Clay Shirkey stimulates lots of ideas…I enjoy his talks!
So, is there a “law” open source equivalent? A law git-hub? Open Congress is one attempt. How well does it work?
Clay Shirkey stimulates lots of ideas…I enjoy his talks!
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?
I can’t count the number of times I have discovered a new way of teaching a concept or solved a problem while taking a walk, driving aimlessly or riding my bicycle. Those “aha” moments occur when I least expect them and when I’m not concentrating on the unsolved issue.
According to Jason Gots, who wrote Why Top Innovators Make Time to Waste Time, 3M, one of the most innovative companies in the U.S., has adopted “wasting time” as a core philosophy. According to Gots’ article, 3M has a 15% rule that encourages employees to spend 15% of their time “doing nothing.” During this 15% time, employees are encouraged to do what helps them be creative: take a nap or play games. This was to encourage employees to solve problems in different ways and to think creatively.
And according to the article, science supports that philosophy. Quoting from the article:
Joydeep Bhattacharaya, a psychologist studying attention and creative problem-solving at Goldsmiths, University of London, has managed to pinpoint creative insight in the brain. Moments before subjects solve a tricky creative problem, a steady stream of alpha waves emanates from the right hemisphere of the brain – the half more closely associated with abstract thinking than with tightly focused logical reasoning. What stimulates alpha waves? Laughter, a warm shower, a game of ping pong – activities that we find relaxing and pleasurable and that give the mind freedom to wander. Creative workers consistently report arriving at solutions to problems they’ve been struggling with for weeks while lying in bed on a lazy Sunday morning.
3M’s philosophy and the science of creativity are consistent with my own experience. I find that when I “work” or concentrate intensely for too long, I get work done, but I may feel incredibly rushed and unsettled. Occasionally I feel as though I’m missing something. During that time, I feel as though there’s another solution somewhere–a solution that’s elusive.
How can we use”time wasting” to promote learning? Should we provide “play” time during classes? I know that when I assign cases or scenarios for small group discussions in class, some groups finish earlier than others. To keep those students busy, I plan an additional step for the students in that group. I might add a question or ask that group to complete an additional task.
But maybe I should relax. Maybe I should permit the students who finish early to discuss other classes they’re taking and how well they’re completing work in another classes. Those off-task discussions seldom last more than 3-4 minutes during a 50 minute class [that’s only 8% of the time]. And maybe those discussions help students reflect on the information.
Are there other ways we can use this information to improve learning?
So, the next time you see me staring into space, don’t disturb me. I might just be creating new and innovative solutions.
Examples of a change in teaching: keeping students engaged, promoting learning, edutainment. Does it work to promote learning? Some of the students say “yes!”
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?
Information is everywhere and we should help students learn how to access and evaluate it. Education isn’t about going to school to get the information. Learning occurs with experiential activities, developing student activities and embracing failure as a way to learn.
I learned some concepts best when I answered them wrong on a test and got feedback quickly enough so that I could clearly follow where I went wrong. If we’re going to improve learning, as the video author states, we must refocus on how we encourage learning. Educators and institutions must re-evaluate the role of tests in promoting student learning and promoting cognition. Tests are not always the best way to foster improved learning. I believe tests are one tool, but there are many other tools to encourage authentic learning.
Because information is everywhere, we must also provide learners with the tools to evaluate information. The ALA defines information literacy as
“a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”
So students must know more than the textbook or teacher as the source of information, but instead must be able to read any source and conduct an analysis of the credibility of the content. Institutions must develop methods to encourage the pedagogy of authenticity and of failure in order to learn. I’ve discussed the benefits of failure to improve learning in this post. I’ve discussed the need to teach information literacy in this post.
I’d love to implement and assess some version of this. That’s my next project, possibly, after I finish the Twitter and ePortfolio activities.
Digital information everywhere. Digital books. Digital images. Digital videos. Digital…but not in the academy. In the academy we still place extraordinary attention to print media as the basis for tenure and promotion. We ignore the digital revolution that has occurred all around us.
Instead, the structures of universities often fail to reward and champion digital innovators, particularly in guidelines for promotion and authorship that privilege traditional scholarship.
If we do not create mechanisms that reward faculty and students who form digital-research communities, then innovation may bypass universities entirely, putting us at risk of falling behind institutes, private companies, and even individuals.
Randolph Hall, Vice President for Research at USC, made this point in a recent article titled Scholarship, Liberated from Paper at Last in the Chronicle of Higher Education. He notes that after discussion with faculty at his institution, the faculty agreed to include revise the process for tenure and promotion to include recognition of the value of a faculty member’s digital research.
Change occurs slowly in academic institutions. I’ve made that point in other posts. You would think academia would be at the forefront of forging new directions and new research areas. You would think that academia would be the first to devise new ways of thinking about how people learn and in fostering an environment of analyzing tradition and also challenging tradition. If you thought that, you would be wrong. Academia is tied down to traditional methods despite the progress in the rest of society. For example, information forwarded for academic tenure and review at my university is still wedded to paper documents. The process includes, for example, instructions on how the faculty member should label his or her [paper] binder. So, even though all the documents are created electronically, they must be converted to paper for the review. ePortfolios (see .e.g. Trent Babson’s ePortfolio links) or programs like LiveBinder could allow for that same information to be provided in electronic form.
Why are academic institutions wedded to paper? Paper is perceived as more permanent; however there are ways to preserve electronic documents. And if the courts permit electronic filing of documents (see e.g. e-filing of electronic briefs) where finances and other matters are at stake, then our University should recognize the value of electronic documents. Also, if the concern is the rigor of the scholarship, public exposure and peer review can help to increase rigor. Research that is available to the public helps to promote additional learning for the public and for the researcher. It could also lead to additional research and creative use of that research.
So, as noted in the Hall article, academia must recognize the value of digital research. Hall notes that Universities like Harvard have created ways to disseminate research to the public more quickly so that others can read and comment on it. My own experience in posting on SlideShare and on this blog has allowed me to present research findings, (e.g. results of using Twitter in the classroom) to many others. I have had 80 views on a presentation on plagiarism-far more than attended the actual presentation. And with more exposure, I have more opportunity to learn more, test my research and work to make it better. That’s much more exposure than posting the article in a paper journal that requires that people go to a physical library to access it.
I love new technology tools. I’m waiting for the first truly functional house-cleaning, grocery-story-shopping, laundry-washing and folding, meal-preparing robot á la the Jetsons’ Rosie, the robot maid. I prefer playing around with my computer, my iPad, my tablet and my iPhone instead of….working. And lucky for me, my day job permits me to play around with technology and work at the same time.
I was also moved by the video produced by Michael Wesch’s anthropology class that focused on students’ lack of engagement with teaching, with learning, and with the material. The video highlighted issues that many of us (faculty) had ignored about students’ world. And I agreed with Wesch’s focus on creating technology-based and enhanced real-life projects to reach and engage students.
Now Wesch is re-thinking his focus. In Jeffrey Young’s recent interview of Wesch, summarized in the Chronicle Article article, “A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working,” Wesch noted that other professors had tried his suggestions on technology use and had informed him that the technology did not work. In the article, Young describes Wesch’s encounters with faculty who lecture and who make a connection with students in the lecture (and who therefore believe learning has occurred). Those faculty connect with students despite the decision to forgo technology. According to Young, Wesch’s key point was that with all technology-enhanced teaching techniques, the technique’s success ultimately depended on the intangible “bond between professor and student.” Wesch’s point was that although technology can engage students, the students’ connection with the faculty helped determine student success.
I agree, with reservations.
The article does not refer to the research that supports the position that if the students “connect” through lecture that the expected learning occurs. My own research (of one, as a student in college, 30 + years ago!) supports the idea, in part, that a dynamic lecturer can connect with students and encourage them to want to learn. My own research (same standard as before!) also supports that there were some “dynamic” lecturers who neither engaged me nor fostered my desire to learn. My desire to learn in those situations was internal: I wanted to maintain my high grades so I could know enough to get into the courses I really wanted! And frankly, if dynamic lectures are truly the only significant ways to impart knowledge, I have a heretical suggestion: hire actors/actresses, train them well to express enthusiasm and “connection” and let them teach the courses! If research supported that lectures are the best/only way to promote learning, then students would succeed at much higher rates than they do now. Learning is more complicated than listening to a lecture. And there are multiple ways for faculty to connect with students.
There are intangibles that promote a connection between faculty and students so that students learn. Some exist with lectures. Some exist in online classes when students, when prompted appropriately, engage in thought provoking discussions. Some exist in face-to-face small group discussions where faculty and students examine topics. Some exist when students meet with faculty outside of the classroom. Some exist when students participate in out of the classroom service-learning projects. Some exist when students are immersed in the topic through technology or through, for example, performance. The point is that as faculty we can choose, adapt test and research teaching methods to determine which works well for students and for the faculty. And if it promotes critical thinking, deeper inquiry or other noteworthy educational goals, then learning has occurred regardless of the technology.
That’s the real message!
So yes, Rosie would be a wonderful addition to my household! But if I had a house filled with young children (as opposed to my current household that includes one grandchild to whom I’ve introduced technology and who embraces it just as her grandmother does!) I would be sure to let those children know that Rosie’s there to make one aspect of life easier, but that Rosie is not there to substitute for every aspect of life. Rosie may clean, for example, but I would want my young children to know what it means to make things dirty, what dirt is, and why it could be harmful (or useful, depending on the discussion). In other words, the technology is a tool that can be used to broaden students learning and to appeal to, or reach students. It is not a substitute for the hard work of learning (and teaching).
In his essay,’ Academically Adrift’: the News Gets Worse and Worse, Kevin Carey, explains that there is more information that not only do college students fail to learn in college, but also that students who perform lower on the CLA (Collegiate Learning Assessment) also fail to find financial security after graduation.
In an earlier post, I discussed some of the conclusions I reached from the sections of the book which I had read. Those conclusions were:
In a later post, I discussed critical thinking as a concern: that students don’t “enjoy” the challenge of traditional problem solving the way I (and other faculty) do and that has an impact on whether students learn. If students do not see tackling and solving problems as a challenge (and we as educators should do as much as we can to make problem-solving interesting), then there will be a significant impact on student learning.
A Not So Radical Transformation in a Core Business Course
In the introductory business law course that is required for all business majors, all the faculty teaching the course agreed to make substantial changes in the way the course was taught in order to acknowledge and address perceived efficiencies: students lack of college-level ability to read, college-level ability to write and need to improve critical thinking. Students complained a great deal about the additional work.
Assessing and Working to Improve Reading Skills
Although my own experience with students confirms that it would help for them to have more practice reading and writing, the students did not agree. When asked whether My Reading Lab (a publisher-created product) helped them, students said no:
Note that this response is only the student’s perceptions. We have not yet completed an analysis to determine whether those who performed better on My Reading Lab performed better on the tests or in the course. We will work on analyzing that data later. This also does not included longitudinal data, i.e. would students, upon reflection, decide that they had learned more than they thought by the additional practice reading. However, what this data does show is that students did not embrace the additional reading practice and testing requirement.
Reading the Textbook
Student preparation for class is a concern. Many students do not read before attending class; they attended class then read after class. In addition, students did not study. As part of the course redesign, we required quizzes prior to students attending class. Students (74.2%) agreed that the quizzes helped them keep up with the reading. Even though the students said the quizzes helped them keep up with the reading, many still didn’t read everything. The following graph lists the students responses about whether they had read the textbook (this is at the end of the semester):
Note that 40/202 or 19.8% read 90% or more of the readings and 80/202 or 39.6% read 80-89% of the readings. That means that nearly 60% of the class read 80% or more of the readings. These are the results obtained after faculty required that students read and take a quiz on the material before attending class. Thus, students were more motivated to keep up with the reading. How would these results differ if the students had not been required to take a quiz before attending class?
Student preparation and studying. The following graph includes information on the hours that students studied.
According to these self-reports, 21.2% of students studied between 1 and 3 hours per week, 27.7% of students studied between 3 and 5 hours per week, and 21.7% of students studied between 5 and 7 hours per week. Students should have studied nearly 8 hours per week (2 hours per week outside class for each hour of class-this was a 4 unit course). In Chapter 4 of Academically Adrift, the authors note that students report spending 12 hours per week on their courses outside of class. According to figure 4.2 of the book, in a 7 day week, students spent approximately 7% of their time studying.
Conclusions so far
The educational process requires that the faculty and the student participate, and if the students have not completed their share, then education and learning wouldn’t necessarily take place. I don’t know how this data compares to other studies on student reading, but it is challenging to help learning if both parties are not fully invested. Students have a variety of reasons for that lack of involvement, but if the investment in education is relatively small, then improvement in learning will be small.
In addition, this past semester, my student course evaluations were much lower (this was also partly due to a change in the institution’s survey evaluation instrument). Because I am tenured, I do not face losing my job over the changes in my student evaluations (although adjunct faculty face a different reality when it comes to being rehired). However, adjunct faculty depend on good student evaluations in order to keep their jobs. If that is the case, adding rigor to a class could cost that faculty member his or her job.