Three months ago, I published a blog entry called “Summer Math Class with Khan Academy: A Case of ‘Manipulated’ Learning”. Ever since then, I have tried a few more rounds of manipulation on my IRB-free research objects—my two kids. As a proud mother of manipulation, I’d like to report on a couple of cases of manipulating learning—and behavior—with tools and rules.
In fall 2017, DePaul upgraded our installation of our learning management system, D2L, to the “Daylight” interface. One of the primary reasons D2L underwent this design overhaul of the entire system was to implement a principal called “Responsive Design.”
Responsive Design is a method of web design whereby developers build one version of a website that is designed to adapt and scale to whatever device it is accessed from. This is in contrast to the early days of smartphones, when developers would create a separate “mobile” site, which you would be redirected to if you were accessing it from a smartphone or tablet. Instead, there is only one version of the site, but the elements move, resize, and adapt depending on the size of the screen the site is viewed from.
I know that classroom mobile phone policies can be a fraught subject. Student distraction is a real concern, and handheld technology gives students a tool that introduces a constant stream of outside input (social media, news alerts, games) that often seem far more interesting than the class material or activities. One way to combat this is to make the phones or devices part of the learning experience.
During the 2016–17 academic year, the Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) conducted a pilot of Poll Everywhere as a classroom response system. Poll Everywhere is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) clicker system used primarily to poll or quiz students in a face to face classroom. Poll Everywhere allows students to answer questions in class on their personal device (phone, tablet, or laptop) and visualizes their responses in real time. It’s an easy way to engage students, build more interaction into your teaching, and gauge student understanding. It’s also a great tool to use for “fun” in the classroom, from a quick icebreaker to a complex trivia competition.
I have a confession to make. I confess that I jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon—and I am still riding it.
My first introduction to Pokémon was when my son was little. He had a collection of cards, carefully curated in protective binders. He spent hours reading the cards and developing the perfect deck to defeat his father—not an insignificant feat. For a child who was a “reluctant” reader these cards were one of the first times that he read for pleasure. He spent hours reading each card to learn the strengths and weaknesses of these unique creatures.
It’s just after your first class and the students are filing out of the room and you happen to be standing near enough to catch a few of their comments. You only get snippets of the conversations, but you hear…
In a face-to-face class, your presence is partly defined by your demeanor, persona and actions while in front of the class.
My colleagues at FITS have already provided many helpful tips for developing and facilitating effective discussions in online courses. Josh cautions against teaching a correspondence course and explains, “the best discussion questions don’t have a clear answer, and sometimes they aren’t even clear questions.” He also encourages instructors to provoke debate and ask those pointed and room-dividing questions. And Ashanti provides strategies for generating discussions that matter, such as providing opportunities for student-led discussions and pushing students to draw real-world connections.
Still, even with these strategies and course design principles in mind, it can be hard to get every student involved and engaged. Julie Stella and Michael Corry recognize this, and engagement is a focus in “Intervention in Online Writing Instruction.” Stella and Corry argue for “an interwoven perspective of motivation, engagement, agency, and action in Online Writing Instruction,” and in the process provide some helpful tips for all online educators.
Stella and Corry begin with an overview of the current literature centered on engagement and agency, and specifically the ways these concepts are treated in Self-Determination Theory (SDT). As they explain, SDT is “a framework through which educators may be able to reliably predict the motivation a student feels toward academic tasks.” In other words, the good stuff instructors are always trying to tap into. In SDT, all students – and humans – are thought to be working towards satisfying three needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
In the training sessions we provide for faculty who are going to teach online or hybrid courses for the first time, our facilitator, Daniel Stanford, often mentions how instructional technology consultants can serve as “course therapists.” We’re there to listen; to assure faculty that the anxiety they might feel around making such a dramatic change to their teaching is normal; and to help them move through the stages of grief they might experience as they negotiate the losses that result from change.
Given my understanding of this framing metaphor, and given the amount of advice I’ve doled out within this context, I thought I was fully prepared to undertake the process myself when I agreed to teach one of my courses online this past Winter. Surely I could coach myself through the process, right?
As the colleagues I turned to when I needed a therapy session will tell you, I was wrong. In two key ways, I didn’t follow the recommendations I usually give to others.
The growth of online and blended offerings, nationwide, continues at a steady pace. Although this data is several years old, the trend, especially at our institution, continues on the same path.
Source: Babson Survey Research Group, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States ©, January 2014.
Technology is changing how we do everything. Gone are the days of classroom strategies that focus solely on using static content to engage students. Thanks to high-definition (HD) video ubiquity in mobile devices, tablets, laptops, etc., engaging in real-time (instantaneous) with folks across the globe without leaving home is feasible and affordable. To take it a step further, video conferencing, or as some may describe as web conferencing, webinars (web seminars), or webcasts, enables online collaboration with limitless implications for student engagement, in the US and abroad.
The formal definition of video conferencing, as defined by Merriam Webster, is:
- a method of holding meetings that allows people who are in different cities, countries, etc., to hear each other and see each other on computer or television screens.
- the holding of a conference among people at remote locations by means of transmitted audio and video signals
While there are a number of solutions that exist to host virtual meetings, it’s important that standard features embedded in these systems are easy to use and work seamlessly during an online session. Some of the more common features include the ability to stream HD video, instant chat, screen sharing, recording, and the use of a whiteboard to jot down important points during the meeting. While nothing compares to face-to-face interaction, these tools help connect users in ways that a teleconference (see definition) are incapable of doing.
Some of the usual suspects—Skype, Webex, Gotomeeting, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Avaya Scopia, Blue Jeans, Polycom, etc.—have worked tirelessly to create user interfaces that are intuitive and function with minimal to no latency issues. In order to make an informed decision, it’s important to develop and prioritize the functionality that’s paramount to a successful implementation for “you.”
When we started the Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) at DePaul a few years ago, my MoLI teammates and I agreed pretty quickly that our mission was not in finding “magic bullet” apps for faculty so much as it was encouraging learning activities that make use of the unique functions of mobile devices.
Our mission, however, didn’t stop me from seeking my own magic bullet apps. Early last year, at the recommendation of my teammate Joe Olivier, I started using the free version of Wunderlist. Little did Joe know, I have nurtured a list-making habit from an early age. It started with my mom’s yellow legal pads in the 80’s, and it’s been a fire hazard ever since.
Joe’s app recommendation made a huge difference in my everyday life. I’ll explain how in a moment, but first:
After I confessed to my mom that I had eschewed legal pads and Post-It’s for “this amazing app” (and begged her to follow suit) she sent me the link to The Wall Street Journal piece where she first heard about Wunderlist: The Best To-Do Apps for Feeling Productive. Continue reading