An underlying theme throughout a recent digital pedagogy lab I attended was of affordances. Affordances are, simply put, tools that allow us to get the job done, or to do a job in a more effective and efficient way.

One of my teaching philosophies and “show me don’t tell me”. Throughout the lab presenters were always telling me that Twitter, for example, was an excellent and essential learning tool. I tried and tried to understand why this was mentioned so often. After each lab I was just inundated by unconnected, apparently random, flood of distraction from Twitter. There was no one tweet that was relevant.

This is a hindrance, not an affordance. It did not allow me to get the job done, in fact it led me astray many times. This is something we don’t want to do to our students.

Demonstrate how a tool should be used and ensure that the tool is right for the required task.

In an online training session, my group was asked to create a Top 5 list. We were given a discussion forum to collaborate in. This was not a good tool for voting on Top 5 out of 20 ideas. We were given Google Docs. Better, but still very cumbersome. We attempted to use Padlet, which we gave up on. There were other apps suggested but we ran out of time so randomly choose five and moved on.

It was nice that we, as students, were given the opportunity to choose our own tools to get the job done. But, our instructor should have given us the required affordances so we could focus more on the activity rather than the tools.

Ask for help in selecting the right tools for the assigned activity.

Swiss knife


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