I TA Training Institute Offers Orientation for First-time Graduate Instructors First-time TAs get up to speed with program designed just for them
II Laptop Encryption Deadline Reminder - October 1, 2008 PointSec data encryption now available to reduce theft and data security risks
III Faculty Spotlight: Chris Falzone, Research Professor, Department of Chemistry A regular series on teaching success stories on the Homewood campus
IV GPS Systems Find Their Way onto the Homewood Campus Garmin and Trimble GPS systems lead education in a new direction
V CER Services Available to Faculty Check out the CER's cafeteria of services and resources to help with your teaching
VI MediaSite Provides Lecture Recording Services for Homewood Faculty Capture your lectures AND the slides that accompany them for web access after class
VII JHU Library Toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer Search the JHU Libraries instantly by using a convenient toolbar
VIII JHU Wins Google's "International Build Your Campus in 3D" Competition Hopkins students among 8 teams honored by Google for modeling the campus in Sketchup
I TA Training Institute Offers Orientation for First-time Graduate InstructorsThe CER is offering a half-day TA orientation program on September 3, 2008, in the Glass Pavilion (of Levering Hall) and Hodson Hall. The event is open to all graduate students in KSAS or WSE with teaching assignments for fall 2008 and/or spring 2009. Faculty members, University deans and administrators, and experienced TAs will discuss resources and services available to TAs and cover common classroom challenges such as leading discussions/labs, assisting struggling students, and addressing academic dishonesty. For more information contact Richard Shingles at firstname.lastname@example.org
II Laptop Encryption Deadline Reminder - October 1, 2008JHU has acquired a site license for PointSec, a software tool for full disc data encryption. IT@JH recommends that all laptops that may contain sensitive information be encrypted - especially those used by administrative and clinical staff involved in human subjects research. For those faculty, staff, or graduate students who use laptops with sensitive data, encryption implementation should be completed by October 1, 2008. The PointSec software is available on the SPARS software system (https://spars.jhu.edu). Additional information is available at: http://it.jhu.edu/restricted/standsandguidelines/pointsecbrief.html
III Faculty Spotlight: Chris Falzone, Research Professor, Department of ChemistryCER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins and what are the levels of the courses?
CF: I teach one of the two sections of the Introduction to Organic Chemistry 1 (fall semester) and Organic Chemistry II (spring semester) each year. The format for the four credit course is three lectures and a conference each week. The conference is 80 minutes long and is taught by our departmental graduate TAs. These courses are typically taken by students in their sophomore year and are required for premed students, chemistry majors, and some engineers.
CER: What are your strategies for engaging the students in your course?
CF: These are large classes - last year I had 342 students in the fall and over 200 in the spring. Even with very large classes, learning students' names is key. Although the large classroom setting tends to create a wall between the students and the professor, I do what I can to break down that barrier. I tend to stop often during class and ask questions, or write questions on the board, and invite discussion. That way I can get a sense of whether or not students understand the material. I encourage students to come to my office hours, which allows me to get to know them better. I let my students know that I am accessible outside of the classroom.
CER: You came to Johns Hopkins from Penn State a year ago after teaching there for fifteen years. Can you tell us some of the challenges you encountered in teaching this core Chemistry course?
CF: Traditionally students think of "orgo" as a course with a lot of memorization of reactions. I see it as not about memorizing, but as understanding a series of foundation concepts that provide the building blocks for all of mechanistic/physical organic chemistry. Using this orientation, students develop critical thinking skills, which will be valuable to them when dealing with any discipline where there is a large body of information to be learned. Mastering organic chemistry requires memorizing only a few things. Once students understand that all reactions are variations of those fundamentals, they are in "mechanistic heaven" and can then extrapolate from their knowledge to find solutions to more advanced problems. Practice is critical and it is often difficult to get students to understand this. Keeping up with the material is also crucial and I have introduced more frequent testing to push students to stay on top of the course.
CER: Are there any technologies or collaborative methods you use to enhance student learning?
CF: I feel that organic chemistry is best learned with a pencil in hand by writing it out (i.e., formulas and diagramming reactions). In that way students understand the difference that variations will make and they learn the key mechanisms. That said, I am very interested in collaboration and team work and in using technology in my teaching. I plan to use clickers (classroom polling system) in my classes this year to better gauge whether the students understand the material as we move through the core concepts. I also am looking at the tablet PC to see how I might best use its capabilities. For a number of reasons I like using the blackboard, so the tablet may be more difficult for me to integrate into my teaching. In my office hours I usually have groups of students. I try to get them work together on the questions posed to promote collaborative learning. This is something I also want to implement in my conference sessions this coming year. I'd like to have my TAs structure these [conference] sessions around assigned problem sets, some of which the students will work in small groups. Practicing through problem solving is a key to success in organic chemistry and teaching or helping someone else is a great way to reinforce your own knowledge.
CER: How do you know when you're successful and how do you assess student learning?
CF: I don't think I ever give a great lecture, only at best a good one, because I know that there is always room for improvement. Student response tells me if I am on the right track. That's why I like to encourage feedback during each class. In an ideal world I would use the European one-on-one method of assessment because it is the best way to determine that a student truly understands the material. With over 300 students, though, we don't have that luxury and written exams become a necessary evil. I do believe that more frequent testing on smaller amounts of material is most effective.
CER: What is your philosophy of teaching?
CF: I believe that teaching is the most important thing you can do and one of the hardest. I'm here to give something to the next generation by teaching them how to think critically. Through teaching I can give something back, and I feel lucky to have the luxury of supporting intellectual endeavor and scholarly discourse. It is really great to be able to interact with bright young people. Essentially, my philosophy is that I want to teach students to teach themselves. [CER staff sought out student reactions - here's a sample. Parker Shelton, a student in Dr. Falzone's class last year was enthusiastic about the course. "Dr. Falzone was a dynamic teacher who engaged with students in an active way. He gave cool and effective demonstrations. And he was very open to questions in class, always making sure that students understood the material he presented."]
IV GPS Systems Find Their Way onto the Homewood CampusThe Government Publications and Maps/Law department (GPML) of the MSE Library has purchased 10 mobile Global Positioning System (GPS) units, which will be available early in the fall semester for faculty and students to use for research and class work. Borrowing privileges last for 1 week. GPS units allow users to:
- capture spatial context for field assignments (e.g., archaeology digs, river sampling, environmental incidents, movement of people, location of informal businesses)
- map/large-scale measuring exercises (e.g., applied math, geography, structural engineering, sociology, business)
- prevent students and faculty from getting lost in the field!
V CER Services Available to FacultyWhether you are a faculty member new to Johns Hopkins or an established professor who has not yet explored our offerings, the Center for Educational Resources welcomes you to the fall 2008 semester. The CER provides pedagogical support and resources for both traditional and digitally supported teaching. Our location in the Garrett Room of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library allows us to work closely with Sheridan Libraries research services librarians and University IT staff. The CER staff have advanced academic degrees and experience in instructional settings, and, most importantly, they are flexible and willing to provide both individual consultations for faculty or small group presentations for departmental groups. Training opportunities:
- course management system (WebCT) information, support and training
- Bits and Bytes, an informal weekly brown bag lunch workshop series on emerging digital technologies
- TA training and workshops
- dedicated instruction to meet individual faculty or departmental needs
- Interactive Map Tool and Timeline Tool (CER developed course resources)
- Turnitin plagiarism detection software
- in-class voting student response (clicker) system
- web conferencing and collaboration with Adobe Connect
- faculty multimedia lab with industry standard resources to record and distribute lecture materials, enhance presentations visually and aurally, and prepare materials for conferences and grant proposals
- two mobile computer carts that can transform any classroom into an interactive learning space
- Tablet PC Loaner Program that allows faculty to borrow a Tablet PC for an entire semester and explore its features at their own pace
- partnering with faculty to develop instructional assessment and educational outreach sections in grant proposals
- reviewing instructional applications of Web-accessible resources to address individual faculty instructional or research objectives
- bi-annual mini-grant program to help faculty address course-specific student learning objectives
- over 75 projects from 28 departments have been completed to date