54: Learning Collaboration Technologies (Google Jamboard) at Alma College w/ Anthony Collamati

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Anthony Collamati, Associate Professor of New Media Studies at Alma College discusses how collaborative learning technologies like Google’s new Jamboard can help salvage the best parts of the traditional liberal arts experience in a higher ed world that’s quickly migrating online.

It was kind of like the birthday cake, though, at a party, in the sense that, you know, it really kind of became a focal point for the activity and the rant and the ritual of learning. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect eedu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Anthony Kolmati, associate professor of New Media Studies at Alma College. Anthony, welcome to the show, hire, thanks for having me, thanks for being here. Super excited to talk with you today about how learning technologies can help salvage the best parts of the traditional liberal arts experience in a higher ed world that's quickly migrating online. Before we dig into that, Anthony, can you give listeners a little bit better understanding of both Alma College and your rule there? So Alma college is a small liberal arts school where Michigan is often we have talked about it as as a med you turn your palm over and your point to the center of it, and there you'll find Alma. I am in the New Media Studies Program and New Media Studies is an interdisciplinary program that popped up in order to better and drest us all these new opportunities that digital media was was bringing into the workplace and modern life. So my background is in filmmaking, but I teach courses that range from an introduction to digital media tools to a senior seminar where students complete a capstone course. Hamponing, with more and more students choosing the convenience of online learning, how should high read think about using technology to retain some of the best things about a traditional liberal art education,...

...such as the high collaboration, the small class sizes, the high touch faculty? This has been an enormous challenge for liberal arts schools. You've got, you know, the online education and the past ten years is exploded and in schools like Alma, you know, we have just over a thousand students. You know, how do we think of ourselves? We've built ourselves on this, this small classroom, small professor student ratio. You know, how do we scale up into the online world? So the previous model of post and response is usually what you think of when when you consider online classes, and it just didn't fit that that person a person interaction, the relationships that are built between professors and students in a traditional classroom. It's just was hard to find those in an online course in the traditional model. And what was really exciting about this, this new course share format, was that it brings in some of the class classic, classic benefits of a Liberal Arts class. who think of a Liberal Arts College and and those that that kind of small seminar room? It imports a lot of those benefits back into the classroom. Let's talk about this recent pilot program you are a part of with Google's JAM board, their new remote collaboration tool, and how it matched up to your overall expectations. Yeah, so the Google core share. It was an interesting format. My my provost approach me and they said but they were they were trying out this new pilot program with a few other colleges around Michigan and they needed someone to jump in and run a course and I I tend to be drawn to things that could fail. So I was immediately interested and they just wanted me to take a course that I'd done before. Was a media theory course. We take, we kind of like the greatest hits of the philosophy of technology and medium and we it was a seminar course. It's one of the only courses I do that is in a kind of traditional seminar format. A lot of my other courses involved a lot of tools or equipment or specialized...

...applications, but this one as one as just you know, when you think about a classic seminar setup. We sit around and we talked about some really engaging and difficult text and I said sure, let's do it. And this was in I think it was October and we were talking about the winter semesters. So she was going to start in January. And as part of it, I'm a college partnered with Albion and Calvin College and together with some representatives from the MCA, which is the Michigan colleges alliances, we flew out together to Google and I got to meet the two other professors who would be doing this with me and we went to Google and the Google headquarters, which is a fascinating trip in and of itself. But they set us down. They showed us the JAM board technology. They talked to us through this meat software, as what they call it, and it has already been used quite a bit in business and corporate settings, but they were really interested in trying to see how it would fit with education and what it might be able to do. And we we got a kind of a brief overview of the JAM board and how that works and and I can, I can talk a little bit about that and what a class would be set up would look like. Yeah, please do. But then we got to my deals, we got really excited about it and a lot of time the trip was really great and getting us, as three different colleges, to talk together about what we wanted to do with their different classes and we were really excited and set to go. And then in the two months that follow that met, I think that was in November when we flew out, and then in, you know, December and January. In those in those quick few months, we google came out to through the both of the other colleges and Alma we designated a room. Are Different. Our it staffs had held some meetings where they shared ideas and then we installed the hardware for in order to do this. When what it looks like is this. So you, Alma, Albion and Calvin all had a similar room you set up. Usually it can be a conference table, but you could also do just a ring of a ring of chairs. But...

...the key pieces for this to work are you have two screens, two large high definition screens, and in the in between them is a camera that's specialized mobile, and not a mobile but movable. They can pan and tilt and zoom. It's it's provided by Google. That sits between them. Then I'm usually on a the end of the table. They would be a control panel, touch screen control panel that controls the TV's and there would be audience microphones and speakers that are spaced at a particular distance depending on the link to the table, so that everyone who's sitting at the table or around the circle could be heard and here equally. That that's all you need for the meat itself. But the other piece that was really kind of critical to this was the jam board. And the JAM board, the best way to think about it is an interactive white board and it was the this this program was the first time it was used from k through higher Ed, the first time in the world that it was used in those settings. That was the basic setup and as far as how we implemented it among the three colleges, we each designated a course. I'm already mentioned that media theory was my course. There was one in visual sociology from Calvin College and from Albion there was environmental art, and we would each school and rolled about five to six students and we capped it at that and then we take five or six from each of our our partner colleges. So the total enrollment would be anywhere from about fifteen to eighteen. And as faculty, what was your kind of evaluation of this as this collaboration tool? How did you appreciate the remote collaboration benefits of provided? How did your students appreciate that that engagement with with peers from afar? So, I mean are I gotta I gotta admit that this was kind of an event.

You know, this was everyone was excited about it. Everybody was, I mean this from a students to as faculty, the administration and I we were all really excited to see if this would work and, to be totally honest with you, I have was skeptical. Yeah, I was very skeptical early on because I had taught an online course before. I had taught the post and response set up of a college class, and I I'm nothing against those, but I it just didn't fit with why I was attracted to teaching originally. I loved seeing, you know, when that students face kind of lights up when they get it or, you know, being able to adjust when I see, which happens quite a bit in my classes, you know that when their students and their eyes start to drift or or they take out their phones, you know, to catch up on what's happening in social media, you know, to be able to spawn to that in real time. Yeah, to be able to see progress, see when people are are making progress on different projects. Those are the things that I loved about teaching and online. The kind of traditional online format really didn't allow those things. What was great about this course, share and why I'm excited about it, why that skepticism faded, is what this format does. It's kind of if online is the what you think about of online courses, if that's kind of like web one, Oh, you know, like the myspace. Yeah, that came out and I see this poor share as web. Two point. Oh for online education. It's online, it's education, but it's really different because it's not that different from what we usually do in the classroom. What I mean by that is you are whether you're lecturing or leading a seminar and discussion or doing small group activities. You are in real time facetoface. You are doing the same thing you're doing. You're just extended through space and time by this technology. It's really just video conferencing, you know, and it doesn't require you to reboot or rethink or rewrite your entire syllabus or some changes that you need to make, but it's really just kind of extending some of the classic, classic techniques of pedagogy. You've mentioned how digital communication and digital collaboration...

...is arguably more ubiquitous in today's business environment than learning how to navigate a conference room table. So are these experience is not simply, you know, novel workarounds to better include the online learner, but are the actually hyperproud go preparation for the modern workforce as well? Absolutely that was a need takeaway to it and I didn't really think about it till the end of the course was that, you know, here we are sitting around and doing these critical and creative trying to lead these critical and creative discussions and even though we're talking about Aristotle and Bernard stiegler people like this, we're the way that the students are talking to each other and the lessons in communication that they learned through that, and it's a different skill set. It's similar to how we speak in person but, as you know, in probably doing these podcasts, you have to train yourself a little bit differently to keep a conversation moving right. There's just an extra half second you have to allow people, if they want to, to interrupt or add some to the conversation learning. I saw students do that throughout the course of the semester. I saw them, students I'd seen another classes, maybe overshare a little bit. I saw them, you know, cut themselves off a little bit earlier in order to allow other people a chance who were on these remote campuses to participate. I saw them really actually kind of being even more hospitable than they usually would to not that the students are inhospitable day to day basis, but there really was an effort to reach out and make people who were coming in the remote campuses really an effort to make them feel like they were there in the classroom too, and these are these are skills that will translate into the workplace and I think the students were talking about that themselves at the end of the semester. So I have any big question. You mentioned how you entered this pilot program a little bit skeptical. Post...

...pilot, when attempting to make the online classroom more like the traditional liberal arts classroom, do you think tools like jam board are helpful steps in the right direction? Yeah, absolutely I do. I think the the opportunity, there's a few things that the opportunity for the students here at Alma, as I mentioned, we are we're a small campus in the middle of the state and it's a fairly rural part of the state. You know, for us to be able to link up with colleges, other small colleges, but someone that was in grand rapids, you know more of a metropolitan area, and another that was albion, which is in a different part of the state. You know that the kind of diversity of perspective was something that it's hard to get in a traditional classroom. The other benefit is that in liberal art schools some of the departments like your my your foreign language departments, you know, like our French major there. There aren't in a small little arts college is not a lot of French majors. You know, when you've got about three hundred students, you're not going to have a huge major in there for you not can be able to offer a lot of courses. This is a way of doing advanced courses, doing specialized courses and having a robust major, even when you are don't have a large faculty or a large student population, feeling your major on campus. The other way this connects with the liberal arts mission is that, you know, students are not passive in the classroom and I think in large part that's due to the I think the presence of the JAM Board itself, and I think that's kind of a crucial tool. I thought it was. It was just a little bit of a kind of a fancy tool and overgrown only ipad, you know, and it wasn't really that important. But I do see it as not just a kind of add on but actually a crucial part of this and and doing this right. What happens with that jam board and again it's about the size of a normal you know, you're kind of a standard white board you might find in somebody's office. Yeah, by putting that in the classroom, it says that you walk into a classroom...

...and you see these two two big TV's and some speakers, you're going to think that, okay, I need to sit in this chair and watch the TV. You know right, I am here. kind of it's almost like a you know, your family room or a theater with a jam board does is it says like, you know, this is you are here to to participate and to produce and to create and to share, and it's really a it's a tool I ended up falling in love with for this type of course it you we linked up the jam boards on the three different campuses, so you ride on one and it appears on together. Anything that student on a remote campus would add would show instantly on on the campus were on our home campus. You could also, if you have a an android device, there's an APP that you could use and you could also link to the JAM board right on your APP, so you could break up into small groups and and add to it remotely. It's just wasn't just one board it can be small little boards connected to the main board, but it was kind of like the birthday cake though a at a party, in the sense that, you know, it really kind of became a focal point for the activity and the rent and the ritual, yeah, of learning. So the fact that you know these this format making course is more diverse, you know, allowing us to offer more specialized courses and a diversity of faculty to to bring that into a liberal arts college, and then also, you know, the the the emphasis on active learning. I think those all line really beautifully with the Liberal Arts mission. Anthony. Finally, any next steps advice for other institutions who are listening to this looking to continually adopt and evolved new tools and technologies to improve the collaboration in their online classrooms? Yeah, I think that there's still a lot of untested water here and I'm really curious about how this develops. We're doing more courses next semester and I think we'll get some interesting, you know, interesting new angles on how to do this well, but a few things that people might consider as one, I'm not sure how this is going to...

...scale into courses with more specialized gear or hardware or tools, whether that is something like a you know, I teach filmmaking classes. As soon as you try to put gear and people's hands like, how do you do that with two other remote locations right also, and I Google, I believe is aware of this, you know, there is a lot of limitations on breaking into small groups. Not if you're like not if we were saying, okay, Alma, you guys, break into two groups and then now be in your group and Calvin your group. It works really well for that. But what I really wanted to do was say, okay, Hey, let's get two students from Calvin to work with two students from Alma and to be able to kind of, you know, use the technology to make those groups a little bit private and easily they could easily communicate with each other. That's not that's not there yet and I think that would be very helpful to integrating the different student population, student bodies. So those are some challenges ahead and I think that it's it puts a lot of pressure and there's a lot of responsibility. That's that falls to administration. You can't sit back and just say well, faculties, you take care of this, because as soon as you start to if you think through it a little bit. You know, how do you do grades? How do you do share a spring breaks when three different colleges have three different spring breaks? These kind of little logistical questions there become big deals when you start running a class. So it really requires somebody at an administrative level to be be handson with this. And also we were very lucky to have wonderful it staffs. They were there and they had their eye on it because it was a pilot program every you know they were they were dedicated to it, they were watching it closely, they were checking in every almost every every meeting session. As soon as something happened, they would they would respond quickly. You know that part of that was because it was a pilot. How do you scale that that up? How did that kind of attention? How do you maintain it? Those are the challenges I see ahead as we explore the future potential of this. Anthony, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you? They have any follow up questions? Sure you can. I'm on twitter at Aunt...

Kola A and t CEOLLA, and my email is Colmadi. At Alma died edu awesome. Best of luck with the continued testing and experimentation, and thanks against so much for joining us today, Anthony Eric, thank you so much. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprize wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Download it today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (260)