Upcoming POD Conference Presentation

Pittsburgh 1

Pittsburgh 1 (Photo credit: ctj71081)

In about a week the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network will hold its annual conference in Pittsburgh, PA. I will have the pleasure of being a presenter for two sessions.

11/7/13 – A poster presentation titled Survey of Education Technology: Faculty Professional Development Technology Integration Training which will highlight information on the professional development course I have been teaching called Survey of Education Technology (SET). A sample module is included on my blog here. Poster presentations will take place at 3:45 that afternoon.

11/7/13 – The second presentation will be a roundtable discussion I am co-hosting with my colleague, Karl Schnapp titled Reflective practice on reflective practice: Enhancing faculty professional development. Since a major training component of our professional development approach at BCC is reflective practice, it is appropriate to bring together colleagues and scholars to talk about what reflective practice means. It is not a new concept, but for us it has brought people together to create something of  a community. I am really looking forward to these discussions.

If anyone reading this is planning on going to POD, please leave a message here or follow my Twitter feed @kforgard

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Pearson Social Media Conference

This past Friday (10/18/2013) I had the pleasure of attending an intimate conference sponsored by Pearson Publishing. Here is the agenda http://www.pearsonlearningsolutions.com/events/smtl-2013/agenda.html

View from the Museum of Science

View from the Museum of Science

What I really enjoy about these micro-conferences is being able to interact with thought-leaders as they describe their projects. The conference was supported by Pearson who shared results on a social media survey they conducted (http://www.pearsonlearningsolutions.com/higher-education/social-media-survey.php) that shows how this technology has grown in recent years, particularly blogs and wikis. The survey results also reflected on some of the major concerns may education technology professionals face, namely, integrity and privacy.

The survey helped frame the conversations and questions brought up during the day’s presentations. For instance, discussions around online presence and identity kept arising. Most technology professionals already know that it is important to keep an online professional identify, but we also need to communicate this to faculty and students. It is okay to have distinct professional and personal identities.  After all, we are all humans with needs that expand well beyond a professional life. This can be a challenge for faculty who want to use a social media service such as Facebook, but do not want their students to be their “friends”. Over the years, services such Facebook and Google+ have made their tools more sophisticated to meet these needs with ability to create different circles, closed groups, and other control mechanisms. However, using these settings takes some technical agility. Its not difficult, just something that has to be played with.

To maintain privacy, many educators create a “teacher account” to use for classroom purposes and still maintain their private one. Nevertheless, all of our identities are online, and besides, is multiple online personas really practical? Teaching is a way of life and so much of what we do as educators intertwines with our personal and professional lives. Lines do need to be drawn and privacy concerns alleviated, but the first step is to experiment and see what happens.

Related to this conversation is one of the presentations that stuck me during the day. It was the panel discussion of Larry Domine, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Tony Stanislawski, Milwaukee Area Technical College, (who teach a social media course there) and Eric Winegardner, Monster. These guys are social media experts that have experimented and developed some excellent ideas on using social media tools such as Twitter and Blogs. The main take-a-way from their message had to do with the fact that if someone is working in technology (and this means education technology too) they should have some type of online social presence. It doesn’t have to be in-depth academic essays, but retweets, short blog postings, or lists of “what I’ve read” demonstrate to potential employers, as well as other colleagues a certain level, a passion and commitment to their careers and even just their life. In other words our online presence demonstrates who we are and what we contribute to the world whether its loving movies, comic books, sports, education technology, teaching, music, our family, etc.

Here is the link to their presentation notes https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-wkCoXgZ725eS1URHZWdGotU1k&usp=sharing

Thanks again to Pearson for organizing the day in such a fantastic location at the Boston Museum of Science!

Reflections on Title III

For those of you who may not be familiar with Title III, it is a Federal Department of Education grant program designed to support higher education institutions in expanding their capacity to serve underprivileged students by increasing student support services and academic services. See http://www2.ed.gov/programs/iduestitle3a/index.html

As of September 30, 2013 the Title III grant I have been a part of comes to a close. Its been a heck of a ride I must say and one that taught me quite of bit about being an instructional designer involved in systemic change initiatives. It has also provided me some excellent insight into how community colleges operate.

As I started to write this blog posting I realized that there is an essay to come of this. So, I’ll outline some of what I had learned from this project:

  • Instructional design theory is very helpful for programmatic changes, but not every project requires a following a model lock-step
  • Evaluation is the key to everything you do, so track, record, measure, or just reflect on every piece of output developed that leads towards the grant’s goal
  • Developing faculty rapport is essential to a project’s success and builds capacity over time
  • Systemic change is hard work that at times shows little rewards. Don’t let a negative attitude get in the way and keep up
  • Learn to leverage resources to help meet goal from administrative support to vice-presidents
  • Be aware of the technology and train stakeholders in using the technology to serve the grant
  • Understand that the relationship between a treatment (cause) and its result (effect) is most likely wide with many confounding variables potentially getting in the way. Its not research, its evaluation that demonstrates success or need for further change.
  • Be frustrated, but don’t give up hope!

The good news about all the work and struggle is that through it all, the grant made an impact. It was a daunting task that is still met with some resistance, but with the end data showing positive change, its nice to see how the 100’s of things I had done over the past couple of years have resulted in something positive.

Thanks to the Title III Team at Bristol Community College!

I promise to write something more detailed soon.

Instructional Design at a Community College

Recently, I came across a job posting for an instructional designer at a community college. What struck me about the position posting was the fact that they required applicants to submit a statement on the personal philosophy on the role of community colleges. Since I work in a community college I thought that it would be a good exercise to try it out. Read on…

A panoramic view of the center of BCC campus.Philosophy of the Role of Community College

As an instructional designer working in a community college, I am sometimes asked by colleagues what the difference is between community college and 4+ year institutions. Is community college just a stopping off point for students looking to lower the cost of their education? Or, is community college a career training school that provides certificates and education credentials that lead to entry into a professional or semi-professional career? With either case, the underlying theme between these perspectives is that community college is about diversity, therefore, my underlying philosophy regarding the roll of community college is centered on how to navigate among this diversity – in education philosophy, the student body, academic disciplines, and faculty. In its operations, a community college needs to be both an academic institution with an eye towards the academy, and a training center, focused on developing students for particular workforce needs. However, there is a tension between these philosophies and a need to bridge them that makes working in a community college quite stimulating. In this statement essay, I will provide examples from each of these perspectives and demonstrate how the two are bridged through instructional design practice.

The community college’s role as a scholarly institution has tremendous implications on the students, instructors, the institution, and the community. Consider the graduation ceremony at Bristol Community College (BCC) in southern Massachusetts. This ceremony, akin to many other higher education institutions, is immersed in the rich academic tradition and symbols many people associate with education, such as the cap-and-gown, publicly declaring the graduates, recognizing the most successful students, and the speeches on a future of lifelong learning. The fact that BCC maintains this practice demonstrates to all those involved in the student development process that there is something important being done in the name of higher education learning. The practice of the public graduation ceremony at a community college demonstrates that education and learning at such an institution is not just a cheap alternative, or stopping off point (although many students use community college for these things), but is a set of practices steeped in the tradition of scholarly pursuit. What leads up to this final ceremony is oftentimes years of hard work and dedication. Many community college instructors are keenly aware of how their work shapes and guides students through this process as scholars-in-training and do their jobs quite well when designing and teaching traditional courses such as English Composition, History, Literature, and Communications. For instance, when working with faculty on understanding and applying an abstract concept, such as “critical thinking” via the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) LEAP Value Rubrics, most understand the term in the abstract and also debate how critical thinking may vary across the disciplines. The fact that they can have this discussion is what makes community colleges scholarly institutions, practicing debate, research, and assessment which characterize most any community college’s mission. Even as community colleges begin to implement academic alternatives to a college course, such as competency-based learning and credit for prior learning experience, the scholarly perspective is guiding this process, generating new notions of what a community college educated person would look like. That is, students may bring a variety of learning experiences with them, but through academic discourse, evaluation, and critical analysis, a sense of rigor is applied to practice in turn helping students achieve their education goals and participate in the rite-of-passage graduation ceremony.

Community colleges also provides training and entry into professional and semi-professional careers through specific course sequences and learning paths. In contrast to training students on scholarly practices through general education programs, these institutions are also creating individuals to enter into a particular career field, which is also an important function of community colleges. The pressure to not just quickly graduate students, but to get those students jobs is more prevalent now than ever, particularly since the Obama administration has opened a debate on the high cost of education and its need to demonstrate a return on investment. Students who enter into a career track program simply see the outcome of such programs as entry into a career, financial stability, and perhaps a job more than the scholarly cap-and-gown. Faculty who teach in these career preparation programs such as culinary arts, criminal justice, nursing, dental hygiene, fire science, and green technology know perfectly well the kinds of skills students need to prepare for particular positions and intensely focus learning specifically on masterly of the technical skills needed to perform certain jobs. Oftentimes, outside agencies accredit these programs based on very specific criteria, so program control is external. A broad-based academic skill such as “critical thinking” is more implied in such curriculum simply because career programs have to meet these specific requirements. It is not as if a career program is not academic, but that it fulfills a different niche than the traditional general studies program.

Although these two philosophies seem different, a community college is still one institution. Students enter with particular needs, backgrounds, challenges, and skills that are not so easily segregated. Many enter into developmental level courses despite whatever career or education intension they may have. Still others are there because they are testing out a variety of life and career paths. Many community college students are adult learners, have dependents, are currently working, and seeking opportunity through investment in a low-cost education. Moreover, faculty at community colleges are disproportionally part-time adjuncts who, like their students, are challenged by balancing between work, family, and rest. Most importantly, however, is the fact that funding for community colleges is more dependent on how scholarship partners with career development and is the main budgetary funding source with expectations of student success. At BCC and other colleges in the state of Massachusetts, funding is tied into the scholarly work of outcomes assessment as well as the workforce development. This external push challenges community colleges, particularly when the goal of student success is increased graduation and successfully entering into a job. As an instructional designer at a community college, this is where I fully understand and subscribe to the mantra often spoke throughout the college – “scholarship in action”. This understanding for me has translated into helping define the mission of faculty support at a community college, by advocating for a staffing at our center for teaching and learning that are experts in higher education pedagogies (active learning, adult learning principles, and higher education best practices), technology integration that pairs with such pedagogies (e-learning, blended learning, flipped classroom design), and cross-disciplinary professional development (reflective practice groups, pedagogy discussion groups, and education technology training). Implementation should be on systemic integration of these skills that focuses professional development on faculty improvement as well as administrative skills building. This is essential as community colleges begin utilizing analytics ensure student success through early-warning systems and digitized degree plans.

No two community colleges are alike. However, I believe (echoing many of my community college colleagues) that the work we do is centered on academic theoretical foundations, which are ultimately bestowed onto our students and discussed among each other in our practice. At the same time, we need to prepare students for the workforce as efficient as we possibly can. For some students, this is a clear path, for others it is still a work in progress. Nevertheless, community colleges should be designed to be flexible enough to provide change when needed through instructional support and open for debate to ensure that a sense of academic rigor remains intact. This means more systemic instructional support through cross-disciplinary activities that bridge the career-track studies with the general education skills as well as helping developmental learners reach their goals to achieve what may seem at times a hard-to-reach dream. When sharing my thoughts and passions of working in a community college to colleagues, I communicate that with such diversity in education philosophies and students, there is an experience unlike one would have in a 4-year college or university. It is simply about being a part of the local community.

Survey of Education Technology Google Community Group

Survey of Education Technology Google Community Group

The latest cohort of faculty from Bristol Community College finished up our 14-week online professional development course with a face-to-face day-long workshop. To demonstrate how to incorporate and encourage student participation, I created a Google Community group. If anyone is interested in having a look at some of our conversations, please visit the page and request to join. 

Presentation on the Transformation Agenda at EDC

Earlier this summer, I was asked to speak on the pilot BCC did in incorporating contextualized curriculum modules as part of the statewide MCCWDTA grant (See http://mccwdta.etlo.org/).

Our team had trained several faculty from developmental reading, writing, math, and ABE/GED programs to work with contextualizing their courses. This process is easier said than done. For one, the modules developed by the state are not designed to be plug-and-play, nor are they designed to be easily used. In helping overcome these dilemmas, I had developed a contextualized curriculum worksheet that incorporates Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction to help faculty-users digest the contextualized materials to use in their courses. So far, the process has been a success.

The video contains introductory remarks by the project director, Kristen McKenna and continues with my remarks on how I worked with faculty during our implemenation process.

Please watch the video on the MCCWDTA Vimeo website – http://vimeo.com/69474315

Bridgewater State EdTech Day 2013

Last Thursday I had the honor of presenting at the 7th annual Bridgewater State University EdTech Day. My two presentations were technology focused, but were very different topics.

Beyond the LMS

The first one titled: “Beyond the LMS: Creating a Digital Learning Space for Your Course” centered on how more and more faculty are using online tools that do not necessarily work within an LMS. Sure, most good LMS’ have tools such as blogs, wikis, games, etc. However, the biggest challenge is to keep course materials open after the semester and have an archive of a course as it is taught over time. This is akin to a student’s personal learning environment (PLE). In a non-empirical way, I simply named these digital teaching environments “External Teaching Environments” or ETE.

Below are my presentation slides:

Working with iPad Class Sets

The second presentation I gave was aimed at helping faculty and administrative staff learn how to implement an iPad distribution program. This happened to correspond well with the keynote presentation from Framingham State University, where they had a similar (and less chaotic) iPad roll out. In both of our cases, the audience was really able to leave the conference with a better understanding of what it means to push for mobile technology at a college or university. Mobile learning has been an interest of mine since graduate school, and I have been fortunate to have been able to work with some fantastic faculty in developing some type of system at our campus. So much more has yet to be done.