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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in Second Life

by Jack Green Musselman, Director for the Center for Ethics and Leadership, St. Edward’s University, and Jason Rosenblum, educational technologist, St. Edward’s University

(Originally Posted May 17th, 2010)

Musselman1_Rosenblum1_Figure0_2010

Pause for a moment and imagine that your life consists of shadows on the wall of a cave, though to you “cave” just means the world you see at the bottom of a long tunnel. You know nothing of the world outside since you are chained next to others who are sitting beside you on a rock that faces the cave wall. There’s a fire burning behind you, but you don’t know that it’s there. There are figures outside who stand in front of the fire at the mouth of the cave–they’re the ones whose shadows are in front of you. But, you don’t know what the figures are–or that they even exist. Imagine you could free yourself and walk outside. What would you see? What would you think of your life inside the cave? What would you say to those you left behind? Would they believe you if you told them they still lived in a cave? What would you think of the world, once you were free to look around? Now imagine that you are taking a philosophy class. What if you could really come one step closer to experiencing Plato’s Cave? What if you (or your virtual representation) could play the role of someone in the cave, see the shadows, walk outside and reflect on the experience?

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SmartChoices: A Geospatial Tool for Community Outreach and Educational Research

by Jack Dougherty, Associate Professor of Educational Studies, Trinity College

(Originally Posted August 20th, 2010)

SmartChoices, a Web-based map and data sorting application, empowers parents to navigate and compare their growing number of public school options in metropolitan Hartford, Connecticut. A team of students, faculty, and academic computing staff at Trinity College developed this digital tool in collaboration with two non-profit urban school reform organizations: the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and Achieve Hartford (the city’s public education foundation). While English and Spanish-speaking parents learned how to use SmartChoices through a series of hands-on workshops, my students and I simultaneously collected data to better understand the “digital divide” and factors influencing parental decision-making on school choice. Overall, our project supports two liberal arts learning goals: to deepen student interactions with members of our urban community, and to nurture student participation in creating original research for real audiences.

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Putting Study Abroad on the Map

by Jeff Howarth, Assistant Professor, Middlebury College

(Originally Posted September 28th, 2010)

“Each year about 60% of the junior class at Middlebury studies abroad in more than 40 countries at more than 90 different programs and universities.”

When I read this sentence on the Middlebury College Web site, I thought to myself: that’s a dataset that my students ought to map. I knew that there had to be a dataset behind that sentence, something that the author could summarize by counting the number of different countries, programs and students. But I imagined this dataset could show us much more if we represented it spatially and visually rather than just verbally. I didn’t know exactly what it might show, but I knew that my cartography students could figure that out as long as I taught them the technical skills for handing the data and the general concepts for visualizing multivariate data. What they decided to make with this knowledge was up to them.

Increasingly, teaching cartography involves training students on specific software platforms while communicating more general principles of the craft. This presents the need to design instructional materials that connect technical skills with thematic concepts while allowing students to creatively achieve the broader educational objectives of a liberal education. As an instructor of cartography at Middlebury College, I have largely followed a project-based learning approach focused on the process of cartographic design. My learning objectives seek to link techniques and concepts in an extended creative procedure that involves data management, problem setting, problem solving and reflection. At different steps along the way, the students must make their own design decisions, applying the available means to their chosen ends. Here, I describe the case of mapping the study abroad program in order to illustrate the general approach of integrating technical and conceptual teaching through design problems.

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