Yesterday, on the very easy-to-remember date of 09/09/09, we launched the ICT support web site for our Bachelor in Educational Sciences (BScE – Bachelor en Sciences de l’Education). This web site is an on-going project and will house guides and information to the (ed) tech tools we use in our study program. Currently, a quick start guide about our WordPress MU installation is online, and I am working on a quick start guide for our e-portfolio system Mahara.
Instead of making these materials only available within our Moodle installation, I can now publish them openly online. They may not be cutting edge because others have already written guides, tutorials etc. However, I do hope that students and faculty will find them helpful because they address our particular environments and I can add tips and information that they may need. All that in rather short guides as more extensive information can be found in the general resources for these systems or other user-created material online.
While setting up this support web site and revamping our portal site (now completely a blog) which announces our study program news and events throughout the academic year among others, I fell in love with the theme Atahualpa. It is extremely flexible and you can change almost anything to your liking through an administrator interface.
You can also have a (changing) custom header which brings me to the actual purpose of this post (finally 😉 ). I chose to take a photo of Lego building blocks that I arranged for the specific purpose of visualizing what support for using (ed) tech tools means to me.
We use a number of electronic tools in our study program: Moodle as the default VLE for course-related work and for our coordinator team to communicate administrative stuff, Mahara for the student e-portfolios (launch for all students after a test run this winter semester), a CMAP server, WordPress MU (launch this semester), a Facebook group mainly for event announcements, and the YouTube channel BScE.tv with student videos about the study program. Teachers can also work with any other tool, e.g. GoogleDocs. Luckily, we are free in our choice and not bound to one single system. Furthermore, our students always document their research projects with video and / or audio and need to use editing / multimedia authoring software.
In the Lego model, these tools are represented by the big colored blocks. I did not bring in the weight of usage, e.g. represent Moodle with a number of blocks. Some tools are close to each other are used in conjunction. I put them next to each other in the model whereas others are not really connected and thus further away.
The narrow green blocks indicate that some of these tools are used within a walled garden, e.g. when they are installed on our server and access to the content is only possible when you have a (university) login.
The small Lego pieces (mainly in apple green and orange) represent individuals and the slightly bigger pieces represent groups of people. You can see that the individuals and groups use these tools (when they “sit on” them). Of course, they do not always just use one tool, but a varying number. Therefore, they can be seen “sitting on” different blocks.
As there is no support infrastructure for using tech tools in place at the university besides the technical administrative support for these sites, the users help each other and find like-minded people to seek advice. That’s why a couple of the smaller pieces (individuals and groups) are on top of each other. However, the majority of the people are on their own and try to find their way around.
Now the big white bottom part comes into play. That is the support that I envision to advance:
- to provide up-to-date information on the tech tools we use
- to make available how-to guides for the tools used by many students and faculty, not just written ones, but depending on the needs and purpose also short screencasts for example
- to offer workshops on the use of selected tech tools on different needs levels – not merely on how to handle them, but how to use them for their learning and teaching
- to have short sessions like the Open University’s “IET Technology Coffee Mornings” and ETH Zurich’s “NET à la carte” for letting people get their feet wet with tools / services they may have heard about, but have been reluctant to try yet
- to have a central “somebody” who feels responsible for giving individual / group support and directing questions that s/he cannot answer to more knowledgeable people; too often people do not know whom to ask or the same issues are discussed multiple times without anybody knowing from the other
The red piece sticking out in the back beyond the white support blocks indicates that it will not be possible to provide support for everything.
The support web site that we just launched is only one little piece of the big white bottom, but it is a start.
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