Teaching—when you think about it—is a process of manipulation.
Dr. Tom Angelo made this point when he was wrapping up his keynote presentation at the DePaul Faculty Teaching and Learning Conference in May 2017. Since then the idea of “teaching by manipulating” kept popping up in my mind like a little bud seeking its opportunity to break through the ground.
It seems to me the best place to sow the seed of manipulation is my home. As I once heard a conference speaker joke, “Do you know why psychologists have kids? No IRB!”
IRB stands for Institutional Review Board, a committee that reviews and approves (or disapproves) studies that use human subjects. It is a hoop that researchers must jump through—well, unless they are dealing with the human subjects that they’ve produced themselves.
If you think the title of this blog is too complicated to understand, you can use an analogy, such as eating candy without a sweet taste, or drinking water to booze up, or anything that sounds oxymoronic, self-contradictory, and illogical.
If instructor-agnostic means removing the trace of any specific instructor, how could you create a sense of instructor presence in the same course? And why would you want to do it? Have you ever seen a course like that?
Before answering these questions, let me share a personal story with you. Two weeks ago, I received news that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Devastated by the phone call from her primary care physician’s office, which offered nothing but a quick read of the final diagnose, I struggled to find out anything about breast cancer—the causes, the symptoms, the types, the treatment, the chance of spreading. Yet none of the information on the Internet could put me at ease or tell me how to deal with this life-threatening illness. I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear and helplessness until I received the phone call from Beth, a nurse from the pathology department of the hospital.
Downward facing dog
Lift your right leg up
Move your right leg forward
Land your right foot next to your right thumb
Move your right arm forward…Warrior II
Bend your right knee, move your left arm up, and right arm down…extended side angle
The voice of my yoga instructor whistled by my ears as I followed the flow of movement. My mind drifted. What should I write for my blog?
An intro, to let students know what will happen in the class; a highlight, to capture the meaning of the subject; a heads-up, on what to expect; and maybe, a rationale, for the format in which the course is delivered.
To accomplish all of these in a quick and engaging way takes more than a syllabus or a course homepage. It requires condensing the course description and combining the presentation with multimedia or special effects…like a movie trailer.
According to a report by the Chronical of Higher Education, course trailers have become increasingly popular with the growing use of social media. The report cited Harvard University as an early adopter of course trailers because students there spend the first week of the semester “shopping” for courses they may want to take. So course trailers are a big help for boosting student interest and attendance.
Here is a course trailer for CS50 at Harvard University, a course that focuses on an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming:
In 2008, DePaul adopted QualityMatters (QM) as the quality standard for online and hybrid courses developed through the DePaul Online Teaching Series (DOTS) program. During the past eight years, nearly two hundred courses have been through the QM internal review process at DePaul. Since 2011 when the first instructor was rewarded with a QM star for developing a course that met all of the QM standards, the number of QM star recipients has increased drastically. These days, becoming a QM star has become a common expectation of all faculty participants of DOTS.
As designers, we are pleased by the numbers and the feeling of “getting a hang of QM”; on the other hand, we ask whether this is the place where we want to be – because that pounding question remains loud and sound: Does QM guarantee a successful learning experience for students?
I came across a Chinese joke the other day talking about how hard it is to be a foodie in the Qin Dynasty. With a series of cartoon images, it shows a hungry foodie time-traveled to a restaurant in the Qin Dynasty. He tried to order one meal after another just to find that none was available because they were either not invented or not imported yet.
At a first glance, it is a merely a joke made for fun; but if you pay a bit more attention to the content, you will find that it embeds quite a bit of knowledge in terms of the development of food culture in China. It reminded me of note cards I made for high school history class when we were learning about the dynasties in China and the development of agriculture. If I add the chart of dynasties, these series of cartoon image would present a vivid image of food history in a country that prides itself for its culinary culture:
On the first day of class, I asked my students, “How many of you have a smart phone?”
Everyone raised their hands.
“Great!” I said. “Take them out—if they aren’t already—because you will do a lot of messaging in this class. Go to WeChat.com and download the app to your phone.”
After the students created their accounts, I gave them my phone to scan the bar code for the class group I created within the app.
Within 15 minutes, all fifteen of them were in the Chinese 104-101 WeChat group. After the setup, I began explaining what WeChat is, and how I’ve used it in previous classes.
WeChat is a mobile messaging app developed by a Chinese company called Tencent Inc. According to DMR, as of Aug 22, 2015, there are 800 million active users. It’s user-ship has surpassed Twitter and continues to grow rapidly and globally. It is threatening the global social media market and has been referred to as the potential “Facebook killer”.
In my Chinese language class, I use WeChat to serve the following purposes: Continue reading
June 8, 2015 is a special day for high school graduates in China. It is the day to witness 10 million students enter college exam sites to try and earn themselves admission into colleges. Students are told that every point they earn on this exam will significantly impact the rest of their lives because whether or not they can make it to a college and what college they get into will define who they will become.
While I still get butterflies in my stomach when I think about my college exam day, I couldn’t find a word to describe how I felt when I saw the picture of the book-tearing event that occurred a day prior to this year’s national college exam day. The picture below is a scene at a Henan Province high school prior to the exam day. Students tore their textbooks, study notes, learning materials into pieces and tossed them in the air like party confetti!
I have heard about students burning their books to mark the end of a painful era of studying, but never as massive and violent as this! In a country where education is seen as the means for everything, what causes this hostile attitude towards the carrier of knowledge and symbol for learning?
If every rebellion has its roots in oppression, maybe the following images can offer us some explanation of the cause.
More than 100 million views in less than 48 hours! This is the growing count of viewing record of Under the Dome, a documentary on air pollution in China, which aired online on Feb 27th. It was produced by renowned investigative journalist Chai Jing, who used her own money—more than $156,000—to fund the production.
After watching this one-hour-and-forty-minute-long recording, I felt that calling it a documentary was overrated. This “recording” does not possess any signs of cinematography–no visual effects, no theme music, and no artistic post production. It’s merely a TED talk with a lecturer in the front and a PowerPoint presentation displayed in the background—in short, a recording of a lecture.
From the instructional design perspective, both methods–the long lecture and the PowerPoint–are not innovative. Yet, I found myself captivated by this presentation not only because of the sensitivity of the topic and the charisma of the speaker, but also by the “ways” that the “instruction” was designed. I call it “instruction” because the producer declared three very clear educational goals at the beginning. Chai Jing’s goals were to educate her audience on the following: 1. What is smog? 2. What caused it? 3. How do we deal with it? From constructing fundamental knowledge, to calling for specific actions, this recording addressed all learning objective levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy: Continue reading
The concept of a “learning coach” was introduced by Dr. Jose Bowen during his keynote speech at the 2014 DePaul Annual Teaching and Learning Conference while discussing the new role of a college professor. When the knowledge held in the brain of a professor can no longer compete with the phone that is in the hand of a student, as he humorously pointed out, maybe it’s time to think about what makes a professor the most valuable. During his presentation, Dr. Bowen called everyone’s attention to a painful reality: the vastly available content delivered through the Internet free of charge is depriving the professor of the privilege of being the knowledge owner and resource! The value of a “residential” professor—verses the ones teaching to the world via the Internet—lies in the fact that s/he can be actively involved in the learning process with the students by monitoring and guiding them to the end result. That role, as Bowen put it, would be a “learning coach”. Continue reading