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Nov 06, 2012

Blackboard 101

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, one obvious priority is making sure all of us – students, faculty, and staff – are safe and cared for. Another priority, equally important, is making sure that students can continue their coursework with minimal interruptions.

This week’s note links you to resources that are available to help you use Blackboard (Bb). In subsequent weeks, we will showcase NYIT faculty members who are using Bb and other educational technologies to maintain continuity of instruction with their students. If you are currently using digital tools to help your students learn and would like to share your strategies with your colleagues, please email me directly, at fglazer@nyit.edu.

Getting Started on Blackboard:

The first place to go for help is the NYIT Online web page, www.nyit.edu/nyitonline. There, you will find a one-page summary of support services offered to help faculty get started with Bb, and links to how-to videos for faculty (http://iris.nyit.edu/tbls/faculty) and students (http://iris.nyit.edu/tbls/student). You’ll also find a list of dates when staff from the TBLS helpdesk are available in Manhattan and in Old Westbury for drop-in support.

One thing that is especially important to note: if you add materials to Bb for your students, you will need to explicitly grant the students access to the course shell. There’s a short video demonstrating how to make your course available to students on the NYIT Online Faculty Videos page (direct link to video: http://goo.gl/Wncy8). 

Finding your courses in Blackboard:

All courses have Bb “shells” – dedicated virtual spaces – created for them automatically. To find the shells for the courses you are teaching, first log into the portal, http://my.nyit.edu, with your NYIT userID and password. Then, click the “NYIT Blackboard” link at the top of the left-hand column.


 
On the right-hand side of the Bb home screen, you’ll see a list of the courses you are teaching. You can enter any of the course shells by clicking the name of the course.
Bb home screen

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 23, 2012

Low-Tech Classroom Response Systems (Clickers)

Have you wanted to use “clickers” in class to gauge students’ understanding, but you don’t necessarily want to spend the time developing the PowerPoints or the questions online that some systems use?  Or perhaps you’re not sure if you want students to invest in them because you’re not sure how often you’ll use them, and you don’t want them to waste money to only use them a time or two during the semester. Or you may be considering a web site like http://www.polleverywhere.com, but you’re not sure you want students getting out their phones after you’ve worked so hard to get them to put the devices away! 

You may want to try something low-tech to see if you like using a student response system first, too. Here are two ways to make low-tech “clickers” for class that don’t involve cell phones or other electronic gadgets.


The first way to do this is to create a Word document that has a table with 2 columns and 3 rows, placing a letter in 5 of the boxes and a ? in the 6th box for the choices students might have.  The table would look like this:

 

A B
C D
E ?



Then print them and give one to each student (or post them on Blackboard and ask students to print and bring them to class).  Students can then fold the sheet of paper to display the letter for the answer option that is “correct” or that they most agree with. They can display a ? if they truly have no idea.


A second low-tech way to do this is to buy different colored index cards and give students one colored card for A, another color for B, and so on, remembering to have a color for ?, as well.  You can distribute “packets” of the cards on the first day of class and ask students to always bring them.


While using these low-tech paper “student response systems” does not allow the anonymity that their electronic counterparts do, the paper method does allow for you to still get an idea of what students do or don’t understand.  You also will have the chance to ask them to find someone who has a different answer displayed than they do and discuss why they each chose the answer they did.  Then have everyone share their answers again, changing if they need to do so. Giving up anonymity thus provides some chances for interaction that can’t be had in quite the same way as with a “real clicker.”



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


Contributor

Wren Mills, PhD

Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching

Western Kentucky University

http://www.wku.edu/teaching 

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 17, 2012

Effective Feedback

It's not teaching that causes learning. Attempts by the learner to perform cause learning, dependent upon the quality of the feedback and opportunities to use it.

 – Grant Wiggins, AAHE Bulletin, 50 (3), p. 7, 1997

Timely and explicit feedback is an essential component of the learning process. Effective feedback identifies specific aspects of student performance that need improvement, and indicates ways in which the student can improve. By contrast, grades provide only a generic evaluation of performance. Although grades and scores provide some information on the degree to which student performance has met the criteria, they do not explain which aspects did or did not meet the criteria and how.

The full benefits of feedback can only be realized when the feedback adequately directs students’ subsequent practice and when students have the opportunity to incorporate that feedback into their work. Mid-semester feedback, combined with another assignment in which to apply it, is much more effective than is feedback at the end of the semester.

It is also important to consider appropriate response times. This involves both how soon feedback is given (typically, earlier is better) as well as how often (typically, more frequently is better). The ideal timing of feedback, however, cannot be determined by any general rule. Rather, it is best decided in terms of what would best support the goals you have set for students’ learning. Generally, more frequent feedback leads to more efficient learning because it helps students stay on track and address their errors before they become entrenched.

That said, simply giving students lots of feedback about their performance is not necessarily effective. Too much feedback tends to overwhelm students. Students are likely to focus on a subset of the comments that involve detailed, easy-to-fix elements rather than on comments that require conceptual or structural changes to their work.

WHAT STRATEGIES DOES THE RESEARCH SUGGEST?

Set expectations about quality. It’s always easier to excel when you know what the standards are. Share details about what your criteria are with your students when you give them the assignment.

Show students examples of good work.  It can be helpful to share examples of what “good” work looks like, such as an effective paper or a robust solution to a problem. Sharing samples of past student work can help students see how your performance criteria relate to the actual assignment.

Build in multiple opportunities for practice. Because learning accumulates gradually with practice, multiple assignments of shorter length or smaller scope tend to result in more learning than a single assignment of greater length or larger scope.

Require students to specify how they used feedback in subsequent work. Feedback is most valuable when students have the opportunity to reflect on it so they can effectively incorporate it into future practice, performance, or both. Because students often do not see the connection between or among assignments, projects, exams, and so on, asking students to note explicitly how a piece of feedback impacted their practice or performance helps them see and experience the ‘complete’ learning cycle. For example, some instructors who assign multiple drafts of papers require students to submit with each subsequent draft their commented-on prior draft with a paragraph describing how they incorporated the feedback. An analogous approach could be applied to a project assignment that included multiple milestones.

“Feedback,” writes Wiggins (1997), “is not evaluation, the act of placing value.  Feedback is value-neutral help on worthy tasks.  It describes what the learner did and did not do in relation to her goals. It is actionable information, and it empowers the student to make intelligent adjustments when she applies it to her next attempt to perform.”

 

Resources:

  • Ambrose, S. A., et al. (2010). How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.  
  • Chickering, A.W. and Z. F. Gamson. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. The American Association for Higher Education Bulletin 39(7): 3-7.
  • Wiggins, G. (1997). Feedback: How Learning Occurs. The American Association for Higher Education Bulletin 50(3): 7-8.

 

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

 

Contributor:

Kathy Watson

Associate Dean, Faculty Development

Eckerd College

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 10, 2012

Consider the Learning Space

Often when planning instruction we are asked to state our goal, intention or outcome. This focuses our instructional and assessment efforts, and when properly conveyed to learners, it enables them to understand where things are heading and what might count in terms of a mark or grade. The growing popularity of authentic, real-world assessment tasks reflects our attempts to focus student effort on learning how to do the sorts of things they will need to do in their chosen careers. But as time goes on and we gain more experience teaching, we come to understand that the skills required to produce those real-world products are often hidden. Those skills may include critical or creative thinking, sense-making, cross-cultural competency, social intelligence, cognitive load management and virtual collaboration - to name just a few. So we begin to realize that not all learning can be captured by our often narrowly stated intentions.

As we get experienced in the teaching business we realize that stated goals actually capture very little of what students actually learn. So here's my tip:
 
The next time you write some kind of outcome or goal or intention or objective, and an accompanying assessment task, write it and then answer this question:
 
What type of learning space will provide the best place for learners to practice developing the skills they will need to achieve success in this task?
 
This will focus your attention on process - how actually will students be able to go about their learning? What conditions are necessary for them to be able to flourish under your instruction? The answers will guide you at to what kind of learning space you will create that will accomplish your objective but will allow importantly some much more richer and more personal learning to occur.
 
In this sense a learning space extends far beyond the physical and into the whole learning environment that we as teachers are capable of creating for our students
 
 
To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
 
Contributor:
Tony Fetherston
Centre for Learning and Development
Edith Cowan University
Perth, Australia

Author: francine_glazer

Oct 03, 2012

Developing Student Reading Capacity

One question that often comes up in discussion during our various communities of practices concerns reading, both getting the students to do the readings and helping students develop a more critical eye. Below are some suggestions shared by faculty at Laurier and elsewhere.

Talk about what it means to be a practitioner in your discipline (e.g., a geographer). How does a geographer think, problem solve, read, write, and so on? What questions do they implicitly ask themselves when approaching a particular text? What is the discourse of the discipline? How can we make more transparent and accessible to our students, what comes naturally to us as academics? 


Develop an activity associated with the reading(s) that feeds into classroom discussion (or an assignment). For example, in one of our first year Religion and Culture courses - Evil and Its Symbols - the professor asks her students to identify a short passage or quote from the reading that is salient to them, and to write a short paragraph identifying why this passage or quote spoke to them and how it connects to the topic under study. Students hand their work in 24 hours before class. Their work becomes the foundation for discussion in the next class meeting. A portion of the students' total grade is assigned to these submissions. 


Model critical reading in the classroom. I like the approach created by Professor Shelagh Crooks of St. Mary's University (Canada). In her class, she provides students with a short reading (it could be one from the assigned reading list) and, in groups, asks them to work through the following questions. These questions are taken up collectively. This exercise is repeated several times over a number of classes, thereby building student capacity and confidence to read with a more critical eye. Discipline-specific questions could be added to the listed below to reflect one's discipline or subject area. You could also turn this exercise into an assignment.


Questions: (1) What is the topic under discussion? (2) What is the issue at hand? (3) What position does the author take? (4) What evidence does the author provide? (5) How credible is the evidence? 


Other considerations:

  • invite authors into the classroom via Skype or other technology to bring a reading to life 
  • provide a worksheet for students to document their thinking/discussion

 

Resources:

  • Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (John Bean, 2011)
  • An Exemplar of Pedagogical Scholarship Takes on Student Reading (MaryEllen Weimer, 2012; accessed at http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/an-exemplar-of-pedagogical-scholarship-takes-on-student-reading/ )


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


Contributors:

Jeanette McDonald and Anna Barichello

Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)


Author: francine_glazer

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