Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Luring Luddites to Teach with Technology

Location: Clutching Rare Books to Chest

I was amused by a The Chronicle of Higher Education story that landed in my in box this morning (link to full article).

Jeffrey Young notes several problems I.T. consultants face when training faculty. Young got savaged a while back by our Virtual Worlds Roundtable group for what we perceived to be poor reporting in OpenSim and Second Life. This time around, in my opinion, he did a much better job of interviewing several experts, including Chris Dede, a professor of learning technologies at Harvard.

A US DOE plan based upon Dede's ideas about edu-tech laggards has just been released, and the findings of a survey of 4,600 faculty nationwide startle even neo-luddite me:

Only 13 percent of the professors surveyed said they used blogs in teaching; 12 percent had tried videoconferencing; and 13 percent gave interactive quizzes using "clickers," or TV-remotelike devices that let students respond and get feedback instantaneously. The one technology that most teachers use regularly—course-management systems—focuses mostly on housekeeping tasks like handing out assignments or keeping track of student grades.


Boring, boring. Blackboard to me has always been a gated community for dumping handouts, and, truth be told, a place to avoid DMCA violations (the only reasonable use I can find for it).

Two of the Young's recommendations, based on interviews with experts, might help what (to this observer) is a stagnation in the use of virtual worlds in higher ed:
  • "Enlist longtime professors with no particular interest in technology and get them to try the latest online forums, videoconferencing, or clickers. . . .Then encourage the professors to give a lunch talk for their colleagues."
  • Stress goals, not technology: "Typically, colleges give seminars with titles like '5 Ways to Use a Wiki in Your Class' or 'Getting Started With Blackboard.' " Instead, Dede recommends that tech liaisons "deal with issues that keep faculty up at night. The titles should be, How do you keep students coming to your class rather than just copying the notes off the Web? or, How to get students to respond really deeply rather than from CliffsNotes."
Enormous pressures will be coming to our state-funded schools and their faculty to use technology. Even private schools like my own will feel the pressure from parents and students who expect innovative teaching with and without technology.

Goodbye to yellow notes and, I hope, PowerPoint slide-shows.

3 comments:

Zola Zsun said...

I like the second suggestion a lot.. it really means.. get emotions involved. When an issue can be connected through emotion to any human... well, they pay attention. This is the idea behind advertising. The advancement of the use of technology in education could use a dose of good old ... get-the-emotions-involved motivational techniques. So, get someone excited, angry, or scared today!

Dan Holt said...

The last point is the most significant, but I wouldn't say to stress goals, but to stress benefits or problem-solving techniques for faculty and students.

You show faculty who teach online classes how a MUVE like SL will benefit them and their distant students, and they'll more likely become intrigued, rather than focusing on how to incorporate the newest flashy Web 2.0 application.

Or show f2f faculty how to do something in a MUVE that they've always wanted to do in RL but can't....

Iggy O said...

My own reaction is biased by my school. My colleagues have nearly no incentive to use technology in their teaching, esp. in the Humanities.

They won't respond to emotional appeals, Zola. I've tried that and failed. They will, however, respond when they have a need. What got them to use Blackboard in a first-year common course was the desire to share assignments and collaborate in areas where some had expertise and others did not for particular texts or films.

This collaboration led to more effective use of Bb in classes. It's not a technology I like, because it's closed, but it can be used well.

So maybe we split hairs (I have very few, Dan) but "goals" and "benefits" do not seem to different to me, at least in how we discuss them on my campus.

As for point one: one of my colleagues who was the least likely to use tech in his teaching got very interested in SL when he heard that he could build simulations. I'm not paid or rewarded for being a SLevangelist, so I just let him know to ask me if he ever wanted an in-world tour of a few good simulations.