Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bringing the Classroom to the Student

The PEBBLES Project (Providing Education By Bringing Learning Environments to Students) allows students requiring long-term hospital care to continue to engage in classroom learning. This article in eSchoolNews online explains:
The robot in the classroom, which displays a live picture of Achim, provides what its inventors call "telepresence": It gives the boy an actual presence in the classroom, recognized by teachers and classmates. It can move from class to class on its four-wheeled base, and it could even stop at the lockers for a between-periods chat.
"The robot literally is embraced by students in the classroom as though [it] is the medically fragile student," said Andrew Summa, national director of the robot project, which is in use at six other hospitals around the country. Achim's teacher, Bob Langerfield, said his other students have become used to the robot and were treating it as if it were Achim after just a few days.

Although this project is focused currently on K-12 students, it shouldn't be long until there is a push at the post secondary level. How would the presence of "virtual students" affect your course goals & objectives, if at all?

For another perspective on virtual learning, Can e-learning replace classroom learning? (2004), Zhang, Zhao, Zhou and Nunamaker suggest the following regarding e-learning specifically:
Nevertheless, we believe that e-learning is a promising alternative to traditional classroom learning, which is especially beneficial to remote and lifelong learning and training. In many cases, e-learning can significantly complement classroom learning. E-learning will keep growing as an indispensable part of academic and professional education. We should continue to explore how to create more appealing and effective online learning environments. One way to do this is to integrate appropriate pedagogical methods, to enhance system interactivity and personalization, and to better engage learners.

As research in the myriad of other educational technologies continues to grow, we'll need to pay very close attention to the benefits and costs for both students and teachers.

Those that are concerned about emerging technologies such as the internet, course management systems (Blackboard, etc.), podcasting/ videocasting and gaming changing the way learning takes place, hold on for the ride... technologies will continue to offer previously unimaginable options and alternatives to both students and teachers (and researchers), but the facilitation of learning will remain both an art and a science. Pedagogy should be the focus no matter what technologies are used, from chalk to PEBBLES.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Faculty Flexibility: Virtual Office Hours

As you evaluate and revise your syllabi for the fall, something to consider might be 'virtual office hours' using different tech tools available to most students and faculty.

One example is from Alex Halavais, now an Assistant Professor of Interactive Communication at Quinnipiac University (formerly of SUNY-Buffalo). Here are his 'virtual office hours' for the Spring 2006 semester:
I am keeping virtual office hours Spring semester.
• Via Skype (halavais): Thursdays, from 1pm to 2pm EST.
• UBLearns chat for COM497: Thursdays, from 2pm to 4pm EST.
• You can often reach me via AIM (DrHalavais), or Skype, Google, etc. (halavais). Happy to set up an appointment to chat via IM or phone.

One other option is SightSpeed that allows for video or voice PC to PC 'calls' as well as video messages and blog videos (up to 30 sec.)... all for free. You'll need your own camera &/or microphone to make it all work, but it's a nice option for those 'F2F' (face to face) connections from afar. This works on both Macs and Windows machines.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The 3 Rs for Effective Teaching: Risk, Reflection and Renewal

(This was originally published in the Center's weekly Teaching Tips, Spring 2006. View other tips at our Teaching Tips Archives)

As educators, a fundamental role that we must take on is that of learner. We must constantly strive to learn what works best for our students, what doesn't and where to learn more because, as you know, all aspects of teaching and learning are constantly changing - the tools, the students, the knowledge base or content, and even ourselves. Accomplishing this goal of perpetual improvement toward effective teaching requires the consideration of a different set of "3 Rs" - risk, reflection and renewal.


David Kreiner’s essay, “Taking Risks as a Teacher” describes a variety of risks one can take as an educator, including: not lecturing, trusting students, being funny, class activities, using technology, and not having fun. For some, these may not seem like risks, but for anyone not used to doing it or not “a natural” at it, they can be great risks.

In addition to the list provided by Kreiner, perhaps one more risk can be added: “The Risk of Opening our Classroom.” Whether done in an informal manner (i.e., peer coaching, mentorship) or something more formal like a planned peer observation session, a great deal can be learned if coupled with introspective thinking and reflection.

For those of you who may be wary of another person observing your teaching or syllabus, consider this: Larry Keig and Michael D. Waggoner comment that
“having classes observed and materials assessed by colleagues for the purpose of instructional improvement no more should be considered a threat to academic freedom than would having colleagues critique a proposed manuscript for publication.”

Characteristics of an Effective Observer
Below is a list of characteristics provided by department faculty members at UNC-Chapel Hill who were asked to describe the qualities of an effective observer.
“These characteristics consistently appear in the literature on peer observation, and successful programs emphasize the necessity of keeping them constantly in mind when visiting classes. The basic task of a peer observer is to ascertain if the method being used seems to be effective, not whether it conforms to notions of teaching derived solely from personal experience. There are many ways to be effective.”

1. Has sensitivity; empathizes with the person being observed
2. Sees improvement as the primary objective of the evaluation process
3. Is an experienced teacher
4. Is a good listener
5. Gives specific, constructive feedback and advice
6. Has integrity; takes the process seriously; prepares for the observations
7. Sees different styles of teaching as valid and acceptable
8. Is not doctrinaire about teaching methods

It’s interesting to note that extensive discipline-specific content knowledge is not mentioned. Depending on the type of feedback one may want, this could be a critical characteristic, but it’s not necessarily essential when identifying and suggesting effective teaching strategies.


In addition to the importance of allowing our students time to reflect on their learning, it's just as important that we take time to reflect on our learning and teaching. Moreover, finding methods to determine or assess your effectiveness is essential to accurately guide your decision-making toward increased student learning. Below are two links that describe ways to be a more reflective teacher and take steps to improve student learning based those reflections. As Tice mentions, it is a cyclical process toward continued improvement.

The Getting of Wisdom: What Critically Reflective Teaching is and Why It's Important By Stephen Brookfield (From the book: Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher)
This is the first chapter of Brookfield's book, providing an overview and basis for critical reflection as a teacher. It's fairly long, but will offer some good starting points as well as let you decide if the other chapters deserve review.

Reflective Teaching: Exploring Our Own Classroom Practice by Julie Tice, Teacher, Trainer, Writer, British Council Lisbon

- Think, talk, read, act
- Reflective teaching is a cyclical process, because once you start to implement changes, then the reflective and evaluative cycle begins again.
- Questions to ask:
• What are you doing?
• Why are you doing it?
• How effective is it?
• How are the students responding?
• How can you do it better?


As we move further into spring, the season of re-growth and renewal, take some time to reflect back on your semester or year to consider what types of changes you’d like to implement for next year and beyond. Do you want to try a new teaching strategy? What about developing a research plan centered on your teaching effectiveness? Are there others in your department who want to meet regularly to talk about teaching strategies, effectiveness and student engagement? Do you want to start a teaching portfolio for reflection? Is it time to make the time to focus more on your teaching? Any of these changes allow opportunities for you to become renewed, invigorated and rejuvenated as you enter the summer or fall semesters.

Here are some other ideas for ways to renew yourself as an educator:

Ten Ideas to Encourage Renewal
(Courtesy of Lee I. McCann and Baron, professors in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh)
1. Collaborate – team teach a course or design a research project
2. Experience life as a student – enroll in a course
3. Enhance your office – invest in a new chair, put new artwork on the walls, or turn your desk a new direction
4. Get more involved in your community – campus or otherwise
5. Take time to reflect – attend a teaching conference, read teaching journals or books, or keep a teaching journal
6. Try a new approach – include something fun for you and your students in each class period, change your assignments, or change your mode of delivery
7. Create a network of people with similar teaching or research interests, or with whom you enjoy spending time
8. Get to know new faculty – in and outside your department
9. Invite guest lecturers to your class, or volunteer to do the same for a colleague
10. Temporarily exchange positions with someone on another campus

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer Workshops

Below is a listing of technology tools workshops that the Center will be offering this summer. Contact the Center at 419.372.6898 or email to register for the workshops.

Create Audio Files
June 13, June 21, June 29 at 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. (9:30 - 10:15 a.m. Audacity; 10:45 - 11:30 a.m. Garage Band)
July 12, July 18, July 27 at 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Learn about Podcasting
June 13, June 21, June 29 at 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
July 12, July 18, July 27 at 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Start with iMovie HD
July 5 at 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Advance to Final Cut Pro
July 5 at 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Start with iDVD
July 13 at 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Master DVD Authoring
July 13 at 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Enhance Video with Photoshop
July 6 at 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Learn Livetype Techniques
July 6 at 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

"SNAP Survey Software"
These workshops are currently full. Please contact the center,, if you would like these workshops offered at a future date.

For the clickable descriptions, visit our workshop page.

And, as always,

Any of the following "tools" workshops may be scheduled if four or five individuals would like to complete them. Please check with your colleagues and contact the Center at 419.372.6898 or at to schedule these workshops.
Introduction to Podcasting
Advanced Podcasting
Film and Slide Scanning
Digital Photography Basics
Digital Photography Advanced
Digital Photo Manipulation
Introduction to PDF
Creating Fill-in Forms with Acrobat
Text Scanning & Omnipage
Creating Video with Imovie
Developing DVD's with iDVD
iPhoto and Picassa - Photo Libraries
Faculty Gadgets and Gizmos
Using RSS
iTunes Basics
Data Storage and Backup
Video Camera Basics

Friday, June 09, 2006

ScrapBlog: Another Option for Digital Storytelling

ScrapBlog is an online application that allows you to create an online digital scrapbook that can be shared through RSS updates or emailed to anyone. Like "traditional blogs", it also allows for comments to be made.

Here are some other examples:
Island Life
3D graphics
Puerto Vallarta
Family Scrapbook

Just a note... it seems as if it would be best to name your ScrapBlog carefully, perhaps by your name and then subject (like JonesArizonaLandscapes or SmithPortfolio) in order to keep all of them organized rather than in one large mass of pages. Also, the registration states: "Your free membership is limited to creating 1 Scrapblog and to uploading a maximum of 20MB of photos each month."

Although most examples shown on the site look like traditional scrapbooks (personal photos of friends and family), this could be easily integrated into any classroom lesson that utilizes photo identification, portfolio or gallery of work, or even just to record techniques for a specific skill or process. Here are just a few examples:
• slideshow of insects of a certain classification (with taxonomy listed or not)
• slideshow of a recent trip to ___ (students view pictures with descriptions given or spoken)
• student portfolios of the semester/years art projects (with or without commentary)
• slideshow showing the detailed steps of how to ____ (fill in with a necessary skill that could be viewed online to help students, NOT something that they would have to watch WHILE doing the task -- something for review)
• portfolio with reflection on a subject or course (other students use comment feature to give feedback)
• weekly photos and reflections on given topic that can be RSS-ed (automatically updated) and viewed by the teacher and other students

What else could it be used for?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tips for Getting Students to Read - Part II

Question: Do your students read or ignore the picture captions and margin comments when they are assigned sections/chapters of the text?

Before we get to the tip, here are some stats to ponder and keep in mind as you plan for next semester's courses...

From the Kaiser Foundation:
    " spend about six hours and 21 minutes per day on non-school media use, which equals about 44 hours per week."

The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that:
"Three-quarters (74%) of college students use the Internet four or more hours per week, while about one-fifth (19%) uses it 12 or more hours per week. This is somewhat higher than the amount of time most students devote to studying: Nearly two-thirds (62%) reported studying for classes no more than 7 hours per week, while only 14% reported studying 12 or more hours per week."

According to Grunwald Associates 2003 report entitled: "Connected to the future: A report on children’s Internet use from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting":
    • Sixty-five percent of US children now use the Internet, representing a 59% growth rate from 2000. Preschool children are one of the fastest growing groups to be online with 35 percent in 2002 compared with 6 percent in 2000.

    • Eighty-seven percent of Caucasian and 98 percent of high income families own computers, whereas the rate of computer ownership among African – American families is 71 percent and among low income families it is 65 percent.

    • Online children between 6 and 17 reported using the Internet 5.9 hours per week in 2002 compared with 3.1 hours per week in 2000. The older the child, the more time spent online. For example, teenagers claim they spend an average of 8.4 hours per week online, 9-12 year olds report 4.4 hours, and 6-8 year olds report 2.7 hours per week.

And these surveys were from 2002 or earlier!

A thought...

When spending many hours doing one thing in particular (accessing/using the internet), one tends to get used to the format, norms, customs, layout and design of said activity. In essence, the "NetGen" (or internet generation) has been essentially trained to ignore the margins, small banners and peripheral text since on many webpages those represent advertising or information perceived to be unimportant.

Remind students that web page structure and layouts are often the opposite that of textbooks -- the diagrams, pictures, margin notes and peripheral text often add greatly to the overall understanding of the concept(s) being discussed in the main copy.

An excellent way to demonstrate this to them in a concrete fashion is to have students "read a page" in class and take a short quiz on it (for credit or not), focusing your question on the caption, picture/diagram or sidebar text only. (Note: be sure to find a page where the main copy doesn't relate exactly to the diagram/picture and caption shown... let them see that the two provide different types of information and can lead to different levels of understanding).

Enjoy their responses...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Podcasting in the Classroom

With all the latest information on podcasting, it can be difficult to find places to begin to learn more, let alone just the basics. Here are a few resources that may help you get started learning more about educational podcasting and it's applications:

• A quick reference article, "7 Things You Should Know About Podcasting." This article is a good introduction to podcasting in education.

• An EDUCAUSE Review Article, "There's Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education."

• For a list of sources about podcasting, EDUCAUSE's Resource Center on Podcasting is a great "one-stop-shop".

• Duke University Libraries has an excellent collection of URLs. From this Web page you can link to public radio and government podcasts and podcast directories. Check out the "Universities and Tutorial." Under the Universities section you can visit podcasting sites for Duke, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Purdue -- these universities have led the podcasting in higher education charge. In the Tutorial section is a single link to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, with information on podcasting: what it is, how to use it in teaching and learning, samples, and how to create and deliver podcasts.

• Below is a matrix of educational uses for podcasting. It shows specific types of podcasts that can be created by either students or teachers (or a combination), relating these to both time and student engagement considerations.

• Additional resources can be found at our Podcast Resource page on our CTLT site.

For more information about the Center's workshops on podcasting and digital audio recording, visit our workshop page. Currently we're offering the following sessions for summer:

Create Audio Files
June 13, June 21, June 29 at 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
July 12, July 18, July 27 at 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Learn about Podcasting
June 13, June 21, June 29 at 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
July 12, July 18, July 27 at 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

To register for one of these sessions, you can email us at or go to our registration page to do so.