Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stephanie Kumi is a second year graduate student studying Information Security Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. She asks a very relevant question, "Who is responsible for teaching students about cyber-security?", in a recent blog post. I think that it is one of a number of topics that we as faculty assume our students know but to be honest, as computer systems become more and more sophisticated, I think even those of us who consider ourselves tech-savvy may not be prepared to help our students. At BRCC, we have adopted an eSkills Orientation that is required of all students before they can register for an eLearning course. The pre-requisite was developed in response to faculty feedback about many of their students enrolling in eLearning courses without understanding just what was required of them. Recently the eSkills Orientation was revised and a much more concise version is now required of students wanting to register for eLearning courses. The new instrument was developed using feedback from faculty teaching eLearning courses (both online and hybrid). In addition, this semester the faculty who teach College Success Skills 1023 adopted the eSkills Orientation as a technology literacy learning experience. The expected outcomes were twofold: first any student taking a CSSK class would then be eligible to register for an eLearning class and second, it was hoped that the experience would improve their technology literacy skills. Preliminary feedback from CSSK faculty has been very positive and our students are expressing that the learning experience really helped them to learn about Canvas and how to use all of the available tools more effectively. So back to the question at hand, who is responsible for teaching our students about cyber-security?

Monday, March 20, 2017

What do employers look for when making a hire? It is something we as faculty should be asking. It actually isn't very difficult to find the answer. There are a number of surveys that provide us with the data.  Here are a few. A poll by USA Today reveals that grades still matter but there are ways to  get an interview despite a lower GPA. NACE's Job Outlook 2016 survey, tells us that employers are looking for leaders who can work as part of a team. More than 80 percent of responding employers said they look for evidence of leadership skills on the candidate's resume, and nearly as many seek out indications that the candidate is able to work in a team. Employers also cited written communication skills, problem-solving skills, verbal communication skills, and a strong work ethic as important candidate attributes. Monster tells us that critical thinking is one of the five things employers are looking for and not finding in college graduates. That may not make sense. We know that in order to be a successful student, students must learn how to learn. Being a critical thinker means that you can solve problems. You know where to go to find the different approaches that will allow you to come up with solutions. But in this complex world, being a critical thinker has to be paired with being able to work on teams. That means our students should be able to work with a diversity of people. They must also be able to have frank and open discussions where differences will be explored. Being able to hold a civil discussion is becoming a lost art. Students are very likely to mimic what is happening on their televisions (or even on the streets now) and resort to attacking the speaker rather than the idea, using a slippery slope argument, or resort to begging (for example). These are all logic fallacies that students need to be exposed to if there are to be productive in the work world. That is why the Center for Teaching+Learning Enhancement is offering three professional development sessions about the active learning method of using debate in your classrooms to help them develop critical thinking skills. Join us to add your voice to this important topic.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We are deep into mid-terms week at BRCC. The signs are everywhere. Like the number of eLearning students cheeking into the Testing Center and the increase of students visiting with a tutor in the Academic Learning Center. You will also notice study groups meeting in the library. This is an important week for teaching and learning but what happens when the tests are returned to the students? That is a great teachable moment to help students understand what assessment is all about. Yes, they receive a grade but it is also very important for students to realize what the assessment results can tell them. Remind them that the questions they missed indicate a gap in their learning. Encourage them to use the results to revise or repeat their preparation habits. Ask them to jot down how they prepared for the assessment and to use that to make adjustments for the future. Share with them that testing and assessment should not be a one-and-done type of activity. It is a useful tool that helps them connect their new knowledge to the past and sets a firm foundation for the future. If you have students who are unhappy with their mid-term grades, now is a great time to encourage them to join a study group. There is a simple sign-up process using Canvas here. If they need additional help related to creating or joining a study group, ask them to contact Academic Support Specialist Barbara Linder by email or phone (216.8228). 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The BRCC Library has added a new book of interest for those of us looking to expand our teaching toolkit. Why Students Resist Learning edited by Anton O. Tolman and Janine Kremling is offered as a practical model for understanding and helping students. The authors spend some time on the subject of student resistance that you may encounter as you begin to move them from passive to active learners. The book is written in a way that helps us "develop a coherent and integrated understanding of the various causes of student resistance to learning...and enable them to create conditions conducive to implementing effecting learning strategies." There is also a new volume (54, number 1-February 2017) of the American Educational Research Journal in the collections. There are a number of articles related to teaching in the STEM disciplines. In addition, the opening article, Educating for Democracy in a Partisan Age: Confronting the Challenges of Motivated Reasoning and Misinformation by Joseph Kahne and Benjamin Bowyer might be of interest to you in your attempt to teach information literacy and critical thinking to our students.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dr. James M. Lang explores the distracted classroom in his latest post to the Chronicle. We have all been there, so his article is very relevant and timely. He sites research by Gazzaley and Rosen that could help us bring our student's focus back to the topic at hand. He writes, "One day near the end of the spring semester last year, I was standing at the front of the room in my British literature survey course, as students completed a writing exercise. One of the best students in the class, 'Kate,' finished early and sat back to await our discussion. This talented senior represented something of a puzzle to me. On the one hand, she wrote well, contributed to discussions, sat in the front row every class period, and was always pleasant. On the other hand, she sometimes seemed distracted in class, as if she were secretly on her phone or using social media on a laptop. But no laptop or phone was ever in sight. I chalked up her occasional inattention to senioritis. Once the class discussion began that day, I had drifted toward the row of desks where Kate sat when something on the floor caught my eye — it was a flash of light, as if from a cellphone. Kate was staring down at it as well, in one of her distracted states. I realized that she was gazing inside her purse, where her phone had been carefully positioned to allow her to see any texts that arrived during class. She couldn’t respond to them, but she could read them. New ones lit up her black screen, and she just had to turn her head ever so slightly to keep up with her group chats throughout the class session." Continue reading the full article here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Teachers can reach a place where teaching does nothing for them or their students. They don’t just wake up one morning and find themselves burned out; they’ve moved there gradually, and it’s a journey that often starts with tired teaching. Teaching is relentless. It happens every day, several times a week—or potentially 24/7 if it’s online. And it’s demanding. There’s so much more than the actual teaching. There’s considerable planning involved before each class. Plus, we need to spend time with students—those who want to talk, those needing help, and those with questions or, sometimes, complaints. There are assignments to grade and feedback to provide—all carrying the expectation of a quick turnaround. Continue reading here.

Working as a school psychologist has allowed Kathy Casale the opportunity to notice something about many of the students who don’t turn in assignments: They are often stuck in a cycle that involves a pernicious interaction of three overlapping cognitive processes: sustained attention, working memory, and anxiety or stress. When students have a problem with one or, more typically, all of these functions, it’s hard for them to produce. She notes that students often get caught in the same repeating cycle: Anxiety and stress reduced working memory capacity, making it harder to pay attention, so they missed work, which in turn increased their anxiety, and so on. Continue reading here.

Plagiarism can be a real pain. Most teachers have had to deal with it in some form or another, and a whole lot of you still haven’t quite figured out the best way to combat it. Many of us issue stern warnings and threaten serious, soul-crushing consequences. Others also use software to detect plagiarism. While these methods can deter students from plagiarizing and catch them if they do, they operate on the assumption that all plagiarism is devious, that all students who plagiarize know exactly what they’re doing, and our mission is to catch and punish. Now because I don’t believe that assumption is true, I think we could be handling the problem with a lot more finesse. To continue reading or to listen to the podcast, click here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Can you remember what it was like to be a student? Rod Starling went back to school and then wrote about his experience. He writes, "Most teachers start courses pretty much the same way—introduce the content, go over the course requirements, talk about grades, and spell out various policies. Starling was surprised by how confusing, indeed disorienting, he found this. Every course had its own set of details and requirements that students are supposed to immediately understand and follow. He and his fellow classmates (they all took the same four courses) quickly moved from learning to survival mode." Continue reading here.

Most educators acknowledge that literacy is important, but often the focus is on reading because for a long time that is what achievement tests measured. In the last few years there has been more focus on writing in classrooms and on tests, but many students still have difficulty expressing their ideas on paper. Often students struggle to begin writing, so some teachers have shifted assignments to allow students to write about something they care about, or to provide an authentic audience for written work. While these strategies are important parts of making learning relevant to students, they may not be enough on their own to improve the quality of writing. Practice is important, but how can teachers ensure students are practicing good habits? Continue reading here.

David Gooblar has posted an interesting essay. He writes, "I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been teaching at my best this semester. Oh, there have been some good classes. And I think I'm finally getting a handle on the one group of students who don't want to speak up in class. But in general it feels like I'm going through the motions a little bit, not fully reaching as many students as I have in the past, talking too much from the front of the room. I have a theory as to why this is happening." Continue reading here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What is the relationship between instruction and student outcomes? We know that for students to persist, complete, and achieve success in college, the learning environment matters. Students need to feel integrated into academic and social culture, but integration is not enough. They must be engaged. The more engaged students are in learning environments, the more likely they are to complete, learn, and be satisfied. Further, student beliefs about their academic ability influence their success in education, and faculty interactions sit at the intersection of reinforcing or debunking student beliefs. Yet, the evidence-based practices that we know impact student outcomes and instruction, while widely documented as effective, are not widely used in practice. Read the full report here.

Courses that educators can adapt any time based on student learning data. Hackers empowered by artificial intelligence. Augmented reality used in conjunction with campus maps. All of these technologies are on the horizon in 2017. This past year, higher education saw a boost in the use of technologies like predictive analytics, cloud, and augmented and virtual reality — and research indicates that these trends will only continue to rise. About 41 percent of higher ed IT leaders said their organizations will increase spending on tech in 2017, reports University Business in their trends and predictions report, “Outlook 2017.” You can view some of the analytics that can be used in your courses by attending the professional development session Using Analytics to Respond to Student Needs on Thursday, February 16 at 3:00 pm in the Center for Teaching+Learning Enhancement. Register now.

Many of us are using rubrics in our courses to not only help us offer transparency in our assessment but to really guide a student to success. Now you can create rubrics outside of Canvas and import them into your courses. Here is a brief video explaining how to do it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Here is how Dr. Rob Jenkins starts his classes each semester. "These days, the term “critical thinking” has been overused to the point where it has almost ceased to mean anything in particular. It has become more of a popular educational catchphrase, so that even the people who use it often don’t know exactly what they mean by it. None of that means, however, that critical thinking is not a real thing. It is — and it’s vital for you to understand what critical thinking is and how to do it. The extent of your success in college — not to mention life — ultimately depends on it." Continue reading here.

Are you looking for ways to improve your classroom discussions. Dr. Jennifer Gonzalez has recorded a podcast and written a post about just that. She writes, "I’ve separated the strategies into three groups. The first batch contains the higher-prep strategies, formats that require teachers to do some planning or gathering of materials ahead of time. Next come the low-prep strategies, which can be used on the fly when you have a few extra minutes or just want your students to get more active. Note that these are not strict categories; it’s certainly possible to simplify or add more meat to any of these structures and still make them work. The last group is the ongoing strategies. These are smaller techniques that can be integrated with other instructional strategies and don’t really stand alone."

Read how Michigan State developed their Learning Design Strategy. Dr. Danielle DeVoss writes, "A Learning Design Strategy is crucial at this particular scholarly, public, technological, and cultural moment. We can’t rest on our digital laurels, congratulating ourselves for hosting phenomenal MOOCs; patting ourselves on the back for being a home for innovative minors and learner opportunities; or thinking we’ve done what we need to do to create an ecosystem of sustainable, robust digital learning. What we need to do now–as a university and as a community devoted to learning and learners, at all phases of their personal and professional lives–is strive to articulate the long-standing values we hold dear as an institution and make sure those align with the ways in which we engage learning on a daily basis."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Many of us are attempting to add more writing assignments in our non-composition courses. With that comes some anxiety about the time it may take for us to properly assess the work. Zeina Hojeij and Zoe Hurley suggest you use the triple flip approach. Their paper discusses "how mobile learning and the use of a range of apps can foster peer and self-editing, aid noticing, and enhance ownership of the writing process. It is argued that flipping corrective feedback helps students to notice their errors and spend more time developing their writing."

If you have ever thought about including a project in your courses that would be best served using an eportfolio, you might want to take a look at this article. The faculty give a very detailed account of what they did and how they used various social media (like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs) to help their students complete the project. The closing remarks in the article note, "We are sharing our success story, so others might be inspired and structure similar interdisciplinary, immersive, inquire-based learning environments that bridge the classroom with life outside of it and in the process transform not only their student learning, but also the students."

Rich Lewine and Alison A. Sommers have an interesting article aimed at having students reflect on their learning more. They note, "Although the ability to evaluate one’s own knowledge and performance is critical to learning, the correlation between students’ self-evaluation and actual performance measures is modest at best. In this study we examine the effect of offering extra credit for students’ accurate prediction (self-accuracy) of their performance on four exams in two semester-long classes on Personality. Inaccurately inflated confidence was related to poorer academic performance. A small minority of students improved in accuracy and exam performance over the each of the courses, offering a potentially useful source of comparison for addressing unrealistic optimism. We discuss the findings as reflecting the powerful influence of protecting self-esteem and suggest the need for realistic self-appraisal as a factor in academic success."