April 19th Provisions Session Summary: “Teaching Information Literacy in the Age of Google”

**The access the audio recording from the session, click here!**

Our last Provisions session of the Spring Semester explored the theme of” Teaching Information in the Age of Google.” Presenters shared previous experience with teaching courses dealing with literacy, and effective strategies for improving success for a diverse range of college students. An audience of approximately 35 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Steve Black, LibrarianCailin Brown, Department of Communications, and a joint presentation from Elizabeth Yanoff, Department of Teacher Education and Mary Lindner, Librarian. 

Steve Black from the Library kick started the session by presenting on “Information Literacy: An evolving perspective.” Steve first provided the audience with an overview of the new definition, standards, and framework for the evolving category of “Information Literacy.” Information literacy can be defined as “a cluster of interconnected core concepts, with flexible options for implementation, rather than a set of standards or learning outcomes, or any prescriptive enumeration of skills.” This new definition of information literacy is brand new, as it was just recently adopted in January. Steve stated that following the evolving definition, information literacy is now more difficult to assess in practice. Included in the new framework for information literacy are:

  • Threshold concepts, which are like “aha moments”
  • Authority, which is considered both constructed and contextual, as opposed to strictly peer reviewed articles
  • Information creation is a process and has value
  • Research should be inquiry based
  • Scholarship as conversation, meaning that students should contribute to the knowledge conversation
  • Searching as strategic exploration

Next to present was Cailin Brown from the Department of Communications. Cailin started off by explaining how she introduces the concept of journalism to her students. She discusses the elements of journalism and then asks her students, “why journalism?” Throughout the course, Cailin will take her students on a walk around the neighborhood, which allows them “to get up and get looking.” For the fall semester, she will take the students early on in the course, and for the spring semester this will happen towards the end (due to weather conditions). Exploring the surrounding neighborhood allows her students the opportunity to make connections between the college and community. In opposition of the “stranger danger” rule, Cailin encourages her students to strike conversation with strangers. Cailin stated that by simply asking one question, you can learn an abundance about an individual, as people are very willing to share information when asked. In addition to community experience, Cailin exposes her students to the legal aspect of journalism by working closely with a local lawyer, Bob Freeman. Bob Freeman assists Cailin in teaching her class how to access public information, such as fire records. In ending her presentation, Cailin shared these two examples of her students’ journalism work that is published on The Pine Hills Blog:

Cailin also shared the website, The Committee on Open Government, which provides additional  information on the freedom of information.

Lastly, Elizabeth Yanoff from the Department of Teacher Education and Mary Lindner from the Library presented on three different ways of examining information literacy. Elizabeth and Mary reiterated the new standards of information literacy, but focused on content area reading, disciplinary literacy, and new literacies.

1. Content area reading refers to before, during, and after processes of reading comprehension.  For this type of reading, K-12 educators typically use KWL charts, which allow the students to reflect on what they already know, what they want to know, and what they learn from the particular reading. For the ECE 230 course at the college, Elizabeth discussed how she requires her students to review and edit their writing. This process encourages her students to locate their topic sentences, reflect on how their ideas were developed, and create an appropriate conclusion. 

2. Disciplinary literacy focuses on skills that are discipline specific and inquiry based. Work in a specific discipline is able to be contextualized. Educators of a discipline are able to view writing as an objective and have specific skills that allow them to excel in their discipline. Educators must be aware that their speciality allows them to view literacy with a discipline specific lens.

3. New literacies refers to the new age of digital literacy. Mary spoke about the research that Donald Leu and his colleagues have done regarding the digital age. Leu and his colleagues found that researching information should be treated like problem-solving. This means that students should identify important questions, locate relevant information, critically evaluate information, synthesize the information, communicate effectively, and monitor/evaluate along the way. Florida Memory is an online platform where students can explore specific skills needed for online learning, such as audio and video. Mary and Elizabeth spoke about how this online resource shows students how to access information, how to narrow results, and how to navigate online websites. Other online resources that are utilized for information literacy include Wimba and ZOOM (which were mentioned in the previous session, “Teaching Online.”Elizabeth shared a recent example of how she utilized technology as an online learning platform when class was cancelled due to the snow conditions. For the missing class, Elizabeth required her students to complete an online WIKI, post on Pinterest, engage in an online discussion, and post on the blog.

Following the brief presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience. Here are a few points and observations that arose from the discussion:

  • There are an infinite number of stories to be written in journalism
  • There are connections across the themes of this session and the previous session about online learning
  • Suggestions to support learners across disciplines include:
    • Making more connections across work together as professors
    • All writing includes literacy skills, therefore all should teach information literacy
    • Professors should improve their communication and collaboration
    • Use the same “language” and ideas in all disciplines
  • Students are novices in their discipline and need to be taught how to prioritize information
    • Professors need to remember what it was like to be a novice, and be aware of how that can influence their work
  • How can we get support across discipline incorporated into the Liberal Education program?
  • How to get students from point A to point B?
    • Disperse information throughout the curriculum
  • How to encourage student inquiry but maintain boundaries?
    • This is a constant balancing act

March 22nd Provisions Session Summary: “Teaching Online”

To access the audio recording of the session, click here.

Our second Provisions session of the Spring Semester explored the theme of” Teaching Online.” Presenters shared previous experience with teaching courses online, and effective strategies for improving success for a diverse range of students. An audience of approximately 30 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Lily Shafer, Instructional DesignerSilvia Mejia, Department of World Languages and Cultures & Associate Professor of Spanish, and Daniel Nester, Associate Professor of English.

Lily Shafer, Instructional Designer, started off the session by emphazizing that the most important aspect of an online learning environment is the interactivity. There needs to be a balanced amount of teacher-student interaction. To be successful, online courses need a strong sense of instructor presence. Lily recommends that teachers should only give an opinion at the end of a discussion or to intervene to steer the discussion in a different direction. If a teacher intervenes early on, students will be less likely to challenge or have a different opinion on that particular concept. Lily also recommends that instructors deliver feedback as an accumulation of the whole class’ misconceptions and concepts that were understood well, in order to avoid singling out one student. A diverse set of online tools that are currently available for professors to access for their online courses are:

  • Discussion boards are a great, interactive tool on BlackBoard for:
    • Ice-breaker activities
    • Scavenger hunts
    • Debates
    • Peer evaluations
    • FAQ and Q&A pages
    • Creating an informal student community
  • Blogs are great online resources to share:
    • Research reports
    • Group projects
    • Writing assignments
    • Long-term status updates
  • Journals are great ways to maintain individual student-professor commnitcation because they allow students to:
    • Share private issues/problems
    • Reflect on their learning process
    • Express any concerns regarding the course work
    • Gain one-on-one feedback from the professor
  • Wiki’s are a useful tool for creating a collaborative space for students to share information, as well as giving students the opportunity to work together in a digital environment. Wiki’s can be used for many things, such as:
    • Group projects
    • A glossary of course terms
    • Peer evaluations
  • Voice threads are a great tool for building an online community
  • ZOOM– creates a face-face online conversation by including each student in the class using webcams

Second in line to present was Daniel Nester, Associate Professor of English, on “Building Online Community: Teaching Poetry In Performance Using WordPress, Facebook, Dropbox, and SoundCloud.” Dan teaches the English 218 course: Oral Interpretation of Literature. For this class, students are required to record their poetry performances and upload them to various media sites, such as SoundCloud, WordPress, Facebook, Dropbox, and YouTube. Dan also discussed how he uses many other “online features” for his course, such as video lectures, a teaching blog, a “secret” Facebook page only for his students, and GoogleDocs. Dan’s course teaching blog has a collection of course materials for his students to access, including the course syllabus and class tutorials.  In addition, his students are required to perform to a live audience at “Poetry Slams.” In preparation for live performances, students are in charge of publicity using a setup crew. The setup crews are in charge of creating flyers,  taking photos of the events, and creating Biographies of the performers. A final online tool that Dan uses for his course is Odyssey. Odyssey allows his students to freely write about their experiences in his class, experiences of their performances, and overall experience with the course material.

Lastly, Silvia Mejia, Department of World Languages and Cultures & Associate Professor of Spanish, shared her experience with teaching a hybrid class-Spanish 203: Memory and Culture. Silvia described that she was reluctant in the beginning to be teaching a hybrid course. However, now she believes that the hybrid format is very beneficial for her students, and it also produces much less stress for herself and her students. For her course, Silvia uses a “flipped classroom” approach, meaning that students are required to complete tutorials and practice at home, and class time is used for discussion and interactive activities. Silvia assigns her students tutorials on the content, which allow her students to watch as many times as needed. If she were to explain the same thing in class multiple times, it could be redundant for some and take too much class time. Having to learn the material at home allows students to learn at their own leisure and pace. This then leaves more class time for Silvia to clear up misconceptions and allows students to practice their communication skills with their peers. Silvia believes that the in class interaction of conversation and communication is the most valuable part of the hybrid course. Silvia shared the instructions for one assignment, in which her students must use the vocabulary (clothing, shopping and daily routines) that they have learned in a creative and meaningful way by producing a video. Silvia recommends for her students to use Wevideo, however they are free use another one if they prefer to do so.

Following the brief presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience. Here are a few points and observations that arose from the discussion:

  • Blogs are a useful resource for expressing opinions, sharing introductions to research papers, and for competition in the workplace.
  • Grading online…should there be a grade assigned to all work?
    • Most thought yes, every assignment should count for a grade.
  • The majority of students are very comfortable with online learning, and at times are more knowledgable of additional online resources to use.
  • Do students need to be self-regulatory to be successful in an online class?
    • Yes, self-regulation is necessary for success.
  • Online assignments should have very clear and specific instructions.
    • For dissuasion posts, instructors should be specific on the dates of when posts are due, the times that the posts are due by, and the amount of posts required for the grade.

Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, April 19th session on “Teaching Information Literacy in the Age of Google.” Provisions’ sessions are from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!! 🙂

Teaching With Technology II

Tom Rosenberger, Instructional Media Technology, discussed technology use in the classroom, how it is used, and how it can be improved. A student survey at Saint Rose showed that over 30 percent of the students who were surveyed believed their professors understand technology and integrate it into their classrooms. The survey also showed that close to 50 percent of students said their “professors believe that technology can be a useful tool and they encourage students to use it.” Another survey showed that the vast majority of Saint Rose Professors “want and believe” they can use different types of technology in their classes. These technologies include MP3 players, video conferencing, video cameras, and smartphones. Rosenberger further cemented the realization that technology is wanted in classrooms by stating that more than 2/3 of colleges in the United States consider online learning and tools to be just as effective – if not more effective – than regular classroom learning. Rosenberger referred to today’s college students as being a part of a participatory culture. A phrase which he described as meaning, “a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal membership whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices.” This type of culture is why it is so important that professors integrate technology into their classes. Several useful tips were given to those teachers who feel they are not capable if integrating technology. These tips were: follow the course goals, refer to colleagues or other educators for help, and consult with the media technology specialists on campus. So what are these educators to do when their students come calling for help? First they should make sure their students know who they are and what they are capable of helping them with. If the technology isn’t working make sure the students know it is the technology’s fault. Make sure to scaffold the projects to help students. And finally, teach the students to use technology to help themselves (use Google).

View Tom Rosenberger’s Prezi

Dr. Silvia Mejia, Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages Department and American Studies Program, discussed a technology project she used as final project for her Spanish 203 class.  The students were challenged to make a trailer for a fictitious movie. In their trailers the students were to speak Spanish.  Dr. Mejia gave the students a list of topics they must discuss in their videos. The purpose of this assignment is to further cement the vocabulary the students have learned throughout the class into the students’ minds. Dr. Mejia’s students even stated that they will never forget any of the lines from their trailers because of the amount of memorization, practice, and number of scene takes it took to make the videos. Basically the repetition the assignment called for allowed the students to be immersed in the Spanish language while filming the trailers. Dr. Mejia mentioned at the beginning of her presentation that immersion has been proven to be a more effective form of learning than memorization.

Trailer Guidelines

Dr. Jennifer Marlow, Assistant Professor of English, discussed Pecha Kucha, a presentation based assignment. Pecha Kucha is a Japanese term for “chitchat” or “20/20.” Dr. Marlow said that the purpose of this form of presentation is to “avoid death by PowerPoint.” So, what is Pecha Kucha? It is a PowerPoint presentation that has advanced slides (20 seconds per slide). Each slide contains only a single image or phrase. The text can be no smaller than 32 point font in order to keep the information per slide small. The images can be original or found and 20 seconds of video may also be used. The visuals can be used to further solidify a point or argument. This type of presentation allows for a closer look at materials. The combination of language and visual is meant to make the presentations more memorable and less over stimulating as many PowerPoint presentations can be.

Dr. Marlow’s Pecha Kucha Assignment

Pecha Kucha Evaluation

Fair Use of Online Video

Podcast of the February ProVisions Session on Teaching with Technology

The following YouTube video was part of Tom Rosenberger’s presentation and is mentioned in the poscast.


The Amazing World of Technology

Everyday new technology is created. Jokes are made that by the time a person buys the new version of a piece of technology another newer version will come out the next day. In fact some people avoid using technology all together because they don’t want to have to adapt to new rules every time an upgrade becomes available. However, for every new program or piece of technology created there are dozens of resources to help people learn to use them. Articles on technology pop up every day with tips on how to use technology to better the workplace, home life, and education. For instance, online classes are so common today some schools offer entire majors in an online setting.

Professor Hacker recently wrote an article called “7 Strategies to Make Your Online Teaching Better.”  The first tip for professors of online courses is to use online tutorials to help avoid the many bugs that come along with using technology. Tutorials can be the next best thing to sitting in a classroom with the professor. Tip number two is to remember that students taking online courses are not in a classroom setting. Therefore they are not in the structured setting that a physical classroom has to offer. Tip number three is to set specific times students should be online in order to discuss any pertinent questions or talk through difficulties students may be having with the course. While they may not be meeting in a classroom students will still appreciate the time set aside to focus solely on one course. Tip number four is something all types of teachers should consider. Be specific with details and feedback. E-mail students what they should be doing for the week and don’t worry about length. The lack of physical class time should be replaced with online help. Tip number five is to make sure your personality doesn’t get lost in cyberspace. Make sure you come across as human instead of as a piece of technology. This will make it easier for students to communicate with their online teachers. Because online students do not see their professors on a weekly basis they do not receive the reminders that most other students receive about due dates. Tip number six is to have online students set up some sort of calendar that will remind them when assignments are dues. There are several online tools that will send e-mail alerts or text messages when important assignments are coming up. The last tip Professor Hacker has applies to all teachers. Don’t be afraid to incorporate something new into a course. The worst thing that could happen is that something doesn’t work out and will have to be replaced with a different idea the next time around.

Professor Hacker – a blog from The Chronicle – is known for posts about technology, and in recent weeks has published several enlightening pieces on how technology can improve existing lesson plans. For example, the post “All Things Google: Using Google for Writing Portfolios” highlights the upgrades using Google Docs has for creating writing portfolios compared to the more traditional ways of creating writing portfolios. Not only does this help save the environment by limiting the amount of paper creating a portfolio requires it also allows students the ability to be more creative, to share their work, and to easily create an electronic portfolio for all of their writing. A sample portfolio is also available for viewing on the blog site.

Professor Hacker doesn’t just recommend using Google Docs for portfolios. In the post “Using Google Docs to Check In On Students’ Reading”  Brain Croxall shared one of his experiences with using spreadsheets in Google Docs. The program allowed him – and his students – the ability to see where the class was in their reading. He was able to adjust his daily lessons based on the information he was receiving online. The spreadsheets could also keep students who were ahead in their reading from devolving too much information to the rest of the class.

Many times the writers of the Professor Hacker blog ask readers for feedback on using technology in the classroom. One product of this feedback was the post “What Are Your Favorite Technologies in the Classroom?” This post has blogger George Williams sharing his best and worst technology experiences as well as asking others to send in their own classroom technology experiences. Williams’s worst technology experience is the time wasted by waiting for computers to load and students to log on. This post seems like the start of a discussion board where teachers can share their ideas and experiences.

With so much focus on using technology in the classroom it isn’t surprising that a company is working on making an online class that is free. Steve Kolowich from Inside Higher Ed reports that a company called Udemy is currently working on a project that could offer online courses to hundreds if not thousands of students for free. While these courses are not yet offered for credit, the creators are trying to get enough exposure to make these courses a possibility in the future.

Kolowich wrote another article for Inside Higher Ed – “Behind the Digital Curtain”  – that discussed the possibility of inserting new courses into college programs that would teach students about the technology they use every day.  Students use online tools in for school and for their personal lives; however, they are rarely shown how these tools work. Kolowich goes on to list several reasons why these courses would be beneficial. One of the most important benefits he lists is giving students a deeper understanding of the technologies that impact their daily lives.

While free online classes are not yet a reality, online tools are. Mashable.com lists “8 Ways Technology is Improving Education.”  From online gaming to student made videos to videoconferences between students from different countries, the internet offers a multitude of tools that can make learning fun and improve the education students receive. New ideas pop up all the time and are available for teachers in every grade level from kindergarten to graduate level courses.

Online Learning

As Online Learning has become increasingly popular over the last few years, certain questions have been raised asking whether or not colleges are truly ready to support online learners. Many changes will have to be made if this new form of schooling continues to grow in popularity as it has in recent years. The following article poses many questions about online learning and includes some helpful tips for Student Affairs.

Are We Ready To Support Online Learners?