August 28, 2009
Some of you may be aware that there are a few tablet computers available for loan through our educational technologist Marlene Jacobson. I have requested one to use for most of the semester and this week I graded my first assignments with it. All I can say is WOW!
Though I am a bit of a technology geek, I have been hesitant to move to a paperless classroom. In the past I have required students to turn in hard copies of all assignments and papers. My primary reasons for this is that I could not mark assignments electronically as I would with a paper and pen. With a tablet I now have no excuse other than perhaps I do not prefer reading on a screen (something that honestly I am able to deal with more and more).
I know that some people on campus have a tablet as their issued work computer and given my own experiences I believe that Morningside should give the option of a tablet to any facutly member who requests it. I understand that they are more expensive, but the ability to treat my screen like a piece of paper is truely worth it. I wonder how much could be saved from printing costs just by going as paperless as possible.
This semester (as long as I have access to a tablet) I will have very little paper in my courses. My students seem pleased by this overall. Most are tech savvy and most of us are aware of the dismal printer situation in the dorms (constantly breaking down).
The tablets are easy to use, and once you know the trick to marking up a non-MSOffice document you are able to use one of these tablets as you would one of our Smartboards on campus.
So perhaps I am lobbying for more accesibility of tablets for the faculty. Perhaps we will find tablets useful for other offices and even students. But I think the faculty would benefit the most right now (but perhaps I am biased!).
August 20, 2009
Today was the second day of faculty workshops and today we had the great opportunity to have Diane Pike from Augsburg College speak to us on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). I enjoyed these workshops very much because it addresses my empirically driven approach to teaching and my own research program. I found it very encouraging to see so many of my colleagues also show interest in this field of research.
Morningside is a place that is nearly perfect to be conducting SoTL. One colleague, Patrick McKinley, noted that we already have a few groups that are really ready-made collaboration groups on campus and that we as a faculty just need to take the next step to begin a more systematic approach to some of the questions that we have been asking each other and discussing for years.
I also liked that Dr. Pike noted a distinction between doing scholarship of teaching and learning and being scholarly in one’s teaching. The metaphor that she used to describe this was perfect. In music there are conductors and there are performers. Someone needs to create the music, and someone needs to actually perform the music. Some of us want to and can do both, others can do only one or the other well. However, there is a place for both individuals to make music what it is.
I find myself being both a conductor and a performer. I do not claim to be the best at doing both, but I do know that I am very intentional about how I teach my courses and I also conduct research in teaching and learning.
I am very encouraged at the recent focus on SoTL in my field of study and within my own institution. Teaching sessions at regional and national conferences are well attended and have good submissions, APA and APS give financial support for new faculty to travel to these conferences, Excellent teaching awards are awarded by both my professional organizations and my home institution, and today Morningside confirmed to me its support for this field of research though our workshops.
Teaching will never be fully explained through research and science, but we can certainly help to improve this activity and to help dispel myths and poor practices through systematic research.
August 19, 2009
Today was the first day of faculty meetings and workshops before the school year starts up. As I had written in a previous post, I look forward to the first day of school, primarily because I get to see my friends that I have not seen all year. Between meetings me and a couple of my colleagues were talking some shop (often teaching, technology, and complaining) and Dr. Robson said that she was being interviewed by a journalist from the Sioux City journal about the use of electronic textbooks. I said that I often will suggest to students about this often cheaper option and she invited me to the interview.
This was my first interview with a member of the media. It went pretty well and generally both Dr. Robson and I feel positively about the use of electronic books. Yes they do come with their downsides but generally they serve their purpose as well as a traditional paper book. This semester I have decided to see how many of my students choose to use an electronic version of the book and to ask their opinions of their experience with this form of the book.
There are those that are very anti-electronic books, and they do have some valid points. But generally e-books are a great way for students to save some money and to be able to use unique features such as electronic searches (vs. looking something up in an index) and access to more up-to-day materials and link to pertinent sites.
E-books can potentially provide more flexibility for students, but I choose to allow students the option to use either format they prefer. I can see the e-book becoming more popular with college students, but I honestly do not believe that print is necessariy dead. There are still enough people who prefer a physical book in their hands than a computer or kindle in their laps. But as instructors we should keep this option available for our students.