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Archive for the ‘CIT 2007’ Category

If an 18th century doctor walked into a 21st century hospital, he’d be baffled. Medicine has changed a lot in a century.  But if an 18th century teacher walked into a 21st century classroom, he’d just pick up where he’d left off. old classroomThe point is, the ways we teach haven’t changed all that much in a hundred years. In some ways, that’s a good thing. I suppose teaching is like the monarchy or the papacy in the sense that it’s always there. It’s stable. There’s a sense of continuity in teaching as there is in other institutions. That must give us some comfort. Unfortunately, I don’t think it improves learning. We know things about learning now that we didn’t know a hundred years ago. We know that people learn more effectively when they integrate what they already know. People learn better when they get to apply what they learn. You’re better off doing something rather than being told what to do. We know that as far as teaching techniques go, lecture is at the bottom of the ladder in terms of helping people gain understanding that they’ll be able to use even ten minutes after the lecture finishes (as Carl Weiman’s research shows). Yet, we continue to line up the desks and expect learners to sit quietly while we tell them what they should know. I have a friend who likes to tease “If I didn’t say it, you didn’t learn it.”

We can’t afford to think this way in a world with cell phones, Facebook and the Wii. Learners just aren’t paying attention anymore. They are “present but otherwise engaged.” Want to re-engage learners? Take a look at the skills that Chris Dede says you’ll need to have. Dede, a keynote at this year’s Conference on Information Technology, says you’ll need to be able to design learning experiences that learners can personalize. You’ll need to hand over some of the responsibility for teaching to learners. Expect them to bring content to the course. You’ll need to be able to guide them while they’re learning by doing. And you’ll need to know more about assessment than how to write a multiple-choice test. For example, you’ll need to know how to assess collaborative work. You’ll need to be able to support peer review. Expect learners to initiate their own assessment.

Want to see 21st century teaching in action? Look at what Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay are doing with the Flat Classroom Project. Listen to how Kyle Brumbaugh is talking to his Global Communications students: “Google the Jelly Rolls; Become a Jelly Rolls expert; Connect to other Jelly Rolls fans; Create your own content and contribute to the global knowledge base about the Jelly Rolls;
Plot the band’s tour on Google Earth and create links on theKMZ file to your blog posts on the shows…” Look north to Clarence Fisher’s classroom or watch how Darren Kuropatwa collaborates with learners on an assignment. Watch how Newfoundland music teacher Andrew Mercer engages learners.

Dede says the hardest thing about learning how to do this isn’t the learning, it’s the unlearning. How different is this from how you’re teaching now?

(Photo, Old Town – The First San Diego Public School, by Teresa Hsu)

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randal pinketAnyone who believes that technology makes us more antisocial (yep, people still think that) should listen to Randal Pinkett. Although he’s probably best known as the winner of NBC’s The Apprenctice, Dr. Pinkett puts his learning to the service of others in extraordinary ways.

Dr. Pinkett’s dissertation centered how how technology can be used to build communities and close the digital divide. He established a project in the Camfield Estates, a low-income housing project in Massachusetts, where computers and training were provided to residents. Residents also had access to a restricted community web site where they could create profiles, post community events, chat, share news and participate on a discussion board. Very straightforward stuff. There were descriptions of businesses and services offered in the community and maps showing their location.

The results are inspiring. Rather than isolating people, it turns out that using technology brought folks closer together. Over the course of the year, the number of residents who recognized each other by name increased by a third. The number of residents who phoned each other nearly doubled. The number of residents who knew of the skills and abilities of their neighbours almost tripled. Before the project began, not a single resident knew of volunteer opportunities available in the community. After one year, 42% of residents felt they were “informed” or “very well informed”. People can say what they want about technology isolating people. Projects like this one tell us that the opposite is true.

One final thought … some might be tempted to say that the technology itself made the difference but I’m more inclined to say that it was how it was used. The project focused on the residents’ needs and empowered them to create the bulk of the content on the site. Social networking was a key feature of the web site, and Dr. Pinkett reports that it was also one of the most popular areas of the site. There’s a big message here for anyone who uses technology: focus on people. Dr. Pinkett’s research brings that message home loud & clear.

Dr. Pinkett was a keynote speaker at this year’s Conference on Information Technology. You can read more about his research at the BCT Partners web site.

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Tech tool talk

No Conference on Information Technology would be complete without the latest & greatest in technological playthings. Some of the most engaged learning is happening these days with simple tools that are freely (or almost freely) available online. Joseph Hostetler and Steven Combs of Ivy Tech Community College and Give Us One Minute shared their favourites. They’re both really fantastic presenters and the hour I spent in their session was well worth it.

Steven also showed us an assignment he gives using Google SketchUp (images posted on Flickr slideshow & process walked through on YouTube) — very seamless.

Here are a few more they suggested were worth checking out …

I notice a couple of things about the list. First, it’s amazing how many of these are owned by Google (Gtalk, Blogger, Picassa, YouTube, Google Docs & Notebook). My friend, Ian, wrote about a great session we attended on using Google Apps for Education. It used to be a Microsoft world. It’s fast becoming a Google world.

I’m also surprised that there are no wikis here because there are certainly lots out there including pbwiki, wikispaces, and wetpaint, which recently announced ad-free wikis for educators (and wetpaint wikis include nice little discussion boards). I notice that Ivy Tech uses wikis for its faculty sites.

Another popular tool these days is Ning. Ning is used to create social networks (see Classroom 2.0, Vid Snacks or The Global Education Collaborative). Ning also makes a great quick ‘n dirty learning management system. Maybe these are tools that may make the list next year? 🙂

Incidentally I attended the session with Jonathan Ross, a digital media instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Jonathan was one of the presenters at the first session I attended at CIT. The session offered a useful collection of tips & tricks, and Jonathan created a web site that offers another fairly impressive list of tools to check out.

How about you? What are your favourite tools? How are you using them? Any tips or advice you’d share?

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John O’Brien of Century College was one of the most engaging presenters at last year’s Conference on Information Technology so I was happy to see he was presenting again this year along with his colleague, Ron Anderson. Together they talked about working with faculty who have been left behind in the mad rush to use technology.

Most institutions develop their technology plans around technology pioneers. What about those who feel hindered, left behind, skeptical or disgruntled? It may be tempting to assume those faculty just don’t like technology. O’Brien and Anderson found that probably wasn’t the case. When they asked faculty at Century about their own beliefs around technology, they found that the overwhelming majority were enthusiastic. It’s also important to question our assumptions about what students want. If you look at the latest ECAR results, most students (60%) prefer only a moderate use of technology in teaching. Those results would suggest that a blended approach is what most students want.

O’Brien and Anderson suggest that we need to check the message we’re sending to faculty. It can seem like we’re sending a threatening message … “Resistence is futile“? Instead we need to create an atmosphere were it’s ok to disagree. We need to reward all kinds of teaching innovation such as service learning and active learning rather than just technological innovation. And we need to clarify our “techspectations” (i.e. faculty need to answer their phone and email, upload their grades) so that faculty have freedom to make their own decisions about how they use technology.

Most faculty want to use technology for the right reasons (improving learning) rather than the wrong reasons (my academic chair told me I had to) but there are barriers. Access to appropriate training and support are the key ones. At Century, most faculty preferred to be mentored by other faculty rather than trained by IT specialists. As a result, the college created the Faculty Referral Program to bring together the faculty who wanted to learn with those who had the skills and were willing to share a bit of time to help others learn. The college established a system of peer review for online courses. And they created an innovation lab where faculty could go to learn. Incidentally, the lab sits beside the gaming pit where students go to play online games. Good choice, eh?

The message here is that we can’t assume that faculty don’t use technology because they don’t like it. And the approaches we’ve used in the past won’t necessarily work for everyone. We need to listen, and support people in creating a path that works for them.

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I’ve been back from Nashville and the Conference on Information Technology for over a week now. Along with purging all those Southern biscuits and gravy from my system, I’ve started digesting what I learned while I was there. One of the most memorable sessions I attended was a round table given by Bret Nelson of San Jacinto College on making a smooth transition to online teaching. Although Bret didn’t mention it, he’s the winner of a faculty award at San Jacinto and it’s no surprise. The advice he offered was pure gold.

On the difference between teaching online and teaching face-to-face

  • In the classroom, we often assume that “awake” means understanding. When we teach, we’re often just transferring information. That approach doesn’t work online.
  • Online, you need to be results-oriented. Bret said this was the most important advice he could offer. A resource isn’t good unless it’s used. Everything should connect back to an assignment. If you include a podcast or a PowerPoint, link it to a discussion question. Otherwise, you’ll be watching the tumbleweeds blowin’ through your course. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth grading.
  • Remember that copyright is different in an online course. When you share digital resources online, you’re publishing. Librarians are a great resource and can help you avoid copyright issues.

On developing your course

  • Work backwards. Ask yourself what you expect students to know at the end of the course. Every activity and resource should help students accomplish that goal. Be flexible with the details.
  • It takes a lot of effort to put together a good online course. Don’t be a lone ranger. Use the supports available to you. Working with an instructional designer can give you a better, more consistent delivery. An instructional designer can also help you organize your course so that it makes sense and flows well. (As an instructional designer, I like this one. :-))
  • Don’t wing it. Be clear about your expectations. Develop good guidelines/rules for discussion and assignments. Remember that students can’t raise their hand when they have a question.
  • Develop a good schedule and work plan for the course. Students like to see the big picture and it helps them plan.
  • The first time you teach online, keep it simple. Start with a few PowerPoints and a discussion board. Once you’ve mastered that, try Elluminate sessions. After that, try podcasting. Don’t “take too big a bite of the apple” your first time because you can always add as you go along. Furthermore, technology and students change every semester. Like your course notes, an online course can get yellowed and frayed. Be sure to update your course regularly.
  • Avoid using course cartridges. (Course cartridges are ready-made digital materials sold by publishers.) You have your own perspective and approach to teaching. Course cartridges rarely reflect that and are often confusing for students. If you do use them, be selective and only use the bits that work for you.
  • Consider using video as an alternative to reading assignments. However, keep the video short. Bret doesn’t use video clips longer than five minutes.
  • Nothing in your course should be more than 3 clicks away. (How many clicks does it take you to find your favourite book on Amazon?)

Using discussion as a tool

  • “Real learning usually takes place on the side track, not the main track.”
  • Discussion ensures that students get into their course every week. It helps students make those deep connections. Discussion should build from one post to the next.
  • Online, you don’t always know what your students know. Discussion helps you find out. A good technique is to ask students to clarify their muddiest point.
  • You don’t need to respond to every post. Bret usually reponds only to the best. This helps signal his expectations to everyone.

Strategies to help you cope

  • To avoid cheating and plagiarism, vary assignments from one term to the next. You can use software to lock a person’s browser so that they can’t Google or cut & paste during tests. (I’m not sure I like this one.) The best way to prevent cheating is to get to know your students and their writing style. (I definitely agree with this one.)
  • Develop an early warning system. Ensure that students log on to their course each week. If they don’t, email or phone them.
  • It takes a bit more time to teach an online course but not much more. To manage your workload, find ways to cut down on some of the repetitive things like answering the same question over and over. Bret creates a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). When a student asks a question, he adds it to his FAQ. He distributes this to students each term and refers students to it if their answer is there.
  • Remember that not everything will work the way you plan. Technology fails. Always have an alternate plan and be prepared to use it. If one tool doesn’t work, move on to the next.

Keeping the lines of communication open

  • When students email you, ask that they identify themselves — thiscutiesnotforyou@yahoo.com doesn’t tell you much.
  • Students are more likely to use chat than email. Consider using it in your online course. Ask yourself how you feel about students using text message grammar. How far do you want to go in becoming an English teacher? A good yardstick is, is the message readable?
  • Set virtual office hours with your students. Consider your students’ lives, and be prepared to hold office hours on a Sunday afternoon or a Tuesday evening. Canvas your students to see which times work best for them.
  • When you hold a chat or Elluminate session, you won’t get everyone to attend so record and share the transcript. Label it clearly.
  • Consider holding a live session to discuss assignments. Challenge students to commit to a time for these sessions. Again, not everyone will attend but you’ll usually attract enough students to hold a good discussion.
  • Bret highly recommends that instructors leave space on their discussion board for fun discussions. Bret uploads mp3s of recordings that his band has made. Encouraging those conversations helps people make connections and form a community in their class. It’s often the hook that keeps them in the course.

A few more resources

Check out …

How about you? Do you have any tips you can share?

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Thoughts on CIT 2007

CIT registration I just got back from Nashville where a group of us attended the League for Innovation’s Conference on Information Technology. This is the big conference for those of us who work with technology in community and technical colleges … a kind of Educause for the college set.

I’m still gathering my thoughts. I realize that I’m a useless conference blogger.  It just takes me too long to make sense of things.  I spent a good chunk of today just sifting through my notes. As I figure out what I want to say, I’ll blog.

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Nashville or bust

I’m off tomorrow morning to the League for Innovation’s Conference on Information Technology. I went for the first time last year and found it was a great opportunity to learn more about how colleges around the world are using technology to teach. Although I won’t have a laptop, I’m hoping to blog a bit. If you plan on being there & you’d like to connect, feel free to drop me an email at carolyn[dot]campbell[at]nscc[dot]ca.

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