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Apr 17, 2013

The Crossword Puzzle as Threshold to Higher Order Thinking

One of the most difficult tasks we encounter with students is moving them beyond a mere accumulation of factual material in class.  Often our transmission of lower-order thinking skills (remembering and understanding) is somewhat akin to the proverbial giving of a fish to the hungry individual.  Increasingly in the 21st century, we are recognizing the need to teach our students how to fish; that is, the skills for higher-order thinking.

One effective threshold to the top level on Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001) of learning, creating, is perception shifting, or learning to look at a given issue or problem from multiple perspectives. The crossword puzzle can help students to become adept at this important skill.

Suppose you provide your students with a crossword puzzle grid where 1 Across is four letters with a clue of “First place.”  Since 2012 is an Olympic year, one student in the class is bound to call out, “GOLD.”

Without having 1, 2, 3, and 4 Down, it’s difficult to know if GOLD is correct, but let’s say you pronounce that answer wrong and help the students by asking them to think in terms of biology.  Both “CELL” and “WOMB” are excellent suggestions, but we doubt you’ll get them for a while.  Why?  Your students will have trouble shifting gears from one field of perception to another.  Psychology has a principle often referred to as “the primacy of the first,” which states that once our mind settles on something, changing that thought is difficult.

You could provide your students with the fish by suggesting the answers “CELL” and “WOMB,” or you could further illustrate the problem by offering the lens of still another field such as religion and watch them stumble to come up with “EDEN.”

Alternatively, you could teach them how to fish by explaining what perception shift is and why it’s difficult.  You could extend that teaching moment by having students become cruciverbalists (solvers/constructors of crossword puzzles) and create some more of the crossword puzzle, thereby moving them up Bloom’s Revised Pyramid.


  • Anderson, L. W. and David R. Krathwohl, D. R., et al (Eds.) (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Allyn & Bacon. Boston, MA (Pearson Education Group).
  • Bloom, B.S. (ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives, The classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.
  • Crossword puzzle generators:

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.


Charlie Sweet, Eastern Kentucky University
Hal Blythe, Eastern Kentucky University
Rusty Carpenter, Eastern Kentucky University
Shawn Apostel, Eastern Kentucky University

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 09, 2013

Gamification as Motivator

There’s an intriguing new theory of learning out there called Gamification. While this may sound like educational gaming, actually it is not. Gamification suggests that our students (at least the digital natives among them) are used to the kind of incentive structures that are built into digital games. If that’s the case, why can’t we incorporate similar incentive structures into how we teach? That’s the question that gamification scholars are exploring---and you don’t even need technology to do it.  The theory is really about motivation and engagement. 

In understanding gamification, it helps to think about your own experience with games. Have you rescued the princess? Do you have a farm in Farmville? Have you ever ventured into World of Warcraft? Or how about President Guiliano's favorite: Angry Birds? If you have, think about how these games motivate engagement. 
Some examples of how to incorporate gamification into instruction:
  • Turn assignments into self-paced challenges or quests. You can give students several quests and allow them the option of choosing which one(s) to pursue. 
  • Give out points or “badges” for student achievements. These need not be extra credit, but you can turn it into a competition, visibly recognizing those that are leading in points, or in certain categories or themes. 
  • Design your assignments or instruction so that there are levels of achievement. Require students to pass one level before moving on to the next.
  • Related to the item above, you can have each “level” end with a “monster” challenge, i.e. a harder assignment or activity that may take several attempts to complete successfully.
  • Think about structuring group assignments as do large multi-player games. Groups, for example, can be chosen based on abilities (or points).
  • Educause (2011) 7 things you should know about gamification. Accessed online on 4/9/2013 at  
  • Lapp, Karl (2012) The Gamification Of Learning And Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, Pfeiffer, 2012


To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Laura Cruz
Director, Coulter Faculty Commons
Western Carolina University

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 02, 2013

With the Community, Not Just In It

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”         --Mark Twain

Community engagement, gaining ascendancy in recent years for some disciplines, brings great promise for students and teachers as a memorable and meaningful approach to education.  A burgeoning literature characterizes many aspects of this pedagogy, and a number of clear principles help ensure a quality community-based learning experience for all participants.  

Validity of the “text”

Try thinking of the community as a text, specifically selected for maximum impact within and beyond the classroom. In this way, selection of a community site or partner parallels the agonizing selection of a textbook.  With no “perfect” text out there, instructors must choose a location or organization for students that will help them test out the theories they learn in the classroom, balancing the shortcomings and the positive attributes of the source.  Instructors should consider the difficulty of the community agency as text, how easily it can be read and understood by students, and how poised for highlighting, underlining, and notetaking the agency and its staff, volunteers, and clients might be.

In it for the long term

By living in a place, one begins to know it more deeply and thus comprehend the needs of its constituents, organizations, and community as a whole.  Community-based work calls for faculty to leave their offices, classrooms, and studios, and be in the city – on its streets, patronizing its retail establishments and services, letting its culture seep in to the faculty life.  By listening closely and examining where the community does not quite come together or where there might be friction or where there exists a need to be met – these cracks and fissures provide golden opportunities for faculty, students, and institutions to truly be of benefit to the places in which they sit.  A long-term attitude of a faculty member thinking with the community ideally makes possible a recognition of an authentic approach that will result in transformative, positive change.


One way to guarantee a successful collaboration with students and community partners is to consider the reciprocity of such an undertaking for all parties concerned.  Community engaged activity thus represents not just a one-way street, with students and faculty dropping into the community with little care or concern about the true needs. Instead, it’s important to realize that some approaches will be more successful than others, and that students, faculty, and community partners must all cultivate the ability to hear and understand what happens when the vital energy of students finds its way into the city.  There can be nothing more deeply satisfying than for a student to know the tasks they have undertaken really do matter and do make a difference for others.  Having that good feeling in the end requires much listening, an openness to others, and a deep connection to the community by the faculty member. 

The syllabus and learning goals

Because any community-engaged project requires thoughtful articulation of responsibilities and connection to the educational purposes of activities, the syllabus provides the place for the critically important documentation of expectations for faculty, student, and community partner.  Taking the time to work with the community site or agency to help them see the learning goals of the course and the way that the community project ties in with the rest of the material from class makes a huge difference in understanding with the staff, volunteer, or agency with whom or where the student and faculty may work.  In having these conversations before the semester commences and in talking them through, faculty members help avoid challenges and circumstances for students, the faculty member themselves, and the community partner throughout the semester and beyond.


  • Hatcher, Julie A. and Bob Bringle, eds. (2011) Understanding Service Learning and Community Engagement: Crossing Boundaries through Research.  International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact Amy Bravo ( or Adrienne McNally ( at Career Services. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.


Patrick Lee Lucas

Associate Professor

Faculty Teaching & Learning Commons

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Author: francine_glazer

Mar 20, 2013

PollEverywhere, Redux

One of the best parts about sending out these Weekly Teaching Notes is receiving feedback from you. The note from Cheryl Hall a few weeks ago about Poll Everywhere generated a small avalanche of email!  Here’s a selection of your responses.

Some of our faculty and librarians are already enthusiastic users of Poll Everywhere, which enables students to use their cell phones as clickers and for short answer responses. Ken Distler (, a librarian at Wisser Library, writes that he has used Poll Everywhere many times in library instruction and information literacy classes.


“It's a marvelous tool for helping to assess the research skill level of students. For example, ‘Boolean logic is best described as:  a.b.c.d.e.’ or ‘Which of the following journal databases are you most familiar with?  a. b. c. d. e.’ (Note that e might be "None of the above.")


It's clearly an excellent market research tool, as well: ‘How might library skills classes be improved?’ or ‘What would you like most for us to cover in our information literacy skills classes?’ ”


Danielle Apfelbaum (, also at Wisser Library, describes a gamified information literacy session that she uses with FCWR 101 students.


“Here's how a typical Pro/Con-a-Thon session plays out. As students come in, they are prompted to answer the following open-ended poll on their computer screens (they can also text or Tweet their answers if they want): ‘When I have a research assignment, I begin with...’ As students respond in their own words, their answers appear on the screen at the front of the room and we have a short discussion about why certain search engines and websites are their go-to sources for information. This segues into a brief Prezi presentation, followed by the game portion of the session.


The game portion immediately follows the presentation (see the"Gameplay" tab in the libguide). Each team receives a packet with two tasks. The first task is the same for all teams: a topic is broken down into two major concepts, and teams have to come up with three related keywords for each concept. They must then use those keywords to draft Boolean searches to locate topic-related materials in a database or catalog. During this time, I walk around and coach teams that are having difficulty in coming up with keywords and using Boolean operators correctly.


The second task is unique to each team. Utilizing keywords and Boolean searches from the prior round, each team finds a resource in a specified database and evaluates it according to the CRAAP method (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose). Teams choose a representative to present their evaluation of the source. Scoring is based on each team's critical application of the CRAAP method in determining the reliability of the source. Students grade each team using a multiple-choice poll, and appear on-screen in real time.”


You can find the FCWR 101 game that she describes (The Pro/Con-a-Thon) and class companion guide here: Danielle has told me she is happy to answer questions and help you get started, if you’d like to try it out.


Some of you expressed concern that students would become distracted by the phones and begin texting, checking email and Facebook, or surfing the web. Blair Hoplight, a faculty member in Behavioral Sciences, responds that students get distracted for a week or two, and then they settle down and consider the phone “just another tool.”


A number of you said you are planning to try the software, some in class, some online, and some in orientation sessions. Others of you have their students use cell phones to photograph models and email them to the professor or to find relevant information during a class.


Petra Dilling, associate dean of the School of Management at our Vancouver campus, writes, “I just tried this in class and it was really great!!! I started out very simply, did not even register for the website. I used open-ended questions about SNC Lavalin, its history (1st question), its scandal from last year (2nd question) and which two stories were in the news about them today (3rd question).”


Keep those cards and letters coming!

Author: francine_glazer

Mar 13, 2013

How Do We Address plagiarism?

“I have gathered a posie of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.”   – John Bartlett  

How do we prepare our students, coming from vastly different cultures, to recognize and avoid plagiarism? Differing cultural definitions complicate this issue. In the United States, using someone else’s words without acknowledging the source is considered theft of their ideas; in parts of Asia, it is not. Is the inclusion of a citation a way to give 'credit where credit is due,' or does it insult the reader's intelligence by implying that he or she does not know the origin of the information? One of our responsibilities as educators is to give all our students, on all our campuses, a common understanding of academic integrity that will serve them well wherever they may find themselves in the future.


The Center for Teaching and Learning is offering an online workshop about plagiarism, and I invite you to participate. Some of our English faculty will be joining in as ‘resource people,’ providing their expertise and insight into the issue. Specific topics will include:

·      deterring plagiarism

·      using technology to recognize plagiarism

·      using technology to teach students how to recognize and remove plagiarism

·      helping students avoid plagiarizing

·      additional resources


The workshop is asynchronous, meaning that you can read the materials and reply to emails at your convenience. All you will need is a web browser and an email account. Here’s how it will work: On March 25, resources will become available on the web. Participants will then have a conversation by email for 1-2 weeks. Our goal is to bring faculty together from all our campuses, so we can explore the topic from all the cultural and societal frames of reference that comprise NYIT.


I hope you will join us! Please register to receive the link to materials and to be added to the email list. The registration link for the workshop is at:

Author: francine_glazer

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Ralph Sepe (B.S. ‘97) Ralph Sepe
Class of 1997
Profession: Partner at Chernoff Diamond
Mandy Zhang Mandy Zhang
Assistant Professor
Department: Communication Arts
Campus: Old Westbury
Lana Reimer Vogel (M.A. ‘90) Lana Reimer Vogel
Class of 1990
Profession: Manager for Commercial Operations, NBC Sports and Olympics