We are increasingly using technology in our teaching, but it is rare the experience of it, especially with new tools, where things work simply well and as expected. Sway is not an exception and it is not problem-free. This is an example of a recent issue:

"I have my lectures as Sways embedded in Blackboard. Some students report only being able to access sways via the direct link and not via the embedded panel. They click sign in, but then it doesn’t sign them in. While that’s not a big issue for most, I suspect that the way I’ve provided subtitles for students who need them requires them to click the link from inside Blackboard. So it would be great to get this working.  Any thoughts on why they’re having difficulties?"

An important aspect of working with new tools is to develop a community where problems can be bounced about among users, who may have experienced similar problems and solved them before you. And surely, there was a response and a fairly simple suggestion to fix the issue in the above example:

"One of my students reported the same issue this week.  No one else reported a problem, but to be safe I posted the visual link.  As it turns out, the original embedded Sway soon opened for the student – and I have no clear idea why. 
You must be signed in to Office365, so I’d suggest clearing the cache and restarting the browser.  And/or trying a different browser.  Sway seems to reside on the Microsoft servers, so it might be a small hitch in their system". 

It is also clear from the reply, that you do not have to completely understand an issue to find a solution. Uncomfortable as this feels, it does not stop you from making things work. On the other hand, this "I have no clear idea why", reveals once again that the knowing may be limited because we simply do not have enough time to absorb, research and get to know the technologies we are using. Could this be a call for attention? 

When we are somehow forced to focus on the functionality, due to time constraints for example, we become parts of the machine. Parts that push forward without a complete understanding of how or why things just happened to work. Trial and error only give us partial views, knowledge is something else.

In any case, the above is just a little tip of a little iceberg. There are other unresolved dilemmas around the use of technology and conversations are well alive and kicking. Take for example the Pew Research Centre, and its recent report. In the section Tech causes more problems than it solves, Louisa Heinrich, a futurist and consultant expert in data and the Internet of Things, said, “There is a gap between the rate at which technology develops and the rate at which society develops". She also added: "We are living through a time of rapid and radical change – as always, the early stages feel uncomfortable and chaotic. But we can already see the same tools that have been used to mislead citizens being used to educate, organise, motivate and empower them." 

Peter Lunenfeld, a professor of design, media arts and digital humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of “Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine,” predicted, “We will use technology to solve the problems the use of technology creates, but the new fixes will bring new issues. Every design solution creates a new design problem, and so it is with the ways we have built our global networks. Highly technological societies have to be iterative if they hope to compete, and I think that societies that have experienced democracy will move to curb the slide to authoritarianism that social media has accelerated. Those curbs will bring about their own unintended consequences, however, which will start the cycle anew.”

Clearly, we have both reassuring and unsettling voices giving us a dual/multiple perspective on the uncomfortable and chaotic stages we are going through, and on how technology brings with it issues in a seemingly endless cyclical pattern.

What about your voice? Have you experienced that gnawing feeling of not quite being on top of the tools you are using? Do you think this is a problem? What is your view on this? Leave a comment and keep the necessary reflective part of this process going!

Vogels, E., Rainie, L. & Anderson, J., 2020. Experts Predict More Digital Innovation by 2030 Aimed at Enhancing Democracy. 


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