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'How-To' Isn't Everything

If you’re not also enabling the ‘why’ or ‘what’ behind the tech tools you give your faculty, you’re not enabling effective use of those tools.

IT Training

NEW HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE tools arrive on our campuses carrying much hope for significant impact on teaching and learning, productivity, or other aspects of campus function. For faculty, these tools are made available with (we hope!) some level of instruction which tends to be technical or “how-to.” Much less likely is any direction about the “why” behind the use of the tool, or enlightenment about “what” might be done with the tools in order to enhance learning. In other words, the IT instruction d'esn’t involve striving for effective use of the tools—particularly when it comes to technology that supports teaching and learning. Yet, faculty development opportunities and support for faculty to enhance teaching and learning with technology are key pieces that need to be provided wherever possible. So, let’s take a look at model-worthy faculty development programs and approaches at various campuses.

Watch These Programs/Approaches

At the University of Missouri-Columbia, an annual Series on Academic Transformation, coordinated by Educational Technologies at Missouri (ET@MO), assists up to 10 faculty member teams from departments interested in implementing transformative change in one or more key courses. This multifaceted approach includes project management support, structured presentations and discussions for all teams involved, one-on-one or team skill development and support, and incentive monies to fund the needed resources to accomplish team goals.

Throughout the year, an assigned liaison meets regularly with team leaders, helping to refine team goals, identify skills or resources needed to accomplish goals, and smooth the pathway to other ET@MO staff or campus departments that might also help support the transformation process. Inspired by the National Center for Academic Transformation’s Program in Course Redesign, ET@MO requests proposals where transformative change involves sustainable educational technologies coupled with pedagogical practices to meet one or more goals: for instance, meeting growing enrollment pressure by creatively tapping resources with technology; establishing and improving assessment with technology; establishing interdisciplinary teaching collaborations through technology; meeting the needs of unique student populations with technology; advancing the scholarship of using technology to improve teaching and learning; designing and implementing pervasive (anytime/anywhere) technologies and pedagogies; and internationalizing the curriculum through the use of technology. (Click here for more information.)

At Florida State University, personal response systems (aka PRS or “clickers”) are used in the classroom to engage students in learning and provide instructors with immediate feedback. (Students answer a few questions per class period from questions embedded in the class PowerPoint presentations.) Faculty development for use of the systems is provided via a series of instructional videos created by J'e Calhoun, lecturer in the Department of Economics and assistant director of the Stavros Center for Economic Education. This approach, used in place of standard face-toface workshops, lets faculty review the materials as many times as needed, at their own pace and convenience. A “how-to” video is even provided for students and can be linked to/from an instructor’s website. (The video approach is used with other faculty development topics as well; click here.)

The University of Central Arkansas is using a Title III grant to help infuse the instructional program with technology, and to enhance the instructional technology skills of general education faculty. While faculty from individual general ed areas select the specific technologies that they want to use, the Title III staff assumes primary responsibility for designing and delivering the professional development program. The program workshops emphasize the theoretical and philosophical bases of the instructional approach and/or the capabilities of the software/hardware; they also identify essential skills needed for competency in integrating the software capabilities into instructional approaches. An initial basic workshop is followed by small group workshops with participants categorized anywhere from novice to expert. These targeted workshops ensure that participants actually do have the capability to integrate the technology. After participants complete the two stages, continuing support is provided based upon individual needs and personal goals. The model has been used successfully with a wide range of technology, such as interactive whiteboards, tablet PCs, and even the highly interactive DyKnow software. (Click here to learn more.)


The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia introduces faculty to classroom technology with an open house at the start of the fall semester. The open house, available all day on a walk-in basis, is held in classrooms that are networked to each seat and feature ceiling projectors, computers, and other devices. New faculty are especially attracted to the sessions which allow them to speak with a tech advocate in a non-threatening environment. Since the sessions are held in the classrooms for the entire day, visitors can stop by as schedules permit. Darden also conducts a seminar once a year demonstrating the opportunities available to its community using the collaborative software Adobe Breeze. Faculty are invited to attend and learn about the features of Breeze Live and Breeze Presentation. A tech advocate hosts the session; faculty and staff who already use the technology share their experiences. (Find out more here.)

The “Net Generation” is the topic of a faculty development program at St. Lawrence University (NY). During the school’s late-summer Back to Basics Technology Workshop series, faculty are involved in a participatory seminar on the Angel Learning Management Suite as the framework for a discussion on Digital Natives and Net Generation learners. Workshop presenters ask faculty to offer advice for academic success for Net Gen students entering their classrooms that fall. After discussions about how and why Angel works well for these students, faculty are cut loose to begin work on their first Angel course component. A course shell for each participant (created in advance of the workshop) lets faculty begin work right away. Many St. Lawrence faculty find this portion of the workshop key to successfully launching a course in Angel the following semester. Other Angel (and non-Angel) tools are topics of additional workshops in the Back to Basics program and other sessions available throughout the year. (For more information, click here.)

At Bloomsburg University (PA), Michael Ruffini, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies and Secondary Education, uses e-courseMaps to create online course outlines. He projects a visual “mind map” in front of a room full of instructors who can immediately see all the course elements and the relationships among those elements. To help them create their own, he guides instructors through the process of creating and gathering all their course materials to make a map using Mindjet’s MindManager and Adobe’s Dreamweaver. Ruffini then shows them how to use the map’s structure to create discrete modules of instruction. He believes that mind mapping a course will save time and also make faculty better instructional designers because it lets them see, at a glance, how all their course content elements relate to each other, as well as pinpoint any information that may be missing. (See Ruffini’s website.)

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