Into the Woods

January 16, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the fourth layer of the project: that of assessing the impact of new technologies upon the learning and education process and how we might begin to measure this. I wondered about utilising my all-time favourite debriefing process, ORID, (from the Technology of Participation suite: see, to provide a scaffold for evaluation. Because ORID has links back to the Kolb learning cycle, this would enable us to assess learning at multiple processing levels. For example:

1. OBJECTIVE DATA: As the course will comprise both mandatory and optional uses of technology it could be useful to compare participation levels in both. One could also measure how MUCH technology was used and what types, eg did students use websites, Blogs, teleconferencing or online chats, did they post photos, videos,  etc, did they use other forms of technology like mobile phones to connect? By utilising SNAP to measure student network interactions from week-to-week we will also have a good source of data about any changes to patterns of interaction over semester (eg does it increase as student’s confidence grows? does it change once formal workshops are completed (ie from week 6) or decrease as the workload rises across semester increases). This will tell us whether students are actually using the technologies to connect, or merely to store. We could do pre-and post surveys asking students about which technologies they have used and how regularly.

2. REFLECTIVE DATA: At a reflective level we can ask students to think about how they feel about IT, eg how they would rate their use of IT, how confident they are, how useful they think it is. I can tell them about the use of IT in this course and ask them how that makes them feel – and then ask them at the end of semester to evaluate how they feel about it, whether their confidence has grown etc.

3. INTERPRETIVE DATA: At the interpretive level we can ask students at the end of semester to comment on the impact of technology on their learning. For example whether the mandatory discussion board sessions actually helped them in their thinking, or helped them connect with others, whether it helped students feel less isolated during the field work stage of their projects, and also what helped them or hindered them in making use of IT. We can also probe for broader applications. Does it help them in explaining the project to others, did it contribute to shared ownership etc or was it merely a distraction? My interest would also be asking about the nexus between CD and IT. CD is often seen as grassroots, and relationship based. My aim is to actually increase people’s connection, but I’ll be keen to know whether real relationships are maintained.

 4. DECISIONAL DATA: This is about intentionality. If they were to repeat the experience, what would they do differently. Also, once leaving the course, what will they be taking with them in terms of IT use? How could they imagine technologies being helpful or unhelpful in their future both personally and professionally?

Image source: Lynda Shevellar. Ben Lomond, Queenstown, New Zealand.