18 August 2017

GUEST POST: Hope for Higher Ed

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I have the pleasure of picking Dr. Karen Tharrington's brain regularly on #langchat, and once as a co-presenter for SCOLT! @kltharri is a Senior Lecturer and Methods Instructorat North Carolina State University and an advocate for online Professional Learning Networks, technology and online learning, as well as future language teachers everywhere.

Also, she constantly renews my faith in university-level language learning.

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I love the idea of PBL, I preach about it with my methods students. We develop ideas that could be used in the language classroom. We read this blog.



But I’ve never been able to fully implement it in my own classes.


I am an educator to the core, but sometimes teaching at the Higher Ed level is challenging. We don’t see students every day, the contact hours are so much shorter, college kids are “too busy to collaborate” these days, blah, blah, blah….


And then I met my academic soulmate.


Dr. Goknur Kaplan Akilli is a TEFL professor from Turkey and she was invited to give a talk at my university this summer. I was intrigued by the description – designing an instructional technology course for pre-service teachers who are technology-resistant – so I made the drive to campus during my summer break. And wow, was I rewarded for it!


She began with a Polleverywhere, talked about wanting PBL to lead her course design, instead of the other way around; I couldn’t stop nodding my head. And then she shared her syllabus – an INFOGRAPHIC!!


People, I’ve NEVER seen a college professor use an infographic, in the words of Taylor Swift, “like, ever.” And it was beautiful. It showed learning as a journey.


She went on to explain how the course is set up. Think Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones in an academic setting. Students receive a letter à la Hogwarts at the beginning of the semester, inviting them to bring their WANDS (Wifi-Accessible Now Devices).


Throughout the course, students engage in digital learning and teaching WHILE digitally learning and teaching…whoa. She takes gamification to a new level and does it IN HIGHER EDUCATION. They compete in “challenges” with each other through collaboration, their reflections receive “Wordsmithing” badges instead of grades, and there’s a “Master” certificate at the end.


For example, one challenge required students to watch the Ron Clark movie and answer questions; simple and typical, but the way she formatted it was literally a game changer. With stars in my eyes, I started imagining all the ways I could implement this in my classes (insert dreamy music here).


I snapped back into focus and was reminded of what she said at the beginning – if she wanted students to use technology in their classrooms, they had to learn via technology in their classroom.


Just. Like. World. Languages.


By the end of her talk I was ready to ask for her hand in academic marriage. I want to collaborate with this woman! I want to learn from this Yogi! She has the same challenges but she gets it. There’s hope for Higher Ed yet.

Now, excuse me while I level up my online course…..

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