Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Instructional Technology and Design at North Shore Community College

Instructional Technology and Design is one of two components within the Academic Technology department at North Shore Community College. The role of Instructional Technology and Design is to support faculty in their utilization of technology to enhance the teaching and learning environment.  Our ultimate goal is to have an impact on student learning and success by providing services to faculty that facilitate the integration of technology into the curriculum.  To achieve this goal, Instructional Technology and Design offers the following services:
  • Instructional Design – ITD team members work with faculty to explore the pedagogical benefits of incorporating technology into the teaching and learning environment.  ITD team members also work with faculty to design online and blended courses.
  • Distance Learning Support – ITD team members provide support to faculty in teaching online and blended courses, to students who are taking online and blended courses, and to the college community in using the learning management system (ANGEL).
  • Classroom Technology Support – ITD team members work with faculty to effectively utilize the technology that is found in or can be brought into the majority of the classrooms at NSCC.
  • Professional Development Opportunities – ITD members offer a variety of one-on-one and group sessions to faculty on various instructional technology applications and on best practices and strategies for integrating technology into teaching and learning.
  • Research on New Technologies – ITD members research new technologies and assess possible pedagogical impacts and work with faculty to explore and select appropriate technologies that meet particular learning goals and objectives.
Instructional Technology and Design staff members are always available to discuss strategies and best practices around integrating technology into the teaching and learning environment. Please send an email to itd@northshore.edu to start the conversation.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How I Learned to Stop Loathing the Wiki

(This article was originally published in MouseTales, a publication of Technology Across the Curriculum at North Shore Community College).

This article won’t convince otherwise those who are predisposed to frown upon anything containing the word “wiki.”  So, if just those 4 letters evoke angry twitches or nightmares of plagiarized papers, hold off on reading this until you’ve learned a bit more about wikis.   This article is for those who are over that particular hump and are considering wikis for their online courses.  To be certain, there is much to be concerned about in accessing and using Wikis.  Timothy Messer-Kruse’s article on “truth” and wikis is worth deliberating upon for both you and your students as you move into using them in the classroom.  But knowing that the military has found wikis quite useful for training and other relate needs, says a lot about their power and usage.

So what’s a wiki?  Wikis In Plain English is a good place to start if you need some context and and a brief introduction. Wikis at their most basic are easy-to-use website page-makers that allow users to organize information and link it with other pages created within the wiki.  When used in an online course, an instructor could employ the students to create a wiki of content covered as they move forward in the course; thereby transforming the traditional notebook into a hypertext collection of student work.  If done on a free wiki site such as Wikispaces or through GoogleSites, the student would always be able to return to the wiki for later reflection, reminders, etc. It allows for the integration of a variety of material such as text, image, sound, and video.  But most importantly, it’s a medium to organize and connect knowledge.

Like any digital tool, Wikis have their place and the instructor should determine if wikis work with course objectives while representing a reasonable means of evaluation for the students.  But wikis (when properly executed—whatever that means) can be excellent tools for students and instructors.  Since online instructors play a decentralized role in the students’ learning, more facilitator than “sage on the stage”, a wiki provides an excellent opportunity to allow students to be collaborators and creators of content for the course.

Wikis could also be used to encourage students to build upon the information, ideas, and knowledge presented within the class.  Let’s face it, in many courses; we never get to cover all the things we’d really want to cover.  This could allow students to take course content and then focus in on areas that they are particularly vested in and turn it into a wiki (to which other students could learn from and potentially add to).  Therefore, the students could both learn more and exhibit what they know.

As an educational tool, it has much potential.  It empowers students to become content creators while also encouraging critical thought through discussion about the deployment and development of each wiki page.  It also provides the instructor with a substantial product at semester’s end to reflect on how much the students learned and where the instructor may need to improve his or her game in the future.

Educause Learning Initiative has a great handout for those interested in a clear and concise explanation of Wikis and their usage.  Wikipedia itself even supports the usage and development of Wikipedia as a classroom project and provides examples of other colleges and the work they've done creating new entries or developing present entries on Wikipedia.    And finally, Mark Frydenberg also explains in detail why wikis can change and elevate learning in Wikis as a Tool for Collaborative Course Management.
  • How do you feel about wikis as a learning/teaching tool?
  • What ways do you imagine using Wikis in your classroom?
  • What do you see as challenges to using a Wiki in your classroom?

Friday, February 17, 2012

There’s No Such Thing as a Techno-Peasant…Really!

Someone recently introduced me to the term “technopeaseant”.  I found this term to be largely misleading and problematic.  The term implies a binary of system with regards to technology; those who can use technology (Technophile? Techno-elite?  Techno-noble?) and those who can’t (techno-peasant).  In fact, its usage and presence really only perpetuates helplessness and a sense of overwhelming that people feel with regards to technology.  

The idea that one either is or isn’t attuned to understanding and using technology leads people to decide that they “shouldn’t” or “can’t” try to do something with technology.  Instead of experimenting or instead of stepping into the unknown (where we do so much of our learning, right?), we veer away to be safe and accept that we weren’t meant to go there.  We limit ourselves and accept the label of “technopeasant.”  We learn our place.  

Imagine if we took that approach with our students.  It would feel ethically wrong to accept that stance when it comes to our students.  We know that there is potential for them to reach competent levels of knowledge and understanding about a wide range of subjects.  To simply
It’s important to understand that no one knows everything about technology.  The ubiquity of technology (and more specific, programs and computers) means it is extremely hard to stay atop of all the technology that is out there.  There are arenas of knowledge and familiarity.  Regardless, you don’t have to know everything about technology, nor should you.  

Technology is simply another word for tools.  Some tools are easier to operate (a hammer) than others (a chainsaw) and some tools are more relevant to you as an instructor (laptop) than others (missile-guidance software).   But with whatever tool you’re interested in using, it does take some time and energy to learn how to operate.  It’s a far cry from operational knowledge to mastery knowledge, but just like we don’t expect our students to be masters of the subject matter we teach, nor should you expect to master any technology without substantial effort.  Obtaining operational knowledge will still require effort, especially if you are not familiar with it.  This makes sense because you are integrating new ways of approaching and thinking about problems and solutions through the lens of the new tool.  

In the end, it’s ok to be challenged or confused by technology, but to imply that you can’t know technology speaks to a learned helplessness that sustains you in that position.  It’s also important to remember that there are ample resources out there to help you make sense and learn various tools.   Besides us here at Academic Techology, there are a great tools at eHow.com, that provide walk-thrus for all sorts of tech-related tools.  
  • What kind of obstacles have you run into with technology and how have you overcome them?
  • What areas of technology do you find the biggest challenge?
  • What stories do you have about learning/conquering a new technology?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Student Engagement Using Audience Response Systems (Clickers)

Using clickers in the classroom can be a great way for promoting student engagement and active learning.  One thing to keep in mind is that today's students have grown up in a world of "gaming".  Clickers offer a kind of "game approach" to learning.

When using clickers for student engagement, consider some of the following tips:
  1. Keep the number of questions short.
  2. Keep the number of answers in your multiple choice questions to 5 or less.
  3.  Allow time for questions to ruminate.  It's a great opportunity for discussion and peer-to-peer learning before displaying the answers.
  4. Position questions at periodic intervals during your class.
  5. Don't overuse or use exclusively for attendance and quizzes.  Students tend to dread the clickers if they are used all the time and if they are only used for quizzes/attendance.  It's important to remember that it's just one tool in your toolbox.

If you're looking for a fun way to active engage students in your class, clickers may just be your answer.

Contact Dave Houle at dhoule@northshore.edu if you are interested in learning more about clickers and how they can be used as a learning tool in your classroom.
Below are a few clicker resources that relate to student engagement and active learning.

  1. Classroom Reconsidered: Understanding and Engaging Students with Clickers
  2. Clicker and Peer Instruction
  3. Using Clickers to Facilitate Peer Review in a Writing Seminar
  4. Clicker Use in the Classroom 
What experiences do you have using Clickers in the classroom?  How do you perceive this could be useful in your classroom?  What challenges, concerns, or questions do you have about using clickers in the classroom?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Google Alert for Faculty and Students

I’m a big fan of Google Alert.  Over the years, it’s delivered valuable information into my inbox time and again; saving me time, providing me with leads, and on occasion, some rather curious pieces of information.  

So what is Google Alerts?  It’s one of the many different services offered by Google, which is accessible to faculty and students within their school email accounts.  To access it, you can simple go to this address or when in your School Email, click on the "More" link at the top of the page.  This will drop down a menu and you'll want to select the link "Even more".  This will bring you to the Google Products page.  Scroll down the page to "Specialized Search" and look for "Alerts."  

Once on the Google Alerts page, you're ready to start using it.  You have a few options.    

Search Query
Enter the word or phrase what you want to Google to send you an alert about.  Choose a singular word or if it is a phrase, surround it with quotation marks. 

Result Type
You can choose specifically where one the internet that Google will specifically look for your term; newspapers, blogs, video sites, discussion boards, etc.

How often
This option allows you to control how many times Google will send you emails about its search.

How many
The quality and quantity of results that you are looking for.  Do you want everything Google finds or just the more respectable results? 

Deliver to
Which email address should this be delivered to.

Fill all of that out, press "Create Alert" and you have your first Google Alert.  Once you have created a Google Alert and want to change it, all you have to do is go to Manage Your Alerts and change and delete them as you desire.  

So why use Google Alert?
Research is the easiest answer.  This allows you to stay atop of certain pieces of information or ideas out in the Internet and bring them to your mailbox, rather than you having to scour the internet to find them.  

Many, including myself, use it to keep track of where and when their names come up in print.  Having a Google Alert on your name lets you know if you or your work is being referenced in some capacity.  

It's also a nice tool to use throughout the semester, to bring you fresh news stories about a topic matter within your class, so you can provide students with some of the more recent events/information about your subject matter.

Currently, here are some of my Google Alerts:
  • Research topics:  "video games and education"
  • What's going on in my community:  "Peabody, Massachusetts"
  • What's going on at my employment:  "North Shore Community College"
  • Cultural events I might be interested in, "book signing Massachusetts"

How about using Google Alert in the classroom?
There are some fun and interesting ways you could use this in the class.  

Assign each student one or more specified key word, event, topic, person, etc to trace and track throughout the semester by using Google Alert and then compose an essay, report, presentation, timeline, etc based upon their findings.  

  • What ways do you think you could use Google Alerts for your own professional development?
  • What ways do you think you could use Google Alerts for the classroom?
  • How could this flow of information improve or help you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don’t Do It All At Once: Technology in the Classroom

In the week prior to this Spring Semester, Academic Technology held a series of workshops showcasing a variety of tools, resources, and practices for faculty to consider for this semester or just in the future.  We were impressed by the number of faculty that attended these workshops and surprised by how many of them went to 3 sessions or more.  The workshops went extremely well and our conversations with faculty about their work in the following weeks has been quite rewarding.  

One point that came up worth reiterating is the importance of planned implementation.  There are lots of ways you can use the various resources we have, but we like to encourage a deliberate approach.  Trying to do it all at once can leave yourself and your students overwhelmed.  Instead, it’s better scaffold your technological resources into the classroom, giving you a chance to familiarize yourself with the benefits, limitations, and technical challenges that each piece presents before pulling in something else.  It’s very much like your course text or any assignment you might use in your classroom.  You don’t completely revamp your course from semester to semester; you hold onto things that work and tweak those that didn’t.  

Any time you’re looking to integrate some new program or project that utilizes technology, it’s always important to give yourself sufficient lead time to properly implement it.  As we’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, it’s important to properly evaluate just what you want to do when it comes to technology or risk losing your students or yourself.
  • What are some of the ways you've successfully integrated technology into your classroom?
  • What experiences have you had when you went too quickly or tried to implement too much?
  • What do you feel you need in order to be prepared to use a particular technology in the classroom?