An Instructional Technologist’s Eye…

Ken Rockwell, talking about photography, said, “Maybe because it’s entirely an artist’s eye, patience and skill that makes an image and not his tools.”

An artist’s eye, patience, and skill…


There have been some interesting blog posts this past week on tools. I was reading Geeky Mom last night and she noted:

Most of the faculty that reach out to me are really just asking for tech support. They want to know how to perform certain tasks in Blackboard. They want to know how to edit a web site. They don’t tend to ask the bigger questions: what is appropriate technology for me to use to achieve my goals, how should I use x to help my students learn.

She articulated an irritant I have felt in the past. The majority of faculty that do seek my help come to me to find out how to use some tool or fix some problem. They rarely ask if the particular tool they are interested in makes a difference in student learning. Yet Alan Levine raised an interesting point when he commented on the above blog posting:

IMHO, the variances in cultures and organizations are going to make for a normal spectrum of roles for Instructional Technologists, but a lot ultimately rests on our shoulders for taking the long hard path to craft the changes from within the boxes of limiting job descriptions- to locally build up our own reputations inside our organization.

I like what Alan suggests. It is in line with that artist’s eye, patience, and skill idea.

Jane Hart continued her work this week on identifying the top tools those who work in e-learning use for learning. She has invited learning professionals (e.g. consultant, developer, practitioner, analyst, academic, teacher, etc) who are active in the field of e-learning to contribute their Top 10 Tools for Learning. As she receives contributions, she will compile, and then refine, the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008 list. For the past two years, I have contributed my list, and it is always interesting to see the commonalities and differences with others in this field.

Jane blogged about her first look at the results, with 63 of us contributing so far. Her resulting Top 85 to date shows some interesting trends. Jane noted:

“So what is different from the list 6 months ago? Here are a few notable changes

  • Firefox has been knocked off its No 1 position – just! {Note: moved from second to first}
  • Only 7 of the Top 10 are the same as last year – 3 different tools make it onto the list (in 8th, 9th and 10 positions)
  • A number of tools have significantly improved their position from last year
  • Many tools from last year have not yet made it onto the list
  • There are 20 new entrants on the list (in the shaded rows)

One thing has, however, struck me about the Top 10 Tools lists this year, and that is that although practically all contributors mention the value of free, Web 2.0 tools for their own personal learning, it is educators (in schools, colleges and universities) who seem to be leading the way by making far more use of a wide range of free, Web 2.0 tools for creating learning experiences for their students – corporate training professionals seem to be focusing on the use of commercial, Web 1.0 (albeit rapid) tools for creating learning content.

This is clearly a significant point which requires fuller consideration and discussion...”

Old World Illustration of Telescope

As one reviews this list of tools, one sees many of the tools about which faculty approach us. During January and February, we are doing brown-bag lunches in our Center for Teaching Excellence to introduce faculty to three of the tools that made the top ten: Google Reader (RSS), Google Docs, and SlideShare. Faculty are becoming aware of these new web tools and are interested in the tools. Our role is to take that long view that Alan Levine noted – use our artist’s eye, patience, and skill to help faculty see the learning implications of these tools – the compelling reasons for using them in the first place.

There are good pedagogical reasons for using these web tools. Tom Peters said it best in a 2004 blog post:

“We’re all in sales! That’s one of my recurrent themes. Or, to make it more personal: IF YOU CARE, YOU’RE IN SALES.”

We instructional technologists know how to use these tools, and we have the artist’s eye, patience, and skill to use them effectively to promote learning. Our job is to sell the reasons WHY as we are being approached by faculty as a glorified tech support! Pulling off this sell would be glory indeed!

One thought on “An Instructional Technologist’s Eye…

  1. I thought that Jane makes a good point about how corporate types aren’t looking at Web 2.0 tools for training purposes in the same ways that educators are. That’s actually one of the things that I intend to be blogging more about because I think that there’s a real gap there. I agree completely that we all need these tools for our own personal and professional development, but I also think that organizations could be supporting the uptake on the tools by embedding them into training processes more. It will be interesting to see how these things continue to evolve.

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