I Symposium on Teaching Excellence in the Sciences - Save the Date! 1/20/12
Join faculty colleagues for a day of stimulating discussions on innovations in science teaching. Registration begins on 12/5
II Technology Fellowship Applications
Now's the time to think about a proposal - applications will be accepted in March
III Blackboard Updates to Help Faculty
New formatting plug-in available and reminders for the upcoming semester
IV Turnitin.com Updates
Renewed, Expanded and Integrated - Save Time on Grading!
V Tips for Regulating the Use of Mobile Devices in the Classroom
(And other electronic devices as well.)
VI Academic Technology Facilities
Check out the updates to Homewood classrooms and learn about virtual desktop software
VII Faculty Spotlight: Mieka Smart, Lecturer, Public Health Studies, KSAS
A continuing series on teaching excellence at Homewood
VIII Happy Blog-iversary to Us
Sheridan Libraries celebrate Blog Anniversary
I Symposium on Teaching Excellence in the Sciences - Save the Date! Jan 20, 2012 (Registration Opens Dec. 5th)As part of the Provost's Gateway Sciences Initiative, Johns Hopkins will hold its first institution-wide Symposium on Teaching Excellence in the Sciences on January 20, 2012, in Hodson Hall. (See the GSI Website for details on the entire initiative.) The Symposium will bring four nationally renowned science education leaders to discuss instructional innovation at their campuses. Speakers include:
- Freeman Hrabowski, Ph.D. President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and founder of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program
- Eric Mazur, Ph.D. Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Dean of Applied Physics, Harvard University
- David Botstein, Ph.D. Anthony B. Evnin '62 Professor of Genomics; Professor of Molecular Biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics; Director, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics; and Director, Certificate Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology, Princeton University
- Jo Handelsman, Ph.D. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; and Director, The Center for Scientific Teaching, Yale University; President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Working Group, Co-Chair, STEM Education in Higher Education
II 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 280 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, scheduling update sessions, providing some technical consultation, and helping teams prepare for a year-end showcase in which 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 – 31; awards will be announced in early April 2012. Funding will be available from May 2012 through April 2013; projects must be completed by April 15, 2013. For more information, contact Cheryl Wagner at 410-516-7181 or email@example.com.
III Blackboard Updates to Help Faculty
Cutting and Pasting from Word into Blackboard - New Plug-in from IT@JH Blackboard's visual editor (pictured below) is used extensively throughout the course management system. It is used when creating assignments, announcements, emails, discussion board posts, blog posts, etc. It allows you to type and format text as well as insert images and links in order to customize your pages within your Blackboard site. If you have used the editor to display text or images that you've cut and pasted from Microsoft Word, the results might not have been what you expected; Word often embeds extra formatting code that the Blackboard editor is unable to process, resulting in skewed images, incorrectly formatted text, etc. IT@JH has recently installed a plug-in that should alleviate these formatting issues. From now on, when trying to cut and paste from Word into the Blackboard editor, click the 'mash-up icon' (bottom row, last icon on right) and select 'Paste from Word.' While it might not solve all formatting issues, this plug-in will remove the extra formatting embedded in Word, enabling the editor to properly render pasted text and images. Blackboard reminders
- Grade Center Open Hours will be offered in early December for Homewood instructors. Feel free to stop in and ask questions about calculating final grades in Blackboard. No registration required.
- Blackboard course shells are available now for the upcoming intersession or spring 2012 semester. There is no need to request a course site; each course will automatically have a Blackboard site that can be activated if the instructor chooses to use it.
- If intersession or spring 2012 will be your first semester using Blackboard, please plan to attend one or more training sessions offered at the CER; upcoming training dates will be posted to the CER website shortly. In the meantime, this Getting Started Tip Sheet contains some important tips for new users to Blackboard.
- If you are currently using Blackboard and would like to reuse your fall course material in a spring course site, you can use the 'Course Copy' feature to copy material to your spring course. 'Course Copy' allows instructors to choose those parts of a course they want to copy into another course. Please see the 'Course Copy' tutorial for additional assistance.
IV Turnitin.com UpdatesThe Schools of Arts & Sciences and Engineering recently renewed their contract for Turnitin, extending the license for all faculty through September, 2013. As part of this renewal, several features above and beyond Plagiarism Detection are now available: Blackboard Integration, Grademark, and Peermark. Blackboard Integration simplifies the entire process of using Turnitin. Requesting an instructor account is no longer necessary, students no longer have to know class codes or enrollment passwords, and assignment grades don't have to be imported or exported. Assignments can be created and graded within your Blackboard course. Learn more about Turnitin Blackboard Integration. Grademark allows truly paperless assignment handling. Assignments are created and released to students. Students submit electronic copies of their work. Faculty can then comment directly on the entire paper, sections of the paper, or specific words and phrases. Faculty can also click on and insert a number of common observations about student writing - e.g., "check spelling," "paraphrase," "good argument," and "cite source." Comments are then sent back to students electronically - all using just a browser. Grading rubrics can also be created and easily applied to submissions. This can help TAs grade consistently. When Grademark is used with Blackboard Integration, it becomes even more powerful. Grademark can be used with or without Plagiarism detection. Peermark is similar to Grademark, but allows students to comment on each other's papers, all electronically. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
V Tips for Regulating the Use of Mobile Devices in the ClassroomIf what we are hearing in the CER is any indication, student use of laptops (and increasingly, tablets and smartphones) in the classroom for non-academic purposes has become a widespread problem at Homewood. Faculty we have talked to have done everything from banning all computer use in their classes (potentially a problem for students with disabilities) to having TAs roam the lecture hall to discourage inappropriate web surfing. Are there better solutions? One option is to have a clear statement of policy about mobile device use in your course syllabus. This combined with a discussion of "digital etiquette" during the first class meeting can be an effective solution. Even better, consider creating a contract with your students at the beginning of the semester. The contract is a two-way street. By engaging your students in the process, you increase the likelihood of their compliance. The scope of your contract may go beyond the use of mobile devices and should include your obligations as a professor as well as your expectations of student behavior. For a more in detailed discussion of this method see the CER's Innovative Instructor article Creating a Convenant with Your Students by Professor P. M. Forni. An alternative option might be to encourage students to use their mobile devices to record class information - see Stanford article.
VI Academic Technology FacilitiesAll General Pool classrooms in Gilman Hall now have a room-based computer with a permanent connection to the LCD projector to facilitate classroom instruction. Although a connection port is still available for faculty who wish to use their own laptops, presenters are encouraged to use the installed computers to lessen the chance of a compatibility issue with the AV equipment. The new computers were provided through a contribution from the Johns Hopkins Technology Store. Several other General Pool classrooms have or will soon receive technology updates: Latrobe 120 will be updated to include a document camera, Crestron touch panel for AV control, amplified audio speakers and a teaching counter. Bloomberg 272 has replaced old projectors with two new Epson G5350 projectors, and the Maryland 226 computer classroom has new Dell computers. Improvements to the "help" systems for on-demand classroom technology support are also in progress, with the goal of reducing the time required to respond to assistance requests and ensuring that all requests are received and routed appropriately. A new student-focused service will soon be formally launched, which will provide Homewood undergraduates with 24/7 remote access to the majority of the course-related applications formally available only in the campus computer labs. Using the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology, students are able to connect to a virtual desktop and run applications from nearly any type of device, including laptops (Mac, Windows, Linux), tablets and smartphones. More information, including the formal name of the new service, will be announced at the beginning of the spring semester. Faculty who plan to use or recommend course-specific applications in the upcoming spring semester can contact Graham Bouton (email@example.com) for more information how to incorporate their course-related applications into the new service and how it may benefit their students.
VII Faculty Spotlight: Mieka Smart, Lecturer, Public Health Studies, School of Arts & SciencesCER: What course did you teach this summer?
MS: Applied Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Public Health.
CER: What were your primary student learning objectives?
MS: I wanted students to experience a fantastic, engaging course and then realize at the end that they had learned how to use a complex statistical software package, relatively painlessly! In addition, I wanted them to learn basic field observation methods. Because it was a summer course, it was structured with long sessions: M-W- F from 1 until 4 PM.
CER: How did you keep students engaged during extended class sessions?
MS: On the first day, I put students in teams that they would work with for the duration of the course. An unintended consequence was that a friendly, competitive spirit developed among the groups. The competition drove them to do things faster and try to out do each other on the final projects. The group idea was suggested by Dr. Shingles in the CER, and it worked really well. I also used a course-related, student-driven icebreaker at the beginning of every class to wake everyone up and get their minds on the topic. For example, one group of students designed a web-based "Jeopardy" activity based on required terminology I'd covered in previous lectures. I tried to minimize lectures to no more than one hour for each session. I incorporated field assignments or hands-on lab activities into the final segment of every day. I also included guest lecturers. One of my goals was to give them access to public health experts who use GIS in their work. One guest was Peter Hanna, who works for the Baltimore City Fire Department and was using GIS to plan emergency exits, medic locations, etc., for the Baltimore Grand Prix event in September. We also heard from Tim Shields, a scientist at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, who's doing geographically-based malaria research in Macha, Zambia. According to the course evaluations, students were most engaged by the field work, which began on the first day. The Sheridan Libraries provided GPS units that students used to complete a geocaching exercise. That helped them get acquainted with team work and with the concepts of latitude and longitude. As a bonus, one of the caches was stored with Bonnie Wittstadt, an extremely helpful GIS professional in the GPML office of the Libraries - I wanted students to learn about the expertise and services she offers.
CER: What other types of course work did students complete?
MS: I lectured about observational research, including the essentials of survey design, why adhering to field protocol is essential, and why all stakeholders need to be present when creating observational studies. As they learned more, I could implement more involved field assignments in which students used Hopkins' shuttles or walked to local retail shops that sell tobacco products. The students observed where people smoked outside the shops, how many patrons were inside, and whether the shops also sold smoking cessation products, among other observations. Students brought their data back to the lab during the next class and loaded it into ArcMap software. For the entire course they used data that they had personally collected. They also learned how to combine their observational data with information from other data sources, which allowed them to begin to explore spatial relationships. For the final assignments, students did a group presentation using ArcExplorer, a web-based geographic presentation software that we taught them to use in the course. Each group used data from different sources (e.g., U.S. Census, Maryland State, Baltimore City Mayor's Office of Info and Technology) to explore spatial correlations in health related data. One team looked at diabetes prevalence and neighborhood food access. Another team obtained coordinates for all of the Baltimore City operated closed cicuit cameras and explored the spatial relationships between the cameras' locations and incidents of violence near those locations.
CER: What made the course unique?
MS: I think the course illustrated the advantages of community-based learning. I look forward to seeing more of these types of courses on campus. Students acquire important perspective and skills that prepared them for subsequent community-based classes or field-based employment. In addition, the students' final projects have the potential to offer significant contributions (e.g., observations on the impact of interventions like closed circuit cameras on violence).
CER: Can you discuss some of the challenges you encountered in teaching this course? How did you overcome them?
MS: The primary challenge was addressing student frustration as they learned ArcMap, which can be a tricky software application. It is easy for students to get discouraged when their output doesn't turn out as expected after they've written code or transformed data. They really needed to learn how to troubleshoot. I had an outstanding teaching assistant, Jackie Ferguson, who eagerly helped students get through complex coursework and made herself available for students when they needed assistance with homework or group projects. Also, the fact that students could turn to their teammates for assistance helped.
CER: How do you know if you were successful? How do you assess student learning?
MS: Dr. Shingles helped us develop 10 pre- and post-Participant Perception Inventory (PPI) survey questions. The benefit of the pre-course PPI is that it helped us gauge background experience. Some students had heard of GIS, but no one had worked with it. Students went from knowing nothing at the beginning of the semester to being adept with key features of the software by the end of the semester.
CER: Would you like to share anything else?
MS: I plan to offer the course again this summer and I look forward to teaching in the new GIS teaching facility in Dunning.
CER: What is your philosophy of teaching?
MS: Students are bored when the teacher or the course materials are boring, but students learn readily when they can apply the material. Community-based learning (CBL) brings conceptual/theoretical material to life. While CBL is by far my favorite educational approach, it is not always practical. In that case, students can be engaged in the classroom through teamwork, discussions, or student-led learning. I enjoyed the course because it was very hands-on and practical. It was also easy to troubleshoot any problems that were encountered during assignments. - Jason Oh