E-News (archive)

Return to all E-News posts

December 2008

I   Homewood IT@JH Managed Mac Services Mac support now available at Homewood

II   TA Training Program TA Orientation redux plus upcoming credit course on preparing for university teaching

III   Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro Avoid airport lines - connect with research or teaching colleagues from your desktop

IV   Introducing...New, More Powerful, JHSearch Search across multiple databases at once

V   New Comprehensive Library Guides Customize dashboards for your research and teaching

VI   On Demand Help Quick, one-on-one consultations are yours for the asking

VII   Faculty Spotlight: Professor Stephen Plank, Department of Sociology A regular series on teaching success stories on the Homewood campus


I   Homewood IT@JH Managed Mac Services

Apple Logo In response to increasing use of Mac OSX-based desktops and laptops at Homewood, the Desktop Computing Services group of IT@JH is developing support options for Macintosh computers. DCS-Homewood now provides desktop support options for faculty and staff who are wish to include Mac OSX computers on existing, or new, DCS support contracts. Services include: managed anti-virus protection, network file services and backup, JHED/WIN-based authentication, and remote desktop management. For more information on the availability and pricing of Mac or Windows desktop support contracts, please contact Graham Bouton at graham@jhu.edu or 410-516-5565.

II   TA Training Program

Wish that your TA could sit in at those workshops from this year's TA Orientation again? Want him or her to review some suggestions that were discussed in September? Videos from this year's TA Orientation have been posted on the CER's web site and TAs can now access full clips from each of the Orientation sessions. Videos include the General Session for first-time TAs, which contains information on the role of a TA, ethics and academic integrity issues, and more. Also available on the web site are videos of workshops on prepping for the first day of classes, supporting a course or lab, accessing teaching resources and first-hand accounts of experienced TAs. For more information on the TA Training Program go to http://www.cer.jhu.edu/TAtraining. The TA Training Program will also be offering credit classes in the spring, one for the School of Arts and Sciences, the other forEngineering, to TATA Training Institute Logos who want to enhance their teaching skills with some handson experiences. TAs preparing to teach next fall (or those who are currently teaching) can sign up for the one credit course, "Preparation for University Teaching" (KSAS course number 360.781; WSE course number 500.781). The course will be taught by CER staff member and Biology lecturer Dr. Richard Shingles. Course participants will write their own syllabi, develop lesson plans, explore instructional delivery techniques, and participate in videotaped microteaching sessions in front of the class.

III   Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro

Have you ever wanted to collaborate online with colleagues around the world, hold virtual office hours while traveling, or setup quick and easy online training? Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro allows you to do all this and more - and it requires nothing more than a flash-capable web browser at any end of the connection. Connect features text chat, audio and video conferencing, file/desktop/application sharing, real-time polling & quizzes, breakout rooms, and more. Adobe Connect Logo Sessions can be recorded for playback at a later time. Recorded sessions can even be edited to highlight important parts of the discussion. To learn more about Connect, visit http://connect.johnshopkins.edu/ . By default, all JHU users with a JHED ID can participate in a Connect session. If you want to create and host meetings using Adobe Connect, please contact connectsupport@jhu.edu and request Meeting Host privileges. You can also request this level of access online: http://help.sset.jhu.edu/display/Connect/Request+Meeting+Host+Privileges . This request need be sent only once to get on the list of approved users - it's not necessary to make it each time you want to create a meeting. JHU's current Connect license allows for 500 concurrent simultaneous users. This limitation may be removed in the future, depending on demand and available funding. Several Homewood faculty participated in the Connect pilot trial and reported positive, time-saving results. Connect is also being used to conduct online, or partially online, classes. Students enjoy the intuitive interface and their ability to review recorded sessions. IT@JH has used Connect to successfully conduct training sessions on new software with hundreds of participants at once. KSAS/WSE faculty may request Connect training or demonstrations from the CER - just contact cerweb@jhu.edu. Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro replaces Elluminate, which is no longer available.

IV   Introducing...New, More Powerful, JHSearch

You may have noticed a new and improved interface on JHSearch, the library service that lets you search across multiple databases at once. In addition to saving and emailing yourself lists of results and connecting to the full text of articles online, you can also refine search results and export citations directly to RefWorks. The new JHSearch is also more tailored to expert scholars, including neaJH Search Bannerrly 70 subject-specific database lists that you can search across. Specialized subjects include Asian Studies, Biotechnology, Energy and Environmental Policy, Information Technology and Security, Public Policy, and more. The database lists now include more specialized subsets, too, such as Digital Primary Sources, Images, Material and Physical Properties, and Patents. Access the new JHSearch from the library website or directly at: http://jhsearch.library.jhu.edu/ Want to learn more or give feedback? Contact your librarian: http://library.jhu.edu/departments/rsc/rslist.html

V   New Comprehensive Library Guides

The Sheridan Libraries have released a suite of new library guides designed to serve expert and novice researchers alike. The guides combine JHSearch cross-database searching with brand new boutique library catalog searches (for movies, music, and more), journal citation searching, and specialized guides for specific courses and special topics. Bookmark your discipline's guide today and make it your personalized "dashboard" to discipline resources. In addition to discipline-specific guides that can serve as an all-in-one portal to the key resources of a field (online and otherwise), these guides cover related topics such as "Writing for Publication: Tools for Getting Started," "LaTeX," "Search Alerts and RSS," "Expository Writing," "Citing Sources," and more. You may request that a course-specific page be created to serve a specific course or class assignment. Course-specific pages can save students' time and bring interdisciplinary resources together on one page. For an example, see the Expository Writing Guide: http://guides.library.jhu.edu/expositorywriting As they're completed, each guide will be linked on the library website. Curious to see what's available right now? View all new guides all in one place, and register to receive email alerts when a new guide is published, at: http://guides.library.jhu.edu If you'd rather subscribe to new guide alerts via RSS or follow us on Twitter, visit: http://twitter.com/mselibrary Contact your librarian with feedback or to request a course-specific page: http://library.jhu.edu/departments/rsc/rslist.html

VI   On Demand Help

CER Staff Maybe you missed that CER workshop on using Google tools or podcasting, or you've been struggling with trying to download a video clip and embed it in PowerPoint. Perhaps a colleague is using an in-class voting system and you'd like to know more about it. Or possibly you are teaching a new course this coming semester and would like to have the students collaborate on a project but you don't know how they can easily share files or set up a group web site. Who are you going to call? Try the staff at the CER. The CER Staff is composed of full-time and part-time professionals as well as a group of tech-savvy part-time student staff members. CER staff expertise includes instructional design, integration of instructional design with technology, software development, and infrastructure systems development. Whether you want a little help in building a syllabus, identifying good images, solving a recurring student learning problem, redesigning an entire course, video-recording yourself, finding a digital tool to help students explore course content, using PowerPoint more effectively, or decreasing the time you spend tracking student grades, CER staff can meet with you individually to develop solutions tailored to your needs. Staff members will set up an appointment in our conference room in the MSE Library, meet you at Cafe Q, or come to your office - at a time that is convenient for you. Dedicated to finding a solution that fits your particular needs in a timely, creative, efficient and effective manner, CER staff are here to help you.

VII   Faculty Spotlight: Professor Stephen Plank, Department of Sociology

Plank PhotoCER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins?
SP: Since 2002, I've taught six different courses ranging from a freshman-level seminar, to Introduction to Sociology, which is a large lecture course, to a graduate course in regression analysis.
CER: How do you engage with the students in your course?
SP: First, I want my excitement about the subject matter to show. Students sense when I'm intellectually stimulated by my own research, the last book I've read, or the set of articles we will read in the course. Second, it's important to show students a lot of respect. Students read or take courses in topics - such as anthropology or philosophy - to which I haven't had a huge amount of exposure, but which relate to our class conversations. I want them to know they are welcome to bring those ideas into our discussions. I try to demonstrate respect by acknowledging students may know more than I do in certain areas and their knowledge is welcome in the intellectual stew we're making. Third, I try to envision my seminar courses as a dialogue. I don't insist that students reach a predetermined take-home point by the end of the semester. It is my responsibility to set up a journey with key landmarks that we will pass as a group. How the group synthesizes and weighs the empirical evidence we explore could lead us to very different conclusions from year to year. I'm comfortable with that. In the social sciences we have theories and a body of empirical evidence that is ever-growing, but there is no unified theory that is shown to hold in all places or all times. Finally, I firmly believe there are aspects of good pedagogy that hold whether you are teaching a 12-, 22-, or 82-year-old. However, you can't be too obvious about your strategies. If college freshmen feel you're using strategies they encountered in middle school or high school, they'll resist.
CER: What are those universal strategies?
SP: Students should have a wide range of opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and mastery of materials. I try to incorporate a variety of assessment strategies in my courses -- such as student-led presentations, term papers, in-class essays, and group projects. These permit students to shine in different arenas. It also prepares students for the real world where they will be expected to synthesize and communicate information in different modes. I try to signal to students that I do these things for their future success.
CER: Your Education in the Media course was a freshman seminar. Can you tell us some of the challenges you have encountered in teaching this course?
SP: While it is important for me to show my excitement about the subject matter, it's sometimes a challenge for courses I teach several times. I designed Education in the Media as a research project. We read about the current state of media and print journalism, theories about education reform, and the history of education in the U.S. The students collect articles on education from 15 different newspapers for a specific three-week period. Then we study that coverage empirically. The first year I taught the course, the exact plan for designing the students' project and analyzing the data unfolded in real time; I was coming to conclusions alongside the students. During the second implementation, I was struggling with how much I should steer the class toward an exploration of certain questions and hypotheses that arose in the previous year's class. The course's success depended on my allowing the new class to create the research agenda. Clearly, the time management and logistics of the course ran much smoother the second time, but it was more challenging to maintain the excitement of spontaneous co-discovery with the students. It can be difficult to mute my excitement or biases about certain topics that might influence the class's decisions.
CER: What did you learn from that experience?
SP: A course provides a basic framework. You can reuse the basic recipe, but to keep things exciting, it's important to add new ingredients to the stew. The course investigated how print newspapers cover education, but it could be revised to explore how new media - blogs, online journals - cover contemporary medical and health issues. I can reuse the basic approach for guiding freshmen to embark on an empirical exercise, but I can change the topic and form of media they study.
CER: Are there any technologies or collaborative methods you use to enhance student learning?
SP: I love teaching in Hodson. When teaching statistical analysis, I run live simulations from interactive websites to teach difficult concepts like the Central Limit Theorem. It helped to receive a Technology Fellowship grant from the CER for my Education in the Media course. An engineering undergraduate and I developed an interactive, web-based database that helped students create their own dataset from newspapers they sampled for articles. I could then create a larger dataset of articles nested in newspapers that the students could data mine. The technology helped all of us to focus on the substance and excitement of empirical research without spending a semester wrestling with the logistics of how to create and access a dataset. Watch Dr. Plank discuss this project in more detail: Video 1 | Video 2
CER: How do you know when you're successful? How do you assess student learning?
SP: I know my teaching has connected with students when I see a spark in their eyes, when they show up for an early class on a cold, rainy day, or when they engage in spirited conversation. Even better, I know I'm successful when I read a student paper that teaches me something new or watch a presentation that clearly articulates a nascent idea in the current literature. More formally, I try to give students multiple ways to demonstrate mastery.
CER: What is your philosophy of teaching?
SP: Teaching is best when it's a conversation among inspired, enthusiastic, curious people. I believe my responsibility is to inspire and to set up the journey. I expect students to come ready to engage, be willing to take risks, and stay focused on the journey.
So how do students perceive Dr. Plank's teaching? Here are some observations from some enthusiastic admirers: "Two years after taking Dr. Plank's class, Social Organization and Social Control, I still get wound up when I talk about African Americans' "burden of acting white." I loved his class because it wasn't just about the information in the lectures or articles, but about the people we studied. Students were allowed to respond to the information through the lens of their own backgrounds and experiences. More than anything, I admired his passion, not for knowledge, but for learning." -- Felipe Munoz "I found Professor Plank to be one of the best teachers I've had at Hopkins. Many professors are very intelligent, but have a difficult time bringing it to the level of the students. I never felt that way about Professor Plank. He explained ideas in a way that made sense without making students feel inferior." -- Kaitlin Flynn