BbWorld Pre-conference Report – Part 2

July 13, 2010

Well, the remainder of the day was a bit less pedagogic theory, but still highly about the pedagogy.  (That’s not a bad thing, but instead as opposed to “mechanical”, if you take my meaning.)  Basically, after establishing that learning modules are an effective way to chunk down and deliver material, we delved into the types of assignments to use for that delivery.

WebQuests, Virtual Tours, and other such Active Learning assignments were discussed, and some nice examples were included in the handouts I received.  There was also some time spent working with group activities, calling back to the language discussed during the Learning Outcomes period to define the activities.  Since we picked up after lunch everyone was a bit logy, which rather highlighted the point of Active Learning – don’t let the students be passive.  So, I guess my take-away from this was to avoid letting students run on cruise control, but keep them mentally shifting gears during the classwork.

The lessons wrapped up with a discussion on the importance of rubrics, for both the students (knowing what their grade will be based on) and faculty (easily being able to defend the grade given).  A point I raised is that rubrics can also be effective for the instructor to self-evaluate the course material as they create it; after all, if you’ve created all those Learning Outcomes, oughtn’t you to check every step of the way to see if your material is matching up with the outcomes?

The workshop ended with a nice little review, cast into the PowerPoint template of a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? mold.  The review was kinda fun, and I found out that my reflexes are way slower than any other attendee when it comes to popping up a “call on me” card.  Apparently, I don’t want to be a millionaire.

BbWorld Pre-conference Report – Part 1

July 13, 2010

I arrived in Orlando, Florida, yesterday and took care of my registration for the BbWorld conference, because even though the conference doesn’t open until tonight I am spending all day today in a pre-conference workshop.  The session, titled Using Learning Modules to Develop and Deliver Units of Instruction, is supposed to cover techniques for organizing content for consumption by students.

So far I feel a bit out of depth in the workshop.  Everyone else attending (all six others) have teaching experience, including an instructional designer and teacher for the CIA.  (Yes, that’s not a strange coincidence of acronym, she actually educates for the Central Intelligence Agency.)  Their backgrounds in pedagogy make the discussions a bit heady by my standards, but here, as best as I can follow, is what has happened so far today:

We’ve had discussion of different course design techniques, briefly comparing the concept of a sequential-only approach versus a more “open entry” approach in which students may change up the order in which concepts are covered.  Although the sequential model is most common for a typical class environment, I can certainly see some uses for the open entry model, particularly in the Professional Development training that I spend time with.

There has also been some long discussions of designing Learning Objectives, with an emphasis on how to word such objectives so as to make them measurable.  I’m afraid I keep tripping over the terminology of this, as until now I’ve managed to stay blissfully unaware of the minutia of writing SLOs.  After these discussions this morning,  I think I may – for some of the Blackboard training workshops – ask faculty to bring the SLOs for their classes along to the workshops.  The pre-conference workshop facilitators have emphasized that, even once proper learning objectives are written, a common stumbling block is to fail to connect the actual activities done in class by students back to those objectives; likely this afternoon will cover concepts on how to do this well.

During all of this, I am put in mind of what I’d tried to accomplish in August 2009 at the Academic Technology Tech Camp, trying to walk faculty through the process of sequencing material in Blackboard.  The delivery techniques in this workshop today are similar, but the focus on defining why to have students do things based on concrete learning objectives really makes the whole process seem far more important and valid than what I’d done last year.  As with so much of the training I’ve offered, it’s far more about the mechanics than the pedagogy.  With any luck, I can incorporate what I’m learning today into future workshops, and particularly into the one-on-one sessions with faculty, once I get back to the office.

Wimbas and Elluminates and Blackboards, Oh My!

July 7, 2010

Today Blackboard announced a new division, Blackboard Collaborate, which is the destination of two new acquisitions with familiar names:  Wimba and Elluminate.

From the official Blackboard Collaborate website:  “Today, we’ve announced that Elluminate, Wimba, and Blackboard will join forces to bring together the leading technology products for synchronous learning and collaboration – and the minds that created them – in what we hope will be a major step forward to pursue new innovation.”  On that site are links to the email sent out to Blackboard clients, as well as oodles of additional information on the fact of the existence of Blackboard Collaborate.  The site mentions “Hear more at BbWorld”, which should be nice as I’ll be spending next week attending the BbWorld conference.  (Feel free to comment this post with any Blackboard Collaborate-related questions you’d like to have answered!)

Although things are still shaking out on Twitter, it looks like the hashtag to watch for on this topic is #BbCollab.

At any rate, there will be many questions to ask about this conglomeration.  One specific concern that seems ignored by all the current information is the role of the Wimba Voice Tools (which is not a synchronous communication tool, and doesn’t fit the “live chat” motif of the LiveClassroom and Elluminate Live! tools) in this bold new future.  I’ll be sure and post more about it here, as I discover the answers at BbWorld!