Monday, April 22, 2013
Building A Tech Playground
IMHO, the biggest obstacle to a "skunk works" type of sharing is time. That is really expensive. The best faculty don't have a lot of time to share ideas because of the teaching load and additions like Outcomes Assessment that get added on top of the teaching load.
The least intrusive way to share is to foster peer assessment (sitting in another's classroom) with a debrief as the only goal. Both parties learn from watching each other, even in very different subjects (algebra, calculus, physics, chemistry) that rarely talk to each other at a university. Maybe even especially in really different subjects, because you see some universal truths.
Distance is also a factor if you have to cross a large campus (and go to the 12th floor) just to share an idea. But you don't need a dedicated space. We have lots of "regular" tech classrooms on my campus, but you are right that free time for experiments is limited during the day in regular semesters. The best time to do those things would be in the summer.
As far as scheduling, on our campus we've had a one-day in-house conference in May, after finals but before summer school. It's free professional development for attendees, cheap for the school to set up, and college service for those who present. One day isn't enough by itself, but could be a nice kickoff/recruiting event.
(I just have to mention, too, that the CAPTCHA for my comment is "agonize" and "adequate." Perfect for so many posts about higher ed pedagogy and technology.)
At this point, if someone still doesn't know how to use PowerPoint, I'd suggest that it's probably a case of willful ignorance rather than lack of opportunity to learn. I had to give PowerPoint presentations as an undergrad in a non-technical major, and I graduated in 2002, so I suspect at this point everyone teaching a college class has used it before unless they were avoiding it on purpose. Getting active tech-resisters to learn things is a different problem than the one that would be solved by just having a place to experiment on campus for the interested but not knowledgeable. The resisters wouldn't show up in their spare time to learn new things (after all, PowerPoint is probably installed on their office computer already, and if they wanted to practice using it they'd be able to do so in their office).