Design A Better Assignment – Workshop It!

Chopping onions

Where do I position the camera? Why do I have to do a voiceover? What is line 2 of the instructions asking me to do? Is time lapse video really the best choice here? These were a few of the practical and didactic questions I received from colleagues as they worked through the activity that I designed as part of Technology Fellows Program. The workshop experience is one of the invaluable opportunities that this program offers. Colleagues encouraged me to push my thinking about this specific assignment and my approach to course design more generally. The Technology Fellows Program focuses on the use of technology for teaching, but it is also a place to hone one’s teaching skills.

For my workshop, I proposed to try out an assignment that I am calling mise en place, after the culinary practice of preparing ingredients before cooking. This assignment will be part of my Food and the Senses course in the Spring semester. The objectives of the assignment are to have students explore concepts of embodied knowledge and apprenticeship through the activity of mise en place. The first step is to teach students to chop onions in a variety of ways (live demonstration, video and no instruction). Next, students chop onions in teams. They take turns chopping and recording. Initially, I believed that time lapse video would be the best technology for this job.  Outside of class time, students have time to view their videos and reflect on the experience through a voice over. Finally, students share their video documents in class or online.

Leading up to the big day of the workshop, I had a small group meeting with other Tech fellows and instructional designers. They read over the assignment, we discussed the objectives of the activity, they suggested a variety of technology options, and made concrete suggestions for how I could continue to develop the assignment to sharpen the connections between the activity and the learning objectives. Using these suggestions, I prepared the materials for the workshop, where the other Tech Fellows would have a chance to try out and critique my assignment.

The big day came, and, to my surprise, no one balked at the idea of using large knives and the possibility of crying over onions. My colleagues started setting up a variety of recording devices on all sorts of tripods. They immediately began asking important questions, “What part of the body should the recording capture? Just the hands?” This got me thinking about a series of theoretical issues connected with the disembodiment of knowledge and objectification of culinary skill. This is just one example of the sorts of feedback that led me sharpen my assignment and consider the utility of the data that my students would be collecting. Thanks to my colleagues, I began to see connections to visual anthropology and how I could use this assignment to engage with an additional set of methodological questions.

Although I had initially been concerned about finding the right technology for my assignment. The workshop experience helped me to think more deeply about learning objectives and how to bring more intention to the methods and technology I want to use. I like to try new techniques and activities in the classroom and, for the most part, I usually have to wing it. Being able to workshop an assignment that pushes into new pedagogical territory will certainly lead to a better thought out assignment and hopefully a better learning experience for my students.

Image credit: Cutting onions,

Open Access Week 2016, Open in Action, Starts Today!

Open in Action Logo

Today marks the beginning of International Open Access Week. This year’s theme is “Open in Action.” To celebrate, we are posting with the hashtag #ConnCollegeOA on Twitter throughout the week, multiple times a day. Follow us to learn about Open Access, why Open Access matters, how to participate and make your work more widely available.

If you can’t wait to read our tweets (or dislike Twitter!), you can read the series of blog posts I wrote two years ago during Open Access week:

Day 1: Happy Open Access Week!
Day 2: What is Open Access
Day 3: Local to Global Open Access
Day 4: Is Your Work Still Yours?
Day 5: Teaching Open Access

To learn about Open Access workshops, events, seminars happening all over the world, click on the map below!

Friday Fun with the Smithsonian Learning Lab

Greensboro Lunch Counter, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.

Earlier this week I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC. I often forget about the amazing treasures that the 19 Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, and 9 research centers hold.  Fortunately, now we can explore these diverse collections virtually through the Smithsonian Learning Lab. The Learning Lab includes images, video, audio, text, and learning resources. The Learning Lab is a space for anyone to curate and create collections; you can even annotate or upload your own resources to a collection and share those collections with students or colleagues.

While the Learning Lab’s primary audience is K-12 teachers and students, the content available makes the site worth exploring for your own courses. Many images are scanned at a high resolution, allowing you to zoom in to see details. Creating an account is easy and allows you (or your students) to create your own collections and share them easily.

What can you find in the Learning Lab? Collections from some of the following institutions are represented:

  • Archives of American Art
  • Astrophysical Observatory
  • Conservation Biology Institute
  • Environmental Research Center
  • Marine Station at Fort Pierce
  • Museum Conservation Institute
  • Smithsonian Institute Archives
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • Tropical Research Institute
  • African American History and Culture Museum
  • African Art Museum
  • Air and Space Museum
  • American Art Museum
  • American History Museum
  • American Indian Museum
  • National Zoo
  • Natural History Museum
  • Postal Museum
  • American Indian Museum Heye Center
  • Cooper Hewitt

Let us know if you find anything interesting in the comments below. Enjoy!

Exciting Workshops Just Ahead! Wikipedia, Scalar, Tableau and More…

We are very excited for our next Teaching with Technology workshops and hope you can join us! We promise you will leave these workshops inspired and excited to try new tools in the classroom and in your own research. Also, don’t forget we are hosting the Data Fair this week in Shain Library!

Wikipedia Assignments for Developing Literacies
Wednesday, September 28, 1:00 – 2:00 PM
Haines Room, Shain Library lower level
In addition to adding much needed diversity and authority to Wikipedia, Wikipedia editing assignments teach students many important skills and requires them to think critically about information. Join us to discuss the value of Wikipedia editing and how to incorporate these assignments into your classes. Please bring your own computer for the hands-on portion.

Digital Publishing and Visualization Platforms: Scalar and Tableau
Thursday, October 20, 3:00-4:00 PM
PC Classroom, Shain Library lower level
WordPress is not the only free publishing platform on the block for 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. Tableau is a free platform for building interactive visualizations with your data. You can then embed your creations into WordPress and Scalar sites, or anywhere else you publish to the web.

Using a Course Website to Recruit Incoming Students and Promote Community Engagement

CC Choir WebsiteI have the happy challenge of needing to communicate with students over the summer.  Most of them are incoming first-year students or transfer students who are trying to decide how they will spend their time at Connecticut College. This means quite a few questions regarding the types of choral ensembles that we offer, how often the ensembles meet, the types of literature we study, and audition requirements/times. During my first summer teaching at Connecticut College, this meant writing pretty much the same response over and over. I got into the habit of keeping several stock responses in a separate Word document so I could cut and paste the details. I am happy to say that I found a more efficient way to keep in contact with these incoming students!

I created a choir website in WordPress during the Tempel Summer Institute. For incoming students, it describes our choral program, the audition process, and a way to sign up for an audition slot via SignUpGenius. For the current students, it describes volunteer opportunities and how to contact the choir council. For the greater community, it contains information about participating in our high school choral festival, attending upcoming performances, bringing a choir to an event, and joining the Chorale (open to students, faculty, staff and community members.) For the greater community, there is a media page with YouTube videos and Livestream videos of past choral performances. I am currently working to build an audio portfolio that will feature audio clips via SoundCloud.

During the month of July, I have the email vacation autoresponder tell all incoming messages that I will get back to them shortly and to visit the choir website for more information about our program. My incoming students now have a better idea of the philosophy and scope of the choral program (and I get my month of July back). Prospective students can also visit this website to see what musical opportunities we have to offer before they apply. Lastly, this website is a storehouse of information regarding community engagement events that I can easily share via social media (Twitter, Facebook).  While time intensive in the beginning, a course website can help you communicate more effectively and also build a community presence. I highly recommend it!

Active Engagement and Group Work at the Visualization Wall

The Visualization Wall can instantly and wirelessly display up to five smartphones, tablets, and laptops at once, or one device full-screen. Pictured above: dual display of a MacBook Air and an iPhone.

The Diane Y. Williams ’59 Visualization Wall in the Technology Commons of Shain Library offers new possibilities for group work and classroom engagement. With just a few clicks on one’s own smartphone, tablet, or laptop, the wall wirelessly displays up to five devices at once.

Biology Professor Martha Grossel used the Visualization Wall weekly for her Accelerated Cell Biology class, asking students to work on problems in groups. One member of each group then displayed their work simultaneously for discussion and comparison of all the groups’ results as a class. Theater Professor Sabrina Notarfrancisco takes part in the Instructional Technology team’s DELI program to provide her students in Costume History with iPads each semester and meets regularly at the wall with her class. Whenever relevant to the discussion, students can easily display and compare examples from the visual portfolios that they build on their iPads, encouraging active engagement in discussion.

The furniture in the Technology Commons is all flexible and can be arranged to be most conducive to your class activities.

Interested in how this feature can be used in your own class? Email Lyndsay Bratton to discuss ideas or to schedule class meetings at the wall!

Data Fair September 26-29!

Connecticut College is a member of ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research), a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences. It hosts 16 specialized collections of data in education, aging, criminal justice, substance abuse, terrorism, and other fields. We have written about this amazing resource on the blog, in Andrew Lopez’s post The JSTOR of Data Archives.

We invite you and your students to join us for the ICPSR  Data Fair being held next week, which “aims to introduce, engage, and help the data community manage through the ongoing Data (R)Evolution.” We will be broadcasting Data Fair events in the Davis Lab all this week. You will find the schedule below, and on the ICPSR website.

ICPSR Data Fair Poster

September Teaching with Technology Productivity Workshops

The first two workshops in September focus on productivity. We will spend time organizing and developing new strategies to keep our email and Drive from overwhelming us, allowing us to focus on more important tasks. Registration is recommended (food is provided), but not necessary.  Please join us!

Take Control of Your Google Drive
Monday, September 12, 1:30 – 2:30 PM
Neff Lab, Shain Library 2nd Floor
Is your Google Drive driving you crazy? Confused about folders and sharing? Come to this workshop and spend one full hour organizing your Drive so that you can find important documents quickly and share things with others.  We will start with some brief instruction, but most of the hour will be dedicated to getting your Drive in order!

Get Out of Your Inbox! Gmail Productivity
Thursday, September 22, 9:00 – 10:00 AM
Neff Lab, Shain Library 2nd Floor
Spending too much time in your Inbox?  Stressed out by unread email?  Ready to mount a resistance to email’s ever-increasing bid on your time?  In this session, we tackle best practices for emailing, and we discuss some strategies for making the most of gmail.  Come sip some coffee, munch on a bagel, and learn how to make gmail do the simple work, leaving you more time to be productive.

Help Students Out: Syllabi as PDF or Google Drive Link

word-to-pdf-freenetworktips-800x445Do you upload your syllabus to Moodle? Is it a Word document? A Pages document? You may not realize it, but there are students who do not have these programs on their computers. Already I have spoken with two students who do not have Microsoft Word (or PowerPoint, or Excel…), but they must access syllabi that are Word documents. While I recommended they download OpenOffice or use a library computer to view the syllabus, you can help your students by using one of two simple solutions.

  1. Save your documents as PDF files and upload those to Moodle. Not only can any computer read PDF files, they are much easier to view in Moodle. Word documents are downloaded onto your students’ computers every time they click on the syllabus title. Not only is this annoying, but increases the chances that students are looking at older or outdated versions. PDF documents simply open in the browser whenever a student wants to view it.
  2. Do you change your syllabus a lot over the course of the semester? If so, consider using a Google Doc and add the shareable link to Moodle. Anthony Graesch wrote about why he made this change and explains how to do it in his post, Dish Up Your Syllabi with Google Docs.

If you have questions about posting your syllabus to Moodle, please contact us!

Announcing Fall 2016 Reading Group – Join Us!

DH Book CoverWe are excited to announce that this semester’s reading group book is Interdisciplining Digital Humanities: Boundary Work in an Emerging Field (2015) by Julie Thompson Klein. Looking back over 65 years of scholarship, Interdisciplining Digital Humanities provides an overview of definitions and practices in the emerging field of digital humanities. As the library ramps up efforts to leverage digital scholarship tools and research methods to support faculty and student research, this is a very timely reading. Informal book discussions will take place over lunch provided by Instructional Technology. 

Those interested should plan to attend all three meetings (listed below). Participation is limited; please contact Jessica McCullough by September 7 to register.

Reading Group: Interdisciplining Digital Humanities
Tuesdays, 12:00 – 1:00 PM
Haines Room, Shain Library lower level
September 27, October 25 & December 6