Session 7.1: Educational Technology (AM)
Today is devoted to discussions and presentations of using technology to enhance instruction. Before the panel on educational technology convenes, Allan Feldman leads participants in a discussion of their assessment of the summer workshop thus far. He offers the model of a "2 + 2" course evaluation, which asks respondents to offer two compliments about a course and two suggestions for improvement. While Allan invites compliments, he tells participants the organizers are more interested in suggestions this morning.
Allan then turns the session over to Terry Dun, who convenes the panel on educational technology. Panel members are Steve Brewer (Director of BCRC, UMASS), Bill Gerace (Physics, UMASS), Al Rudnitsky (Education and Child Study, Smith), and Sue Pac (Gifted/Talented, Powder Mill Middle School).
- the schedule is too compact and there's not enough time to process material
- more time is needed for plenary discussion
- there is not enough discussion of whether the teaching innovations being presented will attract more students to science education
- participants should be provided with a list of courses being taught (revised) by other participants
- the pace of the workshop is rather grueling, and organizers might consider an alternative schedule for future workshops (e.g., a week on and a week off, or just mornings for three weeks rather than full days for two
- participants need more time to identify where the needs in their own disciplines really are, how the different disciplines need improvement
- participants need more time to critique the ideas presented in the workshop
- curriculum teams don't have enough time together, so time might be set aside during the third week of the workshop (when college faculty work alone on course revisions) for teams to meet as well
- there needs to be more discussion of educational theory, of the language and terminology used by educators
- greater clarification is needed of the role of the curriculum scholars (so far, working one-on-one or one course at a time has proven useful for incorporating curriculum scholars into curriculum team meetings)
- some focus on the special problems, obstacles, and opportunities faced by the community colleges.
Terry asks each panel member to address the following question: "How are you presently using technology in the classroom and why are you using it?"
Steve Brewer talks about his interest in constructivist methods (how to help students construct their own knowledge). In his work (previously and now at the BCRC) he has attempted to develop and offer computer tools that enable students to collaborate in their education. He's especially interested in enhancing student-student interaction.
Bill Gerace talks about his use of ClassTalk in physics courses at UMASS, a technology that he will exhibit during this afternoon's session. ClassTalk enables students in large classes to communicate with each other and the instructor via hand-help computers. The purpose of class talk is not evaluative, to assess low-level comprehension; rather, the intent is to get students to practice reason and analysis in an environment where they can collaborate with one another and the instructor.
Al Rudnitsky talks about his work with students as authors. He has been working on the concept of a story as a method to construct and communicate understanding. Students must take charge of their own education and the story concept helps students and instructors break loose from rote memorization as the key to learning. Student authoring on the Internet and the use of multimedia is a perfect non-linear way to get students to "tell the story."
Sue Pac talks about how technology is being used in middle schools today. Because the middle school concept embraces the blending of students with different ability levels as a form of student empowerment, technology in the classroom must address different student abilities and talents. In her own classrooms, she uses LOGO (a computer language). Every curriculum in LOGO fits something in every grade level.
Terry Dun then poses a second question to each panel member: "How do you assess the value of technology in the classroom-whether it's working or not?"
Steve Brewer notes that technology is not a magic bullet and that each technology must be assessed individually for what it's contributing to student learning.
Bill Gerace says that faculty must first establish the features of a technology that make it superior to other pedagogies. To his mind, a technology serves its purpose when it a) enhances student motivation and satisfaction with the course, and b) enables the development of critical thinking skills.
Al Rudnitsky cites the lack of hard or empirical evidence on outcomes of technology use in the classroom. Most of the evidence of its utility is anecdotal. But in his experience with student authoring projects, students get very invested in what they're doing because the teacher is not the only audience for their work. Having a wider audience is important, and technology often makes that possible.
Sue Pac talks about spending her last year working with a group of other teachers talking precisely about this question. Her group has decided the importance of writing up goals and objectives for each technology being considered so that these will stay in the forefront of deliberations and prevent faculty from getting wrapped up in the technology itself. If the goals and objectives warrant the use of a technology, then it should be used , but the technology should not really drive the goals and objectives. Once goals and objectives are stated, the technology can be evaluated to determine whether they are really being met.
Some questions from the floor are then addressed to the panelists. One participant is concerned about the availability of computers to all students, especially at the K12 level. Terry Dun replies that to his knowledge, all public schools in Massachusetts are now being wired for computer technology.
Another participant is concerned that today's discussion of technology is too focused on computers and reminds the workshop that there are other forms of technology that should be considered-videos, etc.
Another participant notes that the July 1997 cover story of the Atlantic Monthly addresses the issue of the value of educational technology and might be worth looking at.
The panel concludes at 10:45 and participants take a 15 minute break. During the break, participants sign up to attend various presentations on educational technology in the afternoon.
At 11:00, the curriculum teams meet together to talk about the following question: "What are the issues and opportunities to use technology in your teaching?"
After 30 minutes of discussion, participants reconvene as a plenary and each team shares the products of its discussion.
The session closes for lunch at 12:00.
- BIOLOGY: The biology team discussed a plan for sharing new technologies over the course of the year and plans for examining ADAM and BioQuest and possibly incorporating them in some courses.
- MATH: The math team identified a number of issues-1) resource people (who to turn to for help, how to deal with both high-end and low-end users, and the need for a catalog of softwares in their field); 2) attitudes (anti- vs. pro-technology); 3) the various competencies of students; 4) effects on the overall curriculum; and 5) access to resources. They also identified a number of opportunities for using educational technology in math-1) electronic texts; 2) long distance learning; 3) the opportunity to do a problem that otherwise would have been "too long"; and 4) learning is not limited to the classroom or office.
- CHEMISTRY: The chemistry team identified two issues critical to incorporating educational technology in chemistry courses: getting the software and getting the hardware. The opportunities provided by educational technology, from their perspective: greater visualization (video lead-ins to lectures, orbitals); more simulations (which might replace some laboratory work that is sometimes too fast, other times too slow, and quite often dangerous); intercommunications; molecular modeling; and data acquisition and processing.
- PHYSICS: The issues identified by physics: availability of resources, technical support, programming. The opportunities identified by physics: visualization, communication, simulations. The physicists agree that pedagogically, technology should augment rather than replace human interaction, and that a bad teacher is still bad with good technology.
- GEOLOGY: The geology team spent its time talking about how technology should be more broadly defined and how technology might enable bringing more sophisticated instrumentation into introductory geoscience courses in several modes-real time, etc.
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