Celebrating – and Going Public with – Pedagogical Innovations

14 Sep

The Center for Educational Innovation collaborates across the University to advance effective teaching and engaged learning.

In 2014, UMinnesota Provost Karen Hanson merged the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Office of eLearning, to create the Center for Educational Innovation, a collaboratory to support curricular and pedagogical innovation across learning spaces on campus and online, and to leverage collaboration among many central service units providing teaching-related expertise and instructional resources (e.g. the Libraries, Academic Technology and Support Services, Disability Resource Center, and Global Programs and Strategic Alliances).

As a mission to anchor vision and practice, the Center for Educational Innovation collaborates across the University to advance effective teaching and engaged learning.

As a foundational element, the emergence of the CEI makes it possible for UMinn instructors to engage this broad range of teaching resources, pedagogical expertise and support through one efficient consultation request form.

In our work – as in this blog post – we consider multiple definitions, theories, and contexts that nurture innovation; we share examples and resources we gather from  instructors as they design innovative curricula, and we explore research-based pedagogies that support development of effective learning environments online and in person.

In the sections that follow, we’ll share a CEI definition of innovation, an instructor’s pedagogical innovation, and a preview of a year-long series to celebrate a broad range of pedagogical innovations develop by UMinnesota instructors.

Innovation – A Definition to Consider

At CEI, we define innovation broadly to support a range of instructional changes because we promote the exploration and sharing of new ways of teaching at all levels. For example, CEI supports the implementation of small pedagogical changes that support student learning and engagement. These might incorporate academic technologies, but are often about addressing instructional challenges in new ways using evidence-based teaching practices or systematic course design. At the other end of the continuum, CEI supports the pursuit of truly novel approaches to pedagogy and curricula. Along the full innovation spectrum, CEI aims to create an environment at the University that supports pedagogical and curricular exploration, fosters risk-taking associated with innovation, and promotes the sharing of new practices among colleagues. 

Innovation – An Image-Based Resource to Consider

Laura Lukes, from George Mason University, demonstrated how she uses high-resolution, zoomable, panoramic images from gigapan.com to create virtual field experiences for students in her introductory Earth Sciences course. In one activity from the session handout, learners navigate through images of outcrops, initially “standing back” to determine scale patterns from a distance. They then “walk along” the outcrop, zooming in to identify rock types and structural features. Along with the wide range of magnifications available through GigaPan images, Lukes’ students also have actual rock samples in their hands while exploring them in the virtual field both up close and in the context of the larger geological structures.

Whether GigaPan would be useful in your course depends on whether learning can be stimulated, challenged, deepened, and motivated by examining the subject matter from both a wide view, as well as a zoomed in and detailed perspective.

There are a range of disciplines represented in the images, for example, Art (Giovanni di Francesco’s painting “El nacimiento” ), Plant Biology (Plant cell division), and Forestry/Environmental Science (The Haitian Timber Reintroduction Project). For this last example, click on the Snapshot feature to see how annotations about the image details can further the learning potential.

Participants in a Lukes’ interactive session at the recent Active Learning Classroom Forum agreed that there was a creepy and ethically questionable dimension to using GigaPan images containing people, such as this one taken in Kosice, Slovakia’s so-called “gipsy ghetto” in which the subjects likely did not know they were being photographed. This in itself, however, could be a catalyst for critical thinking and learning across a variety of disciplines.

Innovation – A Teaching Event Series to Consider

The range of innovative teaching happening at this land-grant, research-university is amazing. In order to showcase the practices and possibilities, the CEI has organized a year-long series to share, celebrate, and publicly consider pedagogical and curricular innovations.  The series features interactive presentations with UMinn faculty who are – for example – using design thinking, adaptive learning, and game in their courses. The full Fall 2015 schedule follows, as does the outline sessions planned for Spring 2016.

Check the Innovations in Teaching Series page to register for in person or remote attendance.

Design Thinking for Innovation
Virajita Singh, Assistant Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity, UMTC
September 25, 2015; 11:00 am-12:00 pm

Design Thinking is an emerging field that draws from the design disciplines and offers tools used to solve complex challenges.  How can Design Thinking principles be applied to a variety of teaching contexts?  How does Design Thinking promote creative problem solving and teamwork as students address real life projects? Learn about it, see examples and take away tips for your teaching from ‘Design Thinking for Innovation,’ a core course in the Liberal Studies and Innovation Studies programs.

Gamification With Moodle
Laure Charleux, Geography, Urban, Environment and Sustainability Studies, UMD
October 16, 2015; 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

This session explores how gamification can support student learning in an undergrad class, Applied Statistics in GIS.  The course was staged as a quest with pass/fail levels (assignments), some of which required “elements of wisdom” (lessons) to be passed.  Gaming tricks were borrowed from the gaming universe to increase student motivation. The presenter will report on how the game dynamics have “changed the game” in terms of student learning in this class, and will demonstrate how this can be implemented in Moodle.

A Cross-Institutional Ethnographic Project: Mapping Play in the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood
Akosua Addo, Music, UMTC, and Eric Castle, Horticulture, UMC
November 12, 2015; 3:00 – 4:00 pm

This session explores the collaborative effort of two classes on different campuses to research and map play in the culturally diverse Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Using technology to create geospatially situated digital visual stories about play was an effective mechanism for facilitating interdisciplinary learning, ethics, learner autonomy, and dialogue. Cross-institutional pedagogical strategies shifted as we adjusted to the realities of physical space, weather conditions, ethical, and intercultural considerations. 

The Importance of Space and Place for Learning: How a Wandering Seminar Gave Students Ownership of Their University
David Matthes, Biology Teaching and Learning, UMTC

Visual Thinking Strategies: Learning through Direct Observation
Brad Hokanson, Professor (Design, Housing, and Apparel), UMTC

Adaptive Learning in a Flipped Hybrid Class
Don Liu, Professor (Applied Economics), UMTC

Innovations in Teaching, a Showcase at the Northrup Auditorium
The afternoon of April 21st 

Thanks to Kate Martin for the write up about Laura Lukes’ use of gigapan.com.



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