The Rollercoaster Ride of Faculty Development

Swimming in my PLE this weekend and it felt a little like the Dow Jones Stock Index…up one minute, down the next.  I am an optimist by nature and believe that as the web grows even more ubiquitous, faculty by and large will look for ways to integrate it into their classroom.

There are certainly good examples from the early adopters.  Stephen Downes posted a powerpoint on Slideshare this weekend from his Prince Edwards Island 2008 presentation entitled “Integrating the Internet Into the Classroom.”


View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: downes e-learning)

Yet, at almost the same time, Dean Shareski pointed in Twitter to an article on the Britannica Blog entitled “Why I Ban Laptops in My Classroom,” by David Cole.  First, David apparently only sees laptops as a stenographer tool – good only for taking notes.  His complaint is that his students are distracted and not engaged in his class unless he bans laptops!  One wonders whether the problem is the laptop or the delivery?  One only needs look at how Michael Wesch has engaged his class (full of laptops) by co-opting the students into the learning process.

Luckily, Beth Holmes got me excited again with her post “Creating a Disturbance!” She was blogging about three educators who were actually doing what many only talk about:  Stephanie Sandifer in The Knowing – Doing Gap; Alec Couros’ K12 Online Conference presentation “Open, Connected, Social: Reflections of an Open Graduate Course Experience”; and David Truss’ 10/21/08 Pair-a-dimes post POD– or Personally Owned Devices.

As she noted:

“Boy, did I hear the old music and see the new steps! There they are – three educators who are familiar with the tools – making the transition from “knowing to doing” and urging us all to START DOING NOW.”

I hear that tune myself, Beth!  (But then again…it may just be Pandora…)

I think others are hearing that tune and are uncertain how to start dancing.  Jeff Nugent tweeted from the POD annual conference that he had met a fellow faculty developer who was starting blogging for the first time.  She (I am assuming “she” since the blog is Development Diva) felt that she had to remain anonymous due to her profession of working with other faculty.  In “Blogging: Confidentiality vs. Accountability“, she stated:

“My first thought, in my first post, was to protect the identities of any of my clients about whom I might write and thus to attempt to conceal my own since my work is tied to place and from place to people. That feels like a no-brainer…But yet I felt an unease that I struggled to put into words. What about the scholarly record? There are good reasons that scholarly work needs to be both public and attributed (e.g., dialog is essential to develop further knowledge, tracking the source of ideas is key in building new understandings). If someone wanted to quote my work here, either the content or the process of doing a blog, then to whom do they attribute it? P(l)odder? that feels dishonest.”

Maybe I should worry more (as I do the same job she does), but I believe that I can safely reflect on my profession without naming the names of my clients, and have done so for ten months now.

Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that cloud computing will “shake up campus technology.”  My own students (most many years older than early 20’s) are busily updating and editing our class wiki this weekend and doing just fine in the Web 2.0 stream.  The K12 Online Conference continues to pump out fantastic presentations.  So I remain optimistic!

Wondering what my colleagues think?  Is the glass half empty or half full?  How do we get that big early and late majority population to transition from “knowing to doing” and START DOING NOW!  Is the music playing for you?

{Photo Credit: Jespis}

The Interconnected Tool Set

It has been a busy week but I have had some enjoyable experiences.  Last night, I covered Jeff Nugent’s class, Learning with Digital Media, while he was at the POD Conference. Today, I worked with the faculty of the Occupational Therapy program on instructional uses of the web.  In both cases, I got to see light bulbs come on as people realized that it was not blogging, or twittering, or screencasting, or Slidesharing, or any specific tool – it was the mix of tools that made the difference.

With the Mass Comm class, we spent time talking about YouTube and Michael Wesch‘s An anthropological introduction to YouTube.  This class of juniors and seniors were pretty insightful in examining how YouTube, which has only been around less than 4 years, has become a cultural landscape where people are connecting, communicating, and sharing multiple aspects of their lives.  Several of Jeff’s students blogged about the video in his class sandbox.  I particularly liked how one of Jeff’s students, Frances, stated it:

“Throughout the course of the semester, I have been looking at the tools we learn about on an individual level, interacting with them accordingly. I appreciate how Welsh shows the audience how all the tools really connect as a user-generated machine. A video is created in Youtube and tagged through user-generated aggregation sites like Digg and Delicious.  RSS feeds then serve as user-generated distribution. Content can ultimately get more and more views depending on what users like and find interest in. It is truly a massive user-dependent media machine. This knowledge makes me feel like my interaction makes me a part of the process.”

This morning, I met with the OT faculty as part of their every-two-weeks professional development.  A month ago, Jeff had spent time with them discussing what the research suggested about how people learn and how students are using technology.  My job was to follow up with a discussion on instructional uses of tools.  I therefore surveyed them this week to see their level of interest on ten different web applications.  The results were mixed, but in general the interest across the board was high.  So we spent two hours today playing.

We started by creating a wiki in Wetpaint to hold the resources we found.  We then spent time discussing possible uses of blogs.  One faculty is taking some students overseas this summer and saw the blog as a way these students could both reflect on their experience and stay connected with their peers back home.  Super idea!!!  From blogs, we played with Twitter (with a tweet arriving from Jeff at POD).  From some of the tweets they saw, we jumped into Flickr, which led us to SlideShare, and then back to Delicious.  Lee Lefever’s CommonCraft videos got quite a workout!  What they began to understand was how interconnected my network was across all of these tools…and they began to conceptualize how that fit their world.

As I said, a fun day!

{Graphic developed by Jeff Nugent}

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Blogging Panel Discussion

I had the privilege of facilitating a panel discussion today during one of our Brown Bag luncheons in which Terry Carter and Jon Becker joined me to discuss new opportunities for academic publishing. All three of us blog, and we shared how we each use blogs in education.  Our podcast is located here. Give a listen as we attempt to address key questions about how blogging supports critically reflective practice, functions as a form of academic publishing and enables us to play a role Jon Becker described as public intellectuals.

Links mentioned during the above podcast:

Jon Becker’s blog – Educational Insanity

Terry Carter’s blog – Coming About

This blog – Learning in a Flat World

Henry Jenkins – Why Academics Should Blog

Michelle Martin – Social Media Spiral

Open Notebook Science Project

{My thanks to Jeff Nugent and Bud Deihl for recording and mixing this podcast).

The Digital Divide – Students versus Faculty

As you know from my last post, I spent Friday with Jeff Nugent co-facilitating a full-day workshop at the INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium.  It was rather exciting to spend a full day with a room full of mathematicians!  I am still reflecting on what transpired, but wanted to share some thoughts on one aspect, triggered by a couple of articles today.

The October 17th issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education contains an interesting article by John Seely Brown entitled “How to Connect Technology and Content in the Service of Learning.”  Brown noted that:

“Web 2.0 has blurred the line between producers and consumers of content and has shifted attention from access to information toward access to other people.”

In a view similar to Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody, Brown illustrated how the internet offers incredible opportunities for like-minded passionate people to connect and explore their passions.  These niche communities provide an environment which supports lifelong learning.  If we are not tapping in to these social aspects of the internet, we are missing an opportunity to connect with our students.

Meanwhile, the corporation CDW-G released a report entitled “The 21st Century Campus: Are We ThereYet?“.

Key findings of this corporate (and probably biased) study include:

  • More than 80 percent of faculty teach at least some of their classes in “smart classrooms,” yet just 42 percent of those faculty use the technology during every class session
  • Topping students’ technology wish list is online chat capability with professors; just 23 percent of higher education IT staff say their campus offers it
  • Faculty and IT staff agreed that lack of technology knowledge among faculty is the biggest barrier to technology on campus

Biased or not, the findings do not surprise me.  They illustrate that – contrary to conventional wisdom, our students DO want to connect with us, their faculty.

I do not believe in faculty-bashing, but I do fear that a new form of digital divide is developing.  Outside of class, our students are developing skills in connecting and communicating via text, chat, IM, FaceBook, blogs, and video.  With the exception of a few early adopters, few faculty have these same skills.

This brings me back to our workshop last Friday.  I had the 21 faculty brainstorm their assumptions regarding the Net Generation.  Some of their assumptions included:

  • Students want to be in control of their resources
  • Students take a consumer approach to education
  • Students want to be spoon-fed
  • Students want to understand the relevance of what they are studying
  • Student are focused on grades first, learning second
  • Students use the internet to find information and communicate

When I asked whether allowing students to bring technology into a classroom was a good thing or a bad thing, the comments made indicated that some of this group of faculty saw technology as a distraction which broke the rhythm of the class and prevented students from “getting the basics.”

One participant made the interesting comment that he wished students would just take what he was teaching on faith rather than immediately wanting to know why.

I wish I had Jeff Utecht‘s eloquence, but he said it best today, so I simply will quote him:

I have come to hate the phrase “21st Century” whatever: Learner, Thinking, Teacher, Skills.

Has anyone noticed it’s 2008…well 79 days until 2009!

We’re 9 years (depending on how you count) into the 21st Century and we’re still calling for 21st Century things.

I’m sorry we’re in it! These are just skills! They are just what we should be doing and if we’re not teaching them, helping students to understand them then we’re letting them down….big time!

So that’s it…I’m done. No more 21st Century for me.

They just are today’s skills

They just are today’s schools

They just are today’s students

They just are what we should be doing!

No more putting them off.

No more pretending we are thinking of the future.

Either you are a 21st Century school working on preparing students for today or you are a 20th Century school that just doesn’t get it.

That goes for teachers, skills, content, curriculum, students.

Amen, Jeff!

{Photo Credit: Dubber, Unhindered By Talent}

Swimming in the Complex

Every now and then, you are reading a book or article, and a phrase jumps out and grabs you.  It happened last night on page 198 of David Weinberger‘s delightful Everything is Miscellaneous.

“The task of knowing is no longer to see the simple.  It is to swim in the complex.”


David’s book is an interesting look at how our attempts to categorize knowledge by systems such as the Dewey Decimal System worked for books but fails in the messy interconnected web world…and that is not bad!  In essence, the web allows every person to have a customized library of knowledge built around what makes sense to that individual.

Teachers and educators are in the “knowing” business.  When I work with faculty and suggest 21st Century solutions to their problems, I am generally met with resistance.  It is easy to understand why.   With the exception of a few early adopters, faculty generally have an established concept of how to do research.  They correctly note that they gained their success and became tenured professors through a time-honored process that did not involve the web.  Social networking has not been part of that process.

Tomorrow, Jeff Nugent and I will be working with operational research faculty at the INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium. We are going to discuss what the research suggests about how people learn, how students have incorporated the web into their lives, and how technology can transform teaching and learning. We have a full day with them, so it should be interesting.  I am looking forward to seeing how open they are to ideas of messiness in teaching and learning!

Two nights ago, Jeff was a member of a panel discussing the Millennial Generation to Mass Communications students and faculty. One panel member stated that FaceBook did not have a place in education. Jeff countered that social networking was vital to education today. He noted how Twitter was typically the first means by which he learned of breaking news, and tried to describe how following in Twitter was akin to friending in FaceBook. He realized that the older members listening to him had no idea what he was describing. They did not get it.

I am starting to realize that one reason I do get it is that I swim in the complex every day. My normal routine every morning  and routinely during the day (7 days a week) is to first check emails, then Twitter, and then Google Reader, where I subscribe to over fifty blogs, a dozen news feeds, and some that are difficult to classify but definitely form part of my personal learning environment. I now assume that I will be part of a backchannel conversation in any meeting or conference I attend. This did not happen overnight, but it did happen in less than two years, and I now cannot conceive of returning to the old “manual” way of learning and knowing. It certainly is not simple, but it is right in line with David Weinberger’s reasoning.

Back in June, I used the stream analogy to reflect my emersion into Web 2.0.  It still fits, which is why David’s words resonated so powerfully with me. So, my advice to my colleagues is simple – the longer you try to keep your life simple and organized, the less you will know and the less you will be relevant.

Strong words or on target? Be interested in your thought!

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Class Act

With my nephew’s wedding this past weekend, I did not get around to posting something that happened last week, but I was deeply moved.

One of my colleagues from Gwinnett Technical College, Jackie Bush, called me last Thursday morning to simply thank me.  She is retiring and moving on to a consulting business, and before she left Gwinnett Tech, she wanted to call people who positively impacted her career and just say thanks!  What a neat thing to do and I will tell you it lifted me for the entire day!

Jackie taught cosmetology for many years at Gwinnett Tech – about as “hands-on” a program as one can have.  Yet six years ago, she was one of the first faculty at Gwinnett to see the power of online learning as an enhancement to her discipline.  She had the first web enhanced cosmetology program in Georgia, the first online course (a licensure prep course), and I noticed she now has a new blog to go with her new consulting role.  I appreciated her call to thank me, but she likewise helped me by being one of the early adopters of online learning.

I know Jackie will continue to do good things!  Best of luck to a class act!

{Photo Credit:  SalonApprentice, Gisela Giardino}

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Not Net Gen – Oh No!

I think I am in trouble!

In 9 days, Jeff Nugent and I are doing a full day training session at INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium in Washington DC.  Jeff is starting off with a session on How People Learn.  I then spend some time exploring the Net Generation.  Then we tie it together with Teaching, Learning, and Technology.

We submitted our plan months ago, and at that time, “Net Gen” made sense.  But recently I have been rethinking this term…influenced by some recent posts I will note below, and something Jeff said today in a podcast that really moved me in a new direction.

First, I recommend you listen to the GenTech podcast in which Michael Kelly, Steve Whitaker, and Mark Hofer interview Jeff about his work in our Center for Teaching Excellence.   Jeff did that, but then the conversation shifted to his Learning with Digital Media class he is teaching at the undergraduate level.  Jeff made the distinction between introducing social media to faculty we work with versus the students he teaches.  He noted that faculty rarely have any frame of reference for the sharing aspects of tools like Delicious, SlideShare, or Twitter, and so see little value in the sharing.  His students, on the other hand, come to these tools with experiences such as FaceBook, where the social aspects are paramount.  He introduced Delicious to his students last week, and within 15 minutes his class had added each other to one anothers’ networks, created subnetworks, and begun sharing bookmarks.  One noted that this was “just like Facebook.”

What Jeff was seeing was that this rapid adoption was not generational in nature so much as it was experiential.

This ties in to a post Dean Shareski made last week entitled “Digital Resident Makes More Sense Than Digital Native.”  Dean was building off a post made by Dave White back in July – “Not Natives & Immigrants But Visitors & Residents.”  I had not seen this earlier post, but it really resonated with me (and obviously Dean).  A resident lives a portion of her or his life online while a visitor goes to the web to use a tool and then leaves.  Under this definition, the students in Jeff’s class, as well as Jeff and myself, would be classified as residents.  The faculty we work with for the most part are visitors.  They may be aware of applications but they do not have the experiences with them that a resident would, and so have difficulty seeing the value that a resident would.

As with most stereotypes, there are teens and college kids who are also visitors, not residents, just as there are “chronologically-challenged” individuals like me who are not immigrants.  So labeling our students “Net Gen” no longer makes a lot of sense.

It is too late to rename my presention on October 10th, but it is definitely changing and evolving.  I would be interested in your thoughts about lessons we should share with teachers based on this new insight.  Rather than natives and immigrants, I am thinking more along the line of walled communities versus hostels.  Faculty need to spend some time in the digital hostel and experience the value that their students are intuitively picking up.

{Photo Credits: Lend Me Your Eyes, 733}