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Enriching Scholarship 2017 – Coaxing Canvas to Support Gameful Pedagogy May 8, 2017

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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“Gameful” is a model where students build points by completing talks and assessments. In a fully gameful class class, students have an array of options with point values associated with them and they are told what score they have to achieve to earn a particular grade. They then have the freedom to choose which tasks to do and how hard they want to work to achieve a particular grade. Many classes are only partially gameful. Rather than full flexibility, students must complete certain tasks (e.g. a midterm and final) but then have options in other areas (e.g. out of 20 at-home assignments, complete 10.) Some material may even be optional (e.g. you have to know the difference between a terrestrial and jovian planet for the exam, but you have the option of completing a project to assess whether 10 exoplanets are likely to be terrestrial, jovian, or something else). This means some students will need extra resource material, and a different set of assignments. Getting Canvas to do that takes a lot of planning and preparation, but is very possible.

Before deciding to go gameful there are two very important things to consider. First is that it requires a lot of planning and preparation up front. If you’re doing this 2 weeks before the start of the semester, stop. Run a traditional class. Do your planning for next term along the way. Feel free to share the optional materials with your students and create alternate assignments along the way this term, but please do not try to go gameful on short notice. The second thing is that it works best for students with good executive skills. The easily distracted, non-prioritizers and procrastinators have a high rate of failure. They put off doing assignments and skip the exam because they think they can make up for it later in the term. Are you prepared to deal with the student who thinks it’ll be ok it they don’t do any work for the first half of the class and comes in crying and begging for a C- the day grades are due? If not, you may not want to go fully gameful. You can always sneak it in as an array of n projects that can replace up to m homework assignments, or by providing 2 or three options for each week’s assignment.

The most important step is planning out what you want, because that will determine what tools you choose. No matter which choice you make, it’s important to know how many points you will have and how they align to each letter grade. After all, the idea is to start from 0 and accumulate points, not maintain some percentile with respect to the other students. It’s common for gamified classes to have huge numbers of points, similar to a video game. Once you know how many points students need for a particular grade, you can enable a course grading scheme. If you do a custom scheme, you can add extra categories, like “enrolled” for 0 – 10%, “member” for 10-15%, “participant” for 15 – 20%… so students don’t have to see “E” for half the term.

If you want the fully gameful, rack up the points option, you may want to consider gradecraft. Gradecraft allows students to accumulate points and earn badges for completing tasks, reaching milestones, and achieving learning goals. The badges in particular can be useful motivators to keep procrastinators on track. It supposedly integrates with Canvas now, so you can still use Canvas as the single portal to everything.

If you want a mixed class where some assignments are required and others are optional, you want the regular Grades. Racking up a score works best if you don’t use weighted assignment categories. Even if you have categories, if you don’t weight them, you can choose to have Grades display points instead of percent. This makes it easier for students to tell if they’ve reached the score they want.

If you want to use weighted categories, students will see their total grade as a percent. This makes it VERY important to get all the assignments in and published at the beginning of the term, even if they aren’t available to the students. Otherwise as you add assignments it looks to the students like they are loosing points. However, weighed categories makes it easier to make sure your required assignments carry the proper weight at the end of the term. Also, if you want to provide a menu and let them pick n of m assignments to complete, you want categories. Within each category, you’ll set a rule to drop (m-n) assignments.

Once you have your gradebook / Assignments set up, you’ll have to decide how students should access them.

Assignments is the most straight forward way. For each Assignment, you can set an availability and due date. Students won’t see it until it becomes available, and it will show up it their calendar in due date order. However, it doesn’t easily show things like “do one of the following”, nor does it show upcoming big projects, or related resources. For that reason you may want to create a page or use Modules.

Pages are basically webpages. They are probably the simplest solution if you want to provide a menu of options. In particular, you can create a page with a table showing the options for this week, resources needed for each options, and the things you think students should be working on right now.

Modules allow an enormous amount of control. You can choose to do anything from a list of associated assignments and resources to a branching set based on time and performance. For example, you can set up a module so students see what the reading is, then get access to a reading quiz the day before class. If the quiz is self graded, you can set it so they have to get a specific minimum score before they can move on to the next item, maybe the in-class assignment. Alternatively, they could get some additional reading and a prompt to take a similar quiz before they get access to the next in-class assignment and homework. Or, if they get over some higher score, they skip the second reading and quiz and are given a choice of projects to do instead of the regular homework. If you want to get very complicated (like re-doing quizzes or requiring quizzes before they can get access to their project of choice) make sure you test it out in your sandbox. In particular, test to make sure students can do things like change their mind.

Finally, keep in mind that one of the goals in gameful pedagogy is to allow students the chance to fail without failing. if you’re going to offer options like a big project to replace a couple homeworks, make sure if the student has the options and time to succeed in the class if s/he fails on that project. The point is to let them take risks and explore their interests, not to punish them for not following the traditional path.

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Enriching Scholarship 2017 Lightning and Thunder Talks May 2, 2017

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This year’s enriching Scholarship saw a new format of presentation: lighting and thunder talks. First each presenter gave a lighting talk about their topic. After everyone did their presentations, we settled in around some tables for small group discussion of their topic. Below I give the synopsis of their lightning talk, followed by any notes that came out of the table discussions I attended (two of them). Each of these people had a full length session later in the week as well.

Melissa Gross: Anatomize
This is a 3D touch enabled virtual dissection table in the Duderstat and available to anyone at the U. While she showed images of human anatomy classes, you can load any thing for which you have a 3D rendering, such as a mouse, or a flower. It allows you to engage your students in an active learning environment.

Jamie Vander Broek: book making
Last summer, the U acquired a letter press printing studio as part of the Alternative Press poetry magazine collection. In addition to art students, she also had a class in history and american culture that did field trips, like printing, as extra credit. Modern students did not grow up with this sort of technology (not even things like typewriters) so they develop a new appreciation for the difficulty in information sharing in the pre-digital age. Many have trouble setting the type, especially setting it in the correct order (backwards!) They also come away with a product they can show and share with others.

Benjamin Blankenship: using Twitter in the classroom
Twitter is everywhere, and many of the students see it, even if they aren’t active users of it. It provides a platform that extends beyond the boundaries of the University. It can be a place to obtain resources, to interact with other students, or with the instructors. However, there are some challenges. Not everyone uses Twitter, and even the ones that do may not be comfortable sharing class information with their followers (this is a Psychology of Education class.) Students will need help getting started, setting up accounts or creating new accounts for class and making sure they can switch between them, and understanding things like privacy and the way Twitter threads messages. Assessment can also be a challenge, especially with a large class. There are tools to help with this. Twitter archivers can help with assessment by saving tweets to a Google sheet, CSV, or proprietary report form. You can go simple, like an IFTTT applet, somewhat complex like Twitter Archiver, a Chrome Add-on, or a complete analytics platform like Tweet Archivist. In general, you are still going to need to sort through them all by hand to see if students did a reasonable job, just like you would with any other assessment. If you have a GSI, you can have him/her monitor the class twitter hashtag during lecture like a back channel, so introverts can still get their questions answered. You can also use an app like twitter fall to display a running feed of tweets. Students may use this as a reminder during class discussions if they tweet thoughts during lecture, or to share ideas. It can also be used for free association or warm up activities. If you do decide to do this, you’ll need a course hashtag. Think carefully about it, and test it multiple times before the class!

Perry Samson: Wireless Indoor Location Device (WILD) Learning System and Mining Student Notes
Students who are using the LMS Perry developed several years (LectureTools/echo360), ago already have their notes online. Analytics tools are able to parse the notes to do things like identify common themes and subjects students wrote about, connect resources like a link to the chapter in the eBook, and even relate back to notes from previous semesters that are also in the system! This system is still in early development stages.
WILD is a device that can pinpoint its 4 dimensional location to within a few inches. The device can also communicate with devices like smart phones and computers, so you can design activities that require the students to move around. For example, a windspeed can be assigned to each device, and students have to self organize into a hurricane. The instructor’s computer could display the result, so students can see if they’ve reached hurricane status, and what happens if they move out of place (I can see similar ideas for simulations of an accretion or protoplanetary disk.) Since it is 4 dimensional, you can include a height and movement, so you can do a scale model eclipse. You can also collect data on the other devices nearby, so you can do something like track social interactions, which might be especially good for something like a foreign language practice class. This is still in development, but he’ll be trying it in his class this fall, and soliciting ideas for more classes and applications over the summer and early fall.

Pamela Bogart: Gameful Canvas
Canvas has a robust multimedia discussions tool, and learning outcomes with rubrics, which lend themselves nicely to multiple methods of content delivery and assessment. Modules allows options or alternative pathways to success. Students do a set of activities that are required by all (such an the midterm and final), then select a subset of other material and activities, which allows tailoring of classes to what students need to get out of the course. Since the other activities have varying deadlines, it also give the student flexibility with his/her schedule. However, this works well for students with good executive skills. Procrastinators and students who have difficulty in unstructured environments tend not to perform well. I will be attending the full length session later in the week, so look for a future blog post.

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.