Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lions, Technology, and Multimedia ..."Oh My!"


Have you seen the GEICO© commercial with the Antelopes?  Poor Carl the king of beasts, reduced to slinking away from a delicious meal because of technology.  Have you ever wondered how the story ends?  Do the antelopes realize that they will have to take off the night vision goggles in the daytime?  What if Carl comes up on their blind side?  Reliance on technology alone is a dangerous thing.

Technology and Multimedia

Technology provides a vehicle for delivery of communication in the online environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  Multimedia designed well and with a focusing purpose can add to the content delivery and meeting of diverse learner needs (Cooper, Colwel, & Jelfs, 2007).  While all these are useful aspects of technology, some drawbacks include the diverse systems, software, platforms, and Internet speeds of the student. 
As an instructional designer in the learning technology department of my organization, there is a constant battle between the use of technology for the sake of technology and the careful design and implementation of technology to enhance learning.  Two years ago, our state received a large grant called “Race to the Top” from the federal government to increase instructional use of technology, STEM, and the technology infrastructure of the district.  One million dollars of the grant was set up as a competitive grant, which all schools were able to submit a proposal.  Guidelines and stipulations were given, but the end goal was to encourage school leaders to break out into innovative ideas and strategies for the use of technology to engage students and teachers.  The surprising and sad fact was that many of the grants were more about the “stuff” than the learner outcomes and program goals.  The schools that were chosen came up with some terrific ideas, and all those who submitted put a lot of work into their proposals, but technology alone is not the answer (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  In a similar manner, an online instructor must carefully plan and design the use of technology as a tool to meet a desired student outcome (Conrad, & Donaldson, 2011).  If transactional distances are vast, meaningful interactions made possible by the technology will increase the engagement and construction of collective meaning (Boettcher, & Conrad, 2010).
When designing instruction in any medium, the designer must first consider and analyze the target audience.  As a clear picture of the end user is developed, better choices can be made as to appropriate learning objects and course design (Burgstahler, 2006).  Not all students may have access to high-speed Internet, or unlimited streaming capabilities.  Students may have time or geographical distances that would make synchronous activities difficult.  Many online courses include a minimum requirement list to help students assess their equipment and access to the content.

Drive by trainings... "Oh My!"

Through my work in the K-12 realm, I am most excited by the possibility of creating sustainable professional learning communities through our district learning management system.  In the past we have jokingly referred to our efforts for professional development to be “drive by trainings” in which participants enjoyed the session, but little transference occurred from theory to practice.  With 148 schools, and over 5,000 teachers, our small staff of 7 struggles to make inroads into the classroom.  However, by offering face-to-face sessions with an online organization and online professional development, we are beginning to see that the continuous support and online interaction creates an elearning community focused around a purpose.  In a recent webinar, one of the speakers shared a profound thought that collaborative learning leads to collective knowledge (Marini, McGonagle, & Peterson, 2013).  The opportunity to facilitate groups, project based learning, discussions, and shared content with the powerful connection of the learning management system has me excited about the upcoming year in our schools.  Here is a simple Infographic I created to help explain the concept of online interaction as it relates to face-to-face interaction. 
Levels of Interaction created by Tischann Nye, March, 2013 for the MNPS Learning Technology Department.

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Burgstahler, S. (2006).The development of accessibility indicators for distance learning programs. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 14(1/2), 79-102.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Marini, P., McGonagle, L., Peterson, K., (2013, June).  Collaboration and Content in Online Course Design [webinar].  EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO).  Archived at:

Simonson, M., Smaldino S., Albright M., & Zvacek S. (2008). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


  1. Hi Hilary
    I love your video introduction. It engaged my interest in reading your blog. What I liked the most is that the video relates to the subject you are speaking about. I am getting ideas from you for my next posting. I totally agree with you when you say, “an online instructor must carefully plan and design the use of technology as a tool to meet a desired student outcome”. With all the technology created and within our reach, we can easily fall into a “wondering trap” in trying to use too many tools at the same time creating confusion in our students. For example, if the school course management system already provides methods of discussions, why asking students to blog and write discussion postings? Maybe I am wrong about this, but in my opinion it is an overkill. I think a blog should be used for its intended purpose of mass communication of our thoughts and ideas and the discussion boards in the school management systems to submit our class discussions. I do not think I would use blogs and discussion postings simultaneously. I find myself lost sometimes going from one site to another to accomplish a similar task. What are your thoughts? In selecting technology for an online course, we should select the tools that will help students accomplish activities already planned in the learning goals section of each week. Like you said, “technology alone is not the answer” it is a vehicle used to drive the objectives to ensure students learn. It is very important not to let the course ride alone on technology because what keeps students motivated early and throughout the course is “social and cognitive presence” (Boettcher, J., Conrad, R., 2010, p. 102) of the instructor. In the early phase of the course, the instructor begins with introductions and sometimes icebreaker activities to get students motivated to begin the class and to work together and learning from each other. Even after the course has begun, teaching presence is imperative to keep students focused in the subsequent activities. Technology helps teachers communicate with students and vice-versa; therefore, a well-planned course with the right selection of technology helps students feel comfortable in the learning environment they are in.
    Works Cited
    Boettcher, J., Conrad, R. (2010). Chapter 6: Phase Two: What's Happening, Themes, and Tools. In Online Teaching Survival Guide, Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips (pp. 100-108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. A Wiley Imprint.

    1. Sonia,

      Great questions! From my experience building courses, and taking courses online, I find the blogs to be a useful tool. In my district we have begun Project Based Learning through the Buck Institute ( I love project based learning because it challenges students to solve real world challenges with creativity, collaboration, technology, and then present their work to an authentic audience. While the discussion boards, blogs, and wikis in Blackboard© provide similar functionality; the blog assignments give us the ability to show our work outside of the course. As I look back at postings from my blog and those of our classmates, it is great to read past submissions. This would not be possible in Blackboard© since that material is stored in an archived class. Also, through the blog work, I have developed an iGoogle page with blogs from experts in the field.

  2. Hi Tisch,

    You mentioned, "There is a constant battle between the use of technology for the sake of technology and the careful design and implementation of technology to enhance learning." That's a great thought. Do you have any examples of the "battle" between technology and the design/implementation? At my organization a recent battle we had was the priority and cost of implementation of technology. We have two systems that we needed to update. One was more crucial/urgent to get updated but cost signifcantly more and would take much longer to implement but was a top priority. As a result other technology updates would be pushed back. The other item was not as crucial but could be implemented and cost much less. When presented with a situation like that, what would you do Tisch?

    1. Thanks for the questions Steven, and funding / budgets are always a consideration in the implementation of technology. In my organization, we have a learning technology department and an information technology department. The LT manages the use of the technology in the classroom, while the IT group purchases and supports the devices to keep them running. In the past, schools talked to IT to get "stuff" and then asked for training from our group. In some instances, once they were trained on what they requested, the school realized that it was not the best technology for their instructional purposes. A technology plan for the district has just been written that will hopefully bring everyone on board with planning the instructional goals first, then looking at the tools and resources. A great site for considering technology in education (as well as instructional strategies and intervention programs) is This site looks at the data on the use of technology, software and programs.