The Power of Prezi

Are you looking to spice up your presentations? Do you find PowerPoint and Keynote limiting? Maybe you should take a look at Prezi.

Prezi logo.What is Prezi? It’s a free, cloud-based, presentation tool that allows users to place content on an open canvas. Prezi uses a Zooming User Interface (ZUI) to enable navigation and

display of content. ZUI is a term used in computing to describe a graphical environment wherein users can change the size of a viewing area by enlarging or reducing it, navigate by panning across a surface, and zoom in and out of content.

The Prezi website describes the application as “…a virtual whiteboard that transforms presentations from monologues into conversations: enabling people to see, understand, and remember ideas.”

The application offers a cloud-based environment with a limited number of templates or the choice of using a blank canvas supporting a number of themes. There is a basic, easy-to-use interface for creating content. The templates include two different types of world maps, which would be ideal for geographic content. Another template is a subway map type schema that might be useful for demonstrating workflows.

Prezi takes a different approach to presentations. Instead of slides that advance in linear order, the Prezi canvas allows multiple approaches. Users can create a path to allow for a planned progression of the content or can zoom in to specific concepts as desired without a pre-programmed order. One of the great things about Prezi is the ability to zoom out to see the big picture–the layout of the entire canvas. This kind of visualization can be very powerful.

Images can be embedded and YouTubes videos can be inserted as well.  You can insert the following video file formats–FLV, MOV, WMV, F4V, MPG, MPEG, MP4, M4V, and 3GP. Other videos found online can be linked from the presentation. Sound can be an important component and Prezi supports voice-over narrations and music as a background track or applied to specific path steps. Supported audio files include: MP3, M4A, FLAC, WMA, WAV, OGG, AAC, MP4, and 3GP.

Some viewers find the ZUI to be distracting, even motion-sickness inducing. Careful use of the ZUI by the creator can minimize this consequence and turn it into an effective tool. Prezi presentations are inherently dynamic and this feature can be used with great advantage to keep audiences awake and engaged.

At the free end, all content that is created is public and users are given 100 MB of storage. For a small monthly fee, users have the option to keep presentations private and receive 500 MB of space. There is also a desktop version of the program available for an annual fee. This comes with additional editing features and unlimited storage space.

To get a better sense of what Prezi is and can do, take a look at some of the examples provided on the Prezi website.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Prezi Logo from http://prezi.com/

 

 

Resources for Multimedia Creation

I’ve been compiling a list of resources for creating multimedia for faculty to use either for teaching or in thinking about tools students could use for course assignments or projects. Many of these have how-to videos on the application websites making getting started an easy task. Most have a free-to-use option, although premium features may be fee-based. You might want to check a previous Innovative Instructor post on Multimedia Assignments. If you have a favorite application for multimedia making, please share with us in the comments.

Image showing icon-style examples of text, audio, still images, animation, video and interactivity.Animations

Powtoon: Free software for creating animated videos and presentations. [http://www.powtoon.com/]

Pixton: Online comic creator. [http://www.pixton.com/]

Audio

Audacity: Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds. Audacity is available for Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. [http://audacity.sourceforge.net/]

Blogs, Websites, Wikis

Blogger: Google’s blogging application. Users can select templates and customize them, or create their own templates using CSS. [https://www.blogger.com]

Google Sites: Sites is Google’s wiki- and website-creation tool. Facilitates collaboration and team-based site creation. [https://sites.google.com/]

Tumblr: Tumblr is both a blogging and a social media application. A dashboard interface makes creating multimedia-rich blog posts easy. [https://www.tumblr.com/]

WordPress: WordPress is a free and open source blogging and website creation application. You can host your own WordPress instance or use their free hosting service.  Upgrades are available. Easy to use with hundreds of themes to choose from. [https://wordpress.com/]

Collections/Exhibitions

Omeka: Omeka is a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. [http://omeka.org/ to download for self-hosting and http://www.omeka.net/ for online hosting options]

Padlet: A web-based application that gives you a “wall” (think of it as a multimedia bulletin board) that you can drag and drop content onto in service of any number of pedagogical objectives including exhibits, timelines, and posters. [http://padlet.com/]

Pinterest: This social media tool can be used for pedagogical good. Think of it as a series of bulletin boards on which you or your students can assemble and share ideas for projects or create virtual collections and exhibits. [http://www.pinterest.com/]

Mapping

Google Maps: With Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) users can expand, customize, and embed maps and mapping tools into their websites. This includes combining Flickr (the photo sharing website) content with maps. These work well with Google Sites and Google Docs. [https://developers.google.com/maps/]

Online Posters

Glogster: Originally a social network for teenagers that allowed users to create (for free) interactive posters called glogs, Glogster has now expanded to a full online learning platform providing educational content and tools for creation at different price points. There is still a free version for educators that allows for adding up to 10 students. You can mix text, audio, video, images, graphics and more to create professional-looking posters. [http://edu.glogster.com/]

Padlet: A web-based application that gives you a “wall” (think of it as a multimedia bulletin board) that you can drag and drop content onto in service of any number of pedagogical objectives including exhibits, timelines, and posters. [http://padlet.com/]

Presentations

Prezi: Prezi is a cloud-based presentation software tool. A zooming interface allows users to move in and out from one concept to another. Good for both linear and non-linear presentations. [http://prezi.com/]

Screen Capture Recording

Screencast-o-matic: Free one-click screen capture recording on Windows or Mac computers with no installation. http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/

Timelines

Padlet: A web-based application that gives you a “wall” (think of it as a multimedia bulletin board) that you can drag and drop content onto in service of any number of pedagogical objectives including exhibits, timelines, and posters. [http://padlet.com/]

Timeline JS: TimelineJS is an open-source tool that enables you to build visually-rich interactive timelines. [http://timeline.knightlab.com/]

Video

Freemake Video Converter: Free application that converts video to AVI, MP4, WMV, MKV, FLV, 3GP, MPEG, DVD, Blu-ray, MP3, iPod, iPhone, iPad, PSP, Android, Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry. [http://www.freemake.com/]

Freemake Video Downloader: Download video free from YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, 10,000+ video sites. [http://www.freemake.com/]

iMovie: iMovie is a proprietary video editing software application sold by Apple Inc. for the Mac and iOS devices. Users can create movies by editing photos and video clips, adding titles, music, and effects, including basic color correction and video enhancement tools and transitions such as fades and slides. [https://www.apple.com/mac/imovie/]

PowerPoint: PowerPoint features such as timed animations and transitions, voice-over recording, audio and video insertion, and the ability to save a presentation in a video file format make it a platform for easy video creation. Check YouTube for how-to videos.

WeVideo: WeVideo is an online video creation platform for video editing, collaboration, and sharing across any device. It is easy to use, cross-platform, cloud hosted, with sophisticated editing and enhancement tools. There is a free version and upgrades are inexpensive. [https://www.wevideo.com/]

Windows Movie Maker: A free video editing application from Microsoft, Windows Movie Maker offers the ability to create, edit and publish videos. Users can combine still images and video clips, sound tracks and voice recordings with themes and special effects to create movies. [http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/movie-maker]

Video Annotation

Zaption: Students, teachers, and trainers use Zaption to create high-quality, engaging video lessons. Add images, text, and questions to any online video, creating interactive lessons that meet your students’ needs. [https://www.zaption.com/]

Visualizations

Silk: Silk is an online data visualization application. Each Silk contains data on a specific topic. The visualizations are interactive. You can upload a spreadsheet or create one on the site. A number of options, including charts, graphs, maps, and other data displays are available. [https://www.silk.co]

 

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: CC Kevin Jarret –http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/2856162498/in/photostream/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multimedia

Preparing Future Faculty: Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement

Painting of hand on green background. Hand has words painted in black on it: share, create, explore, assist...If you are a graduate student intending to enter the professoriate, it is quite likely that you will be asked to submit a Philosophy of Teaching Statement as part of your application materials for any academic position that includes instruction. In the current arid environment of available jobs in the higher education academic market, the teaching statement has taken on increased scrutiny, as hundreds of applicants vie for each offered position. Although some may decry the increasing number of application requirements, you should be prepared to produce a statement that will make you a competitive candidate. Fortunately, there are a number of resources and examples to help you with this task.

First, what exactly is a Philosophy of Teaching Statement? The University Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Ohio State University describes the teaching statement as “a narrative that includes your conception of teaching and learning, description of how you teach, and justification for why you teach that way. This comprehensive how-to guide suggests a length of 1-2 pages written in the present tense that avoids technical terms and expresses your own philosophy. Examples from a range of disciplines are included, as well as an the in-depth Guidance on Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement. There are links to other Teaching and Learning Center sites with their recommendations, and a list of useful references.

One of the OSU UCAT links goes to the Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. This site offers a video interview with Susan Yager, Associate Professor in English and Faculty Director of the Iowa State University Honors Program and frequent lecturer in the Preparing Future Faculty program.  She discusses why the teaching philosophy statement is important, what the important components are, and offers strategies for getting started. Elsewhere on the ISU CELT site, a guide covers four primary questions to be answered: To what end? By what means? To what degree? And, Why?

Another perspective on the exercise comes from Philosophy of Teaching Statements: Examples and Tips on How to Write a Teaching Philosophy Statement, a Faculty Focus Special Report, Magna Publications, May, 2009. This publication “is designed to take the mystery out of writing teaching philosophy statements, and includes both examples and how-to articles written by educators from various disciplines and at various stages of their professional careers. Some of the articles you will find in the report include: • How to Write a Philosophy of Teaching and Learning Statement • A Teaching Philosophy Built on Knowledge, Critical Thinking and Curiosity • My Teaching Philosophy: A Dynamic Interaction Between Pedagogy and Personality • Writing the “Syllabus Version” of Your Philosophy of Teaching • My Philosophy of Teaching: Make Learning Fun.”

Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement might not be high on your list of exciting activities, but with these resources you’ll be able to meet the challenge well armed.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Share and Explore by Denise Carbonell https://www.flickr.com/photos/denisecarbonell/4464982807/in/set-72157623709556546

Preparing Future Faculty: TA Training

Our last post announced a Coursera MOOC starting on October 6th: An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching, offered by the CIRTL Network. This post will look at an earlier moment in graduate student preparation for the professoriate – teaching assistantships.

Here at Johns Hopkins, the Center for Educational Resources offers a number of opportunities for graduate students to get the basics for fulfilling their teaching roles under a TA training program called the Teaching Assistant Training Institute.  “The Teaching Assistant Training Institute provides formal training for graduate students to assist them in preparing for their teaching assignments both here at Johns Hopkins and for their future academic careers. The program consists of a half-day orientation session for new TAs as well as workshops throughout the year for all graduate students. There is also a formal course to prepare graduate students for academic teaching.”

Although the face-to-face training is open only to our JHU graduate students, several of the resources are available to the public, including our Teaching Assistant Training Manual. While some of the content is Hopkins specific, there is quite a bit of material that will be useful to anyone in a TA role. There are also videos (scroll to the bottom of the page) that deal with topics such as preparing for the first day, leading labs and evaluating writing assignments. Other videos look at TA – student interactions and suggest ways of dealing with common issues such as grade complaints.

If you are a graduate student or faculty member with graduate students at another institution, there is a good chance that there is some preparation for TAs or future faculty available. A quick way to find out is to Google “teaching assistant @your institution’s abbreviation.edu” (e.g., @jhu.edu). If your teaching assistants go by another term, substitute that term in the search.

Book Jacket First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to TeachingFor all graduate student teaching assistants and teachers, there is a terrific resource I want to recommend. Anne Curzan and Lisa Damour, who were, once upon a time, graduate students at the University of Michigan, have written a comprehensive guide for graduate student teachers – First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching [University of Michigan Press, 2009]. From the book jacket: “First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching is designed to help new graduate student teaching assistants navigate the challenges of teaching undergraduates. Both a quick reference tool and a fluid read, the book focuses on the “how tos,” such as setting up a lesson plan, running a discussion, and grading, as well as issues specific to the teaching assistant’s unique role as both student and teacher.”  Although there are many excellent guides to teaching at the university level, a number of which are cited in this book’s comprehensive bibliographies found at the end of each chapter, the focus on the role of the graduate student teacher is what makes this unique.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Book Jacket First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41JdGDjDuEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

 

 

Preparing Future Faculty: An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching

Our next couple of posts will address the preparation of graduate students who plan to enter the professoriate. Many universities offer training and other resources to prepare future faculty, and we’ll cover some publicly available options for those who are looking for additional opportunities for themselves for their students.

Screenshot of Coursera course description page for An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching.First up: a seven-week long MOOC, starting on October 6th: An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching. This course is offered by the CIRTL Network. Funded by the National Foundation for Science, the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning is a consortium of 22 research universities whose mission “is to enhance excellence in undergraduate education through the development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse learners as part of successful and varied professional careers.”

CIRTL embraces three core concepts, which it calls Pillars: Teaching-as-research, Learning Communities, and Learning-through-Diversity. Johns Hopkins is a CIRTL member, but even if your institution is not part of the consortium, there are resources on the CIRTL website that are available to all. The MOOC is open to everyone. Further, although CIRTL is specifically “committed to advancing the teaching of STEM disciplines in higher education,” much of the information it makes available is applicable to teaching in any field. Likewise, the MOOC, offered through Coursera, will “start by exploring a few key learning principles that apply in all teaching contexts.”  The syllabus notes topics such as Principles of Learning, Learning Objectives, Assessment of Learning, Lesson Planning, Inclusive Teaching, and Writing to Learn that provide foundations to good teaching for any subject.

The course description provides more detail:

This course will provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) who are planning college and university faculty careers with an introduction to evidence-based teaching practices. Participants will learn about effective teaching strategies and the research that supports them, and they will apply what they learn to the design of lessons and assignments they can use in future teaching opportunities. Those who complete the course will be more informed and confident teachers, equipped for greater success in the undergraduate classroom.

You can watch the intro video as well.  Then, sign up and start preparing yourself for your first teaching assignment.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Screen shot https://www.coursera.org/course/stemteaching

 

 

 

A 100-year-old Lesson in New Media: The Challenges and Opportunities of Teaching in the New Technology Language

Engagement and interactivity are teaching buzzwords, but they are not new concepts. Technological engagement and interactivity is how our students relate to the world, but how do we bring this to our classrooms? In her classic 1912 study, Romiett Stevens found that 80% of class time was spent on teacher questions and student responses. Perhaps part of the future of instruction can be rooted in the past.

YouTube logoThe truth about Romiett Stevens is that most of those early teachers’ questions focused on recall of facts versus questions that prompted thought. Does recall still have a place in education? Of course. Every discipline has its base principles and concepts, yet we must also teach critical thought and empower our students to learn by doing.

We need to involve students not only for their own deeper learning, but also for their knowledge and understanding of new technology. They’re living it. Many of us may still be reading about it, but true understanding only comes from use. I saw a response on Yahoo! Answers by a retired math teacher who said, “Asking a question is a sign of intelligence not stupidity.” So let us ask ourselves some questions about how we are instructing our students and preparing them for the 21st century.

We now have computers, projectors and Internet access in the classroom, but are we using them and how? When I first taught a Law & Ethics class I received a student comment that said, “Use more YouTube.” It would have been easy to dismiss that comment with rationalizations about the way I had to learn or that I didn’t have time to find relevant examples or dedicate classroom time to funny cat videos. Yet today I use YouTube a lot. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and are no longer the future. They are how our students communicate.

How did I start using YouTube? One example is a video of Phil Donahue interviewing Ayn Rand to kick off an activity where students are assigned a viewpoint and have to make arguments for or against her ethical perspective. What better way to learn about a moral philosophy than to hear it directly from the philosopher’s mouth?

I also used to spend most of my time lecturing. I delivered a lot of information followed up by, “Does anyone have any questions?” Now I try to involve the student’s perspective and practice as much as possible. But engagement and interactivity takes time. I had to give up content and the false expectation that I can and should cover everything. My PowerPoints today have roughly 30% fewer slides than when I first started teaching. And those remaining slides contain less content, more examples (case studies) and more questions (application exercises).

What does this look like? A Federal Trade Commission law or regulation I’ve introduced comes to life with a local news report video about the corporate sponsorship of new fitness equipment in a public park. Are the signs on the equipment considered advertising? Do they go against the city ordinance that forbids it? I divide students and ask them to argue for their assigned point of view: the corporation, the city, the protesting citizen group. I intervene to bring the discussion back to the law. Forced perspectives helps them learn how to see all sides of an issue and make a better argument.

I also try to listen more. Are you okay with silence? Ask a question and wait. Wait longer. In some courses, I assign topics related to what we will be discussing in class and let student groups present the concept and provide an example for the first 5 to 10 minutes of class. I and the other students ask questions and they have to defend what they’ve presented. We get new student relevant examples every class and the students feel empowered to learn on their own.

Not all interaction has to take place in person. In my Social Media Marketing course (scroll to 660.453 for description), I have students continue our in class discussion virtually throughout the week via a course hashtag on Twitter. How? By asking them to respond to questions related to a core principle. They learn by doing and bring more new, relevant information to the course. Plus, each student participates equally – something we don’t always have time for in class.

Technology is changing so quickly it can be overwhelming. The good news is that the way to keep up is to go back to something teachers were doing over a hundred years ago: ask more questions. What are ways you are bringing engagement and new technology into your courses?

Keith A Quesenberry, Lecturer
Center for Leadership Education
Johns Hopkins University

Image source: YouTube logo by HernandoJoseAJ via Wikimedia Commons
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Solid_color_You_Tube_logo.png

Using Facebook in the Classroom

The idea of using Facebook in the classroom may seem radical to some. The standard advice is to not friend your students due to privacy issues – yours and theirs.  Yet there is a way to leverage the power of social media in teaching without actually friending your students. It turns out that by creating a Facebook group for your course you can provide a means for students to communicate and collaborate outside of the classroom in a medium with which they are very familiar.

Facebook logo: blue square with with lowercase f.

Dr. Alexios Monopolis teaches in the Global Environmental Change & Sustainability (GECS) program at Johns Hopkins and serves as the program manager for JHU’s Sustainability & Health doctoral program. He is a strong advocate for using Facebook groups in his classes and authored one of our Innovative Instructor print series articles on the subject: Interactive Collaboration Using Facebook (April 2014).  Noting that most students are already familiar with Facebook, Monopolis states: “I wanted an online application that would facilitate communication and collaboration between faculty and students, allowing for interaction and the sharing of information beyond the confines of our formal classroom. It needed to be asynchronous so that students could easily access and use it at any time. I also wanted a way for students to reflect on the content learned in the classroom, as self-reflection is an important means of reinforcing learning. With Facebook, when one student offers an observation or posts an article, video or link, others can respond by commenting on the post. Although Blackboard offers a discussion board tool, Facebook has the advantage of being instantly familiar to students, and they have no hesitation using it. Its interface is also simpler and more intuitive.” The article details the process for creating a Facebook group and discusses other reasons to adopt social media in the classroom.

What if a student doesn’t have a Facebook account and doesn’t want to create one? The answer may depend on your institutional policies. Dr. Monopolis acknowledges that he has “…been fortunate that all of [his] students were Facebook users and did not object to using Facebook for academic purposes. In the future, if a student does not already have and does not want to open a Facebook account to join the group, an accommodation would be necessary.”

Dr. Monopolis is not alone in his enthusiasm. According to a recent article in The Chronicle for Higher Education, Why This Professor Is Encouraging Facebook Use in His Classroom by Avi Wolfman-Arent, August 5, 2014: “Kevin D. Dougherty, an associate professor of sociology at Baylor University, has spent the last two and a half years measuring how the Facebook group he created for his introduction-to-sociology course affected student performance.  He found that students who participated in the online group enjoyed the course more, felt a stronger sense of belonging, and got better grades than those who did not participate.” Dougherty’s class had 250 students and while they were not required to participate, those who did formed a strong learning community.

Matthew Loving and Marilyn Ochoa, faculty at the University of Florida, Gainesville, went even further in their study in 2011, Facebook as a classroom management solution, [New Library World, Vol. 112 -3/4, pp.121 – 130]. They concluded that University of Florida faculty found “…the tradeoffs between the appropriation of Facebook as an online classroom management solution and using a conventional CMS [course management system] were relatively few and in many ways worth the necessary workarounds. Facebook allows instructors to distribute documents (via posting and messaging), administer discussion lists, conduct live chat and handle some assignment posting as long as it is alright to cut and paste and share between students. Areas where Facebook cannot compete with other CMS is in grading, assignment uploading and online testing.” They offered other solutions for these tasks.

A number of studies have linked social engagement to student retention. Kelly Walsh, Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY, reviews the research literature on both social engagement and student retention, and more specifically, the use of social media and student retention, in Can Social Media Play A Role in Improving Retention in Higher Education? Research Says it Can [October 28, 2012, Emerging Ed Tech]. As the article title suggests, her findings support the argument for using social media as a tool for engaging students and increasing retention.

KQED, a pubic media outlet for northern California, posted 50 Reasons to Invite Facebook Into Your Classroom by Tina Barseghian, August 5, 2011, on the blog Mind/Shift. This list provides some food for thought if you are weighing the pros and cons of adding Facebook to your teaching tools.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: By Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cd/Facebook_logo_(square).png

The Virtue of Virtual Exhibitions

In a previous post on multimedia assignments, I mentioned some applications for creating online exhibitions. Today I’d like to expand on the topic by looking at the value in having your students create virtual exhibitions as an assignment or class project.

Screen shot from the online exhibition The Authority of Ruins: Piante del Molo Adriano and Forma del Molo ne la Parte di FvoriAn online exhibition can be created around any topic that involves students making a collection materials or objects, examining and discussing their relationships, and establishing a thesis or argument for the assembly. Online exhibitions are by nature visual, so materials and objects that have visual interest work best. Images must be available or students must be able to create images. Talk to your librarians about resources for high quality images on your campus. At Johns Hopkins we have a great LibGuide on Finding Images that includes resources not just for JHU exclusive use, but also many that are available to all.

Creating these collections involves several skills that are desirable for students to learn and cultivate: writing (text for the exhibition catalog), visual literacy skills, digital literacy skills, and in some cases, a basic understanding of copyright law and fair use guidelines (see more below). Not to mention critical thinking. Depending on your learning objectives, students can be assigned to work in groups, individual students can contribute to a group exhibition, or each student can work on a separate project.

Recommended applications for these projects include: PadletOmekaGoogle SitesWordPress, and Tumblr. Your choice will depend on a number of factors.

I’ve written about Padlet in a previous post. It is free and easy to use; the display is basic and functional.

On the other end of the spectrum is Omeka, a free, open-source application designed at George Mason University specifically for online exhibits. See the Omeka showcase for examples. You can download and set up Omeka on a server at Omeka.org, or look at various hosting options at Omeka.net. “Omeka.net is web-publishing platform that allows anyone with an account to create or collaborate on a website to display collections and build digital exhibitions. No technical skills or special server requirements are necessary.”  For even more functionality, see the Prof Hacker (The Chronicle of Higher Education) blog post on Neatline and other plugins that can be added to Omeka. Neatline allows for an interactive interpretation with maps and timelines.

Google Sites is technically a wiki application, but it allows users to build websites and is easily adapted to online exhibitions. The Authority of Ruins is a great example created by a former Johns Hopkins assistant professor, Herica Valladares, and her students.  Google Sites is free and flexible. You can keep the site private while work is in progress and then choose to make the site public or not later.

Word Press allows you to easily create a website and offers both free and paid hosting depending on your needs. There is also an option to download the application and set it up on a local server. Like Google Sites there are a number of ready-to-use themes and the application is flexible offering users a number of options.

Tumblr is a similar application, but geared towards blogging and the use of multimedia materials. It comes down in the category of social media due to the fact that sharing and commenting are featured components. This is not to say that it has no use in the academic milieu. The Johns Hopkins George Peabody Library’s special collections use Tumblr to showcase materials in their online Wunderkammer.

As a final note, if your students’ exhibitions are going to be publicly accessible, you will want to think about copyright issues. Just because an image is found online does not mean that it is in the public domain and free to use. This can be a good opportunity to teach your students about copyright and fair use. Depending on your institution, there may be library staff able to provide assistance or other resources available, perhaps through the college or university office of legal counsel. We have a great LibGuide entitled Copyright and Fair Use: Trends and Resources for 21st Century Scholars here at JHU to get you started.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Screen shot from The Authority of Ruins: Piante del Molo Adriano and Forma del Molo ne la Parte di Fvori

Quick Tips: Creating Your Syllabus

With the fall semester rapidly approaching, it seems like a good time to provide a post on syllabi.

Stack of book in library.

I’ve written about this topic in the past (see: Rebooting Your Syllabus from November 2013), but just came across a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog ProfHacker, From the Archives: Creating Syllabi, that is chock-full of great advice.

The article covers the basic elements you should include such as contact information and institutional rules and regulations as well as course objectives, technology policies, and accessibility statements. There are also suggestions about logistics and design.

As you move from summer mode back into the swing of the academic year, these will be some useful tips to consider.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Microsoft Clip Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should you require class attendance?

Do you have an attendance policy for your classes? Do you reward or penalize students for attending class? Or do you leave it up to the individual student to determine how to acquire the knowledge necessary to pass the course? Does mandatory attendance equate with a higher success rate for students in the course?

Handwritten attendance sheet.Research studies have not shown mandatory attendance to insure a higher success rates for students. An oft-cited article by Karen L. St. Clair, A Case Against Compulsory Class Attendance Policies in Higher Education, Innovative Higher Education, Vol. 23, No. 3, Spring 1999, examines and evaluates the research literature on the relationship between attendance and academic achievement. St. Clair applies Paul Pintrich’s model of college student motivation in the classroom to the issue surrounding attendance policies. [Paul Pintrich, Student motivation in the college classroom. From: K. W. Prichard & R. McLaran Sawyer (Eds.), Handbook of college teaching: Theory and application, Greenwood Press, 1994.] She finds that attendance is linked to motivation and required attendance does not guarantee high achievement. Low achievement in a course is usually due to a number of factors. Moreover, an attendance policy will not guarantee attendance. “Classroom environments that engage students, emphasize the importance of students’ contributions, and have content directly related to knowledge assessed will undoubtedly provide encouragement to students to attend regularly.” (p. 178-179) St. Clair notes that there are exceptions when it is necessary for students to attend class to demonstrate proficiency, for example, in foreign language and laboratory classes, small discussion sections or seminars where “…attendance is compulsory because it is part of the grading structure.” (p. 179). Otherwise, St. Clair concludes that class attendance should not be compulsory.

St. Clair’s work dates from 1999, and it could be argued that much has changed in the classroom and in institutions of higher education in the past fifteen years. While more recent studies on attendance have been conducted, these have focused on attendance for online courses or other issues, for example, whether providing lecture materials online causes student class attendance to decline. However, instructors have written articles based on personal experiences that may provide insight for your consideration of the issue.

Inside Higher Ed featured an article, Attendance Not Required (December 17, 2012) by Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. Bugeja, who taught at Ohio University and Iowa, accepted any reason for not attending class (as long as a test or project presentation wasn’t scheduled) because he wanted students “to assess their priorities.” He required students to email their excuse for the absence with the criteria that they be completely honest. He collected and posted the reasons, because he felt that faculty are not well informed as to why students miss classes. He explained to his students that attendance correlates with achievement and had the data to prove it. Perhaps not everyone will want to duplicate this approach, but his reasoning and results are worth examining.

On the other side of the discussion, in 2013, Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska adopted an extremely tough “three strikes” attendance policy. “Once a student skips class, flunks a quiz or fails to turn in their homework (or any combination thereof) three times, the vice president for academic affairs, Steven Bullock, decides whether the student is out — of the class, in this case.” (Carl Staumsheim, Striking Out of Class, Inside Higher Ed, April 11, 2013). The key here was a perceived need for early intervention for struggling students. “Administrators stressed the policy was created to motivate, not weed out, lazy students. As students begin to accumulate strikes, they are sent to Midland’s advising center to get help with their coursework and study skills.”

A recent post (July 14, 2014) in the Advice section of The Chronicle of Higher Education, presents the views of Michelle LaFrance and Steven J. Corbett in A 21st Century Attendance Policy. LaFrance, an assistant professor of English and director of the writing-across-the-curriculum program at George Mason University, uses a prompted freewriting exercise at the start of each class as a means of both encouraging and taking attendance. Students receive points for each completed freewrite, but the exercises are not graded.  In anonymous surveys, students have been positive about the process. It also serves as a formative assessment as LaFrance writes: “But I like how this activity makes keeping attendance much simpler for me and, at the same time, is a useful means of taking the temperature of student learning. Instead of standing at the front of the room placing check marks and late notes by student’s names on a roster, I return to my office later that day and spend some time reading their warm-up thoughts. I’m not only keeping track of attendance, I’m gauging how the course is going and where I may need to make adjustments, based on their comments.” Corbett, a visiting assistant professor of English at George Mason University, has a much stricter policy based on a concept of professionalism – in the real world if you don’t show up you don’t get paid. Students are allowed two or three absences after which each absence takes a mark off their overall grade. Both LaFrance and Corbett have clearly stated policies. “We talk to our students throughout the semester about our expectations, reminding them frequently about how their choices will affect their final grades, a clear motivator for the 21st-century student. But we also remind them that learning is an investment of time and energy that only they can bring to the table.”

Barbara Gross Davis in Tools for Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2009, p. 17-18) offers some good general advice: “Let students know in the syllabus and on the first day of class that you expect them to come to class regularly. Do your best to make class time worthwhile – a time when real work takes place. Students are also more likely to attend if they know that exams will include items that have been discussed in class only. Some faculty use attendance as a factor in grading, but many do not. If you want to reward good attendance, let students know how you will determine whether they come to class. Rather than penalize absences (by subtracting points), reward perfect or near-perfect attendance (by giving bonus points); the numerical result will be the same, but students feel better about the latter. Set a good example by arriving early to class, starting and ending on time, and staying late to answer questions.”

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Microsoft Clip Art