Trail of Technology…or Is It More Like Trial?

Before a mid-life return to college, my use of new technology generally followed vocational requirements. At home, our first computer was primarily intended for use by the kids, but the reality is that it ended up being a very expensive IBM game console. My first experience with social networks involved my kids making me a myspace, but the only constructive thing I found to do with it was to keep an eye on my kids’ myspaces! At that time, I did not see the need to spend much time in front of the computer. Well all of that changed when I became an online student. Somewhere along the line I developed a real enthusiasm for learning…and for new technology. Frankly, I am dreaming of all the wonderful things that I could do with a tablet PC as I write this blog!

Learning online has transformed me from a laggard into an early adopter! That first myspace was long ago replaced by Linked in, Google +, and facebook where I can successfully connect to others through networks and circles, newsfeeds and lists. Skype not only allows me to communicate with a group of peers using both audio and video, but it also helps me to stay in touch with the kids while they are away at college. Embracing new technologies – well, technologies new to me – has led to opportunities and ideas that probably would not have presented themselves otherwise and has helped to extend my reach around the world.

I am grateful to be able to easily interact with my peers no matter their geographic location and to study apart from a physical campus. Now I am investigating even more open and creative methods for learning online with the MOOC or Massive Open Online Course, a less formal learning experience involving a large group of diverse participants with similar interests. #CMC11 on Creativity & Multicultural Communication and #change11 on Change: Education, Learning, and Technology have both just begun and I hope to turn the lurking from my first eduMOOC experience over the summer into some real authentic participation this time around.

As much as I appreciate the benefits and capabilities offered, using technology is not without its challenges. If you are an online learner, you undoubtedly already know this to be the case. Those of us studying distance education are routinely reminded to keep technology in its place – a step or two behind instructional goals and student characteristics. I was recently reminded of the importance of this message when I tried to view a podcast for one of my courses. The picture was bright and the voice was clear. Yes, all was well as long as I did not want to pause, stop, or replay any portion of the message. Suffice it to say that was a very long hour indeed. Then again, another instructor’s recordings work flawlessly; you just can’t hear what she is saying over the constant static. Sure, I may now be enamored with new technologies, but my experiences as an online learner will serve as a constant reminder to carefully consider the most appropriate technology for any educational use.

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