Educational Development Digest: September 2020

Welcome to the Start of the 2020-2021 Academic Year!

On behalf of the Educational Innovations unit of Academic and Student Affairs of Minnesota State, welcome to start of the 2020-2021 academic year! This year has been quite the ride since March. We hope that you are feeling reenergized and supported as we transition into the fall semester.  

If you are looking for additional support and resources either immediately or throughout the semester, we are here for you! In addition to the resources and supports offered on your campus, the system office has free opportunities and resources to learn more about academic technologies and transitioning to alternate delivery modes.

Please check out this Network for Educational (NED) Overview short video to introduce you to the NED and how to access and navigate its resources. 

NED Overview
NED Overview
Pedagogy and Practice

Build On/Activate Prior Knowledge

Did you know that connecting new knowledge to prior knowledge is key to retaining and making meaning of this new information?  

Consider this example: What do you know about how to design and install a home audio visual system? Chances are you have some ideas or knowledge about this based on watching a home improvement television show, listening to a friend’s installation attempts, reading an instructional manual, or previous installation experience. If you attend a class about this topic, all of this prior knowledge will impact your future learning as it relates to installing a home audio visual system regardless if that knowledge is accurate, sufficient, appropriate, or active.   

Our brains make sense of the world and new knowledge by seeking out meaningful patterns and connecting to already established networks (Lang, 2016; McTighe & Willis, 2019; Wolfe, 2010). Jean Piaget described these clusters of related information stored together in memory as schemas (McTighe & Willis, 2019). When we ask students about prior knowledge, we are asking them to pull from their schemas â€“ their existing organized stored information.  

Hattie (2015) in an extensive synthesis of 1200 meta-analyses of influences on student achievement identifies that “when teachers base their teaching on students’ prior learning (what they bring to the lesson; d= .85),” student learning is heightened (p. 81). Simply stated, activating and building upon prior knowledge is “the most significant variable in learning something new” (McTighe & Willis, 2019, p. 98).  

As teachers, we need to ask a few related follow-up questions: Do my students already have schema related to this topic? How do I activate it? What is this knowledge? How can I build upon it? 

Ambrose (2010) encourages educators to consider if the prior knowledge is accurate, sufficient, appropriate, or active as this will have implications for applying or connecting new knowledge appropriately; will it help or hinder new learning? 

Yet this activating and building on prior knowledge is a critical step that is often missing from our classrooms. Do you ask your students to think, share, or write about what they already know about a particular topic in advance of jumping in to something new? 

What if your students do not have prior knowledge about a topic? Can anything be done? Yes! Wolfe (2010) suggests “one of the most effective ways to make information meaningful is to associate or compare the new concept with a known concept â€“ to hook the unfamiliar with something familiar” (p. 135). This can be accomplished using analogies, metaphors, and graphic organizers. Provide a framework or essential questions to foster the building of accurate connections.  Utilize real-world scenarios and problems taking examples from everyday life. Consider encouraging students to identify and share examples of their own (Lang, 2016). 

Explore these additional resources to learn more about prior knowledge and strategies to activate and build upon: 


NED Event Highlight

Join a New Learning Community: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Next Monday (9/14/2020) begins a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP) Learning Community. Over the course of 12 weeks, this Learning Community provides time and opportunities to build community and engage in facilitated synchronous conversations in addition to asynchronous discussions and completion of action projects.

Participants will receive a digital copy of Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain for assigned readings. Space is limited; registration closes Wednesday! 

Learn more about the CRP Learning Community from facilitator Lisa Bergin.


Academic Technology Tips

What to Do When Internet Performance Isn’t What It Should Be 

Try Choosing the Best Connection  

Not all internet service is created equal, whenever possible, ensure that you have a strong and consistent signal. Using an Ethernet cable directly from your computer into the wireless router can help with internet stability.  Make sure you have a new cable to allow for the fastest connect and also turn off your WiFi on your computer when trying to use the hard-wired connection. A wired connection is usually more stable than Wifi. Wifi is often better than cellular connectivity but performing speed tests can help you identify what connection is best for you.  

Avoid Interference   

Signal quality varies throughout specific locations, for better line of site you can either move your router or the device you are using. Proximity plays a large part in signal quality, but there can still be objects (mirrors, metal, concrete, etc.) or other radio waves (microwaves, monitors, hearing aids, etc.) interfering with the communication between your computer and the router causing choppy packet delivery or actual drops.  

Streamline Your Computer 

Background applications can demand significant memory and processing power from your computer. Closing non-essential applications, ones you do not need during the task, will help ensure your machine has the resources it needs to run better. 

Prioritize Usage 

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There are some bandwidth-intensive activities that should be avoided on your network just before, or during, an important activity. This applies to your device but also other devices connecting to your network. With the Internet of Things, many smart devices may be communicating or streaming activity without having your direct focus.   

Try to stop some of these activities if you need more bandwidth. 

  • streaming video (e.g. Disney+, Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube) 
  • cloud backups (e.g. Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan) 
  • cloud file synchronizations (e.g. Box, Dropbox, OneDrive) 

Basic Maintenance 

Running scans to check for malicious activity on your device is an important step, but so is staying up-to-date with your software.  Regular updates and restarts of your device can help it perform optimally. 

Similar to having to reboot your computer periodically, it’s also a good idea to reboot your wireless router. Typically this can be done by unplugging the power cable for 30 seconds and then plugging it back it. It will generally take a few minutes for the router to reboot so that you can connect.  Whether you own or rent your router, it’s a good idea to apply the available stable software updates on them. You may want to call your internet service provider to check the health and status of your router if it is still not performing as expected, or you can review the manufacture’s website to find out information on how to update your router manually. 

Again, after each step, you can perform speed tests to benchmark how your network is performing before and after a specific task. 

Hopefully these tips and tricks help eliminate any technical issues that you may be experiencing when online!  


Initiatives Update

Learn Innovative Teaching Techniques from Colleagues

Faculty from around Minnesota State applied for and received innovation funding during the COVID-19 pandemic to create multimedia projects that demonstrate teaching practices that were perfected or created over the spring semester.

Browse the Innovating Through COVID-19 gallery to find teaching techniques that may benefit you and your students! Check back often, more will be added throughout the semester.

These practices include:

  • Creating Interactive Lecture Video Quizzes
  • Teaching Drawing and Painting Online
  • Secure Testing in an Online Environment


Share Your Voice

Ask Questions and Share Your Expertise in User Communities

Educational Innovations has set up a few User Communities, hosted on the service Microsoft Teams, where members can ask and answer questions and share best practices based on topic.

If you want to check if your question has already been answered, use the search bar to filter chat by keywords.

Microsoft Teams
Learn more about using Microsoft Teams

Upcoming Events

NED-calendar
View the Network for Educational Development calendar of events to find upcoming webinars, short courses, and learning communities.

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