Filed under: Articles
I just read a viewpoint article in Educause entitled “Toolbox or Trap? Course Management Systems and Pedagogy“.
I love the topic, because I think as educators, we need to continuously improve our teaching practice and be creative in our approaches and use of technology to create effective pedagogy. I disagree, however, with the notion in the article that a default tool set in a CMS in-and-of-itself limits instructional creativity and pedagogical approaches.
The tools offered by any course management system are just that – tools. Moodle, Blackboard, Angel, etc. all have a somewhat similar set of instructor and student tools. In fact, Blackboard, through it’s expansive Building Block partner program provides the ability for institutions to personalize and connect home grown systems while also enabling seamless connections to a wide array of best in class tools such as: Wimba Live Classroom, VoiceTools, and Pronto and Learning Objects Blogs and Wikis. In addition, Blackboard’s Web 2.0 initiatives through the Blackboard Beyond Initiative ( Scholar, SafeAssign, and Sync) create one of the most robust tool sets on the CMS market today. Finally, while moving into social bookmarking and social networking, Blackboard is enhancing their user interfaces to make them easier, richer, and more effective. Take the new Grade Center in Bb 8, for example, which provides an interface that is far easier to use and more efficient.
Just as in a face-to-face classroom, the instructor has access to “tools” such as a whiteboard, overhead projector, computer, furniture, etc, it is up to the instructor (and students) to leverage the tools available to create the best learning experience for students. This is the same online and with a CMS.
The article mentions an analogy of tools in a toolbox determining what we construct and how we construct it. The missing part of this analogy is the SKILL of the carpenter and their vision as to what is being constructed. Then, the tools are carefully selected and used to create and make real their vision. So merely having tools in a toolbox doesn’t dictate how the tools are used to create something. If there isn’t a tool that is needed, the carpenter adjusts by approaching the problem strategically. Perhaps the carpenter asks others in the field which tools they have used to reach a solution. He could also go to the hardware store to find the tool he needs, or adjusts how he approaches and uses the tools that are available to achieve the intended result.
I think the key that we should be focusing on is not the tools or course management systems themselves, although they are definitely important. Rather, we need to focus on instructional design to achieve the highest quality and most effective pedagogy.
Moodle, Joomla, or Drupal or no more constructivist in their design than any other CMS. In fact, I’m not sure I would even include Joomla or Drupal in the same sentence, as these are web content management systems on a different but somewhat related technology direction around the management of websites and content.
I think the author of this article hits the nail on the head by saying:
“Most faculty do not use the web either extensively or intensively in their own work, and those who aren’t “into technology” will quickly find themselves overwhelmed by a CMS.
However, I’d suggest that the problem is NOT the CMS, it’s default tool sets, etc. The limitation and problem we are facing is our ability to adapt, manage technological change, create technological awareness, provide faculty professional development, and to take the TIME to work with our faculty for the execution of the next generation of learning. Effective teaching with effective pedagogy involves an instructor’s skills, wisdom, and experience coupled with deliberate and purposeful instructional design which involves leveraging the tools in a CMS.
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