Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting To Know My Students

Let the semester begin! 

The beginning of the semester is always energizing. After weeks of a vacant campus, there are students walking around, smiling, visiting, running to class. Each semester brings a new set of students, a new class of learners. Even after teaching at RU for over four years, students in my courses continue to come to me with a wide variety of learning styles, needs and interests. How do I know? I ask and assess them. And, it's ongoing...

The first way I get to know my undergraduate and graduate students is by having them take a MI test (Multiple Intelligences). This is a FREE online test anyone can complete to show their specific learning style. Go head, take the test yourself! I have found this to be one of the most accurate MI assessments for my students (and did I mention FREE).

Here is my profile for you to preview what the results look like. I also took the personality test, which is interesting. I share my own profile with my students so they can learn more about my learning styles.

Why? Research shows teachers naturally teach the way THEY learn. As effective educators, we need to teach the way our STUDENTS learn. Therefore, learning as much as we can about them is imperative. My students submit weekly journal entries throughout the semester writing about the content we have just completed in class. These assignments serve as post assessments on the content, but also can be a pre-assessments of what I plan to teach the next class.

Aside from the MI test and the Learning Journal, my students also take an Educational Technology Pre-assessment. I need to know their technology ability,how proficient they are regarding the modules I teach in class. This ranges from Microsoft Office Suite, to iPads, SMARTboards, interactive software, internet resources and so on. The results will support my decisions of how to group my students when I am teaching a program or technology tool in class. Wouldn't want to bore or overwhelm anyone! For example, if you test high on Powerpoint, I am not going to teach you how to create a Powerpoint assignment, I will move you forward to a Prezi presentation or a WebQuest activity. Keeping in mind, I teach pre-service teachers, I'm also modeling these instructional strategies of integrating Differentiated Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Multiple Intelligences (amoung many others). Many of these theories, practices, and strategies are not new to educators but need to be implemented in a systematic way which allows meaningful learning to take place.

My students assess me, yep, that's right! Not only in the course evals, but in their weekly assignments.If I see a student or students struggling on a certain topic or program, I look at HOW I am teaching it and find ways to reach out to their learning style and understanding. They also provide feedback on how they are doing through their Learning Journals and assignments.

All in all it is a constant reflective journey. I am finding out more about my students and I learn more about myself. One of the many reasons I love teaching at Rockhurst University.

Side Note:
If you haven't gotten the chance to know Howard Gardner you can (he IS still alive!): Such an inspiration to teaching:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I am the IT guy!

Stereotypes, we ever really grow out of them? How can our society move past them? Why do people ask for the IT guy? I am the IT guy in our department; the Instructional Technology (and sometimes the Information Technology) guy.

Last semester I was working with a student on his iPad for my course. He was having difficulty connecting to the Internet at home. He said he first called a friend of his, who asked, "Have you asked your professor, I'm sure HE knows how to help you?"

I was out in one of our local schools in November helping a teacher load her SMARTboard software when a student said, "I thought you would be a guy." When I asked why she thought this, she said, "all technology people are guys." 

The first year I taught my ED 6030: Technology in Education course, students repeatedly referenced me as a 'he' or 'him' in emails to others before they saw my first name or my face. Scenarios similar to these happen quite often to me.

In a recent article published in Campus Technology, statistics show women only hold 21.4% of approximately the 2,600 executive positions in higher education IT. The article suggests women to start taking recognition and pursuing careers in technology as opposed to waiting for them. Reflecting on this I have to wonder why women are so hesitant to acknowledge their hard work and seek out ways to move up. Is it the technology piece holding them back or their environment? As far as higher education professors, I feel surrounded by women colleagues who love to chat about instructional technology practices and the newest gadgets seen in the classrooms. However, when I visit schools for my students' service learning projects and to set up partnerships through my courses, I often find myself meeting with the IT guy.

While dedicated educators demand the STEM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to be integrated in all areas of learning in schools, my prediction is that more girls will see the fun in technology and gravitate towards more technology-driven fields. I often read how technology is becoming more attractive to the female population with a variety of colors and advertisement geared towards the  'girly'  interests. Not everything is black and gray anymore. That being said, not all girls like pink or orange macbooks. I'm sure you have seen the little girl, Riley, on You Tube ranting about boyish toys. She explains that some girls like superheroes and some girls like princesses!  With the new release of Lego "Friends", girls will now be able to choose from a variety of lego systems which they could find appealing.

Another study came out this week showing women buy more technology than men. Park Associates surveyed 2,000 consumers to find out the reasons behind the technology they were purchasing. The study showed most women purchase technology because of the ease of using that particular technology tool. The only category men out purchased women on where LCD TVs, I don't think that's a surprise!  However, what some did find surprising was that more women like gaming systems than men.  As Jill Braff, executive VP of digital commerce for HSN, shared, "“It’s also not just about features – it’s about simplicity, the seamless use of technology and how technology fits into your lifestyle.”

Perhaps if we find ways to make technology relevant to girls' lives we can close this gap between men and women in STEM fields. I know I will... IT is possible!

(Note: here is an example of one program out there which encourages STEM for girls: )