Omeka for Instruction

omekalogoThe following post describes Omeka, a Web-based exhibition software application, and the how it was selected, installed on a local server, and is currently used at Johns Hopkins. Outside of Johns Hopkins these processes may serve as models. Alternatives to local hosting of Omeka are also outlined.

Omeka for Instruction

Years ago, our Dean, Winston Tabb, here in The Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University requested we perform a survey and evaluation of open source Web-based exhibition software, the kind of software that might be a useful adjunct to our brick-and-mortar exhibitions.  This genre of software was, at the time, in a nascent stage.  Nevertheless, our survey and evaluation included now-mature software applications such as: Collective AccessOmekaOpen Exhibits;  and Pachyderm.  Each package was downloaded, installed, configured, and evaluated with respect to ease of installation, overall functionality, and prospect of sustainability. In the end, Omeka was our exhibition software package of choice.

What is Omeka?

Omeka is a Web-based exhibition software package written by historians for historians.  A product of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Omeka was created so that those with exhibit-worthy content — most notably, historians — could click their way to a visually pleasing Web-based exhibition without the need to learn HTML, Javascript, or CSS coding.  Omeka is more than just a Webpage with some images and text, though.  It is a multi-user, Web-based tool that includes facility for user account management, for installing and configuring a host of freely-available plugins, for activating and altering themes, for adding and cataloging content items, and for taking those items and creating structured exhibitions with them.

Our Services

Shortly after settling on Omeka as our software package of choice, we decided to install it with two different uses in mind.  First, we would install a central Omeka instance for use by the Exhibitions Committee of The Sheridan Libraries and University Museums.  This instance would enable librarians and curators to use Omeka as either an online addition to a regular brick-and-mortar exhibition or as the venue for fully online exhibitions.  As of this writing, this instance of Omeka was used in fall 2015 to host an online exhibition of materials related to the John Barth Exhibition held at the George Peabody LibraryJohnBarthExhibition.  Also as of this writing, it is the intent of the Exhibitions Committee to likewise use Omeka to supplement a forthcoming exhibition on Edgar Allan Poe, again to be hosted at the Peabody Library.

The second use of Omeka would be in the classroom.  For this, we set up a separate server and began offering each instructor interested in using Omeka his or her very own Omeka instance on a per course section basis.  In this way, each section of each course using Omeka gets its own, dedicated instance, and students from each course section are sandboxed with their fellows, free and able to work together with this remarkable software package.

Typically the way this has worked is that a professor contacts technologist and librarian Mark Cyzyk in The Sheridan Libraries or staff in the Center for Educational Resources  to request the use of Omeka.  Cyzyk then sets up an instance, generates student accounts, and comes to class at least once during the semester to train the students.  He sometimes is accompanied by a subject librarian or curator who addresses subject-specific topics such as where to find appropriate images/video/audio for use in exhibits, copyright and fair use issues, proper citation practice, etc.

Courses Using Omeka

Over the past five years, the following courses have used Omeka for instruction here at Johns Hopkins:

Spring 2012.  “Literary Archive.” AS.389.359 (01)  Gabrielle Dean
Spring 2012.  “Seeing Baltimore History: Race & Community.” AS.362.306 (01) Moira Hinderer
Fall 2012.  “Modernity on Display: Technology and Ideology in the Era of World War II.” AS.140.320 (01) Robert Kargon
Spring 2013. “American Literature on Display.” AS.389.360 (01) Gabrielle Dean
Spring 2014.  “Gender in Latin American History.” AS.100.232 (01)  Norah Andrews
Spring 2014.  “Guillaume de Machaut: Exploring Medieval Authorship in the Digital Age.” AS.212.678 (01) Tamsyn Rose-Steel
Spring 2015.  “Modernism in Baltimore: A Literary Archive.” AS.389.359 (01) Gabrielle Dean
Spring 2015.  “History of Modern Medicine.” AS.140.106 (01) Jeremy Green
Spring 2016.  “Art and Science in the Middle Ages.” AS.010.403 (01) Chris Lakey
Spring 2016.  “#Digital Blackness.” AS.362.332 (01) Kim Gallon
Spring 2016.  “The Virtual Museum.” AS.389.302 (01) Jennifer Kingsley
Spring 2016.  “History of Public Health in East Asia.” AS.140.146 (01)  Marta Hanson

Alternatives for Using Omeka

If you are not at Johns Hopkins, but are interested in using Omeka, you have two choices:  First, you can get your local IT shop to install it.  It is a PHP application that runs on the Apache Web server with the MySQL database on the backend, and it is fairly easy and straightforward to install and configure.  Second, the Omeka community offers both paid and free hosting services via the omeka.net Website.  The free plan includes a single site, 500 MB of server space, 15 plugins, and 5 themes:  Plenty of functionality to get you started!

If you are at Johns Hopkins and are interested in using Omeka in one of your classes, please contact Mark Cyzyk, mcyzyk@jhu.edu, in The Sheridan Libraries.

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Mark Cyzyk, Scholarly Communication Architect
Sheridan Libraries and Museums

Image sources: Omeka Logo from http://omeka.org; Lost in the Funhouse image © Sheridan Libraries and Museums

 

An Annotated Bibliography on College Teaching

The Tomorrow’s Professor e-Newletter often has interesting and useful posts. Sponsored by the Stanford University Center for Teaching and Learning, Tomorrow’s Professor is edited by Richard M. Reis, Ph.D., a consulting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford (see more in this Innovative Instructor post from last year). Recently Reis shared a bibliography compiled by L. Dee Fink, Ph.D., a national and international consultant in higher education, a former president of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, and a former director of the Instructional Development Program at the University of Oklahoma.

Stack of books in a library.The list is comprised of books that have introduced major ideas in college teaching from 1990 to 2013. Fink says, “The point of this list is to illustrate that the scholars of teaching and learning are continuing to generate powerful new ideas year after year, thereby creating the possibility of enhancing the capabilities of college teachers everywhere – IF faculty members can learn about these ideas and incorporate them into their teaching.”

The ideas are show in two ways. First is by theme and sub-theme. The four themes are: General Perspectives on Teaching & Learning, Basic Tasks of Teaching, Dealing with Specific Teaching/Learning Situations, and Getting Better at Teaching. Under each of the themes are sub-themes with links (within the document) to annotated source listings arranged chronologically, which make up the second way in which the ideas are displayed.

For example, in the category Getting Better At Teaching, you will find Learning About Teaching & Learning with a link to Learning Communities. Clicking on the link takes you to 1998: “Learning communities, whether of students or of faculty, can lead to powerful forms of dialogue and growth. Source: Shapiro, N. & Levine, J. Creating Learning Communities. Jossey-Bass.

Browsing the chronological listings will also be fruitful. And if your spring break is coming up, maybe you will actually have a little time to read.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Managing Teamwork with CATME

Many instructors recognize the value of having students work collaboratively on team-based assignments. Not only is it possible for students to experience a greater understanding of the subject material, but several life-long learning skills can be gained through active engagement with team members. Managing team-based assignments, however, is not something most instructors look forward to; the administrative tasks can be quite cumbersome, especially with large classes. Thankfully there is a tool to help with this process: CATME.

Logo for CATMECATME, which stands for ‘Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness,’ is a free set of tools designed to help instructors manage group work and team assignments more effectively. It was developed by a diverse group of professors with extensive teaching experience, as well as researchers and students. First released in 2005, CATME takes away much of the administrative burden that instructors face when trying to organize and manage teams, communicate with students, and facilitate effective peer evaluation.

‘Team Maker,’ one of two main parts of CATME, assists with the team creation process. First, it allows instructors to easily create and send a survey to students. The survey collects various demographic data, previously completed coursework, and student availability information. Instructors can also add their own questions to the survey if desired. Once the data are collected, instructors decide which criteria will be used to create the teams and then assign weights to each of the criterion. Team Maker then uses the weights in an algorithm to create the teams.  Instructors are free to adjust the teams, if necessary, to their satisfaction. Once the teams are finalized, the instructor releases the results to students, who are provided with their team members’ names, email addresses, and a schedule matrix showing member availability.

‘Peer Evaluation,’ the other core component of CATME, is used by students to evaluate their teammates’ performance as well as their own.  The web-based ratings page is presented on one screen, making it easy to fill out and submit results. Students select from a set of behaviors which most closely describes themselves and their peers. There is also a place where students can include confidential comments which are only seen by the instructor.  Once completed, instructors can decide when to release the evaluation results to students. Peer ratings appear anonymous to students but are identified for instructors.

Another tool included in CATEME is the ‘Rater Calibration’ tool, which helps train students in the peer evaluation process. Students are asked to rate a series of fictional team members and then receive feedback about their ratings. Other tools include the ‘Student Team Training’ tool, designed to help students recognize effective team behaviors, and the ‘Meeting Support’ tool, which provides templates that students can use to plan and organize meetings, such as writing a team charter, taking minutes, etc.

To view a video demo of CATME and learn more about the product, visit the CATME website. Instructors interested in using CATME can go to https://www.catme.org/login/request to register for an account.

Amy Brusini, Course Management Training Specialist Center for Educational Resources

Image Source: CATME logo from http://info.catme.org/

Welcome to The Innovative Instructor

After the Provost’s Gateway Sciences Initiative Symposium on Teaching Excellence in January 2012, faculty expressed interest in having an online space where ideas about innovative teaching could be collected and archived. As a resource for those teaching in any discipline, The Innovative Instructor blog will offer a variety of ideas about teaching excellence, instructional technology, and teaching as research.

The Innovative Instructor blog builds on a successful print series of the same name, which focuses on Pedagogy, Best Practices, and Technology. Blog posts will cover topics such as active learning, assessment, use of case studies in instruction, classroom management, instructional design, how to engage students, grading and feedback, collaborative learning, leading discussions, hybrid instruction, and teaching methods.

While initial posts will be written by staff members in the Center for Educational Resources (CER) and other Johns Hopkins teaching and learning centers, faculty, post docs, and graduate and undergraduate students are invited to serve as guest editors. If you have a teaching-related topic that you would like to share, please contact Macie Hall at macie.hall@jhu.edu. Or contact her if you have an issue or subject you’d like to see covered in a future post.

The CER is just one of the teaching support centers at Johns Hopkins University. Find a complete list under the Contact tab. The CER provides a variety of services for faculty in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering. CER staff members meet with instructors to discuss digital course enhancements, manage the Technology Fellowship Program, collaborate with faculty on grant projects, and offer structured opportunities for faculty to learn about cutting edge educational innovations. The CER is also the home for the TA Training Institute and the institutional affiliation with the Center for Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). We offer a number of opportunities to prepare future faculty for teaching.

Whether you are faculty, future faculty, student, or staff interested in pedagogy, teaching with technology, or educational best practices, welcome to The Innovative Instructor.