Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Learning Design and Technology
Showcase Course: LTEC 676: Social & Ethical Issues in Educational Technology
“Understanding begins to take shape in a way that enables me to make instructional decisions that are more likely to motivative and engage students in constructive learning.“
Click to read more about Daniel’s Teaching Philosophy
My teaching philosophy can be summarized in a word: understanding. I believe understanding is essential to every aspect of the teaching and learning process. For this reason, my goal is to help students construct personal and shared understandings of who they are and who they want to become as members of this Hawaiian place of learning. To do this effectively, I, as their instructor, must understand students as individuals with varying cultural, economic, social, and technical backgrounds. Who are they? Why are they here and what are their goals? By contemplating these questions, understanding begins to take shape in a way that enables me to make instructional decisions that are more likely to motivative and engage students in constructive learning. In the end, I want every student to feel my teaching is effective and efficient, and, most importantly, meaningful. Understanding is the foundation of my teaching philosophy.
The integrated teaching practice I’d like to highlight involves students creating and reviewing multiple, in-depth concept maps throughout the semester. The purpose of these concept maps is to help students organize, visualize, and document their growing understanding of the complex, interdisciplinary ideas covered in LTEC 676. Three times each semester, students use free, online mind mapping software (e.g., Bubbl.us) to generate concept maps representing the “big ideas” explored in the course. The guiding question for each concept map is What should an educator know about educational technology?
Concept mapping is an excellent technique for structuring and organizing knowledge. It is an analytical and expressive form of representation that emphasizes hierarchies and cause-effect relations. The creative nature of these maps allows learners a great deal of freedom to explore and express their learning, capturing what they already know and discovering what they want to know.
The practice of concept mapping is integrated into the course in multiple ways. Each round of concept mapping involves two parts: 1) generating a new concept map, and 2) reviewing concept maps produced by two randomly assigned classmates. Creating their own concept maps and then reviewing their peers’ concept maps provides valuable opportunities for students to reflect on their own understanding of the course content. In addition to each round of concept mapping, the student-generated concept maps are further integrated into the course as part of the final written assignment. This assignment requires students to write a paper synthesizing the course. While working on their papers, students are encouraged to review their concept maps, find ways to reference them, and include them as figures in the appendix.
At first, graduate students see concept maps as “elementary”. However, they quickly realize the challenge of representing their understanding of course content and the various connections between that content. To guide students through these challenges, I have designed a detailed set of instructions and support mechanisms. The first time the assignment is given, students receive an overview of concept mapping that covers its purpose and grading, along with step-by-step instructions about what to do. Students are told that their concept maps will be graded along four dimensions: 1) Content, Concepts & Terminology, 2) Hierarchical Structure, 3) Linkages Among Concepts, and 4) Visual Design & Layout. A detailed grading rubric is provided to define these dimensions and help students understand what’s expected from their concept maps. In total, the assignment involves eight steps from reviewing previous class notes to embedding a final concept map in the course’s online discussion thread. In addition, multiple tutorials in written and video formats are provided to guide students in learning how to use the mind mapping software.
One of the main challenges of this assignment is helping students find a reasonable level of detail and granularity for their concept maps. Given the rich interdisciplinary nature of the course, some students will come to the instructor and ask, “How much is enough?” Of course, part of the value of such open-ended assignments is explaining that there is no “right” answer and that everyone’s concept maps will be different. This creates an opportunity for students to practice gauging their own understanding and decision making as they strive to find a level of detail that is comprehensive yet meaningful to them. A second challenge with this integrated practice has to do with concept mapping technology itself. Inevitably, some students will find the learning curve of the software difficult. In these cases, I work with students individually and provide them with additional external resources designed to equip them with the skills necessary to succeed. In contrast, other students may feel limited by the software as they’re used to more sophisticated design applications. In these cases, I encourage students to use their preferred software, reminding them that the assignment is not about the technology itself but the content represented by their maps. The third challenge instructors should be aware of has to do with students being reluctant to give feedback on such personally meaningful artifacts. Oftentimes students need coaching in how to review concept maps with a critical eye. They also need mentoring when it comes to providing polite and constructive feedback to peers. Taken together, all of the challenges associated with this integrated practice create valuable teachable moments that align and advance our institutional learning objectives.
In terms of performance, I feel the results of this teaching practice speak for themselves. The concept maps are complex and visually stunning, while representing remarkably personal expressions of students’ efforts to make sense of the role of technology in education and society. I encourage readers to browse through some of the student concept maps. On the anonymous course evaluation, one student described the concept map assignments as “challenging in ways that encourage multiple understandings of course topics and themes.” Another comment stated, “At first, I really didn’t like these concept maps because I felt pressured to put out all of my ideas and wasn’t sure if what I was inputting would be correct. However, with each map, I realized how helpful it has been to look back and check-on each theme. It became really helpful when helping me write my paper.”
Overall, this course has received overwhelmingly positive course evaluations (M = 4.94, SD = 0.25). I believe this course about the social and ethical issues in educational technology has had a meaningful impact on students’ growth as educators. It is such an honor to have this opportunity to share some of my teaching practices with a wider audience.