there are Pilots and pilots

You’re all familiar with college pilots of technologies that are being considered for campus-wide adoption–those are the pilots with a capital P that seem to drag out over a good portion of a year, all with the best intentions, not necessarily in this order:

  • arrange with a company for a pilot
  • recruit volunteer faculty to participate
  • form a committee
  • train faculty
  • troubleshoot the technology
  • gather feedback from faculty and students
  • evaluate the technology
  • decide whether or not to commit to the technology

I’m surely leaving something out, but you know the process. Such a process is necessary for contracted technologies that are going to cost a pretty penny to implement.

Then there are the pilots that you might be implementing on your own from a wide choice of free Web 2.0 or Open Source tools. Certainly, it’s not necessary for a college to go through a formal adoption strategy for a free tool–no money changes hands, and what works in your discipline and class might not be the best tool for the next person’s class. We’re missing the point of teaching creatively if we try to stifle creative experimentation with free tools.

That said, Ruth Reynard suggests that you can run your own pilot in your own classroom with these free tools, and that it becomes a good learning experience for your students to be involved in evaluating the effectiveness of the pilot with the small p. In “6 Ways not to become Rote Using Technology,” Reynard suggests using a pattern of implementation similar to the one above, but more tailored to your course:

  1. Get your hands dirty;
  2. Set up the “pilot” parameters and criteria;
  3. Involve the students in your reflective evaluation;
  4. Always survey students about the technology specifically;
  5. Always identify the connection with learning outcomes; and
  6. Modify your use and adjust when needed (remain open to change).

I’m reminded of the EDUCAUSE surveys of students that reveal student preferences for technology that faculty know how to use well, and think this approach strikes a balance between the creative innovator and the expert. Capital P pilots aim for achieving a standard of expertise before implementation and lower-case p pilots engage students in innovation and evaluation of technology and learning. There is good cause for both to be happening.

What Web 2.0 tools have you tried out in your courses and to what success?

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Categories: learning, open source, pedagogy, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

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