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April 2014

I   Preparing Future Faculty Teaching Academy
Applications now being accepted for Fall 2014

II   Faculty Spotlight: Alexios Monopolis, Lecturer, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences
A continuing series on teaching excellence at Homewood

III   Teaching Tips: Resources for Peer Learning and Peer Assessment
Tips to ensure successful peer-to-peer implementations

IV   New Classroom Technology Showcased at MSE Library
Check out the new resources on May 6th from 1-3 PM

V   Hidden Blackboard Grade Center Options Revealed
Tips for using Bb tests and assignments tools

VI   All Information, All the Time
Library services for the content you've created

VII   Malone Hall – the Newest Building on the Homewood Campus
Profile on digital speed  


I   Preparing Future Faculty Teaching Academy

PFFTA Logo The Preparing Future Faculty Teaching Academy (PFF TA) seeks approximately 50 PhD students from cross Johns Hopkins who wish to acquire instructional skills for academic careers that will involve teaching. Students must be in or beyond their second year of doctoral work. Through this initiative, advanced doctoral students will obtain an overview of pedagogy, explore different educational models, acquire teaching and assessment skills, and work with faculty teaching mentors in a classroom, online course, or laboratory environment. Applications for the PFF TA are now being accepted. If you know of graduate students who may be interested in this program, please have them apply by going to the Preparing Future Faculty Teaching Academy website application page. The program is a supplementary activity that should not detract from doctoral students' research obligations. To ensure that, students are asked to submit a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) form signed by their research advisor along with their application. Applications are being accepted through May 5th, 2014. Teaching Academy Faculty Mentors Needed Consider mentoring! During the last phase of the PFF Teaching Academy, students work with faculty instructional mentors who will help them to undertake their first teaching assignment. Faculty who are interested in participating as teaching mentors are requested to co-develop a Mentor-Mentee Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to articulate mutual expectations. Two flexible options are available:
  1. Offer consultation and guidance for a teaching assignment: help your mentee develop teaching goals and implement them in a Hopkins course. A faculty mentor agrees to help a doctoral student mentee develop teaching goals and learning objectives and align them with a teaching activity, determine active learning activities to offer in the course, and suggest appropriate methods of evaluation. The mentee should teach at least two classes or labs in a course or should teach a complete course through a departmental appointment, a Summer or Intersession appointment, or through a Teaching Fellowship. Mentors should observe mentees as they are teaching and provide constructive comments afterward.
  2. Offer an apprenticeship in a course you are teaching: invite a mentee to serve as co-teacher of one of your courses. Through this option, you would involve your mentee in the planning of course content, identification and implementation of assessment strategies, and instruction of at least two classes, labs, or units in your course. For a more detailed description of the PFF TA Apprenticeship and the "Role of the Mentor," please click here.
In either option, a "live" teaching opportunity should be a part of the student's experience with a minimum of 6 hours teaching a credit course. Students enter mentorships only after they have been exposed to formal pedagogical theories and readings and have engaged in hands-on development of sample teaching resources in earlier phases of the Teaching Academy. In this sense, students will be significantly more prepared to collaborate with faculty mentors than the typical TA or RA. While there are no funds to support this volunteer faculty mentoring opportunity, formal letters of acknowledgement and appreciation will be sent to the department Chair, division Dean, Provost, and President in addition to formal recognition of the faculty mentors' contributions and the PhD students' work at the annual PFF Teaching Academy recognition event. If you would like to become involved in this new program as a mentor or have any questions or suggestions, please contact Program Manager, Kelly Miller at pff.teachingacademy@jhu.edu.

II   Faculty Spotlight: Alexios Monopolis, Lecturer, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

Alexios Monopolis NCAA Swimming Championships
Johns Hopkins Faculty/Coach Alexios Monopolis (center), along with Head Coach George Kennedy (right) and Assistant Coach Nikki Kett (left) during the NCAA National Swimming Championships in Indianapolis over spring break
CER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins and what are the levels of the courses? (i.e., dimensions of the course: lecture, seminar, lab, etc.)
AM: I teach several interdisciplinary courses within the Global Environmental Change and Sustainability (GECS) program that reflect the diverse range of my own academic background and areas of specialization. (Alexios has completed 6 degrees in a variety of fields from Harvard, Oxford, Dartmouth and the University of California.) One course, Designing Sustainable Wellness, is part sustainability science, part psychology, and part design, architecture, and urban planning. Environmental Photojournalism & Filmmaking in the Era of New Media combines environmental science with media and communication theory and practice. Both of these courses involve interactive seminars, extensive field work, and final projects. This semester, in addition to serving as a co-instructor for the GECS Senior Capstone Seminar, I am teaching a new course on Environmental Ethics in which we examine environmental issues and the history and nature of human-environmental relationships through the philosophical frameworks of metaphysics and ethics. In all of these classes, students are continually analyzing, creating, and reimagining concepts and their own assumptions.
CER: What are your strategies or approaches for engaging or connecting with the students in your course?
AM: I limit class enrollments in order to enable dynamic discussions and interaction. We sit in a circle – often outside – to move away from top-down lecturing. Every seat is a front row seat. Students are not allowed to use their laptops or cellphones during class time. This has helped ensure that all students are fully present and engaged. In order to encourage and facilitate a continuation of class discussions outside of class, I've also created Facebook group pages for each course. Students post relevant thoughts, readings, links and videos (e.g., TED talks), and comment on each other's contributions.
CER: Do you use Blackboard?
AM: Only when I have to. I prefer Facebook because most students are already actively engaged on the site, its interface is far simpler and easier to use, and it allows for interactivity and mass collaboration.
CER: Do students feel you are intruding on their personal space? Do they want separation between their academic and social lives?
AM: As far as I know, they don't. Students do not need to formally connect with other members of the class through the site in order to join the group page, so their privacy and personal space is kept intact. The Facebook page is a supplemental learning tool and, although they aren't required to use it, everyone does. For many students, who may be too shy or lack confidence to contribute openly and freely during class, it provides an outlet where they can safely post thoughts and links reflecting a concept they may otherwise not have shared in person. It's an open space for brainstorming, questioning, and initiating discussions relevant to the course. For my photojournalism class, students will also upload their weekly photo assignments for an initial peer studio critique, but these assignments are never graded. In turn, this has helped encourage students to take intellectual risks they otherwise may have not pursued. Many students from previous semesters choose to stay connected through the course Facebook pages and continue to share material and comment on posts long after they've completed the course. I think this helps demonstrate how well this platform engages students.
CER: What other strategies do you use?
AM: For homework assignments, we start the semester by focusing on foundational readings critical to each course's learning objectives. As the semester progresses, however, I begin to assign relatively focused but somewhat broad discussion topics and allow students to choose specific issues, case studies, and readings they want to explore within those domains. Students feel intellectually empowered using this approach. It also helps hone their research skills as scholars, by compelling them to independently search for scholarly readings that will help support, inform, and prepare them for our class discussions. Of course, all students must still master the fundamental theories, knowledge foundations, and principles of the course, but they are also given a degree of ownership and customization over their learning that is uniquely their own.
CER: How do you assess students?
AM: I typically don't use traditional midterms or final exams. Instead, I focus my final assessment on a student's degree of active, engaged, and well-prepared participation during our class discussions, in addition to their final projects. These hand-on projects encourage students to explore Baltimore well beyond the Homewood campus. Students choose their own projects, which helps ensure that they remain intrinsically motivated and intellectually passionate about their chosen topics, but they are also provided with clear guidelines and evaluation metrics. Throughout the course I also ask students to provide feedback in order to ensure that the course continues to evolve and improve in a positive trajectory.
CER: Can you explain what you mean?
AM: We have a continual, open dialogue throughout the course. I ask students to not think of these courses as a traditional class, but as an experience or collective independent study. By not committing to a rigid structure, feedback provided during the semester allows me to make adjustments that ultimately help improve the students' learning experience. In one course, students expressed an interest in continuing to explore a particular topic we had already covered. As a result, the syllabus was adjusted to allow us to spend additional time on that particular issue without compromising the intellectual foundations and learning objectives of the course. I approach my teaching the same way I coach. (Alexios serves as the strength and conditioning coach for the men's and women's swim teams.) The work is extremely challenging, but I try to ensure that both my students and athletes are invested in the experience because they ultimately find it to be intellectually or physically rewarding. At times, I blend my teaching and coaching roles to foster what the Ancient Greeks referred to as "a healthy mind in a healthy body." All of my classes have participated in at least one weekend outing during the course of the semester, normally a hike. Last year, the Designing Sustainable Wellness class chose to go for a run along the Inner Harbor waterfront promenade, followed by an aerial yoga class. For my office hours, students choose between joining me for a walk or run to discuss course topics or assignments. Somewhat surprisingly, most have chosen the run.
Student Quote: "What makes Professor Monopolis a truly effective educator is his commitment to not only engaging students with the material at hand but with one another as well. His passion for life and the pursuit of knowledge permeates throughout his teaching methods, which creates an environment that empowers students to take an active role in their lives and education." - Guillermo Ortiz

III   Teaching Tips: Resources for Peer Learning and Peer Assessment

Several weeks ago the Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Teaching and Learning presented a half-day symposium, Peer to Peer: Engaging Students in Learning and Assessment. Speakers reported on their experiences implementing peer learning strategies in the classroom. Hands-on activities for attendees demonstrated the efficacy of peer-to-peer learning. Two presentations focused on peer assessment that highlighted data on how peer assessment measures up to instructor assessment and gave examples of how peer assessment can be used. The presentations were recorded and are available here: https://sites.google.com/site/ctltteachingtoolkit/resources/teaching-techniques/peer-learning-and-assessment/2014-symposium-peerlearning. Student Group Stock Photo Of particular note, critic, writer, and teacher Howard Rheingold delivered the presentation, From Pedagogy to Peeragogy: Social Media as Scaffold for Co-learning. Wikipedia describes Rheingold's specialties as "the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing)." Rheingold asked, "What do self-learners need to know to effectively teach and learn from each other?" This question led to the development of the concept of peeragogy (a collection of techniques for collaborative learning and collaborative work) and The Peeragogy Handbook: a peer-to-peer learning guide in the form of a wiki-based "textbook" created cooperatively. For more on Rheingold's talk, see The Innovative Instructor blog post dated March 31, 2014. For additional material on peer learning and assessment the JHSPH CTL resources page is loaded with information on the subject, outlining best practices and highlighting references and examples: https://sites.google.com/site/ctltteachingtoolkit/resources/teaching-techniques/peer-learning-and-assessment.

IV   New Classroom Technology Showcased at MSE Library

Tech Fellows Logo Winners of the 2013-14 Technology Fellows competition will demonstrate their technological innovations on Tuesday, May 6, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm on Q-Level at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. All of the winning faculty-student teams will be available for hands-on demonstrations of how they used their $5,000 mini-grants to enhance undergraduate instruction. Projects cover a wide range of disciplines from Krieger, Whiting, and Peabody. This year's initiatives include tutorials for Spanish, an e-book for biochemistry, images and simulations in Molecules & Cells, and topology optimization in civil engineering. All attendees will receive gift certificates for the Brody Learning Commons Café. Now in its thirteenth year, the Technology Fellows Program was created to assist Johns Hopkins faculty in the development of digital course resources. Funded by the Office of the President and the Smart Family Foundation, the program awards $5,000 grants to faculty/student teams for projects that integrate technology into instructional programs. CER technology experts and librarians collaborate with faculty-student teams on projects that encourage active learning, facilitate access to course materials, and enhance pedagogy. For more information contact Cheryl Wagner at cwagner@jhu.edu (410.516.7181).

V   Hidden Blackboard Grade Center Options Revealed

Blackboard Logo If you use Blackboard-generated tests and assignments, you already know that columns for these assessments are created automatically in the grade center. However, you may not be aware of some often-overlooked options that can be accessed from the contextual menus of these columns. Grade Anonymously It is possible to grade assignments and tests anonymously. Student assessments are presented in random order without any identifiable student information attached. Grading anonymously may be helpful in preventing bias among TAs or instructors when grading. Column Statistics This option will display statistics about the column, including: minimum and maximum values, average, median, standard deviation, and variance. It also includes grade distribution and status distribution of the assessment (number of assessments in progress, need grading, exempt, etc.). Blackboard Grade Center Screencap Attempts Statistics Available in test and survey columns, this option displays statistics for each question in a test or survey, including the percentage of students who selected each answer as well as the average score for each question (tests only). Survey results are accessed from the Attempts Statistics page, but individual responses remain anonymous. Grade Questions This option allows instructors and TAs to grade all responses to an individual question at one time. Anonymous grading is possible from the grade questions page. Instructors and TAs may find grading ‘by question' helps to maintain consistency throughout the grading process. Item Analysis Item analysis provides detailed statistics on test questions such as average score, standard deviation, standard error, etc. It also includes statistics related to overall test performance designed to help instructors recognize questions that might be poor indicators of student performance. This information can be used to adjust credit in current tests or help improve the design of future test questions. If you have questions or are interested in exploring any of these options and would like some assistance, please send an email to cerweb@jhu.edu.

VI   All Information, All the Time

Information Clipart Icon Libraries have always made books, journals, newspapers, and other information available for researchers and students. We've always helped you find, search, and use these resources. But don't forget that we also have services to support the content you've created. Think of us as a place to find help with all sorts of information needs.

VII   Malone Hall – the Newest Building on the Homewood Campus

Malone Bldg Homewood Campus Set to open this summer as the newest building on the Homewood Campus, Malone Hall has four floors and 40,000 sq. ft. of Whiting School of Engineering research space. The building has the latest high-speed networking equipment and the most robust cable plant on campus. Networking Equipment Malone is equipped with the latest in high speed networking gear to deliver rapid connectivity for each desktop in the building. Malone also has a server room to support several of the Computer Science Department's servers and several research projects that will go into the building. Several workgroup size switches allow very fast data transfers between connected machines. One of the switches will handle any high speed networking requirement and is envisioned to serve as an entry point to get on the high speed research network that is currently being built. Malone Hall also has an extensive wifi build out. Cable Plant Malone Hall has new Category 6A copper cabling, which has the ability to run 10 Gigabit speeds to almost anywhere in the building. Present and future researchers will be able to use the existing cabling for the next 10 -15 years. The building also connects several lab spaces in a private network that is 10 Gigabit-ready and is connected with 50 micron multimode fiber to the basement server room. Data/phone closets on each floor connect back to the campus network core with single mode fiber. The category 6A cabling should provide a good, flexible solution for today and the future. The cable plant is on target for completion in June 2014.