eLearning Technology Blog

Teaching with Technology – When to Use It

by WSU Online 27. February 2013 13:42

For many instructors, determining when to use technology to increase efficiency or effectiveness is as challenging as knowing which technology to use. There are lots of options and the best choice may not be obvious or clear-cut. To help point faculty in the right direction to assess the benefits of technology and then decide what application might deliver the best results, here are some general guidelines.

Technology enhancements typically fall into these categories:
•    Making the class more engaging or interactive
•    Increasing the efficiency of administrative tasks (like grading)
•    Implementing creative or unique approaches


Adding Variety to Foster Engagement

Whether you are teaching fully online or complementing your face-to-face classroom with an online component, technology can make the class more engaging. Consider including links to freely available internet resources, such as relevant websites, blogs, videos, or articles. Videos in particular provide an entertaining way to deliver essential information and offer an unexpected or provocative point of view. Depending on your needs and learning outcomes, videos can bring world-renowned experts into your classroom, guide students through step-by-step “how to” instructions, serve as a tutor to supplement learning materials, or transport the viewer to experience historical events. There’s a wealth of excellent third-party video resources available. Here are a few of my favorites:  Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org), TED Talks (www.ted.com), YouTube (www.youtube.com), Google Videos (http://video.google.com), and C Span (www.c-spanvideo.org/videolibrary/about.php). Video resources are available on virtually any topic. Using these types of free resources allows you to add interest and easily expand your learning materials at no cost and with minimal investment of time.

Increasing Efficiency

The Global Campus recently conducted a faculty survey, including a question about factors that hinder use of technology. Of those who commented, 40% listed time as a barrier. I can relate; in fact, my previous blog directly addressed this issue. But used appropriately, technology can save you time.  The learning management system has easy-to-use features and functions that streamline or automate administrative tasks, especially grading and feedback. My favorite is the electronic rubric, a powerful tool that clearly communicates assignment expectations to students. The step-by-step wizard walks you through creation of a customized form in a matter of minutes, guiding you to select preferences that define levels of achievement, establish appropriate weighting percentages, and enumerate individual assessment criteria. Once the completed table is attached to the assignment, essay-style exam question, or discussion forum, it semi-automates your grading process! The electronic rubric is especially helpful if you use TA's to assist with grading, because interpretive differences are minimized and the grading will be far more consistent for the entire class. The Global Campus faculty training session “Grading and Gradebook” provides a brief display and overview of this time-saving feature.

Getting Creative

I believe that doing things differently or including an element of surprise can add “spice” to a class and revitalize learning. If you are willing, break out of the mold and stimulate student creativity and engagement with one of these ideas. In a typical online class, the tried and true “introduce yourself” assignment is submitted as a written discussion board post. This is predictable and – dare I say it – a little boring! Instead, ask students to record a short video or create a comic-strip style cartoon (www.toondoo.com) as an introduction. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s different!  Or you might consider “flipping” your classroom. This approach has students view pre-recorded audio and/or video lectures online before a class meets and then uses the face-to-face session to discuss, analyze, debate, and engage with the material covered in the lecture. This is an interactive, highly engaging approach that will energize students and get them more actively involved. And finally, shift some responsibility for learning to your students. Surveys indicate that increasing students’ ownership for their learning tends to result in higher satisfaction. Activities to support this include student facilitation, peer review, creating sample problems or reverse engineering, explaining why wrong answers are wrong instead of only giving the right answer, and using reflection papers or journals for deeper introspection and self-assessment.

I hope this article sparks your imagination and inspires you to take a bold step. When you incorporate technology into your teaching, you will save time, increase efficiency, create more engagement, and boost creativity. And best of all, you might even have fun!

Susan Fein

Taking the First Step

by WSU Online 12. February 2013 11:41

Here at the Global Campus we’re all about using technology to be more efficient and effective. This applies to how we perform our day-to-day tasks that support Global Campus students and faculty, as well as encouraging instructors across the WSU system to incorporate technology into their teaching practices. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

But here’s where it gets tricky. As a consumer out in the world, I avoid a lot of the “new and improved” tools that are available. I’ve had a smartphone less than a year, and when I did upgrade, it was under protest. I am not a fan of social media, think Twitter is a ridiculous waste of time, and flat-out refuse to use Facebook even though that’s the easiest way to see pictures of my two grandbabies! Here I am, a loud and proud supporter of technology professionally, but a big-time laggard on the adoption curve in my personal life. What’s up with that?

For me, it feels like too much work to learn something new. There was nothing wrong with my old cell phone. It made calls just fine, thank you very much. And yet once I upgraded to my smartphone (kicking and screaming), I confess that I love it! I used to get so annoyed when people sent me text messages because it took FOREVER to reply pressing the telephone number pad a zillion times to get to the right letter. Now I love texting. It’s convenient and fast. Heck, the thing guesses what word I want after one or two letters and most of the time, it's right. Talk about smart!

In my role as an eLearning Consultant and faculty training lead, I am constantly proposing technology solutions and making suggestions to streamline processes and reduce administrative workload. Often, the instructors are not interested or only half-heartedly considering these options. This is usually surprising and a bit frustrating. Can’t they see the advantages? Don’t they want to be more efficient? Yes…and no. It’s just too much work. What if the technology doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to? Who will fix it for me? And who wants to look like less than an expert in front of a classroom full of students? No one, that’s for sure!

So what is the answer? How do we break free of our reluctance to embrace new approaches without that overwhelming dread? Referring back to my smartphone experience, I have to say that making the leap resulted in virtually no problems, and the learning curve to use the new features was far less difficult than my enjoyment of the advantages.  If I’m completely honest, in hindsight I realize that most of my resistance was unfounded. I was just scared, and it was easier to stick with the known, comfortable solution.

Although this story is not unique or new or even surprising, it is still a good reminder of my natural tendency to avoid change. I believe that the key for me is to take it slowly, with small steps, and cautiously test the waters. Ask your colleagues what technologies they use. Read blogs or articles that describe how technology can enhance your teaching. Participate in conversations sponsored by the Global Campus about incorporating technology into your classes. Attend some of the Global Campus faculty training sessions. Ask us. Anytime. We are here to help.

That familiar quote of Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, says it best: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Just take that first step. You might be surprised where you end up."

Susan Fein

Image from http://langwitches.org

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