Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wrapping up 2015

As I have stated before, the most exciting part of my job is traveling and experiencing first-hand the creativity of ACM faculty and staff.  Whether it is in a classroom, a newly designed informal learning space, libraries incorporating technology into spaces previously occupied by books, or informal conversations at professional conferences, the focus on student engagement and learning is universal for ACM member campuses. 

For this final installment of 2015, I wanted to supplement my earlier series on innovation.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but provides a good starting point.  Feel free to add more information in the comments so we can share additional initiatives and projects.  As of now, however, here are some things to get us started:

  • Beloit has purchased a Vocal Booth with the help of a grant.  Although there is currently no equipment installed in the booth, students and faculty can check out microphones.  There are plans to install a computer and dedicated microphone based on feedback from users.  Also, Beloit is involved in an Andrew Mellon Foundation funded $100,000 English planning grant with Knox and Lake Forest surrounding the effective use of technology in English departments.
  • Carleton’s IdeaLab allows interested faculty to work with digital assignments and objects.  Carleton also continues to work with St. Olaf on the Andrew Mellon Foundation funded Broadening the Bridge initiative, meant to increase collaboration between the two schools.
  • Knox has begun repurposing space in the library to create both formal and informal learning spaces.  These include huddle stations and an instructional area.  Also, Knox is involved in an Andrew Mellon Foundation funded $100,000 English planning grant with Lake Forest and Beloit surrounding the effective use of technology in English departments.
  • Lake Forest received an $800,000 grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation supporting their Digital Chicago Project.  Also, Lake Forest is involved in an Andrew Mellon Foundation funded $100,000 English planning grant with Knox and Beloit surrounding the effective use of technology in English departments.
  • Monmouth has set up a test environment for a new release of Moodle.  Faculty members have been invited to participate in a pilot and then report out to colleagues and staff on their experiences in using new functionality.
  • St. Olaf is nearing completion of their Digital Scholarship Center (DiSCO), set to open in January.  Included in this space on the fourth floor of the Rolvaag Library will be: Open, collaborative study and work spaces; Computer stations equipped with media production and design software; a computer classroom; Production Lab equipped with large-format and 3D printing, scanning, and creative workspace; Audio recording booth; and a Video recording room.  Pictures soon to come.
In a world of constantly changing and evolving technologies, it is an honor to be associated with colleges on the forefront of taking purposeful and pedagogically driven approaches to teaching and learning.  I look forward to next year to arrive and cannot wait to see what is on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Motivations in Higher Education

Over 7,000 Technologists and IT professionals descended on Indianapolis for the EDUCAUSE annual meeting last week.  Attending conferences for me has always existed in two streams of thought.  I am so incredibly inspired by the presentations and conversations that I long for a photographic memory to catch every word and an army of clones so I can attend all of the presentations.  However, as neither of those are current possibilities (and the latter would be quite frankly creepy), I will make due as well as I can.  Secondly, there is the realization that a majority of the institutions represented are either large private or public institutions. 

This is not in any way an attack on large research institutions, but merely an observation in the way content and perspectives are relayed to the audience.  It is sometimes difficult to recognize the role that a design process or technology used in a large format course can influence the small liberal arts classroom.  Small residential colleges have an added benefit of proximity to allow the creation of deep and meaningful relationships between students, faculty, staff, and academic leaders.  Conversations can happen in a digital or physical space, both formally and informally.   

This realization led me to think deeply about the first keynote presentation by Daniel Pink.  In this talk, the key factor to embracing change was motivation.  What motivates the individual to be creative and experiment with different ideas and concepts?  According to Pink, creativity cannot exist in a task-oriented environment, and the old “carrot and stick” approach is ineffective if you want to spark creativity.  Instead, creating an environment that encourages exploration, experimentation and allows failure is a recipe for success.

As I was listening to this presentation, I began to think about the way professors on a small residential campus teach and the conversations that have come up while traveling through the ACM.  Technology can be a powerful ally when it comes to influencing students, but the most powerful component is a faculty member who is passionate and invested in the success of every student.  The conversations I have had with faculty and staff do not center around what the new cool technologies are, but on more effective ways to reach students.  Technology is an enhancement and not distracting.  Technologists and IT staff members are also committed to student success and recognize the importance of the “right” technology and not just checking a box.

Where does this leave us?  Do we now have to throw away all of the cool toys?  Absolutely not!  I am still in awe of the possible implications surrounding adaptive learning, active classroom design, wearable technology, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.  I will continue to write and post on all of these topics and more.  However, this first presentation caused me to examine my own motivations and explore why it is so important to encourage experimentation, failure, and discovery.  What motivates you to continue to innovate, create, and drive forward?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Recapping the ACM Harnessing Big Data Workshop

The Associated Colleges of Midwest funded a workshop where faculty from member institutions could brainstorm how resources might be pooled across the ACM schools (of which Beloit, Coe, Grinnell, Lawrence, Luther, Macalester, and Ripon were represented) to provide opportunities in our curriculum related to data science. I really enjoyed this workshop and heard some great ideas about how to keep my statistics curriculum relevant in my students’ minds, as well as some possible opportunities for ACM schools to pool strengths, rather than attempting to replicate data science curricula on each campus.
Below are some highlights from the workshop:
  • Danny Kaplan discussed the newly developed data science minor atMacalester as well as a one-credit course on Data and Computing Fundamentals. After the meeting, I read Danny’s book, Data Computing, and I highly recommend it. Even though I probably won’t be able to offer a similar course, I could certainly incorporate a discussion of tidy data into my classes and extend the discussion of exploratory graphics in my intro classes. Also, through a prior NSF Grant, Danny and others have developed a way of introducing R command patterns that I am convinced will help my students.
  • Shonda Kuiper discussed her textbook, freely available online activities, and Shiny apps for visualization that can be incorporated into traditional statistics courses to prepare the next generation to “think with data.” I really like how the activities (which seem like games) allow students to work with real-world, unstructured datasets. I predict that many good conversations on data collection and manipulation will stem from the use of these games in my intro stats course. Also, I really like the idea of using Shiny apps provide a great opportunity to make statistics relevant by visualizing large datasets with dynamic graphics.
  • Gavin Cross discussed existing data science programs, including a couple from liberal arts schools. He also led a discussion on multiple grant opportunities that could be used to further develop data science curricula at our institutions. This was great information to have, and seeing what schools are doing helped frame our discussion.
  • Meeting statisticians, mathematicians, and computer scientists from similar schools was wonderful. It was great discussing ideas with everyone and devising some promising future directions including:
    • Developing a repository to share data sets and stories for classroom use, especially those in data science.
    • Developing an experimental braided course during spring 2016 (for those with the flexibility in their curriculum) allowing us to share strength across campuses. The courses would utilize material from Danny and Shonda’s textbooks and focus on visualization, working with databases, and honing statistical methods from the first or second course — essentially, it will be a first experiment into teaching data science for many. We discussed how we might be able to use some shared materials and even how we might utilize web conferencing to capitalize on each other’s specialties.
Of course, there is much more that I could write about this workshop, but I don’t want this post to get too long… To recap, I was very fortunate to be invited to the workshop and it helped me organize my thoughts, and think of solutions, for some of the challenges I see with making undergraduate statistics relevant to our students.
(This post was originally posted on my website.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lifelong Learning

As the title suggests, I am a lifelong learner.  I look to find opportunities to learn from my peers and all of those I meet through my work.  There is no shortage of good ideas and information.  June 28th – July 1st, I was privileged to attend the 5th annual Summer Institute, sponsored by the Association for Collaborative Leadership.  While I have been to intensive programs before, this one was targeted toward making new connections and creating lasting relationships between people who work at all levels within educational consortia.  I found myself truly engaged, not just about work, but about how each individual approached higher education and the passion that they had for what they did.

As someone new to the world of consortia, I was very interested in learning more about the differences and similarities between higher education institutions, businesses, and consortia.  This institute helped me to gain a better understanding of how these intersect, while also illustrating the diversity even between consortial structures and models.  The sessions were broken down as follows:

  • Session One: Consortial Leadership Overview
  • Session Two: Vision, Leadership, Collaboration
  • Session Three: Strategic Planning:  Planning, Implementing, Reporting, and Assessment
  • Session Four: Leading with Your Values: Mission-Based Marketing and Communications
  • Session Five: Financial Management of the Consortium: A Primer

Interwoven throughout all of the presentations was a subtext of trust, relationship, and change.  As a student of organizational change, I was very interested in how all of these sessions related to moving forward in a way that encouraged collaboration and participation from members of the different consortium.  We were encouraged to think critically about our own organizations, learn from our fellow participants, and challenge the ideas, models, and assertions put forward by faculty.  It was an experience filled with “teachable moments.”

A final aspect that was extremely valuable was the personal and small group interaction.  Some of the deepest learning came through informal conversations over dinner.  As a group, we not only got to know each other professionally, but also share and listen to personal experiences and stories that created the context for why we do the things we do.  Understanding the underlying motivation that translates to passion is a valuable component to creating lasting relationships.

I want to thank all of those who participated in this event, the faculty members for their wise and valuable counsel, and the consortia who were sponsors.  This was a wonderful experience and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues moving forward.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ACM Institute on College Futures

Earlier this week, the ACM office hosted the Institute on College Futures here in Chicago.  This was my first opportunity to attend the event and to say it was impressive would be an understatement.  Faculty and administrators from all 14 member campuses attended the institute.  Throughout the two-day event, participants were given information on the following topics:

  • The Economics of Higher Education - Jill Tiefenthaler (President, Colorado College)
  • The Tuition Driven School’s Dilemma - Scott Bierman (President, Beloit College)
  • The Liberal Arts College Financial Model - Michael T. Orr (Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Lake Forest College)
  • Financial Challenges for the Future - David Wheaton (Vice President for Administration and Finance, Macalester College)

In addition to hearing from experts in the field of higher education finance, participants were also broken out into groups to react and engage about current events and articles surrounding this topic and the sector issue of “why college costs so much.”  The dialogue was robust and impactful at all of the sessions.  Finally, participants were charged with creating specific ways to encourage discussion and continue the conversation on their campuses.  After doing so, they were asked to share with other campuses and then the larger group.

The conversations and discussions revolved around how to show the value of a liberal arts education and demystified what the true cost of attending college is.  Most importantly, however, students and creating an environment that was conducive to learning were at the heart of the discussion.  So, although it was not focused directly on technology, although it did come up as both a cost and a benefit, this allowed me and my colleagues to gain an even deeper understanding of the already rich relationship of collaboration that exists at the ACM.

For more information on the Institute, you can click on the link above.  To see summary videos by the presenters, click here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sharing New Ideas

As I approach one year at the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, I can't help but be inspired by the diversity and commitment to learning on member campuses.  While I am perfectly happy to share their stories of technological and pedagogical innovation, faculty development, and student engagement, sometimes it is much better to hear it from those who are involved in the actual projects.

This being said, I will continue to highlight various projects and proposals surrounding technology in teaching and learning, especially with the ramp up and second round of the Faculty and Career Enhancement (FaCE) grant supported by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.  This grant has already supported nine projects since the fall of 2014.  However, it is also important to facilitate even broader communication between ACM member campuses and the higher education community at large.

A way to facilitate this open dialogue is to invite faculty, technologists, librarians, and IT professionals  throughout the ACM to contribute as guest authors to this blog.  This will be a great way to allow those who are involved in projects on each campus and broader collaborations to share information.  I hope this will in turn spark lively discussion and lead to more people wanting to engage on these important issues.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Site for Collaboration Born of Collaboration

Beginning with my first round of visits to the 14 campuses that comprise the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, I have been constantly impressed by the level of innovation occurring on the campuses.  As you know, I tend to focus on technology.  However, the absolute commitment to teaching and learning, regardless of modality, is inspiring.  Add to this the determination of taking the small liberal arts college environment into the technological realm and one can see the potential for magical and wonderful things to happen.

Ok, that may sound idealistic and be seen by many as an oversimplification, but I truly believe that seeing technology as a partner to enhance faculty and student engagement is the way forward.  The larger question is how do we enable communication?  How do we share the ideas and experiences that already exist on ACM member campuses?  Part of this has been accomplished through the creation Liaison for Technology in Teaching and Learning to ride the circuit looking for commonalities and potential partnerships throughout the consortium.  However, a more robust approach is needed to expand communication and collaboration.

During that initial round of visits, it was suggested that the ACM create a virtual collaboration space to supplement in-person visits.  This would be a space where ACM faculty, librarians, IT staff, and technologists could engage in open dialogue about the impact of technology on teaching and learning.  Included in this space would be pages that allow the sharing of current initiatives, posing questions for colleagues about future initiatives, recent articles concerning pedagogy and technology, and a list of tools being used by other members of the consortium.  While a good portion of the site would be public, posting to groups, viewing ACM contacts, and adding to the pages is restricted to member institutions.

The Technology in Teaching and Learning site has been created in consultation with the stakeholder groups mentioned earlier.  The design, construction, and now implementation have been highly collaborative and content has been generated at both the ACM office and campus levels.  I am hopeful that the site, in combination with this blog and social media, will further add to the ways in which ACM members can share information and collaborate.  So, check out the site and let us know what you think.  Comments, suggestions, and hopefully additions to the lists and discussions are always welcome.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Importance of Multiple Perspectives

I have always been one to believe that the more ideas you throw on the table, the better the end result will be.  Engaging others in brainstorming and seeking out multiple perspectives is a key component to successful change.  While traveling throughout the ACM, I have had the opportunity to meet with the following stakeholders from the various campuses:

  • Deans
  • Associate Deans
  • Chief Information Officers
  • Library Directors
  • Center for Teaching and Learning Directors
  • Chief Financial Officers
  • Faculty
  • Information Technology Directors
  • Information Technology Staff
  • Technologists
  • Librarians

While this is the formal list of those I have met with, the passing conversations with administrators, faculty, staff, and students are sometimes even more valuable than scheduled meetings.  In some cases, this may mean an informal conversation with the president of the college about the impacts of technology on the institution, an administrative assistant with valuable institutional knowledge, or a student who relates their personal experience in using technology.

Instructional technology is about relationships.  It leads to various questions based on the context an individual or group are coming from.  Below are some initial thoughts, but by no means an exhaustive list:

  • How do faculty want to teach?
  • What do they want to be able to relate to students and how can technology help them do this? 
  • What technology do students expect?
  • What is the cost of the technology and is there a way to make it more affordable? 
  • Where is the balance between pedagogy and technology?
  • What is the impact of technology on the relationship between libraries, faculty, and students?
  • What structures can increase communication between IT departments, libraries, faculty, and students?
  • How does technology impact the larger institution?

ACM schools are very well aware of these questions and the many others that flow from technological innovation.  Having an engaged conversation at the institutional, departmental, and individual levels can help begin to answer these and other questions.  I am very honored to be a part of this process and excited about meeting even more people willing to share their perspectives and stories about technology in teaching and learning.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What is Innovation?

This may seem like a simple enough question, but it came up recently and I wanted to examine it a little further.  During my travels to St. Olaf, Carleton, Luther, and Macalester last week, I was reminded of just how many professors and colleges are pushing the envelope, but may not see this as innovation.  The idea that only new technologies are innovative has long been a pet peeve of mine, but it was vibrantly illustrated during some of my conversations.

In the course of one discussion, a faculty member said they would not consider themselves innovative and yet offered at least five examples of how they use various online components and learning technologies, including clickers, to impact learning in their classroom.  This begs the question as to whether the use of a technology (clickers) is innovative or the way in which that technology is used to enhance learning?  Trying new and different things instead of tying it to a new piece of tech seems to be common sense, but sometimes gets lost when we talk about innovation.

In another discussion it was pointed out that as a word, innovation is highly overused and creates a false narrative that only those on the far fringes are progressive or effective and that anything else is somehow "less than" or inferior.  What may be considered wildly cutting edge to one person may be commonplace to another and therefore easily dismissed.  It is important to put this word and more importantly the practice of experimentation in the classroom in the proper context.

Merriam Webster gives the standard definition of innovative as something new, but then throws the word novelty after the semicolon.  Novelty is defined as "impulsive or unpredictable."  While no one would argue that a professor should be completely impulsive or unpredictable, isn't that what is happening when a faculty member experiments with a new technology, flipping the classroom, creating an active learning environment, or blending online resources?

These conversations have led me to re-evaluate how I will use the word innovation moving forward.  A technology or even a process is not really innovative until it is experimented with.  How that technology or method is applied and the impact on teaching and learning is the real test and should be paramount to just saying something is innovative because it is new.  Newness is one thing, impact is another.

Please leave a comment and perhaps your own definition of innovation.    

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Innovation Throughout the ACM - Part Four

As we continue our journey through the ACM looking for innovation, we will focus this week on Ripon and Grinnell.  As with my earlier posts, I want to thank the instructional technology teams, faculty, and others at each ACM member institution for contributing photos and text.  Individual credit is given at the bottom of the post.


In Math 224 at Ripon, students are challenged with using Linear Algebra equations and a software package called Maple to design animations.  Not only does Professor Andrea Young use references to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the assignment, but she also stresses the usefulness of this process in various animated feature films throughout the years.  Students are tasked with not only creating animated GIF's that illustrate their work, but also writing a short paper explaining the results.  The end result is completely up to students as long as they "create an interesting animation."  As you can see from the pictures below, the interpretation of this statement varies greatly:

Ripon will also be offering a non credit online course is world religions to alumni by Professor Brian Smith.  The course will run for five weeks this summer and culminate with a face to face session during alumni weekend.  It involves a combination of 20 minute recorded lectures introducing each religion, other short videos from YouTube, and short readings posted through Canvas.  Group discussions with both instructor and student comments, as well as Google Hangouts will also be used to facilitate learning and engagement. 


Building on such projects as Digital Grinnell, the college has recently been awarded a grant in partnership with the University of Iowa for $1.6 million from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.  Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry will fund curricular projects and encourage the creation of new teams of faculty, staff, and technologists to explore digital humanities an the use of digital resources in the classroom.   In addition to faculty and staff collaboration, students pursuing a certificate in Digital Public Humanities at the University of Iowa will also have access to Grinnell faculty through the grant.

Also at Grinnell, they are hiring both to support the Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry grant and to staff their Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.  They currently have open positions for the following: Instructional TechnologistDigital Liberal Arts Specialist, and Associate Director of Academic Technology.  

Ripon - Andrea Young and Brian Smith 
Grinnell - Michael Conner

Stay tuned for more stories of innovation across the ACM...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reflections on the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting

Two weeks ago, it was my privilege to attend the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) annual meeting.  As a newcomer to the meeting, I was not quite sure what to expect.  What I found was an exceptional environment that blended large, small, public, and private institutions of higher learning.  We all came together to discuss the impact of technology on teaching and learning and to engage in a thoughtful dialogue that centered on how to meaningfully students and encourage faculty development in higher education.

I found myself wishing that there were several of me there in order to take in all of the information being shared.  The first event was an orientation to ELI and a preview of things to come.  Then there were the poster sessions.  There were so many intriguing posters, but it was very hard to engage the presenters due to the sheer amount of interested people crowding around each one.  Some examples of the topics covered can be found on the meeting website.

Obviously, there is too much information for me to share in this blog post concerning the conference.  However, I do want to highlight an observation and one event I attended.  First of all, one thing that struck me right from the start was the difference in definitions between large colleges and universities and the small Liberal Arts college.

This is no more clear than in the definition of blended or hybrid learning.  In the large schools, it is seen as a way to stretch classroom space and increase enrollment by reducing face to face instruction and moving more resources into the virtual space.  For small Liberal Arts colleges, the idea of reducing "seat time" is not even a consideration.  On the contrary, any blending of online resources is seen as a way to enhance the relationship of faculty members and students and to maximize the value of in class discussions.

As a continuation of this idea, I was honored to be a part of a Liberal Arts Institutions Roundtable, which discussed the ways in which Liberal Arts colleges can contribute to the mission of ELI and ways in which ELI can better support the mission and goals of these institutions.  A few of the takeaways that will be refined and submitted to ELI include:
  • Facilitating change in faculty teaching practices to encourage hybrid/blended learning that maximizes the impact of face-to-face interactions where student-centered learning shifts the dynamic and Developing active learning pedagogies, and the technology and classrooms that support it.
  • Defining the unique niche for liberal arts colleges in a changing higher ed landscape - specific track in the conference (sharing what is done in our classes, in advising). 
  • Research from LAC institutions (including partnerships w/ R1/schools of Ed, postdocs) on teaching/learning.
  • Creating partnerships that maximize resources and minimize costs, including outsourcing online course development, while keeping in mind trade offs (that could not otherwise be done at small colleges, LAC R1 partnerships).
Thank you to Barron Koralesky for providing me with a copy of the list we discussed and reduced from an original 12 topics.  While this is not an exhaustive list of benefits that Liberal Arts colleges can offer ELI, it constitutes a good starting point and directly addresses the differences between large institutions and the private residential experience.  It will be interesting moving forward to see what ELI does with the information that was shared.  I hope to see even greater collaboration in the years to come.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Innovation Throughout the ACM - Part Three

Update: Information concerning Lake Forest's Brown Technology Resource Center was accidentally omitted in the original post.  This has been corrected below.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

In our latest installment looking at innovation across the ACM, we will focus on Monmouth and Lake Forest.  As with my earlier posts, I want to thank the instructional technology teams and others at each ACM member institution for contributing photos and text.  Individual credit is given at the bottom of the post.


Monmouth has a large classroom in their newest building which is devoted to business and sciences.  Along with a dedicated PC, document camera, and lectern, they have one short-throw projector that acts as a Smart board with Epson digital ink software, and projects onto a glare free white dry-erase board.  There is a second much larger screen and projector that mimics the other one.  They are using the Lifesize videoconferencing system  that provides lecture capture.  A bridge can be engaged that will allow for as many as 5 parties to join simultaneously.  The room also includes six speakers, two built-in cameras (one facing the front of the room and one facing the audience), and three hanging microphones.  They plan to do a shared classroom with a Scottish college soon.  A few pictures of the space are below:

Also at Monmouth, courses called Triads combine faculty from the Sciences, Humanities, and Business to study one topic.  This interdisciplinary approach allows for students to examine a single topic from multiple perspectives in the hopes of providing a practical answer to the applicability of their education to the real world.  In addition,  Monmouth is also using a custom designed tutoring software to assist students with writing and help to collect data for faculty to be able to provide early interventions where necessary.  This includes student tutor reports, and aggregated data surrounding the reasons for visits.

Lake Forest

At Lake Forest, students in Theatre 225: Acting for the Camera use an interactive studio, complete with  green screen technology to create film projects that are used for "in-depth critiques of self and peer performances."  Other components of the course include "viewing and analysis of modern and contemporary film works from the early twentieth century to the present by noted authors and filmmakers. Acting projects center on the performance of scenes, monologues, voice-overs, and commercials."  Below are some pictures of students using this space:

Also at Lake Forest, the Brown Technology Resource Center allows faculty, students, and staff to work with a variety of software tools, hardware, and seek assistance concerning using technology.  The center is overseen by an Academic Technologist and has 10 student workers with specific expertise.  There are Mac workstations that can be booted in either Mac OS or Windows environments.  The center also makes netbooks, camcorders, and digital cameras available for loan on a first come first serve basis. 

Monmouth - Bridget Draxler, Chris Buban, and Marcie Beintema 
Lake Forest - Jim Cubit and David Levinson

Stay tuned for more stories of innovation across the ACM...

Friday, February 6, 2015

Innovation Throughout the ACM - Part Two

In our latest installment looking at innovation across the ACM, we will focus on Luther, Lawrence, and Cornell.  As with my earlier post, I want to thank the instructional technology teams at each ACM member institution for contributing photos and text.  Individual credit is given at the bottom of the post.


The Digital Media Center is located on the lower floor of Preus Library.  The multimedia lab consists of an open learning space with high-end computers for faculty, staff and students to edit and create media projects such as audio, video, photography and more.  Included in this space are 20 Mac workstations, presentation equipment (flat panel TVs, HD LCD projector, podium, control system, speakers, whiteboards), checkout equipment (external hard drives, headphones), and media conversion equipment (VHS to DVD, LP to digital, cassette tape to digital).  Some of the software includes: Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor, Logic Pro X, Adobe CS6 and Creative Cloud, MS Office.  The multimedia studio is an acoustically designed space with a flexible lighting and backdrop system for use in photography, video and audio recordings.  In the control booth, a digital mixer gives users the ability to do multitrack recording. It is also equipped with a video switcher for live production and broadcasting.  This technology provides the user with hands-on experience directing and producing media projects.  There are also trained technicians available to assist with any of the technology in the space.  Photos of the Digital Media Center are below:

Multimedia Studio
Multimedia Studio

Multimedia Lab student workers     Control Booth
                                      Multimedia Lab Student Workers                   Control Booth

Luther's summer workshop entitled “Enhancing Student Learning Through Information Literacy and Technology” offers faculty an opportunity to collaborate with LIS team members to consider and enhance integration of critical thinking and technology proficiency into coursework. Three workshop tracks allow faculty to target an appropriate level of engagement, while the LIS support teams – including the library liaison and technology experts – can tailor the experience to faculty needs. A technology allowance is provided for faculty participating in the more in-depth tracks, and can be used for teaching-related equipment or software. Participants engage in a week-long combination of workshop time, project time, and presentations.


The Hurvis Center at Lawrence combines a state of the art video production studio with classroom and lab spaces to allow students, faculty, and professionals to collaborate on creative projects.  The center has a computer lab that allows individual student workstations to be shared and also projected on screens on the surrounding walls while another higher-end edit lab features a setup for students to mix audio in surround sound.  In addition to the classrooms and viewing rooms, the production studio features a green screen and a multitude of lighting options from the grid including soft florescents, two sizes of LED Fresnels, color LED's, and ellipsoidals.  The studio was recently used with Hollywood film makers on an indie film, giving students a firsthand look at the film making process.  A picture of a scene from "Squirrels" (set in the 1960's) along with other photos of the studio and one of the computer labs are presented below.

Lawrence is also in the process of building a summer preparation course for their incoming Conservatory of Music students.  The course, being built in Moodle, makes extensive use of a music theory plugin developed by Eric Brisson.  As shown in the screenshot below, students can answer quiz questions by directly manipulating music notation.



At Cornell, they have recreated Monte Alban's Tomb 118 and its objects using Cinema 4D and Unity.  This 3D virtual environment allows the Zapotec tomb to be populated with artifacts from descriptions provided in the historical record.  According to the project website, the goal for this project "was to recreate Tomb 118 and the artifacts excavated and recorded by Alfonso Caso and his team. We want to be able to use the recreation to be able to look at a Zapotec tomb with all of artifacts placed where they were found. Not only would this help look at the tomb at a brand new way, but also give a chance to interact with artifacts that have been broken or whose colors have faded over time."  Some images of objects and the virtual environment are below:

Luther - Matt Baumann, Andi Beckendorf, Diane Gossman, and Ahmed Muaz 
Lawrence - David Berk and Kevin Summers
Cornell - Brooke Bergantzel 

Stay tuned for more stories of innovation across the ACM...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Is it Worth Flipping?

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released a collection of articles and blogs surrounding the topic of flipping the classroom.  In "A Guide to the Flipped Classroom" (which can be downloaded here) the Chronicle attempts to give multiple viewpoints on the flipped classroom and even goes so far as to provide a working definition of "flipped learning" versus just providing outside virtual lectures or reading.

This discussion brought back memories of my masters program and the concept of Participation Training proposed by Bergevin & McKinley.  In their framework, they suggested that social gatherings outside of class (of course they were writing in the 1960's so technology has replaced the in person social gatherings in many ways) to build a community and relationships, along with pre-work and study, allowed for class time to be maximized for the real work of solving problems with micro lectures when necessary to check for understanding.  While a lot of this is not new information, it is presented here nicely.

I would encourage you to read all of the articles, regardless of your experience with flipping.  Here are a few of the takeaways being argued from my perspective:

  • Student questions and misconceptions can be addressed in real-time by faculty.
  • Students can rely on peers to assist if they are unclear on the concept.
  • Lecture does not go away, but changes in a way that is accessible and approachable when dealing with different learning styles (i.e. being able to rewind and replay lectures)
  • Faculty can better assess student progress and understanding and alleviate some of the frustration surrounding what would normally be homework.
  • Students can learn to apply skills and increase knowledge transfer, versus just recalling information given to them by faculty.
  • Students may not be able to fully form questions and faculty may need more time to better assess student understanding.  This cannot always be done "just in time."
  • Students may push back because of what is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as uncertain requirements for grading.  They may even perceive it as a shirking of responsibility by faculty.
  • There is a tremendous time commitment involved in flipping a course.  Recording lectures and creating various "out of class assignments" can be overwhelming.
  • If videos from other sources are used for lecture (i.e. speakers other than the professor), there is a risk of students bonding with the lecturer on video versus the professor actually teaching the course.
  • Flipping a course may not be less expensive and in some cases may not improve student outcomes.
Again, these are just some of the arguments made.  I would love to hear from others who have either flipped and love it, decided not to flip, or tried it and abandoned the approach.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Innovation Throughout the ACM - Part One

In our first round of looking at innovation across the ACM campuses, we will take a look at Beloit, Knox and St. Olaf.  I want to thank the instructional technology teams at each campus for supplying technical information and pictures.


The "innovation space" at Beloit is an open environment that seeks in enhance collaboration among students.  It is also The "innovation space" at Beloit is an open environment that seeks in enhance collaboration among students.  When it comes to hardware the space includes seven audio/video editing stations, a group collaboration space with an LCD display and multiple connections for various devices, a flatbed scanner, a Wacom graphics tablet, and a USB turntable.  Some of the available software that is loaded includes Adobe Design Suite, Adobe Premiere, Audacity, Final Cut Pro, and various other Mac and PC software related to creating engaging materials.  A couple pictures of the space are below:

The "learning studio" at Beloit serves two functions.  It contains the same software titles as the innovation space and can serve as an overflow during times of peak use.  However, in addition, it is also used as a more traditional computer lab for classes.  A pictures of this space are below:


The Founders Lab at Knox has been renovated to "create an environment that invites collaboration as well as allows for individual study."  Some of the technology focused amenities of this space include 19 Windows workstations, 10 Mac workstations, tablets and headphones for student checkout, and a collaborative table for group work with a 42" LCD monitor.  Also in the space are low tech amenities such as whiteboards that can be re-arranged and furniture for individual and group work that contains power outlets.  A few pictures of the space are below:


In addition to the renovation of the Founders Lab, Knox has also created Knox AnyWare as a way to combat differences in technology among students, faculty, and facilities.  By logging in virtually through a Citrix interface, anyone with a Knox profile can access software from any device.  Available software includes Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud Collection, Mathematica, and many more.

St. Olaf

Active learning classrooms (See a recent presentation here) have been springing up throughout higher education.  At St. Olaf, Holland Hall 317 is an excellent example of one such environment.  The room includes one instructor podium with a computer, control panel, and a large screen in front of the room.  In addition, there are five student tables that include a large monitor and computer, wireless keyboard, external connections for laptops and devices, and six chairs.  Two pictures of the space are below:

In addition to this active learning classroom, St. Olaf also holds Summer Institutes surrounding the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning.  These events are designed to meet faculty where they are, from novices with technology to those who are further down the path.  It is also open to staff and students who work closely with faculty when adopting new technologies.

Beloit - Jedidiah Rex
Knox - Emily Frakes
St. Olaf - Nancy Aarsvold

Stay tuned for more stories of innovation across the ACM...