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Enriching Scholarship 2017 keynote May 2, 2017

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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When watching the keynote address at Enriching Scholarship, there are generally three questions that I ponder: What is this person trying to say; How can I apply what s/he is saying to the astronomy classroom; and is what I’m hearing him/her say the same thing that everyone else is picking up on? So, here is my annual attempt to summarize the important points. If you got something else out of it, please add a comment!
This year’s speaker was Scott Page from UM. He began by telling us that Technology, Diversity, and Complexity were the big ideas he wanted to address. Although he did address them roughly in that order, since I’m doing the book report version, I’m going to address them a little differently.
One of the issues Dr. Page addressed was that our students will leave here and go out to become workers, leaders, citizens, and policy-makers in a highly complex world. Simple solutions and right answers often don’t exist. It takes cross disciplinary work to understand these problems and come up with workable solutions. However our current university model segregates both students and faculty into departments, and focuses value on individual work. This leads redundancy in teaching and a failure to make connections. For example, students learn about collective intelligence in many classes. It may be the way bees communicate in a biology class, the law of supply and demand where market tolerance forces a return to equilibrium, or development of a computer program to evaluate complex data sets by breaking them into smaller data sets and evaluating the different components before merging the results into a singe output. They are all just different versions of the same idea, but students often don’t recognize that fact. We fail to help them make that connection because we ourselves are unaware of what others are doing, or what past experience the students have. It also means that some students get the same material several times, while others may never experience a presentation that is effective for their learning style.
In addition, many of the issues our students will face after graduation are too complex to be understood by any individual. It takes groups to understand the problems and come up with the better solutions. Again our current university model falls short because it values “right” answers and individual work over collaborative work and open ended solutions. There are many examples of estimation problems, which show that although a random individual may be terrible at estimating something, a group is often much better. The example he used was the weight of a steer: most of the people in the class did a terrible job of estimating, but their average was within a pound of the actual weight. Most companies and organizations know this, so they hire people to work in teams, not as individuals. Also, students who learn in teams have the opportunity to develop expertise in one area, while benefiting from the group knowledge in other areas. The more diverse the group is, the better the outcomes tend to be. If you put all your math majors in one group and all the art majors in another, the projects they produce usually aren’t early as good as if you mix the math and art majors up among the groups. It is important to remember that diversity applies to many different aspects, including preparedness, background, and learning styles, not just race, gender, or culture. We need to address the diversity of students in ways that help them become valued contributors, not the ones holding the class back. When building groups, we need to make sure that all group members have shared sense of purpose, fell safe and respected, and believe that their group is an ongoing concern.
Technology should be the thing that makes all of this possible. From creating effective groups, to tailoring education to individual students’ needs, we have the tools to do all that. The key is figuring out which is the right tool. Dr. Page shared a story about a trip he was on where they saw a stampede of bison, and many people were taking pictures. Later they went to Mt. Rushmore, where many people were taking video. Right tools, wrong applications! We need to consider which tools to use, and to reassess whether or not they are still the right tools.
Working backward is a good way to get started on that. Begin by determining what your goals are. follow that by answering what assessments would show you that the goals have been achieved. Then, what will the students need to complete those assessments. Finally, what tools will enable them to complete the work, and what tools do you need to complete the assessment. Is there tech that can provide them options, so those who prefer to read and those who prefer to watch a video can make those choices. Is there a technology that can enable coaching type interactions, so they can iterate their way to a good solution, or try something and fail without failing. Is there a “worst practice” for this technology, and are you avoiding it (for example, the Gettysburg Address as a powerpoint). However, all of this applies primarily to individual classes. For solutions to issues like repetitiveness, interconnectivity, and best resources, we need institutional solutions.

Enriching Scholarship 2015 – Tech & Trends May 19, 2015

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The University of Michigan’s annual conference on teaching, learning, and technology, Enriching Scholarship, took place, May 4 – 8, 2015. On Thursday, I attended the Interdisciplinary Communities of Practice: Tech Tools, Trends, Ethos session hosted by the Tech & Trends for Communicators group.

They began with a brief history of the group, and who the members are. Many of them mentioned the importance of networking with other members of the university community, especially so they know whose brain to pick when they have a question. The mission of the group is essentially to find and try out new tech and tools and make recommendations about it’s usefulness to the university. One of the primary goals is to break down the silos and reduce duplication of effort.

They also get to try out some of the cool tech, and explore resources. For example, they used a drone to make a video. They’ve met a couple times at places in the area like the innovatrium, and hope to visit Menlo this year.

The group has monthly meetings, on the second Thursday. Most meetings have a videoconference component, so you can join even if you can’t make the actual meeting. There is MCommunity group, trendsandtechteam,  and a google+ community .

There was also a discussion of some of things the group has turned up. For example, Periscope or Meercat allow you to live stream from your mobile device via twitter. They are simple and easy to use, but there are also copyright issues, like what if someone live streams copyrighted material to the world, or streaming a private event, and someone there doesn’t want to be recorded.

Of course, no TnT gathering would be truly complete without the round table. Here are some highlights:

Enriching Scholarship 2015 – Keynote May 18, 2015

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The University of Michigan’s annual conference on teaching, learning, and technology, Enriching Scholarship, took place, May 4 – 8, 2015. The conference always starts with a poster session and keynote. The keynote was recorded and is available on youtube, if you want to see it for yourself.

This year’s keynote was a panel to discuss Unizin and Canvas. Here are a few highlights and (my impression of) the key takeaways.

First, a VERY quick overview of what the things are that the panel is talking about: Unizin is a consortium of schools focused on influencing the digital learning landscape and providing services to the member institutions. The first service available is Canvas, a Learning Management System (LMS). We have a pilot version with a class anyone at Michigan can join. There is a short video about Unizin and the University of Michigan on YouTube.

The panelists (very briefly) were: Sean DeMonner (UM ITS teaching and learning), Tim McKay (UM Physics), Stacy Morrone (Learning Technologies, Indiana University), and Amin Qazi (Unizin CEO). Vice Provost James Hilton moderated. In general, the ideas below were expressed by one panelist first, then generally agreed with by the others, so I haven’t noted the specific source unless there was a compelling reason (also, I’m not always good about getting actual quotes, or making note of who said what…)

LMSs and Educational Software have become sufficiently important that software companies are doing things in those areas for profit. Unizin provides us the clout needed to ensure that the direction taken by those for-profit companions serves our needs, not that we must adapt to what they are willing to provide.

By outsourcing the software development and maintenance to Unizin, we are free to focus on what we actually need or want to do. The innovation can happen in the teaching techniques, not in the tool development. (As an aside, I’m not convinced this will really change things for development. Now, if an instructor has an idea, s/he has to find the funding to develop it. With Unizin, s/he has to convince others it’s a good idea. I don’t actually see a big difference between influencing others to give you money, and influencing others to give you human resources. At least there’s less hunting to do.)

Unizin provides a standardized platform for other companies to tie into. (another aside – anyone who has used publisher provided homework systems has seen the advantages of this – they’ll all tie into something like Blackboard, but forget tying into CTools!)

Commons is another service provided by Unizin. It is basically a repository of creative commons teaching objects. Whether you’re looking for an image, a homework question, or a final report rubric, you can search in the commons and automatically know you have the rights to use it. Sharing can be done on the individual level (person to person), all the way up to the entire Unizin community. While the materials are available through their own portal, Canvas makes it convenient to share or search for objects in the Commons. They are also working on tools to streamline building a course in Canvas using materials from Commons. Ideally, it will be possible for an instructor to integrate a youtube video, one chapter from a textbook, and several “learning outcomes” into a module so the relationship between all the parts is clear, and assignments are automatically aded to the schedule, syllabus, and grades.

Another service in development in Analytics. Again, this ties in to Canvas. Because Canvas integrates so many pieces in the same way across classes and across schools, we will be able to learn from what other instructors are doing. Now, it’s difficult to compare methods used by someone in the college of engineering to someone in LSA. With Unizin’s Analytics, we should not only be able to compare LSA and Engin, we should be able to compare UM and Indiana. Instructors may be able to have homework assignments that automatically adjust to the student, or notify the academic advisor when a student is in trouble.

Longer term, one of the things they are thinking about is what follows the student when s/he leaver the university. Now the only thing they really take with them is the transcript. With the expanded and more uniform Analytics, can we add things like digital badges and certificates? Could a physics student graduate with a portfolio the same way an art student does?

In short, membership in Unizin hopefully provides resources and opportunities that we haven’t had before.

Enriching Scholarship 2015 – Poster Session May 17, 2015

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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The University of Michigan’s annual conference on teaching, learning, and technology, Enriching Scholarship, took place, May 4 – 8, 2015. The conference always starts with a poster session and keynote. The poster session is often a good chance to network and explore with others. This year, I got sidetracked by a couple conversations and didn’t see most of the posters!

Here are some notes about the posters, in order according to the program. I apparently went backwards, so there are more notes on the later posters.

Posters 1 – 5 were the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize. I missed all of these, but they are available online at http://crlt.umich.edu/tip_winners. I was interested in checking out Jill Halpern’s “Calculus in the Commons: Bringing Math to Life”, because it sounds a lot like what we try to do in the intro astro classes (I often hear students comment on the fact that they don’t meet in their scheduled classroom until the third or forth week of classes. I can’t always tell if they think that’s good, or bad.)

Posters 6 – 18 were the Investigating Student Learning Grant winners. They are available online at http://www.crlt.umich.edu/grants-awards/islwinners. I missed some of these.
Cohn et. al found that having students doing work that was evaluated by professionals working in the field enhanced motivation and performance. Their project is titled “Assessing the Impact of Cross-Disciplinary, Project-Focused, Action-Based Immersive Learning Experiences in Healthcare and Engineering”
Adams et al. has a poster titled “Evaluating the Pre-Professional Engineer: Project Team and Individual Performance”. The focus of their work was to get students to move beyond the “everything is fine” assessment of their peers to actual useful evaluation and feedback. This not only leads to more useful peer evaluation within the classes, it helps prepare the students for workplace performance management.
I had just started looking at Gunderson’s “On-Line Collaboration: Generating & Ranking Solutions to Practice Exam Problems in Stats 250” she we were called into the keynote, so I didn’t get to give it the attention I wanted. It allowed students who correctly answered a problem to present their solution to their peers, and peers voted on the best solution.

Posters 18 – 22 were about TTC Projects.
One of the posters was about Canvas. The keynote and several of the sessions I attended also had heavy emphasis on Canvas, so I’ll blog more Canvas things later. 
There was also a poster on the teleconferencing capabilities at the Language Resource Center. If you have a need to do something like run a lecture from far away or at an odd time (like from an observatory!), collaborate with another university, or present material in a space that is too small to fit your entire class (like an observatory), teleconferencing may be a solution, and the LRC can help.
Finally, the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning has a great many resources and a lot of research on technology in the classroom. If you have an idea, or have heard of something you want to try out, talk to them first. If there are pitfalls, they probably already know about them. If it’s really new, they might have an idea about how to implement it. If you need resources (like money for a grad student to help you convert to a new form of media) they might be able to point you in the right direction.