Those of us old enough to remember travelling to an out-of-the-way library to track down a potentially crucial roll of microfilm know just how much new technologies have transformed the way academics do research. We now happily rely on Google Books, JSTOR, and a whole parade of resources and databases available at the click of a finger. But what may be less obvious is the way new technologies have made improving our teaching a whole lot easier as well.
Even leaving aside clickers, class wikis, and learning-management systems, a number of plain old websites have made great teaching ideas a lot more accessible. When I came up with my own website, Pedagogy Unbound, my thinking was that I wanted an easy way for instructors to benefit from others' experience in the classroom. While the research we do is published in various outlets, so much of the innovation that goes on in our classrooms goes unshared. Pedagogy Unbound is an attempt at providing an outlet for those teaching ideas. Many teachers—around the world—regularly benefit from the tips on the site, so I heartily encourage you to submit some of your own; your fellow teachers need your expertise!
Especially these days, in the middle of the semester, many of us would love to give our pedagogy a shot in the arm. Whether you're looking to shake things up a bit or are hoping to solve a specific problem, there are now many sites that can help. I thought I'd highlight a handful of my favorites here.
Often my first stop when I'm looking for a new idea for the classroom is Faculty Focus. It regularly publishes short articles with practical ideas for the college instructor. It’s a great resource -- well-designed, organized by topic, and searchable. It also boasts Maryellen Weimer and her Teaching Professor blog, an outgrowth of Weimer's much-loved newsletter of the same name. Weimer's articles are little jewels of concision, distilling practical advice from recent pedagogical research findings.
Another useful site is that of the IDEA Center, a nonprofit that you may know from its student feedback services. Over the years, IDEA has amassed a trove of pedagogy research, from short "Notes on Instruction" to longer, peer-reviewed "IDEA papers." Take a look; there's plenty there.
Speaking of peer-reviewed papers, it's now easier than ever to plug in to current pedagogy research. Alongside traditional, research-heavy articles, many pedagogy journals also feature shorter, more practical papers that offer easily usable ideas. Here's a good list of top pedagogy journals.
I often find new classroom ideas by visiting the web pages of campus teaching and learning centers. Many of those websites have evolved into excellent collections of teaching tips, as their sponsoring universities have become more attuned to faculty development. Some of my favorites are the ones at UT Austin, Berkeley, and BYU.
Closer to home, The Chronicle hosts a wide variety of good resources for instructors looking for ideas. James M. Lang has been writing a monthly column on teaching for years now, and if you're reading this, I probably don't need to tell you how useful his columns are. Although there doesn't seem to be a dedicated archive page for Lang's columns, you can find links to his most recent columns by clicking here and scrolling down to "On Course". In addition, The Chronicle’s ProfHacker blog, while it features posts about far more than just teaching, has a roster of experienced and personable academics frequently write about classroom strategies. The blog is a particularly good place to go to learn more about using new technologies in the classroom.
Finally, a promising new resource has just been launched right here at Vitae: a straightforward and easy-to-use syllabi database. It’s an obviously useful idea. Teachers have probably shared syllabi for as long as there has been syllabi; this just facilitates that sharing across great distances. I’m excited at the prospect of this database growing and providing a library of well-made syllabi, ready to consult the next time I’m putting together a new course. It will only be as good as its contributions, however. The folks at Vitae have made it very, very easy to upload a syllabus; I just put one up in about 60 seconds. Why not head over there now and share one of yours?
What web resources do you make use of for your teaching? I’m always eager to learn of more—add your favorite sites to the comments below.