TEACHx 2016 Reflections

by Christine Scherer

On Monday, May 16, SPS Distance Learning staff attended the first annual TEACHx Program, a one-day conference showcasing innovations in educational technology and digital learning. There were numerous projects and presentations, including a poster presentation on learning analytics by our own Jackie Wickham! It was a great opportunity to share knowledge and see what technologies are being used across the university. Below, the DL team reflects on what they learned at the conference.

Krissy Wilson, Learning Designer

All too often, videos in online courses are lectures, talking heads explaining topics. However, I was excited to hear many TEACHx presenters discuss the breadth of opportunities for educational video.

Alyson Carrel’s Wearable Cameras for Better Self-Reflection was an important reminder of the many perspectives that video can take. Educational video is most frequently presented from the perspective of the student watching a lecturer—in what ways might we use instructor-perspective, first-person video in the service of a course’s objectives? Shaneah Taylor used elegant “day-in-the-life” videos to showcase a variety of healthcare careers in the MOOC she helped develop, Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare.

Likewise, Andrew Rivers described a science communication assignment in which students create quippy, popular “science explainer” videos in his presentation Seeding Science Literacy: Student Engagement Through Discussion Environments. In the Zaption video presented in Create Fun Interactive Videos for Language Learning with Zaption by Patricia Scarampi, Aude Raymond, and Christiane Rey, the same short segment of French-language video is repeated and analyzed closely, with different tasks asked of the student in each section: context clues, comprehension checking, and grammar quizzing, among others.

And any reflection on the day would be remiss without mentioning Michael Peshkin’s Lightboard. Displayed in the Technology Petting Zoo, it was easy to see how faculty could use the device to illustrate lecture concepts in an engaging way, with overlaid images and glowing text.

Jessica Mansbach, Learning Designer

The idea that resonated with me most from TEACHx is the role of failure in learning. Particularly in disciplines like science and math, there tends to be a focus–by students and instructors– on getting the right answer to an equation or word problem. But, even if students can get the right answer, they may not always be able to explain why the answer is right. In his presentation Crowdsourcing Mistakes and Adaptive Learning, Matthew Graham emphasized that one of the focuses of his course on mathematical proofs is encouraging students to learn through failure.

Graham argued that students can and do learn through failure, and that instructors should not be afraid to let students fail. Equally, if not more important, than students’ ability to solve a problem correctly is the thinking process students used to arrive at their answer. Helping students learn to explain their thinking processes and logic, especially in math courses, is an important part of the learning process and helps them develop their reasoning skills.  Instructors and peer learners, Graham explained, can help students learn through failure and correct their mistakes, thereby deepening their learning.

William Guth, Instructional Technologist

One of the many key takeaways from my TEACHx experience was the simple reminder that the flipped classroom model is not substitute for face-to-face instruction, but a tool to prepare students, and the teacher, for class. When designed correctly, pre-lesson quizzes, pre-lesson assignments, and other exercises can motivate students to come prepared with questions and ideas for in-class activities. The results of these pre-lesson activities, if administered in Canvas for instance, can also give the faculty valuable insight in to what course knowledge is gained by students and what knowledge is being missed, allowing the faculty to tailor instruction, and create differentiated instruction in order to fill in gaps and make the best use of schedule class time.

Jacob Guerra-Martinez, Learning Designer

The best takeaway I had from TEACHx was a reminder that while many tools exist to enhance education, there still needs to be a human connection attached. That is why I feel one of the greatest benefits of technology is the ability to create a community for people who might otherwise feel separated from their peers. A perfect example of this is Karen Springen’s Journalism Residency, which had students working for various media outlets all over the world. Since this could be a scary time for those that might have to travel to a new place far from home, it was wonderful to see that the use of social media-like posts within Canvas allowed students to share experiences from different locations. Plus, not only did they post about their adventures, the students also shared pictures and links to their respective news stories. In the end the use of blog-like posts in this course not only gave the students a sense of belonging, it also gave insight into the field they are trying to break into.

Elizabeth Lemke, Learning Designer

TEACHx was a great way to see what technology, teaching, and learning experiments have been going on campus wide. The flipped classroom emerged as a theme for me, and throughout the day, I noted three different approaches (among a handful more) to flipping the classroom using different supplemental learning tools: pre-lesson quizzes (Chyi Chung), Zaption interactive videos (Patricia Scarampi, Aude Raymond, and Christiane Rey), and Articulate Storyline lectures (Margaret Danilovich and Jan Sullivan). If you’re not familiar with this concept, “the flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed.” There are benefits and challenges of a flipped classroom, but overall, the experiments and results from TEACHx show an increased interest in integrating technology to help students engage with materials or complete activities outside of the classroom, in turn, creating a more active learning environment in the classroom. Visit the 2016 Projects page for more information.

Aaron Bannasch, Instructional Technologist

I attended the afternoon sessions at TEACHx 2016 and found the student panel discussion and the Technology Petting Zoo most valuable. The student panel helped inform me of student attitudes toward technology and inspired me to wonder more about if fully online students share the sentiments of on-campus students. The Petting Zoo was a great way to get hands-on with technology, and I look forward to trying out the Lightboard mini in the SPS Distance Learning Studio. I would have like to see more examples specific to Distance Learning represented in the presentations, but many of the technologies used in on-campus courses are also useful to Distance Learning students. It is reassuring to see that faculty and students are both interested in trying new platforms, discovering, and implementing on their own in some cases, such as finding and using tools like Piazza. I also enjoyed being reminded that simply asking questions directly of students and faculty can help us learn how to better support them as much as analyzing data can.

Jackie Wickham, Instructional Technologist

I loved capping off my participation in the 2015-2016 Experimental Teaching and Learning Analytics Workgroup (ETLAN) by presenting a digital poster at TEACHx! I got some great questions and ideas from conference attendees that will inform my work moving forward, but my favorite part of the conference was seeing the results and presentations from the people I worked with all year in ETLAN:

Reba-Anna Lee, Director of Online Program Development

I was very excited to attend the TEACHx conference offered by Northwestern Information Technology Faculty Support Services, the Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching, and the Office of the Provost. The main attractions were the presentations by faculty about how they are incorporating technology in their on ground courses. There was a strong emphasis on the use of Yellowdig as a discussion tool that mimics social media in the classroom setting.

However, the glowing highlight was the exhibition of the mini Lightboard created by Professor Michael Peshkin. While there is a larger Lightboard available on the Evanston campus for faculty use, the mini Lightboard opens up opportunities for it to be used across the Evanston and Chicago campuses.


TEACHx 2017 is scheduled for May 19, 2017. If you’d like to recieve more information about next year’s program, contact canvas@northwestern.edu to join their mailing list.

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