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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010

School of Education professor receiving accolades for teaching with technology

June 14, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Education will collect an international award this week for exceptional technology-supported teaching.

Joshua Danish

Joshua Danish

The Sakai Foundation has selected Joshua Danish, a faculty member in the Learning Sciences program as an honorable mention winner for its third annual "Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award." All award winners will present their submissions at the Sakai Conference 2010 held in Denver, Colo., Tuesday (June 15) through Thursday.

The Sakai Foundation licenses free and open software to universities and other educational institutions to help develop learning environments utilizing the latest technology. At Indiana University, Sakai is used through "Oncourse," the university-wide online and teaching module used for all courses.

Danish studies how innovative technologies can be used to support teaching and learning, and his submission for the award was for the design for a course on that very subject. Incorporating tools such as Oncourse blogs and Twitter feeds, Danish engaged the students in continuing discussions about course material to create a richer learning experience than just the face-to-face classroom exchanges.

"It came about kind of naturally, where I thought about what kinds of activities I want students engaged in," Danish said of developing the course. "Once I had a clear vision of that, I looked for the tools that would make it happen." Danish said his background as an engineer and educational software designer made it easier for him to develop useful tools.

The award-winning submission is called "Computational Technologies in Educational Ecosystems," designed to help class participants think about how different forms of technology can work effectively in different types of learning contexts. According to Danish's submission, the course goals were to give students a broad survey of technology used in education, provide background knowledge about technology's role and its current state in education, and help students develop uses for technology in their own educational contexts.

Danish taught the graduate-level course in a mix of online and in-person sessions. Development of the course was supported by grants from the IU School of Education as part of an effort to transition one section of the course to completely online and become part of an online certificate program being developed by the Learning Sciences faculty. The online course will be live Spring 2011.

Danish describes his approach to technology in education as one that thoughtfully applies the latest tools. "I think there are more and more people who jump in and say 'If everyone is on Twitter, I'm going to have Twitter in my class,'" Danish said. "I think that's just as wrong as saying 'I'm never even going to look at Twitter.' For me, the key is to look at those technologies, think about them, and think 'can it add something?'"

It's important to gauge what will be most effective based on how students will use the tools, he said.

"What do we really need and want students to be engaged in so they not only learn, but also engage critically and thoughtfully with the technologies in their life?" he pointed out.

In approaching technology in teaching, Danish said there are a couple of keys. First, instructors need to be flexible, adjusting to what doesn't work right away. "The second is balancing the sort of evolutionary and revolutionary pieces," he said. "I typically try to have part of my course be something that I've done before -- that I've polished -- and then introduce something new on top of that."

Danish said he's honored to receive the award out of a field of international competitors. But he said he hopes that he can now help spur more conversation about how to best use technology on campuses. "It's an opportunity to be invited to join the conversation and be able to shape the way these tools develop," he said.