Preface: About this e-Book
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” - Mother Teresa
We educators often doubt ourselves, fearful that our actions in the classroom prove to be no more than the proverbial “drop in the ocean.” Yet we have the power to influence our students' futures and to nurture and ignite the minds of the next generation of leaders--scientists, doctors, professors, teachers, mathematicians, and computer engineers. The teaching we are doing in the classroom has to reflect the demands of an increasingly complex society which calls for creative thinking, critical skills and a capacity for sustained collaborative work from its members.
The task of incorporating new pedagogy to prepare our students for being competitive in today's world is an imperative one. For decades, discussions in the educational field have centered on moving from a teacher-centered ethos--”the sage on the stage”--to a student-centered one by implementing active learning in the classroom. But what does this mean? Instructors ask the question often without knowing that they have already been practicing some kind of active learning. Every time that students do collaborative research or group projects, work in groups of two or more in a think-pair-share activity or go to the board to collectively work out a problem, they are practicing active learning. And, every time they make these activities shareable and renewable by the educational community, they are practicing open pedagogy, defined as “the practice of engaging with students as creators of information rather than simply consumers of it and “a form of experiential learning in which students demonstrate understanding through the act of creation.” (Introduction to Open Pedagogy, The University of Texas at Arlington, 2020).
The goal of this e-Book is to be a shareable and renewable resource for Mathematics and Computer Science courses in which instructors practice student-centered pedagogy. After students complete the active learning activities described here, they are welcome to add their results, licensing their work with the Creative Commons like the rest of this resource. It has been shown that students benefit from an active learning classroom because their critical thinking and listening improve drastically upon working in group settings, especially through engaging with real-life scenarios. Students will also be creating renewable resources from OER materials and or classroom materials (e.g. homework, study guides, quizess, tests, lessons, powerpoint presentations (PPT), ect.). These renewable resources will become dynamic with each iteration.
This e-Book is structured to be of use to instructors of undergraduate Math and Computer Science courses by presenting an overview of open pedagogy, OER and Creative Commons licenses (Chapter 1), an explanation of active learning which lies at the heart of the open pedagogy practiced in this resource (Chapter 2), an in-depth look at the process of creating a group activity prompt (Chapter 3), and a list of course-specific activity prompts and worked examples that instructors can directly use or modify (Chapter 4). For Chapter 4, each author involved in the writing of this e-Book has created at least three activity prompts and one worked example for College Algebra (Math104), Introduction to Statistics and Probability (Math111), Quantitative Methods for Decision Making (Math115), Pre-Calculus (Math120), Computer Science I (CS172), Computer Science II (CS291), and other Computer Science programming courses. All of these prompts are designed for easy use or adoption in the classroom or remotely via any platform of the instructor’s choice.
Open pedagogy is the teaching and production of OERs (openly licensed educational resources). The materials produced in the process can be lessons, homework, videos, PPT, notes, writing feedback, quizzes, tests, study guides, etc. The way to get to these materials which is discussed here is active learning, a student-centered approach that engages students in the learning process through discussions, writing, reflecting, problem-solving, case studies, role plays, and other methods. Thanks to Creative Commons licensing, authors can adapt, share, create, publish, and copyright their work to make it accessible to the educational community for teaching, learning, and research.
We wish to introduce affordable and useful activities, tools, and techniques that instructors use to engage students in a collaborative learning process to ensure a more in-depth understanding of a topic, foster creativity and participation -- and we want these activities and their results to benefit the larger educational community.
Instructors and students will be actively involved in the process. Instructors will adopt active learning strategies using various techniques and active learning prompts. Students will be creating learning materials, such as homework, quizzes and study guides, using real-life applications by working alone or collectively with minimal instructor supervision.
Active learning activities are best applied once the foundational knowledge of the subject is taught. These activities can be used at any point in the semester once students have adequate prior knowledge of the activity’s topic. However, the activities will be more effective if implemented after the middle of the semester to provide appropriate scaffolding.
Typically, students will be working together in pairs or in small groups--discussing, analyzing, compiling, organizing, creating, and giving feedback. In the end, students will be presenting their findings to the class, and finally, licensing their work for open publication. Instructors will be on hand for guidance, activity set-up, and clarification.
These activities can be done in a regular classroom setting or online classes in different platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Blackboard, Google Classroom, etc. in person or virtually via any software providing synchronous or asynchronous teleconferencing.
By Katuska Campana