Monday, January 30, 2006

Making Connections

How do you incorporate student prior knowledge or expertise in your lesson/lecture? (Post your ideas in the comments below)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Helpful Tips for Faculty

Here are some strategies that may be helpful as you settle into another busy, yet productive semester. These were discussed during the New Faculty Learning Community:
    • Create a routine for the students to get used to, for example: the first 5-10 min. of class or last 5-10 (but not the entire class)
    • Give preview questions to go with each reading
    • To return papers, call their name and have them come pick it up from you up front – this way you get to see them for a longer period of time (not just the back of their head)
    • In order to proof your own writing (which is often a futile effort since you wrote it and easily overlook errors), read it from the end, one full sentence at a time.
    • To reduce the cringe factor or to relieve anticipatory stress for your students, use euphemisms ☺ (Ex.- “preparation exercises” are quizzes, “narrative piece” is a paper)
    • Create an outline or “skeleton” of your PPT (PowerPoint) and post it on BlackBoard before the class so they can fill it in during class (or for preparatory work ready when they come to class)
    • As always seems to be the case, moderation is the key when it comes to reflecting on your course evaluations
    • As a professional with multiple demands on your time – teaching, research, service, committees, professional development, and so on, it’s essential to schedule time (even if it’s 15-30 minutes a day, 2 times a week) – Ex- allow for 30 min. on M, W, F to write a professional article. For more information on this and researched benefits, check out F.O.P. (First Order Principles for College Teachers), by Robert Boice
    • Remember… writing and research are both recursive, so the more you put in, the more you will get out of each, oftentimes “magically”

Please feel free to add your own in the comments section below... the more, the better!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Teaching To & Learning From the "Gamer Generation"

Little did I know that when my brother and I received a ColecoVision game system for Christmas when I was 12 years old, we were unknowingly initiated into the “Gamer Generation”. Growing up playing video games became an enigma that now separates us from our older siblings, parents and many other elders. But unlike most university students, I did not grow up from birth with a mouse in one hand and a cell phone in the other… this puts me in a “tweener” generation that can relate to what teaching and learning used to be like and what may be required now of educators to reach "the gamers".

Today, I rarely find (make) the time to play any video games although I do have an outdated PS1 (original PlayStation) system tucked away somewhere collecting dust. But coming from this experience, and as a former high school teacher, I found myself nodding my head in agreement at much of what Dr. John C. Beck had to say this past Tuesday at the first President’s Lecture Series event. (click here to log into to the DVSS and search for a streaming video of the event)

Here is a summary of his major points made (with some commentaries in parentheses):

John C. Beck (Capturing the Value of the Gamer Generation)

• They think, believe and learn differently
• Growing up on games creates a whole new way of thinking about the world
    - The game worlds are immersive worlds, often competitive
    - (they control things, investigate, goal seeking, emotion, decision making/problem-solving)

• Gamers are:
    - More competitive
    - Naturally global-thinking
    - More social and work better in teams
    - Willing to take risks -- attitude of “immunity to failure”
    - More confident in abilities -- prefer to be paid based on actual performance rather than a set salary
    - Believe more in luck (can be seen as them not caring and shrugging it off)
    - Flexible, don’t mind having to change (this will be helpful with the rapid changes we’re just beginning to enter)
    - They can easily go “meta”/reflective

• Boys – spatial; girls – linear (success in schools to girls, boys like games for spatial environment)
- Both want to be heroes (“that’s not fair”; kids starting charities and non-profits)
• They want to be challenged; give tough jobs/tasks
    - Natural multi-taskers
    - They want fun (to be engaged/interested/pay attention to)

• Games are basically fair (player messes up, they lose, etc.)
• “Strategy guides are good; Level Bosses are not” – that is there implied / undercurrent reality
    - Strategy guides help gamers be successful in getting through a game
    - Level bosses are something to be conquered, overcome, killed, etc. in order to move on to the next level
    - As a boss (teacher/leader), be a “strategy guide”, NOT a “level boss”

• Competitive, risky, difficult, social, global, heroic – build this type of world for them to be involved in
• All of this will change… so stay current!
- Blogs – potentially creating a world where secrets are less viable
• (Games have the potential to be a training ground for doing good; more games to promote this are forthcoming)
- Game of smiley faces clicked on while traveling over clouds – the study included approx. 130 people – it improved their self esteem
• How will relationships change in future because of this interaction between machine & human?
- Second Life – virtual world allows you to become who you want to be online
• Used to be able to buy things from others on eBay, not anymore
• “Sweat-shops” in India/China that you can contract out – i.e.-pay - to click on mouse a million times so you can gain points in these virtual worlds (Many virtual gamers are outraged by this, see “fair” item above)
• Neural pathways are created up until the age of about 13 – after that, it’s more difficult to change &/or learn (it can be done, but not as fluid or easily attained)
• Gamer generation CONTROLLED the ride – they were just living out a live video game! Like Super Mario Bros. where you collect gold pieces and once you get enough you can fly!!! – like a corporate jet!
-When the “ride” was over, they were OK… onto the next adventure…

To access an online audio recording of IT Conversations interview with John Beck, ”When Gamers Enter the Workforce” (~17 min.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Reflections from the Reflective Teaching Faculty Learning Community

We had an interesting and thought-provoking discussion today about student reading comprehension, literacy, images and learning styles. Here is just a sampling of the ideas shared and questions raised: (feel free to add a comment – see link below this post)

How do images play into the “literacy realm” or the “traditional literacy realm”? Are they an integrated part or treated as a separate medium?

Students are officially taught reading literacy, but we are never taught how images affect us and analyzing what is important (i.e.- media literacy – see The Center for Media Literacy

Are students more visual now than in years past? When do they adapt to ignoring images in text and why? Do we (educators) do this? Publishers?

Pictures can be considered a multilingual medium… is this the cause or effect of why we are becoming a more visual society (because our society and culture is extending beyond English & “Americanism” toward a true melting pot of cultures).

Do you have anything in your syllabus about the importance of images, graphs, charts, diagrams and their application to the textual knowledge?

Images portray emotions, often invoking a reaction or response. How does this play into the learning experience? (a picture says a 1000 words) What can be stated better with an image instead of words?

How much “peripheral learning” is being missed now since students can simply search for specific phrases or keywords in a web page or digital document rather than accidentally learning something along the way to finding the “hidden” required information within a body of text. (Similar to a long road trip to a destination vs. an airplane ride… how much peripheral learning did we acquire while in the midst of constantly repeating, “Are we there yet?!”)

What about doing something by hand versus using a computer program that does it automatically? (Ex.- only create graphs on computers or make some/one by hand too). Similar to typing 2 + 2 into a calculator and getting 5… “so that must be the right answer because that’s what the calculator says”.

In order to bring images to the forefront of students’ consciousness, consider digital or visual storytelling – similar to picture books – have students create or gather images to incorporate into a lesson or presentation. Sometimes just an image (with no text) can be more powerful than any words can convey, whether a paper copy or digital.

Have students keep a journal of their learning experiences and application attempts. Better yet, keep a journal yourself – listing your observations, insights and reflections about what’s going on in the classroom and in your student’s minds, where you want to go next or try next time teaching this lesson.

An interesting point came up about skimming to find information… How many readers of research go directly from abstract to conclusion vs. reading methodologies and results first? Why is that? (Time is an obvious factor here) Along those same lines, is the image vs. text issue with students simply a factor of time and efficiency? At what cost?

“Merely descriptive” research is often looked down upon thanks to the emergence of quantitative analysis a couple decades ago. With numbers to back up conclusions, the value of descriptive analyses has been overlooked, in both the sciences and non-sciences. Is this possibly partly due to our migration away from the narrative voice?

To sum it up, there were many reflections today that come down to the realization that there are multiple ways of knowing – for both student and teacher – and for most of what we teach, there is not only one answer or path to learning, but rather many possible routes toward that ideal common destination… wherever that may be. For your students’ sake, be sure to keep those roads open, easily located, and allow for detours as necessary!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Earth Images/Maps for Your Course?

Google Earth is a free software download for PCs (WinXP) and now Macs (OS 10.4) that allow you to view actual satellite images of most locations on Earth. From Google: "You point and zoom to anyplace on the planet that you want to explore. Satellite images and local facts zoom into view. Tap into Google search to show local points of interest and facts. Zoom to a specific address to check out an apartment or hotel. View driving directions and even fly along your route."

Check it out at: