January 2011 Archives

William Schreyer

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We unfortunately heard the news yesterday that William Schreyer, for whom the Schreyer Institute is named, passed away earlier this week.  An incredibly generous alum, Mr. Schreyer supported many Penn State students.  In some instances the support came through gifts to Institutes such as ours, as well as the Schreyer Honors College.  In other instances, the support was more direct, as Mr. Schreyer provided several scholarships as well as mentoring for students hoping to land a career on Wall Street.

Penn State will certainly miss the enthusiasm, guidance, and many other elements that William Schreyer contributed to our University.

Show & Tell: Using Visual Thinking in the Classroom

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Today I came across a blog post by Derek Bruff at Vanderbilt University. He posted a fantastic prezi (naturally) on the various ways educators can and have incorporated visual thinking in the classroom. In addition to creating a visually-appealing presentation, he includes plenty of links to explore the stories included. Plan some time to explore it! 

Here's a link to the post. Enjoy!


Intriguing article about the benefits of tests

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The New York Times has an interesting story about a study reported in the journal Science. Students were first asked to read a text. Some of the students then took a test (an essay/recall task) about the reading; those students had better recall a week later than students who crammed or students who drew concept maps about the text.

So it's possible we should be giving low-stakes tests more often, at least when recall is the goal. Any thoughts?

The article is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/science/21memory.html

Gamers, society, and problem-solving

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An article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, The Game of Life, about Jane McGonigal who "says that gamers, with their exceptional ability to collaborate, can learn to solve problems like poverty, climate change, a failed education system, and much else." 

Interesting idea.

Is the gaming population becoming more diverse than it used to be?

Creating teams for your course

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I talked last semester with a few graduate students regarding various methods for creating teams in a course.  Depending on your goals, using a random method (count off by 2's, random team generator in ANGEL, etc) might be adequate.  But if you are putting students in teams for semester-long, complex assignments you might want to have a method in place for creating teams that gives each team the best possible chance of success.

One method for doing this is a self assessment. I'm teaching a course this semester that is cross-listed over three departments and involves multiple team assignments.  Each deliverable emphasizes a slightly different skill set.  Before the semester began, I created a survey in ANGEL using the survey tool, and simply called it a self-assessment.  The survey is less than 10 questions, asking students to rank their understanding of certain concepts on a likert scale, as well as an open ended question, where students can report specific software packages they use that apply to the broader concepts of the course. 

Now, going into Day 2 of class, I am confident students are in teams where each team member brings something important and valuable to the table.  Each team contains personnel with knowledge in each concept area, and I was able to put at least 2 students together (per team) that had similar experiences with a specific software package.

All of this took about an hour (creating the assessment and then reviewing answers and creating teams). In a situation where teams are expected to tackle complex, semester-long assignments, you might want to think about using a method similar to this in an effort to create an environment where each team has the personnel and knowledge to succeed.

T, R, Smartphones, & Apps?

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An interesting technology article in The Chronicle, "6 Top Smartphone Apps to Improve Teaching, Research, and Your Life."  It describes some simple uses such as taking a picture of a whiteboard, but also more complicated apps that take attendance or allow "mind mapping."

I wonder what apps Penn State faculty are using to improve teaching and research.

An article in The Chronicle's Wired Campus section "Online Game Teaches Citation Skills" tells about a game (BiblioBouts) developed by some University of Michigan faculty. 

It would be interesting to track this project, which the developers say they hope to make more widely available in future--it would be a great tool for faculty involved in the various First Year Experiences at Penn State.

Online course growth

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I was going to leave this in the comment of Angela's post about Sloan's recent report, but I thought it warranted a new entry.  I spent some time parsing through the data, and found a few interesting statistics.

First, an interesting comparison of online vs. face-to-face enrollments.
  • From 2002 to 2009, the overall growth of the student body at institutions has increased less than 2%.
  • During this same time period, the number of students taking at least one online course grew 19%.
In 2002 through to 2009, Online enrollments as a percent of total enrollments grew from 9.6% to 29.3%, a staggering growth!

As I work through Penn State's online course data from Fall 2008 through Spring 2010 (4 semesters), I'm curious if the data will mirror Sloan's report data.  A preliminary run at Penn State's data indicates:
  • The number of online courses grew 52%
  • The Number of blended courses grew over 3,000%!
Now, this might be due to a problem in record keeping, as the data warehouse only indicated 4 blended courses offered in Fall 2008.  Or...this could be due to a lack of Colleges identifying courses as 'blended' in 2008, even if the course was a mix of online and traditional instruction. 

Still...the numbers are eye opening, and I'm excited to continue exploring this data.


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