Tools in a Flash Next Week

7044719053_b7dcb4bb0eWe have two Tools in a Flash workshops scheduled next week. Tools in a Flash are short, hands-on workshops with the goal of building confidence and skill in one specific technology tool. All Tools in a Flash workshops are held in the Advanced Technology Lab, located on the lower level of Shain Library. Register or just stop by as your schedule allows.

Moodle Gradebook
Monday, March 6, 9:30-10:00 AM 

Get your Moodle gradebook in order! The Moodle gradebook is a great way to keep students informed about their progress in class, but it is important that it’s set up correctly so that there are no surprises at the end of the semester. This session will go over common gradebook setup scenarios and help you get your own gradebook ready to use for the semester.

Thursday, March 9, 9:30-10:00 AM

Looking for an alternative to WordPress for your digital projects? Come learn about Scalar, a free online platform built by the University of Southern California. Great for incorporating multimedia formats into your text, Scalar is easy to use and looks beautiful.

Image: “Infinite Flash” flickr photo by JD Hancock shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Register for February Workshops!

Join us for the following workshops! If you plan on attending, you can register by clicking on the workshop titles and filling out the form. Registration is not required, but it is helpful in knowing how much food and drink to order.

We ❤️ Google
February 14, 2017 at 9:00 am – 10:00 am
Neff Lab, Shain Library
Get the most out of G Suite (previously Google Apps for Education). In this session we will explore some of the lesser known but valuable tools in our suite of Google applications. Topics include citation tools in Docs, Forms, and Google Groups. Breakfast, coffee and Valentine’s Day treats will be provided! 

Tools in a Flash: RefWorks
Thursday, February 16, 9:00-9:30 AM
Advanced Technology Lab, Shain Library
RefWorks is a web-based bibliography and database manager that allows you to create a personal, searchable database of citations.  There is a new version of Refworks which adds increased functionality such as drag-and-drop uploading of pdfs, an enhanced PDF reader, and simultaneous group document editing.  Additionally, there is now a Google Docs add-in to complement the Word add-in for creating in-text citations, footnotes, endnotes and bibliographies.

Research Practices and Media Literacy in a ‘Post-Truth’ World
Tuesday, February 21, 9-10:15 a.m.
Haines Room, Shain Library
The national discussion surrounding “fake news” has thrust media literacy into the spotlight. At this workshop, we’ll consider the relevance of media literacy to student learning and research. Librarians will lead a discussion on how you can help students evaluate resources, provide information on media-related tools and resources, and present some results from the Research Practices Survey we undertook with incoming first-year students. We’ll also suggest and brainstorm assignments that are designed to help students evaluate and use the media sources. Breakfast will be provided.

Tools in a Flash: Omeka and Digital Collections
Tuesday, February 28, 9:30-10:00 AM
Advanced Technology Lab, Shain Library
Do you have scholarly digital collections but no way of managing or displaying them? Interested in having your students create and publish digital archives and collections, or to develop digital exhibitions for the public? Stop by and learn about Omeka, a free, easy-to-use, web-based platform for creating and managing digital collections and exhibitions. Omeka is as easy to set up as a blog, and provides a flexible, powerful suite of features to help foster user interaction and participation with your content.

Bringing Experts into Class to Increase Student Engagement

How do we increase student engagement in a topic that is new to them? How do we promote collaboration between a class and an  invited guest/speaker?

Lecture hall with projected imageThese were the questions that I faced last term in preparing for the Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble to be in residence at Connecticut College as part of the Ammerman Center’s Colloquia Series focused on the “Body and Technology.” The Quince Ensemble uses technology to enhance or accompany their voices in performance. Our students would learn about these ideas by learning a new piece prior to their visit, rehearsing with the Quince Ensemble in a short rehearsal, and then performing it in concert together.

Since we would only have one rehearsal together for about 2 hours before the concert, we needed to find a way to make a connection with the new music and Quince well before the residency. We decided to web conference our choir rehearsal with the Quince Artistic Director, Kayleigh, who lived in New York City. The goals of the session were to receive feedback about our work on the choral piece, facilitate a connection between our students and the Quince Ensemble, and learn more about the work itself from Kayleigh. The resulting experience was very positive! Our students felt more connected to the experimental work which involved non-traditional singing techniques. Since they became more excited for the residency and worked even harder to prepare for it in the weeks ahead.

Do you have a guest speaker that will be coming into your class to share about their work or perhaps evaluate a class project? Why not create interest and “buy-in” by having them meet your students via a web conference before the visit? This maximizes their time at CC and students will be more prepared for their visit. Below is my advice for creating a successful web conferencing session between your students and a guest speaker.

  1. Set up a time with your speaker taking into consideration time zones. Suggest that they have a headset, microphone (the one attached to the earbuds is OK) and hard-wire ethernet connection, if possible.
  2. Prepare your speaker by providing background information on the course and the students involved. Establish an outline/agenda for the conversation.
  3. Prepare your students ahead of time. What questions would be appropriate to ask? What is the background of the speaker? What are the goals of the session? Remind them that they will be on camera, too and to look engaged.
  4. Find a room with a hardwire ethernet connection with quiet surroundings that will not interrupt the conversation. Contact Mike Dreimiller, Instructional Digital Media Specialist in the Instructional Technology Department for assistance.
  5. Borrow a web-conferencing kit from Mike Dreimiller.
  6. BEFORE the session, download Skype or Zoom (if you want to record it.) Create a login and add your guest as a contact.
  7. Do a dry-run without students. Find a colleague with a remote connection or someone in Instructional Technology Department to help test your connection, camera, mic, and lighting.
  8. Have a backup plan. If all else fails, can you do a conference call over the phone?
  9. After the session, ask your students what they gained from the conversation and how it will help prepare them for their future project or meeting.
  10. Take a selfie or screenshot and share it on social media. Share with the greater community the lessons or connections gained from this experience!

Snow Day Plan – Do You Have One?

Snowscape at Connecticut College

As you prepare for the semester, this is a good time to review some of our “weatherproofing” suggestions. What do you do when classes are unexpectedly canceled? Share what has worked for you in the comments!

  • Several low-effort ways to reach students when you can’t come to campus were featured in Snow Day Resources: Don’t Let Snow Stop You! Ideas include recording short, 5-minute screencast videos using Jing or whiteboard apps such as Doceri, Screen Chomp, or Educreations, meeting virtually using Google Hangouts or Zoom, or utilizing the many collaborative features of Drive.
  • We discussed strategies for communicating with students – well ahead of the snow day and during – in our post, Weatherproofing Resources.
  • Have a little more time? Our follow-up post to a weatherproofing workshop included many recommendations, from recording full lectures to facilitating synchronous and asynchronous discussions.

See you on campus soon!

OER Roundtable Recap at #aha17

Picture of panelists
Panelists (right to left): Sarah Randow, Christy Jo Snider, Ann Marie Davis, Jessica McCullough

Over the break I participated in a roundtable, “Free for All: A Discussion of Open Educational Resources (OER) in U.S. and World History Survey Courses,” at the the American Historical Association conference in Denver, Colorado. Members of our roundtable included Sarah Randow from LeTourneau University (Chair), Christy Jo Snider from Berry College, Ann Marie Davis from Ohio State University (formerly Conn!), and me. If you are interested in the topic of open and affordable teaching materials and textbooks resources, read on for my takeaways!

  • Two panelists, Sarah and Christy, adopted The American Yawp, a free online textbook collaboratively developed by historians (who very kindly attended the roundtable). This particular textbook is published under a Creative Commons license allowing others to adapt and share the material, so long as they allow others to do the same and attribute the original creators (Attribution-Share Alike). Both panelists not only adopted the book, but adapted it to suit their own specific needs. For example, Christy used a free online publishing tool, Blub, to create a new textbook to which she added images and selected primary source material.
  • The best outcomes come from a focus on pedagogy. For example, Sarah found that the while rigorous, the readability/accessible and focus on the essentials of U.S. History allowed her students to make connections and draw their own conclusions from the material presented.
  • Ann Marie conducted a survey among historians and found that many faculty use OER in their courses, but don’t often realize that these materials are considered OER. This finding resonates with me, as faculty I know have made the switch to OER for pedagogical reasons without realizing they were a part of a larger movement. One surprising finding was faculty who have been teaching longer were equally receptive and have adapted OERs at similar rates as more junior instructors.
  • In our discussion, it was clear that there is a real need for a World History textbook, similar to American Yawp. However, such a project comes with additional challenges surrounding content selection. There seemed to be real excitement surrounding this project.
  • Additional themes from the discussion included recognition (for tenure and promotion) for creating open resources. Institutions are uneven in their recognition of this work, and while students are grateful for free or low-cost course materials, they do not realize the effort required to create the resources.  There was also a lively discussion of access to technology and the continued need for printed materials.
  • My presentation focused on how to implement OER in courses, from the perspective of an instructional designer. I also included plenty of examples of OER initiatives, helpful repositories and interesting resources.

Great Information Services Events Planned This Semester!

I am very excited to announce our line-up of workshops and special events this semester. We are widening our scope to include not just technology tools for teaching and productivity as in years past, but tools and resources that support both student and faculty research. This is a true collaborative effort and I hope that you can take advantage of some of our offerings this semester. And as always, I’d love to hear your ideas for new topics!

  •  Tools in a Flash: This is a new series of short (30-minute), narrowly focused workshops. The goals is for participants to get their hands dirty trying new tools. This semester’s topics include RefWorks, Omeka, Moodle Gradebook, and Scalar.
  • International Women’s Day Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Rebecca Parmer and Rose Olivera are organizing Shain Library’s first Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on March 8! A Wikipedia Edit-a-thon is a meetup where novice and experienced editors come together to improve Wikipedia entries. They will identify a selection of entries that need attention but welcome and encourage input on additional topics. As part of the event, they will cover the basics of editing in Wikipedia, and will have Wiki-ambassadors (experienced Wiki-editors) on hand to provide additional support.
  • Wondering what you can do about “fake news”? Concerned about the media literacy skills of your students? Join librarians for a discussion, learn helpful strategies and tools to improve literacy skills. Find out what our students know and where they struggle from data collected from an information literacy survey conducted with Connecticut College freshmen this past summer.
  • Amid all this excitement, don’t forget about our regular workshop series that includes discussion and hands-on components. This semester’s topics include G Suite, Open Access, and Digital Commons. Find the full list and register here!

Building a bibliographic portfolio with RefWorks

RefWorks Screenshot
References saved in RefWorks account

Co-authored by James Gelarden, Access Services Librarian

Building a bibliographic portfolio is a way for students and researchers to work smarter rather than harder. RefWorks is a tool that allows users to create bibliographies, organize references around a theme, and collaborate and share their bibliographic research.

In October, we held a workshop for ANT 201 Theory and History of Anthropology students to teach them the basics of using bibliographic software and strategies for organizing their research. Our hope was that these students would be developing a skill that would help them with research in their various courses at Connecticut College and beyond.

The first step was having students create RefWorks accounts. This is an easy task and all Connecticut College students have free access. RefWorks is not the only bibliographic software available: Zotero and Mendeley are also excellent options. However, RefWorks has a lot of useful features such as downloadable PDFs that can be annotated, cite-as-you-write compatibility with MS Word, and lots of sharing functions to facilitate group work.

Next, James demonstrated some of the basic functions of RefWorks: searching in databases (Jstor, Google Scholar, ProQuest, etc.), saving references and PDFs, creating folders, and sharing work. We impressed upon the ANT 201 students that building a bibliographic portfolio is of particular interest to majors. Students can create bibliographies for specific assignments and courses but they are likely to find that this research will serve them well in many courses as they navigate their majors and pathways. Our hope in this class was that students would become aware of central academic conversations in contemporary anthropological theory. As Anthropology majors take more classes in the discipline, they will start to build upon existing knowledge rather than doing all the work from scratch each time this write a new paper. RefWorks makes finding saved material very easy. This software encourages its users to create folders to organize their research by subject but entries can be tagged, and all aspects of the database are searchable.

RefWorks facilitates collaboration and sharing simple. Students doing group work can create and share bibliographic references, making it easier to coordinate research. Those writing theses and projects for graduation can share their work with their advisors, who can add new references and notes.

RefWorks Screenshot: Folders
Folders in RefWorks

At the end of the workshop, all the students had functioning RefWorks accounts and a basic understanding of the platform. They have been putting the software to use in their annotated bibliography assignment and their term paper. We hope that they will continue to use RefWorks or another reference software throughout their time at Connecticut College. Getting organized about research early on in an undergraduate career can be a big time saver and is an excellent way to start building expertise and familiarity with scholarly literature in specific fields. It is also possible for Connecticut College graduates to request continued access to their RefWorks account.

Learn Something New This Holiday Weekend with

Learning paths in

Have you forgotten about Since our initial subscription, thousands of new courses have been added. If you haven’t looked in awhile, now is a good time to see what’s new! To access, use this link or log in using the link from CamelWeb to ensure you have access to the full library.

Here are a new teaching related courses for you:

Here are a few new courses for your students:

Finally, some new courses for anyone!


Swivl toward Lecture Recording

This semester Joe Schroeder is using a Swivl, a robotic mount that holds an iPad or smartphone, to record lectures in Behavioral Neuroscience. With the use of a remote that the presenter wears, the Swivl tracks a moving person and uses the camera on the iPad or smartphone to record. Lectures or presentation are stored and saved in the cloud using Swivl’s cloud service, and shared with students through a link.

Swivl robot
Swivl robot

Why Lecture Record

Last year Joe had a problem: several students were going to miss class but he needed to cover important material. He asked about ways to record his lecture, and we suggested he try the Swivl. He gave it a try, and found the technology easy and convenient to use. This year, due to scheduling difficulties in Behavioral Neuroscience (PSY/BIO 314), he has one student who needs the class but is unable to attend one day a week. Recording the class on this day was the only way that this student could enroll. Remembering the Swivl, he decided to record the Friday lectures.

How it Works – Technology

Joe assigned one student as the class videographer, and this student is responsible for ensuring that the device it turned on, recording, and working throughout the class period. After class, Joe initially downloaded the video, saved it as an .mp4 file, then uploaded that to Moodle (through Kaltura). This process, while simple, was time consuming. More recently, with the introduction of Swivl’s cloud service, which automatically processes the video after recording and provides a link to the video, he simply copies that link and shares it with all students through Moodle. While Swivl provides tools for editing, the integration of slides and video, and other features, Joe does not spend time editing.

Excerpt of Joe's Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.
Excerpt of Joe’s Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.

How it Works – Pedagogy

After a few weeks of recording one day a week, Joe decided to record every class. Initially he had concerns about attendance – would students attend a class they knew would be recorded and could be watched later? He found that this practice did not affect attendance. Students value class time for the interaction with Joe and fellow students, as well as the ability to ask questions and check for understanding – this is a challenging class and expectations are high. In addition, the course does not use a textbook (see When Risks Pay Off in the Classroom), but a collection of resources – an online animated textbook from University of Toronto, simulation software, videos, articles, and more. Students use the recordings as another resource to understand course material.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

While the full impact of providing class recordings is not yet known, mid-semester feedback from students is positive. Using Swivl is low-effort, but may potentially have a high impact for all students in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Beyond lecture capture, I can imagine additional uses for the Swivl. Students or faculty could use it to practice presentations and review the recording, students could rehearse a performance, then send the video to faculty or peers for feedback.

If you have questions or are interested in exploring ways to record your classes, contact your Instructional Technology liaison.

I’ve Been Searching for Prezi for 40 Years


When I was a 1st year student in graduate school I took a course from a development economist Alain de Janvry. It was probably the best course I ever took after high school. He was, of course, brilliant and a great theorist of economic development, especially Latin American economic development. But what made the course really great for me was that he put a picture of the entire course on the blackboard in the first lecture. The picture was a series of connected bubbles and each bubble contained a piece of the story of economic development. Over the next 14 weeks, each bubble was essentially blown up and filled with rich detailed content. But you never forgot how it connected to all the other bubbles. I learned more in that class than any class I took because I could visualize how all the different pieces of a unified picture fit together. I am a visual learner and when I am at my best teaching, it is by drawing pictures of the big ideas I want my students to link together.

That brings me to Prezi. I first met Prezi when we were doing a search in Economics three years ago. All the candidates did their presentations using Prezi instead of Power Point. I immediately saw the visual power (and the limitations) of the presentation tool. Power Point is linear and verbal. Prezi is visual. It was exactly the tool I needed to replicate the kind of course diagram that de Janvry had created.

During the Tempel Summer Institute last summer, Instructional Technology staff trained us to use Prezi. Sort of. We were told that our final presentation about what we had learned would be done with Prezi, then immersed us for about two frustrating hours. I thought I would go crazy and then suddenly it clicked. Because Prezi lives in the cloud and can be shared with others, it is also a great tool for collaboration. But one drawback, as we learned in Tempel, is that when many people work on the same presentation, someone can suddenly show up on the document and make a mess of what you were doing. Not on purpose of course.

I am teaching Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow in my first year seminar, and by the end of this section I created a Prezi that captures the essence of the book. Each bubble will be a topic for a class session the next time I teach the course. I can already see how it helps students understand the big picture – for their final paper of the section, they used the Prezi to help structure their arguments.

I now have students creating collaborative Prezi’s for their final group presentations. I’ll write more about this in a later post.