Context: A Faculty Technology Fellows Program
For over a decade Chatham University has offered a Faculty Technology Fellows program. Select aims of the program are to empower and enable faculty with “developing pedagogically sound classroom practices that increase student engagement and interaction through the use of technology; and planning, implementing, and assessing technology-enhanced projects for teaching and scholarship” (Panton 2016, para. 2). The success of the program in improving student learning and engagement, and advancing faculty scholarship, is evidenced by conference presentations and publications from prior fellows (Appasamy 2018; Bartel 2015; Provident, Salls, Dolhi, Schreiber, Mattila, and Eckel 2015; Sweet-Cushman 2019), and this article illustrates two of the assignments that emerged from work undertaken in the fellowship.
The two-year, project-based program is designed to be both individualized and collaborative across a diverse, multidisciplinary group of faculty. Year one begins with the fellows attending a summer workshop to discover and learn new technologies and develop a plan for redesigning at least one of their courses to incorporate technology-based pedagogies. Past projects have used technologies like Edpuzzle, Flip, Padlet, ThingLink, and Twitter. During year one, faculty members attend monthly meetings to brainstorm, troubleshoot, and collaborate with their Technology Fellows cohort. Year one culminates in a presentation of faculty-led projects to the university. Overviews of the faculty-led projects are posted on the Faculty Technology Fellows blog. Year two begins with a summer workshop that allows faculty to redesign another course and refine their technology skills. Year two ends with fellows completing an assessment of the program and documenting their course redesigns and outcomes. We detail two of the projects that came out of this work below both for their own pedagogical value, and as evidence of the potential benefit of implementing similar faculty technology programs at other institutions.
Assignment #1 – Using Social Media for Scholarly Communication
This assignment was part of a 300-level undergraduate psychology course on childhood and adolescent development. The assignment was adapted from one initially developed by a colleague and prior Faculty Technology Fellow, Dr. Anthony Isacco, Professor and Director of Training of the PsyD Program. Students enrolled in the course represent a variety of majors including psychology, criminology, pre-occupational therapy, and pre-physical therapy. Learning outcomes of the course include describing changes in the cognitive, physical, and social/emotional domains of development throughout childhood and adolescence; demonstrating the impact of culture on childhood and adolescent development; and applying developmental theories in understanding developmental milestones. The assignment is a self-directed, creative project that can be completed individually or with a partner. The purpose of the assignment is for students to use social media as a way to distribute scholarly content to the general public, covering ways to promote positive childhood and adolescent development. For example, students could create an Instagram account to make creative and informative posts centered around evidence-based practices for promoting literacy development in childhood. Students will develop creative thinking skills, as the assignment requires students to consider aesthetic issues and choice of medium when curating their social media content to help their profile stand out and get noticed. Communication skills will also be developed as students use lay language and visual methods to transmit their information. Additionally, students will develop research and critical thinking skills by gathering, evaluating, and analyzing sources of information in their chosen domain of development.
This assignment serves as a non-disposable assignment (NDA), as it is intended for persistent general public usage. NDAs are assignments that add value to the world and are characterized by adhering to the Five Principles of open education practices, which according to Conole (2013) include “information collaboration and exchange, communication throughout the education process, the communal assembly of information resources, scholarly advance through cooperative critique, and chance innovation” (Seraphin Grizzell, Kerr-German, Perkins, Grzanka, and Hardin 2019, 86). This assignment involves students collaborating with peers and experts in their domain of interest, and shares the results beyond the typical student-teacher relationship implied in a traditional hand-in assignment. As social media is increasingly becoming an important and trusted source of information among parents when making parenting and health care decisions (Moon, Mathews, Oden, and Carlin 2019), students will learn how to communicate to a particular audience (e.g., parents) while developing their assignments. Additionally, the assignment affords an opportunity via technology for lifelong learning, as the student’s social media account can live on after the semester is over. As students progress through their education and develop professionally, their social media accounts can be updated, revised, and modified—all of which are key principles of non-disposable assignments (Seraphin, Grizzell, Kerr-German, Perkins, Grzanka, and Hardin 2019).
Selected student social media accounts
Social media accounts are provided with permission from students.
- Using BuzzFeed, a digital media company, this student developed an online article that focused on childhood language development and milestones. In their article, the student incorporated text and visuals to disseminate ways for promoting language development and understanding developmental milestones from birth to four years old.
- In this selected assignment, a student used Discord, which is a voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) and instant messaging social platform. The student created a chatroom, or “Discord server,” dedicated to discussing ways to promote childhood reading development. The student created a resource channel on their server containing text, images, links, and YouTube videos promoting youth reading development.
- Two students paired together to create an Instagram account for helping new mothers learn ways to enhance their child’s social skills. Their posts contained links to empirical research studies as well as to local resources mothers could turn to for ways to promote their child’s social development.
- This student recorded a dozen videos that promoted childhood motor development using TikTok, a social media platform for creating and sharing short videos. Most videos were under 60 seconds in duration. In their videos, the student incorporated a doll to demonstrate the practices and tips for promoting childhood motor development under discussion.
Using social media for scholarly communication: a reflection
Upon reflecting on this assignment and discussions with students, this assignment increased both engagement in and excitement about the material. Students selected a wide array of social media platforms. In addition to the selected social media accounts provided above, students used Facebook, Flipboard, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Wix (to make a website), and WordPress (to make a blog). One pair of students even recorded several episodes of their own podcast for their assignment. Several students described their enjoyment with this assignment and commented on how the self-directed nature of this assignment allowed them to be creative and develop their social media platforms in ways that were meaningful to them.
Despite these positive experiences, we did experience some difficulties. Privacy and security concerns were reported by students while working on their assignments. Although social media use is nearly ubiquitous among college students, several students reported not having social media accounts and expressed some hesitancy about having to create an online and social media presence. To reconcile this situation, I advised these students to make their social media account private and to only share their account with an account I made for this assignment. Another difficulty students expressed was engaging in social media from a professional perspective, which conflicted with the gregarious, casual manner that students tend to use on social media.
However, working through these difficulties with the students provided me with an appreciation of the balance between the difficulties and successes experienced by the students as they worked on their assignments.
Assignment #2 – Flipgrid Project
Two faculty graduates of the Technology Fellows Program developed an Introduction to the Nursing Profession course, one of whom is a Flipgrid Certified Educator. All the pedagogies and assessments in the course are technology-based and promote student-centered learning in an online classroom. Flipgrid was used as an introduction forum and to facilitate an oral presentation assignment.
According to Bruff (2019), students learn better using a variety of different media in an online classroom. For example, Flipgrid, a website and application, allows faculty to facilitate video-based student learning activities and discussions in an asynchronous learning environment. Students use a variety of recording devices including cell phones, iPads, and computers. Students then upload their video presentations to a grid where the entire class can share and interact with the specific topic. Flipgrid promotes a kind of social learning that has become more generally recognized as important since the onset of the pandemic.
Students were assigned to record and upload a personal introduction using Flipgrid. The students were asked to share something interesting about themselves, why they are taking the course, and what they intend to gain from the course. This assignment allows students to get familiar with Flipgrid in a simple manner. It also personalized the online environment since students could see and hear each other’s introductions.
Nursing licensure assignment
Flipgrid was used for the Nursing Licensure Assignment to assess knowledge gained from learning activities on nursing licensure in general and the State Boards of Nursing in particular. Students share an oral presentation about:
- how nurses become licensed
- the purpose and importance of a Board of Nursing
- why nurses need to maintain their license and how
- the Nurse Practice Act, what it does, and its importance
Students are also required to complete a peer commentary describing lessons learned from their peers’ presentations.
Selected student outcomes
Flipgrid videos are provided with permission from students.
- This is an example of a student’s introductory Flipgrid video.
- These videos are examples of students’ oral presentation assignments. The first video is recorded by the student featured in the introduction video example. The second student demonstrates a different approach. Students were encouraged to use creativity in this course and were not bound by a strict presentation format.
Flipgrid assignment reflection
The Flipgrid video oral presentation was successful, and students rated the learning and enjoyment of the assignment highly in a post-course evaluation. Since students learned to use Flipgrid in the first week of the course through a video introduction, the assignment completion was not hampered by learning new technology. A link to the grid is posted in the course shell so students could easily access the Flipgrid platform. As Clinton (2021) points out, students are more likely to provide descriptive detail when using an oral report, which the students did in this assignment by expressing their feelings through oral cues. The nursing students, eager to learn about their intended profession, were excited to present the information to their peers, and the peer responses demonstrated strong engagement. Feedback was provided on content, presentation, and professionalism within the learning management system where the Flipgrid was posted. The assessment moved beyond simple written feedback, which an instructor usually provided as tracked changes in a written report, allowing students to learn about their presentation and professionalism skills. Engagement and community are the premises of Flipgrid, and it proved successful in this nursing course for the past three years, as evidenced by excellent student feedback.
Despite the success of implementing this technology, some challenges continue to be addressed. Moving forward the students’ videos will be filtered through the instructor as opposed to being directly posted by students and accessible for immediate viewing. There is a feature available in Flipgrid to require instructor approval. Although no inappropriate videos were ever posted, the Flipgrid team recommends using this feature preventatively. Another consideration is student access to and comfort using a video tool. Flipgrid continually updates user information in print and video formats to address these concerns. Staying abreast of these updates and sharing them in the course will be a priority moving forward. While no technological pedagogy is perfect, Flipgrid has presented minimal challenges for students and teachers and continues to be an excellent tool for teaching with technology.
The technology-based assignments presented here would not have come to fruition without the Faculty Technology Fellowship. Through this fellowship, faculty were educated, mentored, and encouraged to discover and implement unique technological pedagogies that spark student engagement and learning. The positive outcomes of this unique fellowship should be an inspiration to school administrators at other institutions to inspire their faculty to embrace technology in their teaching practices.