My thoughts about using technology in the classroom; as summarized by an interviewer: Innovative Teaching Enhances Learning
Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
I’m in a MOOC with 74,999 other students. I’ve used the Khan Academy videos on statistics to help me (and I’m just finishing week one!). I finished the video lectures and the first quiz (no score yet) and I’m working on the first assignment due tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/11). It’s taken me at least 4 hours so far.
Fun, yet daunting. I plan to finish, even if I have to pull a few all-nighters!
According to Kevin Carey, in the article Into the Future With MOOC’s in the Chronicle of Higher Education, MOOCs represent the future of education. He refers to his own experience in a mega-sized face to face economics course as evidence that mass-produced education is not new and that it can be more cost-efficient.
I agree, but only to a certain extent. MOOCs are useful, even for credit (although I’m not taking the stats course for credit). However, the structure of MOOCs must change to incorporate critical thinking and higher order skills. I think MOOCs are great for those of us who want access to learning…period. I want MOOC creators to keep expanding their subjects and use. For those who need more hands on and for those subjects that require more analysis, MOOCs will not work. Not yet. Not without a mass infusion of ….. je ne sais quois….a more in depth relationship among learners, instructors and the critical thinking skills/content.
How will I know whether I’ve learned from this MOOC? There are tests, assignments and (my goal) my increased comfort with and ability to read articles that include statistical analyses. And isn’t that truly what learning is about?
Once again, I’m taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courseware) class–one which has 75,000 students enrolled.
I’m enjoying it so far. I actually recall some of the information from the last statistics course I took–one in approximately 1976. (Mind you, I was a baby then… lol) Last fall, I dropped out of a MOOC course I had enrolled in. This time, my plan is to stay in it for the long haul.
What is it about learning that inspires cheating? If seems that if you make it to Harvard, you are one of the “smartest [people] in the room.” Yet the latest from Harvard is about a number of students who cheated on a take home exam. And according to MIT behavioral economist Dr. Ariely’s blog, there were LOTS of students who (allegedly) cheated–125!! Students claim that they thought collaboration was allowed (although the exam instructions said something different) because they collaborated for other things during class, they skipped lectures and shared notes and because the student guidebook, the Q Guide, said students in the past had collaborated with the teaching fellows (of course, that’s probably why the instructor included the statement NOT to collaborate!). (Source of this student perspective: Harvard Students Fighting Allegations of Cheating on Exam). And these are students that educators claim are the brightest and best–that’s how they merited entry into Harvard.
How can educational institutions encourage learning without promoting cheating? I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the “smartest people in the room” remained there and graduated by cheating. Maybe we need to figure out different ways to measure intelligence.
Consumatory Scholarship!?! Sounds like someone eating books and articles!
In the Chronicle article Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working, Bruce Henderson argues that faculty work is inadequately recognized by the public and by legislators who make demands for accountability. He also notes that “teaching” as an activity in higher education, is not respected. He notes, as an example, that those who do the most teaching (adjunct faculty) receive lower pay.
We do not honor teaching as we should. Universities usually measure and reward teaching by counting publications (research), looking for a key number on student evaluations (e.g. 4.0 on a 5 point scale or meeting the department average) and relying on peer evaluations, Publications in one’s area of expertise do not necessarily translate to good teaching, student evaluations are notoriously unreliable (see my latest post on student evaluations) and peer evaluations are only an indicator of one (or two) colleagues’ attendance at one or two classes. Adjunct faculty’s jobs are at risk if they have low student evaluations, even though the link between student evaluations and teaching is tenuous. So, let’s begin measuring teaching effectively: let’s show students, faculty and legislators how and what students learn. Let’s do that using evidence-based teaching practices, explaining how innovations can help improve learning and reward faculty who do their part (and remind others how learners must do their part).
University administration should reward faculty for their teaching accomplishments. And that means ALL teaching faculty, not only tenure-track faculty. Then, the public can begin to see that not only do many teachers work hard, that they work more than 12 hours per week but that we provide a substantial benefit to society.
I sometimes wonder whether there’s an element of classism, anti-feminism and racism in the continual demands for accountability. The University faculty and administrators were overwhelmingly middle-class white males in the 60s. Now, it’s much more diverse. The increase in diversity parallels the increased demands for accountability. And while I know correlation doesn’t mean causality (and accountability demands have complicated causes), it is frustrating to know that for years, higher education faculty faced no obligation to justify existence. During those times, faculty presented material in a way that only certain types of learners (those you might call read-write learners) could succeed. Tenure was awarded based on a handshake (at least according to some of the faculty who retired just as I came on board) or solely based on the school from which the faculty member obtained his Ph.D. And while I was successful in that environment, I recognize that my success shouldn’t be the only measure of whether anyone else can garner educational success. I have met students and others who were just as intelligent, but who learn in different ways. So, I recognize that this system of teaching is not the only means of communicating.
I also wonder whether the accountability demands reflect an attack on intellectualism; that the demands represent an attack on those who want to explore and learn. In his blog posts, The Real Ken Jones discusses this in more depth in his “Celebrating Stupidity” series. He focuses on some of the contradictions between science and what some what to believe. Whether the attack on education is related to an attack on intellectualism in general is subject to debate, but there does continue to be a significant attack on education: justified on some grounds but not on others.
So this discussion returns to the topic line: what should we as educators do to let the public and legislators know what we do in the classroom? Regardless of the cause of the controversy, we need to figure out how to address it–how to rebuff the attacks and to go on the offensive. We provide an invaluable service to the community, yet that gets lost in the rhetoric about accountability. Is using the term “Consumatory Scholarship” and defining it a way to address it? I think not-the essence is in the details. But to the core question I do not yet have an answer.
All around us, the world is changing. From digital information everywhere to mashups, the landscape is changing.
Yet in higher education, we’ve been extremely slow to change. Holding to tradition can be beneficial, but educational institutions face a changing landscape that other institutions have faced. Medicine has changed with the advent of digital information. One study concluded that more than half the patients of a primary care internal medicine group used the internet for information, including information they did not share with their doctors (2002). The music industry has changed drastically; purchases of CDs has reduced y 50% with the advent of illegal file sharing and access to purchase individual songs. (See: Music’s Lost Decade) Yet in higher education we teach as though nothing has changed.
Lecturing has its benefits, but there are far more options available to teach. However, institutions and regulatory bodies do not make it easy to change. Classes are structured so that students are expected to spend 150 minutes per week “seat time” in their courses. Any changes to that structure require compliance with University regulations–and under faculty governance that means that the changes must be submitted to several faculty committees to be reviewed. At my institution, such changes generally take a year to progress through committees and sometimes longer. Clearly processes need to be changed to permit “pilots” or fast-paced changes.
In addition, the “a” word (assessment) requires that work must be evaluated to determine its effectiveness. Assessment can be complicated, since different factors may determine whether a technique has been effective. One factor is student effort-and that is difficult to measure. In addition, we tend to focus on short term (semester) but there can be long term implications that are not easily measured.
Why can’t we adopt a process that makes it easy for faculty to test new approaches, with a quick turnaround time and ample assistance to assess effectiveness?
Motivation to learn, to explore, to engage, seems to be less prevalent in my classes. I seem to have more questions about whether something will be on the test, than curiosity about what a theory means and its implications for individual or business conduct.
Yet according the article Can Colleges Manufacture Motivation, by Dan Barrett, posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, it seems that motivation is a key factor for student success. According to the article, as students continue with their college careers, motivation declines. And it seems to be faculty rather than institution-inspired. According to one of the studies cited in the article, there were wider disparities in motivation generated within universities rather than between universities. Recommended ways to motivate included multiple opportunities to review assignments and re-submit, permitting students to choose topics and permitting students options on formats. Institutions can motivate students by determining which faculty motivate students most and assigning them to teach the introductory courses. At the same time, different people are motivated by different things and what inspires one can sound a death knell for another.
Can motivation also explain the success of the Twearning exercises where I’ve combined Twitter with Learning? I’m going to add a few questions about motivation to the post-survey about Twitter use; I wish I’d thought to add them to the pre-survey. Perhaps motivation is part of the explanation for the success of Twearning to date. So far, no students have dropped the class, altho there have been varying degrees of participation. If all stay until the end of the course, that itself will be a first during the five years I’ve taught this particular course.
Information on the web is free for anyone to use. That’s what I’ve heard students say from time to time. It is relatively easy to debunk that myth by discussing creator’s rights under copyright law.
What’s more challenging is helping faculty identify that same principle: we know there’s a a copyright law. We know there’s an exception to that law called fair use. What is more difficult is to determine whether our conduct fits within the definition of fair use.In the article Have College Professors Become Digital Pirates?, Andrew Chow, J.D., discusses this very issue. Universities and faculty have been sued for including copyrighted material in e-reserves, for copying videos from film to digital format (UCLA won that one) and for digitizing books. As the article notes, there are several factors courts consider in determining whether a use constitutes fair use, including the purpose and type of use, the amount of use and the potential impact copying would have on the market. Many Universities devote websites to assisting faculty (and students) determine fair use (see e.g. the Copyright Clearance Center’s Checklist).
This does raise a question I’ve raised before: shouldn’t copyright law be changed to address the new ways information is made available? Shouldn’t videos, as digital information, be priced differently? Should copyright law be changed to make it easier for educators to use copyrighted information in the interests of furthering knowledge? I consider it a great compliment if someone uses what I’ve created (it’s still a rare occurrence, though!). I would like acknowledgement, so others can find and use it, but feel no obligation to chase after someone who used what I created.
Would I feel differently if that someone was not an educator, but a corporation that made money from my work? Probably-I’d expect that corporation to provide me some compensation, that way we could both share in the profit made. More importantly, though, my work, my words, what I’ve developed, has not been developed in isolation. I have stood on the shoulders of giants to get where I am today. So, I am happy to share and help others learn.
Good news. Look at the chart! Twitter in the classroom seems to work; even with the more complicated materials. This chart shows that the spring 2012 grades lean toward As and Bs.
The second exam is more difficult than the first because it requires more application of concepts to scenarios and less of the basics. You can see from the chart that in Spring 2012 there were more As (2, instead of none in Spring 2011). There were an equal number of “Bs” in Spring 2011 and Spring 2012. There were more Cs in Spring 2012 then Spring 2011 (7, instead of 4 in Spring 2011) and fewer Ds and Fs. This result is consistent with the results of Exam 1.
So, what does this mean? Grades are one measure of determining whether learning has occurred. To the extent that exam scores improved over last year, I have evidence that using Twitter may have had an impact. As I noted in the earlier post, though, this result may not be terribly surprising in light of the fact that requiring Twitter required an extra review of the material (because students, in groups, had to summarize the weekly tweets and present those summaries to the class).
Then again, the fact that I permitted students to have their cell phones available during class demonstrates that, at least at this level, and at least with a small class, that it did not hurt overall class performance on exams. It is equivalent too, in the old days (when I was a student), to students reading a newspaper during class (some faculty permitted it, some didn’t) or passing notes to other students. Students are distracted, at least for that time, but it didn’t hurt their overall performance.
Keep tuning in: students must turn in ePortfolios and final projects later….