Category: Social Media
Sophie Godley often begins the semester in her community-health class by setting ground rules, including expectations for electronic media. She gently teases students that perhaps they can spare an hour or two away from communicating with others, with particular reference to Facebook, and instead focus on themselves and their learning. During one of these conversations, it struck her that Facebook also had potential as a positive learning resource. Prof. Godley’s students often emailed her links to articles relevant to the current class’s material, and she thought that Facebook offered an easy way for them to share those articles with each other directly.
In fall 2012, she created Facebook pages for her classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels, which she invited students to “like”. She made it clear that students did not have to be her Facebook “friend”, and that participation in the page was voluntary. She has now started three different pages for the three classes she teaches, and has reached 462 students. In addition to generating student content and discussion, past and present students can interact on the page. Prof. Godley can post jobs and internships, and include both current and former students. She can also ask questions about articles and generate back-and-forth in the comments. She has also found it “relatively painless” to manage the Facebook pages, compared to many other administrative tasks of teaching.
Professors in several departments at BU (including Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering) often use the free social discussion tool Piazza in their courses. Piazza is free, and allows threaded discussions to happen in a user-friendly way. Students in these courses are encouraged to post their course-related questions on Piazza, significantly reducing emails that are directed to the course staff. Questions posted on Piazza are then answered by the course staff, or, in many cases, by other students. Questions posed in these courses have ranged from logistical issues (“Which lab are we doing this week?”) to conceptual issues from students grappling with the material (“I tried solving problem 3 this way, but it didn’t work – can someone point me in the right direction?”) The latter are particularly good at drawing multiple students into the discussion.
Piazza can help you keep on top of what’s going on in your course, while at the same time reducing the amount of time you spend responding to students over email. Piazza posts can be read on the web site, whose features make it easy to see which posts need an instructor’s attention. They can also be viewed and responded to through the Piazza app on your favorite mobile device. You can also choose to get updates from Piazza via email. BU IS&T does not offer support for Piazza, but it is an interesting option for professors who feel comfortable exploring free online teaching tools.
BU mechanical engineering professor Lorena Barba has used several new technologies to transform the classroom experience, integrating iTunes, digital inking, screen casting, and blogging. Her classes often “flip” the classroom – that is, they deliver course content outside of class and refocus in-classroom time on discussion and activity – and allow a blended learning experience, where discussion and activity also happens on the Internet as well as in class.
Using a USB connected graphical tablet and her laptop, Barba was able to annotate her Keynote & Powerpoint slides to derive, in real time, solutions to complex mathematical operations. Further, using a screen capture application and a simple microphone, she recorded the lectures which were then posted for download through iTunes. Lectures for Fluid Mechanics (ME303), Bio-aerial Locomotion (EK131/132), and Computation Fluid Dynamics (ME702) can be subscribed to and downloaded from Boston University’s iTunes U page via iTunes or the iTunes U mobile app. Barba’s innovative courses were recognized among the Top 30 iTunes U Engineering Courses by the Degree Central (2010). Some of her courses have student blogs that allow dialogue about the course materials, screencasts, and Skype interviews.
At the First Annual Instructional Innovation Conference, Barba presented a paper describing the technology and techniques used for Digital Inking and Lecture Screencasts, which can be watched via screencast on YouTube. More information about Barba can be found via her people site, her research group, and at the BU:ENG-Mechanical Engineering website.
Welcome to the Educational Technology Blog, a showcase for faculty technology innovations across Boston University’s campuses. Here, you can expect to find both announcements about up-and-coming technologies at BU, and case studies of new and exciting ways that faculty around BU are using technology to further their teaching and research goals.
Posts on this blog will be placed into categories according to both the specific technology or software package (such as Blackboard) and the broader genre or style of educational technology that it is a part of (such as learning management systems). On the right, you’ll see a list of all the genres and technologies we’ve posted on so far, and the schools where they’re used. Feel free to click these and explore what you’re interested in. We’re just starting, so there aren’t many yet – but you’ll see more soon!