Preface – this is a new series to highlight examples of innovation that our faculty are already doing right here at Highlands. As we continue to strive for improvement, we should recognize what is already working well. As you spot examples of highly successful teaching and innovative, or just plain cool instructional techniques, nominate your colleagues (or yourself!) to be featured here and recognized by your peers.
This story begins with a routine classroom observation. Dr. Deacon, Social Work, asked me to observe his class. He said he was trying out some new technology and wanted my feedback. From that casual request, I was not prepared for the experience. The class I observed was a 400-level statistics course, challenging content to teach in itself, but made more challenging considering he was teaching in a computer lab and using zoom. Some students were at a center table with mobile devices, or just paper and pen, some students were at the computers, often with their backs to him and some students were participating via zoom. Students were watching the course content projected in the room, or the desktop computers, or through zoom while Dr. Deacon managed to keep everyone on the same page. Talk about maximum flexibility for students to access the content and stay involved!
What impressed me most was the level of engagement of the students. Dr. Deacon started class by reviewing previous concepts, engaging students by asking them to relate those concepts to their personal research projects, then introduced a new statistics concept which students were then asked to apply to their research through discussion – good techniques for any face-to-face class, but the level of engagement from all, including those at a distance, was truly impressive. I watched as students searched online for additional examples, clicked through additional content provided in the D2L course, turned around from their computers to enter the class discussion and back again.
But the real kicker came later. Dr. Deacon told me that when he first started several years ago, he did not even know how to upload a document into D2L. He struggled, got more training through EOS, struggled with computer limitations, got help from IT, and persevered, developing over several years into the cutting edge instructor he is today. It is Dr. Deacon’s progress towards innovative teaching that is truly inspiring. For those of us who are still at the beginning stages of integrating technology into our classrooms, of developing course content within D2L, and who may be considering how best to reach our distance students, stories like Dr. Deacon’s transformation from tech neophyte to tech guru give us hope and inspiration. It is possible to become tech savvy instructors, even if that vision seems far from where we are right now.
Dr. Israel, Dean of Social Work, recognizes Dr. Deacon’s contribution to the success of their students and his leadership among his peers:
[Dr. Deacon] discovered that using online technology would aid in expanding distance options for the Social Work program. And so he went about getting himself as fully prepared as he could, not having had any experience with this technology before. He nailed it, and students were appreciative. Course evaluations and personal comments from students indicated that he and we are proud of him and proud of our students. I have asked him to help train a professor who is offering online classes from Farmington in indigenous issues in association with our new Indigenous Knowledge Center. This is a major step forward for us in testing the technology. We will be paying close attention to examine how students learn with online courses. Dr. Deacon’s service in this regard is absolutely vitally important.
We hope you can join us to hear directly from Dr. Deacon, who will be presenting on February 29th, 2016 from 12:00-1:00 pm about his experiences, struggles, and success in transforming his classroom. **Lunch will be provided. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if attending.