Spring 2011 Semester Begins at AU

The spring 2011 semester at American University has begin and my dad and I continue to teach EDU285 – Education for International Development.  This semester marks the fourth time we’ve taught this course and we are continuing to find new ways to make the class better – introducing appropriate amounts of content, incorporating a diverse set of activities and exercises, and utilizing new online tools to enhance student learning.  This semester there are three main changes from previous semesters: (1) a Twitter feed (@AUedu285) to follow stories related to education and international development, (2) a website redesign, and (3) more guest speakers.

This semester I decided to take advantage of Twitter as a learning and teaching tool for a number of reasons.  First, it is clear that education is increasingly moving online, particularly programs that seek to reach a global audience.  Hence I felt it important to try and incorporate free online tools that are not only widely used on a global scale, but can used for educational purposes.  I have been reading up on Twitter’s educational potential and have been quite pleased with how it has helped harvest key stories and share those with the class.  I must say I have for a long time been skeptical of Twitter’s utility, but over the past few weeks I have come to understand its power in gathering stories, seeking out trends, following the news, and staying up to date on key issues.

The Twitter feed is embedded directly into a website redesign.  As was mentioned in the post about last semester’s course, I have been using wordpress.com, a popular, free blogging service, to host the entire course online – readings, videos, blog posts, and online discussions.  One of the other great thing about wordpress is that it makes it very easy to try out new templates.  I felt that last semester’s template was a bit bland and hard to navigate.  After trying out some other free templates, I decided on the one you see pictured and linked above for ease of navigation and style.  Most importantly, though, the main purpose behind using wordpress is to engage students in online learning using a free service that they may want to use in their own work.

Finally, we are bringing back some great guest speakers this semester and have invited some new ones.  Guest speakers have always been a great way for students to learn from others’ lived, professional experience, and expose them to new perspectives.  This semester we will be bringing back my wife, Alyson, who works at DAI as a international public health specialist and Dr. Michael Gibbons who teaches Training Program Design at AU.  We will also be bringing in Ilaina Rabbat who works for Ashoka and Youth Venture, and David Wedick who is a business development associate at MicroVest.

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