Can we afford the affordances of technology?

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Image CC0 from Pixabay

Many will be noticing that the technology tools we have found useful over the past 10 years as part of the growth of Web 2.0 are increasingly looking for business models which involve some financial commitment. For teachers this can be problematic. When money is tight, what do you prioritise? How do you decide which tools are worth including in your budget when you face many competing demands?

It is not unusual for teachers to sacrifice some of their salary in order to have the tools they need to do their job. It is highly unusual for such sacrifices to be recognised let alone compensated. Take a look at this recent article and this from the TES. Many education bloggers such as Russell Stannard regularly share tips on finding free tech. However there is often a catch as the recent Facebook scandal has revealed. Perhaps the expression “caveat emptor – buyer beware” needs updating – it clearly is important to understand what you are getting into even if you are not parting with hard cash. When you work in teaching you need to be even more circumspect as this  report points out. There is certainly a need for greater transparency and understanding of the ecosystem of data sharing going on in our apps.

As an open educational practitioner I have often come across the misunderstanding that OERs are just “free” teaching resources. Of course many are free of cost, they are created and shared for free on the open web with some form of Creative Commons licence applied which communicates how you may share, remix or re-use them. Their value comes not just in terms of the potential cost reductions which could result for students and teachers, but more in the affordances they offer to support the development of teaching and learning. To improve as a teacher it helps to understand how best to communicate ideas, how to generate interest in a topic or promote deeper learning beyond the superficial “box ticking” of exam passes. It is also now vital to know how to behave online. When a “learning object” – a worksheet, a video, an image, a set of slides – is shared on the open web under a CC licence others can interact with it. The value of choosing and displaying such a licence helps to protect teachers who may find these unscrupulous activities distressing. Such shameless activity happens even in the world of consultancy as you can see if you expand Steve Wheeler’s tweet captured here.

You see, despite the words of the song, it is not money that makes the world go around – it is human trust. Without trust there is no trade, we quickly shun those who we mistrust as Facebook is now discovering. There is clearly a financial cost for technology: be it generated by investment in research and development, power supplies for huge server banks, intellectual property protected through patents or simply the desire to make money. There is a also cost to the planet and to peoples. There is a cost for teachers who develop resources often during their rare moments of “free” time in order to meet the specific needs of their students. When we make a decision about where to spend our money we make a value judgement. Ask not the price but what it is worth.

 

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