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Enriching Scholarship 2015 – Tech & Trends May 19, 2015

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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The University of Michigan’s annual conference on teaching, learning, and technology, Enriching Scholarship, took place, May 4 – 8, 2015. On Thursday, I attended the Interdisciplinary Communities of Practice: Tech Tools, Trends, Ethos session hosted by the Tech & Trends for Communicators group.

They began with a brief history of the group, and who the members are. Many of them mentioned the importance of networking with other members of the university community, especially so they know whose brain to pick when they have a question. The mission of the group is essentially to find and try out new tech and tools and make recommendations about it’s usefulness to the university. One of the primary goals is to break down the silos and reduce duplication of effort.

They also get to try out some of the cool tech, and explore resources. For example, they used a drone to make a video. They’ve met a couple times at places in the area like the innovatrium, and hope to visit Menlo this year.

The group has monthly meetings, on the second Thursday. Most meetings have a videoconference component, so you can join even if you can’t make the actual meeting. There is MCommunity group, trendsandtechteam,  and a google+ community .

There was also a discussion of some of things the group has turned up. For example, Periscope or Meercat allow you to live stream from your mobile device via twitter. They are simple and easy to use, but there are also copyright issues, like what if someone live streams copyrighted material to the world, or streaming a private event, and someone there doesn’t want to be recorded.

Of course, no TnT gathering would be truly complete without the round table. Here are some highlights:

Enriching Scholarship 2015 – Keynote May 18, 2015

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The University of Michigan’s annual conference on teaching, learning, and technology, Enriching Scholarship, took place, May 4 – 8, 2015. The conference always starts with a poster session and keynote. The keynote was recorded and is available on youtube, if you want to see it for yourself.

This year’s keynote was a panel to discuss Unizin and Canvas. Here are a few highlights and (my impression of) the key takeaways.

First, a VERY quick overview of what the things are that the panel is talking about: Unizin is a consortium of schools focused on influencing the digital learning landscape and providing services to the member institutions. The first service available is Canvas, a Learning Management System (LMS). We have a pilot version with a class anyone at Michigan can join. There is a short video about Unizin and the University of Michigan on YouTube.

The panelists (very briefly) were: Sean DeMonner (UM ITS teaching and learning), Tim McKay (UM Physics), Stacy Morrone (Learning Technologies, Indiana University), and Amin Qazi (Unizin CEO). Vice Provost James Hilton moderated. In general, the ideas below were expressed by one panelist first, then generally agreed with by the others, so I haven’t noted the specific source unless there was a compelling reason (also, I’m not always good about getting actual quotes, or making note of who said what…)

LMSs and Educational Software have become sufficiently important that software companies are doing things in those areas for profit. Unizin provides us the clout needed to ensure that the direction taken by those for-profit companions serves our needs, not that we must adapt to what they are willing to provide.

By outsourcing the software development and maintenance to Unizin, we are free to focus on what we actually need or want to do. The innovation can happen in the teaching techniques, not in the tool development. (As an aside, I’m not convinced this will really change things for development. Now, if an instructor has an idea, s/he has to find the funding to develop it. With Unizin, s/he has to convince others it’s a good idea. I don’t actually see a big difference between influencing others to give you money, and influencing others to give you human resources. At least there’s less hunting to do.)

Unizin provides a standardized platform for other companies to tie into. (another aside – anyone who has used publisher provided homework systems has seen the advantages of this – they’ll all tie into something like Blackboard, but forget tying into CTools!)

Commons is another service provided by Unizin. It is basically a repository of creative commons teaching objects. Whether you’re looking for an image, a homework question, or a final report rubric, you can search in the commons and automatically know you have the rights to use it. Sharing can be done on the individual level (person to person), all the way up to the entire Unizin community. While the materials are available through their own portal, Canvas makes it convenient to share or search for objects in the Commons. They are also working on tools to streamline building a course in Canvas using materials from Commons. Ideally, it will be possible for an instructor to integrate a youtube video, one chapter from a textbook, and several “learning outcomes” into a module so the relationship between all the parts is clear, and assignments are automatically aded to the schedule, syllabus, and grades.

Another service in development in Analytics. Again, this ties in to Canvas. Because Canvas integrates so many pieces in the same way across classes and across schools, we will be able to learn from what other instructors are doing. Now, it’s difficult to compare methods used by someone in the college of engineering to someone in LSA. With Unizin’s Analytics, we should not only be able to compare LSA and Engin, we should be able to compare UM and Indiana. Instructors may be able to have homework assignments that automatically adjust to the student, or notify the academic advisor when a student is in trouble.

Longer term, one of the things they are thinking about is what follows the student when s/he leaver the university. Now the only thing they really take with them is the transcript. With the expanded and more uniform Analytics, can we add things like digital badges and certificates? Could a physics student graduate with a portfolio the same way an art student does?

In short, membership in Unizin hopefully provides resources and opportunities that we haven’t had before.

Enriching Scholarship 2015 – Poster Session May 17, 2015

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The University of Michigan’s annual conference on teaching, learning, and technology, Enriching Scholarship, took place, May 4 – 8, 2015. The conference always starts with a poster session and keynote. The poster session is often a good chance to network and explore with others. This year, I got sidetracked by a couple conversations and didn’t see most of the posters!

Here are some notes about the posters, in order according to the program. I apparently went backwards, so there are more notes on the later posters.

Posters 1 – 5 were the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize. I missed all of these, but they are available online at http://crlt.umich.edu/tip_winners. I was interested in checking out Jill Halpern’s “Calculus in the Commons: Bringing Math to Life”, because it sounds a lot like what we try to do in the intro astro classes (I often hear students comment on the fact that they don’t meet in their scheduled classroom until the third or forth week of classes. I can’t always tell if they think that’s good, or bad.)

Posters 6 – 18 were the Investigating Student Learning Grant winners. They are available online at http://www.crlt.umich.edu/grants-awards/islwinners. I missed some of these.
Cohn et. al found that having students doing work that was evaluated by professionals working in the field enhanced motivation and performance. Their project is titled “Assessing the Impact of Cross-Disciplinary, Project-Focused, Action-Based Immersive Learning Experiences in Healthcare and Engineering”
Adams et al. has a poster titled “Evaluating the Pre-Professional Engineer: Project Team and Individual Performance”. The focus of their work was to get students to move beyond the “everything is fine” assessment of their peers to actual useful evaluation and feedback. This not only leads to more useful peer evaluation within the classes, it helps prepare the students for workplace performance management.
I had just started looking at Gunderson’s “On-Line Collaboration: Generating & Ranking Solutions to Practice Exam Problems in Stats 250” she we were called into the keynote, so I didn’t get to give it the attention I wanted. It allowed students who correctly answered a problem to present their solution to their peers, and peers voted on the best solution.

Posters 18 – 22 were about TTC Projects.
One of the posters was about Canvas. The keynote and several of the sessions I attended also had heavy emphasis on Canvas, so I’ll blog more Canvas things later. 
There was also a poster on the teleconferencing capabilities at the Language Resource Center. If you have a need to do something like run a lecture from far away or at an odd time (like from an observatory!), collaborate with another university, or present material in a space that is too small to fit your entire class (like an observatory), teleconferencing may be a solution, and the LRC can help.
Finally, the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning has a great many resources and a lot of research on technology in the classroom. If you have an idea, or have heard of something you want to try out, talk to them first. If there are pitfalls, they probably already know about them. If it’s really new, they might have an idea about how to implement it. If you need resources (like money for a grad student to help you convert to a new form of media) they might be able to point you in the right direction.

Teach Feast 2014: Canvas December 8, 2014

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On Nov 21, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Teaching and Technology Collaborative (TeachTech) hosted a one day series of workshops. These are my notes on the sessions I attended.
The University is planning to go to a vendor supplied LMS soon. Canvas is the planned replacement, and several classes were/are piloting it in fall and winter terms. It is part of the package for joining UNIZEN. Organization-wide learning analytics and object repositories are also part of that, and can be incorporated into Canvas. It is not a replacement for CTools Project sites.

Some basics:

Canvas has features instead of Tools. They are integrated, so you don’t get a choice of which ones to add to your site. However, if you don’t have any content, the students won’t see the feature. You will see all the features, but the ones without content will be light grey. There are also 3rd party plugins, like Piazza, which you can choose to add.
The items, whether it’s an image in a quiz question or an entire learning module, is called an object.
When you first log in to Canvas, you’ll have a chance to update your profile. Part of your profile is your notification center, where you can control what sort of notifications you get, and with what frequency. It has finer control than CTools. You can get back to it latter by clicking on your name in the yellow highlighted links at the top.
The help button in the upper right actually has useful and normally up-to-date documentation. There’s also a link to the user community, which is often helpful. If you think of a feature, you should check there first to see if someone else has also requested that feature. If neither of those solve your problem, contact 4help.
The calendar is global: all your Canvas sites employ it, and all deadlines from all sites are displayed on it. Similarly, Grades lets you (and your students) access the grades and learning outcomes for each course you’re associated with from a central location. The Learning Outcomes can be shared (anonymously) with the other UNIZEN schools, so you can compare your class with other schools. You can also get to those features for each class from within the course site.
Commons is a organization-wide object repository. Instructors from any UNIZEN school, including you, can create and share objects. You can also use any object in Commons, so before building a new learning module or image, check there. It could save you a lot of time.

Course Specific information

Where you create a new course, there will be a “Next Steps” link at the bottom to guide you through the typical things you need to do when creating a course.

People can reply to the Announcements, so it’s no longer a one-way only communication tool. You can attach images, files, video, links to assignments, etc. You can also schedule it to go out at some latter time.

Modules let you organize your content, like the Lessons tool did in CTools (Lessons is still in pilot mode, so you may not have seen it).

Conferences uses the Big Blue Button service to do actual teleconference type of session. It is not as easy to use as BlueJeans, and not as powerful as Adobe Connect, but you can run and record from inside Canvas.

People is where you control things like adding participants and creating groups. The roster will automatically be added for you, so you’ll only add people like observers and assistants. Canvas does NOT support friend accounts at this time.

The syllabus , gradebook, and Calendar are built automatically as you add things to the site.  You can add extra material (like learning outcomes or a grading scheme) but you can’t hide or remove things.

Files is the canvas equivalent of CTools Resources. Pages allows you to create webpages, or embed websites in your Canvas site.

All graded items go into assignments, no matter which feature you add them in. You can control how the assignment is presented and recorded. For file uploads, you can restrict file types, or even the tools (e.g. only accept submissions through Google Drive). You can also have ungraded assignments.


Grading can be done from within the assignments tool, in the “Speed Grader”.  It records who wrote a comment, so you or your GSI can have a dialog with the student. You can also record video comments instead of annotating. Students are able to download and view the annotated assignment.
I can’t tell yet if you can import files from someplace like E&E scantron results.
By default, each grade goes to the students AS YOU ENTER THE SCORE. This is really inconvenient for large classes, or complex assignments. When you begin to grade, you can Mute Assignment and it won’t notify students. When you are done, don’t forget to un-mute to have it send the notifications.