Monday, October 3, 2011

New Digital History Course

Right now I am working on developing a new "intro" to digital history course, which I hope to be able to offer in both online and on campus forms in the future.  This has been a lot of work so far, and I still need to write up some more notes to go with the syllabus.  Here is the draft course site:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Push Enrollments Up

The demand to increase online student enrollments is unbelievable.  Somehow no one seems to make the connection between that and an accompanying demand to increase student success rates.


We have been inundated with a whole slew of acronyms in recent years, all of which, in some way or another, are designations for initiatives dealing with assessment of student learning.  Long gone are the days when simply a student receiving a grade of "A" or "F" in a course was indicator enough of a student's mastery of a course subject material.  Now we have to develop a whole new, subsidiary system to our grading scale to determine if a student's achievement (or lack of) in a course fits with some obscure general education goals of the college.
Did a student learn critical-thinking skills from doing the work in my course?  How are we supposed to measure that?  It might take five courses before a student masters certain skills.  How are we supposed to measure that progress.
The amount of paperwork generated by the entire assessment regime is unbelievable, and the amount of time and energy invested is also incredible.
It is also hard to figure out exactly how much of that is generated by SACS or the federal government, or how much is generated by our own college out of a perception that it is all required as a part of measuring student success.

Role of Technology in Undergrad Education

I was wondering today, just what exactly is the role of technology in undergraduate education today (and probably more specifically in the intro survey courses at a community college).  Just what exactly can it do?  Can it do anything?

I was prompted to think about this a bit because I was considering putting together a round-table discussion on technology for all of my colleagues, and the question that I wanted us to consider was: why is no one using technology?  With all of the social media out there, why is none of that being used in courses?  With all of the web 2.0 and now 3.0 tools, why has none of that been adopted.  And actually, we can get even simpler, why are so few people even using web 1.0 tools?

In reality, all faculty are supposed to use Blackboard--and there is no point in me getting into that here.
Many faculty use that to post a syllabus, create a discussion board and keep track of grades.  Some, more adventurous faculty, will also use it to run group projects or to set up blogs.  Some will also use email features, but is that the extent of our use of technology?  It seems so.  Technology in a box.

There is really no widespread use of web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 tools/technology at the college.  There might be 1/3 of the full-time faculty who maintain active professional home pages with links to information about their courses.  Then there is the 1/3 of the full-time faculty who can't even manage their email!  There is probably 1/3 of the full-time faculty who have never used the instructor work-stations in the classrooms to access anything on the web.  What about the entire adjunct instructor population?

Most syllabi, if you look closely at them, follow a pattern something like:  read this for class on Thursday, and in class on Thursday we will discuss this topic.  There is little or no technology use anywhere to be found.

  • despite assumptions to the contrary, students are not necessarily tech savvy
  • it takes time for faculty to figure out how to use tech, and there is often little incentive when the school's priorities are enrollment or something else
  • there are no instructional technology people available to help them
  • it is not clear just what critical-thinking skills can be worked on with some technology

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Academic year, but stil the same old?

As a new academic year approaches, it seems like the same old issues are rearing their bones again:
(1) that would be enrollment, enrollment, enrollment--in case you haven't been reading;
(2) adjuncts, adjuncts, adjuncts, which allows more enrollment;
(3) more online classes, which require more adjuncts, which then leads to more enrollment.
(4) inability of the college to identify strengths and weaknesses of our personnel and apply correctly.  To use a football analogy, if you have a skilled gap defensive tackle, then you don't use that tackle as a nose guard.  The key to great management is to figure out where people/staff will have the most impact.  That is something that we do very poorly at the college, both in our hiring processes and then once people are actually hired.  More on this later.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Digital Archive

We are also still working on our online digital archive, which is at the Northern Virginia Digital Archive.  We have succeeded in getting it up and running--that was an effort in itself--and are now trying to figure how to work it into our history courses.

Digital Newspaper project

Finished up my digital newspaper assignment that I will be using in future history courses.
The assignment is based on fragments of my hometown newspaper from 1907.  It is a good example of how historians are usually trying to interpret fragmentary evidence from the past.  I had two students try it out this semester with good results.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Changing Nature of the Teaching and Practice of Nature II

What about something called "student-directed learning?" I fear that might have connotations about the Montessori method. I am going to do an informal survey about just how active students are in some courses. I guess that I am troubled by the predominant "information providing" role of instructors in the college classroom.
I am also, of course, bothered by an extreme preoccupation with testing the knowledge of information (KoI), which is what now drives elementary and secondary education across the country. That (KoI) seems to be at the expense of the manipulation and handling of information. This kind of KoI testing/focus seems to be percolating up to the college/university level.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Changing Nature of the Teaching and Practice of Nature I

I have been bothered recently, and not been able to directly put my finger on anything concrete, about teaching and learning in the twenty-first century classroom. What has changed; what has not changed; what should be changing; what we should be thinking about. I am wondering what I need to be doing in my history classes, both in person and online, to prepare my students for the environment of the new century--and we are already a decade into the new century.
So much of the teaching that I am aware of at my college is still centered on providing students with information and expecting them to know that information. If you are wandering the halls and listening in on classes, in most cases, 80 to 90% of the time the voice that you will be hearing is the voice of the instructor. I'm not sure that is the way it should be.
What should students be doing (notice I used the verb "doing" not "learning") in the college classroom (or the virtual college classroom).
I'll come back to this.