So, let’s say we want to design an instructional module; and, of course we want to include technology.  How do we choose what tech to use?

We know (and experts tell us) when adding tech:

  • We should not add tech just because it is flashy and fun (well, we can have some fun)
  • We should not use tech that is inaccessible to learners.  Open University researchers Cooper, Colwell and Jelfs tell us that accessibility is

“the flexibility of the e-learning system or learning resource to meet the needs and preferences of all learners”  (Cooper et al., 2007, p. 232)

  • We should not add tech that does not have ease-of-use or “usability” which Cooper et al. define as

“the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users can achieve specified learning (or learning related) goals in a particular environment or with a particular tool or learning resource.”  (Cooper et al., 2007, p. 232)

That’s lots of words for a high ease-of-use blog like this – so let’s break it down:

  • “effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction”

That’s close to our first point about withstanding the lure of “flash and fun”, the difficult part comes next:

  • “with which users can achieve specified learning (or learning related) goals”

Achieving goals – so we have to first look at the goals and then find the tech that best facilitates the achievement of those goals.

We want to add tech that:

  • Folks are currently using (fun, mobile, quick)
  • Learners must use to succeed in the 21st Century (social media, global communication)
  • Includes images, video, sound

OK, we have what we Know and what we Want

Now we just have to find a balance between the two

  • Which tech tools are fun, mobile and quick and have usability?
    • regarding online teaching, experts Boettcher and Conrad call text messaging tools like Twitter

“Good nearly synchronous tools that learners may use to quickly check facts and ideas, share updates or arrange for meetings using other tools.” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 107)

  • This suggests that different tools are effective and efficient for achieving specific goals, so we would be using the suggestions of Cooper et al. if we include Twitter in our instructional design specifically for the use of quick, short communication.

So far our Tech Toolbox looks like this:

  • Which tech tools are needed for the 21st Century and can be linked to learning goals?
    • Twitter fits 21st Century needs as do group communication tools like Elluminate which is one of the premier collaboration tools allowing folks to use a common white-board space and communicate through type and voice.  Tools like this need to be part of the Tech Toolbox for every course

Our updated Tech Toolbox:


  • What mulitmedia will add value, not distraction?
    • Obviously one woman’s value is another woman’s distraction; however, we can probably all agree that one of these examples is more of a distraction than the other:

Here’s a video by one of my daughter’s favorite YouTubers:

Yes, it’s great.  And yes, he’s really cute.  But, it probably is a distraction if the course is anything but “Popular YouTubers”  (it qualifies as popular because at the time of this posting this video had been uploaded to YouTube for one day and has already been viewed 260, 473 times!)

To enhance my instruction with relevant multimedia I can use the resource Khan Academy (which I just learned about yesterday on an Elluminate presentation featuring Catlin Tucker). Here’s how they describe themselves:

“Our small team is on a mission to deliver a world-class education to anyone anywhere, and you can help. Take a second to get the word out, or read about how teachers, translators, donors, and everyone else can contribute”

(By the way, this video describing the Khan Academy has been viewed 526,533 times since it was uploaded to YouTube on 12/14/09 – so we cannot discount the value of cuteness as represented by Charlie’s video when trying to reach more folks).

Updated Tech Toolbox:


Time to wrap-up:

YES tech! All types, sizes and varieties that we kind find (that is effective, accessible and appropriate).

NO tech! That alienates or distracts the audience.

(See that wasn’t so difficult – ha ha).

Materials referenced in this post:

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Link to the book.

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.  Link to Cooper’s blog.

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