I 2009-2010 Technology Fellowship Applications Applications accepted twice a year - here comes the March 2009 opportunity
II New Course Management System Demos to Begin in March Homewood faculty requested to evaluate new course management system alternatives
III Faculty Spotlight: Mark Blythe, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science A continuing series on teaching success stories on the Homewood campus
IV Library Research Skills Instruction Available Help your students acquire the library literacy skills they need
V Grant Outreach Take advantage of CER assistance in your next grant writing effort
VI What’s New With RefWorks? Now you can attach documents in RefWorks
I 2009-2010 Technology Fellowship ApplicationsThe Technology Fellows Program is a mini-grant initiative that enables faculty to partner with technology savvy students to develop resources that 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/ . Applications will be accepted from March 1 - March 31st with awards announced in early April 2009. All projects funded during academic year 2009-2010 should be completed no later than one year from the start of the project. For more information, contact Cheryl Wagner at 410-516-7181 or email@example.com.
II New Course Management System Demos to Begin in MarchWebCT, the course management system currently used by Homewood faculty, will be retired next academic year. CER staff have been busy preparing demonstrations of the two alternatives under consideration - Blackboard and Sakai - for thorough faculty review. Please watch for an invitation by email to attend one of the demonstration sessions, which will begin in early March. Online demos and "sandbox" practice sites will also be available as supplements to in-person sessions, allowing interested faculty to test drive the two CMS environments. Feedback from demo sessions will be passed along to the deans of the Krieger and Whiting Schools as they decide which system will be adopted when WebCT is retired. If you currently use WebCT, you may be wondering what will happen to all of the content that you’ve built into your WebCT sites. While exact procedures are not yet finalized, a migration of content from WebCT to the new system is in planning. When the new course management system is in place, CER will offer training sessions, workshops, and individual consultations to make the migration as smooth as possible. Please consider participating in one of the upcoming demos. CER is seeking as much faculty input as possible to inform the deans’ selection process. Please contact Amy Brusini at 410-516-5340 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or suggestions.
III Faculty Spotlight: Mark Blythe, Associate Professor, Department of Political ScienceCER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins?
MB: For undergraduates, I teach introductory, large-lecture courses for the political science department and international studies: Introduction to Political Economy I & II and Introduction to Comparative Politics. I also teach introductory courses for graduate students. The main difference is that I have 15-20 students in those courses, instead of 200 in my undergraduate courses.
CER: What are your strategies for engaging students in your courses?
MB: First, I’m a total Luddite when it comes to technology. I think technology in the classroom can be useful, but it can also have diminishing returns. Technology can help a poor public speaker become more effective as a communicator. It can’t make a bad teacher good, but it can give someone who knows their weaknesses the tools to improve. That said, the diminishing returns occur when an instructor relies on technology too much to get the message across. They start using too many bells and whistles and the content gets lost. Consequently, my undergraduate courses are what might be termed ‘minimally Socratic.’ I can’t have a Socratic discussion with 200 people in the room, but there are ways of engaging individual students in some back and forth discussion. I walk into the aisles and ask broad questions to draw the information out of the students so they make the point for you.
CER: So where do you focus your energies?
MB: The main work of a class comes in putting it together, not delivering it. Does it have a coherent narrative with a beginning and end? Does it have a point? Does it have a compelling story that students can latch onto, develop, and walk with you as you progress through the course? If you’ve designed the course to meet your goals, then the work in getting the message across is so much less. It’s all in the design. Each lecture, each topic, should build toward the next one and refer back to the previous one. So there’s a cumulative nature to it. If you teach like a Rorschach test, your students will all see different things in the material.
CER: If you don’t rely heavily on technology in the class, what resources do you use?
MB: If I’m dubious about relying upon technology, I’m extremely dubious about relying upon textbooks. They are quickly out of date and often written with the assumption that students have the IQ of a parrot. I believe if you got into Hopkins, you can read the same materials as graduate students, just less of it. I give student primary texts, technical reports such as United Nations development program reports, and academic articles. There is a danger in infantilizing students. They are old enough to volunteer as soldiers and make adult decisions. We need to challenge them. They should expect, and not resist, challenges. Most often they raise up to the challenge. That’s what a university should aim for.
CER: How does your approach to graduate courses differ from undergraduate courses?
MB: I teach graduate courses as a boot camp for academics. I teach them foundational content to familiarize them with the field which they can explore in more detail in specialized courses later. I assign them a lot of reading. It can overwhelm them, but my goal is to teach them how to read strategically, which is important as an academic. The challenge is getting through all the literature in class. I assume in aggregate everyone has read everything, even if each individual has not. I use an approach called Buzzword Bingo to digest it. I start by asking students for the main concepts of an article and write their answers on the board. Then I challenge them to collectively build conceptual maps and a narrative for it. Then I push them further and ask them to critique that narrative.
CER: How do you know when you’re successful? How do you assess student learning?
MB: I talk to my teaching assistants and students. I ask them point-blank during office hours, "What’s working and what isn’t?" I read students’ essays. I get feedback from alumni. I’ve had 5-6 alum working on Wall Street tell me lessons they learned in my classes were invaluable. Professors also care about teaching evaluations. If multiple students tell you something is fundamentally wrong, it gives you pause. It tells you something you can do better next time.
CER: How would you sum up your philosophy of teaching?
MB: I use a combined Jesuit-Benedictine approach. I’ll teach you to love the world and everything in it, and then to doubt that any of its true. After that, you have to choose what you want to do with it.
A former student offers this assessment of Mark Blyth’s approach to teaching: "Professor Blyth’s ability to distill complex political, economic, historical, and social trends and themes into a coherent narrative while making a lasting impression on his students with a pithy quote or quip make him a true asset to the student body. His two International Political Economy courses prepared me for the mania, panics, and crashes of a career on Wall Street more than any other course at JHU. " -Gregor Feige (KSAS - ‘03, SAIS - ‘04)