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February 2010

I   Blackboard Pilot Underway
Course migration workshops to be held at CER

II   Blackboard 9: Feature Preview
Updated user interface and Web 2.0 functionality

III   Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project Seminar
Building web-based public history resources for education and scholarship

IV   Technology Fellowship Applications
Here comes your March 2010 mini grant opportunity

V   Faculty Spotlight: Kyle McCarter, William Foxwell Albright Professor, Near Eastern Studies Department
A continuing series on teaching success stories on the Homewood campus

VI   New Online Software for Immigration Application and Processes – iHopkins
Streamlining international student and scholar paperwork

VII   Understanding Scholarly Metrics
Measure your publication impact and manage your research identity

VIII   Spring 2010 Library Workshops
Check out the latest research tools


I   Blackboard Pilot Underway

Blackboard Logo Since August 2009, the CER and IT@JHU have been collaborating to develop resources that will help faculty migrate their WebCT courses to the new course management software, Blackboard 9, next fall. To better understand migration issues, 12 KSAS and WSE courses are participating in a Blackboard pilot program this spring. The purpose is to better understand Blackboard’s capabilities by examining the experience of a small number of faculty and students and address any glitches in the system before the full migration for the 2010-2011 academic year. To assist faculty who have courses in WebCT, the CER will offer "Blackboard Migration Prep" workshops throughout the spring semester. We will share suggestions on what you can do now to best prepare your WebCT courses for migration. Workshop dates and times will be posted to our website shortly. As a reminder, WebCT will remain in place through the end of academic year 2009-10. Please send an email to webct@jhu.edu to request a new course site for the spring and summer 2010 terms.

II   Blackboard 9: Feature Preview

Blackboard Version 9 will replace WebCT as Homewood’s new course management system this fall. This change brings several new or improved features, some of which are highlighted below. Blackboard Menu One of the first things you’ll notice, even if you’ve used previous versions of Blackboard, is the new user interface design. Consolidated page layouts containing contextual menus reduce the number of clicks required to accomplish common tasks. Drag-and-drop capability, embedded help, and inline editing help to save time when building and editing courses. There are also accessibility improvements, such as support for content reordering for those who use screen readers. Blackboard 9 supports many collaboration activities. The new Blog and Journal tools allow students and instructors to share thoughts and ideas with each other within the course site. A Blog is designed to be an open exchange among all members of a course, while a Journal is intended for private, self-reflective communication between the student and instructor. The Group Creation tool facilitates the process of organizing team projects and assignments. Groups can be assigned their own tools, such as a group-specific discussion board, to be used exclusively among group members. With the web conferencing tool, Virtual Classroom, instructors and students can interact in real time using an embedded chat window and screen-sharing capability. The Notification feature alerts students to new postings that need their attention, such as new discussion board entries and assignments. Instructors can use this system to send customizable ‘warnings’ to students about missed deadlines, falling grades, attendance issues, etc. We look forward to exploring the new Blackboard capabilities with you in the year ahead. For more about new features in Blackboard 9, please view this short video on our website.

III   Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project Seminar

The March 10 issue of The Facts
"The Seattle School Boycott of 1966," Seattle Civil Rights & Labor
The CER, Department of History, and Center for Africana Studies will co-sponsor a seminar on April 12 (1-3 pm, Sherwood Room, Levering Hall) on the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, an online repository of primary resources, scholarly papers, and multimedia content that focus on the Seattle, Washington, regional experience with discrimination and racism. A joint initiative of the University of Washington Department of History and the UW Odegaard Undergraduate Library, the project uses web technologies to promote teaching, research, and scholarly interaction in support of community history. The website now contains rich deposits of maps, government documents (such as restrictive covenants and an interactive map that reveals the history of neighborhood restrictions), oral histories, recordings of protest songs, media reports, and original research papers based on these resources. The Seattle Project was originally conceived by University of Washington labor historian Jim Gregory and his then-doctoral student, Trevor Griffey. In his Hopkins seminar, project coordinator Griffey will provide an overview of the project and explain how locally based history, political science, sociology, or humanities faculty can use a web-based model of local primary resources to support research, instruction, and community collaboration. The goals of the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project are to:
  • produce an archive of primary resources in civil rights and labor history, openly accessible via the Internet
  • optimize the website for teaching with primary resources
  • publish student research based upon original resources
  • enable members of the Seattle community to deposit privately owned primary resource materials in the archive and participate in research on Seattle public history
On Monday, April 12, from 1-3 pm, in the Sherwood Room in Levering Hall, Trevor Griffey will speak on the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project and how it might be a model for a similar community resource in Baltimore. For more information, contact Candice Dalrymple at 410-516-8848 or cdalrymple@jhu.edu . The Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project website is http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/.

IV   Technology Fellowship Applications

The 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. Money Clipart 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 https://cer.jhu.edu/techfellows/ . Applications will be accepted from March 1 - March 31st with awards announced in early April 2010. Funding will be available from May 2010 through April 2011; projects must be completed by April 15, 2011. For more information, contact Cheryl Wagner at 410-516-7181 or cwagner@jhu.edu.

V   Faculty Spotlight: Kyle McCarter, William Foxwell Albright Professor, Near Eastern Studies Department

Kyle McCarter PhotoCER: What are you teaching at Hopkins?
KM: I teach in the department of Near Eastern Studies. We study the ancient Near East. Other programs in other universities deal with the same region (the Middle East) in medieval or modern times, but we do only the ancient world. Within this larger area I work especially in the region that today includes Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank and Gaza. I teach both graduate and undergraduate courses on the ancient history, languages and culture of this region. My graduate teaching includes a number of specialized subjects that provide our students with particular tools they need to conduct research. An example is Historical Hebrew Grammar. Hebrew language study is an especially important part of our program, and in the Historical Grammar course we study the historical development of Hebrew, tracing the changing forms it took in different periods. Another of these specialized courses is Textual Criticism, which is intended to help students understand the ancient text of the Hebrew Bible based on its early versions or translations into other languages as well as surviving biblical manuscripts such as those found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Still another of these specialized courses is Epigraphy, in which students learn to decipher and analyze inscriptions and manuscripts using traditional philological tools but also a variety of new technologies.
CER: What are the strategies that you employ in your classes?
KM: In the Epigraphy class, before I can begin to address the big issues of translation and interpretation, my first challenge is to enhance the students’ ability simply to see the inscriptions. When you examine an ancient inscription a number of things can affect your ability to see and understand it, such as the condition of the surface of the object, the darkness of the ink or the depth of incisions on stone or clay. Things like this are affected not only by the ancient technology used in creating the inscription, but also by the modern technologies used in recording and preserving it, such as photographic techniques and computer programs. When students understand these technologies, they’re better able to see the written characters and recognize what the ancient scribe intended. When we reach this stage, we can begin to employ what we know about the writing and spelling of the text and apply tools learned in language classes to its decipherment, translation and interpretation. Drawing an inscription can connect the technical activity of seeing the object with the correct interpretation of its text. Drawing an inscription is the way an epigrapher shows other people what he or she sees when studying the text, so that a publication of an inscription should always include a drawing. This is true even when the publication includes excellent photographs of the inscription, because a drawing, as the record of what the epigrapher sees, explains in a way that is much more clear than a written description alone how the writing is being interpreted. For example, the surface of an inscription will often be marked by incidental scratches incurred over the centuries since it was originally incised by a scribe. A drawing shows which lines, in the epigrapher’s opinion, are part of the inscription and which are the result of surface damage. So one of the things I teach epigraphy students is how to draw what they see when they examine an ancient inscription. Only a very few of our graduate students will go on to become epigraphers, but all of them will need to be familiar with inscriptions and the methods used to study them. With the training we give them, we expect that they will be able to make effective use of specialists’ publications. They will have the tools for understanding what is being said, and they will know the limitations of epigraphic interpretation.
CER: How does the use of technology fit into your epigraphy course?
KM: Technology comes into play in the epigraphy class in two principle ways. The first is photography. In the ideal situation the epigrapher works from the object itself, but since this is not always possible, the creation of high quality photographic images is extremely important. Also there are circumstances in which working from photographs is actually preferable to working from original objects. Over the past several years there has been rapid improvement in the photographic reproduction of ancient texts. Sometimes this involves relatively simple issues of lighting and resolution. Photographic reproduction can also impact more technical areas such as the judicious manipulation of images and the management of the visible and invisible aspects of light. The rise of digital photography has been especially important because it brought the images to our desktops. We are fortunate here at Hopkins that we work closely with other centers where the best epigraphic images are being created. This gives us the access we need to focus on the second aspect of technology in the epigraphy classroom, namely, the drawing of inscriptions. This technology has also changed dramatically since the days I was taught to draw inscriptions using a light table and India ink. A number of computer programs will allow you to create digital drawings. Last fall, in the first semester of my year-long epigraphy course, we began to teach systematically with Adobe Illustrator. We loaded the program on all of the students’ computers and began training them with the help of the Center for Educational Resources (CER), which supplied useful materials and provided an in-class workshop that introduced Illustrator’s powerful drawing tools. The number and variety of Illustrator editing tools contrasts starkly to the unforgiving method of tracing with ink. Illustrator also greatly simplifies an essential, but painstaking, part of our work in epigraphy, the creation of script charts. Script charts display the forms of the letters of inscriptions from various time periods, providing a graphic illustration of the typological development of ancient scripts. Before the advent of modern tools the production of a script chart was an extremely painstaking process, but working within Illustrator, an epigrapher can produce one very quickly by cutting and pasting and using basic editing tools.
CER: Has your teaching approach changed since the introduction of new technology?
KM: In the time that I have taught epigraphy at Hopkins, this is the first year that I’ve been able to equip the course with all the available technologies, not just digital photographs, but also a digital drawing program (Illustrator), which we would like to become the international standard in the field. For a number of years I’ve been isolating part of the seminar to use as a laboratory. This divides the three-hour class so that the first two hours focus on the reading and interpretation of inscriptions, while the last hour is devoted to technical study of the ancient scripts through drawing, and now specifically through learning Illustrator. Training in the use of Illustrator is necessary since most of our students have never used the program before. Reid Sczerba from the CER conducted a hands-on workshop to introduce the program to the students. My teaching assistant, Heather Parker, who has primary responsibility for the laboratory portion of the class, has continued to explain and reinforce the techniques. My role in the laboratory is secondary, though we find that it is important for the students occasionally to watch me work with the technology and see how I use Illustrator to make drawings. This seems to provide a connection between the students’ growing familiarity with Illustrator and their understanding of the decipherment and analysis we do in the first part of the class.
CER: How have you been gauging students’ comprehension of the material?
KM: Last semester, when we introduced the students to the basic corpus of early Hebrew inscriptions (before the sixth century B.C.E.), we concentrated on explaining the role of the epigrapher and introducing the basic methods of interpretation through drawing with Illustrator. In the spring semester we are beginning to work in Phoenician and other languages, encouraging the students to develop and expand the skills they acquired in the fall. We are also asking each student to make a seminar presentation based on a particular inscription, chosen from a list drawn especially from recent discoveries and inadequately studied pieces. The students will have an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned so far to their inscriptions and present the results to the class. This will give me my best chance to gauge their progress.
CER: What is your philosophy of teaching?
KM: There are many types of teaching, and the approaches and techniques of the teacher are determined by the material as well as the student "audience." When teaching undergraduates about the ancient Near East, I’m always aware that most of the students will not become professionals in the subject matter of the class. This causes me to keep asking myself what is valuable to them about what I’m teaching. Ultimately it will not be the specific data, except in a very general way, as much as the general principles at work and the larger ideas that the material illustrates. These things can be important to students as they learn how to think about the major ideas and problems they will encounter in the world. Showing them how to analyze complex problems and how to make judgments based on evidence is likely to be more important than any specific facts that they will memorize for my tests. To some extent the same is true for graduate students, though in their case they have a clear need to retain a lot of the data as well. I believe that in the end, students teach themselves the information they learn. I suppose that my philosophy of teaching is based on the notion that the best teacher is not so much a person who transfers information as one who inspires, excites and serves as an example of how to approach ideas and problems. Most of my teaching is about things that have been important to people for centuries or even millennia. I see it as my responsibility to convey to students a sense of what has proved to be of enduring importance in human culture and tradition and perhaps even why it acquired that importance in the first place. When my own understanding falls short, I believe I can be an effective teacher if I show students that what I am trying to do is exciting and meaningful. In other words, I think I’ll be most effective if I succeed in giving students a model of learning, of scholarship, that seems worth emulating. Former students offered these comments on Professor McCarter’s approach to teaching: "Prof. McCarter has an amazing ability to make complex material seem clear and understandable. His manner of presenting information is deceptively simple; if one pays close attention, it is apparent that he is taking the class through many intricate details, but his clarity of explanation makes them seem straightforward and even obvious. I always walk away from his classes feeling like the veil over my eyes has been lifted and the world makes sense!" "Professor McCarter's deliberate and methodical style of instruction allows students to follow his thought process as we work through an inscription. While he is leaps and bounds ahead of the class in his abilities to work through a text, he never makes students feel foolish for asking an elementary question or for a concept to be re-explained. His expertise in his field and his patience in the classroom make him an excellent instructor."

VI   New Online Software for Immigration Application and Processes – iHopkins

ihopkins Logo The university is in the process of implementing a software solution called iHopkins, which will help manage international student and scholar immigration applications and processes. Over the next several months, the Office of International Student Scholar Services (OISSS) will be rolling out online services to departments. Additional information on training opportunities and new processes will be shared through the Today’s Announcements. For more information, please visit the website at http://ihopkins.jhu.edu/ .

VII   Understanding Scholarly Metrics

Metrics Clipart Are you seeking a scholarly journal to publish your paper? Are you trying to track the number of citations you have received and assess the influence of your academic publications? A new guide from the Sheridan Libraries, located online at http://guides.library.jhu.edu/metrics, can help you understand the complicated journal and author metrics, trace your scholarly research, measure the impact of your publications, and manage your research identity. A thorough and comprehensive citation analysis using scholarly metrics can positively inform tenure review for faculty and benefit funding applications for researchers. CER and library staff will host a joint presentation on April 20 to discuss various tools for assessing the impact of scholarly research. Please watch Today’s Announcements and register for “Got Impact?” Questions? Ask your librarian: asklib@jhu.edu

VIII   Spring 2010 Library Workshops

MSE Library Logo The Sheridan Libraries are pleased to offer a series of workshops and tours this spring to get you up to speed with cutting edge developments from your favorite research databases. Learn about new library services and electronic resources, or discover ways that you might enhance your teaching and research. These events are open to any Hopkins affiliate: attend yourself, or recommend them to your students. This spring’s workshops include:
  • Transitioning to SciFinder Web
  • Managing Citations and Bibliographies with RefWorks
  • Introduction to Research in the Humanities
  • Introduction to Research in the Social Sciences
  • Introduction to Research in the Sciences and Engineering
  • LexisNexis Statistical Datasets
  • PubMed Tips and Tricks
See the full schedule and register online at http://www.library.jhu.edu/researchhelp/workshops.html