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This semester I had the privilege of presenting the workshop “Building Your Stress Toolbox: Minimizing the Impact of Stress on Your Life & on You.” I held the workshop twice, once for the Womyn@Noon program offered through the Women’s Center and again at the Center for Teaching & Learning.

The presentation was about managing stress to minimize the impact it has on our lives, a topic that affects us all. Stress is all around us, but what is stress? There are many definitions out there, but for this article, I like this definition I found at Mountain State Centers for Independent Living:

“Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But this can also be a bad thing, if their stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength. This class will discuss different causes of stress, how stress affects you, the difference between ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress and ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ stress, and some common facts about how stress affects people today.”

Because stress comes from everywhere, we can’t get away from it. My recommendation: Plan for it.

Here is an excerpt from the collection of resources I have collected related to stress management:

Build Resilience

When feeling the effects of stress it is important for us to be able to:

photo of trees and clouds

  1. Recognize the stress and its impact on us. Identify what and how stress affects us.

  2. Reorient the perspective back to “me.” Focus on self-care.

  3. Realize and utilize the resources around to help manage or minimize stress and its impact.

Recognize Stress

There are a few different levels of stress, categorize your stress into: low stress, mid stress and extreme stress to plan for each. Ask yourself the question, “What stresses me?” This helps us to zone-in on the causes of stress in our lives. Make a list for yourself in a journal or a document that you will keep in your stress toolbox.

To mitigate the impact of stress in your life, it is important to recognize the signs of stress in and around you. We each have a variety of ways of responding to our stress. Some ways help us to move through it, while other ways just have us moving in circles and creating additional stress. Writing these out can help us begin to plan what tool to use when we are feeling overwhelmed and it becomes too hard to think.

Reorient the Perspective

So often when stress takes a hold of us, we resist checking in with ourselves and our needs. We just try to “get it all done.” This added distracting inner voice compounds our stress response. Maybe it’s that we are used to taking care of others’ needs first and forget about our own needs. Self-care is critical to success. Having a plan helps us when it is the hardest to see ourselves. Planning helps us to focus on self-care.

Utilize the Resources

It is important to have many different ways to take care of ourselves when stress takes over. Start building your toolbox. This is important to do for ourselves because stress is personal, specific, and individual.

“Physical activity has been identified as an important behavior to help prevent the development of overweight/obesity and associated conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Regular physical activity has also been found to improve dietary intake and patterns. Therefore, interventions targeting physical activity may lead to weight change not only by increasing calories expended each day, but also by influencing the food choices people make.” 1

Or so thought Nutritional Sciences Graduate student Lizzie Pope.  So she designed a study to provide new information on the efficacy of using monetary incentives to help college freshmen meet physical activity guidelines, and therefore establish an important health-promoting behavior. It worked like this: 

One hundred and seventeen students were randomized to one of three groups: continued-incentive, discontinued-incentive, or control. For 12 weeks during the fall semester both the continued-incentive and discontinued-incentive groups received weekly incentives for using the university fitness center. At the conclusion of fall semester weekly incentive payouts ended for both incentive groups. For 12 weeks during spring semester the discontinued-incentive group received no incentives to use the fitness center while the continued-incentive group received incentives on a variable-interval schedule, averaging one incentive payment each month.  During the spring semester the exact schedule for the incentives was not known to participants in this group.

Slide: Burn and Earn: Incentivizing Exercise in First-Year College Students

Burn and Earn: Incentivizing Exercise in First-Year College Students

Great. But how was she going to track the students? Well, perhaps she could set up some sort of card swipe system that would record the student ID, date, and entry/exit times for each visit to the fitness center. Great, how do you do that?

Enter the Center for Teaching and Learning. Lizzie enlisted the aid of CTL staffer Wesley Wright. Together, Wesley and Lizzie assembled a Mac Mini computer and magnetic card reader. The Mac recorded each card swipe and entered the data into a central database. The database fed a web site, and the web site was used by the students to track their individual progress, using both tables and graphs. The web site also provided Lizzie with both individual and group statistics and the incentive payment owed to the students. 

Results?  “Basically, we were able to increase fitness-center use over the fall semester by paying weekly incentives,” says Lizzie, “however this increased exercise did not translate into weight maintenance for the incentive groups over the fall semester.  In the spring semester without incentive payments our discontinued-incentive group no longer met fitness-center use goals.  However, with a variable-interval payment schedule our continued-incentive group continued to meet fitness-center use goals. Unfortunately, this increased exercise again did not translate into weight maintenance over the spring semester.  It would be interesting to measure body composition and metabolic markers to see if the increased exercise had beneficial effects other than weight control.” 

“Burn and Earn: Incentivizing Physical Activity in College Freshman – UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT”, n.d.


For my first post to the CTL blog, I wanted to share some resources with the larger UVM community as a follow-up to my Sound (Teaching) Bite this week that offered a few strategies and tools for educators to help students assess their own learning styles and abilities to read, comprehend, understand, and learn course materials.

soundbite image

The focus on getting students in gear for learning is really about preparing students to become their own active learning agents—accountable for and engaged in the process of learning.

As with creating courses, the course objectives are the first step. Before we go there, here are some guiding questions I shared to help with this discussion:

  1. How do you know if your students are understanding, comprehending, and learning their course reading material?
  2. How do you get your students to do the readings?
  3. How do you know your students are learning and absorbing content? 
    Guess what? They may not know either!
  4. How do I help students be accountable for their learning process? I propose that with consistent assessment and evaluation deeper learning can happen.

So how do we do this? Remember, as mentioned above: 

Evaluation needs to connect to learning objectives.

As you start this process, ask yourself, why are you evaluating? 

To make sure that students prepare for classroom discussion? (formative)

To prepare students to succeed on class exams? (summative)

Here are a few tools for evaluating student learning: 

  • Anonymous quizzes for “just in time teaching” (JiTT) – formative assessment
  • Readiness assessment tests (RATs) or online mid-semester and end-of-year survey (ungraded) – formative assessment
  • Pre- and Post- exams (graded) – formative and summative assessment
  • Using iClickers in the classroom – formative assessment

Examples and resources for preparing students to succeed and help them get to know their learning process:

Reader’s Guide
Developed by Tiffany F. Culver, PhD this reading guide is a great tool that you can adapt and give to students as a helpful roadmap to help them figure out what they are reading. It is broken down into 3 parts: Planning (preparing students to focus), Reading (how to read – techniques to help with retention), and Evaluate (promoting critical thinking). This 1 page guide (2 sided) is helpful to all students and makes reading accessible and efficient. It also makes me wish I had something like this when I was in college! 

Reading Strategies
In this blog post, MindTools authors provide helpful tips and resources for pulling out the important information when reading (including info on mind-mapping for active reading). What I like about this post is that it breaks down the process of “Reading Efficiently by Reading Intelligently” and looks at how the technique for reading efficiently changes based on the type of material that is being studied and provides tips along the way.

Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking
In this article on Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer, PhD reviews highlights from Terry Tomasek’s book, The Teaching Professor and takes a look at  using reading prompts to help students read and write more critically. The prompts in the book are organized into six categories to assist students connect to and analyze what they are reading. Here are the categories: Identification of problem or issue, Making connections, Interpretation of evidence, Challenging assumptions, Making application and Mechanics.  

Making the Review of Assigned Reading Meaningful
In this article, Sarah K Clark, PHD gives us 4 strategies to promote meaning making when reviewing assigned readings both in the classroom and at home. I really appreciate her candid writing about the importance of engaging students, especially when it comes to assigned readings. Sarah shares techniques and ideas that have been helpful to her in her class: The Top Ten, Secondary Sources, Journaling, and Divide and Conquer (for larger size classes)

Key Terms: Assessment
In this blog post from the Bok Center at Harvard University, assessment is highlighted and examined in reference to student learning. This post offers some assessment-related tips to get you started in measuring student learning.
Here is another from the Bok blog that speaks directly to the question “How Do We Measure [Student] Learning?”

Authentic Learning
Marilyn M. Lombardi talks about the important role of assessment in relation to successful teaching and learning in this EduCause Learning Initiative paper – Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning.
Here is a clip from the abstract that captures the heart of this paper, “Educators who strive to bring authentic learning experiences to their students must devise appropriate and meaningful measures to assess student learning and mastery of concepts at hand.” 

More information about Assessment—Formative and Summative by Richard Swearingen at Heritage University, take a look at

*Don’t forget about the
Writing Center at UVM, and the
UVM Learning Co-op in L/L
These are helpful resources on campus to share with your students to help enhance their writing skills and to get assistance with studying. 

By providing students the tools and resources to guide their learning, they can begin to assess their own process, making themselves active agents in their own learning process. Which in-turn helps students by giving them a sense of what skills they may need support to strengthen in order to succeed. 

Next Steps:

If you would like to sit with a member of the CTL to talk about ways to use these tools to assess your students, request an appointment by emailing If you would like to contact me (Henrie Menzies) directly, send me a note at

Will the iPad save or destroy education? Is it the device that will revolutionize scholarship or is it merely a gadget that differs from many others not by its potential but simply by its marketing? The cloud is already abuzz with posts on either side of these questions; some extravagant praises, others equally extravagant jeremiads.

One way to approach iPad use in education is to explore what can actually be done with it. At the first iPad for Scholars roundtable at the CTL we discussed several apps that are useful for scholars. These can be categorized as apps that are designed for:

  • collecting, storing and reading ebooks
    • Stanza – ebook reader (reads ePub and eReader books, not Kindle books). Links to a library, free and non-free books, free sheet music, can download books purchased from Fictionwise. Can share books from your Mac or Windows version of Stanza.
    • Kindle – ebook reader. Syncs with your Kindle.
    • Nook – Barnes&Noble’s ebook reader.
    • FreeBooks, ePubBooks – more books!
  • storing, reading, and annotating PDF files
    • Goodreader – for reading all kinds of files, especially PDFs (it will re-flow text to fit page). Coming soon in version 3: PDF annotation.
    • iAnnotate – “integrates its annotations directly into the PDF such that they will be available to any standard PDF readers like Adobe Reader or Preview. You can transfer PDFs via email, iTunes sync or even clicking any PDF web link in the integrated web browser.”
  • creating documents, notes or other content, either through hand writing, typing, or dictating
    • Evernote – capture it (notes, web page, photo, screen shot), organize it, find it
    • DragonDictation – transcribes your voice to text
    • WritePad – handwriting recognition – takes notes with a stylus or finger, save as text
    • Quick Graph – graphing calculator
  • accessing and editing documents that exist in other places (ex: Google Docs, docs on other local devices)
    • DocsToGo – open, read, and edit .doc, .ppt. .xls files; access these files on your iPad, from Google Docs or other online services, or from a folder on your Mac.
    • SharePlusLite – connect to your Sharepoint sites
    • WordPress – access and edit your blog from your iPad (that’s how I wrote this!). WordPress is the new UVM blog tool for public blogging. Check it out at
  • browsing the web or accessing content
    • Instapaper – save web pages for later offline reading
    • Atomic Web – an alternative to Safari
    • NYTimes – Editor’s Choice is the free iPad app (news, business, technology, opinions, arts, features, videos). Other sections available as iPhone/Touch app (will appear small on your iPad screen.
    • NPR – news, live streams, etc.
    • Pandora – access radio stations via your iPad
  • Time Management apps – mentioned in our session were Things, Easy Task, OmniFocus, and Taska. Several of those, and others, are reviewed here.
  • iPad management apps:
    • PadInfo – get stats on your iPad, battery life, etc.
    • AppShopper – the place to shop for Apps

Another category that we are all waiting for, bibliographic management apps, is on the horizon. As of this writing there is no specific app for Endnote, but Zotero is inching closer as is the Mac-only reference manager, Sente.

For those wishing to create ebooks, a number of solutions exist, some of which we will look at in the coming months.

Our first roundtable on the iPad, “iPads for Scholars,” was held at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Wednesday, 9/8/2010. As one might expect, the web has been awash with articles, opinions, and comments about the iPad. Here are a few, from a variety of sources, that address some of the issues and in so doing represent common themes and memes. Some are enthusiastic, some are naysayers, some seem to be clear attempts at ‘first kids on the block’ headline grabbers:

Notre Dame Launches First Paperless ‘iPad Class’ – By Timon Singh, Inhabitat, Sept. 7, 2010
How Schools are Putting the IPad to Work
– By Joel Mathis (of Macworld), PCWorld, Aug. 26, 2010
iPad: The New Big Gadget on Campus
– By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 22, 2010
50 Useful Resources for Students With an iPad
– Accredited Online Colleges Blog, July 27, 2010 (links)
Apple’s iPad Goes to College
– By Chris Foresman,, July 26, 2010
iPad for Education Revisited
– By Lee Wilson, The Education Business Blog, June 2, 2010
First iPad University Course: An Interview with Eric Greenburg of Notre Dame
– By The eLearning Coach, May 16, 2010
iPad more resources on whether it is any good in the classroom
– By David Hopkins, elearning blog don’t waste your time, May 7, 2010 (with links and quotes from others)
University Presses Get Creative in an iPad World
– By Hannah Elliott,, May 6, 2010
Will the iPad Revolutionize Higher Education?
– By Adam Peck, Think Magazine, April 21, 2010
University to Provide iPads for All New Students
– By Lauren Indvik, The Mashable Apple, March 30, 2010
The iPad and the Historian
– By Sean Kheraj, Canadian History and Environment, January, 28, 2010
iPads in Education
– an ongoing NING with links and comments from many

Next up: What’s on your iPad?

We’ve come to expect innovative ideas from CHNM and this week has been no exception. Funded by a grant from the NEH, the One Week/One Tool project’s intent was to bring together twelve practitioners in the digital humanities to decide on, and develop, a useful tool. The project was announced in June 2010 and the event was held in late July. True to the premise, Anthologize was delivered at the end of the One Week. There were several finalists that we hope will be developed in future.
Anthologize is a plugin for the WordPress blog application. It allows one to collect their own blog posts, or import blog posts from others, combine them, and produce a text. Currently the text formats are ePub, PDF, TEI, and RTF. An active community has sprung up around the project, contributing bug reports and feature suggestions. Work will continue on what promises to be a simple but useful tool.
There are several educational uses that immediately spring to mind:
1) Bringing together class blogs from a course
2) Collecting individual student’s blog posts as a ‘takeway’ for students
3) As an assignment or class project, having students search and compile posts on a topic
4) For organizations, an easy way to compile news and updates from the year as a document for use in applying for, or continuing, grant funding
5) Using WordPress as a drafting space, then compiling the results as a TEI document for forther markup and processing (Your WordPress postings do not have to be publically posted: you can build Anthologize documents from drafts)
6) Teaching students the importance of creating their materials digitally, especially using standards like TEI. Digital, done right, means multiple opportunities for repurposing.
7) Pulling together blog postings for a quick ebook that can be downloaded to your ereader device for offline reading.
8) Building course packs or readers of relevant articles
9) Building a CV or portfolio of your own work, or teaching your students to do the same for their own eportfolios
I’m sure we will all be thinking of more as the program develops. Meanwhile, here is a short video of Anthologize in action. It’s done without audio overlay as a way to show how easy it is to use, though I’ve also highlighted some of the current bugs that are already being addressed.
Unnarrated Screencast of Anthologize
If you are at UVM and would like to try it, contact me and I’d be happy to get you started (, Center for Teaching and Learning, UVM).

Paul Stamatiou points us to the imminent release of Firefox Campus Edition – a “back to school” version of the web browser that comes with a few add-ons geared for students.

While only one of the add-ons, Zotero (which we’ve mentioned before), has a decidedly “academic” feel to it, the concept of bundling tools in this way is intriguing. Campuses regularly offer software that is modified to fit their user base. However with the web and even browsers themselves becoming more social in nature, the idea of deploying a customized browser presents all sorts of possibilities, from bookmarklets and toolbars, to customized search bars.

If you were going to build a customized version of Firefox for your campus, what would you choose to include? Keeping in mind that you can only fit so many tools into a browser, how would you balance and blend the social and academic tools that are out there into a cohesive and useable tool for faculty and students?

There are several ways to make Powerpoint slides available online. Some methods are better than others, but how you do it often depends on your audience. Will they be printing the presentation? Where are they likely to be viewing it – at home, at the library, at work?
We’ve talked about Powerpoint here before, and I’ve written elsewhere about the value of presentation skills. What follows is more of a practical publishing and distribution guide than a philosophical approach.

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Office 2007 has arrived and with it the main questions: what are the big differences between this version and other Office versions? when should we make the jump?
ETS has put together a Task Force led by Doug Varney, Carol Caldwell-Edmonds, and Mike Fitzgerald to explore the new Office suite and determine ways to ease the transition. The Task Force consists of ETS staff, departmental IT support staff, and people who use Office applications on a regular basis. The plan is to test the applications and collect information on changes, pitfalls, tips and tricks, then analyze the data and make recommendations. Members would like to work with volunteers who would like to try the products to build a comprehensive picture of what works, what doesn’t, what may cause trouble, and what may be a fantastic new feature.
The collection/analysis phase will be through mid-June, then the group will be publicizing that and opening up publication/commenting to the broader UVM community. Ideas on the best way to spread the news and provide support for the transition are welcome. Current ideas include space on ETS web site, a blog devoted to this, publicly-accessible areas of the Sharepoint site, all/any of the above.
Would you like to see some workshops at the CTL on any of these products? Let us know! And if you would like to volunteer a few minutes of your time to try out your favorite Office application feature and report your reactions to the Task Force, let us know that too!

Just before the web burst into public consciousness, historian Roy Rosensweig demonstrated the power of multimedia to make history come alive with his CD-ROM “Who Built America.” Continuing to explore the possibilities of applying technology to scholarship, in 1994 Rosezweig founded the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. As part of its mission to “combine cutting edge digital media with the latest and best historical scholarship,” the CHNM has created several tools useful for scholars. Zotero is the latest of these tools. It is described as a “next-generation research tool that makes it easy to gather, organize, annotate, search, and cite materials you find online and off” and is being called the “EndNote replacement” by many.

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