Active Teaching Lab: Faculty Development in Educational Technology

In Fall of 2014, I wasn’t sure the idea would make it beyond a semester, but five semesters, 80 Labs, and some ~1300 participants later, I’m pleased to report that this idea of a collaboration between the UW-Madison Teaching Academy, where I’m an Executive Committee member, and the Division of Information Technology’s Department of Academic Technology, where I work, is successful.

What it is

Each week during academic semesters, the Active Teaching Lab invites an instructor to come share a story of their experience using technology in teaching. We ask them to share

  1. what they wanted (the teaching challenge that inspired them to use technology)
  2. what they tried (all the iterations that led up to their current situation)
  3. what happened (was it an administrative nightmare? Did the students riot?), and
  4. what they’d do next time (lessons learned)

They share that in 10-15 minutes. Then everyone in the room follows a somewhat didactic activity sheet with step-by-step options for EASY, MEDIUM, and DIFFICULT tasks in the tool (so our beginning users have a challenge, and our advanced users can solve problems we’re trying to figure out ;-)) Then we discuss the pedagogical principles in play (a lesson on good teaching), and share ideas, applications, and workarounds.

It works

We’ve been tracking the data from evaluations and finally have enough that I’m confident enough to make some general statements. For example, participants find it valuable, for themselves and for¬†UW-Madison:

Useful to me

Useful for campus

Participants report that they grow more comfortable with using educational technology because of it, and they feel that we challenge them, but not too far beyond their comfort zone:

Comfort and Challenge

Overall, it feels like we’re doing some good here.

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