It’s interesting where inspiration comes from sometimes. This last semester I took a graduate class at the School of Education called The Academic Life. Unlike the articles we read on e-learning, which were largely descriptive, one article in particular grabbed my imagination unexpectedly: Robbin Zeff’s “Universal Design Across the Curriculum” (New Directions for Higher Education, no. 137, Spring 2007).
Last Friday I was able to attend the Teaching & Technology Expo, an event put on as an extension of the W&M E-Learning Community. The Expo featured faculty and staff experts to help answer your questions about various educational technologies — everything from iPad presentations to blogging to flipping the classroom. The Expo was well attended [...]
Earlier this spring, a collaboration of Swem Library, the School of Education, and IT Information Services received a grant from the College’s Creative Adaptation Fund (CAF) to develop resources to help faculty develop new knowledge and skills in e-learning. We define e-learning in the broadest possible way: any educational activity that uses “electronic” technology to enhance learning. This could include computer-based learning, all kinds of Web activities, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. We’re particularly interested in finding projects that blend online and face-to-face learning in new ways.
In light of the Harvard email-snooping flap, I had originally thought about writing on digital privacy, except that a news item on the Chronicle’s website caught my eye this morning and got me to thinking about the apocalypse. Well, not the literal apocalypse–just an educational one. Maybe “epochal change” or “paradigm shift” would be better terms.
“I have an important teleconference tomorrow at 9 a.m. Can you come by at 8:30 to get me set up? No, I’ve never used this system before.” That’s the phone call of my nightmares. Because, as I say to everyone who will listen, video teleconferencing is about 5% technology and 95% best practices. And the best best practice is practice — in the environment where the event will take place, under similar circumstances.
Since I have been at W&M, we have gone from the relative freedom of the Web left over from the 1990s to the more managed reality of the content management system. Content management systems (CMSs), like WordPress, provide easy ways to build websites and have your students present their work on the Web, but the CMS does have its drawbacks. In order for it to allow for the easy creation of polished-looking sites and let your students focus on writing, the CMS makes many of the other decisions about the website for them. Thinking through what a CMS-based student project often accomplishes may help you better refine your web-based student projects.
As an undergrad at W&M in 2002, I completed my first website for an assignment in an American Studies class. Ten years later, the Web has changed, but I am not so sure if I can say the same for many classroom Web projects. Publishing content on the Web is far easier today than it used to be, thanks to a category of Web applications called Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS allows people to publish content to the Web without much technical skill. This is great because it allows class projects to focus more on writing and Web publishing. However, I wonder if we have lost something in Web projects as CMSs like WordPress have become more prevalent. I think it is time to reevaluate what a semester-long Web project should look like.
This semester I’ve been working on a technology project with Dr. Pam Eddy, Associate Professor of Higher Education. She decided to use Mendeley, a reference management application, to allow students in her graduate-level Educational Policy class to interact with the assigned readings collaboratively while gaining experience with a useful online research tool. The social dimensionof Mendeley allows users to create interest groups where members may exchange documents, usually in PDF format, and highlight or annotate with comments. The beauty of the application is that it operates with both a desktop version and online repository, so that group members can keep the documents they are discussing on their own computers, but sync with the online version to update annotations.