Tech Populism and Learning: Integrating Everyday Tools
CIO Magazine lists tech populism as a trend for 2008, a term that refers to the use of consumer technologies in the workplace. Teachers, students, and subject-matter experts are all bringing everyday tools to learning. Teachers want to use the same tools to teach that they are using in the rest of their lives, and may feel constrained by the tools a school has in place although it may be easier for students to have consistency between their courses. Students similarly may have many tools they use for personal communication that can’t be used with their teachers. And despite the greater understanding of the value of informal learning, subject-mater experts may not want to learn complex tools to capture their expertise.
My own recent experience with tech populism is that, after starting to use WordPress last month, I immediately saw how to reformulate the final project in my Online Health Communities course. Since only some of my students know Photoshop, html, etc., WordPress will make it easy for all of them to do their projects online, which will in turn give them a better learning experience since it will be easier to get feedback from each other as well as from me. The biggest danger I see with tech populism is if chaos ensues, for instance, if I offer a default tool but my students can choose any tool they know, for those who prefer to use Facebook or ning. There will always be a trade-off with tech populism, since what is easiest for one group, say my students, may create more work for another, in this case me.