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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
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Integrating Interactive Technology to Promote Learner Autonomy: Challenges and Rewards

Jaya Kannan (Sacred Heart University, USA)
Marie Hulme (Sacred heart University, USA)
Maria Lizano-DiMare (Sacredheart University, USA)
Pilar Munday (Sacredheart University, USA)
Session Information
November 20, 2013 - 3:00pm
Technology and Emerging Learning Environments
Areas of Special Interest: 
None of the above
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere E1
Session Duration: 
35 Minutes
Information Session 5

The use of 21st century digital tools in a multi-modal, multidisciplinary approach can promote learner autonomy and foster a collaborative framework.

Extended Abstract

In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, students and faculty must understand and harness the power of technology to synthesize, analyze, and communicate ideas and information. A multi-modal, multidisciplinary approach of teaching and learning is critical.

This presentation will examine how to best leverage the technological strengths of 21st century learners in an interdisciplinary networked community, utilizing on-line tools such as Twitter and e-portfolios. This will be anchored within a context of a larger discussion of current education theories, including cognitive, social constructivism, and connectivism.

Four presenters will address recent research on the impact of technology tools on teaching and learning . Section one will describe the dynamic process in which pedagogy, content, and technologies influence each other when designing online experiences. Section two we will discuss the pedagogical benefits of the University's new on-line, interdisciplinary networked community of learners, the Virtual Public Square project. Section three will show how Twitter has been used in a foreign language course to promote learner autonomy. The final section will discuss the high-impact practice of utilizing e-portfolios for both faculty and student assessment in a freshman course.

Each of the four sections will address the wide range of student responses in terms of habits of mind and the gap between faculty and student perceptions in defining the characteristics of 21st century digital illiteracies.

Key points will include:

1. How high impact interactive tools can promote a community of autonomous learners.
2. Four practical examples from diverse contexts that exemplify the use of specific applications to promote learner autonomy.
3. Complexities involved in applying current learning theories such as connectivism within the framework of 21st century digital literacies.

The presenters will also discuss both successes and struggles related to their topics, and how outreach to the larger University community has helped them to sustain their projects and implement high-impact practices for increased student engagement and innovative pedagogy.

Section 1: Connectivist learning theory for student teachers using interactive online tools
Professors in higher education institutions face the challenge of embracing online teaching and developing high-quality blended and online courses in a rapidly changing world. This can be especially demanding for faculty who teach only face-to-face, have limited experience with technology, and have a heavy teaching load. The presentation will describe the dynamic ways in which pedagogy, content, and technologies influence each other in the design of online learning experiences. Special attention will be given to pedagogy, including cognitive, social constructivism, and connectivism theories that define the learning experience. Various approaches to online learning course design will be described, which can benefit a college of education. Challenges faced by faculty making the jump into online learning will also be discussed. This focus on learning theories will set the tone for the rest of the discussion.

Section 2: A Virtual Public Square for a networked community of learners
This portion will focus on Sacred Heart University's on-line platform, where students and faculty share ideas, work, and resources across disciplines. "SHUsquare" is a networked community of learners that supports the curriculum goals of Sacred Heart University's First Year Seminars. SHUsquare is designed to engage students in intellectual discourse beyond the artificial confines of a classroom or a discipline. SHUsquare facilitates the development of important 21st century fluencies, including collaboration, creativity, information, and media.
The Director of SHUsquare will introduce the project, discuss its pedagogical rationale, share how various faculty have used the platform, and talk about the successes and pitfalls involved in introducing an innovative project to a broad range of disciplines and interests. Faculty and student buy-in, as well as the need for on-going training and support to sustain the project will be discussed.

Section 3: Twitter as a tool for foreign language learners
In this section, we will see how Twitter can be used as a tool to foster autonomous learning of foreign languages through different means, and how this can be extended to other disciplines. Because this is a real-life tool, the acquisition of knowledge moves from the classroom to the students' own lives. Students are able to choose whom to follow (whom they read) based upon their own interests. They also can monitor how native speakers interact in informal ways and can try to emulate them. It is real language in real time, involving current topics that are relevant to them. In order to develop autonomous learning, a reflection element has to be added (in the form of class discussion, a journal, or in some other way). This helps students to understand how their learning is taking place and increases their motivation. Unless the reflective practices are already in place, Twitter itself can very easily become a meaningless exercise.

Section 4: E-portfolios in a freshman Critical Thinking course
This section of the presentation will highlight the use of e-portfolios in a freshman course named "Art of Thinking." E-portfolios were integrated into this course with the objective of promoting self-directedness and self-awareness in student learning. This was in alignment with the institutional objectives of integrating and studying high-impact assessment practices in an undergraduate liberal arts context. Examples from student e-portfolio work will reveal simple truths about freshmen students' habits of learning, including the role of affect. A key discovery was that students who are digital natives do not necessarily demonstrate 21st century digital literacies. A description of lessons learned from this pilot will lead toward a formulation of best practices.

The four faculty members, representing a diverse cross-section of the University's colleges and faculty, are working together to share ideas and best practices, and to provide a model for similar inter-college and interdisciplinary partnerships that can foster innovation and collegiality in order to serve both the University and its students. We will demonstrate the need for a targeted partnership between the institution's administration and faculty for enhancing curricular planning through innovative practices that promote student engagement.

Lead Presenter

Jaya Kannan is the Director of Digital Learning at Sacred Heart University. She has a PhD in Computer Assisted Language Learning and more than 15 years of international teaching and research experience in the higher-ed setting. In addition to managing a five year TiTle V federal grant, she has administrative experience running Teaching and Learning Centers. Her recent research interests involve the study of self-directed learning and the role of affect in the digital learning environment.


Bios for the co-presenters:

Marie Hulme is the developer and director of the virtual public square project, SHUsquare, as well as an instructor of English, at the College of Arts & Sciences, English Department, Sacred Heart University. She has a B.A. In English from Smith College, an M.A in English and American Literature from N.Y.U., a Master's in the Art of Teaching from SHU, and is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University. Previously she worked as a journalist for ABC News in London. Her non-fiction work has won national recognition and she is currently at work on her first novel.

María Lizano DiMare, Ed.D., is Associate Professor of Educational Technology at the Isabelle Farrington College of Education, Sacred Heart University. Dr. Lizano DiMare's research interests include the use of emerging technologies in education, digital learning, global education, the development of university-community initiatives, and the infusion of languages within the curriculum. She has worked in Latin America integrating educational technology programs in public and private educational sectors. She is fluent in English, French, and Spanish; and also has working skills in German and Italian.

Pilar Munday, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Spanish at the College of Arts & Sciences, Spanish Program, Foreign Languages and Culture, Sacred Heart University.
Her research interests include the use of technology in the teaching of foreign languages, project based learning and the integration of culture in the classroom.