Integrating Technology Tools to More Actively Engage Students
Integrating Technology Tools to More Actively Engage Students
As an instructor of an online course, you may be thinking that you do an effective job of integrating technology. More than likely, this is an accurate reflection. Oftentimes online instructors make use of technology tools that are limited to providing them and students with up-to-date primary source material, collecting and recording data, and providing an opportunity for demonstrating understanding via multimedia. We should not limit ourselves to these tools and should expand our knowledge in order to plan and prepare for instruction that uses technology resources that can impact learning and engagement. This blogs seeks to introduce collaborative online tools and provide an overview of a commonly used model for technology integration in order to help online instructors routinely design coherent instruction which leverages technology tools.
Successful technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is supporting the curricular goals and is helping the students to effectively reach their goals. Technology integration is defined as students using technology daily and having a variety of tools to match the task at hand in order to build a deeper understanding of the content. Technology is continuously, and rapidly, evolving. As online instructors, we must continually learn about a variety of technology tools that can extend learning and increase student engagement in powerful ways. We must continually think of technology as learning tools and select ones that can be matched to a specific task that supports mastery of our curricular goals. More importantly, we must plan for using effective technology tools that actively engage students in the learning process.
Collaborative Online Tools
Collaborative online tools allow for individuals to connect with each other remotely which can be a powerful experience. Commonly known collaborative online tools include wikis or Google Docs. video conferencing collaboration tools can be added in this category. Video conferencing is a two way communications protocol between participants in two or more locations. Typically, true video conferencing requires equipment in beyond personal computer equipment and built-in cameras and microphones (Ohio State University, 2018). These tools have the potential to greatly expand student interaction as well as increase opportunities to interact with varied populations (Kolås, Nordseth, & Yri, 2015; Rainford, Sinclair, & Pike, 2015; Zoumenou, et. al, 2015).
With an array of video conferencing technologies available, instructors should think through and ultimately decide how they want to use video conferencing as a collaboration tool. Important questions during the planning process may be, “Which video conferencing tools are accessible to me and my students?” and/or “Would this learning activity best be conducted as a web conference or a webinar so that students can deepen their understanding of the intended learning?” Web conferencing is the use of the Internet to conduct synchronous, two-way audio and video communications between participants in two or more locations. Typically, each participant utilizes his or her own computer to connect to the web conference. Participants use Voice Over IP (VOIP) or a personal phone connection to provide audio. No special hardware is necessary to conduct a web conference. Similarly, a webinar uses participants personal computers and the Internet to connect. However, webinars are typically one-way, though some allowances may be made for participants to ask questions. There may also be a live audience in the room with the presenter during a webinar, sometimes referred to as a hybrid conference, but the live audience is not necessary. Engagement tools such as polling or the ability to ask questions may be incorporated.
Framework for Technology Integration
One commonly used model for technology integration is known as SAMR. The SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model guides the process of how we are integrating technology into our courses. The model redefines how we teach and learn by doing things with technology that we never could do before. SAMR categorizes four different degrees of classroom technology integration.
As we use the SAMR model to integrate technology, it is important to note that the intended learning outcomes and the design of our learning activities or assessments may or may not change. The SAMR model refers to these changes (as a result of technology integration) as “transformations.” Disclaimer: As online instructors we are required to adhere to the learning objectives of our courses. However, we may have some flexibility in making changes to some learning activities and/or assessments. It is important that proposed changes to learning activities and/or assessments be reviewed by appropriate personnel and approved before finalizing and publishing your syllabus for students. The SAMR model should be thought of as a spectrum rather than a ladder or staircase. One one end, technology is used as a one-to-one replacement for traditional tools (enhancements), and on the other end technology enables experiences that were previously impossible without it (transformations). If you enjoy cooking, you could think of this difference as seasoning a traditional family recipe versus creating an entirely new, original dish.
The video conferencing tool is substituted for a traditional online classroom tool. This is a simple, bare-bones replacement. One example may be instructors providing a recording of a lecture or using multimedia (videos, etc) instead of a written text. To preserve the academic integrity of the course, the text that is being augmented should be a recommended text rather than a required text.
In this stage, the technology is directly substituted for a traditional one, but the student experience is enhanced as a result of the substituted technology. This may be the place for our scenario with implementing video conferencing. In this instance, the video conferencing platform is being used as a collaborative online tool to bring students and instructors together at the same time to interact with each other rather than interacting asynchronously through a discussion board. The student experience is enhanced by connecting with their peers and instructors through audio and video features that allow for them to develop relationships with each other. Questions and discussion can be offered in real time helping to clarify content or deepen understanding in a more efficient manner.
In this stage, the instructor is beginning to move from enhancement to transformation on the model. Remember the cooking analogy? This stage results in an actual change to the design of the learning activity and its learning outcome. During the planning process, instructors should ask themselves if the technology significantly alters the task. Altering the task often increases the level of cognitive demand that is required to complete the task. Students move from learning activities that require the recall of knowledge (knowledge, comprehension, and application) to activities that require higher order thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation).
In this last stage of the SAMR model, redefinition is the highest point in which technology can be used to transform a student’s experience. During the planning process, instructors should ask themselves if the technology tool creates a novel experience and redefines a traditional task in a way that would not be possible without the technology. This may be another place for our scenario with implementing video conferencing depending on the purpose and focus of the learning activity. For example, students and instructors could utilize video conferencing to network with other students, scholars, leaders, or practitioners in order to examine how a learning objective relates to the field in the real world.
It’s All About the Focus and Purpose of the Activity
Planning and preparation for a lesson is a critical component for online instructors. The focus and purpose of the learning activity drives the selection of technology tools. The same tool may fit into different stages of the SAMR model depending on the focus of the learning activity. In the Augmentation stage, the video conferencing platform was serving as an enhancement to the discussion board. In the Redefinition stage, the video conferencing platform was being used to interact with others in the field outside of the university to deepen their understanding of the content. In this instance, the student experience is changed by transforming the relevance of their learning so that it directly comes from scholars, practitioners, and leaders in the field.
Additional note: The SAMR model was created by Dr. Ruben Puentudura. It has become a widely accepted model in K-12 education as a means for helping students become 21st century learners. Additional background and exemplars of the SAMR model in K-12 can be reviewed in Dr. Puentudura’s paper.
Kolås, L., Nordseth, H., & Yri, J. S. (2015). Active students in webinars. Presented at the 11th International Association for Development of the Information Society (IADIS) International Conference on Mobile Learning, Madeira, Portugal, Mar 14-16, 2015. Madeira, Portugal: IADIS
Ohio State University (2018). What are the differences between video conferencing, webconferencing, webinars, and webcasts? Health Sciences Library. Retrieved from https://hsl.osu.edu/eventtech/faq/what-are-differences-between-video-conferencing-web-conferencing-webinars-and-webcasts
Rainford, J. J., Sinclair, T., & Pike, D. (2015). Widening the (out)reach: The potential use of interactive webinars to extend widening participation beyond local geographical boundaries. Widening Participation & Lifelong Learning, 17(4), 105-115. doi:10.5456/WPLL.17.4.105
Zoumenou, V. v., Sigman-Grant, M., Coleman, G., Malekian, F., Zee, J. K., Fountain, B. J., & Marsh, A. (2015). Utilizing technology for FCS education: Selecting appropriate interactive webinar software. Journal Of Family & Consumer Sciences, 107(3), 33-40.
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Thank you, David,
This explanatory blog is clear and helps to define the advantages of using the tools we are learning about in this workshop. "Transformation and enhancement" are some terms I would like to use when describing the benefits of synchronous workshops, chats, and discussions, to my students. I believe we facilitators have to sell this as it is a time commitment that is often an issue with working adults.
Thank you for the clarification and justifications!
Thank you Mary for the thoughtful reflection. I appreciate you already thinking about how this content could be applied to your delivery of instruction.In my experiences, the language that we use in our instruction can help to clarify our intentions and our objectives. As you shared, these terms describe the benefits of technology integration. Also, they help to inform our students of how the technology is being used as a learning tool in our lessons so that it is purposeful. Ultimately, I view these terms as a resource for instructors in their planning and preparation. As they select technology to be integrated into their lessons, they may ask themselves whether they want to use the tech tool to enhance or transform their lesson based on the objective and assessment. I wonder if these terms could be used in any way during the delivery of our instruction to help learners better understand the authentic learning?
Thank you for sharing the blog. My dissertation research titled Virtual Collaboration- A Phenomenological Study of Remote Online Adjuncts Virtual Collaboration Lived Experiences reinforces some of these principles in terms of collaboration. I was part of a UOPX group that tried to implement disposition group interviews for the COE. The main problem was with technology, specifically Skype. I have used other tools with other universities with more efficiency. What has been your experience with Sykpe?
Hi Dr. Schieffer,
Thank you for interacting with this blog and for your question. Before I respond, I wanted to emphasize that not one technology “does it all.” As you are aware, different platforms have limitations around empowering presenters and participants to interact with one another. With an array of technologies available for students and instructors, it is important to view different technologies as learning tools based on their relationship to a broader course context defined in terms of a wide variety of possible instructional goals.
Since there are several terms that are used interchangeably, some definitions may be helpful here before going on:
In my experiences using various video chat technologies, Skype for Business is a web conferencing tool; the ability to see the participants and interact with them is limited and utilitarian. The tendency toward participants’ use of audio only further discourages engagement and interaction. This tool creates some barriers to our educational objectives and may not be a potential tool for large-scale, interactive group communications which we may need for workshops or online learning (courses). In my opinion, Skype for Business, WebEx, Blackboard Collaborate, and Zoom can be viewed as effective technologies for web conferencing and video conferencing built for meetings and provided some degree of interactivity for small groups of attendees. Skype for Business, WebEx, Blackboard Collaborate, and Zoom each have the ability to promote someone to presenter, but severely restricted the efficiency or effectiveness of large groups interacting.
Great job on this article. It is very informative. Excellent research work on the framework for technology interaction! I specifically agree with your discussion on Redefinition. Introducing technology in the classroom should be evaluated and requires input from the receiver, the students.
Hi Dr. Raynes,
Thank you for the compliment. I was happy to hear that you found the blog to be useful. Having students share input on the types of tools that we use is critical. Anytime that students understand the purpose behind various technology tools, they can be set up for successful integration. I believe that students should be provided with various options/choices for the types the tools that they use to demonstrate their understanding of content based on the learning objectives.
Hi, David. Thanks for the blog post. It contains a lot of clarifying information and my imagination is in overdrive as I consider how best to implement some of the ideas.
I do wonder about the level of pushback from students, though. They do not all embrace technology. I already have students who will not meet with their teams in real time or even use the in-class instant messenger because they want a 100% asynchronous experience. I have also had students who refused to use the technology that is required for successful completion of assignments.
Given the desire to accommodate all students, how can we ask some students to attend synchronous events while giving others a pass for refusal to participate?
This is a common dilemma that we face as instructors face each day. As one of the leaders of this Special Interest Group for Digital Teaching and Learning Resources, this particular topic has captured my interest to the extent that I have decided to include it in our research agenda this year. This would be an example of applied research with a case study research design where the research team would seek to provide information that can be used and applied in an effort to help people understand and control their environment. This type of research is more prescriptive in nature and seeks to offer potential solutions to problems.
Since this research project has not yet started, my best response to you based on my own experiences is to offer students a choice without altering the objective or assessment. For example, during week 1 of class you may develop an assignment that requires students to introduce themselves and share their educational philosophies. Students can chose between developing a video for this exercise and posting it to the classroom or attend a synchronous “get to know you” type of video chat event and complete the assignment live. The event would be recorded and posted to the classroom afterwards for students to see who did not want to or could not attend the synchronous session. No matter how students decide to complete this assignment, the objectives, requirements, and assessment of the assignment remains the same.
I encourage you to stay active in our SIG long after this workshop and join our community of scholars to examine, understand and describe phenomenons. I look forward to working with you throughout the workshop and beyond to engage our students.
As I read your blog and the comments that have been posted some very interesting information is provided! One issue I have had with Blackboard Collaborate is getting more than a couple of students to participate. It has been very benefical for those who do attend so I see a lot of potential with it. One thing that I have found needs to be considered is FERPA as we use these tools. At times students will want direct feedback and when this happens I let them know that blackboard is not confidential (and that you are recording the session so that others can watch it). I have taught ground, flex-net, and online courses. I have only worked with video conferencing where students who were in multiple locations joined a group of ground students for instruction. It is very exciting to explore this area to see what technology best meets the instructional need. I do like the idea of giving students participation and discussion post credit (one day) as a motivator to join the session. I have found that one of the best selling points of online education is flexibility, so it will be interesting to learn more about serving students on a continuum from online total flexibility to ground face-to-face with little flexibility. I look forward to learning more about what is working for synchronous engagement in an asynchronous course!
Thank you for your comments. You bring up an important point about keeping certain student information confidential throughout the learning activities and that there are certain tools that make doing this easier than others. I have some experience using other types of video chat tools where the instructor can have a private sidebar conversation with an individual student while it is not overheard by the group or included in the whole group recording. Unfortunately, Blackboard Collaborate does not have this feature so we as instructors need to establish expectations for our students on how and when we will provide feedback. I am sure that you have many ideas on how to do this from your experience serving our students.
All in all, there are various video chat tools that have different designs which may work more effectively for one activity over another. As online instructors, it is important for us to be familiar with these various tools and have options to access as we engage students in learning. I look forward to sharing more with you in our synchronous session in our workshop and working along side you after our workshop to plan and implement some ideas with various tools.
That sounds great, I'm looking forward to learning more so that I can refine my toolbox! Thanks for the response!