Friday, July 01, 2011

What Me CIO?

Today is the beginning of my new job: Interim Chief Information Officer. I should say my additional job. I will still be Director of Learning Technologies. The leanest administration in higher education here in Wisconsin, ya know.
That Interim puts kind of an odd spin on it. There's no press release for an interim appointment and by definition, it's temporary. It's not uncommon around here for the interim appointment to turn permanent, but that's not written down anywhere. Anyway, CIO is a "limited" appointment, serving at the pleasure of the the Provost, in this case, so nobody ever has a lock on an administrative job.
I kind of prefer "Acting" as a preface to the title. I once heard Dustin Hoffman relate an anecdote about working with Lawrence Olivier in Marathon Man. Hoffman went deep into the method approach, dieting and running long distances to prepare for the role. Sir Larry's response was "Wouldn't it be easier just to act?" That kind of appeals to me as an approach to the job.
Provisional Chief Information Officer has a nice historical sound, but that's even more temporary and undefined than Interim.
I haven't decided how I'd like to be addressed by my staff. I'm leaning toward "Il Cio," but "El Jefe InformaciƓn" has a grand ring to it too.
This should be interesting.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

High stakes reading quizzes

I had an idea that was actually the result of considering another problem for which the answer was making the class more student centered. One issue faculty always mention as an impediment to both effective class discussions and problems learning the material in general is that students don't do the outside-of-class reading, so you have to lecture in more detail than you might if they were familiar with the material. So is there a way to get them to read? This is my crazy idea. Have daily on-line reading quizzes (not a new idea), and (the crazy part) make them a significant part of the grade in the course, say maybe a third.

Everybody seems to agree that students are really motivated by grades, and if reading the material was high stakes enough, they would have an incentive to do it.

I'm not saying this wouldn't be a bit of work. In order to prevent students from just exchanging text files as to what the answers were, you'd have to use the Random Section feature of the D2L quiz tool (I'm sure other LMS's have this feature) to deliver ten questions out of a bank of about thirty to each student. From what I've seen of publishers' test banks, this isn't really unreasonable if the reading was a chapter, but if the reading wasn't in a publisher test bank, somebody would have to write it. Since a lot of the classes where this is a problem (cough, general ed, cough) are probably taught by several instructors, you could probably divide up the load and come up with a significant bank of questions without any one person having to do all the work (also sounds like great duty for a grad assistant).

One objection that I could think of is students could get together and work out the answers together, but that might not be such a bad thing. If a few laggards in a group depended on the smart kids to just find the answers, that would probably be pretty obvious to the group and the laggards would be, let's say, subjected to group pressure.

Maybe this has been tried. I'd be curious to hear about it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Instructor presence more than you thought

Last week I attended a planning session on our General Education program. At one point a discussion centered on the fact that many of our general education courses are offered in 200 seat lecture halls.

Several methods were offered to improve student engagement, but the one that surprised me was team-teaching. That not only included the obvious gen-ed value of finding cross disciplinary connections to content, but emphasized the value of having more than one faculty member present.

What surprised me was the value that having a faculty member out in the audience with the students gave the students was the feeling of connection and interaction with the instructors they didn't get with a single sage on the stage.

In on-line education we constantly harp on the need for "instructor presence" so the student doesn't feel like they're taking the course from a disembodied program. It's interesting to see that this is a issue in face to face courses too.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A digital amuse bouche

I'd like to announce a new series of Learning Technology workshops intended to showcase small but useful applications that are available for free. "A Digital Amuse-Bouche" will consist of one-hour hands-on IDEA Lab workshops offered 3:30 to 4:30 on Thursday afternoons five times during the semester. (The day was chosen using clickers to poll the audience at Passport to Technology last month)

February 10th. Poll Everywhere ( ). A web based system to get instant responses to questions posed to your class. Responses can be made with any device that can access the web–a computer, smart phone, iPad, iPod Touch or any of the new Windows mobile and Android products currently flooding the market–as well as through cell phone text messaging. It's totally free for up to 32 respondents. Pro options allow up to 1000 respondents. The instructor side is web-based, so it doesn't matter if you're a Windows, Mac, or Linux user.

March 3rd. Pixlr ( ) Modest on-line photo-editors have been available for years, but Pixlr has ramped up the capabilities to near-Photoshop levels. Totally web-based, it requires no installation and works with any operating system. The function that really caught my attention is the clone tool with a soft brush–in case there's a stray hair or zit you needed to remove from a family portrait.

March 31. Jing ( ) A free application that does either still or video computer screen capture with audio narration. Very simple to use. It has a limitation of 5 minutes so you can't use it to record an entire lecture, but you'd be surprised how you can explain how to use a particular function in Excel, analyze a painting or navigate a government database in under 5 minutes. (see Chunking - ). Not only is it easy to use, it's easy to make available on the web. You can either let Jing host it for free with a single click or save it locally and put it on one our streaming servers if you've got the geek cred for that. Available on both Windows and Macintosh.

April 14. Folio 21 ( ) Kind of a big byte for this series, but totally free to any UW Oshkosh student, department or class (well, funded by Student Technology fee anyway). Folio 21 is an ePortfolio system in which you can upload a collection of documents, and then assemble web-based portfolios for specific purposes with restrictions to specified individuals or audiences. These portfolios persist after a student graduates so it can meet the student's career objectives, class objectives and departmental assessment objectives. Jaime Page-Stadler, Director of Career Planning and Placement, will lead this event.

April 28. Viewers Choice! If there's a handy little application out there on the web that you think your colleagues might find useful, let us know about it–or maybe they'll invent something new this spring!