12/14/2011 From of there are excellent teaching resources
Teaching Carnival 5.04
December 1, 2011, 8:00 am
By Prof. Hacker
[December’s Teaching Carnival was compiled by Mikhail Gershovich, Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute & Writing Across the Curriculum coordinator at Baruch College, City University of New York. You can reach him via email or onTwitter. ProfHacker has become the permanent home of the Teaching Carnival, so each month you can return for a snapshot of the most recent thoughts on teaching in college and university classrooms. You can find previous carnivals on Teaching Carnival’s home page. –Billie Hara]
Know of a blog post (perhaps your own) that should be included in the next Teaching Carnival…?
- Email the next host directly with the address to the permalink of your blog post, and/or
- Tag your post in Delicious (or Diigo or other bookmarking service) with teaching-carnival.
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Hurry, hurry, hurry. Step right up. See the most amazing, most provocative, most edumacational teaching links on the Interwebz. Don’t miss your chance to be wowed, amazed, professionally developed and procrastinated! Step right this way!
This month at the Teaching Carnival:
Edudemic showcases 100 best web 2.0 tools for teachers as chosen by teachers while Peter Dewitt offers an in-depth discussion of why educators should join Twitter. Mrs. Ripp suggests 14 steps to meaningful student blogging, George Siemens shares a few simple tools he’s like ed-tech startups to build. and Audrey Watters tells us about Code Now, a DC area program dedicated to teaching underserved high school students how to program.
Tom Woodward offers us some things to consider regarding the instructional use of digital content, and Jane Hart argues that while we can manage the use of media that can facilitate informal learning, we can’t manage informal learning itself.
Stephen Lazar, of Education Week, suggests how to teach high-school history by facilitating critical inquiry. Liz Losh discusses the use of digital role-playing games for a critical engagement with racial history. Mike Cosgrove explains how to Game Reality History. The Christian Cynic considers analysis of song lyrics as a means of encouraging critical thought. Andrew Miller argues for integrating visual art into curricula as a form of critical thinking.
Ryan Cordell discusses “speed-dating” peer-review writing workshops, and Dean Shareski proclaims lectures good. At cac.ophony.org, Meechal Hoffman and Erica Kaufman offer a few thoughts on teaching with technology, and Sarah Ruth Jacobs traces the genealogy of communication across the the curriculum courses (part 1 and part 2.)
At Blogging Pedagogy, we learn how the Voyeur data visualization tool and the automated text analysis it offers might be useful for revision and consider a rumination on the form of the blog post.
Mark Sample and Shannon Mattern each present on the digital humanities in the classroom (videos). Roger Whitson calls on DH teachers and scholars to engage in digital activism to undercut a “cultural obsession with individualism” foster an environment where collaborative digital projects are valued.
You’ve heard of the MOOC, now learn all about it: The 7 things you should know about MOOCs. Alan Levine considers the “course-iness” of MOOCs. David Kernohan discusses the mythical #economooc. Michael Feldstein offers some thoughts on scaling MOOCs.
In the spirit of the Occupy Movement, Jose Vilson offers James Baldwin’s take on the purpose education: “The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” Along those lines: Cheryl Smith on teaching and protest, Jay Cross on occupying education, and Cathy Davidson on why this is a “Gettysburg address moment in higher education.”
Clayton R. Wright gives us a seemingly comprehensive list of education technology conferences, January-June 2012. (.doc, courtesy of Stephen Downes)
Audrey Watters speculates on whether the Kindle Fire will be popular among educators and then later discusses why she sent hers back to Amazon.
At the Chatty Professor, Ellen Bremen reflects on how college students manage changing relationships and discusses what students should know about faculty office hours. Quinn Warnick shares the list of articles he asks undergraduates to read before offering advice on grad school. Delaney Kirk suggests what students can expect from their profs and what profs should expect from their students.
Alice Cassidy shares a wealth of resources on sustainability education and leadership.
Trouble with your IT Department? Here’s how to work successfully with them.
And, finally, Wired UK explains the science of why the sound of fingernails on a blackboard makes us cringe.
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Tonya Howe, Assistant Professor of English at Marymount University will compile the TC for January 2012. Send your teaching-related links to Tonya at her email or on Twitter. Keep in mind, that if you don’t send us your posts, we might miss them. So send them on! We want to include you in our next Teaching Carnival. Lastly, we are looking for more contributors for the Teaching Carnival, so if you have interest in compiling links for one month later this year or the beginning of next year, please contact Billie Hara for information.
12/03/2011 In a recently discovered wonderful blog on librarianship appropriately called, Musings About Librarianship by Aaron Tay (which I have included in my blogroll) who is currently a Librarian at the National University of Singapore Libraries
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Some students might think we librarians are out of touch that we librarian just use our library catalogues and subscribed databases and know little of Google/Wikipedia etc. As such I always try to mention some “real-world” scenarios to signal that I am well aware of the strong google/wikipedia tendencies of well pretty much everybody. Here are some material I am thinking of using or have made use of in the past.Google has everythingLane Wilkinson’s Sense & Reference blog points out a very common phenomena that we librarians face at tutorials. Inevitably someone will stand up and say why use the library or subscribed databases when Google has everything? And even if no-one is bold enough to say so, you can bet a lot of people are thinking that.There are many ways to handle this question, but Lane’s answer is most interesting. He simply challenges the person to do a google search. Even though Google say there are thousands of results, when you actually move to the last search engine result page you will find there is usually a lot less, because results are usually capped.
In his example “Alcoholism” he shows that Google shows only 800+ results despite claiming a few million. Even after adding omitted results it shows 1,000. Below shows what I see using Google.com.sg
Google says there are 28 million results, but in actual fact shows only 791, even clicking on repeat the search with the omitted results included doesn’t help much. Below shows the results when I click on it.
In comparison most databases (assuming the right type), will show thousands of results (full text only).
Below shows JSTOR
Not that JSTOR is the best database for this , but many students love it, and as the screenshot above shows, there really are 32,000 results!
”It’s just a rhetorical trick designed to call into question the commonly held belief that you can find morein Google than in the library. And, as a rhetorical device, it introduces valuable questions. Why does Google cap their results? How useful is it to havemillions of results? How does Google decide which 1,000 results to display? Sure, Google may have 50 billion pages indexed, and you may find websites on just about everything, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to show that, from a practical standpoint, the library has more.”
I was aware of the capped results effect in Google, though I never thought of using it this way. Though Lane views this as a rhetorical trick, (I mean most dont view past the first 10 and even the most obsessive researcher past the first 100), personally I am still mulling over the implications of this capped results. If say I get capped results of 758, if I refine it further does it just work on the set of 758? If so this can be quite a handicap.
11/19/2011 From the ACRL comes this article on incorporating web 2.0 in information literacy teaching
We’ve Wordled, have you?
Digital images in the library classroom
Rhonda Huisman is assistant librarian, liaison, school of education Center for Teaching and Learning, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Willie Miller is assistant librarian, liaison to the IU School of Informatics, e-mail: email@example.com, and Jessica Trinoskey is former business librarian, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
Connecting with students in the classroom is a goal that unites all educators; librarians particularly face this challenge during one-shot instruction sessions. Studies suggest that the current generation of traditional college students, often referred to as Millennials, can be engaged through visual stimulation and creative, active learning strategies. Librarians at Indiana University–Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) University Library have incorporated the creation and use of word clouds to transform their methods of instruction, assessment, and marketing in an academic library setting.
Author Jonathan Feinberg writes, “But where Wordle shines is in the creation of communicative artifacts. People who use Wordle feel as though they have created something, that the created thing succeeds in representing something meaningful, and that it accurately reflects or intensifies the source text.”1
Visual literacy and metaphor
“Visual Literacy empowers individuals to participate fully in a visual culture.”2
Wordle and other word-cloud generator tools put the onus of interpretation, understanding, and integration of these visual representations on the creator as well as the viewer. In using Wordle in our classrooms at IUPUI, it became apparent that not only was it fun, but it allowed students to create a visual illustration of library instruction (and outcomes) through key words and phrases. The ACRL/IRIG recently adopted new Visual Literacy Standards,3 which are described as “a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.”4 Word clouds are just one simple way to visually characterize elements of library instruction.
Ways we use it
Assessing library services is no easy feat, particularly library instruction. Often, librarians want a simple and fast method to evaluate student learning and the impact of instruction. Substituting a traditional one-minute paper5 is one way in which librarians can offer a form of assessment during the library instruction session to get immediate feedback from students. However, Wordle allows a modification to this widely used technique, which uses the simplicity of short answer questions and engages students as creators of a digital image. Elizabeth Choinski and Michelle Emanuel6 describe their struggles in modifying a one-minute paper exercise to adequately assess their one-shot library instruction sessions, through more traditional quantitative results, which they reported to align nicely with ACRL-defined outcomes. Our experiences were more of a subjective or qualitative nature—we recognized engagement and understanding through participation, completion, and creativity rather than through scores or standards.
Willie Miller, assistant librarian and liaison to the IUPUI schools of Informatics and Journalism uses Wordle to gauge the lasting messages from library tours in First-Year Experience classes. Before the tour begins, he has each student write five words on a note card that describe opinions of their former high school library. After the tour, he has the students use five words to describe IUPUI University Library. The note card descriptions are anonymous to encourage students to write honest five-word descriptions without fear of judgment.
Typically, Wordles describing the high school library display words like “small,” “quiet,” and “books” in large fonts; in some unfortunate cases words like “scary,” “never used,” and “strict librarian” rise to prominence in the image. When describing the UIPUI University Library, in contrast, the words “big,” “helpful,” “resourceful,” “high-tech,” and “awesome” are presented in large fonts.
Assessment and engagement
Rhonda Huisman, assistant librarian, liaison to the School of Education/Center for Teaching and Learning at IUPUI, started using Wordle in 2009 as a participation exercise, through the use of note cards. Students are given note cards upon entering the computer lab or classroom, which have specific words (i.e., “databases” or “interlibrary loan”) written on them. Throughout the instructional session, the students are responsible for taking notes about their particular category—a few key words or phrases is all that is necessary. Upon the conclusion of the instruction, Huisman asks for feedback based on the students’ notes, which are recorded in the Wordle site on the computer at the front of the class.
Another option for this type of activity is to have each student (or small groups) create their own Wordles and share with the rest of the class through a library Web site, course management system, or posted in a social networking site like Facebook. In both of these cases, Wordle serves as a tool for engagement in the instruction as an active-learning strategy, as well as a quick check for understanding exercise.
Yet, the importance of the Wordles is not necessarily the words used: the significance of it is really to capture the opinions and emotions of that moment. The thought-provoking images also afford openings to start conversations with students, faculty, and librarians about library services and relationships. In a subsequent class on using library resources for research, Miller starts a discussion on the value of the library with the Wordle images. He is able to point to the students’ feelings about past libraries juxtaposed to the moment the students were introduced to the UIPUI Library to facilitate a discussion around their expectations of an academic library.
Huisman uses student-created Wordles to compare to a Wordle that was created using the ACRL information literacy standards, and looks for commonalities in words, phrases, or ideas, and often shows this to students as well, to generate discussion about the words they didn’t include, and why. In both cases, students are immediately drawn into the session upon seeing their words reflected through this eye-catching graphic. Through the creation of word clouds, students can take an active role in information literacy instruction and assessment, by recalling the most important aspects of the library resources and lasting messages of an instructional session.
Miller, Huisman, and other librarians who have adapted Wordle in their instruction sessions find that students rarely protest about this type of activity—it’s fun!
Marketing (t-shirts, posters, presentations)
Wordles are posted in the site’s online gallery; however, these images are certified under a Creative Commons Attribution license, so content can be printed, displayed, or freely shared for other uses. The University Library’s Community Outreach Group used a Wordle of the library’s mission statement on a t-shirt during new student orientation week. The giveaway with the affective image of the mission with the words “inform,” “resources,” “transform,” “community,” and “connect” highlighted was a hit with students who can be seen wearing it around campus.
Word clouds are also a popular trend in scholarship and media. Wordles have been used at many recent conferences in librarianship and beyond on posters and digital presentations. ABC News created word clouds from the 2011 State of the Union address to illustrate the significant words and themes of President Obama’s message.7 The repetition-triggered font sizing makes a speaker’s key words visually clear.
Jessica Trinoskey, assistant librarian, liaison to the IUPUI Kelley School of Business, described the following scenario from an instructional session. She decided to integrate Wordle into an activity designed to replace a traditional library tour. Students worked individually and each was given a note card indicating the library floor he or she would visit. They were instructed to write down at least five services and/or resources that they discovered on their assigned floor.
When they returned to the computer classroom, Trinoskey grouped students according to assigned floor. The groups were then asked to type the observation lists into Wordle.
“My plan was to wow students with a visual representation of the highlights of each library floor, and then have them describe the resources they encountered,” she said. “In a Wordle cloud, repeated words and phrases display larger than others. I assumed that standout services would emerge based on the number of students who noted them. I also thought that among the three to four students assigned to each floor, a fairly comprehensive list of resources and services would develop. “
Trinoskey noted that the student typing seemed to take forever. “I could practically hear crickets chirp and see tumbleweeds blow by as I clicked ‘go’ and revealed the first Wordle. It was riddled with spelling inconsistencies, so standout services did not emerge. I tried to recover by having the second group read me their observations while I typed. There was still no acknowledgement of the displayed giant word cloud. By group three, I had ditched Wordle completely, and nobody seemed to notice.”
She admitted that she may have expected Wordle to carry a poorly planned activity. She also questioned the notion that just hearing about services in the library would benefit students as much as experiencing them firsthand.
Trinoskey said she also neglected to introduce students to Wordle or to tell them why she was having them do the activity in that way. “Had they known what to expect, they may have demonstrated more interest in the Wordles and been more willing to engage in discussion based on what they saw. There is also a time/place/crowd for new instructional activities, and that perhaps this just wasn’t the time/place/crowd for Wordle.”
Trinoskey says she would use Wordle in future instruction; however, she would be more intentional. “I would show Wordle to students before having them use it. I would also encourage students to create their own Wordles, allowing them to be creative in the use of different fonts and colors.”
Trinoskey’s experience is not unique to educators when they feel like a lesson “bombed,” and she exhibited a thoughtful, reflective reaction that allowed all of the librarians to learn from her experience, and to think about possible “best practices” when using a visual tool or word cloud generator like Wordle.
On one hand, Wordle is fun, easy-to-use, and free, which has instant appeal for users of all ages and tech skill levels. On the other, Wordle and other tag-cloud display programs, such as Tagul or Tagxedo, have become a visual medium for expression, instruction, and creativity for which a “participatory culture” has emerged.8
From January to September 2008, more than 600,000 Wordles had been created. The count is now in the millions, and more are created every day in classrooms and libraries across the country.
Wordle is flexible in tailoring font, colors, and layout, but the next generation of word-cloud generators includes the addition of hyperlinks and customized shapes/formations. With these advanced features, there are additional technical skills or adaptations for users, but there are also added possibilities for instruction, engagement, marketing, and information literacy applications.9
The prospects of using tools such as Wordle, Tagxedo, or other word cloud generators weren’t initially apparent in instruction. We were willing to be creative, innovative, and with a little planning, it became a fun and engaging alternative to traditional assessment activities especially when instructional time was limited. Wordle offers a “big bang for your buck” when used in inspired, resourceful ways.
Ways to Wordle well
Become familiar with its formatting and technological quirks.
Allow for time during instruction and thoughtfully plan for its use.
Carefully explain to students the purpose of using this tool and its value.
Be prepared for unexpected results and be flexible.
Remember that visual imagery can be powerful, and have fun.
- © 2011 Rhonda Huisman, Willie Miller, and Jessica Trinoskey
- Feinberg Jonathan
, “Wordle,” In Beautiful Visualization, eds. Steele Julie,Iliinsky Noah (Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2010).
ACRL/IRIG Visual Literacy Standards:http://acrlvislitstandards.wordpress.com/category/vl-definition/.
- Angelo Thomas A.,
- Cross Patricia K.
, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993).
- Choinski Elizabeth,
- Emanuel Michelle
, “The One-Minute Paper and the One-Hour Class: Outcomes Assessment for One-Shot Library Instruction,” Reference Services Review, 34 no 1 (2006): 148–155.
- Viegas Fernanda B.,
- Wattenberg Martin,
- Feinberg Jonathan
, “Participatory visualization with Wordle,” IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 15 no. 6 (2009): 1137–1146.
11/16/2011 From the Chronicle of Higher Education comes this analyses of current (past?) teaching styles.
November 15, 2011
Teaching and Human Memory, Part I
Graphic by Brian Taylor
Article by James M. Lang
Imagine you have a sore shoulder, so you visit a physical therapist and come away with a set of exercises that she says will help improve your condition. A month later, with your shoulder no better, you return and ask why the exercises aren’t working.
“I have no idea,” she responds. “I don’t actually know anything about how muscles work. I do research on the depiction of physical therapy in American film and television. I have a book coming out next year from a major press.”
“But,” you respond, “then how did you know to prescribe those exercises?”
“Oh,” she says, “I just used common sense. Plus I had a sore shoulder once, and they worked for me.”
As ridiculous as that scenario might seem, it doesn’t much miss the mark in describing how most faculty members teach without knowing much about how students learn. We devote at least part of our careers to making lasting impressions on the minds of our students, yet the vast majority of us have little or no knowledge of how those minds actually work.
We spend years mastering our disciplines, so you can hardly blame us for not devoting several more years to studying cognitive science. And, unlike our imagined physical therapist, many of us seem to get by well enough in the classroom by drawing upon our well of common sense and reflecting on our own experiences as learners.
But I see plenty of faculty members whose ideas, based on common sense and experience, about how to help students learn don’t seem to work very well. And often enough, my own ideas don’t work nearly as well as I expect them to. In those unhappy moments, I usually wonder whether a little more knowledge of how the gears spin in the heads of my students might help me do a better job.
Just as the fall semester was about to begin this year, I came across a journal article in College Teaching that provided what struck me as a beautifully concise summary of some key recent developments in cognitive theory and memory research—as well as some insightful reflections on what those developments mean (or should mean) for our classroom practice.
I devoured the article several times, bleeding fresh ink on it with each reading, and finally decided to write to the author to ask if she would be willing to share her expertise with readers of this column. The theories and applications that I pulled from her article and from our e-mail interviews provided me with enough material for two columns, so this forms the first of two parts designed to let faculty members reflect on whether some basic knowledge of the workings of human memory might help them do their jobs more effectively.
Michelle Miller is a professor and chair of the psychology department at Northern Arizona University. A researcher and teacher in the fields of language, memory, and cognitive psychology, she has devoted much of her career to thinking about the relationship between her research areas and her classes. She has worked on a course-redesign project on her campus to help improve retention and performance rates in large classes.
Miller’s article in College Teaching opens with an explanation of why so few of us may count ourselves as even amateur enthusiasts for cognitive theory: The field remains a relatively young one and has evolved rapidly over the past several decades. If you did happen to pick up some ideas 10 or 15 years ago about learning and cognition in a how-to-teach seminar in graduate school, what you learned there might have been superseded or even overturned since then by new information and theories.
Equally troublesome, research findings at the edge of the field don’t always translate easily into pedagogical practice. As Miller describes the dilemma, “a working understanding of memory processes is clearly useful for instructors, who work very hard to promote long-term retention of course material, and fortunately, there is no shortage of theoretical research detailing the inner workings of memory. On the other hand, when this theoretical research is translated into specific suggestions for pedagogical practice, it is too often misinterpreted, oversimplified, or substantially out of date.”
In fact, she continues, many of us are very likely working under an out-of-date model of human memory, one that has shaped teaching practices in higher education. It divides human memory into three stages or parts: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. According to the researchers who developed the model, those “three components worked in concert to perform information processing—i.e., turning sensory experience into a ‘code’ that can be stored and retrieved when needed,” Miller explains.
For teachers working in that model, the challenge was to determine the best methods for helping students encode information in such a way that it would transfer easily from short-term memory into long-term memory. If you have ever advised your students to process information through multiple senses—reading it, writing it down, speaking it aloud—then you were probably basing your recommendations on an informal or distilled version of that memory model.
Unfortunately, Miller points out, “vanishingly few cognitive researchers”—including the very scientists who developed the theory—support it anymore.
One major problem with the theory, she writes, is that short-term memory turns out to be much more complex than the model posits. Some teaching practices that have been commonplace, such as encouraging students to process information in multiple forms, may indeed be quite effective—but not exactly for the reasons that the model would suppose.
But more important, Miller says, this older memory model, like other theories of cognition and memory, does not take fully enough into account the function of memory: “You can’t understand how a memory component works,” she writes, “until you understand what it is for.”
Considering memory from this functionary perspective has opened up new directions for research that pushes beyond the mechanics of short-term memory. And one result of the new research has been the happy discovery that our long-term memories have much greater storage capacity than we may have realized.
Unhappily, that capacious storage room creates a different problem for us.
“In long-term memory,” Miller writes, “the limiting factor is not storage capacity, but rather the ability to find what you need when you need it. Long-term memory is rather like having a vast amount of closet space. It is easy to store many items, but it is difficult to retrieve the needed item in a timely fashion.”
To help solve that problem, our mind uses cues: “Cues solve the retrieval quandary by triggering the information needed in a given situation. When we encode information, such as a name, we link it to other information that is present at the time—a face, a person’s appearance, where we’re standing when we are introduced. Provided with the right set of cues, we can retrieve that person’s name. Without those cues, we are at a loss.”
I expect that most of us can identify personally with the connection between cues and memories. The power of cues helps explain why a particular song may remind you of a memorable afternoon in Paris, or why, for me, the smell of stale beer always draws up vivid memories of my first-year dorm room.
Further reflection is likely to yield more-intellectual examples. One long afternoon over winter break in my sophomore year in college, I sat in a chair in my parents’ living room and had my life changed by Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. Whenever I sat in that chair, for many years afterward, detailed memories of O’Neill’s play and its impact on my life would return to me. And I can walk into certain classrooms on my campus and immediately recall formative experiences I had in my development as a teacher.
But while we may be able to draw up endless examples of how our minds have created such connections between learned information and the contextual cues that accompanied our first encounter with that information, those examples don’t translate very easily—as Miller points out—into concrete pedagogical practice.
If it turns out that the greatest memory challenge our students face is retrieving information from their long-term memories when they need it to perform on exams and assignments, and if that retrieval ability depends on the use of contextual cues during the information-encoding process, what does that mean for our job description as teachers? Do we have any control over the cues that accompany the encoding of information in our students’ brains? Can we help them develop effective cues?
In next month’s column, I’ll draw on my conversation with Michelle Miller to provide some initial answers to those questions, and to help you see how developments in memory research translate into course design and classroom practice.
James M. Lang is an associate professor of English at Assumption College and author of “On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching” (Harvard University Press, 2008). He writes about teaching in higher education, and his Web site is http://www.jamesmlang.com. He welcomes reader mail directed to his attention at email@example.com.
10/27/2011 From comes the following suggestions on improving class participation
Top 12 Ways to Increase Student Participation
Call it “active learning,” or “classroom participation” — every teacher wants more involved students and fewer apathetic ones. With a little extra planning, that is possible.
Below are four common reasons students don’t participate and techniques to solve those problems and spice up your lessons.
Problem: The content is repetitive.
aybe it needs to be repetitive because the students don’t really “get it,” or maybe you’re reviewing for a test. In any case, they’re tuning out.
Solution #1: Assess their prior knowledge.
This could be as simple as asking students, “What do you know about (topic)?” and writing their responses on the board. You could also try a pre-test or a graphic organizer like a K-W-L chart. The goal is to find out what they already know (or think they know). You create buy-in for the students because they feel smart, and you can tailor your lesson to the information they don’t know or don’t remember correctly.
Solution #2: Try skills grouping.
Divide the class into groups based on what skills they need to practice – not forever, but for a class period or two, so they can focus on what they really need help with. So have a group that works on multiplying fractions, one on dividing fractions, and one on converting fractions to decimals. Make a group of “already got 100% on the test” kids and give them an extra credit activity or let them preview the next lesson. Then take time to move between the other groups and help them review. You’ll have more students engaged in the lesson and they’ll get specific, focused practice time.
Solution #3: Let them teach each other.
Especially good when reviewing before a test: divide the class into groups and give each group a topic. Set some guidelines and then let them teach each other. Encourage them to do interesting activities – write tests for each other, design review games, etc. – and evaluate each group on the accuracy of their content, the creativity of their approach, and how well they work together as a team.
Problem: The content is too hard.
This is really half the problem. The other half – especially with older students – is their fear of “looking stupid” by asking questions.
Solution #1: Allow anonymous questions.
Put out a “question box” where students can submit questions any time. Give each student an index card and ask them to write something about the reading assignment they did for homework. If they don’t have a question, instruct them to write a comment on the reading. Collect the cards and use them to lead a class discussion. You’ll easily recognize what parts of the reading confused a lot of students and they won’t feel embarrassed.
Solution #2: Allow them to work together.
We can’t do this all the time; individual students need to be assessed. Ask yourself: is the goal of this activity for them to learn the content, or for them to be assessed? If you want them to learn the content, why not let them work together? When they bring in their homework, do a quick survey for completeness, then put them in pairs and let them review the homework together. Encourage them to make changes if their partner’s answer looks right. When they’ve finished, review as a class. Students may be less embarrassed to share a group’s answer than their own and you may be able to complete the review more quickly.
Solution #3: Try a jigsaw approach.
No, we’re not talking about puzzles or scary movies. If you’re introducing new, difficult content, divide the class into groups and ask each group to master only one portion of it at a time. If, for example, you’re teaching the American Revolution, have one group focus on the Continental Congress, one on Washington’s Army, one on French support for the war, and so on.
Ask them to do a reading on their topic – to become the class “experts” on that subject. Then split up the class into new groups that include one “expert” on each topic. Ask these new groups to work together to write an essay or complete a worksheet that requires information about all the topics. They will teach each other in the process. Learn more about the Jigsaw Approach.
Problem: There’s too much information to present in too short a time.
Sometimes there’s no way around it: you simply have to get a lot of information out there in a short amount of time. So you opt for a lecture and just want your students to absorb the content. Instead, they fall asleep or stare out the window. What can you do?
Solution #1: Keep it “bite-sized.”
Remember: research shows the average student’s attention span is as long as her age. So even high school kids can only handle about 15 minutes. If you have a lot of information to convey, re-arrange your lesson plans so you never lecture for more than 10-15 minutes.
Break up large concepts into smaller sections – give a brief lecture, then do an activity to help it “sink in.” Repeat this process over several days. You’ll increase participation – and improve comprehension, too.
Solution #2: Keep them busy.
Don’t allow students to stare into space while you talk. Give them something to stay connected. Try “fill in the blank” lecture notes. Delete key words and phrases in your lecture notes to create a “fill in the blank” worksheet. Then ask students to fill in the worksheet while you lecture. Another fun variation – lecture bingo.
Solution #3: Look into the future.
Before a lecture, give students a prediction activity. For example, tell them you will be lecturing on Shakespeare and ask them to predict what you will say, or give them a set of true/false statements and ask them to take their best guess.
As you lecture, instruct students to compare their guesses with what you actually say.
When the lecture is over, have a class discussion and evaluate how accurate student predictions were.
Problem: The lesson emphasizes the teacher, not the students.
Solution #1: Keep them busier than you are.
The traditional classroom of yesteryear had the teacher at the front of the room, droning on while students doze. Re-imagine your classroom as a place where students are busier than you are.
Keep the “sit still and let me talk to you” moments as brief as possible; get those kids working! Give them worksheets, activities, discussions, and projects. That doesn’t mean you get to sit around — you will still be busy, moving from student to student or group to group, correcting, evaluating, or providing feedback. But now everyone is busy and involved.
Solution #2: Use groups.
Homogeneous grouping? Heterogeneous grouping? Tracking? Forget the buzz words: having students work in groups is one of the best ways to increase student participation. Don’t keep them in the same groups all the time –give them a chance to be the “smart kid” who can help someone one day and the kid who needs help the next.
Take a traditional worksheet or activity and give it to students in groups. Offer a reward to the group who finishes first with the most answers correct and watch them go! Note: it helps to have additional prizes available to keep groups motivated after the first group “wins.” Even high school students enjoy these competitions.
Solution #3: Give them a voice and a choice.
Do students ever get a “say” in your classroom? Of course you need to make most decisions, but there must be some things you could leave up to them – whether it’s what color chalk you use today or how long they practice a specific activity.
Kids tune out because they feel like their ideas don’t matter. Show them their opinions are important and they’ll pay better attention and speak up more in class.
There will always be some unreachable student who won’t respond, even with these efforts. But if you give these a try, you may be presently surprised at the previously unreachable students who just might join in!
10/14/2011 From the Chronicle of Higher Education comes this exciting new develpment in the area of content management
Pearson and Google Jump Into Learning Management With a New, Free System
October 13, 2011, 10:25 am By Josh Fischman
One of the world’s biggest education publishers has joined with one of the most dominant and iconic software companies on the planet to bring colleges a new—and free—learning-management system with the hopes of upending services that affect just about every instructor, student, and college in the country.
Today Pearson, the publishing and learning technology group, has joined the software giant Google to launch OpenClass, a free LMS that combines standard course-management tools with advanced social networking and community-building, and an open architecture that allows instructors to import whatever material they want, from e-books to YouTube videos. The program will launch through Google Apps for Education, a very popular e-mail, calendar, and document-sharing service that has more than 1,000 higher-education customers, and it will be hosted by Pearson with the intent of freeing institutions from the burden of providing resources to run it. It enters a market that has been dominated by costly institution-anchored services like Blackboard, and open-source but labor-intensive systems like Moodle.
“Anytime Pearson and Google are used in the same sentence, it’s going to get people’s attention,” says Don Smithmier, chief executive and founder of Sophia, another community-based learning system that is backed by Capella Education, the corporation behind the online educator Capella University. “I believe the world will be shifting away from a classic LMS approach defined by the institution. Openness and social education is a very powerful idea.”
Though nobody expects Pearson to take over the marketplace—Blackboard, Moodle and a few others had over 80 percent of it last year, according to the Campus Computing Survey, and Blackboard officials argue that OpenClass can’t integrate with university systems the way their product can—the few colleges that have been piloting it seem intrigued while noting that it could exist alongside other systems. “We run both Blackboard and Moodle currently,” says David Kim, CIO of Central Piedmont Community College. His institution has been using OpenClass in two history courses, on a pilot basis, since the summer. “Are we crazy for considering a third LMS? Well, consumers are demanding choice and change in education, and the ease of use of OpenClass makes it simple for instructors and students to customize it. Plus, Pearson doing the hosting takes much of the headache away from me.”
But the crucial thing, he says, “is that OpenClass can open doors for community college students. We have high school grads and senior citizens. They have different needs, and different fears about learning and about technology.” OpenClass has a Facebook-like news stream that captures activity and comments for each class, and a page that highlights different people taking a course, along with the questions, troubles, and solutions that they post online. “So it’s easy for you to find someone like you and interact with them, kind of like sitting with your friends in class,” Mr. Kim says. “It provides a comfort zone.”
It also provides opportunities for traditional college students, says Kay Reeves, the executive director of information technology at Abilene Christian University, which has been trying out OpenClass in a psychology course, an art course, and an English course. “Not only do students share resources, but faculty have the ability to collaborate across institutions, sharing pedagogy tips. Someone at my college could contact someone in the network at, say, Harvard, and say ‘Hey, how are you handling this topic in your course?’”
Connecting to the system through Google—it will be available through the Google Apps Marketplace—adds to the ease of use and comfort factor, officials say. People will sign on to their Google Mail accounts and see OpenClass as one of their available products at the top of their Web browser. They will also be able to use Gmail and Google Docs from within the program.
There have been a few bumps in the road during the pilot phase. Adrian Sannier, senior vice president of learning technologies at Pearson, says that people with multiple Google accounts could log into one that’s not linked to OpenClass through their institution, which can be confusing. “But Google has been very good about working with us to smooth those problems out,” he says. And none of the college officials reported this to be a significant problem.
There are others, though, who contend that OpenClass is really a bump in the road if a college wants a true LMS. Matthew Small, Blackboard’s chief business officer, points out that this cloud-based service can’t be deeply integrated into a university the way his products can. “Most faculty want LMS that connect to the student-information system, the calendar, and conform to college-specific privacy and legal policies,” he says, and he doesn’t think OpenClass can do this. “It’s really something that’s being offered to the faculty, not as something that’s connected to the enterprise,” he says. Blackboard itself has a cloud-based offering, CourseSites, that was launched this year and is also free, he adds, but it doesn’t compare with its main learning management product, Blackboard Learn.
Mr. Small also says Blackboard uses an industry standard that allows instructors to import outside material from publishers like McGraw-Hill, and has even worked with Pearson itself on some of its offerings.
Comparing Pearson’s new system to existing products, Kevin Roberts, CIO at Abilene Christian, pointed to two things, and neither was deep integration into university systems. First, he says, “it’s free. Being free is certainly an attention getter for any CIO.” That contrasts with Blackboard Learn, which institutions have to buy a license for. And like Mr. Kim, he says that Moodle—which doesn’t charge—still has back-end costs as the technology department has to support it and fix bugs that crop up themselves.
Still, Mr. Roberts is proceeding cautiously. “We don’t know yet how our wider college community is going to react to it. So next semester we’ll try it in several more classes. And maybe in the middle of next semester we’ll make a decision whether to replace Blackboard—we’re primarily a Blackboard campus—with this, or perhaps we’ll run them simultaneously and let instructors decide.”
10/07/2011 From the Hedgehog Librarian: Prickly, Nocturnal, InfoDiva website comes this analysis of teaching Boolean operators in a simple way.
By Abigail Goben,medical librarian at a university in Chicago, who freelances as a medical editor, copy editor, and Access database designer |
Today was the last of the “it’s the beginning of the semester let’s have the librarian teach a class!” rush*. While I’ve got the Evidence Based class with the first year Dentistry students (D1s) weekly and a few other classes scheduled thus far through the semester, it’s a slightly lower level of intensity.
I tried something with the D1s that a couple people asked for further details on so here’s a slightly more formal description.
I’d been tasked with reviewing search strategies with students who will be embracing Evidence Based Practice for the next four years. As they are learning dentistry, they are asked to write term papers, present posters, do research, and consider why exactly they are performing procedures or advising therapies to patients.
One of the things I wanted to check their confidence level on was Boolean search terms. Interestingly enough, when I asked them to color in three venn diagrams with AND, OR, and NOT–I found that a significant number of them did not mark the overlapping section of the circles for OR searches. One truly can never assume what your students know.
To review Boolean I chose three general terms that applied to the students: gender, clothing color, and hair color. These were all things that were visually available to us in the classroom. And then we started working through combinations.
- Initially, I made it easy: Male AND Blue AND Brunette.
- Then we changed all of those to OR and saw that using OR got us most of the students in the classroom.
- Then I changed to Male AND Blue OR Brunette. Now they were less clear. Did the Brunette females stand up? Should the males in green sit down? –Here we could talk about the use of parenthesis and how if it is confusing to them, how they can’t expect the computer to read their mind.
- Finally we took a different approach–how would I get to certain students? We used other attributes like glasses, footwear, facial hair, etc to narrow down to one group of students or a select group of students.
We worked through several scenarios and then I had them do a quick pen/paper exercise with parentheses so they could see the various options and figure out what those would actually return. I used Cat, Dog, and Frog as our examples and research paper titles such as ”Cats and Dogs are Chasing Frogs” as the article that may or may not be included.
Watching them do the stand up and sit down prompted a lot of thinking, response and discussion amongst the students. They would poke each other with “hey–you’re supposed to be standing” or “you’re not THAT–sit down.” It gave a break to the first half of the three hour class without disrupting actual learning.
I’m working entirely with graduate students and I’m fortunate in my students: they are cooperative. I’d already met with these Dentistry students at orientation before trying this exercise and I take full advantage of the fact that I’m not dealing with a huge age difference. I was pleased with how this exercise went. I’d also tried to do one with PubMed Limits that was less successful–so I’ve written down that I’d like to rework it and now that I have a few minutes to breathe, I’m going to try and figure out what might make it more successful. Details to follow once I’ve had a chance to test it out on more willing ”
*Subject to change, I’m sure a professor will ring me tomorrow and want three more classes on Thursday
This entry was posted on September 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.
09/18/2011 From the
comes this interesting article on additional tools for teachers called,
Check your Interactive Whiteboard Gallery
One of the issues that I find when I go into schools to deliver Smart or Promethean whiteboard training is that quite often the software on teachers computers is not installed completely. The software will work fine, but the bank of resources that’s comes as part of the install is often missing.
This is a real shame as, on both Smart and Promethean boards, the gallery contains loads of very useful images and interactive resources that can add additional impact to your lesson resources.
I find that it’s an unknown unknown situation – most teachers don’t know the resource library should be there – so they don’t know what they are missing out on. And often when it’s installed the technicians don’t know to install it either. So it’s only when a whiteboard trainer comes in that they can see what they’re missing.
So, if you are a Smart or Promethean user, here’s what to look out for.
Smart Notebook 10
In Smart Notebook, click on the 2nd tab on the side of the screen – it looks like a picture frame – to open the gallery. You should hopefully have a folder called Gallery Essentials. It might, in earlier installs, be called Essentials for Educators. Click on the plus to the side of the folder to open it up and see the subfolders.
You should also have a second folder called Lesson Activity Toolkit. This contains lots of different interactive resources which can be used to build simple interactive activities such as sorting, labelling and hangman games.
A cut down gallery is normally always installed – this is the Gallery Sampler. It contains a small fraction of some of the resources of the rest of the gallery.
If the gallery essentials is not there – you can try and install it yourself by doing a “Check for updates” from the help menu – but this may not always work on a school install where the admins have locked things down.
I’d suggest you point your network technicians to the Administrator Downloads page where they can download the Gallery Essentials and Lesson Activity Toolkit as zip files and install them sitewide.
Promethean ActivInspire – Studio View
In ActivInspire the resources are known as Shared Resources. In Studio view it can be found on the Resource Browser on the side of the screen – click on the image of the clapperboard/musical note and then the image of the multiple heads. If you can’t seen the browser, then make it appear by going to View and then Browsers.
Click on the plus to open up each category – the bulk of the clip art and subject resources should be found in a folder called Subjects. You might also want to look in Grids for various graph papers.
If the subject resources are not here you should be able to download the Resources file via Promethean Planet here.
ActivInspire – Primary View
In ActivInspire Primary mode the resources are slightly different to Studio mode. You can open it by clicking on the clapperboard/musical note icon from the toolbar on the right hand side of the screen.
The Resource Gallery will open at the bottom of the screen. You might not see anything in there yet. In the bottom right of the screen you should see a yellow button with a triangle on it. Click that to open up the index of resources. The button with several heads on it should open the shared resources. Like the studio mode the subject resources should be there under Subjects.
If the subject resources are not here you should be able to download the Resources file via Promethean Planet here.
So that’s it – do check your gallery is installed. And if it isn’t have a word with the network technician about getting it installed. Send them a link to this page.
9/18/2011 From comes this article on iPads and Special Education.
iPad Revolution In Special Education
commentary by Shelby Till | September 13, 2011
Finally, the education system may have a solution that helps special needs students keep up with their classmates: the iPad! Even though the iPad and other tablets are fairly new in the technology world, it seems as though they are making great strides in helping people with disabilities, especially students. Each tablet is able to be customized to fit the needs of each person, no matter what their disability is. They are also lightweight, easy to transport and have a larger screen, which makes the information on the screen much more visible. A growing number of teachers and parents say that these tablets give the kids a sense of belonging in the large, ever-growing technological community. Apple reports that there are currently over 40,000 educational applications (apps) for students of all ages.
Many schools have been surprised by the results that the iPad has brought these children, so much so, that they are planning pilot programs for all of their students, not just those with special needs. The tablet is a great tool for students with autism and various communication disorders because they are able to use different apps to communicate their needs and interact with others.
“These children can access and enjoy everything a typically developing child would enjoy — they just have to access it differently,” says Gina Shulman, a social worker at the Lehmann Center, a special-needs school in Lakewood, N.J.
Students in Zeeland, Michigan are beginning the school year with 3,100 new iPads, as a result of a $5.3 million bond issue. $1.5million of the bond will be used for the tablets, says David Barry, superintendent of Zeeland Public Schools.
Kentucky’s Warren County public schools started the school year with 400 iPads. An additional 150 tablets have been purchased since, the district confirmed. This is after seeing how well the students have taken to the tablets.
Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, California, says the purchase of 840 iPads for students in their high school and middle school will cost about $546,000. The tablets; however, will eradicate the need for a number classroom materials. The school estimates to save over $60,000 in photocopy and textbook costs within the first year alone, headmaster Stephen Sharp says.
People are even beginning to create groups supporting the use of iPads for people with special needs. SNApps4Kids is a group of parents, therapists, teachers, administrators and experts sharing their experiences involving the Apple iPad, tables and all other touch devices to help special needs children of all ages. The group states that these devices are revolutionizing the lives of children, adults and seniors with special needs.
Jeremy Brown, a teacher for autistic elementary school students, is currently moderating the Facebook group iTeach Special Education, working together with other educators on the podcast EdCeptional and coauthoring the blog Teaching All Students. Even though the use of the iPad has not yet been approved in his school district, he considers the iPad a large supplemental technique of instruction, approximating 80 to 90 percent of his students with autism see great results when using these devices. Brown looks forward to his school district and others across the country utilizing iPads in the classroom.
08/25/2011 From the Wall Street Journal Digital Network Social media on All Things Digital Division comes this article on the widespread use of iPads across the generations
iPads No Longer Just for All the Young Dudes
Peter Kafka AUGUST 25, 2011 AT 4:06 AM PT
No surprise that iPads initially sold particularly well with people who were both young and not women — who else is going to camp outside an Apple store? Also not a surprise that as Apple sells more and more of these things — nine million in the last quarter alone — its customer base has become much broader.
But nice to see it in a chart, anyway. Here’s new survey data from Nielsen, which tracks device use, both by age:
And by gender:
Note that Nielsen is officially tracking “tablet” use, not iPad use. But until Google figures out how to make headway with Android, this is still Apple’s market.
8/19/2011 One of my colleagues recommended this site for creative ways to make the learning fun. Hope it is helpful. More to come