Monday, June 27, 2011

International Institute for New Faculty Developers (IINFD)

At the urging of a colleague who said this was an excellent experience, I attended the IINFD.  Admittedly, I was not excited to travel by myself and attend 4 1/2 days of training over a weekend, but it was the most useful and professional training I've ever attended.  IINFD gets the ultimate compliment: it changed the way I think. 

The typical participant would be someone in a role such as Cindy or Bob's in our CETL - out of all the people I met, I was the only one with a technology focus although a few people were particularly interested in technology.  Most of the 100 or so participants were former or current faculty who were moving into faculty development, so it was really interesting to learn their perspective since I entered this field differently.  Many of the meals were shared and most of us stayed at the same hotel so there were a lot of opportunities to get to know people.  The atmosphere was very collaborative and sharing.  I met people from all different disciplines, experience levels, and sizes of centers. 

Most of the sessions were facilitated rather than presented, so we got to know the people around us by working in small groups.  It was sponsored in part by the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education aka POD Network.  The conference organizer, Michele DiPietro, said that POD stands for many things, including "Participate or Die" which was a nice segue into the first of many small group activities.  In a few sessions, it was hard for me to participate because they were topics I knew little to nothing about, but I was able to learn from others in the group.

Sessions included topics such as course design, assessment, consultation skills, learning communities, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), faculty development programs, evaluating centers, developing our philosophy as a faculty developer, learning theory, and technology (there were others I did not attend).  About half the time consisted of sessions that we all attended and half were concurrent sessions, so we had some choice.

Of course, I was excited about the technology session.  The presenters (this was more of a presentation than a facilitated session) were two instructional designers from the Kennesaw CETL and a dentistry faculty developer from Canada who mostly talked about a specific simulation tool they use at his university.  Unfortunately I think it had limited applicability to the rest of us.  In 1.5 hours, they planned to discuss every type of technology for teaching and even said we could add others if we knew of them.  They got through about half of their content.

The main reason I was excited about this session is because I hoped they would cite some research or link what they were discussing to research, but they focused on Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, which is the subject of my first post in this blog (summary: I'm not a fan).  They acknowledged the lack of research on learning styles and instead cited learning preferences and recommended multiple options to appeal to different learners (I agree). Overall, they spent way too much time on Bloom's and not enough time on the actual technologies. The first thing they mentioned was focusing on the educational use of a tool rather than the tool itself, but I didn't see them follow through with this throughout the presentation. 

I learned about a new tool, Sync.in, which is like Google Docs but (from what I understand) requires users to select a color so each person's additions are in different colors.  This is possible in Google Docs, but people have to add the color manually, like in Word.  There is also a timeline function so you can play a video of all the changes happening in action.

I also observed the effective use of Prezi.  Two sessions used Prezi instead of PowerPoint and I was really impressed with how it showed the big picture and then zoomed in to the pieces - for the content, it worked very well.  It also just seemed a lot more refreshing than PowerPoint.  I was very surprised I liked the Prezi so much.

I left with some solid ideas for technology-related learning communities I'd like to start with CETL, how to evaluate my performance, and a strong reminder that I am very solution focused, when sometimes I need to ask the right questions to lead people to their own conclusions (primarily relating to pedagogical issues, since technology is usually more straight-forward).  Although most of the sessions did not relate directly to technology, I was able to apply them to my role and some of it was just good to know so I understand faculty development, CETL, and how I may complement them better.  Overall, it was a great experience for the information, networking opportunities, and time to reflect. 

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