Category Archives: Teaching Resource of the Week

Weekly post from Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

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.


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.


Goals for the First Day of Class

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

Michigan Tech instructors need to make the most of every minute.   The good news is that a tremendous number of free teaching resources are available to us, so that –  increasingly – we don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”  Each week of this fall semester, I’ll showcase one of my favorite online (free!) teaching resources, in hopes that you’ll find some things that increase learning and save you time.  If you have favorite resources, I encourage you to bring them to my attention so I can share them with the instructional community as well.

This week’s resource is Merlot Elixr’s “Goals for the First Day of Class”.

This “case story” is a series of short videos showcasing essential practices for the first day of class and a plethora of ideas to really get the semester started right.   Snippets from a wide variety of disciplines are included, but the general themes (Motivation, Framing, Expectations, Assessment, Climate, and Administration) are generically useful as you plan your first day.

If you’d like to talk more about your first day, or about any aspect of your teaching, feel free to stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, Suite 219!