At the opening event for this year’s conference, Provost Winston Langley shared his thoughts about the conference, its history as it has joined efforts by CIT, IT/Edtech, the library, and other units, and its contributions to faculty development at the university as well as his thinking about the new Provost Fellow leadership position, as he introduced the keynote speaker and Provost Fellow Brian White. What follows is a portion of his remarks :
“The history of the conference, with its joining together of different initiatives related to teaching, technology, and faculty development, is important to me because it represents the integration of our campus efforts to support and give voice to our faculty in their teaching endeavors. As you know, I have been very committed to creating a coherent framework for faculty development on this campus. . . At the same time, I have been very concerned about how to support faculty leadership in targeted areas important to the future of the university, and one of those areas is teaching and technology.
At this moment, with the rapid development not only of new technologies but of new models for teaching that those technologies support, the world of higher education is being reshaped in ways we can’t fully anticipate. As Arthur Levine of the Woodrow Wilson foundation pointed out recently: ‘America is shifting from a national, analog, industrial economy to a global, digital, information economy. Our social institutions, colleges and universities included, were created for the former. . . They work less well than they once did. . .they need to be refitted for a new age (Inside Higher Ed: April 29, 2013).’
As we plan for the future of our own university, we must do so within this ever-shifting landscape, knowing that it will continue to be global, digital, and information-based, but not knowing exactly what academic structures and what technologies will be in our future. It’s a time that calls for creativity and experimentation, for encouraging our faculty to reflect on their pedagogical goals and to consider the most effective ways of meeting them with new resources that become available, for lessening the threat of change by approaching new challenges as opportunities.
It is in this context, that I have asked Brian White to become the first Provost Fellow for Teaching and Technology, to provide leadership to UMass Boston in the areas of educational technology and faculty development, helping to guide your provost and the campus as we move forward. In planning for this unique role, I considered the need for someone with several qualities: for someone who has a deep interest in improving teaching and learning, who has been innovative and creative in the use new technologies in the classroom, who has been a contributor to campus conversations about these topics, and who is thoughtful about what might be on the horizon and able to guide the campus as new technologies continue to impact higher education. We are very fortunate to have, in Brian, a person who brings all of these strengths.
Brian has long shown his commitment to the study of effective teaching and learning, sharing his extensive knowledge through peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and software development. He has been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation, The Davis Foundation, and other funders in support of his pedagogical scholarship and initiatives and has received numerous campus teaching awards, including the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Achievement Award for Teaching, the UMass Boston Leadership in the Assessment of Teaching with Technology Award, and the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Not surprisingly, Brian has been an early participant in most of our campus educational technology initiatives, whether piloting a new version of Blackboard, recording lectures so that students could access and review them with mobile technologies, or using iClickers to support student engagement in large lectures. He has frequently shared his experience with his colleagues, including in CIT and EdTech conference and forum presentations, always focusing on how such tools might enhance student learning. He engages critically with the potential and limitations of such tools and bringing the scientist’s experimental stance to each pedagogical inquiry.
At the same time, Brian has been engaged in larger pedagogical initiatives with impact beyond the campus. He has been both a participant in and a leader of the National Academies Summer Institute for Scientific Teaching. He has won Science Magazine’s SPORE Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction for his development of Aipotu, simulation software that lets students manipulate the DNA of virtual organisms and examine the resulting effects. (And you might not be surprised to realize that Aipotu is Utopia, spelled backwards.) He is currently working with a team at MIT and edX to develop a Massively Open On-line Course (MOOC) in Introductory Biology and is exploring ways to use such MOOCs to alter the ways in which classroom time might be used, allowing more time for students to apply what they are learning.
I am delighted that Brian will be bringing this broad experience of pedagogical innovation and leadership to new campus initiatives to be developed in collaboration with IT’s Educational Technology services, the Office of Faculty Development, and other units.”
The original title for my conference keynote was “Helping a Thousand Flowers to Bloom.” However, in my new position of Provost Fellow, I am constantly learning on the job – even before I start. I realized that the title – with its image of me holding a watering can over a field of identical flowers – was fundamentally flawed. First, the people with EdTech skills and needs are not identical; each has a unique set of issues, ideas, needs, and things they can contribute. Second, they’re not isolated individuals, but a highly connected group. Finally, it’s not all about me; in order for this to be sustainable, we have to create a self-supporting and self-perpetuating ecosystem of educators sharing ideas and techniques.
As I have worked at UMass, I have seen people at a variety of levels with respect to particular pieces of educational technology. Often, even a single person will be at different levels of familiarity with different technologies. Typically, people start in a state of not knowing if they need a particular piece of technology or not even knowing that it exists. Once they get some more information, they may wish to adopt this new thing but do not know how. Finally, once they have learned to use the technology, they can help others to take the same steps.
In my own journey as a developing educator, I have noticed several themes that may be relevant to supporting others in their journeys:
- The first is the idea of “crucial moments”. These are times when I have realized that I have an educational issue that needs to be solved and I am open to finding a new solution. For me, these occur at random times: when I see students having difficulty; when I see a particularly interesting class or seminar; when I’m preparing my class for the next semester. I’m sure that they occur at a wide variety of times for different people.
- The next are “trusted sources”. These are people or articles, presentations, etc. that provide me with credible information about new technologies. More than just credible information, I have also found that these people must be similar to me so that I can imagine following their path in my teaching.
- Another theme has been “gateway drugs”. These are teaching tricks or technologies that are easy to adopt, quickly successful, and lead to further innovation. These will be different for different people, but it is important to bear these in mind when thinking about which innovations to pitch to different audiences.
- Another theme is the interplay between technology and innovation. Sometimes, I have started with a problem and then searched for a solution, while other times, some new technological solution has suggested new and exciting ways to teach.
- Finally, it is important to build reflection into the process – to decide whether or not something is working and why.
As I start in this new position, I must move from my own experience to find out what, if any of these, generalize and can be used to help other faculty. For this reason, I will be doing a lot of listening before I do any talking. I must also find ways to connect people with needs with people who can help in as smooth and quick a way as possible. That way, we can be each others’ “trusted sources of gateway drugs at crucial moments.” Finally, I need to become non-essential – to get out of the way so this ecosystem can flourish.
Our annual conference offers an opportunity to recognize those faculty who have been particularly innovative and effective in using technology to support teaching and learning at UMass Boston. Each year, two awards are given to faculty for their teaching in web-enhanced environments and two for teaching fully online. This year, we presented the following awards:
If you ask Professor Susan Mraz what her most important job is as a teacher, she will say that it is to facilitate student learning.And she’ll add that, while she encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning, she tries to guide their journey by providing them with tools to motivate and support them and to help them benchmark their progress.
In the classroom, Susan has been exemplary in her discovery and use of appropriate technologies to teach Spanish. Her face-to-face and online courses use wikis, blogs, podcasts, yodcasts, and voice tools such as Wimba and VoiceThread to enrich course content and provide students with diverse learning strategies. She has piloted new technologies in Web 2.0 and online tutoring, and she is currently participating in our iPads in the Classroom project.
As the language coordinator for the Hispanic and Iberian Studies Department, Susan provides administrative and pedagogical support to as many as 21 instructors teaching elementary and intermediate level courses in Spanish and Portuguese. She has been the major contributor to the content development of the Blackboard Vista templates used in various levels of Spanish and Portuguese courses taught to over 2000 students every year. She has implemented an online language placement exam in Spanish. And she will soon help her department pilot an e-textbook that includes Pearson’s “My Spanish Lab” as a building block in Blackboard to enable students to practice various linguistic proficiencies online and provide them and thier instructors with immediate feedback and metrics about student learning.
Susan’s work has benefitted students and faculty at UMass Boston in many ways.
As an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Eileen is actively involved in teaching, clinical, research, and humanitarian activities, including her work to improve cardiovascular outcomes for underserved populations from Roxbury to Africa, where she spearheads the Kenya Heart and Sole Project to address the cardiovascular/metabolic crisis in that country.
Eileen teaches graduate courses in the classroom and online for the Master’s, Doctorate, and DNP programs and has been integrating VoiceThread Software into her teaching with Blackboard Learn, using it in innovative ways to critique students’ assignments and exchange voice comments with them as she guides them in developing and revising research-based reports. Her graduate students found the VoiceThread notes particularly useful; as one student commented, “I found VoiceThread notes very helpful as I was starting to organize and tackle the writing of the systematic review. I appreciate your comments and am grateful you took the time to do them. I want you to know that the system worked really well and was quite helpful.”
The award highlights Eileen’s focus on using technology in innovative ways to support students’ efforts.
Professor Linda Beith has an impressive list of accomplishments in the field of teaching adults in technology-supported environments. She has spent over 20 years across five different institutions involved with teaching and learning in higher education, specifically in the areas of faculty development and instructional technology. While serving as Director of Instructional Design at Roger Williams University, a position she’s held since 2009, she has been instrumental in getting their E-Portfolio system underway and has founded several academic committees devoted to curriculum and professional development. In addition to all her service accomplishments, Dr. Beith has spoken at dozens of conferences in the field of instructional design and technology at the regional, national, and international level.
Linda has taught in the Instructional Design program at UMass Boston since 2001. Her online course, “Design and Instruction of Online Courses,” was the first in the program to receive recognition from the Quality Matters course review process in 2010. Her dedication to her students comes out semester after semester in stellar course reviews. It takes a lot of time to facilitate an online course well, and Dr. Beith uses techniques like weekly formative assessments in order to tailor the course to individual student needs. Dr. Beith’s course uses a theory to practice model in which her learners complete authentic assignments tied to their current positions. Her ability to engage online students is reflected in the comments of one of her many satisfied students: “This teacher practices what she preaches, so she is accessible, provides timely feedback, and gives 100% to the class.”
Gary Zabel is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy. He began teaching at UMB in 1991. During his career in the Philosophy Department Gary has taught a range of courses at all levels including “Moral and Social Problems”, “Individual and Community”, and “Moral Issues in Medicine”. He also taught a dozen courses for the Law and Justice Program.
For a number of years, Dr. Zabel has been involved in the development of art in the virtual world. He is the director of the non-profit organization, Virtual Art Initiative, which has brought together a variety of artists, writers and scholars from around the globe to share and collaborate on projects ranging from real world exhibitions of virtual art to online discussions on culture and philosophy.
Gary developed and delivered his first UMass Boston online course in the Spring 2010 semester, a course titled “Art & Philosophy in Second Life and Other Virtual Worlds”. [Remember Second Life? It was a huge sensation 5 years ago.]
With the support of the Philosophy Department and the College of Advancing and Professional Studies, Gary has designed and taught a number of special topics online Philosophy courses, including “Time, Motion and Memories in the Movies” and “Dialectical Cinema: Hegel and Marx”. “Dialectical Cinema” is a unique course exploring an uncharted territory of early Soviet avant-garde films in relation to the writings of Hegel and Marx.
Being a creative visionary and a skillful digital artist, Gary imaginatively infuses his online teaching with technology. His unique courses beautifully blend form and function, creating an exciting tapestry of multimedia elements that masterfully deliver complex philosophical concepts to students.
- What are our pedagogical goals for the courses we teach?
- How might available technologies help us further those goals?
- How might the affordances of those technologies help us to see new purposes and possibilities/new goals and structures for the courses we teach?
- Academic Technology Committee
- Digital Learners
- Digital Learning Studio
- Digital Scholarship
- Digital Storytelling
- Distance Learning
- EdTech Conference S10
- Edtech/CIT Conference S11
- Edtech/CIT Conference S12
- Edtech/CIT/Library Conference S13
- Flipped Classroom
- Global Collaborations
- IT Infrastructure
- New Instructional Models
- Online Communities
- Online Discussions
- Quality Matters
- Student Engagement
- Tech Support
- Voice Thread