Today I installed an appliance from Echo360 that allows my class to be both recorded for student review after class and broadcast for students too lazy/ill/preoccupied/busy to physically attend class (view my course). Why am I doing this you may well ask? Not clear yet, but I am interested to explore whether there aren’t alternative models to the large class format that would enable students to participate in alternative ways. I hope to research how student engagement and attentiveness is changed when they can participate in their ‘jammies.’ (More on this in later posts.)
What struck me about the installation I’ve made is that I offered the technology to a list of other instructors who use the room and have been receiving polite refusals from many of them. It seems the possibility of making the recording available, much less broadcast, is not universally viewed as positive. At this point I can only guess what the concerns are as I haven’t yet asked but I would guess it is a concern that students would be less motivated to attend class if it is available offline. I share this concern but plow ahead anyway thinking I’m supposed to treat students like adults and it’s up to them to learn time management skills. I expect to be disappointed.
But the bigger elephant in the lecture hall is that technology like lecture capture is inherently going to be available to all who have access to the hyperlink. What if that included your instructional design group, or your chair, or your dean, or… I suspect that for many there is an unease with having their class practices viewable by the world. Could it affect merit review? Could it affect student recommendations for what courses to take? Could it be used by the institution for accountability? These are potentially chilling issues for many instructors.
That said, and with full understanding this may be an unpopular opinion, why shouldn’t all instructors be expected to have their classes recorded, if not broadcast? Can we imagine Ford Motor Company NOT having quality control measures in place to oversee how cars are being assembled? Why shouldn’t the public expect college instructor efforts to be reviewable by the institution? Why should college instructors be able to say no to having their classes recorded and made available?
One fair response is that instructors rightly want to protect their students from being viewed by others. The classroom is a place where students are encouraged to formulate and express their opinions and the presence of a camera recording the session disrupts the ‘instructor-student privilege.’ I’d argue that the ‘instructor-student privilege’ is not dissimilar from the ‘attorney-client privilege’ afforded citizens looking for guidance in legal matters. The privacy of the classroom encourages students to speak freely, even controversially, as they work through challenging questions.
What do you think? Is there a way to record class while protecting student participants? I could block out the sections where students are commenting or I’m responding to a student but that tends to be the best part of a lecture. As we move forward with MOOCs and other shared class experiences this issue of privacy as a deterrent to open expression remains a challenging issue.
I will continue to broadcast my class come Hell or High Water (it is an Extreme Weather class after all) but my class is a science class with it’s only controversy being to what degree climate change is human induced. Hardly controversial unless you’ve been drinking too much Fox News Kool-Aid. Hopefully in the process we’ll learn more about how he distributed classroom affects student engagement and attentiveness. Perhaps we’ll also learn how the open camera affects students’ willingness to speak openly.
This is very cool. With AirServer® you can mirror whatever is on your iPad on your laptop. i use the instructor version of LectureTools in safari on my iPad, which permits me to control slides and draw on the screen..
Step 1: Pimp Your Laptop
Install AirServer on your Mac or PC laptop (prices vary from Mac to PC).
Step 2: Prep your iPad
Open your iOs device and double-tap the home button. a sliding menu will appear at the bottom of your screen.
Scroll left until you see the circular airPlay button.
Tap the icon and a list of airPlay enabled devices will appear. The computer on which you installed AirServer will show up on this list.
To connect, simply tap the name of your machine.
Step 3: Classtime
Again you can roam the class and do whatever it was you used to do standing at the podium. This also allows you to project any iPad app as well as web applications..
This is fun! The only thing I want now is the ability on the iPad to jump into the camera mode so I could broadcast a view of the student who has strayed too far afield from from class activities during class.
To this day I remain a big fan of the overhead projector. I truly believe it was more effective a tool for teaching than the projected Powerpoint slides will ever be. I stood facing the students, watching their expressions, which I could see since the lights were sufficiently bright. I could draw on the screen and change directions as questions arose. In fact I will argue that the ‘golden age of college teaching’ if there was one was stimulated by the addition of the roller to the overhead projector. It allowed the combining of student response, just-in-time teaching, constructivist development and several other educational buzz terms in one simple device.
It’s been downhill ever since,
…until this semester.
This semester I’ve purchased an iPad2 and a software application called SplashTop Remote Desktop. (Truth in advertising, I prefer Apple products but you could do what I’m describing with tabletPCs or even your smartphone — assuming your eyesight is better and your fingers are smaller than mine). Now I can hold the iPad in my hand, and with LectureTools I can present class, pose questions, draw on the screen and still project wirelessly as I stand or walk around the room. Finally I can let go of my plastic pocket protector with the rainbow collection of Vis-à-Vis. I pine for the projector no longer!
To reach this new level of teaching nirvana I have found at least two routes (so far):
The first requires that I simply bring my laptop (as I always did anyway) to class along with whatever cables/dongles needed to connect the laptop to the projection system, and my iPad.
The second does not require the laptop but does require an AppleTV + whatever it takes to connect that to the projector.
In both cases you could use the resulting system to present with KeyNote® but that would be so 90′s. I suggest you get a LectureTools instructor account (they’re FREE!) and you can show your slides + ask questions of students (multiple-choice, true-false, rearrange lists, image-based and free response — take THAT clickers!) and display the results in real-time + collect and answer student questions + have access to analytical data on student participation + DRAW ON THE SLIDES LIKE WITH AN OVERHEAD!
iPad + Laptop + SplashTop Desktop Remote
This is my first choice as it allows me to use all the tricks I’ve collected on my laptop for teaching (including those bad-boy Flash animations that the iPad can’t handle!).
Download SplashTop Remote Desktop to your favorite mobile device (iPad, tablet, phone, iTouch, iPod, God only knows what’s next…)
Step 3: Connect the two
As long as the iPad and laptop are on the same wireless network you should be able to follow directions to connect the two via “Internet discovery.”
Step 4: Classtime
The rest will be obvious if Steps 1-3 went well. You can now back away from the podium and walk amongst the students and do whatever it was you used to do standing at the podium. I suggest you invest in an attachment for your iPad so you can easily hold it as you walk. I’ve tried a “padlette” and a modulR Hand Strap and like the lightness and grip of the former.
iPad + AppleTV + a Way to Connect to Projector
This allows me to display any tools or websites I can pull up on my iPad (cool or what!). Only downside is if you want to show Flash animations or use software not (yet) ported to the iPad.
Step 1: Set up your AppleTV
You’ll need to:
Connect the AppleTV to your projector. This may require a simple HDMI cable or, if you have VGA, a HDMI to VGA adaptor like this.
Set up and connect the AppleTV to the wireless network in the classroom using the remote that comes with the AppleTV. Easy to do unless your school, like mine, uses an authentication protocol for their wireless that the AppleTV cannot recognize.
Step 2: Prep your iPad
On the iPad double-click the control button to make a row of applications appear along the bottom. Then scroll this to the right and a window will appear where you can choose “AirPlay.” AirPlay will allow you to connect to your AppleTV and then whatever you do on the iPad gets wirelessly projected as you wander the halls of the classroom.
So if, like me, your feeling the need to be unleashed from the podium and want to engage your students in more paticipatory activities during lecture (and we should) then give this a try. Let me know how it goes.
Ignore for the moment the wealth of educational research (c.f. Bligh, 2000) that identifies how the large classroom is the antithesis of the ideal learning environment. This blog is about arguments you may want to consider when your Chair walks into your office and pronounces that your number has been selected at random (or not if a) you’re untenured, b) you’re research is waning or c) (s)he read your blog about the void in leadership in your department) to teach the survey course.
Argument #1: Take One for the Economy
This is the most common tactic in play. We all love teaching the boutique course to upper-level students that is centered on our research interests. Counter the Chair’s request by pointing out how the ~15ish upper/graduate level students desperately need those courses to gain skills to enter the workforce (Aside: As a rule, find novel ways to inject the word “workforce” into ANY conversation with a Chair/Dean/Provost etc.).
Argument #2: Andy has better genes
This one requires a bit more finesse. You need to argue that a colleague (I have a colleague named Andy that I love to pick on so I’ll use him) is so gifted in his teaching style that it would be a disservice to the students to offer someone as pedestrian as yourself. Now you and the Chair know that what you’re really saying is that Andy’s research volume has dropped and/or is in an area you don’t understand and that he, Andy, is not worthy to walk with the elite of the department (READ: those such as yourself with larger research volumes). This argument is abetted by the common belief that some instructors truly DO have the teaching gene and such skill cannot be learned through practice and training (Aside: These faculty probably use the same reasoning at home to avoid cooking).
Argument #3: What’s It Gonna Take?
The Corleone family probably never had to teach a large lecture (but if they did I would imagine the class having excellent attendance). I’m not suggesting making a bedroom present of the Chair’s favorite pet (unless it’s one of those yippy dogs) but I suggest when you’re backed in a corner it’s time to go gangsta. Causally touch an award plaque or textbook you authored or picture of the Chair’s yippy dog and ask in your best Marlon Brando voice “So, what’s it gonna take?” The Chair will feign surprise and maybe even indignation so you need to be ready with an offer that he truly CAN’T refuse. Assuming you’re not prepared to carry out doggicide offer an increase in your research buy-out (the amount of your own salary you’ll pay from your larger research volume) or leading some committee that is universally considered the academic equivalent of cleaning the lawn of doggie do. If these bribes gifts aren’t considered acceptable sweeten the pot by reminding the Chair that Andy has a gift for teaching* (*READ: diminished research volume).
Let’s be blunt. The large classroom format has little pedagogical support as a preferred environment for learning, yet this is the format commonly offered in many first-year college and university courses. At the University of Michigan, where I teach a large class entitled Extreme Weather, I estimate that probably 90% of our 27,027 undergraduate students will have had a class of more than 100 students during their years on campus.
The University of Michigan is certainly not alone in the use of large classes. The following lists the number of “large” classes by institution and illustrates that most, if not all, research universities rely heavily on the use of large classes.
According to Carl Wieman, universities grew from a model of apprenticeship . That is,
“the university was where an expert worked closely with an apprentice, assigning them challenging tasks and then providing guidance as needed to carry out those tasks, as well as offering ongoing feedback on their work (and this still exists in graduate schools). As the population grew, the apprentice model expanded into the university with an increasing number of students for each expert. The lecture format began long ago as an efficient way to pass along information and basic skills such as writing and arithmetic in the absence of written texts. The economies of scale led to this expanding to the current situation of a remote lecturer addressing often several hundreds of largely passive students.”
So the large lecture is simply a corporate decision to manage costs with minimal regard to the quality of the learning environment these classes represents. Schools like Michigan go to great lengths to attract the best and brightest and then, once matriculated, offers large courses with minimal faculty contact time (caveat: there are programs at the University of Michigan like it’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program that excels at connecting students with faculty in research). Despite this there is little push back from the affected populations:
Students largely accept large classes as the norm.
They who pay (God bless them) are generally disconnected from the delivery of product and have not pushed back.
Faculty who don’t teach large classes are probably the main reason they exist. Large classes for entry-level students allows faculty to focus on higher level courses close to their interests.
Faculty who do teach large classes are either hired specifically for that role (i.e. less expectation for volume of research and scholarship that regular faculty face) or are assigned either willingly or unwillingly.
University administrations want to keep faculty happy (see 3) while not alienating its “customers” (see 2).
So, who defends the interests of the learners who have little say in the selection of formal learning environments? This blog is dedicated to exploring the world of large classes to identify what’s being done in higher education and/or what should be done in higher education to offer alternatives to the large class.