Delving into Deep Learning Summer Teaching institute 2019

A collaboration of CELTSS and ETO

Robin Robinson and Lina Rincón kicked off the day and highlighted the value of the partnership between CELTSS and the Education Technology Office.

What is deep learning?

The first step in our exploration of the concept was to define it. The group shared ideas, such as when students shift from external to internal motivation. Deep learning might also be related to attitude, such as when students have faith in their ability to learn and show an openness to changing their point of view in the face of new evidence. Yumi Park, Lina Rincón and Deb McMakin shared their definitions in this video intro.

How do we implement deep learning?

Three themes emerged in our discussion: flexibility, collaboration, and authenticity.

Choose Your Muse

Ken Bain writes that deep learning occurs when students feel like they are in control of their learning. We can facilitate this by introducing flexibility in how students engage and demonstrate what they know. Deb McMakin asked us to re-think how we ask students to report out. We can ask students to choose between options like presenting, composing a song, putting on a skit, and so on.

Students who prefer to reflect silently might benefit from activities like journaling, which can be equitable (everyone can participate simultaneously) and can facilitate assessment of participation if we collect the journals.

Lina Rincón uses the dreaded Blue Books (typically used for exams) to run journaling activities.

Colleen Coyne also gives students options. Students take turns picking low stakes writing prompts, which helped the students get comfortable. A separate assignment asks students to pick any text they feel captures the current zeitgeist (such as a poem, show, song, article…), which they will analyze and present. Colleen then publishes the analyses in a public-facing blog called Zeitgeist Playlist. More on authenticity below!

Let’s Get Together

Collaboration can lead to a more diverse and rich output. Lina and Deb shared some interesting ways to encourage interdependent learning, where students work together to accomplish one goal. In small groups, Deb’s students sort, organize and elaborate on concepts written on index cards. A “gallery walk” lets the students see each other’s outcomes and leads to a reflective discussion about each other’s decisions.

Lina uses the “naive task” about wealth distribution to spark interest and speculation about a topic before students develop their expertise. This exercise is inspired by Larry Michaelsen’s 4S Structure.

Classroom response and engagement

Gordon Hall introduced us to UMU, an engagement tool that lets you poll students, display results on screen, and a variety of other interactive activities. You could use a tool like UMU to give shy students the flexibility to quietly participate, or you can collect and display the outputs of student collaboration.

Get real!

Do scientists have an obligation to make science understood by the public? Another way to achieve deep learning is to tackle important real-world issues in authentic tasks. Amy Knapp and Becky Shearman led discussions around current ethical issues and problems without clear solutions, such as the ethics of a gene editing tool called CRISPR, and the (mis)use of genetic data in conversations about race. We had a fascinating discussion about how we can tackle difficult conversations. It can be helpful to reach out to colleagues in other disciplines or offices to get help. Though it can be hard to achieve logistically, we mused that interdisciplinary initiatives could help make these sorts of conversations even richer.

Creating community online

Community of Inquiry Model

Trying to have a difficult conversation can be a challenge when we have limited classroom time, so Steve Courchesne shared how the Community of Inquiry framework can help us to create a community in an online space. We looked at how to make students feel welcome through video discussion in VoiceThread, considered the logistics of good facilitation, and acknowledged that a great prompt is a key to triggering curiosity.

Evaluating Tools to Use

Technology comes in many forms. A blue book is a form of technology, just as much as a video discussion platform. The key is to start with your learning objectives. Stacy Cohen walked us through some of the considerations and questions we might want to ask when we pick tools to help us teach and engage with students. Is the goal for technology to be a substitute for a low-tech approach, so as to make something easier? Or is it to augment or modify a lesson and accomplish something new?

What are the “pain points”, and how might a tool help address these? What is the ease of use and prerequisite skills needed? Are you willing to help students learn how to use the tool? What kinds of documentation and support are available? In using the tool, how do you divide the responsibilities of the instructor vs the students? To illustrate this process, Stacy compared blogging tools WordPress and Wix, which could allow student work to be visible (and relevant) to the world. For help with tool evaluation, get in touch with the Education Technology Office (ETO) or consult with a colleague who has done something similar.

What should I do now?

This summer, identify an activity or assignment and attempt to incorporate flexibility, collaboration, or an authentic task. Consider whether technology might facilitate or enhance achieving the goal. If so, get in touch with eto@framingham.edu to set up a consultation.


Deborah McMakin and Lina Rincón: Teaching with Flexibility and Collaboration

Rebecca Shearman and Amy Knapp: Overcoming Discomfort: Conversations about Ethics in a Biology Course

Colleen Coyne: Leveraging Students' Curiosity and Prior Knowledge to Cultivate Deep Learning in High- and Low-Stakes Writing Assignments

Education Technology Office: Various Presentations

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