Teaching and technology 4

For now, this will be the second in my three-part series (First Part). It’s not the post on teaching that I planned, but it has come over me. So this is not so much a post on teaching as a post on some elements of teaching and technology. But first I’d like to link to Parezco Y Digo‘s amazing slideshow called tech>ppt. I was skeptical when Cliotropic first linked me to it because, I reasoned, I know perfectly well that tech is more than powerpoint! In fact, the only time I’ve ever used powerpoint in a classroom for teaching purposes was during a particularly wicked case of laryngitis. For that, it worked quite well. But generally, I don’t find it all that useful.

Anyway, I opened up the slideshow and by slide #4, I was hooked. Why? This is the text of the slide in its entirety. “I hate Blackboard®.” And then I knew that I was hooked. Blackboard® may well be a great system for some people and for what it wants to be, but I hate it.

I, too, hate Blackboard®

This post is motivated by an experience I had this morning. I know that you can upload documents to Blackboard® and that depending on the other fair use issues involved the credentialling that Blackboard® does will fulfill your copyright protection obligations. Wonderful. I also know that another way at the school where I teach to link to articles that exist in full-text in databases is to use the database permalinks with an additional level of proxy authentication tag prepended to the permalink URL. It’s great. You can post the link anywhere, and it will ask you for your credentials, and if you have the credentials, boom, there is the article. I went to Blackboard® and saw that in a relatively recent release, Blackboard® had developed a permalinking procedure. GREAT I thought, and clicked on what I thought were the instructions for using it. And quickly clicked cancel as my browser started downloading the instructional video. I firmly believe that instructional videos are a last resort and generally take more time than they provide help. So I clicked on help. And nowhere in the following few screens was there a place I could search for “permalinks.”

Now don’t get me wrong folks, the instructions may be there. But as Parezco Y Digo says: “It’s a … system built for CIO’s, not driven by pedagogical needs or possibilities.” And it’s certainly not a system built to allow access to parts of its functionality without diving in headfirst.

I do not hate WordPress

I will be teaching with WordPress this semester, and hopefully for many semesters to come. I think that if we’re teaching with technology, then we are always also teaching technology. Learning the ins and outs of Blackboard® may help students in universities that use Blackboard®, but teaching an expensive, proprietary technology that has little purchase outside academia just doesn’t appeal as much as teaching technology that they could use in a number of places and times in their life. Plus, the community that writes the supporting documentation for WordPress knows how to create usable documentation. Open source is not the cure for all the world’s evils, but I’m hoping in time it will succeed in at the very least modifying the practices of enterprises like Blackboard®.

And a question for you:

What teaching technologies do you love? What teaching technologies do you hate? Powerpoint and Blackboard have most of my ire, but Microsoft Word, especially its new .docx file format, has a lot as well. I (mostly) love WordPress. I love chalk. I loved collaborative tools like Etherpad, which Google recently killed. I hope that the Digress.it plugin will help me do a lot of what Etherpad might have. Maybe even better.


Props to ProfHacker for keeping me thinking about this stuff, continually.