I have the privilege this year of participating on our school’s Teaching and Learning Technology Fellows program, a faculty development program for instructors interested in incorporating instructional technology into their teaching. Participants meet weekly for a semester and explore IT tools under the guidance of our instructional technology staff and a reference librarian. The ratio of experts to learners is slightly more than one to one. Martha discusses the TLT Fellows program in a recent post here. The goal of this semester’s meetings is to develop a project that we will implement in one of our courses next semester under the guidance of an Instructional Technology Specialist whose interests and expertise most closely match the needs of our project.
For most of this semester, I have had no idea what my project would be. But within the last week or so, I have found a plethora of ideas, four to be exact. The purpose of this post is to summarize my thinking on those ideas (in no particular order) and hopefully generate some useful feedback from you.
The first project is to construct and use a ‘bliki’ for my advanced macro seminar next Spring. A bliki is a mashup of a blog and a wiki, combining the best features of both. This project has special meaning for me since the last time I taught this seminar, three years ago, was when I first started incorporating social software into my courses. Wikis are excellent for collaborative work, but the knock on them is that they are not ‘pretty’. Fair enough, but that’s like complaining that a snow plow isn’t pretty. Why should you care as long as it digs you out of the snow? The look of a wiki doesn’t really matter for process-oriented work, but one thing I’ve been attempting in the last two years is to turn the work from process to product. In other words, student group work is creating content for subsequent students to use as a resource. We’ve used the wiki as a whiteboard for our ideas during the semester, but then for a final project I’ve asked the students to convert what we’ve done in the process of our learning to a more polished product. So far, this has been only partially successful. I’m hoping that a bliki will give the product more of a professional look. I remember a blog post that Jim wrote, suggesting that Andy might be the expert here.
My second project idea is based on Patrick‘s comment at a recent TLT Fellows meeting that there are a number of interesting looking applications out there that go beyond blogs and wikis. I’d like to explore some of these and think about how they might be productively applied to teaching and learning.
My third project idea is to explore the notion of an ePortfolio. This was Sarah‘s idea and I’d like to work with her on it. What is an ePortfolio? What features would it have? How would an ePortfolio for an English major differ from one for an economics major? Whatever software we come up with probably needs to be general enough that it can be customized in whichever direction the instructor wants to go–It should be somewhat plug and play. This argues for an open source, small pieces loosely joined approach. Furthermore, an ePortfolio should probably have a very different look from the perspective of a student who’s uploading the content, and a faculty or department who is using the content for outcomes assessment.
The fourth idea involves my throwing down the gauntlet to Jim: Can video be used in a pedagogically sound way to teach economics? I have dabbled in video over the last year or so, using snippets to illustrate a point in lecture, or using something from youtube as a source of course content. I suspect though that video could also be used as a medium for creative thought. But is it something useful for teaching/learning economics? That’s not clear to me yet.
I also have a fifth idea which qualifies only as Web 0.5. I would like to know how to create graphs to illustrate economics arguments that you can see in any economics textbook. I ought to know how to do this, but I don’t so the next time anyone accuses me of being ‘on the frontier’ of IT, they should remember this. 😉