June 26

when is a discussion not a "discussion"? When it is a written assignment…

Its really funny now that students have experience with other course management systems that all use a common similar basic function-based taxonomy to label categories of types of online course activity – like “discussion” for example – that it has resulted in expectations and consequent confusion when you use the functionality for something other than what is commonly thought of as online “discussion.” And I don’t mean funny – ha ha.

It is yet another irritating example of the software tail wagging the pedagogy dog. I hate that. Or is this due to student experiences with untrained faculty use of CMS features and functionality in an web-enhanced environment? I don’t know. I am having a moment.

“Technically” I have “written assignments” in this course implemented using the discussion tool, because that is the only way i could have students be able to see each other’s work in Moodle easily. Also it was the easiest way I found to be able to attach the file that i used to model my expectations for some of the assignment. And that provides the students with the option to attach their written assignment, so they can share an comment on each other’s work. It is very interesting to me that because i used the “discussion” feature to implement a written assignment a student reported being thrown “off”… i think in terms of functionality. This is very interesting. One of the reasons i HATE course management systems is that they are designed by app developers (not educators) who want everything to fit into tidy little buckets… that they can code easily, discretely…things that can be labeled… like discussion, written assignment, quiz, etc. But in so doing the tech tail then wags the pedagogy/instruction/instructor dog… in the reality of a fully online teaching and learning environment interaction is integrated, NOT in these separate buckets. The almighty CMS imposes an interface and interaction logic that it has no business doing. I don’t walk out of my classroom to go to a discussion room, then to another place to write an essay, then to yet another place to submit an assignment, and then to yet another place to get my grades…etc. It all happens in the classroom… From the app developers perspective there is a lovely logic to a function-based app design. The problem is when that technical logic spills out of the code and into my ability to be effective in the online teaching environment resulting in a confusion that everything created with the “discussion” utility is a “discussion” when the reality it is a tool coded with certain functionality that can be used in a variety of ways that may or may not be considered “discussion.” I HATE that label too btw… better would be “interaction.”

It suppose it also could be that i just don’t know how to use moodle, or that i hate labels, or that i hate app developers, or that i hate CMSs. yes… I think it is the last one.

In my dreams i see a PLE that displays a coursemap, for example, as a moving wordcloud and that is dynamically affected by user (student /faculty ) interaction… still conceptualizing.


Posted June 26, 2008 by alexandrapickett in category Uncategorized

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Alexandra M. Pickett

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