Backwards Translation

I spent most of today mapping out the first four weeks of my Fall graduate course, Instructional Strategies Using the Internet – a totally online course with students scattered over three states. As this is now an Ed Leadership course, Jon Becker and I are taking it from a strictly Web 1.0 classroom focused course into a school leadership-focused course. The intent is to explore Web 2.0 initially, but then shift towards the administrative planning necessary to implement Web 2.0 instruction in a school or district.

As I thought through the first four weeks exploring Web 2.0, I was reminded of something Jeff Nugent comments on often – the challenge of backwards translating Web 2.0 by an early adopter to a late majority population.

This is not a criticism of my upcoming students – they are typical school teachers that did not necessarily grow up with computers like their students – the NetGen generation – have. So while I am probably generalizing, it appears from meeting with them this summer while they were on campus that most of my students will fall in to the late majority category. Rogers noted that the drivers for adoption of an innovation are different for each adopter category, and I think it is safe to say that my enthusiasm for Web 2.0 will not easily translate into the class norm (at least, not without some work).

So as I mapped out the course, I broke the course down this way. I thought that we would spend a week simply exploring the Web 2.0 concept (Michael Wesch videos, O’Reilly article, Cofino First Steps), and have them dip their toes in with RSS feeds in Google Reader and accounts in Delicious. The concept of creating content online might still be foreign to some of them.

My worry with backwards translation is the potential for information overload as we move in to Web 2.0 tools. I am thinking a starting place is Jane Hart’s Top Tools For Learning list, but even that is intimidating to those uncomfortable with technology. Yet, this is a graduate course, and I neither want to water it down nor spoon feed “my” tools to them. My goal is that in week 4, the students will be using some of these tools to present (asynchronously) tutorials on a specific tool that they research to the other members of the course. I do not want to even specify “how” they present – though I do want to introduce them to CogDog’s 50 Ways To Tell a Story.

So, this suggests that we spend a week “exploring” tools, and then spend a week exploring those who have successfully used these tools instructionally. To me, this means setting up a wiki and getting the students comfortable using it in order to map out possible tools that they then would split up to research. They also (with help from lists like this and this) would begin exploring the blogs of fellow educators who ARE using the web instructionally.

This would then culminate with a week of sharing their individual research with me and each other.

See any pitfalls, issues, alternative approaches? This is still on the drawing board, so any input would be greatly appreciated!

9 thoughts on “Backwards Translation

  1. Hi Britt,

    Looks a good course. Good idea. Hope it goes well. Just a couple of things so that i am clear about how the course will work.

    1. where is the online focus for the students. where will they congregate online. Is it behind a VLE

    2. How do you see your role as a teacher, how will you facilitate and/or impart knowledge.


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  2. Thanks for the feedback, Steve. You guessed right. We will be in Blackboard, but I use Blackboard more as a stepping stone, so we will also be in other places such as Wikispaces for one.

    And my role will be guidance counselor! Little “lecturing” but a lot of pointing, questioning, and applauding as we explore together.

  3. Britt,

    What form will the lecturing take – is it mainly through a text based discussion board?

    Also how many students taking part?

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  4. Britt

    Forget the last comment i see you are doing a little lecturing (i presume as and when in whatever arena).

    What is your first contact with the students. how are the inducted to what is required?

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  5. Got 20 students spread over 3 states, so F2F not an option. I met them briefly last month for an hour.

    Semester split into 14 weekly lessons, with deadlines for discussion postings and written work weekly.

  6. very interested in how you get on Britt, look forward to your feedback both during and after the course

    don’t know what you have planned for student feedback – but would be interested in what they think of your role as guider, how they viewed interactions with fellow students (did they feel connected, was it motivating being connected), how they liked/disliked the learning process and did they enjoy it.

    All the best

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  7. I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here. My thoughts are if you want them to learn about Web 2.0 tools you should be modeling their use through the entire process of the course so I wouldn’t use my LMS but set up the course entirely using Web 2.0 tools. So you could use a mixture of blogs, wikis, Personalised Start Page etc to manage the course from.

    The other important aspect about Rogers Innovation Adoption Curve is the each group has a different reason for buying into the use of technology and differing technical support needs. I survey participants when I run PD to determine their technical skills level prior to doing the PD so I know where they are at. It really helps. For example if they haven’t ever downloading applications or set up online accounts I know they will need a high level of support. Whereas someone who already has a high level of technical skills just needs to be shown a new way of doing things and they will normally fly.

  8. Hi Sue and Britt,

    I think the survey of technical skills is a very good idea.

    Also i agree that ideally they should all use web 2.0 tools if they want to enjoy learning :-), but i suspect the familiar arena of blackboard gives a solid core base of commonality from which to proceed until the students feel more comfortable with new tools.

    In my earlier comments i was wondering where the connecting binding online space would be. If blackboard was not used, i think diigo social bookmarking would be a good place to bring them together in a central online space, rather than more involved wikis or ning networks (if you need to keep it simple)

  9. Classes start in 2 days, so I have been negligent in commenting back, but wanted to thank Sue and Steve for their feedback. Sue, your idea of not using the LMS is radical and to some degree, I will be doing that. The LMS is ingrained in our university, so I will use it for administration (enrollment, announcements, documents, email, etc). But I am using a wiki for the initial projects, blogging for reflection, and I have the students looking at different tools and presenting them via interactive media. Delicious will be used for research and sharing. So while Blackboard will be used, it is simply a point for departure, and there will be a lot of modeling going on!

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