Upcoming September Events

We hope to see you at some of our upcoming events this month. Beverages and snacks are provided, as well as friendly colleagues and interesting conversation! Feel free to register or just stop by as your schedule allows.

Thursday! Joint Session with the Center for Teaching & Learning 

Helping Students Read Effectively: In Print & Online – Email Tanya Schneider to Register
Thursday Sept 14, 8:45-10:15 AM| Hood Dining Room, Blaustein Humanities Center
Reading is a significant part of our students’ learning on campus, and much of this work takes place outside of class. How can we effectively guide their efforts to make sure that they are reading effectively and preparing well to reflect on their reading during class? How does reading online and in print differ, and how can we teach students to read carefully and critically in different media? This joint session with Instructional Technology will help us all consider methods that colleagues are already implementing and other approaches that we may want to share with our students.

Technologies for Teaching & Research Workshops

Reflect, Integrate, Demonstrate: Student Digital Portfolios – Register
Tuesday, September 19, 2:00 – 3:30 | Advanced Technology Lab
As we build a curriculum that asks students to reflect upon and integrate their coursework and co-curricular activities, several members of of our teaching and learning community are experimenting with digital portfolios as a space for this work. Through digital portfolios, students can archive artifacts that document and demonstrate their path through their education. Narrative explanations and curated examples make clear why they selected courses, a major or pathway, as well as what they learned and accomplished. We will demonstrate platform options and end with a discussion and leave with ideas for future implementations.

Media Literacy and Fake News – Register
Tuesday, September 26, 2:00 – 3:30 | Davis Classroom
Authorship, authority and credibility.  How do we help our students distinguish a more-credible resource from a less-credible one? What is media literacy and why do our students need to understand it? We will offer assignment ideas and class activities faculty can use to incorporate media literacy into their courses.

Reading Group

Debates in the Digital Humanities
Thursdays 2:30-3:30: September 21, October 26 & November 30
Advanced Technology Lab
Texts Available Online

Should liberal arts campuses do digital humanities? What is the role of teaching and learning in digital humanities? How are the digital humanities impacting your field? How do the digital humanities engage with, improve, and/or perpetuate problems of social justice? Debates in the Digital Humanities addresses these questions and many more. We will read some chapters together, and others of your choosing, based on your own interests.

Attend one session or all three! Please let Lyndsay Bratton know if you are interested in attending any of the meetings, so that planned readings can be communicated.


Welcome Back! Instructional Technology Office Hours

Activity is picking up on campus and we are looking forward to seeing you soon!

If you need help or motivation to work on your courses, drop in during our Instructional Technology Office Hours next Wednesday, August 23rd.  Members of the Instructional Technology staff will be available on Wednesday, August 23rd from 10:00AM – 2:00PM in the Advanced Technology Lab (Shain Library). We can answer questions on Moodle, WordPress, Computer Labs, Google Apps, or whatever else is on your mind. Bring your own computer or use one of ours in the Advanced Technology Lab and get last-minute class preparation done. We will have coffee and tea.



Global Classroom: Teaching about Refugees in the Age of Trump

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I am teaching GER/GIS/GWS 262: “Refugees in Europe: Germany” for the second time this semester. Obviously the recent change of government in the United States has impacted this course in many ways. As we all know, on January 27th, President Trump signed the Executive Order 13769 “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” limiting – among many other things – the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in 2017 to 50,000 and suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. As a consequence, the course has become much more comparative in nature, with students discussing the impact of the Executive Order and drawing parallels to Germany’s refugee policy. Right after the Executive Order was signed, students – as an online assignment on a snow day – wrote a letter to an (imaginary) friend or (imaginary) family member or local, state, or federal elected official, discussing the legal implications of the recent Executive Order in light of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Another assignment in this class that has been heavily impacted by the above-mentioned Executive Order was the Twitter assignment. Throughout the semester, students are asked to tweet 4 times a week about our course readings and news sources regarding the situation of refugees in Germany and Europe. While students’ privacy is always a major concern, the recent changes in U.S. Customs and Border Protection that make social media accounts part of the screening process clearly affect the privacy and safety of non-US citizens more than ever:

If you travel, know that CBP will open all of your electronic devices (laptop, phone, tablet) and examine the contents. We know of instances where individuals have been turned away for being perceived as “anti-Trump.” If you delete the content on your phone, they will ask for your email username and password. They will do the same for all of your social media accounts. –  a newsletter from Global Immigration Partners, sent to me on January 31st.

Again, this is something most of us are probably aware of, but a threat that, in a global classroom with extensive online and social media components, poses itself with particular urgency.

At the same time, the Twitter assignment this semester has triggered even more engaged discussions about its use as a tool for political social media marketing and branding; the challenges to distinguish between facts and lies; and one’s own responsibility to respond (or not to respond) to unsettling responses to one’s own posts.

Video of student answering why he signed up for this course

Like last year, the second half of the semester has been dedicated to the videoconferences with our German interview partners (see my Engage blog post). This year, I have had a larger group or students, raising some of the technical issues that we had discussed during our Technology Workshops throughout the year, so I felt well prepared to address them (as always, thanks to Laura Little for her support!). This semester, we Skyped in a young female refugee from Syria, two volunteers from a private reception center for refugees in Lübeck, a teacher from Hamburg, the organization “Flow” from Lübeck that offers programs for young refugees; and a lawyer who volunteers his time to help refugees with their asylum applications. Our final interview with “KidzCare Lübeck“ is scheduled for May 3rd, focusing on the special situation of female refugees.

On Wednesday, May 10th, we are going to have the public “launch” of our collaborative WordPress site. You’re welcome to join us from 11:50-1:00 at the Visualization Wall in Shain!

Building a New Approach to Online Discussions

working-in-snow-620x826Earlier this semester, I experimented with a “virtual class” on a day when snow closed down the college. Had there been class, students would have discussed a reading in small groups. Typically during these sessions, students spend roughly 2/3 of the class period working through discussion questions. The final 1/3 is spent debriefing with the entire class, hearing from the groups directly and collectively filling in the blanks. On the snow day, I figured that students could use GChat and Google Docs to collaboratively answer these same discussion questions, allowing me to use this time productively and not have to push my course schedule back. Students connected with their groups over GChat and typed answers on a Google document that was shared with me.

Jumping ahead in time, I am currently putting together the first midterm in this course. As I debate the set of questions to put on the exam, I am reflecting on what was actually accomplished during this virtual class. It was a way to get something out of this brief period of time when I knew that students could get together, and it enabled me to keep the course on schedule. But what did the activity accomplish aside from these basic goals? Could I be confident that students understood the key components of the reading? Could I know who was driving the discussion, who contributed to the final answers, and who simply was passively along for the ride?

Upon reflection, I cannot answer any of these questions. While the activity was not a total waste, it did not successfully mimic the learning that would have occurred in a regular class; it did not allow me to assess the degree to which students understood and appreciated the reading. As a result, I do not feel comfortable including questions about this reading on the exam.

I know that I, with the help of technology, can do much better. I am seeking to substantially enhance my approach to online discussions, with the dual goals of “snow-day-proofing” my courses and creating modular discussion-based assignments that can take place in, or out of, class. In the initial stages, I am taking a content-free approach, thinking about general best practices, methods of instruction and tools of assessment that help me think through the various challenges and strategies for dealing with them. How can I assess relative contributions? How can I develop ground rules, and provide instructions to encourage full participation and successful collaboration? How can I use chat transcripts to help me answer these questions without being overly intrusive? What would a successful transcript look like, and how can I model successful collaboration for students at the start of a semester? What kind of rubric can I use to set expectations?

The sheer number of these important questions (all of which have to be answered if this approach is to reach its potential) tells me that this journey will not be an easy one. But the payoffs are potentially high enough to make an initial time commitment well worth it.

Image Credit: Susan Dickerson-Lange

Learn Something New This Holiday Weekend with Lynda.com

Learning paths in lynda.com

Have you forgotten about lynda.com? 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 lynda.com, 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!


Applying Classroom Learning and Theories in Practical Ways

How to challenge students to apply classroom learning and theories from course readings in practical ways off campus? How to bring what’s learned elsewhere back into the classroom? This perennial dilemma can be addressed by constantly moving back and forth between praxis and practice. This can be further intensified by asking students to learn from those who went before them and to help teach those who will come after. One student called this “reciprocity.” That’s the theory behind a unit on museums in the Sophomore Research Seminar on Cases and History of Equality (SRS299). With the help of WordPress and guidance from Instructional Technologists, the Seminar asks students to apply theories to three museums.

Students collecting data at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.This past fall, the Seminar’s Unit II asked students to view case studies of movements for educational access and self-determination in the U.S. and Mexico. Then, students undertook a decolonized museum assignment, an assignment suggested by colleagues in Anthropology. Students began by reading theoretical articles by U.S. scholars defining a decolonized museum. They then split into groups of four or five and learned how to use WordPress in a class session run by Jessica McCullough, Instructional Design Librarian. In addition, they consulted recommended websites and YouTube videos that offered pointers on how best to take photos, make audio recordings, and gather other kinds of documentary evidence at the museum for later analysis. Before we left campus, they also gleaned all the information that they could from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center’s website and floor plan.

After spending a half-day at the Museum, students met to create a “rough draft” of their WordPress sites and discuss it with class. The assignment ended there. The goals were to 1) give students a lower-stakes way of organizing their analysis and the evidence backing it up and 2) put this in a format that the current students could leave for future students to consult and expand.  Students did a fine job making an argument based on criteria found in the readings and backing it up with evidence from the Museum. They also endowed the Seminar with three very informative WordPress sites.

Entrance to the Museo Jtatik SamuelTwo other faculty and two students who took the Seminar in the fall are helping redesign it to accommodate up to thirty students and a separate community-based learning segment. The Decolonized Museum assignment will begin with initial historical background on First Nations in Southern New England presented in lectures and videos. Each group will be assigned one of the past WordPress sites from fall, 2015 to begin its work. The introductory background and an opportunity to prepare a research plan within each group will be followed by a series of three museum visits. The first will again take students to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, the second is the Tantaquidgeon Museum, a small, private museum in Uncasville, and the third is a virtual tour of the Museo Jtatik Samuel, in Chiapas Mexico. Spaced a week apart, each visit will require students to make a plan to gather materials, analyze them, integrate them into a WordPress site, and discuss findings. This will create a more thorough educational experience for the students going back and forth between theory and practice, reconciling these and discussing them at each step of the way.

This approach should leave an extensive set of WordPress sites for the seminar participants in 2018. It will also prepare a handful of students for summer internships at some of these museums in CT and Chiapas. Between now and spring, 2017, arrangements for the museum visits and Skype conversations need to be made. And the “virtual tour” of the Museo will be created next fall.  The faculty and staff involved in this Seminar are also continually learning and working as well!

February Teaching with Technology Workshops

Don’t forget to add the following Teaching with Technology workshops to your calendar! Workshops are open to all faculty and staff. We’ll see you there.

Get out of your inbox! Gmail Productivity
Gmail LogoTuesday, February 9, 12:00-1:00 PM
Neff Lab, Second Floor, Shain Library
Spending too much time in your inbox? In this session you will learn quick tips to make email work for you. Tools include Boomerang, canned responses, calendar integration, and Google Groups. We will also cover methods of organizing your email for maximum efficiency.

Free Textbooks?! Using Open Educational Resources
Friday, February 19, 9:15 – 10:15 AMOER Logo
Advanced Technology Lab, Shain Library, Lower Level
Back by popular demand! Open Educational Resources (OER) are shared teaching, learning, and research resources that are free for anyone to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. Using high-quality, peer-reviewed OER instead of costly textbooks has several advantages, including: equitable access to learning materials, increased student achievement, and complete flexibility. In this workshop we will hear from faculty who are using OER and explore high quality examples. You will leave with strategies for finding, evaluating, and integrating OER in your courses!

Video, Images, and Music, Oh My! Library Resources for Teaching

"Now that we can tell time, I'd like to suggest that we begin imposing deadlines."

You may have noticed that this blog has been silent for a few weeks. This partly has to do with the Thanksgiving break and workload at this time in the semester, but also to the huge amount of information I want to share – I am overwhelmed at the thought of writing (and asking you to read) so many posts!  

As a start, I would like to share some of the great digital resources the library provides and that you might consider incorporating into your classes as you plan for next semester. To learn more about any resource listed here, stop by the reference desk or contact your library liaison.

  • Kanopy: the library’s answer to Netflix! Make time over break to browse this amazing source of high-quality streaming documentary and feature films from such reputable sources as Criterion, California Newsreel, First Run Features and more. You’ll find films on topics such as Black Lives Matter, Transgender Stories, Asian American Studies, Immigration and Identity. Many films also include study guides. As if this weren’t enough, public performance rights are included so any film in the collection can be shown outside of class and open to the community!
  • Have you looked at ARTstor recently? They continue to add amazing content, most recently 18,000 images from Condé Nast, including 3,000 cartoons from The New Yorker (including the cartoon above, without the watermark!). Other interesting and interdisciplinary collections include 53,000 photographs from The Museum of the City of New York, photographs of the AIDS crisis by Thomas McGovern, nearly 3,200 images of Andean ceramics from the Fowler Museum at UCLA, over 3,600 images of non-Western art from the Seattle Art Museum and more. ARTstor’s Subject Guides and Curriculum Guides are useful for navigating the collection.
  • Want to immerse students in a different place or time period? Do you discuss music and culture? American Song includes music by and about Native Americans, miners, immigrants, slaves, children, cowboys and more. For a focus on Jazz music, Naxos Jazz Library includes over 45,000 tracks. Contemporary World Music contains 50,000 tracks from genres such as reggae, worldbeat, Balkanic jazz, African film, Bollywood, Arab swing and jazz, and other genres such as traditional music – Indian classical, fado, flamenco, klezmer, zydeco, gospel, gagaku, and more. Classical collections include Classical Music Library and Naxos Music Library.

Digital Projects and Online Etiquette

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 10.49.43 AM
Tweet showing a Connecticut College student using emoji.
Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 10.52.50 AM
Tweet that talks about Camelympics and asks Japanese students if they have similar events on their campus.

I have been much busier than expected this semester. One of the reasons is my new project, JPN201 Twitter Project. The goal of this project is to create a physical or on-line guide about Japanese college/university students’ lives to prepare students of Japanese for studying in Japan. Before starting this semester, I worked hard to write a description of the project and develop rubrics to evaluate students’ tweets. Before I had asked my students to start the project, I encountered various unforeseen incidents.

Since my students find out how Japanese college students’ lives look like, it is necessary for them to have Japanese correspondents who are college/university students in Japan. The Japanese program at Connecticut College is a part of the Associate Kyoto Program (AKP) through which our students can study in Kyoto. The AKP’s main office is located in Doshisha University. I contacted the AKP office manager and asked her for help to find volunteer students from Doshisha University. They circulated the ad recruiting volunteer students for this project.

As soon as the ad was circulated, I started receiving inquiries from their students. I was excited initially without foreseeing what would have been involved! At our campus, we often discuss manners regarding how students should communicate with us through emails. To my surprise, one after another, I received ill-mannered emails. They addressed me, “Kobayashi-san,” instead of “Kobayashi-sensei.” Sometime they called me “Hisae-san.” I would like to let you know that they are not my peers, but they are college students. Furthermore, I have never seen them. This was their first time contacting me! Some of them did not even say why they contacted me in the first place. They just put their name without providing any proper information.

Although my students always behave appropriately at least when they communicate with me, I was afraid that my students would offend Japanese natives due to their lack of linguistic as well as cultural knowledge. Therefore, I provided the following:


  • Please maintain your cordial, polite, friendly tone.
  • Please be respectful to fellow students.
  • Please be positive when you would like to give feedback.
  • Please avoid making personal attacks in response.
  • Please avoid using Japanese slang you might have found in Anime, Manga, which may easily cause misunderstanding.
  • Slow to anger, abundant in empathy

While I paid my attention to my students’ behavior, I was taken aback by students in Japan! Maybe it is because I live in this country so long and because I do not have enough knowledge of youth culture in Japan.

Suddenly my perspective toward my students has been elevated highly. My students would never behave like them at least toward me. At the same time, I realized that this was one of the negative results of using technologies. Technologies are very convenient as well as beneficial as long as we use them for a right purpose in an appropriate manner. They provide us richer experiences such as my JPN202 Twitter Project. My students can communicate with native speakers of Japanese in the Japanese language while both sides stay where they are. Since I have no control over students in Japan, I decided to use this unpleasant incident to screen the volunteers. I did not respond to ill-mannered emails.  Among those students, one contacted me again to see if I had received her email and to ask me how she would start joining the project. I can give credit to her for willingness to contact me again. I explained to her why my response was delayed. After our appropriate email exchanges, she joined the project.

The project has been going smoothly. I have made many observations about my students’ communication skills. I’ve been enjoying monitoring their tweets and I give them feedback every week. Although it is a lot of work for me, it is valuable experience for my students. I’m looking forward to seeing what they say after the project.

Lastly, I found a way to motivate students in Japan to tweet.  Look at the image below. This photo tells who communicated with whom and who tweets most. After uploading the photo, the number of tweets from Japan increased. They surely continue to surprise me.