Guided tour of my teaching ’98-’01: Teaching portfolio, critical thinking journey, etc.


In the statement for the tenure review in 2001, I discussed my teaching under the headings:

  • A. Wide Scope of My Teaching and its Active, Ongoing Development
  • B. The Philosophy of Teaching Critical Thinking I Brought to UMB
  • C. Teaching Critical Thinking about Science in its Social Context
  • D. Leading Students from Critical Thinking to Taking Initiative
  • E. Learning from Difficult Courses in a Thoughtful, Respectful, and Professional Manner
  • F. Learning from Educators beyond CCT
  • G. Promoting Collegial Interaction Around Innovation in Teaching

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Guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies are of significant pedagogical benefit

With the objective in mind of making educationally justified and sustainable choices of when and how to integrate technologies (see previous post), these guidelines emphasize the following general ways — from most important to least — that college faculty, teachers and/or students can use computers and other technologies as tools in education.
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Teachers should not simply assume that computers and other new technologies are good for education

Teachers should not simply assume that computers and other new technologies are good for education. Our professional development should not try to maximize the technological tools you master in the time available (see previous post).

Instead, in learning about computers and technology in education, educators need to:

    a. Make educationally justified and sustainable choices of when and how to integrate technologies, and 

    b. Plan to learn through ongoing Professional Development how to use the technologies you decide to adopt or adapt.

In this spirit, our efforts should be addressed at becoming acquainted with using specific computer-based tools, understanding the ideas behind them, evaluating their effectiveness, and developing guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies can be of significant educational benefit. The guidelines to be presented in this series of posts differ, therefore, from technology standards at the time the guidelines were written (2001), which mostly accepted that computers and other new technologies are good for education and focussed attention on teachers’ acquisition of technological proficiency. (Current standards resonate much more closely with these guidelines.)

It is important to acknowledge the context in which educators are having to develop their capacity to use technology effectively in education. Although the information potentially available to anyone with internet access is rapidly expanding, knowledge can be lost in information (as the poet T. S. Eliot observed).

We need to provide tools for ourselves and for students that genuinely enhance learning. Among other things this means — as always in education — addressing the diversity of students’ intelligences, backgrounds, and interests. In this multi-faceted endeavor, teachers trying to keep up with best practices will find many unevaluated claims and unrealistic expectations, controversy, uncertainty, and rapid change.

In the area of educational technology, therefore — even more so than in others areas of education — teachers need to:

    c. Develop Learning Communities in which we help each other to learn about learning and think about change 

    d. Understand and Respond to the Push for Teachers to Use Educational Technology

    e. Examine the Wider Social Changes Surrounding Computer Use Technology

In summary, professional development in the area of technology in education should enable educators to better fulfill the needs of your school, community, or organization; address the information explosion; adapt to social changes; and collaborate with others to these ends. (Further notes on objectives b-e follow in the next post, followed then by the guidelines.)

COMPUTERS in education vs. computers in EDUCATION

Although I use a variety of technologies in my teaching, I had not articulated my philosophy until I had to teach teachers about computers and education in 2001.  I did not find a text that I resonated with and during the first semester began to develop my own guidelines, which are included in the posts to follow.  I cannot claim much success getting students to address my guidelines or to articulate their own pedagogical rationale for using computers.  For the start of the second semester, I prepared a typically didactic powerpoint presentation (summarized below) to try to set the terms for the course.  The collapse of the internet stockmarket bubble helped to create more space for critical thinking about the use of technology, but still I was not very successful in keeping students’ sights on the education side of computers in education.  (My college hired a technology booster so I was relieved of that teaching assignment after that.)  A similar technology-trumps-education situation seems to be emerging with the more recent discourse about changing our teaching to reach digital natives, the subject of a future (skeptical) post.

Two emphases in using computers in teaching

COMPUTERS in education computers in EDUCATION
First… get technical skills explore pedagogical need and possibilities
Then… build lessons and other practices using computers develop technical comptency when needed (using especially peer assistance)
Emphasis taught by… people who are keen on technology — often not classroom teachers people who love to teach students
Emphasis driven by… hi-tech industry, administrators, availability of funds, bandwagon, fear of being left behind small counter-current to the mainstream
Success is claimed when… technology is used and flash is added teaching/learning something that couldn’t have happened without the technology
Response to the other emphasis Students find it more fun to use technology. 

Technology use adds flash to lessons.

There’s immediate gratification for teacher in mastering a tool.

Once taken up, we can build on this basis and get better in education

“Yes, you can do it with technology, but why?” 

Usage of new tool declines after the first flush of enthusiasm/first flash.

Time and support for further Professional Development is rare.

The major challenges Use skills in actual classroom siuations with equipment available. Establish plans and connections and PD practices for ongoing learning
Support those with the other emphasis Respond to pressures from those with the other emphasis
+…? +…?
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