Business Insider Article Features Miami and HCWE Perspectives on Learning

At the Howe Center for Writing Excellence (HCWE), we advocate that teaching practices should always be guided by research-based principles. That’s why, when the pandemic forced instruction online last Spring, we acted quickly to prepare guides that could help Miami teachers adapt their courses for remote delivery. It’s also why we’ve given much attention lately to understanding ed-tech’s influence on how teachers are teaching, and assessing, their students. For instance, in our 3-part Combating a Surveillance Culture in Online Learning reading group we read leading scholars in the field like Audrey Watters, Shea Swauger, and Baha Mahli and engaged in discussions with faculty, grad students, and an undergraduate guest speaker.

Without careful consideration of the tools, it is easy to employ technology that can privilege policing over learning. Business Insider recently published an article exploring this very dynamic of ed-tech. Higher-ed experts and ed-tech leaders, a Miami student senator, and HCWE Director Elizabeth Wardle were interviewed for the article. Wardle told reporter Tyler Sonnemaker that teachers should engage students with “problem-exploring and problem-solving” and design “authentic assessments of learning.” Such authentic assessment tends not to require the memorization and regurgitation that leads teachers to rely on test-proctoring platforms like Proctorio.

Proctorio, which monitors a student's "webcam, microphone, keyboard, and other computer activity during a test" and uses "an algorithm to look for abnormalities between the student and their classmates" is currently being criticized at Miami and elsewhere for issues related to privacy, bias, and its CEO's "confrontational responses" to criticism. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, Miami’s student government passed a resolution that teachers “undergo training before using Proctorio in their classes to mitigate racial, gender, disability, and other biases.” Student leaders are questioning whether Proctorio reflects Miami values and currently considering even “stronger legislation” requesting a ban of the platform entirely.

So what does “authentic assessment” look like? Wardle referred Sonnemaker to our Miami Writing Spotlights for examples of teachers developing innovative ways to engage students as disciplinary learners.

The pandemic has brought higher education to a critical junction in its use of ed-tech. Technology should not guide our teaching. Rather, our teaching and learning goals, coupled with what we know from research about authentic assessment, should guide our use of technology. In Spring 2021, the HCWE will sponsor a workshop series on designing authentic assessments. We are also partnering with a large group of faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and a representative from the Provost's office in co-sponosring a faculty working group on the use of ed-tech at Miami. This working group is open to all and scheduled for Monday, Nov. 16, at 3:30PM. Ask your senators to share the Zoom link with you if you want to attend.

When Proctorio CEO Mike Olsen was asked about how or whether his platform conflicts with best teaching practices, he said, "I'm not a pedagogical expert, I don't know if there are better ways to do things." Indeed, we, the teachers, are the pedagogical experts and now is a pivotal moment to innovate teaching in online environments.