Teachers and administrators say they want to see more innovation in teaching but blame each other for creating obstacles to experimentation, The Hechinger Report writes.
In the article, Jordan Shapiro says that lack of a “dependable shared language” may contribute to the problem. Education buzzwords abound, but clear definitions of those buzzwords are in shorter supply (see Audrey Watters below). That makes it harder to gauge what administrators want or what teachers are doing, Shapiro says.
Colleges and universities have additional problems when it comes to innovative teaching. In some cases, neither administrators nor instructors see much value in pursuing changes in teaching, making it easy to point a finger at someone else while continuing on the same easy but ultimately directionless path. A lack of recognition of and rewards for innovative and effective teaching further hinders change. And I agree with Shapiro that we need to do a better job of explaining what we mean by innovation and effective teaching.
One way to bring about change is to reach out to faculty and administrators who do value teaching, creating a community that demonstrates ways to improve teaching and learning, and helps others take small but meaningful steps toward change. That approach has worked well at the Center for Teaching Excellence with such efforts as the Best Practices Institute and the C21 Consortium, along with our annual teaching summit and periodic workshops and discussions.
Those and other events have generated new ideas for improving student engagement and student learning, promoting reflective teaching, and spreading the word that change is indeed possible from within.
Predictions for 2015 and beyond
Predictions abound at the beginning of every year. Among the publications, organizations and blogs I follow, here are some of the predictions that stood out:
Whenever I give workshops about teaching with technology, I try to provide a handout of resources.
This is one I distributed after workshops I led at the Best Practices Institute at CTE last week and at the School of Education. It’s a relatively modest list, but it includes sites for for visualizing text; for editing images; for creating maps, charts, infographics; and for combining elements into a multimedia mélange.
My goal in creating lists like this is to help instructors think about ways to incorporate multimedia elements and technology into their teaching. I never insist that instructors use specific tools. Rather, I try to show how various resources can enrich assignments, deepen learning, expand skills, and make class time more engaging.
Not all assignments lend themselves to multimedia elements, but I’ve found that multimedia tools inspire creativity in students, and make assignments more interesting and more meaningful.
I’ve listed a few tools below. The rest are available in the accompanying PDF.
New Hive. Provides many options to create a single web page with text, images and video.
ThingLink. Allows you to upload photos and place icons on them that pop up with text, other photos and video.
Weavly. For creating mashups from YouTube, SoundCloud and other sources.
Popcorn Maker. A tool for mixing video, audio and images from the web. From Mozilla.
Wordle. Insert text and create customizable word clouds.
Document Cloud. Upload documents to the website, analyze them, highlight them and annotate them. You can also create a slideshow-like form that can be embedded elsewhere.
Chart and graph tools
Many Eyes. Offers tools for creating maps, charts and diagrams, and for analyzing text (word clouds and tag clouds, for example). It offers many examples of how to turn data into visual information. You can input or upload data.
Chart Gizmo. A free website that allows registered users to create basic charts and graphs.
Cacoo. Allows you to create and share diagrams, which can be linked, embedded or saved as .png files. More options available with a paid account.
I’m always surprised at the common themes that emerge when faculty members talk about teaching.
Goals and challenges transcend disciplinary boundaries, allowing for robust discussions about learning; class design and preparation; assessment; the struggles of students, and other areas of teaching.
My table included instructors from pharmacy, philosophy, journalism, and health, sports and exercise science. The overlap among the group was remarkable. As I wrote the goals on a whiteboard, nearly everyone in the group nodded in agreement. They, too, had essentially the same goals. Here’s a distilled list:
Learn basic course concepts (as in science or philosophy)
Learn basic definitions and moral principles and apply those to specific situations
Demonstrate a big picture view of a subject
Apply knowledge to real world problems
Demonstrate good persuasive writing and an ability to refute opposing positions
Make connections to other disciplines and ideas
Demonstrate an ability to synthesize and explain discrete specialty topics learned in a course.
Identification of goals is only the first step of creating or remaking a class. The bigger challenge comes when a faculty members starts to envision ways for students to learn material and to demonstrate their learning.
That’s part of what makes teaching so enjoyable, though, no matter the discipline.
Doug Ward is an associate professor of journalism and a fellow at the Center for Teaching Excellence. You can follow him on Twitter @kuediting.