Educational Technology, the Users’s Perspective

Last week I spoke at ETUG 2010. My talk was entitled “Educational Technology, the Users’s Perspective”. In the talk I made a case for user-centered design and then explained the perspective of over 96% of the users of educational technology. Below is the video of my presentation (only starts about 1:50 into the video) and read on for a short summary.

In order to get that perspective I sent out questionnaires and interviewed many of my friends to get some representative opinions. The four main recommendations (inspired by the interviews were as follows):

Help them Communicate and record.

  • Students want better ways to communicate with each other/course staff.
  • Students want better ways of recording what happens in a lecture.

Provide those two things and you will satisfy most of what students think they need.

Teach them to look.

Students don’t explore technology (as it relates to school on their own). You don’t need to provide/require technology, explaining what’s out there and how it can help make studies easier is a very cost-effective way to help students.

Don’t be annoying.

I described clickers as a new-age punch-card system. Students will rebel against the technology used in class if it is used to keep tabs on them or increase their workload. Integrate the technology, don’t just add it on top.

Let them know why you do what you do.

I think this was the most essential theme from the talk. In general, students don’t think about how technology can help them learn… they just go on doing what they are told. It’s more efficient than experimentation. Educators need to be showing students why they use technology and ask for the student’s help in coming up with the best solution.

In the question and answer section I got asked a lot about how to involve students more in the debate. My answer was to just be more human. Let the students see that you are educating in the best way that you know how and that you are experimenting in the hopes that it will make their learning better. Nobody has figured out the perfect way to teach yet, so why not admit up front that your methods are imperfect and ask for any help to make them better. For the most part your students will be empathetic and caring, you just need to be a little vulnerable to make that happen.