What is good teaching?

I was reminded in a student-panel session last week that just maybe I have to deal with the ‘ethics’ committee before recording the views of volunteer students. Academics enrolled in a Foundations of Learning and Teaching course were there to listen to the ‘student perspective’ on what is good (and bad) learning and teaching at University.

Their views seem to be echoed online, as this High School student video, buried in YouTube talks about – so I’ll just use this instead.

  • Leading learning, not controlling the class.
  • Having Teachers that THEY can connect with
  • Teachers who realise (though action) that a student is a human being with a range of interests and ideas to share.
  • Allowing students to connect to the teacher without reinforcing the power teachers have over them.
  • Teachers who connect with the content and shows passion for what they are doing – and saying.
  • if they don’t take an interest, then why should you” – teachers faking interest is obvious!
  • Students know that good teachers have a DRAMATIC impact on positive learning experiences
  • They remember ‘good teachers’ because they recognise ‘good teaching experiences’ (and visa versa)
  • Good pupils hope to be remembered

The ‘student panel’ were critical of both the ENTRY and the EXIT events, but also positive about  well designed courses that take into account the ‘learning load’, motivation and learning preferences of the students.

A teacher writing on a blackboard.
Image via Wikipedi

They were giving the room really valuable feedback on instructional strategies that work or don’t – for them. To reinforce the fact that often highly knowledgeable teachers fail to engage students … another YouTube clip … time to spot the strategies here. This clip really engaged the cohort, and pulled together the student panel session and the need to consider much more than content when teaching.

Students highlighted over reliance on summative assessment to grade students. This was later reinforced when the cohort learned about the Solove Method of grading.

They further talked about the assumptions teachers make ” students are there because they are ‘into’ the subject” – when in fact they are curious, interested but not (yet) deeply engaged in it. This assumption leads to issues of engagement if the teachers does not do adequate ‘oil dipping’ for prior knowledge – or motivation.

I was quite amazed to learn that many teachers (higher education) won’t use ‘online learning’ such as a discussion forum, as they have a 1000 students and insufficient resources. I’ve heard that from teachers with 20 students before too. Building effective learning communities remains one of the most important professional development sessions that teachers can attend in my view.

I think that is is great question to ask students ‘what is a great teacher’ (class) or ‘how can teach you better’ (personal).

It was great to see how keen students were to give positive, constructive feedback in the session – and how seriously that is taken as a key element of curriculum renewal. Students are the mirror that we need to look into more often I think.

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Meetsee – Educators add your thoughts!

After my post about Meetsee, I was really pleased to get a response from it’s creator. I thought it is well worth sharing parts of the conversation, as it gives an insight to just how connected users and creators are though the interwebs. Rather than get all the answers from me, please add your voice to the questions! It can only assist the development. Much better than ‘yeah butting’ later.

I can see from his outline of the service, just how effective it would be in education, as the issues are really just the same!

When designing the Meetsee virtual office, I did a good bit of reading and interviewing colleagues to figure out what problems we wanted to solve for remote workers.

  1. Remote workers do not feel connected to their coworkers or managers. They don’t get to know them or build the trust necessary for a cohesive team.
  2. Managers had difficulty knowing what their distributed teams are working on, how they are feeling, etc. Most managers do this by walking around and talking to employees.
  3. Workers had a difficult time finding the documents and people they are looking for. Meetsee was designed to address these issues.

How do you think educators will want to use Meetsee (office hours, classes, study sessions)?

Yes I do, it is flash based and has a neat audit trail. It is low bandwidth and works better than some other ‘flash based’ video conferencing tools I’ve used. I like the positioning between play and work. There are plenty of uses for study and out of school, especially if you are looking at distributed learners – which is often the case in Australia. When I showed the Educational Development Team this week, they all jumped in and stayed all afternoon. It has something about it that is addictive, and therefore interesting to students.

What classes/subjects do you think can be successfully taught inside a Meetsee room?

I think that K12 is ideal for Meetsee, but I also think that student/tutor classes could be run, especially if sudents can drop off or collect assignments. There really isn’t much you can’t ‘teach’ or ‘learn’ online these days.

Are there other university users to consider other than faculty and students?

Yes, HR for one. Having a range of induction materials etc., the IT Helpdesk could be implimented well for technical support. There are also a lot of research academics, though these vary in IT savvyness. I could see a collection of ‘rooms’ representing student services on campus, and staffed by student interns.

How important is privacy to students and faculty (i.e. should students be able to see each other’s full name, email address, virtual location in Meetsee)?

Critical. I would suggest allowing a teacher to sign-up and then allow them to create ‘classes’ and ‘avatars’ within the class. Students and email is always problematic. Most web-savvy teachers set out guidelines for usernames, ie John Smith, becomes JohnSM. I would therefore see a teacher having a classroom, and students attend it, like normal. If anything, you might have a student locker room for their files.

What additional tools are needed in a virtual classroom?

I think an ability to have a transcript of the text chat (just in case of bullying). Most kids are well behaved online, but you’d have to have private rooms for classes – but at the same time, allow teachers to connect their room to others – a little how Open Simulator backs Islands together. I’d also think that you might have a ‘drop box’ for assignments, and maybe a micro-blogging gizmo. A few drag and drop hyperlinks would be nice, so they can connect to their wiki’s, Google etc.,

I hope this helps, and it would be amazing to think that all those EdTech’s out there will add their toughts.

Meetsee is the ‘wow’ of the year for me! Well done!

What comes after this

picture-4I despair at teacher’s who think that PBL or Instructional is ‘the’ way that teaching will go in the next decade. That is naive to say the least and hardly worth beating your chest over. Learning is blended. I think that no matter what approaches you want to use – effective teaching demands that you are media literate – and so are your students.

This is the to me the most significant issue – not the style of delivery. You can be as passionate as all hell about your ‘method’, but if you are not media literate, online and in the global conversations, you are not going to be as effective as students need you to be.

Sorry if that cuts into your idea of what your ‘teaching job is’ right now. But there it is. It is not enough to do in 2009 what you did in the decade before. It is not enough to only change if the syllabus changes or you need to be compliant.

Technology transformed the possibilities. Now we have to re-think and talk about how to stay on top of it. Connectivism is in effect and that delivers connected, networked new knowledge.

Learning needs to be blended, multi-modal and fluid and connected. Technology is ubiquitous in this process. Learning will be instructional and inquiry based – synchronous and asynchronous. It will be virtual and distance, it will be digital and face to face – because it is already.

That is a BIG problem. Not enough teachers have any understanding of the complexity of that last paragraph. Those that do are often not empowered to deliver it beyond their classroom. Teaching as we have known it is doomed to fail if we don’t gain traction. The Titanic was unsinkable technology, the world economy was stable, and no US President would use a line from Bob The Builder to win office. Change is quick and doesn’t care if you agree anymore.

As a rough rule of thumb, I would suggest that a school’s capacity to renew curriculum and explore alternate approaches to learning is directly proportionate to the amount of people who are ‘media literate’ and active online.

I then wonder, given the limited time everyone who can do that has, how it can be done.

picture-5That was a conversation I have this week with Dr Ian Solomonides, who is the acting Director of the Learning and Teaching Centre at Macquarie University. I asked him how K12 teachers could connect with Higher Education, so that their interventions with technology could be assisted, supported or studied by Higher Education. I thought maybe this would strengthen the recognition that those who work K12 are doing.

I was half expecting not to get a concrete answer, but Ian explained about a global group looking at online learning and collaboration based in Australia, the Omnium Group.

Omnium is a research group of academics, designers, artists, programmers and writers who work collaboratively (and from different countries) to explore the potential the Internet allows for what we term – online collaborative creativity (OCC).

As I start working in Higher Education, I am more aware of people talking about Universities being last to take a seat at the table, but this does not mean that there isn’t progress or interest. They, like K12, have academics and lecturers that are passionate about the changes that technology brings and the laggards. Like K12, the issues of taking change to the people, thousands of people, is a challenge. As Ian said this week,

“we know we have to do this, but we are few and they are many, so we have to be strategic in where we do it, how we do it and then to make sure what we do is significant enough that it is maintained.”

Isn’t this the same dialogue in K12?. Hmm, I thought, same issues – but the terms of reference for a large Institution like Macquarie University – which in itself is under going massive changes are different. In this regard, storming the school Firewall Nazi’s office or flash mobbing un-cooperative curriculum laggards seems easier. But I guess there has to be evolution, not revolution, so I’ll put my stick down.

How important are connections between K12, TAFE and Higher Education – are we are all now in the same orbit when it comes to change?.