Classroom Tech: When Less is More

I recently was a guest on the UP Tech Talk Podcast produced by University of Portland’s Academic Technology Services and hosted by Maria Erb (Instructional Designer) and Sam Williams (Dir of Academic Tech Services). Kudos for the great ATS podcast studio!

We had a lively 18 minute discussion about my UP social studies methods class and technology’s role in instructional design – it opened like this …

What’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done?

Maria: Peter, so glad to have you on the podcast. We just had a great conversation … you managed to rattle off probably half a dozen Web 2.0 tools that you’re using just like you were a fish swimming in water; it just seems so easy and natural for you. I’m just wondering, how do you go about choosing which tools you’re going to use for these great projects that you’re working on? What piques your interest?

Peter: I think it really begins with seeing yourself as a designer of a learning experience. You work with the tools you have and with the setting you have. You’ve got X number of students; you’re meeting once a week; you’ve got three hours with them. You think about the instructional goals that you want to achieve, and then from there, you say, okay, so what kind of tools are out there. For example, there was a situation where I wanted them to collaborate and design some lessons. I wanted them to be able to share their work with one another and be able to comment on it. I also think it’s important that there always be a public product, because I think we find our students producing content for their instructor as opposed to … which is kind of a ritualized thing as opposed to real-world content.

And ended with this exchange …

Sam: Are there any words of wisdom around it’s not about the technology that you could leave us at the end of this podcast?

Peter: I would say the big question is what’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done. Taking something and making it prettier by putting it on a white board when you could have written it up on the chalk board really doesn’t get you anywhere. I think that the transformative part of technology is getting it in the hands of the students so that they can research and create and produce in ways you couldn’t do without it. For me, those are the essential elements that I’m looking at, not simply just something that’s a bright shiny object.

Text transcript (word file) | Show notes and links | Podcast at iTunes: #12

The University of Portland uses the SmartEval system to gather student feedback on courses and faculty. Here’s a few comments from my UP students that are relevant to this podcast:

  • Peter challenged us to think and be designers of curriculum, instead of just lecturers. We learned how to get students working and thinking critically in the classroom.
  • I liked that the focus of the class was on making a product.
  • He also showed us how to move from the lecture mode to engaging students as architects in their own learning process.
  • Very well connected with other educators on Twitter. He has promoted every student in the class using his connections to help us build professional connections and build a professional online presence.

Podcast: How to Use iBooks Author in the Classroom

My second podcast with Mark Hofer and David Carpenter for their series Ed Tech Co-Op was just posted. Go to Show 27: Peter Pappas and iBook Publishing (Dec 23, 2012) via Web | iTunes.

We focused on getting started with using iBooks Author (iBA) in the classroom. Here’s a synopsis of our discussion with some time markers to guide your listening.

We began with some comments on my iBook Why We Fight: WWII and the Art of Public Persuasion (screenshot above from iBook Author). (1:30) Mark noted how the book exemplified three key elements of universal design for learning – multiple representations of content, active learning strategies for students, and relevance for the learner. (5:30)

We discussed how an iBook can be designed to guide students in examining essential questions. (7:17) David noted content-curation advantages of teacher-produced iBooks over other learning management systems. (11:02) Then our discussion turned to iBA workflow specifics. (12:42) We discussed how to guide students in producing their own iBooks (17:30) and how student can find a more authentic audience beyond the classroom by sharing their book with their community and the world via iTunes. (19:32).

iBooks author projects are more than writing. They offer students the chance to create video, audio and visual content used in the iBook. (21:07) They also exemplify the best aspects of project-based learning and put a premium on preplanning and production-oriented decisions (25:40)

For tech specifics on using iBA see my collection of “how-to’s” - Publishing with iBooks Author 

My first podcast with Mark and David: Reflections on Teaching Strategies That Work.

Podcast: Reflections on Teaching Strategies That Work

I had a great time recording a podcast with Mark Hofer and David Carpenter for their series Ed Tech Co-Op. Go to show 26: Peter Pappas (Dec 9, 2012) via Web | iTunes 

If the art teacher taught art, the way I taught history, his students would be sitting there watching him paint.

Mark led off by asking me to reflect back on my some of the driving themes in my career. I confessed that as a novice teacher, I mimicked my experience as a high school student and taught primarily via lecture mixed with an occasional “guess what the teacher is thinking” whole-group discussion.

But I recalled an “aha” moment after repeated visits to the art class in the classroom next door. I realized that if the art teacher taught art, the way I taught history, his students would be sitting there watching him paint. I remember that got me thinking …

Our podcast continued with a lively discussion about what works in the classroom. Below are a few of the prompts they tossed at me. No ed theory or brain research in my responses. Just my candid and unrehearsed thoughts ranging from “why teaching should be the opposite of magic” to “how schools are not teaching good digital hygiene.”

  • Can you talk a bit about how you shift responsibility for the learning to the students. 
  • How did you support a constructivist model is information-laden, high stakes courses like AP / IB?
  • Did you get much push-back from your students and how did you deal with it? How do you deal with parents and administrators?
  • What do you say when teachers tell you “I’ve got so much to cover, I don’t have time for more student-based approach?”
  • Tell us more about your post “Why Johnny Can’t Search?” and how librarians and instructional technologists can partner to improve student information skills.
  • How is the analytic process different in different subjects – say science vs history?

See these posts for more on subjects raised in the podcast:

Stay tuned to Ed Tech Co-Op – a collaborative effort between the College of William & Mary, Alexandria Country Day School, and other educators interested in technology integration in K-12 classrooms.

Image credit flickr/ visual.dichotomy