Monthly Archives: December 2013

Working to Enhance Teaching Effectiveness in Qatar

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This symposium hosted by Ken Ryba, acting Director of the Centre for Teaching & Learning at University of Calgary – Qatar, was a treat upon my return to Qatar. The symposium, “Working together to enhance teaching effectiveness in Qatar higher education,” was a timely opportunity for stakeholders to gather together, get some ideas and inspiration, and contribute to the critical discussion on this issue.

Miss Hissa Al Aali, Associate Director, College of Nursing Project, opened the session with a few words of caution and hope. She recognized the pressure that Higher Education is under from various areas, and the complexity involved in pushing agendas of change and innovation. My sketchnote highlights her statement that Higher Education’s complex institutions need leadership, collaboration, and people to resolve tensions between innovators and those reluctant to change. This is an important starting point, as we need to remind those in power that innovation cannot happen just by saying it will be so.

Professor Dennis Sumara, Dean of the Werklund School of Education at University of Calgary in Canada, engaged the audience with his practical, unromantic references to existing barriers. He highlighted that the industrial model hangover is one barrier to change in terms of how we view our purpose in higher education, and how we view our learners. He also recognized locked-in structures as an immediate barrier to effecting change.

Sumara also drew on Carol Dweck’s construct of fixed- versus growth-mindsets to underscore the micro-level issues we face with teacher expectations and perceptions of learning, asserting, “Teachers participate in creating fixed or growth mindset in their learners…one’s mindset as a learner will likely be one’s mindset as a teacher.” ┬áThis is a critical factor, and one that has a direct impact on the work that I and my team do here at the Teaching & Learning Centre at CNAQ. Drawing on my experience as a teacher, it is easy to see how this construct can free you or inhibit you when working with diverse learners on a day-to-day basis.

The final barrier Sumara discussed is that of simple solutions. Looking for the easiest or cheapest way out is impractical and self-defeating.

Alternatively, Sumara suggests long-term institutional commitments, and says that 5-year plans are not enough. He advises institutions to expand their definitions of “learning” and “learners” to encompass a much broader range of phenomena, and to revisit terms like “intelligence” and “ability,” which he cautions are more (l)earned than bestowed (I think we could have a whole seminar just on this statement alone!). He also points to the process of learning and knowing as more analogical than logical, and asserts that teachers DO make a BIG difference, and that teachers participate in creating the type of learning and learners we encounter. These points need to be considered in the context of one’s institution, but speak volumes across a range of institutional cultures and strategic aims. When we lose sight of basic learning theory and teachers feel disempowered, the effects are felt campus-wide and beyond.

Sumara also indicates that promoting “effortful engagement” is important to the aims of improving teaching effectiveness in this context. In doing so, workshops alone are insufficient, but can be a starting point, or part of a larger more cohesive effort to develop a strategic movement. As stated in his talk, the effort must be Systemic, Specialized, and Sustained. Additionally, Professor Sumara highlighted ideas for moving forward, including funding “Teaching Scholars” and identifying “Leaders of Teaching” in every faculty.

In our Teaching & Learning Centre, we have been discussing ways to identify “champions” of teaching at CNAQ, but have yet to come up with a strategy for doing so. As we are in a technical college system, funding research and scholarship is not a primary focus. While we have some faculty conducting research, it tends to be isolated and I am uncertain of the institutional support provided or promoted for research endeavours. I would love to hear from other institutions on their strategies for identifying and supporting individuals for their teaching adroitness or scholarship.

Thank you to all of the organizers and speakers at the UCQ symposium. This was a great opportunity to meet some new colleagues, see some familiar faces, and to feel a sense of community, which is something we need to do more frequently. Professor Sumara’s talk was inspiring and our collective brainstorming seemed to get the wheels turning. Now we just need to keep up the momentum!

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Technology-enhanced Teaching Seminar (TwT)

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I first met Holly Morris (@hysmor) last year when she visited CNAQ to do some training with us for Desire2Learn. Holly has since piloted a 10-week seminar for both online and blended learning instructors at College of the North Atlantic. At this year’s Teaching With Technology conference, Holly shared some of the content of this seminar and addressed some points of change/improvement moving forward.

I can’t wait until we get through our initial training here at CNAQ so we can start delving into these types of seminars to get people thinking about how to really embrace principles of blended learning to enhance the online and classroom experience for their learners.

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Thinking Outside the Box (TwT)

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Kelly Taylor-Hulan (@TaylorHulan) gave us an upbeat presentation on some of the ways she is using technology creatively while continuing to straddle the real and virtual worlds in which her learners live and learn.

She spoke about translating traditional practices to the online classroom, and it is clear that she is enthusiastic about keeping her students engaged and helping them to experience a personal connection with their instruction, whether online or in F2F learning environments. She is a firm advocate of giving presents, and continues to utilize snail mail for sending surprises like an invitation to her Online Holiday Party (which includes an exam review). She also sends her learners goodies like snacks which they can eat during the Online Party. While she still sends electronic certificates to recognize students’ successes, she also sends an old-fashioned hard copy in the mail.

I think my sketchnote captures these ideas, and reading it now, the presentation comes back to me immediately. What I haven’t captured is Kelly’s infectious enthusiasm for teaching. You really had to be there for that!

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@MrChurchill engages jr high students using technology!

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Mr. Churchill was invited to speak about his use of technology with his junior high school students at Clarenville Middle School. Sporting his Movember stash, Mr. Churchill shared some of the ways he is employing tools like Google Drive, Glogster, Edmodo, Prezi, PollEverywhere, and Twitter to engage his students during class, encourage them to connect with other learners beyond their classroom/school, expand their Personal Learning Networks, and to try to bring the world into his classroom.

Speaking specifically of Twitter, he mentioned a lesson on using hashtags effectively, which I thought would be a cool lesson for that age group. In fact, I think this is something all Twitter users are still negotiating, which is interesting in itself. In a time of great change, we are creating the conditions, usage trends, and importance of such tools within our own networks and subgroups. This is a conversation that has as much significance with new Twitter users as it does with “oldies” (given that Twitter was only founded in 2006).

Anyhow, Mr. Churchill’s talk was engaging, and learning about what he is doing in the secondary system was a refreshing reminder that our learners in post-secondary are not so far removed from these early explorations with technology.

It also goes without saying that Mr. Churchill’s efforts to get his learners thinking about real-world applications of these technologies (i.e., the social media “footprint” and lessons on critical media awareness, social media in the workplace, etc.) are critical to these young so-called “digital natives” becoming informed, savvy users of technologies.

Blended Leaning Apprenticeship Training

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I had a chance to hear Greg Ryan speak at last year’s Global Innovators conference, and we were all inspired again to hear of his success with this pilot blended learning programme for apprentices.

 

Using Desire2Learn, Bridgit, Turning Point technology, and Polycom, Greg’s students in Labrador West can now stay in their community to complete apprenticeship blocks rather than attend school on the island. His vision of “one classroom” despite the remote locations seems to be working, and he has received a lot of feedback on this model as apprentices and other post-secondary students look for greater convenience and expect post-secondary providers to cater to their needs as mature learners.

Partner “Spark” Presentations at Teaching With Technology conference Nov 26, 2013

I was recently invited to speak at a conference back home, organized by Theresa Pittman at College of the North Atlantic’s Clarenville campus. The 3rd annual conference, Teaching With Technology, was an opportunity for members of the (extended and growing) community of (mostly) post-secondary institutions in the province to share their work, speak about projects and initiatives, and to learn from one another in a spirit of collaboration and innovation.

The speakers in this “Spark” session presented short 20×20 presentations (20 slides @ 20 seconds each) to brief the conference attendees on projects, departmental initiatives, or tools that are currently being employed in their respective institutions.

The institutions/departments represented include:
Centre for Distance Learning & Innovation (CDLI)
Memorial University, Faculty of Medicine
Distance Education, Learning & Teaching Supports (DELTS)
Distributed Learning (DL) at College of the North Atlantic
College of the North Atlantic – Qatar
Memorial University Grenfell Campus, Nursing School
Marine Institute

This was a great opportunity to see a snapshot of what everyone is doing, and to get a sense of the conference participation from Newfoundland, Labrador and Qatar.

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