Associate Professor of Comparative Literature Stephanie Merkel takes Russian literture outside the box and into the supply closet.
Introducing a blog for the Help Desk site…
Introducing a blog for the Help Desk site!
Actually, while a lot of the content here is not new, it is new here.
Content from my old EdTech at OWU professional blog is here. (Sometime soon that old site will be decommissioned.)
Success Stories, long featured on our department landing page, are also here, in chronological order. (They’re typically in random order in the carousel on the other site.)
And there will be new content, such as this post! In the future, look for not only instructional technology thoughts and musings, not only success stories of technology in use at OWU, but photos, tech tips, department updates, and other reflections, from multiple artists and authors.
Plus, comments enabled means dialogue! Let us know what you think. Join the conversation!
We look forward to sharing and collaborating with you.
David Soliday, MDiv, MTS
Ohio Wesleyan University
Pronouns: he, him, his
Educational design is shifting from Instructional Design, or ID, to Learning Experience Design, or LXD. That might seem subtle, but it makes a world of difference. It’s still designing toward learning outcomes (LO’s) but paying more attention to the learner’s experience. Far too many traditional courses are top-down, sage on the stage, presentation-style, and you either get it or your don’t. Think of how our shopping experiences have been transformed by Amazon.com’s “You might be interested in…” or “others also viewed…” and instant access to customer reviews and alternatives.
This shift also represents a more fundamental influence of video gaming, where user experience is everything, on education. One of the presenters in a
recent webinar mentioned what he referred to as The Holy Grail of game design: cognitive flow. This is when the difficulty of a task meshes with your own skill level to reduce both anxiety and boredom. Such a state increases focus, enhances our sense of control, inhibits our self-awareness, distorts the experience of time, and imparts the experience of the task being the only necessary justification for continuing it. I’ve experienced this many times while enjoying a good game, and also in school while pursuing a fascinating topic I had just discovered. It’s lengthening the “Aha!” moment into minutes or hours, and, in college education, has the propensity to profoundly change a person’s life trajectory. I found a nice explanation of this at Gamasutra, and wanted to translate it into good learning experience design.
To drive an equilibrium between skill and difficulty, four things must happen in the course.
- There must be concrete goals with manageable rules.
- Instructors must demand actions to achieve those goals that fit within the students’ capabilities.
- Students must have clear and timely feedback on performance and goal accomplishment.
- And extraneous distractions must be diminished to facilitate concentration.
Students must have concrete learning objectives and must understand how they are to achieve them. While we all have limits on our information processing and attentional capabilities, students these days are juggling three to five classes, many are working on the side, and striving to build new and/or maintain strong social connections. They’re expected to integrate all of this into some cohesive college career with knowledge transfer between classes and disciplines. Their ability to problem solve and make informed decisions is directly affected by information processing and attentional issues. Clearly defined LO’s with manageable course expectations are achievable, rewarding, and reinforcing to accomplish further LO’s.
Instructors and LXD’s can fix problems with LO’s and rules by thinking carefully about every aspect of the learning experience, from classroom wall decor to mobile LMS app notifications. While students are in a face-to-face class or logged into an online course shell, every element of the environment and/or interface should be geared toward the LO they’re currently working on. Blackboard has a feature, called Adaptive Release, that will hide content until certain criteria that you as the instructor specify are met. Such features or tools can be used to minimize visual stimuli. And the completion of smaller assignments leading up to larger objectives is helpful.
Courses should only demand actions that fit within a student’s capabilities. Stress and performance affect cognitive flow. IF a student is incapable of performing what you consider are basic college-level tasks, get them help ASAP!
(This was composed some time back, probably years ago, and languished as a draft on the EdTech @ OWU blog since then, without being published, until now.)
Austin Riegel ’21 and Lucas Farmer ’19 spent their spring break in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica, after receiving a Theory-to-Practice Grant to conduct research using a drone to map the land to help the community with environmental concerns. Information from the drone mapping can be used to construct plans for resource management and city planning.
Audrey Watters has a nice essay/lecture on Why History Matters, on her Hack Education blog, that goes into detail on the history of the blackboard, (the wall-mounted slate kind, rather than the online LMS kind.) I appreciate learning more of our history, as it’s always eye-opening. I also find myself agreeing with her, more than with the educational technologists she’s arguing against. In one of my seminary classes, I wrote a paper about how the clock had changed life in monasteries and villages across Europe, wherein the days previously had been punctuated by the manually calculated Liturgy of the Hours, based on sunrise and sunset. Once a clock was installed, it attempted to replicate the same natural rhythm, but failed. Now our world and our worship are predicated on mechanical–and now digital–timepieces.
Whether it’s to get ahead or catch up, online courses show the power of ed-tech.
It’s only been a few years since Ohio Wesleyan University introduced online summer courses with the help of a gift from 1954 OWU graduate David P. Miller. Yet, in that short time, the faculty and staff have been able to expand the program to a whopping 27 courses being offered this summer (while only a handful have been offered before). Many professors from a range of disciplines are lining up to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity for students. Student favorites such as Religions of the West (REL 103) taught by Professor David Eastman and Exploring Computer Science (CS 103) taught by Professor Sean McCulloch return this summer.
The courses now being offered online serve as a collective example of the powerful intersection of education and technology. Through the medium, students and professors can communicate effectively and efficiently. Professors may give students video feedback on their assignments, bridging the gap that can occur when a student doesn’t understand a margin note. Online discussions between students happen often via either discussion forum or web conferencing. These discussions give introverted students the chance to speak and empower themselves to learn through conversation. And lectures, either pre-recorded or live, keep the sense of close student-faculty relationships that OWU students know and love. Students taking these online courses can learn and take advantage of a liberal arts education no matter what they’re doing over the summer or where.
It’s clear that the pilot program launched in 2015 has been a massive success. This achievement has come from the teaching abilities of some of Ohio Wesleyan University’s great professors and from the magic of technology.
Other news stories about online summer courses:
I just attended a webinar presented by Jon Bergmann, author of Flip Your Classroom, and one of the founders of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. The webinar was expanding on his blog post, “We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know: Flipped Learning 3.0“, which is a good read on the current state of flipped or blended learning across the globe. I’ll repeat his key points, with my comments on each one, and you can follow the link above to read more of his own.
Five Things We Didn’t Know about Flipped Learning
- Flipped Learning Is Not Static
- I’ve never felt that flipped or blended learning had to be static, and have always resisted people’s urge to pigeon-holing it. As a Blackboard trainer and digital pedagogy/scholarship consultant, I’ve always pointed out that simply uploading course content into an LMS, making it online accessible to students, is the the first step toward blended learning. Using more of an LMS’ features is getting more into it.
- Flipped Learning is Evolving Because of Three Factors
- He cites several studies that have shifted from “Does blended learning work?” to “How can we improve it?”
- Classroom Innovation
- This is closely related to the next factor…
- New technology
- It’s a constantly changing landscape, with lots of new and/or improved offers every year or less!
- Flipped Learning Has Emerged As a Global Movement
- He’s got several examples of his work around the world. This is truly exciting.
- There Is a New Awareness Emerging About Flipped Learning
- This was the big take-away from the webinar: Educators are no longer viewing flipped learning as a strategic teaching model; instead, they’re seeing it as a meta-platform for various other learning models. It’s becoming more of an operating system, while various learning options are seen like apps supported by it. This is a new paradigm.
- There Is a Rapidly Expanding Set of New Possibilities
- And, of course, this opens up lots of new possibilities for students, teachers, administrators, and edtech people like me. It’s an exciting field to be working in! I hope the faculty and educators I work with also feel the excitement.
I saw glimpses of this at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference last week, and, as usual, got some good ideas and learned of new apps as well.
We’re looking for another solution for our OWU Radio station’s show archives. They’ve previously been simply uploading them to the WordPress server where we host their site. This has quickly gown into double-digit GB storage usage for their site alone. Before we migrate that site to the new server, which is on our net backup solution, we needed to find some other place to host archived show recordings, which can be up to an hour long, and dozens of MB each.
We first tried Google Drive, because we get unlimited storage there with our G Suite for Education accounts. However, Google can’t scan files over 25 MB for viruses, so it won’t automatically stream anything large. Instead, you have to OK the fact that it hasn’t been scanned.
And here’s the test:
(Sorry, your browser does not support this audio player. You should probably upgrade your browser.)
We’re also looking into Adobe Creative Cloud storage, since the station already has a CC membership plan…
The OWU WordPress server migration that started over a year ago is moving along. We’ve learned a lot about WordPress and Linux and Apache and PHP along the way.
Currently, there are 41 sites now on the new server and 54 sites still on the old server. We’ve added some new ones along the way, and all new sites created this fall have been on the new server.
The new server enforces httpS encryption, and uses our more secure single sign-on, (at this point only for sites using the sites.owu.edu URL.) The new server is also more robust, which means that pages should load faster.
So I’m off to notifying more admins that we need to migrate (or archive, or delete) their site.
And here we are on a new server home. The only change you should see (other than this new post) is that this site is now secure– with an “httpS” or a lock icon in the address bar.
Now we’ve got about 100 more sites to migrate. Approximately 58 of them are faculty or student blogs, or related to student coursework. Our most popular sites get over 300 visits per day. Can you believe it, OWU WordPress will be 5 years old this September!
This site will be the guinea pig (isn’t there a better image for a test case than a small, cuddly pet?) for our WordPress server migration. If all goes well, you won’t notice any difference, because there shouldn’t be any outage. I’ll be copying everything over to the new server, and if it works, updating the IP address that the custom subdomain points to. Nothing to it. (Heh, heh.)
It seems really odd to be sitting in the dark composing this post while the power’s out in our building and at least one other location on campus. Apparently, our generator is doing its job. I’m still working on WiFi…
My first trial of Adobe Spark. Very easy to use, but very limited in customizing or even tweaking options. For example, there was no way for me to resize the images or specify that they should be fully displayed. Spark automatically cropped them, and I couldn’t change it. I tried the Post and Page features and they were both about the same.
Summer gifts, including an Apple TV commercial about a teenager behaving very unusually…
I just saw this Apple commercial on a website for a COPLAC Digital project. (I don’t watch TV, so I hadn’t seen it before.) I had the honor of attending the COPLAC DLA Summer Institute a few weeks ago as part of a GLCA exploratory team. The institute was great, and their project, based on the success of Century America and other courses, is a strong model of cross-institutional collaboration promoting student research on a glocal scale.
While the ad is cute, with delightful displays of emotion, I must say it’s not an accurate representation of the average teenager’s use of technology. I don’t know, Apple might have received similar criticism when it was originally aired. Most teenagers–and I’m a father of two, with two other children aged out of that bracket–aren’t surreptitiously recording family interactions when they appear to be completely absorbed in their mobile device. Most teenagers, indeed many adults and people of all ages, are actually completely oblivious to what’s going on around them when their attention is devoted to their mobile device. What’s portrayed in the video is highly unusual behavior, the exception, rather than the rule.
That said, the video is an excellent example of what technology can do and how it might be utilized in education. For that reason, it’s worth sharing.
This article from a colleague up in Oberlin was shared with our campus today, and I felt it was worth sharing here too.
Preparing the Environment for Active Learning, by Steven Volk, Professor of History and Director, Center for Teaching, Innovation, and Excellence
I feel like so much of what I do as the Instructional Technologist on campus is to promote active learning. That is ultimate goal of educational technology, but accomplishing it starts well before and goes well beyond deciding which tools to use. The question is what can educators do to best engage the attention, curiosity, intrigue, and passion of our students. The answer involves a lot more than tools, just lecturing, or predominately doing any single teaching practice. To best engage students, provide them plenty of opportunities to encounter course content in as many ways as possible. Technology enables us to reach and engage them in various ways at many times and places.
Five #blogday links…
#FWIW (while I’m still buried under the beginning of the year inundation…)
Here are five links I share with you, to sites that I find illuminating and helpful.
- A Blog: ProfHacker
An official blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education, it features multiple authors and guest authors. The conversation in the comments is also good.
- A Facebook Group: Future Trends in Technology and Education
Started by Bryan Alexander of NITLE, it’s a place to share and discuss ed tech topics.
- A Twitter Feed: EDTECH HULK
Sometimes the best antidote to ignorance is sarcasm (and HULK SMASH!)
- Professional Group: Edu-ISIS
A professional network of instructional technologists in (mostly liberal arts) higher education. It’s recently introduced the topic of changing its name…
- WebComic: XKCD
For a refreshingly new perspective on anything.
I was composing a list of new tools that have come up in discussion and/or are being supported this week…
When you go to a conference–or, in this case, an institute–you typically learn of new tools to try, tools that might save you time or allow you to do something special in your courses. This being an institute for project teams, there’s a lot of focus on tools and methods.
There’s also a lot of focus on collaboration and new people to meet and colleagues you haven’t seen in a while to catch up with and consortia and communication and…
This being an institute, rather than a conference, there’s also been work to do, and we’ve made considerable headway on The Art and Poetry of Ciudad Juaréz website. I’m learning a lot about Omeka and Neatline, tools we’re using for the project.
Then in one of the panel presentations a colleague shared something that gave me pause: Slow Scholarship.
This was much needed, and I’ve been ruminating on it (and everything else) since…
Oh, but instead of compiling a list of tools on my own, here’s a link to the “Google Doc of Google Docs”: Useful resources for ILiADS Attendees, which has a link in it to another document with a lengthy list of tools.
The Great Lakes Colleges Association is launching an innovative take on a center for pedagogy, funded by the Teagle Foundation. It’ll be consortial: a community of faculty and staff with demonstrated commitment to improving teaching and learning across all of GLCA’s colleges. It will rely pretty heavily on the Web and web conferencing, along with in-person events.
This is great news for us, as OWU doesn’t currently have such a center–we have a modest Teaching & Learning website–and we lost our Faculty Development Coordinator–and that was only half of her title/role on campus–several years ago.
I’m excited because sometimes I feel like this, quoted from the grant proposal:
Too often effective teaching is regarded as less important than research and publication, even in our liberal arts colleges; affiliation with a consortial teaching and learning center will help to empower advocates for teaching on each campus who are often not regarded as “prophets in their own land.”
I wouldn’t call myself a prophet, but I’ve certainly felt the frustration expressed by colleagues in similar positions at other institutions that providing training and support for faculty is worse than herding cats.
A colleague at Beloit College recently shared this impressive video: [This Will Revolutionize Education] The idea that technology will revolutionize education is an old myth that keeps getting new life with new tech. It’s an age old truth that education is a social experience that’s been affirmed in many ways. …and then I introduce SAMR.
A colleague at Beloit College recently shared this impressive video:
The idea that technology will revolutionize education is an old myth that keeps getting new life with new tech. It’s an age old truth that education is a social experience that’s been affirmed in my seminary Ethics classes, where I learned the primordial nature of relationship and how it precedes the development of self… (See, I can wax philosophical in a heartbeat!)
There was lively discussion of this debate–whether or not technology will revolutionize education–in the notes on the video’s YouTube page, on our edu-ISIS listserv, where another colleague, from Gettysburg College, shared his experience learning to play guitar:
When I took up guitar I taught myself via a variety of tutorial sites such as JustinGuitar, and I was able to go from complete novice to reasonable amateur. But I don’t go to them much anymore- instead I’m working with a human teacher because I’ve hit the limit of what I can learn that way. The interplay between him and I during a lesson is not going to be able to be replicated by software anytime soon- he can tell when I’m relaxed, when I’m tense or frustrated, when I’m trying to avoid doing something the hard (but correct) way and so on. I don’t expect a computer to be able to read me like that in my lifetime
Which was the perfect opening for me to mention SAMR, a model for teachers, instructional techs and IDs to evaluate how they’re incorporating technology into instructional practice. (Click the image to watch a Common Sense Media intro video.)
- Substitution, such as a word processor being used instead of a typewriter.
- Augmentation, such as the word processor’s spell-check feature or automatically formatted citations.
- Modification, such as emailing electronic files instead of turning in printed papers.
- Redefinition, such as posting writing assignments to the web for students at a partner institution in another country to critique, or having students submit their papers with an audio recording of their thoughts on why they composed it the way they did, or contributing suggestions to a crowd-sourced website to solve a community problem, or etc. You get the picture.
What I like about this model is that it describes innovation in education by focusing on tasks rather than tools, and educational tasks are commonly included in syllabuses, also known as assignments. They’re teachers’ bread & butter.
It’s truly about the education, which is a social enterprise, best practiced in community, as it always has been. Technology is simply tools that can be used to support it.
I’ve been thinking lately about my role on campus, or my official role, what it should be, what it could be. These thoughts often revolve around language and labels and titles. For example, what’s the difference between an Instructional Technologist and an Instructional Designer? Recollections of past conversations come to mind, like the time the new Academic Dean came to meet me and asked, “So you’re the instructional designer on campus?” I replied with enthusiasm, “That’s the kind of work I’d like to do more of.” Another memory is of a casual conversation I had with a colleague at Capital U. Her department had just created a new ID position; I expressed interest in it. She asked if I was certain–the role involved many hours working closely with faculty to effectively use online tools and, basically, redesign their courses. Yeah, I’m excited by the thought of creating engaging learning environments/exercises and facilitating that “Aha!” moment.
To me, it seems the difference is somewhat subtle with some overlap–a venn diagram of sorts. (Or like the difference between the two pieces of artwork my daughter did, above.) “Instructional Technologist” and my background, btw, is more about tech support, while “Instructional Designer” is more about educational consultation, crafting educational experiences. Technical training fits in there nicely with both. I had the title “Help Desk Manager and Technical Trainer” when I first started at OWU and, when I took the newly created position of OWU’s first Instructional Technologist, the second part of the title was dropped but the duties continued. I don’t have a problem with that, as technical training supports both technical support and instructional design. It just doesn’t directly get at the heart of educational course design.
My well-worn professional sense is that instructional design (ID) by an instructional technologist or anyone else in higher ed is largely about faculty development. It’s not on the front lines of teaching, but it aims to equip and empower instructors to be the best that they can be. It also aims to do the same for students, and it goes about that by making the best use of tools to accomplish excellence in teaching and learning. As the previous Academic Dean once told me, encouraging me to be a part of Teaching Circle and other faculty forums, faculty don’t always know what tools are available to them, let alone how to use them. Getting them to understand the value of good instructional design is a large part of the work, at least initially.
As more colleges like ours experiment with online offerings and embrace technology as a distinguishing feature of what they offer incoming students, the value of good instructional design will become more evident. Certainly if administrators wish to do any data analysis on learning outcomes institution-wide, they’ll need learning and teaching processes that can produce such data. Most of all, faculty who wish to excel at teaching and make a positive difference in the academic and adult life of their students should be interested in instructional design, as the professors who attend Teaching Circle are.
Lastly, these thoughts of “Designer” versus “Technologist” play on my own sense of professional identity. Am I a technocrat, as an international colleague oft referred to me? Or am I a designer of instruction, one who happens to be familiar and highly-skilled with several good instructional tools? I just learned about POD, the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, a professional association. Knowledge of this network has me intrigued; the focus is not on technology. It’s on teaching and learning. It sounds like it would be a good affiliation for me to do more faculty development, regardless of my official title.
Robert Talbert has this nice article in the Chronicle, describing how his thinking on flipped learning has changed over time:
His three points, (in his own words, my rearranging:)
- Pre-class activity is for generating questions, rather than mastering content-oriented instructional objectives.
- Accountability doesn’t have to look like a quiz.
- In-class instruction should focus on two things: Answering questions, and engaging students in high-level tasks – and lecture can play an important role in both.
Number two, in which he introduced me to the idea of androgogy (as opposed to pedagogy) looks a lot like internal motivation. “treating students as responsible adults rather than as children who need constant supervision and rule-setting.” They’ve got to come out of their shells sometime. A colleague pointed out that accountability doesn’t look like a quiz in the world outside the ivory tower.
I like that faculty trying this, are adapting, reflecting on what they did, how it worked, and tweaking it for the next iteration. Then their teaching gets better, their students are more engaged, and everyone learns more.
eSchoolNews.com has a nice article, with 6 questions to determine if you’re technology rich, yet innovation poor. The questions are deeply thought-provoking and may stimulate institutional soul-searching. While the article goes into detailed explanation, the questions are copied here:
- Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
- Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
- Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
- Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
- Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
- Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?
I feel that they really get to the priority of education over technology. How is our use of technology improving our teaching and making a better learning experience for our students?
It reminds me of the book we’re reading for Teaching Circle, to discuss among the faculty and academic support staff–21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times.
Little did I know, as I was watching the big OSU National Championship game with my wife and 11 year old son Monday night, that the winning Buckeyes owed much of their success to an innovative teaching style that’s growing in popularity. It’s a technique that I’ve taught and consulted with faculty to implement, known variously as flipped, blended, or hybrid teaching and learning.
The Wall Street Journal reports on How Urban Meyer Took the Buckeyes to School. The Secret to Ohio State’s Offensive Success: An Unorthodox Method of Teaching. The WSJ? The Ohio State Buckeyes? As Toby West, a local Delaware City Schools Data Coordinator, says, “You can totally do this!”
Keith Grabowski, a former college assistant and founder of Coaches Edge Technologies, says in the article:
“The whole idea is that if you can get players [or students] thinking about it and doing the mental work prior to being in the football facility, your time in the classroom will be that much more productive”
Meyers himself doesn’t use the term flipped classroom, but spoke instead of “on-edge” teaching, “in which players are kept on the edge of their seats during team meetings by a barrage of impromptu quizzes and individual interactions designed to keep them engaged.” This describes active, engaged teaching. And doesn’t it sound exciting? Moving the more passive, information transfer online for students to absorb on their own, at their own pace, is one practical way to make face-to-face class time more dynamic.