Update from Team Nancy

The members of Nancy’s team (Barrinton, Brian, Josie, and I, plus of course Nancy herself) met last week to plan for the coming semester.

Throughout the semester, Nancy has her students take part in simulations, where they play the roles of nurses and parents in pediatric care scenarios. Her plan is to film the sessions, post the videos online, and have the students respond to prompts on a Blackboard discussion board. The challenges for this project included some technical issues — e.g. camera angles and video storage — and pedagogical issues — e.g. maintaining student privacy and eliciting meaningful reflection from the students. (More background on her project and its challenges can be found in this update from last semester.)

After some meetings and experimentation last semester, Nancy settled on Blackboard as the best place to store the simulation videos. There were two main reasons for this:

  • Blackboard makes it easy for Nancy to keep the students in their simulation groups, since they register for for separate sections of the course as their sim groups. This ensures that students won’t be able to view videos from other groups. This is important to maintain student privacy, which is especially crucial in this context as students sometimes make errors in the simulation scenarios. (Nancy will also ask students to sign an agreement stating that they will not disseminate or share the videos with others.)
  • On Blackboard, Nancy can embed the video in the discussion board, making it easy for students to respond to the reflection prompts in the same environment where they are viewing the videos.

Nancy was able to pilot this system with her class last semester. After some initial difficulties with video conversion, she and Justin Owen (Director of Medical Technologies at NHS) have worked out a few kinks and are all set for recording. (One lesson learned: it’s better to stop and start the recording for each group rather than letting the camera run and editing the video later!)

Nancy developed her reflection prompts based in part on a rubric she found that was designed for clinical situations. (To read more about this, see this entry on her blog.) In her pilot last semester, she found that the prompts worked well overall, though she did discover that students found one of the questions to be redundant, so she’s planning to revise that.

Nancy plans to comment on the students’ posts, though she’s not quite sure yet how she will keep up with the volume of posts. One possibility might be to involve graduate students from a nursing education class as mentors who could comment on the discussion board.

Now that she’s ready to put the plan in place, Nancy’s also thinking about assessment. She is considering a survey or focus group, if time allows. Her team will consult with Mindy McWilliams for some ideas on how best to gather student feedback on the project.

Another challenge lies ahead – how to scale up this project for the summer version of this class, which enrolls almost twice as many students. So Nancy and her team have been careful to streamline the workflow as much as possible.

All in all, Nancy made great use of her planning time last semester and is ready to go! The first simulation will take place in early February, so look for an update soon.



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A note about comments from spammers

Recently, Betsy notified us that she was getting some spam comments on her blog and we thought this might be a good opportunity to remind everyone about how to address this issue. The Georgetown Commons is generally well protected against spam but new accounts get created all the time so it is important to mark these comments as spam. This will allow the system to “learn” about these new accounts and will automatically start marking it as spam.

You can mark comments as spam by simply going to the Comments page in the administrative section of your ePortfolio. Once you are on the page, you will see a list of comments. If you hover over the comment in question, you should get options like the ones shown in the image below.

Click on the “spam” option and the comment will get classified under the spam section. Since all your ePortfolios are public ePortfolios anyone can comment. If you’d like to change this setting you can do so by going to the “Comment Policy” page which is a sub page of the “Settings” page and choosing the option that says only members of the blog can comment. Here is a link which provides a detailed description about the comment options that are available to our users.

You might also receive email notification whenever you receive a comment, you can turn off this option if you don’t want these emails. This option can be found in the “Discussion” page under the “Settings” page (see image below).

I hope this will help you address some of the spam problems that you might have been seeing on your portfolio.

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Update from Team Matt

I recently had a chance to catch up with Philosophy professor Matt Burstein to learn about his plans for his Spring 2012 class, “Ethics: Technologies of the Self.” In addition to that course, Matt is also leading the Philosophy Department’s Third Year Seminar, an effort to provide an online space for PhD candidates to chronicle and share their experiences transitioning from classroom work to the process of dissertation writing.

Third Year Seminar

To approach the challenge of providing students the bilateral structure of private reflection space and sharing channel, we borrowed a bit from the hub-and-spoke model of MAENGL. Each participant of the seminar will maintain:

  • A blog, private to participants only and includes links to other participants’ Seminar blogs.
  • Third Year Seminar Blog

    Screenshot of Matt's 3rd Year Seminar blog

  • A Hub membership, allowing everyone to notify others of updates to their personal blogs, and to share any relevant news/resources.
  • Third Year Seminar Hub

    Screenshot of Third Year Seminar Hub

The Third Year Seminar blub (blog + hub) launched this week (November 15), and students were prepared with savvy questions. I thought they would be worth going over in case anyone runs into them again:

  • Q: How much storage space does each blog come with?

    A: Each blog allows 250MB for media storage. We recommend that students host large multimedia (photos, videos, audio) files on sites like YouTube or Vimeo, and either embed or link from those sites.

  • Q: What sort of backups do you keep of the blogs?

    A: We run daily backups. Additionally, we’re on the UIS backup system.

  • Q: How permanent is the install? How long will we have access to our blogs?

    A: After graduation, students may not be able to log in with their netIDs. However, we can set up local user accounts with a non-Georgetown email address that can be used to log in. There’s also the option of exporting the content of their blogs to an external site.

I’ll report more on the blub experiment as the Seminar progresses.

Ethics: Technologies of Self

According to Matt’s description, this course will “…look at the philosophical and ethical implications of various “technologies of the self” — that is, the various methods of intervening on a body so as to make or enhance a person. We will cover topics such as the ethics of enhancement technologies, reprogenetics, trans/posthumanism, artificial intelligence, and doping in athletics.”

Matt and I brainstormed ideas for the course, focusing on both required utilities (i.e., reflection, collection) and technologies that are responses to the course material itself.

For example, students will be asked to think about what constitutes a technological enhancement to humanness. It brought to mind an idea raised during a conference session I recently attended on the topic of designing for mobile devices.

A panel member described research that indicates a growing number of people go to bed with their smartphones or tablets, often being the last thing they look at before going to sleep and the first thing they check in the morning.

The widespread adoption of (and some would argue reliance on) mobile technology raises opportunities for creative course implementation. While brainstorming, we considered:

  • The percentage of students with smartphones is impossible to predict, but there’s a strong chance that almost all will have phones with text capability. Is there a way we can incorporate SMS into assignments?
  • As many of the topics covered in this course see constant and rapid changes, what’s the “best” way to keep track of changes? Specifically, would a wiki be the best way to collect a running glossary of terms/concepts? Further, what about Wikipedia as a space to not only track current states of these ideas, but contribute to public knowledge of these topics?

We’re thinking on it, and will continue to search for ideas. If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

A friendly reminder to our TLT Fellows

As assessment is a critical component of the Fellowship, we ask that our Fellows gather data from students regarding their experiences before the end-of-semester rush. The suggested deadline is November 30th for launching your survey, as classes end on December 7th.

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Twitter as a resource collection tool

Recently, Susan Pennestri shared a link from Derek Bruff’s blog that detailed how he handled his role as “Twitter team coordinator” for the POD Network/HBCU Faculty Development joint conference,

Derek provided valuable insight into the process of using Twitter as a conference backchannel, and even packaged the lessons in an embedded YouTube video.

The information could be extremely valuable to conference planners interested in using Twitter during their next event and well worth a read.

I wanted to focus attention, however, on an interesting artifact from the conference: a list of the most frequently shared links during the event.

A collection of attendees’ sentiments gathered from their Twitter posts can be an important metric of the successes/failures of an event, and should be recorded. Of even greater immediate value are the links shared through a common hashtag, a practice which provides a wealth of resources that might otherwise remain scattered.

Below is a list of the resources shared during the 2011 POD/HBCUFDN Conference…let us know in the comments if you’re interested in exploring any in more detail!

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Team Betsy Goes Google Fusion

Betsy has recently created an assignment worksheet, “Using Google Fusion Tables to Explore Data Visualization,” for her students. The worksheet asks the students to explore public data tables and consider the various ways in which the data could be organized, filtered, aggregated, and visualized (e.g. Intensity Map or Line Chart). The students are required to consider the implications and impacts a particular visualization will have on a viewer as well as the data itself. How does a particular visualization change the way a reader understands the data? Is it meaningful? How effective is it?

After exploring Google Fusion’s capabilities, the students will begin to upload their own data and begin to map!


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Update from Team Dana

For her TLT project, Dana Luciano is integrating blogs and ePortfolios into Contexts for the Study of Sexuality, ENGL-319/WGST-204. She is also hoping to integrate a Wiki into the course. Dana was interested in incorporating these technologies in order to increase student engagement with the field of Queer Cultural Theory. Because her students have such varying levels of experience in studying gender and sexuality, some students are less comfortable than others during class discussions; Dana hopes that blogs, ePortfolios, and a class Wiki will help foster active participation in these difficult discussions. Her other goal was to encourage students to learn from one another and work effectively in groups.

Dana has used blogs in previous classes, and has found that they have worked to increase student engagement with the topics of the class. They also provide a sense of lightheartedness that helps keep the class fun. Dana has introduced the class to the blog and she reports that they are responding with interest. One challenge that Dana faced was her uncertainty about evaluating student blog posts. In response to her request, team Dana put together a list of resources for developing and assessing blog and twitter assignments: (https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/blog/archives/771)

Dana is using ePortfolios as spaces for students to put their research and post their papers, including their final projects. In addition to helping students trace the trajectory of their learning, the ePortfolios will also be a space for students to read and comment on one another’s papers. This will encourage students to provide helpful feedback, incorporate one another’s feedback on the next paper, and learn from one another. Dana was looking for ideas to encourage students to write productive comments about one another’s papers, and we sent her a sample of a rubric that she can give students to help them comment on one another’s work more effectively.

Dana envisioned the Wiki as part of an assignment in which students generate definitions to words that the class has identified as keywords in American and gender studies. Students will choose the keywords that most interest them, and they will work in groups to research and come up with multiple definitions to a keyword. This assignment was based on Raymond Williams’ book Keywords, in which he discusses the evolving meanings of key words we use to understand our society. Team Dana has set up the Wiki and given Dana a tutorial, but because she is new to Wikis, she still has some reservations about providing technical support to her students. She will introduce this assignment to her class in November, and her team will be standing by to provide support.

That’s all the news for now! Team Dana will keep checking in, and we will let you know how the blogs, ePortfolios, and Wiki pan out as the semester continues to unfold.

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For ePortfolios, Digication or WordPress?

Now that we have two different platforms available to answer your ePortfolio needs, I’d like to set up a few need scenarios showcasing the pluses and minuses of each tool.  I’m not sure how many of you are considering ePortfolios for next semester, but in case you are, a few thoughts on the different tools we offer!

I want my students to put together an exhibit of their best work as they look to enter their new field.  Employers will be looking for a very particular set of accomplishments and credentials. For this scenario, you might prefer to use Digication, which lends itself well to highly structured formats.  Digication allows the instructor to create a replicable “template” that, when (uploaded by CNDLS and) selected by other students, will fill the ePortfolio automatically with pre-determined pages and sections.

When it comes to choosing an ePortfolio tool, I am most concerned about my students’ ability to make connections among learning experiences.  This means that they will be doing a lot of writing, and it would be nice if they could link back and forth from one thing to another. Either tool could serve this purpose.  If this instructor sees the students doing plenty of linking from page to page, then a new feature in WordPress might help– WordPress now offers the option to “link to existing content,” meaning that users do not need to insert the URL of the page in the link box; instead, they need only select the page they want from a drop-down menu.  Digication does not offer this feature.  However, when it comes to writing reflections more generally, both tools offer the necessary text tools.

I’m thinking I want my students to walk away from this project with a take-away that they can show their employers.  Their ePortfolio should have some appeal that extends beyond the academy, because most of them will be going into industry or NGOs. WordPress is strong on customizability, and two WordPress blogs can look so different that one might not otherwise know that they are using the same tool.  Digication offers minimal customization (header can be changed).  If visual creativity is a big component of your ePortfolio assignment, WordPress is a better fit.  In the case of either tool, please keep in mind that students must make the ePortfolio public before sharing with viewers outside Georgetown University.

I think building an ePortfolio would be a great assignment for my students.  However, I have 68 students in my class, and I don’t have time to scour 68 differently organized portfolios for the artifacts and writings I will be assessing. Like I mention in scenario #1, Digication allows the upload of customized templates that pre-populate pages and other organizing structures.  Students who select a custom template are not prohibited from adding their own pages, but the overall consistency in setup would make it much easier to review portions of or entire ePortfolios en masse.

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Update from Team Betsy

As part of her TLT project Betsy Sigman decided to redesign the OPIM 257 course she teaches. In addition to serving as a broad introduction to the field of databases, OPIM 257 (Development and Management of Databases) serves to give the OPIM (Operations and Information Management) majors an introduction to technologies that are important for them to be exposed to before they go into the work world.

Betsy is using a few new applications to enhance the database course. Team MSB (made up of Marie, Susan and Betsy) has been busy getting students up-to-speed on some of these tools, which include Google+, Dipity and Zotero.


One of the first changes Betsy wanted to implement was to have a back channel for the course. This would be a space where students can share interesting links with each other and also post questions/comments on the material covered during class. After some initial discussions, it seemed that Twitter and Google+ were the big contenders and the final decision was to go with Google+. It just seemed a better space to create a community. The “Circle” feature allowed us to create a  “OPIM 257” course and updates shared in this circle would only get to members of this circle. This allowed students to continue using Google+ for other purposes without worrying about unnecessary updates to the “OPIM 257” Circle. Betsy has a written up an excellent blog post on how to create a circle with multiple users. This is very useful if you are looking to use Google+ in the classroom, as the instructor you can just create the circle using Betsy’s method and then “share” the circle with your students. Also, here is a link to some of Google+’s new features.

Zotero and Dipity

For their first assignment, students will need to do some research on the history of database technologies or database infrastructure changes in companies. The goal is for them to understand the past and also think about how it relates to the current scenario and future directions. They are using Zotero and Dipity to complete this assignment. Zotero will be their primary research tool where they will be collecting and organizing their sources and the Dipity timeline will be the final product. Some of the things that we are trying to get at are for students to explain their decision on why they chose to display a particular “event” on the timeline. This particular assignment also gives them the opportunity to think about the data they are presenting (albeit in a particular format).

On September 29th, Susan and I visited Betsy’s class and presented Zotero and Dipity to the students. After the initial presentation we gave them some time to use these tools in combination. A lot of the students were able to get set up and they started their work. This assignment is due on October 13th, so we are looking forward to hearing about their experiences.

We’re off to a great start! Stay tuned to see some of their completed work and also get some information on the next assignment.

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Update From Team Diane!

Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, Speical Collections, Gelardin Media Center and the TLT team are hard at work making OMEKA exhibitions and a timeline for CATH118: Mary & the Catholic Imagination.

New Progress: So far Diane and her class have broken out six working groups; one is making a time line of the major events in Marian theology, church history, music, and imagery and 5 are making OMEKA exhibitions of images of Mary in the GU Art Collection (1), on the GU Campus (2),  in Medieval Books (3), in Illustrated Bibles (4), and in 19th-century American Books & Paintings (5) respectively. Kelsey at CNDLS has put together an illustrated instructional guide on how to use OMEKA, and all the students have all had OMEKA accounts created for them.

Some Logistics: Ten images of Mary will be selected for each team to work with. The students will be responsible for the actual selection of the images to be used in coordination with both the appropriate curator from Special Collections and Diane. The students will then work to the digitize of these images with the support or by the staff of the Gelardin Media Center. As they are doing this they will also be researching of the following aspects of the image: how and why it is at Georgetown, its origin (style of book, its function, etc.), and its iconography (symbolism, Marian theology, historical significance). Students will use this research to write informative entries to be presented alongside the digitized images on the OMEKA virtual exhibition.

Next Steps: Students should be submitting their selections to Diane today for approval and then beginning their work digitizing these selections. In 2 weeks, the CNDLS staff will meet with the students in Dubin to remind them how to use OMEKA and troubleshoot with the class.

Future Possibilities: The team has come up with some great ideas that due to class size and time limitations are not be realisable this semester, but could make for great future TLT work if this class is taught again in the future, such as:

  • the development of audio-guides to the images of Mary on the Georgetown University campus including outdoor sculptures, works of art in campus buildings, and Dahlgren Chapel which can be accessed from smart phones or tablets by GU students, staff, parents, and alumni
  • print maps which will display the locations of the images of Mary on the GU campus.
  • a video documentary in which students would organize a mini-history of Mary throughout world religions by interviewing GU faculty and the Chaplains, and also find images relating to Mary in the larger spectrum of global religions.
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Team Sylvia Update

Charge! Sylvia Onder’s TLT work advances on multiple fronts. In her new “Anthropology, Colonialism, and Islam” course, students are using a blog to co-ordinate their collective work on both a Dipity timeline and on a Google map. Sylvia reports that her students are linking between the timeline and map and the blog, where their detailed entries are located. The resource they are creating for each other (and potentially, for outside audiences as well), will be a navigable storyline of intercultural interaction across much of the globe, from the 15th century to the present. Sylvia reports in her blog that one student had expressed reservations about blogging, but that by starting the process early on, the course would not favor more regular bloggers who may be more comfortable with the tools and the style(s) of writing involved.

The map is integrated right into the blog, using a WordPress plugin that we modified to make it easier to use. The timeline is accessed at dipity.com. This proved to be less fluid for Sylvia and her students, as they had to set up separate accounts, and she had to ‘follow’ them through her Dipity account. We searched for Dipity timeline plugins for WordPress, but as there are none currently available, we made an attempt to write our own. This requires some support from Dipity, which we are still working on getting. We’re looking forward to setting this up in the future, if there are interested faculty. Please contact me at CNDLS if you have an interest.

Sylvia had already started her Turkish language students on eportfolio blogs, and this year, she is working on extending eportfolio use throughout the Turkish curriculum. These should make a great example of eportfolios which show the development of language proficiency over time. The examples she has shown us so far also make good use of video and other media.

In Sylvia’s “Introduction to Medical Anthropology” course, she needs for students to be able to post with absolute anonymity. She hasn’t been able to achieve this using Blackboard, so we wrote another WordPress plugin for her. Using this plugin, when students assign a blog post to the “anonymous” category, the post does not get attributed to them but to “Anonymous User.” It would be very difficult to determine who the original poster was. Hopefully, this will give students the proper environment in which to make potentially sensitive, and useful, comments.

Perhaps the most exciting development in Sylvia’s work involves her growing collaboration with Gallaudet University, in a project that is coming to be called, “GU squared” (not to be confused with the “G squared” project between the GU Medical School and George Mason University). Sylvia’s students will be chatting live and asynchronously with a group of Gallaudet students addressing the notion of being ‘fixed’ by technology, and what that means for deaf culture. They will also take a trip to Gallaudet to meet each other and kick off the collaboration.

Also, under Paulina Maldonado’s direction, and with Ryan Walter’s video production and post-production skills, the CNDLS video team has already begun shooting footage of a Gallaudet production called, “Visible Impact,” directed by Susan Lynskey of Gallaudet. “Visible Impact” features original works by Gallaudet students and will premiere at Georgetown as the centerpiece of the DiverseABILITY Forum (Oct 21-23). Students involved in the production will be interviewed for the documentary piece, as well as students from Sylvia’s medical anthropology course. Two edited pieces are planned, both of which will share footage, ideas, and live and/or online discussions between the students and the performers around articles selected for the course.

We’re very excited about the great work moving forward and about helping Sylvia’s students to create meaningful resources about real issues.

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