In these increasingly unique times, ubiquitous access to alternative facts via the media (both social and traditional) can influence the impressionable minds of our youth—especially those living in homogeneous communities. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that educational institutions expose students to authentic, real-world experiences with diverse people and perspectives around the world.
Study abroad programs have been and will continue to be an effective way for students to garner global perspective and experience cross-cultural collaborations with students overseas. Students are immersed in the culture, history, and heritage of their experience and ideally, take advantage of the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I attended the Brightspace Fusion 2016 conference. While the conference itself is hosted by the team that develops our LMS (Learning Management System), many of the sessions focused on strong use of technology in general, as well as tested strategies for engaging learners, whether online, hybrid, or in traditional classrooms (in other words, these ideas apply regardless of the LMS you may be using). If I had to pick one theme that stood out to me most, it would be the idea of personalized learning and instruction.
I know what you may be thinking now—we’ve been hearing about this for years and it still doesn’t seem to be that common, and most people push back by saying they don’t have time for creating individualized items for every student in the class. I couldn’t agree more; that’s why the point here isn’t necessarily making many individualized items for each and every student, but personalized to different styles of learning, or even to your personal style of teaching your subject. From what I see, the point here is that much of the content for courses is ubiquitous now—anyone can search online for countless bits of information, textbooks, how-to guides, websites, or videos on a topic; because of this, the real art and strategy of teaching is not so much in what we present, but how we present it. The personalization is as much about the instructor’s style as it is the learners’ styles—the questions we need to answer are “How knowledgeable and authentic is the instructor? How can an instructor use their personal experiences or examples to make the content more accessible?”
This year I decided to attend the OLC (Online Learning Consortium) Innovate conference in New Orleans. The conference was a great experience in part for getting to hear from others in the same field on what their doing to improve online learning and I also had the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture, music, and food of New Orleans; the chance ended up being very fulfilling.
Of the sessions I attended, two in particular really stuck with me. One session, as the title “Don’t Put Your Phone Away” suggests, demonstrated how instructors can incorporate students’ phones into their classrooms. One tool in particular that really intrigued me was Kahoot!. Kahoot! is free tool that allows you to create fun learning games made up of multiple choice questions. You can add images, videos, and diagrams to your questions to enhance them. Kahoot!s are meant for an in-class setting as they are not embeddable in web content. You’ll also want to make sure you are using a classroom that has a projector, as the answer choices will only appear on the screen with a corresponding symbol. This symbol is what students see on their devices. Once they see these symbols, they must select the symbol that corresponds with the answer they want to select.
I attended the Council on Global Affairs’ International Women’s Day Global Health Symposium. The focus of the day was on the health of the next generation for women and girls locally, nationally, and internationally. The keynote panel focused on new initiatives and challenges with implementation. Rebecca Winthrop, the Director for the Center of Universal Learning at the Brookings Institute, talked about the science of scalability and her project, Millions Learning, which “…explores specifically not just how to improve learning, but how to do so in a way that can be efficiently and effectively implemented at a large scale.” Her comments really resonated with me. Specifically, she emphasized that successfully scaling up means releasing the idea of having a “gold plated” model that can be replicated with fidelity. That model is too complex and requires finesse specific to a particular author. When scaling up, sustainability is the goal. To achieve this, the cookie cutter model will not work. Rather, it is best to identify the core “ingredients” and aim to replicate those and then allow the user to adapt to their particular context. This creates a partnership that allows the program to maintain its essential attributes, but allows the user to “make it into their own” and have some ownership. Continue reading
DePaul University’s Global Learning Experience (GLE) is a relatively new initiative that was established to provide students with opportunities to engage in collaborative projects, mediated by technology, with students abroad. GLE exposes students, some who have never traveled out of the country or considered studying abroad, with an opportunity to journey to another country via their GLE course without leaving the state.
GLE activities and projects are designed by faculty partners (typically one professor at DePaul and a professor(s) at an institution abroad) and range from concepts such as the creation of interactive, collaborative virtual tours to innovative 3D design projects. Students have a chance to work with their peers around the globe and learn cultural similarities and differences that impact (or don’t impact) collaboration and development.
Some of the residual benefits for students include building an international network of peers and working on teams globally. It’s no secret that companies, educational institutions, government agencies, etc. are eager to find talented graduates with diverse experiences. The University of Southern California Annenberg developed an infographic which suggests that “today’s global economy demands a more unique and effective working environment. Virtual teams consist of employees who are the best people for their jobs, but who are not geographically close to a company’s headquarters”. (USC Annenberg, School of Communication & Journalism). In GLE courses, students are exposed to a virtual team experience and are better equipped for the globalized workforce.
For years, faculty have asked me to recommend a tool that would make it easy for them to conduct online video conferences with students. Every time I tried to answer this question, I felt like one of those announcers selling an experimental drug with dangerous side effects. “Do not use Connexium™ if your students are unable to install Java 10.2.9.3 on their computers. Do not operate on low-bandwidth connections or enable video sharing with more than two participants while using Connexium. Connexium is not a virtual whiteboard replacement and cannot be used to record meetings. Ask your instructional designer if Connexium is right for you.”
That all changed when I started using Zoom. Zoom provides the key features most faculty ask for with almost none of the unpleasant side effects that come with other tools I’ve tried. Here are a few examples.
- Minimal setup and installation – So far, we’ve found that students can join a meeting even if they’re in one of our computer labs or using a computer that doesn’t allow them to install desktop software. (Some of our students connect from locked-down computers at their workplaces, so this is an important feature.)
- Up to 50 participants per meeting – This is true even for free accounts. For larger meetings, it’s $54.99/month to upgrade to a limit of 100 participants.
- Android and iOS mobile apps – In my experience, these apps work very well and include the most important features available in the desktop version of Zoom.
- Screen sharing and remote control – All participants can share their screens and hosts can even take control of a participant’s machine if needed.
One of the best things about the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) annual meeting is the broad spectrum of institutions represented, from the Ivy League to large public and private universities to community colleges and small liberal arts schools. If you’re looking for colleagues who are grappling with the same challenges you’re experiencing at your institution, chances are you’ll find them at ELI.
The ELI audience is as diverse as the institutions they represent and includes instructional designers, faculty with a passion for technology, and IT professionals working in higher education. Unlike conferences that focus primarily on distance learning, ELI attracts a large proportion of CIOs and people passionate about the intersection of technology and physical learning spaces. As a result, the conference typically includes ample hands-on time with new gadgets and hardware. On Tuesday, I learned more about Arduinos during a hands-on “maker-space” session that left me missing my old Capsela set. At breakfast on Wednesday, I had a chance to chat with remote conference participants who roamed the venue using a device designed by Double Robotics. And just before heading to the airport, Jeremy Littau, an Assistant Professor at Lehigh University, let me test-drive Google Glass.
Of course, you don’t have to be on a first name basis with the staff of your local Radio Shack to get something useful out of ELI. The annual meeting agenda is brimming with presentations on everything from faculty development for online learning to predictions on the future of open-source textbooks and MOOCs. Here are a few highlights from some of the sessions I attended.
Every year, the New Media Consortium’s summer conference includes a plenary session known as “Five Minutes of Fame” in which a series of presenters have five minutes each to show off an innovative project or idea. To add a bit of levity and suspense, an official timekeeper shuts down any presentation that hits the five-minute mark by striking a large gong with a mallet. As a kid, I loved watching reruns of The Gong Show, so Five Minutes of Fame is easily my favorite part of any NMC conference. (For those of you too young to remember The Gong Show, picture America’s Got Talent, but with a lot more polyester.)
This year, the NMC conference also included another rapid-fire showcase known as the Emerging Leaders Competition. Continue reading
My husband Lee and I were sitting at the dinner table one evening chatting about what we should do for the kids during the time when school’s closed and summer camp hasn’t started yet. I pulled out the computer trying to search for ideas. A couple of minutes later, I sensed this vibrating sensation on the floor that resembled a minor earthquake. It was mild, constant, rhythmic, and very annoying.
I moved my eyes from the computer screen to Lee. He looked at me—what? The vibration stopped for a second. I moved my eyes back to the computer—there, the rhythm started again.
This time I closed down the laptop. “Lee, do you know you are very blue?” I said.
“What?” He was completely lost. Continue reading
We sure love our acronyms at FITS HQ. If we’re not talking about D2L (our LMS), or DOTS, or MoLI, or our CRM, we come up with emoji to get our messages across.
My FITS colleague Jan Costenbader and I recently discovered another acronym with a much wider reach, a global reach, if you will. Globally Networked Learning Environments (GNLE). GNLEs are online learning settings in which students from far-flung countries convene as classmates to learn about the topic at hand in addition to exploring one another’s cultures.
Imagine, if you will , two undergraduate screenwriting courses: one based in the US, the other based in Ghana. Continue reading