Brief Case Studies as an Active Discussion

Long and detailed case studies have been used extensively in universities for decades, but short, well-prepared case studies can be effectively used in colleges to stimulate thinking and interactive discussion or debates.

The Internet, newspapers, and magazine are littered with interesting stories, and there will most likely be hundreds, or even thousands, or articles to choose from.

When choosing a case study it is important to remember that the case must provide a problem for the students to solve or debate. If the problem is missing, the   professor can add the problem as a footnote. Another suggestion is for the professor to remove paragraphs in the story that contain the solution to the problem. Continue reading

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BYOD and Digital Divide Issues in Education

I have often witnessed students from lower social-economic backgrounds are the only students in class without a smartphone. Some students have told me that at home they do not have a computer, or it they do, they cannot afford to purchase MS Office – even with a student discount.

Knowing and understanding these challenges, I have been against the latest drive of BYOD (bring your own device) to the classroom; however, I have also noticed that there are some positive effects of the BYOD movement that doesn’t exacerbate the digital divide in the classroom. Continue reading

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Encouraging Students to Visit Professors’ during Office Hours

Many times my office hours were taken up by the usual tasks of creating attendance sheets and other administrative duties. At the beginning of my teaching career I didn’t have my many students drop in for help, encouragement or advice. It took a few semesters before I began to realize the opportunities my students were missing by not dropping by office for a chat.

At the beginning of each semester I would tell the students that I have an open door office policy for an hour before class and that I was also available after class. The problem is that they didn’t feel invited to see me in my office; in fact most students didn’t even know where my office was located.

With one particularly challenging course, I wanted the students to drop in so we could informally talk about any issues they may be experiencing in the course. To encourage this, the first assignment had to be handed to me in my office at least 20 minutes before the third class. Continue reading

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Learning Journals Help Students and Professors

Getting ready for a new school year, or semester, has its challenges for professors. One challenge is to try a new mode of learning for students. One mode of learning I have successfully used to enhance reflective learning is having students keep a journal on the course’s subject matter.

I began using journals when I taught research course, but I quickly realized how powerful journals are in other courses to help learners capture and organize their thoughts. While many students bemoan writing a journal by hand, they soon discover that their thoughts become more concise when they write by hand. Students don’t want to spend much time writing, but they need to capture information, and quickly learn brevity.

Students are required to purchase a notebook that is hard covered and with numbered pages. I want to see their mistakes, their doodles, and misinterpretations. While some learners don’t immediately see it, reviewing mistakes is part of the learning process.

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Planning Virtual Field Trips

Classroom time constraints are a barrier to taking adult learners on field trips. Whether the class takes place as a night course or a part of the daytime curriculum, the usual three hour class prohibits taking students off campus. The answer is to take students on a virtual field trip.

Many of the popular virtual field trip (search Google for suggestions) includes museum or historical sites. Finding an appropriate field trip is often the first hurdle an educator must overcome. However, with a bit of creativity, a trip to a museum or historical site will provide a plethora of ideas.

For example, as a media teacher, several of my courses included classes on how to write a media release. I could easily take the students to the virtual tour of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and have them identify news stories and news releases based on the information found.

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The Lost Art of Using the Whiteboard

Almost every instructor I know uses only PowerPoint in class. It’s unfortunate that the whiteboard is often underused; in fact I often carry a couple of markers and an eraser with me, as sometimes the classrooms aren’t even equipped with them.

Like most teachers, I rely on PowerPoint to illustrate the main points of a lecture, but I also use the whiteboard to augment the topics of the day and help students to interact with each other.

At the beginning of the course I decide how I’m going to use a whiteboard. Is it for support material presented on the PowerPoint or will I use it as my main visual? Either can work well, but I’ll stick to one way of presenting material so that students know how important the information is. For an instructor who rarely uses a whiteboard, students may see the information on the whiteboard as ultra important.

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Brief Case Studies as an Active Discussion

Long and detailed case studies have been used extensively in universities for decades, but short, well-prepared case studies can be effectively used in colleges to stimulate thinking and interactive discussion or debates.

The Internet, newspapers, and magazine are littered with interesting stories, and there will most likely be hundreds, or even thousands, or articles to choose from.

It is important to remember that the case must provide a problem for the students to solve or debate. IF this is missing professor can add the challenge as a footnote, or, perhaps, by not including paragraphs in a newspaper stories that contain the solution to the problem.

Continue reading

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Striking a Balance Between M-learning, E-learning, and Classroom Learning

M-learning is the new wave of education and training, but while organizations are, for the most part, thrilled with the new and cheaper mean so delivering learning material, is seems that little thought has been put into how the learners feel about it.

The traditional classroom did not work well for some students, but it offered a variety of delivery methods, such lecture, experiential and collaborative learning. The set times of class, and the often times rigid seating structure served us well for decades, but some students, such as those with even mild learning disabilities, social issues, or short attention spans, did not get the full benefits of classroom learning.

M-learning, similar to eLearning, is no different. It caters to specific learning styles and to different personality styles. For example, a highly extroverted, social person may find the lack of other learners in the m-learning environment to be detrimental. In addition, learners with short attention spans may simply lack the ability to focus on m-learning, even though m-learning specifically use small learning chunks.

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Why is “Why” the Most Important Word in a Learner’s Vocabulary?

By the time a learner reaches college or university they believe they know how to learn. They are wrong. They know how to learn at a high school level. Experience has shown me that many first semester students believe college is merely an extension of high school. It’s time to teach learners how to learn by showing them that involvement in the classroom is one of the keys to success.

In the world of lectures and passive e-learning, asking questions are not generally encouraged; however helping students learn is the purpose of teaching and instructing. Helping students develop a passion for life-long learning is something all instructors should do.

One of the keys to learning is asking “why.” “Why is this important?” “Why did this happen?” “Why” also leads to asking other questions, such as “How does this impact me and society?” and “What would happen if …?”

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The Advantages of Classroom Learning

Many colleges and universities are now offering e-learning, and m-learning courses (e-learning is electronic learning, such as using the Internet, while m-learning is using mobile devises, such as the new iPad). The course selection is often attractive, as is the lure of studying and learning at the student’s convenience.

I will discuses the positive and negative attributes of e-learning courses in a feature posting, but I believe we should examine why the advantages of actually attending classroom-based, instructor led course.

Interactions between learner and instructor: Many instructors are interesting to watch and listen to, which is lost in the world of e-learning. This is an excellent example of interactive learning. It is easy and quick for learners to ask questions or ask for clarification on a particularly difficult theory or topic.

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