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Innovative Teaching or Innovative Learning

innovateI am preparing a keynote presentation innovation for a faculty at a community college. The campus recently opened a small innovation center with the hope of getting students and faculty to consider new ways of teaching and learning.

In doing some research on this area, I immediately was struck with the split I saw between topics about innovative teaching and innovative learning, as if they were different things. That made me pause. Are they different, the same or inextricably linked?

My talk - "Creating a Culture of Innovation" - will look at how society drives innovation in higher education through the challenges it presents to educators. Increasing demands to lower costs, improving completion rates, competition from alternative credentialing, and the possibility in my home state of New Jersey and other states for free two years of college will all dramatically force shifts in classroom demographics and approaches to teaching and learning.

Innovation requires innovators. In higher education, they can be faculty or administrators who promote pedagogical approaches, such as adaptive and active learning. The innovation of adaptive learning is not so much that adjustments are made to the learning process based on feedback from the learners. Good teachers have been during that forever. The innovation comes from the ways that technologies have been aiding that monitoring of feedback and automating some of the adaptive paths.

Innovation can emerge from philosophical shifts, such as moving to the use of Open Educational Resources.

Innovation can also come from the learning spaces and new technologies made available to teachers and students.

You can find many different approaches to innovation in education, and some of them have come from outside education. One that is out there is agile teaching. Agility is a topic that has been a concern and approach in the business tech world.   

I continue to see examples about the changing world of work that concerns innovation and have many educators considering how they might prepare students better for what they will encounter after graduation. This does not mean job training or vocational skills. It more often is concerned with the learning process, methods of evaluating learning and seeing student applying their learning to new situations. 

For those things, you might be using blended/hybrid courses whose structure is such that theory is always put into practice. Courses using makerspaces and other active learning environments address some of these concerns more than traditional lecture courses.

But I have been hearing about the departure from lecture-style, sage-on-the-stage courses for two decades, and yet I know many courses still follow that model.

In earlier posts here, I have written about innovation or innovators in education or the ideas about the disruptors that make an innovative university, I have said that companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ lives change. For example, they create newer and more powerful phones that have features customers have not asked for. Apple believes it knows what you want before you know you want it. 

But I don't think that model works in education. Our students are often ahead of us with not only technology, but sometimes with innovative ways of learning. Are they ahead of many of their teachers in using their smartphones as computers and portals to information, and apps as tools? Yes.

Making Space for DIY Innovation on Campus

This week I will be at the NJEDge.Net Annual Conference whose theme this year is Rethink Refresh Reboot.- three things you should get from any good conference. NJEDge.Net is a non-profit technology consortium of academic and research institutions in New Jersey. It supports its members in their institutional teaching and learning; scholarship; research and development; outreach programs; public service, and economic development, and provides our broadband statewide network.

I'll be doing a 2-hour workshop on "Making Space for DIY Innovation on Campus" with Danielle Mirliss from Seton Hall University and Emily Witkowski, from the Maplewood Public Library.

We deliberately avoided saying "makerspaces" in the session title for two reasons. One, people who have heard of the term immediately envision a very techy room with a 3D printer and scanner and lots of computer parts, and although that does sound like a makerspace, that's not all the spaces we are talking about. These spaces can have hand tools, wood and fabrics, sewing machines, laser cutters and many other devices and tools. And they might be called innovation spaces, fabrication labs, rapid prototyping centers or hackerspaces.

These places over the past decade have increasingly increased as community spaces offering public, shared access to high-end equipment and guidance to using them.

You can work with technologies like desktop fabrication, physical computing, and augmented reality in these do-it-yourself workspaces. Naturally, the first subject areas to build and use makerspaces in schools were the STEM areas, but we are also interested in the way they are being used in for applications and research in the humanities and arts.

Our workshop will offer information on creating, branding and maintaining spaces on campus, in libraries or in the community. We will also show examples of DIY projects and discuss their applications to the classroom, and participants will try a hands-on activity.


Next Generation Learning Challenges Winners Twitter Chat

Next Generation Learning Challenges is a collaborative, multi-year initiative created to address the barriers to educational innovation and tap the potential of technology to dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the United States. On Tuesday, June 14, they will announce the winners of the second wave of NGLC grants. This wave of funding focuses on expanding innovative programs and applications that help teens succeed in math and reading and build the core competencies that are critical to college and career readiness. The grant recipients represent a range of approaches that push the boundaries of education by leveraging technology in new ways.

NGLC is also focused on sparking dialogue and building community to catalyze new ideas, foster solutions and form unique collaborations. In support of this mission, NGLC is collaborating with #edchat to host two real-time Twitter chats Tuesday on innovation and technology in education.

Formed in 2009, #edchat has organically grown into a vibrant online community of teachers, administrators and education professionals. During weekly discussions, they share their perspectives and provide resources on a variety of important and timely education topics. Join NGLC, the grant winners and partners for the chats at 12 pm ET/9 am PT and 7 pm ET/4 pm PT on Tuesday at http://twitter.com/#!/search/edchat


Top Challenges in Teaching and Learning With Technology

I am spreading the word here about what some members of the EDUCAUSE Teaching and Learning community are doing online that you might find of interest.

They started asking last summer about what the community felt were the big challenges facing teaching and learning with technology. That led to a community-generated list of the Top Challenges in Teaching and Learning, 2009.

The EDUCAUSE community has identified those top five as:
1. Creating learning environments that promote active learning, critical thinking, collaborative learning, and knowledge creation.
2. Developing 21st century literacies (information, digital, and visual) among students and faculty.
3. Reaching and engaging today's learner.
4. Encouraging faculty adoption and innovation in teaching and learning with IT.
5. Advancing innovation in teaching and learning with technology in an era of budget cuts.

Next, they took that list and started to build a network of solutions, and hope to showcase some innovations and inspire new ideas in the community.

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative invites you to an "idea exchange" during a series of special, one-hour Solutions in Action webcasts. Each webcast addresses a specific challenge as community members briefly share their campus projects in a lightning round of presentations. No registration is required and each session will be hosted online in Adobe Connect, giving participants an opportunity to interact with speakers and each other.

The Solutions in Action Webcast Schedule: (all times are Eastern - past programs are archived and available - the links will take you to the archive or login page depending on the date)
• Monday, April 20, 1 p.m. ET  Reaching and Engaging Today's Learners
• Monday, May 18, 1 p.m. ET  Encouraging Faculty Adoption and Innovation in Teaching and Learning with IT
• Monday, June 22, 1 p.m. ET  Developing 21st-Century Literacies among Students and Faculty
• Monday, July 27, 1 p.m. ET  Advancing Innovation in Teaching and Learning (with IT) in an Era of Budget Cuts
• Monday, September 21, 1 p.m. ET  Creating Learning Environments that Promote Active Learning, Critical Thinking, Collaborative Learning, and Knowledge Creation

To access a webcast live, go to http://educause.acrobat.com/elisem. To join, select "Enter as a Guest", type in your name, and click on "Enter Room".

Connect to the community on their site at http://tlchallenges09.ning.com

There are also wikis for each of the challenges.

If you would like to showcase your own campus efforts and connect with colleagues or if you have an idea to share for any of the Challenges, please email ELI Program Administrator Carie Page at: cpage [at] educause.edu