October 13, 2009

Using a Backchannel to Enrich the Learning Experience

This is the backchannel for our session at ITEC 2009 - Using a Backchannel to Enrich the Learning Experience (Magdalena Galloway and Robin Galloway, University of Northern Iowa). See my Diigo bookmarks for related resources.

October 11, 2009

Visit Our UNI Booth at ITEC

Setting up our UNI booth at the annual #itec conference in Iowa City today. Stop by Mon-Tues to say hello, learn about our Instructional Technology masters program and distance education cohorts (a new cohort begins summer 2010), and register for daily prizes. 

July 1, 2009

Backchannel for NECC '09 Presentation

April 20, 2009

Web 2.0 & Higher Education

I just read the short article, "Why Is Web 2.0 Important to Higher Education?", and this quote in particular caught my attention:
To make the transition from a predominant lecture format to a more "studio" approach to learning requires trust that students really are curious and really do want to engage in learning. Let's not assume the teacher is in competition with the students for control, let's instead assume that teachers and students really want to cooperate, the human trait that is most central to our survival.
The article and comments that accompany it really highlight to me the significance of considering the more philosophical underlying principles about how people teach & learn. What is knowledge? What is content? What is an expert? What is the value/purpose of a degree or one class, for that matter? It seems to me that these most basic assumptions predispose teachers and curriculum designers to either engage learners and empower them with technology or simply teach at students with token uses of technology that reinforce a more traditional view of delivering knowledge.

Like so many articles published on the web, the comments posted by readers are at least as interesting to me as the article itself. Actually, what I'm realizing is that I seek more than an article or blog post. I want the more complete conversation that results from many readers posting their own reflections, reactions and ideas in response. And that, after all, is one of the most fundamental attributes of Web 2.0.

April 6, 2009

Student Blog Directory

Many of our Ed Tech & Design students at the University of Northern Iowa have started blogging for extra credit. We setup a Google Form to make it easier for them to find each others' blog. Check out our blog directory to read what they're posting and to add your own comments!

What's a blog, you ask? Here's a great video that we often use to introduce our students to blogs.

And here's a great video showing how to start your own blog with Blogger.com

March 30, 2009

Habitudes for College Students by Angela Maiers

Wow, we just live-blogged and streamed a presentation here at the University of Northern Iowa. The guest presenter, Angela Maiers spoke about Habitudes for College Students. It was awesome, and so was the technology we used to stream and capture it!

About 10 minutes into the event, I realized that I was streaming the video via Ustream, Twittering, and moderating the Coveritlive blog (which had the Ustream and Twitter feeds embedded as well) all via a wireless connection from my MacBook! Geez, if I'd actually thought about it in advance (hey, it was a busy day), I would have guessed this would never work via WiFi. Not only did it work--it worked great! Amazing (and fun!)

Here are the some archives of the event.

Ustream archive is here...

Accordant stream is here (complete with the presenter's PowerPoint)...

Coveritlive archive is (as well as below)...

February 11, 2009

Backchannels in the classroom

I've been really interested in the use of backchannels for several months. After seeing several interesting articles and blogs posts on the subject, I began wondering how this might help bring a new type of interactivity to our large enrollment course at UNI. I team teach a course with three other instructors and a teaching assistant, and we have 9 sections of 30 students each. We've struggled in the past to engage our students during the "lecture" part of our class (students spend 1 hour in lecture and 2 hours in hands-on labs). We typically have about 100 students in the classroom during the "lecture' part of the course. While we preach the importance of engaging learners and accommodating digital natives, I've often felt somewhat hypocritical in my rather limited techniques of actually engaging students and encouraging interaction.

So, this semester I've begun using Coveritlive! to create a backchannel for my students, and the results have been pretty positive so far! Students are adding some excellent insights and examples in our backchannels, and I can easily gather their opinions and experiences with polls that appear on their screen along with real-time results displayed in bar charts. It's actually an excellent student response system built right into the Coveritlive! interface--no need for students to purchase their own TurningPoint transmitters, for example. Most of our students already own a laptop, so we just need to encourage them to bring it to class.

For three weeks now, Magda and I have been using Coveritlive! to facilitate a backchannel for our ICN class (Iowa Communications Network--our statewide fiber optic network for distance learning courses). The backchannel is ideal for this type of course where simply being able to speak is sometimes hindered by the nature of the "press-to-speak" environment that involves students at multiple sites. For this group, the backchannel not only facilitates some excellent discussions but it helps us resolve technical issues (can you turn up the volume, please?) and even answer a few more questions after our ICN session expires.

Interestingly, more students in the ICN course (37 of 51) participated in the backchannel last week than did the students in our on campus courses today (just 25 of about 270). Maybe that's not surprising considering that our distance education learners are somewhat more inclined to bring their laptops to class than our on-campus students who aren't really encouraged to bring them in their other classes.

I'm really excited to see how our use of the backchannel evolves, and I'm hoping that our students might be inspired to try them out in their own classrooms someday. After all, people tend to teach as they were taught.