About

I am an educator and author. I directed the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching for more than a decade, where I helped faculty and other instructors develop foundational teaching skills and explore new ideas in teaching. I’ve written two books, Intentional Tech: Principles to Guide the Use of Educational Technology in College Teaching (West Virginia University Press, 2019) and Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments (Jossey-Bass, 2009), and I was producer and host for the educational technology podcast Leading Lines. I have a PhD in mathematics and have taught math courses at Vanderbilt and Harvard University.

For more information about my professional work, see my CV.

Intentional Tech

Intentional Tech: Principles to Guide the Use of Educational Technology in College Teaching (West Virginia University Press, 2019)

Chalkboards and projectors are familiar tools for most college faculty, but when new technologies become available, instructors aren’t always sure how to integrate them into their teaching in meaningful ways. As faculty interested in supporting student learning survey the changing landscape of technology, determining what’s possible and what’s useful can be challenging.

Arguing that teaching and learning goals should drive instructors’ technology use, not the other way around, Intentional Tech explores seven research-based principles for matching technology to pedagogy. Through stories of creative and effective use of educational technology by faculty and other instructors, author Derek Bruff approaches technology not by asking “How to?” but by posing a more fundamental question: “Why?”

“Derek Bruff is an engaging—and often charming—guide throughout this concise book. The stories he tells keep things moving at a crisp pace and offer pedagogical inspiration. His principles provide a useful framework and establish a clear foundation for his practical advice.”
Peter Felten, coauthor of The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most

Intentional Tech is part of the Teaching and Learning in Higher Education series from West Virginia University Press edited by James M. Lang, and is now available from WVU Press and elsewhere. For more information about Intentional Tech, see my Books page.

I’m often asked to share insights from my book through workshops and keynotes. For more on that, see my Speaking page.

Teaching with Classroom Response Systems

Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments (Jossey-Bass, 2009)

There is a need in the higher education arena for a book that responds to the need for using technology in a classroom of tech-savvy students. This book is filled with illustrative examples of questions and teaching activities that use classroom response systems (“clickers”) from a variety of disciplines. The book also incorporates results from research on the effectiveness of the technology for teaching. Written for instructional designers and re-designers as well as faculty across disciplines.

“A must-read for anyone interested in interactive teaching and the use of clickers. This book draws on the experiences of countless instructors across a wide range of disciplines to provide both novice and experienced teachers with practical advice on how to make classes more fun and more effective.”
Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Harvard University, and author, Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual

Teaching with Classroom Response Systems was published in 2009 by Jossey-Bass and is available from Wiley and AmazonChapter 1 is available as a PDF, and you can read interviews about the book in Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

No other available resource on teaching with clickers rivals Bruff’s amazingly thorough treatment. Not only does he explain the many ways instructors can use them to enhance student engagement and learning, but he also provides invaluable advice on writing productive multiple-choice questions (many samples provided), responding to different clicker results, and balancing clicker use with content coverage.
Linda Nilson, Director Emerita, Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation, Clemson University, author of Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors

For a shorter introduction to teaching with clickers, see my contribution to the 2010 POD Network Essays on Teaching Excellence, “Multiple-Choice Questions You Wouldn’t Put on a Test: Promoting Deep Learning Using Clickers.”

For more information, see my Books page.

Agile Learning

I call this website Agile Learning. It’s not just my professional website; it’s also a blog I’ve been writing since 2008. I write about topics that interest me: educational technology, visual thinking, student motivation, faculty development, how people learn, learning at play, and more. I started blogging back in 2008 with a blog focused on teaching with classroom response systems (“clickers”). I had just finished writing my book on that subject, and I wanted to continue exploring the topic. The blog gave me a venue for doing so, one that invited colleagues new and old to share ideas and perspectives. After two years of blogging about classroom response systems, I started writing about other topics, as well. As a result, this blog has become part of what Gardner Campbell calls my “personal cyberinfrastructure,” a platform for sharing and organizing what I’m learning and representing myself to the world.

Why “Agile Learning”? When talking to faculty about their teaching, I often use the phrase “agile teaching” to describe a certain kind of on-the-fly responsiveness to student learning needs in the classroom. In the educational development work I do, helping faculty and graduate students to become more reflective and intentional teachers, I find that I need a similar kind of agility. I never know what resources, ideas, or experiences I’ll be called upon to share with a colleague as we talk about teaching. As a result, I find myself learning about all sorts of things that might come in handy in a consultation or workshop one day. This blog is where I make sense of these things and document what I’ve learned for later use. So, in a sense, it’s a record of the “agile learning” I do as part of my professional life.

To read the blog, click on the Blog link at the top of this page for the latest posts. Or explore post categories, tags, and archives using the links and drop-downs on the right. Or start with the following posts, which are some of my favorites.

Statements made on these web pages do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.