Conversations on Digital Pedagogy
by Derek Bruff, CFT Director
Two weeks ago I gave a keynote titled “More Than Just Shiny Objects” at the Research on Teaching and Learning Summit at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. I argued that our use of educational technology should be guided by our knowledge of how learning works. Otherwise, we run the risk that the technology becomes a distraction from the real work of teaching, the facilitation of meaningful student learning.
In my talk, I shared a few key learning principles that can be leveraged by educational technology, such as the need to help students refine their mental models of the world, the important role of practice and feedback in learning, and the potential of social motivations to enhance learning. I illustrated each principle with examples from practice, my own practice as a mathematics instructor but more frequently the teaching practice of colleagues at Vanderbilt and elsewhere. (Slides from the talk are available here.)
I have found it useful, in talks like this one, to balance principles and practice. An understanding of how learning works allows instructors to make intentional and effective choices in their own teaching contexts, and so it’s important that talks and workshops on teaching have a strong conceptual layer. But instructors attending these kinds of events don’t want to stay in the realm of abstraction. Instructors want to know what these principles look like in practice, so that they can imagine how to implement the principles in their own classrooms.
This interest in seeing what effective educational technology use looks like in practice is fueling a new series of conversations on teaching sponsored by the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching (CFT) and the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning (VIDL). We’re calling the series Conversations on Digital Pedagogy, and each session features a panel of Vanderbilt instructors describing and reflecting on the ways they use educational technologies to enhance student learning.
When instructors hear about some new technology, it’s not always clear how that technology might be used to support student learning. It’s often helpful to hear how others have used the technology. And sometimes a little experimentation is in order! We hope that this series will provide Vanderbilt faculty members and graduate students an opportunity to learn from each other as they explore creative and effective uses of educational technology in their own teaching.
The first Conversation on Digital Pedagogy will focus on the use of Twitter in teaching. The conversation is scheduled for Thursday, March 19th, from 12:15 to 1:30pm in Kissam 216 and features panelists Aimi Hamraie, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health, & Society (@aimihamraie); Don Rodriques, PhD student in English (@donrodrigues); and Vivian Finch, PhD student in German (@vivianfinch). Don and Vivian are both former HASTAC Scholars, and Vivian is currently a Graduate Teaching Fellow here at the CFT.
The second Conversation on Digital Pedagogy will focus on the use of technologies to support “flipped” classrooms. The conversation is scheduled for Tuesday, April 7th, from 12:15 to 1:30pm in Kissam 216 and features panelists Katherine Friedman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Jesse Blocher, Assistant Professor of Finance; and Emilianne McCranie, PhD student in chemistry. Kathy and Emilianne are both participants in the BOLD Fellows program here at the CFT, and Jesse is one of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows this year.
Future conversations will explore the use of course blogs, digital storytelling, collaboration tools, and more. If you have suggestions for topics or would like to volunteer to share your experiences with digital pedagogy, please contact Ole Molvig, VIDL Assistant Director for Education and Research, firstname.lastname@example.org. Ole and I are coordinating the series, along with Zoe LeBlanc, VIDL Graduate Fellow and former CFT HASTAC Scholar.
I hope you can join us for these upcoming discussions! And look for the conversation on Twitter by searching #VUdigiped.
Image: “Mouse,” Alesha, Flickr (CC-BY-NC)