Another dot in the blogosphere?

Contextual affordance

Posted on: September 7, 2020

The conversation in this tweet made me think about the affordances of educational technology. Here are some scattered thoughts.

According to Kirshner et al (2004), edtech has three related sets of affordances: Technical, social, and pedagogical/educational. Visit the link to read the original thoughts on these factors.

The tweet might seem to be about a failed understanding and application of the technical affordances of Google Forms when loaded in a modern web browser.

In hindsight, the teacher who tried testing language ability with a multiple-choice quiz might use the experience as a “teachable moment” and force a pedagogical excuse, e.g., I meant to test your integrity as you took the quiz!

I do not think that Kirshner et al’s framework would prevent another edtech foible. Why? It lacks a meta factor called contextual affordance. This is the prudent and strategic use of edtech that is a result of being fluent in that technology.

Edtech fluency is not just about being skilled, e.g., being able to create a quiz that is sound in terms of technical construction and assessment principles. It is also about combining deep knowledge with reflective anticipation.

Deep knowledge could be a result of staying updated with edtech affordances and current practices. Reflective anticipation is borne of critical practice — tinkering as praxis as well as learning from mistakes and user feedback.

Using the contextual affordance of the Google Form for web browser-based assessment, a teacher could have anticipated the problem of seamless language translation and avoided the problem altogether.

An edtech-fluent teacher might use some other tool and/or form of assessment. For example, if vocabulary and grammar were important measures, the teacher might initially require students to translate popular memes, TikToks, or YouTube music videos, and then challenge students to improve the work of their peers.

This design is more complex, but it takes into account what students are already familiar with technically, culturally, and personally. The design of such a task requires deep knowledge and empathy for the learner and pedagogical expertise. This is also part of the meta factor that is contextual affordance.

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