I 2009 Technology Fellowship Project Showcase - May 5, 2009
Sample the great instructional resources developed by Hopkins faculty this year
II A New Look for the CER Website
Check out our new look with a visit to our recently updated web site
III Faculty Spotlight: Michael Falk, Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
A continuing series on teaching success stories on the Homewood campus
IV Virtual software service pilot now available
Enabling access to course-specific and academic software
V Retaining Publishing Rights
Publishing your work? Know and retain your rights
VI Electronic Portfolio Activities @ Johns Hopkins
A report on six pilot projects
VII Off-Campus Proxy Service
Access Library Resources from Off-Campus Login with your JHED ID
New VPN to replace JHSecure by June 2009
I 2009 Technology Fellowship Project Showcase - May 5, 2009The 2009 Technology Fellowship Project Showcase will be held on Tuesday, May 5th, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Q-Level of the MSE Library. The event is an electronic poster session where faculty-student teams will demonstrate projects they have developed together to enhance undergraduate instruction. This year's projects include: Instructional Modules for Protein Structure, Digital Map of Gender Determined Spaces in 16th Century London, Micro and Nanotechnology Self Assembly, a Web Wizard for Algorithmic Problem Solving, Neuroscience Instructional Videos, Collaborative Structural Engineering Modules, and Mapping Museums II to name a few. Resources were developed in many disciplines, including: Biomedical Engineering, the Humanities Center, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Computer Science, Film & Media Studies, Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Psychological and Brain Sciences. Faculty who attend will receive a free 1GB mini-flash drive with information about the Technology Fellowship Program to take home with them. Students are also welcome to attend and they will receive gift certificates to Café Q. Descriptions of current and past projects and more information about the program are available online. Come by and take a look at the great instructional resources that have been developed this year! For more information contact Cheryl Wagner at email@example.com or 410-516-7181.
II Take A Look at our new WebsiteCheck out our new look with a visit to our recently updated web site: http://www.cer.jhu.edu. We hope that it will be easier to find the information you need about our services, events, staff, and resources. And, if you have suggestions, please let us know.
III Faculty Spotlight: Michael Falk, Associate Professor, Materials Science & EngineeringCER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins?
MF: I arrived in July 2008 so this is my first semester teaching at Johns Hopkins. I'm teaching a course entitled, Simulations of Materials and Biological Systems. It is an upper level undergraduate course, but a majority enrolled are graduate students from the medical and engineering schools.
CER: What are your strategies for engaging students in your course?
MF: I've tried to structure the course to take advantage of the computer classroom I was assigned. I create video podcasts so students watch the lecture before class. This allows students to use class time to work on exercises while I float around the room and help them. I set up the problems so they contain discrete tasks to complete. It's not always clear to me at the beginning of the class what aspects will be most problematic for the students. By watching them work, I can identify the students' conceptual problems. I stop the class at opportune moments to talk about aspects of the problems that appear to be most challenging for the class.
CER: So in a sense you've reversed role of the lecture and homework. How has this approach worked?
MF: I've identified various strengths and weaknesses now that I've done the video podcasts for several weeks. The greatest challenge isn't making the video podcasts. I'm happy to put the time in because I will not have to make them every year and students appear to like them. They watch them at their own pace and review difficult topics as often as they want to. Designing the interactive activities has been the bigger challenge. It requires accurately anticipating the skills students bring to the course. In addition, it's not always evident which conceptual issues will arise the first time you teach a course.
CER: Has this approach changed your perspective on how you teach?
MF: Yes. In general, I'm trying to incorporate more active learning in my classes so students aren't limited to passively listening to me lecture. In some classes, that may mean I poll the class or pose a question that a student answers in front of class. That doesn't necessarily require me to use any special technology. But this situation seemed different. The computer classroom gave me the opportunity to make the entire class an active learning experience. I'm hoping this experiment helps me develop skills for doing this in other classes.
CER: How are you evaluating how this method is being received by the students?
MF: The CER conducted focus groups with the students to collect feedback from the class. That's one way I'm gauging students' reaction to the nontraditional class format. The results also helped me identify the challenges. They haven't necessarily been where I expected. I also use the standard ways to evaluate the approach like tracking students' exam performance and directly soliciting comments from students.
CER: What do you plan to change based on the feedback you received?
MF: I'm trying to break the in-class activities into shorter activities and have more of them. This will give me additional opportunities to stop and evaluate students' performance. It will also allow me to impart particular concepts sequentially as opposed to using one or two activities that cover several topics. The other thing I'm thinking about is pairing students in the class; they come with varying levels of experience and skill levels.
CER: What other teaching approaches do you use?
MF: A lot of programming courses can be dreadfully boring. I try to find projects that relate to technical or societal issues students care about, like diseases or nanotechnology. I want to motivate them by showing how programming will have a payoff – for example, how it can help them understand a complex system and how they might use it in a future career. I think this is important in engineering because we've turned off a lot of students, particularly minority and women students. I think many students come into the discipline hoping to make a contribution to society or to become involved in a technological growth area. I try to choose projects that have a context beyond the classroom. I choose projects that help students see the societal implications and how it fits into a career.
CER: How do you come up with authentic examples? Is this difficult to do with freshman who haven't learned basic engineering skills yet?
MF: A lot of the examples I use in my upper-level course come from a course I taught to first-semester freshman at the University of Michigan. If you lay out the procedure, you don't have to introduce them to the formalism behind the procedure. For example, I introduce an HIV simulation project to freshman as a set of rules (e.g., if you have this many T-cells and virus particles on Day 1, here are the number infected on Day 2). When I'm teaching seniors, I talk about where the equations come from, how they relate to differential equations, and how the method being implemented is a forward Euler scheme. If I tried that with freshman, they would revolt because they haven't taken Differential Equations yet. But if you don't let on until afterwards that this relates to some higher mathematics, somehow they magically find they can do it. Ultimately, I hope learning in this way motivates them when they take advanced courses because they understand how these skills are applied in real world problems.
CER: What is your philosophy of teaching?
MF: As someone who came from physics and moved into engineering, I strive to make course work practical and interactive. When I took courses as an undergraduate, typically we listened to the instructor passively, we did not interact with peers, we completed assignments individually. In addition, homework was formulaic and disconnected from real-world application. I try to bridge that gap so class is more interactive, examples are more engaging, and the learning process is active.
Former students offered these comment on Michael Falk's approach to teaching: "We like this class very much!" "This is the best programming class I've had!" "I like the format of the class - coming to class and working on programming rather than listening to a lecture and watching him do the work."
IV Virtual software service pilot now availableThe new Software Virtualization Service, currently in pilot testing stage, will provide Homewood-based students desktop or laptop access to many of the specialized academic software applications that have typically been accessible only from the Krieger Computing Lab. The intent of this new service is to offer an additional option for students to access applications that are generally course-specific and not otherwise readily available outside of the Krieger Lab or IT@JH Computer Classrooms. Faculty and instructors who have course-specific or general academic software are encouraged to contact Joe Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-516-4781 if you are interested in providing students anytime/anywhere access to specific applications or if you have questions regarding the status of the pilot program.
V Retaining Publishing Rights - Resources for AuthorsYour article has been accepted for publication in a journal and, like your colleagues, you want it to have the widest possible distribution and impact in the scholarly community. Can you post your articles on your course web sites or Jscholarship (the University's institutional repository)? Can you share your work freely after assigning exclusive copyright to a publisher? Is it okay for you to post your work in NIH's PubMed Central? The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has developed an educational initiative that informs faculty across all disciplines about how to use the SPARC Author Addendum to secure your rights as author of journal articles. The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal instrument that authors may use to modify their publisher agreements, enabling you to retain selected rights to your articles, such as:
- Distributing copies in the course of teaching and research,
- Posting the article on a personal or institutional Web site, or
- Creating derivative works.