Focus on Pedagogy and OutcomesCAT is never "technology for the sake of technology." Promote the use of technology when it enriches the learning experience.
ExampleI use Google Classroom to facilitate obtaining formative feedback from students, during class. The objectives here are:
- Get real-time data on student understanding so that I can modify lesson plans according to student needs
- Provide anonymous feedback to students on their understanding
In brief, I distribute a PDF file of a class exercise to all students through Google Classroom during class. They use their devices to annotate the PDF (often drawing responses to prompts) and then return those documents to me through Google Classroom. I can then display them immediately on my tablet (anonymously, if I want - which I usually do) and provide feedback on quality and extent of understanding.
Student AccessI only require mobile device use when I know my students all have relatively equal access to such technology. Because we have laptop and tablet loaner programs, I usually feel comfortable doing so. If this isn't true where you teach, it is often possible to form student groups including at least one student per group who does have the technology.
It is also a really good idea to ask students to use apps that are available for free on any mobile device (smartphone; tablet; laptop). Not many apps do this, but it keeps the playing field level and makes tech support easier on the faculty (and/or campus staff).
Faculty Buy-InI can report from personal experience that students can tell when faculty interest in and/or use of technology wanes over the semester. I have plenty of evidence from student course evaluations in the first semesters when I began CAT. The solution is to make one or a few small changes per term that you have every expectation you will be able to sustain throughout the term.
Faculty BoldnessFear of failure is an often-cited reason why many of my colleagues don't want to pursue active learning with technology, or other tech-enhanced teaching strategies. They don't want to have tech problems during class, so they never try. Or, they tried once, failed, and gave up. Please remember three important things:
- FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning. Practice makes perfect; things can always go "wrong" in class - regardless of what technology you use (projector lamps can go out even if you're projecting from a laptop; your dry erase marker can run out of ink…). Choose to enter your class with a growth mindset
- Students need to see you model how one has to leave their comfort zone to learn and to grow. Honestly, nothing worth doing ever came easily; the same is true for effective instruction. Students prize (again, I have course evaluation evidence) instructors who make it clear that they are pushing the envelope to benefit their students. Sometimes the best pedagogical innovations come from having to make on-the-spot adjustments to class plans.
- Build a support group. Have peers (like me) to discuss issues both before and after class. In other words, discuss intended approaches beforehand and practice what you might do (as back-up plans); then discuss successes and failures. You'll find, not surprisingly, that we all have good and bad days in the classroom, with or without technology.
Student Buy-In (the most important component)When my students show up on the first day of class (I assume yours are similar), they expect more of the same: lecture. Sitting passively, maybe occasionally not paying attention, listening to lecture. At the end of each semester, I always distribute my own course evaluation survey, in which I solicit student feedback on a number of CAT-related questions. I regularly hear from students (although usually a minority of them) that they prefer the lecture-only experience.
So, more and more, I have been dedicating time during the entire first week of instruction (and repeatedly throughout the term) explaining to students (and later reminding them) why I have designed the class the way I have. I try to make it very clear why the use of the flipped classroom approach, active learning, and CAT, will help them with future coursework and, afterward, in a career. I've included much of this material in pages 8-10 (including a video linked from page 8) in the following Introduction chapter of a course manual I just wrote for my genetics class. Please download this chapter for examples of how I justify the course design to students and try to make it obvious to them why their participation in class is critical:
Support for CATIf you are at Fresno State, you have several resources to draw on. I'll highlight two here. First, the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) - our instructional designers and associated faculty liaisons, including DISCOVERe (tablet-based instruction) experts Mary Paul and Martin Shapiro, are fantastic to work with if you need to brainstorm, practice, troubleshoot, and/or be inspired with new ideas and solutions to problems you present to them.
Second, I am always willing to meet to accomplish the same: to give you feedback on effective pedagogical ways to accomplish your goals with your courses. I am always happy to meet, and particularly to visit one of your class sessions to give friendly feedback on ways you might consider Course Augmentation with Technology to enhance your class. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I'll be part of your support group team.