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Classroom Furniture is an Instructional Technology

A definition of Instructional Technology
I set out to write this post, starting with a simple definition of instructional technology and then planned to structure my thoughts centered on this definition. Of course, me – not be able to just write a simple definition, I have spent literally HOURS reading how others have defined /are defining instructional technology. I was particularly amazed to find that in 2008, the AECT (Association for Educational and Communications Technology) sponsored a project to pen a whole book on simply the definition of the field of instructional or educational technology – Educational Technology – A definition with Commentary. Needless to say, part of me is stunned. The other part of me says – of course there is!

Anyway, this post is not about the definition of instructional technology. It is about how I feel classroom furniture should be viewed as an instructional technology.

Classroom furniture = Instructional Technology
A part of my work that really energizes and feeds me is thinking about how we can reform our teaching and learning spaces into spaces that are inspiring. That are welcoming. That are flexible. Spaces that you might actually want to TEACH in – let along LEARN in.


A classroom at UWB

However, as is evidenced in many of our classrooms at our colleges and universities, they are many times the least inspiring. They are unwelcoming and inflexible. Many times they are simply 4 white walls (with maybe a sign instructing you NOT to hang anything on the walls) with rows of immovable tables and chairs. I need not go on. I know you are envisioning such a space.

I find it ironic that we have 3-year cycles for computer replacements – and that we spend thousands of dollars creating virtual environments for our online and blended students. While our classrooms sit with years of deferred maintenance. This could change if our institutions (1) had a clear understanding of how space can shape or reshape teaching and learning (2) began to see classrooms as a way to reflect their campus’ missions and visions for teaching and learning and (3) invested in space design and redesign as it does in other technologies across campus.

Back to the AECT. In their 2008 book, Educational Technology – A definition with Commentary, the authors define educational technology as “…the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (p. 1, 2008). They go on to break down this definition word by word in the first chapter – so you can go after it there. However, I want to spend a few moments connecting the dots between this definition and classroom furniture.

The literature is rife with pieces exploring definitions of technology, and I’m not going there. I

Active Learning Classroom

Bowling Green State University

think it is safe to say that on our campuses, technology is probably defined as something that needs to be plugged in or that has alternate power source. It is electronic. However, per the definition from the AECT, classroom furniture also has the ability to facilitate learning and improve performance. This has been shown in much of the recent Active Learning Literature (see a few references below). Included in this literature is a piece that discovered that active learning can help disadvantaged students.

Now, I understand you can teach using active learning techniques without flexible furniture. However, how successful have you been doing a jigsaw in a tiered classroom with tab chairs bolted to the floor? Just as technology has continued to be refined, so has teaching and learning. Just as the tech industry is designing their devices using a policy of planned obsolesce, so should we when it comes to classroom furniture.

I am sure someone else has written about this. If so, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to read their work and gain further insights.

9x9x25 Reflection
I’m such a sentence counter! I find myself, midstream or mid-thought, counting the number of sentences I’ve written. Then trying to figure out if I should stop writing long sentences in order to reach the 25-sentence minimum faster. Why is that?!? I know I will meet the 25 sentences, so why can’t I just let myself write?

Wow. How our students must feel when we give them a writing assignment with a rubric. I used to be a proponent. Should I rethink that? Is this how our students use a rubric?

Januszewski, A., Molenda, Michael, & Association for Educational Communications Technology. (2008). Educational technology : A definition with commentary. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Eddy, Sarah L., & Hogan, Kelly A. (2014). Getting under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structurework? CBE – Life Sciences Education, 13(3), 453-Life Sciences Education, 2014, Vol.13(3), p.453-468.

Active Learning in Higher Education: http://alh.sagepub.com/content/by/year

Journal of Learning Spaces: http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls

UW Bothell Receives Recognition in Promoting Accessibility and Universal Design in Instruction on Campus

During the UDAL Forum and Pizza event held June 3, 2016, Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler presented UW Bothell campus with the 1st Annual IT Capacity Building award. This award recognizes the current efforts at the UW Bothell campus in promoting Universal Design for Learning awareness and training.

Andreas Capacity Building Institute Award given to UW Bothell June 2016Brockhaus, Director of Learning Technologies at UW Bothell, coined the acronym UDAL (Universal Design for Active Learning) as a local effort to integrate Universal Design for Learning principles in supporting student active learning and engagement. The core group leading this effort is comprised of Ana Thompson, Learning Technologist (Learning Technologies), Sara Frizelle, eLearning Planning and Research Specialist (Learning Technologies), Jeane Marty, Web Developer (Web Services), Ashley Magdall, Web Support Specialist (Advancement) and Rosa Lundborg, Program Manager (Disability Resources for Students).

The goal of the CBI is to engage web managers and developers, IT administrators and service providers, procurement officers, disability services providers, and students with disabilities in a discussion that will ultimately lead to improved capacity within the three campuses of our university to carry out our educational mission in a way that is accessible to everyone.


“it isn’t a course, just a camp…” And that is Brilliant.

potcampbadge2The Program for Online Teaching, or POT as it is affectionately known, has been around since 2005. I think I saw it around 2007 or 2008. Having read some of the writing of Lisa Lane and seeing that it was a class for teachers, run by teachers, with a goal of learning more about how to choreograph learning opportunities, I was hooked.

POT was a gateway drug for me. Shortly after experiences in POT I dabbled with some #ds106. I never tried to mainline a MOOC, but I signed up for a few. Thankfully, I stayed away from Coursera, EdX, and the Kahn Academy. I just wanted friends to talk to and I found them in the Program.

What I most admire about Lisa Lane is her commitment to trying to get it right. Or at least closer to right, and not being afraid of trying. She is fearless. She may not agree, but her fearless attitude envelopes the course and the participates feel safer with such an intrepid leader. Or organizer. Or whatever she might call her role in this group of people.

The community has travelled through the mediums of Facebook, G+, WordPress, Google Sites, and now Canvas. It has had conversations in Twitter, Hangouts, Diggo, and about every other tool that might improve experiences for learners. It is a voyage across the internet, not a conversation in a grain silo. And through all of the places and conversations, pedagogy and teaching are always held high and used to guide the travelers.

I learned a lot and I have made valuable connections and friendships through this course. You can too.

The Program is open to all and there is no charge.

You are invited.

We start Monday October 3rd.

Go here: https://canvas.instructure.com/enroll/APJCWL

You might meet someone who can help you. And if you do not want to have to take a class or go to a camp, you can always joing the Facebook page. It is active and you can ask questions that may be answered by the many awesome faculty there. Visit the POT page.

Hypothes.is: Twine Might Be Too Much. Or Not.

flickr photo shared by dutruong.t733 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

I started this blog some time ago to invest in the reflective work on teaching and learning that I was asking of my students, and I was not a good role model.  Thanks to Todd Conaway for jump starting this project where a number of us will write together.

I didn’t keep up the blog because there was always something else that needed to be done, and I’m certainly feeling now that I should be working on my syllabi for the quarter.

But here’s the thing: I’m grappling with whether or not to incorporate two new digital tools into my Education and the American Dream course this quarter.   It’s time to decide.

I have seen multiple faculty blogs and tweets about using Hypothes.is to support social reading, as students jointly annotate websites or PDFs. I’ve read very encouraging accounts of deepened learning, richer class discussions, and students’ capacity to see things in course readings that they might otherwise have missed. Some of the readings in Am Dream are  dry  but important sociological studies, and I imagine that enabling students to  read “together” would provoke more questions and  legitimize critique of writing styles that merit critique. I’m also often surprised with the range of “numerical literacy” among students when they read some of the quantitative analyses, and I imagine the learning that could happen by witnessing others’ interpretations/ questions/ ideas as they work through these readings.

Back in June –when the summer seemed so enticingly long —  I also spent some time playing with Twine and I started to get excited about making interactive stories for this class.  They read books  (in small group “book circles” that usually operate mainly within fairly conventional online discussions) that trace pathways of opportunity — along with multiple multiple obstacles to opportunity.  I imagine them constructing games that explore different outcomes for the people in their books as they consider the complex routes that people take from childhood to adulthood.

So, instead of just revising my assignments and taking a run at either of these, I write.  I imagine having one or two students primed ahead time (and bribed with at least coffee cards) who could help classmates troubleshoot and who could model playfulness.  I imagine how great it would be to know that a few colleagues were also experimenting with either of these this quarter and we could compare notes or panic together out of the sight of students when we have no idea how to solve something.  But neither of those is likely.

So it’s time to decide.  Do I have the time?  I no longer believe that I have to have “mastered” a tool to introduce it to students, but neither will I go in without having a very good idea of how something works.  Will colleagues understand when two students (inevitably) push back on their end of quarter feedback that “this is not a tech class”?  Would my time be better spent prepping for my conference presentations (they COUNT) than refining assignments that already work ok?

I’m also developing a brand new course, in a new field that has mostly been an ever-more-finely tagged folder in Evernote for a year now, and is only now being organized into weeks and assignments and grading scales.    That’s been a lot of (fun) w0rk.

But it’s time to decide.

One? Both?

Stay tuned.  Right now, I have no idea.


Hello Again…

Hello Again, Hello…

Wow. It has been a long time since I’ve even opened this blog. Embarrassing. I can blame it on many things. But alas, it still falls back on me. However, I am proud to say, that for the next few months, this blog will actually be updated.

I blame Todd

So, this spring, we at UWB (University of Washington Bothell) hired an awesome new instructional designer, Todd Conaway. And I have to say, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. But in a really good way. Todd comes to us from Yavapai Community College in Arizona (Sorry for taking him away Yavapai. Wait. No, not really.) Anyway, Todd is energetic. He has so many amazing ideas. And Todd has a way about him. He can talk so chill about an idea, but when you leave the conversation it stays with you. Thus, how I blame Todd for roping me into starting to write again.

The 9x9x25 Writing Challenge

These next few months, I will be participating in the 9x9x25 Writing Challenge. From the moment I heard about this – I was sold. We hear and read so much research on the power of reflective writing, and the good it does our students. Just take a look at any issue of the Journal of Writing Research. It’s the same research that we use to justify having students maintain an ePortfolio. Yet, how many of us actually do our own reflective writing? How many of take the time to write about our own teaching? Our own learning? I for one have not. But, this will now change.

Writing in the UWB Reading Room

Writing in the UWB Library Reading Room

The 9x9x25 Writing Challenge is quite simple. Write at least 25 sentences about teaching and learning each week for nine consecutive weeks. Publish your writing on the web. Done. Those participating in this challenge at UWB will be posting their writing on the Learning Technologies Blog. So, there you have it. For at least the next 9 weeks, I’ll be writing. Something.

I have to admit, the idea of writing so regularly, and posting it online is scary to me. I’ve never considered myself a writer. And I definitely have never shared my writing before. Yet, this is different. It’s a different type of writing. Writing for a different purpose. And more importantly, what sets this writing apart is that with this writing challenge, I am part of a community. A community of learners. Of writers. Of those who love education as I do. So, onward! And hello again.

Is that 25 sentences?