Saturday, November 27, 2010

Untethering College Learning

Reflecting on Our Own Ideas
I'm preparing for two events in the next two weeks right now and I always find this "prep" time valuable for me, as it gives me time to reflect and make deeper connections. 

This coming week, I'm presenting Teaching Without Walls at the DET/CHE Conference in San Diego.  The presentation will be brief at just thirty minutes but will be a lightning fast overview of one of my own teaching experiments at Sierra College in Rocklin, CA.  I took a new approach to teaching my traditional lecture-based Women in Art class in an effort to make the time I spent with my students entirely focused on active learning, rather than passive delivery of information.  What came out of my experiment was a realization of how effective web-based "delivery" tools (like podcasting, YouTube videos, etc.) are for delivering lectures.  And once I was able to shift lecturing online, it opened up the precious face-to-face time I had with students to be spent on fostering higher level learning skills like evaluation, application and synthesis. 

The second most valuable learning experience I took away from this experiment was how much students embraced this new model, as it sculpted more opportunities for purposeful, relevant learning in class that was directly tied to learning objectives, making the purpose of all of our activities very clear. I invite you to listen to the 20-minute student interview if you'd like to hear from a few students about their experiences in our class.

On December 9th, I'll be facilitating the Mobile Learning Think Tank at Pasadena City College, an event coordinated by Rachel Fermi and the Digital Media Center at PCC.  This workshop has been designed to be a collaborative event.  It will be an opportunity for many educators to come together and share their own teaching activities that integrate social media and/or a mobile device in some way.  Those who present will be rewarded with a $50 iTunes Gift Card! We've added an option for virtual attendance through the integration of an Elluminate webinar too, in an effort to create a workshop without walls!  If you'd like to register, here is the link -- the workshop is free!

The Sharing of Ideas Stimulates Innovation
What I'm taking away from my preparations for these two events is the importance of sharing ideas to foster innovations across the board in higher education.  Too often, we still are pressured by the need to be an "expert" before we present and, by no means, do I consider my instructional model I'll be sharing at DET/CHE as the only approach or even a truly refined approach to 21st century learning.  But it is an approach and I do hope it encourages audience members to think about new ways to integrate web-based technologies and mobile learning experiences in ways that truly transform our students' learning.  Sharing doesn't always feel as natural as it should -- and we need to work together to change this.

What is Mobile Learning?
I also see the connections between both workshops more intimately right now than I did a few weeks ago.  The term "Mobile Learning" is widely used through ed-tech circles these days but I haven't seen many thorough discussions about what the term means. I've found that many people assume that mobile learning is learning that is enhanced through the use of a mobile phone/smart phone/iPad/iTouch.  But I don't think that's necessarily true.  I think what we need to focus on is the broader effect that using a mobile device or web-based tool (from a desktop or laptop) has on learning.  And that is, ultimately, untethering learning from occurring during the face-to-face time we spend with our students.  Learning that can occur from anywhere at any time is mobile learning.

"Untethered learning" is a phrase I first heard used by Julie Evans of Project Tomorrow.  Untethered learning experiences are in demand by our K12 students ... and I think college leaders and educators need to be listening and learning from these voices and brainstorming about how to best meet their interests.

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