C&RL News, February 2007
Vol. 68, No. 2
by Bryan Alexander
Humans have been teaching and learning by technology since Socrates first complained about it in the 4th century BCE Phaedrus. Now that we are into the second decade of the Web and the Internet’s second generation, we have seen a wide range of practices emerge for teaching and learning with technology. As technologies have proliferated and developed, teachers have developed and shared techniques and projects through networks and institutions. In this cyberspatial milieu, students have been guinea pigs and innovators, taking classes, experiencing projects, helping teachers and staff support instructors teach, graduating as alumni, and sometimes returning as staff.
Learning and teaching practices have drawn on larger cultural transformations and affordances enabled by cyberculture. For example, the enormous explosion in popularly generated Web content from personal home pages to Amazon book reviews has demonstrated the viability of Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention for creative expression, leading to millions of pages created by students and instructors.
The decades-long successes of discussion groups (Usenet through Google Groups) and e-mail have shown the utility of asynchronous conversation, which was rapidly incorporated into class discussions. The ease of creating presentations in PowerPoint, combined with their vast popularity in the business and governmental worlds, has led to vast numbers of multimedia slideshows in the hands of teachers and students. The sheer size and accessibility of cyberculture has transformed teaching and doing research at every educational level.
Several factors combine to make exploring this technopedagogical record difficult. One is the tradition of classroom privacy, which can cloak projects and discussion. Another is the difficulty of sharing information across campus populations. Public anxieties about technology, fueled by media stories and, occasionally, politicians, play a role in sapping discourse. More recently, the tendency to publish course content to venues closed to the public further clouds the field. Nevertheless, enough work has surfaced and been discussed that a set of teaching principles or themes can be identified, thanks largely to the collaborative ethos of the educational technology profession. We can also distinguish practices, projects, and services by types of computer-mediated communication. MORE…
Here are but a few resources on a page that has lots more~
• Blackboard. A course management system, Blackboard includes several forms of discussion boards. Other CMSes include WebCT, Moodle, and Sakai. Access: http://blackboard.com/products/Academic_Suite/.
• John Suler, “Extending the Classroom into Cyberspace: The Discussion Board.” A psychologist’s view on how to maximize use of discussion boards; appeared in CyberPsychology and Behavior, 7, 397-403. Access: http://www.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/extendclass.html.
• PHPBB. A widely used open source discussion forum—easy to install, support, and use. Access: http://www.phpbb.com/.
• Worcester Polytech, “Improving the Use of Discussion Boards.” This set of practical guidelines is informed by scholarship and applies to a variety of platforms. Access: http://www.wpi.edu/Academics/ATC/Collaboratory/Idea/boards.html.