March 24, 2009

The Ten Commandments of Lecturing

Teaching and LearningWe found this list of ten "commandments of lecturing" by Rob Weir interesting. Weir generated a list of ten policies for instructors to follow when they lecture. Please read the list and feel free to share your own ideas.

I. Thou shalt connect new lectures to previous ones.

II. Thou shalt move beyond chalk and talk.

III. Thou shalt not lecture like caffeinated hummingbird or a tree sloth.

IV. Thou shalt not assume too much.

V. Thou shalt link known to unknown.

VI. Thou shalt be enthusiastic.

VII. Thou shalt not be a pompous ass.

VIII. Thou shalt not tolerate disruptive or disrespectful students.

IX. Thou shalt not lecture outdoors.

X. Thou shalt seize learning moments.

This is just a list of Weir's commandments. The Inside Higher Education website has more elaborates concerning each of the suggestions that he has for instructors.

March 20, 2009

Can Wikipedia be Used to Teach Writing?

Teaching and LearningTechnologyThe use of Wikipedia for class assignments or as a citation source has been an ongoing debate. Some professors accept the website's use, usually after encouraging their students to caution what they take from the website. Other professors absolutely abhor the use of the website by their students. Robert E. Cummings says that he has found a new way to incorporate the use of Wikipedia into his classrooms and makes a strong case for using it in higher education, particularly as a writing tool.

According to Cummings, detractors of Wikipedia's use in higher education assignments have reasons to be concerned. Wikipedia, indeed, is an open source where essentially anyone can edit or create information concerning almost any subject. With this in mind, people who use the website do expose themselves to getting inaccurate information or are subject to relying on information that is unfounded.

On the other hand, Cummings believes that Wikipedia offers several advantages for students. He believes the major advantage to helping student essay writing with the use of Wikipedia is that students have audiences that are real and can provide plenty of immediate feedback to their writing. In his classes Cummings literally has his students post their work to the website for people all over the Internet to provide them with comments concerning their work. More importantly for the students, Cummings believes that students are writing and having more exposure to having having to write formally. According to Cummings,

"Composition assignments in Wikipedia frame writing as a collaborative practice hosted within a network. This arrangement seems much more predictive of the environment our students will find themselves writing in after they leave the composition classroom, both in later college courses (as they collaborate across networks with fellow students in coursework) or in the workplace (as they collaborate with co-workers to prepare reports, proposals, or Web pages)."

We invite you to read Cummings' article and see if what he has to say can be beneficial in any of your classes.

March 13, 2009

Choosing Technological Tools

With all the encouragement to integrate active learning techniques into your teaching, it's easy to get confused about what to use when. Specifically, deciding which technological tools to use can seem overwhelming. Three of the most common tools instructors use in their classes are blogs, wikis, and dicussion boards. To guide you in the process of choosing which tool to use, we have collected information and dveloped a chart.

It is important that you consider the answer to some important questions as you make your choice:

  • What is the purpose of using the tools?

  • What features are most important for you?

  • What level of privacy do you need?

The answers to these questions and others can be found by looking at the chart. Make sure to use the left-most colomn labeled "Topic" to guide your selection.

You can download the document here.

And don't forget that you can always schedule a consultation at the Center for help on how to use your tool in class by calling the Center at 372-6898 or emailing the Center at

March 11, 2009

Disruptive Technologies or New Pedagogical Possibilities

Teaching and LearningTechnologyThis presentation, “Disruptive Technologies or New Pedagogical Possibilities” by Grainne Conole was delivered at the Eduserv Foundation Symposium 2008, in London, England. In this video, Conole discusses how Web 2.0 has changing our learning and teaching paradigms. She discusses how we need to develop new models to understand the relationship between pedagogy and technology.

In order to understand the pedagogical implications of Web 2.0 tools, she explores three case studies: Learning Design, Openlearn and SocialLearn.

To read a related article by Grainne Conole please click here.

After watching this video, do you think we must develop new pedagogies that involve Web 2.0 tools?

March 8, 2009

10,000 Visitors to Interact at the Center blog

This past weekend our Interact at the Center blog just passed 10,000 visitors. Our blog started out in 2006 and less than three years later we are proud to say that our "blogging" has been successful. We make efforts to publish interesting and helpful postings and we appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read what we have had to say. Thank you! Please continue to visit, comment on our blog, or leave suggestions for future posts.

March 6, 2009

The 60-Second Lecture

Teaching and LearningThe idea that a 60 minute lecture can be condensed into 60 seconds may sound absurd and even impossible, but there are some instructors in higher education who seem to think otherwise. The "Microlecture" is gathering followers across different disciplines in college teaching. Supporters of the one-minute lecture think that condensing a lesson strictly to key terms and ideas with less verbiage into a 60 second to three minute lecture has been beneficial for their students.

Naturally, the "microlecture" technique has its detractors. Critics of the practice think some topics, like literature or graphic design, are impossible to reduce down to three minutes. They also believe "microlectures" can at best provide "impressionistic overview."

Although the microlecture is intended for online courses it could be applied in a traditional classroom setting. Instructions for how to make a microlecture in an online are listed below.

Here are the instructions provided for how to make a microlecture:

Professors spend a lot of time crafting hour-long lectures. The prospect of boiling them down to 60 seconds — or even five minutes — may seem daunting. David Penrose, a course designer for SunGard Higher Education who developed San Juan College's microlectures, suggests that it can be done in five steps:

1. List the key concepts you are trying to convey in the 60-minute lecture. That series of phrases will form the core of your microlecture.

2. Write a 15 to 30-second introduction and conclusion. They will provide context for your key concepts.

3. Record these three elements using a microphone and Web camera. (The college information-technology department can provide advice and facilities.) If you want to produce an audio-only lecture, no Webcam is necessary. The finished product should be 60 seconds to three minutes long.

4. Design an assignment to follow the lecture that will direct students to readings or activities that allow them to explore the key concepts. Combined with a written assignment, that should allow students to learn the material.

5. Upload the video and assignment to your course-management software.

Read "These Lectures Are Gone in 60 Seconds" from the Chronicle of Higher Education website for yourself and learn more about "microlecturing."

March 2, 2009

Helping Students Understand Verbs Used in Test Questions

Teaching and Learning

To instructors, who have received an extensive formal education, knowing exactly what a test is asking may come easy. For some students, though, the ability to know exactly what they should do when words like "analyze" or "discuss" on exam can be vague and even foreign., one of our favorite websites, recently published a list that all instructors could use a reference to help their students. Here is a list of what they call "test" verbs that you may want to share with students in your syllabus or exam preparation documents:

Analyze—break something down into parts, such as a theory into its components or a process into its stages or an event into its causes.

Assess/Criticize/Evaluate—determine or judge the degree to which something meets or fails to meet certain criteria.

Compare/Contrast—identify important similarities and/or differences between two or more elements in order to reveal something significant about them.

—give the key characteristics by which a concept, thing, or event can be understood.

Describe—give the characteristics by which an object, action, process, person or concept can be recognized and visualized.

—debate, argue, and evaluate the various sides of an issue

Explain/Justify—give the basic principles or reasons for something; make it intelligible.

Interpret/Explain—say what the author of a quotation or statement means.

Illustrate—Use a concrete example to explain or clarify the essential attributes of a problem or concept.

Reference: Nilson, L. B. Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors. 2nd ed. Bolton, Mass. Anker, 2003. [now available from Jossey-Bass]