12 October 2013

My Adult Learning Style and A Tech Tool to Support It

Guiding Question: According to the ATLAS test, what is your learning strategy? Explain why you agree or disagree with the results of the assessment. With this week’s reading assignment in mind, identify a type of learning technology you think may work well for students who share your particular learning strategy and explain why the technology would be useful.

I went to take the ATLAS test to see what style of learner I am. I will admit right up front that I am very skeptical of the pre-supposition that using only two questions I can be grouped into a learning style. However, in the interest of good discussion for our class, I took the survey and was categorized as an Engager, Subgroup 2. Here is the information provided by the survey about my group and sub-group:

Description: Passionate learners who love to learn, learn with feeling, and learn best when actively engaged in a meaningful manner. Subgroup 1 likes to use human resources while Subgroup 2 favors reflecting upon the results of the learning and planning for the best way to learn.
Characteristics: Must have an internal sense of the importance of the learning to them personally before getting involved in the learning. Once confident of the value of the learning, likes to maintain a focus on the material to be learned. Operates out of the Affective Domain related to learning.
Instructor: Provide an atmosphere that creates a relationship between the learner, the task, and the teacher. Focus on learning rather than evaluation and encourage personal exploration for learning. Group work also helps to create a positive environment.

There are some pieces of this which resonate strongly with me and how I see myself as an instructor and learner; however, there are also somethings which seem to be a bit shallow to me (meaning that it seems that some of this is just ambiguous enough that I may have some confirmation bias kicking in).
First, I am passionate about learning and I do learn with feeling. I am definitely learning best when I engage in a meaningful manner. However, is this particular to my group of learners? Doesn’t everyone learn best when they are engaged in a meaningful manner? I would agree that I fall more in line with reflective practice, rather than “using human resources.” I definitely do need an internal sense of the importance of the material. But again, is that special to engagers? Maybe I’m being closed-minded, but that’s one of the pillars of my philosophy of teaching. I do tend to teach (and learn) in the affective domain regularly, which dovetails nicely with my reflective style of learning. The instructor strategies (I’m assuming these are how to “reach” my group of learners) speak right into who I am as an instructor. I encourage students to focus on learning rather than evaluation and definitely want students to engage in personal exploration. I LOVE group work in my classes and engage students in it regularly.

As an engager, I think blogging would be a great tool for students in this category. Maybe that’s why I love the “weekly reflection journal” I am in the habit of using each week in most of my classes. Blogging provides students a place to engage in the practice of reflection and I recommend prompting them each week (or some other time interval, e.g. bi-monthly, quarterly, etc.). The questions I usually use for students during their reflections follow:
  1. Which significant idea or concept most engaged you this week? Why do you think that particular piece of our studies resonated with you so strongly? Please provide specific evidence of reading or classroom discussions to support your assertions.
  2. How will that idea impact your life/learning/experiences/interactions with others from this point forward?
  3. What did you do this week that enhanced or assisted your learning the most this week and why did it do so?
  4. What did you do this week that inhibited your learning this week and why did it do so?
  5. What significant questions remain about the concepts or ideas you have learned this week?

The expectation is the student would write a few paragraphs to address those questions. While this is best done as a two-way conversation, there is tremendous value in thinking about big ideas, what worked and what did not, and how you have been changed or impacted, even if no one comments or responds. Am I wrong? Does this only work for me?

In thinking about the ATLAS Survey, it is either really on point and does a great job of telling you who you are as a learner or it is just ambiguous enough to fit me. I will admit that I did go and look at the other adult learning styles. One is navigator and the other is problem-solver. I tend to think the survey results are a bit ambiguous enough to fit many people because I found several instances which fit me in the other two style, specifically organization of the material into meaningful patterns in the navigator and rely heavily on all the strategies in the area of critical thinking and gives examples of personal experience in the problem-solving style. I believe I shall remain a skeptic. The best piece of credibility I found was that the original researchers on this project were/are from Oklahoma State University (*said laughingly and not in too much seriousness*).

10 October 2013

What are the Practical Implications of Instructional Design at a Wesleyan University?

I've been doing a bit of thinking over the past several days about my job here at Southern Nazarene University. I work as an instructional designer. Honestly, I had no idea what that job should look like when I first started working. I was a practitioner, not really a theorist. Now that I have been working for a while, I have come to understand that as a designer, I fall somewhere in the middle. According to Wikipedia, instructional design is the "practice of creating instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing." This definition originates with Merrill et. al (1996). I probably should have spent some time looking at that before taking this job. I need to be familiar with all of the learning theorists. That group includes the "old" ones: Bloom, Gagné, Papert, Piaget, Skinner, and Vygotsky. I also need to be current in new ideas in learning theory, including the later models from Clark, Marzano, and Sweller. Some of the current models include technology and some do not.

Today at lunch I was visiting with some colleagues and my dean. We were discussing academics at our university. We usually use this opportunity to talk about ways we can innovate but today the conversation took an interesting turn: "What are the practical implications of being an instructional designer (somewhat of a predeterministic mindset) in a Wesleyan-tradition educational setting.

SNU is a private, Christian, liberal arts university-a service of the Church of the Nazarene. If you do not know anything about Nazarenes, we are a Christian (followers of Christ) denomination that rose out of a branch of the Methodists and Pentecostals. We are not quite as liturgical as the Methodists and not quite as "radical" as the Pentecostals (we don't believe you have to have the gift of tongues as evidence of the Holy Spirit). We follow the Wesleyan tradition in that we believe in a life of holiness: an in-filling of the Holy Spirit, also called sanctification.

Contrast Nazarenes with those of the Calvinist tradition. The major difference between Nazarenes and Baptists is that we are Wesleyans and they are Calvinists. We believe that you have "free will" - your fate is in your hands. However, Calvinists believe in the idea of predestination or predeterminism - the idea that events of your life are already determined.

So what's the point? As an instructional designer, one who uses a rubric to evaluate courses, am I giving my faculty free-will in what their course should look like? Or is the outcome of their course predestined to "look a particular way"? Rather, does it even matter? Maybe we are more like the Catholic Church in that we hold the traditions and scriptures in the highest esteem? "My course has always been this way, so there's no way I could change it to put it online! That's educational blasphemy!" As the instructional designer, is there a sense of determinism? Is the course going to turn out such that the free-will of the course designer is lost?

I wonder if my very being here contributes to this problem, raised by Nicholas C. Burbles at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign:
"The search for one best way of teaching has preoccupied philosophers in the West since Socrates. Today this search is more typically couched in the language of scientific efficacy and efficiency. In the process, teaching in many schools is becoming less and less creative, personal, and rewarding. The scope of options for teachers is becoming more constrained; their subject matter and purposes more determined by the decisions of others; their outcomes measured more mechanically and impersonally."
Maybe. Probably. Yes. I feel like I do. However, how do we ensure top quality programs and courses without some kind of oversight and evaluation?

So where do I go from here? How does this question guide my practice? I'm not sure. I would really like to re-design our course evaluation rubric so that it is scored and there would be a minimum score a course would need to "pass" and we would recognize courses with an exemplary score. Would that create a situation in which course designers would not be able to have their "fingerprint" on the course?

Here's a better question: how can I as a teacher (sometimes) not act in a manner that fits with the Wesleyan doctrine? Doctrine states that we are to focus on personal faith and holiness. As a teacher, should I not strive to be my best in my teaching practice (personal faith) and work toward perfection for my in that practice for my students (holiness)? As a christian, I recognize that I am forgiven, not perfect. However, Christlikeness is my goal. I strive to better tomorrow than I was today. I fall short, but that does not mean I should quit striving for the goal.

I would posit that if I am not working to be my best in everything I do, not working to be better tomorrow than I was today, including the areas of teaching and instructional design, I come dangerously close to sin (in my opinion). Maybe my metaphor breaks down at this point. I'd gladly hear some criticism on it; but please be gentle. I'm no theologian. I'm "just a teacher."

05 October 2013

Streamline Online & Hybrid Course Development Without Sacrificing Quality - Renee Cicchino

Streamline Online & Hybrid Course Development Without Sacrificing Quality

The culture of a university influences your online learning program. Additionally, the attitudes of a faculty member can influence the outcome of an online learning program, specifically in the course development phase.

What are some challenges in Course Design?

  1. Siloing
  2. Institutional Policy
  3. Quality Oversight
  4. Tech Competency
  5. Faculty Development
  6. Time (Release Time for Faculty)
  7. Rank and Tenure
  8. Funding

How do we address these challenges?

  1. Utilize a Template
  2. Give exemplar courses - highlight faculty work! Change this course out every year. 
  3. Use QM and/or SLOAN-C resources

Do we fail occasionally? Yes. 

  1. Low quality learning objectives or not measurable
  2. Course design and navigation
  3. Converting F2F materials directly to online/hybrid environment
  4. Time Management
  5. Tech Competency Issues (you don't even know what you don't know)
  6. Time Management
  7. Faculty and Student dissatisfaction

What lessons have we learned?

  1. Tech skills among faculty vary
  2. Online teaching experience vary
  3. Look for strengths in faculty - Read CONTENT
  4. Address the teaching and technology needs
  5. Remove the fear of the unknown
  6. Promote quality
  7. Community of learning and support
As we've done at SNU, a best practice is to create your template in Word (be sure to include the measurable objectives worksheet) and let them create the course there (however, no one seems to be using it at this time). It is then much easier to move it to the LMS. 

In the model presented here, faculty ONLY do content and the Instructional Design Team does the technical side of it (putting it into the LMS).  This isn't necessarily viable for everyone, but there are certainly components of this which will work for us at SNU. 

Best Practice for Designing and Assessing Online Discussion Questions - McCourt, Yarbrough, and Tanner

What would happen if you went into a classroom and you were asked to "Describe an interesting educational opportunity"? This could create a monologue, rather than a discussion. Rather, what if you had to describe "the last time a student said 'this lesson changed my life'"?

So what are some specific steps that will stir communication in the classroom?

  1. Ask Good Questions - The better the question, the better the interaction. Students should know immediately what the instructor wants them to do. (not necessarily what the answer is). Consider open ended questions.  Provide opportunity for students to incorporate personal experience. Also, create relevance through questions. Need to allow students to learn from one another AND problem solve. MUST be tied to course topics and course outcomes. No tangents!! Use Bloom's Taxonomy to consider levels of learning and how to elicit specific thinking from students on your target levels. 
  2. Foster Meaningful Discussion - Require participation and provide some guidelines of what that should look like, e.g. 3 different posts on 3 different days of the week. What does a substantive post look like? Not everything needs to be "research-based." Feel free to have students share, rather than regurgitate. Students need an instructor to model good, substantive responses. Some faculty have issues with "having to" do something. Requiring that they have XX number of discussion board or you are not allowed to have XX number of discussion boards. 
  3. Consider the type of communication you want to happen and design the questions accordingly:
  • Student to Student
  • Student to Professor
  • Professor to Student
  1. Provide clear guidelines for length, word count, number of posts, etc. Use a rubric!!

Gradually, Then Suddenly: How Tech has Changed Teaching in Higher Ed - Brian Kibby

Some students stop paying attention in 4th grade. If that happens, we often lose them for life. That doesn't mean they are going to be a degenerate, that means they likely won't reach their full potential. Welcome to the Army Private Kibby!

So why do SOME faculty do great things with technology and others don't? (Holy Crap! Did these people know that I was coming to this conference? This is tailor made for me!!) So Brian initially starts talking about "coming from a place of 'Yes" vs. coming from a place of 'No'." Sounds a lot like tribal leadership to me! He continues to discuss Positional Authority. Not cool. Stop doing it.

He shares a personal story about a teacher who is intimidated by the idea of a bunch of independent learners (using technology) basically putting teachers out of a job. How many of us have felt intimidated by that idea? It's not that we are going to be out of job. It is that we are going to have to change the way we teach. We need to embrace those (adaptive) technologies and move students to a deeper level of learning. We shift from a "save the people who are naturals at our subject" to "everyone is able to learn more than what they already know." Show advances in learning for everyone.

So how do we do this?

  1. Start by saying "Yes" instead of always saying "No." 
  2. Find a buddy. Someone who will help you with new things you want to learn. (We were doing this at Putnam City like 5 years ago! Nice validation of personal methods!) 
  3. Are you market-driven? If not, you should be. The market of education is changing. If you don't adapt, you won't stay relevant. Nor will you be preparing students to be relevant. 
  4. Just because you try something once, don't discount it. Check with your buddy. How can you adapt? 
The crux of the matter is to "try stuff." Brian says within 24 months we will be all digital (or should be).

Comment from the audience - Don't just use a buddy. As an admin, consider how to integrate a "technology boot camp" and provide some $$ for that. This could (has in other places) turn into something MUCH bigger than working with your own faculty.

02 October 2013

Digital Competencies for Education - Doug Johnson at OTAEM 2013

Digital Competencies for Education

Doug writes at the Blue Skunk Blog and is @blueskunkblog on Twitter.

Doug's presentation is aimed at administrators, but I'm thinking about it in the context of staff/faculty development.

Guiding Ideas

For too long we've used a YOYO (You're On Your Own)  as far as staff/faculty development goes. So why is it so hard to get higher education faculty to learn how to use technology?

  • Because they have "people," i.e. graduate students, who will do it for them.
  • They are tremendously busy. 
  • It doesn't fit their teaching philosophy.
So, do they really need those skills? If so, which skills? How are they best acquired?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (related to technology, from bottom to top)

  1. Established Infrastructure
  2. Effective Administration
  3. Extenstive Resources
  4. Effective Teaching
  5. Empowered Students
What are the established Educational Technology Standards for Teachers? 
NETS for teachers from ISTE
**Think carefully about where to go from here in Online Professional Development.**

Look for (and outline) the benchmarks of what you should know and be able to do.

Personal Productivity

  • Use some kind of calendar (Google Calendar!!) Integrates nicely with email (also consider Google Plus and how it integrates). Creates an attendee list.

Information Systems Use

  • This one is up in the air for us with the transition to Ellucian. However, know what YOU need to know about it. 
  • If you aren't using it, then the admin can't connect the data points (across campus).
  • This should be web-based (I doubt Ellucian is, is it?)

Record Keeping

  • All of your records should be current and transparent.

Data Warehousing and Data Keeping 

  • This is done for us through Moodle. 
  • A must for retention interventions. (use gradebook and attendance)
  • For leaders to be able to make EFFECTIVE DECISIONS, they MUST have access to data, which means it's out job to collect the data. 

Content for Students

  • Students need to access information on their time, at their point of need. 

The SAMR Model of Technology Integration:

Where are you? Where do you want to be? Where does your administration want you to be? For me, I think the ideal would be for everyone to be fluent enough with technology to be able to at least augment their face to face courses. However, many will go on and move into modification and redefinition.

01 October 2013

Literacies for the Digital Age - Kathy Shrock at OTA 2013

What are the literacies in which students (and/or faculty) should be fluent?

  • Traditional Literacies
  1. Reading  - Readability calculator, sitebite
  2. Listening - Use podcasts and take notes to summarize (great study skill) 
  3. Speaking - Create script, record and edit audio. soundation studio (web-based) 
  4. Numeracy - Math, computation, measurement, stats
  • Critical Literacies
  1. Information - State a need, find information, EVALUATE, utilize information. Use research skills appropriately. Change the result options on Google - look at "verbatim"
  2. EVALUATE - Source validity, author bias, usefulness of information (and why) 
  3. Utilize - Using "how-to" sites (you can find out how to do ANYTHING on the web)
  4. Visual - Aesthetic Analysis (imagery) look into Haiku Deck (iPad app)
  5. Global Perspective - resistant perspective?, check out newsmap 
  6. Media - question, analyze, evaluate, create. Have students evaluate their ROLE as a media user (consider multiple perspectives). 
  7. Tool - A supportive literacy in that you need to know how to use the tools to support the above. Commonly referred to as "computer literacy". Think about aggregation tools (RSS, Evernote, etc.) Synchronous conferencing (Hangouts, backchannels, etc.)
  8. Digital - Social networking, PLN, copyright and ethics, and privacy
  9. Data - Interpretation and visualization. 
  10. Civic - Critical thinking applied to community engagement
  11. Historical - Critical thinking applied to the past