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October, 2013:

The Stylus is Mightier than the Sword

Let’s say you’re having one of those days where you bring in your tablet to class and nothing else. You think it is going to be alright- I mean, you have your textbook and notebook in that magical box right in front of you, so nothing can go wrong.

That is, until you feel that sense of nostalgia kicking into the pit of your stomach. The tapping and snapping of classmates’ pens around you make you feel the urge to join in on the sweet feel of the oh so vintage pen rubbing through your fingertips. You miss the smell of it’s ink, and even the marks they used to leave on the palm of your hand. But it’s too late, nothing can be done now as you have already made the transition into the modern world by purchasing your tablet.

That my friend, is where you are wrong. You are forgetting that modern companies have created the new modern pen: the stylus. While the stylus may not replicate the old pen in it’s entirety, the look and feel are irresistible.

Here are some stylus’ reviewers from the Verge thought were useful:

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Why MOOC Professors Shouldn’t Be Called “Rock Stars”

Having been around for some time now, MOOCs have generated a considerable amount of hype, especially with its professors being perceived as “rock stars”. Kevin Werbach, an associate professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, recently wrote an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education detailing his opinion of the “rock star” title and its many implications to the education system, its professors, and the ideas of education as a whole. Having already taught two MOOCs, and although his experience with MOOCs has been overwhelmingly positive, he believes that those who have deemed professors teaching MOOCs as “rock stars” need to consider the implications of that title.

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Designing College More Like a Video Game

In Chapter 4 “Designing College More Like a Video Game” of the book Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, José Antonio Bowen talks about how to motivate students to think in new ways.

When students make the transition from high school to college, they are asked to alter the way of thinking that had previous led to success. This is a substantial change being asked of them, under conditions that punish failure, and it comes at the start of college, when anxiety about change and failure are at their peak.

It has been shown, through empirical evidence, that the combination of high expectations and low stakes matter for learning; these are the same conditions that make a good video game. However, being approachable and supportive also improves learning.

In order to lower the risk of failure while still maintaining high standards, the means of assessment will need to be reviewed and rethought. By increasing the amount of exams, each individual exam will have less of an impact on the final grade, reducing the risk.

Video games are similar to a series of tests that are innately motivating, unlike most exams encountered in college. Instructors can act like game developers, creating exams that follow a narrative or tackle a problem, as a result tests would become more fun and interesting. By giving consideration to the format of exams, instructors can increase motivation and reduce the stress of their students.

Future of Education Concerned with Instructors’ Technology Literacy

In The Chronicle of Higher Education’s report on Campus Computing Project’s annual senior technology administrator survey, the biggest concern (a whopping 80% from those who responded) was the capability of instructors to use emerging technology within the next few years.

It is very likely that students have witnessed this before: an instructor has pledged to make a grand presentation in the class, yet cannot seem to load PowerPoint. On countless occasions, more time is spent troubleshooting instructor’s technological flop than time spent teaching and learning.

With technology rapidly unfolding and the integration of classroom online learning resources such as Canvas, instructors need to have enough knowledge in technology in order to have an effective learning environment. Just as owning a camera does not make one a photographer, having a tablet does not make one a better instructor. Now more than ever, instructors need to catch up in this cat and mouse game before students begin to teach their teachers.

The Biggest Lesson From the Flipped Classroom

In a blog located on The Chronicle for Higher Education, Robert Talbert has been documenting his experiences with flipping his Calculus 1 class. After a somewhat rough start becoming accustomed to the new style of teacher for the class, he has stumbled upon a rather startling take away from this “audacious project.”

By far the biggest difficulty the students in the course have had so far has not been with mathematical content or even with the idea of flipped instruction – it’s with time and task management.

Students aren’t writing down the tasks and their deadlines for the course, they are attempting to simply remember what it is they need to do. This leads to students misremembering due dates, or forgetting assignments entirely.

In an attempt to help, Dr. Talbert has discussed how the students need to set up a schedule and get things done without procrastinating. He has even had talks with some students on how they can set up a calendar with due dates, something they had never done before. Which has lead Dr. Talbert to believe that a good co-requisite for a flipped classroom is a mini-workshop, to train students on how to schedule and manage projects and tasks.

This is why Dr. Talbert feels that the flipped classroom is an audacious project; it rejects the idea that procrastination in college is fun, and that you can just get by in the nick of time. Instead the flipped classroom promotes staying on top of things and getting things done, which is a form of self-regulated learning, something students have to master at some point.