Using a Course Blog as a Class Ice-Breaker

In the fall of 2014 I taught a course, Stuff of Dreams: How Advances in Materials Science Shape the World, in the newly created Whiting School of Engineering’s Hopkins Engineering Applications & Research Tutorials (HEART) program. The program introduces undergraduates to engineering research in specific disciplines in a small class taught by advanced graduate students or postdoctoral fellows. The classes meet once a week for two hours for six weeks. The challenge of teaching these one credit, pass/fail courses with no requirement of the students beyond class attendance, is getting the students engaged.

Image showing the word Blogs dropping onto a sheet of cracked ice.The students in my class were freshman, sophomores, and one junior. Not all were engineers, there was one from the School of Public Health. The students had a mix of backgrounds, interests, ambitions. With a two hour class session, I did not want to lecture; I wanted the classes to be discussion based. With no requirements to do assignments, I had to rely on intrinsic motivation to get students to do reading outside of class and participate in discussion.  My first priority was getting them engaged by relating materials science to their interests. I thought I could use a blog to determine what they wanted to learn.

In general, blogging can be an effective way for students to respond to course readings or to work collaboratively in groups. Blogs can also be used to improve students’ writing along with developing their critical and analytical thinking skills. In this case, I used blogs as a way to get to know my students and their interests, specifically as those intersect with materials science.

Materials science is a very broad field. My research uses computational methods based on quantum chemistry not likely to be accessible to beginning students. Before the course started I polled the students using a Google survey to determine which social media platform they would be willing to use. Facebook and Twitter were among the choices that students rejected. I decided to use a blog based on their responses. There are a number of options for blogging platforms, including Blackboard, which offers both course and individual blogs. I used Blackboard for other course materials, but the blog tool didn’t have some features I wanted, including making the blog available to the public, so that it would stand as a record and could be referred to after the course ended. WordPress is a free, easy-to-use option.

I introduced the blog in the first class session, asking the students to spend up to an hour outside of class to pick an area of interest, then research and post two links to resources on their topic on the blog. The students were then asked to do enough background reading on their topic to give a five minute presentation in class at what I called a Wikipedia level. When the students presented in the second class, I used the links they had provided to teach them how to think critically about information on the web. There was a wide range of content collected, everything from Buzzfeed lists to high-level research articles in scholarly journals. I asked the class how they could evaluate the materials. What claims were being made? Were sources cited? Were those sources credible? It was a good way to educate the students on evaluating content for research purposes, something they need to know as they move forward in their education. In this course, I didn’t ask the students to go through the exercise a second time to find better or more appropriate materials, but in a more traditional course, this could be a two-part exercise.

For the second blog assignment, the students were asked to go through the posts made by their peers, read some of the articles, and comment on them. This helped the students get to know each other and to see where their interests in materials science aligned. They engaged by commenting on each other’s posts. Because the students were determining the topics for discussion in these first couple of weeks, it meant that I was teaching on my feet to some extent. If I didn’t know the answer to a question, I would have the students do just-in-time research, using their laptops or other mobile devices right there in class to figure it out.

The blog worked very well as an icebreaker, getting students interested in the course content and engaged in discussions. Student interaction outside of class was another challenge for me, with the course running only six weeks. The blog provided a way for students to continue their work outside of class in a collaborative way. As researchers and instructors our work doesn’t stop at 5:00 PM, neither should class discussion be confined to the time students spend in the classroom. When students are reading they can immediately post what they are thinking, and their peers can respond with comments. This was the case even with the limited use of blogging in my HEART class, but could be even more effective if used throughout a traditional course. I certainly will use a course blog in the future, and have students write more extensively, perhaps in response to assigned readings. I like the idea of having them do peer review of classmates’ posts. Students seem take pride in their writing, especially when it is open to the public and judged by their peers.

Being able to give formative feedback to students for the first assignment was a valuable teaching strategy. I think the students benefited from gaining an understanding of how to evaluate content on the web.

From my perspective there were no disadvantages to using a blog. WordPress was easy to set up and the students found it intuitive to use. That said, there is a need to think about how you set up the WordPress or other blog instance. It is important to organize the pages so that students are clear on where to post each assignment. You will also want to consider what aspects of the blog to make public if that is applicable. As the site administrator you can make these choices. On my blog only the assignments, posts, and my comments are visible to the public; to view and post comments, users have to be registered. This prevents spam comments, which can be a problem. The blog can be seen at https://h2stuffofdreams.wordpress.com/.

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Anindya Roy,
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, JHU

Anindya Roy received his Ph.D. in 2011 from Rutgers University. As a computational physicist, Roy’s primary research focus is on understanding materials important for energy harvesting, storage and management, using calculations based on quantum chemistry. Besides materials research, he is interested in teaching at the undergraduate level, and understanding the pedagogical aspects of physics and engineering education.

Note: This post has appeared previously in our Innovative Instructor print series: and in interview form in the Center for Educational Resources February 2016 edition of Research & Teaching Tools.

Image source: CC Reid Sczerba, Center for Educational Resources

Teaching with Modeling and Simulations

Logo for Lunch and Learn program showing the words Lunch and Learn in orange with a fork above and a pen below the lettering. Faculty Conversations on Teaching at the bottom.On Friday, March 4, the Center for Educational Resources (CER) hosted the fourth Lunch and Learn—Faculty Conversations on Teaching. For this session, Jeffrey Gray, Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Rachel Sangree, Lecturer in Civil Engineering, and Program Chair for Engineering for Professionals in Civil Engineering, discussed their experiences using modeling and simulations. Both Gray and Sangree had received Technology Fellowship Grants from the CER that enabled them to develop the models and simulations for courses they teach.

Illustration of beam bending simulation.Sangree [presentation slides] regularly teaches a course, Statics and Mechanics of Materials, with a lab component. The problem has been that “[w]hile they may have been listening, 130 Students from four engineering departments have a lot going on between the time they hear lecture material in class and write their lab reports related to the lecture material.” The labs are staggered in order to keep the number of students in each lab small, with the result being that some students are writing lab reports about content introduced in lecture three weeks earlier. Sangree’s solution was to create simulations of the labs (using Finite Element Models) and a recap of relevant lecture material, and provide these in Blackboard so that students can review the lab and the material needed to write their lab reports. She demonstrated the simulations for three lab exercises: beam bending, torsion, and the tension test, showing us the equipment used in lab and the simulations the students use to review the experiments. These simulations may be viewed if you download the pdf of the presentation slides. In the discussion that followed the presentations, Sangree emphasized that she views these simulations as a resource to improve student learning, and other faculty agreed that this approach and use of simulations had improved learning outcomes in their classes.

Gray [presentation slides] began by giving some background information on PyRosetta  of which he is a founder, and the Rosetta Commons. Rosetta is a community computing project for protein structure prediction. Gray describes PyRosetta as “…an interactive Python-based interface to the powerful Rosetta molecular modeling suite. It enables users to design their own custom molecular modeling algorithms using Rosetta sampling methods and energy functions.”

Illustration of PyRosetta model.Gray teaches Computational Protein Structure Prediction and Design, a course with 15-25 students, with a mix of graduate and upper-level undergraduate students. The course combines lecture sessions and hand-on workshops each week. The course objectives were described as: Students should be able to 1) explain, interpret or modify classic algorithms in structure prediction and design, 2) use standard tools to model biomolecules de novo or by homology, dock biomolecules, and design biomolecules, and 3) create new custom methods and algorithms for specific problems.

Two CER Technology Fellowship Grants have allowed Gray to create a workbook of pedagogical modules that uses PyRosetta to introduce students to structure prediction and design applications. The workbook ensures that the computational tools are available to the students on the first day of class. Gray reported that the workbook and accompanying videos are available and used world-wide, and he has gotten positive feedback from colleagues and the Rosetta community. Gray noted that the PyRosetta platform provides active, hands-on learning, and that engineering students can gain insight and creative advantages by making 3D structural models, exploring hypotheses, and designing improved molecules.

In the discussion following the presentation, Gray mentioned that his biggest challenge has been the varied backgrounds students have in coding skills. Other faculty agreed that core computational requirements are a complicated issue due to differences among the disciplines.

For those looking to integrate modeling and simulations into their classes, it was suggested that there are many resources available online.

Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and Whiting School of Engineer faculty will receive email invitations for the upcoming Lunch and Learn presentations. We will be reporting on all of the sessions here at The Innovative Instructor.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image sources: Lunch and Learn logo by Reid Sczerba, Center for Educational Resources. Other images were taken from the presentations by Rachel Sangree and Jeffrey Gray.

 

Clickers: Beyond the Basics

On Friday, February 5, the Center for Educational Resources hosted the third Lunch and Learn—Faculty Conversations on Teaching. For this session, three presenters discussed their experiences using clickers (classroom polling systems).

Logo for Lunch and Learn program showing the words Lunch and Learn in orange with a fork above and a pen below the lettering. Faculty Conversations on Teaching at the bottom.Leah Jager and Margaret Taub, are both Assistant Scientists and Lecturers who co-teach Public Health Biostatistics in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This is a required course for Public Health majors, and regularly sees enrollments of 170 plus students. The course focuses on quantitative methods used in public health research. Jager reported that many students feel intimidated by the math. There is no text book for the course, instead students watch short videos before class meetings.

Jager started the presentation, Clickers in Public Health Biostatiscs, with a hands-on demo where the audience used clickers to answer example questions. A basic use of clickers might include checking class attendance or taking a quick quiz on an assignment. Taub and Jager seek a dynamic classroom environment, using clickers to “provide fodder for interaction between students” and gaining formative assessment of student learning of new concepts being taught. In their teaching, clickers are used daily to promote problem solving and peer discussion. They start with “warm up questions” to review materials from previous classes, then move on to checking newly introduced concepts. Jager showed examples of poll results (these may be called results charts, plots, or histograms) and discussed how she and Taub would respond to situations where it was clear that many students understood concepts or not. When students are not clear on the answer to a question, the instructors have them pair up and discuss the question and their answers. The students re-vote, then Taub and Jager review the concept and correct answer. Even when it is apparent that most students understand the material, the instructors briefly review the question to be sure that no one is left behind.

Example of a case report form used to capture data in course survey. Cocoa Content in Chocolate Tasting Trial.Jager and Taub use clickers for data entry as well (see above), a practice that qualifies as beyond the basics. The JHU clicker system (i>clicker) is integrated with the JHU course management system, Blackboard. Using the survey tool in Blackboard as a data recording form allows the instructors to record student responses question by question. It then takes minimal effort to output a spreadsheet with data that can be shared with the class and used for exercises and assignments.

Emily Fisher, Director, Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer, Department of Biology, uses clickers in her classes (Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Genetics). Her presentation, Clickers Beyond the Basics.  Fisher began with a discussion of what she considered to be basic use. Class timeline showing when clicker questions are introduced in a basic use case scenario.This would include a question at the beginning of class to gauge understanding of a pre-class assignment, a formative assessment question midway through class, and a question at the end of class to “place today’s topic in the bigger picture.” This use encourages students to attend class (if answers count toward grade) and acts as a means to “reset the attention span clock.”

Going beyond the basics Class timeline showing when clicker questions are introduced in a beyond the basics use. Fisher uses clickers throughout the class period to help students evaluate data, understand how biological systems work, and engage in higher level critical thinking by engaging in complex problem solving. She also uses the questions to identify student misconceptions. Using student responses and gauging the results charts allows her to make sure that students don’t get lost as she works through building a model for problem solving. Fisher led the audience through a series of slides (see presentation) demonstrating her process.

Fisher noted that using clickers for teaching higher level problem solving takes time to implement but is worthwhile. She explains to students at the beginning of each course how and why she is using clickers in order to ensure buy-in. By developing a model, students get a preview for the type of thinking that will be required to answer exam questions. Students get to practice in class by articulating answers to peers. Fisher has found that the process motivates student engagement, breaks up the lecture structure with active learning, and allows students to see real-world situations.

In the discussion that followed, faculty attendees expressed concern about the amount of time that clicker questions take away from content delivery. Advice from clicker users was to move some content to videos and outside of class assignments. Quizzing can be used to motivate students to complete this coursework.

Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and Whiting School of Engineer faculty will receive email invitations for the upcoming Lunch and Learn presentations. We will be reporting on all of the sessions here at The Innovative Instructor.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Lunch and Learn logo by Reid Sczerba, Center for Educational Resources. Other images were taken from the presentations by Leah Jager, Margaret Taub, and Emily Fisher.

Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching and Learning

As I have signed up for several Coursera MOOCs, I now benefit from getting advance notice of MOOCs being offered in my areas of previously indicated interest. A few weeks back I was made aware of a MOOC being offered by the University of Houston, Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools. I’m not in it for certification, so I find MOOCs can be a quick and easy way to review concepts, learn new material, and find out about useful resources.

Screen shot from Coursera MOOC Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools with title laid over small images of app logos.Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools is in week three of a five week course, but it’s not too late to sign up if you want to avail yourself of some new ideas and resources. I like the weekly format: there are three short (5-6 minute) videos on a topic (so far, communication, collaboration, and creativity; coming up will be utilizing your toolbox and lifelong learning), three 4-5 minute scenarios, and three examples of tools or applications to try out. The range is broad, covering K-Higher Ed, so some of the material may not be relevant to your use.

The key takeaway for me has been in the area of how to decide on which application or tool to use.  This was addressed in one of the introductory videos, So Many Tools… So Little Time. In the video we are told to think of using new teaching and learning tools as acquiring new skills. It’s important to pick the right tool for your task. You should have a reason (need) to use a tool and seek help in finding the best tool for your need. Turn to your colleagues and institutional experts, especially instructional support staff if available. Practice using the tool before unleashing it on your students. Understand that your skill (and your students’) will improve with use. Evaluate how the tool is serving your need.

Another thing to keep in mind is that applications that are web or cloud-based and not licensed by your institution may not have guaranteed sustainability. If you are thinking of adopting a tool for use over a longer period of time, you should research the history of the company to determine likely longevity, updating, and maintenance of your account. Google applications are more likely to be around in a year than an app that a couple of high school students have put together as a fun project. Also make sure that you keep local copies of your content in case the application does disappear. Check to see if there are ways to download or export your content after you or your class have completed the project.

If signing up for the MOOC does not appeal, you can skip straight to the University of Houston’s College of Education website Laboratory for Innovative Technology in Education where tools are listed by type. Scroll down to 21st Century Tools to see the categories.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Screenshot of https://class.coursera.org/newtechtools-002/wiki/GettingStarted

Making Infographics with Easel.ly

Back at the beginning of the year I wrote a post on Scalar (a multi-media authoring tool) that mentioned another application called Easel.ly. I’d first heard about Easel.ly from a colleague last fall and have been wanting to try it out ever since. This week, I got my chance and I am really excited about this application.

Creating an Easel.ly Infographic lists the three steps to creation 1) create an account. 2) select a vheme or blank canvas and drag and drop objects to it 3) share the completed infographic.Anita Say Chan and Harriett Green wrote about Easel.ly in an article published in the Educause Review, Practicing Collaborative Digital Pedagogy to Foster Digital Literacies in Humanities Classrooms (October 13, 2014). Their description captures the essence of the tool: 

Easel.ly is a free, easy-to-use web-hosted platform for creating infographics. Users can insert icons and shapes, change background and orientation, and rearrange the pre-inserted graphics in the pre-set template (called a “vheme”) to create their own vibrant infographics.

We chose this tool because its features let students rapidly build professional, visually captivating infographics in a user-friendly environment without requiring mastery of graphic imaging software (such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator).”

The term infographic has a broad meaning – a visual depiction of information – and the end results of an Easel.ly creation cover a wide range as can be seen from the hundreds of thousands of posted examples. Timelines, annotated maps, flowcharts, posters, public service announcements, instructional guides – if you are thinking in terms of a course assignment that will involve visualization or visual display of data/information – take a look at Easel.ly. Easel.ly also has a feature that allows you to create groups to work collaboratively. See creating groups: http://www.easel.ly/blog/easel-ly-groups-new-feature/. This would be a great way to allow students to work together on a course project.

It’s easy to create an account and start to work. The interface is simple and intuitive. You can start with a blank canvas, pick a template (vheme), or select from thousands of published examples to modify. From there it is a breeze to drag and drop from menus that include backgrounds, objects (images, icons, maps, flags), text boxes, shapes and arrows, and charts. All of these can be easily modified (size, orientation, font, color in some cases). You can also upload your own images, icons, maps, graphs, etc.

Once you have completed your work there are several ways to make it available to others. According to the Easel.ly blog post on sharing options:

Shareable Link: A shareable link allows a user to both See and Reuse your infographic – The only people that can see and reuse the infographic are people who you give the link to.

Embed Code: If you would rather embed your infographic within a blog post and not have to download and upload to your blog, then “Embed Code” is the way to go.

Group Share: Probably our coolest feature. This option allows you to share an infographic that you have created with everyone in your group (see here: Creating a Group) and allow them to reuse your infographic as a template for their work.

If you want more information on using Easel.ly, take a look at the blog. If you’d like more features, there is a paid version available for only $36.00 per year.

I opened a free account on Easel.ly and within an hour had tried out all of the features and created the infographic that accompanies this post. The About Us section of the Easel.ly website summed up my experience:

“…[I]n 2013 Easel.ly was honored to receive the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Award from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The AASL commended Easel.ly for being user friendly, intuitive, and simple enough that even a child in the 6th grade could successfully navigate the site and design their infographic without adult assistance.”

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Infographic created by Macie Hall on Easel.ly

 

 

 

Scalar: A Multimedia Authoring Tool to Investigate

For a new initiative here in the JHU Center for Educational Resources I have been researching multimedia authoring tools.  What is a multimedia authoring tool? These are software or online applications that allow for the creation web- or computer-based content using multimedia objects. Media includes, but is not limited to, text, image, audio, video files. This is a broad definition and there are many examples of such applications. I’m especially interested in tools that can be used by students (and faculty) for course projects, especially ones that allow for collaboration. Omeka, which I wrote about here, allows for the creation of online exhibitions and display of collections of content, and can be used collaboratively or individually.

Scalar logoRecently another tool came to my attention: Scalar. Scalar, advertised as “born-digital, open source, media-rich scholarly publishing that’s as easy as blogging,” was developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture. ANVC includes people from an impressive list of universities. Scalar was developed with funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Scalar allows a user to take media files from multiple sources, lay them out in a variety of ways, and provide extensive annotation or commentary. It is flexible in that it allows users to “take advantage of the unique capabilities of digital writing, including nested, recursive, and non-linear formats.” Collaborative authoring is supported and readers can comment on the materials presented. Showing is better than telling, so take a look at the Scalar Showcase for some examples of how it has been used.

I found a number of articles on using Scalar in teaching by Googling for “using scalar for student projects.” Two immediately caught my attention.

In the Educause Review published on Monday, October 13, 2014, Practicing Collaborative Digital Pedagogy to Foster Digital Literacies in Humanities Classrooms by Anita Say Chan and Harriett Green, has a case study describing students using both Omeka and Scalar in courses on information ethics and economics of the media. The article also mentions two other tools that might be of interest – Voyant (“a web-based reading and analysis environment for digital texts”) and Easel.ly (an application for creating infographics). I liked the article because it addressed some of the challenges in introducing “digital pedagogy practices” to students.

Jentery Sayers, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Victoria, notes “research interests in comparative media studies, digital humanities, Anglo-American modernism, computers and composition, and teaching with technologies.” He has a blog and posted examples of his and other faculty use of Scalar in their teaching.

It’s free and easy to create an account and try out Scalar for yourself. Just click on the Sign Up button found on most of the site’s webpages.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Scalar logo – http://scalar.usc.edu/scalar/

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

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