Reorganizing professional development to emphasize pedagogy

Our Program for Online Teaching says we emphasize pedagogy, that we want faculty to think first about what they want to achieve in class, then look at the tools.

That’s important to us, because a primary emphasis on the technology leads to bad things among novices. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go into it here, but starting with Blackboard training is the road to canned courses and standardized pedagogies based on using the system defaults. It also leads to the IT tail wagging the teaching dog.

Anyway, we all know there are many wonderful tools out there that can be used instead of, or combined with, a CMS. Most POT leaders, including myself, are easily enchanted with these tools, and faculty who attend our workshops want to know how to use them. They want step-by-step guidance through the tools they’ve seen or are interested in. That’s fine, but it’s training, not pedagogical preparation for teaching online.

Tackling the POT website is the first step. Our website has a page of cool tools, organized by type. Our Pedagogy First! blog, the basis for our certificate program, explores different tools each week for its first of two semesters. Both of these are backward. We should be starting with the pedagogy. But how?

First, I want to take a tip from a great list of resources, the DiRT Digital Resources list, which is organized as “I want to…” items (mine data, network with other researchers, make a screencast). The tools themselves should be accessible through this somehow.

Second, there are organizational problems. I’m thinking that the category pages (Cool Tools, Guides and Handouts, Outside Resources) are very difficult to update and won’t help faculty find what they’re looking for. On the front page right now (the real “blog posts”) is what’s new in terms of workshops and activities. As the site has expanded with more information, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to keep it organized and useful.

So somehow I want to redesign to display our own pedagogical priority: starting with what faculty want to achieve. I have added a How Do I Start? map for faculty, and updated the look of the site, but more is needed.

Third, I want to flip the certificate program. Right now we have the first semester exploring tools, and the second semester applying them, and we plan to add prompts for the second semester (like we have for the first). The first semester should be pedagogical preparation, with articles and maybe even this book to read and explore together. Our faculty deserve more than just guided tool exploration and a place to post their accomplishments, and we’re not utilizing all the pedagogical resources we’ve been collecting.

That means a better place to post as well. Pedagogy First!, where faculty post who are working on the certificate, is a multiuser TypePad blog, administered by the excellent Jim Sullivan, one of our volunteer faculty. It’s a bit cumbersome, and the faculty might not have a chance for ownership of their work, though the blog has certainly helped build community. It might be better to shamelessly copy Jim Groom’s idea of WordPress with FeedPress, so that faculty who are formally enrolled in the certificate program could have their own blogs, and their posts would automatically appear. Then we could add, as I have to my on-site 104 class, a signup for anyone who likes to join us and have their blog linked from the “outside”. A MOOC for professional development!

Time for some meetings and discussion among the POT leadership, I’m thinking…

3 thoughts on “Reorganizing professional development to emphasize pedagogy

  1. Bravo and thanks for publishing these thoughts. We need more voices emphasizing the importance of setting teaching and learning goals and then selecting/configuring tools second. We also need more detailed descriptions of actual learning experiences and how the learning objectives were planned, implemented, and then assessed.

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