Applying the frameworks
Within the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), the implementation of D2L “Desire2Learn”, a LMS has been mandated. This system functions, in general, like Blackboard. After reading Bates & Poole (2003), I am questioning the thought and decision process, framework, which was considered when deciding to implement this system. All staff and students within the CBE have access to D2L. At the school level, every teacher at my school (K-6) is expected to create an “on-line” classroom.
S – Students: What is known about the students – or potential students – and the appropriateness of the technology for this particular group or range of students?
At my school (K-6) we have a teacher, a learning leader, working with us to help implement D2L. She used to teach grade six, and was able to show us a unit on Greek Mythology that she created using D2L. It included many of the features of this course, ETEC 565, assignments, inter-activities and discussion threads. This group of students (ages 11 & 12) took well to this learning system and were able to be taught and coached effectively. I believe it was also due to the interest and passion of the teacher with technology that the unit was a success.
I teach grade one (ages 5 & 6). This age group is drastically different from a group of grade six students. At this point, I am struggling with how the affordances of D2L will be of benefit to my students. I am wondering how a system designed for adults can be adapted to meet the learning needs of a much younger demographic. More on this below…
E – Ease of use and reliability: how easy is it for both teachers and students – and the appropriateness of the technology for this particular group or range of students?
Bates & Poole (2003) state, “novice students should be studying within twenty minutes of logging on” (p.88). As teachers are beginning to build their classroom shell, I am seeing that it is taking much longer than twenty minutes even to make small progress! D2L is not overly intuitive and for many teachers, the implementation of this system has presented many hurdles. Although they respect technology and understand the benefit, for some, technology is simply not on the top of their priority list. We have started the discussion around teacher training, however, should this be required of all teachers? Personally, I believe that it is a teacher’s responsibility to keep up with technology. After all, we are preparing 21st century learners. However, the amount of quickly changing information is very overwhelming to most.
Speaking as a grade one teacher who does have a deep interest in technology, I do not think that D2L is appropriate for young students when other, simpler processes can be presented to the students. Even though I find my students are quick to learn on the computers, my approach is to “keep it simple”. For example, my grade one students can easily log in to the computer, locate my classroom folder and locate the bookmarks to web sites that I would like them to visit. At this point, I would argue that this simple system is much more efficient as the students can get to the work without having to navigate the technology.
I – Interactivity: what kind of interaction does this technology enable?
Going back to the example of the unit on Greek Mythology, the discussion threads were a great source of interactivity. The group of students that were working through this unit were lucky in the sense that the school they attended was very small and they could access the computer lab at their convenience. This resulted in rich, developed and complete discussions. At my school, where the student body is large, we have one hour per six-day cycle to bring our class to the computer lab. I’m not sure if the discussions would be as rich with such limited access. D2L is accessible from home, however, not every student has access to a computer at home. This technology would also allow parents to view the units of study. However, the student would have to log in for them, as parents of students in the CBE do not have access to D2L themselves. There could be confidentiality and FOIP issues around this.
A student’s access to D2L stays with them throughout their academic career in the CBE. This technology could enable students to develop some very useful skills that could be applied in their futures. I can see how by the end of grade 12, many students would be very proficient and computer literate.
All in all, D2L is a very reliable technology. However, the age of the students it is being used for must be considered. Perhaps the solution is to start small with the younger students and slowly build their skill set. That being said, Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) sixth principle, Communicates High Expectations, resonated with me. “Expect more and you will get more” is so true. When I taught my grade one students how to log into their school webmail accounts and send and receive emails, they caught on immediately. When one of the grade six teachers witnessed this, they were surprised that they were able to do it. Initially, I had no idea how teaching about email would pan out with this age group. For better or for worse, it all has all worked out in the end and I believe that the students feel a sense of accomplishment, empowerment and independence.
Bates & Poole. (2003). “A Framework for Selecting and Using Technology.” In Effective Teaching with Technology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 39 (7), 3-7. Accessed online 5 May 2009 from: http://www.aahea.org/bulletins/articles/sevenprinciples.htm