Category Archives: Teaching and Learning

Working with the Ents

Enterprise architecture, the endeavor of building technical reference architecture for the business, or, in this case, for higher ed, is a deliberative iterative and s l o w process.

Here I am in Madison, Wisconsin joining phenomenally gifted and wise senior enterprise architects such as Rich Stevens (University of Maryland), Jim Phelps (U of Wisconsin and current chair of ITANA*), Leo Fernig (U of British Columbia) and Scott Fullerton (U of Wisconsin) in creating a Learning Reference architecture for presentation at Educause in the fall. Knock on wood.

Wood, you say? Or trees? Not only the things architects see through on their way to categorizing the whole forest, but really, these deliberate conversations with their careful measured tone …which I am learning from in enormous measure… think before you speak, Laura, hear the rationale of that statement on the inside of your brain before you say it on the outside…, these deliberate conversations make me feel as foolish as the Hobbits among the Ents.

Even my fellow subject matter experts, Jeanne Blochwitz (Asst. Director of Academic Technology, Wisconsin) and Jeff Bohrer (Instructional Technology Consultant, Wisconsin) seem more tuned to this pace than I am.

Remember this Lord of the Rings council of war by the Keepers of the Forests, the Ents? (There are Hobbits in this photo perched in an Ent, but you can’t really see them).

many_ents

*ITANA, by the way, is a constituent group of Educause, an outreach arm for Enterprise, Business, and Technical Architects in Academia.

Look for the presentation of our work at Educause this fall. Knock on wood (but not in an Entish forest) we’ll be done!

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Disruptive Education – Or Encouraging Education?

It is disruptive. But it shouldn’t be. Putting myself in faculty shoes, the hardest part is mastery of this new online stuff, which, really, if I’m being honest, I don’t want to do myself and I probably don’t have time to do myself anyway. I need to just get the gist of it and find individuals or even a team I can work with effectively so that they can find or build the reusuable learning objects, the content bundles and the sequencing I need to supplement and enhance the way I teach and the content I intend to cover.  I remain the subject matter expert, but they advise me and participate with me in finding the best ways to get across the material.

Michael Stanton’s Disruptive Education

I can focus on my research, bring the students into what I’m learning, modeling and mentoring the processes those in our field master to forward our discipline. I may find vital to reaching and engaging my students such online activities as virtual office hours, blogging, or contributing in other public spaces in which my students have their discussions and launch their questions.

But I daren’t be a fearful learner myself.

What happens in the Classroom shouldn’t stay in the Classroom

Your classroom is bigger than that space you reserve to meet in a couple of times a week. It always has been. You can not keep doing what you’ve always been doing and think you’re going to get different results.  Adapting the way you teach is not optional. It’s imperative.

Previously, students read the textbook before class and then came to class and you lectured on the same content. You were impassioned, funny, clever, erudite. Well, maybe not all the time… Your job was never just about getting them to read the text, so much as to expose them to the ideas, processes, cases, and real world applications that came out of the text. Which part of that should keep happening in your classroom? Which part of that is more engaging elsewhere?

It has never been easier to design experiences which take the classroom experience out into the world (24/7!), and there touch, taste, feel, search, discuss, skype, draw, visualize, record, chart, experiment, sequence, hypothesize, journal, create, make, do!

Back in the classroom ask questions, report failures, share conclusions, rale against the gods, rant about the industry, posit a new theorem, get feedback on ones journey, only to go back out and do it all over again having the support, guidance and direction of one or more who have navigated before the construct and sequencing to the inside/outside classroom experiences of the student scholar.

The classroom is a box, long ago converted from a delineated space where scholars and wannabe scholars interacted. Scholars used nothing more than their voices, their timbres, passion, expression, elocution, and rhetoric to incite their students with a desire to gain more capacity in their chosen field.  Thus was born the lecture. It was codified as a rehearsed staple of teaching.  It has a place today.

But the lecture today shares that place with a plethora of techniques, some of them more suited for what once only the lecture tried to do.

Data, Research, Education and … Hunches

A national gas station chain opens a neighborhood store, adds a customer loyalty program, puts up a website to collect registration data, gets people to swipe the card at the pump whenever buying gas, while inside asks again for the card and/or zip code, pays out their incentives: coffee, frozen drinks, snack packs, cookies, crackers, 2-liter pops. A video camera records it all.

Another day, a researcher working on a project to determine the snacking habits of obese people versus non-obese people has just struck a gold mine if they can agree to responsibly treat this data in the aggregate only. (Didn’t the gas station promise not to share the data when they collected it? Maybe. Or maybe just not to sell it to companies looking for more consumers ). Canvassing begins, more data gathered, and correlation theories processed.

A couple months ago, in an entrepreneurial startup weekend, publically available data was called upon to inform or power a new phone app with predictive capabilities for determining the rise or fall of stock prices. That one’ll be hot. Publically available data …

Try this idea: Find existing data useful for research, and then create the questions which could be answered by its careful analysis.

Call it “Backward Research.” Start with a data set first. Ask questions later. Find data in existence, not just to be mined, but to be curated, aggregated, built-upon, re-defined, and continually expanded to provide answers to new questions, questions we weren’t capable of even dreaming until we’d gathered the data.

In the years ahead more and more data constructs will be created which are ‘living,’ persist over time, and therefore will be useful for ongoing research.

Education data is such data. Who owns that data? Who should own that data? We’re calling this burgeoning field learning analytics, but do we know what we’re really talking about?

K-12 students will be tested via computer in most of the United states starting 2014. Those results, mapped to the Common Core standards, will over time form a ginormous data repository. What rules will govern access to that repository? Should the state governments own it? Federal?

To what purposes could we put a repository of testing information for each child’s educational career ? I remember the Twitter backchannel asking those same questions during the Educause Midwest 2009 Keynote. Nancy Zimpher, then of University of Cincinnati, was telling us about a “virtual backpack” of student data which travels with the person from cradle through career. Nope, not science fiction.

While the future which the Tweeters in the room that day were cynically pronouncing was one of categorization and the creation of societal strata based on past performance such as late reading, or non-social kindergarten behaviors, which then solidified the students’ role in society forever, I would sound the alarm that now is the time to develop policy around such education data, policy which prescribes its appropriate and inappropriate use, policy which gives it an accountable owner, one beyond reproach, one with the best interests of the individual in mind. This is not the government, my friend. The government’s mission is to have the best interest of society in mind.

That data is here now. It will be aggregated. It will be researched. It should be researched. How and by whom are the questions…

There are dots to be connected. I would feel most comfortable if they were connected by researchers and educators at responsible higher ed institutions. Over at Music for Deckchairs, in the context of creating and curating educational content, Kate Bowles is making this connection, “The sudden partnership between venture-funded educational startups and traditional elite universities has thrown down a big challenge to less flexible models of higher education, especially outside the U.S. And the fact that we’ve typically bundled content, learning and accreditation under the broad heading “education” doesn’t mean that we’ll be able to keep them all contained in this way indefinitely.”

Michael Feldstein, commenting on Blackboard strategy via Ray Henderson, says, “…there are huge potential benefits to a true SaaS [Software as a Service]platform in terms of the value of the data that can be gathered. With analytics and adaptive learning being the huge buzzwords that they are, the future success of learning technology companies will largely depend on their ability to capture the data exhaust from students’ and teachers’ interactions on the platform and harness it to produce better learning outcomes.”

In all of this, who will speak for the student?

More Reading:

Researchers Digitize AIDS Quilt to Make it a Research Tool,” July 9, 2012.

Blackboard’s New Platform Strategy,” Annotated Link Here – Feldstein Quote. August 19, 2012.

The revolution might be televised,” July 22, 2012. Kate Bowles.

Adjuncts– What Those Disparities Are

If you expected my last post, “Adjuncts – Bless Their Hearts,” to be a whistle blowing article about my own institution, the University of Notre Dame, you were disappointed.

Sorry about that.

If there were a whistle to blow, I would’ve blown it. I asked Adjuncts how they’re treated. I turned up the corners of a rug or two. Notre Dame is working hard to eliminate what disparities may exist and to set appropriate expectations at hiring about how the position one is stepping into is positioned in the hiring college. But the disparities I spoke of as reported at other institutions, aren’t really in the hiring process, are they? This is what some of our institutions are doing to Adjuncts:

  • Creating and fostering an underclass of Instructors, including treatment in office space, in departmental meetings (invite and pay, or invite as truly optional, with minutes sent to those who couldn’t/didn’t make it), and in lack of respect for their academic accomplishments.
  • Underpaying for their time and effort (Do you pay for course preparation time?)
  • Not providing scaled benefits based on service hours, courses, or years’ affiliation. Being part-time for a long time should mean something.

Scaled benefits for part-time Faculty or Staff is something all of our institutions should consider, especially our tuition benefits. We should also look at employees who are in our “part-time” category, but for whatever reasons their workload is fulltime. Consider the Adjunct whose designation is part-time and yet teaches as many courses per semester as their “full-time” counterpart.

Adjuncts, face it, are  one of your institutions’ ambassadorships to the community. They are stakeholders too. Let’s recruit their loyalty and commitment just like we do alumni, community leaders, or any other stakeholder. Did you think of your benefits package as helping to accomplish these goals?      …Maybe you should.

 

Notre Dame’s Adjuncts:

“…fortunate to be able to draw on talented faculty from outside the University of Notre Dame.”

63 Notre Dame Adjuncts with LinkedIn Profiles

Adjuncts – Bless their hearts

Faith-based institutions.

We expect our part-time instructors to share our institution’s values, to represent us in work and ethic and lifestyle, to be careful in the leeway we give them to dissent, such that they represent their opinion as being their own and not reflecting that of our institution … yet, some faith-based institutions violate their own values in discriminatory compensation practices.

According to data collected at adjunctproject.com (which admittedly is light on input from those at faith-based institutions), work environment disparity exists on many levels: from access to printers, office space, departmental faculty events, and fitness centers, to compensation for course preparation time, and health and tuition benefits for self and family. In other words, the pay scale isn’t the only way part-time adjuncts’ standard of living is not commensurate with their academic knowledge and experience.

At John Brown University, a distinctively Christian liberal arts school, and #1 ranked in US News & World Reports’ 2012 Best Colleges in the southwest US, adjuncts are denied the same access to tuition benefits as their peers. One long standing adjunct, nominated by students this year for the teacher of the year award, has a daughter who has no chance of attending the very institution into which her mother daily pours her heart. Oh well, that’s the life of an adjunct. Tuition benefits for her full-time colleagues, but none for her. Bless her heart.

Whether you’re a faith-based institution, public or private one, think about “blessing” your adjuncts with esteem and status for starters. Branch out a little and make it a blessing in this world in terms that count both in this life and the next.

[My June “social justice’” column was about disparity in management, innovation and autonomy between Faculty and Staff, specifically IT Staff. ~LG]

Further Reading:

Blackboard Open Enrollment Announcement

In another move following Blackboard’s March 26th announcement (aggregated responses on e-Literate site), yesterday Blackboard announced that Instructors using their CourseSitescan make their courses available for enrollment by anyone, effectively supporting an open courseware model. It means individuals can set up open teaching initiatives, community outreach and volunteer training, as well as collaborative research programs.

Of course, Sakai Project Sites also support these activities, but Sakai servers are not usually set up outside institutions.

Instructure Canvas is another company that also supports these activities, with their “Free for Teachers” version. I don’t know whether it supports open enrollment. Yet. But it will.

It’s a strange reversal for those of us observing this space. The past few years were those in which options seemed to become more and more limited. Without much of a pause, the pendulum now swings to more and more choices. Still, other than whether social media and mobile are supported, the choices don’t have many functional differentiators.

Instead, a main platform differentiator appears to be in the models for provisioning, reuse and interoperability of content. Our appetites are continually expanding for high quality content. Publishers, it’s your turn.

For further reading: “When it Comes to Content, Say “Yes” to Wrappers But “No” to Containers