Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kentucky Pedagogicon 2014 Conference Notes: Morning Sessions

This event took place on Friday May 16, 2014 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. This was my first time, and given that I did find it valuable and productive, I do hope to attend next year. One of the best parts is that it was a one-day event. In addition, it is pretty much local librarians and faculty presenting for other local librarians and faculty, which made it accessible, productive, and a positive learning experience unlike many regional or national conferences dependent on some hot shot scholar or rock star librarian preaching to the masses. Anyhow, let me just get on with it. I am posting my notes mostly for future reference, but hey, if anyone finds them useful, good for them.As usual, these are notes; any additional comments I add will go in parenthesis.

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Conference Keynote Speaker. The keynote was delivered by Dr. Robert L. King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The speech was mostly a bit of getting the troops rallied and a bit of a look at the topic of student success and teaching.
  • Topic: "Making Kentucky Stronger by Degrees." 
  • We are urged to be "soldiers" that take ideas and new practices back to our campuses. Be soldiers to help improve education results across our campuses and the state collectively. 
  • What is student success? What does it mean to be student-centered? 
    • We are getting less underprepared students due to teaching improvements, but we are still getting a good amount of underprepared students.
    • There is the old notion of the professor who says, "I teach. Learning is your problem." Should this change and go away? (question was asked. I certainly say yes, we should make fossils out of such professors). 
    • When surveyed, very few students revealed that they had a professor who cared about them. (Dr. King was referring to this piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education that highlights results of the Gallup-Purdue Index Report. You will get better context if you actually read the Chronicle piece at least).
  • Meeting teaching challenges: 
    • New pedagogy styles. 
    • Team course development. 
    • Flipped classrooms.
    • "Guide on the side."
    • Experiential learning. 
    • Differential instruction. 
  •  High Impact Practices improve outcomes. 
    • Academic achievement.
    • Persistence. 
    • Graduation. 
    • Engagement in educationally purposeful activities that connect to employer expectations. 
  •   Reference to the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (on a side note, my library does have the book. For contrast/counter, here is a small piece on the topic out of The Chronicle of Higher Education). The speaker presented a pie chart from the book that highlighted results of students being asked how they spend their time in college. This is self-reported, for a 168-hour week: 
    • 51% socializing and other. This led the speaker to observe that the notion that colleges overload their students with work is not true. 
    • 9% attending classes. 
    • 7% studying. 
    • 9% working, volunteering, clubs. 
    • 24% sleeping. This is estimated.
    • Conclusion: the simple act of staying enrolled does not ensure learning. 
  • Ask yourselves: what is your role in yourself and your classroom to have more student-centered learning. 

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(There were various concurrent sessions, but since I have not figured out how to clone myself yet, I could only be in one place at a time. Therefore, notes are for the sessions I did attend).

Session 1: "From Yoda to Ironman: Selecting Technologies That Best Fit You, Your Students, and Your Course."

(This was a basic presentation of a list of good practices and advice when selecting technology for your classes. A handout was included, but sadly it was not made available online, However, I am jotting the list of items from the handout here). The speakers mention that often lists of liked and hated classroom technologies overlap; for instance, people often love and hate Prezi. This tells us that often the issue is in how we use the technology, not the technology itself. The principles the speakers presented:
  • Focus on pedagogy, not technology. Start with good ideas, THEN select the tool. 
  • Set expectations early. Make instructions for your students clear and specific. 
  • Choose high-quality content and ideas over high-tech. Think about what is best for your class or discipline. (Heck, for some teachers, a piece of chalk or a dry erase board can be the best educational tool. Don't believe it? Ask some math teachers in college). Ask what technology works best for what you are trying to accomplish. 
  • More technology requires more organization. You need to plan beforehand. This includes having how-to guides, tutorials, and other items needed for students who need to learn about whatever technology you have chosen to use (don't assume every student has been exposed to your new shiny toy). 
  • Accommodate before you innovate. For instance, geographic challenges, say rural areas with poor Internet. Or financial challenges in affording the technology. (For me, the geographic and financial are always big issues, and it is a pet peeve when, to borrow the old term, Two-pointopians just assume everyone will adopt or rush to buy whatever new tech du jour they advocate or want to use), Disabilities, not everyone can access your pre-recorded lecture if they are, for example, visually or hearing impaired. 
  • Appeal to multiple styles of learning. See also the ECAR surveys, that show preferences of print over mobile. Main ECAR site: (they just mentioned this).
  • Don't let technology make you mechanical. Goes back to "Just make sure they know that you care." Quote by Dr. Loys Mather. 
  • Use technology to teach, not entertain. The technology must serve a purpose. 
  • To legitimize, you must personalize. Make it your own. Personalize the assessment. 
  • Prepare for technology to fail. Be prepared to work and get around the technology. 

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Session 2: "If It Weren't for Those Meddling Librarians...: Shifting from 'Sage on Stage' to 'Meddler-in-the-Middle' with Team-based and Cooperative Learning Techniques."

Overall, this session was mostly an illustration of the technique. I did like the idea using the differently colored handouts for the students in groups to work on developing their research topics. An idea I hope we can integrate into our library instruction here.
  • Point here is to get students to guide the learning and the instruction.
  • Use a topic no student group is working on when you do your instruction. 
  • If breaking in groups in groups for the students to come up with keywords, one group can then give feedback to another. 
  • Group brainstorming. Can identify a leader to guide the brainstorm, make sure all speak. 
  • Use colored sheets, for example, as a way to define groups. 
  • Once the brainstorm is done, the teacher draws on their examples to guide the creation of search strings, truncating, so on. 
    • For advanced searchers, cover topics like truncation, citation mining, subject headings, cited references, and limiters. 
  •   To put students in groups, manipulate settings. Gather together by topics, by major/curricular program, randomly (using those colored sheets for instance). Assign group roles: scribe, moderator, so on. 
  • If a topic is too narrow, the librarian guides them to broaden out. (For me, this was a question. Here at Berea one of the General Studies classes does require having a "Berea" or other localized topic that may not lend itself as well to broadening. However, the issue often is not broadening as it is either students thinking too literally or worse professors who are inflexible. The popular bad sample topic, to provide an idea: the student wants to write about the story of food service at Berea College. This material simply does not exist, so you either have to disappoint the student or get them to broaden their idea. Often the challenge is getting the professor to accept that yes, a bad topic like that simply does not have research material available. Our Archives and Special Collections, as good as they are, are not limitless). 
  • To get some additional engagement, another idea can be use of "clicker" technology. (For example, Turning Point, which by the way, we had a demo of this on our campus recently. No, not shilling for them, simply came to mind due to timing).

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Session 3: "Feeding the Teaching Soul: Faculty Reading Circles to Stimulate Conversation About Teaching."

(On a different track, I went for something dealing with the faculty. Given that we are interested in doing more outreach here, including under the mantra of "bringing the faculty back" --yes, we are going with that slogan), I figured this would be a good session for me. The presentation did feature a PowerPoint, but again, no online link available. Organizers should definitely consider collecting handouts, so on for online access, not so much to be green, although nice but assumes all have access, but maybe so folks like me have something to refer to later.)

  • What are challenges faculty face in the classroom? 
  • Organizational development: how to help the organization. 
  • Faculty are not often pedagogical experts (I was impressed they actually said that with a straight face. This is something I have known to be true forever, then again, I DO have a teaching degree, something most faculty tend to lack. Now, if I made that statement, I am sure some butt hurt faculty member would be griping at me. Go figure). 
    • So, how can the developer help them? Help empower the way they teach and empower the students to learn. 
  •  For a faculty reading circle, at the beginning, set ground rules for things like safety, openness, respect, collaboration, so on. 
  • You are not just reading a book. Take reading through the reader's experience and draw on outside resources and ideas. There is what you bring to the circle and what you take from it. 
  • Reading circles can be built around events, such as a relevant author coming to campus. 
  • 7 to 10 members is an ideal number for a reading circle. It is OK for people to come and go. Participation varying is OK but you want to aim for that 7 to 10. 
  • Also try for short period of time, say reading a book over a month so your group meets maybe once a week, or biweekly and go two months. Do not draw out over a semester. 
  • Reference. See book The New Science of Learning by Terry Doyle (mentioned by the presenters). 

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