The increase in technology usage among students is growing preparing them for advanced digital citizenship, beyond the use of social media. Want to know more about digital citizenship? Here are “9 Key ‘P’rinciples.”
Because of these advancements, I would like to offer some advice to instructors and instructional designers on developing media assignments.
You, the instructor, should attempt to complete the same assignment before assigning it to students. Your first-hand knowledge of the technology students will be using is key when troubleshooting.
If more than two or three students ask you the same question, add more clarification to your instructions.
Penn State’s Media Commons has put together a great resource for instructors who are planning on implementing a media assignment for assessment of student learning. Do your instructions follow these guides? Penn State’s Preparing Media Assignments
In my home discipline, there’s a running joke: “Historians: We study Change, but we certainly don’t recommend it.” It’s funny because it’s true. Change is hard, and it’s not just historians that struggle with it (though we are some of the more amusing examples, I’ll grant). But it’s a struggle that we have to engage in, or our teaching and our own scholarly work becomes stale. And if we’re stale, our students will often notice it before we do. It’s like a funny smell in one’s house–the resident is so familiar with it that it goes unnoticed, but as soon as the guest enters, they immediately wonder what died in the basement.
At this point in the semester, we may have become aware of changes that we might need to make; I know that’s the case in one of my courses. Discussion flags, readings aren’t being completed, things are starting to drift off course…a little past the quarter-pole of the semester is an opportune time to assess how things are (or aren’t) going and adjust as necessary. If something isn’t working, we need to discern why that’s the case. Are my discussions anemic because they aren’t reading? What do I differently to get them to engage with the material ahead of time? Then we make changes based on our sense of what can help move our classes toward our desired outcomes. This is the process, I would argue, that’s at the heart of pedagogy: becoming a reflective practitioner, always willing to critically examine our teaching and act on what we find.
This week’s links discuss some of the more common issues we encounter early in the semester that might call for rethinking or reflection. And, as always, your friendly neighborhood CETL staff is happy to assist as well. If you’re looking for ideas or inspiration in this process of assess-and-adjust, feel free to come by and chat. We’re here to help!
Marellen Weimer asks the $64,000 question: “Why are we so slow to change?” Her answers are thoughtful reflections on both what we do in the classroom and why we do it.
We are so vested in our teaching, and, like our students, we are error averse. Try something new, and there’s a risk of failure. There’s risk with what we do every day, but it feels safer to go with the tried and true.
But, Weimer tells us, there are ways to mitigate the difficulties inherent in change if we’re willing to reach out to colleagues.
The KQED Mind/Shift blog had an interesting post this week on some colleges’ efforts to replace lecture-driven classes with hands-on, experiential learning. This particular case deals with Science courses, but the insights are applicable across a range of disciples.
Speaking of changes, Blackboard has incorporated some really useful mobile features that many of our students are already using. There are a lot of intriguing possibilities for design here, both on the general course and individual assignment basis. On February 15, at 4 PM in Rasmussen 217, the inimitable Dr. Karly Good will be hosting Conversations on Technology:
Do you plan on teaching a course with more online components in the near future? This Conversation on Technology will help you take classroom activities on the move by using Blackboard tools. Many features of Blackboard are enabled to be used on any Smart or mobile devices. All we have to do is develop activities that take advantage of those tools so that students may use them in both face-to-face courses as well as blended and online courses.
This workshop will help you convert practical activities you already use into mobile activities. We will supply the laptops, you supply the content (and smart device if you like). Starting to think more about mobility will get you closer to understanding how your students engage, study, and communicate. This workshop will be grounded in both constructivist and connectivist theories.
We hope to see you there!
Also, one of the other changes on the horizon that we’re engaging with is Blended and Online Learning. If you’re currently slated to teach a course in either of these modalities, or interested in learning how to do so, consider attending our Open Lab Workshop on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 9-12. We’ll be in the Krumm East Lab (KCTR 26); there’s no formal schedule, but rather the opportunity to work one-on-one with CETL staff to develop/modify syllabi, course activities, and course design. Bring your class materials and your questions!
In PowerPoint, go to the Insert tab on the ribbon. On the right-hand side in the section called Media, there is a Video button. Use the drop-down menu to pick Online Video.
A pop-up window will appear (it is very slow to appear) and you may chose the location of your video such as YouTube or From a Video Embed code from any other site. (Embed codes are usually found in the “Share” option of most online video repositories.) Type the title and hit enter to search (again, it is very slow – be patient).
Select the icon that matches the video you want to embed. Then select Insert.
In order to view the video, you should be in SlideShow or Presentation mode.
When presenting, you must have internet access for the video to play.
Select the video image, then you may chose options for how the video plays in your presentation by adjusting the settings in this Playback menu:
Here are some tips to help you organize the MyCourses list on Blackboard.
On the “My Grand View” opening Blackboard page – in the upper right corner of your My Course list, there should be a small settings/gear symbol. Click on that icon. You will go to a list where you can organize your courses by checking “Group by Term”. These can be reordered to have the most recent at the top or unchecked so they no longer show on your My Courses list. To reorder the terms, use the double headed arrow on the left side of the term group and drag to the final location. If you scroll down lower on the page you may reorder or uncheck any courses you no longer wish to show on your homepage of Blackboard.
To promote student learning, one of the most effective–but also most difficult and intimidating–things we can do as teachers is to give students more power. We know students learn best when they construct their own learning, build their own knowledge. But much of our intellectual upbringing, particularly in graduate school, centered around the notion of professor-as-authority. It’s a hard habit to break; we’re conditioned to appeal to authority in our fields and our own scholarship (“so-and-so’s argument has decisively refuted this notion“), and many of us were taught in a similar manner–mostly via lecture. When I began my own teaching career, I had no pedagogical training beyond an abandoned secondary-ed minor in undergrad and a three-hour TA orientation in which one of the panelists literally dozed off during the discussion. So I decided to teach as I was taught, and spent hours and hours crafting lectures on US and Latin American history that resembled nothing so much as carpet-bombing my classes with content. Sure, I had a vague notion that discussions were “good,” and that maybe I ought to have them in my classes, but I had no idea how to effectively do so; any success I had with discussions early in my career was due to student forebearance and luck more than any skill on my part. Within a couple years, I knew I had exhausted any potential for meaningful learning in my limited set of pedagogical tools.
My problem was that, in considering my own education, I had conflated “teaching” with “what happened inside the classroom.” In reality, though, we all know that learning can–indeed, should–occur throughout the college experience, both in and out of the classroom, on and off campus. The most powerful learning experience I had, bar none, was researching and writing my doctoral dissertation. I was living 1100 miles away from my home institution and advisor, so a lot of the process was even more autonomous than it usually is in History (which is pretty damn lonely to begin with, really). I was immersed in the research and writing process, occasionally checking in with my advisor and sending off chapter drafts, but I built that damn thing–all 440 pages of it–and learned an enormous array of content, skills, and habits of mind in the process.
So why, instead of framing this sort of experience for my students, was I doing all the heavy lifting for them? If I learned best by doing–and that’s true for dissertations, figuring out software, installing a dryer in my basement–then why wasn’t I allowing my students to do more? Why was I handing them everything in pre-packaged nuggets rather than allowing them to explore, try, fail, try again, and build their knowledge? That was a powerful realization, and has shaped my approach to teaching ever since–and the effects have been transformative.
This, as I later learned, is what the ed-psych folks call constructivism: knowledge is constructed. Learners have to build their own knowledge, often by such techniques as relating new material to prior knowledge and constructing the meaningful connections through their own cognitive efforts. It’s active learning. It’s what we know works, and what so much of our teaching culture is here at Grand View. And it’s the key to making teaching and learning transformative, something a student experiences personally, not vicariously.
To enable this construction of knowledge, we need to allow for the construction to occur in the first place. Do our courses, assignments, and activities give the space for students to explore ideas and approaches critically for themselves? Or are we merely dispensing pre-fabricated chunks of content? And, just as critically, how do we balance space to explore with the structure and support to help our students find their way and not flail about aimlessly? Constructivism is more than just telling students to go out, find stuff, build something, and check in at midterms. It’s creating an environment where that construction unfolds (and this looks different for various levels and disciplinary content, to be sure). It’s supporting and empowering students, not abandoning them. It’s helping them build intentionally and mindfully, but with allowance for serendipity and unforeseen connections, too. More than anything, though, it’s creating a culture of ownership in our classrooms, where we allow students the opportunities to own their learning, own the content, and own their own growth. And to do that, we have to give up some of our ownership.
This week’s links provide further discussion of these ideas: knowledge creation, constructivism, student agency and ownership, and our roles in creating places for them to occur. Enjoy!
What do we mean by “student agency” in the first place? Why not see how a student views that concept for themselves? Andrew Rikard, a junior at Davidson, wrote a thoughtful post that allows us to do just that. “Student agency is not something that you give or take,” he tells us. Wise words.
Theory and philosophy are important, but what does all this look like, specifically? How do we build opportunities for our students to become the agents of their own learning? What kind of active learning opportunities are out there? One of our own colleagues, Michael LaGier in Biology, published a piece in a recent issue of Faculty Focus in which he tells us how he’s incorporated student survey and instant feedback into his classes–without the cumbersome clicker systems which had bedeviled us in the past. And an intriguing suggestion comes from Emily Suzanne Clark on the Religion in American History blog, where she describes the “unessay,” an assignment with all sorts of possibilities for opening up space for students to explore content creatively.
Hopefully we’ve spurred some thinking on ways in which we can continue to promote active, engaged, and constructive experiences for our students. We’d be happy to follow up or delve deeper into any of this with you; feel free to contact us in CETL and we can begin the collaboration!