Beyond cool to actionable

Hands holding a small netbook computer

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Last Friday I attended the NACADA (National Academic Advising Association) Maine State Drive-In.  The event could have inspired a fifth “Not only about the technology” post.

Patrick Cate and Audrey  Willis (Plymouth State University) shared a framework for thoughtful use of technology:

1. What do they need to know or do?

At the risk of using an unoriginal example I’ll use the case of students needing to find the URSUS catalog.  The question is a common enough one.

2. What methods or technology may work best? 

Since the URSUS catalog is online, a short screencast would probably work well.  Since students’ internet access varies, we’d want to be sure the screencasts would be accessible from multiple points where students would actually be.  Students with smart phones could use well-placed QR codes.  Instructors could include the short videos in courses.

We also want to keep the videos short in order to not overwhelm learners and to respect their time.  We want the content to reflect the learning objective–nothing more, nothing less.

We may not want to ignore paper, though.  Some well-placed handouts might work well for some learners.

3. Who or what resources are needed?

I’ll focus on the video option for now.  We would need screencasting software, internet access, people with a reasonable talent for screencasting, and people who know how to create QR codes.

4. How will you know it worked?

Let’s not assume that the videos are reaching the students: let’s assess.  We can get statistics on the number of views.  We can track the number of times we get the question both before and after the release of the videos.   We can get qualitative feedback from the students.  Assessment possibilities abound.


The presentation was entitled “Beyond the ooh’s and aah’s: Combining learning theory with technology to be effective, not just cool.”  I’ve hardly done justice to the workshop.  Check out the actual presentation.  Plymouth State University’s Department of University Studies has an excellent resources page as well.

At the very least I’ve illustrated how the ideas are actionable.   Coming away with a plan for action made the event truly cool.