Posts Tagged ‘active learning’

Highlights from BCC’s Technology in the Classroom Showcase

April 29th, 2011

Yesterday, faculty and staff from around BCC’s campus participated in the third annual Technology in the Classroom Showcase. The event provided a way for faculty to share and discuss the many ways they have made use of technology in their instruction and was organized by Albert Robinson of the Office of Instructional Technology (OIT) at BCC.

In his opening remarks, Howard Wach, Director of OIT, commented that in all of the presentations that would take place that day, we could see that it was the teaching objectives that led the technology uses and decisions. Moreover, as the availabilities of technologies has grown, Blackboard has become but one aspect of a much larger universe of online learning. Capitalizing on the increasing openness of classrooms to technology, keynote speaker Dan Cygielman, the Apple Account Executive for NYC higher education markets, presented a number of ways that the iPad is influencing education. He highlighted such apps as ibooks, Inkling, Dragon dictation, Garageband, and others.

Victor Rodriguez started the day by showing how Blackboard has helped streamline the content delivery of BCC’s Freshman Orientation (OCD) course. Kate Culkin, from the History department, follwed by presenting how she used ePortfolios to revise the Hall of Fame for Great Americans assignment from History 20. By opening options for her students to make more use of “local history” that was connected to, but not limited by, the Hall of Fame, Culkin found that the flexibility encouraged students to explore other parts of the city and develop a sense of audience while they simultaneously became public historians. Also presenting on ePortfolios, Julia Miele Rodas, from the English department, discussed how she witnessed and encouraged her students’ sense of ownership and agency in writing by using the ePortfolios. She traced the different ways in which very differen students began with a “traditional” paper assignment and deveoped it in the ePortfolio platform.

These morning sessions also brought up important questions about scaffolding ePortfolio and digital assignments. Part of the appeal of such assignments is that they allow for flexibility and creativity of expression. But, as many of the presenters and audience members pointed out, students often approach such openness with anxiety, at first. Thus, a discussion formed around providing a structure that provided guidance in the beginning but allowed the student to move away from the structure as they became more comfortable with the technology and mode of expression.

Two of the presentations were particularly applied in focus. The Automotive Technology Program, represented by Vincenzo Rigaglia, George Patchoros, and Alin Szabo, showed off how they have been able to use wireless diagnostic equipment to help students learn about the intricate computer systems existing in automobiles today. As they pointed out, using technology in their program is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Their students are expected to comprehensively understand this technology so that they can accurately and efficiently work with automobiles. Also focusing on the applied aspect of technologies, Sunil Bhaskaran, from the Chemistry department, presented on the importance of teaching with Geospatial technologies. Aside from helping students assess real-world issues, such as flood-zones and population density, bringing GIS to BCC has resulted in a number of career opportunities and collaborations with campuses around the world.

Focusing on the more practical side of things, three afternoon presentations showcased specific applications and how they were easing content delivery and mastery for students. Sara Holtzschue from Art and Music showed how iTunesU provides a way of disseminating music tracks for students to listen to that accompany their textbook readings. The platform is easily accessible and familiar and students enjoy using it. Paula Green, from the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, demonstrated her use of the group-calling function to hold evening office-hours for students. Specifically focusing on those students who scored poorly on the first exam of the semester, Professor Green used the weekly group calls as a chance to allow students to lead their own study groups that she could help facilitate, if necessary. The students showed marked improvement on the next quiz (all scored in the 80s) and are all currently passing her course. Finally, Rujin Tian from Biology showed how she has used BCC’s faculty media server to upload video demonstrations for her students to repeatedly watch and listen to. By using video demonstrations in class, she is able to pause and answer student questions related to clinical technique without interrupting what would otherwise be a realtime demonstration. The constant access to videos also allows students to have opportunities to repeatedly view and/or practice the handson components of their courses.

Overall, the day was a success and provided a way for faculty from across the campus to see how their colleagues were using technologies in different ways. Everything from practice to pedagogy was discussed and we’re looking forward to seeing what faculty have to present next year.

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.

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