With the disruption caused to the delivery of higher education by the Covid-19 pandemic, many educators found themselves moving swiftly to teaching in an online environment.
As educators adjusted to this new reality, the sense of becoming overburdened with the vast array of teaching technology tools now available is an all too real problem. Lecturers from the School of Computer Science at TU Dublin have found a way to overcome this by pooling together and sharing teaching technology resources they each had become accustomed to and swapping ideas on how best to use them.
The idea is simple, teaching staff from within the school meet online weekly and discuss the various technologies they had come across and the merits and disadvantages of using them. The School quickly developed a new learning resource from these meetings, including a suite of video guides on the various teaching tools and techniques. These have included guides on using software tools for screencasting, student response systems, brainstorming, virtual whiteboards and even a video on setting up a physical whiteboard with a green screen. In one of the more unique videos, a lecturer shared his experience of introducing yoga and meditation into the online classroom.
The Teaching Technologies resource, as it came to be known, was developed organically when Patricia O’Byrne, a senior lecturer from the School of Computer Science, proposed that colleagues could meet in an online informal setting and collaborate and share their experiences of teaching online. “Teaching purely online brings its own challenges says Ms O’Byrne.... in a live lecture, the lecturer can judge how their message is being received. Online, we need to do what we can to engage the students and sharing our ideas and experience really helps.”
From this meeting, it was proposed that a weekly ‘Practicing Technology’ meetup could be set up where individual lecturers could host sessions guiding their colleagues through a particular teaching technology. The sessions were subsequently recorded, edited and hosted online by Peter Manifold, an Instructional Designer based within the School of Computer Science. The idea is to give them a common theme and make them into short, easily digestible videos.
Continuing to adjust to the new online environment is an ongoing process for all educators. It is quite easy to see these technological tools as illusory ‘quick fixes’ to teaching online, says Mr Manifold.... it is hoped that by watching these videos, other educators can choose what technological tools might suit their needs and apply the learnings to meet their own teaching requirements. The collaborative nature of the video sessions is something that also sets them aside. The lecturers are not experts in using these tools; therefore, it is useful to think of them as a ‘guide on the side’ instead of being a ‘sage on the stage.
Across TU Dublin, academic and other instructional staff have been making heroic efforts to move course materials into an online environment, adopting new tools and technologies many were previously unfamiliar with. “We are all trying to figure this out together says Mr Manifold...and any resource that can help us improve the quality of the online learning experience for the students is greatly welcomed.”
You can watch the Innovative Teaching Video Series on Youtube.