Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy grateful thankful learning

Thanksgiving Eve: So, I've been at my new school and my new job for a month, and now, I have to heartily agree with students who tell me that "learning is HARD!" It's also - when you're engaged in the doing - exhilirating, exhausting, exciting, satisfying, and consuming. I've learned so much the last month and I don't even know how we'd go about assessing the learning. I've learned systems and culture and processes and people at UWT. I'm learning where we have challenges and where I might contribute.

I've learned about the landscape and history of Tacoma. I'm learning how to be a stranger in a strange land of the winter rain forest after living my entire adult life in the desert. I'm learning to drive my stick shift Mini on very steep hills. I'm learning by doing. And doing most of it alone. I've learned that I'm stronger, more organized, and have more resilience than I could have imagined. 

So, where's this all going on the GridKnowledge blog? If this is the place I capture new ideas for higher education, what have I learned that I can share? 
  • Be fearless. The dividends are huge.
  • Be open. People don't notice wrinkles as a sign of age. Instead, they notice your willingness to learn, adapt, listen and grow as a sign of youth.
  • Be digital. Store your knowledge in the brains of friends and colleagues that share. Google wisely. Follow the right people on Twitter. Use an RSS feed and skim the blogs of people you admire. Share and share alike. 
Products of the above?

  • There's a great new faculty resource coming out of the Teaching and Learning Center at UWT. A small group on campus, dedicated to assessment, was granted a bit of money from the UWT Founder's Fund to capture best practices in classroom assessment. Check out the Assessment Toolkit Site they set up and pick one, just one, excellent new practice to try in your classroom or online. 
  • The University of Washington is thoughtfully and methodically evaluating the new platform that they've chosen as the next generation learning management system: Canvas, by Instructure. I now have a site  in development, and am finding much that is lovely and very thoughtful in the architecture of this LMS. UW has gone to much effort to construct a help site for the rollout, which is currently being done in a limited pilot to best get rich feedback and support systems in place before production. It seems faculty at UW have waited a long time for a centrally-supported LMS and perhaps, with the choice of a very innovative system, it will have been worth the wait. 
  • BEST for last: I learned that Google released their Scholar Citations this month! W00t! Yay! Hurray! I love love love those guys. Here's my profile. It took me about four minutes to set up. Seriously, this will change much of the way academics publish their citations, not to mention finding like-minded colleagues and new research ideas. Thank you, Google!
    Want to get started? Here's the entry page.
    At UWT and want some help? Kelly Fitzgerald and I will be doing a workshop Dec 7-8 at lunch to share hints, explore use, talk about incorporating into UWT faculty profiles. Stop in.
I have to quit now. There's so much more to learn and I'm off to do just that. Happy, grateful, joyful Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A myth and a hoax

Here's a spot-on,  "babies need milk" Chronicle article posted recently on The Myth of the Tech-Savvy Student.

Conclusion I draw from the piece: we've said it often and long enough that it should be a given in higher education:
  • we have an obligation to ensure that our students graduate with a digital literacy
  • that literacy should not be assumed or confused with an ease from technologies built on games, smartphones, iPods, or electronic texting and shopping
  • thoughtful technology should be infused throughout the curriculum
  • thoughtful leadership should be insisting on digital literacy with the same commitment we put into writing and critical thinking. (Don't get me started on our neglect of quantitative literacy; that's a whole new blog post.)
  • it should happen yesterday!
But, as the article points out, the majority of HE faculty (and certainly the ones with tenure and the most power in defining curriculum), are aging baby boomers who keep a distance from the fast-paced changing world of technology. They tell students that laptops aren't allowed in class. They suggest that Google is not to be used to double-check or refute the spoon-fed, expert knowledge they are imparting to the students via their lecture. They deny the value of crowd-sourced knowledge. They use the LMS in uninteresting and classroom-replicating ways. They disagree with everything the digital generation believes to be true about collective and participatory knowledge and learning.

They miss a great opportunity to teach, to define a scholarly approach to digital skill-building, to give our learners the tools and skills they'll need for the world we will all be facing.

Our students may be gadget-savvy, but most of them are not yet digitally literate. Neither are the faculty. If one wanted to start somewhere to begin thinking about what digital literacy might look like, one would try the mother of crowd-sourced knowledge, Wikipedia and notice how sad their section on digital literacy in education appears. WE could change that, if we tried.