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H807 – Affordances and communication technologies (A5.1a)

March 7, 2011

Here my suggestions, considerations about the affordances the following technologies offer. Email, forum, blog and Skype are my main means of communication. Let’s see how the technology affects my behaviour, how it influence the way I interact with the technology and subsequently with others.

Email

Email is one of my ‘oldest’ technologies I use. At the time I finally had Internet access around 1990s I started emailing. Although the interaction with others was pretty limited as I belonged to the early adopters, at least in my closer surrounding, and I simply had nobody to mail. That changed a little bit with my American friends moved back to the states and email became the main mean of communication as talking over the phone was to expensive and Skype was not yet out. Email afforded that we could stay in contact over the distance and that we are still friends. Does it changed my behaviour – well I moved more to written communication instead of talking on the phone. It reminded me on my letter writing time, just in a more modern, innovative version.

Today my use of email changed, although the affordances of email are still the same. When communicating with friends I prefer using to chat/talk via Skype which is more personal and gives you a direct feedback. However, I still prefer email in more formal situations e.g. when contacting another institution, confirming dates, etc. It is a convenient way, you don’t have to wait until you reach somebody on the phone and vice versa it allows time to respond and I have a written document where I can check back.

I make only limited use in my study, only when I want to contact my tutor, mainly with questions regarding upcoming assessments that are too specific to ask them in the corresponding forum. Besides that I communicate with my fellow students mainly via the forums, or comment on their blogs, or meet them in Skype.

Does email encourage reflection and critique – No. It is a simple mean to get things done, the daily business. One thing that I experience, especially with my students, that communication with email became less formal, although my students sometime forget all netiquettes and do not even address or salute at the end of the email, not to talk about putting in a subject. I don’t mind if they address me with hallo or hi or simply say Bye at the end, but sometimes when they send my their work you just receive the attachment with no single word.

Forum

Forums facilitates discussion and of course reflection, offers new perspectives and the chance to revise the own perspectives. Because it is asynchronous it allows enough time for a reply. For first time users the forum can be quite challenging and overwhelming with all the interaction going on. In H800 we had to read the article from Bayne (2005) ‘Deceit, desire and control’ where he discuss the different behaviours that students and teachers display in the forum. For example he states that teachers normally gain greater control, thinking about all the tracking options where you can follow-up what a student does or not does, but students on the other side often have the feeling that they lose control, they feel unsecure in that environment. He also sees the risk of deceit, that students only pretend an identity which they assume the tutor wants to see. There are indeed several risks attached to forums, but also benefits as mentioned above. It is the central place for all the discussion going on during the course and even those who prefer to read-only benefit from the contributions of others.


Blog

One thing is for sure, the blog changed my behaviour. One year ago I did not wast a single thought on blogs and found them of no educational or any other value at all. A blog was equivalent with a diary, just as online version, and I could not understand why somebody wants to share their feelings and thoughts with the rest of the world. Well, my attitude definitely changed. Contrary to email which I would place at the bottom of Conole’s and Dyke’s (2004) taxonomy of ten affordances, belongs blogging for me definitely on top, supporting higher cognitive functions, such as communication and especially reflection and critique.

Kerawalla et al. (2008) identified and characterized five different kinds of blogging behaviour counting those who avoid blogging, anxious, self-conscious blogging just to complete the suggested course activities, self-sufficient blogging and resource and support network building. Kerawalla et al. states that blogs can be used for various purposes, e.g. ‘community building, resource consolidation, sharing ideas, emotional support or as a personal journal. Well, I moved through all stages from blogging avoidance, over self-consious and self-sufficient blogging towards a more resource and support network-building behaviour. One disadvantage that I already experience that blogging is addictive and start I lose myself in writing and writing and writing, and I cannot stop it 😉


Instant messaging (IM) e.g. Skype

Great tool for synchronous communication via chat or via (video) call. I use it mainly for informal activities and Skype transformed my email behaviour into a chat behaviour. Instead of emailing friends I mainly skype with them. I also use it to talk to other MAODE students. It has the advantage over email that you don’t have to wait long for a reply.

The term affordance sounds good when used in an assessment, but being asked for the strength and weaknesses of the above tools I guess I would have come up with similar answers. However, I think it is nevertheless a good concept as it extends the view when looking at technologies beyond simple pros and cons. It considers as well the relationship between the user and the tool, interactions that arise and how it might impact on the behaviour and might thus lead to identity change.


References

Bayne, S. (2005) ‘Deceit, desire and control: the identities of learners and teachers in cyberspace’, H800 Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=291158 (accessed 25 February 2010).

Kerawalla, L., Minocha, S., Kirkup, G. and Conole, G. (2008) ‘Characterising the different blogging behaviours of students on an online distance learning course’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol.33, no.1, pp.21–33; also available online at http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/ login?url=http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1080/ 17439880701868838 (accessed 19 April 2010).

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One Comment
  1. It’s interesting to see this point of view. I can’t say fore sure if I agree or not, but it is something I will think about now.

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