Technology Assignments When You Are Not the Expert: Part II

Fuente-Oveja student work
Cover of final student work

Perhaps because InDesign was as new to me as it was to my students, changing a course project by incorporating new software felt like a bold move. With the support of faculty and staff peers, however, I began the project confident and prepared with what I offer to you as recommended practices:

  • Make sure the assignment itself is as clear as possible before adding any kind of new technology. The software you introduce using lynda.com should facilitate the learning objectives of the project (and the course) without becoming the dominant focus.
  • With the importance of effective imagery established, enlist the help of your library or technology liaison to share visual research methods and resources. Lyndsay Bratton conducted an excellent workshop with my students and created an invaluable online research resource that also included proper citation guidelines for images.
  • Before working with your class, test out a number of introductory Lynda.com videos. Lynda sometimes offers several different videos that serve the same introductory purpose. Find the one that strikes the right tone and goes at the right pace for you. Also, sometimes “introductory” can actually mean “novice” in the world of Lynda; make sure the videos you choose are well-suited to the experience level of your class.
  • Once you’ve selected the Lynda video that’s right for your class, try a practice run with some trusted colleagues to anticipate where challenges might arise. The Advanced Technology Lab in Shain Library is a great place to do this with a small group.
  • Preparing the way for InDesign, share with your students examples that demonstrate the difference between information communicated without much attention to layout and imagery versus those that do. It can be a great opportunity to discuss the power of iconography.
  • Work through the first video as a class, stopping and starting as needed. Allow for plenty of time as it may take much longer than you think it will (this is where that earlier practice session will pay off).
  • As helpful as Lynda is, it can’t beat one-on-one instruction. This, of course, is a challenge if you’re new to the software yourself. Thankfully, the Academic Resource Center may be able to help. Student tutors with experience in InDesign and other programs from the Adobe design suite were available to help, even during the busy final weeks of classes. A tutor came to my class and scheduled meetings with students to help them to stretch the basics far enough so that they could realize their vision for the project.
  • Sometimes nothing beats a clear handout. Whether you make your own or find one online, like this tutorial from Marquette University, it might offer the extra needed perspective that can help students to navigate unfamiliar software early on.

The results were tremendous. Not only were the projects professional-looking, but two students independently commented that they were proud to add InDesign to their resume. View one example in the slideshow below. Work is shared with permission of student creators.

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Technology Assignments When You Are Not the Expert: Part I

As covered previously on Engage, lynda.com can be a treasure trove for faculty looking to brush up skills in various applications (i.e. Photoshop) and even strengthen habits in life skills such as time management.

Lynda logo

For me, Lynda is like one of those old friends you don’t get to see very often but when you do, it’s like no time has passed. There’s that instant connection. You love catching up but you’re never quite able to make the time for the kinds of meaningful interactions that make the friendship so great. I tend to go to lynda.com only when I feel like I have time to explore (which isn’t very often).

When using technology in the classroom, I want to be an expert on whatever tool I’m using. This semester, I tried something new.

Through the Technology Fellows Program, I used Lynda.com to incorporate InDesign into a long-established project in a theater history course. I had no experience with the program and only one of my students had used it before, and in a limited capacity.

“Congratulations!” the assignment begins, “Gordon Edelstein, the Artistic Director of the Tony Award-winning Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, has hired you and a partner to serve as interim dramaturgs for a production in their upcoming season. [The play is not one assigned to the class as a whole; each team of dramaturgs will draw the title of their designated play at random from a selection of important works emerging from each of the historical periods covered in the course.]

For this project, sometimes spanning an entire semester or, in this experimental semester, concentrated in three weeks, students synthesize historical research in order to provide insight into a play; they illuminate the text by considering the playwright’s biography as well as the social, political, and economic contexts that would have resonated with the play’s first audiences.

Their chief responsibility was the creation of 4-5 pages of content for the production’s in-depth performance guide to enrich the audience experience. The assignment overview concludes, “the guide is intended to be entertaining as well as informative – exercise your creative freedom as you consider the most effective way to communicate your research and reflection on the play. If done well, your work will entice readers to make the trip to New Haven to see the production at the Long Wharf and your career in professional theatre will be launched!”

This kind of creative communication, modeled on examples from professional theaters, is essential to the assignment. In the past, it was often achieved with Microsoft Word or by literally cutting & pasting images before scanning a final product. During my first year at Conn, a team of students produced something so professional looking I had to ask them about their methods; they had taught themselves InDesign.

With some basic research, I found that InDesign and similar Adobe software skills are increasingly in demand, no matter the long-term career goals (and no matter the major of our students). I had a mission for the next time I taught the course.

To find out how InDesign was incorporated into the course, stay tuned to Engage!

Image credit:flickr photo shared by liberalmind1012 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

 

My Lynda Playlist

New courses in lynda.com
New courses are added daily to Lynda.com. I subscribed to the lynda.com email list to keep updated on the latest and greatest (if you’re interested, you can subscribe, too!). I now have a running list of courses that interest me saved in a playlist. Once the semester winds down, I plan on visiting my playlist to learn a few new things… that and make a dent in my physical and virtual piles of professional reading!

Here are a few of the courses in my playlist.

  • iBooks Author Essential Training: I think iBooks Author has great potential for instructors wishing to create their own interactive, multimedia textbooks or coursepacks. It might also be interesting to have students create books, or book chapters. iBooks Author is installed in the Neff Lab, so I’ll get some hands-on practice while I watch the videos.
  • iOS 9: iPhone and iPad Essentials: I know I can use my phone and tablet more effectively. I’d like to browse this course to learn some tips and tricks that might help me work better.
  • InDesign CC Essential Training: I’ve taken many workshops to learn Adobe products like Photoshop and it never sticks. Part of the problem was that I never had a real world project that I could use to apply my learning. I would like to start creating our workshop flyer in InDesign (thank you, Ginny Anderson for the inspiration!), so that problem is solved. I also now have access to InDesign on my work laptop thanks to our new Adobe software license.

What’s in your list? The Neuroscience of Learning? The Practicing Photographer? Script Writing for Nonfiction Video? Time Management Fundamentals?  Share in the comments!

 

 

Great lynda.com Courses for Completing Assignments

lynda_logo1k-d_72x72Do your students need a little extra technical know-how to better complete their assignments? Empower your students to find the answers to technical questions themselves. If you are assigning a video project, presentation, or other assignment that requires use of specialized software, lynda.com may have the answers and tips they need to effectively use that software or program. Here are a few courses that they might find useful:

  • SPSS Statistics Essential Training (link)
  • iMovie 10 Essential Training (link)
  • Excel 2010 Essential Training (link for PC) or Excel for Mac 2011 Essential Training (link for Mac)
  • PowerPoint 2010 Essential Training (link)
  • Up and Running with Prezi (link)
  • Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking (link)

There is much more in lynda.com! To access lynda.com, log in to CamelWeb. On the Home tab, under the event calendar, you will see the link to lynda.com in the My Links area. Alternatively, access lynda.com through this link: http://www.lynda.com/portal/conncoll.

Workshop Recap: Technology Fellows Curricular Innovations III

Data visualization from Circos, showing the global flow of people in 2005–10.
Data visualization from Circos, showing the global flow of people in 2005–10.

Anthony Graesch focused his presentation on his Introduction to Archaeology class which enrolls about 30-40 students. Assignments in this class position students as primary data collectors. Hands-on research experience provides students with an in-depth understanding of the research process in which archaeologists are involved (similar to Ann Marie Davis’s assignment in History). In this case, students collect data using hominid crania. The work is collaborative, further mimicking archaeological work in the real world, but scaffolded so the project is within reach for introductory students.

After students collect data in Excel, they are instructed to visualize the data using charts or graphs. Through visualizing the data, students look for patterns and use these patterns to defend their arguments. Using Excel as the tool for collecting and visualizing data has the added benefit of teaching students to use software that is heavily used in many companies and industries. Anthony made a point of explaining that he does not teach Excel, rather students must learn how to use the software on their own time using resources such as lynda.com. See examples of student work in Anthony’s presentation.

An additional tool he is exploring for future iterations of the assignment is Circos, a tool that allows for circular visualization of data (see image above). Circos can be used with any data set that describes relationships. If you’re interested, view examples of Circos using datasets related to science, genomics, political science, and business.

Next semester we will hear from the remaining Technology Fellows, Karen Gonzalez Rice (Art History) and Suzuko Knott (German Studies).

 

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.

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!

New Lynda.com Courses!

lynda_logo1k-d_72x72If you haven’t looked at Lynda.com recently, you should! New courses are added daily. Access lynda.com through CamelWeb or by using this link, then browse or search the 2,000 courses (and because each course is made up of many short videos, there are over 10,000 videos!).

Here are a few new courses:

We enjoy Monday Productivity Pointers – short videos featuring new tools published every Monday.

Is there a course you like? Let us know in the comments!

Learn “Web Technology Fundamentals” during break on lynda

1024px-Man_looks_under_the_hood_of_an_old_jeep_from_world_war_two

Ever wonder what CSS, HTML, JavaScript, DNS, or IP address mean?  Gain a better understanding of how the web works – both the front end and the back end by watching “Web Technology Fundamentals” on lynda.com.  This brand new course runs a little over two hours, and “is your “plain English” guide to the world of domains, databases, servers, and the technology that makes the web work.”

Current Conn College students, facutly and staff can access the video here.

Image Credit: By Halter Leo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Beyond PowerPoint

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Tired of using PowerPoint?  Are you looking for something new and interesting?  Want to add more media to your presentations, or more easily and clearly present data?   We created a playlist in lynda.com that includes courses on Prezi, Keynote, and other suggestions for creating engaging and informative presentations.  Check out the playlist here – available to all Connecticut College faculty, staff, and students.

Image Credit: applause-sign. By darkuncle. Available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/darkuncle/4421756520/