October 29, 2007

What is Learner-Centered Teaching?

Many faculty scoff at the phrase above, often exclaiming, "Isn't all teaching 'student-centered' or 'learner-centered'?" Well, not exactly. Here are some descriptors to help clarify the true intent of the term, learner-centered (or learning-centered) teaching:
  • providing choices for students in relation to where, how, and when they study,
  • fostering (focusing on) learning rather than teaching (incorporating active rather than passive learning),
  • encouraging student responsibility (and accountability) and activity rather than teacher control and content delivery,
  • developing mutuality and interdependence in the teacher-learner relationship, and
  • emphasizing context-specific learning in which students build their own new understandings and skills through engagement with authentic problems based on 'real world' experiences (emphasizing deep learning and understanding as opposed to simple "coverage").
Maryellen Weimer describes seven "Do" principles for teachers/faculty to begin their planning for learner-centered teaching:
  1. Teachers do learning tasks less (let the students do more)
  2. Teachers do less telling; students do more discovering
  3. Teachers do more (instructional) design work
  4. Faculty do more modeling (of the learning process -- for student benefit)
  5. Faculty do more to get students learning from and with each other (collaborative)
  6. Faculty work to create climates for learning (conditions conducive to learning)
  7. Faculty do more with feedback (formative 'along-the-way' and summative assessments; grades and comments)
For more information on learner-centered teaching:

Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice
by Maryellen Weimer (2002). Jossey-Bass. (A summary by Bill Peirce; available for check-out from the Center's Library)

Chickering and Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
From The American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, March 1987

Mapping the Learning Space: Overview of the Territory
5 Learner-Centered Principles and Practices in Higher Ed: Design Implications, Learning Activities, Deeper Learning, Teaching Practices, and Technology Uses

International Institute on Student-centered Learning and Engagement
May 20-23, 2008 at Portland State University

Student-Centered Learning: What Does it Mean for Students and Lecturers?
O'Neill & McMahon, 2005

Briefly describe one of your "learner-centered teaching" activities or strategies . . . Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!

October 24, 2007

Sarah Robbins (Intellagirl) Speaks at TechTrends Series

Sarah Robbins (aka - Intellagirl), prompted the BGSU Tech Trends Series audience, "The world is changing… are you ready? Are your students ready?"

After presenting a multitude of recent statistics on the technology use habits of 18-22 year olds, Robbins explained how the numbers simply represent symptoms of a larger issue – young people want to express themselves and communicate with others, which all too often ends at the classroom door.

Her remedy for bridging this chasm is to determine what faculty need to know and be able to do in this new, changing world. She suggests that an instructor’s technological expertise should be “somewhere between (knowing) everything and nothing” – enough so faculty can help build a bridge from the place where students are interested and engaged to where they need to go, educationally.

Her overall message centered on three approaches to reach current (and especially future) students:
  1. Second Life – a MUVE, or multi-user virtual environment (not an online game, since there are no game mechanics and no goals assigned; instead, each individual must figure out what to do and has free reign within certain boundaries.
  2. Social Networks – (e.g., Facebook, Ning) where communities are built around common interests, including trends, culture, ideas, events, ideas, and creations.
  3. Contributed/remixed content sites – (e.g., YouTube, Flickr, blogs, wikis) where students can collaborate, create, contribute, and critique – with text, audio, and/or images.
Benefits of these three approaches include:
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Authenticity
  • Community -- around the content; they try much harder – “recreate it for the web”
  • Engagement – students are engaged in participatory explorations
  • Social
  • Local/Global – local issue becomes global and vice versa
  • Immediate – instant experiences; questions researched and answered quickly
  • Participatory -- not just a consumer; students become knowledge creators/synthesizers
Robbins is known to some for her often-publicized, academic exercise where students were asked to portray Kool-Aid people and mill around various Second Life spaces to experience diversity, crowd mentality, exclusion, and discrimination. She explained that because most of her Ball State University (Indiana) students never felt excluded or discriminated against, the “Kool-Aid man experience” was the best way to get them to quickly and easily understand a previously foreign concept.

So how did the students react to this new (and strangely unique) exercise? Robbins said many of them expressed they felt safe because they were in a group who were like themselves; had they been alone, “it would have been worse.” In other words, within five minutes, students learned complex, experiential concepts that were only marginally successful during a 50-minute, face-to-face class.

Robbins shared several other educational uses and applications of Second Life:
  • Chat text from each student can be exported, saved, analyzed
  • Group IM (instant messaging) – allows a lifeline when out interviewing others in SL (like an expert or advisor in an earpiece)
  • Translating metaphorical ideas
  • Role Playing
  • Building, testing, synthesizing theoretical models (e.g., customer traffic flow, chemical molecules)
  • Recreate works from literature to build understanding (e.g., Dante’s levels of hell, science fiction/fantasy recreations or interpretations)
  • Critique and parody
  • Sharing and presenting works to hundreds, rather than only the instructor or single class
  • Student-generated schizophrenia simulator
  • Her students were treated as co-researchers
Robbins closed by emphasizing the need to find and use technologies that meet the needs and goals of the course and your comfort level – not all tools are for everyone or every purpose, just because they are popular or novel. And with that, we’ll close with a few questions about your thoughts… What do YOU think?

How have you used Second Life or other "connecting" tools to engage students? What are your thoughts on teaching/learning in Second Life? (concerns, questions, success stories, ideas, etc.) ...Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!

For more information:

Intellagirl Website

Sarah Robbins' Ubernoggin Blog

Second Life

(Search for Article) Professor Avatar: In the digital universe of Second Life, classroom instruction also takes on a new personality (from The Chronicle of Higher Ed – September 21, 2007)

October 18, 2007

Want to Take a Web 2.0 Journey?

Follow the link below for 23 Learning 2.0 Things. The site gives you tasks designed to make you more comfortable with Web 2.0 technologies. Tips and advice are provided along your journey. Learn more about blogging, RSS, photo sharing, tagging, wikis, and other online tools.


What tasks have you tried? What ideas or tools you would add to this tutorial? What is your favorite Web 2.0 tool? ...Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!

October 15, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

What is your opinion of the video? Do your students have similar concerns? How can you or the University help to change and encourage better student interaction? ...Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!

For another great video from this group check out The Machine is Us/ing Us a short video about the Web 2.0 revolution.

October 4, 2007

Examining & Discussing Copyright

Here is a sampling of things overheard during the "Challenges Regarding Copyright and Use" Discussion held in the Pallister Conference room of Jerome Library on October 2:
  • Copyright is a balancing test between protecting rights of creators and the promotion of knowledge

  • Copyright law is based on varying interpretations depending on jurisdiction, legal precidents, and intent

  • Common Misuses
    - scanning an article into a PDF format (obtain permission and/or check copyright permissions first)
    - putting a full PDF copy of an article on your Blackboard site (post a link instead, if from our libraries research database)

  • Questions discussed included:
    - use of digital videos
    - transferring from video to DVD (or other format conversions)
    - creating a digital archive or copy of ancient works from another country
    - use of PDFs

  • Keys to remember:
    - link to an article when possible, rather than providing it
    - article in e-reserves - use only once per semester; after that, permission should be obtained
    - course packs - you or printer must obtain permission
    - exercise your citizen rights by contacting legislators regarding proposed/needed changes for educational purposes
    - you must make a reasonable attempt to seek permission
    - make sure YOUR works are available for future use (refer to Author's Rights Addendum from SPARC)

  • Additional Links:
    - Checklist for Fair Use - A general overview of what can be considered Fair Use; developed by Kenneth Crews, Indiana University
    - Office of General Counsel on Copyright at Catholic University of America (News, checklists, and Q&A with a lawyer)

The next University Libraries Discussion session will be Publishing in Transition on Monday, November 5, from 11:30-1:00.

What other questions or comments do you have regarding copyright?...Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!

October 3, 2007


Here are a couple of useful resources that we would like to share:

The Library of Congress offers an Ask-a-Librarian service, where they provide the ability to choose a research area and then ask a librarian via either online chat or email.


Another option is to use BGSU's own Ask-a-Librarian service, The library offers help via online chat, email, phone, and one-on-one consultations.


Both of these services can provide useful tools that can be utilized from home, office, or dorm room.

What luck have you had with either service? Have you shared these resources with your students? Are there any other similar services that you use?...Click on the COMMENTS link below to get started!