Week 3: Digital Literacy—Critically Evaluating Educational Technology Resources – Fall 2020

Overview

In Week 2, we explored varying concepts of what digital literacy means, and methods for more effectively finding digital resources for use in teaching and learning. But it is not enough to just know where to look for online resources and digital applications. We need skills and tools to critically evaluate any digital tools we plan to use as sources of information, or to integrate into learning experiences.

There is no single tool or framework that will help us critically evaluate every type of digital resource we are considering using. This week, we will explore a number of perspectives and tools for evaluating websites, media and applications, and even mobile learning resources. You will also have a chance to get “hands-on” with evaluating potential digital resources that you could use in your own context, and sharing your thoughts on that evaluation.

This week, you will also turn your attention towards your main term focus—designing and building your own prototype technology integration activity. By the end of this week, you will submit Assignment 2: Problem Identification—in which you will describe the problem that you hope to overcome in a teaching and learning scenario through the meaningful integration of educational technology. We’ll focus our attention on building those projects in sequential stages throughout the remainder of the course.

Topics

Week 3 is divided into four topics:

  • Topic 1: Technology Integration
    • Evaluating Web-Based Content
    • Evaluating Digital Media and Applications: SECTIONS
    • Matching Tools to Instructional Needs
    • Evaluating Mobile Learning Objects: CSAM
  • Topic 2: Technology Exploration
  • Topic 3: Community Engagement
  • Topic 4: Assignment 2 Submission

Learning Outcomes

When you have completed this week’s activities, you should be able to:

  • Select and use appropriate frameworks for critically evaluating websites and web-based content.
  • Use the SECTIONS framework for critically evaluating digital media and applications.
  • Use the CSAM framework for critically evaluating mobile reusable learning objects.

Resources

Bates, A. W. (2015). Questions to guide media selection and use. In Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Vancouver, BC: Tony Bates Associates Ltd. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/appendix-2-questions-to-guide-media-selection-and-use/

Bates, A. W. (2015). Chapter 8: Choosing and using media in education: The SECTIONS model. In Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Vancouver, BC: Tony Bates Associates Ltd. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/9-pedagogical-differences-between-media/

Downes, S. (2005, July 16). Principles for evaluating websites [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.downes.ca/post/4

Duolingo. (n.d.). Duolingo. Retrieved form https://www.duolingo.com/

Duolingo. (n.d.). Duolingo [Apple application]. iTunes. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/duolingo-learn-languages-for/id570060128?mt=8

Duolingo. (n.d.). Duolingo [Android application]. Google Play. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.duolingo&hl=en

nQuire. (n.d.). Sense-it (sensors) [Android application] Google Play. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.greengin.sciencetoolkit&hl=en

The Open University. (n.d.). nQuire-it missions. Retrieved from https://nquire.org.uk/

Power, R. (n.d.). The CSAM framework. Retrieved from http://www.powerlearningsolutions.com/csam.html

Power, R. (2013). Collaborative Situated Active Mobile (CSAM) learning strategies: A new perspective on effective mobile learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 10 (2), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.18538/lthe.v10.n2.137 (CC BY 3.0)

Power, R. (2016, June 21). Defining mLearning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9bEhnrZCuXc (CC BY 3.0)

Schrock, K. (2018). Critical evaluation of information. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/critical-evaluation.html

University of British Columbia. (2012). Assessing technology using the SECTIONS model. Retrieved from https://wiki.ubc.ca/images/1/19/SECTIONS_Framework.pdf (CC BY 4.0)

University of New South Wales. (2018). Selecting technologies. Retrieved from https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/selecting-technologies

Topic 1: Technology Integration

Evaluating Web-Based Content

As with all forms of publication, just because something has been published to the Web does not mean that it is a reliable—or even truthful—resource or source of information. So how can we critically evaluate the merits of web-based content? There is no one set model or framework for such critical analyzes—and any systems that others have shared are works in progress. Any system (or combination of systems) that you adopt should be subject to constant refinement on your part.

Readings

Review the very different systems used by Kathy Schrock (2018) in “Critical Evaluation of Information,” and Stephen Downes (2005) in “Principles for evaluating websites.”

  • How are they different?
  • Which seems like a good fit for your context and needs? Perhaps a combination of strategies?

One of the Technology Exploration activities you are asked to do in this week is to create your own checklist for critically evaluating online resources and digital media and applications. Keep notes on what elements from Schrock and Downes’ strategies you would add to your own checklist. Once you have completed your checklist, you’ll be asked to share it in a portfolio post as part of this week’s Community Engagement activities.

Evaluating Digital Media and Applications: SECTIONS

It is not just websites and web-based resources that we need to review with a critical lens before integrating into our practice. We should also carefully evaluate the merits of any digital media or applications that we are considering adding to our toolsets. Tony Bates’ SECTIONS model is a robust framework that takes a number of key factors into account. SECTIONS looks at:

  • Students
  • Ease of use
  • Costs
  • Teaching functions
  • Interaction
  • Organizational issues
  • Networking
  • Security and privacy

In Chapter 8 of Teaching in a Digital Age, Bates (2015) outlines the SECTIONS tool, and explains how it can be used to evaluate and critique technology options before integrating them into teaching and training. In Appendix 2, he provides a handy list of questions to further guide decision-making about educational technology integration. In Assessing Technology Using the SECTIONS Model (CC BY 4.0), the University of British Columbia (2012) provides another useful guide to using the SECTIONS model, along with questions to ask when analyzing technology in the context of your particular teaching and training needs.

Read these texts, and consider the following:

  • How comprehensive are the SECTIONS categories?
  • What aspects of SECTIONS would you include in your own checklist for critically evaluating online resources, and digital media
    and applications?
  • How does what Bates say about the SECTIONS tool influence your preliminary thoughts about any potential tools that you might
    leverage in the Technology Integration Activity you’ll be designing and building throughout this course.?

Matching Tools to Instructional Needs

When evaluating the usefulness of digital resources, it is vital to keep the purpose of the tool in mind. In the carpentry world, a hammer is a robust tool. But it is useless if what you need to do is turn a screw. Similarly, some digital tools may come from very reliable sources, and may have a wide range of features. But those tools might not be suited to your learning objectives and overall instructional design.

The University of New South Wales (2018) has created a “Selecting Technologies” website. As you review the site, think back to what Bates (2015) had to say about the pedagogical differences between various forms of media.

  • Are there any forms of media that Bates discussed that are not included in the University of New South Wales’ map?
  • Are there any types of digital tools that Bates did not discuss?
  • What learning outcomes from the Technology Integration Activity that you are proposing in your Problem Statement assignment
    this week would you like to address by integrating digital technologies, and are there any examples on the “Selecting Technologies”
    website that could meet those needs?

Evaluating Mobile Learning Objects: CSAM

SECTIONS is a robust tool for critically evaluating digital media and applications. But, sometimes you need to dig a little deeper with further questions that focus on context-specific criteria. Using mobile technologies in teaching and learning may be one such context.

Mobile learning, or mLearning, is becoming an increasingly important concept for educators. This is because mobile technologies are becoming increasingly pervasive. With such powerful technologies already in the hands of many learners, it is incumbent upon us to provide guidance on how to use them effectively and responsibly. Some would argue that, as educators, we would also be remiss to ignore the potential of mobile technologies as teaching and learning tools.

It is difficult to nail down an exact definition of mobile learning. Definitions change as technologies evolve. Regardless of how they evolve, and what types of devices are considered “mobile” for learning purposes, attention in defining mobile learning is shifting from the technology itself to the affordances that devices provide for accessing learning opportunities and resources in terms of time and space.

Using mobile technologies in teaching and learning requires unique pedagogical approaches, so it would make sense to analyze mobile learning resources with some context specific questions.

Power (2013) introduces the Collaborative Situated Active Mobile (CSAM) learning design framework, and provides examples to show how it can be used to evaluate the pedagogical design of mobile reusable learning objects and mobile learning activities.

Figure 1: The CSAM framework (Adapted from Power, 2013) (CC BY 3.0)

  • What do each of the components of the CSAM framework mean?
  • How can CSAM be used when evaluating mobile learning resources to be integrated into your teaching and training context?

Reading:

Please read Power’s (2013) “Collaborative Situated Active Mobile (CSAM) Learning Strategies: A New Perspective on Effective Mobile Learning” (CC BY 3.0).

Optional Resources: Extend Your Understanding

Consider visiting Power’s web page on “The CSAM Framework.”

Want to learn more about the challenges in defining mobile learning? Watch Power’s (2016) interview with past International Association for Mobile Learning president Aga Palalas for an in-depth discussion on Defining mLearning (CC BY 3.0).

Power, R. (2016, June 21). Defining mLearning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9bEhnrZCuXc

Topic 2: Technology Exploration

Now that you have explored a variety of models, frameworks, and tools for critically evaluating digital resources, it’s time to get hands-on and use those tools in your own context.

Activity 1: Create Your Own Checklist

What criteria from Schrock, Downes, Bates, or Power do you see as particularly useful in your own context? Create your own checklist or framework for use when critically evaluating either web-based resources, or digital media or applications. Keep your checklist or framework short (four to five key criteria), so that it will be easy to use on a regular basis. Try out your new checklist with some potential resources or tools that you have recently used, or that you might want to incorporate into your Technology Integration Activity project.

Keep notes on your findings. You may want to use them in this week’s Community Engagement activities to prepare a post to share your checklist or framework, and your thoughts after giving it a try.

Activity 2: Critically Evaluate Mobile Learning Apps for STEM or MALL

There are a lot of readings and activities to get through in this week. But, if you have time this week, why not check out some ready-made mobile learning resources through a critical lens?

Option 1: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) applications (Android only):

  • Download and install the Sense-it app on a mobile device.
  • Choose one of the missions from the nQuire-it Missions site.
  • Attempt to complete the mission.
  • Use the CSAM framework to critically evaluate the nQuire-it app and mission. How does it stack up against the CSAM instructional design criteria?

Option 2: MALL (Mobile-Assisted Language Learning) applications:

  • Sign up for an account with Duolingo.
  • Download and install the Duolingo App for Andriod or the Duolingo App for Apple on a mobile device.
  • Use Duolingo to take introductory lessons towards learning a new language.
  • Use the CSAM framework to critically evaluate the Duolingo app. How does it stack up against the CSAM instructional design criteria?

Topic 3: Community Engagement

Now that you have explored a variety of checklists, models, and frameworks for critically evaluating digital tools, it’s time to connect and share. Complete either Learning Activity 3 or 4, and Learning Activity 5.

Activity 3: Discussion Questions

Your instructor will post questions in the course discussion forum related to this week’s topics. Respond to these questions, and check out (and reply to) some of the responses posted by your classmates. Feel free to use the course forum to post any thoughts or questions you may have related to this week’s readings and activities.

Activity 4:

Share Your Own Checklist

Create a post to share your own checklist of key criteria for critically evaluating web-based resources, digital tools, or applications. Share your findings and thoughts after using your checklist to analyze a digital resource that you have recently encountered, or that you might be considering incorporating into your Technology Integration Activity course project.

Be sure to check out the checklists and reflections posted by your classmates.

OR

Share a Critical Analysis of a Mobile Learning App

Create a post to share a description of the STEM or MALL app that you have explored. How did the app and learning activity fare when critically evaluated using the CSAM framework? What other criteria would you use when critically evaluating such digital resources?

Activity 5: Share Your Problem Identification Assignment

By the end of Week 3, you will submit Assignment 2: Problem Identification to your instructor. In this assignment, you will identify a problem or issue that you hope to address through the integration of digital resources into a learning activity. Create a post to introduce and share your Problem Identification assignment with your classmates and other readers. Your Problem Identification assignment will provide context for future Community Engagement posts where you will share the progress of your Technology Integration Activity project.

Topic 4: Assignment 2 Submission

By the end of Week 3, you will submit a completed copy of Assignment 2: Problem Identification. Submit a copy of your Problem Identification document to you instructor, using the following file naming format:

  • lastname_firstinitial_EDDL5101_A2.docx

Refer to the Assignment 2: Problem Identification assignment guide on the Assignments Overview page for further details about specific assignment completion requirements.

Due Date:
End of Week 3.

Week 3 Summary

This week, we have taken a closer look at how to critically evaluate web-based resources, and digital media and applications, once we have found them. We have explored a number of different checklists, models, and frameworks that present different perspectives of the key criteria to keep in mind when analyzing the usefulness of digital resources in our teaching and learning
contexts. You have taken some time to compile your own checklist of key criteria that you will use on an ongoing basis. And you have completed Assignment 2: Problem Identification. In Week 4, our exploration of digital literacies will take a slightly different direction, as we examine the concepts of professional development and personal learning networks (PLNs).

References

Power, R. (2013). Collaborative Situated Active Mobile (CSAM) learning strategies: A new perspective on effective mobile learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 10 (2), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.18538/lthe.v10.n2.137

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