What is education, and how to get one

Historic library building at Columbia University

Some people think of college as a collection of courses you take on a beautiful campus for four years. It is so much more than that. In the following I try to provide a way of thinking about what college actually is while also constructing an answer to what it might be in the future.


In David Leonhardt’s NYTimes article “College for the masses”, the author highlights what research has shown in an overlooked benefit of completing college:

Its graduates have managed to complete adulthood’s first major obstacle course. Doing so helps them learn how to finish other obstacle courses and gives them the confidence that they can, so long as they stay focused. Learning to navigate college fosters a quality that social scientists have taken to calling grit.

So much of the college experience is simply the development of this grit, the persistence needed to overcome obstacles, big and small, in pursuit of an overarching goal: What classes should I take? How can I learn this material? How can I pass this class? Where is this class being taught? How can I clear up this confusion about my meal plan account? How can I arrange my time so that I have clean clothes to wear, have some fun, make some friends, and do well enough to stay enrolled? How can I get an answer from this person who isn’t responding to my email? How can I pay for this educational experience? How can I get a job? What kind of job do I want? And so on…

Students need to be able to solve all kinds of problems that crop up in order to get through the maze that is an undergraduate college education. Every college provides a different answer to the question “How, and how much, should we help a student solve the problems facing him/her?” This help comes in the form of professional and peer counselors for academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities. It is demonstrated by the length of the lines for help, by the speed at which email answers are received and the helpfulness of those answers.

Two questions

A college or university — its people, places, processes, and organizational structure — is the organization’s answer to the question “What does it mean to be educated?” It is certainly not just a collection of courses. If that were so, then online learning would arguably easily and quickly fully replace the vast majority of colleges and universities worldwide. An institution of higher education is a highly internetworked set of resources and processes, of which faculty and classes are certainly important but are not alone in determining the quality of the educational experience.

The rise of easily accessed high quality online courses may actually end up diversifying and strengthening the answers the colleges and universities construct to this answer. In a WSJ essay “The Future of College: It’s online”, Daphne Koller (of Coursera) makes the following point:

At the same time, universities will devote considerably more effort to activities that occur outside the classroom, be it research, individual mentoring by faculty or senior students, team activities, volunteering, internships, study abroad, and many more types of work and experience. Universities will largely distinguish themselves not by the content they deliver, but by the activities that support and enhance core learning activities.


Right now colleges and universities are like the Comcast (or similar) cable service that so many of us can purchase — a big bundle of services for a relatively high cost. Very few students will be interested in the Aviation Club but, don’t worry, the university will have more than a thousand other clubs that the student might join. Yes, that means that each student’s tuition has to support the extra expense (from his/her point of view) of those other 1000+ clubs, but this is the cost of ensuring that the university will probably have a few clubs that the student is actually interested in.

This same analogy can be extended to many other dimensions of the college or university experience. Just as Netflix, Sling TV, HBO Now, and many other services have risen up to disrupt the cable television industry, so have Coursera, edX and others acted towards higher education. But for a person who wants to receive the equivalent of an undergraduate education, he/she has to, first, answer the question “What does it mean to be educated?“ and, second, construct and successfully complete a series of experiences, academic and otherwise, that would enable the student to gain the academic learning and the grit that would fulfill the requirements of his/her answer to the first question. The challenge for the “graduate” then would become that of convincing the world of the quality of the answers to both questions!

I don’t think I have to explain how difficult and confusing this would be if potential hiring organizations were confronted with this for each person who walked in the door looking for a job.

Answering the questions

How do we currently do this? We outsource. We have accrediting organizations whose very reason for existing is to ensure that colleges and organizations meet a reasonable expectation for providing an education (I’m waving my hands and leaving out a lot of details here). This allows us to trust that if a person graduated from a college or university that we have heard of, then we can believe that the person meets some standard expectation we might have related to what it means to be educated. It allows the interested hiring party to focus on the details that he/she is interested in rather than the bigger picture that would distract and complicate the overall process.

An opportunity

Right now, colleges and universities provide a useful bundling of services and experiences. Graduates get an education — academic knowledge and grit. Society (private and public organizations) gets relatively easily understood resources (i.e., educated citizens) that is has learned to allocate in productive ways. An opportunity exists for a new type of organization to structure a virtual education from a set of unbundled educational experiences, services, and classes that are pre-approved to grant the person who completes them as a “graduate”. (That is, an accreditation agency would sign off on this organization’s claim that a graduate has been educated.) This should reduce the cost of completing the education while also making it easier for students to complete since the answers to the two questions are, if not fully answered, at least extensively outlined for them.

I, for one, am waiting for such an organization to appear. It would certainly make higher education potentially more competitive, higher quality, less expensive and open to more people.

Liberal arts and more professional academic pursuits are both vital

Nicholas Kristof, in his opinion piece “Starving for wisdom” in today’s NYTImes, puts forward an argument that both liberal arts and more technical or professional pursuits can “enrich our souls and sometimes even our pocketbooks as well. I’ll summarize his three main points here:

  1. The humanities give its students valuable communications and interpersonal skills.
  2. The study of the humanities helps its students come to better public policy decisions.
  3. Knowledge of the humanities improves our emotional intelligence.

His overall conclusion:

In short, it makes eminent sense to study coding and statistics today, but also history and literature.

My undergraduate degree comes from a small liberal arts institution; my masters in business comes from a business school that has made its name with its engineering graduates; my PhD comes from a business school at an Ivy League institution; my first position was at a business school at a large research university; my second position was at a small residential business school. I have seen all kinds of students at all kinds of institutions and they all seem to work.

However, I am glad that I have a liberal arts education. When I was an undergrad, I can’t tell you that I was happy that I was in all of those required classes; however, as an old man I can tell you that the breadth of that education has helped me in innumerable areas — analytic skills, my interest in astronomy and art and classical music and philosophy and history and nutrition and physiology, ability to contribute to public policy discussions, and so on. I’m not so sure that it helped me get a job, but it prepared me for life, for a full and interesting life.

I am also glad that I also received more technical training as well. I benefitted from classes in micro and macroeconomics, computer science (FORTRAN77!), accounting, finance, marketing, operations research, artificial intelligence, and many others. These have been incredibly valuable in my professional life. But if that’s all I knew, all that I was exposed to, I wouldn’t have had such rich life.

When thinking about what a student (maybe your child) or all students (for policy makers) should take in college, let us not forget that college should not be looked at only as a technical school or job preparation school. It is four (or five or more) years that a person can use to grow, to mature, to prepare for life, to learn about the diversity of people and problems in this world. A job is part of that, but it is not the only part, or the only part that matters.

The course Web site is integral to the success of blended or online learning

Sakai Project


Here at UM we use CTools, an implementation of Sakai. While this is a perfectly reasonable CMS, it was built to support a class from a different era, one in which the professor is the center of learning and students are simply the recipients of knowledge.

Recently in “Technology turbocharges a new educational philosophy” I wrote how technology extends the capabilities and influence of professors and students while also supporting different communication patterns. It also makes it possible to support individualized learning. In this article I want to bring these soaring ideas down to earth, if just a little bit, and discuss what they have to do with the course Web site.

And I'm good with my hands, too.

A practical guy

I’m a very practical guy; I was a practical student and I am a practical professor. When I was a student I didn’t do very much classwork unless I thought I would get something out of it. What was that something? Either I thought I would learn something that was particularly interesting to me or I thought it would help me get a better grade. And not too much in-between. I definitely didn’t do work because it’s supposed to be interesting, or everyone else likes learning about this stuff, or it’s not so hard so just do it.

I have taken that attitude with me in my role as professor. I try to make it clear why what I’m teaching is really interesting to me (so that they know that there is someone in the world who likes this stuff) and why I think it should be interesting to them (usually tied to their academic development [smallest chance of connecting with them], career, or personal life). You might expect me to say here and I also make it clear how the student can get a good grade. Actually, I generally don’t. I don’t really do this on purpose. I point in the general direction of what is good versus what is bad, but I don’t want to set an artificially low ceiling and say this is good enough to get an “A”. I have found that my students are amazingly good at exceeding any bar that I put up for them. So…I let them set the bar. I let them define their range of activities, input, and insights. They explore their talents, and I help them refine their approach. The results have most often been exemplary.

Students as teachers

You might be wondering what this all has to do with a course Web site. Here’s the connection. I believe that:

  • Communication among students is important.
  • Learning is good, whether or not the source of the learning is the professor or a student.
  • Students can provide excellent instruction to other students (and the professor, if he’ll listen).
  • Timely and meaningful feedback is a powerful way of learning and improving.
  • Students can be good at providing feedback to each other.
  • Students grow and learn just as much when they are in the role of teacher as when they are in the role of learner.

Recall from above that I personally didn’t like doing something (unless I really liked it) unless I thought it would help me get a better grade. Well, suppose that students think this way. (Not too unreasonable, in my opinion.) In order to get them to take on the above roles, they need to believe (in the absence of truly liking the material) that what they are doing will help them get a better grade. The question now becomes how do we make the connection between them taking on the above roles and them getting a better grade.

The reimagined course Web site

The course Web site has to support, track, and enable measurement of all of these new activities. If the activity isn’t being supported, tracked, or measured, then it isn’t being integrated into the student’s grade. And if it doesn’t count towards the grade, then the student isn’t doing it. Thus, the Web site has to fill all three of these roles or it’t not doing all that it can to support students and professors as they make their way through the semester.

The Web site is no longer simply about an inbox that the student puts assignments in so that the professor can grade it. It’s no longer about the students sending messages to the faculty member and vice versa.

So, what does the course Web site need to do?

  • Provide a way for students to submit a draft, for other students to critique the draft, for the author to evaluate the critiques. Each stage needs to be captured and attributed to each individual student.
  • Provide a way for students to submit a final version, for other students to respond to the document, for the author to respond to those responses, and so on. And for everyone to evaluate the quality of the arguments made.
  • Provide a way for students to submit teaching materials.
  • Provide a way for students to add to existing teaching materials.
  • Provide a way for students to evaluate the specific contributions (messages, critiques, responses, materials) of students whenever and wherever they might see them. And to give credit to students who take the time to provide the evaluations themselves!

It is definitely the case (for now) that each professor is going to want different reports for different classes. Each professor will want to emphasize different tasks and different roles for the students to play during the semester. This exploration is necessary in order to move to a new model of learning that is pretty far away from our current model. I believe it has the potential to be a better model, but we definitely have a lot of thinking, planning, experimenting, and doing ahead of us.


Next steps

This isn’t simply a next generation of a traditional scholastic CMS. This is more like a community support/building Web site combined with a media publishing site. I actually don’t think it would be that difficult to build such a site with Drupal. It seems like all the tools (modules) are already there just waiting to be put together in the right way. I’m in the process of building it right now, so I guess we’ll see one way or the other.

If you’re interested in this project (or know of a related one that I apparently don’t know about), please let me know via twitter or the comments.

Technology turbocharges a new educational philosophy

We can be empowered by the community we live, work, and learn with.

In this article I add a couple of points to my ongoing analysis of the new educational philosophy that is becoming apparent to me, and then I describe how technology makes this superior experience more frequently available to more people.

A new educational philosophy for large classes

In this article I proposed that the way to provide a great education at a lower cost is based on the concept of community:

Students have to feel they are part of a supportive and available educational community — as both givers and receivers of that support — as they strive toward personally relevant goals.

I have previously emphasized some concepts underlying this philosophy:

  • Project-based learning is one key
  • Students as both learners and teachers
  • The student must have some motivation for learning and participating.
  • One of a a professor’s key areas to focus on, especially during the first phases of a semester, should be toward building connections with the students and among the students.

There is a sense in which none of this is new — I myself participated in just such an experience in my classes at Furman University. I had many very small classes (less than 15 students; some less than 10) and formed close connections with students and professors. We worked on significant projects, we were expected to take responsibility for our own learning, and we frequently taught other students both in class and out.

What is new here is that this philosophy is to be extended to much larger groups of students. The never-ending hours of the sage on the stage delivering a PowerPoint lecture to a large, uninterested, an uninvolved audience is to be forever banished to our memories (and hopefully forgotten soon after that). Recent changes in attitudes and technologies have given hope to those people who want to reinvent education.

Competence and gamification

In my previous discussions, I have forgotten two additional points that I am adding here:

  • Competency-based focus
  • Gamification of learning

In this first point, the idea is that education should no longer strictly be about pitting the students against each other and seeing who does better. Increasingly, the goal is to get students to achieve a level of competency. Professors have always known that our measures of “goodness” are inexact. We hope they are generally correlated with knowledge in a specified field, but we know that applying decimal points to the measures we use is putting too fine of a point on it. In many instances we should acknowledge this reality and simply certify that a student has reached a satisfactory level of competency.

Note that this switch is not solely of interest to students and faculty. It will require some cooperation from other constituencies who value the ranking that we do within our classes. Think about organizations who hire our graduates and graduate schools who enroll them. What would they think about seeing a large number of “competent” check-marks on a graduate’s diploma? How and when would they determine which of our graduates were our best students? Should we care? (My guess: Yes, we should, at least in the short run.)

For the second point, the gamification of the learning process in a sense explicitly recognizes what every student who gets good grades knows: If you want to get a good grade, then figure out what the professor wants, and do more of that. Gamifying a class makes what the professor wants fairly clear or, at least, determinable in a shorter time frame. Feedback, by definition, comes quickly and directly. “Did I get a trophy/points/badge?” If so, the student did well; if not, then he/she needs to do something else. This gamification can support the move toward building a process that leads towards competency; it can support the process of completing a project; it can support students in their roles as student and teacher; it can provide some extrinsic motivation where the intrinsic motivation might be lacking. In short, gamification is can be a powerful tool in this move towards the new philosophy of education.

Photo used under (CC BY-NC 2.0). Photo by ThomasHawk at Flickr.com

Technology makes all of this more frequent and feasible

With the development of and focus on new educational technologies, as well as with the successes of classes delivered by Udacity, there is real hope that the new educational philosophy can take hold at a large scale. Technology extends the capabilities and influence of professors and students. They can both reach farther; they can both create far more things (both real and virtual) than they ever could before. Simply: they are empowered to teach and learn in new ways.

Technology also supports different communication patterns. Traditionally, students have been assumed to be learning when the professor is delivering material to them. Students talking to the professor? That is either an “interruption” or a “question”. And let’s just ignore the “students talking with other students” part. Both of these were not what learning was about. But now? We recognize that some of the most important interactions occur when students are talking with other students or when students lead the professor to consider something in a different light. Students are highly qualified to teach other students; they generally have very good insight into how these other students are thinking and what types of problems they might be having; they can communicate in the other student’s language directly to the problem that they are having. Use technology to support and rewards this type of communication. Improved learning could be the result.

If these other communication patterns are so important, then why have they been relegated to the sidelines? Why, indeed. Probably because they were done outside the limelight, away from the arenas in which the “serious learning” was, in theory, taking place. With technology, and with the recognition of the importance of this other communication, the hope is that we can now capture, support, measure, and reward it so that it gets more frequent and more meaningful.

We must also remember that everybody’s different. And we differ in different dimensions. The power of technology allows us to track, and learn about, and respond to each of our students differently. It allows us to move away from the lock-step madness with which we have been infected. We can think “what does this student want?”, “what does this student need?”, and “what is the most appropriate thing for this student to be doing?” These are questions that we couldn’t allow ourselves to think when teaching large classes. It would lead to too much work, and it would be seen as being “unfair” or giving “preferential” treatment. With developing educational technology, the hope is that every student might receive this “preferential” treatment and that it might become the norm rather than the very rare exception.

Wrap up

As Sir Ken Robinson says, let people do something they are good at and that they are passionate about, and good things will follow. Using educational technology in the right way seems to empower faculty to create a learning environment that allows students to do just this. It allows us to teach more students in this way. It empowers students to teach other students. It empowers the professor to think about personalizing the educational process for the student. All of these changes should make it clear that it is not the new technology that is creating all of the excitement in education circles — it is the changes that it enables that has people talking about a revolution in education.

To a large part, it is up to us to act, to try things out, and to learn in the best possible situation. With that as a goal, why shouldn’t we give it a try?

Yong Zhao’s idea of a world class education (ISTE12 keynote)

Message delivered by Dr. Yong Zhao, University of Oregon, at ISTE12 in San Diego.


Last Tuesday I attended the ISTE12 keynote by Dr. Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon. He is a deeply interesting, funny, and motivating speaker who clearly has a wealth of knowledge on his topic of what it means to deliver a world class education. He has written World Class Learners and Catching up or Leading the Way along with many dozens of articles.

Here I will try to summarize the main points of his talk in a unified essay. As far as I can recall, the points below are his; I wish I could take credit for them, but I can’t.

Choose the right goals

He considers the story of Easter Island (as recounted by Jared Diamond) to be a good metaphor for what is happening with educational reform. The Easter Island residents seemed to think that their rock carvings were a sign of prosperity of their carving, so each family dedicated all their resources to carving bigger and better rocks. They neglected farming and everything else that was needed. Eventually their society collapsed not because of external influences but because they had chosen the wrong goal.

He came back to this again and again: If you choose the wrong goal by which to measure yourself, no matter how good or efficient you are you will never get to where you need to go. Actually, the more efficient you are, the more quickly you will disappear (or at least become irrelevant).

He likens the above situation to education reform in the US, Australia, England and many other places around the world. Here in the US we have the following:

Common Core
He says that he is not against standards, but he would like this one better if it weren’t common and if it weren’t considered the core of what is to be learned.
No Child Left Behind
Sometimes it is good if a child is left behind. For example, what if we are all going in the wrong direction. Wouldn’t you like if it that child was able to choose to go in another direction?

(This is among many others.) He says standardized test scores are like the giant stone heads on Easter Island. They are really beautiful and seductive, but they aren’t what we need. Using technology to raise our test scores is the wrong use of the technology. He mentioned this saying:

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.

You cannot judge technology by its ability to improve test scores. This is not what it’s really good for.

The leaders in standardized testing

When the 2009 PISA test results (gold standard of education results) were released, China took #1 in all three categories. Obama said that this is the Sputnik moment for us. Arne Duncan said this is a wake-up call. Everyone wanted to know how these countries did so well. However, when these results were announced, China did not celebrate. Why not? Well, they are looking for different talents:

Wen Jiabao
“China must have entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs.”
Kai-fu Lee
“The next Apple or Google will appear, but not in China…unless it abolishes its education.”

Why were these Chinese leaders worried after seeing these results? Well, it has to do with the innovation and leadership disparity they saw. For example, in patent filings in 2008, China had 203k while USA had 400k and Japan had 500k. Given the difference in populations among these three, China should have had significantly more than either of these. Also, while Asians make up 5% of the US population, and 15-25% of the student bodies in the Ivy League (and other top schools), they make up only 2% of the board seats of Fortune 500 firms.

So, the Chinese were not satisfied with their educational system because they perceived something lacking in it as the underlying engine for their economy. At the other end of the spectrum, tthe US was (and is) really dissatisfied with its system.

History of bad test-taking

You hear that US education is in decline. The College Board says we’re crumbling. Professor Zhao says that US education isn’t in decline — it has always been bad. He wonders why the US is still among the leading countries

He brings up several points when emphasizing how bad our educational system has been. It was bad in the 1950s. Remember the whole Sputnik thing? There was a special issue of Life magazine in 1958 titled “Crisis in Education.” In 1983 we were comparing our educational system unfavorably with that in Japan. Again, the US was at risk, this time from Japan. We have a long history as bad test takers. In 1960s we were 12th out of 12 in math. In 1970s-80s, we then were 12-15th out of 15 in math. You could actually say that we are doing better now than we ever did.

Explanations for the bad scores

All sorts of explanations have been put forward for why the US has such bad test scores. First, it has been found that there is an inverse relationship between test scores and perceived entrepreneurial capability. He isn’t saying that the perceived entrepreneurial capability is causing bad test scores; however, given that we are so high on this dimension, it then makes sense that we would have low test scores…even if it is still unclear why this relationship exists.

Second, he points out that all sorts of surveys have shown that we are very confident in our math ability even though we are really bad. Our political leader have said that this implies that we need higher standards, and that these standards need to be clearly and frequently measured by tests so that we will know just how bad we are. This will then cause us to be sad and to work hard at raising our scores. Or so their thinking goes.

Third, in the US most teachers care more about children than math. This is apparently a big problem here; he said this with a huge sense of irony in his delivery.

The professor made it clear that he is not particularly satisfied with any of these possible explanations. Actually, he is not even satisfied with the question because he doesn’t think that the scores matter at all.

A “Lady Gaga” curriculum

What he is really interested in is whether or not it is possible for a school to develop a curriculum that could churn out a whole lot of Lady Gagas. No matter how you judge her music, he said that it is clear that she is talented, entrepreneurial, and creative. Would it even be possible to create a Lady Gaga curriculum? A Common Core for Lady Gaga? Does this even make sense to think about?

When creating a curriculum, we are placing a bet on what’s going to be important in the future — what will make us “college-ready” or “ready for our career.” The predictions that we place are based on the past. The question becomes what really makes people rise to the top?

Amy Chua, in Day of Empire says that tolerance is the key. Richard Florida, in The rise of the creative class, says that it is technology, talents, and tolerance. It turns out that tolerance gets us diversity, creativity, and entrepreneurship, which are the things that an economy needs to thrive. Whether or not you believe that the resulting creativity can be taught, it is clear that an education can help kill it. Maybe it’s the case that US schools kill creativity less successfully than other school systems.

What education should be

The professor poses three important questions for a school system:

  • What matters to you: test scores or confidence?
  • Do you allow exceptional talents to exist?
  • Are you taking advantage of the resources that you have?

The structure of our current educational system was to support our industrial, manufacturing-based economy. While it is true that the average profit per Apple employee is $400,000, they are not the ones putting the devices together. This is being done (mainly) by Asian companies who are much less profitable. Today a company (and an economy) needs unique workers with special skills, and you have to be great because this is a global society.

Further, the economy needs entrepreneurs off all types: business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, policy entrepreneurs. These people, when they are unhappy with a situation, comes up with a solution to make it better. When enough people are working on a problem, and when those people think about things in lots of different ways, then problems get solved and economies advance.

These so-called “black-collar workers” (who he named in honor of Steve Jobs’s turtleneck) don’t wait for someone to create a job for them; they create the job for themselves. He has identified qualities that are common to these people:

They have to have an innate confidence in their own abilities.
A supportive network of friends help them persevere.
A sense that risk-taking is acceptable, or even desirable, gets them to try important and difficult problems.
A passion for their efforts helps them keep striving in the face of difficulty.
This allows them to try different approaches when the first 100 fail.
These people have a real inner drive to solve these problems and to make a difference.

We should all abandon the idea that US schooling can produce employable skills. Kids turning 13 this year, if they work until they are 72, will be retiring in 2071. Think about what has happened in the last 10 years. People make a living working for Facebook, writing Angry Birds, and tweeting. Was that predictable 10 years ago? What makes you think that you can predict that we know what skills will be “employable” for these people in 2071? Remember, our predictions are based on the past. Well, no matter how perfect a horse wagon is, it will never make it to the moon.

Education should involve student autonomy, a global campus, and product-oriented learning. They need to make real things. Schools need to focus on the individual strengths of the student. They need to turn the students into makers of things and not only consumers. This can only happen beyond the school’s walls; the world must become our campus. The people of the world are our collaborators, investors, and customers. Work with them, not against them.

He concluded by saying test scores should not apply to everyone. They don’t reflect your student’s, your teacher’s, or your school’s abilities. A great education allows each child’s maximum potential. Design your class with that in mind.

Many small steps from lecturing to flipping

I have spent much of my career transitioning from a standard lecture format to letting the students lead the way. Let’s go over some of the steps:

  1. Many years ago I taught our core introduction to business information technology class with standard PowerPoint lectures. When we would be in the lab, I started out lecturing, demonstrating, and having them follow along. Fortunately, I noticed that they didn’t follow along! Some were faster, some were slower, some didn’t care. It definitely didn’t work, but it did show me that I needed to think about structuring the class in a different way.
  2. At the same time I was working with another professor teaching the introduction to database elective class. In this class we would lecture for a short time (maybe 5 minutes), and then students would work on a problem among themselves. We would wander around the class for 3-4 minutes while they worked on the problem, and then we would reconvene as a group and discuss their answers and questions. When we were in the lab, we had semi-structured exercises that basically guided their exploration of the software. I wrote a whole manual based on the principles espoused in The Nurnberg Funnel. This really helped guide my thinking so that I would let the student take the lead and use his/her initiative. This also led me to design exercises that required students to take ownership of the learning process.
  3. Several years later when I taught my class on “Web-based resources,” I structured the class in ways that maximized the personal meaning of the material to the students. I gave a short overview lecture (10-15 minutes) at the beginning of a class (with all of my notes posted before the class on the class wiki), and then students would spend the rest of the class working on guided exercises and then applying these skills and concepts to their own term project. During the whole class period, I acted as a resource, answering questions and providing hints when they had reached some type of impasse.

I currently teach a quite traditional, though not often practiced at Michigan with our undergraduates, case-based class in which we discuss two different cases during a three-hour face-to-face class with 52 students. For each class, they generally read two cases (5-15 pages each), and usually one more theoretical concept-based journal paper. Our classes are spent as two long discussions, with them talking 90% of the time (to the class), and we taking notes on the board and structuring the discussion. Periodically, as part of the discussion, I do a very short (1-2 minute) lecture on a specific topic from the case that I want them to take note of.

Now technology enters the picture. I can easily see something like ShowMe, ReplayNote, or Camtasia being used to teach these topics before class, and before they read the cases so that they can think about how to apply the ideas themselves. This would, I think, allow the conversation to get to a higher level than it currently does.

I will be experimenting with these tools over the next few months and will report on my findings here. I would appreciate any pointers that my readers can give me that might make my experiments more useful.