Open Insight

We don’t have a top down open education initiative here at Penn State. At some point in the near future I hope to see that change, but at the end of the day so much is already happening in the open across the PSU web … quite frankly it is really amazing to see. I try to highlight that incidental openness when I can, but I have been thinking more and more about what our OER might look like here. And when I say that, I’d like to do it in a way that could impact more than just people looking to grab some solid open content to consume … I’d like to take it a step further, but up until recently I haven’t been able to figure out what that means.

After Learning Design Summer Camp, one of our undergraduate writing interns put together a short piece on her reactions from the day in a post called, Learning Design Summer Camp from the student perspective. There was one part that really struck me as interesting and thought provoking …

The one presentation that I found particularly interesting as a student was Sam Richard’s presentation on teaching Sociology 119. I actually took Sam’s Sociology 119 class during the spring 2010 semester, so hearing him speak about the actual teaching of a class that I had taken just recently was very interesting for me. His presentation at Camp focused heavily on engaging students in a large lecture setting, especially through the use of technology. Sam’s Sociology 119 class was one of the most engaging classes I have taken at Penn State, especially amazing, since it is in such a large lecture setting. Before hearing Sam speak at Camp, I never really thought about all the things he actually did to keep me engaged and interested in a class so large that it would be easy to feel forgotten. Hearing him discuss choosing these technologies and why they work in the classroom helped me to better understand from his perspective how he can make a class of 700 students work so well.

What grabbed about it is that I’ve never really thought about what classroom practice looks like to students. What I mean is that I never recall thinking about the kinds of things my faculty did to engage me in the classroom … and I certainly never really thought about the fact that they were doing something deliberate. It makes me wonder if any of the students on our campuses think at all about what goes into making a particular class interesting or engaging?

With this new perspective I have been talking about an idea that would go along with some sort of more structured video based OER project. What I would like to do is to not only produce a video based OER series, much like Yale’s, but add shorter vignettes of the featured faculty talking about their designs, motivations, inspirations, and reflections on how and why they teach. I think it would be terrific to hear in short bursts from the faculty about what is going on in their heads as they prepare to stand in front of their students. I could see it being very much like a powerful digital story that can inspire other faculty to think critically about their practice and it may be really interesting and engaging to students to hear their faculty talk more informally about what is going on behind the scenes. It may also help inform design practice in ways we haven’t yet thought about.

6 thoughts on “Open Insight

  1. Almost like VH1’s “Behind the Music”. Perhaps PSU’s “Behind the Learning”? I like this idea a lot. I think there are a number of reasons this would be VERY interesting. The number one being that it would be great insight into different instructors’ preparation process and their thinking. Shared across disciplines, I think we’d see some of that cross-pollination we seek in our engagements in ETS. I also think it would be great to increase the awareness among many audiences (other faculty, students, staff) to the amount of preparation necessary to delivery an engaging class. For example, in the training world the metric for delivering 1 hour of classroom training was 40 hours of preparation. So many NEVER believed that until they took part in the preparation. Lastly (for now), I think this digital story would serve as a great artifact for faculty as they go through this reflective practice. So often we overlook how we came to certain decisions and practices and this would help everyone look back at the “why” in so many instances.

  2. Matt, I love the idea of “behind the learning” or “behind the teaching” as what this is all about. We could do profiles of the faculty who are teaching and the students taking the courses. I just think it would be something that would provide a new insight into the depths of what it takes to engage or be engaged. I’d love for it to happen in a way that people might want to follow a series from a faculty member over the course of the semester.

  3. This is juicy. I can envision picking a faculty member and putting a small team together that includes digital commons folks to pull this off. A natural faculty member might be any of the summer 2010 faculty fellows as we follow as they emerge from their summer fellowship. It could really resonate with other faculty to follow this. If they do, we could provide opportunities for them to pick any particular element to pursue and join some type of discussion. Might be really neat.

  4. I dig. We go into this and learn about certain engagement strategies as we go. Maybe even end up changing how a faculty member approaches what they do after they are forced to reflect on video. A learning experience for everyone and the potential for just great content.

  5. I am really starting to get interested in the potential all around this. The idea that we could do as Brad says and “learn about certain engagement strategies as we go” is really exciting. After reading Matt’s second comment I am really starting to see this as a series of episodes that could become very compelling. Imagine if we did this during the Faculty Fellowship and continued the practice through the capturing of the course. We’d end up with a record of redesign all the way through implementation, reflection, assessment, and reflection. Through some students into the mix and it could be a very powerful concept.

  6. One of the most compelling things about using the blog in my classes is what happens when we as a class reflect upon the structure and design of the course. Those moments of meta-teaching and learning, when we reflect together upon what we are doing and how the design of the course impacts what is possible and not possible in the classroom are some of the most educationally transformative moments in the class.
    An example of the sort of feedback you can get from students when you ask them to think about the structure of a course can be read in the comments I received to a post associated with a presentation I gave at Utah Valley University last fall:
    So, I think the idea of pulling back the curtain on course design as a pedagogical practice is an excellent approach. I would be happy to participate.

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