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Thomas L. Friedman and MOOCs

The prominent and effective uses of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) has been both encouraging and illustrative of the wide acceptance, nationally and internationally, of integrated technology within the areas of higher education. It also presents a very promising perspective of how conventional classrooms and educational systems have welcomed and utilized these tools in creative ways that work to continually enhance the distribution, reception, and overall experiences of teaching and learning.

One instance of such use was explained in an article written last week by Thomas L. Friedman for The New York Times. Friedman speaks about his experiences learning about those who have used MOOCs in their own courses, including his friend Michael Sandel, and the impact that has come from being exposed to such a democratized approach to higher education.

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Comparison of Student and Academic Technology Use Across Disciplines

A new report by Educause has revealed some interesting insight in to how students and faculty are using technology in the classroom. With technology such as Learning Management Systems (LMS a.k.a. CMS), response devices (“clickers”), and web tools (Google Apps, Youtube, etc.) being used daily in classrooms around the nation, both students and faculty have come to expect such technology to be used in classes, albeit for different purposes. Excerpts from the article below:

Some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Students and faculty use course management systems much more frequently than any other technology.
  • Professional students use classroom response devices (“clickers”) and Education students use e-portfolios more often than students in other fields use either.
  • Faculty in all disciplines rarely use blogs, collaborative editing tools, and games and simulations.
  • Students and faculty have different expectations and use technologies in different contexts, which can create tension and misunderstandings between the two groups.
  • Finally, we must explore potential differences in how students and faculty view and use academic technologies — they are two very different populations who use these technologies in very different contexts.
  • Second, we must understand their experiences in the contexts in which they live them. Arguably, one of the most pervasive contexts is the structure of academic disciplines that permeates American higher education. (more…)

Boosting student engagement using Twitter

In many large universities where class sizes may have upwards of 100 people or more, professors and their TA’s face the continuous problem of how to engage students in discussion and participate in the class. Dr. Monica Rankin, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas experimented with using Twitter in her history class as a means to increase participation.

According to TA Megan Malone, “It’s been really exciting because, in classes like this, you’ll have three people who talk about the discussion material, and so to actually have 30 or 40 people at the same time talking about it is really interesting,”. Students in another class at Purdue University using Twitter also agree that digital communication helps overcome “the shyness barrier”, especially in large classes.

You can read more about Twitter in the classroom at http://mashable.com/2010/03/01/twitter-classroom/. The YouTube video below showcases the opinions of the instructor and students to using Twitter.

The Mobile Campus: Higher Ed in the iPhone Age

This powerpoint by assistant professor Gerry McKiernan at Iowa State University describes the increasing use of mobile devices such as mobile phones, e-readers, tablets, and laptops by students and the general population to access information on the internet and perform tasks. The author advocates that higher education adopt more of these technologies for instruction with a focus especially on mobile devices and wireless access. You can see the entire powerpoint at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~gerrymck/MobileCampus.ppt .

Designing Campus Learning Spaces

A new report released by the University of Washington Learning and Scholarly Technologies revealed many new insights in to how students use technology on campus. The report contains data gathered from over 3,200 students in  Autumn quarter and was comprised of survey questions as well as a focus group test.

The responses from the survey showed that while many students did use technology frequently off-campus, there were a number of impediments that needs to be addressed to help encourage technology use on campus. Nearly 93% of survey respondents said that they owned a laptop however only 35% of the respondents said they brought them on campus.

Many of the respondents said that they would like to see improvements to the campus environment that would better support their technology needs before bringing equipment on campus. Such improvements include more electrical outlets to charge laptops, quiet areas to work without distraction, evening access, and comfortable furniture.

Based on these findings, LST made recommendations to the campus community for designing campus learning spaces that consisted of providing general access to computers and equipment, minimize obstructions to laptop use, provide access to printing, establish and/or enhance collaboration areas, enhance aesthetics of learning spaces and study areas, and to further involve students in all stages of campus design.

You can read the full report about designing campus learning spaces including examples of good design as well as more information about how design can impact student learning at http://www.washington.edu/lst/research_development/papers/2010/Designing_Campus_Learning_Spaces.pdf