Thursday, 27 January 2011

Module in Learning Technologies - Project Symposium (Part 1)

At NUI Galway, I co-ordinate a module in Learning Technologies (cel263) which is offered as part of our Postgraduate Diploma in Academic Practice. The module is taken by academic staff as part of a professional qualification in Teaching and Learning, mostly in NUIG but open to staff from other institutions. This year the module had 9 participants from across an array of disciplines in NUIG and three participants from the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

Now in its third year, participants in the module have a range of experience with using technology in teaching, from "very little" to "vast". Some need a lot of support and encouragement, while others are willing to try anything. The module is organised as a series of 7 stand-alone workshops, each based on a particular technology, including guest lecturers, online resources, demonstrations, practical sessions, discussion, research and reflection. We try to focus on teaching & learning, showing how a technology might support these activities, rather than on the technology itself.

Each participant carries out a project as part of the module assessment, which should be integrated into their own teaching context. Our aim for the project is to move each staff member beyond the comfort zone, to try something new in their teaching in a supported environment. In the short time available, it is challenging to scope, plan, implement and evaluate a new initiative, on top of the busy hours already worked by this group of people.

I was very proud, therefore, to sit in at the first of a project symposium event yesterday, where six of our class presented on their project work. Each person has taken up the challenge and has moved beyond the comfort zone. Many of the initiatives are in early phases of development, but all have clear goals and plans for improving the learning experience through the use of technology in teaching.

Vincent (@VincentNUIG) shared his plans for using a social network in preparing students for a year abroad in the Erasmus programme. Students already abroad will share their experiences; students preparing students for the year abroad. He made a nice link between stepping out of his comfort zone (in technology) and helping students about to step out of theirs (by moving to another country).

Brendan (@brendanmflynn) launched his academic blog on Environmental policy + EU policies + other stuff, explaining why he blogs and how it can help to combine his teaching and research interests.

Mel (@MelOBoland), using a pecha kucha style for his presentation, talked about bilingual blogging with his students in a translation module, and how this might support collaborative learning. Although just introduced with his students, already it is proving popular with some positive initial outcomes.

Maureen (@maureenjmaloney) spoke about using social media to develop graduate networks. She spoke about her goals and some thoughts around using LinkenIn for graduates and Facebook for current and future students. Some nice examples already in her College are the School of Law (which I blogged about previously) and the J.E. Cairns School of Business and Economics facebook pages.

Noreen (@noreenhenry) discussed her ventures into podcasting, to deepen understanding and learning, and to link theory, case study and team project for her students. She has already produced 8 podcasts of about 5-6 minutes in length, and has made them available to students. Though take-up is low so far, she anticipates that students will make more use in the coming months as they start their projects. She made the interesting point that mature students in technology-based subjects may be less receptive to the introduction of technology in teaching, perhaps because there is less of a novelty factor for them.

Dara (@DaraCannon) has also started producing podcasts in a MSc programme, for giving individual feedback (audio) and also preparing demonstration videos. She is already noticing some advantages, adding her tone of voice and personality to individual feedback, as well as providing a useful record. But she wonders if it will actually save her time?

I really enjoyed the presentation yesterday and look forward to seeing these initiatives develop over time. Six more students present their work next week.

One final point that came up yesterday is that, in future, academics may have less time to embark on initiatives like this. Despite the potential enhancements to the student learning experience, activities of this nature aren't always seen to tick boxes on the academic workload model and are often unrecognised as productive use of time.

No comments: