I have just finished a thirty minute Webinar with students on my Working with Abuse course at the University Centre, Blackburn College and now I’m writing a blog about it. I have emailed a link to a recording of the Webinar to all my students so those who could not attend have an opportunity to see what they missed. In my Webinar I referred to a BBC radio programme, which I have now uploaded to Moodle, the University Centre’s virtual learning environment. I am creeping into the 21st Century.
As far as my willingness to use technology goes I’ve come a long way in just a few years: from a sceptic who refused to use PowerPoint to an enthusiast who advocates the use of technology enhanced learning (TEL).
My dislike of PowerPoint presentations grew out of the numerous probation service staff training days I attended. It was a struggle to keep awake during 150 slides on the Criminal Justice Act (2003) or some other bone dry topic. Each slide featured probation service corporate colours and fifteen bullet points - there was little relief from this monotony.
I now use PowerPoint as a backdrop to my lectures - pictures, videos and music punctuate the lesson and change the state of learners. My PowerPoint presentations are uploaded to Moodle for students to print if they wish. I’m currently experimenting with slideshare.net but my next real challenge is to begin adding a commentary so students can hear me expand on the bullet points I have listed and then the presentations will make much more sense.
The Webinar is another experiment and with mixed results. My students can see and hear me and they can write questions in response to what I am saying, but there is little interaction as yet. My job is to work my way through the PowerPoint students can see when I’m sharing my desktop. Unfortunately anymeeting.com has had a redesign since last week and I couldn’t get the desktop sharing function to work. This prevented me from sharing important diagrams and pictures. My experience of the Webinar is therefore pretty mixed. Interaction is limited and when the technology doesn’t work I am left with a strong sense of “just talking to myself”. Maybe a better way of transmitting knowledge is the tried and tested YouTube video – so popular that I’m about to go back into production!
The transmission of knowledge over the Web does allow more time for experiential learning in the classroom: discussion, exploration and interaction. I am using technology to enhance this too. I take pictures of students as they work in pairs and triads - capturing examples of rapport building that I upload to Moodle. I photograph work we have done on the whiteboard and on flipchart paper. Sometimes students let me take movies of their presentations and counselling sessions, which I also upload to Moodle. Finally the assessment of learning has incorporated technologies, including the audio and video recording of counselling sessions and presentations. The key question then – is this enhancing the learning experience of students? There is much more that I can do to make use of TEL and I shall keep you posted!