Congratulations to Brett Fulkerson-Smith, Ph.D., winner of the 2018 Glenn A. Reich Memorial Faculty Award for Instructional Technology! The award was established by Lori Reich in 1999 in memory of her late husband, Glenn Reich, former Director of User Services at Harper College. Glenn believed that technology could enhance the practice of teaching and learning and encouraged faculty and staff to explore new ways to use technology in the classroom. As Brian Knetl, Associate Provost, observes, “Brett is always willing to challenge the traditional norms of the classroom, so it was no surprise to me when Brett was announced as this year’s recipient of the award.”
Brett, an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department, regularly teaches critical thinking. A key feature of this course is argument mapping, a way to visually represent the structure of arguments. Students use an argument visualization app available for free through the developers of MindMup. The app syncs with Google Drive-to which Harper students already have access via their school email accounts-allowing them to remotely collaborate on the creation of argument maps, or review each other’s work.
For two semesters, Brett has studied the effect of argument mapping on student learning in critical thinking. His research shows that collaborative argument mapping facilitated by MindMup and Google Drive improves students’ abilities to understand, analyze, and evaluate arguments. More specifically, students improved an average of +14% on their ability to identify issues and claims; an average of +7% on their ability to identify the kinds of support offered for claims; an average of +11% on their ability to identify unstated assumptions; and an average of +7% on their ability to evaluate the support for claims.
On receiving the award, Brett pointed out that the award underscores Harper’s commitment to quality education. “Where else can you find faculty-even philosophy faculty-committed to developing in their students skills and knowledge for the 21st Century?,” he asked. “Glenn helped Harper learn long ago what many have only recently found out: technology can be used for so much more than reminding the kids to pack their musical instruments, or automatically adjusting the thermostat once everyone leaves the house-it is a powerful tool that can and needs to be leveraged for the true benefit of society.” Helping students use argument mapping software to identify the faulty logic of editorials, legal arguments or political speeches is, according to Brett, “one small way to do so; but the recognition that this award brings to work of this kind will surely help to bring about bigger and better ways of achieving this goal.”
Brett is willing to help faculty explore ways to integrate argument mapping into any course. MindMup and Google Drive are intuitive and relatively easy to use. Any stimulus-written or otherwise-that strives to make the audience believe something can be mapped!
Congratulations, Brett! Thank you for sharing your expertise and impacting the future of teaching and learning at Harper College!