by John Doherty
Chippin’ around – kick my brains around the floor
These are the days it never rains but it pours
– Queen, David Bowie, “Under Pressure“
Under budget pressure from our universities, we faculty have no choice but to do more with less. Unlike Queen and Bowie, however, we cannot scream “Let me out,” so we turn to technology for some pressure relief.
Wally Nolan and I, instructional designers at Northern Arizona University’s e-Learning Center, discuss ways to apply technology to your courses in our weekly podcast series, Tuesday Tips on Teaching With Technology (iTunes link). But we don’t just talk about it; we practice what we preach.
For example, I have been using technology in teaching my Honors courses to help make connections amongst my students. With Kevin Ketchner, another NAU Honors instructor, I have been using Blackboard Vista to move some face-to-face community-building tasks, such as icebreakers, online. Kevin and I discuss our approach in an article we have forthcoming in the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council:
[W]e adapted and moved an icebreaker from Conrad and Donaldson (2004) to Blackboard Vista. Following some brief peer-led introductions during our first live meeting, we assigned students a Name That Movie activity in a Vista-based discussion … . For this discussion, we asked students to respond to the prompt in a discussion thread, in part to also introduce the tool to the students. Also, this assignment was not graded, yet still received such phenomenal interactions. It generated 307 messages in one class that initially had 18 students (one later dropped out) over the course of 5 days, between our Thursday meeting and our next meeting on the following Tuesday. Our only adaptation to this activity was to have the students come to class to discuss their final responses. Walking into this Tuesday class after this activity was a different experience from the week before—it was a very noisy room, students visiting with their neighbors, discussing their movie titles and music tastes. Students were referring to each other by name and moving about the room to share movies, songs, and other similar tastes with each other. Connections had been made and a community was forming. (pp. 66-67)
At the e-Learning Center we emphasize that the adoption of technology needs to be purposeful. Too often, technology gets promoted without prior consideration of the educational implications of its adoption. Successful adoption of educational technology depends on the instructor’s understanding of the potential educational benefits of the technology, consideration of the technology’s pedagogical appropriateness for a given course, skillful implementation of the technology, and clear communication to students about how they should use the technology.
For good information on new and emerging technologies and their potential applications in education, check out the Educause Learning Initiative series titled “7 Things You Should Know About ….”
Conrad, R-M. & Donaldson, J.A. (2004). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Doherty, J.J. & Ketchner, K. (2009). Making connections: Technology and interaction in an Honors classroom. Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Society 10(2): 66-68.