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Sidneyeve Matrix

Tue

Sep

27

Teaching With Facebook

posted: September 27, 2011 by

image by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Social Media and Course Cohesion

This semester I have a large class with online and offline sections. How to bring them together, so that the e-students would feel connected, not isolated online? Feeling out of the proverbial loop is one of the most oft-cited challenges for distance learners. Traditionally, a face-to-face classroom, “requires a disciplined commitment from the students to actually participate in the learning activities and reach out to others in the class,” observes Cory Stokes, director of the Technology Assisted Curriculum Center, in charge of testing for online courses. In an online course, the onus is on the student to be self-disciplined enough to engage in self-study, often without the benefit of a class community to drive engagement and interest.

Research shows that there is a correlation between social presence and student success. When students feel connected to a community of inquiry they are more enthusiastic, motivated, and they perform better. If that engagement, communication, and awareness happens continuously and in real-time, as it does in a face-to-face classroom — all the better.

So I decided to take my teaching to the one place where students naturally connect everyday, all day: social networks. First I socialized the learning management system (we use Moodle) by creating discussion boards for on-demand threaded conversations in a secure, gated community. Then I looked to Twitter and Facebook as more public and familiar places for members of my “bricks” and “clicks” course sections to sync.

Teaching on Facebook and Twitter isn’t going to be an option that makes sense for every instructor, but here is why it is working wonders to create a sense of social presence in my class:

P2P Effects. On the Facebook wall, students do peer-to-peer mentoring, troubleshooting, and Q&A at every hour of the day and night. I check into the course social channels several times a day, and yet often by the time I see the Facebook wall or Twitter hashtagged conversation, issues and solutions are already being shared without input from the prof. Not only is this a great example of generous community spirit and peer support, but it’s also self-directed learning on-demand. Since research shows that many students strongly prefer to learn from their peers, this is a good opportunity to enable positive peer effects. As a bonus, “students become partners in blended learning” to borrow an insight from a study at The University of Wolverhampton (<– link opens PDF).

Crowdsourced Curriculum. In the threaded discussions and on the wall, students post links to this week’s lecture topic — before and after the in-class lesson or online-webinar schedule. Put differently, my students scoop my lecture topics and Facebook them!  They scoop my case studies and newsworthy tie-ins and tweet them! Students are plugged into the news and they have high-traffic platforms on which to share the most intriguing stories. There’s nothing that delights me more than this crowdsourcing effect, as students work together to make the material relevant for each other (and thus easier to learn). “If Generation Y likes to do one thing, it’s to share cool, creative, funny and quirky things with their friends,” concluded a recent survey (<– link opens PDF) of millennials’ social media consumption habits by L2ThinkTank.

Network Effects. Sharing course information on Facebook and Twitter means that it is automatically distributed not just to registered students, but to students’ entire social graph. A course tweet is sent to all followers, a Facebook post to the course page is also on one’s personal Facebook profile. This distribution of status updates means that course-related conversations (online and presumably off) happen far beyond the webinar chat rooms and lecture halls. Unlike the formal learning management system, which keeps discussion posts behind a wall (what happens on Moodle stays on Moodle, so to speak), the network effects model of social media amplifies students voices across their personal networks. I’ve found this online word of mouth virtually guarantees that enthusiasm for the course (and enrollment)  remains high year after year. But more importantly, it allows students to demonstrate their membership in, and contributions to, a learning community—in a very public, and sometimes even positively viral way.

These three ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are hundreds of ideas for teaching with Facebook. Of course, not all students use these social platforms. Having a course Facebook page instead of a course Facebook group enables non-Facebookers to read all posted content, and likewise, Twitter is also accessible without a site membership.

Although there is a lively debate ongoing about using popular social networking as teaching tools, my experience encourages me to agree with studies that show social networking enhances student performance and enriches learning experiences both inside the online or offline classrooms and elsewhere on campus.

There are many other tools and techniques beyond Facebook and Twitter for using social media to create social presence, including this roundup. However if your goal, like mine, is to meet students where they are, and leverage their familiarity with social communication for educational purposes, then Facebook,  Twitter, and YouTube are the obvious channels of choice.

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Thu

Sep

22

Buzz: How to Get Students Talking-on-task

posted: September 22, 2011 by

image by Ame Otoko

One of the most difficult things to do when teaching is getting students to engage with each other about the material in meaningful ways that move the needle of their understanding or skill-set. Instructors of small classes and large classes alike face this challenge everyday. It’s not easy to craft activity lessons that succeed in keeping students focused, on-topic, while connecting in small groups or class-wide discussion. We know that active, engaged inquiry, conversations and debates are exactly what’s required for students to retain information and grasp concepts and theories. When it works, and students are buzzing about the lesson, teachers may stand back for a moment and think, YES!

So, how to get that buzz going? There are so many ways. Clickers are one strategy that has worked for me.

Oddly enough, clickers are at base a 1-way tech tool. Teacher posts poll, students click-in. There’s no automated two-way feedback loop. And for that reason some faculty have criticized my decision to adopt clickers, admonishing me for reducing student engagement to a remote-controlled-yes/no function. I usually invite such naysayers to sit in on one of my classes, to see that 1-way polling is not the end of the story. It’s what happens next that is really exciting.

The buzz! It’s the one thing other clickerprofs warned me about: as soon as you open a poll, and again when you display the results, students are going to start talking to each other about the question. Get ready for the buzz! Very good advice, and it proved true of course on my first day using student response systems with a class of 300. For a teacher who has struggled for years to get students talking, this instant response was very energizing, very fun.

There are many strategies to use with clickers designed to keep students talking-on-task with each other. For example:

The easiest method is the “turn to your neighbor” example, wherein with preliminary results collected but not yet displayed on the screen, profs ask students to check in with the person seated beside them, to compare answers and justifications. According to Eric Mazur, the “turn to your neighbor and see if you can convince one another of the correct choice” method is effective because it supports students to engage in active learning and questioning and shifts the focus from the professor “teaching” the material.

The think-pair-share method also works wonders with clickers, with voting results displayed or not, asking students to check in with each other about their responses, then re-polling always results in more on-task buzz. This method is effective because “through this exercise, students get a chance to work through the question, and defend their position,” to cite Brian Young from Penn State (“Teaching With Clickers: Think Pair Share“)

Asking prediction questions is another conversation-generating technique that has worked well for me. As Derek Bruff observes, prediction questions are effective “since they allow students to commit to their predictions and compare their predictions to those of their peers. Then discussion of the incorrect answer choices provides an opportunity to deal with misconceptions.” Prediction questions do double duty, as “students become more interested in a demonstration when they have first committed to a prediction via a clicker question,” to borrow an insight from University of California at Santa Barbara’s comprehensive list of clicker question types. (“12 Ways UCSB Professors Are Using Clickers“)

I also use clickers to help students prepare for the exam (<– link opens PDF), by running multiple choice question polls drawn from my exam question bank. Whether polls are a quiz on the homework or asking students to recall a lecture point, in my experience these types of questions inspire a lot of quiet contemplation as the results are collected, then great whoops and sighs as results are revealed. Using clickers to help students with exam prep has been shown to increase outcomes and student engagement (<–link opens Word doc).

Clickers, a one-way technology, also work to provide timely feedback and summative assessment, letting students know whether they are “getting” the material. As one student commented, “when the prof asks a clicker question in class and you don’t know what the heck he’s even talking about, it helps you figure out what you need to do, so you can do better on the test, instead of like not finding out until the day of the exam that you don’t get it.”

The bottom line is that this simple technology, though not a pedagogical panacea, can help teachers create an active and engaged learning experience. They may transmit a one-way signal, but skilled clicker profs can use these gadgets to inspire a peer-to-peer information flow and create a cohesive, connected classroom.

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Categories: Classroom Response Systems, Peer-to-peer learning
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Wed

Aug

24

Is There a Question in There?

posted: August 24, 2011 by

Mark

Recently I watched a video of Mark Zuckerberg (see below) addressing educators at The New Schools Summit earlier this year. He was invited to discuss the context of his donation of 100 million dollars to public schools in Newark, New Jersey, and his plans for an educational startup.

After introducing Zuckerberg, the moderator turns to the audience to ask for questions that will guide the discussion. This is where the video gets VERY hard to watch. Because instead of asking questions, the group of business pros and educators alike stumble, mumble, and fumble. Can they think of a question? Not without considerable confusion. The moderator is insistent—going so far as to remind participants that questions must end with question marks. And yet, person after person steps to the mic and … rambles. The exasperated moderator hardly knows how to record their nonquestions on the whiteboard, and eventually gives up. Why did this happen? Because even for highly educated and accomplished people, formulating questions on the fly is difficult. It’s an enviable skill, and it can make or break a meeting or session.

How many professional conferences have you been to, when, during question period, an attendee raises their hand and starts to go on and on, meandering, lost in tangents, prompting the presenter to ask some version of, “Is there a question in there?” Awkward indeed. Why is this such a frequent occurrence? According to Warren Berger and other theorists, it’s because “the habit of asking questions is trained out of us by the educational system.” That may be true—but so is the fact that many teachers are deeply committed to inquiry based learning.

Active, discovery-based instruction is a challenge to design, but as many researchers have shown, the results are amazing, as students hone their analytic skill set. Lessons built around or including collaborative, creative questioning tend to infuse the classroom with energy and enthusiasm. Classes engage with the material when it’s clear their perspectives and positions are critical to the learning experience. Teaching students to ask good questions is a foundational skill, but it’s also strategic.

Glance at any recent human resources research about hiring and mentoring young people today and you’ll see the repeated insight that “millennials love sharing their ideas and want to know that they are being heard, if you invite them to give you constructive feedback, you can gain a different perspective and help them learn” (I’m quoting from Judy Lindenberger from The Evolved Employer blog).

I think of questions as the currency of academic work. Having a cache of great questions enriches research and teaching. Sometimes questions are more important than answers, so the truism goes. And it may seem obvious, but this is where clicker technology fits in nicely to solve a pedagogical challenge.

image By University of Hawaii - West Oahu

Using clickers encourages profs to think about their lessons in terms of a series of questions. Sounds simple, and the technology itself is simple, but creating great questions is anything but. Trying to integrate a few polls into a finished lecture after the fact is profoundly disruptive. I’ve connected with many instructors across the disciplines who say that building great polls into a lesson is a real challenge. The litmus test is student reaction, and it’s very obvious which questions are great and resonate, and which are facile and fall flat.

If questions matter, if asking great questions is an important skill, then it’s worth thinking about how-tos. Here’s a small roundup of tips for creating great questions, culled from around the web, to use as part of inquiry based learning design, with or without clickers:

1. Think of a series of questions instead of several one-offs. “Ask interpretative questions (eg., what does the author mean here?) before evaluative questions (eg. is the author right about this?). Let your earlier questions lay a foundation for your later ones.” (source — opens PDF) Put differently, “During class discussions, rather than beginning with a single question that is multilayered and complex, use a sequence of questions to build depth and complexity.” (source)

2. Integrate some current and/or newsworthy material to keep lectures fresh, and use that as the basis for opinion questions. “Using real-life scenarios, clinical examples, or case studies will reinforce the importance of the material your are presenting.” (source — opens PDF)

3. Ask predictive questions. Students are more likely to pay attention to the material if they’ve been asked to weigh in on it first. “Teachers ask recall questions far more than predictive questions. But predictive questions are more important to develop a sense of understanding. Good readers are unconsciously making predictions.” (source)

4. Pose generalizing and summarizing questions. Get a debate going in no time by suggesting a series of outcomes, and if you are polling, include options such as None of these options are correct, and/or I am undecided. “To get students thinking about effects, implications, extensions and inferences, ask students to weigh in on a series of likely and unlikely consequences.” (source)

More Resources

The book that helped me the most when getting started building my cache of clicker questions: Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments by Derek Bruff.This highly-readable book identifies types of questions and provides a host of teaching strategies and instructional goals which inspired me to develop my own polls.

I also teach online, and one of my favorite and affordable edTech tools to facilitate question-based learning is PollDaddy. I also use Survey Monkey, but find PollDaddy very intuitive and nicely designed.

Here is the Zuckerberg video I mentioned at the outset:

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Tue

May

17

edTech Strategy Sessions at #Clickers2011

posted: May 17, 2011 by

clickersIn just a few weeks I’m heading to Houston Texas for a teaching strategy refresh weekend at the #Clickers2011 meeting June 3-4. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity and/or can spare the time to be there, the line-up of speakers looks fantastic, and it would be great to connect. If you think it’s time for a tech tool refresh to put more interactivity into your course, come meet with us—100 technoprofs brainstorming connected teaching methods is a hugely valuable opportunity—don’t miss it!

Derek Bruff is headlining, as he should be, considering he wrote the book (literally!) on Teaching with Classroom Response Systems. Derek is a walking storehouse of tips, tricks and best pedagogical practices for getting the most out of clickers across the disciplines. If you have a clicker question, no matter what brand of device or type of course you’re working with—send it to @DerekBruff and he’ll be sure to have a response or resource. I’ve sent several new clickerprofs to Derek for advice and he’s always been super helpful.

I’m sitting on a panel called “Beyond the Status Quo: Encouraging Innovation in the Classroom to Meet Today’s Challenges” with Derek and some other edTech friends including Scott Jaschik who is Editor of Inside Higher Ed, Jim Julius of San Diego State University, and Doug Duncan from UC-Boulder. The full lineup of papers is here.

As you can imagine, the group with be a fairly mobile- and socially- connected bunch, so there is sure to be many valuable tidbits on the live tweetstream at #Clickers2011. For all the micro-highlights, meeting updates, and related clicker resources, follow us at @iclickerclique.

clickers2011

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Wed

Feb

16

What’s the ROI in Student Blogging?

posted: February 16, 2011 by

image By cabbitWhy I’m a Blogging Cheerleader

This semester I launched blogs for two of my classes (here and here), and as happens each year, I’m struck by the students’ original thinking, digital skill, and overall creativity.

I’m also impressed by how quickly they assume ownership of the blogs. When a prof sees that kind of engagement around an assignment, it’s a very good day.

In their blogging, students deliver results far beyond my expectations, and they require minimal tech-support (I use blogger, it’s free, very easy to figure out, allows for up to 100 bloggers, and there are many amazing free premium design templates).

My excitement about the student-authored blogs inspires me to travel all over the place enthusiastically encouraging other profs to incorporate blogging into their courses if they are not doing so already. Why? because in my experience these blog assignments are a source of pride to students and faculty alike. No matter the subject, blogging allows students to flex their digital creativity and let’s face it, there’s just not enough creative opportunity in most people’s everyday lives. Let’s create some!

What’s the ROI in Student Blogging? Ask an eMarketer!

There are many great course wikis and blog examples online to inspire professors thinking about how to develop this kind of course assignment. If you are curious about why students should blog, and which educational outcomes sync well with this activity, consider the following tips drawn from professional business bloggers. Although there are heaps and mounds of outstanding educational sources explaining the benefits of blogging, these fresh takes from the private sector are very insightful and valuable for educators to consider. From my perspective, these five ideas are immediately transferable from corporate cultures to HE classrooms.

1. Blogging is an opportunity to do self-directed research (insight borrowed from Valeria Maltoni/Conversation Agent blog).
Research has a bad reputation as a time-consuming drag, and maybe it once was, but in the age of Google it certainly isn’t any longer. Background blog research is an opportunity to indulge one’s curiosity and explore the corners of the web, collecting the best sources out there. “You start a topic with what you know,” writes Valeria Maltoni, “and expand it into things that others know,” which sounds a lot like self-directed learning to me.

2. Some of the best blogging is inspired by personal passions and interests. (insight borrowed from Mark Schaefer’s {grow} blog)
Rather than worrying about writing just for the teacher, and giving the prof exactly what they want to read in exchange for an A+ — blogging assignments can be used to encourage students to investigate connections between course-related topics and issues they’re genuinely passionate about. When students write online for themselves and their peers, demonstrating expertise and personal investment, it’s highly likely the resulting blog posts will be creative and original compositions that are more fun to read and write.

3. Blogging encourages us to develop professional communication skills and increased media savvy. (insight borrowed from Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation blog).
Blogging is writing in public, and that means spelling counts, embedded links need to be tested, and the information shared must be the highest quality it can be—else it’s immediately obvious to all that the author is neither thorough nor careful. It’s not just about A+ composition—blogging is also a demonstration of digital media skill. “The more media savvy you are,” Joel writes, “the more the likelihood will be that you will take that extra second before tweeting something, updating your Facebook status or publishing that blog post to ensure that the information you are about to share with everyone connected to you is as accurate and reliable as possible.” If the public nature of blogging encourages students to do a bit of extra proofreading, the blog-cheerleader in me thinks hip-hip!

4. Blogging involves sourcing and reading a lot of other blogs. (insight borrowed from Bret Simmons on the Student Branding Blog) There is likely no faster way for students to learn best practices in writing for the web than reading other blogs. The practice of reading online means students will bump into various perspectives and industry debates, news items, history, and controversies, when seeking out new blog topics. “Read blogs by those in your field,” advises Simmons, “watch what others are doing and integrate into your blog the things you like and eliminate the things you don’t like.” Not only does this informal “peer-to-peer” blog mentoring drive students’ self-improvement, it can also help them develop a distinctive voice and writing style, through comparing themselves to other active bloggers.

5. Blogging promotes community online and off. (insight borrowed from Chris Brogan/chrisbrogan.com) When students blog, and get participation points for peer-to-peer blog commenting, the result is class cohesiveness online and off. A class blog is a virtual venue wherein students can be encouraged to “make a point of engaging [the] community often in the comments section, on their blogs, on the other social networks where [they] cross paths” (Brogan). It’s a lesson in collegiality and if they use a service like Disqus, those comments become a part of their online digital footprint and personal brand. But how to assess student comments on a blog? Here’s a collection of blogging rubrics to get you started developing your own evaluation criteria:

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Mon

Jan

24

Next Gen Student Resumes

posted: January 24, 2011 by

By BenimotoDigital creativity

Internship season is just a few months away, so it’s a great time to think about how to help students put their best foot forward online. I’ve rounded up a few innovative ideas for digital resumes that would be useful as the basis for professional development workshops, or in some cases would work as course assignments.

Video Resumes
Of course the best video resumes are innovative in terms of their narrativity and film-making techniques. But concentrating less on mastering advanced editing and more on developing a compelling concept and storyboard are key to producing an impactful student video resume. Below is an examples of an entertaining, unconventional, effective and memorable video, and there are more examples on Mashable.

How to do this digital storytelling activity in the classroom? If there is not a student AV rental option on campus, and no film and media department to advise and/or loan video equipment, consumer electronics will do the trick, from webcams to flipcams. A seminar conversation about best practices in video resumes is naturally connected to discussion about personal branding — which for a prof interested in digital literacy, is a teachable moment.

Online ePortfolios

There are plenty of tools for building ePortfolios, but after asking them, I learned that my students are partial to Flavors.me, Wix, and About.me. There is also Behance, which has a LinkedIn App to showcase thumbnails of creative work on a personal LI profile. Here’s a detail from a Behance portfolio by graphic design student Matthieu Pieters:

http://www.behance.net/matthieupieters

Visual Resumes

Infographic resumes are an emerging trend, which is an opportunity to talk/teach about the importance of data visualization, visual literacy, information mobilization and accessibility, iconography and design thinking in our information society. Here’s an example from Pruek Wiyaporn:

http://pruek.wiyaporn.com/pruek-resume.jpg

I’ve collected a few more examples of visual resumes, including low-cost and free templates, online websites, and Powerpoint/Peynote slide deck versions here. For a quick and possibly in-class activity, have students take their traditional word processed resume and Wordle it—for instant revelation of their dominant personal brand messages. For a lesson on how to create infographics, you might want to show this truly amazing 60-second flowcapping video.

LinkedIn Resumes

And lastly, for students with a LinkedIn profile, converting to a printable, linkable, customizable resume is nearly instant using the Resume Builder app. For ideas for what to include in a workshop on Linked In for students, here is a detail from this handout from DePaul University:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/39908120/How-to-Build-a-Professional-Student-LinkedIn-Profile

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Categories: Classroom Response Systems, Engagement, Higher Education
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Mon

Jan

10

Teachers and Digital Dirt

posted: January 10, 2011 by

image by OnTask“If you are a great teacher in the classroom, then you have a drink at a local bar, yes, that’s your own time and it’s your private life. But if someone sees pictures of it or reads about it online…”~ Dale Slagle, superintendent of schools at Frontenac, Kansas.

Cheers to the social web and being an educator without an “off switch.” No broadcasting blackout dates for teachers it seems, instead we are the quintessential “always-on” types, posting our “digital dirt” (for example, having a drink?!) 24/7 online for friends, family, parents, administrators and students.

“Teachers are role models…public image is important,” rightly observes Slagle. But should educators be allowed some privacy on Facebook?

Privacy and Lifecasting

Wait, there’s no privacy on Facebook! There are profile privacy settings which are notoriously complicated (as one teacher who lost her job found out the hard way). So much so that today the safest route is probably to assume that data posted on social networks (or emailed, or transmitted online in any way) is never secure, never deleteable, and certainly not private.

And as we all know, tagged photos and videos also grow legs. Always be vigilant, Googling, deleting, and untagging self-representations of anything that would not be appropriate in an interview setting, advises David Hogard, assistant director of career services at Pittsburg Kansas State University. His comments are directed to students and faculty.

Google Thyself is certainly great advice, even though it’s not always possible to get information removed from the web. But wouldn’t it be safer to avoid participating in Facebook, Twitter, and the like, altogether? Seems logical when any hint teachers might have a life outside the classroom (such as visiting a local bar) can potentially derail a career trajectory. But in fact not making a digital impression can also negatively impact your professional development. No one trusts a blank slate, as they say.

Digital Whitewashing vs. Digital Literacy

Instead of mass deletions in an ill-fated attempt to erase yourself from the web, educators could model for students (and peers) how to craft a well-rounded, work-life balanced e-persona online. Having some evidence of your hobbies and habits (booklists, video and music playlists, Facebook page “likes”), and social proof indicating your cultural, community, and professional connectivity (blogrolls, Twitter listings, Facebook group memberships, sports info and event photos), can be an advantage in light of “HR 2.0″ and all kinds of social recruiting. Consider that “you’re always sort of job searching, in a way,” said Hogard. Fair enough. Even for the tenured it’s worth considering how having a rich and relevant online persona enables network building, collaboration, and communication too.

While no one would argue against removing truly compromising/generally unflattering photos and other online data, totally whitewashing your e-presence as an educator can send the message that you don’t “get” the social web, and are lacking in digital fluency. I’d point to the ever-growing heap of research about socialnomics, social proof, the rise of the trust economy, and the importance of personal brand audits to back up that statement.

However the article I quoted above citing Hogard and Slagle indicates that it may be the administrators who are most likely to adopt an über-conservative approach (delete everything! post nothing!) to the social web. Instead, they should be demonstrating thought leadership on this issue and encouraging responsible, creative, and professional lifecasting. Is it time to organize/lobby for a workshop on your campus about professionalizing your digital footprint? If you’ve already had one and if any of the materials are online please consider sharing them in the comments. Thank you.

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Categories: Higher Education, K12, Social Media
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Mon

Dec

20

Lecture Livetweeting

posted: December 20, 2010 by

image by English106“Fed-up professors say texting is the new doodling” is the national newspaper headline of a trend story that grew some serious legs online—passed prof-to-prof on Twitter and Facebook with amazing speed!

That’s because profs are also into sharing news in realtime via micro-messaging of course. And though we might not care to admit it, that means we’re often seen texting and tweeting during conference presentations and staff meetings, not unlike our students.

But students are texting and tweeting while WE’RE teaching! Therein lies the rub. Profs may be “fed-up” due to injured pride at our possible lack of interestingness, but we know that time-starved students’ attention is a casualty of the velocity of digital culture and deeply ingrained multitasking habits. At the same time, and just as likely, profs might be “fed-up” with all that Gen Y phone-tapping because we’re deeply concerned about student outcomes. Unfocused students fiddling with their phones in class can’t be good.

Or can it?

A study published last month in The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning showed tweeting students get higher grades. That research enjoyed enormous peer-to-peer promotion from edTech-minded faculty, students, and administrators (my Principal even tweeted it!). Turns out (to the surprise of how many?) that by live tweeting the lecture, actively engaged students are doing some serious thinking and learning.

To sum up the study’s implications: by encouraging students to livetweet the class, they practice valuable skills in distilling and reporting highlights and key points from the lecture or discussion. In the process, the classroom becomes both more transparent and increasingly connected to the culture at large, opening up possibilities for students’ friends, parents and other publics to actively participate or observe. This one simple mobile learning technology enables most key aspects of constructivist learning. And whereas texting may involve SMS fees, tweeting is free.

Livetweet P2P teaching

When classrooms are connected to the web through livetweeting, “students can become teachers,” to quote Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, speaking on a panel about technological innovations at schools at NBC’s Education Nation summit earlier this fall. With digital tools like phones and laptops, plus online access to the web (including Twitter) students “can teach their teachers; they can teach each other,” Hastings observed, basing the comment on his experience as an educational philanthropist and e-learning technology developer.

For teachers wanting to encourage this in their classes, step one is to figure out how live tweeting fits with learning objectives. For a journalism class at Carleton University in Ottawa, that wasn’t difficult—-the next generation of digital reporters knows that news doesn’t break, it tweets. In a recent lecture presentation where livetweeting was encouraged, one student remarked: “People in the class were all doing it; it really got everyone to actively participate. And even if they weren’t tweeting, we had the stream up on the screen for everyone to follow along.”

Once a prof settles on a course #hashtag and ensures it’s well publicized among students, it’s easy (and free) to aggregate the tweetstream using a live tool like TwitterFall. However, be on alert for hashtag hijacking—set up a moderator for sure. Tech-forward teaching is hands-on teaching.

Need more ideas for how to support student livetweeting? Check out this excellent presentation by Tiffany Gallicano, Assistant Professor of Media & PR at University of Oregon.


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Categories: Mobile technology, Peer Instruction
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Mon

Dec

13

When Students Want a Push

posted: December 13, 2010 by

image by amankyAt the beginning of each term, students try to find seats in my already-full courses, and the stream of emails begins. This year those requests are a little bit different, indicating a new trend in professor-student communication, and the ratcheting up of Gen Y digital expectations in higher ed.

My students are asking for push notifications of open seats.

No can do.

The registration system at my university doesn’t offer this service for students. There’s no opt-in for them to receive SMS, emails or ping alerts about vacant course spots in real time. In other words, course selection isn’t your parents’ OpenTable or eBay auction.

But should it be?

Moreover, as a prof, I don’t have access to the registration numbers in real time. There’s no way for me to monitor the situation and give my students a push-on-request. The administrative assistant could monitor and manage a wait-list, but that’s not autopilot, that’s time consuming human effort. And in any case, that’s not what students are asking about. They want that Apple Concierge style personalized auto ping messaging.

The current infeasibility of this request at my school is beside the point. The more interesting aspect concerns students’ shifting expectations about connectivity, news alerts, mobile messaging, and system monitoring.

The next wave of digital and mobile student services will be all about the ping.

Of course there are already SMS services enabling profs to push notify their students. For example, Todd McCann, also known as “Professor Textblaster” at Bay College in Michigan received national news media attention for his innovative digital initiatives to keep students on track using micromessaging. Likewise, a new start-up Remind101 is currently in private beta at an East Coast university, designed (by a GenY entrepreneur) exclusively for educators to send students sms reminders—certainly worth a look.

There are many ways that professors could use push notifications beyond letting students know about empty seats. In an effort to raise student outcomes, we can text reminders about tests and deadlines, or send weekly sample quiz questions. In class, we can use SMS for polling, or to test comprehension, or to distribute links to web resources.

Interested in more details? For some international perspectives, check out this study (link opens pdf) “M-learning: texting (SMS) as a teaching & learning tool in higher arts education” by the University of Winchester in the UK. Also see this study (link opens slideshare) from researchers at The University of Minho in Portugal, filled with statistics and ideas for using SMS to improve students’ connectedness, comprehension, and test results.

Accustomed to auto-notifications from Facebook, for movie openings, pop-up tip alerts for local deals, and preferring texting to voice communication anyway—Gen Y students are asking for a digital push to help them stay organized and get ahead. Is higher ed ready?

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Categories: Mobile technology
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Fri

Oct

29

Social and mobile teaching ideas

posted: October 29, 2010 by

4075556752_aa6c9c32c0_bLast week I attended EDUCAUSE with the i>clicker and Panopto crews to talk about how to use a range of  technologies for innovative teaching in higher ed.

QR codes are hot!

Without a doubt the talk about QR codes in classroom and on campus was the biggest hit of all the mini-presentations I did, and here is the video: QR codes if you’d prefer to download or view just the slides, here they are:

It seems the barcodes are getting a lot of interest at the moment from educators and businesses both small and large. As more professionals, students, and educators adopt smartphones, it makes sense to experiment with mobile information sharing through QR codes. Although surveys of smartphone use put the figure at about 20% of the total mobile phone consumer market, in fact that number jumps to nearly 50% when we look at entrepreneurs, according to new research by Forrester. Among higher ed students there is a considerable percentage of smartphone users, but likely due to cost it hasn’t hit the tipping point yet. However according to Nielsen media, smartphones are projected to overtake feature phones in North America next fall.

Teaching with video

At EDUCAUSE we also talked with faculty about ideas for using video in teaching. Everything from videorecording whole lectures (lecture capture) to taping the answers to FAQ in advance. The video of that mini-presentation is available. One point that often gets mentioned when faculty debate videorecording the lectures is whether it will encourage students to skip class. This, despite reams of research to the contrary, remains a real point of concern. In this presentation we turned that query on its head, to suggest that if professors need to miss their own class to attend a conference, video recording some lecture material in advance may be just the ticket to increase flexibility for faculty. Here are the slides:

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Categories: Mobile technology, Peer-to-peer learning
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