Education and the Web? Not Really

One of the first classes in my IT program is a course entitled Education and the Web.  Based on the title alone, it was the one class I was really looking forward to because the title led me to believe it would treat up-to-date tools and uses of the Web in education.  How silly of me to leap to that conclusion.

My problem with the class is that I am not learning anything useful about Web tools or education-related sites.  One assignment I found particularly pointless dealt with the difference between the Web and the Internet which basically required some background reading on the history of the Internet (and the Web… because it’s critical for our purposes that we get the difference).  It was mildly interesting, but I didn’t advance my knowledge of how I can use the Web in education.  My biggest issue so far, however, is with the journal of Web sites.  I am required to collect and categorize a minimum of 50 Web sites that are useful in education, providing a link to the URL and a brief description of the site.  OK, no problem.  I am required to do it in Excel.  Can someone please tell me why, in a course called Education and the Web, they didn’t think to ask us to use a social bookmarking service like Delicious?  Delicious would enable me to collect and categorize through tagging.  It also allows for providing a brief description.  The URL and site name would be saved automatically.  What’s more, I could share all of my sites with my classmates as we could have been required to share and subscribe to each other’s feeds.  And we would be using the actual Web to learn more about Education and the Web.  Instead, I’m using Excel?  It reminds me of a remark Will Richardson made about presenters at NECC taking notes in Word.

This whole deal does not inspire confidence.  When the one class I thought might be most useful becomes the one I’m not learning anything from, what do I do?  Will my other classes similarly be at least five years behind the times?  Because that’s deadly for an instructional technology program, in my opinion.  I hope I get a chance to do a course evaluation.  I don’t have a problem with my instructor.  I’m not sure who wrote the course, but my perception is that a department of teachers all teach it at various times, so it may be that my instructor has had little input on the curriculum or it may be that my instructor created the curriculum.  Therefore, I am not sure whether it would be beneficial to advocate for myself and my learning by saying something to my instructor or advisor.  Some people would consider it useful constructive criticism and address the problem.  Others would see it as an attack.  I worry more about my classmates than I do about myself.  I have a pretty decent grasp of how to use the Web effectively for education, and because I keep up with so many savvy folks, I also know about some useful tools.  But what if my classmates were counting on learning the same kind of information in this class?

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15 thoughts on “Education and the Web? Not Really

  1. If I were in a similar situation, I would privately ask my professor if I could use delicious, or whatever source I would want to use. Then if they were okay with it, I would share that option with others in my class. I doubt that could be seen as an attack and at least some people would have the option of expanding their options in doing the assignment in a more meaningful way. It might be that just by asking if you could do it that way, the professor might start thinking differently for future assignments. It also might be they have a good reason to use excel (maybe?)

    Just my two cents. :)

  2. I think at the very least you need to talk to your advisor. This program is too expensive (both in time and money) for you to be so frustrated this early on and not take some kind of action.

    Of course, you will want to plan your comments and consider what is most important.

    Good luck!

  3. I had a similar experience in my masters program in Instructional Tech, though mine was seven years ago. Nevertheless, I was sorely disappointed that I knew more about using tech in the classroom than my professors. The one saving grace was that the university allowed me to design my own program, so I was able to learn on my own to earn that expensive diploma. I do hope your program improves.

  4. Ms. N.C. and Meanwhile, I might see if I can figure out a way to bring it up. You make a valid point about the cost. I guess I was always one of those students who tended to suck it up and not ruffle feathers, but I need to get something valuable out of the program as well. And there could be a reason they want me to use Excel, but to be honest, I can't think of what it could be. Certainly Excel makes putting together a database like this kind of easy, but Excel is much better suited to compiling and analyzing data, which I used it for in an assignment for another class.

    In terms of designing my own program, my perception is that the program is fairly regimented. I will be able to pursue my own interests later in the program with a portfolio and a project and report in lieu of a thesis.

  5. It sounds to me like you should definitely talk to your professor! It may be that it has not occurred to them stray from the curriculum and to use a site like Delicious for this assignment or that they weren't aware it existed… either way it is certainly a valid suggestion for you to make! As long as you approach it in a "I'm curious about this possibility; could it be included?" way and not in a "Aren't you dumb!? Why aren't we doing this instead?" manner, I would hope that your professor would take an interest. No reason to deny you and your classmates a potential opportunity to learn more and collaborate together.

  6. I think that playing dumb when giving suggestions is almost always a safe way to avoid hurting someone's feelings. :) Let us know how it goes.

  7. Hi,

    I did my master's in integrating technology in the classroom- 1/2 of the courses were technical. This was in 2003-2004. Much of what I learned is now rather outdated- or to say better- there are better ways of doing some of what we did.

    I agree that you should bring it up- diplomatically. Do you have a discussion board where the group members and the professor share? I learned SO much from the other members in my group and they always posted alternate sources, ways of doing things, etc. I was the only English teacher in the group and benefitted from the math and science teachers. The sense of sharing and getting excited over what was possible was one of the best things about the courses. I have learned to do things from reading your blog (starting back with a search for S/B ideas before I got mine) and you are very non-aggressive (in print, anyway!)

    Good luck!

  8. Rho, you have figured out the crux of my problem — I am very non-aggressive, even when I know I should be. I find it difficult, for instance, to say "no," and I don't like for people to be upset with me, which is why I am wringing my hands over addressing my needs with my teacher. It makes me sound a bit pathetic, I guess.

  9. Dana- I meant non-agressive in the best sense of the word! You are thoughtful and reasonable and wouldn't come across to your professor or fellow students in a negative way.

    You have a lot of teachers out here who appreciate your blog; many times, your questions and ideas spark my brain for ways to help some of my kids.

    Rho

    P.S. I don't like Excel much either, lol- is it the English teacher in me? My husband, the computer geek, bless his heart, loves it.

  10. OK, update: I sent an e-mail and was told it was OK to use Delicious, but I did not get any indication from the teacher that she thought it was a good or better idea than Excel. At any rate, I did not feel she showed any interest in the idea at all. It's a shame. I think the course could be so much better. Of course, I may have been too subtle in my request. Man. I hope we do course evaluations. My classmates don't like the class either.

    • Thanks, Brian! I just used Dreamweaver and changed a few images from the pre-made template, so it wasn't too bad. The hardest part was perusing so many online templates and trying to decide how I wanted it to look.

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