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AJ Cann

You're certainly right about students preferring tools they use already (and which may well be better than institutional offerings). Email accounts are now a prime example. However, my comment about "value for money" was meant to be the student perspective - if they use Flickr and GMail in their bedroom, what are they paying us £3k a year for?
There's no question than an Enterprise licence for Blackboard is no longer value for money from an institution's point of view.

Christy Tucker

AJ, I think this partly comes down to what we perceive as being the value in education. For example, if we think the value is just in the quality of the content, then passive lectures are fine as long as the info is good. If content is king, then the pedagogy is irrelevant.

If the value of education is in the tools we introduce, then things like Blackboard or a university system for sharing photos are very important.

But what if the value of education is in the total experience--the content, the pedagogy, the tools, the relationships? If that's the case, then using Flickr and Gmail might be part of an overall experience that is valuable to the students.

Using familiar tools can also be valuable if we teach students different ways of looking at them. Students may be familiar with Flickr just for sharing pictures of friends and family. What if you do a class project where they take images of some subject and use the annotation feature to create hotspots identifying parts of the picture? Students may have personal blogs that are essentially public diaries, but a blog for a course should be a very different style of writing using the same tool.

If a student learns to use familiar tools in a new way, and has an overall good experience, do you think they will really question the value?

Stephen Powell

Taking Christy's point further, shouldn't one of the aims of a university education that uses communication technologies be to equip students with the ability to offer critical evaluations of the technology and the learner experience?

It isn't good enough to be passive consumers, nor simply to have a wide range of different experiences without developing the capacity to understand the applications of technology both for personal life-long learning and for organisational learning/development/change.


I think Stephen's point is a strong one - when all this stuff was scary, or specialist then providing a special university system made sense. But now it is ubiquitous I really struggle to understand why we insist on creating education alternatives that are usually inferior.
I think increasingly the lifelong learning agenda will mean that students will want to use systems they take with them - e.g. in photography I want my Flickr photostream, not some OU system I may get locked out of.

Christy Tucker

Stephen and Martin, those are good points. There's definitely a benefit to having people spend time using tools they can continue to use after they leave school. I do like the idea of having the learning available after they graduate too, which is much easier with Flickr than a proprietary university system.

I wonder how many students using closed, proprietary systems would ask what the value is for spending all the money for tuition but not being able to take their work with them.

Steven Verjans

Interesting point about students using tools... How about staff? My colleague Henry and I just spent this evening at a strategy meeting teaching senior management staff of the Open University (of The Netherlands) about RSS, iGoogle and del.icio.us. Sometimes the digital divide is very tangible in our institutions. We are spending 5 days in Germany deciding about the future VLE course of the OUNL.
Positive side of course, is that I got the chance to show them some of the clear educational, scientific & marketing possibilities of such tools. I get to teach them about Web2.0 two more nights this week...


hi sexy

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