Monday, September 21, 2009

Shared Concerns and Intention from Nelson Mandela University

I'm at Nelson Mandela Metro University at the South African Association for Institutional Research Conference. I get to do be here because spouse Rick gave the keynote today. The Vice Chancellor named some of our shared challenges like the economy and trying to be all things to all people.

Here is also what he so well- expressed: "We need to find ways to combine social responsibility with compassion and also with realism, ... we ultimately want to stand for social good."

The conference opened with a performance by the awesome university choir and numbers ranging from a British show tune to the Beatles to a tribal dance/song medley which won them an award at a recent competition in Vienna.

BTW, the conference theme is "closing the loop--evidence to practice," with the emphasis on practice that is truly change-making at practice level.

It only reinforces my want of the importance of instructional research and how all sides of the house need to come together to design research that will help instruction and student services --to have the design help gather data that can improve instruction.

George Subotsky (University of South Africa, UNISA) provided a top-rate retention-success presentation on Distance Learning Students.

UNISA is a mega DL university serving 280,000 learners. He is talking about the importance of gathering data about the Student Walk (the journey or path represented by all contacts a learner(has with the institution along the way, esp. in the first two years) as a way of becoming better at supporting and retaining students. Love the term Student Path. He additional spoke of the "non-cognitive and institutional factors [that] may impact retention."

Once again, so much to appreciate about what can be learned from this community of practice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why Use Recent Technologies in the Classroom

I have been working on a presentation/
discussion for an exchange in South Africa --really excited to learn about technology-based learning there. As we've discussed topics of mutual interest, we've arrived at a title that goes something like "Increasing Student Learning Opportunities with Recent Technologies." It is an umbrella title for three topics I'd proposed--letting students use Web2.0 apps for formative and summative assessment purposes, the receptive, creative, and interactive uses of cell phones, and immersive learning through virtual worlds and serious games.

I think I've come up with a frame for why any of this matters beyond students want it or it is cool:

Cognitivists make a case for providing learning experiences which require increased engagement or active involvement, which result in more time and attention spent on the learning, and in turn increase the amount of learning.

From the institutional standpoint, though we may grumble about students as demanding customers, by paying attention to smart ways of delivering good learning we are increasing our institutional opportunity for delivery.

Your thoughts?

In the meantime, I've been exploring Virtual Africa in SL. Have my t-shirt and bought some other clothing. Visited a shop on Robben Island where I learned about native plants there as I love flowers and it will be spring when we go. Left a note with many others at the Leave an Imprint board put up for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday.