Author: Jean DeClerck

Concerned about a Student?

This week’s teaching resource is a little closer to home. In addition to academic concerns, students often share struggles and situations of a personal nature with their instructors. When this happens to me, I’m sometimes unsure of how to respond.

Our own Dean of Student’s Office has put together a valuable set of resources “to assist the Michigan Tech community in providing support to students who may face a variety of concerns during their college career.” These include discussions of situations as minor as roommate conflicts and as major as suicide or sexual assault. Each topic includes specific “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to help an instructor make an appropriate response, considering both the student’s best interest and legal issues (like mandatory reporting). The page is indexed to make it easy for busy instructors to find situation-appropriate advice quickly and to connect with other campus resources when more help is needed.

If you’d like to talk more about resources for this other dimension of teaching or share 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.


November

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. 

Lunch and Learn — International Students: How Can We Help Them Succeed in the Classroom? (11/13): International students bring unique skills, perspectives, opportunities, and challenges to our classrooms and programs.  Prior to this blended seminar, you’ll watch video interviews with instructors and administrators who have experience working with international students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Then, you’ll select those facilitators you’d like to engage during a lunchtime discussion. This luncheon is scheduled for Thursday, November 13 from noon-1 p.m. Lunch will be provided to those who register by Monday, November 10.  Click here to register.

Coffee Chat — How Learning Works (11/18): Dr. Susan Ambrose of Northeastern University recently published a book entitled How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching.    During this coffee chat, we’ll discuss the 7 principles and how best to apply them to create a learner-centered classroom. Prior to the coffee chat, participants are asked to watch a 52-minute webinar, featuring Dr. Ambrose and recorded as part of WEPAN’s Engineering Inclusive Teaching Project, to inform the conversation. This coffee chat event This coffee chat is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided to those who register by Thursday, November 14.  Click here to register.


Learning Object Repositories

by Mike Meyer, Director of William G. Jackson CTL

Many instructors at Michigan Tech are hard at work building videos, narrated PowerPoints, case studies, problem sets, worksheets and other course materials. Of course, there are hundreds of other institutions with hundreds of other instructors doing the same. The idea of a learning object repository (LOR) is to allow developers to share their creations for other instructor use and save development time. Virtually anyone can contribute learning objects to an LOR or (given permission) use another instructor’s materials.

There have been hundreds of LORs created by universities, private foundations and professional societies. Some require memberships, and some are completely open. As you can imagine, the biggest challenge lies in sorting and ranking contributed learning objects so the best ones can be quickly found in a search. Two organizations that have done this reasonably well with a large body of materials include Merlot and Hippocampus. Instructure (the creators of Canvas) are also planning their own LOR, called Canvas Commons, which will allow the sharing of materials specifically developed within Canvas (quizzes, assignments, etc.)

If you’d like to talk more about learning object repositories 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.


Open-Source Textbooks as Supplemental Course Resources

by Mike Meyer, Director of William G. Jackson CTL

No matter which textbook I use, I always seem to hear from a subset of students that the book just doesn’t make sense to them.

The availability of peer-reviewed, open-source introductory textbooks for a variety of fields has provided an easy alternative for these students. Openstax College is one source of vetted, free and editable college-level texts. The physics text I’ve started using allows me to link to specific topics or sections for supplemental (or alternative) reading. Someone teaching an advanced course could also use these texts for review of foundational topics.

The open-source text movement is widespread, but still dispersed. A number of other sites like the University of Minnesota’s Open Textbook Library have a broader collection that has been less vetted. Google searches may also turn up open-source texts by individuals who haven’t yet found a central distribution point. For texts that have, some companies have even begun building relatively low-cost online problem engines and other resources.

If you’d like to talk more about open-source textbooks share other 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.


Using TED Talks in Your Teaching

by Mike Meyer, Director of William G. Jackson CTL

Many instructors enjoy using TED talks in their teaching. TED talks are videos of short (18 minutes or less), creative commons-attribution licensed presentations by passionate, charismatic speakers who are experts in their respective fields.

What you may not realize is that this list of talks has now grown to more than 1,800. Talks, which touch virtually every field imaginable, are nicely indexed by topic and organized into playlists, either of which can quickly lead you to valuable resources for your course. Asking students to watch and react to a TED talk can be an easy and effective way to introduce a topic, ignite a discussion, show an application or provide an additional viewpoint.

If you’d like to talk more about TED talks or to share other 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.


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.