…as I design and teach “Intro to Online Teaching”

the cms is a dinosaur …and you know what happened to them…

I am using moodle to teach ETAP687 because UAlbany was unable to provide instructor-level BLS course shells for the students in this course to create their own online courses, which is a main project for the course. I created the course in Moodle so that students could see from the student perspective what moodle can look like and how it functions. It didn’t make any sense to have students create courses in Moodle and have etap687 in BLS.

I also wanted students to be able to take what they create here in this course and be able to keep it and possibly teach it sometime in the future. With Moodle, an open source platform, it seemed like a better choice than locking things into one of the commercial course management systems…

That brings me to some of my other choices in the design of this course… as i have mentioned elsewhere in this blog i have incorporated various web2.0 tools into the course such as voicethread, diigo, edublogs, twitter, jing, meebome, audacity, youtube, breeze …. etc.

So….why did i “choose” to do that you may wonder?

Moodle provides a blog utility for students, it also has a news forum by default for each course and blocks that tie into the news forum to post announcements, etc. There is a calendar and ways to create links to shared resources or references within the course… last time i actually used the “glossary” feature to create a way to collect and present a list of categorized/sortable shared references for the course that the students used to build a shared annotated bibliography of resources – they had to provide a link, as description and an evaluation of the resource. I also used the “journal” feature for the “reflections” metacognitive activities of the course…

I chose to incorporate public freely available tools external to the CMS on purpose for several reasons.

  1. i am interested in exploring, testing, and evaluating the instructional potential and use of web2.0 cooltools to enhance online instruction, interaction, and engagement.
  2. I am looking for ways to enhance the fully online primarily text-based asynchronous teaching and learning environment with a little bling for the above stated reasons.
  3. Have i mentioned lately that i hate commercial CMSs? I naturally resist and feel uncomfortably confined by the locked down nature of the CMS… i mean really, is a “blog” that is locked into a CMS really a blog? No!!!!!!!! you can’t just call it a chicken when it is a duck!!!! Part of what makes it a blog is the fact that it is public – anyone can see it and interact with it. It also represents you publicly, belongs to you/you own it/it is yours to have and use, and to keep it beyond the end of the course and term - that is an authentic online learning activity! That is why i also thought it essential that the shared resources for the course be external to the CMS using diigo… i want my students to have access to the resources after the course ends!

There is something about the nature of interaction in a public forum. There is something about ownership….being able to for example, customize a blog visually to yourself by picking a theme and deciding what widgets to display and how you choose to present yourself to the world. There is also something about the responsibility you have regarding the public ownership of your thoughts and interactions, as well as the investment in time and energy to build or contribute to something that is yours and that reflects you. If you know it is just for a course, then you are doing it for me. If it is yours, then you can build it for you… a much more authentic exercise. I think that even the character of your “voice” is different, more authentically you, in a “real” blog, for example, than in one that is locked into a CMS. Plus – again you get to keep it or have access to it beyond the end of the course and term!

  1. i also enjoy playing with technology.
  2. i really like a challenge. : )

i personally love exploring the instructional potential of technology, but i do not advocate the use of technology for anything other than a compelling instructional reason. I would never advocate the use of any technology unless it assisted in meeting an instructional objective better, safer, easier, faster, or cheaper… You don’t need a backhoe to plant a tomato seed .

In my work at SUNY i never “train” the use of tools – even the almighty CMS. I discuss best practices in online pedagogy and plug the effective use of the tools in when and where it serves the pedagogical objective.

So, here is the question… is the cost of “stitching” all these tools together worth the hassle to the students (and to the instructor), the multiple authentications required to access resources housed at various external sites, the lack of technical support, the risks of johnny appleseeding course work and content around the web, the learning curve to be able to use them effectively/productively in an online teaching and learning environment?

For me, the answer is yes. Online social networking, social computing, folksonomy/social/collaborative tagging, data mashups, ubiquitous broadband, wireless, hand held and mobile computing, mobile broadband, and the cultural shift from passive consumers of content to engaged user-generators of content, has brought about a grassroots revolution resulting in a global democratization of access to tools, information, experts, content, professional development, and education as evinced by the open courseware and open source software initiatives that have changed how education is delivered, conducted… and defined. It is my obligation as a responsible netizen and educator in this moment to participate, to evaluate, to document, and to expose and engage my students to and in this process.

The commercial CMS is extinct… they just don’t know it yet.

Posted by on June 26, 2008 at 8:25 am | Comments & Trackbacks (2)




2 Responses to “the cms is a dinosaur …and you know what happened to them…”

  1.   Marcius Dowding Says:

    But…
    The assumption you make is that the entire faculty embraces the uses of technology in the classroom. In a world where we have faculty that have never heard the word pedagogy, androgogy or God forbid, technoheutogologist, we must find ways to standardize the experience for the novices that make up the proportion of the teaching in the academy. If not, will be just be written off as bleeding edge technofreaks that adopt any new technology. Perception is reality and we need all the players at the same table so that we can evolve the learning opportunities for our students. There is also the scary treehouse theories that essentially tell us to stay out of the students face with their technologies. It would be akin to a 60′s English teacher using that “darned rock and roll” to teach… the kids wouldn’t buy it.
    That being said, I will still be in line to buy a new iphone.

  2.   Eamon Says:

    @Marcius_Dowding agreed. And its not just that people won’t be tech savvy enough too try new things (apart from people out on the fringes like ourselves) but also big institutions have centralizing tendencies. They want to centralize to realize efficiencies. They also want to control things and limit themselves to legal liability which is a big issue when you are mixing the real live jungle of the web with the nice controlled VLE web of the classroom. Interesting times ahead.
    - Eamon

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