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One of the first things to understand about teaching large groups is that they are made up of many individuals who are all just as anxious as each other to do well in their studies. Therefore, although there is great temptation for lecturers to treat 200 students as a group, they should really be trying to reach each individual student, and engage them in learning at the deepest possible level. There is no point simply talking at them for an hour. Most students will switch off. Worse still, they may decide not to attend lectures at all. Deeper learning often only comes about when we gain the interest of our students.
How can we promote better engagement with large groups in lecture theatres? One of the constraints of the lecture theatre is its design. Rows and rows of front facing, tiered seating are not conducive to discussion, but often the 'turn to the person next to you and...' kind of instruction can work at a superficial level. Until universities start to reconfigure lecture theatres and build spaces more friendly to discussion, we are left with finding ways to adapt existing traditional spaces. Moving large groups into break out rooms, or trying to use the spaces at the sides of lecture theatres can be disruptive or hazardous, and may often not be possible. If it is not an option, then alternatives to discussion must be sought.
Presenting large groups of students with a challenge or a problem is often effective in enabling individuals to tackle concepts or theories in an active manner. Problem based learning has been shown to be effective in encouraging students to engage at a high level with learning. With the lecturer moving around the room listening in to conversations and intervening to prompt, challenge or consolidate ideas can further engage students.
Technology can be an additional prompt for active learning. The concept of TEAL - Technology Enabled Active Learning - is one example. The MIT version of TEAL involves large group teaching through a combination of instruction, collaborative activities and media rich simulations and interactions. One of the key factors for success is that students work together on shared devices such as laptops. This enables more discussion and interaction, and students scaffold each other in their learning. Here's something I wrote about TEALs in a previous post - which highlights the importance of the teacher:
As a response to the problems of learning in homogenised, regimented environments such as classrooms and lecture halls, Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) came into being. It is one of several approaches to moving away from tedious and passive learning environments where students are expected to listen, take notes and remember what is being said and presented. TEAL spaces feature several characteristics, including flexible learning spaces where furniture can be moved into many alternative configurations, technology enriched contexts (wireless and untethered, web enabled and personal technologies) and a shift from teacher led lessons to student centred learning, where the learner can take control, and the teacher facilitates. One argument is that simply having access to personalised technologies creates conducive conditions in which active learning can occur. However, the role of the teacher is also paramount in the success of TEAL approaches. Without strategic input from teachers at critical junctures during a lesson, and without some clear goal or set of objectives, students can lose focus, become distracted and go off task.
If universities are serious about engaging students in deeper forms of learning, then several things need to happen. There needs to be a change in emphasis from teaching to learning, a shift in pedagogy is required, and the infrastructure and spaces in which formal education occurs need to be reformed. If universities are not serious about transforming learning experiences, then we can expect no significant changes anytime soon.
Photo by Steve Wheeler
...or not to lecture by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's
It’s time once again for my annual review of “the year in education technology,” something I’ve done since 2010. Tomorrow I’ll launch the seventh edition of this massive, maniacal undertaking.
This year feels different, perhaps because it’s the first time that I end the year knowing the new one will bring us a new President, one with quite different goals than the current administration’s. Things feel quite uncertain moving forward, despite all the certainty one can supposedly muster from looking back – from looking at the near-term or long-term history and trends. I’m feeling quite tentative about whether or not the insights that I might be able to glean about the year will have much relevance for the business and politics of education technology under Trump. I’m quite frightened that some of the “worst case scenarios” I’ve imagined for education technology – the normalization of surveillance, algorithmic bias, privatization, radical individualization – are poised to be the new reality.
This year feels different too than the previous years in which I’ve written these reviews because education technology – as an industry – sort of floundered in 2016, as I think my series will show. Investment dollars were down, if nothing else. I suppose some analysts would argue education technology, as an industry, “matured” this year – young startup founders were replaced by old white men as chief executives, young startups were acquired by old, established corporations. But all in all, there just isn’t much to speak of this year when it comes to spectacular “innovation” (whatever you take that to mean). Or even when it comes to remarkable “failure” – which I gather we’re supposed to praise these days.
This year’s “Top Ed-Tech Trends” are mostly the same as previous years’, despite marketing efforts to hype certain (largely consumer) products – 3D printing, virtual reality, Pokemon Go, and so on. I’ve written before about “ed-tech’s zombie ideas” – about how monstrous ideas are repeatedly revived – and this year was no different.
We could ask, I suppose, why ed-tech might be in the doldrums – why no sweeping “revolution” despite all the investment and all the enthusiasm. (We can debate what that revolution would look like: institutional change, improved test scores, more or less job security?) Has education technology, or digital technology more broadly, simply become banal as it has become ubiquitous?
And yet, this moment feels anything if banal. Here we are with a President-Elect – a reality TV star – who has been supported by white nationalists, the KKK, Wikileaks, trolls, and Peter Thiel, who election was facilitated through a massive misinformation campaign spread virally through Facebook. Education technology, and again digital technology more broadly, might not be the progressive, democratizing force that some promised. Go figure.
So we must, I think, look at the more insidious ways in which various technologies are slowly altering our notions of knowledge, expertise, and education (as practices, as institutions, as systems) – and ask who’s invested in the various futures that education technology purports to offer.A Note on Methodology
Each Friday, I gather all the education and education technology and technology-related news into one article. (I also gather articles that I read about the same topics for a newsletter that I send out each Saturday.) Each month, I calculate all the venture capital investment that’s gone into education technology, noting who’s invested, the type of company, and so on. It’s from these weekly and monthly reports that I start to build my analysis. I listen to stories. I follow the money, and I follow the press releases. I try to verify the wild, wild claims. I look for patterns. It’s based on these patterns that I choose the ten of my “Top Ed-Tech Trends.”
They’re not all “trends,” really. They’re categories. But I’ve purposefully called this series “trends” because I like to imagine it helps defang some of the bulleted list of crap that other publications churn out, claiming that this or that product is going to “change everything” about how we teach and learn.Education Technology Criticism
A note on the lenses through which I analyze ed-tech: History. Ideology. Labor. Power. Rhetoric. Ethics. Narrative. Networks. Humanities. Culture. Anti-racism. I guess I’ll add anti-fascism from here on out, just to be really clear.
Earlier this fall, Sara M. Watson published a lengthy piece for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, “Toward a Constructive Technology Criticism.” Even though the opening paragraphs that spoke of “loom-smashing Luddites and told-you-so Cassandras,” I didn’t see much of myself in her description of the “technology criticism landscape,” despite the years now that I’ve been a landscaper. Watson’s suggestions for a “constructive technology criticism”: surface ideologies. Ask better questions. Offer alternatives. Be realistic. Be precise. Be generous.
Seven years and hundreds of thousands of words reviewing what’s happening to and through education technology is as generous I can be right now, I think.
Here’s what I’ve written in previous years. You can decide for yourself with how much my criticism has been heeded (hell, even acknowledged):The Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015
- The Politics of Education Technology
- Standardized Testing
- “The Employability Narrative”
- Credits and Credentialing
- The Collapse of For-Profit Higher Education (Or Not)
- Beyond the MOOC
- The Compulsion for Data
- Social Media, Campus Activism, and Free Speech
- Indie Ed-Tech
- The Business of Ed-Tech
- The Business of Ed-tech
- School and “Skills”
- MOOCS, Outsourcing, and Online Education
- Competencies and Certificates
- The Common Core State Standards
- Data and Privacy
- The Indie Web
- Social Justice
- “Zombie Ideas”
- The Politics of Education/Technology
- MOOCs and Anti-MOOCs
- Coding and “Making”
- Data vs Privacy
- The Battle for “Open”
- What Counts “For Credit”
- The Business of Ed-tech
- The Business of Ed-tech
- The Maker Movement
- Learning to Code
- The Flipped Classroom
- The Battle to Open Textbooks
- Education Data and Learning Analytics
- The Platforming of Education
- Automation and Artificial Intelligence
- The Politics of Ed-tech
- The iPad
- Social Media: Adoption and Crackdown
- Data (Which Still Means Mostly “Standardized Testing”)
- The Digital Library
- Khan Academy
- STEM Education’s "Sputnik Moment"
- The Higher Education Bubble
- The Business of Ed-Tech
- US Politics
- Online Learning
- Mobile Learning
- Social Learning, Social Networks
- Investment in Educational Technology
Icon credits: The Noun Project
The University of Florida, based on a plan created by the state legislature, started UF Online in 2013. The original business plan was a case study in optimistic enrollment planning and the road-to-riches through online education. From program inception, UF Online was forecast to grow to a headcount of 24,000 students within 10 years, 43% of whom would be out-of-state high-tuition students, generating $76 million in annual revenue and $14 million of “profit”. Then reality hit. The first executive director quit, enrollment reality did not match plans, they got rid of their Online Program Management partner (Pearson), and they hired a new executive director with no higher education management experience. In my May 2015 coverage, I concluded:
UF Online seems to be institutionally-focused rather than student-focused, and the initiative is shaping up to be a case study in hubris. Without major changes in how the program is managed, including the main campus input into decisions, UF Online risks becoming the new poster child of online education failures. I honestly hope they succeed, but the current outlook is not encouraging.
In a remarkable transformation in the past year originally described at Inside Higher Ed, UF Online appears to have made “major changes to how the program is managed” and is now focusing on students and reality.
Some of the key changes:
- The original plan called for an unrealistic growth of enrollment to 24,000+ students within 10 years, with 43% coming from out-of-state. These assumptions were based on the fact that out-of-state students pay triple the tuition that in-state students pay. With the revised plan, the program is now forecasting 6,500 students in year 7 (compared to 18,000 students at that same point from the business plan), with 11% coming from out-of-state. This forecast is believable.
- The original plan had the online students, who pay 75% of in-state tuition compared to those on-campus, not being able to use any of the campus services. Even for those students who lived in and around Gainesville, the plan was to not allow usage of campus services, sporting event tickets, etc. As of Spring 2016, UF Online now allows students to pay additional fees to be treated like an on-campus student. It’s an expensive fee that costs more than $690 per semester for full-time students, but at least they have to option to use campus services.
- The initial reaction to missing enrollments was to create PaCE – a pathway that allows qualified students not admitted to the traditional campus to enroll in UF Online for two years then transfer to face-to-face program. One element of that plan was to specifically “to populate major areas of study that have been under-enrolled in recent years”. With the revised business plan, there is a new focus on student needs and targeted investment (page 7):
Separately, where we see peak demand and limited capacity, UF Online has been able to divert costs savings to fund additional faculty salaries in the departments with the greatest demand. Ultimately, this strategic use of our funds better supports our faculty and students through high-quality online course content.
There is much more to read in the business plan revisions and 2015-2016 Annual report, but the real transformation we are seeing is a change in mindset. Even with the lower enrollment projects, if UF Online can meet the new plan’s targets (and this now seems quite realistic), we will now have a viable online program that can serve as a model for other schools. Kudos to Evangeline Cummings, the UF Online executive director with no previous higher ed management experience, for leading this transformation. They still have a lot of work to do but now seem to be on track.
It is always a subject of astonishment to me that behaviour that is otherwise normal is deemed by some to be (a) not acceptable for teachers, and (b) not appropriate on the internet (or Facebook). The case this time (as it is so often) involves the posting of a photo of oneself relaxing on the beach. Or maybe having a beer at the local pub. What we are seeing is a case where people are told there are special codes of behaviour if they are (a) teachers, and (b) women. If I were either (a) or (b) I would be telling the guardians of my morality where they can put their directives. These behaviours are not wrong and there is thus no need for prohibiting their depiction on the internet.[Link] [Comment]
I can't say I have a lot of confidence in Facebook's ability to design a learning program, but there it is. It's "a new personalized learning system called Summit Basecamp this school year that gives students more control over their learning." It's being provided free to schools (for now) and is composed of three major areas: a self-study mode, a collaborative learning mode, and a mentoring option. Says one teacher, "It's been very different because it allows the kids to have responsibility and ownership for their learning. They're learning how to learn." The article is a fluff piece but the subject is worth a deeper look.[Link] [Comment]
I'm not sure how to judge this paper (the sentence fragment in the abstract does not reassure) but there's enough good that I don't want to overlook it. The proposal is for "a groundwork for allostatic neuro-education (GANE)" which views education as a process of growth and development. "Organic education compares the learner to a plant or blossoming flower. For education in the service of cognitive acquisition, the learner has inputs and outputs, comparable to a machine or other functional instrument. For the constructivist, the learner is understood to be engaged in a constant dialectic with the environment." It's based on the concept of allostasis, "maintaining stability through change, is a fundamental process through which organisms actively adjust to both predictable and unpredictable events." On the one hand I want to regard this paper as nonsense, and on the other I see it as an effort to comprehend phenomena that have been observed elsewhere. Via Matt Scofield.[Link] [Comment]
Here's the pitch: the authors describe a learning analytics system that can divide a class of students into different skill levels in order to determine how much they can learn. This paper is not a stellar example of academic writing; the grammar is atrocious and we can only partially grasp the authors' intent. That said, the paper serves to raise the question: should we divide a class by ability and differentiate instruction accordingly? This is an open access paper, but you may have to sign up to access.[Link] [Comment]
This article states, "According to the jobs-to-be-done theory, customers hire products or services to do a specific job for them, and those providers can adapt their offerings by understanding the job they've been hired to do." OK, fair enough. So what is the job students expect MOOCs to do? It depends on the student. "Students straight out of high school want the coming-of-age experience that goes with attending a campus in person," and online learning doesn't really help with this. Adult learners, by contrast, want "a more flexible way to earn a degree that may help them get a better job." This may all seem pretty obvious, but universities still get it wrong. That said, keep your eye on the 'job to be done'. It's a moving target, a strange attractor.[Link] [Comment]
, Ecampus Research Unit | Oregon State University, Nov 29, 2016 On this episode, Julie Risien discusses the concept of "broader impacts" and how it can be useful for researchers applying for grant funding. [Link] [Comment]
…As it turns out, it depends.
Inside Higher Ed recently published its fifth annual Survey of Faculty Attitudes Toward Technology, conducted in collaboration with researchers from Gallup. These reports cover a range of attitudinal questions on ed tech, online education, and new models of delivering course content. One of the key findings of this year’s report, as described in a Gallup blog, is that there is still a high level of disagreement among faculty of the relative merits of online courses versus traditional face to face courses, but there are some important nuances to the results. The survey finds that a majority of faculty (55%) “disagree or strongly disagree” with the idea that online courses can deliver the same student outcomes that in-person courses produce. Among faculty who have actually taught online, however, there is a much more positive view of the ability for online education to match in-person courses.
“About four in 10 faculty say they have taught an online course. These faculty are increasingly optimistic about the equality of online and in-person courses the “closer to home” the educational context; 32% agree or strongly agree that equal outcomes are achievable for online and in-person courses at any institution, and 52% agree or strongly agree this is possible for the classes they teach. Those who have taught online are four times more likely than their inexperienced peers to agree or strongly agree that equal learning outcomes can be achieved for online and in-person versions of the classes they teach (52% vs. 12%).”
Furthermore, faculty who have taught online also say the new teaching medium has forced them to reevaluate how they teach and develop new strategies for engaging students and delivering content effectively. Overall, 79% of faculty who have taught online say that the experience has made them better teachers both online and in-person.
While the academy is clearly divided on the ability of online courses to deliver similar results to in-person courses (a healthy tension that is likely to continue), more and more faculty are being exposed to online teaching and seeing tangible benefits. In the end, it may not be the technology itself, but the opportunity technology affords faculty to rethink and improve their approach to teaching that drives incremental, educator-driven improvements across higher education.
The post Recommended Reading: What Do Faculty Really Think of Online Learning? appeared first on e-Literate.