Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter Week 5: From Presentation to Lecture

This week our discussion centered on managing teaching materials, with emphasis on adapting presentation skills for effective lectures. Most of us have practiced or been trained for years on delivering successful presentations, but only few of us in the Graduate Teaching Community have experience in teaching a course by giving a series of lectures. We discussed the differences between presentation and lecture in terms of context and structure, so that our lecturing skills can be improved by reasonable and specific adaption of our presentation abilities.

1. The contextual change from presentation to lecture

o                 Presentations generally stand alone and are unrelated; lectures are generally delivered in a series and related to one another.
o                 The audience of presentations can be supervisors, colleagues and bosses; while lectures are mainly delivered to students.
o                 The main focus of presentation is to spread or convey viewpoints or discoveries; lecture centers on helping student learn and understand the material.
o                 The objective of presentation is for the audience to know the work or products of a person, a team or a company; the objective of lecture is to digest textbook and relate new knowledge to the old.

2. The structural change from presentation to lecture

o                  In many cases presentations are started by an introduction from the host; we begin the lecture by ourselves to draw the attention (if PowerPoint is used, a switch from a blank slide to the content helps to keep attention).
o                  The content of presentation can be organized in a more flexible manner; lectures are generally structured in a way that new points or knowledge are based on old ones.
o                  The explanation of relevance in content is not highlighted in presentation; but this is very useful in lecture in order to motivate students to learn and help them retain information.
o                  In presentations the main points are not frequently repeated; while lectures use many repetitions to explain and emphasize the main concepts for students to retain.
o                  Presentation is generally closed by recapping the main points; the closing of lecture provides a preview of the next one, in addition to a review of the day’s information.

Besides the above points, the interaction and delivery of materials can be different when we switch from presentation to lecture.  Some of the aspects in these two categories were already covered in our discussion. The other aspects were left for further thinking and reflection after the discussion.

In total, we highlighted that presentation is mainly to make an impression or deliver information. By contrast, lecture is to enliven the knowledge in the textbook and help students to digest the knowledge. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winter Week 4: Assessment to enhance student engagement

This week we discussed the issues of assessment methods and student engagement.  Most of us in the GTC have not had direct experience formulating assessments for our own classes yet, but hopefully now we have some ideas of how we can best assess learning of students in our future classes.  We first discussed the difference between formative and summative assessments.  Formative assessments check for learning and can be thought of as checks of understanding whereas summative assessment is an assessment of learning.  Most of what we discussed afterwards centered on formative assessments, which might have more room for creativity in the types of activities used to formally or informally check for understanding.  Some additional questions addressed:

Backwards course design – write the assessment (e.g. test questions) before units of learning are written.  For example, the test question you want students to be able to answer by the end of your class should guide how you structure the class leading them to be able to answer the question.

Why do we want student engagement with assessment?

Students have so much content to get through and sadly, most of it will not stick with them after they leave the class. Assessments that engage students are more likely to build “process” learning and to allow students to delve more deeply into topics, take more ownership, etc.

What might some of the challenges be to creating assessments that engage students?

TIME.  Anything you do to enhance your class will lead to more work for you.  For example, changing from a scan-tron test-based class structure to one with a group project and presentations equals more work for you setting up and guiding the project as well as grading it.

Student resistance – Students may resist some of these changes because they are unfamiliar and require more work on their end, or because of miscommunication of goals and objectives between teacher and student

Reduces Content of Class – Assessments that you do that require students to be more in-depth with their learning and to focus more on process-based learning will necessarily mean that you cannot cover as much content.  This might be more an acceptable tradeoff for some courses than for others.  For example, an upper division, specialized class may be better able to switch to engaged assessment than a lower division survey course.

What are some potential assessment techniques that might be effective in increasing student engagement?

Some ideas:
-          Self assessment
-          Peer assessment (takes time to build this skill in students)
-          Drafts
-          Rubrics
-          “Carousel” have students go around the room and write answers to various questions to see which are in need of more explanation from the teacher
-          Independent learning – students are responsible for learning a specific topic on their own
-          Student teaching – possibly deriving from independent learning above, students teach other

Plethora of books on assessment techniques in higher education
Authentic Assessment toolbox: http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/
A short essay on student-centered assessment with examples:
Learner centered assessment cycle consisting of 1) define learning outcomes 2) assess learning outcomes 3) review and discuss results of assessment 4) implement changes based on results:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Winter Week 3: Technology in the Classroom

This week we had an informal discussion about technology use in the classroom, intentional and unintentional.  We talked about types of tech we had seen used, what worked, what didn’t work, and where we see value in different strategies.  Some of the topics we discussed:

Value in Novelty? Are we using technology in the classroom only because it is new and cool, or is there value simply in the novelty of the technology and that in itself can grab students’ attention and be of value.  Maybe the best technologies would be able to accomplish both.

Some types of technology we had seen used frequently:
·         What are they?
o   Purchased from bookstore
o   Used for taking attendance
o   Quizzes
o   Checking understanding
o   Promote understanding by using voting on a question and then again after discussion
·         *Top Hat
o   Clicker alternative that students use with their phones
o   Less cost for students
·         Participation points, but if you are reliant on the clicker can be an impediment
·         Technology needs to complement lesson

 *Group discussion with computers
·         Can be distracting
·         Get on internet to look something up quickly to catch up
·         Teach research methods in real time

 *Smartsite – what do people use it for? How does it work?
·         Good for students to track their own progress
·         Post course materials
·         Upload papers and share among TAs to calibrate grading
·         Weekly quizzes
·         Wiki feature to update progress
o   Students can be tentative with this
·         General class resources – this is the expectation of students now, similar to the expectation of powerpoint presentations

 *Ipads provided to students
·         Checked out to students
·         Plan lessons around ipad, training students on how to use and do those activities
·         Seems to be more common in high school than in college (!)

-Common question from students is “How do I study for this?”  If my methods are not digital (because I’m old J) how do I translate them for students who do most stuff on computers?
·         Bloom’s Taxonomy – levels of learning: retaining/repeating to synthesizing, students are accessing different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy
o   Teachers need to offer some of these learning skills in class as practice

-Technology in Tests
·         Take tests at the computer – having a different keyboard can be off-putting
·         Stepped questions/adaptive tests – e.g. GRE, next question depends on what you did on the previous question
Good implementations of Technology you have seen?
·         Clickers used effectively
·         A lot of planning goes into effective use of technology
o   Ex: spending time putting together handout with embedded links
·         Use of internet to get students excited about topic
o   Internet pitfalls – having your personal info come up during class for all to see

-Student distraction because of technology (using facebook instead of following lecture)
·         Ban computers and devices
·         Don’t worry about it because it’s the new sleeping/daydreaming in class
·         Have a class discussion about how students think they should be participating

Winter Week 2: Avoiding the Powerpoint Rabbit Hole

This week, Ted lead a very interesting workshop detailing some strategies for avoiding the powerpoint rabbit hole.  We loosely defined the 'rabbit hole' as the type of presentation or talk where the powerpoint is the star of the show, instead of the speaker.  Obviously, YOU want to be the center of attention in your own talk.  Ted's notes on how to achieve this below:

"PowerPoint can be a useful tool for presentations, but it’s not the only tool in the box.  In fact, it’s often not the best way to get your message across.  We all have resorted to a hasty PowerPoint when time crunches put us on the defensive for an upcoming presentation, but with a little imagination, you can do better. 

First, hone your public speaking skills.   The single best way to improve is with practice.  It doesn’t much matter what the subject is, just get yourself in front of audiences as much as you can.  Volunteer to speak at lab meetings, seminars, or classes.  You WILL get better.  Public speaking is the core of any good presentation – you can have the most sophisticated presentation out there, but if you don’t speak with precision, clarity, and confidence, no one will remember it. 

For a more structured approach to public speaking, join your local Toastmasters club.  Offering a series of prepared and impromptu speaking opportunities to build specific skills and general confidence, Toastmasters lets you focus on improving your speaking skills in a supportive environment. 

I got a lot of good advice before my qualifying exam, but the one I remember most applies to all presentations:  when you are in front of an audience, YOU are in charge.  It’s your presentation, and you can use whatever approaches you feel will be most effective.  Think about the audience’s expectations, and what they want to get out of the presentation.  But, recognize the audience will give you tremendous latitude in how you communicate your material.  Don’t be afraid to do something unexpected or new.   

Before we launch into alternatives to PowerPoint, let’s first be clear:  PowerPoint is not evil, and can be useful in many situations.  For graphs, images, movies, or audio files, PowerPoint provides a well-established container for your next presentation.  Rather than linking to external files (or worse, the internet), embed the files in the presentation.  If possible, test your presentation with the actual equipment (computer and projector) you will be using.  If you need to extract video or audio from YouTube, online services like http://peggo.co can be useful, but be sure not to violate anyone’s copyright. 

Instead of putting text or ideas onto PowerPoint slides, consider using handouts instead.  Your audience can read at its own pace, take notes, and refer to your entire presentation at ease.  The most common way to use a handout is to present an agenda.  But why not give more information?  Include your main points, and supporting text.  You can include figures and images as well, but if you really need to draw attention to detail, also put these graphics up on the screen. 

Consider creating information as you go.  Sure, you can have new text “fly in” using PowerPoint, but writing that same information on a chalkboard or flip chart drives home the importance of the text – if you stopped your entire presentation to write those words down, they audience will understand they are important.  This approach also allows you to respond to the audience; if you ask for three possible explanations for the data you just showed, it’s very unlikely the audience will list them in the order you did on your next slide.  Writing them down involves the audience. 

While most alternatives to PowerPoint are simply other tools to generate sequential slides, Prezi (Prezi.com) is a little different.  Give it a try, it’s free.  Rather than having to add each piece of information to a slide, you put all your data (or words, graphs, movies, charts, what have you) on a big workspace.  Then, you specify the order to move between each of these pieces of information.  Prezi destroys the linear requirement of PowerPoint.  Therefore, it’s quite good for presentations that are non-linear, or return to a recurring image or hypothesis.  But, the “one big sheet” overview can be a useful tool to orient your audience to the general outline of your talk.  While it’s tempting to build suspense with PowerPoint, building up to that big finale, many in your audience will be more interested if you give them an overview first, something Prezi does almost automatically. 

Finally, study the techniques of successful presenters.  A great link is this one, which includes a summary chart of various techniques: https://www.powtoon.com/presentation/5-best-presentations/  Watch presentations, from Richard Feynman to Steve Jobs.  Effective presentations are an art, and to be a master you will need to move beyond PowerPoint and practice various techniques to find what works best for you in various situations. "

-- Ted Hullar