Why Should I Bother?
What is this?
Technology can mean many things in relationship to teaching. Books produced by a printing press, chalk, cheap paper, and schoolhouses were all enormous technological revolutions in teaching. Today technology in teaching can encompass everything from the simple (but effective) use of email to note-taking with an audio-recording pen that can sync the notes to the lecture the student is hearing. There's almost too much to know, and here at Hofstra we don't expect our faculty to know all of it. We are the subject experts in technology in teaching and we are here to support you and help you with the tools or techniques you want to use. The hard part is figuring out what those are without getting overwhelmed. We can help with that too. You can explore this wiki, enroll in our four-day Catalyst Boot Camp, or consult with an instructional technologist individually. We're available in the Faculty Support Center, McEwen 215, every business day and into the evening, at 516-463-6894, at fcshelp at hofstra (dot edu), even via an AIM chat client at http://hofstra.edu/fcs. We are here for you.
Why would I use this?
Well, there are a lot of reasons to use technology in teaching. Administratively it can help save your life, if you use something like an Excel spreadsheet to calculate grades, or a Blackboard assessment for your accreditation purposes, or even just Collecting Assignments electronically to help avoid discussions over where a specific piece of paper went or when exactly it was turned in. Pedagogically there are many demonstrable benefits from the use of online communication tools in your classes. It can level a conversational playing field, getting the quiet kids to talk. It can provide an ongoing record of a student's work over time, allowing them the opportunity for self-reflection.
Probably the strongest argument frequently made in the American media about why teachers need to use technology tools is that otherwise our students will not be able to compete worldwide in the world they're about to live in. You may find these videos illustrating this point - and created by teachers (the Did You Know video) or students (the Vision of Students Today video) compelling.
But I prefer to reformulate that argument as this: our students today meet, find apartments and jobs, fall in love, play games, have fights, work, keep in touch with family, and order pizza, all online. Wouldn't it be a shame if they only thing they couldn't do online was learn?
Who is using this?
Well, students. The 2007 ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology indicated that more than 86% of them have cell phones, 12% have smartphones, more than 75% have a laptop (that's nationwide) - 98.4% of them have a computer. They spend somewhere between 12 and 22 hours online - even the humanities majors! - and more than half of them have made something to put somewhere on the web.
But you probably want to know which TEACHERS are using this.
It's tough to answer until we know what we mean by "this". A lot of instructors use email to keep in touch with students, and a lot of instructors use PowerPoint. Email improves communication, but it doesn't usually introduce anything new to the class itself, so here in FCS we wouldn't count that as teaching use of technology. And while there are some great, information-packed, even interactive PowerPoint presentations out there, PowerPoint by default encourages the students to sit back and watch rather than create, evaluate, or interact. So here in FCS, unless you are doing something interactive with PowerPoint, we don't usually count that either.
We have over 400 instructors here at Hofstra using Blackboard with their classes. A lot of them are only using Blackboard as a place to store the syllabus or give announcements. That too isn't really what we would call an innovative use of academic technology (see how picky we are?).
We promote and support uses of technology that allow the students to do something they otherwise would not have been able to do.
We promote and support uses of technology that give the students opportunities to interact, evaluate, create, and otherwise be active learners.
We promote and support these kinds of uses of technology in every field at Hofstra from engineering to English, from psychology to French, from international business to international journalism. We support these kinds of uses in classes like art therapy as well as classes like health policy. Chances are there is someone at Hofstra doing something interesting that you might not know about yet. We create connections between faculty so that they can learn from each other and we learn, too.
We also attend national and regional conferences and stay up-to-date on the latest in instructional technology. So we can bring you models to follow from other schools as well.
How do I use this?
In today's world there are a lot of ways for students to get information. We are experts in information transmission and we can help. If you want to create digital videos, do podcasting, distribute and collect assignments electronically, we're the folks who can help you.
But think about the students in the videos you saw above. Ideally they wouldn't be just getting information; they'd be evaluating information, and even creating information. If the word "information" turns you off, consider how you'd feel about the idea of students evaluating research, or creating knowledge.
Today's information technology is essentially a revolution in communications. So use it that way. Have your students communicate more with each other, with people outside the University, as well as with you. Have them learn how to find and integrate the knowledge they need with their own evaluations and conclusions. Have them create information and share it. This is going to be valuable experience for any college graduate. Can you imagine a job where finding information, evaluating it, synthesizing one's thoughts into some sort of a conclusion, and communicating it to others isn't going to play a big part for the students currently in your classes?
To that end, we support interactive technologies where students share their thoughts and information with each other. These are tools like the Discussion Board in Blackboard, where they can learn to respond to each other's responses to homework in a substantive way. Or create wikis, where they can build on each other's research. Students can do library research (did you know there's a button straight to the electronic databases of the Library in the upper left-hand corner of every Hofstra Blackboard courses?) that contributes to the electronic resources they create, along with the Google searches they will surely do. But even tools like podcasting can be interactive and engaging. Your students can do interviews and share the recordings with each other. They can even record each other's speeches and critique them. You don't have to direct the technology; you just have to direct the class. Don't Let Your Students Make You Their Help Desk.
Best of all, they can do these things outside of class. Save precious class time for precious teacher/student interactions, for face-to-face discussion, for things that are best done when you are together as a group.
When it comes to supporting your use of educational technology, we try to give you what you ask for. But if you give us a chance, if you are willing to try some new things, you might find something that will revolutionize the way you teach a particular class. You might even enjoy it.
Where can I find additional resources?
FCS is building this wiki to provide you with self-service information on the tools we support. This is for the convenience of those faculty who don't have the time for a face-to-face consultation. But we are always available - via email, phone, IM chat, or in person - to discuss with you whatever you're thinking about, and we will find examples, case studies, and technical information to help you. So start with this wiki, and help us help you by letting us know what else you're looking for.
In general, we find that EDUCAUSE is a great resource, especially their publications like EDUCAUSE Review, which frequently publishes great studies of tools that are working well or not working well. Campus Technology is another periodical we frequently read. There is a great library of learning objects available for anyone to use at MERLOT, and our faculty have created learning objects to share there too. But if you're looking for something specific, let us help you.
If you want to learn more, we have several programs to help you:
- The Catalyst Boot Camp, offered twice a year in the week between classes in January and in May, is a four-day workshop that bootstraps faculty to a new level of understanding of teaching tools. It is not a computer training course. It is a pedagogy workshop in which faculty are exposed to everything currently popular in the field of teaching technologies, and help each other to think about when and how to incorporate such tools into their own teaching.
- FCS offers a number of Training Classes, which we try to keep pedagogically oriented, elaborating on some of the basic instructional technology theory described here in relationship to some popular tools.
- FCS does Departmental Roadshows every year. We ask your department chair for a few minutes of your time in a department meeting to bring to your attention the latest developments in instructional technology for people in your specific field. We look forward to seeing you there!
- FCS is producing its own podcast series, FCSTalk, which you can find on Hofstra's iTunes U installation: http://itunes.hofstra.edu. This contains what we think are helpful ideas in the area of instructional technology in general.
- And of course any department, any school, or any three people can request a workshop on any instructional technology topic and we would be happy to teach it for you. Just email us! Address is below.
Where can I get help?
Faculty Computing Services is here to help you!
- Email: FCSHelp@Hofstra.edu
- IM Username: HofstraFCS
- Phone: 516-463-6894
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