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There’s a complaint that we hear frequently this time of the semester:

The weighted column doesn’t come out right.

It’s a common problem caused by that tiny Devil who resides in the details. Very often, the cause is this: a discrepancy between a column’s possible points and those actually entered.  In other words, when you first set up grading on a tool (or on a manually-made column), you might have assigned the highest possible points as something different than what you actually graded for. An example would be, I have entered 30 as possible points on a final paper, but forgetting this weeks later, I used a base of 100 when grading.

This is easy to check by hovering over the top of the column and checking the information that appears just at the top of the grade center area. See figure here:

Screenshot of points discrepancy

 

To fix it, hover and click the small arrow at the top of the erroneous column, choose “Edit Column Information” and change the points possible to 100 (or whatever scale you used for grading).

WORD OF CAUTION:  It’s a good idea to download a backup of your grade center before you begin changing things.  See how to do that here.

When all else fails, we’re always glad to see you at the Dr Is In!

sunbeams

Imagine this… a website where thousands of films are hosted and can be watched for free… where, if you can’t find a film, you can request that it be added with a good chance that you’ll get your wish… where you can choose to embed an entire work in Blackboard (or select clips to embed!)… and where you can make and share playlists…

Well, I have good news: it exists and it’s called Kanopy. The UVM Libraries has a contract with them, so it’s accessible to any affiliate of the university. There are a few things to be aware of:

  • You can watch movies without logging in, but you have to be either on campus – or – off campus while connected to the virtual network (VPN). This is easy: see instructions here or for iPad users, here.
  • You’ll need to create a free account and sign in to save playlists or make clips.
  • If you want to request a film, write to Lori Holiff in the library’s Media Resources department at media@uvm.edu. She is the liaison with Kanopy and may be able to assist you in finding the film elsewhere, if needed.

» Kanopy’s website: uvm.kanopystreaming.com/
» This link to Kanopy also lives on the CTL site uvm.edu/ctl (choose Teaching Resources > Image and Video Repositories).
» Visit the CTL Dr Is In to learn how to embed video in Bb.

This is an interesting read by Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University. “Why I just asked my students to put their laptops away.” Shirky holds a joint appointment as an Associate Arts Professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program as well as an Associate Professor in the Journalism Department, and he’s a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

We’ve created a new website to help instructors using iClickers in their classes. Check it out here: www.uvm.edu/ctl/iclickers. If you have any suggestions for the site, please contact Inés Berrizbeitia: iib@uvm.edu

[The professor’s] only difficulty … was to get [students] to talk at all. He had to devise schemes to find what they were thinking about and induce them to risk criticism from their fellows.

The Education of Henry Adams

The quote on the right is from the 1919 autobiography by Henry Adams, a descendant of the two Presidents.

If the “difficulty” he refers to sounds familiar—if your classroom discussions could benefit from a jolt of energy and inspiration—you are not alone.

Some of the common class discussion challenges instructors face are:

  1. asking the right questions – ones that spark ideas and elicit thoughtful replies
  2. getting the less assertive or shy students to speak up
  3. the sound of nothing but crickets chirping after a question is proffered

We invite you to attend Tips for Great Class Discussion, from our “Sound (Teaching) Bite” series coming up on Wednesday 9/17 at noon. This one-hour event will be led by J. Dickinson, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the CTL. (Registration is appreciated.)

Helpful Resources:

From Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

From American Astronomical Society Education Office

From Faculty Focus

We welcome your suggestions for more resources on this topic.

Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even when he has hundreds of students. His strategy is to open the class roster page in Banner and display the students’ photos and, while studying each face, he speaks their names aloud. Over and over. And over. Occasionally he shifts the page arrangement, by changing the row settings to, for instance, olddesks three across instead of five, and he keeps testing himself. He admits that it takes several practice sessions, but he claims the effort is well worth it. His students are completely astonished when he greets them at the door by first name. A large class it may be, but an indistinct mass of anonymous faces it is not. Individuals are being recognized and this, he says, changes the whole game.

(By the way, Jonathan isn’t the only one to stress the value of learning names. Every year when the CTL holds a panel discussion with the latest winners of the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, at least one of the panelists mentions that this practice is vital to their teaching style.)

More resources and techniques:

Tip #2: Get students talking. Sheila Boland-Chira (English) recommends the turn and talk method in any class, but particularly on the first day when anxiety may be running a little high. She asks an evocative question related to the course topic and invites students to turn to their neighbors and talk about it. After a few minutes, she invites volunteers to share their thoughts with the whole group. Not only does the lively buzz change the atmosphere in the room, doing this on the first day lets students know that the class is participatory and that they are going to be challenged to think.

More ideas:

Tip #3 Make personal connections. Char Merhtens (Geology) asks students to come to her office and meet with her individually during the first week or two of the semester, just to say hi and chat for a few minutes. However, because there are 200+ students in one of her classes, visiting with everyone isn’t practicable, so she invites only the first-years and seniors, the two groups she feels would most benefit from this (although, for completely different reasons). Char says that this simple social gesture has paid off in countless ways and many students go out of their way to thank her.

Tip #4: It’s standard practice to review the syllabus on the first day of class, but a few faculty offered tips to make this ritual more meaningful:

  • Before the first class meets, contemplate your schedule again and identify the overarching themes. When you review the syllabus on the first day, share this 10,000-foot view with your students and talk about how the key themes are woven throughout the schedule. This overview provides not only a conceptual map of the course, but a rationale for the work you are going to be asking them to do.
  • Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or a humorous cartoon. Consider playing music.
  • Use Blackboard’s test tool to create a short quiz about the syllabus with multiple-choice type questions (so Blackboard will do the grading for you) and make it a mandatory assignment by the second day of class. Doing this gets them to delve deeper into the syllabus and you can review the stats in Blackboard before the next class, so you can touch upon any murky areas.

Tip #5: Finally, convey enthusiasm! J. Dickinson (Anthropology) offered what might be the most important tip for the first class and every class: that it’s crucial to communicate your excitement about what you teach. Even if you’re not teaching your dream course, you should be able to muster enthusiasm for it. Foundational or introductory-level courses are exciting when you consider the potential for learning and that you just may spark an interest that has a formative effect on someone’s life. Genuine enthusiasm can be infectious.

If you’re interested in teaching a hybrid course, the chance to apply for training and support from the Hybrid Course Initiative will be available for just a few more days. The applications to be part of the next cohort (starting in Fall 2014) will close on Monday, March 31st, end of day. This cohort will be developing courses to be taught in either the Spring or Fall 2015.

» Read an article about Anthropology Professor Emily Manetta’s experience going through the program and teaching a hybrid course.

» Go to the application information webpage.

Read (or rather, view), on Slate.com, one faculty person’s evolving position about teaching with this tool and allowing students to present their work with it.

Letters: K and MThese annual conversations with the recipients of the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award are always lively and interesting! Please join us this Tuesday for a conversation with the faculty who won the award in 2013: Tina Escaja (Romance Languages & Linguistics), Katharine Shepherd (Education), Allison Kingsley (School of Business Administration), and Jenny Wilkinson (Animal Science).

When: Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 from 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Where: Bailey/Howe Library, Room 303
See the calendar link here.

Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even when he has hundreds of students! His strategy is to open the class roster page in Banner and display the students’ photos and, while studying each face, he speaks their names aloud. Over and over. And over. Occasionally he shifts the page arrangement, by changing the row settings to, for instance, students three across instead of five, and he keeps testing himself. He admits that it takes several practice sessions, but he claims the effort is well worth it. His students are completely astonished when he greets them at the door by first name. A large class it may be, but an indistinct mass of anonymous faces it is not. Individuals are being recognized and this, he says, changes the whole game.

(By the way, Jonathan isn’t the only one to stress the value of learning names. Every year when the CTL holds a panel discussion with the latest winnersof the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, at least one of the panelists mentions that this practice is vital to their teaching style.)

Tip #2: Get students talking. Sheila Boland-Chira (English) recommends the turn and talk method in any class, but particularly on the first day when anxiety may be running a little high. She asks an evocative question related to the course topic and invites students to turn to their neighbors and talk about it. After a few minutes, she invites volunteers to share their thoughts with the whole group. Not only does the lively buzz change the atmosphere in the room, doing this on the first day lets students know that the class is participatory and that they are going to be challenged to think.

Tip #3 Make personal connections. Char Merhtens (Geology) asks students to come to her office and meet with her individually during the first week or two of the semester, just to say hi and chat for a few minutes. However, because there are 200+ students in one of her classes, visiting with everyone isn’t practicable, so she invites only the first-years and seniors, the two groups she feels would most benefit from this (although, for completely different reasons). Char says that this simple social gesture has paid off in countless ways and many students go out of their way to thank her.

Tip #4: It’s standard practice to review the syllabus on the first day of class, but a few faculty offered tips to make this ritual more meaningful:

  • Before the first class meets, contemplate your schedule again and identify the overarching themes. When you review the syllabus on the first day, share this 10,000-foot view with your students and talk about how the key themes are woven throughout the schedule. This overview provides not only a conceptual map of the course, but a rationale for the work you are going to be asking them to do.
  • Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or a humorous cartoon. Consider playing music.
  • Use Blackboard’s test tool to create a short quiz about the syllabus with multiple-choice type questions (so Blackboard will do the grading for you) and make it a mandatory assignment by the second day of class. Doing this gets them to delve deeper into the syllabus and you can review the stats in Blackboard before the next class, so you can touch upon any murky areas.

Tip #5: Finally, convey enthusiasm! J. Dickinson (Anthropology) offered what might be the most important tip for the first class and every class: that it’s crucial to communicate your excitement about what you teach. Even if you’re not teaching your dream course, you should be able to muster enthusiasm for it. Foundational or introductory-level courses are exciting when you consider the potential for learning and that you just may spark an interest that has a formative effect on someone’s life. Genuine enthusiasm can be infectious.

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