Wrestling With Innovation
In order to create innovative courses, designers must wrestle with some major challengers. Photo by Beth Rankin.

In this day and age, ‘innovation’ is certainly the buzz word especially in the area of new modes of educational delivery given the fact that it has been discovered in a myriad of ways that traditional models are not serving the student and preparing them for their role in the 21st Century global marketplace. While we need to embrace traditional learning theories, we need to build new houses on these trusted foundations. Houses that are engaging, collaborative, social, and challenging students to use knowledge to solve actual and real world problems. Many instructors of varied content areas are looking for new ways to develop and deliver courses. We are no exception here at the Center for Applied Second Language Studies. We specialize in developing new and better ways to teach foreign languages.

In this article I want to share three current challenges as we move forward with developing online modules in Chinese and soon, Swahili.

  1. The team is being challenged to grow and it is human nature to take a step forward into the unknown and then shrink back to the familiar.
  2. Blending two theoretical models – Instructional Design and Foreign Language Learning Theory.
  3. Preparing students in advance to become independent learners as opposed to the historical model where the teacher is the only resource for learning

Our Chinese content team consists mostly of native Chinese speakers, all of whom are well educated and trained by the best standards. Now, that we are in the stream of innovation, it is indeed a challenge to have this team try out completely new models of educational delivery with some of the most creative Web 2.0 tools available. In the face of change, it is human nature to intellectually want to change and grow, but on other levels we often retreat to what’s familiar. We want to create something ‘insanely great’ to quote Steve Jobs, yet how far can we push the envelope? How can we stay grounded in fundamentals, yet take the roof off of brick and mortar instruction so that students and instructors can breathe?

The second challenge is to mesh two theoretical models, one of Instructional Design and the other of Foreign Language Curriculum Development. We think we have discovered some points where these two models touch, but again are breaking very new ground.  Our desire is to deliver something completely new and different. Can we take the best of both models and find a way to fit one with the other for a dynamic delivery?

Lastly, it is no secret that students of today for the most part have been taught by traditional means and rely on the teacher to not only be the sole deliverer of content, but to also be the subject matter expert. If nudged in a new direction to see themselves as responsible for not only the quantity of their learning, but the quality of their experience, can and will they do it? Self-discipline and self-motivation are traits that some naturally are born with and others acquire meeting the vicissitudes of life. We plan to meet our student cohort early in the development of our project and discuss this topic among others. It is my hope to prepare them mentally and emotionally to take an evolutionary leap forward in becoming in charge of the quality of their own learning experience. I do not think this is too much to ask. In my own academic life, the points of greatest satisfaction

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Readers Comments

WA Anderson 2012/03/07 at 8:01 am

Getting students to take responsibility for their own learning — that’s something we can all get behind!

Thanks for sharing, Deborah!

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