Mix
  • Stigmergy - Stigmergic / Non-stigmergic / Conditional stigmergy
  • Object ownership - Private / Public / Sharing
  • User identity formation - Static / Conditional / Custom
  • Access - Public / Fee / Limited
  • User relationship with other users - Competitive / Conditional / Collaborative
  • User relationship with environment - Competitive / Conditional / Collaborative
  • Access to groups - Private / Public / None
  • Number of groups - Many / One / None
If you look at pages 33 and 34 of her ReLIVE08 conference presentation slides, you can see that she uses the 10 facets to compare Second Life and World of Warcraft, making it easy to demonstrate that two very similar looking tools are different in many ways that might not be immediately obvious to someone who had not used them much.

This same process could be done for other categories of tool, like synchronous communication tools, collaborative document creation tools and content dissemination tools. This could be a useful resource in a conversation about which of these tools might fit the needs of a certain learning activity. The following table is a very brief example of one for online learning activities requiring synchronous communication.

Facet Second Life Blackboard Chat Yahoo Messenger
Text or Image

Public or Private

Text or Voice

Of course exploring needs and requirements is a very subtle process, but this kind of thing could play a part in making it easier for everyone involved to understand the decision making process.

Another model for matching tasks with learning technologies was put forward by Bower (2008) in "Affordance Analysis - Matching Learning Tasks with Learning Technologies". In this article categories of affordances of learning technologies are put forward along with a methodology for practical application.

[image by Pink Sherbet Photography]

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