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The digital classroom

At this year's Teaching and Learning Festival, staff and faculty explored ways to incorporate forward-looking technologies and techniques
February 24, 2015
By Sara DuBreuil

Alicia Cundell, a teaching consultant, addressed blended learning and how to balance online and classroom teaching. Alicia Cundell, a teaching consultant, addressed blended learning and how to balance online and classroom teaching. | Photo by Concordia University

Concordia’s staff and faculty have been busy exploring ways to incorporate new technologies and teaching methods into the classroom.

From January 23 to February 13, they shared their inspiration and ideas at Winterfest, the third-annual Teaching and Learning Festival. Under the theme “digital learning,” the festival featured a keynote address from Dr. Jonathan White, along with workshops by Concordia faculty and Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) staff.

“The festival had really good attendance at all the workshops.  It was exciting to see that the space was being used for what it was designed to do, that is, be an active learning space,” says Cathy Bolton, vice-provost, Teaching and Learning.

Surgery 101: Finding Fun and Creativity in the Teaching of Surgery

Dr. White kick-started the festival on January 23 with the talk “Surgery 101: Finding Fun and Creativity in the Teaching of Surgery.” He focused on how professors can use fun and unexpected methods to inspire their students to learn.

“I was very pleased with how it was received,” Dr. White says. “I had been a little worried that it wasn't 'serious' enough, but I found that a lot of people are interested in the same things that I am and see the value of play and looking at serious things from a new angle.”

He has his own examples to draw from — Dr. White is the founder of the podcast Surgery 101, a series he began in 2008 on basic surgery topics. The podcasts have since been downloaded more than 1.7 million times in 180 countries. Dr. White also runs a YouTube channel for Surgery 101, releasing videos that feature Muppets, Lego pieces and zombies. At his workshop, Dr. White had participants take part in a “creative mash-up to build a wall of ideas.” He then took the ideas home and sent the final product back to participants, along with a “how to use” guide so that they could keep the conversation going.

The workshops

The festival touched on many aspects of digital learning and included “Promoting Learning Through Creativity,” a workshop given by the chair of the Département d’études françaises and interim director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Philippe Caignon. He talked about using short videos, small-group discussions and individual mind mapping in the classroom.

Another topic was “First Year Students and Lecture Capture,” facilitated by Nancy Acemian, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. Acemian reminded the participants that every generation learns differently and demonstrated how digital learning allows teachers to design courses suited to today’s technologically savvy students. Building on that, John Bentley, a program coordinator with the Centre for Teaching and Learning, gave a workshop on active classroom learning and using innovative spaces to teach, while Teaching Consultant Alicia Cundell focused on blended learning and how to balance online and classroom teaching.

On Friday, February 6, Olivia Rovinescu, director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, talked about  flipping the classroom — that is, giving students material in advance by putting lectures on Moodle and then spending class time learning through practice. She suggested taking pauses, doing different activities, dividing into groups, and many other techniques for breaking up the long lecture format. She had the participants explore techniques and test out how to apply them in their classrooms.

“We need much more than just information. We need to be engaged,” says Rovinescu. “It’s engagement that sparks curiosity.” Saul Carliner, a professor in the Department of Education, gave the final workshop on February 13. He suggested strategies for incorporating digital learning into a curriculum ­— when to incorporate technology into a program and what options are available. 

“The conversations and discussions were lively, engaged and thought-provoking. The workshop facilitators deserve a great vote of thanks for all their hard work and their willingness to give of their time to help their colleagues. We look forward to more explorations in teaching to come,” says Bolton.

Learn more about this year’s Teaching and Learning Festival.

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