GVSU Faculty Members Awarded “Most Inclusive Classrooms in the United States”

Two of our faculty members at Grand Valley State University have been selected as winners of the “Most Inclusive Classrooms in the United States” contest that was organized by Blackboard.

To recognize Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2016, Blackboard held a contest to find the most inclusive classrooms in the United States. Bb looked for teachers who have put in the extra time and effort to ensure their pedagogy, content, and classroom technology enables all students to learn and be successful without complex accommodations.

 1st Place Award

kautzcCheryl Kautz, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU  received a 1st Place Award

As 1st place winner of this contest, Blackboard has invited Cheryl to share her story as part of the Accessibility Track at the BbWorld Conference that will be held July 12-14 in Las Vegas, NV.


2nd Place Award

machajesSzymon Machajewski, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU received a 2nd Place Award

As a 2nd place winner of this contest, Blackboard has invited Szymon to share his story as part of the Accessibility Track at the BbWorld Conference that will be held July 12-14 in Las Vegas, NV.

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies department offers our congratulations to Cheryl Kautz and Szymon Machajewski in their hard work to support student success through creating instruction that is inclusive!

GVSU and MSU Collaborate in ThinkIn Event

UPDATE: MSU posted a recording of the ThinkIn Event on the MSU Hub Blog. Check it out!

“Serendipitous Learning Potential Through Intentionally Designed Learning Spaces”
MSU Hub January ThinkIn


On Wednesday, the Atomic Object Technology Showcase and the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology join forces to collaborate, connect, and share how intentionally designed learning spaces can promote and prompt serendipitous learning opportunities.

In short, the purpose of the “MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology ThinkIn” is to connect with innovative people and projects “in-the-space”.  For the January ThinkIn, the focus is on the following topic: “Serendipitous Learning Potential Through Intentionally Designed Learning Spaces”.

During the live meetup, conversations will be focused on:  makerspaces, the showcase, and the benefits of having the #edtech resources for students and faculty – to prompt serendipitous learning.  MSU will also provide information about a variety of innovative and collaborative spaces such as the Hive and the Hatch.

During the conversation, the following questions will be discussed:

  1. What is the technology showcase at GVSU?
    • What were the original intended outcomes of the technology showcase?
    • How have those outcomes changed over time?
    • What affordances did the space bring that weren’t even anticipated?
    • What challenges came with the space that weren’t expected?
  2. What is the “Knowledge Market” in the new Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons?
  3. Where does learning occur on the college campus?
  4. What spaces help to encourage conversation and dialogue?
  5. What events bring people together?
  6. What is your definition of a makerspace?
  7. Why is a makerspace important to college campuses?

More details for the 1/27/16 ThinkIn can be found on the MSU Hub Facebook Page. 

Flipped Learning: It’s the Goals, not the Tech

The flipped classroom is no longer breaking news for at least two reasons. First, the term itself has been popping up in the media for long enough that it’s hard to imagine any educator has managed to avoid it entirely. Here at Grand Valley we’ve been offering a workshop on the flipped classroom each semester since May of 2012, with a steady enrollment every time. More important than the fact that we’ve been talking about it for a while, though, is that the conversation has started to mature. Blog posts and “have you heard about this” news stories are giving way to books about flipped learning and academic studies that actually investigate its effectiveness.

I, for one, welcome this change. As an instructional designer, I spend a lot of time helping faculty look beyond technology to focus first and foremost on their students’ learning. The flipped classroom has generated some great discussions with faculty. I hope they’ve also gained a new set of tools for reaching their students. But so much of the early press about flipped learning focused on the role of technology that it tempts faculty to believe that they can become better teachers just by learning a new set of software skills. More often than not, faculty are told that the secret to flipped success is finding and creating videos.

Just to be clear, videos are not the secret. Neither is screencasting software. Or audience response systems (“clickers” or otherwise). In fact, there isn’t any technological tool, either individually or in combination with others, that will magically make you a better teacher or turn your students into better learners.

So if flipped learning isn’t educational magic, why has it become so popular? And beyond that, why is it worth adopting at all? Rather than offer a detailed recipe for flipped learning, I want to talk about why it’s a good idea in the first place. I believe that when it’s done right, flipped instruction gets us closer to achieving three valuable instructional goals. These goals can certainly be met with other instructional approaches. I’m convinced, though, that the flipped methodology gets us closer to achieving all three.

The first goal is meaningful engagement. In his book Teaching Naked, José Antonio Bowen wrote that “[o]ur challenge as 21st-century teachers is to leverage new content and new delivery systems into new course designs. We need to create courses that require and reward students who engage with material before and between classes.” For most students, learning is what happens inside the classroom. Once they walk out the door they’re free, their time is their own, and most try as hard as possible not to think about class unless they’re forced to “study.” Now that neuro- and cognitive science are shedding light on how learning actually happens, we know just how self-defeating this “out the door and out of mind” approach can be. Implementing flipped instruction forces students to encounter material outside of class time and it makes their contact with content in the classroom more engaging as well. Flipping makes it easier for faculty to implement active learning techniques, include structured time for reflection, encourage active interaction with the instructor and fellow learners, and move toward more authentic experiences like problem- and case-based learning. All of these make learning richer and deeper.

The second goal is agile teaching, a concept advocated by Derek Bruff. To understand this idea we should start with its opposite. Years ago someone told me that you should reconsider your teaching methods if you could walk into the classroom, discover that all your students had disappeared, and still carry on your class session in exactly the same way as if the room were full. Sadly, that’s how many classes are still conducted. The professor pre-plans the entire class period in a way that ignores the learners themselves. In such an environment, it’s hard to believe that student learning is actually the top priority. Flipped instruction encourages faculty to adapt class time to meet students’ actual needs, their struggles with the content, and to give students the chance to move closer to mastery. This requires a flexibility and “agility” in teaching. I like the picture that the term “agile teaching” brings to mind—that of a martial artist poised, balanced, and ready to respond to whatever might happen.

The third goal of the flipped classroom is the creation of self-directed learners. More than the poor writing skills that faculty perennially lament, perhaps the greatest problem for most students is that they aren’t prepared to take ownership of their own education. Students make poor use of their time, fail to keep track of important deadlines and course requirements, and expect to take a passive role in the learning process while knowledge is piped into their heads. These aren’t just bad habits—they’re signs of a problematic and ultimately self-defeating perspective on the learning process. Graduation will bring an end to the college experience but it won’t end the need to learn. One of the most important things we can do for our students is to help them understand how learning happens and to then equip them to learn effectively when they don’t have the benefit of instructors, classrooms, or grades.

Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis, education faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, use the term “affordances” when talking about technology. Their point is that technology is not magic and it doesn’t automatically improve education, but there are some things that it can make much easier. I think that’s the right perspective. As I said before, all three goals can be achieved without technology. Adding flipped learning—and the right technology—to the mix, however, makes these goals a lot easier to achieve. Technology is not what makes learning happen. But it can make it a lot easier for us to design experiences for our students that lead to truly significant learning. We won’t get there, though, if we put the technology before the learning.

Photo Credit: dusterdb88 via Compfight cc