Evaluating Technology for Teaching and Learning

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A few of us at the Institute continue to discuss ways we can help faculty evaluate new technologies that have the potential to impact teaching and learning.  Typically, the focus is completely on the student, and how he or she will benefit from a specific technology.  While I feel this is appropriate, we also need to consider the faculty side of the equation, and what it means for a faculty member to learn, evaluate, integrate and assess a technology's use in a course setting.

A recent article in Onward State dealt with the use of Yammer, specifically focused on leveraging Yammer to support coursework.  As a faculty member, how do I evaluate the potential of Yammer for my course?  One method is to ask around.  The Schreyer Institute, ETS, and other units on campus typically have some experience experimenting with these services.  I could also look for examples or case studies online.  But the main thing I want to do is create an account myself and experiment with the service.

Here's where things get tricky, especially when experimenting with social media.  Specifically, the tricky part is the 'social' aspect of these services.  In order to really see the value, you need to have a group of people commit to trying Yammer.  Until you reach a critical mass to test with, it's very difficult to uncover all the potential benefits of a social service.  For instance, we're experimenting with a social bookmarking service called Diigo.  Until we had 5-6 people contributing, it's very difficult to judge what the service can really offer.

If you want to experiment with technologies for teaching and learning, you might want to try and start an informal community within your College or Department willing to experiment with you.  Pick a technology, and have the group commit 3-4 weeks to using it, then reconvene and discuss the possible application of the technology to coursework.  Feel free to contact the institute if you would like to discuss the idea further, or want to connect with like-minded individuals to test various technologies for teaching and learning.   

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