If you’re interested in learning more about using game and role-play strategies to boost engagement and learning, check out Anastasia Salter’s post in the Chronicle today, Games in the Classroom Reading List. Salter will be the keynote speaker at next month’s AcademicTechnology Innovation Symposium, and will discuss the potential unlocked by delving into games as a medium for student agency as designers, collaborators, and builders of shared interactive worlds.



Also, Mark Carnes, originator of the “Reacting” movement has a new book out, Minds on Fire: How Role Immersion Games Transform College . Carnes describes competition and subversive play as inherently motivating because of their ability to allow students to assume roles different from their own and challenge commonly held beliefs by exploring the complexity of critical historical issues. I’m excited about this one and my copy is on the way. More to come on the Reacting movement in our September newsletter.

As we gear up for the start of the fall semester, Claire Potter’s thoughts on managing email are worth considering. Like her, I have wondered how historians will reconstruct our lives in the future using digital records like email and social media activity. I also sometimes feel as if I am playing email whack-a-mole and have resolved to find better strategies for managing  my inbox. I’ll let you know how that goes in a future post.

Why You Might Not Want to “Reply To All” (and Other Email Reforms)

DSC_0090 copy 3Recently I had the opportunity to spend a day with Dr. Keith Ashley and the UNF Archaeology Field School students on Big Talbot Island. Each summer, the students spend six weeks in the field, working hands-on while digging into the history of northeast Florida. Some students attend five days a week, and others three days a week. This year’s excavation was at the Grand Shell Ring — a ring built by the Timucuan Indian’s ancestors that spans approximately 215 by 230 feet and has a burial mound on the site. Located at the south end of the island, Grand Shell Ring dates to the early St. Johns II period (AD 900-1250), and is the only Mississippian-period shell ring along the Atlantic coast.

This was an incredible chance to learn more about the UNF Archaeology Laboratory’s field work; how they uncover, identify and label artifacts; and the opportunity to photograph and document the process to use in upcoming exhibits, teaching, website graphics, and to create a library of images for future use. I attended during the fifth week, near the last days of research before finishing and cleaning up the site, and I captured images of the students uncovering lots of shell, animal bones, and a few wonderful pieces of St. Johns II pottery. Dr. Ashley and his students are working at the request of the Florida Park Service, hoping to learn more about the ring and its inhabitants during the St. Johns II period. Seeing the excitement in the students and they unearth and touch objects that haven’t been seen in thousands of years is an amazing experience, and something they will never forget.

CIRT supports the UNF Archaeology Lab by assisting with the creation of figures for publications, software guidance and technology support, creating graphics and giving support for their website, high-resolution scans to assist with their scholarship, and recently, graphic design support for the publication of The Florida Anthropologist, a quarterly journal of the Florida Anthropological Society, Inc.


Tomorrow's ProfessorClass-Sourcing: Student-Created Digital Artifacts as a Teaching Strategy

Reposting from Tomorrow’s Professor #1343:
This posting looks at an interesting new approach, “class-sourcing,” that significantly expands students research, writing, and critical thinking abilities as well understanding of class content. It is by Gleb Tsipursky of The Ohio State University, and is #68 in a series of selected excerpts from The NT&LF reproduced here as part of our “Shared Mission Partnership.” NT&LF has a wealth of information on all aspects of teaching and learning.

Because I’m currently starting fresh with working with another faculty member/Subject Matter Expert (SME), I’ve decided to document some of the processes I follow when working with a SME who has never taught online before and has been given a new course to develop online.

For multiple reasons, with this particular course I am following an objectivist approach in terms of development accurately described in Sue-Jen Chen’s article on instructional design strategies (2007), which is as follows:

  • articulate the goals and objectives of instruction,
  • classify goals by the domains and types of learning outcomes,
  • logically sequence instructional activities,
  • and assess expected learning outcomes (or goals) to determine the effectiveness of instruction.

Although this is not the only way I develop courses, it is one of the common processes, and therefore the topic of my post today. One of the first things I do during my initial meeting with the SME is discuss the instructors’ experience with teaching both online and face-to-face. If they only have face-to-face experience (which is more often than not), I ask them about the goals of the course and some assignments they’ve used in the course in the past. I like to make notes on how some of those assignments can translate online as well as jot down some new ideas for assignments they’ve done but want to do better.

I also show them a few examples of online courses I’ve developed in the past to give them an idea of how they can structure their course.

Then we look at putting together a general map of the course, thinking through what the learning outcomes may be based on the current course goals. Many times instructors/SME’s choose to develop their course modules based on how they want to order the chapters in the textbook. This makes it easier to develop learning objectives for each module since the textbook usually comes with chapter objectives we can use to develop learning outcomes and select appropriate assessments, activities, and media. If the SME/faculty is stuck for ideas as to how to assess students in a particular module, we also pull out the textbook to check for supplementary materials that we can use or at least model after.

This usually takes the entire first–and sometimes the second–meeting. From there, we meet again to begin adding the modules to the course. Even without rubrics and assessment instructions, we still create an agenda for each module and can this and placeholder assignments/assessments to the course. Once that is done, we meet again to look at what the course looks like at this point. Though we start with the template we normally use in our department, this may change slightly according to the instructor and/or the program for which the course is being developed.

Next, we meet again to determine the weeks for the modules and develop a somewhat finalized course schedule. Now our focus moves to determining course media to find and/or develop. We discuss both important and difficult concepts and theories involved in achieving the stated learning outcomes to narrow down what media is necessary, and also to help develop the assignment details and rubrics.

As the instructional designer, there are times the bulk of my assistance dwindles here. This gives the SME/faculty time to develop the assignment instructions, rubrics, and media. As they finish these items, they send them to me to add to the course. I add them to the course, maintaining the format, structure, consistency, and navigation. I always advise instructors/SME’s of best practices as they send things to me, and usually they elect to make the suggested changes. For example, I might advise revising discussion questions or ask for more detail on the assessments to determine which online tool would best match the students’ final product. If they don’t understand how to make the changes, I send them examples or make the suggested changes and send the work back to them for approval or further discussion. These sometimes turn into additional face-to-face meetings.

Other details we work together on include the syllabus, point distribution, facilitation schedule, and the grade book among other things.

Keep in mind that the above process is not a one-size-fits-all, or even most. I would say that this is a common development process that falls right in the middle of a line graph, and the actual process with each faculty member falls somewhere left or right, most clustered on or close to that center. It is a working process I like to keep in mind and adjust as necessary.

So you have decided that you want to create discussions for your online class. If your reason for creating online discussions is that you want to replicate those same style discussions you have in your face-to-face classes, you might be wasting your time. Online discussions are a great element to add to your bag of tricks for an online course, however, online discussions are very different than what you have in your face-to-face class. There is no one sitting in the front row waiting anxiously for you to ask a question they can pounce on. Likewise, there should be no one falling asleep in the back of the class that will miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to answer a defining question. Instead, you are writing a discussion prompt that will elicit a demonstration of knowledge and critical thinking from your students.

The dilemma that instructors often have is that they want to create those same engaging, spontaneous discussions they have in a face-to-face class in their new online space. The problem is they can’t; at least not exactly. Quite simply, the online course design is different therefore the discussion will be different. However, different is not a bad thing. Identify the positive outcomes related to an online discussion forum and emphasize those, as opposed to trying to make an online discussion mimic a classroom discussion (which may only be minimally successful). Instead, the online discussion should focus on what it can do well, and the results it can produce.

What does an online discussion offer? To begin with, it offers instructors the ability to prescribe expectations for students in terms of how they should participate, making it easier for instructors to grade participation and for students to understand what is required from them. This takes away the surprise element when students receive their participation grade. Online discussions leave room for the quiet thinkers in the class, who now have the ability to be involved in the discussion and possibly offer the point of view that the front row dweller never revealed. Now the discussions can require students do some research on their own to find a resource to quote or that helps defend their position in the discussion. They can think, discover, analyze and critique…all while forming their post. It’s likely that these higher-level learning skills are not part of the spontaneous responses instructors receive in the traditional classroom.

As with any discussion, the role of the instructor is a vital one. Remember to be present in the discussions by probing for more information if needed, praising those who are providing exemplary posts, and modeling what you expect from students in terms of responses. Instructor involvement lets students know that their posts are worthwhile, and that their participation is acknowledged.

It should still be stated that face-to-face classroom discussions are indeed beneficial. They absolutely have a purpose and fulfill a need in the physical classroom of four walls and desks with students. But what is key is that we recognize the differences between face-to-face and online courses, particularly when it comes to discussions. There are clear benefits to online discussions, so knowing these benefits and designing a course to make the most of these online discussions ultimately creates better online course design – the end product we are all striving for.











(Image from The Matrix—Google Image Search)

The physical classroom is a simulation—it is nothing more than a construct in which one form of learning occurs.

A classroom that contains desks, chairs, overhead projector, whiteboard, or chalkboard is, based on tradition, what we believe a learning environment should look and feel like. It is the construct with which we are most familiar. And yet, it is a simulation, a manufactured space. Consider, for example, whether a class could be taught in a field under a tree, in a booth at the local pub, or in a stairwell? Certainly, there are disciplines where this may not be possible, but is the inside of a classroom the only place in which learning occurs?

If we assume for a moment that learning can happen anywhere, what elements, or tools, would have to exist in order to ensure that learning does indeed take place? Obviously, there would still need to be engaging content and authentic learning experiences and, certainly, someone would have to curate the content and facilitate the delivery. If those elements were present in another location, or construct, would authentic learning still occur? The answer to that question is a key part of the paradigm shift that is taking place in education—that there is a sharp divide in responses goes without saying.

However, if we return to the notion that the traditional classroom is a constructed simulation, and that it is possible to learn outside of that classroom, could a different construct of the classroom—such as online learning—be developed that is better suited to dealing with the current seismic shifts in education, particularly those related to access and cost?

It is not a question to be taken lightly, and, in the end, many of the arguments for a given position are based solely on tradition and not on what might actually work—work, in this case, for a broad group of individuals and not just, “well it worked for me.”

We are, of course, left with a choice—it always comes back to a choice—red pill, or blue? One option allows us to go back to sleep—to ignore and/or resist the oncoming tide of changes in higher education. The other option forces us to travel down the rabbit hole and reimagine not only how and where learning occurs, but the entire classroom construct itself. And, without placing too fine a point on it, the decision we make over the coming years as to whether to acquiesce to the paradigm shift or not, will impact our very survival as operators in a traditionally constructed space of learning.


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