Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Personal Response Systems - Technology to support active learning

Here is a great way to take a lecture, break it up with active learning that allows the immediate assessment of the level of student understanding.

My colleagues Sucharita Ghosh and Francesco Renna are using concept tests and peer instruction to improve student learning in their classes. This requires a question or poll of the class to assess the students level of understanding of class information. The students then interact with each other do discuss their votes and ultimately vote again. While this can be done with a show of hands or personal ballots, Ghosh and Renna are making use of an automated personal response system which registers the students answers and summarizes the answers graphically on the projected screen while integrating directly with PowerPoint. Each student has a hand held "clicker" and can at the press of a button immediately cast a vote for their favorite answer.

Cool technology:

I am also interested in other uses of PRS in economics. One early adopter is Caroline Elliott from Lancaster University. You can see her case study at The Economic Network and her article "Using a Personal Response System in Economics Teaching" in the International Review of Economic Education.

Let me know of other vendors of this technology or your thoughts in your comments.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Signup for tch-econ, the Economic Education discussion list

I have a great affection for an email list at Elon University called tch-econ. It is maintained by Jim Barbour and archived at Washington University St. Louis by Bob Parks. "This is an e-mail based discussion list. The format is deliberate - this technology is most available to those at smaller schools and in remote areas of the world. Additionally, the subscribers have indicated that moving to a web-based discussion list, while more elegant, would be less useful since most of us do not take the time to actively seek out web conversations, but we do all read our email. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or send a message to the list (subscribers only may send messages), ... simply " go to the web page at http://www.elon.edu/econ/tch-econ/. (quotes from Jim Barbour's tch-econ web page).

tch-econ list

Currently there are about 330 subscribers of which about 200 different authors have posted since 2002. Authors hail from about 35 states and 36 countries. (Thanks for the info Jim). This list is a valuable resource for your teaching. If you have a real interest in advancing your teaching and want a good crowd to hear and respond to your questions by all means subscribe. Just don't forget to respond to others' questions as well.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Tablet PCs Are The Way To Go!!!

Warning - this is rather long for a blog posting, but only begins to scratch the surface of the potential here for Digital Ink Technology.

Years ago as CIO I helped see the realization of distance learning rooms created which linked over a dozen sites with OC-12 fiber, but the star of the room was the rear projection SMART board that allowed one to draw, write and annotate with a crayon like stylus. A history of that is on the SMART website. Later in 2002, I fell in love with the SMART Sympodium (smarttech.com ) as a means of using digital pen technology to write and annotate my lectures. I still use the SMART Sympodium every day in every class.

I was at Educause presenting for SMART when the Tablet PC rolled out and there I saw the answer to the dream of economists, statisticians and mathematicians, indeed anyone who has to present in an environment where graphics and mathematics need be drawn. The Tablet PC allows the presenter to draw and annotate anything on the computer screen and to save these annotations, posting them to the students for further study and review. I wrote a paper on this "Six Uses of Technology to Improve Teaching and Learning" for the ASSA 2004 meetings and part of that was excerpted by LTSN as "Digital Pen Technology in Lecture Presentations".

This past Spring at the Purdue conference I saw the exciting work done at Notre Dame with their Tablet PC initiative and now see the progress of Dakota State University. Barry Keating at ND and Daniel Talley at DSU are both economists involved with Tablet PCs on their campuses.

Dan and I had an exchange on tchecon (http://www.elon.edu/econ/tch-econ/) about this.

I posted the following on a discussion of Blackboards versus Whiteboards:

I am also a bit late on this issue. I have resisted answering the question of white boards or chalk boards with a resounding "neither."I do like to be able to write on "the board" as I lecture or to highlight some point made in discussion. I do like to use different colors. I know in a highly visual discipline such as economics that the image is everything. Being able to show the graph or equation, being able to write as I explain and have the students write and draw along with me is a value. What I do not like about chalk-boards and white-boards is that I can not write and talk at the same time, that is I must turn my back on the students and mumble into the board, or turn and talk then turn and write revolving like a top. I also do not like being unable to save the written and drawn work so the next lecture can begin from where we left off or a missing student can be shown what at least was written down.

For these reasons and more, I migrated away from chalk and white boards two years ago and began using an electronic whiteboard. in 1996 when I was CIO we installed rear projection SMART boards in all our distance learning rooms, but even the portable version was well over $10,000. However, I fell in love with the concept. In 2002, SMART introduced the Sympodium, today about $2000 which is a write on monitor which lays almost flat on my desk and with the pen I can use a digital ink technology to project everything I am writing on the board. This SMART Sympodium connects to laptop and projector to make a complete system and i do not ever want to teach again without digital ink.

The newest possibility is the Tablet PC combining some of the features of the Sympodium and the laptop together. A very few in the country are experimenting with these and I have been trying to keep up with the experiments and conduct some of my own. Barry Keating at UND is using the Tablet PC in his business economics classes to great effect.

If you are using any type of digital ink technology in your classes I would like to know. In both cases we can write on the screen and have the image projected, choosing the most desirable colors and being able to write over and supplement anything we can show on our screen from PowerPoint to Word to SAS. The way I use mine most effectively is supply my notes to the class via WebCT (that is on the Internet) and encourage students if they want to print the notes before coming to class. That way they are not struggling to make sure they matched all the subscripts correctly and can concentrate on the discussion and can add any expansion of the notes that I do in class (often considerable).

I think the Sympodium is invaluable in my introductory as well as my graduate econometric classes. The latter, because only the Sympodium has the clear resolution to display calculus (my 'acid' test of tablets). If you have ever used PowerPoint to show a great animation of a demand curve shifting to the right and you proudly point to the new emerging equilibrium, nothing brings you down faster than that students that says "what if it shifts to the left?" On a static medium you can not do anything except say well just imagine the curves went the other way or sorry that isn't in my slide show. With digital ink you just write over the slide you just showed or you press a button got a blank screen and start the drawing of the answer to the question.

Daniel Talley followed with this great post:

Better late than never:

I just wanted to add my name to the list of those who are interested in using digital ink instead of blackboards and whiteboards. Dakota State University (South Dakota) is going to become a 'wireless, laptop/tablet PC' university this fall. The relevance to this thread of discussion is that, with the roll-out of an ink-enabled Office 2003 suite, much if not all of the drawing abilities that Steven describes with the Sympodium will be available on my laptop/tablet PC that I take to class.

Annotating my presentations using colored digital ink is something I experimented with using a 'slate'-style tablet this past spring. But we will be moving to a new computer that combines the full functionality of a laptop with the tablet's features. (The new Gateway M275 PC which will be required for Fall 2004 first and second year students looks like a laptop but the screen can be folded around to become a flat 'slate'-style tablet, controlled by a stylus. I eagerly anticipate having an readily accessible laptop keyboard and a CD/DVD combo drive combined with all of the tablet PC's wireless and drawing capabilities.) Our projectors can be accessed wirelessly, so I will be able to take my (wireless) laptop/tablet PC in one arm and wander up and down the aisles of our lecture hall, drawing graphs free-hand on my computer and having them automatically project behind me onto the big screen from wherever I stand in (or outside!) of the room.

I will also be able to share the projector with my students--if *I* want. This will hopefully open up a whole new world of in-class tasks that can be presented and discussed by the students. For example, consider creating assignments for small groups of students, where they use the web to visit (the same or different) websites to answer specific instructor-authored questions and present the results of their analysis to the class. Or running Aplia-style Internet-based market simulations with follow-up questions answered by the groups--perhaps with each group projecting an answer to a question or set of questions for class discussion. Or going to a macroeconomics simulation website and giving each group a different set of starting parameters and exogenous 'shocks' to analyze in class. By making the class more hands-on and interactive, I hope to effectively integrate more active learning classroom teaching strategies while using the computer to full extent as a teaching tool. Best of all, I get to use a computer and walk around the room again.

This semester I used a 'tethered' (non-wireless) Tablet PC. And the software required that I convert all of my documents/spreadsheets/PowerPoint files into static (Windows Journal) versions ahead of time so that I could draw on them. Combined with 'ink-enabled' Word, Excel and PowerPoint, I will be able to draw on the files and presentations directly, edit them, save them, and share them with other MS Office users--the ink is even backwards compatible so those who do not yet have Office 2003 can see it. Given my poor handwriting, I am also looking forward to 'on-the-fly' handwriting-to-text conversion for annotating lecture notes during class. (Like Steve, I like to supply the class with incomplete sets of lecture notes via WebCT so they can follow along more easily in my principles classes.) While my annotations may be clear to me, converting them to text and positioning them easily and simply in my documents will no doubt be well received by students. (Especially the ones who wryly ask me to 'write in English, please' at some point during my lectures.)

I am currently planning to experiment this summer and ultimately expect to redesign my courses to make good use of the wireless, ink-enabled environment. I would welcome hearing more classroom teaching ideas and tips from those who are already using digital ink.

Thanks for the links, Steven!

Dr. Daniel A. TalleyDaniel.Talley@dsu.edu

Electronic Portfolios

I am trying to make electronic portfolios and the formative and sumative assessment of economic majors a specialty of mine. I have been presenting papers on this across the country and have been doing a bit of proposal writing for support of continued research. The department's requirements for the student portfolio as well as links to students actual portfolios can be found here.

In 2000 the Department of Economics at The University of Akron revised its curriculum at the undergraduate level and created a need for certain specialized courses and processes. One course, Computer Skills for Economic Analysis, provides computer skill scaffolding under students while tying each skill to the economic proficiency needs of an undergraduate Economics. From an assessment perspective, faculty need to pay adequate attention to achievement of certain expectations for graduates of our program (e.g., compliance with the Hansen proficiencies). Because this course is located early in the curriculum, subsequent courses have more time to meet their requirements, for example, cultivating the ability to interpret and manipulate economic data, to apply existing knowledge, and to create new knowledge. The course addresses the issue of both formative and summative assessment of the undergraduate major and provides a different kind of scaffolding for the assessment of the department through the use of the electronic portfolios created by the students in this course. As the student progresses, certain artifacts from other classes will be placed in their electronic portfolios, such as research papers and presentations. A reflection statement is included with each posting of an artifact.

The student-created electronic portfolio begins as a course portfolio, becomes a comprehensive student portfolio during the undergraduate career, and finally emerges as a professional portfolio displaying students and their abilities to prospective employers. Students are required to put their portfolios on the local Intranet, and some of the students are proud enough of their portfolios to place a copy on the Internet on their student accounts. As novel as this might be in economics, this was not the first time our students have created portfolios. While we did not call them electronic portfolios, my colleagues Richard Stratton, Fred Carr and I taught, in 1996 and 1997, four courses for K-12 teachers that had them create lessons in economics to integrate into their classes, using multimedia and the Internet, with their ‘product’ displayed in what I now call electronic portfolios. Some of those presentations can be found on my web page http://GoZips.uakron.edu/~myers/scholarship.

Purdue: Teaching and Learning with Technology

One of the finest things I did in 2004 to fuel my love of instructonal technology was to attend a conference at Purdue University. The Teaching and Learning with Technology conference for 2005 is going to be on February 15 and 16. This is an outstanding conference, mostly of folks from Indiana and heavily weighted to Purdue's own constitutents. Truly an excellent time. Here is the URL for the 2005 conference and there is still time to present.

TLT is free and open to anyone with an interest in instructional technology. We invite faculty, administrators, and IT professionals who are passionate about the role of technology in education to discuss and demonstrate innovative ways of incorporating technology into teaching and learning.

Focused on the theme "Teaching Today’s Students," the conference program includes track sessions; poster sessions; small group meetings; and corporate exhibits, presentations, and workshops.

Important Dates

Call for Proposals

Opens October 15

Deadline for Proposals

November 30

Acceptance Notifications

December 15


February 15 & 16, 2005

Steven C. Myers' Brief Biography

Steven C. Myers received his Ph.D. in Economics from the Ohio State University in 1980 and has taught at the University of Akron for the last 25 years. Myers has served as Department Head, Chair of the University of Akron’s World Wide Web committee, as Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer to Provost Noel Leathers and as Assistant to the CIO for Distance Education Support Services. In 2001 and 2002 he was a charter member of the Symposium on the Scholarship of Teaching, Assessment and Learning under then Associate Provost Tom Angelo at The University of Akron and recognized as a SoTAL Fellow. He has been awarded the chairs award in Teaching Excellence in the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences and named a SoTAL Fellow by the Institute for Teaching and Learning of The University of Akron. He has specialized in classroom technology and classroom design and offered web-enhanced courses since 1994 and web-based courses since 2001. His teaching fields are general economics, labor economics, statistics, econometrics, and computer skills for economic analysis. His current research interest is in Economic Education and the evaluation of classroom interventions. He is particularly interested with digital pen technologies such as the SMART Sympodium and Tablet PC. Most recently he has spent his time directing students to create electronic portfolios and is studying ways to assess their progress towards achieving economic proficiency.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

First posting

Well here goes. I have wanted to try this medium to see if I can collect my thougths and the thoughts of others on teaching and learning with technology. While the title stresses economics and I am an economist, much of what I will post here will have application across disciplines.

Much more later.