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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.

Enriching Scholarship 2014 – Google Apps in CTools June 4, 2014

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Enriching Scholarship is “a week of free workshops, discussions, and seminars… for instructional faculty and staff” at the University of Michigan. On Thursday I attended a session on using Google Drive and Calendar in CTools. I am also part of the pilot. Members of the Astronomy Department can check it out on the ASTRO 000 sandbox site. 

Currently, these tools are in Pilot mode, but they expect to release them in fall. If you want to see them (or anything else on the site) the way your students see them, creating a friend account and adding it to your site is highly recommended.

CTools should be a hub for students and faculty to access and organize their tools and materials. To that end, the developers have started trying to bring other tools, like Google Calendar and Drive, into CTools. They chose these tools as priorities because when students were polled about what they wanted, they overwhelmingly asked for Google Calendar.

Google Calendar

Please note that putting both the Google Calendar and the Schedule tool on a single site is not recommended.

If you add the calendar to your site, your students should automatically have access to it in their Google Calendar under the Other Calendars section. If they hide it from their list, they can get it back in the calendar settings. Also, it can’t be hidden from CTools, so they view it there. They (and you) can also control the notifications under the settings, but don’t forget that the general settings are over-ridden by event specific settings. You may want to save the reminders for important events, like exams, and let them set their own homework reminders.

The calendar should show up in your list under “My Calendars.” Just like your students, you can use settings to change whether or not it is displayed, set default notifications, etc. You will always have access to it through CTools.

You can only have one calendar per site, and there are no group-level permissions (so no group-specific deadlines). Also, be aware that at this time, friend accounts cannot actually open the event and get the details.

Currently, it works with the Assignments tool, so when you create an assignment, you can check “Add due date to schedule” and it will put the deadline on the calendar. They are also working on integrating it with the sign-up tool (currently in stealth mode.) Test Center is likely to be the next priority after that, but probably not in time for fall. You can of course manually add events to the calendar too.

Students should be able to “invite” the calendar to an event, so you can use it . You control the settings for what the calendar does with the invitation, which could include setting the calendar to auto-decline all invitations.

You can export/import events from one calendar to another, just like a regular Google Calendar.


As with Calendar, you get one root folder, and there are no group level permissions. Anything put in the Drive folder for your CTools site is automatically shared with everyone on the site. Sharing permissions are at the folder level only, not document level, so be aware that if you give edit permission to the folder, that means the students can edit every document in that folder!

The big advantage of course is that you can access it from your Drive, including your desktop application, so you can write an assignment on the bus, save it in your drive folder, and it will automatically be added to the CTools site when you get an internet connection. No need to revise it locally, then log in to CTools and up lead the new version!

Since it is tied to Drive, each document has a URL, so you can attach it to something in Assignments or Test Center (just remember, it’s there for the students to see!)


That brings to an end all my notes from this year’s Enriching Scholarship! I hope you found them useful.