Archives—September 2014

Backchannelling

by Mike Meyer, Director of William G. Jackson CTL

In larger classes, students may be reluctant to raise a hand and ask a question. To overcome this trepidation, some instructors are experimenting with “backchannelling,” which gives students a text-based alternative for posing questions.

Backchanneling can be done through Twitter or other popular social media, but these often require students to have accounts. Instructors who want to try this technique may find it much simpler to use the free website todaysmeet.com.

Todaysmeet allows an instructor to create a chat room that lasts for just one class or the whole semester. Once students have the URL for that room (todaysmeet.com/ROOMNAME), they can just point a browser on their phone, laptop or tablet to it and start asking questions. Instructors can check the site periodically during class, monitor the site on their own phone or laptop, or even designate an assistant to respond to questions or aggregate responses.

If you’d like to talk more about backchanneling or share teaching resources you’ve found, email ctl@mtu.edu or stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219.


October

The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning schedules events for faculty and instructional staff to provide opportunities to learn new instructional strategies and tools and meet faculty from other departments. 

Coffee Chat — Organizing STEM Education Research (10/2): A growing number of instructors on campus have expressed interest in measuring the effects of classroom reforms. The Pavlis Honors College, the Graduate School, the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, the Engineering Fundamentals Department and others have begun working together to formalize programs and centralize resources in order to better support this kind of work. This discussion will include a summary of efforts to-date, a review of a potential campus-wide grant proposal, and opportunities for you to share your input on future directions. All with an interest in STEM Education research are encouraged to attend! This event is scheduled for Thursday, October 2, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided to those who register by Monday, September 29.  Click here to register.

Coffee Chat — Information Literacy Learning Goal (10/7): Join the Information Literacy Goal Committee for a collaborative primer about integrating information literacy instruction effectively and efficiently in your course or degree program. Reminder: The Information Literacy University Student Learning Goal (USLG) will be assessed university wide this year. This timely workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, October 7 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided to those who register by Thursday, October 2.  Click here to register.

Lunch and Learn — Jackson Blended Learning Grant Showcase (10/16): Through a generous gift from William G. Jackson in 2013, the CTL awarded $1000, $5000 and $10,000 grants to teams of instructors for blended learning projects at Michigan Tech. This luncheon will showcase these grant projects, which include travel to blended learning conferences as well as small-to-extensive course development or expansion projects, delivered using blended and online learning techniques. Participants will be invited to explore the kinds of work funded by previous grants prior to the luncheon and then select facilitators for further conversation. The goal is to encourage participants to initiate their own blended learning projects and/or propose a grant during the second solicitation, planned for November 2014. This luncheon is scheduled for Thursday, October 16 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided to those who register by Monday, October 13.  Click here to register.

Workshop and Luncheon — On Thursday, Oct. 23, staff from TechSmith, makers of popular video recording/editing software, will be at Michigan Tech for one day only to showcase their tools and share their expertise. The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning invites faculty and instructional staff to attend two TechSmith events. For instructors new to recording and editing videos or screen capture, a Video Tools Overview is scheduled for 9:30 to 11a.m., so instructors can see what can be done with TechSmith tools, ask questions and learn how to get started. Those already using Camtasia or other TechSmith tools are encouraged to register for an afternoon Advanced User Workshop to get an expert’s help on projects. To register, click on the links above or contact the CTL for assistance at 7-3000.


Cartoons to Lighten the Classroom Mood

by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

As students’ stress levels rise, you may want to lighten the classroom mood a bit with a cartoon. Cartoons can be used as a warm-up at the beginning of class, as an “attention-clock reset” throughout class, to introduce a topic or even to drive home a particular point. Evidence suggests that getting students to laugh just before an exam can also raise performance, so some instructors include a cartoon just above the first question.

The Internet is full of cartoons, but two particularly good sources for Creative Commons-licensed cartoons include XKCD and Webdonuts. Both sites cover a wide selection of topics and are searchable and embeddable. XKCD, which provides a little edgier humor, is likely to be more popular with typical undergraduates.

If you’d like to talk more about how the attention clock resets or the use of cartoons, or if you would like to share teaching resources you’ve found, emailctl@mtu.edu or feel free to stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in Library 219.


Students Lacking Prerequisite Knowledge

by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

When students arrive in your class lacking prerequisite knowledge, it’s often difficult for them to succeed. With the wealth of video tutorials available, an instructor can really help these students by providing resources they can use independently to dust off content not used in a while or really learn topics that never were mastered.

One good source for videos like this is Khan Academy. Khan started with math, so the collection is best in that subject area but has been expanded to include all science fields, economics and finance, a good share of the arts and humanities and computing. Again, instructors can register, build a catalog of resources and track student progress if desired, but the strength of this resource is in the short, indexed, topic-oriented explanations of common content.

If you’d like to talk more about how you might make use of Khan Academy videos, or if would like to share teaching resources you’ve found, email ctl@mtu.edu. Also, stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in Van Pelt and Opie room 219.



Undergraduate STEM Teaching MOOC

An interesting and free “MOOC”  (Massive Open Online course)  on Undergraduate STEM Teaching  is now available. The course will run on the Coursera platform starting October 6th.  It’s produced by faculty, students, and staff at six institutions affiliated with the CIRTL Network, a group of research universities collaborating in the preparation of STEM graduate students and post-docs as future faculty members.  Lead instructors are Trina McMahon (UW-Madison), Rique Campa (Michigan State), Bennett Goldberg (Boston U), and me (Vanderbilt U).

The course is designed to provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the STEM disciplines who are planning college and university faculty careers with an introduction to effective teaching strategies and the research that supports them. Topics include course design, cooperative learning, peer instruction, inquiry-based labs, problem-based learning, diversity in the classroom, and more. Although aimed at future STEM faculty, we expect that current STEM faculty will find the course interesting and useful, too.



Available Online Content for Flipped Classrooms

by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

Many instructors are working hard to “flip” their classroom by recording videos or building other content for online review and then using class time for interaction. It’s time consuming and very challenging to make professional online content, but good online sources already exist for some topics. Some even offer introductory online practice. One good source is the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) through Carnegie Mellon University.

Instructors can informally direct students to individual content modules or sign up for an instructor account, which allows students to sign in so their work can be tracked and reported. Topics include a growing list from a wide variety of fields, and access to most resources is free.

If you’d like to talk more about how you might make use of OLI, or if would like to share teaching resources you’ve found, email ctl@mtu.edu or feel free to stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219.


Interactive Graphs to Visualize Concepts and Relationships

by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

A picture may be worth 1,000 words. But, when it comes to teaching, an interactive graph may be worth 1,000 pictures.

This week’s teaching resource is the Wolfram Demonstrations Project .

Take a look at just a few categories, and I’m guessing you’ll find something that will be useful during the term.

Unless you already have Mathematica installed on your machine, you will be prompted to download and install a free “Computable Document Format” player as soon as you try to use an interactive. Once you do, you’ll have access to a library of almost 10,000 from virtually all STEM fields as well as business, social sciences, graphic design and even music.

These interactive graphs allow you to change one or more parameters and see immediately how other things change. (For instance, one interactive allows you to change the system temperature and watch the blackbody spectrum change.) I find using simulations like these allow both my students and me to powerfully visualize concepts and relationships between quantities.

If you’d like to talk more about how interactives might be used with students, or if you have favorite teaching resources of your own, stop by or contact theWilliam G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219.