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50 Education Tools for Tech-Savvy Teachers

Just last August, a guest written article in Edudemic listed the 50 most widely used and increasingly popular technological tools for education. Ranging from social media websites, content and lesson plan applications, and interactive education games, these tools have been adopted to make teaching more effective, and learning more fun and involving. Even though many of these tools are used outside of the realm of education, they can still be used in creative ways to promote and facilitate a powerful teaching and learning experience.

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How Design and Implementation of Distance Ed Courses Impact Learning

Students with Laptops in Classroom

In a recently published paper by the University of Minnesota, researchers looked at how different designs and implementations of distance education courses affected student learning and satisfaction in these courses. The study involved identifying three different types of interaction in these courses: Student-Student, Student-Teacher, and Student Contact.

Student-Student (SS) interaction consists of individual students or groups of students working together in both dynamic technologies such as video conferencing or static technologies such as discussion boards.

Student-Teacher (ST) interaction also uses many of the same technologies involved in SS interaction in distance learning. Face-to-face interaction is also observed under both SS and ST.

Student-Content (SC) interaction is defined as “reading informational texts, using study guides,watching videos, interacting with computer-based multimedia, using simulations, or usingcognitive support software (e.g. statistical software), searching for information, completing assignments, and working on projects”.

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Teaching and Learning with Video Games

When you think of video games what comes to mind? For many, video games are often thought of as purely for entertainment purposes. However, more in depth analysis by researchers such as James Paul Gee into how video games teach players and how educators can adapt these techniques are changing the common perception of video games as only for entertainment. In his book What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy, Gee describes how all successful games incorporate specific learning principles regardless of the genre. GMU has published a list of the 36 learning principles along with short descriptions of each of these principles.

By utilizing these learning principles, games can disseminate  a large of amount of information in a relatively short period of time to the players. Players then filter out or absorb information based on cues given in the game along with some repetition in order to find the best solution to reaching the objectives of the game. Gee’s book provides much more information and examples of each of these learning principles using games not traditional thought off as “educational” such as shooter or adventure games.

Perhaps the most important point that Gee is stressing in the book is that learning is something that should be interactive and engaging rather than the dull, monotonous task of rote memorization. Video games are good models for this because they encompass many aspects of this. They provide a virtual environment where the  player can learn and practice techniques without major consequences (tutorials or beginning levels) as well as repetition in certain instances to help reinforce concepts (losing and restarting a level) that are important to winning the game.

While the idea of using interaction to engage students is not new, the use of video games in teaching and learning is an emerging area that is accumulating a large amount of interest from educators precisely because it works. Instead of viewing video games as a disruptive activity that discourages learning, educators should look at video games as a way to provide the interactive learning experience that many traditional teaching methods cannot offer.

Smart Classroom Strategies: Getting Faculty Involved

UWB ClassroomA recent article published by Campus Technology describes how higher ed institutions nationwide are upgrading to provide faculty with the latest technologies to use for teaching and learning. These technologies include hardware such as clickers, tablets, and video recording equipment along with software and web tools such as Google Apps. However, while many of these initiatives to bring the latest technology in to the classroom are ambitious and designed to enhance learning, what can occur instead is that the technology ends up sitting in a storage closet as faculty who are often willing to try new hardware and software are frustrated with not knowing how to use these tools effectively.

The article outlines five strategies to help faculty use technology tools effectively so that they don’t end up gathering dust:

  1. Create Peer Training Groups – “Instead of equipping classrooms with technology and expecting faculty members to use it, Shackelford said, the university trained a small group of “ambassadors” who help other professors get onboard with the new equipment, software, and applications. Facebook, for example, was introduced not only as a social networking platform for students but also as a communication tool for professors to use with one another and with their students. “
  2. Carve out time for Professional Development – New technology initiatives can be fast and furious as IT departments collaborate with campus academic divisions, network groups, and other entities to meet deployment deadlines. Faculty members can get swept up in the excitement and wind up with classrooms full of technology that they don’t know how to use.
  3. Align IT with academic instructional departments – “We can’t do what we want to do on the development side if we don’t have the IT support,” said Spataro, who often bounces ideas off the IT team.
  4. Create a link between technological innovation and pedagogical effectiveness. If professors know that the time they’re putting into professional development will ultimately help them teach better, then the odds that they will participate and be engaged will be that much higher.
  5. Finally, involve faculty members in the planning process. Getting professors to integrate smart classroom technologies into their lessons, lectures, assignments, and projects can be as simple as opening up the lines of communication early between those instructors and their IT and instructional technology departments.

Read more at Campus Technology: Tactics for the Smart Classroom: Getting Smarter About Faculty Involvement

Student Perspectives: ePortfolios

UW Bothell student and Learning Tech Assistant Avalon Willows gives her perspective on ePortfolios:

As a student who has gone through two portfolio classes already, I have been around my fair share of ePortfolio frustration. Any UWB student will agree with me when I say that the process of compiling a portfolio, while technically easy, is very tedious. On top of that, many students just don’t “get” the ePortfolio; the reason for it is just unclear. This causes many students to have feelings of disdain towards the degree requirement.

This is unfortunate, considering that an ePortfolio can be a very useful tool for students. ePortfolios show things that a college transcript or GPA won’t. They showcase the hard work that goes into individual assignments, they reflect on individual learning styles and processes, and of course, they show what fantastic work you have the ability of producing.

Reflection is a vital part of the education process, and ePortfolios allow students to reflect on progress in the beginning, middle and end of their time in college. This allows room for improvement and perhaps the creation of set goals. Personally, when I was going through past assignments to build my ePortfolio, I came across a lot of work that I enjoyed reflecting on. Some assignments I had turned in in such a hurry that I didn’t even realize what great work I had produced. While reviewing other assignments, I often found things I didn’t like—so, I took note and used it for improvement in my future work.

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