Comments from previous Willoughby weeks

  • This week was probably the most informative and fun professional development session I have ever attended. I am enormously grateful!
  • I am very grateful to Pat, Andy, Jim, Brenda, Todd, and Ryan for delivering a fantastic 2012 Willoughby Institute Program. Thank you.
  • Excellent work - very glad I attended!
  • It was hard to pick out which sessions were most helpful. There were so many that were useful. I enjoyed most those that I could immediately apply to my teaching and research--and those that took in some "bigger picture" questions about what pedagogy and scholarship should *be*.
  • These are mostly the technologies that I can see myself using in the near future. All were presented well.
  • The program was very well thought-out and the timing every day was appropriate. Having all the information in Moodle is very helpful to review specific topics that I may include in my classes.
  • Every session, I believed, was delivered at the right level and hands on worked the best for me. I already use some of the tools presented in the sessions but iMovie, Podcasting, Prezi, Many Eyes, Imaging, Google Earth were fantastic sessions in my opinion. The final roundtable with Willoughby Alums was very enlightening session too.
  • These presentations were so valuable for my classes that I wanted to create examples right a way. May be with more time we could have done it. I am planing to use them in the near future.
  • I hope to use some of these techniques in my teaching and research talks. GapMinder and ManyEyes seem like they would be the first ones Id use.
  • I will definitely look into using gap minder (datasets and presentation tool) for teaching. I'm also interested in using SIMILE for a timeline I have in my research.
  • These were great examples, across the curriculum, on the various ways that video assignments would be useful. This session helped me to think about how I might incorporate a video assignment in one of my courses.
  • I learned the difference between PowerPoint and Prezi. This really changes my plans for class.
  • Jim's talk was one of the highlights of this week. I really like how he has clearly thought a lot about how to present the information to get people to see the value in using GIS technology. His use of the US map was brilliant. Most of us are so familar with it that once he started to overlay the spatial data our minds were cranking! This is a clever way of using students prior knowledge to anchor new concepts. It has been a long time since I have been that impressed with a presentation like that. Jim truly has a gift and our students are benefiting from it!
  • Most significant - how easy this is to do. Yes, I realize that a good podcast requires lots of planning and editing (and redoing), but the mechanics were not as complicated as I had thought they would be.
  • Podcasts. I will try to incorporate podcasts into my FYS this semester. This will replace a final paper. I never really realized how I could use a podcast in my classes. When I realized that the students create podcasts by first writing their script and then adding some creativity to it, I realized this would be just like assessing a writing assignment with some added content. There were a lot of these "Oh yeah" moments for me this past week. I am embarrassed to say. I really felt like I was not that technologically naive but I am. Better now though!
  • This session was one of the most helpful. The information on MOOCs was especially balanced and insightful.
  • I was most interested in the blogging and how I might incorporate it into my teaching.
  • I appreciate time to *try* something and then ask questions.
  • Delicious will be very useful for upper level research projects where students and I can share links.
  • I will incorporate storytelling as an option for students interested in this digital format, particularly Prezi.
  • I am interested in using googledocs to teach revision. Also, I want to think about how to incorporate google scholar effectively
  • Just the amazing multiplicity and usefulness of google docs.  It's terrific.


Date: January 20, 2011
To: Pat Pehlman, Director, Academic Technology
From: Michael Fratantuono, INBM and IS
Re: Follow on to participation in the Willoughby Fellowship

I have been casually asked a few times in the past weeks about the way that participating in the Willoughby Fellowship Program in the summer of 2009 has influenced my teaching.  I thought it might be helpful to provide a quick report, in order to stimulate some further conversation.

As a result of participating in the Program, I proposed a different kind of semester-long project for the students who would be taking my new 300-level elective course, “Crisis Then, Crisis Now,” which I was slated to teach in autumn 2009.   That is, instead of asking for a 12 to 15 page paper from teams of two, three, or four students, as I had been doing in “The Global Economy” for several semesters, I would instead ask small teams of students to create a digitally-recorded mini-lecture, using i-Movie as the platform.   In “Crisis Then, Crisis Now,” the lectures were due in the next to last week of the semester.  I asked all students to watch all the lectures that had been created by other teams.  I gave each team a chance to then come before the rest of the class for 20 minutes, to field questions and to serve as subject matter experts on the topic which they had investigated.

Simply speaking, I was pleased with the outcome, and subsequently have used the project in sections of “The Global Economy” in spring 2010 and autumn 2010.   By the third time around, I had a better sense of things.

In autumn 2010, on the very first day of the semester, I briefly described the project and told students they had to self-select into groups of two, three, or four.  By the second week, I expected each student to be in a team, and each team to have submitted to me a proposed topic for their lecture.   From there, I set up due dates for more focused statements of the topic and for a bibliography of sources.   At each step, I provided feedback:  I found that at the outset, I had to push the students very hard to narrow the scope of the project.

I should also note that the first time I proposed the project in “Crisis Then Crisis Now,” I had indicated the lecture should be fifteen minutes long.  One of the students mentioned this to another professor, who was experienced in video creation and accurately commented that I really did not know what I was asking for: fifteen minutes of video content would require an enormous effort on the part of the students.  The student reported back to me. I took the advice and revised my expectations to eight minutes.   As things turned out, some students in that first cohort found that eight minutes were too few, and asked if they could submit a ten minute presentation.  I said yes.  In autumn 2010, I again set an eight minute guideline, with permission to go over that by a minute of two if need be.

Andy Petrus has been a key part in all of this.  He has been very willing to provide a fifty minute introductory workshop about i-Movie to my students.  He reserves a room for my group, and I give up one of my class sessions to him.  We try to schedule this workshop in the third or fourth week of the semester.  In addition, Andy has created a pdf version of his workshop, along with other types of guidance about how to compress and submit files into the Moodle web-site for the course.  Andy also has been willing to meet with students in later phases of the project, as they begin to have technical questions.

During 2009-1010, I did not have a clear <em>a priori</em> sense of what would represent a quality lecture.  Of course, I knew that research and organization would be important.  But, I did not have any expectations of style points or command of technology.   Near the end of the autumn semester 2010, I drafted a framework [see Exhibit 1] that identified the margins I would consider during and my evaluation.  (I did not share the framework with my students beforehand—in the coming spring 2011 semester I will do so.)   I will also work on articulating some descriptors for each category that will help me to distinguish between different qualities of work—that is, to move toward a well developed rubric.

In autumn 2010, I was once again extremely pleased with the projects, and ended up assigning grades that ranged from B+ (87) to A+ (97).   All students on each team received the same grade.   The project counted as 18% of the final grade for the course, the same weight as that for each of four written exams.  (The final 10% of the course grade was based on my evaluation of class preparation and participation.)

In order to leverage the efforts of the students and to provide some incentive to all parties, I made the video lectures due on the final Monday of the semester.  Long before that—in fact when I first made the assignment—I told the students that one of the essay questions on the final exam would be as follows: “Choose any three of the lectures created by teams other than your own, summarize the content of those lectures, and explain the way the lectures connect to the larger themes of the course.”  When I graded the final exams, I created a spreadsheet and counted the number of times any single video lecture was chosen by other students as one of the three on which to report.  After I completed my grading, I sent a note to students indicating the lectures that had been most popular in their eyes and highest quality in my eyes.  [See Exhibit 2].

In order to eliminate last minute technical difficulties, about two weeks before the final due date, I asked students to engage in a dry-run submission of anything they had in hand.  I told them I would not be looking at content—the only purpose was to ensure that they understood the process.  One or two teams uncovered some glitches and with Andy’s help, were able to make appropriate adjustments.

Something I did not anticipate was that after only a few semesters, I would have a growing collection of mini-lectures.  In fact, for The Global Economy alone, I now have in hand more than 30 mini-lectures about a range of topics that have something to do with the changing structure and rising interdependence in the global system.  At least 10 of these are top-notch indeed.   I have posted all the lectures in my public folder on the Dickinson College P-drive, where they are available to members of the Dickinson community.

In spring 2011, as the semester unfolds, I will start posting those mini-lectures in the appropriate Moodle folders for my Global Economy course—thus, students taking the course will have illustrations of relevant concepts, events, and agents created by students from previous semesters.  I will use those, along with other source material, to stimulate class discussion.

In a very recent discussion, Andy Petrus recommended that in addition to having students submit into Moodle files which have been compressed due to space constraints, I should also have students submit uncompressed files into a private You-Tube Space.  Those uncompressed files will have higher resolution.  Furthermore, provided that a particular video lecture is of high quality and provided that the students have properly cited their source material, we might consider allowing the videos to be released to the public You-Tube space, where they could be accessed by viewers from across the globe.

As a relatively low-level technical suggestion, I mentioned to Andy that while students like overlaying music on the video images, I have found that at the conclusion of a video lecture, in many instances the sound track ends very suddenly, in the middle of a musical phrase.  That results in an abrupt and not very pleasing ending.  Thus, I wondered if students could instead overlay the final minutes of a sound track on their video lecture, so that the music comes to a conclusion at the same time as the lecture.

I have come to appreciate the project as a way to cultivate creativity.  I find that important for two reasons.  First, Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning objectives was recently re-conceptualized; when that occurred, “creativity” replaced “evaluation” at the apex of the pyramid.  Second, IBM released a report in 2010 called “Capitalizing on Complexity,” which among other things summarized the results of a survey administered to 1600 CEOs.  Perhaps not surprising given the name of the report, the CEOs indicated that their chief challenge was “complexity”; more provocative and to the point, they said that the most important skill for dealing with complexity was “creativity.”

I suggested to the students that a well-designed and executed video lecture might be a very nice thing to share with a prospective employer or internship advisor.  This thought might be of interest to folks in the Career Center.

In closing, I note that many students have told me that yes, the project involves a good bit of work, but yes, it is very rewarding, it represents a new skill set, and it is fun.