What does this button do?

Ever looked at something you thought you were familiar with and thought “what does that button do?”

Even worse, ever looked at a device, remote control, switch, screen, etc. and thought “hmm, I don’t remember seeing that button before?”

That’s what learning technologists need to keep in mind – we need to keep an eye on the systems we use and be sure we are aware of all the little buttons, and what they do. Some of the systems we use (VLE, CMS, LMS, social and collaborative tools, admin systems, etc.) have lots of buttons, features, settings, templates, styles, etc. but knowing enough about the system as a whole is enough to be aware of how we can use the whole system effectively.

If you’re being introduced to a new system, are you capable (willing?) to try some of these buttons and see what they do? Are you comfortable in doing this in a safe ‘it’s only me messing’ kind of way (rather than ‘this will change the whole system for all users’ kind of way?

But what kind of training do we actually want … “click this and this happens” or “this is why you would need to click this”? Personally, the context of what a feature could be used for is more important training than the button would enable this or that. I can usually figure out which settings to use and usually for what purpose, but sometimes I need to know what the system is meant for in general, or what/how I should be using it.

When considering introducing a new tool to students, or a known tool but for a different purpose, do you talk about the tool and the purpose, or just the reason? Do your training manuals talk about Echo360 or Panopto, or more generally about lecture capture and how/why it is used? Do you introduce Turnitin as an assessment tool for checking originality of submitted work (yes, I have avoided the P word), or do you talk more generally about assessment submissions?

My preference is always the latter. From there you can introduce a named tool if you must, but contextualising the theme and purpose is far more important than any named tool.

But there’s still that button I don’t know about. What happens when I press it…?

Photo by Patryk GrÄ…dys on Unsplash