Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sakai 09 Panel: Faculty Success Stories

Encouraging successful teaching with technology

Description: To foster innovative teaching and learning with technology, Indiana University’s technology services (UITS) widely shares stories of successful teaching and learning with technology. The sharing process relies on principles of Appreciative Inquiry, strategically chosen communication channels, and a sustainable system to generate stories.

Presenters: Michael Morrone, IU; Jan Holloway, IU; John Gosney, IU

Indiana University calls its Sakai program OnCourse and these IU faculty and staff have worked to collect stories of faculty uses of the tool. Their data collection strategy was to gather stories.

This panel, presented in clear language with good use of multimedia materials, makes the important point that institutions need to have a common language for discussion technology use--and that this language needs to extends across departments, programs, and expertises. This means that IT guys, designers, faculty, and students need to be able to communicate easily.

Michael Morrone:
"When I started doing interviews, I learned that faculty use Sakai in a lot of different ways. There's a lot of good energy that needs to be harnessed so Sakai can be harnessed."

Michael starts with the following clip from Star Trek to suggest that we shouldn't be slaves to our technologies.

"There's a big divide and a lot of diversity in the way faculty come to the use of tehcnology. We talk about technology in very different ways, even among the faculty. When you start looking at faculty vs. technology, the divide in how we talk is even bigger."

How do you get across the river?
Michael Morrone shows a photo taken from his office of a river and asks: How would you get across the river? Then he asks: How would you get all of us across the river?
One person can cross in tons of ways; lots of people cross in lots of different ways. If we all wanted to get across the river, we have to have a shared language. We have to be able to talk about the problem in the same way.

One of our hopes for today's session is to find out how we can get ppl at our institutions to talk about teaching and learning with technology in similar ways. If we can do that, then the teaching with technology doesn't become something we fear. It becomes something we embrace.

How do we do this?
"We did it with stories."

Why stories?

Stories brand tehcnology mission through shared language
"People don't like to think of a university as a business. They don't like to think of students as consumers. But you have to brand because if you don't, people think about you how they want to think about you. Successful corporations have an image and an identity, and "your technology has to have an identity on campus."

Why stories? "Humans thrive on stories.... Stories are a way to start dialogue, to get people interested. This is a way to create conversation, intrigue, dialogue. Once we start doing that, then together, we start constructing the language that will work for us as a community."

Morrone showed this video of Randy Isaacson, associate professor of Educational Psychology at IU South Bend, who uses Oncourse CL to teach his students about metacognition.

Key points from the video:
1. You have to have experienced faculty.
2. You have to use technology in tons of different ways.

John Gosney is up next: Once we gather the stories, how do we get them out to the IU community?
A key strategy is a "multi-channel approach"
  • OnCourse "announce" listserv/other mailing lists
  • Teaching center consultants
  • Weekly "e-news" (264k distribution including Big Ten and beyond)
  • Internal communications (, podcast portal)
Second video: Kathy Lay, Asisstant Professor of Social Work.

**side note: I am a subscriber to the listserve and I NEVER read it. Though I imagine I will start reading it now.**

Getting faculty engaged: some strategies
  • Developing "grassroots" faculty conversations (faculty-to-faculty)
  • Normalize IT use (comparisons and conversations give people baselines and ideas)--we don't want it to seem so complicated that it becomes onerous. Indeed, Gosney points out, even being cutting edge may not always be necessary--a cutting edge tool requires work to learn, and that's not always useful.
  • Change nature of conversations so that language is highly relevant to teaching and learning as opposed to "tool based."

Gosney makes the important point that video often works much better for faculty than text. "And the technology is very inexpensive, simple to use...and once you film it, it's incredibly easy to upload in Sakai."

Question: Communications seem very one-way (listservs, email communications, etc.). Can you talk about thoughts about how you might foster more discourse on these topics?
John: "My boss (Stacy Morrone) brings up a very good point." We set up a one-way conversation to limit negative comments--not because we didn't want to hear it but because we didn't want to foster" a negative space. "I think a real challenge is trying to get that ongoing kind of discussion, and we can blanket the universtiy, and in many cases we do...but until we get that kind of grassroots level faculty-to-faculty communication...that's what we're really after. And once that starts, the rest kind of takes care of itself. It's a real challenge getting this communication and sustaining it."

Think / Pair / Share
Current practices for showcasing teaching with technology
Process for identifying best practices
Identify possible stories that are appropriate for your institution
Identify other criteria / guidelines for stories at your institution
Should success stories be housed intra-university? How?

**my thoughts**
I've been working with OnCourse at IU for the last several weeks with my advisor, Dan Hickey. Despite my engagement with a variety of classroom and other educational communities, I find OnCourse somewhat onerous in terms of developing fluency with its features. Stories in themselves are helpful, but they can't magically lead to engagement with the technology itself. I see OnCourse has a lot of .pdf's and other "getting started" materials, but I'm not positive this is sufficient, especially for faculty who are anxious about working with new technologies.

I happen to be the kind of person who doesn't read instruction manuals or watch instructional videos--if I can't figure it out on my own, I don't bother. I'm going to spend some time working with OnCourse after this conference, then I'll get back to you.

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