Teaching and Technology Conference at UMSL

Amy Collier, director of digital learning initiatives at Stanford (Calif.) University, spoke to hundreds of participants recently at the 12th annual Teaching and Technology Conference in the J.C. Penney Auditorium at UMSL. Educators and instructional designers representing 33 institutions attended the two-day conference. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Amy Collier and Michelle Pacansky-Brock came to town recently to talk about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), flipped classrooms and making online learning real, human and connected.

Both women addressed faculty from many disciplines as keynote speakers at the Focus on Teaching and Technology Conference at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. This is the 12th year for the conference, which attracted 362 educators  and instructional designers representing 33 institutions. Workshops and sessions were offered by faculty and technology vendors throughout the region during the two-day conference.

Collier is director of digital learning initiatives at Stanford (Calif.) University, and Pacansky-Brock is an online faculty development specialist who teaches at Mt. San Jacinto (Calif.) College.

Both speakers emphasized storytelling as a way to build community among students and faculty with the goal of valuing the power of relationships. Many studies conclude that such student engagement is key to their retention, graduation and success.

Collier spoke of a 1978 longitudinal study that looked at three first-grade classes in a  poor urban school district. The teachers, Miss A, Miss B, Miss C. all followed the same curriculum, but at the end of the year the students in Miss B and Miss C’s class performed poorly compared to Miss A’s students who did well.

“Relationships. The kids in Miss A’s class remembered her, talked about her and how much she meant to them years later,” Collier said. “How many of you had a Miss A when you were in school?”

Hands shot up, people smiled with the memory. Collier’s point was that there are short- and long-term impacts when faculty members engage with students and form supportive, instructive relationships.

Collier talked about the power of the flipped classroom – using technology to engage students productively outside of class. Pacansky-Brock talked of classrooms without walls and life beyond the lecture.

Most conference participants came from higher education, some as far away as Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Laclede Gas sent instructional designers and some participants came from the Missouri kindergarten through 12th grade ranks of Normandy, Brentwood, Ladue and St. Louis public school districts as well as Principia School in Town and Country and John Burroughs School in Ladue.

The teaching and technology conference, organized by UMSL’s Center for Teaching and Learning in partnership with Professional and Continuing Studies and Information Technology Services, has evolved over the years to reflect emerging trends in technology applications in higher education and developing shared expertise in online teaching experiences and strategies.

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel