Derek Bruff just launched a podcast about teaching with technology, called Leading Lines (and if you don’t know Derek, you should. He’s brilliant, thoughtful, and the world’s guru for teaching effectively with clickers). Leading Lines is aimed at present-day teaching, with an eye on the future.
In Leading Lines’ second episode Derek interviews Corbette Doyle (faculty page; Twitter), a Vanderbilt University lecturer. I’d like to focus on this episode for a blog post because I think Doyle is a grand example of a technology-using faculty member. In conversation she starts off sounding like an early adopter, but eventually describes challenges and opportunities very much in the teaching mainstream.
Let’s get her early adopter identity out of the way. Doyle mention buying a PC in the early 1980s, starting an early corporate intranet, and loving technology for how it improves work. “I’m always exploring new technology,” she explains. “I’m pretty adept at figuring it out.” She complains about teenagers not being tech-savvy, reversing a more commonplace faculty attitude.
Some of the technologies she uses are those employed by only a minority of faculty. Doyle makes screencast videos, for example, in part because of student appreciation. She feeds these into a YouTube channel . She also likes mobile, but not because of its affordances; instead, she finds that that’s where her students prefer to work. “So many students are using their phones the majority of time. That’s going to increase.”
Doyle is pro-open content, mostly to minimize student costs. We know that it’s still only a small subset of faculty who follow this practice.
She loves reconfigurable learning spaces, especially for group work. Is that early adopter practice in 2016, or has it become the mainstream?
At other times in the podcast lecturer Doyle sounds much closer to the mainstream. She uses problem-based learning and group projects as a way of engaging students in active learning. For example, in one class the first and last quarters are all problem-based projects. She’s a constructivist, focused on students making learning through making meaning and exploration.
For technology, Doyle relies on clickers for polling. Again, in 2016, that’s not bleeding edge but conventional. The examples she gives are classic (by now) and reliable, such as quickly assessing student learning and especially using polls to stimulate small group discussion.
She also uses Google apps, including Forms for assessment, Docs for documents, Hangout for video discussion, and Google+ for encouraging students to share information and thoughts with each other, including for “what they’re learning outside of the class.” G+ appeals to her as well for its visual nature (interesting) and being mobile friendly. It’s her discussion forum. (Many campuses have Google Apps. Is Doyle an outlier?)
Overall, despite the many technologies she uses, Doyle is all about corralling complexity. “It’s important to keep technology simple,” she insists, veering away from the early-adopter role.
Doyle finds two major technological problems today, starting with the challenge of assigning students to use multiple sites. Students resent that – especially, as Bruff notes, when they are taking 3-4 other classes, which could lead to them having to access 8-25+ different sites and services. This is one reason Doyle likes Google, as it’s a single location for so many services and so much content.
Doyle dislikes Blackboard, but is stuck with it. “It is not attractive and is not user friendly. It does not meet many of my needs.” And yet that’s where she has to use certain content that she can’t find in open. It’s also where she has to post grades. Dealing with this LMS “is my struggle.” But students like the ability to have everything in one Blackboard spot, “one stop shopping”.
Bruff and Doyle conclude by hoping for a single site that can contain everything they’d like to use in the classroom. Sounds like a case for the next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE).
Overall, I found this Leading Lines podcast a very useful snapshot of a 2016 faculty member, one straddling the early adopter and mainstream roles. And I look forward to subsequent episodes.