Posts Tagged ‘web 2.0 tools’

Blended Learning at BCC: Improving pass rates with ‘multifarious instructional design’

March 4th, 2011

As part of the Title V work going on at BCC, Professor Kenya Harris and the team of nursing instructors are making use of VoiceThread, Twitter and a number of other Web 2.0 tools to make their courses more interactive. The results are really impressive.

In a recently published article, Prof. Harris reports an improvement in pass rate of 30% since she began incorporating technology into her course design. How has she done it?

Building on the idea of blended learning Prof. Harris has stopped lecturing in her courses, opting to capitalize on face-to-face time by engaging the students in “active learning” activities that build on the content they review on their own out-of-class time. All of her lectures are available to the students via Podcasts, Videocasts and PowerPoint slides, which students are expected to review prior to class. This is particularly helpful for language learners, who can listen to a lecture numerous times. If they have questions on the material Prof. Harris has set up a “muddiest points” forum on her Blackboard course page that allows students to post their questions in the forum. Other students are often the first to respond and Prof. Harris moderates the comments and joins the conversation.

This “multifarious instructional design” as Harris calls it, let’s students master the content in their own learning style (they can use the slides, podcasts, read texts, etc.) and bring that mastery into class where she engages them in activities that build on the content, such as simulation and role-play. This is especially important for nursing students, who will be responsible for conveying medical terminology to their patients. Students report that they find these activities more engaging and exciting and the data supports her efforts. Pass rates improved 30% over the course of just three semesters, as she increasingly implemented her techniques.

In another recently published article, Gerald Bergtrom of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee documents transitioning a Cell Biology course from traditional face-to-face to a blended environment. He documents the step-by-step process and used a process similar to Harris’s — content delivery and mastery was aided by technology and occurred outside the classroom so that classroom time could be spent on more “meta” activities that actively engaged students with the content.

Both instructors are capitalizing on the “asynchronous” online discussions and interactions that can fortify content delivery and boost the level of in-class activities. For me, these ideas completely shifted/challenged how I normally thought of out-of-class time and what I expected my students to be doing with that time. They also highlight the role that technologies available on a variety of platforms and Blackboard, such as discussion boards and blogs, have in these out-of-class interactions. Finally, it is refreshing to see that they are having success with students actually doing what they are expected to do on their own and taking responsibility for their own learning because they are ready to actively engage when they come to class.

Weekly Roundup: Aaaaaaand we’re back! edition

February 7th, 2011

Bibliographyphoto © 2006 Alexandre Duret-Lutz | more info (via: Wylio)

People. Whatever you do, do NOT ignore your google reader for 45 days. Ouch. But writing a dissertation is a good excuse, right? Things are back and running here at the TE(a)CH arm of BCC. So, without further ado, here is a roundup of some useful ed-techy things.

  • An interesting tool that allows you to make fake facebook walls. The obvious use would be for English or History teachers to have students create walls for literary/historical figures. Are there other creative uses? 
  • A promising looking website, Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal, has grown out of a Linked-In group for higher education folks interested in using technology. You can also submit articles of your own experiences for bi-weekly publication. 
  • BiblioBouts online resource and citation game: A really cool way to have students collaboratively (and competitively) create bibliographies for projects and assess the quality of the information while building them. It works in phases, or “rounds” in which students complete various tasks of finding sources, ranking the sources found, and generating a bilbiography.
  • TeachPaperless provides ideas for how to give your students non-exams. And then provides an example of a final exam in human geography. The final makes use of visual data and a variety of websites. Some of the questions are more scavenger-hunt level while others make use of aggregating and comparing data and asking students to synthesize their responses.
  • Boomerang plug-in for Gmail. Make emails reappear in your inbox or set a delay for sending out responses/reminders. Between this and the priority inbox feature I’ll either be super-productive or lose half my emails…
  • At one of the sessions I attended at the CUNY IT conference, a professor talked about having their students create actual Wikipedia entries. This idea is gaining ground…at Wikipedia! They’ve announced an initiative to recruit college professors who are interested in having their students contribute work. Rather than banning Wikipedia from our classrooms (another discussion entirely), the idea of having our students contribute to a site and inherently learn the tools of evaluating information seems very promising.
  • Finally, what are you using now instead of delicious? Derek Buff chronicles how he’s switching to using Diigo with his students and is enjoying the more participatory aspects of the service.

Weekly Roundup: 12/6

December 6th, 2010

What a busy week! Today’s flurries of snow follow a flurry of interesting activity on the educational technology front. Read on to see what caught my eye.

Free Technology for Teachers, which is an unbelievable wealth of constant ed tech information, has a post about free ebooks for teachers and parents. Two that you might find useful are 20 Webtools Applied to Teaching, which provides summaries and sample ideas for webtools such as Voicethread (which we love here at BCC). Microsoft has a free pdf guide for Developing Critical Thinking Through Web Research Skills. Of course it is Bing-centric but it is filled with resources for you to use to help your students evaluate information online.

It’s also time for ProfHacker’s monthly Teaching Carnival. These carnivals are basically a roundup of the top news of the month on “teaching in college and university classrooms.” There’s a ton of content in this one so I recommend sending the ones that intrigue you the most to Instapaper or bookmarking the page for those Sunday mornings when your neighbor swipes your Times, you know, if you still get paper delivery.

Oh, reflexivity. In every syllabus I make sure to include the requisite “Your paper must be in APA style, 12 point Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1 inch margins and page numbers in the header” blurb. But why is it requisite? A post by Evan Snider at ProfHacker sort of blew my mind a little when he argues “such draconian formatting requirements stifle students’ creativity and cut off any critical thinking about what should be a crucial part of any writing-intensive classroom, namely visual design.” I’m all about visual research methods when I’m wearing my researcher hat, so why have I kept the visual out assignments? Snider engages the skeptics and followers with a lengthy discussion about the how and why of document design and how to encourage your students to break the mold. There’s quite a healthy follow-up discussion in the comments as well.

And, finally, there’s an interesting article from Edudemic documenting How the Harvard Law Library is Embracing the 21st Century. They chronicle the changes the library is making to move into the digital era and how these changes in information management have influenced other areas of the university. The guiding principle behind the library’s organization is “to define it before it is decided for us” which is a sentiment that I think is often echoed throughout our own engagement with technology and our own institutions.

Honorable Mentions

CUNY IT Conference Day 1

December 4th, 2010

Friday marked my first time attending the CUNY IT conference, and it was definitely interesting. Having only attended academic or grad student conferences I was surprised by the size, the suits, and all the vendors. The sessions were filled with lots of useful information and even the occasional heckler (who knew?!). Below are notes from just the sessions I attended, hopefully others will post about other sessions since there were so many at the same time that looked great. Below is my summary of day 1, looking forward to day 2 at The Grad Center.

ePortfolios Across CUNY: Aggregating and Integrating Information

Barbara Walters, Joe Ugoretz, Sarah Morgano and our own Howard Wach presented an opening session on the experiences of ePortfolio use and development on their campuses. Barbara outlined a set of “Universal Concerns” that any school/program/instructor interested in implementing EPortfolios would have to consider. Joe and Howard gave a history of ePortfolio development at Macaulay Honors College and Bronx Community College, respectively. And Howard brought up the interesting point that ePortfolios are much more of a pedagogical concept than just a technology.

All of the presenters have worked hard on a public Commons wiki page for ePortfolios. As with all wikis, they depend on collective upkeep, so if you have resources to add as you’re browsing their thorough collection of links I’m sure they and others would appreciate it!

The big questions that came out of this session: Is there any one-size-fits-all model of ePortfolio that will work across the CUNY campuses? (I know, rhetorical, but still useful) What does the “E” add to the concept of a portfolio? How do you prepare faculty for using ePortfolios? And, of course, the always-present-even-if-not-spoken-aloud question of assessment: how can we use ePortfolios to assess both individual learning and programmatic development?

Resources: Commons ePortfolio wiki page, AAEEBL, Bronx’s ePortfolio resource page

Blogs, ePortfolio and Assessment in the Majors: Pedagogies and Rubrics in Three Programs

Michael Cripps, Xin Bai and Michael Smith gave a great presentation on their experiences with blogs and ePortfolios. My notes are a little lacking because I entered late (tremendously long lunch line) and had no outlet for my limping laptop (note to self: charge laptop fully before tech conferences, doh!).

I came in just in time to see Michael Cripps showing how his students have used blogs differently, including a really creative use of a fiction blog, in which a student blogs from the perspective of a young woman who has survived a zombiepocalypse and found a computer on which to chronicle her experience. What a great way to see how students can take a technology in a direction you might never have thought. Cripps also showed blogs that were for a specific project juxtaposed with the same student’s more general ePortfolio. I found this to be a great example of how blogs can provide a more “messy” (in a good way) writing workspace for the nuts and bolts development and discussion and the final products can be shared in a portfolio, which is even then still developing over the course of the students’ education. It’s like viewing a digital spiral or concentric circles of writing, learning, development and identity.

Xin Bai presented on using ePortfolios as a way for teaching education students to meet NCATE requirements. This is definitely a great use of ePortfolios that I’ve seen before. ePortfolios seem particularly useful for applied fields where students need to graduate with a display of core competencies. At BCC we’ve seen a lot of success with this in our Media Technology program. It also made me wish I was preparing an ePortfolio for my job market package instead of the generically presented b/w teaching and research statements. Surely a search committee would find an ePortfolio more interesting and I know it would reflect more of “me” than my little blue folders and linen paper.

The issue of students needing a visible display of their talents/competencies was a point also raised by Michael Smith in his presentation of the great student work happening at York. But one of the most poignant moments came when Smith reminded us that Blackboard gives students practically zero control over their own work at the end of the semester (unless they happen to export it all). As instructors we know that learning is developmental and cumulative, so why would we use a software that requires all evidence of the work that took place, especially the collaborative and process-based work to be closed after the finals are in? Of course there are distinct advantages of both platforms, but this is an important question to consider.

Finally, out of the comments and discussion came reference to the great work being done at Baruch when Luke Waltzer mentioned Tom Harbison’s very impressive collaborative Modern American History course blog.

Facts (and Myths) about Student Perceptions and Use of Technology

In a completely packed house (many of us sat on the floor), Queens college faculty members Michelle Fraboni, Eva Fernandez and Nancy Foasberg presented findings from a student technology survey. They opened by juxtaposing student sentiments toward technology use in the classroom with their self-reports of their own technology savviness in sometimes contradictory ways. For instance, some students who are tech savvy report not wanting much technology use in their classrooms. Others, who may be more skeptical about technology report wanting more online course offerings. The presentation was helpful in that it reminded us that students we perceive as digital “natives” or digital “immigrants” may have very different ideas of what they want out of the classroom and their learning experiences.

For me this brought up two questions. First, the obvious, how should this finding shape the choices we make in the classroom about the technology we use? Second, I think many of us assume that it is important to use technology in the classroom to improve our students’ “information technology literacy” — but if students are seeing their school and personal “tech” lives as distinct, should we reexamine our expectations on how the tech in the classroom makes its way into their daily tech lives?

Finally, part-way through I found myself wishing the presenters would compare the QC sample with the recent ECAR report, since I was thinking that QC students are of course quite different than other samples. They didn’t disappoint! They presented percentage comparisons between the two samples and the QC and ECAR samples were actually quite similar. Though questions were raised about recruitment methods and sample size, it was still interesting to see yet another common assumption brought up for questioning in light of contradictory data. I guess we don’t always know what we think we know about students and technology.

(The full presentation of slides are available here.)

Peer Mentoring: A Catalyst for Faculty Innovation

Rounding out a day of helpful sessions, TE(A)CH’s own Moronke Oshinmartin, Charles Alston, Albert Robinson, Laura Broughton, Giulia Guarnieri and Stephen Powers gave a great presentation about peer mentoring. What really stood out to me in their presentation was how mentoring can grow organically when the stage is set with a blended model that breaks down any sort of hierarchy and instead focuses on knowledge and enthusiasm. They documented how faculty members go through training and then become peer mentors themselves but they also showcased their innovative Instructional Technology Tutors (ITT) program that trains students to be technology assistants for faculty members and their student peers. Their model exemplifies the kind of collaborative development where all parties benefit from the process. But, of course, I might be a little biased. :)

Some great resources came out of their presentation including: Voicethread, Scribblar, Audacity, CamStudio, Windows Movie Maker. I couldn’t write them all down because I was busy snapping photos, so if I left some out please add them in the comments.

All in all it was a long but very useful day. It was also interesting to see the different worlds of CUNY IT converge in one space. As someone who tends to work on focused projects with a few faculty members I didn’t quite have an appreciation for the scale of technology at the institutional level, the administrative and security concerns, and the number of other folks who are considering the same questions from different perspectives. That was certainly helpful to see. My only disappointment was in not walking away with one of the many (and, frankly, pretty decent) raffle prizes. *sigh*

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