VCU’s AltLab will be hosting its equivalent of a weeklong celebration of culture and “radical self-expression” in the Nevada desert with AltFest, an event billed as an “academic learning transformation festival.” While ALTfest will have a bit less nudity than Burning Man, it will offer a “program of formal and informal special events, performances, and festive activities celebrating stories of learning transformation and exploring new possibilities.”
The event is designed to capture and create opportunities for educators and learners to engage in active learning experiences and share stories of learning transformation. ALTfest is May 12-14, 2015 in the Academic Learning Commons on the VCU campus in Richmond, VA, clothing optional. On the final day of the event participants will set fire to a giant papier-mâché replica of Shaka Smart. The call for proposals deadline is March 30th. Registration is open. More info here: http://altfest.vcu.edu.
One of the first Reengineering efforts I was part of at the VCCS was serving on the Innovation Through Technology Task force. The stated goal of this group was to “support the creation of high performance systems that utilize fully the talent and potential of our people, leverage the power of technology, enhance productivity, and produce better outcomes for students.” The ITTF group quickly agreed that one major barrier to reaching this goal was, broadly, communication. On the one hand, there was too little communication among faculty and staff across the VCCS, leading to the age old problem of reinventing the wheel.
On the other hand, there was also too much communication. Throughout the VCCS faculty and staff communicate with email, discussion lists (d-lists), listservs, and online forums. We have an intranet, Buzz, and our various college and system websites. We have Blackboard announcements, RSS feeds, and digital newsletters. There is Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, and Google+. We can connect via videoconference with Collaborate, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, and Skype. I could go on and on. The information is out there, but on which channel? Overall, whether too much or too little, communication across the VCCS has been ineffective.
You could say that this problem is endemic to our information age: the belief that more communication is inherently better. Blast out your announcement on every platform you can in order to reach the most eyeballs. I am guilty of this. But I am also guilty of ignoring a large amount of information I receive. My Twitter feed speeds by unread. One third of my emails are vendor spam or electronic newsletters. Probably like you, I receive way too much information that I can realistically absorb and have few tools to sort the more important stuff (email request from my boss requesting materials for next week’s meeting) from the trivial (50% off Groupon for a hot air balloon ride).
That brings us to ICE. The Innovation Community Exchange (ICE) is an online system developed by the folks at New River Community College as an outcome of the Innovation Through Technology Task Force. The intent of ICE is to help solve the ineffective communication I described by linking people, technology, and information in order to promote college innovations. ICE is an online innovation space where VCCS “makers” can to share ideas, promote products, and search for collaborative partners. Users can use the platform to search for an idea, an individual, a software package, or a learning opportunity. Users can also participate in discussion threads or training sessions, or download available products to try for themselves. RSS feeds and email notifications allow users to track developments.
A system like ICE could be a powerful tool for the VCCS to effectively share innovative ideas, services and artifacts, allowing colleges to accomplish things together that may not be able to individually.
That said, I wonder if ICE is going to be yet another communication platform to add to my list above, or if it will be perceived as useful enough to get some significant use across the VCCS? We built it–will they come? And if they don’t, what will we have learned?
Perhaps the Rambling Professor can convince you to give ICE a try.
Hey VCCS faculty, the jmUDESIGN Institute is a great opportunity to hone your instructional design chops to deliver more learner-centered instructions and is being offered for free to faculty from state-funded Virginia colleges and universities.
The 2015 jmUDESIGN Institute will guide participants from Virginia public institutions through the instructional design and redesign processes, providing the skills, knowledge, and support necessary to foster a learner-centered environment. A team of experienced facilitators will assist participants in the principles, methods, and strategies of backward design and course alignment. Each phase of the facilitation process is designed to model diverse pedagogical principles, ranging from learner-centered teaching to team-based learning (TBL). Participants are placed in a small group learning community for the duration of the institute, allowing for rich exchange and collaboration amongst peers. The Institute will be held June 15-19, 2015.
Opening Session Plenary Keynote: April 1, 12:00 – 1:30 PM
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is a mother and grandmother, a lifelong educator, a proud Blue Star mom, and an active member of her community. As Second Lady, Dr. Biden works to bring attention to the sacrifices made by military families, to highlight the importance of community colleges to America’s future, and to raise awareness around areas of particular importance to women, including breast cancer prevention, all while continuing to teach English full-time at a community college in Virginia.
Teaching and Learning Plenary Keynote: April 2, 2:30 – 4:00 PM
Dr. Ken Bain is one of the best-known scholars of teaching and learning in the United States. A well-accomplished historian, he earned his reputation with the 2004 publication of What the Best College Teachers Do, the second fastest selling book in the history of Harvard University Press and one of the top five best-selling college education books in the last 20 years. He was the founding director of four major teaching centers and is currently president of the Best Teachers Institute. For his lifetime contribution to both historical studies and educational research, he was recently awarded the prestigious Doctor “Honoris Causa” degree from the University of Valencia in Spain.
Today is the kickoff of Open Education Week 2015, and there are a host of physical and virtual events planned to celebrate. This is a global movement so there are virtual events being offered from virtually everywhere: from Belarus to Uruguay. There is a full list of events on the Open Education Week website here. Pay close attention to the listed times of these events.
Of note for the VCCS, Northern Virginia Community College’s OER PRoject is listed as a Project Showcase and Tidewater Community College will be hosting a webinar on the Z Degree on March 11th 2015, 1:00:00 pm (EST).
What activities and events does your college have planned for Open Education Week? Post them in the comments.
The soundtrack to this post is “Academy Fight Song” by seminal Boston post-punk band Mission of Burma (see below).
Over the past two years the influence of the seminal post-punk e-Learning and Educational Technology (eLET) Committee has grown considerably (if you’re asking what the heck an eLET is, go here). This is by design, actually, to parallel the increase in importance of e-learning and educational technology itself.
You’ve got to hand it to the eLET folks: they are mighty busy people, most of them working day-to-day in the technology trenches to ensure that Blackboard Learn is running smoothly, faculty are properly trained to use the (proper) edtech tools, passwords are reset, logins are issued, course shells are created, online instruction is effectively delivered, etc. and so on. Even so, the committee still managed to create and launch eLET Academy, a shiny new series of pedagogy-focused ed-tech trainings being premiered at the 2015 New Horizons conference.
What is eLET Academy? According to the eLET Committee the Academy’s mission is to…
…coordinate and deliver quality professional development to VCCS faculty in the areas of teaching, learning, and technology. In addition to helping faculty keep pace with instructional technologies and become better instructors, the Academy can help faculty document fulfillment of the major components of the Teaching Standards domain common to VCCS faculty evaluation plans: Instructional Design, Instructional Delivery, Instructional Effectiveness, and Instructional Expertise.
As part of that focus, there are two major components of the Academy:
Provide training and workshops for instructional technologies and applications common to many, or all twenty-three VCCS colleges to help ensure that faculty are aware of and have the ability to take of advantage of existing resources provided by the VCCS.
Provide training and workshops for instructional design, sound pedagogical methods, and other soft skills related to the teaching standards noted above. Where appropriate, Academy training and workshops will use objective-based methods leading to quantifiable results and certification, allowing faculty and their supervisors to clearly assess outcomes and relevancy to their teaching and evaluation plans.
Consult the final NH15 agenda to see the dates and times of the sessions being offered.
I think this new collaborative approach to professional development has a lot of potential and could eventually lead to the creation of an honest-to-goodness certification program that can be widely recognized by colleges.
“I’m not judging you
I’m judging me