Time for a Timeline

After the discussion at our April 1st Lunch and Learn: Faculty Conversations on Teaching on the topic Alternatives to the Research Paper, I was asked about applications for creating timelines. Fortunately there are some good options freely available.

Screenshot of TimelineJS timeline created by Time Magazine on the life of Nelson Mandela. Image of the African National Congress.TimelineJS, developed at Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, uses a Google spreadsheet template to create media-rich timelines. Media from Twitter, Flicker, Vimeo, YouTube, Google Maps, Wikipedia, SoundCloud and other sources can be pulled into a TimelineJS. The resulting timeline can be easily embedded into a website. This is a great resource especially if your students are also using other Google applications, such as Google Sites to build a course or project website. There are good directions, a FAQ, and technical documentation offered on the website. Tech support is also offered via email. Here are some examples of timelines created with TimelineJS.

TimeToast may be the easiest to use of the three tools listed here, and the clean and clear interface is visually rich. Media is limited to images, although web links can be included, and a free account may have some advertising. A FAQ page will give you some direction. Examples of publicly posted timelines will give you an idea of the possibilities TimeToast offers. Information on paid plans is available. These allow collaboration with group creation and comment moderation, and are ad free.

Tiki-Toki Timeline is another web-based option with both free and paid versions. Tiki-Toki advertises its software as “…the only online timeline creator that allows you to view timelines in 3d on the web.” The free version is limited to the creation of one timeline with 200 points (called stories), and some of the features are limited. One potential disadvantage of the free version is that you can’t upload media from your computer, you must use images and other media from the web. A work-around would be to upload media to a website you’ve created, and grab the media from that source. You can embed YouTube and Vimeo videos. Examples can be found by scrolling down on the homepage of the website. You can also get information on the paid accounts, including one aimed at teachers. The FAQ page will help you get started.

For more suggestions, see the article Free Educational Technology: Top 10 Free Timeline Creation Tools for Teachers, by Christopher Pappas, November 4, 2014, updated November 2015.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Screenshot of TimelineJS timeline created by Time Magazine on the life of Nelson Mandela: http://world.time.com/2013/12/05/nelson-mandelas-extraordinary-life-an-interactive-timeline/

What’s the DiRT?

Logo for the DiRT -- Digital Research Tools directory. The word dirt with the i shown as a light-bulb.Looking for a tool (preferably free and easy to use) for a scholarly project?  Maybe you need to clean up, model, or interpret data. Perhaps you are looking at ways to visualize information, or you have a large number of audio files that you have to transcribe. Building a website for your project? Trying to learn how to program? Look no further, here’s DiRT, Digital Research Tools. “The DiRT Directory is a registry of digital research tools for scholarly use. DiRT makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.” Beyond your own scholarly endeavors, think of how these tools could be used by your students for their course research projects.

The welcome page greets uses with “I need a research tool to…” followed by a long list of possible tasks.  Each category has a number of suggested tools. Many of these are free and open source, many have been developed at universities to accommodate specific faculty scholarly needs.

There are several ways to search for tools beyond the list of tasks. Searching by category will lead you to the TaDiRAH (Taxonomy of Digital Research Activities in the Humanities) listing. “TaDiRAH breaks down the research lifecycle into high-level “goals”, each with a set of “methods. …In addition to goals/methods, TaDiRAH includes open lists of ‘techniques’ (which are more specific than methods, and may be used with more than one method) and ‘research objects’.” This will give you and your students another way to think about and find tools appropriate for your needs.

You don’t need an account to use DiRT to find a tool. If you want to add a review of a tool,  have found something that you like to use that isn’t listed on DiRT and would like to add it, or have developed a tool that you want to share, it is easy to create an account for these purposes.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: DiRT logo: http://dirtdirectory.org/

Quick Tips: Grading Essays and Papers More Efficiently

If you are among those who don’t teach during the summers, grading papers may be the furthest thing from your mind at the moment. Before we know it, however, a new semester will be starting. And now is a good time to be thinking about new directions in your assessment and evaluation of student work, especially if your syllabus will need changing as a result.

Male instructor 's head between two stacks of papers.Earlier this week (June 22, 2015) and article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Rob Jenkins, an associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College, Conquering Mountains of Essays: How to effectively and fairly grade a lot of papers without making yourself miserable, caught my attention. Even the most dedicated instructors find grading to be a chore.

Jenkins, who teaches several writing-intensive courses every semester, notes that it is easy to take on the pose of a martyr when faced with stacks and stacks of multiple-paged papers, especially when the process is repeated a few times for each class. He offers eight guidelines for keeping grading in balance with the aspects of teaching that are more enjoyable. Jenkins proposes that you:

  1. Change your bad attitude about grading. Grading is an integral part of teaching. View grading student work as an opportunity to reinforce class concepts and use misconception that arise in their papers as a basis for class discussion.
  2. Stagger due dates. Plan in advance and have students in different sections turn in essays on different dates.
  3. Break it down. Determine an optimum number of papers to grade at one sitting. Take a break for an hour before starting another session.
  4. Schedule grading time. Literally. Put it on your calendar.
  5. Have a realistic return policy. Jenkins says, “I’ve chosen to define ‘a reasonable amount of time’ as one week, or two class sessions. Occasionally, if I get four stacks of papers in the same week, it might take me three class meetings to finish grading.”
  6. Be a teacher, not an editor. Stay out of the weeds and focus on the major problems with the essay. Jenkins limits editing “to situations where a simple change of wording or construction might have broader application than to that one essay.”
  7. Limit your comments. For undergraduates, a few observations will be more useful as a teaching strategy than pages of commentary. Jenkins tries to offer one positive comment and three suggestions for improvement.
  8. Limit grading time on each essay. Following the suggestions above will help you reduce the time you need to spend on each paper.

One thing Jenkins doesn’t mention is using a rubric for grading. Rubrics can be a powerful tool for consistent grading across the class or sections, as well as a means for students to understand how the assignment is being evaluated. See previous Innovative Instructor posts on rubrics: Creating Rubrics and Sharing Assignment Rubrics with Your Students.

You might also be interested in some of The Innovative Instructor’s past posts on grading: Feedback codes: Giving Student Feedback While Maintaining Sanity and Quick Tips: Paperless Grading.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Quick Tips: Guidelines for Inquiry-Based Project Work

Following last week’s post on definitions of inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning, and experiential learning, a colleague pointed me to a post from the Tomorrow’s Professor Mailing List that provides a rubric for team-based, inquiry-based work. The guidelines are taken from the book Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry by Norman D. Vaughan, Martha Cleveland-Innes, and D. Randy Garrison. [2013, Athabasca University Press]. A free PDF of the book is available.

Three students engaging in field work, taking soil measurements in agricultural setting.The display of the table with the rubric on the Tomorrow’s Professor site is difficult to read; a better version can be found here at the University of Regina’s Teaching Resources website.

The rubric covers eight dimensions to consider in inquiry-based project work: authenticity, academic rigor, assessment, beyond the school, use of digital technologies, connecting with experts, and elaborated communication. It provides a sound starting place for guiding your implementation of inquiry-based learning.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Pixabay

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tips: Paperless Grading

Just in time for the end of semester assignment and exam grading marathon, The Innovative Instructor has some tips for making these tasks a bit less stressful.

Male instructor 's head between two stacks of papers.Last year we wrote about the GradeMark paperless grading system, a tool offered within Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software product used at JHU. The application is fully integrated with Blackboard, our learning management system. For assignments and assessments where you don’t wish to use Turnitin, Blackboard offers another grading option for online submissions. Recent updates to Blackboard’s include new features built into the assignment tool that allow instructors to easily make inline comments, highlight or strikeout text, and use drawing tools for freeform edits. All this without having to handle a single piece of paper.

If you don’t use Blackboard, don’t despair. The Innovative Instructor has solutions for you, too.  A recent post in one of our favorite blogs, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Professor Hacker, titled Using iAnnotate as a Grading Tool, offers another resource. According to its creators, the iAnnotate app “turns your tablet into a world-class productivity tool for reading, marking up, and sharing PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint files, and images.” This means that if you students submit documents in any of these formats (Professor Hacker suggests using DropBox, Sky Drive, Google Drive, or other cloud storage services for submission and return of assignments), you can grade them on your iPad using iAnnotate.

Erin E. Templeton, Anne Morrison Chapman Distinguished Professor of International Study and an associate professor of English at Converse College and author of the post, has this to say about how she uses iAnnotate’s features.

With iAnnotate, you can underline or highlight parts of the paper. I will often highlight typos, sentences that are unclear, or phrases that I find especially interesting. I can add comments to the highlight to explain why I’ve highlighted that particular word or phrase. You can also add comment boxes to make more general observations or ask questions, or if you would prefer, you can type directly on the document and adjust the font, size, and color to fit the available space.

I frequently use the stamp feature, which offers letters and numbers (I use these to indicate scores or letter grades), check marks, question marks, stars of various colors, smiley faces–even a skull and crossbones…. And if you’d rather, you can transform a word or phrase that you find yourself repeatedly tying onto the document into a stamp–I have added things like “yes and?” and “example?” to my collection. Finally, there is a pencil tool for those who want to write with either a stylus or a finger on the document.

Not an iDevice user? iAnnotate is available for Androids too, although it is limited at the time of this posting to reading and annotating PDF files.

The Professor Hacker post offers additional links and resources for paperless grading and more generally for those looking to move to a paperless course environment.  Be sure to read the comments for additional solutions.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Quick Tips: Little Things That Can Make a Big Impact on Teaching

You have pulled together your syllabus, lined up the readings on course reserves, planned your class presentations, and mapped out the assignments. Your Blackboard site is prepped and ready. The big stuff is all taken care of, so all you have to do is walk into the classroom. According to Woody Allen, eighty percent of success is showing up. But is just showing up to teach really enough? A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that instructors would do well to look at the other twenty percent.

Chemistry instructor facing class of students with blackboard behind himIn It’s the Little Things That Count in Teaching Steven J. Corbett and Michelle LaFrance argue that paying attention to the “less serious” aspects of teaching can make you a more effective instructor.  Their advice includes arriving at the classroom early and sticking around afterwards in order to be more accessible to your students, playing interesting YouTube videos as your students are getting settled, establishing an email policy (and sticking to it), and letting students take responsibility for leading discussions. There are some suggestions for how to handle students’ use of mobile devices in the classroom. [See also The Innovative Instructor post Tips for Regulating the Use of Mobile Devices in the Classroom.] They advocate for bringing candy to class for motivation, and depending on class size, having a pizza party or potluck along with final presentations. The authors acknowledge that their recommendations may make for more work, but feel that the payoff is worth the effort – more engaged students and a positive classroom environment.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Quick Tips: Flipping Your Classroom

Text reading flipping the classroom with the classroom upside downThe CER blog, The Innovative Instructor, has posted on flipping the classroom (see here and here). Recently we came across a couple of videos and tips sheets that provide succinct overviews to the process.  What is the Flipped Classroom combines a 60 second video that gets right to the heart of the matter, with graphic explaining the difference between traditional and flipped classroom techniques. A two page document from the Educause Learning Initiative describes seven things you should know about flipped classrooms. Jen Ebbeler, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Texas Austin, has blogged about her experiences with flipping her large enrollment (400 students) course Introduction to Ancient Rome. She’s produced a seven minute video: Transforming Ancient Rome: Active Learning in a Large Enrollment Course chronicling her experiences.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: © Macie Hall, 2013.

Quick Tips: Managing Your Time Spent Online

Collage of logos for various online applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, GMailWe spend an increasing amount of time plugged in to our various e-devices, doing research, monitoring the “interwebs”, interacting with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in social media settings, blogging and reading other’s writings, texting, and answering emails. For faculty the influx of email particularly during the semester is often overwhelming. Students seem to expect an immediate response and may become frustrated if they don’t receive a prompt reply. They may not understand that you teach several courses and have hundreds of students and don’t know from their email which course they are in. What to do?

A recent article (March 26, 2013) in the  Chronicle of Higher Education, Managing Your Online Time by Paul Beaudoin, has some timely suggestions. While the article was written with faculty who are teaching fully online courses in mind, the suggestions offered will be equally useful to those instructors in more traditional, face to face environments. For example: it helps to start by managing student expectations on email responses at the outset, preferably in a well designed syllabus. You should let students know how quickly you will respond and during what hours. Frequent reminders that students should identify their class and section in all correspondence are helpful in gaining compliance. Look for tools in Blackboard (course management application) that will offer additional discussion outlets so that students can help others with the same questions. Create an FAQ, post it, and point to it when students ask the same questions repeatedly.

Check the article for more details and ideas.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: © Macie Hall, 2013

Quick Tips: Managing the End-of-Semester Crunch

Stressed female with stacks of paper, clock in background.

CER staff member Cheryl Wagner came across a timely post on another educational blog and we wanted to share it with you. Professor Hacker, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, is one of our favorite blogs. It’s an advice column for faculty and future faculty that focuses on using technology to simplify the lives – professional and personal – of instructors in posts that give “tips about teaching, technology, and productivity.”

This post, entitled From the Archives: Getting Through the End of Term, has some great ideas for managing the end-of-semester crunch with tips on grading, handling stressful meetings, and taking care of yourself in the process.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art