1-1-1, Faculty Technology Institute, TLT

Incorporating student interaction and peer instruction in math courses

Our guest blogger is Stephane Lafortune, a professor in the Department of Mathematics. Dr. Lafortune attended the 2014 Summer FTI. This post is a report and reflection on incorporating a new learning strategy in his math courses.

I participated in the 2014 Summer FTI. My goal was to become more familiar and comfortable with the technology that can be incorporated in my work as a teacher. Below, I will first talk about my general experience as a participant and then focus on one aspect of the workshop that I used in class.

The commitment of participating in an FTI involves being there eight hours a day for a week. This is quite a commitment from both you and the organizers who have to come up with activities and material to entertain all these professors (we were about 25 people). Well, let me tell you that the staff of TLT filled this week with so many workshops, activities, and games where we could win stuff (I did win a TLT umbrella) that really there were no dull moments. In addition to that, the people at TLT truly were enthusiastic about the FTI and really cared about the participants. As a direct consequence of that, there was really a good spirit of camaraderie among the participants. As a human experience, I have a fond memory of the week I spent with the TLT people.

My primary goal was to learn about technology. However, I had not noticed that there was going to be a section of the FTI devoted to the topic of “interactive teaching.” For that section, we were using the guide entitled “The Interactive Lecture” written by Silver and Perini. As part of our activities, we had a block of time (about 2 hours) when we had to come up with a specific way to implement the strategies outlined in the guide. To do so, we were guided in a very specific way as the steps we had to follow were written in a Google document. Our “job” was to write our plan by following each step carefully. Admittedly, I was not initially very enthusiastic about the idea but, given that I was sitting there with nothing else to do, I went to work and decided to apply this technique to my Math 103 course.

One of the topics that most of the students have difficulty to grasp in Math 103 concerns the analysis of arguments (this is part of the mathematical theory of logic). During that session, I created activities where the students would be forced to collaborate with a neighbor to come up with their own arguments and then share their ideas as to how the argument can be analyzed.  I did use those ideas in my summer Math103 course right after the FTI. To do so, I shortened the time spent on lecturing by going over less examples on the board. The idea was to have the students make their own examples and have them explain to each other how to apply the concepts to their cases.  It went magnificently as the students enthusiastically exchanged ideas once I had told them to start. As a direct consequence of that, the students had a better understanding of the topic and their exam scores on that particular topic were much higher than usual. In addition, being “forced” to work on interactive lectures gave me other ideas of activities, which I also incorporated in that summer Math 103 course.

To conclude, this FTI was a wonderful experience on a personal level as it was very pleasant and enabled me to get to know some of my colleagues. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised by the impact what I learned had on my teaching style.

Dr Margaret Hagood
Assessment, Faculty Technology Institute, Innovative Instruction, TLT

Guest Post: Scaffolding through screen casting and flipped classrooms for digital natives

Margaret Hagood, Associate Professor in Teacher Education, writes about how she altered an existing assignment to scaffold learning.

I teach literacy education courses to students in the department of Teacher Education. The field of literacy has changed considerably over the past 10 years, now encompassing the ability to read and write words in traditional printed material alongside the literacies required of digital, visual, technological, and pop culture texts. Not only are students expected to consume these texts, they must also be able to produce them.

Part of my work in literacy methods courses is to expose undergraduate and graduate students to the variety of texts they will be expected to use in their own teaching with elementary and middle grade students. That means traditional classic texts, but it also means contemporary texts such as youtube videos, apps, movies, graphic novels, websites, etc.

Thinking about these areas necessary for literacy teacher preparation, I decided to use my learning from the Faculty Technology Institute to revamp and rejuvenate a course project for EDEE 377: Teaching Literacies (Grades 5-8) that would both expose my students to reading widely in order to learn about young peoples’ literacies and get them using digital literacies and technological texts to produce a project that could use in their classroom instruction. This project is called the Multimedia Text Set (MMTS).  I have taught several different iterations of this project. Although I’ve liked the project overall, I feel that student outcomes are often compromised. Sometimes students’ final projects lack depth of content knowledge to demonstrate wide reading. Other times their published work lacks overall organization and clarity because they didn’t understand how to use the technology to meet their production needs.

Participation in this year’s FTI gave me time to reflect upon the import of using technology pedagogically for scaffolded learning in order to improve student outcomes. Rather than assume the digital native identity (Prensky 2005/2006) given to students by virtue of their age and exposure to technology, I decided to assume that they didn’t know much about the technologies I wanted them to use to create the MMTS project, and decided I’d use technologies and a flipped classroom model to break the project down for them. With this idea in mind, I broke up the project into several components, and used a variety of technologies to illustrate for students how to move from one step to the next. Before I explain how I went about this flipped idea, let me explain the overall project.

Here’s the project description students see on my course Google Site:

What are Multimedia Text Sets (MMTS)? 

MMTS incorporate a grouping of texts from many different genres and forms around a common question, topic, or theme. Texts in the set may include print, video, music, Internet, photographs, cartoons, and so on. In essence, a MMTS reflect the texts used by children and adolescents in today’s increasingly connected world.

Many teachers use different genres and forms of text to support the teaching and learning of content. However, teachers, don’t necessarily teach students how to read different text forms. Nor do they explicitly address how multimedia texts as a whole interconnect and serve to include multiple perspectives and deeper understanding of the content and essential concepts. Furthermore, nonprint media rarely are given the same importance and significance as print texts. This lack of attention to other forms of texts ignores the fact that all “texts”—books, ads, film, TV, magazines, music, for example, are constructed messages. In today’s world, an increasingly important aspect of literacy is the understanding that all texts present deliberate, careful constructions. All texts do no just reflect reality but result from the authors’ and/or producers’ attitudes, perspectives, interpretations, cultures, points of view, and purposes.

The range of texts in a MMTS allows teachers and students to explore different forms and genres of texts and incorporate the following instructional foci:

Writing practices  —  Vocabulary  —  Visual literacies  —  Discussion across texts  —  Intertextual connections   —  Digital literacies  —  Engagement  —  Reading practices  —  Multimedia production  —  Multiple perspectives  —  Critical thinkingText complexity

Reading across texts provides more opportunities to use language to practice literacy skills and strategies to learn content. High levels of comprehension are supported as students read critically across multiple texts and text forms. Reading across text forms provides engaging opportunities for critical dialogue and advanced comprehension. Thus, collaborative instructional planning that combines text sets and language tools weaves a strong, connective path that supports students’ use of strategies and content. It also contributes to a rich context for critical dialogue and advanced comprehension.

What is the MMTS project for this class? 

This project may be completed individually or with a partner.

It includes the following:

    1. Analysis of Wonderopolis.org website for a variety of components.
    • Go to www.wonderopolis.org. Peruse the website. Examine three wonderings on the site and analyze them with the following criteria. Print your answers and bring to class for small and large group discussion.
      • What is the point of the website?
      • Name and describe the various components of the website:
      • What literacies are promoted/used in the various components of the website?
      • What literacies are omitted from the various components of the website?
      • Who is the target audience(s) for this website? Why? (Give examples and reasons)
      • Anything unique about this site?
    • After completing the review, please view the Wonderopolis screencast annotated video to consider further relations between the website and literacy development.
      Loading the player …

2. Creation of your own wondering overarching question and 1-2 subquestions that would be of interest to an age group of students you’d like to teach.

3. Research using a variety of multimedia sources to answer the question. (You must use Springpad.com to show this work of at least 20 texts-both print and nonprint). See 7 minute screencast where I overview the app for this project.

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4. Creation of your own Wonderopolis wondering using an approved website creator (such as www.weebly.com, www.webs.com, or www.yola.com).

5. Completion of annotated bibliography of your text set (see template below).

Submit the following documents:

1.  Link to your completed wondering within the chart to the course gsite.

Go to https://sites.google.com/site/edee377/assignments/child-study-pc-project to enter this information in the final column of the chart. 

2. Upload completed Multimedia Text Set Annotated Bibliography chart

 (see attachment at  https://sites.google.com/site/edee377/assignments/child-study-pc-project). Name it last name-wondering. For example: Hagood-Friendship.

Throughout the semester, we broke the project down into several steps, often viewing videos and websites in a flipped classroom model so that classtime was reserved for analyses of text sets and applications. We studied overall text sets, examining the strengths and weaknesses of them in meeting the teaching and learning needs of students and teachers in diverse 21st century classrooms. We analyzed the applications that students were going to use (Springpad, Wonderopolis, and the web creation apps), discussing the affordances and challenges of each in relation to both the assignment at hand and to uses in middle school classrooms. And we broke the project into parts, moving from whole-to part- to whole, so that students could learn both the import of MMTS and the tools by which to create their own. Students shared their work at various stages over the semester during “10 minute shares” during class, whereby they signed up to discuss components of their projects that were going well or that were confusing them. They also had three opportunities during the semester to bring their work to class for a digital writing workshop, providing them time to examine their work in relation to their peers, to get oral feedback from the professor in relation to the scoring rubric (see Table 1), and to confer with partners about next steps.


Outcomes of Fall and Spring iterations from different sections yielded much stronger outcomes. Students completed projects were immensely better, in form, content, organization, clarity, and applicability. On both fall and spring course evaluations, students noted consistently that although the project was time consuming, they saw it as worthwhile as they became more well read in areas important to elementary and middle grade students and that they appreciated learning the technologies as they were expected to use them.

Here are links to three exemplar projects:

Using screencasting to describe features of apps to be used in specific ways for the MMTS, flipping the classroom by using videos and website analyses, scaffolding the learning of digital technologies, and providing time for classroom discussion (in small and whole groups) gave new life to the MMTS project, better meeting the pedagogical needs of the so called digital natives I taught.


Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 8-13.

1-1-1, Collaboration, Faculty Technology Institute

Guest Post: Flipping for Human Sexuality

Our guest blogger is Professor Kym Long-Wallace from Health and Human Performance.

Exactly how boring can human sexuality be?  Most students are enthusiastic for their new classes, especially at the beginning of the semester, and particularly for the topic of human sexuality. When my classes reach maximum capacity, I receive numerous requests from students “dying” to get into the class and begging for overrides.  Therefore, one would expect that these students would come in ready to engage in riveting discussions from day one.

Unfortunately, due to the sad state of sexuality education in grades K-12, students instead come into a college human sexuality class with very little basic knowledge of reproductive anatomy and the endocrine system. Concepts such as the developments of gender identity and sexual orientation are even more of a mystery.  In the past, my approach has been to spend most of the first few weeks lecturing from Powerpoints so that students would progress to the minimum level needed to participate in meaningful and thought-provoking discussions. Imagine my surprise when I see some students trying to hide the fact that they are using their phones underneath their desks and others fighting back sleep. Sure, the first few seconds of looking at genitals on the Powerpoint slide is attention-catching, but even that grows boring for some.

Since attending the FTT session in May of 2013 I have toyed with the idea of practicing a flipped classroom, where students are expected to educate themselves about the topic before class and come in prepared to engage in discussion and activities. My biggest apprehension was that students would not do the reading before coming to class and, therefore, not gain the knowledge I was trying to impart, causing them to fall behind and do poorly on tests. To some extent, this has proved to be an accurate concern.  I know that many are not doing the prep work.  The class averages on tests, in spite of this, have remained steady from previous semesters.

One thing I did not do is announce to my students that we were going to practice flipping the classroom.  I have always urged my students to read assigned materials and watch assigned video clips before coming to class.  In my experience, those who do so score higher on tests no matter the type of classroom. All my Powerpoint presentations are loaded onto OAKS from the outset and assigned readings are listed in the syllabus. I still use the Powerpoints in class but am now using them mostly for the purpose of stirring conversation. My purpose in not making a big deal of the flipped classroom is that I did not want students to think of this as a “new thing” on which they were going to be tested or judged.  I gradually began to ask more questions, and though sometimes the silence was awkward, I waited for someone to start the conversation.  After rephrasing the question, if no one answered (this was rare but did happen occasionally), I proceeded to either lecture for a few minutes, ask a “show of hands” question, or show a video clip to get the students thinking.

I feel that one of the skills needed to successfully flip the classroom is to be able to think on one’s feet.  It actually takes more awareness and concentration to lead, guide and direct classroom discussions than to stand and teach for an hour. At the end of a class I am more exhausted than if I had lectured the entire time, but the rewards are worth the work.  This semester I have had several students email links to sites they found while further exploring the topics we had discussed that day in class and have even had a couple of students suggest interesting books they read because those books were pertinent to our discussions.  Of course, being a scientist, I know that these are just anecdotal accounts.  It could be that I had an extraordinary group of students this semester who were more prepared for a flipped classroom.  Next semester might be different. Time will tell.

1-1-1, Faculty Showcase, Faculty Technology Institute, Innovative Instruction, Pedagogy

Tackling challenging concepts with problem-based learning in the classroom

Our guest blogger is Elizabeth Burton, an adjunct professor in the Department of Biology. Elizabeth was a participant in the 2013 Summer FTI.  This post is a report on her experience using problem-based learning in her courses.

In the classroom, many students have trouble translating the facts into action.  This is particularly true in the non-majors introductory biology classes that I teach.  Many of these students enter into the classroom with little knowledge or understanding of biology, with many having no interest at all in the subject.  Most only take this class as a general education requirement.  I have chosen to incorporate problem-based learning into the classroom to provide students with a way to translate abstract ideas into functional scenarios.  This is of particular importance in biology because many of these biological concepts translate into proper functioning of the human body.  From my experience, both personally and as an instructor, I have found that it is easier to understand a tough concept when you are “forced” to work through it.  Students are more interested in the topic when you relate it to something familiar to them or something that is more interesting than a cell, such as a disease.

One example of problem-based learning from my classroom is based around the concept of mitochondrial functioning in cellular respiration.  This concept is probably one of the most difficult for students to understand because everything is explained at a minute level.  In this section, I give a lecture on the basics of the electron transport chain in the mitochondria in one class period.  During the next class period, I reinforce this material through the use of a case study.  The one that I use is from the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/), which is a great resource for case studies in all sciences, not just biology.  In this case study we follow the story of Connor, who is a wrestler hoping to lose weight and get down to a lower weight class for competition.  His friend suggests taking a weight loss drug that is available from foreign internet pharmacies but is banned in the United States.  Through this case study, the students dissect the mechanism behind how this weight loss drug works, looking specifically at mitochondrial functioning and why this drug is banned in the US.  Once the students figure out the mechanism by analyzing actual scientific data, I then show them additional substances that have a negative impact on mitochondrial functioning such as cyanide.

From my experience, more students understand the basic concepts after working through a case study problem.  In the classroom, I usually use one case study per unit to reinforce the material from lecture and multiple questions during the lecture.  I have had positive feedback from students on the use of problem-based learning in helping them understand the material.  The in-lecture questions also allow the students to think about the material that we have not yet covered to see if they can find the answers.  Sometimes I ask the question after covering a topic to reinforce understanding.  Frequently, students retain lecture material if they were “forced” to think about it during class instead of frantically writing notes.  While this does take away from the amount of material that I am able to cover, the material that we are able to cover during the semester is understood and retained better by most students.  Overall, I have found problem-based learning to be a welcome addition to the classroom that has facilitated a greater understanding of complex biological ideas.

three people talking about iPads and Airsketch
1-1-1, Collaboration, Faculty Technology Institute, iPad, Mobile, Presentation, TLT

Guest Post: Using the iPad and AirSketch for In-class Activities and to Facilitate Discussions

Our guest blogger is Faye Hicks-Townes, a faculty member in Teacher Education.

I was a participant in the Summer 2013 Summer FIT.  Initially I was overwhelmed with the sheer number of available apps. Although I must admit I was impressed with AirSketch when I first saw it.  I wasn’t certain how I would use it in class, but I was attracted to the freedom it provided.  I could present, discuss, and highlight material without being tethered to the computer. I have used AirSketch in two types of assignments, a primary source analysis paper and in-class assignments requiring visual representations.

I am teaching a class that requires the use of primary documents for a writing assignment. Students are required to read and interpret primary source materials to respond to questions on the history of education in Charleston and the Lowcountry.  To help introduce my students to this type of material and I wanted to work with them as a group to facilitate discussion.  AirSketch fit this role perfectly.  The primary documents the students are using are located at the Avery Center and available on line in digital format.  I was able to download some of the material to use in class.  The material includes diaries, interviews, and minutes.  Many are handwritten. After downloaded examples, I was able to take pictures of the documents to share with students by using AirSketch.  To use AirSketch, I just had to open the app and type in the displayed URL into the computer in the classroom.  It was very easy and quick.  I then chose the document that I wanted to use.  Once I had the document up on the screen, I could walk through it with my students.  It was also easy to select a writing tool to highlight or circle specific information for discussion.  As the students asked questions or responded, I was able to give them my tablet so that they could also highlight or circle information.  The students did not have to get up from their seats and go to the front of the class.  They could respond, ask questions, or discuss while highlighting or even writing on the material on the screen.  I liked being able to focus on sections of documents by highlighting and circling.  The students and I had clarity throughout the discussion and were able to easily address areas of concern.

Using the iPad’s camera and mini scan was easier than making copies for students and it was very useful in facilitating discussion.  The students were more involved and I found it easier to interact with them.

I plan to continue to use the app for classroom presentations.  It is very easy to use and that’s definitely a plus for me.

This spring I have also begun to use AirSketch for classroom activities.  When we discuss philosophies, theories, and perspectives, I often ask students to create a visual representation of their views or their interpretation of others’ views.  For instance, I may ask them to create a visual of behaviorism or progressivism. In the past I have used ELMO to display these visuals.  It was a hit or miss.  Sometimes it worked well, other times, not so well. Now I have begun to use AirSketch.  I can take a picture of the student’s visual and display it.  The student can, from his/her seat, discuss the visual, and even make changes as the discussion continues.  The students do not have to present from a finished product.  They can create as they explain their thoughts.  I have found that some students are more comfortable sharing when they do not have to stand before the class.

I am pleased with AirSketch because it is easy to use and an effective tool for discussion and presentation.  I’m certain I will continue to find uses for it in my classes.  The only drawbacks I have experienced now are not being able to zoom in on sections of the pictures.  At least I haven’t found out how to.  I would also like to be able to use the keyboard instead of the pen.  Overall, AirSketch has been a useful addition to my class.

miriam klous
1-1-1, Assessment, Collaboration, Faculty Technology Institute, Google Apps, Innovative Instruction, Pedagogy, TLT, Video

PollEverywhere and Google Moderator to Increase Student Engagement

This week’s guest blogger is Miriam Klous in Health and Human Performance.

In May 2013 I attended the Faculty Technology Institute (FTI) training. We learned about new technologies that could be useful in a classroom setting, research or service. In my classes, I have been trying to increase the interaction with the students and particularly between students. Through the FTI I learned new iPad applications that could help me increase this interaction. One of the applications that was very helpful is ‘PollEverywhere’ and in another project I have been combining Google Moderator and video creation apps.

Many times in my classes when I ask questions, the same students answer. Of course there are several ways of dealing with this, but I found ’PollEverywhere’ to be an effective tool to influence this. Basically, I create questions online with the app ‘PollEverywhere’ and provide them with multiple answers (true-false and open-ended questions can also be created). The students have to text or email a number representing the answer they pick to a (phone) number. You are able to follow the voting directly on screen, and it can be anonymous.  For me it is a great way to see if students have difficulty with a question/content. If everybody answers the question correctly, I know I can move on with other content. If the answer to a question is very diverse, additional explanation of the topic may be necessary. Besides, the student can see that he/she is on the right track or, if not, that he/she is not the only one choosing that answer (while staying anonymous). When discussing the question and the topic after the vote, I perceive more interaction with the students. It seems like students trust asking follow-up questions now that they know they are not the only one that picked a certain answer. The questions can be created very easily and quickly and could be done in class. I prefer to prepare the questions ahead of time and login to ‘PollEverywhere’ to provide them to the students.

In addition to ‘PollEverywhere’, I also wanted to develop a project that makes students work together outside class time. Previously I had students writing research papers/labs together, but I was looking for a project where I could implement sophisticated technology. Therefore, in my EXSC 433 ‘Research Design and Analysis’ course I had students work together on a video project with the topic ‘How are we all consumers (users) of research?’. Students at an undergraduate level seem to have difficulty understanding why learning about research is important/exciting.  However, research is all around us, it is a part of our daily life. My goal was to make students more aware of research in our daily life by letting them make a video on this topic. Most students really enjoyed the assignment and I believe they received a better understanding of how research is integrated in society and it will be part of their life even if they don’t have a research job. In the FTI I learned about making videos and editing. This experience in FTI made me comfortable enough to implement this in my class, knowing I could help the students when it was necessary.  Students first received feedback on their storyboard before they started creating the video. In this project I also implemented the Google Moderator app. I wanted students to be involved in the development of the rubric. The students could make suggestions on aspects of (creating) the video that they believed were essential for a good video and thereby required for successfully fulfilling the assignment. Therefore, I created a rubric and placed it on Google Moderator. Students could log on to the Google Moderator and vote on the items if they believed were important aspect of (creating) the video. They could also reformulate items or add items and other students could vote again on those items. I assigned class time for students to spend 5-10 to do this, to make sure they knew how to vote or add items/comments. I received great feedback on time restrictions for the video and suggestions to reformulate certain items. Based on the feedback I created the final rubric. This strategy helped to have the students be aware of the aspects they would be assessed on and also to have them agree on the assessment of their assignment.

I see the benefit of the FTI training. The interaction between students in my class and myself definitely improved. Of course there were some issues along the way with students not doing their part, but this would probably also have been the case in more traditional group work. I definitely will keep on using those apps, and hope to implement other applications that I learned during the FTI training.

1-1-1, Collaboration, Faculty Technology Institute, Google, Google Apps, TLT

Faculty Guest Post: Using Google Apps for Collaboration

Our guest blogger is Jessica Smith, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication.  Jessica attended the Summer 2013 FTI.

Think of any movie that features scenes of the college classroom.  Hollywood portrayals typically include the archetypal professor, wearing glasses and chalk on the sleeve, standing before a theatre-style hall, lecturing from a podium.  When I first began teaching, I had visions of Robin Williams, in Dead Poets Society, serenading his students with lessons about love and life.

These Hollywood fantasies were quickly crushed my first semester teaching.  Students slept, read newspapers, worked on homework, and gazed out the window.  Now, they text their friends and surf the Web on their laptops.  Despite my frustration over their lack of engagement, I was determined to craft lectures that would rouse my students to declare “Captain, my captain” while standing on their desks.

I didn’t realize until after that first semester that my steadfast commitment to becoming a “sage on the stage” was actually preventing me from inspiring and motivating my students.  I have since dedicated myself to learning about innovative methods for engaging students, including the latest education technology tools.  One such tool is Google Apps for Education, a suite of web-based applications.

Since the College has a site license, many students and faculty use this free resource for individual academic pursuits.  But I believe Google Apps was especially designed for use in the classroom, allowing students and faculty to collaborate on projects, activities, and assignments.  This semester, I have made a concerted effort to use Google Apps more frequently and creatively in my classes.

In this post, I’ll address how I use Google Apps for various forms of collaboration, including:

  1. Workshopping and peer editing
  2. Collaborative writing and peer instruction
  3. Brainstorming and crowdsourcing

I teach in the Communication Department, so my students complete numerous writing assignments throughout the semester.  One of the most important phases in the writing process is revising and Google Docs is ideal for workshopping and peer editing.  Students compose their writing assignments in Google Docs (or upload their document to their Drive) and share it with their classmates and me.  I ask students to focus on two or three specific tasks (such as reviewing APA format or critiquing thesis statements).  To teach students how to effectively edit, hold them accountable, and assign participation points, I track my students’ comments on their classmates’ documents.  Kaitlin Woodlief, one of our TLT gurus, taught me how to comment in Google Docs: Students select the text they’d like to comment on then go to Insert > Comment > type their feedback.  The comment will be saved with the student’s name and date/time.  This allows me to keep track of students’ comments so I can ensure they are truly doing their best to help each other improve their writing. 

After workshopping with their classmates, I then have students edit and revise their papers independently.  I have them follow the same commenting procedure and ask them to make notes about their revisions (e.g., explaining why they did or did not accept a classmates’ suggestion).  This not only helps students think more critically about the evolution of their writing, but also helps me evaluate their revision skills.

Google Docs is also fantastic for collaborating during class on low-stakes writing assignments, which prepare them for their larger papers.  For example, I have pairs of students compose “summarize and respond” paragraphs together.  I ask them to bring laptops or tablets to class so they can work simultaneously on the same document (TLT Tutorial: http://youtu.be/xLN7hTlzrtc).  For students who don’t have access to a laptop or forget theirs, I bring my own devices for them to use.  This type of collaboration presents students with a useful challenge—learning to write together.  I’ve also witnessed many instances of “peer instruction” as one student teaches another about a concept or technique.   To read more about collaborative writing, visit: http://wac.colostate.edu/intro/pop2l.cfm.

Finally, Google Moderator provides yet another opportunity for collaborating (TLT Tutorial: http://blogs.cofc.edu/tlttutorials/2013/04/24/google-moderator). This is a crowdsourcing app that allows users to submit questions or ideas, vote on those submissions, and rank them by order of popularity.  When I teach argumentation, students submit resolutions they would like to debate, vote on their favorites, and watch the most popular resolutions rise to the top.  We then choose the resolution that received the most votes as the one we debate in class.  This allows students to brainstorm topics then pick the ones they actually are interested in researching and debating.

Since quashing my delusions of grandeur during my first semester teaching, I realized professors are no longer the center of the higher education universe.  Google allows students to fact-check lectures with just a few keystrokes.  They can crowdsource notes and help each other with projects using social media.  Massive open online courses like Kahn Academy and Coursera allow students to learn from some of the brightest minds in the world.  Therefore, professors must adapt their teaching styles from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.”  One way to accomplish this is to incorporate more collaboration into the classroom and Google Apps provide tools that make it simple and meaningful.

1-1-1, Collaboration, Faculty Showcase, Faculty Technology Institute, Innovative Instruction, instructional technology, Mobile, Productivity

Faculty Guest Post: Paul Collins Talks about Students Helping Students with Celly

Our guest poster this week is Paul Collins, Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance.  Paul attended the Spring 2013 FTI.

As part of the Scenery and Lighting Design and Production concentration in the Theatre major, students are required to take a course in which they learn Computer Aided Drafting and Design. The software on which the students learn is brand new to nearly all of them, and very complicated. We spend time in class going over the necessary skills and tools, but the students are then expected to complete exercises in the computer lab as homework. Because of the complexity of the software and the lack of experience that the students have with it, struggles are very real and frequent, and I spend a lot of time with individual students working through the process.

While I work closely with each of the students, I have also noticed in previous semesters that the students do a great job helping each other. Sometimes while I am working with an individual in class, another student has a question about something, but by the time I get to this student, a neighbor has helped to solve the problem. I encourage the students to work on their homework in the lab together so that they can take advantage of what I call ‘the collective wisdom of the class’.

During the Faculty Technology Institute (in Spring 2013), I was introduced to a tool that has allowed me to expand this ‘collective wisdom’ beyond the walls of the classroom. Celly (simply http://cel.ly/ in your web browser) is a kind of online discussion board, similar to other discussion boards that you may be familiar with (including the tool available in OAKS). However, the advantage that Celly has over traditional discussion boards is the ability for the user to receive and send messages in a number of different ways: via email, mobile app, online web portal or text. The text feature is what makes this tool truly powerful- by connecting the discussion to a cell phone, posts to the board are more immediately available both to the students and to me. A question can be put up on the Celly, and be responded to almost immediately by whoever gets to it first. Here is an example of one of the conversations (note… read the conversation from bottom to top)



In this situation, a student asked for clarification about a handout. Within a minute, another student joined the conversation to try to help, as well as giving advice on how to create the shape in question. I also was available to help at this time, and checked the handout so that I could answer the question. Within 8 minutes, I had the problem figured out, and posted a clarification to OAKS to clear things up for the whole class. This is only one example of what is a relatively easy question, but would likely have caused this student to either be unable to continue, or at the very least have to go back and make significant revisions. If the message had gone to a discussion board or email, the response time would not have been nearly as quick as the text message allowed.

There are a few things that I’d like to mention, though: First, this is a small class. With a larger group of active users, receiving the messages via text could quickly become overwhelming (especially if you do not have an unlimited texting plan). There is an online web portal which updates immediately, and you can receive the messages via email or mobile device, but this also brings you back to the response time issue that traditional discussion boards have. Each individual user (student and faculty alike) has the ability to set notification preferences to whatever combination of methods desired.

Celly also allows me to contact the class via text message without sending from my personal phone (and thus sharing my cell number with the whole class). I will send out a ‘how is the homework going?’ reminder message around Friday or so, as the homework is due on Monday. However, if this ‘reminder’ feature is the primary reason for using a service such as this, Remind101 is probably a more appropriate tool (as this service allows ‘outgoing’ text messages from teacher to student, but not vice versa).

Celly also has a ‘private messaging’ feature that allows users within the ‘cell’ to send messages to individuals rather than the group.

When this tool was initially introduced to me during the FTI, I did not think that it would be one that I would wind up using, but I’m glad that I gave it a shot this semester. I think that it is a powerful tool for those students who have chosen to participate, and I will continue to use it in the future.

And the best part: I get to be a robot.


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1-1-1, Faculty Technology Institute, TLT, Training Opportunities

Apply Now for the Summer 2014 Faculty Technology Institute

Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) is now accepting applications for the Summer 2014 Faculty Technology Institutes (FTI).  We will be offering two institutes this summer, one scheduled May 19-23 and the other June 2-6.  As with every FTI, our intention is to deliver sound pedagogical practices, demonstrate technological tools, showcase experiences from faculty, and provide a forum for open discussion.

The theme for both FTI sessions this year is The New Old School.  We will focus on strategies for activities, assessment, and content delivery that can assist in the transition of a course from a traditional lecture format to an interactive and engaging course.  Participants will have the opportunity to analyze their own instructional practices and work on transitioning a specific unit or module within their own course(s).  We will also introduce emerging technology tools that can replace some of antiquated technologies being used while achieving similar or even better results (hence The New Old School).  Participants will have the opportunity to evaluate how these tools could be used to supplement their content delivery, activities, and assessments.

Apply Now:

The online application along with a tentative agenda is now available on the TLT blog (http://blogs.cofc.edu/tlt/learning/faculty-technology-institute/).  Please note that we have implemented two additions to the application process this year.  During the application proposal process applicants  will be asked to submit a course syllabus for review.  In addition, selected candidates will be asked to participate in a short 15 minute face-to-face interview so that you can be sure that this FTI is a right for you.

The application deadline is March 2, 2014.

We hope that you can join us for an exciting week!