I recently stumbled across a blog post about the 7 habits of highly ineffective developers and couldn’t help but see direct connections to the challenges people encounter when thinking about using educational technology. Like developers, instructors (and instructional designers) face all types of challenges. Understating yourself and being aware of these challenges can help make the most of your time, energy, and resources—as well as lead to better results.
Let me begin by saying that I have been a geek and technology freak for more years than I care to remember. In 1967, I wrote an undergraduate paper for a History of Mathematics class that dealt with computer generated music compositions. In the 80’s, I wrote for Nibble magazine (Apple II). I worked for Apple for 11 years. I always have the latest beta and bleeding edge software on my phone, watch and computer. My work involves helping faculty develop and deploy courses using technology. All that said, I worry about our students and if they are relying far too much on technology and less on critical thinking skills and the ability to estimate and solve problems.
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.
I recently attended EdMedia in Washington DC. I was excited for this conference because this was the first conference that I was attending completely on my own. There’s this tendency when you go to a conference with someone—at least for me—to follow their itinerary rather than come up with your own, so this was a true test for me to see how I could experience a conference completely by myself.
One thing that was really great about this conference was how it wasn’t that large attendee wise. There was a decent amount of people from different areas of the education field but there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of people everywhere, which I felt was a true benefit as it was easier to meet people.
Since this was my first time attending EdMedia, I attended the Newcomer Welcome meeting and they had us do something similar to speed dating where we had 3 minutes to talk to a person and get to know them. This was a great ice breaker, especially for someone who is typically more reserved and has a hard time approaching people.
DePaul University and the SUNY COIL Center have teamed up to offer the first-ever Global Learning Conference: Transcending Boundaries Through COIL. This don’t-miss event will be held October 30-31, 2017 in Chicago.
The Global Learning Conference illustrates best practices and innovation in collaborative online international learning (COIL). COIL is an approach to fostering 21st century student competencies through the development of multicultural learning environments that link university or college classes in different countries using online technologies. The conference invites faculty and lecturers, instructional technologists and designers, international education and study abroad managers, and anyone interested in the internationalization of higher education to attend and share knowledge with their peers in this growing field.
Do instructional designers secretly serve as change agents in higher education institutions? Change is a faint tremor that rarely erupts to alter the academic structure cemented in tradition and intricate policies. However, instructional designers have a unique role that gives them access to the three primary stakeholders at a university: faculty, administration, and students. Acting in a supportive, non-threatening role, instructional designers have the opportunity to create change without having to move the weighty levers of the academic machine. Taking a look at the five characteristics of change agents identified by George Couros, author of Innovative Mindset, provides a better understanding of why instructional designers may be the secret change agents in higher education institutions.
During a recent research jaunt to update some FITS resources on online learning, I stumbled across an article about the value of including the instructor’s face in course videos. If you don’t have time for the entire piece, here’s my TL;DR:
Faculty often ask me “if it matters” to include their faces within course videos. My standard response is that they should try it in the introductory video. Start the video with your face on the screen, either in full-frame glory or in a small square in the corner (depending on the software you’re using), and then transition to the other typical intro video elements, like a tour of the course or syllabus. That way, you only have to think about being “on camera” for a minute or two.
But what faculty are really asking is this: does including my face in videos either (1) make students feel more engaged with the course materials, or (2) actually result in better learning?
In my last post, I detailed a study in the summer of 2016 using the Knewton Adaptive Learning engine built into Pearson’s MyMathLab. This was a limited study with a trial of Knewton in 4 developmental math courses. The results of the trial were compared to sections of the same courses in which the adaptive engine was not used. In that limited study we found that students got better scores overall on the MyMathLab quizzes and that they spent less time on task.
The summer cohort of students isn’t reflective of regular semester classes (in DePaul’s First-Year Program we typically see entering freshmen, where this is the first university level course they have encountered), so we implemented the same trial in 4 courses with larger enrollments and traditional students during the winter 2016 quarter. Please see my previous blog post for information about the Knewton engine and the previous trial.
When I’m contacted by faculty who want help creating video for their courses, one of the first things I ask is why they want to make a video. Most of the time it’s to add some instructor presence in an online or hybrid course, but often it’s to replicate a lecture they’ve given in the face-to-face version of the course.
I’m always a bit apprehensive as I tease out the reasons for the request. I don’t want to trespass on the instructor’s prerogative to teach the course as s/he wishes, but I do know that many of the videos I see don’t serve their intended purpose—assuming the purpose is to promote learning or add instructor presence.
Recently, on “Pi Day” (3.14, or March 14 for the non-nerds out there) I was reading an article about the benefits of learning programming on the Raspberry Pi, a micro-computer that costs only $35 dollars, and all the ways that it helps tinkerers learn programming and solve obscure issues by creating their own software and hardware solutions. I had recently fallen into the trap of tech lust—the feeling nerds get when they suddenly want to buy some piece of technology they may or may not really need—and decided that I wanted to buy a Pi device and get back into programming, having not written a line of code since high school.
That last bit presented a bit of an issue for me, however. Learning to code was always easiest for me when I had a specific issue to solve, since it helped me predict what kind of code I needed to learn, while also making the motivational factor much easier to maintain. It’s this feeling of not knowing where to start that I often see students struggle with as well.
Facing this issue myself, before I decide which Pi to purchase I’ll look online for specific Pi projects that others have done, to see what solutions I may be able to integrate into my own network and test bench at home. At the same time, I think it is helpful to consider the different pedagogical approaches available to instructors to naturally integrate problems into the assignments we give, in order to help students learn to solve them.