Category Archives: Technology

How do you wrap up your course?


Gift Box with Your Course written on the tag
The end of the semester is quickly approaching, so how do you wrap up your course for your students and yourself? The article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wrapping Up a Large Online Course, provides good ideas, even though the article is intended for larger online classes.

The article provides three big ideas:

  • Evaluate and prioritize assignments for revision based on student success
  • Offer a student survey for specific course feedback
  • Review materials and prioritize content for updating

I like the idea of collecting specific course feedback and reflection. Just because the course is over, what students have learned may not apply to them immediately. It is helpful for students to make connections with prior learning and experience and what they learned in your course. A suggested technique is for students to create a mind map as a way of capturing the key concepts from the course to connect with what the concepts mean and how concepts can be applied.

Sample mind map structure:
Central Point in the middle with branches to main points and sub points

Students can draw a mind map or use a free mind mapping tool.

Another option is to create a Wrap Up discussion forum for you and your students to reflect on the semester. Consider offering open-ended questions which can impact how you revise your course.

  1. How rigorous or difficult was the course?
  2. What is something you accomplished this semester that you are proud of?
  3. What was your most challenging assignment?
  4. What was the most challenging part of this course for you?
  5. If you could change one thing about the course, what would it be?
  6. In what area do you feel you made your biggest improvements?
  7. What are six adjectives that best describe this course?
  8. What advice would you give students taking this course next semester?

When the course is over, you can wrap up the discussion and provide additional resources for students including associations, journals, and books.

From the mind maps and/or open-ended responses, you have additional feedback to consider, so now it is a good time to self-reflect. Ask yourself, did the students make connections as you thought they might? Are big ideas missing? How can you revise your course to make the concepts more clear? You now have information to guide you as you reflect, revise and improve your course.

Salter, Anastasia. (2015, Nov. 20). Wrapping Up A Large Online Course. Retrieved
November 20, 2015 from The Chronicle of Education.


Microsoft Office 2016 Gets Collaborative with Co-Authoring


Microsoft Office 2016 was released to PC consumers on September 22nd, and it will be available for Higher Education volume licensing customers this month.  The Mac version has been available since the summer.  Those customers with Office 365 E3 Pro Plus software installed on 1-5 computers at home will be upgraded to the latest software in February 2016.

The key marketing point in the latest Office suite is real-time co-authoring of documents.  Watch the two-minute video below to learn how to collaborate more effectively in real-time from your desktop and online versions of Microsoft Office 2016.


SharePoint Arrives to UB via Team Sites


The University of Baltimore’s Office of Technology Services recently released Team Sites, an online document library and collaboration tool that, like UB’s email, is part of the Office 365 suite of tools. Organize, author, share ideas and documents with this tool based on Microsoft’s SharePoint collaborative functions.

Team Sites will enhance work that had previously been done via shared storage on mapped drives or by using a project site in Sakai Learning Management System (both of which will still be available). In Team Sites, individual faculty, staff, or students can be added as Site Administrators, empowering them to manage the granular permissions that drive the Team Sites experience. Links to Team Sites tools like document libraries can be made available in Sakai, leveraging the integrations of both systems.

Some of the great new features of the Team Sites tool are highlighted below.

Team Sites information, FAQ, and policy can be found here.

Document Check-out
Files stored in a Team Site library can be checked out to allow you to complete your edits. Once the file is checked back in, other users may view the latest changes or check it out to make their own.

Real-Time Document Co-authoring
Multiple users can edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents simultaneously using the online versions of those tools in Office 365. These documents can be saved with version control in Team Sites.

Document Versioning
Document versioning can be enabled to track both major and minor versions to a file. This includes author auditing and dates, and files can be reverted to a previous version at any time.

Document Workflow
Document approval and signature workflows can be added to Team Site libraries. One-to-many users can approve both serial and parallel workflow items, augmenting current pen-and-paper business processes. Workflows can be used to seek director approval for policy changes. Professors could institute workflows for reviewing first edits of an assignment.

Recreating Ancient Greek Ceramics



In the spring of 2015 Johns Hopkins University teamed up with Baltimore Clayworks to provide students with an experiential learning course that focused on researching and recreating ancient Greek ceramics. The course set out to put theory into practice. In the first few weeks of the course students learned about the historic significance of drinking cups to ancient Greek symposiums.   As the course developed students began working with clay while also observing the science that is involved in creating ancient ceramics. And finally, the students were asked to provide a finished product that replicated ancient works of art.   The only word that comes to mind as I explore the website documenting the students journey is WOW. This is truly an exciting example of experiential learning that needs to be shared and promoted.


Renovated Classrooms Lead to Innovative Learning



In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, librarian Brian Mathews wrote about the ways that new classroom designs are allowing his library to become a pedagogical incubator. Instead of setting up traditional rows of desks and computers, his institution invested in classroom furniture that is flexible: tables that can be configured in a variety of ways, rolling individual desks that can be grouped easily for team projects, flat screens and mobile tables that can be configured as a media lab, pictured above.

When students walk into a classroom environment that does not look the way that classrooms have looked for the past 150 years, they know that they are going to be doing something that goes beyond lectures and tests. The physical environment influences the activity that goes on within it. Innovative learning spaces should exist outside of library incubators. Our students deserve to learn in environments that encourage the best pedagogical practices.

Universities should recognize that students rarely see the interior of administrative offices. They might spend an evening in an auditorium, and the truly committed hang out at the library. The college spaces that influence them the most are the classrooms, and every university should invest in learning spaces that reflect their educational mission and encourage innovation.

Take a look at the animation for Verb classroom.

And here is the Node Classroom


Take note of this interesting data



laptops in classroomsThe June issue of Psychological Science included a study of the use of laptops in classrooms and examined whether note taking was best done with the pen or the keyboard.

Laptops have always raised the ire of faculty. Competing against Facebook and Pinterest is humbling when you’re standing in the front of the room. We know that students want good grades and see the laptop as a self-destructive distraction to their own success. Even those who are actually taking notes may not be as productive as those who are writing down their notes.

This study provides initial experimental evidence that laptops may harm academic performance even when used as intended. Participants using laptops are more likely to take lengthier transcription-like notes with greater verbatim overlap with the lecture. Although taking more notes, thereby having more information, is beneficial, mindless transcription seems to offset the benefit of the increased content, at least when there is no opportunity for review.  (Mueller & Oppenheimer)

Synthesizing and summarizing ideas instead of trying to capture every word can translate to more knowledge retained. What do you do with laptops in your classroom?

Blueprint for Tomorrow


Blueprint for Tomorrow: Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning by Prakash Nair ( be release this upcoming October. To get a better idea regarding the theme of this book I found a commentary by Prakash Nair in Education Week (July 2011). Nair’s basic argument is that the traditional classroom setting is an obsolete relic of the industrial revolution. This position is not a new or revolutionary claim, but a message that seems to need to be repeated because most colleges and universities seem to just keep constructing buildings that merely reinforce an obsolete paradigm that will not prepare students for real world challenges. The dominant pedagogy still adheres to a lecture based system. Nair makes the claim that educators can try to be more efficient in this type of content delivery, but that does not necessarily translate into effective learning. Standardizing curriculum does not necessarily create autonomous learners that can critically think and articulate their ideas. What I like about the article is that it does not present an either/or fallacy regarding classroom space, but instead challenges the reader to rethink how time and space intertwines with past and present experiences. For example, in the 21st century we seem to be trapped in thinking that learning needs to adhere to arbitrary fixed patterns of time in particular spaces, whereas we ought to think about the real purpose of education.

Join Us for an Innovative Experiment in Higher Education


Join us on May 6 to glimpse a promising experiment for the future of higher education.

Singer, actor, and human rights activist Harry Belafonte will be the featured guest in the University of Baltimore’s pilot online course, Citizenship & Freedom: The Civil Rights Era, taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch and associate instructor Dr. Jelani Favors.

To experience the Belafonte/Branch seminar live, click here during class hours between 5:30 and 8:00 p.m. EDT next Tuesday, May 6, 2014. 

The course is novel in both content and structure.  Branch uses civil rights history to teach democratic citizenship.  His weekly seminars engage modern students with historic arguments, triumphs, and mistakes made by activists roughly their age.  Veterans of the civil rights era illustrate the historical record with personal memories and criticism.  Guests this semester have included Dr. King’s seminary classmate Marcus Wood, Freedom Rider Bernard Lafayette, SNCC organizers Dorie Ladner,  Bob Moses and Betty Robinson, NAACP leader Julian Bond, and, for the semester’s final class, Harry Belafonte.

The course structure aims to refine online technology for expanded access while preserving academic fairness and integrity.  It opens possibilities beyond the apply-and-attend path limited to the courses offered at a single school.  Students and those interested in this crucial time in our history can enroll through other institutions or on their own, potentially from anywhere, for academic credit or for continuing education.

This spring, in-class students from the University of Baltimore have shared class content and discussion with other Maryland institutions, a pilot class at Louisiana State University, and individual students across the US.  The course is not a MOOC.  It is not free.  The goal is to achieve sustainable economies for affordable, seminar-style learning.

There is detailed information on the course website,, but the best way to evaluate this model is to take a peek for yourself.  The May 6 class will be open to visitors for free. We encourage you to circulate this invitation.

Again, to participate in the seminar between 5:30 and 8:00 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, May 6th:

If class time is inconvenient for viewing as it happens, an archived video will be available afterward for two weeks.  The archived content will be accessible via the website by Wednesday afternoon, May 7.

Naivety of the Digital Native


The “Digital Native” paradigm has been circulating for the better part of a decade in higher education.  This concept that people are growing up using computer technology as a part of daily life can lead educators and administrators alike to create unrealistic estimations of the digital literacy of incoming students.  Assumptions and anecdotes classifying the “typical” college student’s digital literacy do a disservice to Higher Education, creating an over-generalized archetype for a broadly diverse community of learners.

In Megan O’Neil’s latest blog post in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled Confronting the Myth of the Digital Native, she interviewed Eszter Hargittai, a Sociologist and Management professor from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management regarding the myth of the digital native.  Ms. Hargittai has conducted years of research on millenials and their online skills.  “It is problematic that there are so many assumptions about how just because a young person grew up with digital media, which in fact many have, that they are automatically savvy,” Ms. Hargittai says.  “That is simply not the case.  There are increasing amounts of empirical evidence to suggest the contrary.”  For this very reason, Northwestern and others have put together curriculum to help students manage their online reputations.  While activities like tweeting, posting on Facebook, and pinning party photos on Pinterest might seem like technology magic to some baby boomers, the research conducted by Hargiatti and others is revealing student naivety with respect to fundamental understanding of identity security, understanding of the internet and its accessibility, and even understanding of the security settings offered by many social media programs.

This misunderstanding of the digital literacy and computer abilities of students creates an opportunity for academic institutions to fill these knowledge gaps through infusion of focused content in areas like identity management and internet security.  These lessons could logically compliment courses across a liberal arts curriculum, from classes in Sociology and History to classes in Anthropology and Biology.  For those of us working at the University of Baltimore, I challenge you to think of new and innovative ways to create natives out of the naïve.

The Best Way to Learn Something is to Teach It, Even On Line

UB Students teaching each other

UB Students teaching each other

As any first-year professor can attest, you don’t really know a subject until you have to teach it. The act of sifting through the information, organizing it in a way that will make sense to others and rehearsing your delivery imprints the brain in a way that mere memorization does not.

Teachers know this phenomenon intuitively, and they regularly create assignments that ask students to teach other students. The jigsaw method has become common in both secondary and college education. In college seminars, participants take responsibility for individual sessions and teach the content to their peers. In my Women’s History class I ask students to pick a topic we haven’t covered in class, create a teaching unit about it appropriate for middle school students and then deliver the lesson to a small group of their classmates.

Now there is scientific proof that backs up this pedagogical hunch. Matthew Leiberman reports in his article “Heads Together” (April 14, 2014 Chronicle Review) that he has imaged the brains of students learning for a “social motivation” (i.e. to teach others) vs. a “selfish motivation” (i.e. to take a test). His fMRI study found that “it was activity in the regions involved in social thinking (i.e., the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction) that was associated with accurate recall of the information.” In other words, the students who were asked to pass the information on to an audience other than the professor processed the material more accurately and were able to score higher on a test than those who simply studied for the test.

Lieberman discusses the implications his findings have for MOOCs, which have for the most part asked students to absorb information and give it back on a test. Lieberman has found that even in MOOCs, instructors can ask students to teach the material, using “‘teachable agent’ programs in which the student is asked to teach a computer avatar a science lesson. At each step along the way, the student must think about what the avatar has and hasn’t understood. Though still in their infancy, teachable-agent programs have produced both short and longer-term improvements in learning, especially for those performing poorly before the experience.”

Outside MOOCs, Leiberman’s findings should challenge teachers to continue to develop assignments that ask students to synthesize content for authentic audiences. In history classes, students can design copy for museum exhibits. In physics classes they can produce short videos that illustrate concepts. Psychology students could write columns for the school newspaper describing common psychological conditions. And although the logistics make it a hassle, especially on a commuter campus, students should join study groups and take responsibility for summarizing chunks of materials for their peers. They won’t simply divide the work; they will gain a deeper understanding of the subject.