Roundup: Recent Publications & Presentations by CNDLS Staff

Here’s some news about recent presentations and publications by CNDLS staff members and collaborators:

Teaching with Wikipedia

This semester Professor Adel Iskandar (Communication, Culture & Technology) is incorporating Wikipedia assignments into two of his courses: Media & Communication in the Arab World and Embattled Media: Conflict and War Journalism. Each student will be assigned a Wikipedia article to edit individually, and small groups of students will also be assigned articles to edit collaboratively. The assignments will require students to conduct research, write objectively, reference their work, and collaborate with peers and the Wikipedia editing community.

On January 22, Wikipedia Campus Ambassadors (Rob Pongsajapan, Theresa Schlafly, Raisa Ledesma, Deepa Rao, and Sara Hildreth) trained students in the conventions and technology of editing Wikipedia. In a few more weeks, the Ambassadors will provide in-class support for a group editing session and will be available for technical support throughout the semester. We look forward to working with Professor Iskandar and his students.

To read more about the Wikipedia Project, check out our latest issue of the Prospect.

If you are interested in participating in the Wikipedia Education Program, please feel free to contact Rob at

MOOC Mania

It seems that new articles and announcements about MOOCs, or “massive open online courses,” are popping up almost daily. We’ve compiled a digest of the coverage we’ve found to be the most interesting and relevant. Please let us know if you’ve come across something useful that we missed. You can also find some related resources on the Initiative for Technology-Enhanced Learning (ITEL) website.

“The Year of the MOOC”
An overview of the MOOC trend from the New York Times.

“Elite Education for the Masses”
The Washington Post highlights a MOOC enthusiast from Hopkins and explores some questions raised by the growing popularity of MOOCs.

“What You Need to Know About MOOC’s”
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, a chronological roundup of resources on massive open online courses.

ELI: “7 Things You Should Know About MOOCs”
A primer on massive open online courses from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

Teaching and Learning in Open, Online Courses
A guide from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching Excellence.

“Online Courses Look for a Business Model”
The Wall Street Journal tackles the question about how MOOCs might generate revenue.

“Size Isn’t Everything”
A commentary on MOOCs by HASTAC’s Cathy Davidson.

Georgetown / EdX Partnership Announcement
The Georgetown News story about the EdX partnership.

The Future of Music Summit, 2012

In November, I attended the Future of Music Summit, an annual conference that brings together musicians, policy makers, and technologists to discuss the issues influencing the creation and distribution of music. Major changes in the music industry set the stage for discussions that were often contentious, with many of the conversations focusing on policies governing the distribution of music over the Internet, copyright, and the royalties sought by both record labels and independent musicians.

The centerpiece issue discussed this year was the Internet Radio Fairness Act, legislation that promotes parity for royalty rates paid by Internet streaming-radio services like Pandora, which pay as much as five times the fees as competitors in cable and satellite radio. This year’s keynote speakers, Pandora founder Tim Westergren and Senator Ron Wyden (D, Oregon), both lauded the bill as a necessary enabler for future innovations for Internet music services. Here are links to a post by The Chicago Tribune’s music critic, Greg Kot (who interviewed Westergren during the morning keynote) and a transcript of Sen. Wyden’s afternoon keynote.

Also featured were some of the technologies built to support independent artists who choose to avoid signing with large record labels and instead release music on their own:

  • CASHMusic is a non-profit organization which builds tools like WordPress plugins that help musicians sell their music from their own sites.
  • PledgeMusic is a platform that allows musicians to sell music and merchandise directly to fans. Combining similar features from Kickstarter, iTunes, and Amazon, along with business strategy and marketing advice, musicians are offered an array of tools that allow them to connect directly with fans.
  • ArtistGrowth is an iPhone app that helps artists manage the financial and logistical aspects of their production and touring. The organization takes the approach that while the content side of independent music has exploded, few tools have helped musicians understand the business aspects of their work.

Considering that it’s still a huge challenge for smaller artists to generate both a fanbase and returns from releasing their music directly (a musician in attendance shared her spreadsheet detailing the royalties she received from Internet radio), it’s likely that more tools will emerge that help artists seeking to manage their own music careers.

Many in attendance were tweeting during the events, and you can catch up on the stream here, or view a Storify collection of tweets here.

TLT Event: Real-time Polling and Data Analysis with Clickers

On November 12th we held our final TLT event for the semester, “Real-time Polling and Data Analysis with Clickers.” Speaking at the event were Patrick Farace, a Senior Technology Specialist for i>clicker; as well as Matt Carnes, Assistant Professor of Government at Georgetown. Together, the two speakers covered a range of technological and pedagogical aspects of using clickers.

Patrick Farace gave an overview of clickers hardware and software. Then he had the event participants answer clicker questions in order to demonstrate use of multiple choice, numeric, and alphanumeric polling. He also demonstrated the use of “on the fly” and anonymous polling. One of the new aspects of the software that Patrick highlighted was filtering answers by demographics (you can find a video of how to do this on the support page of the Georgetown clickers blog). Finally, Patrick demonstrated different ways to use i>Grader, focusing on options to upload and download data.

Matt Carnes talked about his experience using clickers “from the trenches” as a professor at Georgetown. He uses clickers to keep students actively engaged, asking clicker questions every five or ten minutes.

Matt explained that he asks students four types of questions. The first type is quiz questions, which come straight out of the reading. The second type is opinion questions; when starting a topic, he will ask students how they think something works in order to get their preconceptions. The third type is questions that make connections. For instance, he will stop midway through a lecture and ask, “What author that we read before would agree with today’s topic?” This helps students synthesize information across the course. Or he might see how students extend the material, asking, “What would be the obvious policy implication of this perspective?” Finally, he asks evaluation questions to find out how the students are growing or learning. These questions usually happen around the middle of the semester. For instance, he has gathered from his students about how helpful clickers have been and how heavy they find the course load.

Matt also shared some details about how he assigns points to clickers questions in class. He gives students 8% credit for answering at all and 2% credit for getting quiz questions correct. He also uses clickers to take attendance, which makes things very easy!

Finally, Matt talked about integrating clickers with Blackboard. He explained that there are a couple of specific steps to integrate the two, but this is very doable. If you need any help with this, you can always go to the support page of the Georgetown Clickers blog or ask the staff at CNDLS for help! He also showed a report that he generated from i>grader, demonstrating how it’s possible to use clickers data to do your own data analysis. One great thing about clickers is that the data is always saved no matter what–you never lose any data. Patrick then jumped in to explain that you can even aggregate data across several semesters by merging Excel documents.

The participants at this event had a lot of questions for Matt and Patrick, and everyone really enjoyed hearing their different perspectives on Clickers! Stay tuned for next semester’s TLT events. We hope to see you there!

Can We Have it on Video?

In this post, CNDLS Graduate Associate Elad Meshulam, who worked as producer and editor of an Israeli news program before entering Georgetown’s Communication, Culture, and Technology program, shares some of his thoughts on video and education.

As videotaping technologies evolve and become more accessible and easy to use, we can see how they spread like wildfire. Everyone wants everything to be documented and saved on tape. The purpose of it is not always clear, but since every smartphone is capable of filming moving pictures in TV broadcast quality, and since it takes only several minutes to save clips on a hard drive, all of us are slowly becoming documenters, and our computers are turning into tremendous archives.

The documentary trend is growing in our classrooms as well. Conferences and events are being regularly filmed and published in order for people to take part in them online. More and more faculty members want to film their lectures, or at least part of them, in order to upload them on the web and make reviewing lectures more convenient for their students. Besides, we all want an online presence, don’t we? This is where they say our future lies…

Many philosophical issues have been raised on this matter; how it affects the way we experience events, sets cultural narratives, and designs a collective memory. These are all highly interesting questions, but when we deal with combining video and education, specifically in classes, what we really need to ask is: how can we make it work?

Unfortunately, many times we see that teaching methods, which work in class, do not apply as well in a filmed class. Students, who come with a set of expectations about what to anticipate from their professors while they sit in front of them, have a totally different “mind set” when they sit in their homes in front of the monitor. They usually are much less patient and passionate, and moreover, they unconsciously wish that the session they now watch would match the expectations they have from the medium they use to watch it.

Let me offer you an alternative way of thought towards this, which might cause a little bit of inconvenience for us as scholars. With an obvious different goal (albeit not that different), once our lecture is online, where people watch films and TV shows, we have to think of it as a product of “entertainment.”  Our viewers are no longer just  “students;” they are now also an “audience.”  I’m not saying that this should change the messages or types of knowledge we transfer, nor our mission. I am saying we need to change the ways we think of them and present them.

When preparing for class, we all think of the best way to teach, to get our students alert, engaged, interested. The techniques we use to do this are appropriate for classrooms, not for mass media. We have to start thinking of it with “entertainment” tools when we just start planning our sketch. If we want our video to be as good as our class, we should prepare it in this orientation.

For a start, we should make things much more visualized, integrating as many visual elements as possible, demonstrations, video clips, photos, and moving graphics. We all do that today with PowerPoint and Prezi, but should do it more if being filmed. Moreover, we should start to consider other visual issues, such as: How does the “set” look? Is our room good enough? Can we ask to use a nicer room with better lighting when being filmed? Are the chairs in the room in the right order? Do our students sit in a way that will look good? Where do I stand or sit in the “set” that will look the best way possible on the monitor frame?

The session’s architecture is very important as well. How can we plan a session that will include more differentiated elements, which will help the viewer navigate it when watching? How can our session be more balanced in terms of lecturing vs. discussion? How can it be more rhythmic?

While planning the session, we should think of the student sitting at home, having total control of what and how he watches. It is no longer the case of a student that feels bad to show us he is bored or didn’t understand. The student at home will just scan your lecture as he wishes and do four other things while watching you. Don’t fight it; just help him go through it in a way that will allow him to gain the most from the lecture.

Many of us are not aware of the fact that there is a huge similarity between the processes of planning a lecture, and of building a mass communication product. A good lecture works as a good TV show line-up or a good film should: it makes sense; lets one thing lead to the other; has clear messages; is interesting, surprising, and appealing. There should be a plot and characters that the viewers could understand and relate to. By the end, they are both very enjoyable, albeit in different ways, to the audience.

I’m not saying this because I think we need to see ourselves as “entertainers,” however, I do say it, because the students, who are watching you online, are expecting to be “entertained” more than you — and even they — think. Matching the message to the medium is our first step to make it work.

Annotation, Social Reading, and Digital Technologies

In a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Charlie Wesley describes the value of annotating texts and explains that many of his students don’t seem comfortable with the practice. He recommends that instructors should encourage students to develop their own language of annotation, and that it is important to model different ways to mark up  texts.

In Frank Ambrosio’s course on Dante and the Christian Imagination, students interact with MyDante, an online environment for the study of Dante’s Divine Comedy. They can not only annotate the text but can also read — and respond to — other students’ annotations. Ambrosio’s own “guide” annotations lead students through a particular interpretation of the text and help to model the practice of annotation. Students can also add images and sounds to the text.

In this article in the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, Frank Ambrosio and I, along with our colleagues Eddie Maloney and Bill Garr, examined this idea of social annotation in MyDante. As we continue to develop MyDante, and our related project on Proust, we are continuing to explore how digital technologies can enable various ways of interacting with texts.

Recap: Online Learning @ Georgetown

CNDLS Graduate Associate Lucas Regnér shares this summary of the Teaching, Learning, and Technology team’s recent event on Online Learning.

Friday September 28, a large audience of faculty members gathered to hear Sherry Steeley,  Oded MeyerParina Patel, and Mary Bondmass discuss their experiences with online teaching.

TLT event online learning September 29, pic 1

Janet Russell and Susan Pennestri (CNDLS) welcomed the audience, introduced the topic of the day, and explained that this is the first of a series of events CNDLS will host on online learning.

Sherry Steeley (CLED) was first to present her story. In spring 2008, Steeley piloted her online class, designed to train teachers of English as a foreign language, with the goal of broadening the student population. She explicitly wanted to avoid “throwing things up online and disappear for 15 weeks”—as many other online courses do and what has given online learning a negative reputation.

Steeley uses the university’s online tool Blackboard as a platform. Students interact via blogs and discussion forums, which she carefully monitors and moderates. “I would never walk out of a classroom discussion,” she said, “and I’m just as present in the online classroom.” Interaction is key, and Steeley explained that she spends quite some time communicating with students via email and Skype—to the benefit of the students, who she claimed demonstrate an even better understanding of the course material than students she has taught face-to-face.

Oded  Meyer (Mathematics and Statistics) and Parina Patel (SFS) talked about their experience teaching statistics online with the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) system. Meyer explained:

What is OLI? It’s a project from Carnegie Mellon University where we develop a collection of online courses with a goal of improving quality and productivity of higher education. These are all available for free online. I was the one who authored the statistics course in OLI.

TLT event online learning September 29, pic 1

OLI’s key feature is the immediate feedback, Meyer explained. OLI essentially “tutors” the students as they do their assignments in the software. Upon completing a task, the software will either congratulate the student on the correct answer or notify her that the answer is wrong. In the case of an incorrect answer, OLI explains for the student where she went wrong and why. This way, the software guides the student back to the right path. The instructor then receives feedback from the software on where the students struggled. That way, the instructor can focus the face-to-face lecture on those elements.

Parina Patel teaches statistics classes that enroll 100-200 international politics students. The class is structured around large lectures and smaller lab groups, which are led by teaching assistants. The lab groups would provide the students with hands-on statistical experience, but the results where inconsistent, Patel explained:

One [issue] was consistency. Each section had a different TA, so material was not consistent across sections. There was also a disconnect between lab and lecture. I would try to tie it together, but because students had different preparation from lab, it was difficult.

Patel described how she developed clear learning objectives and crafted the OLI content, and with CNDLS’s help incorporated the material in the course. Soon she noticed greater consistency among the students’ performances.

Mary Bondmass (NHS) told the story of one of Georgetown’s first online courses. The nursing school gives online classes that leads to eligibility to work in the health care sector and prepares for certain state governed health care practitioner-exams. Therefore, the course needs to be approved in each and every state it intends to take students from, Bondmass explained. Representatives from NHS personally visit all responsible state agencies and practical training sites. She called on the audience to keep in mind the legal inconveniences that setting up an online class might create.

Bondmass continued with clarifying that the online course is as rigorous and demanding as an on-campus course. Students pay on-campus tuition and receive the same diploma upon program completion. The NHS is able to scale the program due to its design and the careful planning that takes place behind the scenes—ranging from coordination with the admissions office, financial office, the library, etcetera. Bondmass concluded:

I don’t want to scare you. It’s so exciting for me. It’s a brand new day. I love Georgetown University and I love this program. We will keep scaling up and admitting students provided we have qualified students and faculty.

The next TLT event on online learning will be held Friday October 19th.

Experiments in Online Learning: OLI for SFS Statistics

This summer, Yong Lee and I began working with Parina Patel (School of Foreign Service) to develop online materials for her undergraduate and graduate statistics courses using Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) platform. Oded Meyer (Mathematics and Statistics) pioneered this approach while a faculty member at CMU; now a Georgetown faculty member, he advised Parina on how to make use of the OLI platform for her courses.

About OLI

OLI courses combine academic content with learning activities, opportunities for self-assessment, and targeted feedback. In OLI, each element must be linked to a measurable learning outcome, which ensures alignment between course content, learning activities, and learning goals. The OLI platform offers instructors a dashboard view that shows how students are progressing in terms of each learning outcome, allowing them to tailor future instruction as needed.

OLI materials can be used for distance learning, but have also proven effective in blended learning contexts. This study examines the effectiveness of OLI’s Statistics course (developed by Oded Meyer) in a variety of contexts.

OLI offers a number of open and free courses. To check out the available courses and to learn more about OLI, visit this site.

Why OLI?
There were several reasons for implementing OLI in Parina’s course, including the following:

  • Students enter Parina’s course with wide-ranging backgrounds in statistics. Students can be frustrated when the class moves too slowly or too quickly for them. OLI allows each student to work at his or her own pace.
  • In the past, students have complained about inconsistencies among teaching assistants. OLI makes it easy for Parina to standardize the material covered in lab sessions, as well as the grading of problem sets.
  • Students may need to apply statistical methods to later research projects. OLI allows them to revisit this material later in their academic careers.

The Process

Parina, Yong, and I traveled to Pittsburgh in July to take part in a developers’ workshop at CMU. The OLI team helped us create content in Google Docs, convert it to XML, and troubleshoot and refine the content. Developing appropriate learning outcomes, structuring the presentation of the content, and creating targeted feedback for learning activities proved to be time-consuming, but ultimately paid off. On the technical side, the learning curve was a bit steep, but Yong and I eventually settled into a workflow. We successfully made our ambitious deadline of publishing materials in time for Parina’s first class meeting at the end of August.

What’s Next?

Our next step is to evaluate the effectiveness of the OLI materials. We’re planning to gather data from the students, teaching assistants, and Parina herself to develop an overall idea of how well this experiment worked. Parina hopes to expand the OLI materials to more lab sessions next semester. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project!

From the Archives: Resources on Incorporating Blogs & Twitter into Assignments

Deciding to incorporate blogs or Twitter into your course raises a number of questions that may seem daunting. How will you structure the assignment? How will you connect student work on Twitter or blogs to in-class discussions? As the professor, to what extent will you contribute to the blog or Twitter stream? How will you evaluate student work in these spaces – or will you grade it at all?

CNDLS Graduate Associate Susannah Nadler collected the following set of resources for developing assignments and evaluating student work on blogs and Twitter.  We hope you find it useful. Please let us know in the comments if you have any suggestions of your own to add.

Getting started with student blogs: how and why?

from XKCD (

This article on the Educause website is designed to help professors thinking about setting up blogs in their classrooms, answering questions such as “Will my work increase if I assign blogging in my courses?” and “Will the process of blogging actually change how students think and express their ideas?”

Hillary Miller of Baruch College posted “Lessons from a First-Time Course Blogger,” which contains good advice such as not forgetting about the blog and not assuming that all your students are tech-savvy.

Julie Maloney of ProfHacker writes about “Integrating, Evaluating, and Managing Blogging in the Classroom,” focusing on course planning and what to think about when integrating blogging into a syllabus.

Heidi Ashbaugh of Texas Women’s University writes an article on the Educause website discussing the first time she used student blogging in a course; Heidi explains that she quickly realized that students needed a rubric for how she would judge their blogs.

Getting started with twitter in the classroom: how and why?

Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor of English at St. Norbert College, writes on ProfHacker about the basics of how (and why) to use twitter in the classroom. His article includes step-by-step instructions of how to get started, complete with screen shots.

In “A Framework for Teaching with Twitter,” Mark Sample of George Mason writes on ProfHacker about the many ways Twitter can be an effective tool both inside and outside the classroom. He also provides a matrix of twitter uses that can help professors think about the role that twitter can play in their course design.

In this follow-up post, Mark Sample provides information about practical implementation of these twitter uses, focusing on six aspects of twitter that professors should think about as they are planning a course: organization, access, frequency, substance, archiving, and assessment.

In his own blog, Mark Sample also writes about an unexpected use his students found for twitter as a “snark valve,” a use that he celebrates because it helps students to take an oppositional stance.

Grading blogs:

There is a large array of rubrics available for professors grading student blogs. Here are some of the good ideas out there:

Mark Sample has a basic 5-point rubric that primarily evaluates critical thinking and engagement. The scale ranks student blog posts as Exceptional, Satisfactory, Underdeveloped, Limited, and No Credit. Read the full rubric here.

Mark Sample also explains in more detail the pedagogy of his class blog. He grades blogs based on the rubric, but also comments regularly on student blogs and asks students to complete a meta-audit midway through, in which they blog about their blogging practices. Read that blog post here.

Serena Carpenter, an Assistant Professor of Newer Media at Arizona State, has a more detailed rubric that includes blog elements such as whether the paragraph/heading structure is “scannable” and whether the post uses keywords and tags. She also assesses the blog’s focus, creativity, and research content. Serena’s website, where she posted the rubric, is here.

An article on the Educause website provides a rubric that assesses student blogs on the following categories: Content, Accuracy, Visual Appearance, and Resource Links. The rubric is on the last page of the article, the rest of which describes methods for professors to assess how well blogging assignments are working within a course.

A lot of professors agreed that it was a best practice to share the grading rubric for blogs with students at the start of the class. One professor has students use the rubric to grade their own blogs before they submit them (the professor grades the blog as well).

Grading twitter use:

Karen Franker at the University of Wisconsin provides this rubric for grading student tweets, assigning number values to content, frequency, hyperlinks, mechanics, and content and contributions. Mark Sample finds this rubric too narrow, but it could be useful in helping professors clarify their pedagogy around twitter.

In this post on “The Difference between Thin and Thick Tweets,” David Silver of San Francisco State provides useful criteria for the kinds of tweets that students using twitter should be tweeting. “Thick” tweets provide two or more layers of information, usually including a hyperlink.

Larger discussions about evaluating student use of digital technology:

Jeff McClurken and Julie Meloney provide further discussion of grading student blogs in “‘How are you going to grade this?’: Evaluating Classroom Blogs.” They discuss their use of rubrics, and suggest the interesting idea of asking students to revise their two best posts and submit them for a separate grade.

On the HASTAC forum, three scholars host a discussion on “Grading 2.0: Evaluation in the Digital Age.” They list several ongoing projects that are addressing the question, “How to grade, assess, teach, learn and structure the learning experience for students in the digital age?”

Alternate grading pedagogies (or, reasons not to grade digital technology assignments):

Barbara Ganley, founder of the nonprofit Digital Explorations, argues here that in order for student blogs to emerge organically, they should not be treated like online portfolios—that is, professors should avoid formally evaluating student blogs.

In another post on grading partnerships in the classroom, Barbara Ganley shows how her class came up with their own grading rubric—a practice that could work for coming up with a rubric for grading blogs or twitter posts as well (although that isn’t what she advocates).

Cathy Davidson, a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, wrote a controversial post on the HASTAC forum about grading by contract and crowdsourcing the judgment process. Davidson argues that this grading system teaches students the skill, necessary in the Internet age, of responsibly judging the quality of others’ work and being responsive to feedback about their own work.