I attempted a few things I’ve never done before on Friday. I actually scripted a talk, word for word, for the first time ever. I printed it off, annotated it for when to change slides, hole punched it, and toted it around in a binder. How edtech is that for ya? :smirk:
And then I made my slides on a Google presentation (again–a new strategy for me), so I could literally walk in with a binder and rock ‘n roll. I’m serious–I’m growing tired of having to have the right adapter or that minor freakout moment you have when you realize the monitor only comes with an HDMI cord and you only have the means to plug into VGA. It’s exhausting. And don’t get me started on Apple TVs…
This transition was a mixture of liberating and constraining at the same time, which are both positives if you are talking to a creative. I really do feel like my point was much more articulated since it wasn’t straight from my head which is known to occasionally short out at inopportune moments. I also still had enough margin to go off script a couple times. And, as minimal as Google presentations are, they allowed me to not put my stock in fancy animations and “Smart Art.”
The other consequence I was trying to go for with this approach was to make this blog post a little easier. I’m starting to figure if I’m going to spend the time to write anything, much less 2500 words, that may be valuable beyond the folks gathered in the room, assuming that it doesn’t go beyond a certain threshold of sensitivity, it’s probably worth sharing here, if only as a way for me to keep an archive, for better or for worse, of my talks and presentations.
Lastly, I want to mention that I find myself talking less about specific tools and more about ecosystems (and, more importantly, outcomes). Or, as Simon Sinek would say, the WHY and less of the what/how. You’ll notice below that I interweave examples of whats happening on campus and not necessarily focused around one tool or technology. I am hopeful that the faculty found this to be a beneficial.
Below is a slightly adapted version of the script for the talk I gave Friday to some faculty at the Price College of Business. And, let me tell you, this was a really cool event to be a part of. Here I am getting to talk to thirty or forty-so faculty members who were spending their day talking about teaching. I have to give my sincerest thanks to, first, the faculty who gave up their Friday to attend, as well as both Senior Assistant Dean Bob Dauffenbach for the invitation and Dean Daniel Pullin for his support in the event. It’s also worth noting that the College also lent an IT assistant so said problems I mentioned early wouldn’t have actually taken place this go around :smiley: You rule! This was truly one of my favorite moments to be a part of this semester and I appreciate the Price College of Business’s commitment to having conversations such as this. Anyways, without further adieu…
The title of my talk appears on your agenda as “Leveraging Digital Assets to Enhance Your Class” which is about as this descriptive of a title as this stock image is unique. Thank you for allowing me to speak despite falling severely short on this front. What I’m actually going to share instead what my team, the Digital Learning Team, housed within the Center for Teaching Excellence, has been working on over the course of the last couple of years.
First, I want to give a quick background as to who I am and why I may have an opinion on this subject beyond my title of Director of Digital Learning. For starters, I’m a former student of the University of Oklahoma.
Here’s a picture from over seven years ago when Daniel Pullin was a newly hired, mere executive director. Mere mortal! I was, merely, in need of a haircut… But it was within the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth, within the Price College of Business, that I developed my love for not only technology but the entrepreneurial spirit.
I’m an instructor in my home college, the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. My public relations course centers around student’s as creators, digital storytellers, and visual communicators.
I’m finishing up an online Masters in education at Pepperdine University. The Learning Technologies online program has been for a long time a model for how to do online as it was one of the very first online masters programs. In fact, the doctoral program is celebrating its 20th year this summer.
I show this picture because it’s helpful for some to know that an online Masters program doesn’t have to feel isolated. This is my cohort (or as we call it at Pepperdine my “cadre”) and I can very confidently say that, despite most of them being on the West Coast, I’ve grown to know each and every one of them very well either through our face-to-face meetups, through following their work online asynchronously, or through our synchronous Google Hangouts which take place at minimum once a week for discussion.
So my point of view is a bit of a unique one in that I’m coming at it from multiple perspectives. I have a complex and varied set of needs that I want from technology in higher ed to facilitate. The administrator part of me is interested in technologies like student information systems, the instructor part of me is interested in tools that making the management of classroom more streamlined like the learning management system, but the learner in me has a much different, deeper desire for what technology can be utilized for a course. And that is the area in which I want to focus on talking about today as I feel that is the most important perspective when it comes to making technology decisions.
I want to frame my talk with an overarching question that I hope we’ll explore: “Is your classroom curriculum-centered or learner-centered?”
I’ll go ahead and help you cheat just a bit; there isn’t a right answer to this question. Many of my favorite learning opportunities were simply listening to an accomplished lecturer and there are many courses where the main objective is to simply be able to recall the content. In fact, my team is actually supporting faculty at all different points on this continuum.
But a paradigm shift has taken place in all learning environments. And its a shift from the idea that institutions exist to provide instruction to an idea that institutions exist to produce learning. It’s the idea that our value proposition should not just be access to content or knowledge, but rather to an environment that fosters creation of new knowledge. So where does technology sit? Curriculum or learner? It can be in both places. As a means to augment instruction, such as with open education resources or online materials, online lectures, assessments, and it create an opportunity of production through blogs, wikis, websites, mind maps, discussions, and collaborative tools like Google Docs.
And that means a shift in the roles of both the instructor and the the student. The instructor’s goal in the learning process is not merely to be the primary source of knowledge, but to guide students into making new interpretations of the learning material, thereby ‘experiencing’ content, and it highlights the idea that significant learning is acquired through doing.
This gets referred to a lot of times at OU, particularly within the context of the physical classroom, as active learning or the “flipped classroom.” These aren’t necessarily the newest ideas; the idea that one interacts with instruction material outside of class and where the classroom becomes a place for discussion or group activity. In fact, Eric Mazur, a physics professor at Harvard University, said that the case study method utilized by both Harvard Law and Harvard Business School were some of the earliest implementations of the flipped classroom.
I point to this to say that these ideas aren’t radical or some new age viewpoints. Its a myth that learner-centered education is purely a technology-centered initiative. To enhance the learning experience, it has always been important that classes seek means to accomplish learning goals. As pointed out by faculty at the University of Southern California, this can mean that we see an improved utilization of technology and opportunities beyond the conventional classroom, but it does not mean that older, successful teaching practices have a diminished role.
I have a couple of examples of utilization of technology within this very college that have helped begin to make that transition. My team has been working with Evgenia V. Golubeva and Ilhan Demiralp in the Division of Finance for an introductory Business Finance course since October of 2013. Their vision for beginning this transformation from curriculum-centered to learner-centered was to simply provide some online videos that could supplement the in course lectures. Jantya has self-produced roughly 94 instruction videos that show her working through problem sets, which OU students viewed 15,244 times the first semester. Students collectively engaged with 714+ extra hours of instruction, or the equivalent of an entire month, outside of the classroom.
Introduction to Management, a course from Jeremy Short, is another course in Price College that I’ve worked on for a couple of iterations. This course uses low-cost textbooks that Jeremy delivers online. A powerful use of technology is how we use online resources and deliveries to lower the cost burden of our courses on our students (I might also add its the only textbook I’ve ever read from cover to cover due to the engaging narrative that comes within the graphic novel concept). The online course has service-learning activities which take students into their own communities. This last iteration also included some really fun instructional rap videos. Believe it or not, Jeremy convinced some local improv actors to record rap videos based of some of the course’s concepts. And let me tell you, its a very unique way to learn about SWOT analyses.
A course outside of the Price College that we worked on last semester was Human Physiology and Anatomy with Dr. Heather Ketchum. Human Phys can be a bear of a course for pre-med majors. It’s five hours credit and has a lot of content in which students are expected to get through in one short semester in efforts to prepare students for med school. This course redesign simply organized all the material that used to be across several different media pieces: D2L, lab manuals, textbook CD ROMs, etc. as well integrate the free, OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology textbook, with help from the Stacy Zemke and the OU library. The book that this replaced was costing students $230 a pop. Multiply that out by 216 students this Fall and she saved students $49,680 in just one run of this course.
Moving from a course that is trying move students through a lot of content, I want to inch closer to the side of the learner-centered continuum and talk about projects in which students are becoming creators within the class; either by reflecting through their own learning process or creating new knowledge.
Last Fall we launched a pilot called create.ou.edu, which gives webspace and full top level domain address to students, faculty, and staff. Here you can create digital presences which may tie to research, teaching, or simply be your personal space. But this isn’t your ol’ tilde space where you’re allowed to write a little HTML and upload 10mb worth of images.
No, this is a full scale LAMP environment (LAMP standing for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) and if you are like me, and that makes your head hurt a little, I can promise you that the web has become significantly easier to control over the years. We’ve had over 950 users sign up for domains since August 2014 and they have the ability to install several different applications: WordPress, MediaWiki (which is the application that runs Wikipedia), Drupal, Joomla, Omeka, etc. And with these tools, students have created their own learning environment. And I’ve got to be honest, it looks significantly different than what we give them on D2L. Here’s a sample of some students sites.
A couple notes 1.) these students are all in the same class, but have very different looks and perspectives that they are bringing in (as you see easily reflected) and 2.) I took these screenshots literally the first week of the semester before they would have had time to really be taught how to do this in a classroom. This isn’t a project only meant for classrooms focused around technology.
This is a wiki being used by a Spanish Literature course taught by Julie Ann Ward. Julie has students collaboratively build wiki articles in groups about a specific reading. Wiki’s make collaborative writing very convenient. This semester we’ve discussed even having her submit the top wiki articles to Wikipedia.
This is Casee Cole a student who is in a new scholar organization called the Global Engagement Fellows, an interdisciplinary scholar group. They’ll be using blogs throughout their tenure at OU, but what is interesting is that they are required to study abroad twice and blog about that experience as well. Right now they are freshman writing about subjects like OU Cousins BBQs and the International floor of the dorms, but over time they will have captured their own personal narrative showing how their experiences throughout this program have influenced their perception of what it means to be a global citizen.
The School of Fine Arts is utilizing OU Create to help photography students develop a digital identity that reflects them as professionals with businesses. This is Ally Burt who has some absolutely stunning night photography posted on her site.
This is a really interesting project from the Gaylord College. Mike Boettcher, who is a foreign correspondent, came in spoke to the class. Guest lectures can sometimes take place and then sort of dissapear from the student’s mind in the hustle and bustle of other activities. These students were required to reflect deeply on what they heard in terms the lengths in which journalists go to get a story (a real interesting process to go through in the introductory course to the program). They did these reflection through YouTube videos. What you are looking at is a website in which the instructor, David Tarpenning, has curated all those videos into one space.
This is one of my favorites, originsofchristianity.net, built by Kyle Harper. This course site has a ton of extra resources that the students, or anyone for that matter, can access. But also housed within this website are a couple collaborative projects that students are working on. For instance, their final project is to make a Google map that follows an event, like the Gospel of Luke.
They’ve also created an interactive timeline with a tool call Timeline.JS. Believe it or not, the data is contained within a Google Spreadsheet, which pushes live updates to timeline. Students aren’t only constructing their knowledge through a new medium, they are also learning valuable skills like how to structure data, how to work within a spreadsheet, and how to collaborate on a broader research project.
Speaking of Google Docs, this has been built by OU Create user Laura Gibbs. She has what she calls an “un-textbook” for students. You’ll see that rather than assignments very specific readings for week 9 and 10, she’s curated 16 readings in which students can choose from. A big design technique for student-centered design is student choice, which she does really well. It’s hard to see but it also says that if you feel overwhelmed trying to pick, you can have a “crystal ball” pick for you. I have no idea on how to help you create crystal balls out of textbook chapters. Apologies that I can’t help you there.
But some of my favorite websites on Create are simply student websites. It’s fun to see what students do after the semester is over. After no one is grading your work.
This student utilizes their domain to write reviews of videos games. Since the middle of last Fall, they’ve posted 25 video game reviews.
This student uses their blog purely to do breakdowns of Green Bay Packer footage now. Which, I’ll be honest, sounds a little niche, yeah? I don’t even like the Green Bay Packers, but I can you tell you after looking at this site, this guy is super passionate about it.
And you’ll also see posts like this. Posts that have nothing to do with class work and at the same time, everything to do with our community. This kind of work doesn’t happen inside a locked down learning environment like an LMS. You don’t see students produce essays like this inside a course they lose access to the day after the course ends. This isn’t an argument against the LMS, but it does the beg the question where are students allowed to do work that allows for them to weave in the life they live that exists beyond our class?
So why does this get me excited? George Siemens wrote in 2003 “What we know is less important than our capacity to continue to learn more.” And what gets me excited about learner-centered design is not only our ability to transform students into lifelong learners through this type of pedagogy, but also, thanks to the web, our ability to give students the opportunity to learn within spaces that they build, construct, and shape over time. Where they add new knowledge rather than simply consume. And that they are able to take with them beyond their four years in our seats.