Posts Tagged ‘lectures’

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?

Professor Rock Star

In innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on May 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Examples of a change in teaching: keeping students engaged, promoting learning, edutainment. Does it work to promote learning? Some of the students say “yes!”

Professor Rock Star.

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?

Lecture Fail? Long Live the Lecture!

In how people learn, teaching, teaching with technology, using videos in teaching on March 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

I love a good lecture!

Lecturers can be humorous, thought-provoking, information-filled, interesting and inspirational ways to stimulate the mind. 

Haven’t you attended a lecture and left laughing? Or thinking that you’d love to learn more about that topic? Or been impressed with the presentation style of the lecturer? I have, many times.

Lectures have served valuable purposes in higher education. It’s how I learned much of what I now know. I still listen to lectures available on Ted Talks to gain different perspectives and to find presentations that I use to stimulate students’ reflection on and critical evaluation of a myriad of topics. Lectures can make you say “I knew that!” and thus confirm what you know or “I had no idea!” to wake you up to a different viewpoint.

[I also love reading good books. StudyI now read most of them electronically. I can become immersed in a good book. I find it quite exciting to purchase a book about which I’ve heard interesting things, or to purchase a book by my favorite author, then set aside time to read and think about the book. Some of the books are for work, some are for pure pleasure but either way, it’s an exciting journey to select and read a new book. My excitement is palpable…but I digress.]

So before we declare the death of the lecture, we should consider how it can be used:

  • To convey information (now available through Wikipedia or a Google search?)
  • To model a way of thinking (which now can be recorded for students to review; which may now be available through video resources created by others)
  • To integrate diverse perspectives and views into a relatively short presentation (Now available through mashups that can integrate vocal, photography, video, text and other delivery methods)
  • Others?

Although there are other ways to present information, lectures can and continue to be one valuable tool in the in an educator’s toolbox.

I have also attended boring, uninspired, lectures presented by some who seem to drone on forever, either making the same point in exactly the same way multiple times, who read from lecture notes only, who are not engaged with the audience [or even, it seems, aware of the audience!]. So students have a valuable point when they talk about boring lectures.

I’ve explained how I can enjoy (and learn from) a good lecture. I’ve also explained how some lectures can be boring.  But not everyone learns in exactly the same way. And I must admit, I learn better, sometimes, when I work with something. Haven’t you been working on a lesson and realized that you learned it much better now that you’re teaching it?

And I frequently learn better when I have to manipulate, say, objects on a map, or draw a diagram. So, although I enjoy (and I hope sometimes deliver) good lectures, I know that listening to lectures is not the only way to learn. It may not even be the best way to learn. And it is not the only way to teach. Look at my initial success using Twitter.

There has been a great deal of research on learning since educators first began using lectures extensively. I will refer to that research in this blog-I referred to some of that research in another post. That research should help drive instruction in higher education.

Teaching (and learning) are great challenges!

Twearning-Twitter + Learning: First Exam Results

In assessment of learning, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on March 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I am very excited! The results for the multiple choice-true false section of the first test were great! In Jumping in excitementthis class, I am testing the use of Twitter as a social media supplement to the class. I explain how I’m using Twitter in this post. In sum, students must post tweets 4 times per week (once during each of two classes per week and two outside of class).

Why am I excited? There were more “Bs” and less “Ds” this semester than with the first exam for last spring’s course. I haven’t made a complete analysis yet-I’m waiting to finish grading the essay portion of the exam, but compared to last year, the numbers are up. Last spring, on the first exam, the grades ranged from 12-27/30; the median was 73.3 percent; and the average was 72.6 percent. This semester, on the objective portion of the test, the range was 11-18/20; the median was 80%; and the average was 77.5 percent. Look at this comparison of the grade distribution for spring 2012 and spring 2011:

Graph of First Exam Grade Distribution

Graph of First Exam Grade Distribution

These are promising initial results, although I need to do more research and analysis to determine the cause of this good result and whether it can be sustained.

This is what Lolu, one of the students said about the way Twitter was used in this class:

Ditch the Technology-Just Teach!

In assessment of learning, critical thinking, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on February 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm

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 TN_crca_dogs_friendsstudents, 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 Jetsons_TVfamilymake 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).

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!

Learning (and Teaching) in the 21st Century

In how people learn, innovation in teaching on September 17, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I belong to a reading group on campus that is reading Christopher Hedge’s Empire of Illusion (

Thursday’s discussion focused in part on the differences in learning abilities now and what constitutes literacy. We discussed the public’s attendance at the Lincoln-Douglas debates to demonstrate the public’s literacy in the mid 1860s. That compared unfavorably with the nature and intellectual challenge of current political debates.  One participant in the discussion noted that the Lincoln-Douglas debates are difficult to read and understand now and this participant considers himself well-educated.

That analysis was interesting. My only comment was to wonder what percentage of people actually attended the debates and we didn’t have the answer. However, on reflection, I have another theory about it. What if the reason the debates were well attended was because that was the way most information was communicated? What if so much information was communicated orally that people who were literate were those who learned best by listening and analysis. If you consider Socrates’ oral tradition and his methods of challenging students to complicated verbal exchanges, it would make sense that those who learned best would be those who learn from listening.

To continue with that thought, what if in the 20th century, those who learn best are those who learn through reading? Those who became professors learned much through poring through books, making connections from that reading and flourished in that system. The oral lectures supplemented that learning, but perhaps we learn best from reading.

Now, we are teaching a generation of students who seem to focus best on “sound bytes” and quick flashes of visual information. Video games manage to attract individuals’ attention to “learn” how to master a game. And many individuals are motivated to follow through on video games enough to analyze a complicated game and develop a strategy to accomplish the goal.

So what does that mean for educators? As educators do we need to change how we change? How do we do that?  How do we get learners to maintain their curiosity about how life works? How to we get learners to develop that curiosity into a curiosity about multiple topics? How do we get learners to become as curious about learning as (many) are about videogames, social media sites and celebrities? That is our challenge.