Teaching with Information Technology—Winter 2007
For several years, Academic Computing and the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) have been teaming up each term to offer a Teaching with Information Technology luncheon, with three to five presenters demonstrating their use of information technology in support of teaching. These luncheons, affectionately known as TWITs, have proved to be quite popular. Participants enjoy the opportunity to learn from their colleagues, and often leave with new ideas for incorporating technology tools into their teaching practice. In fact, these sessions have proven so successful that we decided to bring TWITs to the web for general consumption—without the sandwiches, of course.
Using Clickers in the Classroom
For most instructors, engagement is a fundamental goal when standing in front of a class of students. One method for engaging students is to ask a question, and then count hands or invite responses. However, a show of hands only produces a small spike in student engagement, and responses only benefit those who respond. The goal of Audience Response Systems (ARS) is to use the question and answer format to encourage broader participation.
A typical ARS setup has two components: the instructor’s presentation slides and the students’ clickers. The slides contain the course materials, along with a spattering of question slides, each containing a question and a set of possible answers. A clicker is a small device that looks a bit like a remote control, and is connected, usually by infrared, to the instructor’s computer. Every student has a clicker, and, upon arriving at a question slide, the instructor pauses and asks students to register their responses using the clicker. Then their responses are tallied and displayed graphically.
In this session, Tom Jack from Biology demonstrates how clickers can be integrated into a classroom presentation, and discusses the benefits of using clickers, including their positive effect on student engagement and attendance.
Using a Tablet PC in the Classroom
For Ivy Schweitzer, Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies, engaging with a text requires a pencil. “For close reading, you need to get materially involved with the text,” says Schweitzer, and the process of circling, crossing out, connecting, and annotating is a way of actively interacting with a text. She was looking for a practical way to model the process of close reading to a classroom of students, and she found a solution in the Tablet PC.
A Tablet PC looks and acts like a laptop computer, but with one significant difference: the display screen is touch sensitive. You can work a Tablet PC using the standard mouse and keyboard, or by writing and tapping on the display screen using a digital pen. And it’s these touch screen capabilities that make the Tablet PC attractive as a tool for classroom instruction. In the physical classroom, chalkboards, whiteboards, and transparencies have long been used to allow instructors and students to collectively engage with course content. With a Tablet PC connected to the classroom projector, the instructor can display digital documents, such as images, slides, texts, web pages, and use the digital pen to mark up and annotate the materials during class. And unlike boards and transparencies, the Tablet PC allows students to walk away with the marked up materials, as the instructor can easily save and distribute them for study and review.
In this presentation, Schweitzer demonstrates how she uses the Tablet PC in class by displaying texts on screen and using the digital pen to model the process of close reading. Overall, she has found that the tool fits the task: “The Tablet PC lets me show students how I read a poem.”
Searching with the LibX Toolbar
The LibX Toolbar is a Firefox browser extension that provides easy access to catalogs, and that integrates direct access to licensed resources into the browsing experience. With LibX installed, you can enter keywords and search multiple catalogs, such as the Dartmouth College Library Catalog, Worldcat, Search360, Google Books, Amazon Books and Google Scholar, right from the toolbar. Additionally, you can select a word or phrase on a web page and initiate a search right from the highlighted text. Searching not only returns a list of possible matches, but also identifies which of those results are in the Library collection and provides direct access to those resources. For instance, say you find a book at Amazon and would like to know whether it is available at the Library. By selecting the ISBN number and choosing to search the Library catalog by ISBN, you can see right away whether the book is in the catalog, and whether it is available.
In this presentation, Susan Fliss, Director of Education and Outreach at the Library, shows how the LibX Toolbar makes searching more powerful and efficient, and demonstrates several of the search tools and catalogs available to help locate resources. Learn more about the LibX Toolbar at Dartmouth LibX Toolbar Extension for Firefox.
Online Radiology Case Studies
Tasked with finding a good place for radiology in the medical school curriculum, Petra Lewis, course director and professor of Radiology, first and foremost “wanted to teach students radiology when they needed it.” To that end, she developed an online course, called CORE for Case Orientated Radiology Education, which students take in their third year as they are engaged in clerkships. CORE is structured to allow students to study specific topics, such as pediatrics or surgery, while they are in that clerkship. The content of the course is conveyed using cases, which make the information more intuitive and easy to grasp. And while the course is focused on ensuring that students meet requirements and learn what they need to know, there are opportunities to explore topics in greater depth.
Lewis received a Venture Fund grant in 2004 to support her work on CORE. She built CORE using CASUS, a web-based authoring tool for case-based learning modules. The CASUS Course Manager tool allows her to quickly build cases that include text, images, links, and quizzes, and also to monitor student use of the modules. Overall, she has found that her students “really like CORE as a learning tool.”
Blogs for Language Instruction
Blogs are a combination of technology and editorial style. On the technology end, blogs are published using some sort of blogging application such as WordPress or MovableType, or through a web-based service such as Blogger or TypePad. These tools allow for easy publishing of text, images, and even time-based media such as audio and video. On the editorial end, blogs are generally styled like journals, and the blogger’s “voice” is often informal and idiosyncratic. Many blogs invite comments, allowing readers to engage in an online dialogue with the blogger and with other readers.
While blogs are normally thought of as a personal space, Mayumi Ishida from the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures saw a communal value. Three years ago she established a blog called “My Campus,” where her students post entries that describe buildings on campus—in Japanese, of course. In fact, the blog is hosted in Japan, so even the help files are in Japanese. Students are assigned to research a campus building, write a paper, and post the paper as a blog entry, as well as read and comment on their colleagues’ posts. They must also ask a Japanese person who is unfamiliar with the Dartmouth campus to read and comment on their blog entry.
In her TWIT presentation, Ishida demonstrates My Campus, shares her students’ reactions to the project, and discusses the pros and cons of using a blog in this manner.