[Fairfield] Thursday Morning Sessions

I’m up at Fairfield University for their annual conference on teaching. Time permitting, I’ll try to blog the sessions.

The day began with a keynote from Alison Morrison-Shetlar, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Central Florida. I’ll admit to being a bit cynical about overarching advice on teaching, but I think she did a good job of cutting through a sea of ideas and presenting some nice ideas for improving teaching at the course level and at the university-wide level.

She split this into three perspectives: those of the student, the teacher, and the classroom. She talked about a project to reinvent the general education requirements at UCF. They went out to try to figure out what students were excited about and found that across the board, undergrads shared an interest in the environment and global climate change. They encouraged faculty to include these issues, in whatever way was appropriate, in their general education courses, and provided resources for faculty to make use of (learning artifacts provided by faculty). As a result, students were not only more excited about the general education classes, they became more involved in other campus initiatives.

From the teachers perspective, she pushed hard on formative assessment. Although these were not particularly new ideas, it was great to hear them again, and just because you’ve run into them before, doesn’t mean you remember to try them. She touched on low-stakes writing (one-minute papers), encouraging students to draw pictures of the ideas they are exploring, use pictures as puzzles to encourage discussion, make use of choral response (even at the grad level), and pass the chalk to get people to present materials.

She had less time to discuss things from the perspective of the classroom, but encouraged the clustering of courses, team-teaching, and inviting colleagues into the classroom.

Next, there was a session on using Moodle with Web 2.0. The presenters ran into technical difficulties, so they ended up a bit rushed. They broadly introduced the ideas of surrounding Web 2.0 tools. They had some particular favorites (gliffy, mindmeister, buzzword, google docs, elluminate, WizIQ). WizIQ is particularly interesting: a free plugin for Moodle, it allows for live collaboration over video. It was a nice show-and-tell, though I think it’s time to throw out the whole “web 2.0” thing, especially when it comes to education. I still think the best definition of “web 2.0” is “stuff we weren’t doing on the web five years ago.” I’m dubious of efforts to define it conceptually beyond this.

In the second part of their talk, they looked at strategies for employing Learning Management Systems. They decided they wanted to have the live components (through elluminate), but they are doing their static work through NineHub, a free Moodle host. They set up a course over there to collect resources relating to teaching with social media.

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  1. Darren Purcell
    Posted 6/5/2008 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that UCF actually had such an environmental push from the student, espeically when Orlando, where it is located, is the example par excellance of urban sprawl. Disney also gets regularly taken to task for environmentally unfriendly acts on its lands.

    The important thing is that if all students across the country were asked the same question, I be the response would be similar.


  2. Posted 6/9/2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for mentioning Gliffy! We’d love for you to give us a try and let us know what you’d like to see added and changed to make Gliffy even more useful in the classroom setting.
    debik at gliffy dot com

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