Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference Recap

Janet and I had a great time at the Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Baltimore (Jan.11 – 13). We gave a presentation on “Campus-wide Lecture Capture Deployment and Effectiveness” with a colleague from the University of Maryland. Although our session was held very early Thursday morning, it was well attended and raised interesting questions around faculty and students needs, including pedagogy and policy.

CNDLS’ own Randy Bass delivered the opening keynote address “Disrupting Ourselves: Cherished Assumptions, New Designs, and the Problem of Learning in Higher Ed” and spoke about the importance of changing the way courses are taught to bring more meaningful learning experiences into the curriculum. He not only described various ways of incorporating social tools and participatory culture, but emphasized the need of a team-design approach – where technologists, librarians, instructional designers, etc all work together with the instructor to improve a course. Randy did a an excellent job in keeping the audience engaged by his profound message as well as entertained by his many pop culture references.

Great sessions all around. Here are some highlights:

Using an Online Course to Prepare Faculty to Teach Online: Faculty Perspectives presented by folks at Virginia Commonwealth University. They shared how they have faculty take an online course to “see” and experience what it’s like from the student perspective. Great idea!

At the presentation “Using Slate Tablets to Promote Active Learning” participants got to try out a Lenovo ThinkPad and use the attached stylus pen, and learn about a few apps: Notes Mobile (app that recognizes written notes done with stylus pen), Pulse News Reader (RSS aggregator app which turns news/articles into interactive mosaic), and TuneIn Radio (app that allows you to listen to radio from all parts of the world). Great tool for language learners!

We ended the conference on a high note after attending “EdTech Transmissions: We Control the Vertical and Horizontal presented by a fabulous team of folks from the University of Mary Washington. They shared how they were able to transform a digital storytelling course into something far better and bigger (extending well beyond the classroom!) by using new media to rethink the teaching and learning experience. Check out DS106 to learn more!

Wikipedia US Education Program Begins for Spring 2012

As students begin settling into their chosen courses, those of us serving as Campus Ambassadors for the Wikipedia US Education Program gear up to present on Wikipedia in participating classes around campus.

The Wikipedia US Education Program is an initiative of the Wikimedia Foundation that seeks to engage college students around the US in the (course assignment-based) improvement of Wikipedia articles.  Professors who are interested in having their courses participate are given the support of on-campus and off-campus “ambassadors” who support the students through training and technical support in exchange for the professor’s commitment to make Wikipedia authoring/improvement a major (ca. 20-40%) component of the course.  A typical course sees each student make significant improvements to one article on Wikipedia.

Each course at Georgetown is supported by one or two Campus Ambassadors, volunteers (many of them CNDLS or Gelardin staff) who offer in-class Wikipedia orientation sessions and continue to give Wikipedia-related advice and support to the class throughout the semester.  Each course also has one Online Ambassador, an experienced Wikipedian who can give useful advice on navigating interactions with the Wikipedia community and dealing with Wikipedia conventions.

By participating in the program, students are introduced to a unique, practical, and timely course component that, whatever its particular shape,

  • brings their research into a heavily-accessed global space;
  • introduces them to content-related discussions with others outside the course;
  • and compels them to “switch gears” from analysis to reportage and to practice maintaining a neutral point-of-view.

This semester, 6 courses at Georgetown University are participating in the Wikipedia US Education Program:

  • Diane Apostolos-Cappadona’s LSHV course “Art and Ethics”
  • Adel Iskandar’s MAAS/CCT course “Media and Communication in the Arab World”
  • Adel Iskandar’s CCT course “Embattled Media: Conflict and War Journalism”
  • Shelly Habel’s SOCI course “Sport and Society”
  • Melissa Goldman’s CCT course “Film Theory in the Age of New Media”
  • Jeanine Turner’s CCT course “Communication Technology and Organizations”

We welcome new and returning professors to the Wikipedia program each semester.  If you are intrigued by the program and are interested in participating (or getting more information to decide if you’d like to), please email me (Anna Kruse at CNDLS), your regional Recruitment Ambassador for the program.

Our thoughts on the Kindle Fire

The much-awaited Kindle Fire has been available to the public for about a couple of months now. This is Amazon’s newest device and the company’s entry into the tablet market. The Kindle Fire is priced at $199, an affordable price tag when compared to the other tablets in the market. The Kindle is based on Amazon’s custom version of the Android operating system developed by Google. Here are a few links to sites providing detailed technical or user interface reviews:

At CNDLS, we had a chance to try out the Kindle Fire and would like to share our experiences with it. The Kindle Fire has a 7” multi-touch display and this size seems to be comfortable enough for reading and casual browsing. The reading experience for all of Amazon’s content is very good. There are some issues that Amazon still needs to work on. The interface seems a little sluggish, as it does not respond immediately to touch or gesture. The back button seems particularly unresponsive at times, occasionally requiring multiple touch attempts before taking a user to a different screen. The browser (Amazon Silk) seems slow, as well, if you’re loading any content that isn’t delivered by Amazon. Since it selectively loads the content, some of the media continues loading while you are reading the page and it is a little distracting. It should be noted that unlike the other Kindles, the Kindle Fire does not use “E ink” technology; instead, the display is backlit, which is slightly more straining on the eyes when reading for long periods. Because Amazon markets this device as a tablet, the backlit display makes sense; as a reading device, however, you might consider researching how this might affect you.

Even though we found many similarities between the Kindle Fire and the iPad, it seems that the devices were built for different audiences. The iPad comes with GPS, accelerometer, camera and gyro; all of these features make the iPad a much superior device to use. Most smartphones come up with GPS and a camera. These are some of the features that the Kindle Fire does not have. The Kindle Fire seems to just target the folks looking for a cheaper alternative and who necessarily don’t need all the options that the iPad has to offer. There are about 10,000 apps available for the Kindle Fire. You can get a list of the apps from Amazon’s Appstore. We tried out the Evernote app (a productivity application) and the experience was pretty good.

In general, it seems like there a few quirks that Amazon would need to work out with the software. That said, the Kindle Fire is definitely a welcome addition to the suite of tablets that are available to the user. The price tag of $200 would probably make it easier for colleges to be able to adopt it. The device can be used for note taking, collaboration, etc. without the hefty price tag of other tablets.

Going Mobile with Teaching and Learning

“The iPad finally has serious competition.” Sam Biddle of Gizmodo shared that observation in response to the release of the much-anticipated Kindle Fire, which Amazon started shipping last week. A successor to the popular Kindle e-reader, the Fire is much more than a platform for electronic books; indeed, Fire owners have access to an array of new Kindle features—like high-speed Web browsing, media storage space in the cloud, and a robust app store—all built atop a multi-touch interface that establishes Amazon as a new player in the market for mobile tablet devices. What’s truly amazing about the Kindle Fire is the price tag ($199), which is more than an indication of Amazon’s ability to compete—it signals that mobile technology is quickly approaching ubiquity, which will continue to rapidly change how we work, communicate, and learn.

The current landscape of mobile technology at Georgetown is dotted with exciting opportunities and compelling stories. At the infrastructure level, the Saxanet wireless network (and its predecessor, HOYAS) offers students and faculty a fast and secure connection to the Web from over 40 buildings on and off-campus. At the course level, Georgetown recently added a mobile component to the Blackboard course management system, which delivers mobile-formatted content to smart phones and tablet devices.

Mobile technology is present inside the classroom, too. For example, many teachers use clickers—hand-held devices that allow instructors to gather student responses immediately—as a teaching and assessment tool during class lectures. You can find other examples of classrooms using mobile technology all across campus, from the Communication, Culture and Technology Program (Professors Tinkcom and Turner assign students to design mobile applications in the program’s introductory course) to the School of Nursing and Health Studies (where students use Apple iPads during class simulations).

While mobile computing can be a tool to further the academic goals of the University, we recognize that it opens opportunities for a few concerns. Aside from the obvious issues—students tweeting and facebooking through class periods or searching the Web for test answers—it can be difficult to find meaningful ways to use mobile technology to support teaching goals, and, as with any nascent technology, successful models and rubrics for assessment are difficult to find and adapt. To start addressing these challenges, we found it helpful to break down the possibilities of mobile technology, specifically as they relate to teaching and learning. We came up with four categories:

Productivity: This includes technology for taking notes, facilitating class administration (like collecting student work), and enhancing research. Delivering course content falls into this category as well, with e-readers being one of the more practical ways to increase personal productivity among students and teachers alike.
Examples: Amazon Kindle, Blackboard Mobile

Presentation: Some platforms offer an easy way to create slide presentations and manipulate them on the fly. Other technology can add a dynamic layer to traditional classroom tools (like whiteboards). If you want to rethink classroom presentations entirely, mobile technology offers a lot of exciting possibilities.
Examples: KeyNote Remote, AirSketch

In-Class Response: In this category, we have technology to take attendance, poll students, and offer opportunities for students to interact with course material synchronously. The possibilities might be especially helpful in large classes, where students could be reluctant to ask questions or engage their teachers directly.
Examples: i>clicker, Smart Seat

Assignments: In the context of teaching and learning, the prospect of integrating mobile technology into out-of-class assignments might be the most exciting area to explore. Tapping into new device technologies offers unprecedented opportunities for creative, rich learning experiences in every discipline. Imagine, for example, guiding students through a historical tour through Washington D.C., using device-enabled GPS to give them directions and adding layers of information over the images they see through their device’s camera (what application developers are calling “augmented reality”). (Professor Anna Celenza in the Performing Arts Department assigned her students to experience the location-aware music album Bluebrain, which presents a dynamic musical experience that depends on your location on the Mall.) Likewise, devices with audio recording, editing, and dictation technology offer special possibilities for language learning, and devices with video capabilities could allow students to easily create and share digital stories.
Examples: LeafSnap, Google Goggles, Bluebrain

Deciding which of these approaches is best for you or your class might be a good first step, but there are other issues that you and the University need to think about thoroughly before we can take full advantage of the possibilities before us. For instance, if we’re using technology that collects, stores, and aggregates data, how should we consider privacy and security—particularly when it comes to student work? This was one of many issues explored at our recent “Digital Anxieties” event: you can read a brief recap of that session here.

Beyond that, we need to struggle through the problem of access—that is, if we add a mobile component to a course assignment or administrative process, how do we ensure equal opportunity for all students to participate? Not everyone owns a mobile device, and those who do carry devices of varying make, model, and capability. Choices abound in the mobile device marketplace, with a multitude of options for devices, platforms, and applications, so how can we introduce coursework around so many variables?

Some institutions have chosen an approach of standardization. Seton Hill University, for example, gives each student an Apple iPad on their first day. Other institutions try to cover the major platforms, with the web browser as a fallback. Take Purdue University’s Hotseat tool as an example, which is used to augment in-class discussions. It’s available to students through apps on several applications, including Twitter, Facebook, and the iPhone, and students without access to those platforms can catch up after class through any web browser.

For those faculty and students interested in experimenting with mobile technology, CNDLS is assembling three main initiatives to help you.

  • First, we’re working to adapt our current suite of tools to work well in a mobile environment. This means formatting our sites to be read on smaller screens, ensuring compatibility across different phones and browsers, and optimizing content for quick downloads.
  • Second, we’re building a directory of information on applications, best practices, and other resources about mobile technology in teaching and learning. This directory will host app reviews, stories about faculty use of mobile technology in the classroom, and tell you where to find the best application, device, or support to meet your goals. Stay tuned!
  • Finally, we’ll be exploring any unmet mobile technology needs for Georgetown faculty and students. If you’re trying to do something new or creative in the mobile environment, and you don’t have the tools to see it through, let’s talk.

Recap from AAEEBL Southeast

Last week, a colleague and I attended the AAEEBL Southeast conference on ePortfolios.  Scholars and teaching professionals from colleges across the east coast and beyond were in attendance, with many presenters and attendees representing the FIPSE-funded Connect to Learning project.  I’m currently working on some recommendations, inspired by the conference, for us to take on to provide richer support for ePortfolios.

In the meantime, though, I thought I’d briefly share a few of my key take-aways from the conference.

  • Students need feedback on their ePortfolios, and that feedback might be from both you and the student’s classmates.  Put students together in peer review groups, ask them to tell their peer reviewers what they would like to receive feedback on (to mitigate worries about unsolicited advice), and make a habit of offering more positive feedback than critical. (session with Wende Garrison)
  • ePortfolios are seen as valuable for purposes of assessment at a variety of levels, but be sure to always bring it back to the student. Student-centered assessment for ePortfolios will keep student learning, not the institution, at the forefront. (session with Kathryne McConnell and C. Edward Watson)
  • Reflection, one of the core components of an ePortfolio, is connective (helps integrate experiences and knowledge), is systematic and disciplined (follows a pattern of description before analysis), makes use of social pedagogies (engaging authentic audiences), and provides opportunity to reflect on personal growth (including planning for the future). (session with Bret Eynon and Laura Gambino)

We look forward to working with these ideas to continue to improve our ePortfolio initiative.  If you are interested in requesting an ePortfolio for yourself or ePortfolios for your students, please request one on our ePortfolio tool page.

CNDLS Collaborates with Artist Joan Lederman

CNDLS has been collaborating with ceramic artist Joan Lederman, and will be bringing her and her art to the Georgetown University campus. CNDLS will feature Lederman’s work at the Spagnuolo Gallery in Walsh beginning in January. During this exhibit, Lederman will meet with CNDLS staff, university faculty, and students to talk about her work and how it informs education.

Through the conception and presentation of her art, Lederman’s work integrates art, science, history, and technology. As a result, her work not only embodies many concepts at the center of CNDLS’ philosophy but also presents an opportunity for CNDLS to explore ideas about teaching and learning.

To create her ceramic art, Lederman uses ocean floor sediments brought to her by scientific researchers from places all over the world. After she molds this mud, she fires it in a natural gas-fired kiln.

The aesthetic result of her work holds valuable scientific meaning. To make sense of how her art functions scientifically, Lederman uses maps, graphs, and tables to record her findings. As a result, she has been able to make clear connections between aesthetic patterns and the sediments used.

Lederman supports an open-minded approach to art through her creative conjoining of the often separated spheres of art and science. The mud that she uses brings with it stories of time and place, and the way that these stories manifest visually remain unknown until after the mud has been fired in the kiln.

To deal with this uncertainty, Lederman uses a trial and error method. However, Lederman notes that when the trial produces an erroneous result (or when the result does not coincide with the expected result), there is still value in it. By recognizing that unexpected results are still productive, she replaces disappointment with the excitement that comes with learning opportunities.

CNDLS sees Lederman’s work as invaluable to teaching and learning concepts. As physical objects, the pieces represent theories of integrative learning. They show how art functions as a science and how science can benefit from art. As an artist, Lederman encourages an optimistic attitude towards learning. She reminds us to appreciate chaos and to find beauty in unexpected places.

To learn more about Joan Lederman and her work, visit her site The Soft Earth.

Diana Sinton Enhances Teaching and Learning Practices with Digital Mapping Approaches

On Monday, November 7, Professor Diana Sinton, the Director of Spatial Curriculum and Research at the University of Redlands, came to Georgetown University to speak about the way in which scholars and students in higher education can integrate mapping tools and GIS software within their research and class projects. Sinton described four approaches to designing mapping projects in higher education:

  • (i.) maps as organizational templates, points, lines, and areas displayed in their “true” geographic space;
  • (ii.) maps as a tool for spatial analysis, not just their graphic representations, but a focus on measured and descriptive characteristics;
  • (iii.) maps as metaphors for organization and navigation;
  • (iv.) graphs and charts that display geographic data with alternative representations of space.

For learning and scholarship to be enhanced by these strategies, however, Sinton urged scholars to create a foundational set of critical research questions before choosing the mapping approach and software for their particular research projects.

i. Maps as organization templates: Is your research question a “what” or “where” question?

The use of maps as organizational templates is one of the most common approaches used by scholars. This method identifies where and what a particular phenomenon is by superimposing visual and quantifiable data over geographical templates, most commonly with GoogleMaps; this method is also known as a Google Mashup.

Invisible Citites, Food Resources Mapping Project

At Trinity College, a group of first year students in the course “Invisible Cities” used an organizational template approach to map food resources, historical sites, youth hangouts, and educational resources in the Hartford community using GoogleMaps markers. This approach let new students explore the city’s resources, as well as helping them understand the spatial layout of the city using a familiar platform.

Similarly, foreign language classes at Fairfield University are now requiring students to explore and annotate maps in a foreign language to prepare for their study abroad sessions. In Diana Sinton and Jenni Lund’s book, Understanding Place: GIS and Mapping Across the Curriculum, Goldfield and Kurt Schlichting, professors in the  French department at Fairfield University, wrote a chapter titled, “Foreign language and Sociology: Exploring French Society and culture,” which highlights the way GIS can support foreign language study.

Organizational templates can also be used for social justice and  humanitarian causes. For example, provides open source mapping services to users interested in supporting “effective early warnings for rapid response to complex humanitarian emergencies” (Crisis Mappers Network). The Libya Crisis Map was launched in April 2011 by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The map geo-locates reports on armed confrontations, attacks on protected persons, needs, and more.

Libya Crisis Map, Created by the OCHA

Organizational templates can also used for more advanced purposes, such as cultural and historical analysis. The University of Sydney’s history project, Digital Harlem, is a map that contains cultural and qualitative meta-data gathered from legal records, newspapers, and archives and historical maps between 1915-1930. The user can use the search tool on the side of the map to look for specific information about events (e.g. dance, baseball games, arrests, etc.), people, and places in Harlem. Professor Stephan Robertson, one of the creators of the project said, “I had a longstanding curiosity about doing something with online mapping, and since we were studying place, it seemed like an opportunity to see what was possible.” The project was formulated in the Department of History at the University of Sydney, and the Technical work was implemented by the Archaeological Computing Laboratory (ACL), at the University of Sydney. Sinton noted that it is essential to collaborate with a mapping specialist in order to help guide the technical side of the project. In all of these examples, Sinton highlighted that the organizational template is mainly used to identify the location of phenomena in the world using real world geographic data. The Digital Harlem mapping project gets closer to asking why objects are in a particular space, but the mapping approach for spatial analysis is a tool used to better answer this question.

Digital Harlem Mapping Project, created at the University of Sydney

Digital Harlem Mapping Project, created at the University of Sydney

ii. Maps as Spatial Analysis: Asking Why?

Spatial analysis considers the measured and descriptive characteristics of a map.  Professor Ann Knowles in the Geography department at Middlebury College, started a project called, “Visualizing Gettysburg.” Knowles started her mapping project with a question:  What would the confederate general Robert E. Lee actually see during the battle of Gettysburg? Knowles and her students created a view shed of General Lee’s position from a “point 75 feet above the terrain — the distance from the ground to the cupola floor plus Lee’s eye-level standing in his boots.”

A Habitat for Humanity map, created by Professor Christine Drennon in the Urban studies department at Trinity University, explores and analyzes how the spatial layout of historical habitats, such a museums and national historic landmarks in San Antonio, impact the flow and structure of communities.

iii. Maps  as a metaphors for organization and navigation.

Maps as metaphors highlight the way in which humans have become naturalized to use the Google navigations tools (e.g. zoom, Google Street View) on a daily basis. Google navigation tools are now used in fractal visualization and online art gallery tours to help guide the viewer through non-geographic space. For example, Google is now powering an Art Project that explores museum space on the Internet (Figure 5). This project underscores how “pervasive” google tools have become in our everyday lives and how easily they can be used in teaching and learning practices.

Online Art Tours use Google Navigation



iv. Graphs and Charts that display geographic data but with no pretense of using “True” geographical space.

To exemplify this method, Sinton used the “Obesity Epidemic Graph” map. This map shows the lowest obesity rates to highest obesity rates in the United States using T-shirt symbols, rather than using the states geographic visualization with GoogleMaps. Graphs and charts are great ways for students and scholars to explore alternative visualizations of geographic data in an aesthetically pleasing interface.

Obesity Map in United States, Substitute Geographic Data with Graphic Symbol



Historically, GIS tools have been used for capturing space, but as Sinton’s examples demonstrate, scholars can now explore new ways to add cultural data to spatial tools to capture the essence of place. In closing, Diana Sinton demonstrated useful teaching strategies in GIS, such as the power of side by side comparisons and the benefits of generating familiar frames of reference using maps. Sinton also urged her audience to think critically about mapping data.  As more and more mapping projects are launched, scholars need to question the accuracy and consider the source of the data. Lastly, there are many rationales for incorporating GIS into higher education, ranging from helping students compete in the marketplace to its useful and rich insights for teaching and learning practices, but it is important to establish a research question and a team of GIS specialists before a project can begin.  Many higher education institutions across the United States have created centers for spatial learning:

  1. Stanford University, The Spatial History Project
  2. University of Pennsylvania, Mapping Dubois Project
  3. Yale University, Map Collection.
  4. University of Redlands, Spatial Literacy Program

The Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship (CNDLS) was fortunate to have the opportunity to bring Sinton to speak. CNDLS staff members are currently gathering resources and working toward being able to support a wide range of GIS projects for teaching and research, in partnership with the Gelardin New Media Center.

For information about Spatial Literacy follow Professor Diana Sinton on Twitter and check out her blog, diana maps.

Social Pedagogies in the Chronicle

In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Derek Bruff, acting director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University, discusses social pedagogies. (You may remember Derek from his two talks about clickers last semester at Georgetown.) Drawing on a definition of social pedagogies developed by Randy Bass and Heidi Elmendorf, Derek emphasizes the importance of having students write for “authentic audiences.” In his own cryptography course, that meant assigning students to post their papers on the public course blog, where one student was surprised to receive a detailed comment from a researcher he had cited in his paper.

Derek cites a number of examples of social pedagogies facilitated by online tools, including a project that Georgetown professor Sarah Stiles developed in partnership with CNDLS’s TLT team for her sociology course this summer. She asked her students to use the presentation tool Prezi to create collaborative concept maps showing the relationships among characters in an ethnography over time. You can read more about her project here.

You can read more about Randy and Heidi’s work with social pedagogies here.

Doyle Course Explores History of Witches

Astrid Weigert (German) and her students don’t just think about witches on Halloween — they spend a semester examining the portrayal of witches in literature and film as well as the history of  witches. As a Doyle Faculty Fellow, Astrid has redesigned the humanities and writing course to incorporate issues of inclusion and difference. To read more about the Doyle Engaging Difference Initiative, please visit the Doyle website. You can read a Georgetown news story about Astrid’s course here.

Experimenting with pedagogy is not new to Astrid; she previously worked with CNDLS to incorporate a Georgetown Commons blog into the Witches course in order to develop students’ writing skills. You can read more about how she used the course blog in this Teaching Commons example.

Happy Halloween!

Copyright in the News

A current Supreme Court case that raises questions about copyright could have important implications for academia. The case, Golan v. Holder, emerged from a conductor’s struggle to secure the rights for his university orchestra to perform certain musical works, but the ruling will have ramifications for many types of media, affecting not only universities but also archives, museums, and libraries. Researchers could suddenly find that source materials previously in the public domain are under copyright protection, restricting how they can be accessed, used, and shared.

This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education provides useful background on the case, while this article summarizes recent activity at the Supreme Court. The Washington Post also reported on the case.

Our “Digital Anxieties” event on October 24 will explore questions about how copyright laws play out in teaching, learning, and research. Please join us to discuss common faculty scenarios as well as your own questions!