Monday, December 10, 2007

Penn part 2

I've just received an email from John MacDermott, Director for Instructional Technology at Penn's School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). He indicates that currently the only course the specifically considers how to use technology for teaching was developed in the Romance Languages and German departments. This cross-listed course (GRMN 517 / ROML 691), developed and taught by Profs. Kathryn McMahon and Christina Frei, "focuses on the evaluation, design, and development of multimedia in foreign language teaching." Students in the class learn how to use video-, image-, and sound-editing software and read about current trends in education. All students create an online teaching portfolio and a multimedia instructional project. Profs. Frei and McMahon have assistance in teaching the class from Ed Dixon, who is the SAS's Foreign Language Support Specialist.

This sounds like an exciting class, and I know that Emory's language faculty make frequent use of instructional technologies in their work in conjunction with our Language Lab. But I'm not sure to what extent the graduate students who teach languages are given formal instruction in the lab or have the opportunity for it. This warrants more investigation on my part.

John indicates that Frei and McMahon's class wasn't developed as part of a larger push to introduce technology into graduate student teaching and that it has not yet inspired the development of similar courses in other departments in the SAS. He did, however, suggest that I I check Penn's Graduate School of Education (GSE). It appears that the GSE offers a Masters in Education in "Learning Technologies in Education." More and more schools appear to be offering degrees like this. The downside is that graduate students in something like Penn's School of Arts and Sciences are not likely to take (or be permitted to take) courses that are taught in the School of Education. What's more, the content in the latter will not necessarily address the specific needs of those teaching in college and university classrooms.

I'm glad to have more information about Penn's offerings to their students. Hopefully I'll hear more soon from Columbia and Brown--the other two schools that were (rightly or wrongly) underrepresented in my findings thus far.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Finally summing it up: TLC Comparison

So there you have it. 9 Schools: Duke, Washington University, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vanderbilt, Columbia, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania. While you can safely say that each school offers workshops on different technologies, there are in many cases programs that go above and beyond these one-hour trainings on a particular piece of software to provide opportunities for graduate students to become more familiar with specific instructional technologies. Harvard and Princeton have, respectively, PITFs and GAITs that get in-depth instruction in one or more technologies and then get the added experience of working closely with one or more faculty members to create new tools for instruction.

The model of TLC/TPC that we are building on here, however, is most closely mirrored at Duke and Washington University. Here's what I wrote in my summary for the "Comparable Efforts at Peer Institutions" section of our proposal to the Graduate School:

As can be seen, several of our peer institutions have programs in place to train graduate students on technologies that can be used in the classroom. The programs at Duke and Washington University are closest to our proposal: they are specifically designed for graduate students; they teach the basics of many of the technologies we propose teaching; they emphasize the pedagogical uses of these technologies; and they result in a significant number of contact hours.

While the similarities of our proposal to programs at Duke and Washington Universities may recommend our program, we believe two differences in format make it most valuable to Emory’s graduate students and for the instruction in Emory College. First, instead of enrolling students from every discipline in the Graduate School, our program groups students into departmental clusters. This restriction fosters focused discussions about how technologies may be used in classrooms with similar and specific pedagogical aims. Second, while Duke’s course is taught by a faculty member who specializes in instructional technology and Washington University’s workshop is conducted by peers, our proposal employs three complementary layers of instruction: an instructional technology specialist (ECIT staff), a peer (graduate student fellow), and a faculty mentor. In our pilot program, the faculty mentor has led discussions on adapting different technologies to meet the particular goals of the graduate students’ disciplines. A faculty mentor provides the perspective on the classroom that neither a technology specialist nor a peer can provide and ensures that the workshop emphasizes that technology is not the end but rather a means to improving both one’s teaching and the learning of one’s students.

So, if any of you dear readers remain after this trip through the fabulous world of applied instructional technologies, what do you think?

How does TLC compare? Washington University

The last school that I looked into is Emory's arch nemesis--at least if you believe our 2005 undergraduate student leaders.

I'm pleased to report Washington University (in St. Louis) has a program that, along with Duke's, most closely resembles TLC. The Graduate School there offers a yearly Graduate Student Summer Workshop (GSSW) that focuses on the "development and delivery of technology-enhanced course content." The workshop lasts two days (5 hours each day), and the technologies they cover are similar to those that we have explored thus far in T(P/L)C: course management software, web authoring, PowerPoint, wikis, and blogs. The course is peer-led, and there is a faculty panel discussion as a closing event. Participation in the seminar also fulfills one of the requirements for the Graduate School's Teaching Citation.

GSSW is open to students from every area of the Graduate School. In 2006 (the year for which I could find statistics), 36 students participated: 14 were from the Humanities, 13 from Social Sciences and Social Work, and 9 from Natural Science departments. Over 400 students have participated in the program since its inception in 1997. 1997? Wow: this is the earliest program that I have found so far. Is it any coincidence that this is the year that ECIT opened? I think not.

In addition to GSSW (which really needs a better acronym), Wash U has ITeach. This is an annual, day-long seminar that allows faculty to share ideas and insights about teaching with technology. Graduate students can register to attend, but it doesn't appear that they are frequent presenters. The program reminds me of EduCATE at Emory (which we might need to bring back soon).

One other interesting thing that I found on Wash U's websites was the Graduate Online Lecture Project. The project showcases the work of grad students who have applied to the program to gain the skills they need to develop a module to teach a particular "pedagogical challenge" in an introductory course for which they serve as TA. It is also an outlet for students to showcase their research in new ways, including Flash, a tool we don't teach at ECIT. Based on everything that I can dig up on the program, it appears that it has been defunct since 2005. Nevertheless, I think this represents something that, like Duke's e-portfolio project, is something that we should consider in the future of TPC as it would give our students something concrete to walk away with and to show to others.

In other news, there are several long-term digital projects in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, but these are mainly run by faculty.

My verdict on Wash U is that they have programs that parallel ours rather nicely. GSSW in particular is similar to what we are proposing because it has graduate students and pedagogy as its foci. I'm certain that teaching at Wash U and their graduate students have benefited immensely from the opportunities it fosters and the related discussion happening on their campus. There are some differences between TPC and GSSW, and I--perhaps predictably--believe that our program has important advantages. But I'll address those in a final post that summarizes the whole of my investigation.

My Google footprint

Here's a quick one to break up all that TPC monotony gumming up your RSS reader of choice. I've been thinking recently about how being on the job market subjects me to a higher possibility of being Googled. What do you get? And how do you control it?
  • The current first hit on my name ("Brian Croxall") is my profile page from last year when I was a Dean's Writing Center Fellow. That's good, I suppose. Except it doesn't really take you anywhere else. Oh, and I had fun writing the profile. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I would hate to get a job interview where they ask me about my mastery of the "transdigital ukulele."
  • The next few hits are from the SIMILE mailing list archives. So I guess you could see that I"ve been interested in determining the pedagogical uses of interactive timelines.
  • Then you hit a piece of creative writing that I made in conjunction with a group, improvisational writing exercise that was the final activity of a class on "Bakhtin's Circles" taught by Walter Reed and Mikhail Epstein in Spring 2004. That's fun, I suppose.
  • A few more hits down one finally comes across a mention of something more "academic": a newsletter from the JFK Presidential library that mentions my winning an Ernest Hemingway Research Grant to do archival research. Of course, if you follow this link, you'll see that the page no longer contains this information.
  • And finally, the last hit on the page is for this blog.
Until a week ago or so when I first started thinking about this, the top hit on my name in Google was my Amazon wish list. I guess that' s nice if people want to buy me things. But it wasn't really the face I wanted to present to the world. There were a few other similar instances like that, and I've managed to remove these from the hits by changing my screen name from "real name" to a pen name.

I also decided to include my full name in my blogger profile--rather than just "Brian"--as I think this blog is at least a representation of my thoughts on subjects that I view formative for my future research and, especially, classroom practice. But thus far, it hasn't generated much of a bump up the charts.

Of course, the real solution to getting Google hits is to understand their algorithm (which I don't--especially since it's a trade secret) and to have other people link to pages that talk about you. This blog or any of the pages related to my academic work haven't generated many backlinks yet, and this is one reason that interesting things about me aren't really showing up.

Something exciting about the Internet is the chances it gives us to play with our identity. We all know that our interlocutors might be dogs. Or rather, we don't know if we know this. But sometimes we want to establish who we are online and we want to help people see relevant information about us. If you're a normal individual, it can be very difficult to work the system to the ensure that you have a real web presence and one that responds to what you'd want. Of course, there are arguments that I shouldn't have control over what people see about me. If you want that, you can ask me for my CV. A Google search, on the other hand, reveals a sort of Digg-like collective opinion of what's most important to know about "Brian Croxall."

There are, of course, two more things that I can do to try to increase my visibility. First, I can make a much more detailed and useful personal web page. And second, I can write a blog post on the subject of identity, include my identifier repeatedly and let the process take a meta-effect. Let's see how that works.

How does TLC compare? Princeton

By the time I got to Princeton, I had become very good at knowing how to use Google and a university's own website to track down the places where I expected to find information about opportunities for graduate students to learn how to implement technology in their teaching.

So it wasn't that hard to find their workshops that they offer. They have two series:
  • The Productive Scholar focuses on "common and available desktop software to produce more with less effort." Word, Excel, Vista, and EndNote are all subjects that get discussed in the one-hour encounters.
  • Lunch 'n Learns address broader technology topics of interest to more general audiences. There was a recent session on how to make/use podcasts, but another on eBay sniping and human behavior.
One thing that sets these workshops apart from those offered at other schools I have looked at is that they are explicitly open to the public. I imagine that Emory wouldn't have too much trouble with the public attending some of our technology events, but we aren't exactly inviting them or trying to provide this sort of service to the larger Atlanta community.

Another interesting thing I found--and which I already reported on the Emory English blog--is that Princeton as a whole has a blog "for and about Princeton University faculty use of technology for teaching and research." There are no authors listed, so I'm inclined to view this as an official media outlet of the university. This means that this isn't a blog so much about discussion and going back and forth on ideas as it is a means for Princeton to represent to the world that they are doing something with technology. A lot of what gets reported here is on content presented at the Lunch 'n Learns.

Another nice tool that I found that Princeton has provided for faculty and staff is an Office Hours Scheduler. Since students can make appointments using the software, I would think this is something that would be a real benefit to a university community. There's no longer a need for students to pester you about your office hours repeatedly (if you've posted them, as Tenured Radical wrote about a month ago) and an added disincentive for particular faculty members who frequently don't hold office hours). Emory has Meeting Maker, but you have to be given an account and I can guarantee that students don't have this. There's possibly a way that you could do this with Google Calendar, but that would likely be on an ad hoc basis for each faculty member. Nope. Every university should have a program like this--even if it is currently in Beta.

But what we're really interested in as far as comparing Princeton's offerings to ECIT is their Graduate Associates in Instructional Technology (GAIT) program. This is a program designed to educate graduate students in particular technologies while simultaneously improving course content for faculty members. The program is very similar to Harvard's Presidential Instructional Fellows Program. Faculty, groups of faculty, or departments propose a project and nominate one or more grad students at a GAIT. GAITs then receive training from the Office of Information Technology in the technologies and skills needed for the project and then consult one-on-one with the faculty members seeking assistance. In addition to the training they receive, GAITs are paid (currently at $15/hour). The projects last a maximum of two semester and eight weeks during the summer, for a total of 160 hours.

I like the idea of getting graduate students the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on a particular project and, as I said about Harvard's program, this resembles something that we have kicked around about having "TPC-certified" students that faculty here could call on to help them realize projects they don't have the skills for. But what I would contend is missing from Princeton's program is the emphasis on the graduate students as an equal partner/beneficiary. Students interested in the GAIT program are not allowed to apply, but have to wait on interested faculty members in their departments to propose a project and then try to convince these professors that they are the students that should be picked. (This, in my opinion, was a downside for Emory's ECO program.) The GAIT program's description even seems to underplay the role of the graduate students: "[GAITs] also provide a much-needed communication path between faculty and the central IT support staff, thus insuring that IT support efforts are meeting faculty needs. [...A] key function of GAIT members is to connect faculty with the appropriate centralized support resources."

It's understandable that Princeton wants to invest in helping their faculty--after all, the faculty are the ones that will hopefully be at the school for several decades. And this program does allow graduate students a window into how one develops a large project with the intent of improving teaching. But I think the distinct advantage of TPC is that grad students are the sole audience and the focus is pedagogy.

I'm not sure how ECO will be developing given the differences that were instituted last year. I do think that there is room at Emory for a program similar to those at Harvard and Princeton. But I think that it would be complemented in important ways by the implementation of TPC.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How does TLC compare? Brown

The story at Brown is much the same as at Columbia and Penn: there are workshops on various topics offered by Training.Brown. There are some courses listed specifically for grad students, but further investigation indicates that these are mostly the same courses that appear under the faculty and staff tabs. One thing interesting about the Training.Brown program is that, at least for undergrads, it combines training on technology with training about writing and research, led, respectively, by the Brown Writing Center and Library. The conjunction of these subjects seems ideal. All of these entities at Emory would be willing to see each other in complementary roles, but I can't say the the relationship has been formalized in any particular way, and I could see how doing so could produce specific benefits for undergrads, grad students, and faculty.

Apart from these specific training opportunities, Brown offers grants that will result in the Instructional Technology Group creating materials for your classes including customized websites, video productions, and animations to help teach concepts. As far as I can tell, however, these grants don't result in people learning new skills but rather in the people who already have the skills being directed to work on a project that faculty have imagined. This is nice for busy faculty, but it doesn't lead to a dissemination of knowledge and--again as with many of these grant programs--they won't necessarily benefit or be available to graduate students.

To help graduate students (and faculty) with projects involving technology Brown also offers Student Technology Assistants. The STAs are undergrads who can help with creating course websites, scanning and digitizing materials, or providing technical illustrations. Again, I'm not sure how much work the grad students do along with the STAs. Regardless, since one is interacting on a one-to-one level with an undergraduate, I'm going to guess that there is not much of an opportunity for discussing the ins and outs of pedagogy in the college classroom.

I'm going to try to call some people at Brown, Columbia, and Penn to see if there is anything else to the story that I might be missing.

How does TLC compare? Columbia

Next on my list was Columbia. Again, there are courses on specific technologies offered by The Teaching Center of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The Teaching Center offers some interesting opportunities, such as a seminar earlier this year on "Preparing Future Faculty" that was held monthly from January to April. However, if you look at the navigation bar on the left of the Teaching Center's pages, you quickly discover that there are no events listed under "Teaching With Technology." Obviously the Graduate School believes that instructional technology is important enough to warrant notice on their front page, but at the moment it seems that any events connected to this subject aren't making their present felt online. (Of course, as I've mentioned previously, TLC has a similar problem. Anyone conducting research like I have on Emory might be hard pressed to find much about our initiatives.)

Columbia, like Harvard, seems to have many different schools under the umbrella of the university. As such, parts of the community are very invested in the academic application of technology to academic spaces. For example, the Center for Technology and School Change is a part of Columbia's Teachers College. As was the case with Harvard's TIE program, Columbia's CTSC is directed toward K-12 education and/or consulting. Teachers College has another program with similar aims: Communication, Computing, and Technology in Education. If I had to characterize the differences between the programs, I think the latter is a degree-granting one that prepares people to academically discuss technology in many facets of education and to go on to work professionally in related fields. The former builds on this mission with the specific goal of effecting progressive educational change via technology.

There are other programs throughout Columbia's infrastructure that address technology and teaching. But my overall impression is that the Graduate School (the entity to which I'm comparing Emory's efforts) is not offering much beyond short workshops.

How does TLC compare? Penn

All right, I finished all of my research about the various peer institutions I investigated while writing our proposal to the Grad School about TLC, which is now being rebranded as "Technology, Pedagogy, Curriculum" (TPC) as we roll out to organizations beyond the English Department.

I'm still negotiating for the rights to post the entire proposal here on the blog, but until I've secured those I'm going to continue posting what I've learned about the different schools' programs.

So University of Pennsylvania. I'm a little worried that I might have missed something glaring here because there was actually very little that I could find on the subject of teaching/helping grad students with technology. There are, of course, the requisite lunchtime, hour-long courses that people can take to become more familiar with technology. Some workshops are geared specifically for School of Arts and Sciences instructors (read, faculty and grad students). Others are more for the student body (read, undergrads and grad). These are obviously good resources to have, but I continue to believe that there is value for educating grad students separately from undergrads and faculty (as well as together, at times0 on the uses of instructional technology.

Penn also has technology grants available to help with the design of technology components for courses or departments. But so far as I can tell much of the work on the grants is performed by computing services (read, faculty and students don't necessarily learn from the experience). And although I can't find a stipulation that only faculty may apply for these grants, inevitably things of this nature end up going to faculty (and rightly, I think).

Penn uses many of the same technologies as us. And they even have a page devoted to discussing technology with teaching, but it is basically a list of resources rather than a consideration of best practices.

My favorite thing that I have found at Penn thus far is that they provide an online tool for instructors to design and collect midterm evaluations for their courses. Of course we could do this SurveyMonkey...but it's great to see this in place.

My verdict? I would have to talk with some people at Penn to be sure, but it appears that there is little or no instruction aimed directly at graduate students on blending technology with their teaching.