Another dot in the blogosphere?

Fingernails on blackboard 2

Posted on: July 8, 2011

There are some things to like about our implementation of Blackboard (BB) as an LMS.

Database integration. It is relatively easy to create courses in BB because the entire student teacher database can be divided into tutorial groups and assigned to courses. This feature is convenient.

But you can also do this yourself with other tools like PBworks wikis, or if you do what the rest of the world has started doing, rely on self-subscriptions. A model of how this operates is Edmodo. You provide your learners with a join code and they sign up on their own (just like they might do with any other online service). If your learners do not sign up, they do not benefit from the resources and have no where else to submit their assignments!

The integration of anti-plagiarism tools. Any institute of higher learning that is worth its salt will be concerned about plagiarism. LMS like BB allow system administrators to add tools like TurnItIn and SafeAssign so that it seems seamless.

That said, there are many other anti-plagiarism tools that are freely available. Here are a few resources that I collected in Delicious.

I think that the use of anti-plagiarism technology should be the last line of defence, not the first. The battle against plagiarism starts with instructor modelling and education. An anti-plagiarism tool should be a weapon of last resort. Rely on that tool too much and it becomes a crutch.

Mobile Learn. BB has mobile apps for the iOS, Android and Blackberry platforms and Mobile Learn is something both staff and student teachers here in NIE will get to use this coming semester. The tool set is not very strong yet, but it can only improve with time.

What excites me the most is the potential for the mobile platform to help change pedagogy. How?

Our student teachers can now access BB on the go. Now, you could design lessons for them the same way as before, but why would you if their learning context has changed?

Let’s say an instructor is still comfortable with lectures. I say flip the classroom. The lectures can be listened to anywhere else other than a lecture theatre or tutorial room. When the student teachers are on campus, discuss issues, deal with common stumbling blocks or engage them in some activity that is not a lecture but leverages on the lecture they already listened to.

Now let’s imagine an instructor who has moved past lectures (or doesn’t require them as much). Student teachers could be asked to perform tasks in place, e.g., collect interview, photo, audio or video data. The artefacts are collated online and they return to campus to analyze and evaluate them.

In other words, use class time for more effective face time. Use “homework” time to create space for the learner to consume and reflect at a self-selected pace.

Does this sound familiar? That is because you can do this already with many other Web 2.0 and/or mobile services. BB is a latecomer to the game but a player nonetheless.

What might BB do next?

It could rename itself. It is going to be acquired by another company but it still calls itself Blackboard. When I hear that I wonder what century they are living in and I hear fingernails going across the board.

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