Teaching without Technology

Although I am a strong proponent of technology in the classroom, teaching can still be effective without technology. For over a hundred years or more teachers have used a blackboard and a piece of chalk. They work and they work well, except you get chalk dust all over your suit when teaching. In a small classroom the basic rules of teaching apply. Engage the students in question an answer, and have a discussion about the topic. Inform the students about facts they may or may not know by writing them on the blackboard. Small classroom means 20 students or less. This is unfortunately not reality. In most public schools K-12 there are 32 or more students in a class. In Colleges and Universities classes can range from 20 up to 50. In Colleges and Universities where lecture halls can cram 100, 200, 300, 400 or even 500 in a lecture hall the rules of basic teaching change because of the numbers of students in one room at one time.

I remember well when I went to College we had 400 students in the major block courses, Introduction to Psychology, Survey of World Civilizations, Anatomy and Physiology, and Biology. We took note while the Professor used an overhead transparency machine. That was the technology of the 1960’s. Our Anatomy Professor had the transparency in a roll and he used to write on the transparency and then roll if into the ceiling off the screen. I think he though this was a good teaching method. We certainly did not think it was a great idea. It made note taking almost impossible. We came up with a solution and the women came up with a separate solution. Our solution was to form into groups of 4 or 5 men who would take notes. Two were designated to take the first part of the notes and the rest wrote down the notes at the end of the transparency before it disappeared off the movie screen. The women were more fortunate. They sat around listening and knitting while one woman who knew short hand took all the notes and kept up with the Professor.

The point is basic teaching methods always prevail regardless of what technology you have for tools. The anatomy professor never  tried to engage the students in the lecture all of 400 students. He let the Graduate Assistants do that in the Anatomy Labs. His lectures were the “wham, bam, thank you Mam” approach with no regard for feedback or student engagement. Maybe he thought it would be impossible to ask questions with 400 students in attendance?

Another Professor whom I personally worked for as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Botany had a completely different approach where he engaged everyone in the Lecture hall. What he used was a 35mm slide projector with slides of the plants, ecology, and issues relating to plant life. When he put a slide on the screen he would pick someone out of the audience and ask them what the slide was about? This kept everyone on their toes. Later on he would give quizzes based on the slides he showed in the lectures. During the Quiz he would used a slide as a question and show the slide from previous lectures that month and ask what is this slide about? What are the issues or identify the plant in the slide. What are these cells in a plant?  If you did not attend the lectures you usually did poorly on the Quizzes. As a result the Professor had the highest attendance rate of any of the large lecture hall courses. You had to be there to answer the quiz questions. He engaged the students during the lectures and never got into rote memorizing of facts, rather he always asked solutions to problems or explanations beyond just what a slide was. His only form of technology was a 35mm slide projector.

Fast forward to 2011 where Powerpoint is the replacement for the 35mm slide projector. What has changes in pedagogy? Really nothing had change. The teaching basics are still there. If you don’t engage the students with thought provoking questions then they will never understand the subject. Engaging the students is always a basic teaching fundamental skill that never changes regardless of the technology tools being used.

Custom Blended ONLINE Courses

Universities and Colleges that are cramped for space and want to reduce their overhead have come up with an online approach that works, Blended Courses. Instead of being 100% online where 50% of the students dropout, Universities and Colleges are compromising with most of the course online and an occasional campus class visit. What a savings? Little or no overhead, no large campuses necessary and more popular with online students.

It all comes down to motivation. Meeting with a live professor that can motivate a student is what it is all about. The basics of education still apply, engage the student and you will perk their interest and motivation. If you bore them to death in a lecture hall or online the result is the same, they drop out or fail.

The new generation of students are used to virtual campuses and Second Life is the next best thing to Blended Courses. Here students are avatars, and the Professor can be whatever avatar they want to be. They get to engage the professor and discussion takes place just like in a classroom. The only prerequisite is the student has to be a little more computer smart than the average student. It takes some experience to get used to moving your avatar around and getting it to talk, but with practice it is possible.

What is your opinion about Blended Courses and Second Life?

 

The Integration of Technology into Education 21st century

There are many articles on the integration of technology into education. The real problem in higher education is that Colleges and University are always miles behind in technology. Partially because it is difficult to keep upgrading programs like MS Word, and MS Excel. Once the faculty get used to a program that do not want to change and relearn a new program. I have worked with hundreds of college and university faculty and the problem is always the same, they are one or two versions behind the upgrades.

The best thing about upgrades is the improved templates that make jobs easier.  Let’s face it as long as Universities and Colleges have to pay high software leasing fees, change is always going to be slow. Software companies are like a leech that you cannot get rid of.  Instead of making it inexpensive to upgrade, they want to make a big profit and this is counter-productive to integrating technology in the classroom or lecture hall.

Someday, Universities will say “enough is enough and they will stop buying upgrades.” That will be a sad day in technology.

The Good, the bad, and the extreme

It seems we live in a world of extremes where the good goes unnoticed and the bad is commonplace.

The tragedy in Japan is the extreme of nature that is a wake up call for us all as to the condition of the Earth. I don’t think the dinosaurs could see the ice period taking over the earth and causing them to become extinct. We live in troubled times, yet a global outpouring of support is an indication that when tragedy strikes a nation, other nations are there to provide support.

Everything is global these days. We are one big extended community despite national borders. We can no long ignore others suffering as in Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Libya. By the time NATO and other nations make up their mind to help the people in Libya, they will all be dead and those that survive will be murdered.

So what can we do? Not much…our governments tend to their own agendas not the agenda of the people. When the poor are suppressed it is a matter of time before they revolt as in the 13 colonies here, in France, and many other countries.

PKM

Argosy University

Teaching tools;

Computers-help to prepare lessons, powerpoint shows, internet research, show graphs, keeping the students engaged using laptop computers.

iPads-a handheld style of touch pad/computer that uses apps to run small programs. Built in camera, e-mail, Cloud, educational apps, free apps, game apps, quick reader of digital news and magazines, Photo flow feature in sharing pictures from the iPad to other computers.

Ceiling mounted projectors- hook up to computers to project powerpoint slides, or any screen material, digital photos, digital print, makes screen larger enough for large audiences or big classrooms. Lighter and brighter 3000 lumens to 5000 lumens and more compact than earlier models.

Interactive electronic whiteboards- made by Smartboards of Long Island, NY and Polyvision of Columbus Circle, NYC,NY. Electronic boards come in standard 4ft.x 6 ft. or 10×12 ft. lecture room size. Features capability of saving anything on the screen. Allows teacher or students to write on the screen and erase on the screen; allows for wireless printing within 50 ft.; allows students to interactively get involved with the electronic in moving objects around the screen, drawing diagrams, using arrows or circling important facts or objects.

Interactive Student clicker response systems- Best used in large lecture halls with 50 or more students. No really suitable for small classroom of 15 or less students. Integrates with Powerpoint and creates instant graphs, charts with student responses. Not suitable for attendance checking. Cost of clicker paid for by some text book companies. $15 dollar cost from bookstore can be returned for resale of $5.00 each.

Automatic Podcasting- audio and video podcasts record a professor teaching. Just the powerpoint screen can be filmed with automatic camera. For audio or video only or combined, Echo 360 software will allow a microphone to be set remotely to go on at a specific lecture time and record just audio or both video and audio. At the end of the lecture time the program will turn off the microphone and ceiling camera and convert both audio and video into one Podcast and send it as an attachment to the Professors e-mail address in less than 5 minutes after the end of the lecture.

Assessment tools- Weaveonline is one of many centralized software programs that can help a professor meet their course objectives and provide assessment analysis at the end of the course. Before the beginning of the course the Objectives, action plans, projects, tests, etc are all posted on Weaveonline. The objectives have specific benchmarks for each professor to strive to achieve.

 

iPad-apps- There are Anatomy apps for the heart, muscles and bones for medical courses or Anatomy and Physiology; Economics apps using a roller coaster as an example of force and speed; and many other apps that a professor can attach their iPad to the movie project cable to put up on a screen for the class to view.

 

THE BEST TEACHING TOOLS ARE ..the old fashioned, time tested methods, of question and answer techniques, engaging students in a classroom or lecture hall, moving around the classroom and not sitting behind a desk or podium. Proximity when asking a question makes it personal, rather than asking a question from 100 feet away on a stage in a large lecture hall. Using a wireless microphone in a large lecture hall to be heard. Setting up small group collaborative learning projects. Becoming a facilitator instead of a lecturer in a classroom or lecture hall. Having a sense of humor. Provide some entertainment but get the students involved in the process. Debates, student presentations, student Powerpoint projects, Blog presentations, Blackboard instant tests, Powerpoint 1 min. quizzes, 3×5 question cards, inclass laptop assignments with a time limit and report afterward, student partners, student learning groups, student collaborative project groups and interactive educational games.