Like most educators, May is a busy month and mine was no different. This month marked the launch of the TQP pilot project with the UNI Faculty Course Redesign Summit. The TQP grant I’m working on is looking at effective teaching and the creation of a teacher performance assessment and a large part of that is redesigning some of the UNI methods field experience courses to include what we have dubbed Transformative Teaching Qualities. Without going into much detail, the essential purpose of the summit was to look at the things we’ve always wanted to do but haven’t really been able to in the past.
One of the areas we talked about was increasing clinical experiences through video conference technology. This was one session I led and it was great hearing the faculty get excited about new possibilities with field experiences. I demoed a potential setup called a Polycom which could be rolled into a classroom in one of our partner school districts and then using a similar device on campus, the methods instructor could connect their UNI class with a classroom in a PK-12 school district. This connection could be done either in realtime or it can be recorded and shown at a later date. When I think of the potential uses of this technology, it goes beyond just observing classrooms at a distance, and jumps to a place where teacher prep programs likely haven’t been before. Pre-service teachers can interact with students and teachers in the districts that they will be placed in later that semester allowing the pre-service teacher to begin teaching in the classroom sooner since they will have already gained a background of both the teacher and the students. I’m excited to see how our 12 faculty members integrate this technology into their courses.
Another topic we talked about was blended learning. As we were planning for the summit we quickly discovered that the number of topics we were going to discuss could become a problem for the faculty if they didn’t have a way to integrate them meaningfully into their courses. There is only so much time we spend face-to-face with our students so our thought was to leverage blended learning as much as possible in these courses to aid in the redesign process. Not everything in a course needs to be done in person, so why not streamline a much of that content as possible via a blended learning environment and free up seat time to do some of the new ideas we introduced to the faculty, such as remote clinical observations like I described above. Blended learning certainly isn’t a new concept, but the point I tried to get across is what are the students doing in the online environment? Are they just doing readings or are they collaborating, working with authentic sources, etc.? Again I’m looking at what we’ve dubbed Transformative Teaching Qualities. Just because the environment is online doesn’t mean that the quality of the learning is any less or that the activities are drastically limited or different. The opposite is true. There are so many potential activities and experiences students can have in an online environment that we need to think about how we can capitalize on those situations to create more meaningful learning.
There was much more that took place during the summit, but I thought I would share at least those two areas as they were the two I was most passionate and consumed with over the last month, which has limited my ability to do other things I deeply care about, such as blogging. Now that the summit is over and I’m heading into a nice long vacation, I have some time to catch up with my PLN and blogging and really have some time to digest what has taken place in the last few months. It’s a time to unwind and relax and I plan on doing plenty of it over the next month!