Artifacts, Talks, and Chocolate—Oh My!

The social hour on the third day of TLISI 2016 served as a capstone to the past three years of the Initiative for Technology-Enhanced Learning (ITEL) and combined a series of lightning talks from ITEL awardees and hands-on exhibits of faculty projects with a chocolate fountain, creating a fun and celebratory environment for the nearly 100 attendees.

In order to make the wonderful work of ITEL awardees tangible, the showcase featured “artifacts” from 22 different projects, ranging from custom-developed platforms and tools, interactive games, and multimedia presentations. Some of the artifacts on display included the MyDante platform for reading and annotating the Divine Comedy, a custom application built by the CNDLS team in collaboration with Frank Ambrosio (Philosophy); a game for second-language Spanish instruction being used by Ron Leow (Spanish & Portuguese); and a demo of the software “Splunk” which Betsy Sigman (Business) used to give her students hands-on experience in data analysis. Attendees interacted with the artifacts while enjoying refreshments, hors d’oeuvres, and chocolate-covered treats.

The event also featured a series of brief PechaKucha-inspired talks by faculty addressing how ITEL had impacted their teaching. Ben Harbert (Music) shared how his music annotation software helps students from a wide range of backgrounds listen to and analyze music in new ways. Stacey Kaltman (Medicine) shared the impact of realistic patient simulations on students’ preparation for medical practice. Overall, the speakers showed the breadth of this Initiative’s impact on teaching and learning across the university.

Check out a few of the digital artifacts from the ITEL Showcase below!

Artifact: POGU, a webpage featuring articles written collaboratively by students at Georgetown and Sciences Po Lyon. This artifact comes from “Extending the Use of Teletandem in Language Courses Department,” led by Alissa Webel (French).

Project Description: Webel’s project is part of an extended ITEL project through which six Foreign Language Learning departments are using teletandem to connect Georgetown students with peers at universities in Brazil, Mexico, France, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Jordan, and Japan. For her French for Politics course, Webel worked with a professor of American politics at Sciences Po Lyon to explore a different type of teletandem course that goes beyond speaking: students in Webel’s class were instructed to write a 2,000-word article in the target language, which was edited and advised by the French students. At the end of the semester, the students publish their articles on POGU.


Artifact: Virtual Build Steam Still, an interactive lab module implemented on a touchscreen for use by organic chemistry students as part of the open track “Making the most of Laboratory Time Department” project by Ron Davis (Chemistry).

Project Description: This project extends work begun as part of the Round 4 games cohort to develop a self-paced, interactive lab preparation exercise for an introductory Chemistry course using affordable, accessible software and computing tools. The aim was to increase student confidence and efficiency during lab time, resulting in few broken glass tubes, fewer student tears, and additional lab time for instruction in other aspects of the practice of science.


Artifact: The Medieval Reader platform, under development by Emily Francomano (Spanish & Portuguese) and team for “The Medieval Reader: A Platform for Digitally Enhanced Reading in Manuscript Culture.”

Project Description: Through this project, a digital edition of Libro de buen amor [The book of good love] was created to develop a platform for undergraduates to immerse themselves in the multidimensionality of manuscript culture in the Middle Ages.

Bias and Intersectionality of Student Identities in the Classroom

Daviree Velázquez facilitated a second session in the Social Room Wednesday on self-awareness and implicit bias in the higher ed context, leading off with establishing “conditions for success” for the discussion among attendees of the workshop—a tie-in to a practice learned earlier in the day during the Facilitating Difficult Discussions workshop. These conditions emerged from suggestions from the attendees and were posted throughout the discussion on a poster at the back of the room. They included such considerations as tolerance, honesty, and listening.

There followed a team-building activity to encourage sharing of personal identities among attendees, which, though challenging, was also rewarding as a means to encourage trust and experiential sharing among participants. Next, Velázquez helped participants to navigate the differences between their personal and their social identities, with worksheets to be completed and discussed in small groups at tables. Attendees were guided through a conceptual framework of the cycle of socialization, which traces socialization to social identificational categories throughout development from birth into adulthood.

After introducing this conceptual framework, Velázquez led the participants in a consideration of power, privilege, and oppression, which finally allowed the attendees to define implicit bias and how it can manifest in the classroom and broader university contexts. This consideration over the course of the workshop allowed participants a renewed understanding of such terms as “stereotype,” “prejudice,” and “discrimination.”

Reinvigorating the Lecture: New Approaches to the Old Method

Once the norm for college classrooms, lectures nowadays are taboo. Not only perceived as old-fashioned and outmoded, lectures and lecturers receive a fair amount of scorn, the former considered to distance students from the content, and the latter portrayed as attention-seeking performers. Lectures render students passive, bored, disengaged. Lecturers are “sages on stages,” acting out self-serving monologues before alienated groups of students. Why do lectures get such a bad rap? How might teachers reinvigorate the lecture for today’s students?

On the third day of TLISI, Georgetown professors Nathan Hensley (English), Steven Sabat (Psychology), and Heidi Elmendorf (Biology) participated in a panel discussion moderated by David Ebenbach to address these provocative and pertinent questions, as well as evaluate contemporary criticisms of the lecture. With each participant coming from a different discipline, the panel represented various contexts for lectures in the modern university, from small humanities seminars to auditorium-filled science courses.

After sharing the extent to which they employ lectures in their own courses, the panelists discussed general approaches to teaching, particularly how a teacher should view their students. Sabat suggests not viewing pedagogical experiences as “teaching students,” but as “engaging people,” thus leveling the teacher-student hierarchy. From another perspective, Elmendorf advocates for answering the question “What do you teach?” with “students” rather than referring to specific courses or subject matter. All of the panelists agreed that teaching is much more than the dissemination of information; instead, teachers provide students with complex learning experiences that entail more than retaining and regurgitating information.

In terms of the lecture as a pedagogical method, the panelists recommended its continued use—with a few caveats. For Sabat, the lecture is not so much to blame as the lecturer, who, in order to appropriate the method successfully, needs to avoid turning the lecture into a performance. Hensley suggests viewing the lecture as one tool among many that needs to be used carefully to avoid student disengagement. In addition, he points out that there are moments (particularly within graduate seminars) in which it might make sense to allow students to momentarily assume the role of lecturer, though he warns that one should be wary of letting a student who lacks knowledge in the subject area take the class in the wrong direction.

Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of the lecture, studies have shown that students from more privileged backgrounds tend to retain lecture material better than those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who generally perform better in more active learning formats. In this way, lecture-heavy courses tend to reinforce privilege. In response to this, Hensley points out that this is not only a product of lectures, but of all study habits: assuming students already know how to study assumes privilege. Therefore, Hensley advocates for constantly explaining proper study habits during the course of the semester, making sure all of the students are on the same page.

While the session may not have arrived at any definitive arguments for lectures, the panelist expanded on many of the common criticisms, as well as offering advice on how to alter lectures in order to make them more engaging and interactive. While opinions sometimes differed among the panelists, all showed a deep concern for the education of their students and the importance of engaging them in dialogue—even if the course is mostly lecture-based. As Sabat’s concluding anecdote revealed, teaching is not merely the transference of information between persons. His students were not merely grateful for his knowledgeability in the subject area; instead, they most appreciated that he “gave [them] the authority to speak.”

Avoidance of a Difficult Discussion Has Consequences for Students

Facilitating Difficult Discussions began with a question posed by Joselyn Lewis, the workshop co-facilitator (along with James Olsen): “What does it mean to you as an individual when I say ‘avoidance has consequences’?”

All at the workshop were invited to respond to this question during their introductions. At their tables, attendees shared scenarios of difficult discussions they’ve had in the past before reporting out to the larger group. Next, five scenarios were presented to the tables as prompts for difficult discussions which, the facilitators stressed, were going on whether we were having them aloud or not, and which, silently, were far more dangerous. In both discussion and reflection, it was clear that the avoidance of a difficult discussion in the classroom or in office hours was a deferral of responsibility with unforeseen consequences, such as losing the trust of an individual student or a class—as one attendee mentioned, even attempts to protect one student from discussion might exacerbate issues by coming at the expense of another student’s comfort or health. The main takeaway from this session was the ability of inclusive pedagogy to manage access to participation in the classroom and to explicitly centralize students and their issues.

Opportunities and Challenges of Online Teaching

In “What Does Teaching Online Look Like at Georgetown,” faculty who have been experimenting with online teaching tools shared their experience with Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle through three rotating discussions. The goal of the discussion was to help faculty who are novice or still hesitating about online teaching to achieve better understanding about the affordance and challenges of online education tools available at Georgetown.

Lynn Ross from McCourt School of Public Policy and Meg Cohen from the School of Continuing Studies showcased their courses on Canvas and discussed their successes, challenges, and innovations. In particular, they highlighted Canvas’ usefulness for case studies and group collaboration, as it facilitates automatic group division, collaboration, and task management. Although group collaboration always seems to be a challenge for online education, their experience demonstrates that Canvas is able to simulate face-to-face interactions through functions such as its built-in discussion board, video/slides commenting tool (VoiceThread), and synchronous video conferences (through Big Blue Button), all of which work together to allow both students and teachers to review lectures, discussions, and progress at any time. With the affordance of Canvas, Ross was also able to show a number of taped interviews with policy experts in Washington, through which students got to know how theories learned in class are applied in the real world.

Melody Wilkinson, Joyce Knestrick, Helen Brown, and Kathryn Ellis from the school of Nursing and Health Studies shared their experience with Kiddom, a tool that helps instructors flip their classroom through synchronous video conferencing, screen sharing, instant commenting, and polling. In a flipped classroom, instructors are able to embrace the face-to-face interaction of traditional classrooms, while also making space for distance learning, digital archival, and active learning.

Glenn Williamson and Giovanni Carnaroli from the School of Continuing Studies have been teaching both on campus and online and use their experiences to critically compare campus teaching with online teaching. When discussing challenges faced by faculty when teaching online, Williamson and Carnaroli often find it difficult to use their chosen platform, Blackboard, for facilitating instant feedback, group collaboration, and progress monitoring. However, one of the benefits of online teaching is that such platforms make it easier for faculty to share resources and collaborate. For example, Williamson developed his online course with a team that shared standardized syllabi, assignments, and course materials. In additional, Williamson also discovered that he gave students higher and more consistent scores in his online class, which he attributes to the fact that students felt more obligated to ask for period feedback from him rather than waiting until after grades are assigned, as often happens in face-to-face courses.

Thriving, Struggling, and Suffering in Well-Being

Directly following the plenary talk from Brandon Busteed of Gallup on May 24, his colleague Jade Wood facilitated a workshop around well-being in the higher education context, introduced by Joan Riley as part of the yearlong Engelhard workshop series on Educating the Whole Person. Wood, an expert on implementing holistic approaches to well-being within organizations, intended the workshop to be a continuation of the ideas presented by Busteed and, in particular, how they can be implemented in a university domain.

The workshop began with a question period, with faculty members wondering about how to be better mentors, and bringing up particularly how the role of mentorship in online courses may look different than on campus. There was also concern expressed about how to best guide students who are focused more on traditional indicators of success, such as grades and GPA, to adopt new metrics of success that take well-being into account. Another point of concern broached by multiple faculty was new information about student debt from the Busteed talk indicating that average college tuition is 250% higher than in 1998, and that student loan burden is inversely correlated to a sense of well-being.

Various activities were presented to attendees, who worked in small groups at tables with the goal of articulating their practice domain and their personal and professional role in cultivating well-being. Wood also went deeper into the data on lives well-lived Busteed referred to in his plenary, presenting five natural breaks in the data: purpose (how you occupy time), social (relationships and love), financial (economic security), community (engagement and involvement with area of residence), and physical (health). She suggested that “in the future we may look back on the current unwillingness to have wellness and well-being programs in the workplace as similar to the workplace safety mechanisms that weren’t used during the industrial revolution.”

Wood ended the presentation with her holistic approach to driving organizational well-being, which involves alignment between leadership, values & rituals (unspoken rules), human capital, structure, and performance (behavioral incentives). She stressed the importance of a culture around invitation to well-being rather than a top-down mandate, and suggested that individuals can personally model the well-being change that they wish to see in the organization by answering the question “What is the most doable and impactful action you can take now to enhance well-being in your domain?”

Brandon Busteed: “Making a Hard Case for Soft Measures”

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education and Workforce Development at Gallup, joined the second day of TLISI 2016 to present “We Are What We Measure,” a passionate argument for the utility of tracking non-traditional measures of student success after graduation from college, and using these numbers to evaluate student outcomes. The presentation began from the observation that “lifelong learning,” while the number one phrase used in mission statements at colleges and universities, is not quantitatively evaluated in alumni populations.

Big data metrics tend to rely upon traditional economic measures of success, but Busteed argued for the place of what are sometimes understood as behavioral economic measures when evaluating lifelong learning outcomes. While classic economic measures consist of grades, test scores, and graduation rates, behavioral economic measures comprise such concepts as well-being, engagement, and hope. Gallup has discovered how to implement these non-traditional metrics to track student outcomes after graduation, and Busteed spent some time during the presentation pointing out where the information captured under these scales diverges from, or even outpaces, information captured under previous economic measures.

In particular, Busteed noted that many companies see GPA as far too unreliable for use in hiring practices, suggesting that the large emphasis placed on grades by many colleges and universities should perhaps be rethought. Students should be encouraged to understand other measures of success—such as the outcome of a great job and a great life—which Gallup measures through their hope, well-being, and workplace engagement indices.

The breathtaking findings from the Gallup study indicate that a student’s feeling of well-preparedness for life outside of college correlates linearly to such “Big Six” college experiences as mentorship and inversely correlates with how much student loan debt one has upon graduation. Attendees at this plenary, hosted as part of the Engelhard Project “Conversations on Educating the Whole Person” series, came away with a greater understanding of the effect of their own engagement at their jobs on student lifelong learning outcomes and what it means to “thrive” in life after graduation.

Bringing Together Current Experiences and Previous Content with Technology

“Technology-Enhanced Learning: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making an Impactful Change in Your Course” kicked off on Tuesday afternoon with the workshop facilitators getting to know the audience, divided equally between Georgetown faculty and staff members. Jennifer Lubkin Chávez—Program Manager for Technology Enhanced Learning at CNDLS—then asked the audience to consider what sort of learners they wanted to target with technology in the classroom. Before proceeding, she asked how we might formulate teaching tasks based on the many different types of learners we might encounter.

Students, Lubkin Chávez explained, need a link between the previous content they have learned and their current experiences in the world; for many, technology-enhanced learning can be what brings these two fields together. She went on to introduce a variety of tools educators can use in the classroom, including the active learning platform Echo360, and the workshop quickly transitioned into a structured Q&A between participants, Lubkin Chávez, and Brian Boston, Academic Technology and Internet Development Coordinator at CNDLS. Thinking critically of our own classes, we considered the many different ways technology could fit and enhance our individualized instruction.

The remainder of the time was spent as a very helpful workshop, in which participants learned, experimented with, and questioned the different forms of technology available to Georgetown faculty and staff members.

Altering Syllabi for Transparency Around Participation

The first Tuesday IPC sessions, Syllabus Design for Engaging Diversity, was led by Michelle Ohnona from the Office of the Provost and David Ebenbach, Postdoctoral Researcher at CNDLS. Many attendees of the session were particularly interested in whatever information they would be able to obtain surrounding the new Engaging Diversity core requirement slated to come into effect in the fall for all newly matriculating first-year Georgetown undergraduate students. Despite the potential for this to have veered into some rote territory where the diversity requirement and its implementation would simply have been outlined for attending faculty, Ohnona expertly brought in the critical perspective around diversity initiatives suitable to an audience of academics, while also describing her role as an administrator helping to bring about this change.

Both Ohnona and Ebenbach shared personal tips from their syllabi from previous courses, while also encouraging faculty to pose any outstanding questions about the new core curriculum. This being a workshop, the faculty were then encouraged to use Ohnona and Ebenbach’s policies, expectations, and ground rules sections of their respective syllabi to draft some of their own, and to share out in small groups at their tables. The attendees especially latched onto language around participation and strategies for participation. Some faculty who had never incorporated a section on expectations of participation into their course syllabi previously came away from the session with a plan to do so for upcoming courses.

Domains and Digital Identities Lab and Showcase

As the second day of TLISI 2016 kicked off, attendees filled the Herman Room for the Domains and Digital Identities Lab and Showcase to learn of the endless possibilities that come with an individualized online presence. Because of the recent partnership between the University and Reclaim Housing, part of the larger Domain of One’s Own efforts on campuses nationwide, Georgetown students and faculty may now create their own website hosted by the university. Yong Lee, Marie Selvanadin, and Bill Garr—all CNDLS employees—framed their presentation by asking their audience, “What does it mean to have digital presence? What does it mean to have a digital identity? And what does it mean to have a digital webspace?” Then, after a brief history of domains, they let three undergraduate students, fellows with the Red House, showcase the incredible work made possible through georgetown.domains.

The first to show off her domain was rising senior, Erika Bullock (COL’17). As an English major, she explained how with her domain, she was able to make something along the lines of “a visual annotated bibliography.” The best part of having her own domain, she explained, was her ability to personalize and make it her own. When a faculty member asked how having a domain shifted her scholarship, she explained that the backend research that she’d usually forego was now at the forefront of her projects. In her research projects, she asked herself, “How can I take something I really care about, and make it nice to look at while also doing what I want to communicate?” Explore more of her work as an English major along with her scholarship in video games here.

The workshop then transitioned to Nandini Mullaji (SFS’17). She opened her brief presentation by telling us of her interest in urban studies and the lack of opportunities at Georgetown for students interested in this field. Despite the lack of physical resources before her, Georgetown Domains offered Mullaji the opportunity to make a unique portfolio and personalize it to her intended job market. Ultimately, she enjoyed having the freedom to choose what exactly she wanted to publicize, and controlling what people could do on her site. Mullaji concluded by adding that Domains create a completely different experience that goes beyond just reading and writing a paper, which places Georgetown students at a “considerable advantage” when entering the job market.

The final student to show off his digital identity was Alex Luta. He designed his Domain as a combined effort with Carnegie Mellon University. By creating an interactive page of maps, he was able to present a number of different human rights violations around the globe. More about his project can be found here.

After each student presented their incredible scholarship and digital identity through their domains, Garr concluded that once you get students excited about their work, Georgetown Domains is an exciting launchpad for students of all disciplines. Faculty and staff then brainstormed what they would want their own students to display with Domains while Lee helped everyone create their own domain using step-by-step instructions. Attendees saw firsthand the limitlessness of the applications they can install on their domains, and the endless opportunities for far-reaching digital scholarship.