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Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

Bucks Schoolteacher Suspended Over Blog About Students « CBS Philly

Bucks Schoolteacher Suspended Over Blog About Students « CBS Philly.

As someone who blogs about different things related to my academic career, including teaching, this does give me pause.

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Considering technology in pedagogy

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the things that has taken getting used to for me as I teach my course this semester is the increased use of technology as teaching tools. Whether it is an ELMO document camera (sometimes I think the little red guy might be more useful), Power Point, Blackboard, or clickers (I am still trying to figure these out), technology is playing an increasing role in today’s college classroom. This is a significant departure from what I knew as an undergraduate student at Illinois College. To my recollection, only four of my classes ever used some type of technology beyond a VHS or DVD player. One was chemistry, where we used some Power Point, while in my macroeconomics class we used the new smart classroom technology (this was new stuff in ’03) to draw graphs. The most logical class for using technology was my computer science class on visual basic, where we simply used the projector to view the program we were discussing, while my statistics class used the projector so we could follow the instructor on Excel, while we worked on it in the computer lab the class was held in. All my classes in the arts and humanities were traditional with no use of technology, just the professor lecturing and the board for key terms.

I know that my experience is similar to most faculty in our department, as many of us are at varying stages of accepting and incorporating such tools into our teaching. While many departments in the academy are embracing new technology, history is behind the curve. I believe a lot of this has to do with most of us learning in the traditional lecture style with little to no reliance on such tools. The result is that we are not used to using such technology and are hesitant to try it because of unfamiliarity. I have heard great arguments for using technology, as well as frustrations over it, but I will at least give technology a try. Though it involves a bit more work on my part, I do hope that using technological tools helps my students get a better experience from my course and enhances the accessibility of my lectures. In closing, I would love to hear about your experiences with technology and teaching, the good and bad, to gain a better understanding of how such tools are used in today’s classroom, so please comment and share.

Reflections on the start of the semester and teaching

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, it is good to be back in the game again. I know the content has been lacking for a long time, but with summer, there’s not much to write about. I am in the classroom this fall, teaching a section of History 103, the United States to 1877, as well as taking a readings course on the Anglo-Atlantic World, and a research seminar. In addition to that, I am still blogging and reviewing books, and have begun a foray into Civil War reenacting. My colleague Stuart Lawrence and I began a Civil War Round Table in April and are trying to get it off the ground. Needless to say, I am busy.

Having done a couple lectures so far, I am slowly starting to get into a nice groove. The one thing I still have trouble with is using Power Point for my lectures, as none of my professors at Illinois College used it. Despite that, the students are a great group and seem attentive. I am starting to get them to come out of their shells and talk in class a little more. It seems that they are getting what I am presenting in lecture. I am trying to use a little humor to get them to open up with varying success.

I will say that the biggest challenge is preparing for each class, as I always have in the back in my mind the issue of whether or not I am presenting the material right and to an appropriate level. I have gotten some positive feedback from a couple students on the textbook I chose. The class is also reading Joseph Plumb Martin’s memoir as well, which I hope they enjoy and will gain something from reading it.

Overall, I am finding teaching rewarding and look forward to working with and getting to know the students. I hope to get posting here more in the coming weeks, as I am back in the groove and will possibly have some fellow doctoral students from the department involved as well to broaden the view. Until next time, keep researching and working.

Thinking about online teaching

November 13, 2009 2 comments

First, sorry to everyone for not posting lately, but I had a crazy last couple of days, as my laptop crapped out on me with a malicious software attack and had to be restored. On Tuesday, we discussed online teaching with Josh Reidy from Online and Distance Education. It was an interesting discussion, as online teaching is quickly becoming the method of choice for instruction in higher education among students. While more students are taking online courses, many faculty in traditional departments are reluctant. I can not really blame them, as it does represent a possible threat to job security. However, computers have increasingly become a larger force in our everyday lives and education must adapt to this.

I do think that, at least for History, online education is a viable option for delivery of some course content. Upper-division courses would be good for online instruction, as if survey courses and mid-range classes are offered via traditional classroom, where students meet face-to-face with faculty, the more independent nature of upper-division classes could be handled via students doing the readings on their own and contributing to online discussions both textual based, as well as based on audio or video, if technology allows. For graduate programs, many classes could be done online, exclusive of specific methods courses and thesis preparations, which would require some face time with faculty. I will have more to think about this, as I continue with the paper for the class on online and distance education. It will be interesting to see how online education will shape the historical profession and my future career.

By the way, please check out the interesting post by Joan Hawthorne at Teaching Thursday. If you are not checking out this blog, you really should.

An exciting last few days

The last several days since my last post have been quite interesting and enjoyable. On Friday, October 16, I lectured for Dr. Porter, who was attending the Northern Great Plains History Conference. The experience was interesting, but I survived, as I was able to deal with notes that were fairly light and hard to read. In class we discussed the creation of the Great Northern railroad and then began discussion on the various groups that immigrated to North Dakota.

Later that afternoon, I live-blogged the colloquium on Teaching and Learning in the Memorial Union for the blog Teaching Thursday. It was a unique experience and one I hope to do again, but it does have its frustrations, as in attempting to record details of sessions the best for the blog while a presenter is speaking. You can read my posts on the speech during lunch, afternoon session one, and session two at the blog. Also, be sure to check out there interesting post regarding cheating this week.

On Tuesday, Dr. Mochoruk visited HIST 551 and we learned about the procedures and committees behind tenure, retention, and promotion among faculty. It was an interesting lecture that provided a great amount of helpful information as far as planning a career in academia.

Wednesday, we handed back exams in North Dakota History and then discussed the first part of the sources of North Dakota population. I finished the lecture today and it went much better. My copies of the notes were darker and easier to read, plus Dr. Porter and I took the time to go over the notes so that I knew what she was writing. Things went smoothly, though the class is shy about engagement with questions and one young lady decided texting was better, but I simply ignored her and moved on.

On a whole the week has been good, but I have to finish an assignment for class, which is always somewhat depressing, but it is what I do. My mother is visiting town this weekend, as my grandmother’s birthday is Sunday and my cousin just had her first child on Tuesday, and despite various complications with the birth and other family members, the week is good. Several of us are going to deflate and laugh by going to see Larry the Cable Guy tonight, which will be therapuetic given the last couple of days. Until next time, keep researching and teaching.

The calm before the exam

Today, we held a short review session for students to help them as they prepare for the midterm exam in North Dakota History. The few students who asked questions were focused on knowing what the essay was on and what the map portion would be like. Dr. Porter took a quick poll of the class and decided to focus the essay on The Fur Trade in North Dakota by Virginia Heidenreich, editor.

Aside from helping a few students to get ready for the exam, I spent much of the day that I was on campus thinking more about Donald Finkel’s Teaching With Your Mouth Shut and Rebecca Leber-Gottberg’s dissertation on problem-based learning in History survey courses. These two works are interesting, as they advocate methods that while potentially useful, seem too idealistic and leave me with a nagging question of how to reach students who are in college simply to get the degree and get the job, but have no real desire to do deep learning. I will discuss this a bit more tomorrow, as I will be both observing at Mayville State University and sitting in class, where we will discuss this further.

The state of higher education and teaching

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday, we met for another session of HIST 551 (Seminar on the Teaching of History) and we explored several topics. First, we explored why institutions, UND included, offer remedial courses and provide a multitude of offices, centers, and courses dealing with instructional methods and development. I argued that these instructional entities were created to allow teachers to keep abreast of the latest methods and applications available and being used to improve instruction and learning. I noted that as historians need to be aware of the latest scholarship in a given field, which is collectively known as a historiography for those outside the discipline of History, college teachers need to be aware of the latest trends in learning and what ideas and materials they can use to improve instruction.

We then discussed the idea of how many Ph.D. programs required a course such as this, as well as how many of our faculty had to take a similar course. We also talked a little about the tenure process and how teaching seems to be relegated to a secondary position behind research today, and that tenure decisions should also be made based on teaching as opposed to how much research a person does. One key point was that while you could measure a person’s research (counting page numbers), measuring teaching was much more difficult. We left with a couple questions to ponder:  Are instructors challenging students? Helping them? Are they making the material mean something to the students? It will be interesting to see how our answers to these questions may change.

While we are presented with a situation of students knowing less and less, which is somewhat true, I feel that the situation is not as dire as made to be. Today’s students simply grasp knowledge via different forms and it is up to us to integrate those new ways of communication and transmission of knowledge into the classroom, while showing them the benefits of older methods. The result may be one where an instructor develops a blog for a class that compliments a lecture and uses it to foster lively discussions outside of class. I know at least one professor who uses Twitter and blogs, so it is something to consider. The challenges teachers face in college are greater than forty or fifty years ago, but the key is to adapt and overcome. Let your passion come out and do not be afraid to take risks (kudos to Bill Caraher for giving that advice early in my graduate career), as the rewards will likely be greater than the risk taken to reap them.