Jon Messer Discovering the impact of technology on education.... Fri, 12 Jun 2015 14:31:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Student Generated Reading Questions Fri, 12 Jun 2015 14:31:09 +0000 CC Ken Whytock There is a lot of talk about assessment in Higher Education. Mostly it centers around midterm and final exams or the semester paper. However, there is a lot more to assessment than those three items.  In an article reprinted in Faculty Focus,  Offerdahl and Montplaisir researched using student generated reading questions as a formative assessment technique in an upper level science course.

Formative assessment is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures employed by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment. ( from Wikipedia) This type of assessment helps the professor gauge student ability PRIOR to a summative assessment such as a final exam which allows the professor the opportunity to correct student misinformation or conceptual understanding thus enhancing student learning. In the research the use of student generated reading questions did this by “instruct(ing) [students] to approach each reading assignment with the goal of achieving deep conceptual understanding. We expressed our expectation that through this process, students would certainly think of at least one question relevant to the material at hand. Students were instructed that their questions should not focus solely on factual material; rather, a reading question should also describe what conceptual problems the individual has with the material and how the individual arrived at that question.”

What was uncovered by the questions was a lack of common prior knowledge by the students that professors would have based lecture material on as a foundation. This unexpected find helped the professors address students foundational understanding and correctly build further knowledge. Please take the time to read the full article from the link above and consider how you might be able to engage this process in your own classes.

Is Blogging still a Resource? Thu, 11 Jun 2015 15:55:35 +0000 As summer approaches and faculty go out to do their summer research, I had an opportunity to talk with someone about their upcoming research. They are going to be in two different countries studying a very special topic: human trafficking. I asked if they considered blogging their reflections during their research to help both their ability to capture what was happening for future articles but also for their colleagues studying the same topic during their summer research in other places.

I suggested the blog could serve as a a resource for students in future courses that wanted to research the topic of human trafficking.  The blog would be a repository for current updates in the field, current research questions, along with current personal scholarship.  The faculty member ponder for a moment and shared that two additional scholars might be very interested in participating in the blog as commentators but I thought they might want to participate as authors as well.

What I am suggesting is nothing new. Blogs have been around for years and provided this ability not just in education but for the population in general.  The truth is, very little technology is being developed strictly for educational institutions. Since before Microsoft released PowerPoint and someone said, “I can use that in my class”, technology has impacted the classroom. Instructional designers are here to help bridge the gap between intended use of technology and how it can become an educational tool.  Sometimes this is very simple, like using PowerPoint to enhance a lecture. Other times, we need to think how the technology can be used in a way that will enhance the learning environment like blogging.

What I have shared here is one example that involved a faculty member and their research. What about classroom blogging where students build a knowledge base for their class as well as future classes? Wouldn’t it be nice to not read the same research/book/topic each semester? Part of research is building on the work of others and contributing something new. Blogging can help students begin to see this and help them think beyond the end of the course.

If you have not considered blogging recently, go back and see where it might fit in to your curriculum!

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MOOCs as Introductory Courses Tue, 11 Sep 2012 20:42:55 +0000  

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MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) have been in the Higher Education news for quite awhile with people asking if this will be the next “big” thing or the way to lower tuition. Today the Chronicle announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is “circulating to colleges and universities a request for proposals for MOOC’s (sic) that focus on the gateway courses that often trip up low-income and underprepared students”.  This makes me wonder about so many things. The digital divide that still exists and impacts this very group of students, the philosophy behind MOOCs, the sustainability of any MOOC, and the fact that only one school is accepting credit from MOOC participation. Why are we rushing to this medium for course delivery? When did more or bigger make it better? I hear the arguments for MOOCs and I am not personally against them (I do not know enough yet to make that sort of judgement) but I do wonder if the academy is the right place for MOOCs. How someone goes about learning has changed. Anyone can quickly access lots of information through Google, Yahoo and any number of search engines but that does not help the person decipher what they have uncovered.  By their very nature, MOOCs are dependent upon other learners, not the instructor, to parse the information coming at them and to share that information with the group. Yes, this can be a very effective learning tool. Yes, I believe learners are responsible for their learning BUT in the traditional classroom the instructor is there to support that learning.  Like other instructors, I have had to help students UNLEARN misinformation which is not an easy process.

I hope the Gates foundation is successful in finding highly qualified individuals (schools) that can create a MOOC that will go beyond what I am imagining will happen. It is important that students in low-income, under-prepared areas be provided with the right tools to help them secure a quality education. This starts by understanding how students learn (brain research) and stopping what we are doing that negatively impacts student learning (like standardize testing). I know we must hold learners and educators accountable but a test or grade is not the only indicator of success. Helping young learners become successful readers and writers indicate later success yet where is the focus on that? A home life that is conducive to learning means food in the pantry, a warm bed, clothes and a parent that is not overworked, underpaid and totally exhausted by the end of the day. Are we focusing on that? Teachers who do not treat every child exactly the same but understands that each child learns differently while supporting every learning style produces girls who love science and boys who are engaged in education. Where is that focus?

These problems are not new to educators but politicians have gotten in the way of education in an attempt to “help” or address the problem. It is happen now in Chicago. Society needs to step up and I truly hope that MOOCs might be able to help but the problems we face are well before MOOCs’ general audience. Higher Education is suffering from decisions made in kindergarten. We need to address those if we ever hope to change America’s standing in the world educational outlook.

Welcome! Tue, 11 Sep 2012 13:30:38 +0000 This is a place for my thoughts about academic technology to land! Some are random based on technology resources I am currently reading while others are directed by my research interest. I welcome your feedback on all my posts and appreciate the time you spend sorting through my thoughts.