Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

MOOCing around: Week 1 Ending

In assessment of learning, Education, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology, technology on September 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

Group of FishIt’s so interesting to take a class in a subject I haven’t taken in a looooooooong time (statistics).

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 Koala Sleeping in Treelectures 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 Teacher and classchange 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 quoiCalculator & Math Symbolss….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?

You Work Only 12 Hours Per Week, Do Not Work in the Summer & Have a Sabbatical Every 7 Years?!

In course evaluations, Education, faculty responsibilities, institutional responsibilities, teaching, universal design for learning on June 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

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 Eatingwork 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.

I agree.

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. Student studyingTenure 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.

Do you?

Twearning: The Experience

In assessment of learning, Education, innovation in teaching, teaching with technology, technology, Uncategorized on May 18, 2012 at 9:51 am
Chart Comparing Grades

Chart Comparing Course Grades Spring 2012 to Spring 2011

The jury’s in. The verdict is: Twearning was modestly successful.


Twearning is the use of Twitter in the classroom to promote student engagement and learning. In this post I explained how I had incorporated the use of Twitter in the Sports Marketing Law and Ethics class at my University. The class was composed of juniors and seniors at my university. It is a required course for the Sports Marketing major. Most students were Sports Marketing Major.  The class was taught as a face-to-face class. The class had 18 students. One student was female; the remainder male. Students represented a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Use of Twitter in this Course  Follow Icon-Twitter

Students were required to do several things:

Tweet one time during class and twice weekly outside class (15/315 points)

Provide group summaries of tweets for the previous week (15/315 points)

Follow tweets of 3 professional athletes and write a social media policy based on the information (50/315 points)

Student Reaction

The following are unedited student comments.

Best of Using Twitter

  • it helped me with my classmates easier. If I had a comment or curiosity, it was easy to get a response and the information i needed.
  • Seeing how it can be used both professionally and casually as well.  As well as quick communication with a very wide

    variety of people.

  • Best thing was the social interaction in and out of the class. If someone needed to ask a quick question, they could easily send a tweet or direct message to someone and get a response back, fairly quickly.
  • Made me stay up to date with the course material, made sure that I was engaged during class time as well.
  • Following athletes (2 students)
  • That every chapter was summed up with the use of twitter and in our own words which helps us learn because most students can relate to the way we learn information.
  • That it made everyone post something about the course in their own words.
  • I got to communicate with my class mates and view the most popular topics and it helped me review and memorize course material
  • The best thing about using twitter was that it kept me active in the class and out of class.
  • learning new social media
  • I appreciated using twitter in class because it allowed us to read material and summarize what our findings. It also helped keep us up to date with a world of technology that is evolving very fast.

Worst of Using Twitter

  • It the hard was remembering to tweet all the time. it was not bad to use at all.
  • Sometimes the character limit.  But that forced me to be concise.
  • Having to tweet twice outside of class was probably the worst thing. Students would wait till the last minute to tweet and it would consist of some random fact in the book. I feel that tweeting during in class is more effective.
  • It was another thing to have to remember to do outside of class, also finding the tweets of my classmates for the group summaries was time consuming.
  • Posting 2 tweets outside of class
  • Saving the tweets and having to read through them for possible legal issues.
  • On the learning aspect nothing was wrong, just making every tweet count and worth giving the right information.

  • It kind of became too much after using it over and over again
  • I did not have any problems
  • I have nothing bad to say about twitter. It was fun to use for class.
  • use was unrealistic
  • I found that using twitter sometimes took away from personal interaction with classmates and professor. However, it seems that technology is taking us that way everywhere we look.

Preliminary Conclusions

Student performance, as measured by exam results and course grades, was better. An implication from the exam results (noted in earlier posts) and the course grades was that students in the middle performed better. Students at the top tended to perform well no matter what the format.  Note that I’ve only included raw, unedited student comments here. I have not yet conducted an analysis of the pre and post exam results nor have I compared the pre and post surveys of student perceptions of Twitter use and student engagement.

The following are first-blush comments. The student comments summarized here indicate:

  • It was a useful tool to communicate with each other
  • It was a useful method of learning by summarizing and seeing their classmates’ summaries of the material

Students liked least tweeting outside of class. That’s an interesting point because  the students also seemed to find the summaries of those tweets one of the best things about using Twitter in this course. One thing which I noted in a previous

post, is that permitting students to use their laptops and, gasp, cell phones, did not hurt students’ performance in the class. This was contrary to what I expected when  decided to, for the first time, drop the no cell phone rule.

This may seem like the end of the road. The exciting part is to conduct more analysis to determine what worked, what didn’t and why.

I’m considering this for one of my online classes in the fall; it may help foster more student engagement. Also, the withdrawal rates tend to be high in the particular class I’m thinking about and Twitter use might help reduce that rate. I’m also considering other uses.

This has been an interesting journey. More to come…..

And You Thought I Was Just Goofing Around

In how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching on May 17, 2012 at 12:10 am

sleeping puppy

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. Cat looking into the camera

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.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

In assessment of learning, Education, faculty responsibilities, information literacy, innovation in teaching, institutional responsibilities, teaching with technology, technology on April 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

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?

Twearning + Motivation

In Education, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, institutional responsibilities, Motivation, teaching on April 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm

JumpingMotivation 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.

Twearning: And the Learning Goes On…..Exam 2

In assessment of learning, Education, how people learn, teaching with technology, technology, tests on April 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

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 cell phoneavailable 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 reading_a_newspaperduring 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….

Digital Information Everywhere: But it Doesn’t Change How We Educate Learners! Should it?!

In critical thinking, how people learn, information literacy, innovation in teaching on April 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm

directions_signInformation 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 target_and_arrow_missedanalysis 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.

Oh, No, We Won’t Go-Academia and Digital Information

In Education, institutional responsibilities, tests on April 2, 2012 at 9:06 am

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.

u_s__supreme_courtWhy 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 createst tubested 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.

Using Research on Learning to Guide Teaching: Huh?!

In how people learn, innovation in teaching on February 6, 2012 at 7:21 am

It seems perfectly sensible and logical. As educators, we should take advantage of the research on how people learn and use it to guide our teaching. But we don’t! Instead, we stick with the tried and true (I did it this way, I learned this way and if students don’t get it, that’s their problem!) I’ve discussed this issue in other posts, for example, Is Higher Education Ready to Change, but it’s worth repeating.

Harvard recently held a one day symposium on the issue to try to encourage faculty to incorporate cognitive research findings into their teaching. This conference kicked off Harvard’s receipt of a $40-million dollar gift. The gift forms the basis of grants to faculty for Harvard’s Initiative on Learning and Teaching.

In a Chronicle article, Harvard Seeks to Jolt University Teaching, Dan Barrett summarizes explanations of the purposes for the symposium and workshop. Barrett quotes Dr. Weiman, a Nobel prize winning physicist, who has conducted research on science education and how students learn, and who explained that faculty often teach by “habits and hunches.” This is partially because most faculty are content experts and not pedagogy experts.

Other conference speakers noted that students are changing, and that, for example, students are not as curious as before.  Dr. Mahzarin R. Banaj debunked the popular belief that teaching should be designed to fit diverse learning styles-e.g. kinesthetic or visual styles. Others noted the importance of quizzing and frequent writing.

So what dDivingoes this mean? It means that Universities should encourage faculty to develop evidence-based teaching practices. It means that faculty workloads would have to be adjusted to permit time for faculty to implement and evaluate new methods of teaching. It means that Universities should assist faculty to assess the impact of these new methods of teaching. The University of Central Florida has a center devoted to helping faculty assess the impact of their teaching.  I’m ready to try it!