Ancillary fee anxiety

AnxietyCat Ancillary

Anxiety cat is anxious about ancillary fees

I had originally planned to write (and actually wrote a draft of) a post to explore my questions and concerns about asking students to pay for access to a web-based classroom response system (WBCRS henceforth), like Lecture Tools (now integrated into Echo 360), Top Hat, or Learning Catalytics. My major concern? These tools are basically ways to teach huge classes better, to bring in the interactivity and communication aspects difficult to achieve in the large class setting – kind of a “large class tax” on students. (I’ve used Lecture Tools for several terms – see my previous posts here, here, and here.)

 

I’d hoped to gain some clarity,  maybe spark some conversation with colleagues about the issues relating to using a WBCRS at a cost to students. As part of my thinking, I considered some of the other ancillary items we routinely ask students to purchase (i.e., not usually included in their tuition, but required for a course). I was originally thinking that a teaching tool is really different from a required textbook, dissection kit, safety glasses, or a lab coat. Now I’m not only concerned about the ethics/fairness of asking students to purchase licenses for a WBCRS, but also requiring textbooks and disposable lab coats! Read the rest of this entry »


Want to encourage people to live-tweet your event?

Portion of #MiMicrobe Twitter feed

Portion of #MiMicrobe Twitter feed

If you follow me on Twitter, you are probably well aware that I typically live-tweet conferences. (You can always filter out the hashtag if you get overwhelmed by the tweets!) I find it useful to go through the exercise of distilling important/interesting points, have an instant electronic record of my notes, and if I’m lucky, a tweet will spark discussions with other conference attendees or other people on Twitter.

Some conferences prohibit live-tweeting, but others encourage it.  (If in doubt, ask the conference organizers, or the conference presenter.) For conferences promoting live-tweeting, some have good uptake, and you’ll see several live-tweeters sharing different perspectives, and/or notes from different concurrent sessions. (Check out the #MiMicrobe twitter feed for an example.) Other times, there may be one or two lone tweeters … and it gets lonely being one of them!

If you do want to encourage conference participants to here are some tips I’d suggest for conference/meeting organizers to consider:

  1. Choose your hashtag carefully. It should not be too long (eating into that 140-character limit), and hopefully easy to remember. A more tricky thing is to avoid choosing a hashtag that is being used by another event. If you have to choose a hashtag some time before your event, it may not be possible to discover who else will use the same hashtag. In general, avoid hashtags that are too generic. If you are going to use the year in your hashtag (e.g., #myconf2016), a Twitter search on #myconf2015 might be a good idea.
  2. Recruit a few live-tweeters BEFORE your event. Having even a couple of individuals live-tweeting an event can encourage other people to join the conversation. These people should be familiar with Twitter ahead of the event – it’s tough to learn how to use a new tool AND live-tweet coherently.
  3. If there are sessions that take questions from the audience, consider allowing people to submit questions via Twitter. This will likely mean that you’ll need a volunteer to monitor the Twitter feed to pass along the questions, but may encourage people to ask questions who might be reluctant to go to the microphone. This could also open the discussion to people following the conference in other locations.
  4. Keep a “leaderboard” of your “top-live-tweeters” and show/share this throughout the meeting*. Gamification FTW! (There are tools that make this easy – e.g., https://www.hashtracking.com/ .)
  5. On your conference website, put a link to your hashtag on Twitter.
  6. Discuss social media with the conference presenters ahead of time, so that they can let the audience know if they prefer NOT to have their session (or portions of it) tweeted/shared beyond the event.

* People often assume that the person tapping away on their laptop or on their phone during a presentation is doing something unrelated to the event at hand. Not so for live-tweeters! They are very much engaged in the presentation. (No need for the stink-eye!) A shout out to live-tweeters can encourage them, and maybe make other people aware that there is a wider conversation going on.

What other suggestions do you have to support/encourage live-tweeting?


Tips from Tanya: Some points for students about technology in the classroom

I wrote this for my students (after Tamara Kelly and I facilitated a session on student devices in the classroom at the Western Conference on Science Education 2015) and am sharing it here, in hopes it may be of interest/use to others! Please note that my classroom policies about device use are specific to the courses I currently teach.

Almost everyone has a smartphone, laptop, tablet, or combination of these devices with them during their waking hours (and beyond, in some cases). There is huge potential for distraction using these devices – which is fine if you’re waiting in a long, boring line or on the bus, but can be problematic in the classroom*.

While a few profs ban these devices in their classes, I’m taking a different approach. In much of the world, including most work-places, these devices aren’t banned, and people are expected to be able to manage work/life and various distractions. That being said, I can understand why some instructors have different policies for their own classes.

Some of our in-class activities will make use of online resources, so I’ll encourage you to use them, if you wish to do so.  I’ll be using LectureTools, which allows me to ask you questions that you can answer on your device … and for you to ask me questions in the system (without raising your hand).

If you don’t want to use a device in our class, that’s fine! One way to avoid distraction is to keep these devices out of sight (and hearing), and I’m happy to support those who take this approach. There will be alternative activities for students who don’t use the in-class system.

If you do want to use your device(s) in class, there are some things to be aware of:

Read the rest of this entry »


BYOD … or bring me your questions! It’s all good.

 "The times they are a'changing" by brett jordan is licensed under CC BY.

Not an unusual view when you stand at the front of a lecture hall. Image credit: “The times they are a’changing” by brett jordan is licensed under CC BY. https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/1472187414/

About a year ago, I switched from using clickers in my classes to a web-based classroom response system (CRS) – Lecture Tools – where students bring their own internet-enabled devices (BYOD), as I’ve mentioned here before. After three terms, I am generally happy with the system as a replacement for clickers, and I’ll likely talk more about that later.

This is a rather rambly account of something small I tried that worked out. I’m hoping that it might be of use/interest to other folks (or, at least, maybe some of the references will be). Oh, and it has a bit of my philosophy on class attendance. (I’m sure you were curious!) Read the rest of this entry »


The tenacious myth of preferred learning styles

We care about addressing ALL LEARNING STYLES (real or imagined)!

We care about addressing ALL LEARNING STYLES (real or imagined)!

Learning styles (the idea we each have a preferred style, such as visual or auditory, and that those should be catered to for effective learning) are a myth. This shouldn’t need to be said again. Other people have said it well. (You can skip below for a list of references.)

But it’s a tenacious, popular myth. I understand how attractive the idea is … when I was a neophyte graduate student in a TA training workshop, I remember the satisfaction of completing a learning styles inventory (like this: http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/LSI/LSI.htm & this: http://www.learning-styles-online.com/inventory/ & this: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml & I really need to stop because this is just irritating me …) and figuring out that I was a “kinaesthetic” learner. Of course! Of course, I was a science grad student, and this made sense! We do experiments! I learn by doing! (I didn’t think about the fact that I could probably have found a rationale for being a “visual” learner …) It was an easy way for me to think about my learning! And to justify why I didn’t perform so well in some courses … those ones were not tailored to my learning style! (Woe to those poor nasal learners … )

That was back in 1994.

Now there is ample evidence that teaching towards preferred learning styles does not seem to actually help people learn. Even trying to reliably categorize people into preferred learning styles is fraught with issues. Meanwhile, many teachers/professors and students waste time and energy on this, efforts they could be directing elsewhere. (Check out the book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Brown, Roediger and McDaniel for a good overview of what we DO know about teaching/learning based on recent cognitive science research.)

Read the rest of this entry »


Experiential Food Education

In the last couple of days, my most popular tweets have involved science-y food items:

Protist pancakes by Nathan Shields - http://www.saipancakes.com/

Pancakes and picture by Nathan Shields  http://www.saipancakes.com/

plant cell pizza

Plant cell pizza! From: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/231794712045067230/ – Julie Newton

Both of these images were brought to my attention by a couple of the smart, young women I am lucky to know (Fatima and Renee), and judging from the number of favourites and re-tweets, the images seemed to be appreciated by many of the folks who follow me (and their followers). Food does seem to be a really good way to get people’s attention and engagement! Read the rest of this entry »


More evidence of benefits from increased course structure

Sarah L. Eddy and Kelly A. Hogan (2014) recently published a paper “Getting Under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work?”, a nice example of the next wave of discipline-based educational research (DBER) that goes beyond asking “Does active learning work?” to explore details of how active learning interventions actually work, and differential impacts on sub-populations of students. Here, Eddy and Hogan describe their results of a study based on the work led by Scott Freeman at the University of Washington (see Freeman et al. 2011, Haak et al. 2011).

Read the rest of this entry »


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