Tools for Teaching

As an instructor, I like the idea of having a digital space to share files with students, provide resources to supplement face to face teaching, and to give the opportunity for some kind of extended dialogue. But I like to be able to create and add to the digital space quickly, with a minimum of effort. I also like the space to be able to navigate, and provide little effort and time on the part of the student to access and retrieve.

Of course, WebCT or another CMS can allow all this, but requires a certain amount of planning and coordination with others to enable it. For distance courses, this is well worth the effort, in my opinion. But as a “just in time” teaching tool as a supplement to face to face, I’m increasingly attracted to other options such as weblogs, or some of the Web 2.0 “glue’ tools.

My favorite example of how a blog was used to supplement face to face teaching is Mario’s Biology 300 bloghere at UBC. And as I’ve no doubt mentioned elsewhere, I like how Jean-Claude Bradley uses a class blog, podcasts, and a class wiki to supplement his face to face teaching time (in which he has moved from lecturing to workshop format, having replaced his lectures with podcasts).

I also like the idea of using SuprGlu or something like Protopage to pull together various Web 2.0 tools into one space that could serve as the central depot for a course site. I quickly hacked together a test page (doesn’t like Safari, but likes Firefox” ) that uses the sticky notes for static text content or information, feeds for resources or podcasts, uploaded a diagram, and the webpage widget to display the class weblog, a Writeboard and a relevant Flickr set. As the owner, I can make these pages public, but only I can edit them, which is fine for this purpose. The only disadvantage that I can see with this tool is that there doesn’t seem to be a way of subscribing to it, and no ability to upload files (other than images). I imagine that as a semester went on and the page got a bit busier a structure would have to evolve to keep it from becoming totally chaotic, but putting it together and making changes as you go along is totally painless, which is a big plus in my mind.


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