Archive for the ‘Conferences + Events’ Category
I’m sitting in the airport in San Diego, ready to head back home after a stint at the 243rd National ACS Meeting. All I can say is…wow. It’s been an amazing two days of presentations, posters, and networking. I finally met some long-time Twitter followers in real life, and got the chance to talk shop with some of my heroes in chemical education. Very cool. Some of my favorite highlights from the chemical education programming follow.
A symposium on Sunday “by grad students, for grad students” focused on research in chemical education (and featured yours truly… ). Taken as a whole, the symposium highlighted the amazing breadth and focus that chemical education research has gained over the past few years. Clear research paradigms are emerging that, in the long run, are going to fundamentally alter how we teach chemistry. Although I think it’s sometimes hard to feel excited watching the literature and working day to day, the wheels are in motion and the community is alive and well. Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of weeks ago, the University of Illinois held its annual Faculty Summer Institute, a conference for Illinois collegiate educators. A large focus of the conference, luckily for me, involved educational technology—how to implement it, how to teach with it, how to assess with it, etc. I had the privilege of presenting some of the technology we use in the chemistry department at UIUC (specifically in our large non-major organic chemistry courses). It’s amazing to see educators across the board embracing technology as a medium for instruction—really an exciting time to be an educational technology junkie!
One of my favorite presentations, addressing how to assess student engagement online, was given by Diane Hamilton-Hancock and her colleagues at Western Illinois University. Understanding student engagement online is a tough but interesting problem because, as Diane skillfully demonstrated through a group exercise, losing the ability to interpret non-verbal cues significantly affects our ability to understand each other! In many ways, though, instructors can structure and investigate online interactions (e.g., forum posts) in ways that are impossible in a traditional classroom. We all recognize the self-motivated, independent student as the ideal for both face-to-face and online education. By laying down expectations early, identifying and rewarding positive behaviors, and serving as examples for students, we can make this ideal the expected norm online—basically doing what we’d do in a classroom anyway, with a somewhat greater degree of control.
Here’s where things get interesting (for me, anyway): some of Diane’s co-workers took student forum posts and analyzed them for depth and critical thinking, using frameworks developed by Garrison and based on Bloom’s taxonomy (see this paper for a very similar idea). General trends were difficult to pin down, but there was a definite “ebb and flow” to the depth and content of forum posts as the semester progressed. Generally, periods of very low critical thinking preceded large “surges,” during which students would build on one another’s ideas toward greater and greater complexity. Imagine a forum that automatically detected these surges…remarkable insight for educators there, no?
The FSI’s key speaker was Cable Green, a champion of open educational resources at Creative Commons. There’s a very interesting battle going on right now concerning open educational resources, with the majority of conscientious educators on one side and what I’ll call the “big businesses of education” on the other. I’ll leave it at that—that’s a post for another day. All in all, the FSI was a phenomenal event, and I recommend it to all Illinois educators!
Check me out presenting at the Global Education Conference last week, where I discuss some tenets of student-centered learning and how they may be applied to evaluating and using educational technologies.
New post coming soon about the future of molecular visualization software on the web…stay tuned!
I’m hanging out today at an Educause Learning Initiative workshop (what they call a “focus session”) on blended or hybrid learning, teaching and learning via a combination of live and online environments. Some highlights…
Larry Ragan’s research at Penn State is pretty cool. He’s a faculty development specialist at PSU working on educating faculty about how to manage online components of courses. He surveyed over one hundred faculty members with 5+ years online teaching experience about what tasks they viewed as most important for teaching online. Factor analysis of the survey results revealed core competencies for online educators. Much of his results make good sense as far as online education is concerned, and provide a nice starting point for faculty training programs all over the country.
Despite it’s gimmicky name, Brian Beatty’s Hyflex design is a great way to model blended learning courses. He emphasizes four core principles: learner choice, equivalency, reusability, and accessibility. More importantly, he practices what he preaches, particularly with respect to equivalency of materials for live and online students. Hyflex was built with commuting students in mind—to increase flexibility for students who may have issues getting to every single “on ground” class (such as working adults). It provides a nice framework for thinking about how to use a course management system for both live and online students effectively. To be effective, says Dr. Beatty, LMS’s must provide materials that are relevant to both live and online students, and serve as a common repository for learning materials generated in both environments. Interactions in the live and online settings of Hyflex courses are designed to mirror one another, so that as much as they can be, the live and online environments are identical. I know, I know, you naysayers are scoffing right now that making the two exactly the same is impossible. But think about it: even if it’s not true, we continue to advance closer to this goal on a daily basis as technology develops.
Deepa Godambe is a woman after my own heart. She teaches a blended chemistry course at Harper College in Palatine, IL. She used the simple task of making a list of what can be taught online versus what cannot to work out an effective blended course design. In her model, interactive content is a big part of online materials, while live sessions focused on things like student-instructor Q&A, lab experiments, and the like. Echoing a sentiment of most of the presenters, she spoke to the importance of communication in blended learning models.
The difference between Brian and Deepa’s examples is interesting. Hyflex is basically a model that equalizes live and online course sessions and materials. So, one could complete a Hyflex course using either strictly live or strictly online course materials. Deepa’s course, on the other hand, required students to use both live and online materials. I suspect that her design was partially motivated by a need to cover a great deal of content. In the sciences, content coverage often requires instructors to squeeze learning out of as many moments and materials as possible.
Gerald Bergtrom’s blended cell biology course speaks to the challenge of content coverage. He discussed the idea of moving his unchanging “canon of content” online, leaving class time for him to discuss and exemplify the process of science and it’s application to problem solving. For science education, the idea of shifting boring, content-heavy lectures to an online setting is a powerful concept.