Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reflections on critical thinking and professional development

  • How do you begin to teach critical thinking?
  • Why should students (and faculty) engage in critical thinking?
  • What does critical thinking cause to happen? or what does it change?
  • Can critical thinking be critically assessed?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Technology and teaching and learning

Teaching methods in most community colleges are more traditional, and do not normally include the integration of technology (Schuetz, 2002). It is important to expand the technological environment currently used for professional development and training of faculty and adjunct faculty. For those faculty who do adopt instructional technology, the past experiences with technology have demonstrated some level of efficiency and thus render them appropriate for teaching (Gilbert, 1995; Gilbert, 1996).

Imagine the possibilities of increasing the use of technology in teaching, and imagine the impact of teaching with technology on student engagement (Grasha and Yanbarger-Hicks, 2000). The pervasiveness of technology in the workplace demands that we provide technology in the classroom. While most faculty support and participate in professional development opportunities, most professional development does not include the integration of technology into teaching (Chism, 2004; Schuetz, 2002). The presence and availability of newer technologies for teaching and learning are integral in demonstrating the viability of programs and the desire to prepare graduates for success (Moquin and Travis, 1999). This technology has the potential to change the learning experience in a positive manner (Green, 1999), and demonstrate the commitment to educational innovations.

Chism, N. (2004). Using a framework to engage faculty in instructional technologies. Educause Quarterly, 27(2), 39-45.

Gilbert, S. (1995). Technology & the changing academy. Change, 27(5), 58-61.

Gilbert, S. (1996). Making the most of a slow revolution. Change, 28(2), 10-23.

Grasha, A., & Yanbarger-Hicks, N. (2000). Integrating teaching styles and learning styles with instructional technology. College Teaching, 48(1), 2-10.

Green, K. (1999). When wishes come true. Change, 31(2), 11-15.

Moquin, B., & Travis, J. (1999). Community colleges on the highway: Major issues for technology planning. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 23(2), 147-159.

Schuetz, P. (2002). Instructional practices of part-time and full-time faculty. In C. L. Outcalt (Vol. Ed.), Community college faculty: Characteristics, practices, and challenges. New directions for community colleges. Number 118. (pp. 39-46). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The benefits of technology to teaching and learning

With the increasing presence of technology in our classrooms, and the comfort of students using technology, it is important for faculty to understand the pedagogical implications of integrating technology into their classrooms (Gilbert, 1995; Watts and Hammons, 2002). It is important to provide a model classroom for faculty to see best practices exemplified, and observe how the various technologies can be integrated in teaching and learning. Faculty development efforts and programs must focus on the integration of technology into teaching (Chism, 2004). Instructional or educational technology should be “integral to teaching practice” (Chism, 2004, p. 43) and not viewed as an add-on to teaching (Bates, 1995; Bates and Poole, 2003; Grasha and Yangarber-Hicks, 2000).

Instructional technology can influence and improve learning (Gilbert, 1996; Kulik, Kulik and Cohen, 1980). These types of technologies can improve teaching and learning by increasing teacher and student efficiency and reaching different learning styles (Flecknoe, 2002). Through increased exposure to and competence with technology, faculty can select those technologies that improve “the quality of teaching and learning [and] student motivation” (Gilbert, 1996, p. 12).

Bates, A. (1995). Technology, open learning and distance education. London: Routledge.

Bates, A., & Poole, G. (2003). Effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chism, N. (2004). Using a framework to engage faculty in instructional technologies. Educause Quarterly, 27(2), 39-45.

Flecknoe, M. (2002). How can ict help us to improve education? Innovations in Education and Teaching International 39(4), 271-279.

Gilbert, S. (1995). Technology & the changing academy. Change, 27(5), 58-61.

Gilbert, S. (1996). Making the most of a slow revolution. Change, 28(2), 10-23.

Grasha, A., & Yanbarger-Hicks, N. (2000). Integrating teaching styles and learning styles with instructional technology. College Teaching, 48(1), 2-10.

Kulik, C., Kulik, J., & Cohen, P. (1980). Instructional technology and college teaching. Teaching of Psychology, 7(4), 199-205.

Watts, G., & Hammons, J. (2002). Professional development: Setting the context. In G. E. Watts (Vol. Ed.), Enhancing community colleges through professional development. New directions for community colleges. Number 120. (pp. 5-10). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Revisiting: Pedagogical Approaches for Promoting Critical Thinking in Information Literacy, Technological Literacy and Information Technology

The terms information literacy, computer literacy, media literacy and technological literacy have some distinct implications for teaching and learning. While some may view these terms in a very limiting fashion, they can be broadly defined to include the abilities to “access, evaluate, and use” information (Doyle, 1992, p. 2). Doyle’s definition of information literacy identifies, in addition to other aspects, individuals “who … [use] information in critical thinking and problem solving” (Doyle, 1992, p. 2). It is the use of, or the application of information in a particular pedagogical approach that should be a goal in promoting information literacy. Thinking of the end result, promoting critical thinking, information literacy is the ability to discern quality, computer literacy is the ability to become efficient and each type of literacy must be developed to develop critical thinking (Kasowitz-Scheer and Pasqualoni, 2002).

Literacy is much more than skills taught, received or developed within an academic setting. It can be said that information literacy can contribute to “a productive, full, and satisfying life” (U. S. Department of Labor, 1991, p. i). Without an acceptable degree of information literacy and technological literacy, individuals who are seeking employment or advancement may be limited in their array of choices.

The pedagogical approaches to enhancing, improving and integrating information literacy both across the curriculum and into discipline specific curriculum include “the realms of critical thinking and ethical usage of information” (Spitzer, Eisenberg and Lowe, 1998, p. 26). Blending traditional curricular approaches of reading, writing and speaking with critical thinking should become the rule, if we are to view information literacy as an inclusive, rather than exclusive perspective (Doyle, 1994). This integration produces students who are competent and prepared to not only enter the workforce, but also succeed as a part of the workforce.

In the case of information literacy, it is more than keyboarding, composing, surfing and viewing. These skills, when developed, “enable the construction of higher orders of meaning, nuance, and inference” (Daley, 2003, p. 36). Through developing information literacy, we are beginning a journey. We choose to make the journey and want to experience all that we can along the way. The approach to literacy is based, in no small part, on the desires, needs and perceptions of the end user. Whatever approach we take, we know that we must become literate. The approaches need to be flexible and include “other literacies: visual, media, computer, network, and, of course, basic literacy” (Spitzer, Eisenberg and Lowe, 1998, p. 26).

Technological literacy becomes a subset of information literacy. An individual who becomes information literate will, from necessity, become technologically literate (American Libraries Association, 2000). Technology becomes a means to an ends: through the use of technology, one can become information literate much easier and quicker because of the mere presence and availability of technology. Education should focus on enhancing critical thinking skills. Technological literacy will produce a greater sense of information literacy. Information literacy, when refined, produces critical thinking. We should focus less on requiring critical thinking skills, and more on acquiring critical thinking skills (Kurfiss, 1988). Once students understand the process of critical thinking, and we provide them instructional opportunities to develop their skills then, and only then, will they begin to understand critical thinking.

American Libraries Association. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved April 9, 2007 from http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlstandards/standards.pdf.

Daley, E. (2003). Expanding the concept of literacy. Educause Review 38(2), 32-40. Retrieved April 3, 2007 from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0322.pdf.

Doyle, C. (1992). Outcome measures for information literacy within the national education goals of 1990: Final report to national forum on information literacy: Summary of findings. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.: ED351033). Retrieved April 2, 2007 from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2/content_storage_01/0000000b/80/23/4a/12.pdf.

Doyle, C. (1994). Information literacy in an information society: A concept for the digital age. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.: ED372763). Retrieved April 2, 2007 from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2/content_storage_01/0000000b/80/27/35/b8.pdf.

Kasowitz-Scheer, A., & Pasqualoni, M. (2002). Information literacy instruction in higher education: Trends and Issues. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.: ED465375). Retrieved April 9, 2007 from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2/content_storage_01/0000000b/80/2a/35/c8.pdf.

Kurfiss, J. (1988). Critical thinking: Theory, research, practice, and possibilities. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 2. Washington, DC: Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Spitzer, K., Eisenberg, M., & Lowe, C. (1998). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.: ED427780). Retrieved April 2, 2007 from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2/content_storage_01/0000000b/80/11/55/e6.pdf.

U. S. Department of Labor (1991). What work requires of schools: A scans report for America 2000: The secretary’s commission on achieving necessary skills. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Labor. Retrieved April 9, 2007 from http://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/whatwork/whatwork.pdf.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Pedagogical Implications for Blogs and Wikis in Higher Education

The emergence of blogs and wikis within higher education is causing the academy to reexamine traditionally held pedagogical beliefs. Once labeled as emerging technologies, they are becoming more common due in part to the increase in usage. While the pervasiveness of the technologies is growing outside of the academy, many are wondering how they can be included within the academy. Specifically, can these technologies be used to promote critical thinking, academic engagement and promote reflection? Do these technologies require a curricular shift or a mere revision? How can these technologies “fit” into accepted pedagogical practices?

Introduction

Stephen Downes noted, “the process of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online is a process of bringing life into learning” (Downes, 2004, p. 26). As educators, we want to provide opportunities for our students to interact – whether with the content, the instructor or other students (Moore, 1989). Blogs and wikis provide the vehicle for student interaction on all three levels.

Through reading, knowledge is transmitted and through writing knowledge and experiences is ingrained (Dale, 1946). The process of writing, in terms of wikis and blogs, is a learned behavior (Emig, 1977); through the use and integration of blogs and wikis within the college curriculum, we can provide students with greater opportunities to write and ultimately hone their craft and abilities as writers.

The “Read-Write” Web

Unlike the first generation technologies that did not support ease of collaboration, the newer technologies “have created opportunities for [creating] such learning communities” (Leh, Koubs and Davis, 2005, p. 241). The “Read/Write Web promises to transform much of how we teach and learn” (Richardson, 2006, p. 2). The students of today enter the academy with the perception that technology is a natural part of their environment and should be equally as natural, pervasive and transparent in the educational environment (Oblinger, 2003). They have grown up with technology and are much more comfortable and competent with what we label as ‘emerging technologies.’ They are able to adapt their previous technological experiences to newer versions or models of technology.

For many educators who are familiar with emerging technologies, recent technologies like blogs and wikis “offer powerful opportunities for online collaboration” (Godwin-Jones, 2003, p. 12). The new technologies have, in essence, created “social writing platforms” (Alexander, 2006, p. 36) where the free and unfettered exchange of ideas can occur. Through these new technologies, instructors can provide a natural context for learning and developing writing skills (Chism, 2004).

This new technological horizon has the potential to refocus college teaching from “covering the materials for the students” to “uncovering the material with the student” (Smith, Sheppard, Johnson and Johnson, 2005, p. 88). In this new environment, students are actively engaged in the learning process, “reading, writing, discussing” as they learn (Stalheim-Smith, 1998, p. 3). Students can develop critical thinking skills, written and oral communication skills and become reflective about learning (Owston, 1997).

Focus on journaling skills

Writing skills is a critical step for student development. Writing helps, encourages and provides an outlet for students to reflect on their learning (Anderson, 1992). By providing the structure of a blog or wiki, students can “demonstrate the reflection, synthesis, and experimentation” normally associated with composition classes (Anderson, 1992, p. 305).

Integrating new technologies, such as blogs and wikis, into writing needs instructor provided guidance as to structure, content and context (Orem, 1997). Many students, when beginning a journal assignment often do not have the past experience (Anderson, 1992) and to create an environment for success need and rely upon instruction and feedback.

Writing as critical reflection

Once students have begun to immerse themselves in the writing process, they will be more likely to “realize the power of reflection and its positive influence on generating knowledge and competence” (Orem, 1997, p. 155). Because writing takes time, and is not immediate, students or writers have a greater opportunity because of the medium to be more reflective (Emig, 1977). Writing, whether in the form of a blog or wiki, provides students with a new form of information literacy (Richardson, 2006). Through these new technologies, students learn to collaborate, to think and to express themselves and deepen their learning (Boulos, Maramba and Wheeler, 2006).

Evaluating or assessing Web 2.0 composition

To begin to evaluate this new form of composition, it is important to remember that this medium is somewhat unstructured and unencumbered by the subtle nuances of formal, academic writing. This form of writing focuses on the process of writing and not on the end product of producing a paper (Anderson, 1992). The new web is “a viable means to increase access to education” (Owston, 1997, p. 29). Both wikis and blogs “actively involve learners in their own construction of knowledge” (Boulos, Maramba and Wheeler, 2006).

Blogs

Blogs have been characterized as “on-line journals” (Godwin-Jones, 2003, p. 13). Richardson defines a blog as “an easily created, easily updated website” (Richardson, 2006, p. 17). The very nature of a journal provides students opportunities to write for an audience, normally the teacher; in the online environment, the audience becomes much larger (Downes, 2004; Godwin-Jones, 2003). This dynamic now creates an environment where students will become more aware of their audience.

One limitation, or restriction, of a blog is that they are normally “chronologically organized” (Godwin-Jones, 2003, p. 14). Blogs consist of a post, normally arranged in date time order, and subsequent comments to a particular posting (Alexander, 2006). The structure would encourage reflection, sustained writing, engaging readers and reading (Downes, 2004).

Through a blog, a student has opportunities to demonstrate knowledge of the content by their postings and demonstrate synthesis and analysis by commenting on other students postings (Moore, 1989). The demonstration of knowledge can best be evaluated by reviewing and commenting on the process, rather than the product (Kerka, 2002). It is more productive, from the perspective of the learner, to receive reflective feedback that causes them to refocus on their writing.

Wikis

The wiki has the potential to “become a shared repository of knowledge” that grows over time (Godwin-Jones, 2003, p. 15). The dynamic and fluid nature of the wiki demonstrates that the wiki is “in a constant state of flux” (Lamb, 2004, p. 38). A wiki is “a website where anyone can edit anything anytime” (Richardson, 2006, p. 59). Building learning communities through and with a wiki can provide students with opportunities to share ideas, become critically reflective, analyze and synthesize content and ideas (Leh, Koubs and Davis, 2005).

As a platform for writing, wikis are ideal as “shared online sketchpads or as spaces for brainstorming” (Lamb, 2004, p. 38). This fluid writing space is ideal for immediate student interaction with the content and other students (Moore, 1989). The structure of a wiki and its ever-changing nature is best evaluated in terms of writer reflection and development of thought, not on the grammatical and syntactical components, which may impede the reflection of the writer (Kerka, 2002).

Uses for emerging technologies in higher education

After considering the technological implications for supporting blogs and wikis, and their apparent novel approach or venue for writing, it should become evident that these technologies support peer-editing of work, developmental writing, critical thinking, reflection, enhancing and supporting the process of writing (Alexander, 2006; Lamb, 2004).

Using these technologies to replace traditional classroom instruction should not be the primary concern of educators, but using them to “[fill] a gap void in existing practice” (Lamb, 2004, p. 48) provides the greatest promise. To remain a viable institution, to develop and change with technology rather than because of technology, we must find ways to integrate the new technologies into teaching and learning.

These technologies may reach those students who were or have been considered unreachable. These technologies can significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning (Chism, 2004; Gilbert, 1995). This is now the “Read/Reflect/Write/Participate Web” (Richardson, 2006, p. 133). These technologies may encourage writing and ultimately impact student learning.


References

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? Educause Review 41(2), 33-44. Available online at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0621.pdf

Anderson, J. (1992). Journal writing: The promise and the reality. Journal of Reading 36(4), 304-309.

Boulos, M., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: A new generation of web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Education 6(41). Available online at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6920/6/41

Campbell, G. (2005). There’s something in the air: Podcasting in education. Educause Review 40(6), 33-46. Available online at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0561.pdf

Chism, N. (2004). Using a framework to engage faculty in instructional technologies. Educause Quarterly 27(2), 39-45. Available online at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm0424.pdf

Dale, E. (1946). Audio visual methods in teaching. New York: The Dryden Press Inc., Publishers.

Downes, S. (2004). Educational blogging. Educause Review 39(5), 14-26. Available online at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0450.pdf

Emig, J. (1977). Writing as a mode of learning. College Composition and Communication 28(2), 122-128.

Gilbert, S. (1995). Technology & the changing academy. Change 27(5), 58-61.

Godwin-Jones, R. (2003). Emerging technologies: Blogs and wikis: Environments for on-line collaboration. Language, Learning & Technology, 7(2), 12-16. Available online at: http://llt.msu.edu/vol7num2/emerging/

Kerka, S. (2002). Journal writing as an adult learning tool. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Practice Application Brief, No. 22. Available online at: http://www.cete.org/acve/docs/pab00031.pdf.

Lamb, B. (2004). Wide open spaces: Wikis, ready or not. Educause Review 39(5), 36-48. Available online at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0452.pdf

Leh, A., Koubs, B., & Davis, D. (2005). Twenty-first century learning: Communities, interaction and ubiquitous computing. Educational Media International 42(93), 237-250.

Moore, M. (1989). Editorial: Three types of interaction. The American Journal of Distance Education 3(2), 1-6.

Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, gen-xers, millennials: Understanding the new students. Educause Review 38(4), 36-47. Available online at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0342.pdf

Orem, R. (1997). Journal writing as a form of professional development. In S. Levine (Ed.), Proceedings of the Annual Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing and Community Education (pp. 151-156). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.: ED412370).

Owston, R. (1997). The world wide web: A new technology to enhance teaching and learning? Educational Researcher 26(2), 27-33.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Smith, K., Sheppard, S., Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (2005). Pedagogies of engagement: Classroom-based practices. Journal of Engineering Education 94(1), 87-101.

Stalheim-Smith, A. (1998). Focusing on active, meaningful learning. IDEA Paper No. 34. Manhattan, KS: IDEA Center. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.: ED418659).

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