Congratulations to David Paradis, winner of this year’s ASSETT Excellence in Teaching with Technology award! Since ASSETT’s early days, David has taken advantage of almost all of ASSETT’s professional development offerings, including participating in the 2017-18 Faculty Fellows cohort and the current Innovation Incubator Student Success Team. Through these experiences, he has been introduced to different tools that aid his vision for higher education teaching. David shared with ASSETT his perspective that “students arrive in our classrooms with many different journeys behind them. Their knowledge of prerequisite materials related to basic skills such as research, problem solving, interpretation of evidence, and writing varies dramatically. As instructors, we cannot possibly account for every different journey these students have had, but we can significantly enhance students' chances for success by recognizing the diverse forms that intelligence takes. By providing ways for students to recover from failure, by scaffolding assignments, and by creating a collaborative rather than an adversarial relationship with our students, we can increase the likelihood that we can accomodate the various journeys and forms of intelligence that a diverse student body brings to the classroom.”
By nominating David for this award, his colleagues and students recognize his commitment to lifelong learning, his passion for teaching, and his desire to constantly improve his use of technology in the classroom. David expressed that “ASSETT has allowed me to understand how certain technologies can help us address the various learning modalities that a diverse student body brings to the classroom.”
David’s journey using academic technologies in the classroom began in 2013 when, in an emergency situation, he was asked to see a remote, asynchronous class to completion. He was then introduced to backwards design by the Learning Design Group and soon thereafter attended a hybrid and flipped classroom course for faculty offered by ASSETT. David shared that in following these experiences, “I began to utilize my classroom time differently with more time for discussions, problem solving, and building relationships with students and with less for content delivery and testing. I started to enjoy the classes more, and the students picked up on my enthusiasm. I gradually found other technologies such as PlayPosit and Perusall which facilitated the in-class component of the course by preparing students for in-class interactions.” These technologies help to establish basic background knowledge for students before they enter the classroom. Then, instead of make-it or break-it summative assessments, such as midterms and finals, David uses clickers and other technologies so that students can demonstrate their learning in a series of micro-assignments or formative assessments. Technology has enabled David to give students tools to address assignments more creatively. He reflects that “when students gain a sense of agency by exercising their creativity, I think we all benefit.”
To augment his insightful approach to teaching, David continually seeks out opportunities to strengthen his teaching practice and philosophy. In 2017, David was selected from a competitive pool of applicants at the College of Arts & Sciences to participate in the inaugural cohort of the ASSETT Faculty Fellows. The program brings together a community of A&S faculty of all ranks who are committed to the continuous improvement of teaching and learning with technology. Fellows collaborate with colleagues from across the college and ASSETT to provide leadership on issues at the intersection of teaching, learning, and technology. For his culminating project, David advanced an initiative coordinating student learning outcomes in the Department of History to ensure that both majors and minors graduate with a clearly defined set of skills. He served as a member of a seven-person working group charged with identifying the academic and transferable skills that CU history majors can expect to develop.
Since then, David has participated in our book clubs and several one-on-one consultations with our instructional designers to address specific elements of his teaching. Through these interactions, he has consistently demonstrated a commitment to proactively meeting students' needs. David is receptive to feedback and suggestions, and is always eager to try new tools and approaches. With the help of the Student Technology Consultants (STCs) David has incorporated screencasting into his assignments. He has learned how to better implement the principles of Universal Design for Learning to ensure that his teaching materials are accessible and that all students have an equal opportunity for success in his courses. Furthemore, David has partnered with ASSETT’s Visualizing Instructional Practices service to conduct a total of 31 classroom observations from September 2017 to February 2020, the most observations of any instructor at CU Boulder! He has worked tirelessly to incorporate the data collected from these observations into his teaching, experimenting with both traditional lecture formats and flipped classrooms.
In the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, David implemented the use of the Reacting to the Past pedagogy through The Copenhagen Summit and The Trial of Galileo games, respectively. Through these games, his students honed and developed skills such as critical thinking, negotiating, and debate. They also learned soft skills that often aren’t emphasized in the classroom like community-building, friendship, and empathy. And, notably, David conducted these activities completely online via Zoom and Slack. David’s conviction about the Reacting to the Past pedagogy led him and his colleagues to propose a system-wide book discussion on Minds on Fire through the President’s Fund for the Humanities. Their proposal was funded and they will start this book discussion to explore the value of the Humanities in fall 2021!
When asked what advice he could share with colleagues, David said, “take a class, participate in the Faculty Fellows program, join a book group/seminar, such as the one that the student success incubator is hosting this Fall on Reacting to the Past. If you want to avoid burnout that comes from your classes becoming stale and repetitive, ASSETT can spice up your teaching life. I don't think any of us are advocating for the use of technology simply to broaden student exposure to technologies, although that is a benefit. The first step is to find a learning objective that you would like to advance. Then, you can find the right tools to shape your assignments to meet that objective. ASSETT can help you with that journey.”
We are thrilled to celebrate David’s accomplishments and growth as a reflective practitioner. He embodies the type of teacher many of us hope to be and would be lucky to have as learners! We look forward to continuing to work with David as both a member of the ASSETT Innovation Incubator Student Success team and as an avid participant in all of ASSETT’s offerings!
Note: If you are interested in exploring any of the teaching strategies and technologies mentioned in this article, please reach out to us at ASSETT@colorado.edu for a consultation.