Policing Over – Tech in the Classrom

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I gave a presentation about using technology for active learning at the Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning Lilly Conference last week in Newport Beach and I knew when planning the presentation I better address some of the pros and cons of allowing technology in the classroom in the first place.  Based on the other narrative out there — I realize it is a hot button issue… a simple google search will validate the fact that people tend to sit in one of two camps on this issue.  Should technology be banned from the classroom or allowed? Though I was biased going into the presentation, I decided to research the issue to provide a balanced perspective for my attendees.  Little did I know, my own perspectives — and in fact, my own technology “policy” might be impacted.


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A little about my story… for several years, I banned technology from my classroom due to the fact that students seemed to be very distracted, which distracted me; I just didn’t think students could be trusted to make responsible decisions on how to dedicate their energy during class.  I regularly policed their technology use to make sure they followed my rules.  Then, a few years ago I began to use technology extensively in my teaching activities so I was forced to reconsider the technology ban.  I allowed students to use technology but reminded them to use their devices appropriately.  After all, not only do I like to use my computer in classes (since I can type really fast) and but I also like students to use technology for activities in class, so there was no way I could ban them anymore.  But I didn’t just allow them outright — I had many caveats; I told students that it was obvious to me if they were sending emails or on Facebook when they were supposedly taking notes and if they were caught, their participation grade woulB3Y30H_2895014bd suffer.  Of course, I always had students who broke the rule and I had to address it with them; I should clarify… I have had issues with undergraduate and master’s level students exercising poor judgement with technology.  I even recently had a student who claimed to be taking notes when it appeared to me that she was typing at the “wrong times” and looking down at her crotch for long periods of time (where her phone was).  I gave her a stern warning and told her that I would be removing participation points.  She went back to her regular behavior that night in class. Policing technology use takes my energy away from teaching and well, it just becomes a major source of frustration.  Clearly, my approach was not working. But I hadn’t decided how I would or should adjust my approach — yet.


Conducting research for my presentation was a really useful process and DID help me reconsider my own approach.  I was surprised to learn that in almost every study I found, taking notes on the computer was far less superior for developing an understanding of complex information.  Yes, people who take notes on the computer can type A LOT and
3041954566_ff428d4d38_otake almost verbatim notes, but most of the studies show that this behavior only enables them to be able to regurgitate facts.  When asked conceptual questions — like about the MEANING of what they heard, they fell behind those who used pen and paper (Hembroke & Gay, 2003; Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014).  Fried (2008) also found that laptop use distracts both users and their peers…. not good news for tech in the classroom.  However, , I should clarify that these studies looked at classes that use lecture as the primary mode of instruction and lecture (on its own, with no learner engagement) has proven to be one of the least effective teaching strategies (Halpern & Hakel, 2003).


On the other hand, use of technology in the classroom facilitates positive outcomes including increased satisfaction with group projects and overall satisfaction (Driver, 2002)
blogger-336371_960_720; enhanced active exploratory learning, more meaningful interactions between students and with instructor (Barak, Lipson, and Lerman, 2006)
; higher participation, more interest in learning, and greater motivation to perform well (Trimmel & Bachmann, 2004)
; and even the opportunity for students to use instant messaging to make comments or ask questions “silently” (Granberg and Witte, 2005)
.  These studies were not conducted in lecture-only classes, they were done in classes where technology was deliberately integrated.


So now that I’ve presented both sides, what would I do? Well, I will continue using technology for active learning in my teaching and mix in short lectures.  But, to be honest, I’m done with policing technology use.  I agree with Schumann (2014) … my students are old enough to vote, serve jury duty, join the armed forces, and most are old enough to 635781889201768756-321843318_adultdrink legally; I need to believe they’re mature enough to make appropriate decisions on how they wish to devote their attention in class.  Plus, if I’m actively engaging them in the course content, hopefully they won’t have to try to hard to make the right decision.  I believe my job is to educate them with the resources to make the best decision, and then let them be.  So, like Seiber (Fischman, 2009) did in her study, I plan to show them the research on the impact of irresponsible technology use so they CAN make a responsible decision. Then, I plan to let students be responsible for their own behavior.  Policing over.


How about you… given the information I’ve provided, do you think technology should be allowed in the college classroom?


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References


  • Barak, M., Lipson, A., & Lerman, S. (2006). Wireless laptops as means for promoting active learning in large lecture halls.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38, 245–263.
  • Driver, M. (2002). Exploring student perceptions of group interactions and class satisfaction in the web-enhanced classroom. The Internet and Higher Education, 5, 35–45.
  • Fischman, J. (2009, March 16).  Students stop surfing after being shown how in-class laptop use can lower test scores. The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/students-stop-surfing-after-being-shown-how-in-class-laptop-use-lowers-test-scores/4576

  • Fried, C. B. (2008, April 1). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education, 50(3), 906-914.
  • Granberg, E., & Witte, J. (2005). Teaching with laptops for the first time: lessons from a social science classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 101, 51–59.
  • Halpern, D.H. & Hakel, M. (2003).  Applying the science of learning to the university and beyond: teaching for long-term retention and transfer.  Change, 25(4), 36-41.
  • Hembrooke, H. & Gay, G. (2003). The laptop and the lecture: the effects of multitasking in learning environments.  Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(1).  Retrieved from http://www.ugr.es/~victorhs/recinfo/docs/10.1.1.9.9018.pdf.
  • Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: advantages of longhand over laptop note taking.  Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159-1168.
  • Schumann, R. (2014, June 15).  In defense of laptops in the classroom. Slate.  Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/06/in_defense_of_laptops_in_the_college_classroom.html
  • Trimmel, M., & Bachmann, J. (2004). Cognitive, social, motivational and health aspects of students in laptop classrooms. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 20, 151–158.

It’s not just a plain, old key

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Reflections on a year of CI Keys

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It’s hard to believe that it was just a year ago that I sat in a room with some of the “greats” (e.g. Jim Groom, Howard Rheingold, Howard Gardner, Johnston Weirth, etc.) in the world of connected open courses at UC Irvine (hosted by DML).  I honestly had no clue what I was really getting myself into; heck, I hardly even knew what a MOOC was – never mind a connected open course!  As I’ve shared in a previous blog post, I really did not know what I was getting myself into.  But, I asked a lot of questions and as a result, I opened the door to a world of #Edtech I never new existed.   

I write this blog posts as a reflection of the year – what I did, what I learned and what I think will come in the future.  This post is sort of a part of a collection alongside my colleagues, Michael BermanJill Leafstedt, Michelle Pacanksy-Brock who also wrote a one year reflection. You see, CI acquired a license with Reclaim Hosting to pilot a project called CI Keys (introduced in the video below) for the campus during the 2014-2015 annual year so we all decided to write a reflection; I have no idea how our thoughts align (or don’t) since I haven’t read them yet. ;0)  

What I Did

As a reflect on how I used CI Keys, I can confidently say that it lived up to its name sake;  it gave me to a key to unlocking so much for myself and for others.  The interesting thing about this metaphor is that as I worked through life this year, I kept realizing doors existed that CI Keys could provide access to – CI Keys was an answer to quite a few things in my life; not just academic things (though this was the primary focus) but also personal things.  Here’s where my tour took me once the door was opened:

  • Open Courses:  Beginning the Fall semester, I migrated all of my courses (COMM 220, COMM 101, UNIV 349, UNIV 399 and EDPL 623) to CI Keys – creating an open course structure and opening the opportunity for connections across international boundaries.
  • E-Portfolios and blogging:  I integrated e-portfolios into three courses over the year, two undergraduate and one graduate.  My students created their own digital imprint with atheistically pleasing, professional websites. Here’s a few examples: Claire Langeveldt, Dorothy Ayer,  Robert Ornelaz
  • Business websites:  I created a business website for a friend of mine is opening a physical therapy business, my mother-in-law who officiates weddings and my brother-in-law who has a flooring business. These sites are hosted on Reclaim Hosting, the same company that provides CI Keys.
  • My E-Portfolio:  It seemed appropriate to create my own digital footprint so I took a significant amount of time to aggregate my professional documents onto my personal webspace.  

I have dabbled in (and struggled with) making websites in the past – I just couldn’t believe how easy it was to create sites using WordPress.  I didn’t have a whole lot of training but I did become of master of googling and reaching out when necessary; I was provided great support from CI’s Michael McGarry and Reclaim’s Jim Groom and Tim Owns. Needless to say, I think I may have been the biggest user of Keys.  Plus, I ended up getting paid to train other faculty on how to use keys throughout the year, at a recent workshop and … in fact… here’s our support page that’s under development.

What I Learned

Admittedly, I have two blog posts forth coming about the very specific lessons learned through having open courses and assigning e-portfolios.  Therefore…  I will share my broad reflections.

  • Digital identity (huh?): Like my students, I hadn’t thought much about what it means to have a digital identity beyond posting appropriately on social media.  I learned the power that can be harnessed through optimizing my web presence — here’s a video I created summarizing how I define digital identity now.
  • Students aren’t really digital natives: Even though I provided my students with a statement (in advance) letting them know my class(es) are digitally enhanced, they were often shocked by the amount of technology I used.  They may be called “digital natives” but I think a more appropriate name is “smart device native.”  They do not know how to use technology for learning and their learning curve was often quite steep.  During the Fall semester, when I rolled out five classes in open format, I had so many students complain about workload that I felt compelled to write a blog post to them…. the moral of the story (with the blog post) was — “you may not like it but it’s good for you.”  I did read it to them… and they did like it. 😉
  • Sell it:  Along the lines of the above lesson, students aren’t necessarily going to be excited to learn new things about technology (contrary to what I thought when I set out on the open course journey). You have to be able to sell this stuff to students — and I don’t mean by simply writing a passionate blog post.  I mean you have to make them see how using THIS will make their lives easier.   I achieved big strides in this area when I created an interactive syllabus — which made course material just a click away.  I am not entirely sure why it took me a semester of embedding PDFs on my sites to figure this out.
  • E-portfolio reflections:  The most difficult piece of completing for students had nothing to do with technology were the competency-based reflections.  Attempting to ask students to reflect on their learning from the time they began their degree program was tough; I think reflections are best woven into the curriculum.  More to come on this topic in my follow up blog post.
  • Connected:   As you can tell by listening to my interview with Howard Rheingold, I went through a bit of a journey to discover what it really means to be connected;  some people see connected as joining together two courses (or groups of students) together, some see it as “plugging in” to social media, some see connected as being simply connected to technology.  I now see connected as being of those things and more (and I keep discovering what more is).
  • Not everything should be open:  Having something open on the web has some great advantages but not everything belongs out in the open.  Some pieces of class discussion or blog posts could be misinterpreted or altered as a result of a non-involved person intruding.  When I’m playing out in the web, I need to be VERY diligent about copyright — that goes for images and content.  Sometimes concern about copyright issues is enough to make me think about going behind the locked wall of the LMS.   I should emphasize that much thought should be put into what should be behind a wall because there’s really no clear answer.
  • It’s not the only solution:  I’m not going to lie; you can do A LOT of what I did with my work on CI Keys/Reclaim Hosting behind the dreaded LMS (after you log in and click around a bunch) and students might even like you better for it (because they may see it as easier); and I’m not going to lie again… it’s simply WAY easier using WordPress.  Plus, it looks cooler.  

I discovered that once I start coloring outside the lines (e.g. the LMS) …. it’s difficult to stop.

What’s Ahead

I have to be real here, I’m not entirely sure what’s ahead for me when it comes to open courses since I begin a new teaching position at USC tomorrow (July 1) and I do not think the concept of an open course aligns with what USC provides.  However, I do think (and hope) there will be opportunities for me to work with master’s and doctoral students on creating e-portfolios. Also, I recognize I pretty much speak of CI Keys and WordPress synonymously. I know there are MANY other applications available through CI Keys that I have yet to tap into.  As I think about my next role and the potential of CI Keys in the future, I am reminded that I don’t even know what I don’t even know.  I think CI Keys/Reclaim Hosting offers endless possibilities of which I am excited to see unfold in my journey.

Your role in one word…

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I recently co-presented a session for the Educause Learning Institute’s workshop series, How to Humanize Your Online Course. In our presentation, VoiceThread for Universal Design: Addressing the Needs of Diverse Learners, we discussed ways that faculty can use VoiceThread for facilitating Universal Design, provided recommended guidelines for using VoiceThread, and some strengths and disadvantages of the tool.

During the presentation, we asked participants to share one word that represents the role they might play when facilitating a VoiceThread. Here’s their responses in Wordle format:

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When you think about facilitating a VoiceThread (or any online discussion, for that matter), what role do you think you’ll play and why?

Farewell Dolphins, Fight on Trojans!

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So I guess the name of my blog is pretty appropriate; shift happens. This is definitely not a blog announcement I thought would happen after completing only three months in a new job. I’m nearing my ninth anniversary (June 6) at CSU Channel Islands, a place that has become a second home to me. But I will not reach a tenth anniversary.

I am beyond thrilled to share that I have accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Clinical Education in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC).  In this position (that starts July 1, 2015), I will teach master’s students pursuing a career in student affairs and doctoral students pursuing leadership roles in education.

Teaching has always been my passion (inside and outside of the classroom); inspiring others to achieve their dreams remains my catalyst.  I have a fire within to change our educational system into one that supports the success of all children equally, and I can’t imagine a better way to direct this fire than to prepare future leaders. Even in the most difficult teaching situations, with the most disgruntled individuals, I leave the conversation knowing that I love what I do (I read this blog post today that resonated with this change).   I’ve lost sleep over this position, not because I was worried about getting it (since I enjoy my current role and LOVE my team), but because I feel so excited about the opportunity.   I am so impressed with the purposeful planning and execution of the programs in Rossier that are infused with innovation, the care taken to set faculty up for success, and the commitment to making an impact in urban settings.

This excitement does not come with some sadness.  I applied for this teaching position last September, before I started my new role as an Instructional Technologist; otherwise, I would not have been job searching since I have been enjoying my job.  I am sad to leave this impressive team that has been so welcoming.  I am sad to leave a University that has been my home for nine years, but I am thankful for the opportunities CI provided me. It is in large part BECAUSE of CI that I feel prepared for this position. I have had the chance to create, reimagine, and redesign programs across campus.  CI created an environment that has fostered my innovative nature and commitment to excellence.  I have worked with/in three different Divisions at the University: Student Affairs, Academic Affairs and Technology & Communication. In Student Affairs, I worked with Student Leadership Programs, Assessment and Strategic Operations, New Student Orientation, Campus Recreation, and Career Development Service and served as a Judicial Officer and Student Government Advisor. In Academic Affairs, I taught in the Communication Program, University Experience Program, Liberal Studies Program and served as a co-creator of the higher education emphasis in the Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership. I was also a member of the Collaborative Online Doctorate in Educational Leadership committee. In Technology and Communication (with the Teaching & Learning Innovations Team), I have been fortunate to lead the Blended Learning Preparation Program for Faculty and helped to initiate CI Keys, a project that facilitates open connected education and is at the forefront of innovation.

Needless to say, I have given a lot TO CI and I have gained a lot FROM CI.  But my biggest gain isn’t about a list of programs or duties, it is from the students whose lives I have impacted (and who impacted mine) and colleagues who have continuously helped me be a better professional and person.  Although it is somewhat bittersweet, I think it is time for me to spread my wings. As a first-generation college student, CI instilled the confidence in me to pursue my dreams.

I feel like I have left my footprints at CI and

I KNOW CI has left footprints on my life.

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Thank you to each and everyone of you at CI for your support, and thank you to USC for the opportunity.

Farewell Dolphins and Fight On Trojans!!

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Apps I appreciate – Part I: Wunderlist

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I just distributed iPads to the participants of the Blended Learning Preparation Program at CSU Channel Islands and offered to share the apps that I appreciate most for use in my day-to-day activities, work and teaching.  It just seems to make sense that I share some of these apps on my blog.  So here goes… apps I appreciate part I…. Wunderlist.

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The first app I would like to feature is Wunderlist.  If you like making to-do lists, you’ll love this app.  I used to feel like I could not possibly transfer from a hard copy to-do list to a digital one but, Wunderlist just made sense.

Here’s what I love about Wunderlist:

  • It’s cloud based which means I have the Wunderlist app on my phone, iPad and MacBook and it syncs my tasks immediately… it has the same to-dos on all devices.  I always have one of the three with me so I don’t have to worry about whether or not I have that one page to-do list.
  • I organize my to-dos by multiple lists.  As you can see on my sample (pictured below), I have lists for various things and it’s nice to keep the tasks separate. I used to have a list for each class… now I just teach one class I have a list for some of the projects I work with in my job and in my personal life.  Wunderlist recently introduce folders which I have not yet explored but I think I will likely use to separate all of my personal and professional lists.
  • I set tasks to be completed by specific dates and those aggregate to lists under “today” and “week.”
  • I can invite other people to join my task-list and we can write notes to each other about the completion of each task.
  • Within each task, there’s a lot that can be personalized — a due date and reminder can be added (I’ve used both of these), a subtask can be created, notes can be made about the task and comments or attachments can be included.
  • When I complete a task, Wunderlist has a glorious ding that feels so good to hear.  It’s even better than crossing off the item on a hard copy to-do list. 😉

I haven’t even used all of Wunderlist’s functionality since I don’t do a whole lot of collaborating but the communication pieces (e.g. commenting on tasks) seem really cool.

Let me know if you have any questions or anything to share about this app that you like/dislike. 🙂

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Eight lessons from two months: life as an Instructional Technologist

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I’ve now been an instructional technologist for exactly two months so I thought it would be timely to share the top eight things that I’ve learned in this new role.

1

You might recall from my last post that I have worked in three different Divisions of the University:  Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and now Technology and Innovation.  I’ve had quite a few supervisors over the last 15 years and I’ve seen just as many leadership styles and degrees of effectiveness.  Something that holds true no matter what division I work in is that good leadership is good leadership.  I would be remiss as a scholar of leadership education if I did not tell you how I define good leadership before proceeding.  To me, a good leader is someone who recognizes the strengths of the individuals around her and does all in her power to empower them to achieve goals; good leadership is not about being in front of the crowd, having her name on the press release, or even being recognized.  Good leadership is being willing to make difficult decisions for the betterment of the team, but ultimately in order to ensure we do our best for students.  I’ve seen some pretty bold leadership (in men and women around me) in action over the last two months; things that will remain in my basket of examples for many years to come.  

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I won’t belabor this point because it really isn’t a highlight or defining element of my experience, but by golly some of the logistical issues I experienced with the set up of working in a different space make me wonder how a University functions.  It took six weeks to get a desk and create a physical, permanent workspace; and I still do not have key code access to the spaces I need.  I’m not sure where the breakdown is in the system, but I know there’s something not working.

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This point may be obvious to some, but having worked in departments one person (me) deep for MANY years, I have not had many opportunities to benefit from the true beauty of team work. I work with an incredible team (I’ll talk about that more later) and it’s so incredibly refreshing to be able to work on projects together where we can really dig in, brainstorm, and collaborate to generate the best result for learning and for… our students!  We’ve subconsciously identified each other’s strengths and use them to be effective in our work.   It’s not just that though… it’s not just about the work; it’s about this care that the team members have for each other.  There’s a genuine willingness to help each other out, forgiveness for our short comings, express interest and care for our personal lives and endeavors. 

4

It never occurred to me to apply for a job as an instructional technologist because I thought THAT person needed to be able to code and fix servers.  Don’t get me wrong- I’m pretty tech savvy, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to meet the demands of the job- technology-wise. So, when I got the job, I arrived with a bit of the imposter syndrome (which I’ve come to discover is a frequent visitor in my life as a first generation college student)…. I thought I would have to do a lot of “pretending that I belonged at the table.”  The good news is that the focus in what we do at CI is not technology, the focus is in teaching, learning, and student success; areas of which I have a great deal to contribute.   Sometimes the imposter syndrome rears its ugly head and sometimes I need reminders that I belong, this is why I feel lucky for #8.

5

Along the lines of what I noted above, I was confused by the title before and I’m still confused now.  And, when I tell others (faculty, students and staff alike) my title, they’re confused too.  The only people who weren’t confused were individuals I met at a recent ELI conference. Instructional technologist doesn’t fit because teaching about technology is such a small part of the job.  We spent very little tim helping people push buttons or “manage their class”, which I think is something one may assume when they read “Instructional Technologist.” What we do is to help lead, inspire, and motivate innovation, teaching, learning, and transformation.  Because I think it’s a bit of a cop out to say I don’t have a better solution, I decided to do a bit of research and thinking.  I came up with a title I think better represents what I do:  Leader of Innovation.  Just kidding.  I like the idea of being called a Teaching & Learning Innovations Specialist.  

Small title

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Sometimes I feel a bit confused about where I’m at… I’m a student affairs person, turned faculty, turned faculty development/IT.  I sometimes wonder if I am where I belong, but I’ve come to realize that my blended experience at the university makes for a unique, interesting fit for teaching and learning innovations.  As we explore conversations about “classroom” learning, I am able to draw upon my knowledge of research in student development, campus culture and retention to understand dynamics beyond the content.  When we work with student affairs colleagues, I’m able to share my understanding of what happens in the “classroom” to provide context for supporting and contributing to the curricular learning experience.  I won’t lie though, not having as much direct or indirect contact with students in my work has created a bit of a void.

7

You’ve probably noticed something that remains consistent in some of my previous learning lessons: students.  I’m pleased to say that whether it’s a team discussion about a new innovation, a one-on-one chat with a colleague about a new digital tool, or a faculty development program, we always bring the conversation back to the student.  We ask things like:  Will the students learn from this?  How can we communicate this so the students understand? Will students like this?  Will the technology be an aid or barrier? How will this contribute to student success?  It may be surprising to some that these types of discussions occur across campus, even in IT.  I’m pleased to say that students remain at the center of our work.

8

My last learning lesson has been the most pronounced, yet the most difficult to put into words:  michllethe experience of being a woman in EdTech.  I can’t really say I have been in any other environment where I have felt so… well… lifted up by my colleagues, especially other women.  I have solid relationships with other women with whom I have worked and I value.  But this is different… these women make me see in myself strengths I have not yet identified and they push me toward opportunities that facilitate my success.

They are strong, intelligent, creative, innovative, caring women who could choose to be competitive but jillinstead consciously choose to create a community of support, a community I am proud to be a part of and one that I believe will continue beyond this job.

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In closing, I recognize this post may be disappointing to some since I really couldn’t say that I have learned anything particularly ground breaking when it comes to technology.  But then, I guess that’s indicative of the approach that we take with our work; it’s not about the technology, it’s about the innovations, teaching, learning, faculty, staff, and STUDENTS.

Diversity in Groups: A Connected Experience

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Check out my guest blog for VoiceThread and posted below

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The Idea

Last summer I was inspired to dream about what could be possible if I could connect my students with students in another country in a common learning experience using technology. This was an exciting possibility both because gaining international perspectives is a key pillar of my institution and because I think it is an important outcome of the undergraduate experience. I thought about collaborating with friend from high school, Mario Perez, who now teaches English in Japan; I thought he might be up for a challenge and ready to color outside of the box.

Getting Started

Mario quickly agreed to work with me on this adventure. First, we discussed and finalized what we wanted our students gain from this experience and established measurable outcomes. We then decided that the module would involve students from my Group Communication Course working with students from his Intermediate English Course to learn about diversity, specifically Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, together and…. teach each other along the way. An additional outcome for Mario’s students was to get practice speaking and listening to English.

Module outcomes

With the outcomes finalized, we looked at what digital tool might best meet our needs. How the heck can we get students living 5400 miles apart and 17 hours time difference to work together? Sure, we could have used a static, text-based discussion forum, but we identified VoiceThread as the best option for creating a humanized experience.

The Module

We created the module itself including, instructor information, context, outcomes, instructions, VoiceThread links, and a reflection form, on a web page using Populr.me. We divided our students into twelve small groups with about five students from CI and three students from APU. It was important to us that all voices could be heard in the conversation and with over eighty students, it would be counteractive to have large class discussions.

Module page

The process of putting together the module was fairly smooth although we encountered differences between educational and cultural practices in the US and Japan that had some implications on our module. For instance, something as small as how we refer to our students in our videos (e.g. Japanese students, US students) became a focal point of our conversations because we realized that we did not want to offend students who may not be Japanese but who live in Japan. While the same applied to the students in the US, tensions between Japan and Korea gave the issue greater prominence. In essence, Mario and I learned about diversity as we prepared this experience about diversity.

The VoiceThread consisted of a series of slides, which were a mixture of Mario and I narrating and posing discussion questions. The students were given three due dates: by the first date, they were to post their initial response to our questions and pose a question to their peers in the other country, by the second date they were to respond to their peers’ questions and by the third date they were to submit their responses to a reflection.

Impact/Student Perceptions

Students responded positively to the module:

82% of APU students who responded to the reflection survey reported they agreed or strongly agreed with the fact that the module helped them practice English.

89% of all students who responded to the survey indicated that they strongly agreed or agreed with the fact that it was exciting to work alongside students in another country.

The asynchronous nature of VoiceThread allowed students to reflect on their culture and the questions about another culture. One student said, “I had the chance to collect my thoughts on how I truly see my culture and having to explain why. It was nice to reflect.” The module introduced students to differences in ways that a textbook or class discussion probably could not achieve. This student’s reflection is a great example of this: “I learned that what is normal here can be very different in other countries. We are used to diversity here and experience a lot of different cultures, but in Japan the ethnicity of their people is pretty constant and unchanging. Another thing I learned is Japan has a lot of power distance in its culture.”

We plan to repeat this module again with slight modifications:

Allow more time for planning: it took a lot of time collaborating to align outcomes, creating the presentation, securing student permissions, and explaining the module to students… and that’s just the work that took place before the module occurred.

Add introductions and follow up to facilitate breaking the ice: we realized that our students could have benefitted from a few slides with “getting to know you” activities especially since the students in Japan began the module at a disadvantage with regard to their English language abilities.

Provide opportunities for continued connections: many students told us they wished that their connections with students abroad could continue beyond the module. In the future, we plan to provide a facilitated post-module activity using VoiceThread to continue conversations.

Structure more space between deadlines for enhanced engagement: The tight timeline and specific post requirements we used for participation may have stifled the conversation. Next time we plan to use less specifics on number and dates of post requirements and greater emphasis on the quality of conversation

Recommend students to use microphones: Language was a definite challenge in this activity (which was also part of the learning process) for all involved; volume was an element of the process that could be controlled with use of microphones.

It was definitely a great learning experience for everyone involved and was invigorating to see how this can help us imagine possibilities for future connections.

Want to hear Mario and I talking about our experience with Michelle Pacansky-Brock? View ourHangout on Air on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. or check out the recording that will archived in the same location. We will also be presenting our experience at the upcoming ET4Online conference in Dallas, Texas.