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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 2017 keynote May 2, 2017

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When watching the keynote address at Enriching Scholarship, there are generally three questions that I ponder: What is this person trying to say; How can I apply what s/he is saying to the astronomy classroom; and is what I’m hearing him/her say the same thing that everyone else is picking up on? So, here is my annual attempt to summarize the important points. If you got something else out of it, please add a comment!
This year’s speaker was Scott Page from UM. He began by telling us that Technology, Diversity, and Complexity were the big ideas he wanted to address. Although he did address them roughly in that order, since I’m doing the book report version, I’m going to address them a little differently.
One of the issues Dr. Page addressed was that our students will leave here and go out to become workers, leaders, citizens, and policy-makers in a highly complex world. Simple solutions and right answers often don’t exist. It takes cross disciplinary work to understand these problems and come up with workable solutions. However our current university model segregates both students and faculty into departments, and focuses value on individual work. This leads redundancy in teaching and a failure to make connections. For example, students learn about collective intelligence in many classes. It may be the way bees communicate in a biology class, the law of supply and demand where market tolerance forces a return to equilibrium, or development of a computer program to evaluate complex data sets by breaking them into smaller data sets and evaluating the different components before merging the results into a singe output. They are all just different versions of the same idea, but students often don’t recognize that fact. We fail to help them make that connection because we ourselves are unaware of what others are doing, or what past experience the students have. It also means that some students get the same material several times, while others may never experience a presentation that is effective for their learning style.
In addition, many of the issues our students will face after graduation are too complex to be understood by any individual. It takes groups to understand the problems and come up with the better solutions. Again our current university model falls short because it values “right” answers and individual work over collaborative work and open ended solutions. There are many examples of estimation problems, which show that although a random individual may be terrible at estimating something, a group is often much better. The example he used was the weight of a steer: most of the people in the class did a terrible job of estimating, but their average was within a pound of the actual weight. Most companies and organizations know this, so they hire people to work in teams, not as individuals. Also, students who learn in teams have the opportunity to develop expertise in one area, while benefiting from the group knowledge in other areas. The more diverse the group is, the better the outcomes tend to be. If you put all your math majors in one group and all the art majors in another, the projects they produce usually aren’t early as good as if you mix the math and art majors up among the groups. It is important to remember that diversity applies to many different aspects, including preparedness, background, and learning styles, not just race, gender, or culture. We need to address the diversity of students in ways that help them become valued contributors, not the ones holding the class back. When building groups, we need to make sure that all group members have shared sense of purpose, fell safe and respected, and believe that their group is an ongoing concern.
Technology should be the thing that makes all of this possible. From creating effective groups, to tailoring education to individual students’ needs, we have the tools to do all that. The key is figuring out which is the right tool. Dr. Page shared a story about a trip he was on where they saw a stampede of bison, and many people were taking pictures. Later they went to Mt. Rushmore, where many people were taking video. Right tools, wrong applications! We need to consider which tools to use, and to reassess whether or not they are still the right tools.
Working backward is a good way to get started on that. Begin by determining what your goals are. follow that by answering what assessments would show you that the goals have been achieved. Then, what will the students need to complete those assessments. Finally, what tools will enable them to complete the work, and what tools do you need to complete the assessment. Is there tech that can provide them options, so those who prefer to read and those who prefer to watch a video can make those choices. Is there a technology that can enable coaching type interactions, so they can iterate their way to a good solution, or try something and fail without failing. Is there a “worst practice” for this technology, and are you avoiding it (for example, the Gettysburg Address as a powerpoint). However, all of this applies primarily to individual classes. For solutions to issues like repetitiveness, interconnectivity, and best resources, we need institutional solutions.

Enriching Scholarship 2015 – Tech & Trends May 19, 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. 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:

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:

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.