Using Twitter to Sharpen Literacies and Engage in Global Conversations

Screenshot of Twitter feedIn my previous blog post, I talked about videoconferences as a way to integrate global perspectives into my refugees course. Another tool to encourage students to apply their knowledge by engaging in a global dialogue was the use of Twitter. Students were asked to tweet five times a week, using the hash tag #GER262. During the first half of the semester, I made sure that each student was comfortable using Twitter and that they had acquired the necessary background knowledge to engage with the global community in an informed and meaningful way. Hence the Twitter posts were not only a way to interact with the world outside of the classroom, but also helped the students to deepen their social media literacy and to critically analyze rhetorical strategies being used in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Students posted and discussed links to articles, videos, and cartoons they had found online and – as part of the assignment – responded to other people’s tweets around the world. In order to value the students’ contributions and to contextualize their findings, I reserved 10-15 minutes each week for a group discussion of their tweets.

Even though Twitter is not a medium commonly used among students, they responded enthusiastically to the assignment. As one of the students highlighted in their course evaluations: “I have been able to sharpen my ability to identify specific rhetoric that either supports or criticizes the situation on media outlets such as Twitter. To converse on Twitter gave us a hands-on opportunity to engage in the global conversation of this ongoing refugee and migrant crisis.”

I will definitely continue to use Twitter in my classes and plan to incorporate it also into my beginning language classes, as a meaningful way to apply newly acquired vocabulary and grammatical structures in a real-life setting. I would like to thank Ari Rotramel for sharing her extensive Twitter assignment guide and Laura Little, as always, for her invaluable technical support.

MIT OpenCourseware for Course Inspiration

MIT OpenCourseware Logo

During a recent consultation with a faculty member where we explored affordable online resources for a new Conn Course, I shared related course materials available through the MIT OpenCourseware website. If you are developing a new course, looking for inspiration to update an old one, or trying to incorporate different disciplinary approaches and content, MIT Open Courseware is well worth a visit.

MIT OpenCourseware shares materials from 2,340 courses taught at MIT. By sharing course content, MIT hopes to help educators improve courses, help students find additional information, and provide quality resources for independent students and self-learners. Courses include both undergraduate and graduate levels in all subjects taught at MIT. Many courses include a syllabus, reading material, assignments, and in some cases audio or video lectures, even online textbooks and supplemental material. 

screenshot of Anthropology course available through MIT OpenCourseware
Anthropology course available through MIT OpenCourseware

 

If you’re looking for new classroom activities, try exploring the related OCW Educator which allows you to browse instructional approaches and materials. For example, browse by Active Learning and find examples of case studies, discussion, flipped classrooms, teamwork and more. Other interesting topics include Critical Thinking, Diversity and Inclusion, Engaging Learners, Lecturing, and more. Some courses also include a section called “This Course at MIT” which explains how the course was developed and taught. 

Use the comments below to tell us if you find something interesting!

Back to School Basics Online Workshop Tuesday, August 23

Welcome back!

We had a productive summer and are very excited to begin a new academic year. Are you ready for classes? Whether you are on campus or still traveling, we invite you to join us online for our Back to School Basics workshop. In this virtual workshop we will cover essential elements of preparing for your classes, including: getting Moodle sites set up, scheduling lab and library research sessions, making course material more accessible, and whatever else is on your mind. There will be time for open questions with instructional technologists. See workshop details below.

Back to School Basics
Tuesday, August 23, 10:00 – 11:00 AM
Register using this link or by emailing Jessica McCullough before the workshop start and we will send you a link with instructions for connecting to the workshop.

flickr photo shared by dlofink under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Summer (blog) Reading

Reading by a pond

Happy summer! Graduation was one month ago and you are probably settled into your summer routine (which may be no routine at all!). This is also a good time to catch up on the blog posts you didn’t have time to read during the semester. To get you started, here are the most popular posts published this year.

The blog will take a vacation in the month of July, but we are still here! If you would like to meet with any member of the Instructional Technology team to discuss technology in your classes, summer is a great time to do it. Start with your Instructional Technology liaison if you are not sure who to contact.

The top 10 blog posts published in the 2015-16 academic year are:

Image credit: “Connecticut College, Arboretum, Amphitheater and pond, March 5, 1977.” Photograph by Ted Hendrickson.

Help Diversify the Largest Encyclopedia in the World through Wikipedia Assignments

Last week several librarians, instructional technologists, and faculty met virtually with a representative, Samantha Erickson, from the Wiki Education Foundation. This is the same organization that Ariella Rotramel and Andrea Lanoux worked with on their recent Wikipedia assignments. The meeting was inspirational!

Wikipedia is the 7th most visited site in the world with content from over 80,000 volunteer contributors. Of this number, Samantha told us, 85% of the contributors are white, male, and Western. When most content is created by a homogeneous group, you can see their interests and viewpoints reflected in the existing content and the many content gaps in the online encyclopedia. One goal of having students add content to is to help diversify the contributions.

One interesting example is the entry for Susan Band Horwitz (see below). You can see an early entry is cursory and lacking specifics. We learned this short entry is called a “stub” – there are currently over 1.9 million stubs in Wikipedia (view the current list of stubs – this is fascinating!).

"Stub" entry for Susan Band Horwitz
“Stub” entry for Susan Band Horwitz

If you saw this entry you might assume that this scientist did not contribute significantly to her field. Through the work of students in a course using Wiki Ed’s training and tools, and as part of their Year of Science, they expanded the entry significantly this past spring.

Longer entry for Susan Band Horwitz
Longer entry for Susan Band Horwitz

Contributing to Wikipedia can meet many learning goals, including conducting research, writing, and improving media and meta- literacies, communication, and technical skills. Students learn about authority (who has authority to create information, where does that authority come from), audience (who uses this information and for what purpose), debates in your field of study (highly controversial topics are often “locked,” editing wars break out), and the importance of citation practices.

Wikipedia assignments can take 5-15 weeks, depending on your goals and objectives. Wiki Ed Foundation, in addition to Connecticut College librarians and instructional technologists, are available to help you through every step. Wiki Ed creates a dashboard for you and your students to access training modules and track progress, librarians are here to help students find the best sources for their research, and instructional technologists can help with technical questions.

If you are interested in pursuing a Wikipedia editing assignment, contact your instructional technology or library liaison.

Teaching with Technology Reading Group 2015-16 Recap

MindsOnlineWe held our first Teaching with Technology Reading Group last semester (Fall 2015) with Michelle D. Miller’s book Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology (Harvard University Press, 2014). The book catalysed discussions about such issues as how to handle disruptive or disengaged student behavior in the classroom as a result of spending too much time on a computer in class. We also talked about the prospects for approving, teaching, and collaborating on online classes at Connecticut College.

PeoplesPlatformWe decided to continue with the reading group in Spring 2016 with The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age (Picador, 2014). Library database vendor EBSCO sponsored our reading group by donating copies of the book to all participants. Whereas Minds Online deals with the psychological aspects of learning and teaching with technology, The People’s Platform speaks to a wider audience about social justice issues on the internet in general.

Some of the issues explored include the effects of corporate control of media on the prospects of Net neutrality, the illusion of unmediated abundance on the Web, the dangers of Web personalization, and the troubling persistence of inequality within online communities. Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, Ariella Rotramel said of the reading group:

I enjoyed having an opportunity to read and talk with my staff and faculty colleagues about not only the content in and of itself, but what the potential implications are for our campus when it comes to understanding our relationship to the online world.

We appreciated having the space to read, reflect, discuss and brainstorm together. If you have suggestions for our next book or would like to participate, let us know in the comments below or contact Andrew Lopez or Jessica McCullough.  

17th Annual Tempel Summer Institute

Storify from #Tempel2016 hashtag
Storify created from #Tempel2016 hashtag
Tempel Summer Institute, our immersive one-week instructional technology program for faculty, ended over a week ago. While we weathered some unusual challenges – illness, broken bones and sprained ankles – it was a productive and fun week for all. Read on to hear some faculty participant comments, or click on the image above to relive the week as told through Twitter!

One of the appeals of Tempel is the dedicated time and space it offers faculty participants (there were twelve this year) to make progress on courses they will teach in the upcoming year:

Thank you for the instruction and the work space to get some of these things done. It’s good to be able to sit down and make solid progress with help readily available. Thank you!

Another great thing about Tempel is meeting new people. This year we tried something new and mixed up the seating mid-week. While there was some grumbling (including by Tempel staff!), we experienced the real benefits of sitting next to new people.

I meet a lot of people that I did not know and enjoyed sharing ideas across the disciplines.

Some faculty were redesigning old courses; others were creating new ones. In either case, there was time to try out new tools and refine old practices.

Any faculty member designing a new course should do Tempel Institute! The course I designed this week looks very different — and much better — that it would have looked if I had not attended Tempel this week.

The call for participation at Tempel Summer Institute 2017 will go out in early 2017. Of course, you do not have to wait until then to meet with any member of the Instructional Technology  Team to discuss a course! Just contact us any time to schedule a meeting.

Three Strategies for Reducing E-mail-Related Stress

Rows of mailboxes

In a recent Technology Fellows meeting, the conversation turned to the topic of e-mail.  Faculty in the room expressed frustration with the burden imposed by ever-increasing e-mail inboxes.  For many, messages from students, administrators, committees, and peers pile up and create a crowded inbox, with hundreds of unread or unfiled e-mails.  Here are a few strategies I use to help manage the e-mail burden.

  1. Bundle your e-mail. Bundling is simply the idea of grouping similar kinds of e-mails together to be dealt with at the same time. First, survey your inbox, quickly organizing your unread or skimmed messages into types (“bundles”). You can individualize your bundle structures:  Leo Garofolo uses a system that balances importance with urgency. I tend to group e-mails based on tasks, for example, answering all scheduling e-mails at once, or all student e-mails at the same time. Gmail’s Inbox can facilitate bundling, but it’s not yet available for Google educational software. Instead, you can set up your own e-mail folders (Scheduling, Students, Committee Work, etc.) and drag unread or skimmed e-mail into these folders. Open a folder when you have a few moments and process all of the e-mails in the folder together.
  2. Set expectations. Setting clear boundaries can limit the intrusive nature of e-mail.  This requires some consideration of your preferences. What would your ideal relationship with e-mail look like? When and how often would you like to check and process e-mail?  What kind of turn-around time is reasonable given daily demands on your time? What about weekends and scheduled breaks? Come to your own conclusions about the role of e-mail in your day. Consider stating these guidelines in your course syllabus to help students understand when they can expect you to respond to their messages (or suggest they take advantage of the liberal arts environment and come to office hours instead). Use an automatic responder during vacations or times of intense work to clearly communicate your e-mail practices.
  3. Schedule your e-mails with Boomerang. Scheduling your e-mail can help you adhere to your own e-mail best practices. If you have time to process e-mail outside of your normal e-mail hours but don’t want students to see that you’re sending messages at 2AM, you can write your response but use an e-mail scheduling app to deliver the e-mail at a later date. I use the free Gmail extension Boomerang.

Summer, with its decreased e-mail load, can be a great time to re-think your relationship with e-mail.  In the end, though, ProfHacker’s Natalie Houston may have the best advice for those overwhelmed with e-mail:  Ten Things to Do Instead of Checking E-mail.

Image credit: Got Mail??? flickr photo by katerha https://flickr.com/photos/katerha/7372776674 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Camp Teach & Learn Workshops and Discussions

As always, the sessions at Camp Teach & Learn look to be exciting and inspiring. We (Instructional Technology) are helping to organize the following workshops and discussions. When not facilitating one of these, we will be attending other sessions. We look forward to seeing you there!

Improving Quality and Saving Time: Scaffolding Techniques for Digital Assignments from the Technology Fellows
Wednesday 25th May: 10:45 AM to 12:30 PM

Scaffolding is a pedagogical strategy in which instructional supports are provided to students as needed early in learning, then gradually removed as students develop proficiency. Over the past three years, Technology Fellows have learned that creating scaffolded assignments is critical for technology-enhanced assignments. In this session we share examples of scaffolded assignments, discuss how we have used this strategy in our own courses, and help you discover practical ways to apply this technique.

Discussants include Virginia Anderson, Anthony Graesch, Suzuko Knott, Hisae Kobayashi, Laura Little, Jessica McCullough, & Emily Morash

Social Media for Teaching & Learning: Case Studies
Thursday 26 May, from 8:30 AM to 10:15 AM

What can social media do to improve your students’ learning and help you better meet the goals of your course? Faculty at the College have been experimenting with incorporating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms into their pedagogy. At this session we will hear from several faculty members who used social media for a variety of goals: engaging with content outside of class, connecting with experts, practicing new languages, continuing classroom discussion, and connecting course content with current events, among others. We will hear about the challenges and successes in using social media to accomplish specific pedagogical goals.

Discussants include Luis Gonzalez, Anthony Graesch, Hisae Kobayashi, Laura Little, Karolin Machtans, & Marc Zimmer

Accessibility for All: Simple Technology Tools & Strategies to Help Every Student
Thursday 26 May, from 10:30 AM to Noon

Just because students aren’t registered with the Office of Accessibility doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from some of the tools and techniques that are used to make course materials more accessible. In this hands-on session we will look at simple tools and strategies you and your students can use to improve learning. Specific topics include making lengthy digital documents (like a syllabus) navigable, using closed-captioning with audio and video materials, creating machine-readable materials, utilizing screen readers for PDF documents, and activating accessibility features in Moodle, Google Drive, and iOS devices.

Interactive workshop facilitated by Diane Creede, Lillian Liebenthal, Jessica McCullough, & Melissa Shafner.

 

Bringing together technology and experiential learning

I am always learning from my students. One day in my “Food and the Senses” class, students showed me a “Tasty” video (time-lapse videos of tasty dishes being cooked). I was immediately intrigued and hungry. Once the rumbling in my stomach subsided, I started to imagine the ways in which I could use a similar video technique to engage students in my other courses in thinking about food production. Maybe these videos could even improve food literacy, something that is a common issue on a residential campus. This was clearly a technology students were already engaging with and found appealing. However, the kicker is how to move from the passive gaze, what has contentiously been called ‘food porn’, to an active engagement with growing, cooking and eating food?

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My Technology Fellow challenge this summer is going to be figuring out a way to bring technology and experiential learning together. How can I leverage technology to deepen my students’ engagement in experiential learning and in understanding the culture of food? In addition, I hope to find ways to use technology to engage students in thinking about questions of skill and the enculturation of skilled work in cases where class size does not permit hands-on activities. This is where time-lapse films come in.

For my “Worlds of Food” course this fall, I will film cooks from different cultural backgrounds making dishes to show how embodied cultural knowledge plays out in the kitchen. Anthropologist David Sutton use of visual media to understand socially and culturally embodied knowledge and the use of kitchen tools influenced this idea. Beyond the kitchen, videos could show the use of tools and practices in food production around the globe. These films will be screened in class and posted on the course Moodle site to prompt further discussion of the course materials. After reading Michelle D. Miller’s Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology as part of the Technology Fellows program, I am eager to introduce videos in to my courses in order to offer students a new medium for understanding cultural practices. Videos posted on Moodle will allow students to revisit techniques at their own speed and facilitate different learning styles. Through these visual examples, students will have time to offer a deep analysis of concepts introduced in class. Although ethnographic films are a stalwart of anthropology classes, these videos will offer focused examples related specifically to food practices. Once I get the hang of this new tool, I would like to explore the possibility of having students produce video clips as part of their class assignments.