Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning

by Randy Bass and Bret Eynon

Randy Bass is Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning Initiatives at Georgetown University, where he is also Executive Director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and an associate professor of English at Georgetown. In 1998-99, he was a Pew Scholar in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and from 2000-2008, he served as a consulting scholar with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Dr. Bret Eynon is Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) and the executive director of the LaGuardia Center for Teaching & Learning. With CUNY’s American Social History Project from 1983-2000, he wrote acclaimed textbooks, produced award-winning documentary videos, and founded and led for 6 years ASHP’s national New Media Classroom program. A national faculty member for the Association of American Colleges & Universities, he recently founded LaGuardia’s new, FIPSE-funded initiative: the Making Connections National Resource Center on Inquiry, Reflection, and Integrative Education.

Originally Posted January 7th, 2009

Note: This is a synthesis essay for the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP), a collaborative project engaging seventy faculty at twenty-one institutions in an investigation of the impact on technology on learning, primarily in the humanities. As a matter of formatting to the Academic Commons space, this essay is divided in three parts: Part I (Overview of project, areas of inquiry, introduction to findings);Part II  (Discussion of findings with a focus on Adaptive Expertise and Embodied Learning);Part III (Discussion of findings continued with a focus on Socially Situated learning, Conclusion). A full-text version of this essay is available as a pdf document here

Here, in this forum as part of Academic Commons, the essay complements eighteen case  teaching, learning, and new media technologies. Together the essay and studies constitute the digital volume “The Difference that Inquiry Makes: A Collaborative Case Study of Learning and Technology, from the Visible Knowledge Project.” For more information about VKP, see https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/vkp/

Déjà 2.0 
Facebook. Twitter. Social media. YouTube. Viral marketing. Mashups. Second Life. PBWikis. Digital Marketeers. FriendFeed. Flickr. Web 2.0. Approaching the second decade of the twenty-first century, we’re riding an unstoppable wave of digital innovation and excitement. New products and paradigms surface daily. New forms of language, communication, and style are shaping emerging generations. The effect on culture, politics, economics and education will be transformative. As educators, we have to scramble to get on board, before it’s too late.
Continue reading

Shaping a Culture of Conversation: The Discussion Board and Beyond

by Edward J. Gallagher, Lehigh University. Edward J. Gallagher is Professor of English and former Lehigh Lab Fellow at Lehigh University. Five of his web sites have recently been published under the general title of History on Trial by the Lehigh University Digital Library. He is currently exploring the educational uses of Second Life.

Originally Posted January 7th, 2009

The Backstory: Discovering Community1
I can still remember the exhilaration with which in 1997 (before Blackboard and WebCT) I approached my first discussion board as part of the Lehigh English Department’s participation in the groundbreaking Epiphany Project. I had long used such methods as “reaction cards” to engage student involvement, so the move to discussion boards was a natural evolution. But evolution to what? Today the discussion board signifies class community for me. But that was not overtly so in the beginning. Influenced greatly by a seminal College English article by Marilyn Cooper and Cindy Selfe (I had attended Selfe’s Computers in the Writing-Intensive Classroom workshop at Michigan Tech in 1996), my statement of goals for the Epiphany project discussion board had a “radical” tinge to it, with rather stentorian claims about a free space for students and liberation from the teacher’s agenda or ideas. But that approach was a mistake. It led to using the discussion board as a bulletin board (I am tempted to say soap box) on which students posted individual, discrete messages that others were supposed to read but, by and large, didn’t, at least with much palpable impact. There was no “epiphany” that I can remember, just a gradual awareness over time as VKP approached that there was no meaningful “discussion” on my discussion board and that, without interaction, I was not fully tapping the potential of the new technology.

That potential was to create a community of learners, and gradually “community” replaced rebellion and resistance–that is, the cultivation of the individual voice–as my signifier. In fact, the most important thing I discovered (or uncovered) through this VKP project on discussion boards was the depths of my passion for community, a passion that has quite visibly informed my pedagogy ever since, especially in a second experimental course that I will talk about later. Achieving community is the continual worry in the personal blog that I kept during the VKP course–indeed, causing two serious blow-outs with the students midway through. In my VKP final report I frankly admitted that I sometimes felt “obsessed with the need for community,” felt embarrassed by the ranting way I talked about it, but felt more and more “the pressing need for people to talk with each other, to get beyond difference, to work together, to get along.” The “Improving the Discussion Board” VKP project, then, would in reality be about the creation of community.

Continue reading

The Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project: A Case Study

by Joanne Cannon, Joseph Murphy, Jason Meinzer, Kenneth Newquist, Mark Pearson, Bob Puffer and Fritz Vandover

Joanne Cannon is the Assistant Director of Educational Technology Services and Manager, Interactive Services at Smith College. Joseph M. Murphy is Director of Information Resources at Kenyon College. Jason Meinzer is Senior Open Source Developer at Reed College. Kenneth Newquist is Web Applications Specialist at Lafayette College. Mark Pearson is Instructional Technologist at Earlham College. Bob Puffer is Academic Technologist at Luther College and the NITLE Moodle Liaison. Fritz Vandover is Academic Information Associate for Humanities at Macalester College.

(Originally Posted September 9th, 2009)

What is CLAMP?
The Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project (CLAMP) is an effort by several schools to support continued and sustainable collaborations on Moodle development at liberal arts institutions. Moodle is an open-source learning management system designed with social constructivist pedagogy as part of its core values. With highly-customizable course pages, faculty can organize course material by week or by topic and add modules, resources and activities that help students meet learning objectives by encouraging collaboration and interaction. While the lack of licensing fees initially attracts many campuses, the flexibility of working with an open source tool also becomes a real advantage, allowing for additional customization to meet the specific needs of the institution.

Moodle is well-supported through its core developers and the large community at moodle.org, but CLAMP has a different focus: the issues and challenges unique to four-year liberal arts colleges using Moodle. By creating a smaller network of Moodle users with a tighter focus on the liberal arts, we are able to undertake development projects which none of us could accomplish alone. CLAMP develops community best practices for supporting Moodle, establishes effective group processes for documentation and fixing bugs, and better connects our institutions to the thriving Moodle community worldwide. Put briefly, by partnering programmers and instructional technologists across multiple institutions, CLAMP lowers the practical barriers to supporting and adapting this open source software.

To better understand CLAMP, it is helpful to look at the lexical components of the acronym:

Collaborative: True participatory collaboration between member institutions is the motor of the project through a consensus process. Artifacts collaboratively produced from online and in-person gatherings are significant, benefiting all liberal arts Moodle institutions.
Liberal Arts: While the liberal arts educational model is almost exclusively represented by institutions in the United States, we believe that the core values of this model–”critical thinking, broad academic interests, and creative, interdisciplinary knowledge” are embraced by many educational institutions worldwide.1 They are also critical for the Moodle community. Indeed, a cursory dig into the support forums of the moodle.org developers, users, and managers mother site exposes rich seams of liberal arts values in the strata of developers, users, and managers. Here you find core characteristics of a liberal arts education reflected in both the outcomes and the artifacts of CLAMP activities (such as the Moodle Liberal Arts Edition, bug fixes, documentation) and the process by which they are produced.
Moodle: As the premier open source learning management system, Moodle is a model of the open source sharing, cooperative and empowering collaborative ethic. And for CLAMP, the relationship with the larger Moodle community is symbiotic and synergistic–all bug fixes are reported back to the Moodle tracker for inclusion into the core, the Moodle Liberal Arts Edition is made freely available, and CLAMP members take an active role in voting on issues raised in the development community.
Project: While the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) has nurtured CLAMP for the past year through the NITLE’s Instructional Innovation Fund, the universal approach of CLAMP broadens its appeal to campuses beyond NITLE and even beyond the confines of North America. It is important to note, however, that our focus is exclusively on liberal arts educative goals. While we certainly recognize K-12 concerns, research university needs and distance education imperatives, these are not addressed through this project.

The technical culmination of these efforts over the last year is the Moodle Liberal Arts Edition distribution. It includes all third party modules and add-ons commonly used by our institutions; bug-fixes of critical importance to our schools; functions that simplify the user’s experience; and backend tools to give Moodle administrators better information about how their systems are being used. Although all CLAMP bug-fixes are contributed back to the Moodle core project, this distribution gathers the collective work and wisdom of the institutional network, simplifying the job of finding and installing each vetted patch or module.

Continue reading

Curricular Uses of Visual Materials: A Research-Driven Process for Improving Institutional Sources of Curricular Support

by Andrea Lisa Nixon, Heather Tompkins, and Paula Lackie

(Originally Posted September 9th, 2009)

The Curricular Uses of Visual Materials study began with case studies centered on sample support-intensive assignments that incorporated work with visual materials. Based on the findings of these case studies, three survey instruments were designed to examine initial findings in the context of the larger community. In the end, the study was intended to help members of the Carleton community improve institutional sources of support available to students and faculty members. This project’s ongoing aims are to align institutional forms of support with current and emerging curricular needs, and to mitigate the procedural overhead and assumption of deep institutional knowledge previously required of faculty members and students in creating and matriculating through such a curriculum.

Continue reading

War News Radio

by Abdulla Mizead, Journalist-in-Residence for War News Radio, Swarthmore College

(Originally Posted September 9th, 2009)

War News Radio (WNR) is an award winning, student-run radio show produced by Mizead_Figure1_2009
Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. It is carried by over thirty-seven radio stations across the United States, Canada and Italy, and podcasts are available through our Web site. It attempts to fill the gaps in the media’s coverage of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing balanced and in-depth reporting, historical perspective, and personal stories. Since its founding in 2005, WNRhas greatly enriched US media coverage of the Iraqi and Afghan war by giving voice to Iraqis and Afghans living daily in a war zone. But it has also had a significant impact on Swarthmore and its students, and has even motivated students and teachers beyond the college to seek out new ways and technologies to tell stories that are left out by the mainstream media.

Continue reading

Come for the Content, Stay for the Community

by Ethan Benatan, Reed College; Jezmynne Dene, Claremont University Consortium; Hilary Eppley, DePauw University; Margret Geselbracht, Reed College; Elizabeth Jamieson, Smith College; Adam Johnson, Harvey Mudd College; Barbara Reisner, James Madison University; Joanne Stewart, Hope College; Lori Watson, Earlham College; B. Scott Williams, the Claremont Colleges

(Originally Posted September 9th, 2009)

The Evolution of a Digital Repository and Social Networking Tool for Inorganic Chemistry

It is said that teaching is a lonely profession. In higher education, a sense of is
olation can permeate both teaching and research, especially for academics at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs). In these times of doing more with Benatan1Dene2Eppley3Geselbracht4Jamieson5Johnson6Reisner7Stewart8Watson9Williams10_Figure1_2009less, new digital communication tools may greatly attenuate this problem–for free. Our group of inorganic chemists from PUIs, together with technologist partners, have built the Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource Web site (VIPEr, http://www.ionicviper.org) to share teaching materials and ideas and build a sense of community among inorganic chemistry educators. As members of the leadership council of VIPEr, we develop and administer the Web site and reach out to potential users. The goals of VIPEr are best captured in the following statement by a new faculty member at a small college:

Joining VIPEr made me aware that although I am the only inorganic chemist on my campus, I am part of a large community of scholars and teachers at colleges and universities across the U.S. I recently met the VIPEr gang at an American Chemical Society meeting. Before the meeting, I already “knew” many in the community from their contributions to the site. I was not surprised to find that the enthusiasm that practically oozes from the Web site was replicated by the members in vivo.

Continue reading

The Early Novels Database: a Case Study

by Rachel Sagner Buurma, Assistant Professor of English Literature, Swarthmore College,  Anna Tione Levine, junior Honors English major, Swarthmore College, and Richard Li, senior Honors English major, Swarthmore College.

(Originally Posted April 30th, 2011)

Project description1

The Early Novels Database (END) is a bibliographic database based on the University of Pennsylvania’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s extensive collection of fiction in English published between 1660 and 1830. Produced by the collaborative effort of Penn librarians, information technology specialists, faculty from Swarthmore College and Penn, and Swarthmore College undergraduate researchers, the completed database will include richly descriptive records of more than 3,000 novels and fictional narratives, from the very canonical to the almost unknown, from fictions that clearly announce themselves to be novels to the works of fiction (fable, travel narrative, romance) that formed part of that genre’s notoriously murky origins. Users will be able to perform both keyword and faceted searches across bibliographic records containing both edition-specific and copy-specific information about each novel. END seeks to unite twenty-first-century search technologies and twentieth-century descriptive bibliography with the sensibility of eighteenth-century indexing practices in ways that enable researchers to write new histories of the novel.

Continue reading

Re-envisioning the Internationally Sophisticated Student: Champlain College’s Global Modules Project

by Gary Scudder, Professor of History and Assistant Dean for Global Engagement, Champlain College and Jennifer Vincent, Assistant Professor of Economics, Champlain College

(Originally Posted May 17th, 2010)

In response to the demands of an increasingly interrelated world, there is not a college or university that is not grappling with the challenges of producing more internationally sophisticated students. To that end, Champlain College, a small baccalaureate college in Burlington, Vermont, has spent the past five years completely restructuring its core curriculum to best prepare students of the twenty-first century for their role as global citizens. A key component of this new core curriculum is the college’s innovative Global Modules (GMs) project, where Champlain students connect with students at various international universities for short, thematic, course-embedded, online discussions. Starting in the spring 2008 semester Champlain started positioning the Global Modules as mandatory assignments in certain key required interdisciplinary courses. The goal is to create an integrated series of progressive assignments based on global dialogue carried throughout the university experience.

Continue reading

The Mixxer Language Exchange Community

by Todd Bryant, Language Technology Specialist, Dickinson College

(Originally Posted May 17th, 2010)

The Mixxer is a social networking site designed for language learners. Dickinson College places a heavy emphasis on international education, its study abroad programs, and foreign languages. The Mixxer allows us to create real world language use in our classrooms with native speakers using Skype. The site has many of the same Bryant_Figure1_2010functionalities as Facebook with blogs, friend requests, and a messaging system; however, what makes it different is that users search for potential language partners based on their native language and the language they are studying. When they find a potential partner, they send a message proposing times to meet and eventually communicate via Skype. Though not required, the usual arrangement is to meet for an hour with each partner, spending thirty minutes speaking in their native language and thirty minutes in their target language.

The Mixxer also includes functions for foreign language teachers. Teachers can search for other teachers interested in class-to-class exchanges. They can organize and oversee their students’ blog posts. In addition, they can organize “events” where native speakers are invited to contact students in their class via Skype at a specific time. With more than 40,000 Mixxer users, it is now possible for any language teacher to organize a language exchange for their students at almost any time. This is especially helpful for less commonly taught languages in Asia and the Middle East where time differences make most traditional class-to-class exchanges very difficult.

Continue reading

English Majors Practicing Criticism: A Digital Approach

by Paul Schacht, Caroline Woidat, Rob Doggett, and Gillian Paku, State University of New York at Geneseo (SUNY)

(Originally Posted April 30th, 2011) 

Project Overview

At SUNY Geneseo, Practicing Criticism uses digital technology to help build a sense of community, common purpose, and shared identity among undergraduate English majors enrolled in separate sections of a required, introductory course, English 170: The Practice of Criticism. A long-established course at Geneseo, English 170 introduces students not only to the essential disciplinary skills of interpretation and critical writing, but also to some of the basic theoretical questions that help constitute English as a discipline: What types of works should we read? Why should we read these particular works? And, most important, how should we read them? By prompting students to engage with these fundamental questions, English 170 aims to create self-reflective majors who are skilled at critical analysis and have a deep understanding of the disciplinary issues and debates underpinning the various modes of critical analysis. In other words, students in this course learn both to practice criticism and to examine criticism as a practice.

This essay reports on our effort to launch Practicing Criticism in the fall 2010 semester. It explains our purpose in creating the project, describes the tools we chose and the assignments we designed with them, and explores some of the lessons we learned.

Continue reading