student working on laptop November 11, 2016

Wikipedia Projects for Learning


Most teachers consider Wikipedia the devil’s realm, a place where rumor and misinformation are spread. But in reality, studies have found that Wikipedia has an accuracy of a regular encyclopedia. Inaccurate information is quickly corrected by volunteer editors, and there are strict standards for entering content, including the rule that “everything must be cited.” Most important, Wikipedia is the place where many, if not most, people go to get initial information on a topic. This makes it probably the most important information source on the Internet, and because editing is public, it presents a wonderful opportunity for students to create articles as class assignments.

male college student with phone and laptop April 15, 2016

Audio Reflection Assignments Help Students Develop Metacognitive Skills


From the bold honors student to the timid learner in the back row, reflection can help students become more aware of themselves as learners. But because we often rely on writing as the primary mode of metacognitive reflection, some students, especially those who struggle with college-level writing, may not experience the full cognitive benefits of reflection. For such students, the stress of writing can compromise their focus on reflection.

student studying in library March 11, 2016

Hands-On Assignment Awakens Student Creativity


If you read the syllabus of an Introduction to Sociology course, you’ll notice we have ambitious goals for our students. We not only want our students to understand sociological theories, we want them to use these theories to meaningfully analyze their everyday experiences, interactions, and observations and draw greater meaning from them. How can we encourage this type of engagement in an introductory sociology class? I have realized that the key is by guiding students to think innovatively through a self-directed research project where the students are the drivers of their learning process.

ipad: student survey January 22, 2016

Free ‘Clickers’ for All: Using Google Forms to Survey Your Students


As many educators are, I am interested in exploring methods that provide real-time, formative assessment in the classroom. Being a teacher of such courses as microbiology, microbial genomics, and immunology, which are dense in jargon and abstract concepts, I need to be able to quickly get a snapshot of how well my students are grasping important ideas or concepts. My students also need this information in order to assess their own learning. To this end, I started exploring the use of personal response systems, or “clickers,” as a method for rapid classroom assessment. The overall trend of the SoTL data gathered on this topic indicates that clickers can be used for formative assessment, including in my own field of biology. Awesome!

female with smart phone November 2, 2015

The Power of Podcasting Redux


It’s no secret that technology continues to transform the way educators teach and the way students learn. Increasingly, students want to be able to learn on their own terms–that is, they want to be able to study whenever, wherever, and however they choose, and they expect institutions and faculty to be accommodating. We’ve likely all had students who for one misguided reason or another believed that their professors—particularly those teaching online—were available around the clock to answer questions, provide feedback, and generally just be there if needed. As unrealistic as this belief is, wouldn’t it be nice if instructors could approximate being available 24/7? Well, you can—sort of—through the power of podcasting.

students at computer October 2, 2015

Taking the Tech Out of Technology


Discussion boards. Google documents. YouTube videos. TED Talks. Khan Academy. These are just a few of the many resources some of us have used in our ever-growing arsenal of techie tools. We want to stay on the cutting edge. The Sloan Consortium (now Online Learning Consortium) predicts this trend toward an increased usage of technology will continue into the foreseeable future. So we continue to hone our skills, taking advantage of an ever-increasing array of technological options. We attend conferences, exchange ideas with colleagues, read up on the latest innovations—all in the interest of keeping our teaching on the technology edge. But I sometimes worry that we may have gone over the edge.

Professor at lectern August 14, 2015

Showtime in the Classroom: Seven Ways Streaming Video Can Enhance Teaching


Many faculty seek to make creative use of films in their teaching, whether in traditional class screenings or through flipped classrooms. However, there are many obstacles to teaching with videos: the costs and constraints of DVD as a technology; limited DVD collections at some libraries; time involved in creating videos for one’s own classes; the popularized, questionable nature of many videos found on YouTube; the lack of institutional subscriptions to mainstream streaming services; and copyright concerns. Fortunately, in recent years, most campus libraries have subscribed to copyright-licensed and academically oriented streaming video collections such as Kanopy, NBC Learn, Films on Demand, PBS Video Collection, and Swank’s Digital Campus. These “Netflix” of academia offer fantastic functionalities and curated content designed with pedagogy in mind.

Students at computers June 29, 2015

Using Google Web Apps to Improve Student Engagement


In general education humanities courses, at least two problems seem universal:
1. How to blend the teaching of content and the teaching of critical thinking skills that are transferrable to other fields
2. How to encourage student participation and engagement

For years, my typical approach to these problems has been to “flip the classroom” and make my students more responsible for their own learning. I have minimized my lecturing and used carefully crafted discussion questions and small group in-class assignments to move my students through critical thinking processes as they unravel the complexities of literary texts.