My Book: Who, What & Why?

In May, the second edition of my book, Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies, published. This post examines the context of the second edition and provides some insight about my intentions.

Why a second edition?

In 2011, Susan Ko invited me to write a book about teaching with emerging technologies that would be included in her “Best Practices for Online Teaching” series. On the one hand, I was honored and excited about the challenge. On the other hand, I had doubts. I asked myself, “Why would faculty interested in emerging technologies want to read a book?” The medium itself was at odds with the topic, I thought. Second, how does one define a best practice in a space that is fluid and dynamic? Further, I am one to critique the idea of best practices. I prefer the idea of effective practices, as each faculty member brings something unique to teaching.

Nonetheless, I wrote the book and it published in 2012. Since then, the book has received many positive reviews on Amazon, Good Reads, and other places. I have also had many interactions with faculty about how reading the book has impacted  their perceptions about how technology may be used to support learning.

In the years following its publication,  parts of the book became outdated. This was mostly due to the high turnover rates for early edtech startups, was also influenced by the mainstream adoption of smartphones, critique of learning management systems (Blackboard, Moodle, Desire 2 Learn, Canvas), and the increasing adoption of open educational resources. I knew the book needed to be refreshed, but when I was contacted by Routledge and asked to write the second edition, I found myself revisiting the same questions. This section includes those questions and my responses.

Who is this book written for?

graphic showing the technology adoption lifecycleThe broad audience for this book is college faculty; however, the way a faculty member defines “emerging technology” is directly influenced by where s/he is situated on the technology adoption continuum. I find the image shown here, by Mindwires Consulting, to be especially useful to understand what this continuum looks like and how it feels to be a faculty member at its various stages.

Faculty who self-identify as an “EdTech Enthusiast,” are not interested in buying a book to learn about teaching with technology. These are the individuals who are blogging and Tweeting about what they’re doing with technology and looking ahead to the trends on the horizon. However, faculty who identify as a chasm straddler or at the tip of the late majority adopters are different. These faculty sense an opportunity with using technology. They see the possibilities, but they have not yet gotten started. This can be attributed to many reasons. Some faculty simply feel overwhelmed by the idea and are looking for examples to consider for their classes. Chasm straddlers often feel mixed with emotions. While they see the possibilities and have experimented with digital tools, they feel a sense of allegiance to a classroom without technology. This can be a difficult and painful shift to make.

This book is written for the chasm straddlers and the late majority adopters. These individuals are seeking practical ideas and a guidebook to orient them to this new, complex teaching and learning landscape.

What is a best practice?

As I’ve shared previously, I prefer the term “effective practices.” In this era, nobody is an expert when it comes to teaching with emerging technologies. Keeping that in mind, the practices contained in this book are guided by one thing: supporting student learning. The book provides ample ideas for faculty to use digital tools to make their class more student-centered and their students’ learning more active and relevant — and those are best practices, as we know from the learning science. The book also candidly addresses sticking points like student anxiety about using technology, privacy, copyright, and accessibility. These are topics that commonly cause faculty to shy away from experimenting with technology.

Examples

The Wisdom Wall is an example of a best practice included in the book. The concept is simple. Rather than telling students what they need to do to be successful in your class, ask students to tell students. At the end of a semester, invite students to reflect on their learning and identify one piece of advice they would like to share with future students in the class. These golden nuggets will not only be received with interest by your future students, but they will also reveal valuable information for you about your teaching approaches. The Wisdom Wall can be developed with a simple editable Google Doc or, for a boost of human presence, try VoiceThread or FlipGrid.

Another example, new to the second edition, is the Liquid Syllabus. Reconceptualizing a syllabus is the perfect starting point to revamp your teaching with digital tools. The syllabus is often conceived as a guide for students. It contains all the pertinent information needed for the semester. But, as we all know, students typically don’t use it the way faculty want or expect them to. Creating a digital or liquid syllabus with a tool like Populr.me or Google Sites turns that dusty old Microsoft Word file into dynamic, visually compelling media that can be accessed, bookmarked, and read easily from a smartphone or tablet. For a humanized twist, embed a friendly and brief introductory video in your liquid syllabus so students can learn a little bit about you and the class.

  • View an example of a liquid syllabus from one of my own online classes or click here to view a collection from faculty at CSU Channel Islands.

What’s new in the second edition?

In addition to providing the reader with a refreshed toolkit and enhanced showcases and tips, the book also includes a new chapter. Chapter 6, Unlocking Learning, looks at an emerging trend in higher education. As the faculty use of of easy-to-use, low cost tools has increased, more instructors are questioning the efficacy of learning management systems. The majority of higher education institutions had adopted an LMS just five years after the emergence of the LMS higher ed market. Today, LMSs are ubiquitous in higher education. What is the story behind this lightning-speed adoption? How might LMS usage impact how faculty teach and how students learn? Does using an LMS influence how we think about teaching online and blended courses? What would an online class look like without an LMS? How would students respond? This new chapter explores these questions and features the teaching innovations of Laura Gibbs from University of Oklahoma, who teaches online in the public web using open educational resources in place of an expensive textbook.

Click here to go to the book’s resource site and learn more.

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