Posted by: Ellie Kutz | June 14, 2012

Conference Gleanings

With 27 different sessions, many going on simultaneously, it’s impossible to report on all of them.  But here are a few more things I noted:

1. Faculty across departments have been finding inventive ways to use Blackboard to fit their own pedagogical goals.

  • Jana Kellinger (Curriculum & Instruction), inspired by videogame designers, has cleverly designed her course site as a game simulation, where students must complete various levels before they can go on to the next in as they move toward classroom teaching positions, and they can choose different paths for different types of schools—traditional, hybrid, or new literacies schools.
  • Dennis DeBay (Mathematics) has been using Blackboard discussions for his quantitative reasoning course as a space where students can do collaborative problem-solving, contributing to each other’s reasoning, and learning to focus on how one might reason through complex problems vs. focusing narrowly on right answers.
  • Cynthia Jahn and other in Academic Support have been using Blackboard to provide asynchronous tutoring support for graduate students.

2.  Wikis continue to provide an important platform for many courses.

  • In Modern Languages, Vetri Nathan (Italian), has created a multifaceted Wikispaces site for his course on the Language of Modern Italy, where students can listen repeatedly to the recitation of poems by well-known poets like Dario Fo, respond to questions to prepare for class discussion, develop their own dictionary with the vocabulary related to the course’s focus on immigration, and post audio presentations made with Vocaroo including questions and answers about the films they have viewed in class and commenting on others comments—developing coherent responses in Italian that they can then contribute to class discussion.  Groups also build their own mini-websites with online links in Wikispaces, and use these in presenting their projects to the class.

3. Faculty continue to make use of new tools and find new uses for familiar ones.

  • Yu Wu (Chinese) is one of a number of Modern Language faculty who have begun using Voicethreads to offer students a space to practice the language. In introductory courses, the teacher may use an image as a conversation starter, with related questions such as “What do you think of Jeremy Lin’s basketball skills? with students recording responses and the teacher responding in turn.  Yu also has students use Voicethread for small projects, such as choosing an image and preparing an itinerary for travel, using a variety of linked resources, while group projects are organized on Wikispaces.  With such activities, students are pushed to produce more target language in a low risk environment, they engage in authentic tasks, and they learn to collaborate as they listen to and respond to others.
  • James Dobreff (Classics) has been using Camtasia (usually used for recording in-class lectures)  in a similar way, to create video recordings of spoken Latin lessons for his students, while Tara Ashok (Biology) has been creating Camtasia recordings to provides students with oral textbook review sessions during office hours and prior to exams

My focus in this newsletter has necessarily been primarily on those faculty presentations that addressed the use of technology in teaching.  But I’d like to acknowledge other contributors to this year’s conference:  the many folks who have, with or without technology, continued to lead our campus in probing the challenges of teaching innovatively and effectively and who have been active presenters over the years in CIT and/or EdTech conferences (Tim Sieber, Denise Patmon, Cheryl Nixon, Peter Taylor, to name a few); presenters from other colleges and universities, including this year, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Lesley University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Northeastern University, Northern Essex Community College,  UMass Dartmouth; the students who enriched many presentations; the IT and EdTech staff who presented and/or supported the conference, and all other presenters and participants.

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