Monday, October 20, 2014

Evaluation & Innovation: Bryan's Perspective

Dr. Bryan Alexander

I met Bryan in Atlanta at a NITLE symposium in April of 2013, but as those who know Bryan understand, it seems like I've known him forever.  I am a regular reader of his posts and enjoy his sense of humor. He was the first to volunteer to help with this blog. Although I started this series with my Lehigh students and AECT in mind, I'd like to hear from my fellow evaluation instructors and professors about how this series helps you with your students. 
Bryan Alexander is a futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher, working in the field of how technology transforms education. He completed his English language and literature PhD at the University of Michigan in 1997, with a dissertation on doppelgangers in Romantic-era fiction and poetry. Learn more about this NITLE fellow here

How do we recognize innovation in teaching and learning with technology? 
Not well, and that's a problem.  Teaching in general is something difficult to track for a variety of reasons, including the way course management systems lock away classes from observers..  For now we hear about innovative teaching through publications (statistically very rare), social media (a bit better), and personal contact.  Social media may be the best route for discovery innovation, as its ease of use lets practitioners share thoughts, reactions, observations on the fly.
What challenges might practitioners and researchers face when evaluating innovation? Do you have ideas for how to overcome these challenges? 
There are many challenges, depending on the background of would-be evaluators.  Professional training can make it difficult to appreciate innovation, either when trying to perceive new work in someone else's field, or in seeking to understand changes to one's own.  Observers can also focus too much on the first iteration of a project, rather than looking to its development and maturation over time.  It is also important to distinguish between achievement and learning versus other student responses (i.e., approval of change).
Overcoming these challenges is implicit in each one - pay more attention to innovation over time, pay less attention to non-learning responses.  Additionally, evaluators would do well to use social media to develop their reflections.
Can you point to some promising innovations in teaching and learning? 
The flipped classroom is perhaps the most notable.  It depends on no specific technology (usually Web video or podcasting), and is clearly focused on improving learning through enhancing the classroom experience.
Open education is growing steadily, as the amount of open material builds and the number of practitioners increases.
Mobile learning continues to transform teaching and learning, rendering nearly all locations potential connections to vast amounts of content and collaboration.
Gaming offers potentially huge and deep gains for learning.
Are there some effective research initiatives or studies our readers should examine? If not, why do you think that is the case? 
Columbia's Teachers College keeps publishing useful material.
There are a good number of books on mobile technology worth reading, even as that tech's rapid advances dates them quickly: Rheingold's Smartmobs, Katz and Aakhus's Perpetual Contact, Ito'sPersonal, Pedestrian, Portable.  

Let me return to social media.  Readers should curate sources on Twitter, the blogosphere, podcasting, etc,, as innovators often inhabit this space to share their thoughts.

Previous posts in the series:

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