Archive for the ‘Faculty Development’ Category

The “Secret Technology Club”

During Winter Seminar Days at MCC, I held a breakout session called “The Secret Technology Club” and I just finished a set of slides to mimic the presentation. Here’s the description:

The Secret Technology Club: If you think that technology power-users have a whole bunch of “secret” tricks and shortcut, you might be right. We’ve been immersed in computer-use for decades now, but very few of us have had much formal training. We learn through trial and error, but it’s difficult to learn what you don’t know exists! If you suspect you’ve fallen behind and would like to fill some of those silly technology gaps, this is for you. This will be a random assortment of tips and tricks for a variety of programs and web applications. You can become a member of the “Secret Technology Club” by learning the secret technology handshakes.

You might be surprised by what you don’t know. I learn something new every time I prepare for this presentation.

Here are the slides for The Secret Technology Club.


I’d encourage you to “play along” and try out all the tips as you go through the slides.

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The Open Faculty

I feel a little starstruck today.  I was asked to write an article about “Open Faculty” for EDUCAUSE Review… something that hasn’t really been tackled before.  It was agonizing. It took gobs of time. I wanted to make sure I got it right.  I wanted it to help those who aren’t open faculty to understand those that are.  I feel a little out of my league writing in the same issue with some really big names in ed tech … I hope I nailed it!

The Open Faculty: To share or not to share, is that the question?

Actually, you should read the entire issue of EDUCAUSE Review on “Open …” because it’s all good stuff!

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The Cohort Effect: Coming of Age in Academia

The non-italicized portions below are excerpted from portions of my dissertation-in-progress.  Just so we’re clear, the quoted material in this post is strictly copyrighted (not licensed under the CC for the rest of the blog).

There is little doubt that self-experience influences beliefs (Nespor, 1987 and Goodman, 1988 as cited by Pajares, 1992). Instructors’ self-experience regarding educational practice comes first from their own experiences as a student (e.g. how they experienced instruction from a students persepective), and second, from their experiences as a practitioner in the classroom (e.g. the outcomes they observed as a result of their instruction). Early experiences tend to form beliefs that are highly resistant to change (Pajares, 1992). These beliefs are so strong that people will go out of their way to avoid confronting contrary evidence or engage in discussion that might harm these beliefs (Pajares, 1992). Instructors may present particularly resilient educational beliefs they spent years experiencing the system of education and likely, and most had positive identification with education to be motivated to pursue a career in it (Pajares, 1992; Ginsburg and Newman, 1985).

There is some natural resistance to change as a result of the human aging process, but there is also evidence that the greatest resistance to change in academia seems to come from cohort effects (Lawrence & Blackburn, 1985). In the cohort effect, new propositions may be in conflict with the longstanding core beliefs of an individual, which formed during the time that they came of age in academia. Faculty careers are best explained by the cohort model – that is, “…professors who complete their graduate work and achieve tenure during the same historical era are enculturated with a particular set of values that remain constant over time” (Lawrence & Blackburn, 1985, p. 137). Further evidence of this can be found in the 2004-2005 HERI Faculty Survey, which found that there were considerable differences in the use of student-centered instruction versus teacher centered instruction across the different faculty career stages (see figure below). Early-career faculty were more likely to use a variety of student-centered instructional practices (i.e. group projects, student presentations, reflective writing) and advanced-career faculty were more likely to use extensive lecturing (Lindholm et al., 2005).


Recognizing that an instructor is most likely to change during the time they “come of age” in academia, many faculty development programs target brand-new faculty.  What follows are descriptions of two of the math-specific programs that are aimed at new faculty.

Project NeXT and Project ACCCESS are professional development programs, sponsored by MAA and AMATYC respectively, that focus on brand-new college math faculty. Project NeXT (New Experiences in Teaching) is for new or recent Ph.D.s and provides training on, among other things, improving the teaching and learning of mathematics (LaRose, 2009). Project ACCCESS (Advancing Community College Careers: Education, Scholarship, Service) is a mentoring and professional development initiative that was conceived originally as a version of Project NeXT for community college faculty. ACCCESS is now wholly administered by AMATYC, and its mission is “to provide experiences that will help new faculty become more effective teachers and active members of the broader mathematical community.” (Project ACCCESS website, 2009).

So, let’s be clear here.  I don’t think we use the cohort effect as an argument to give up on mid- and advanced-career faculty.  But given the cohort effect, it may be necessary to give experienced faculty an intense and lengthy experience that causes them to “come of age” again in academia.  For example, many participants in our week-long Math & Technology workshop have told us that they had forgotten what it was truly like to be in the student role.  After a week of being confronted with lots of new technology and experiencing learning in new (and much more active) ways, these faculty tell us they have fresh perspective on teaching and learning.  Will that translate into more student-centered instructional practices?  I have no idea.  But I’d like to see AMATYC and MAA create a professional development program for a cohort of experienced faculty every year, using the model already established for Project NeXT and ACCCESS.

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Technology Skills We Should Be Teaching in College

This is a follow-up to my recent research about Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age.  I’ve spent considerable time thinking about how to alter the classes I teach to re-center them on a core of flexible learning.  In all of my classes this semester, students will be completing a variety of learning projects that involve alternative ways to learn (e.g. blogging, making mindmaps, teaching a lesson, making a video presentation, or designing a non-digital game).

The difficult part about including these alternative learning methods is teaching the students all the necessary technology skills first.  Most of my students are the traditional freshman-level age-range  (18-25).  For the most part, they “get” technology (cell phones, facebook, video games, and gadgets), but they haven’t been taught how to do anything productive with technology – at least, not with regards to learning or career skills.

If America wants to continue to be a world-leader, we can do it with a technology advantage – but only if we actually know how to leverage that technology to continue to be more productive.

So, I began to write out a list of the tech skills that I think students should learn before they leave college.  Ideally, these are skills that would be integrated throughout K-12 and college curricula.

Basic Web Stuff
1. Basics of HTML (bold, underline, italics, special characters)
2. How to use EMBED code or make a live link
3. How to make and share a screenshot
4. How to make and share a short video explaining something or asking for help
5. Learn basic abbreviations and emoticons (e.g. ROFL, IMHO)
6. How to build a landing page for your web-based stuff (e.g. iGoogle, NetVibes)
7. How to add gadgets or plug-ins for various sites
8. How to make a simple website (e.g. Google Sites)
9. Build a clickable resume / digital portfolio
10. How (and when) to use collaborative documents or spreadsheets
11. How (and why) to create tags and labels
12. How (and why) to use URL-shortening sites (e.g. TinyURL)

13. How to set up a web-based calendar and use it to manage your time
14. How to set up and manage an RSS reader
15. How to find a common meeting time (e.g. Doodle)
16. How to set up a communication aggregator (e.g. Digsby, Trillian, TweetDeck)

17. How to manage email
18. How to write a good “first-contact” email
19. How to write a good subject line
20. How to write a good email response
21. Texting etiquette (when it’s appropriate, when it’s not)
22. How to summarize your thoughts in 140 characters or less
23. How to use Twitter (reply, retweet, direct message)
24. How to determine whether you should share it in a public forum (will it affect your future job prospects, your current employment, etc.)
25. How to manage an online meeting
26. How to give an effective webinar
27. What are the differences between various social networks and how they are used? (e.g. Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn)

Finding and Managing Information
28. How to use web-based bookmarks
29. How (and when) to use library search databases
30. How (and when) to use an image-based search engine
31. How (and when) to use alternate search engines (e.g. Clusty)
32. Who writes Wikipedia articles and when can they be trusted?
33. How to build a custom search engine
34. When can you trust the information you find?
35. How to use article citations to find better references
36. How to manage a bibliography online (e.g. Zotero)
37. How to set up web alerts to track new information (e.g. Google Alerts)

Privacy, Security, and the Law
38. Creative Commons – what is it and how to choose appropriate license?
39. How to read the legalese that tells you who owns it after it is shared online
40. What should you share and how does that change for different audiences?
41. How to manage usernames & passwords
42. How to find and tweak the privacy settings in common social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter)
43. How do data-mining sites get your information? (e.g. participating in FB quizzes)
44. What are the security concerns with GPS-based tracking systems?

45. How to determine the audience and appropriate length for your presentation
46. Good presentation design principles
47. Principles of storytelling
48. How to share a set of slides on the Internet
49. How to build a non-linear presentation
50. How to build a flashy presentation (and when to use it)
51. How to find high-quality images that can be used in presentations (with appropriate copyrights)
52. How to find audio that can be shared in a presentation (with appropriate copyrights)
53. How to create a captioning script for a video
54. Ways to caption an internet-based video
55. How (and when) to use a virtual magnifier with your presentation

Ways to Learn
56. How to build an interactive mindmap to organize ideas
57. How to use a blog to track your learning process
58. How to find good sites, blogs, and other online publications for the topic you are learning about
59. How to cultivate a personal learning network (PLN)
60. How to participate in a live learning chat (e.g. TweetChats)

Okay, that’s sixty items and I’ve just scratched the surface (I haven’t even touched on virtual worlds, for instance).

The big problem?  How many educators do you know that have these skills?

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Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Two years ago at the beginning of the fall semester, I was given the chance to speak to the faculty on my campus about technologies for teaching and getting organized, which is how the mindmaps Web 2.0 for You and Organize Your Digital Self were born.  Now two years have gone by, and I’ve given both of these talks (updated with each presentation) all over the country in various formats.

This year, the Faculty Association invited me to give another talk about what I’ve learned about technology and teaching.  Although I got to choose the specifics,  I figured it had to be a departure from these other two talks (since at least 1/3 of the faculty have seen those).  After much thought and gnashing of teeth, I decided to focus on learning more than teaching, or rather, how the way we teach should be motivated by what we want students to learn.

This brings up the rather sticky question, What should students be learning today? To answer this, I did a lot of research and reading.  In K-12, there are several state initiatives to infuse “21st Century skills” into the classroom – many of these initiatives are part of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (which has an excellent website).  Another organization that is leading the way aims at adult education: Equipped for the Future (EFF) is housed in the Center for Literacy at the University of Tennessee.  Both organizations outline a set of “standards” or “fundamentals” with specific objectives for each.  You’ll see that I’ve largely built my presentation around the goals of these two initiatives.  The two sets of initiatives overlap in places, but you’ll see that they are framed a bit differently.  At the community college level, we are concerned about teaching students who are fresh out of high school as well as those who are adults returning to school.

The big takeaway from all of my reading is that we have to teach students skills that will help them flex into new jobs as the market constantly shifts to accommodate new technological advances, global competition, and sudden “black swan” events (can you say sudden economic collapse?).   Like it or not, the majority of programs in higher education prepare students for a specific career (journalist, nurse, engineer, teacher, etc.), but the industrial-age model of a “career-for-a-lifetime” is ending.

In Michigan, this lesson is particularly painful as we watch a large group of workers in their 30s, 40s, and 50s return to school to be “retrained.”  These folks are not just factory workers, they are managers, engineers, prison guards, retail workers, bank employees, education parapros, school administrators, nurses, journalists, printers, non-profit employees, counselors, and social workers.  Many of these folks have been through the system of higher ed once, and now they face a mandatory second run at it.  What worries me is that we may just be setting them up to experience the same thing when their second career fails.  This is our time to step up to the plate by teaching technology skills that will make our students employable and ready to face the next few decades of work, not just the next job.

The closest model for a degree allowing a large amount of career flexibility for the digital age is the hallowed “liberal arts degree.” However, the Liberal Arts degree needs a wee bit of modernizing for the digital age.  I think there is a way to carefully “hack” a better liberal arts degree into our existing system (like a patch to an older piece of software).  However, this is a blog post all unto itself (see a hint of what is to come on the last branch of the map for this presentation).

Anyways, I digress.  The presentation is called Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age, and it is presented mindmap-style.


When I talk about technology, I like demonstrate by using the technologies as an integral part of my presentation.  First, I build the presentation so that it is based on a discussion with the audience.  No speaker, no matter how good, can have much lasting impact if they simply tell their message.  However, if your audience is able to engage with what you’re saying for a long time after they see you, you stand a much greater chance of making a difference.

If you explore the map, you’ll see that I have a small slide deck on one of the branches (for a section that had to present a linear argument).  There is a live chat room to simulate the “back conversation” that you can foster via twitter in a conference presentation or the text chat in a webinar session.   Finally, there’s a PollEverywhere attached to one of the map branches that can be answered via texting or a web page.

Aside from the technologies that I will use during the presentation, I’ve tried to come up with specific examples (most involving technology) of ideas for implementing the 21st century skills in the higher ed setting.  Each branch of the presentation terminates with ideas and links to resources that will aid in implementing the ideas.

Thus, the nuts and bolts of the presentation demonstrates practical ways to use technology, but the technology use is embedded inside of a discussion/presentation about why students should be learning these skills.

More later on how to “hack” higher ed … in the meantime, if you’ve got a teaching example to demonstrate one of the skills on this map, please comment them in!

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Choosing a Web 2.0 Tool

I was asked to give a presentation at Northwestern Michigan College last week to help faculty and staff decide which Web 2.0 tool to use for their projects or courses.  It’s more common to do a “gee-wiz” presentation on what Web 2.0 tools are out there and how they could be used, so this was a little unusual.

As such, I had to sit down and think about how I decide what tools to choose, and then do a little research about what other eLearning professionals consider when deciding what to use.

The result of this thinking and researching was a new handout to use for the presentation to help participants either choose between general tools (like wiki, blog, or website) or more specific choices like (Animoto, Prezi, Slideshare).

Please feel free to use this handout if it is helpful to you (you can always find it under Resources -> Handouts on this site.

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Social Networking for Academics

Lately I’ve been getting some emails expressing bafflement at understanding the plethora of social networks and why on earth they are being used (many of these questions come from academics).  So, here’s a short introduction to social networking for academics (specifically geared towards the mathematics variety).  Watch the 8-minute video here or below.

In the meantime, I can assure you that the only way to “get” social networking is to dive in and try something.  There’s a reason our students enjoy it so!  I resisted for years (and only dove into Facebook in December).  I have made the choice not to “friend” students until they graduate, but that is a personal decision and can be made only by you.

If you are just getting started, I’d recommend FB.  I have not regretted the decision to join at all. If you let FB look at your email addresses (not stored, no worries) you will be able to see who you already know that is on FB (if a picture shows up for them, they are on FB already).

Very important if you decide on FB to try: Go immediately to Settings and turn off all email notifications (or it will swamp your email inbox).

If you decide to try twitter, look me up @busynessgirl.

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Welcome to Your Brain Reading Group

One more … this is a subject near and dear to me, as my mother had a stroke when I was 5 years old, and ever since then, the brain has utterly fascinated me. Why does it work? Why does it not work? I think I really should have been a neuroscientist, but I have a bit too much invested in other subjects now. Maybe in my retirement.

Anyways, the book is called Welcome ot Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life, by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang.

In particular, I think we should look at what this book tells us about learning in a classroom, online, and with technology. If you’d like to join this learning community and discussion, enroll yourself at using the enrollment key “losekeys” (lowercase, no quotes).

Same disclaimer as the other groups … being a site administrator is not my job … please forgive moodle technical glitches gracefully.

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New Kind of Science Reading Group

As promised last week, I have created a forum for the A New Kind of Science reading group on my moodle site, (bookmark it if you’re going to participate).

You will have to create a user account on the site (which I think requires verification by email).
Then to enroll in the discussion (course RDGP102) you will need the enrollment code, which is “nks” (all lowercase, the abbreviation for the book).

If someone (other than I) is willing to act as the “instructor” and help with moderating the discussions, that would be great! Send me an email.

So, if you’re looking for some social community while you read the book, here’s your opportunity! Join us online. The official language will be English, but I welcome international participants if they have some kind of translation service they can use!

Disclaimer: This is an experiment. I have no idea what I am doing with Moodle – I am learning as I go. There will be technical glitches and I will figure them out as I go.

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Calculus Wars Reading Group

Okay, finally I’m digging out. I have created a forum for the Calculus Wars reading group on my moodle site, (bookmark it if you’re going to participate).

You will have to create a user account on the site (which I think requires verification by email).

Then to enroll in the discussion (course RDGP101) you will need the enrollment code, which is “socrates” (all lowercase, the middle name of the author).

If someone (other than I) is willing to act as the “instructor” and help with moderating the discussions, that would be great! Send me an email.

So, if you’re looking for some social community while you read the book, here’s your opportunity! Join us online. The official language will be English, but I welcome international participants if they have some kind of translation service they can use!

Disclaimer: This is an experiment. I have no idea what I am doing with Moodle – I am learning as I go. There will be technical glitches and I will figure them out as I go.

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