We have been asked how the Digital Literacy Course from the University of Manitoba has made an impact into our teaching. It took me a while to write the reflection as I believe it needed careful thought. The University of Manitoba course, or any advanced level course on information literacy for that matter, is very seldom prescriptive. It rarely tells you what to do or not to do. It is quite different with the PDE course that my school dishes out for the new teachers, where obviously, the audience are in need of quick tips and a list of do's and dont's in teaching. Instead, there is a lot of guidance and coaxing for us to explore the information ecosystem (both digital and traditional information learning).
If I have to sum up the benefits I get from this course, I can group these benefits into three.
1. On the knowledge gain, there is no things to memorize or in the traditional sense, things that were passed on from teacher to student. Rather, there is always an option to explore -- explore new softwares, find out how these can be used to improve teaching, etc. A good solid evidence of my learning is this new blog from Weebly. I noted that this website is easy to use due to its capacity for drag and drop.
2. There is a lot of self-examination and defense of one's style of teaching. Because the program does not prescribe the right and the wrong ways to teach--it instead asks the participants to examine and analyze the way by which they teach, to look at the things that work and how to improve them better, and to see where they do not work and how to correct them. More importantly, the programme asks the participants why they teach the way they teach. I believe that my personal growth as a teacher occurred most in this sphere. It allows me to analyze and defend my teaching processes. And in so doing, I become conscious of what the content I put in my lessons, why I put them in, the manner by which I present them. I then become a conscious teacher rather than purely an intuitive teacher (intuition in teaching is nice too, by the way!).
3. Because of this programme, I am able to network with my peers and my teachers who probably have an answer to some of my pedagogical questions. I can seek them out through official lines (office emails) or unofficially, through tete-a-tete. As a result, i do not feel fear in exploring new methods of teaching.
As a demonstration of what I have learned, I have a case that I would like to share with you: The Diploma in Business and Social Enterprise (BZSE) embarks on an in-curriculum (during term time) Overseas Learning Trip for the first year cohort.
The task is to design an assessment for the second year cohort (who will not be in the trip with us) that I can look at and I can mark while the trip is ongoing. I decided to do an online assessment with a 10% weightage (I was afraid to make it heavier as this is my first time).
There are also several constraints:
1. How do you prevent them from copying?
2. How do you make sure that they hand-in on time?
3. How do you make the assessment substantial?
4. How can I make the test results portable enough for me to bring anywhere when I travel? I did tap in to the network and I did ask some of my classmates about this issue and after I have thought through the entire process, the tool that I came up with is:
a. A Google Doc form wherein the questions to the exam appear in the form of a survey questionnaire.
b. The results are compiled into a spreadsheet that can be cut and paste or can be left in the internet cloud.
c. The students are instructed as to the time limit (3 days), but the results also appear with a time stamp.
d. To resolve the issue of copying, I used several devices:
- I appealed to them through a lecture briefing (you have to trust the students to do the right thing)
- I allowed open-book, open-internet approach but no consultation
- There is a tick item (do you agree/not agree) to the condition that there should not be copying...this reminds them of the Honor Code that we have established [and to the gravity of their promise not to cheat (you really have to trust your students....:)]
- the most important of all, is the question design: the questions are designed to be almost individualized.
- To be substantial and at the same time personalized, the questions are mostly on analysis and reflections (I think this is the most important of all the devices).