Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cal. State Univ. Course Redesign with Tech. - Day 1 Summary

Now that day one of the California State University (CSU) Course Redesign with Technology (CRT) 2016 summer institute is behind us, I'm going to summarize

Principles & Practices & Problems & Questions & Goals

Principles (emergent principles of efficacious CRT)
  • CRT can help engage students (but active learning ≠ employing ed tech - active learning can be computer-free)
  • Thus, it is critical to develop a sense of when to use tech and when not to
  • CRT is being leveraged broadly by faculty in high-enrollment classes to improve workflow efficiency (at its most simple, management processes like taking roll, distributing and collecting assignments)
  • In a flipped or hybrid course, an instructor can run the course remotely (e.g. while I'm traveling to conferences, or sick, or… I can provide students with reading and video lecture assignments, as well as digital collaborative group assignments…as long as I have cell service or wi-fi where I am)

These last two points can be leveraged as the "carrot" for expanding CRT efforts beyond early-adopter faculty

Practices (best practices distilled from my experiences in CRT + talks yesterday)

1) Setting student expectations is critical. Tell them regularly that your course will be unlike any they've ever had before. Explain (with or without data) that your goal is to teach them skills (not just content) they need to know to survive in any workforce, such as:

  • becoming lifelong self-learners (i.e. practicing how to educate themselves)
  • information literacy: how to find and assess the quality of information
  • work effectively with others
  • make evidence-based decisions

and therefore that your course will not be based on rote memorization and information regurgitation on exams

2) Spend time at the start of the course talking about how to take notes, especially for videos! Students will watch videos passively (like T.V.), so it is critical to get them practicing taking notes during videos. Richard Levine: it might be a best practice to have public viewing of pre-lecture videos with a TA present, and/or to ask students to watch pre-lecture videos in groups

3) Make online lecturing "interactive" - Ji Son: break up pre-lecture videos by inserting questions (using zaption.com, for example)

4) Be prepared, have a backup plan, be flexible. Model to students how to adapt when problems challenges opportunities arise. Flexibility includes not being tied to a single workflow or app (a point I'll make again below): students, many of whom are digital natives, will probably discover (or already know) more efficient methods of doing things on computers/tablets/smartphones than the instructor is aware of. This one is really difficult, but try to accommodate this diversity.

5) Gamify education to engage students (e.g. Mary-Pat Stein from CSUN recommends https://getkahoot.com); Estelle Eke uses mobile tech to run in-class student "competitions" where students are placed in anonymous pairs and compete against each other to answer a series of questions.

Problems (things to discuss with colleagues and cohorts)

1) A recurring concern across the day: faculty use flipped classroom approaches and students don't come prepared to class, even with low-stakes, frequent assessment to attempt to motivate students to do the work in advance

2) Students coming into a course with one or both mindset issues about the class topic:

  • I already learned it (thus, we faculty need to make the topic new/different/advanced/relevant)
  • I already failed to learn it, so I can't (fixed vs. growth student mindset)

3) Alternative conception that a flipped class means faculty can cover less content AND that it requires students to do more work.

Questions (do you have answers? please post a comment!)

1) Is a consistent classroom approach good or bad? Each day, the structure of my class is (to date) exactly the same. An "entry quiz" formative assessment, followed by discussing the answers to those questions. Then, brief mini-lectures on topics as necessary, followed by student activities/active learnings, followed by an "exit activity" (reflection, exit ticket, summative assessment)… Pro: students know what to expect. Con: students know what to expect.

2) How many apps/approaches constitute too much redesign at once for students who are new to tech-redesigned courses?

3) Should students be placed in groups or form their own groups?

4) For the flipped classroom approach (with pre-lecture videos), is it important for the student to see the instructor in the video (e.g. with Learning Glass from SDSU) or is screen capture with audio voiceover OK?

Goals (for me, for the future, inspired by presentations yesterday)

Simple (but very complicated): to teach a CRT class that doesn't rely at all on using any specific, proprietary apps or technology. I don't like relying on developers to keep their apps in existence, or updated for new operating system releases, or their availability on all possible operating systems and tablet/smartphone/computer platforms. This goal is part of the principle that faculty teaching tech-redesigned courses maintain flexibility: critical for dealing with unexpected issues that might arise one day during class. Plus, I'd like to keep student costs as low as possible, and divesting from specific apps, websites, platforms might help long-term success when, after using a free app for three years (and becoming highly dependent on it), the developer decides to start charging for it. Yes, this has happened to me!

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