I Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) Highlights
Grants have been awarded/Symposium on Teaching Excellence in the Sciences a success
II 2012-2013 Technology Fellowship Applications Now Open
Faculty/student grant money available – Apply Now!
III Teaching Tip: Using Rubrics for Grading Assignments
What are rubrics and why should instructors use them?
IV Blackboard Updates
Rubrics, Auto Tests, Community Feedback
V Faculty Spotlight: Jason Eisner, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Whiting School of Engineering
A continuing series on teaching excellence at Homewood
VI News from Homewood Technology
What classrooms have been updated? What's new at the Technology Store?
VII The Sheridan Library's Spring Workshops
Innovative spring library workshops
VIII New Student Portal
Information to share with new students
I Gateway Sciences Initiative (GSI) HighlightsCongratulations to the faculty and staff who were awarded the initial GSI grants. Funding was provided by the Office of the Provost to implement a set of pilot projects that will both improve current gateway courses and point the way to potentially larger changes in pedagogy, course and program design, and instructional methodologies of gateway courses. A complete list of recipients and projects is now available. The Symposium on Teaching Excellence in the Sciences was held on Friday, January 20, in Hodson Hall. It was a high energy day filled with discussion and learning. Over 400 JHU faculty, staff and students from throughout the university registered for the symposium. Thank you to all who attended and discussed the ways we teach our students in gateway science courses. If you were unable to attend, the keynote lectures from the Symposium are now available online. To listen to the lectures by Drs. Freeman Hrabowski, Jo Handelsman, David Botstein and Eric Mazur, please visit: http://web.jhu.edu/administration/provo1st/GSI/symposium.html Upcoming: Faculty Conversations on Teaching Excellence, an informal series of discussions on pedagogy and instructional strategies, is in planning. The first of these occurred during the faculty breakout sessions of the January 20 Symposium on Teaching Excellence; a continuing series will alternate between the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses. For more information as it becomes available, please continue to check the Provost's website at: http://web.jhu.edu/administration/provost/GSI/conversations.html
II 2012-2013 Technology Fellowship Applications Now OpenThe Technology Fellows Program is a mini-grant initiative that enables faculty to partner with technology savvy students to develop resources to enhance pedagogy, increase or facilitate access to course content, encourage active learning, promote critical thinking, or support student collaboration. Full-time faculty and students are eligible to apply. Each faculty member receives $1,000 for project leadership and oversight; student fellows receive $4,000 for resource development and implementation. While faculty need not have specific technology expertise, they must understand how digital technologies could be employed to support their teaching objectives. Student applicants are encouraged to have programming or multimedia skills, or they must have a concrete (and feasible) plan for acquiring the skills required for their projects. Approximately 285 hours of work should be devoted to each project. The CER can help interested applicants to formulate project ideas and can help match faculty with student partners. Once fellowships are awarded, CER staff serve as liaisons to project teams, conducting update sessions, providing some technical consultation, and helping teams prepare for a year-end showcase where project results are shared with the community. A committee of faculty and technical professionals from the Johns Hopkins community reviews all applications using the criteria listed in the application form found on our website at http://www.cer.jhu.edu/techfellows.html. Applications will be accepted from February 20 - March 30 @ 5:00 PM with awards announced in early April. Funding will be available from May 2012 through April 2013; projects must be completed by April 15, 2013. For questions or to obtain more information, please contact Cheryl Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-516-7181.
III Teaching Tip: Using Rubrics for Grading Assignments
Rubric comes from the Latin word rubrica, meaning red chalk. In early medieval manuscripts, the first letter of an important paragraph was often enlarged, painted in red, and called a rubric. This practice led to associating authority with what was written "under the rubric." When preparing a graded assignment or exam, most faculty have expectations about how it should be completed, what will constitute an acceptable answer, or what will make the difference between an "A" and a "C" on a paper. Formalizing those thoughts into a written rubric – a template or checklist where those expectations are specified – has real advantages. First, it can save time when it comes to grading the assignment or test. Second, if you have Teaching Assistants who participate in grading, they will have a clearer understanding of how to assign grades, and they will grade more consistently across the sections. Third, it will make it easy to explain to students why they didn't get that "A" they thought they deserved. For a graded paper or project, it can be very helpful to share the rubric with the students when you give them the assignment. Understanding the rubric will help them to focus on what you feel is important. They will have a better comprehension of the assignment, and you will see better results and have an easier time with the grading. There is information below on using the new Rubrics Tool in Blackboard. For more about creating rubrics see the CER''s Innovative Instructor article on Calibrating Multiple Graders. This Chronicle of Higher Education article provides further reading.
IV Blackboard UpdatesLast December, two service packs (sp6 and sp7) were installed on the Blackboard server, which produced several changes and improvements to Blackboard functionality. Here are some of the highlights:
- Rubrics Tool - A new and improved rubrics tool is now available. A rubric is a set of evaluation criteria used to explicitly describe the requirements of a particular assignment. Once created, rubrics can be linked to any item in the Blackboard grade center, including assignments, test questions, and discussion board posts. Instructors and teaching assistants can use rubrics to grade assignments more efficiently; students appreciate the clear expectations that rubrics provide as they complete their assignments. For more about rubrics, please see the additional Rubrics article above.
- Auto Test Submission - It is now possible to enforce time limits in online tests. Previously, if the time ran out during a timed test, students could continue taking the test and Blackboard would mark it 'Late' upon submission. Instructors now have the ability to create a timed test that automatically submits when the time runs out, eliminating late submissions. Blackboard will record only the questions that have been answered up to that point.
- Community-based Feedback - You might have noticed the new 'Feedback' button on the Blackboard interface. This is a community-based feedback system that enterprise IT has enabled inside of Blackboard. This feature allows you to interact with IT staff as well as other JHU colleagues and students who use Blackboard. You can ask and respond to questions, post comments, and share new ideas with the JHU Blackboard community.
V Faculty Spotlight: Jason Eisner, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Whiting School of EngineeringCER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins and what are the levels of the courses? JE: My flagship course is Natural Language Processing. The students come to appreciate the surprising structure and subtlety of human language. They learn how to turn linguistic formalisms into statistical models, and turn those into algorithms that can predict the linguistic structure and meaning of a sentence. A more unusual course is Declarative Methods, about programming languages that are so high-level that you just specify your problem in the language and the computer has to figure out how to solve it! Both are mixed grad-undergrad courses. I also lead a year-round reading seminar, and sometimes do a unit in our freshman seminar. CER: What are your strategies or approaches for engaging or connecting with the students in your course? JE: My Ph.D. advisor told me that there are two things you need to be a great teacher: be extremely clear and have a big personality. There's also a third, in my opinion: the students have to know you care about them as individuals.
- Clear communication: The biggest challenge is to find a sequential route through the material. Any topic seems easy once you fully understand it. The trick is to build up that understanding; each step should seem easy and natural. We teachers already understand our technical specialties too well. We've got all the formalizations, techniques, and examples in our heads at once, and they're bonded to one another in a dense ball in which everything follows from something else. If we pull on any one idea it just snaps back into place. But to teach, we have to cut some of those bonds and unfold the structure into some linear, semester-long presentation that will then fold up correctly again, like a protein, in a student's head.
- Big personality: I riff a lot in class. The students never know what homespun analogy is going to pop into my head next. An algorithm for analyzing sentences makes me think of all sorts of things. Phrases mate and have babies, or they're jigsaw puzzle pieces to assemble, or socks that you have to match as they come out of the dryer. I've asked the class about their own range of sock-matching strategies and derived algorithms from their different answers. What's fun is that if I keep an analogy running long enough, it starts to break down in entertaining ways. We have to start cloning our socks or making recursive sock balls. Some of our phrase-mating algorithms are like the junior high school from hell, where if you stand next to anyone you like, you instantly have a baby. Other versions prevent a population explosion by practicing a nasty form of eugenics, on the theory that since civilization is declining, bad phrases had better be sterilized before they have even worse kids.
- Paying attention to students as individuals: I try to run an interactive class. I learn students' names as quickly as I can, banter with them, and make them talk and even come write on the board. Students know that they can interrupt me and that I'm willing to go off on tangents to answer a good question. I hold office hours immediately after class so they can stay behind and talk. I also spend time replying publicly and privately to questions online, and I'll modify the course materials if it seems that something was unclear.
VI News from Homewood TechnologyTechnology Classroom Update Great news! All "how-to" signs in the general pool classrooms have been updated to provide more specific information on the available support hours, contact methods, and additional instructions for connecting laptops to the AV systems. These changes represent the first step in a broader effort to improve the quality and responsiveness of our "on demand" classroom support for faculty and instructors. The most significant aspect of these changes planned for the Fall 2012 semester will be a transition to a phone-based support process coupled with the retiring of the "Help" button across all Homewood general pool classrooms. This will provide immediate voice contact with technology support staff during normal support hours and confirmation that a technician is being dispatched to the classroom if on-site support is needed. Additional information will be posted in the classrooms and sent to faculty and department administrators prior to the start of the fall semester. Feedback or other suggestions would be appreciated and can be directed to Graham Bouton at email@example.com. Technology Store Update Based on faculty and staff requests, several items related to classroom instruction have been recently added to the store's inventory:
- Logitec R400 Wireless Presenters for remote PowerPoint control http://store.jhutechstore.com/index.php?product=910001354
- Belkin iPhone/iPod AV Cable http://store.jhutechstore.com/index.php?product=F8Z36106
- HP products are also now available for ordering at discounted prices for personal purchase: http://store.jhutechstore.com/index.php?cpage=HP