Pedagoggles: A Fresh Focus on Teaching & Technology

Today I attended the 8th Annual Teaching & Learning Colloquium hosted by the Faculty Center here at Stony Brook. We were lucky to have Dr. Vivienne Ming as our keynote speaker. I cemented my Dr. Ming fangirldom via the EdLab Seminar so I was thrilled to hear her speak again!


She talked about several projects she has worked on including a face matching program for orphan refugees, building better cochlear implants, and helping train phones to recognize manic and depressive episodes in the voices of their owners. She then started in on the edtech bubbles we have experienced in the past couple of years. It’s interesting to have heard Dr. Ming talk on these subjects back when I was an edtech journalist and now to hear her again when I have had a little distance from that world.

MOOCs, operating on the idea of “if you build it they will come” have not had the great success and it is interesting to observe the changes that have happened in the missions of these platforms, particularly Udacity and Coursera. There’s a lot of experimentation going on as well in gamification and personalization in edtech, but nothing has particularly hit on the mark. She showed this interesting PISA data from Michael Marder, that I had never seen represented in this way before:

Dr. Ming found that they could predict which students would fail courses, but there was not much that teachers could do with this information and a lot of that has to do with these deeper problems in education. Even so, through her work at Gild, Dr. Ming found that across the board for every job she studied, grades were not predictive of quality of work. The things that actually have an effect on the important things in life might be simple, small interventions in early childhood. Dr. Ming’s company Socos created an app called Muse that gives parents insight into their child’s interests and development by “listening” in the classroom and then sending parents personalized text notifications with suggestions for connection. This idea is a part of Dr. Ming’s efforts to help education conform to the needs of students (not the other way around, which is what we usually try to do).

Next there was a technology panel which included Dr. Ming along with Lori Scarlatos from the Department of Technology & Society at SBU; Melissa Woo, our new VP for Information Technology and CIO; and Wendy Tang, a professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and faculty director of Undergraduate College of Information and Technology Studies (ITS) at SBU. The panel was wonderfully moderated by Patricia Aceves. They talked a lot about what technology can and cannot do and what it should and should not do in education.


One of the most interesting things the panel touched on was very related to Dr. Ming’s assessment of education. Leadership is not working for some employees (specifically women in this case), how do we change leadership to conform to the needs of individuals rather than guiding individuals toward changes that position them for leadership? All of the things we have been discussing (technology, data, innovation) are tools that we can use to build adaptive power and institutional structures that make life better for people.

Next, I attended a session on Apple Apps for Education presented by Ian Camera, a Development Executive at Apple who used to be a professor at Holyoke Community College. He spoke about the one-to-one iPad program he had helped implement in the nursing program at Holyoke and used that to map out some potential use cases for iPads in education. We looked at an app called Notability that does voice and text annotation on digital things. Notability has a lot of great applications for teachers and learners including sharing ideas and thoughts on digital objects and helping students articulate their process to teachers.

Then I attended a session on Mobile/Digital Now, the iPad initiative at Stony Brook. This year all 186 EOP students and 422 varsity athletes were given iPads to help them connect to their studies both on and off campus. Ishwar Bridgelal talked about the ideas behind the program and the assessment measures that they are using to make sure this program is working. They drew assessment data from academic records, Blackboard logins, and NSSE data as well as through surveys and focus groups. They found that students liked and used their iPads even though many of them already had other devices such as smartphones and laptops. EOP students reported that they used their devices over two hours per day and that students in the iPad program were more likely to purchase the e-textbook version of their required texts. Prior to the iPad program, mobile device ownership among EOP students was lower than the national average for college students, though most students (78%) did own and use a mobile device. This program is highly successful for these groups, and with more groups on campus adopting one-to-one device programs, it will be interesting to see how our understanding of how these projects work at Stony Brook expands and changes.

The last session I attended was presented by my colleague Shafeek Fazal, the Associate Director for Library Technology. Shafeek presented on the landscape of open educational resources and their applications for Stony Brook faculty.