Another dot in the blogosphere?

Thinking about affordances

Posted on: April 7, 2011

A colleague of mine, Sally, shared this link via Facebook. It about a group text messaging service called Yobongo.

Video service

The author of that blog entry reflected on how the tool might be appropriated for good or bad use. I concur.

My take is not new. Technologies like Yobongo are pushing social, ethical, political, legal and other boundaries. Often the utility of the tool is based on relatively simple technical affordances. In Yobongo’s case, it is being able to text message everyone in a particular location.

But what you do socially with such a messaging system is another matter. Do you use it to send out timely reminders or do you use it to spread hateful rumours? Do you use it to share a useful resource or to coordinate an attack? Those are the tools social affordances, some of which you anticipate or design for while others are emergent.

An educator needs to not only consider the technical and social affordances of an e-tool but also the pedagogical ones. How do I teach better with it? How do my students learn better with it? For example, a tool like Yobongo could be used to brainstorm or backchannel in a manner that learners intuitively take to.

A framework of educational technology affordances is both descriptive and prescriptive. It might be used descriptively to evaluate a tool (this might be what it is good for). It might also be used prescriptively to integrate the tool into a learning activity (this is how we will leverage on affordance X to make Y happen).

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