Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology: Successful Strategies by Award-Winning Teachers

Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology: Successful Strategies by Award-Winning Teachers


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Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology: Successful Strategies by Award-Winning Teachers by Robin K. Morgan

How should I use technology in my courses? What impact does technology have on student learning? Is distance learning effective? Should I give online tests and, if so, how can I be sure of the integrity of the students' work? These are some of the questions that instructors raise as technology becomes an integral part of the educational experience. In Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology, award-winning instructors representing a wide range of academic disciplines describe their strategies for employing technology to achieve learning objectives. They include tips on using just-in-time teaching, wikis, clickers, YouTube, blogging, and GIS, to name just a few. An accompanying interactive website enhances the value of this innovative tool.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253006127
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 02/29/2012
Pages: 148
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Robin K. Morgan is Professor of Psychology, Indiana University Southeast. She is editor (with Rosanne M. Cordell, Betsy Lucal, Sharon Hamilton, and Robert Orr) of Quick Hits for New Faculty (IUP, 2004).

Kimberly T. Olivares is Administrative Manager of the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and editor (with M. A. Cooksey) of Quick Hits for Service-Learning (IUP, 2010).

Read an Excerpt

Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology

Successful Strategies by Award-Winning Teachers

By Robin K. Morgan, Kimberly T. Olivares

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2012 Indiana University Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00612-7


Promoting Engagement

Technology transforming learning

Grecor Novak

Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Learning technologies should be designed to increase, and not to reduce, the amount of personal contact between students and faculty on intellectual issues. (Study Group on the Conditions of Excellence in American Higher Education, 1984)

In the May 13, 2011 issue of Science, Louis Deslauriers and colleagues report the results of an interesting experiment conducted at University of British Columbia (Deslauriers, Schelew, & Wieman, 2011). In the words of the authors:

"We compared the amounts of learning achieved using two different instructional approaches under controlled conditions. We measured the learning of a specific set of topics and objectives when taught by 3 hours of traditional lecture given by an experienced highly rated instructor and 3 hours of instruction given by a trained but inexperienced instructor using instruction based on research in cognitive psychology and physics education. The comparison was made between two large sections (N = 267 and N = 271) of an introductory undergraduate physics course. We found increased student attendance, higher engagement, and more than twice the learning in the section taught using research-based instruction."

"The instructional approach used in the experimental section included elements promoted by CWSEI and its partner initiative at the University of Colorado: pre-class reading assignments, pre-class reading quizzes, in-class clicker questions with student-student discussion (CQ), small-group active learning tasks (GT), and targeted in-class instructor feedback (IF). Before each of the three 50-min classes, students were assigned a three- or four-page reading, and they completed a short true false online quiz on the reading."

The rather striking results of this experiment highlight two important trends that research into teaching and learning has spawned during the past three decades (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). The first is the realization that replacing passive environments, even if presided over by charismatic, knowledgeable and engaging presenters, with active student-centered pedagogies leads to superior learning outcomes.

The second trend, without which the first would be much less effective, is the growing use of technology, inside and outside of the classroom.

The key features of the Deslauriers experiment are: pre-class reading assignments, pre-class reading quizzes, in-class clicker questions with student-student discussion, small-group active learning tasks, and targeted in-class instructor feedback. All of these parts carefully aligned with one another and all of it informed by education research. The students were actively involved in carefully planned activities at all times. Technology, supporting the experience in and out-of-class, was brought in as needed by the pedagogy involved. An experiment similar to the one above, but more narrowly focused, was recently conducted at North Georgia College & State University (Formica, Easley, & Spraker, 2010).

Student centered activity-based lessons and the use of information technologies in teaching and learning are work in progress, but the evidence from the classroom indicates that we are on the right track.

The two critical theoretical underpinning of these efforts are constructivism and cognitivism. To learn means to construct meaning rather than memorize facts. Student-instructor, student-student and student-content interactions, facilitated by the use of technology, drive the effort. These interactions encourage students to assume some ownership of and control over their learning, provide realistic and relevant contexts and encourage the exploration of multiple perspectives and metacognition. Cognitive science research into how the human brain processes and stores information provides the theoretical basis for lesson designs. Learning tasks are constructed to engage the learner in the learning process, to scaffold the learning as needed to foster the development of understanding, and to provide timely and meaningful feedback.

Technical tools have been assisting learning since the cave paintings. Arguably, serious large-scale use of the technology in teaching and learning can be traced to the educational films developed for the large number of servicemen returning from WWII. Media-based presentations of educational materials are still with us with Power Point and streaming video and audio. The fifties saw the emergence of two major designs, programmed instruction and mastery approach. In programmed instruction the material to be learned is broken up into small units, incorporating frequent feedback and correction. Mastery approach is based on Bloom's taxonomy of intellectual development.

These forms of instruction have evolved into CAI, computer-based and computer-assisted instruction, still with us today. During the 1980s and 1990s computer environments were developed where learners can build, explore, and immerse themselves in micro-worlds and simulations. Another major step was taken when the world-wide-web was made public in the mid-nineties, paving the way for computer-mediated-communication, CMC, which creates an always-open communication path for student-instructor, student-student and student-content interaction. CMC also provides tools for the maintenance of learning communities and for course and curriculum management. The internet has made possible the creation of distance learning, courses fully online, as well as hybrid designs, such as Just-in-Time Teaching, blending on-line work and in-class activities with live teachers. The next advance is likely to come when the mobile technologies of today are harnessed in the service of teaching and learning (Sharples, Milrad, Arnedillo Sánchez, & Vavoula, 2009). The audience for this is the next generation of students, growing up with these tools (Schachter, 2009). An astounding number of very young children are users of mobile technologies (Gutnick, Robb, Takeuchi, & Kotler, 2010). Seventy-five percent of 5 - 9 yr-olds use cell phones.

There is not much doubt that student-centered instruction, facilitated by available technology, is here to stay in one form or another. The question debated in the educational research community is: how does one optimize the many benefits of the new paradigm: easy access to course materials, improved student motivation and participation (Kulik & Kulik, 1991), differential instruction serving different learning styles, etc. Resource availability and cost issues aside, and there are many, the intellectual challenge is to find the proper balance between technology tools and live human interactions. The pedagogical strategies must follow from evidence-based science of learning or instruction. The past several decades have seen the emergence of discipline-based education research such as PER in physics and a deeper understanding of the learning process through cognitive science research (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).

For learning to be effective, the learning activities must be designed to work in harmony with the human cognitive system. Cognitive science can help optimize the delivery of information to the learner by determining what is critical, what is salient and most directly valuable to the cognitive system (Dror, 2008). Cognitive science studies, combined with discipline-based pedagogical research, can help us choose technologies appropriate for the task. Technology can emphasize the relevant with correct use of color and animation for example. Technology can be the servant of the pedagogy or can become the tyrant. Misuse of technology in teaching and learning is not uncommon and hard to guard against (Tufte, 2003; Norvig, 2003). Technology is frequently employed to process larger numbers of students with fewer live instructors. But even in the absence of mercenary motives and with the best intentions, technology can be misapplied. It is tempting to take advantage of technology to let the student loose with the content in the name of ownership and control over the learning process. But research has shown that guided and structured exploration is more effective than free-for-all constructivism. "Minimally guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide 'internal' guidance" (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006).

How does one go about appropriately incorporating technology into ones teaching? A good start is getting familiar with educational research results, including cognitive science research, of the last three decades. The "How People Learn" book is a good start. The second step would be a good look at the pedagogical research literature in one's discipline so that one would supplement the content knowledge required of an expert with the pedagogical content knowledge required of a teacher (Shulman, 1986). The third step would be a look at the literature, describing currently accepted best practices in the use of technology in teaching. This would include a general reference such as technology for teaching (Norton & Sprague, 2001) as well as technique and tool specific information: simulations (Adams, et. al., 2008), clickers (Caldwell, 2007) or JiTT (Simkins & Maier, 2009). Lastly, one would examine one's personal teaching style and subject matter idiosyncrasies and choose the time and place where to include appropriate technology to best serve the intended learner. These are fun times with major developments taking place in the world of teaching and learning with something to fit every teaching and learning style.

Promoting engagement in an online course: It can be done, but wisely!

Randall E. Osborne Texas State University-San Marcos

Paul Kriese Indiana University East

Keywords: critical thinking, engagement


Colleagues often complain about online courses suggesting: (1) you cannot promote critical thinking in an online platform, (2) you cannot teach sensitive topic courses that way, and (3) you really cannot have open and honest dialogue in an online environment. As we designed our team-taught course on the Politics and Psychology of Hatred, we set out to create an online course and course environment that would prove each of these comments to be false.

Kuhn (1999) makes the basic assumption that critical thinking is a process of learning and demonstrating cognitive competencies that he defined as "meta-knowing." Rather than first-order knowing skills that involve an awareness of the facts and opinions that one holds, meta-knowing (which Kuhn defined as involving "second-order" skills) involves an awareness of "how" one knows, NOT "what" one knows. We made a concerted effort in the development of our course to promote student practice with demonstrating not just what they know but how they know it.

Making it Work

The following information (developed from the literature briefly cited above), is provided to our students in the syllabus:

A Model for Critical Thinking

We expect students to demonstrate a significant amount of critical thinking in this course. Specifically, we believe that critical thinkers demonstrate the ability to address issues at each of the following levels:

1. Recitation – state known facts or opinions. A critical component of this step is to acknowledge what aspect(s) of what is being stated is factual and what is based on opinion.

2. Exploration – analyze the roots of those opinions or facts. This step requires digging below the surface of what is believed or known and working to discover the elements that have combined to result in that fact or that opinion. This is an initial analysis without an attempt to comprehend the impact of those facts or opinions.

3. Understanding – involves an awareness of other views and a comprehension of the difference(s) between one's own opinion (and the facts or other opinions upon which that opinion is based) and the opinions of others. To truly "understand" our own opinion in relationship to others, we must initiate an active dialogue with the other person about his or her opinions and the roots of those opinions. In other words, once we become aware of the roots of our own opinions, we must understand the roots of the opinions of others.

4. Appreciation – means a full awareness of the differences between our views and opinions and those of others. To truly appreciate differences, we must be aware of the nature of those differences. The active dialogue undertaken in the third step (understanding) should lead to an analysis of the opinion as recited by the other. The result should be a complete awareness of the similarities and differences between our own opinions (and the roots of those opinions) and those of the "other." Although we may still be aware that our opinions differ, we are now in a position to truly appreciate and value those differences.

The goal is not to get everyone to agree; the goal is to get people to truly explore and understand how and why opinions differ. To understand means to realize the circumstances and motivations that lead to difference and to realize that those differences are meaningful. To raise the issue without using the elements of critical thinking and exploration we have outlined above may simply reinforce prejudices by giving them voice without question.

Future Implications

Feedback from students has been very positive. Not only do they know that we want them to critically evaluate their ideas, we provide the framework by which they can assess their own efforts at doing so. Students have suggested on course evaluations that the model is a critical element of promoting engagement in the course because they know what is expected and have a method for making that effort.

The second and third concerns of faculty, that you cannot approach sensitive topics in online courses – we believe it is because faculty perceive that they would have less "control" in an online environment – and that an online platform does not promote open and honest dialogue, were harder to address. MacKnight (2000) states that faculty must provide a framework that encourages critical thinking but do so in a way that promotes respect. Specifically students must know what the expectations are for the dialogue and the assignments and the course structure must encourage them to:

* ask the right questions,

* listen to each other,

* take turns and share work,

* help each other learn,

* respect each other's ideas,

* build on each other's ideas,

* construct their own understanding, and

* think in new ways. (MacKnight, 2000, p. 39)

Students are provided with course etiquette built from this literature and are told that we will follow this etiquette in all course postings. Students have commented on course evaluations and in unsolicited letters and emails that this etiquette helped to quell their concerns over speaking their mind and also gave them a method they could use to know how to express themselves but to do so in ways that invite communication instead of confrontation. When "tempers" flare in course postings, we can easily calm things down again by reminding students to follow the course etiquette and to, "ask questions instead of making statements."

Introductory poem for online course

Suzi Shapiro Indiana University East

Keywords: community, ice breaker, discussion forum


Building a community of learners can be an important part of an online course. Rather than having students write a traditional introduction to their classmates, I ask them to post a poem to the discussion forum. I not only post the original poem that was the source of the assignment, but I post a poem that I have written about myself as another example and a way for them to get to know me better. The poem is an activity I heard about at a conference years ago and it has worked well in many different types of online courses.

This activity works well in many different types of courses and is enjoyed by younger traditional students as well as more mature students. I have used it in a variety of Psychology courses dealing with topics such as Lifespan Development, Neuroscience, Sensation and Perception, and Organizational Behavior. Even people who tell me they don't know how to write a poem can usually come up with something reasonable by following this format.

Making it Work

1. Tools: Basic text editing in the online discussion forum

2. Implementation: The instructions can be posted to the discussion forum or emailed to students. The discussion forum works well as it automatically makes all poems available for classmates to read. The poems could also be posted to student blogs, a course wiki, or other interactive space.

3. The assignment is posted as follows:

Write a poem about yourself following the format given. A poem written by George Ella Lyons titled Where I'm From has become the starting point for a lot of self reflective poetry.

    Where I'm From
    by George Ella Lyons

    I am from clothespins,
    from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
    I am from the dirt under the black porch.
     (Black, glistening
    it tasted like beets.)
    I am from the forsythia bush,
    the Dutch elm
    whose long gone limbs I remember
    as if they were my own.
    I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
    from Imogene and Alafair.
    I'm from the know-it-alls
    and the pass-it-ons,
    from perk up and pipe down.
    I'm from He restoreth my soul
    with a cottonball lamb
    and ten verses I can say myself.
    I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,
    fried corn and strong coffee.
    From the finger my grandfather lost to the auger
    the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
    Under my bed was a dress box
    spilling old pictures,
    a sift of lost faces
    to drift beneath my dreams.
    I am from those moments-
    snapped before I budded-
    leaf-fall from the family tree.

"Where I'm From" appears in George Ella Lyon's Where I'm From, Where Poems Come From, a poetry workshop-book for teachers and students, illustrated with photographs by Robert Hoskins and published by Absey & Co, Spring, Texas, 1999.


Excerpted from Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology by Robin K. Morgan, Kimberly T. Olivares. Copyright © 2012 Indiana University Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Michael A. McRobbie
Welcome to Quick Hits: Teaching with Technology
Introduction Student Success Is Our Mission by David J. Malik
1. Promoting Engagement
2. Providing Access
3. Enhancing Evaluations
4. Becoming More Efficient
Annotated Bibliography

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President, Indiana University - Michael A. McRobbie

An accessible and user-friendly collection of approaches, strategies, and tactics for effective instruction, developed by master teachers…I enthusiastically recommend it to you

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