GLCA launching a Consortial Center for Teaching and Learning

The Great Lakes Colleges Association GLCAlogo 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.

What will revolutionize education?

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.)

 

The SAMR Model
Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

Examples:

  • 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.

Are Liberal Arts colleges insulated from current higher ed trends?

I attended a webinar on the new Blackboard Store today and found that it’s not what I expected–yet another app store–but an online bookstore with other course materials available. These materials would be exclusively for the courses the student is enrolled in. This makes sense as the next logical progression from Blackboard’s publisher integrations. It also appears they’re trying to cut Ginkgotree out by developing a similar platform native to Bb.

online-presentation

What gave me pause for reflection was the current trends the rep from MBS Direct (Bb’s store development partner) cited as the context for the launch of the store. It’s all stuff I’ve been hearing a lot of over the last few years:

  • Whole industries are shifting from a single, persistent source for information (or a very few) to multiple channels and multiple modalities, indeed whole new environments. He spoke of a single rock radio station per town in the 1970’s to multiple radio stations, satellite radio, digital downloads, Spotify, Pandora, internet radio, and more. We’re all familiar with these trends in music, movies, and news.

  • In higher education we have growing adjunct and part-time faculty contingents, and shrinking percentages of tenure-track faculty.

  • At the same time there are shrinking percentages of traditional students, with growing percentages of non-traditional students. So the most common type of student nowadays is one who is also working and/or raising a family while attending college.

I got to thinking how different it is at small, residential Liberal Arts colleges than at big state schools and community colleges, what to speak of for-profit, online schools. Here at OWU we still use tenure-track faculty primarily. Our students are predominantly 18-22, and the vast majority of them live and work (if they hold a job at all) on campus. We pride ourselves on having small class sizes in which students and teachers can really get to know one another.

And yet, are our students likewise insulated from these big trends affecting the rest of higher education? I doubt it. Do they increasingly prefer digital over print? Are they increasingly finding multiple sources for study help, for research materials, etc. outside of the campus library, beyond the library’s website? Are more and more of them getting their textbooks and course materials somewhere other than the campus Bookstore? And are they bringing mobile technology with them and accessing course materials, official college email, etc. on these devices? Remember, they are young millennials.

Our teaching and assessing practices need to adapt not so much to the trends in the rest of higher ed, but they should definitely adapt to the changing learning and study habits of our students, who are digital natives.

Box of Tricks

I was working with a student this morning, assisting her to learn WordPress and build a professional portfolio site. She’s doing an independent study this year on the use of technology in education–right up my alley. She asked if I had heard of Box of Tricks. No, but when she showed me the site and its list of over 200 tried and tested internet resources, there were many there that I was familiar with. It was nice to have a little collegial exchange sprinkled amongst our mentor/pupil session, one of the many reasons I love my job.

Falling through the cracks in a MOOC

It’s Monday, the start of a new semester and academic year at Ohio Wesleyan, our busiest time of the year. It’s also the start of week 4–the final week–in Foundations for Teaching for Learning, the Coursera course I’ve got to be failing because I’ve been so busy with other job-related duties and obligations.

And this situation points out one of the biggest failures with MOOCs: the staggeringly high drop-out rate. Reported by Inside Higher Ed in March, it was around 90%! Because MOOCs are using a 1 to many (hundreds of thousands in many cases) or hierarchical pedagogical model, it’s nearly or probably impossible for one instructor to keep tabs on so many students, and there doesn’t seem to be any process or structure in place for getting students to keep tabs on other students. If one fails to watch the course videos and/or turn in the assignments it goes unnoticed by other students, the instructor, and any of the MOOC administrators. I failed to receive any inquiry as to what was going on and why I wasn’t participating. Furthermore, the discussion forum threads that I posted to and subscribed to haven’t seen any other activity–If they had I would have received an email notification. This makes succeeding at a MOOC entirely up to the student and their own gumption. Free to all, but we have to do it all on our own. The MOOC just puts it all out there for anyone to access (if they sign up for it) and pursue on their own. In other words, it’s like an online video tutorial unless you make some friends in the class and share the journey with them. If you don’t, you’re completely on your own.

I’m intrigued by an alternative, the DOCC proposed by FemTechNet. Instead of a massively open online course, it’s a Distributed Online Collaborative Course. As Anne Balsamo, co-facilitator of the first DOCC and Dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School in New York,  says, “Who you learn with is as important as what you learn.”

Liberal Arts and Educational Technology

Inside Higher Ed points out the happy marriage of the Liberal Arts and ed tech:

A liberal arts degree works well if your job requires more communication and less coding. Lots of time giving presentations and listening to the needs of our faculty colleagues, less time at the command line. Ed tech professionals are generalists by necessity, able to communicate with a wide range of subject matter experts in our quest to help create better learning environments.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/liberal-arts-ed-tech#ixzz2RO3vGrET
Inside Higher Ed

I have to say that degrees/experience in ministry, pastoral care, and theological studies also applies quite well. I’m part of that club.