Tag: Jason Underwood

LEARN-IT conference exposes educators to instructional tech

learn-it-2

LEARN-IT 2017

Advances in technology come so quickly and frequently that it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of the latest innovations and applications.

Yet for teachers, and for IT professionals who work in schools, the integration of technology to enhance learning carries a great responsibility and significance: Students deserve the best education possible, and outdated equipment and programs hinders that.

NIU’s annual LEARN-IT conference, always held on the first Saturday in May, invites educators and school-based tech specialists on a weekend day for keynote presentations, breakout sessions and research roundtables that allow them to improve their knowledge and to better accomplish their objectives.

The goal is simple: to help educators transform the teaching-and-learning environment with “low- cost, high-impact” technologies that facilitate meaningful learning.

“Our overall theme for LEARN-IT has always been a focus on ‘low-cost, high-impact’ instructional technology,” said Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), which hosts the conference in the Learning Center of Gabel Hall.

“In many ways, our theme has been prophetic. Today we see more and more teachers using free or low-cost and highly accessible instructional technology tools,” Hung added. “And more than ever, we need to know how to use these tools effectively. I like to think of our LEARN-IT conference as a community of learners, where dedicated educators gather to share and learn from each other.”

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

More than 120 people attended the May 6 event, said Judy Puskar, who helped to organize the day with Gail Hayenga, conference and event coordinator in the College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs.

Professional Development Hours or graduate credit (ETT 592: Special Topics in Instructional Technology) were available.

“LEARN-IT is a day when they’re given instruction instead of giving instruction,” said Puskar, academic program advisor in ETRA.

“With technology changing so fast, people in the classroom often don’t have the time to get exposed to new technologies. This is a chance to explore the tools, learn strategies and practice with new tools,” she added. “A lot of times, we’ll hear, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard of this before’ – and now they want to use them in their classrooms or look more into them.”

Keynote speakers included two new ETRA faculty, both of whom will join the department this fall.

Dongho Kim, who comes to NIU from the University of Georgia, Athens, presented “What Gets Measured, Gets Managed: Data Analytics and Technologies for Teachers.”

Growing use of digital devices in and out of the classroom produces large amounts of data regarding the learning processes of students, Kim said, which in turn creates great potential in K-12 classrooms from data-driven decision-making.

“Educators’ ability to utilize that kind of data enables them to assess various aspects of their students’ learning in a timely manner,” Kim said. “For example, students’ log data in the flipped classroom context reveals students’ engagement with learning content and allows teachers to provide ongoing supports.”

learn-it-logoFatih Demir, joining NIU from the University of Missouri, Columbia, spoke on “EnhancED Teaching and Learning: User eXperience (UX) Research and Design to Enhance Teaching and Learning.”

He challenged his audience of teachers: “Are your learning plans based on your research, insights, trends and innovative concepts or are they generic for all students? Do you fully understand the needs and expectations of each individual student?”

“Teachers as everyday designers are designing curriculum, course plans, in-class activities, presentations and many other forms of materials for a diverse population,” Demir said. “Knowing well about the target audience and understanding their needs and expectations are key in design.”

Both professors call LEARN-IT participants “engaged and interested,” a group that also includes NIU undergraduates, graduate students and members of the Technology Specialist cohorts.

“Many students found the topic very interesting,” Demir said, “and appreciated that User Experience and Human Computer Interaction courses will be offered at the ETRA Department. Some of them indicated that they would like to apply such methods to their dissertations.”

Other presenters were:

  • Andrew Tawfik, “Evaluating EdTech: Evaluating, Designing, and Prototyping”
  • Kristin Brynteson, “Telling Stories with Technology”
  • Jason Underwood, “Effective Use of Video Tools and Strategies in the Classroom”
  • Colleen Cannon-Ruffo, “LEGO Education: WeDoSTEM 2.0” and “LEGO Education: STEM Robotics with Mindstorms EV3.”

Former ETRA Chair Lara M. Luetkehans launched LEARN-IT several years ago through the sponsorship of Bob and Mary English, friends of the College of Education. The conference always welcomes recipients of the Mary F. English Technology Award as honored guests.

LEARN-IT 2017

LEARN-IT 2017

The English family believes in the importance of educators having the tools they need to help all learners achieve their potential – and, Puskar said, it’s a belief that the educators who attend LEARN-IT share with the conference’s benefactors.

“Many of our districts are finding that technology is helpful in delivering content to students,” she said, “and in helping students to become self-directed learners.”

It begins when LEARN-IT participants leave the conference with “new skills, ideas and plans for enhancing learning,” Hung agreed.

“The high-impact strategies and technologies that the ETRA faculty and alums provide,” Hung said, “can enhance your work in assessing learners, engaging learners, producing media and putting the technologies in the students’ hands.”

Next year’s conference takes place Saturday, May 5.



Community Learning Series: Five ways to make sure kids grow through their love of tech

Parents can’t help but worry.

Phones, tablets and apps galore are competing for the undivided attention of their children and teens – and chances probably seem good to many moms and dads that the technology is winning.

So what can we do to make sure that our kids are getting the most out of their Internet-connected gadgets? Is there a way to promote their educational potential while mitigating the negative consequences?

Five experts convened March 23 by the NIU College of Education to explore “The Digital Lives of Children: Giving Screen Time a Closer Look” offered opinions and strategies that can help parents make sense of it all.

  • Remember that quality of content and user experience matter. All devices are potential tools for learning through their rapid feedback and just-in-time information. Developers of instructional technology consciously design software to deliver active learning that follows educational best practices. Ask yourself: Is this device or app helping my child to learn about the world – and to make sense of it? Is it making a stronger impact than a textbook? Searching the Internet for information can turn users into critical consumers who spend their learning time deliberating what this information means rather than digging for it.
  • Set rules. The American Academy of Pediatrics in October 2016 issued new recommendations for screen time, including zero hours a day for children from birth to age 2 and no more than one hour a day for preschoolers. For school-age children – kindergarten through high school – establish screen-free places, especially bedrooms, and screen-free times, such as family dinner and one hour before bedtime. Parents also must realize that their own digital lives influence those of their children; if they’re watching you, turn off the tablet or put down the phone.
  • Keep a close eye on your child’s digital life. Remind your kids that part of the agreement of supplying them with tech is that you are free to monitor their devices, scroll through their screens and ask questions. Make sure you understand the functions of their favorite apps. If they’re on Snapchat, you should join Snapchat. If you aren’t familiar with their apps, yet you choose not to intervene, consider that akin to allowing them to spend the night at the home a friend whose parents you’ve never met. Network with other parents to stay informed.
  • Encourage active programs. The hugely popular Minecraft – “Legos with no parameters,” said panelist Jennifer McCormick, a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary School in Sycamore Community School District 427 – requires users to think creatively and to interact. Many videos on YouTube are instructional, harnessing the medium of “modeling” to teach viewers to cook, knit, braid hair or thousands of other things in a way that’s far more effective than words on a page. Even video games require players to remain actively engaged by plotting strategies and making and executing decisions. Many video games also spool out instructions as the games progress, something that forces constant attention – unlike presenting all the rules before the game starts and likely causing players to ignore them.
  • Pay close attention for “red flags” of digital addiction. Are their devices getting in the way of their normal activities? Are they choosing their phones over other alternatives for human interaction or physical activity? Are they ignoring you? Do they put up a fight when asked to turn off, or turn over, the tech? Are their grades suffering? Is their use of technology a way to self-medicate for depression?
Panelists, from left: Jennifer McCormick, John Burkey, Jason Underwood, Susan Goldman and Danielle Baran.

Panelists, from left: Jennifer McCormick, John Burkey, Jason Underwood,
Susan Goldman and Danielle Baran.

 

For parents who fear it’s already too late, panelist Danielle Baran, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, has advice: Ask yourself how you got to this place. For example, if your children need screens to calm down, did you instill that behavior?

Baran also agreed with fellow panelist Susan Goldman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of psychology and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago: Human interaction – human emotional connection – is key.

“No technology you can invent has more buttons than you,” Baran said. “You are limitless.”

Other members of the NIU College of Education’s Community Learning Series panel were John Burkey, superintendent of Huntley Community School District 158, and Jason Underwood, senior instructional designer at assistant director of the NIU eLearning and Digital Convergence Lab.