Engaging Scholars using Twitter (week 10)

“How do you see this social media space contributing to your work as an academic/scholar/teacher?”

I’ve been using social media to connect to professional learning communities since the first one popped up. I used to create an account on all the different systems to make sure I got the username I wanted. Mostly though, the cultural issues with social media mean I am very picky about which systems I use and how I use them.

One cool story though about education research and social media though. Several years ago, I was trolling a Facebook group for astronomy educators asking for some help with a research project I wanted to try with students. I got some good feedback but one response, in particular, has grown into a long-term research partnership. Dr. Sean Johnson messaged me to offer to help me out with my research project. I was thrilled. Then he said, “Didn’t you teach me computer science teacher at Bellaire?” Sure enough, I had. This former student had just finished his Ph.D. in astrophysics and here he was helping me help out students. Facebook still sucks though.

I chose to use Twitter because the corporate greed and stink of moral corruption that hovers around social media is least awful with Twitter. I personally think the original LiveJournal was the best social media service. It’s all been downhill since VC took the nerds and homebrew nature out of “roll your own” web tools.

Engaging with researchers using Twitter has become one of my favorite uses of social media ever. There is a sense that I can get direct and yet informal access to other researchers and get feedback on ideas.

Anyway, here are some screenshots of me engaging with scholars surrounding my own education research as a scholar.

This is a screenshot of a poster with me tagging the organizers of the conference for which I was presenting
This project is a part of my dissertation.
Here I am trying to build some social engagement using some tagging of scholars and hashtags.

Direct Video Measurement with Smartphones (week 11)

Which app did you choose to use for assessment or for classroom engagement and why did you choose that app? 

Having physics students generate their own data using a smartphone brings an inquiry-based approach to the classroom. Here students record videos of real events in class and then analyze the video using a web app called Pivot Interactives.

Below is the desktop web-based interface for Pivot Interactives with a lot more available features.

Pivot Interactives Desktop Interface (web-based)

What challenges or limitations did you encounter with the app that you chose? 

Even though the school helped with the cost of $5 per student, the cost element is frustrating. The benefit of having a paid app is that the predatory nature of free apps that vacuum up user data from students is not an issue.

Also, the interface for uploading the videos was finicky. Luckily, students worked in groups and at least one person per group could get the upload to work.

Is there another app that you have used before that you find to be efficient, accessible, and easy to use? 

I’ve used so many. I do not believe “Ed Tech” has the best interest of learners, educators, or schools in mind when designing the “free” tools. We should problematize how and why tech startups want students, teachers, and schools to use their services. Audrey Watters can explain it better than I can.

OER in Physics and Astronomy (week 12)

Find and adopt an OER for your instruction

Back in 2012, when the first OpenStax astronomy textbook became available, I adopted the book for my “astronomy 101” high school course. Since then, the book has been updated annually and my course is now an IB Astronomy course.

OpenStax Astronomy by Fraknoi, Morrison & Wolf

Fraknoi, Morrison, and Wolf, the authors of the book, are well-known astronomy educators and have put considerable effort into making the content up-to-date. All images are in the public domain and all the links to content, including simulations and web-based software, are free and open to use for teachers and students. The book is released under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0). Instructors can share and redistribute content as long as attribution is provided.

OpenStax textbooks are available online as web content, as a downloadable app, as a downloadable PDF, or as an inexpensive print copy.

The “astro 101” pedagogy is well-established and this text follows the model very well. I use that same model in my astronomy course so the text is an excellent resource for me as a teacher.

The OpenStax University Physics textbook is less useful in my daily teaching although I use it as a secondary resource on occasion.

Create an OER for your instruction (using either low-tech, medium-tech, or high-tech tools of your choice) 

I have created a wide variety of OER content, but my TeachEngineering.org lessons and labs to use with OpenStax astronomy are available via the OER Commons site. I always use the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. That includes things I create for my students or for other educators.

I also maintain a curriculum resource guide for teaching high school astronomy.

OER Commons Content Created by J Newland
TeachEngineering.org Astronomy Lesson by J Newland

Face-to-Face, Hybrid, & Asynchronous Course (week 13)

Jimmy N. Week 13 Discussion Questions Responses

  • When developing a new class, what factor(s) would you use in determining if the class will work online or must be face-to-face? Explain why.
    • The most critical factor is whether or not the curriculum and your pedagogy make enough room for peer interaction and peer instruction. Then the question becomes how to make those things happen. Asynchronous is where the peer instruction and peer interaction component is most likely to suffer.
  • If you are setting up an online/hybrid course, list at least three technologies/apps you feel would make the class better and how they would be incorporated based on course objectives or assignments.
    • MS Teams – Microsoft stole the Teams paradigm from Slack which is a corporate social media and communication platform meant to help in environments that are inherently hybrid in nature. Also, MS Teams is integrated into Office365 so document management is easier.
    • ItsLearning or Canvas – these are learning management systems meant to allow assignments and document storage and communication. They work equally well for in-person or hybrid courses.
    • YouTube turns out to be an extremely helpful way to create content and share it with a class
  • From a teacher’s perspective, what is one of the biggest benefits and challenges for the teacher of an online class in terms of helping their students succeed? How does that compare to a face-to-face class?
    • Teaching online allowed for flexibility from the student’s perspective. Time flexibility turns out to be one of the only things students liked during online teaching.
    • Time is usually the enemy of face-to-face teaching for advanced high school courses like AP and IB. The required content does not allow for in-depth time on assignments nor for extended time on assignments for non-accommodated students.
Comparison of face-to-face, hybrid, and online course syllabi. (original document)

Reflecting on the future of higher education (week 14)

Let us reflect on how the experiences, expectations, and needs of the students and faculty may change, and how institutions and programs may evolve in the next three years. What will higher education look like in 2025?

Students: The major change in students will be the expectation that institutions of learning be more flexible. The term “hybrid” was really already obsolete before the pandemic. In reality, an online, technology-driven, media-rich pedagogy was already thriving in the midst of traditional face-to-face learning. The pandemic showed students that flexibility is key. Students will expect all courses to have online components, including access to “lectures” and other content in an asynchronous way.

Faculty: In a lot of ways, faculty will bear the brunt of the change that is already here. Everyone teaching courses will have to learn “new media” techniques. College faculty must learn to embrace the empowering of students’ learning pathways. This means learning to be flexible in how content is delivered but also in how content is assessed. The one thing faculty need to be aware of is to produce professionals that industries actually want. That is going to be a very hard lesson to learn. There will be many missteps and failed experiments. Will “industry” learn to be flexible as well?

Institutions: This is where it is hard to avoid cynicism. Institutions will likely become even more corporate than they are now. Since the money is harder to come by in higher education, what institutions might resist is having private corporations become the “saviors” of colleges. This is a very dangerous time for colleges and universities. If their influence wanes through financial attrition, what about the pipelines to industries that companies have come to depend on? We must through the democratic process ensure that corporate interests do not keep college for the fortunate few. But if we don’t all actively fight for a future where college is meant for everyone, “college” will be only for an ever-shrinking minority.