Instructional Development

Teaching Portfolio

Teaching With Technology Portfolio

Reflections on Teaching With Technology

The following is a collection of materials I have assembled toward completion of the requirements for the Teaching With Technology certificate at Penn State. The certificate requirements illustrate my ability to use and integrate various facets of technology into the classroom environment, whether resident or online. The page has been broken down into sections, each addressing a major requirement for the portfolio.

Teaching Philosophy Statement

As it has been close to three years since I wrote my teaching philosophy, completing the TWT portfolio offers me an opportunity to address and reflect on my philosophy and the role of technology within it.

My original teaching philosophy outlines my frustrations with public sector work and the role of education in dealing with these issues, how I choose to deal with these frustrations, and how this translates to the way I wish to teach. My original philosophy can be found here.

Upon reviewing and reflecting on my philosophy, I find that little has changed in its basic structure. When thinking about where technology fits in, I noticed several juxtapositions emerging. First, my belief that all students should be effective writers is being negated by the texting language and shortcuts students are becoming used to using with phones, chat rooms, and social networks. I continuously find myself correcting students who use this form of communication, and continue to have to do so despite numerous warnings.

Second, the Internet and its technologies has made getting 'answers' easy, but has made getting 'realistic' answers much more difficult. Students often utilize materials from the web haphazardly, without reviewing the source of the material, its collection methods, and the ultimate goal of the persons or organizations collecting that data. They fail to recognize that there are two sides to every story and that just because it is on the Internet does not mean it is real.

This being said, I think technology does and needs to play a huge role in the classroom environment. Streaming video can provide a tremendous resource to the classroom, not only as a support to what is taught but as a way to extend and apply classroom materials. Streaming video allows me to present information in multiple formats, which, I feel, has helped some students understand the relevance and importance of the materials presented in class.

Teaching students to think critically about what they see and hear on the Internet, much like what they see and read on television and in newspapers, is as much a part of my teaching philosophy now as it was previously. This is even more important with the breadth of materials available on most topics on the Internet. Students should be able to examine information and determine its biases and bases, allowing them to apply these items in a responsible manner. My goal as a classroom teacher is to expand and incorporate this critical thinking into classroom projects and other assignments.

Also, the role of writing, while transformed, is not diminished. Students should still possess and develop skilled writing habits. Technology can be used for this, but with careful attention paid to grammatical and style rules. Online blogs and discussion forums are useful tools, and could be so in the classroom. A part of my philosophy is to encourage students to journal during the semester. While I haven't found a way to promote this, I think there might be a potential way to use blogs to do this. I feel this is one area I need to branch out into and understand, and will attempt to do so as part of my personal development.

Lessons Learned from Technology Integration

I believe technology is an important part of the classroom. However, I also feel it should be used in moderation, and really only to support the discussion of readings, concepts, and ideas within the class environment. Technology provides the instructor with a way to relate concepts quickly, easily, and in multiple ways so that students can explore concepts from multiple perspectives. But it can also kill discussion, debate, and reflection, all of which are critical elements of education. I've experienced both sides of this equation and it is these experiences which have formed my outlook on technology in the classroom.

Technology, especially in the form of streaming videos, can bring concepts to life. One of my uses of technology, which I highlight below, used student-presented videos as a way to extend concepts throughout the semester. The videos helped students understand the relevance of class concepts within real world situations and helped open the eyes of students to different ways of looking at issues.

Technology can help students and instructors communicate more clearly and quickly. Email, discussion rooms, and other on-line activities can help students and instructors pass information along quickly. One of the benefits of having students submit papers electronically is it allows me to grade papers within editing programs such as Word or Acrobat, providing students with feedback while allowing me to keep a copy for myself. Thus, if a student has a question, they can ask me and all I have to do is go to the file and look the item up. This saves both the student and myself the hassle of setting up an out-of-schedule office visit that meets both of our schedules.

The online class environment has taught me valuable lessons in terms of reaching out to students and maintaining a supportive classroom environment. One of the most challenging things I have found in the online classroom is the lack of face time with students and the ability to 'see' how they are doing in class, especially missing the non-verbal cues the resident classroom provides. Beyond this, it makes it difficult to establish rapport with students. I try to keep the classroom as open and transparant as possible, but I still have to rely on students to let me know how I'm doing and I have to be much more proactive in ascertaining if students really understand the material they are going through. While discussion forums provide some measure of achievement, late posters can read and paraphrase what others have said in their own posts. Their lack of comprehension, unfortunately, does not become apparent until they take an exam - and fail it. While the axion of an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure holds true, it is difficult to find the most effective 'prevention' to capture achievement for all students.

Finally, in thinking about what I would recommend to fellow instructors in terms of using technology in the classroom, my response would be to use whatever they feel comfortable with. Some instructors may be more into various social network technologies and would feel comfortable using them in the classroom. Others are more comfortable with stand-bys like PowerPoint. Regardless of the technology employed, the key thing to me is to present the concept in a multitude of ways, to have students apply these concepts to real life situations, and to have them critically reflect, discuss, and debate the concepts in an open, supportive classroom environment. If the technology applied can meet all of these within a specific class environment, I would support them wholeheartedly.

Technology In Action: Some Applications

The following examples of technology use in the class environment are based upon my experiences in teaching CED 152 and CEDEV 452. While I have used other materials in the class environment, the real-time nature of many of these is difficult to capture. Thus, what is presented here is the 'remnants' of my use of technology in the classroom. Had this TWT portfolio been created while teaching, a number of different items would have emerged. Please note, some images have been edited to remove or obscure student names, as required by University policy.

Course Descriptions

CED 152, Community Development Concepts and Practice, is the first of the required courses that constitute the core of the Community, Environment, and Development undergraduate major. The emphasis of the course is to provide an introduction to key community development concepts, why they are important, and how connections among social, cultural, and environmental systems are core to successful community development. A second goal of the course is to provide students with a set of tools to utilize in interacting with people in work, community, or educational settings. The objectives of this course are to offer the knowledge and skills students will need to:

  • Understand and explain how systems form the foundation of community and economic development policy and practice;
  • Explain key concepts and discuss and explore what is involved in community development as a field of study and as practice;
  • Understand and think critically about the core elements of substantive issues in community development;
  • Understand and apply the basic elements of a community development process to encourage participation and decision-making informed by multiple perspectives and sources of information; and
  • Identify and evaluate available resources related to community development practice and the wide range of topics that may be addressed by those working in areas linking community, environment, and development.

Class sizes ranged from 22 to 25 students and included both lower and upper level undergraduates from a variety of colleges and programs of study.

CEDEV 452, Rural Organization, is an upper-level undergraduate/graduate course taught on the World Campus. The course combines an introduction to the social theories of communities with real-life examples of application to understanding community problems and concerns. While the focus is on the special circumstances facing towns and rural communities, the concepts and practices are applicable to neighborhoods within larger cities. The course is typically around 25 students, with about a 3:1 ratio of graduate to undergraduate students, depending on the semester.

The objectives of the course are for students to be able to:

  • Identify and use theories of community to analyze conditions in communities and to assess strategies for community and economic development;
  • Describe concepts of community and how they relate to community development and change;
  • Critically assess approaches to community capacity building;
  • Analyze the roles of social capital, citizen engagement and community agency in development and change;
  • Articulate how theories and concepts of community and change apply to community and economic development practice; and
  • Work with their own examples to apply the concepts and ideas to increase understanding of the concepts and to aid in understanding change and development, and barriers to change and development in a community or area.

Course Web Space

The following is a screenshot of the course webspace for CEDEV 452, which I taught in Spring 2010.

Collection of Course Related Links for Students

As part of all the courses I teach, I provide students with lists of references to online style guides to help them improve their writing abilities. Providing them with this option on the course website allows them to have quick access any time they have a computer.

This particular set of screen captures was taken from the CED 152 course website "Resource Links" folder. The co-instructor and I provided students with two sets of reference links. The first folder contained standard reference links. The second folder, which was created for a class project we entitled "Current Issues Fridays" (detailed more below), gave students ideas about where they could go for relevant sources of online information. The first screen capture shows the upper level folder, the second two show the lists as students saw them.

Class Presentation with Technology

I didn't find myself integrating technology into my presentations themselves, I would actually use technology before or after the presentation, either to set the stage or to summarize the material I covered in class.

The following PowerPoint was a section I did on cultural capital in CED 152. I utilized broad concepts from the readings to set the stage to understand how culture might be valued in rural areas. This particular presentation utilized the Oral History Project of the Pine Creek Watershed Council to illustrate how one group was working to promote and preserve their cultural heritage within a specific region of Pennsylvania.

One reflection on this particular lesson was the fact that the readings focused so heavily on 'urban' forms of culture and cultural valuation that students missed the broader points I was trying to make. Also, many of the things discussed in the video were outside of the experience and worldview of many students in the class. In future courses, I would try to emphasize a rural cultural perspective as well, with readings to illustrate the breadth and depth of culture in urban and rural areas.

The presentation, entitled Culture, Cultural Capital, and Economic Development can be found by clicking here.

The Pine Creek Oral History Project can be accessed at the following link:

Creation of Multimedia Files for Use in Class

This particular presentation is one of my favorites from CED 152. It discusses the peculiarities of infrastructure in Alaska. Many students were amazed, and some shocked, to find that any place in America would be so challenged when it came to the provision of basic resources we take for granted in the Lower 48 states.

This presentation utilizes maps I drew in ArcGIS and pictures I have taken and collected over the four years I lived and worked in Alaska. Again, given the opportunity, I probably would have created a presentation utilizing multiple forms of multimedia, but this particular presentation highlights two of my favorite ways to provide visual information to students.

The presentation, entitled Infrastructure and Rural Areas: Different perspectives on Needs and Assets, can be found by clicking here.(Large File - 6.9MB)

Electronic Communication with Students

The following examples are from CEDEV 452. In teaching this course, I interacted with students in a variety of ways. The two-way communication style I utilized the most was email through the course communication system, which is illustrated by the next screen capture. Another form of two-way communication I utilized was discussion forums, in which students and I would discuss the materials they would post in response to the questions in a particular module.

The most prevalent one-way communication I used in the course was the course syllabus. Although at times my emails seemed to be one-way communications, the syllabus provided me an opportunity to provide students with up-front, important information which they had access to throughout the semester.

Pedagogical Innovation with Technology: Current Issues Fridays

Perhaps one of the most powerful and fun ideas I came up with was to introduce Current Issues Fridays (CIF) into CED 152. Every other Friday during the semester, several students presented a short video on a community development topic they were concerned about or working on. The underlying concept of CIF was to take the ideas and readings, find ways they were applied in the real world, and give students the opportunity to present them to others in the class and lead an open discussion.

The students took hold of this concept and all did spectacular jobs. They brought a variety of issues and problems from throughout the world that we would not be able to cover in the course of a semester. It allowed students to see the relevance of the concepts in the course and helped some of them decide where they would like to focus their energies. All in all the CIF was a success.

There were three drawbacks to the project. One, it took eight class periods of time out of covering course material. This was easily offset but was a consideration. Second, we needed to be stricter on the time limit for the videos. We should have limited the video to four minutes in length, rather than give a range. Third, which is related, is that we felt we squelched really good discussion at times because of the video time constraints. Students were so into the videos and resulting discussion that we had to cut them off to allow the rest of the students to present. If we had reduced the maximum time of the video and allowed more time for discussion, this issue might have gone away.

The folder for CIF is at the bottom of this screenshot.

The folder contained links to the various videos for each week, allowing students to go back and watch them again if they so desired or if they missed class.

An example of one week's presentations.

Picassa Web Albums

To conclude the examples of how I have used technology in the classroom, I picked a non-traditional use of a web service. The CED 152 class took a field trip to Troy, PA to visit a gas well and some local stakeholders. Not all students were able to go, so what I created a web photo album of pictures I took during the field trip. The week following the trip, we discussed the pictures in class, having students who went on the field trip discuss what they saw and thought. Student who were not able to participate in the trip could ask questions to those who did. The pictures were posted on the course website for all to see and access. Overall, it provided a nice way to bring closure to the field trip and to give those who couldn't go an idea of what was seen and experienced.

The web album can be accessed at the following address:

Picassa Web Albums