In an era of technological change, business professionals require communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills. They need to be able to develop and leverage professional networks using social media tools in the service of both professional and organizational goals. Above all, they need experience adapting to new technologies and responding in creative ways to situated problems. As a teacher of business and professional communication, my teaching philosophy is based on the premise that networked learning and the creation of connections between people, information, and tools can be a rich context of situated learning that supports these capacities.
In my business communication courses at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I facilitate a student-directed and community-supported approach to developing personal learning networks (PLNs). My primary goal is to rigorously teach specific skills and relevant domain knowledge while also situating these experiences in the context of building technological and social networks that support students’ lifelong learning and professional development.
Student progress is supported through a custom-designed course site and community blog: BCOM Commons. It is supplemented with a range of virtual collaboration and social +media tools including LinkedIN and the UMN Google Apps suite. Through participatory learning activities, students share resources, publish portfolios of communications work, develop digital literacies and a foundational online presence. These online activities are designed to facilitate networking experiences and interactions with real-world professionals, business school alumni, and potential employers.
My approach to teaching is inspired by and responds to a number of significant theories addressing technology and learning for professional contexts:
- situated learning: students engage authentic contexts of creative problem-solving that lead to legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) in professional communities;
- participatory culture: students are empowered to become producers of their own learning through social, collaborative, and expressive uses of technology and media;
- connectivist learning: students are supported in growing capacities for self-directed, lifelong learning that leverages social and technical networks for professional development.
Ultimately, my teaching philosophy is perhaps best expressed through the perspectives and experiences of my students. I created a digital story that documents the impact of my pedagogical approach to teaching professional communication. Of all my supporting materials, I think it makes the most significant case for my application. It is publicly available at this web address: http://youtu.be/KbdDpMSKzTc.
Examples of Assignments and Student Work
The instructional design of my courses is characterized by a flipped approach that moves through a cycle of student preparation, active and collaborative learning exercises, and reflective integration of lessons learned. Course units are designed to support scaffolded development of core communication skills and capacities while also contributing to student progress in completing specific communication projects.
All my course materials including the current syllabus and many examples of student work are publicly available on my course site: BCOM Commons. The following lessons and assignments provide some representative examples of technology-based assignments:
Keywords Research: This online assignment is the first part of a flipped learning cycle. In this first step, students utilize several different job search engines to discover job advertisements in their field. Then, they analyze the job ads to pull out the keywords associated with core qualifications in their discipline. Finally, they share the results of their research with the rest of the class; see example Keywords Posts: Group Blog 1, Group Blog 2 (FA14).
Skills Descriptions Workshop: This in-class workshop is the second part of a flipped learning cycle. After completing the Keywords Research assignment, students engage in a workshop designed to help them create connections between employer needs and their professional experience. It teaches principles of creative problem solving through direct application to the task of creating skills descriptions for resume drafts. The workshop includes small group and large group exercises, facilitated drafting, and collaborative revision using Google Docs.
Collaborative Editing Workshop: This online assignment leads student through a peer-review editing workshop. This assignment utilizes the collaborative editing and review functions of Google Docs to enable a more interactive and dynamic approach to traditional peer review assignments. In this approach peer reviews and the author can engage in asynchronous discussion around targeted issues for composing business correspondence. This approach enhances accountability for substantive peer review contributions.
Informational Interview: In this assignment, students identify and request a networking meeting or informational interview with professionals in their field. The assignment supports each step of the process including requesting a meeting, completing the interview, and creating a blog post to share the results of their meeting with their peers; see example Informational Interview Posts: Group Blog (SP14).
Professional Development and Contributions to Pedagogy and Technology
I am equally passionate about supporting innovation for teaching with technology in the context of faculty development and research. My curriculum vita attests to an extensive record of professional contributions to pedagogy and technology, including leadership and research activities. As a scholar of business communication, I have contributed publications and presentations addressing diverse topics in teaching with technology, including collaborative writing applications, blogging, custom-designed assessment tools, digital storytelling, flipped learning, networked learning, personal learning networks, MOOCs, and social media. Most of this work is documented on my research blog: abramanders.com.
My work as a teacher and scholar has also led to both institutional and professional leadership opportunities. I have been active as a participant, collaboration, trainer, and coordinator for faculty development and research initiatives. The following are two highlights from my recent activities:
Faculty Fellow for Online and Technology-Enhanced Learning at UMD (2013-2014): In this role, I assisted the Associate Vice Chancellor for Outreach and Online Delivery and supported ITSS faculty development programs. In addition to running a community of practice, educational technology workshop, I co-organized and facilitated the UMD Unconference for Technology-Enhanced Learning.
UMN OIT Faculty Fellowship Program (2012-2013): This competitive 18-month program fosters a multi-disciplinary learning community that explores possibilities and best practices in technology-rich learning environments, produces scholarship in this area, and advances faculty leadership. I was co-editor and designer of a multimedia eBook collection of digital media scholarship based on participant research projects. See Stories from Faculty Fellows: Adventures in Technology-Enhanced Learning.
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