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I started my career as a high school mathematics teacher. When I was growing up I did not have the opportunity to travel outside of the United States. So, for my first job I wanted to combine teaching with the opportunity to live outside of my country. As a result I spent 5 years at an independent international school outside of London. During those years I taught all levels of mathematics (including A-levels), photography, and co-taught an environmental science course. I came back to the U.S. and taught for two more years at a high school in California.
Once I began my doctoral education I was very fortunate to be able to teach the foundational statistics course for doctoral students at the University of California at Santa Barbara that all first-year education, psychology, speech, and communication students took. I was also fortunate enough to be mentored by Richard Shavelson during the first year, then on my own for three more years. Some of you may have used his classic textbook: Statistical Reasoning for the Behavioral Sciences.
When I arrived at the University of San Francisco in August 1992 I was hired to develop and teach a variety of courses in educational psychology: which was my doctorate education focus. Over the past 28 years I have taught courses such as:
The list is incomplete, but it gives you the idea that I have developed and taught a wide variety of courses over my tenure at USF. I have loved having the freedom and opportunity to do so.
In 2011 Tracy Seeley (English Department) and I were asked to help create a new Center for Teaching Excellence at USF. In 2012 the Center opened. I served as Co-Director for 5 years. The Center grew rapidly to meet a wide range of faculty development needs including how to better integrate technology into the learning experience. Sadly my colleague Tracy passed away in 2016. Today the Center now bears her name: The Tracy Seeley Center for Teaching Excellence. It was an honor and a delight to build this new Center with Tracy.
I don't really have an explicit teaching philosophy, but rather over time (teaching practice, reading, researching) what has emerged for me are the kinds of phases important in the learning process. Although I present 4 key phases below they don't fit into a nice, neat acronym. But it's a process that certainly works for me as a learner, and seems beneficial for most students. Certainly what I explain below fits into an active learning approach to learning. But I don't feel compelled to fit within a specific theory of learning. Mainly I've developed my sense of things based on how I, and how I've seen others, learn well. It may not be the best approach for everyone, but it's an approach that has served me well.
"Explore" is a fancy name for getting to know the relevant academic landscape first. In any real exploration mistakes are made, byways visited that seem to no longer be relevant, and so on. In most schools, however, such open-ended exploration isn't really allowed or practical. Yet that's how I approach something that I'm learning for the first time. It's not the most efficient way to get to know an intellectual landscape, but it's rewarding and typically helps me to move into a deeper understanding than if I colored by numbers.
In real courses I can't pull this off. So perhaps I should change the term to Guided Exploration. This is enacted with a variety of readings, videos, and audio presentations. This guided exploration of new material is done for preparation, outside of the live classroom. As such this approach fits into the flipped classroom model.
On a personal level, after exploring something new I then take stock and do personal reflection. It may be as simple as: "Do I want to continue learning this stuff?" Typically, however, a reflection allows me to integrate what I've learned so far and start to make plans on where I'd like to go next in the learning journey.
Within a classroom context it's very hard for me to proceed if I don't have a sense of how students made sense of the learning materials. Written student reflections, especially when read as a collective, provide hugely beneficial insights into student concerns, misconceptions, ways to apply concepts to classrooms, and much more. In essence, collective reflections serve as self-generated sets of questions/concerns for classroom presentations and activities.
Making Connections certainly can happen at the reflection stage. But for myself I like to make it more concrete. When learning something new, or thinking my way through a problem, I always have two tools I rely upon: a journal and mind mapping software. There are likely other good ways to do this also. The journal is where I draw illustrations and mind maps to help me clarify connections between what I'm learning about and other concepts/practices I'm already familiar with. And that journal goes with me everywhere: a long walk in the city (there's plenty of benches to sit on), going to a coffee shop, or even when relaxing at home.
... but then I move towards formal mind mapping software. If you have a good robust app then the advantages are you can add many embedded notes, make links to websites, and much more. Plus it's easier to edit: I don't have to start over with a new blank page in my journal! My app of choice is iThoughts, but there are other good products out there. All mind mapping software will make nodes and links. Fewer products allow for embedded notes, web-links, exporting to writing apps, and more.
When I'm learning something new it's typically because I want to be able to do, or make, or create, something that I couldn't before. Or at least get better at doing something. It could be anything from learning a new technology app to expanding my understanding of Parisian architecture so I enjoy the city even more when I visit.
In the classroom the process is similar. I challenge students to make something with their emerging understanding of the area under study. In technology-based courses this is easy: make a website, make screencasts, or make a series of audio podcasts. In other types of courses the "deliverable" changes depending on the purpose of the course. But it will typically involve specializing in some aspect of the course content and then creating a paper, or creating a curriculum unit, or anything else that will encourage a deeper student understanding via the process of creating a product.
I believe my appreciation for technology began around 1986 when I was introduced to the Macintosh. I was fascinated for one simple reason: until that time I only used a typewriter. The power that came with not having to worry about making typos was liberating! The change was I could alway edit my phrasing, plus fix any typos, at a later time. It made a world of difference.
Looking backwards it seems I can describe a six phase development of my own technology skills. I started off modestly and expanding my skill set over a number of years.
In 1988, I co-taught my first doctoral level course: a first year course in Statistics at the University of California at Santa Barbara. At the time I did not have my doctorate, and I was co-teaching with Richard Shavelson. Rich was a great statistician but also a wonderful and generous educator. I always had to do the main presentation to the class. And I knew, with absolute certainty, that there was 1 person in the room who knew a lot more than me! It was a bit nerve-wracking. To calm my nerves I learned a new software program that had appeared that year (or shortly before) named Microsoft PowerPoint. I was using version 1. The students had never seen anything like PowerPoint before. In turn this experience started my interest in how technology could help, and in some cases hinder, deeper student learning. I used PowerPoint for much of my work up until about 2000. Then I switched to other forms of technology enhanced instruction and have only minimally used PowerPoint or Keynote since then.
Over subsequent years I kept an eye out for tools that I thought might be advantageous for creating better learning environments. I began to expand what I used in terms of technology around 2001 with the advent of screencasting. Early on I began using the first version of ScreenFlow. I mainly used these video creations to help students in the Applied Statistics course. Through screencasts I could show them in detail how to use MS Excel to create, and understand, various statistical procedures. Of course screencast videos had applications to numerous other areas. And I began to apply screencasting to other courses in subsequent years.
Around this time I received the first "Grand Award" for technology innovation given by USF in 2003: mainly for the work I was doing to enhance statistics instruction.
My initial screencasts had very good visuals but pretty poor audio. In turn this set me on a quest to learn how to record higher quality audio to merge with the screencast video. This journey took me down several dead ends as I really didn't understand anything about audio. So this was hardly straightforward. But over a few years I got better at both recording audio (better equipment) and delivering audio (sounding more natural).
As I created more screencasts with better audio I also did something else: created class CDs. All the screencasts and other materials needed for a course would be burnt onto a CD that every student received. That seems "backwards" today, but it was a key step forward at the time.
The next stage involved implementing what is currently termed the flipped classroom. Essentially the idea was reserve the live classroom for activities (individual or group) and minimize any formal presentations. This meant that traditional presentations were now given outside the classroom via video, audio, and text readings. Creating course CDs allowed me to practically move in this direction. Statistics lectures combined with Excel videos allowed students to prepare for class in advance. Then the live classroom could be about 75% dedicated to individual and group challenges.
One of the major criticisms of flipped classrooms is that it seems to demand that students are good self-regulated learners. However, in my case I did not worry about this potential weak spot too much as I worked with doctoral level students: and these students need to be good self-regulated learners.
Perhaps around 2005 to 2007 I began designing my own course websites. At the time there was no LMS like Canvas. By the time Canvas came onto the scene I was already seeing the advantages of creating my own websites. This meant I need to learn a good software app. In the end I choose a Mac app named RapidWeaver to create my websites. Since that time the software has developed extensively and it is now much more powerful than it was in the early 2000s. My interest in web design has evolved as have my skills. Primarily I aim to make the simplest website possible that is both user-friendly and user-powerful.
Including mind maps as part of student activities started relatively late: probably abound 2014. The advantage of a good mind mapping app is the ability for students to make explicit connections between concepts.
Since 2015 I have not taken on any new major challenges in terms of technology but instead have tried to enhance my ability to coordinate these various technologies in a way that benefits student learning.
My primary research interests have been in student motivation to learn, the use of technology to facilitate deeper learning, and developing video-based instruction to supplement instruction via flipped classroom learning experiences.
A selection of publications is given below in semi-APA Style. These do not include several presentations at research conferences.
Below is a selected list of conference presentations.
When I was very young I enjoyed travel just to see novel things or weird things. Or just to enjoy the sense of movement. But, in fact, while growing up I never ventured outside of the United States. I had the wonderful opportunity to teach and live in England for five years once graduating from college. This experience was informative in two key ways: (1) it taught me that I really enjoyed taking a deep dive into a new place rather than being a tourist, and (2) London opened me up to the huge benefits of great public transport.
Since those days I've always wanted to get to know "other" places deeply. Often this wasn't possible. But I have taken many re-visits of locations to get to know one place better (Rome, Paris, London, Ha Noi). Eighteen years ago my wife and I were very fortunate to be able to purchase a small studio apartment in Paris. Since then we've typically visited about 3 times a year: anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks. We've made friends, we've seen the city and our little neighborhood change, we have a better sense of how this "other" culture thinks and behaves. It's been a life-changing opportunity.
My wife spent about a year in Ha Noi, Vietnam on a Fulbright Scholarship working with nurses and doctors. In addition she's made several shorter trips (typically 2 weeks) to Ha Noi. I've tagged along on many of those trips and also have grown to love this city of 9 million folks. Recently we spent some time in Singapore (essentially just before COVID-19 hit). We have plans to spend more time in Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo in the next 3 to 5 years.