Do we have Photoshop? Or, Computer Lab Software

Do we have SPSS? Photoshop? Audacity? iMovie?

If you use, recommend, or require students to use a specific type of software, consult the Computer Labs Software page. This page lists all the software available in the computer labs that are open to all students, the Neff Lab and the PC Classroom.  As a reminder, the PC Classroom is located in the Knowlton Dining Room and Neff Lab is now located in Main Street East, Harris.  The labs are open to students during the library’s regularly scheduled hours of service: M-Th, 8am – 2am; F, 8am – 10pm; Sat, 10am – 10pm; Sun, 10am – 2am.

If you need software that is not on this list, the deadline for adding new software to the labs for the spring semester is November 1st (for this fall it was June 1). Simply fill out a Help Desk Ticket to get the process started.maclab (1)

Research on the Go: Conn College Libraries App

IMG_1400The Connecticut College Libraries App is now available! Download and install the free app on your Apple, Android, Windows, or Amazon device. The app is designed to connect you to research services and resources at any time from anywhere. Use the app to quickly find library hours, find the date and register for the next Teaching with Technology workshop, renew movies or request materials from Shain Library. Or, use the app to conduct research by searching the library catalog, access databases. I personally like the BookLook feature, which lets you scan the barcode of a book and tells you if the book is available through the library!

We hope you enjoy the flexibility that the library’s new mobile app gives you. For more information, visit the app information page, scan the QR below on your mobile device, or contact your Library Liaison with any questions.

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Lynda.com’s Top 10 at Conn

lynda_logo1k-d_72x72What are people learning in lynda? Here are the top 10 courses viewed by Connecticut College users in the past year:

  1. Excel 2013 Essential Training
  2. Up and Running with Audacity
  3. InDesign Essential Training
  4. GIT Essential Training
  5. Getting Started with Premiere Pro CS5
  6. Access 2013 Essential Training
  7. Excel for Mac 2011 Essential Training
  8. Managing and Analyzing Data in Excel 2010
  9. Public Speaking Fundamentals
  10. Maya Essentials 2: Polygonal Modeling Techniques

Want to learn more about lynda.com, the online resource that provides thousands of instructional videos on topics ranging from business skills to software? Visit our lynda.com FAQ page, or go directly to lynda.com and explore the site! All videos and courses are available to faculty, staff and students at Connecticut College.

Presenting Syllabi and Course Assignments as Pages in Moodle

The semester approaches, and I can’t help but tinker with the design of my courses. I know better than to reinvent the wheel, and much good advice has been proffered with respect to the first rule of productivity: don’t fix what’s already working. Nevertheless, my inner (and somewhat pathological) perfectionist compels me to tweak.

For me, course retooling begins with the syllabus, my touchstone for the sequence and topics of discussions I hope to nurture throughout the semester. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I craft my syllabi to be detailed précis of course content as well as quasi-legal contracts that spell out course-related protocol. As such, it’s not uncommon for my syllabi to run 10-15 pages in length, and I optimistically include a week-by-week schedule.

Optimism is usually downgraded into realism two or more weeks into the semester. Despite my best intentions, my course schedules often change midstream as I carve more time for cultivating unexpectedly brilliant conversations in the classroom and/or for my occasional failure to adequately cover a challenging topic. And sometimes I just need the flexibility to make a 90-degree turn and accomoade exploration of new ideas and topics. To this end, I usually include a caveat in my syllabus: “Schedule subject to change in subtle ways, especially when instructor geeks out over particular topics or discussions.”

The problem is that I’ll want to update the syllabus when the schedule is derailed. And sometimes I want to update the assignments to reflect new parameters or potentialities realized during our classroom discussions. But updating means that I have to pull out the MS Word document, render the edits, convert the document to a PDF, and then upload the PDF to the Moodle, possibly several times during the semester.

FIG 1So many steps! Surely, in the age of robot vacuum cleaners and self-driving cars, there must be a better way. And so there is: create and post your syllabi and assignments as “Pages” on Moodle rather than as PDF files.

Some key advantages to this approach:

• A Moodle page is more dynamic than a PDF and can be easily edited / updated throughout the semester. No, you don’t need prior training in HTML; the editor in Moodle is sufficient for most of what you need. FIG 2That said, it won’t hurt you to learn some basic HTML code (the internets are rich with help pages), and a little knowledge goes a long way in crafting easy-to-use pages that better meet your curricular goals.

• Menu links on your page allow students to quickly navigate to parts of the syllabus or assignment they want to (re)read. For example, let’s say your student wants to revisit the section addressing the relative grade value of specific assignments. By including a quick-link menu, (A) they merely need to select the appropriate option and presto (B)!

FIG 3AFIG 3B

 

 

 

 

 

• Content from other web sources can be linked from your assignment / syllabus page.

FIG 4This is not always possible with PDFs, especially those produced with MS Word on Macs. You may, for example, want to link to a specific Lynda.com tutorial so that students can learn the fundamentals of a data visualization app before analyzing a dataset.

• Last but not least, an editable syllabus used in a previous semester can be copied over with the rest of the course content at the outset of a new semester; you don’t have to search your hard drive for the relevant MS Word syllabus file AND you don’t have to reinvent the wheel (or relearn some forgotten HTML coolness) every year. Enough said.

For me, posting syllabi and assignments as pages has been a huge time saver and allowed a more flexible digital approach to organizing courses and sharing up-to-date information with students. Furthermore, with more demand, I can imagine future versions of Moodle featuring more built-in tools that streamline the process of creating quick-link menus, adding images, etc. In the meanwhile, should you be interested, I’m happy to share a simple template by which I create syllabi pages in Moodle.

DELI Proposals Due July 1



The Digitally Enhanced Learning Initiative (DELI) is a program to provide classes with technologies intuitive to students to enhance the students’ learning. Students in participating classes have been provided with such technologies as iPods, iPads, digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital camcorders.

Proposals are due July 1 for fall 2014 courses. If you wish to participate in the program, submit a proposal describing how the use of a particular technology in a course would support the students’ learning. Depending on the technology and its use in the class, each student or group of students will receive a technology kit, to be used as part of the course.

A program description and proposal guidelines are available in the DELI 2014 Call for Participation.

For additional information or to submit a proposal, contact Chris Penniman.

On Blended Learning and Flipping the Classroom

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This is a guest post written by Anthony P. Graesch, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Technology Fellow.

Representing the Faculty Technology Fellows Program at Connecticut College, I recently travelled with two colleagues to attend the 2014 Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference hosted by Bryn Mawr College.  The roster of presentations included 15 talks on how digital technology can be leveraged to make for better learning environments, and five presentations were dedicated to discussing the outcomes of instructors’ efforts to flip the classroom.  Prior to these sessions, I was not entirely clear on how to draw a distinction between courses that used digital technology to achieve blended learning outcomes and those that “flip” the classroom.  Are these not one in the same?  Maybe and maybe not.

 Blended Learning Model (BLM)

In a keynote presentation, our hosts offered this pedagogical stance on blended learning: a blended learning model (BLM) is one in which (1) students receive feedback on learning activities outside of the traditional classroom; and (2) the online component of student learning helps professors craft more responsive and overall better interactive experiences during in-class meetings.  Seemingly, the goal of a BLM is not to decrease the amount of “seat time” in a classroom, but rather to make “seat time” more meaningful and interactive.  Other goals include empowering students to take ownership of their learning experience, cultivating a deeper understanding of concepts, and meeting the needs of diverse learners.  Of course, these goals are neither new nor revolutionary in higher education, and anyone who suggests otherwise might be trying to sell you something.  Nevertheless, digital technology may afford opportunities to better achieve these longstanding goals.

Certainly, there are other definitions of blended learning, and the pedagogical stance proffered by Bryn Mawr reflects the unique missions of Liberal Arts Colleges, institutions that place substantial emphasis on the importance of faculty-student interaction and experiential education.  A key element of this definition of the BLM centers around online assessment and using assessments to tailor discussions during subsequent class meetings.  So, is the flipped classroom a blended learning experience?

The Flipped Classroom

flippedgraphic(web1100px)_0Depending on how you go about it, flipping the classroom may or may not be congruent with this particular definition of the BLM.  The driving idea behind “flipping” a classroom is that students will be able to obtain course content – information that is traditionally delivered in the form of professors’ lectures – from online audio or video podcasts and outside of the regular class meetings.  “Seat time,” or the time students spend in desks during in-class meetings, is transformed into a forum for more focused and experientially richer interactions.  This might include working on problem sets, discussing and debating ideas, and collaborating in the application of key concepts.

In many ways, flipping the classroom is very much about transforming the ways that students use time.  A fully flipped classroom is one in which class time is used exclusively to grapple with concepts introduced outside of class meetings.  A partially flipped classroom might be one in which professors use some class meetings to lecture, whereas other meetings are used to discuss or apply content captured with video podcasts and viewed by students before coming to class.  The extent to which you pursue or align with one model or another may hinge on the extent to which you regard lecturing as a critical component of your teaching.  Some scholars (and I am one of these) argue that the term “lecturing” is too general to adequately capture otherwise highly varied classroom-based interactions between instructors and students.  That is, we all lecture in different ways, some of which are probably more dynamic and engaging than others, and generalizing these experiences may be undermining our best efforts to make for maximally effective classroom experiences.  That said, higher education is replete with instructors who rely almost entirely on lecture-driven course formats, and there is a growing corpus of data to suggest that passive learning is simply less effective.

If fully flipped courses include opportunities for students to be assessed outside of the classroom (e.g., feedback given for online quizzes or discussion threads that follow podcasts) and the products of these assessments are used to enhance subsequent in-class meetings, then the flipped classroom conforms to this definition of the BLM.  This may not be possible in fully flipped courses, and thus the flipped classroom would exist outside of the BLM, despite the fact that it is merely a different approaches to achieving similar goals.  That said, there are various ways of using digital technology to enhance your learning environment without ever having to flip the classroom.

Should I “Flip” My Course?

After listening to the successes and challenges faced by instructors who flipped their classrooms, it became apparent that introductory courses in the formal, physical, and life sciences (e.g., mathematics, chemistry, and biology) as well as some of the more empirical of the social sciences (e.g., economics, psychology) might be the best candidates for fully flipped classroom formats.  A general rule-of-thumb emerged: if your traditional course has students passively absorbing lecture inside the classroom while spending considerable time working on problem sets outside of the classroom, then a fully flipped classroom affords you opportunity to provide feedback and guidance at the point that students need it the most, or when they are actually engaging the concepts.  For those in the social sciences and humanities, you may want to think about partially flipped classrooms in tandem with the BLM.

If you’re toying with the idea of flipping one of your courses, you might take the following into consideration.  First, the “startup costs” are significant and should not be underestimated.  The time required of producing podcasts, in particular, is substantial.  Some presenters talked about spending the entirety of their summer recording, re-recording, and editing podcasts.   On the bright side, you will likely be able to use your archive of podcasts for many years to come.  Second, podcasts can take various forms, and before committing to any one format, it is worth thinking about (and researching) (a) the pedagogical affordances and constraints of each as well as (b) the technological support your institution can provide.  Regarding the former, here’s a list of possibilities:

  • Audio-only presentations. If you’re a producer at Radiolab, then you have mastered the art of audio podcasts.  If not, you might seek some honest feedback on how to infuse some pizzaz into your show.
  • Narrated slideshows.  Basically, this is a video of your Powerpoint/Keynote slides while you blah blah on the audio track.  See above comment about pizzaz.  Example here.
  • Digital “chalk talk.”  Although this is a video file, it’s pretty much a narrated video recording of an online “white board” on which you draw or type content.  Various software enables this approach, and it’s particularly well-suited to courses in which formulas, equations, and graphs are used to illustrate concepts (e.g., economics, math, chemistry). Depending on your technological capabilities, you might even include a small frame in which your talking head appears during part or all of the video segment.  Example here.
  • In-person “chalk talk”.  This is a video recording of you – probably in your office and with a chalk/white board – talking to a tripod-mounted camera.  Although I know of no data to fully evaluate this assertion, I suspect this may be one of the most engaging podcast formats for students.  The embodiment of information sharing via gesture, writing on a board, and facial expression may have deeper cognitive resonance. Example here.
  • Live lecture capture.  Put a camera in your classroom; press ‘Record’.  There are some quality-, technical-, and FERPA/privacy-related issues surrounding this format, and some (e.g., Jose Antonio Bowen, author of Teaching Naked) discourage live lecture capture outright. Example here.

It’s possible to hybridize most of these formats (e.g., narrated slideshows edited into live lecture captures).  It’s also possible to produce really good and really bad examples of any one of these podcast formats.  I think the examples linked above exemplify the variability to be observed on YouTube.

Image Credit: Center for Teaching & Learning, University of Texas at Austin

Learning with Lynda over the summer

lynda_logo1k-d_72x72Summer is a great time to learn a new skill or build upon existing skills. Interested in retouching family photos? Finally learning to code (or coding for kids)? Make a plan to be more productive next year? Lynda.com offers courses in these topics as well as thousands others.

Lynda.com is available to all current Connecticut College faculty, staff, and students through the Single Sign-on resources in CamelWeb – summer is a great time to learn something new!