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The makers of Lucidchart have introduced a graphic-design app called Lucidpress. It allows easy, attractive design and layout of both print and online materials, easily shared through social media. since it is cloud-based, it works on Windows, Mac and other platforms. It is currently available to BU users free of charge through your BU Google accounts. Find out more through Lucidpress’s tour and use your BU Google account to sign up.
Fabula Maps is a new tool that allows the easy design of interactive maps. It has already been used by BU faculty in the Art History and Archaeology departments. It is free to explore, so please check out the tool and its gallery of sample maps.
Fabula allows the design of single-author public sites for free; collaborative and private sites require a paid subscription. For this reason, for student-generated map content, we continue to recommend the use of Boston College’s MediaKron tool, which the BU community can access entirely for free through our pilot partnership. (Please contact Amod Lele if you’re interested in MediaKron; you can find his email via Exchange or the BU Directory). If you’re looking to create a map as a reference for your students rather than having them create it with you, have a look at Fabula. To get started, try their first steps guide.
A group of BU faculty and staff met with students in early May to hear their recommendations on uses of social media in the classroom. The students were all seniors, from COM and Sargent College (previously from CGS). We are summarizing their recommendations here for the wider BU community.
These students recommended not to force particular uses of social media in the class: let students use a closed course Facebook group as they see fit to build community, not grading them on it (or at most grading their participation pass-fail). They also recommended that faculty acknowledge and integrate ongoing current events into their classes, as a way of moving the focus off grades and into applied learning, and that Facebook and Twitter are appropriate platforms for this. For more informal discussions, they preferred closed course Facebook groups to Blackboard discussion forums.
There will likely be another meeting before the summer is out. If you’re interested in attending and have not already been invited to this group, please contact Amod Lele (he can be found via the BU Directory).
NVivo has released new versions of its Windows and Mac software, with features likely to be of interest to the BU community.
NVivo for Windows now allows you to import Qualtrics surveys as datasets and auto-code them, allowing a deep integration between BU’s data-collection and data-analysis tools. The NVivo help system has instructions to import from Qualtrics.
Both the Windows and Mac versions now support a new feature called Explore Diagrams, which automatically generates mind maps by showing you all the nodes whose coding is connected to any given node. Instructions for Mac and for Windows are available through the NVivo website.
Members of the BU community can download the upgraded version for free from within NVivo or from TechWeb.
As the academic year closes, it’s time to sharpen the saw, reconnect with colleagues, and network with our BU community and education vendors at the 11th Annual BUMC McCahan Education Day on May 25th. This year’s theme is Interactive Learning and we have a charismatic keynote speaker, Dr. Colin Montpetit visiting from the University of Ottawa. He will model our theme and speak about his experience transforming his teaching style from a ‘sage on the stage’ lecturer to an engaging facilitator. The day includes workshops, lunch, vendor networking time, a Medical Campus Deans’ Panel on Innovations in Teaching, a poster session, awards and oral presentations. Register for the entire day or just part of it. Check out this year’s Schedule of Events. The event will be held in the Hiebert Lounge on the 14th floor of the School of Medicine Instructional Building at 72 East Concord Street (just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the BUS stop on Albany Street) and it runs 8am-3:30pm. Registration is now open for BU faculty, staff, and students. We hope to see you there.
Do you currently use the discussion board tool in Blackboard? If so, you may be looking for ways to increase student engagement and participation inside your discussion forums. A common complaint about discussion boards is that unless they are graded or required by the instructor, students do not want to participate. The conversations between students are full of flattery and follow the leader, and often lack the depth that is found in the face-to-face classroom environment.
One possible solution is through the use of YouTube video postings to the discussion board in place of the traditional text responses. To set this up, students will need to create their own YouTube channel using a Google Account. Luckily, anyone can create a Gmail account or for added features, BU students and faculty are also able to set up Google Apps for Education accounts through BU: (http://www.bu.edu/tech/support/google/).
Once a YouTube channel is created, students can upload their video from either a smartphone or computer to their YouTube channel and copy the video’s Share URL into the Blackboard discussion board thread by clicking on the “Insert/Edit Embedded Media” button. Students who are concerned about posting personal information on YouTube have the option of saving videos as “unlisted.”
Not all scientists must also be expert computer programmers, but basic knowledge of programming fundamentals can be an important tool in your professional toolbox. The ability to automate repetitive tasks and to modify or create simple programs is a major boon in terms of research productivity and creativity. Here at BU, Research Computing Services (RCS) offers a regular series of scientific computing tutorials to help researchers get up and running. While these tutorials work well for many researchers, some may benefit from a more comprehensive approach. To meet this need, RCS is currently exploring offering Software Carpentry workshops.
Software Carpentry is a non-profit that supports teaching basic programming to early-career scientists through 2-day workshops. The goal of these workshops is to provide programming tools that are immediately useful, and an introduction to best-practices (or just good-enough practices) in scientific computing. For some researchers, a Software Carpentry workshop can be a “one stop shop” to learn enough programming to further their research. For others, it can be an entry point to a deeper study of scientific computing.
A typical workshop includes lessons on the Unix shell, programming in a popular scientific programming language (e.g. Python, R, or MATLAB), and version-control and collaboration using Git and Github. Instructors strive to make their teaching highly interactive, leaning heavily on live-coding and hands-on exercise as opposed to lecture. The lessons themselves are developed and improved by a large community of instructors. All of the lessons are shared on Github and anyone can suggest a modification. After thousands of revisions from hundreds of contributors, the lesson plans are highly polished and anticipate many common misunderstandings.
Back to BU, Research Computing Services recently hosted a Software Carpentry Instructor Training workshop, and anticipates hosting our first Software Carpentry workshop this coming summer. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in attending or hosting a workshop.
How best to introduce a busy faculty member to new educational approaches and technologies? Scheduled for December 15, 2015 and next on April 19, 2016, BUSM faculty attend a drop-in when-you-can, two-hour lab and talk one-on-one with Educational Advisors: media specialists, clinical educators, librarians, and early adopters. Faculty brought their specific course/seminar/educational topic on thumb drives and the Ed Advisors consult with them on how to make it more active learning. Individual stations for different pedagogies such as flipped classrooms, simulation exercises, interactive large lectures, and small group sessions and for different educational technologies such as MS Mix, Personal Capture, and Qualtrics. Faculty casually moved from station to station and asked questions of the Ed Advisors. A looped slide presentation with soft music shows the different resources. Short snapshot presentations by Ed Advisors showcases their topics. Participants receive handouts, resource lists, a relaxing environment and a light lunch. Stop by next Tuesday at noon in the Instructional Building L-206 and join the conversations.
To increase exposure and practice in interpersonal skills, the Geddes Language Center adopted Dill, or “The Digital Language Lab” in the summer of 2014. Classes use Dill for various activities, such as paired conversations, listen and repeat exercises, interpersonal dialogues, oral presentations, and speaking exams all in the effort to increase oral proficiency.
For instructors, the software is very easy to use. As students log in, they appear as an icon on the instructor’s lab controller. Instructors can group students (in pairs, usually) for conversations simply by drawing a line between the students. To make sure students remain on task, instructors can monitor or converse with students by drawing a line between them. Activities can be recorded by the instructor initiating a recording task and assigning it to the class. For individual recordings, students have a recorder with a simple interface. All recordings are saved automatically, and instructors access them via a web interface.
In the Spring 2016 semester to date, 26 instructors representing a number of different foreign languages have brought their classes to the lab to use Dill. Students have reacted positively. Many students prefer being recorded in a booth with a noise isolating headset while speaking instead of having to perform in front of their peers. This allows them to consider their speech instead of possibly being self-conscious, and as a result they tend to generate more speech. Not being able to see the person they are speaking with also allows students to focus on what they’re saying and not their body language.
Digication, BU’s ePortfolio software, now allows Google app documents, including Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Forms and more, to be embedded within an ePortfolio module. Students can create, share, and collaboratively edit a document in Google Docs and have the result be pushed to the portfolio, with the original revision history still available in Google Docs. You can find this function in Digication by pressing Add A Module, selecting the Google option, pressing Add This Module and following the instructions.