Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 1 - Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy

This post is part of a series reporting on my experiences at the the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy. Click here to read more on this conference. #2014CHEP

I have been attending the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy at Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. Today was the first day of the conference, and I will report on some of the interesting things I have learned or thought about today. As I mentioned, the conference has been on the campus at Virginia Tech. Below is a picture of the conference center/hotel. It is a very nice facility and makes for a good meeting location.

The conference center on Virginia Tech Campus in Blacksburg, Va.

Keynote Speaker
Jose Antonio Bowen speaking as keynote speaker.
Our Keynote Speaker who was the opening speaker was Jose Antonio Bowen. He is a music professor and Dean of the Meadows School of Arts. His talk was entitled "Teaching Naked" in the classroom. By this he was implying that we should use technology to deliver content and then use classroom time to engage students. Strangely many of his ideas for engaging students actually involved using technology, so I got the impression that the title of his presentation (which is also the title of a book he recently wrote) was more an attention getter than an actual strategy for teaching in class.
Anyway, one of the main points of his talk is that educators' main strength is not providing content (which seems to be readily available on the internet). Rather, it is helping students gain thinking abilities - the capacity to solve problems, do complex tasks, think critically, etc. This makes sense to me - we live in a world where we have limitless information available, so we should mainly help people know how to take that information and make use of it.

He had an engaging style and share examples of how he has engaged his students using technology. He uses audio files to share examples of musical concepts, has games that students play to try and "level up" their understanding as they progress through a set of quizzes. His content is inherently interesting, and I enjoyed listening to his musical examples.

All Change Starts With Individual Change
One of the sessions that I attended had the above title. It was a session facilitated by Eric Pappas and Olga Pierrakos. They facilitated a discussion around the concept of individual sustainability as a key aspect of a sustainable environment, culture, and economy. We discussed some of the influences on our ability to live in a sustainable, healthy way. I thought the discussion was interesting; however, I was blown away by the definition they provided for what individual sustainability is. I share their definition and discuss it briefly here. It was a good discussion.

Engaging Students in Online Courses
One of the sessions I attended was focused on engaging students in online courses. The  facilitators were passionate and excited about the topic, which was nice. It was discussion-oriented, so I could get a sense from others' comments about how much online education was happening in their schools and universities. I came away from the session with the realization that Franklin University (where I currently teach and work) has done a great job at doing new things in education and embracing new technologies and approaches. I would say that all of the concerns and suggestions by the other participants were something that I and my colleagues at Franklin have already considered and taken advantage of. I ended up leaving the session a early and hope that it was useful for others.

Poster Sessions
One of the sessions for today was a poster session. Barbara Carder put together a great poster describing the instructional design approach she and I and several others used to redesign one of the courses in the IDPT Masters degree program at Franklin. It was fun to share our experiences and we enjoyed talking with others and hearing about what they do.

Barbara Carder and me (Joel Gardner) with out poster at the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.
 Dr. David Ni also attended the conference and gave a poster presentation entitled Designing Authentic Learning for Higher Education.
Barbara Carder, Joel Gardner and David Ni at the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.

After today's sessions Amy Vinchesi, David Ni and I went for a short walk on Virginia Tech's campus. It is absolutely stunning - nearly all of the buildings are made of stone and have a very classy look to them. I was impressed with the sheer size and beauty of the campus and really enjoyed being on the campus with the students and faculty.

Me (Joel Gardner) on the Virginia Tech Campus in Blacksburg, Va.
It was a good first day and I was able to reflect and think on my own practice in teaching, so it has been really nice so far. I will continue to write about the experiences here at the conference.

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