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Research & Teaching Tools, April 2012
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I   
Grants for Humanities and Social Sciences
Application period extended to May 23rd

II   2012 Technology Fellowship Showcase
Come check out resources created by faculty/student collaboration this year

III   Blackboard Faculty User Group Established
Faculty sharing teaching tips with fellow faculty

IV   Ares: New Software for a Reliable e-Reserves Service
New and improved e-reserve system is ready!

V   Teaching Tips: Using Student-Contributed Videos
Find a (relevant) course video and save your time, too

VI   Faculty Spotlight: Greg Hager, Professor & Chair, Department of Computer Science, Whiting School of Engineering
A continuing series on teaching excellence at Homewood

VII   Internet2 Upgrade
Good news for Hopkins data users

VIII   Technology Classroom Updates
"On demand" classroom support process changing

IX   Brody Learning Commons Set to Open this Summer
Plenty of new flexible space with natural light

X   JHU Mobile Launch Planned for May
Information for your smart phone or tablet when you need it

 

 

I   Grants for Humanities and Social Sciences

Humanities Grants Logo

Update: The application period has been extended to May 23rd.

Enabled by the generosity of Johns Hopkins Trustee and Sheridan Libraries National Advisory Council member Christopher Hoehn-Saric and the Smart Family Foundation, the Center for Educational Resources (CER) announces a grant program to support pedagogical innovation in humanities and social sciences disciplines (H/SS) at Johns Hopkins University. The focus will be on courses for Homewood undergraduate students. A full Request for Proposals is available as a PDF.

The CER seeks proposals from humanities and social science faculty for projects that broaden student access to 21st century careers. Proposals should either:

  • facilitate the acquisition and practical application of digital literacy skills within H/SS course work
  • or
  • develop interdisciplinary courses that integrate H/SS and STEM content

A range of proposals are invited. Examples of humanities-related projects funded by CER grant initiatives may be found at http://www.cer.jhu.edu/pdf/Humanities-Social Sciences Grants RFP.pdf.

Projects should build on and reinforce known best practices in education, including active learning, the encouragement of high level student-faculty interaction, and student collaboration. Proposals should demonstrate awareness of the variety of student learning styles.

CER staff are available to provide feedback on proposals before submission and offer assistance in identifying qualified students to work on projects. Questions may be directed to Macie Hall at macie.hall@jhu.edu or 410-516-6165. Additional information is available at: http://www.cer.jhu.edu/grants-h-ss.html.

 

II   2012 Technology Fellowship Showcase

TF Showcase Logo

The 2011-12 Technology Fellowship winners will demonstrate new instructional technology resources on Tuesday, May 8th, from 1:00 3:00, on Q-level in the MSE Library. Check out the great educational resources that have been developed by faculty-student teams this year. The Showcase will feature special giveaways for all attendees, including flash drives for JHU faculty.

This year's projects were created by departments ranging from Public Health Studies, Humanities, Sociology, Music Theory, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science & Engineering. Projects have produced new resources for study and learning, including: live digital video illustrations on laboratory safety for WSE students; an e-textbook for students of music theory; a database of maps, timelines and data sets for sociology; an interactive, and a self-guided, electronic tool for students in public health studies.

After a very competitive round of applications, winners for the 2012-2013 Technology Fellowship grants are being considered this month and will be announced in the next issue of this newsletter.

For more information on the Technology Fellowship program and the upcoming Showcase on May 8th, please visit www.cer.jhu.edu.

 

III   Blackboard Faculty User Group Established

GradeMark Logo

On March 20th, 2012, the first Blackboard Faculty User Group meeting was held on the Homewood campus in the CER. Ron Levy, humanities professor at the Peabody Conservatory, gave a presentation on GradeMark, a paperless grading system offered by JHU's plagiarism-detection software, Turnitin, which integrates seamlessly with Blackboard. Instructors from both the full-time and part-time programs of the Krieger and Whiting Schools attended.

Blackboard LogoBlackboard Faculty User Group meetings are open to faculty from all JHU divisions who use Blackboard. The purpose of the group is to provide an environment where faculty can exchange ideas, collaborate with colleagues, and learn more about the capabilities of Blackboard. The CER is currently planning to hold meetings once per semester. Faculty are welcome to suggest ideas for upcoming meetings; if there is a topic you would like to see on the agenda at the next meeting (scheduled for fall 2012) or if you would like more information about GradeMark, please contact cerweb@jhu.edu.

 

IV   Ares: New Software for a Reliable e-Reserves Service

What is Ares?
Ares is the new e-reserve management software at the JHU Libraries. After tests in several courses during the 2011-2012 academic year, Ares will be fully implemented for Fall 2012 courses at Homewood.

Why change e-reserve systems?
At MSE Library, Ares replaces a 15 year-old system, a venerable elder in IT years! While the aged system could be manipulated to work with Blackboard, the new software is expressly designed to integrate with Blackboard and University course and enrollment information. A benefit for all course users should be more reliable access to current course readings. To aid review, the system will also give faculty access to reserve reading lists from prior semesters.

What should Homewood faculty expect from Ares if they intend to use e-reserves in the fall 2012 semester?ARES Library Reserves Logo
Instructors with active Blackboard course sites should expect a link to their course readings. If you are already familiar with the e-reserves link at Blackboard, the link will continue to perform the same function after Ares is implemented. The only difference: the readings will open in a new interface.

For instructors who may not always use Blackboard, the library's e-readings site will continue to be available, with the following functional changes:

  • to access e-readings, users' JHED information will replace course-specific passwords.
  • as with Blackboard, users will see the list of courses for which they are either the instructor or an enrolled student, rather than the current menu of all e-reserve-supported courses.

Will course readings look different in the Ares interface?
Whether users link to their readings from a Blackboard course site or from Reserves' site, the Ares interface will look and feel a little different from the current interface. For example, in Ares the readings index for a course will include status information and can be sorted by multiple terms. Generally, the Ares interface will allow Reserves staff to provide bibliographically correct indexing that corresponds to information about the readings on instructors' syllabi or reading lists.

How can faculty help?
Reserves staff are already working to move course information from the current e-reserve system into Ares, but we would like to know what you are teaching this fall. Whether your course is a rerun, a rerun with updates, or a brand new endeavor, timely information will help Reserves staff to manage the transition to Ares and meet your deadlines in September. The deadline for submitting requests to Reserves for Fall 2012 courses is July 23, 2012; if you can share your syllabus or reading list before the recommended deadline, staff will be happy to hear from you.

 

V   Teaching Tips: Using Student-Contributed Videos

In the past five years a huge proliferation of online video content has become freely available through social media outlets, such as YouTube and Vimeo. What you may not know is that there is a remarkable amount of serious, interesting, and well-executed educational content out there. Using video clips in class can help break up long stretches of straight lecture and provide students with alternate learning paths. But getting past the junk to the good stuff takes time and energy, both of which are likely to be in short supply for busy faculty.

YouTube Logo

Why not kill two birds with one stone? Students will get more from a course when they feel that they are active participants and contributors. You can engage your students and increase their participation in the class by asking that they do the searching for you. Students can be invited submit (via email to you or your TAs or using one of several Blackboard tools a class discussion board, class wikis or blogs) the URLs for videos they find that are relevant and useful for explaining or expanding on course content. Students can also be asked to explain to the class why they thought the video clip was germane to the subject being covered. Incentive can be provided by way of extra credit points for videos that you decide to use in class.

Another tip - Blackboard makes using YouTube content extremely easy. You can embed YouTube clips directly into your Blackboard course site so that students can review the clip outside of class time. CER staff can help you with this and other Blackboard solutions.

For more information on this idea see the blog posting by the Center for Faculty Excellence, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: http://cfe100plus.web.unc.edu/2012/03/27/tip-15-create-opportunities-for-students-to-contribute-to-the-course/

 

VI   Faculty Spotlight: Greg Hager, Professor & Chair, Department of Computer Science, Whiting School of Engineering

CER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins?

GH: I teach three courses:

  • Data Structures: 1 of 3 introductory courses in the computer science department
  • Algorithms for Sensor-Based Robotics: junior-level targeted course
  • Introduction to Computer Vision: an advanced undergraduate/introductory graduate-level course in my research area

CER: What are your strategies or approaches for engaging the students in your course?

GH: It depends on the class. Data Structures enrolls younger students in a large class (approximately 70 students). In a large class, the challenge is to keep them engaged and part of the class. The main thing is to keep the lecture interesting and entertaining.

Greg Hager PortraitTo start with, I try to structure my classes like a story with a beginning, middle, and end. I use the blackboard for narrative with the notes projected on the sides acting as the structure or outline. As I change the projected notes about every 15 minutes, I then return to the blackboard to illustrate the topic. The best lectures are like a Prairie Home Companion episode. I start with a motivating anecdote, we then do something technical, and I might take them on a side trip about an interesting topic, but then all these pieces come together at the end into one big story.

During the lecture, I try to focus my attention on different sections of the class at different times. I prefer to use a conversational tone, which is easier if I focus the discussion with a few dozen students in one area of the room. I spend class trying to think of questions to ask while moving my focus around the room. I'm intentionally unpredictable so they don't recognize a pattern and go to sleep.

I also say provocative or downright silly things to break things up. For example, a few classes ago we were talking about memory allocation, which is not the most exciting topic. At some point I stopped and asked them how a memory chip works. Most haven't a clue. I tell them I don't know either, but it has to do with smoke. Puzzled looks. Then I point out that when smoke comes out of a chip it stops working clearly it's the smoke that makes it work. It's silly, but it does wake them up.

I often think about how can we add more value to technical classes. I envy the Humanities and the seminar format, which is fundamentally designed for active engagement. In technical fields we don't have the same notion of the seminar. Coming up with an approach that is similar to the seminar is where we ought to go.

CER: What about your smaller, upper-level courses?

GH: My other courses are smaller and enroll advanced students. The content is typically cutting edge, and in some cases, methods I cover today didn't exist 10 years ago. Therefore, I try to teach them fundamental tools, but at the same time help them realize that what they see now will most likely change in 5 years. The world continually evolves and computer science is a rapidly changing field. What I try to teach is not just what we know today, but also how to solve problems creatively using new ideas.

CER: Can you give example of how you do this?

GH: The field of object recognition has evolved rapidly in the last 10 years. When I teach the topic, I start by talking a little about its history and some of the roadblocks that people faced. Then I ask students how they would approach the problem. We brainstorm a bit and I try to get them to discuss their ideas and their limitations. Only then do I start to explain what methods are used now. I think the best time to learn about a problem is after you are first asked to solve it yourself. After struggling with it, you are more likely to understand the solution.

CER: Can you tell us some of the challenges you have encountered in teaching?

GH: Learning doesn't primarily happen in the classroom; it comes through practice. One real challenge is to design examples and assignments with the right-level of difficulty and relevance to real-world applications. For example, one example I used in class this year was how to efficiently check for redundant photos when importing from your camera. After some brainstorming, we then talked about how you could do it efficiently with a hash table. In the corresponding assignment use hash tables to build word frequencies from WEB pages, which has connections to ranking in WEB search.

CER: Where do you see teaching going?

GH: This is a huge topic of discussion today, largely because of all of the new online platforms springing up. I believe the major value of the university is not me standing in front of students talking, but rather, it's the intellectual community we create. We should take advantage of that community at every opportunity. For example, peer teaching is enormously powerful. In Computer Science, we use advanced undergrads as course advisors. They are familiar with the course and its challenges, and they relate well to the students. I think we should use them more.

In the future, I expect we are going to move away from me standing in front of students, and toward active engagement in small cohorts. Really, I should be the rudder, not the propeller. I should steer; they should push.

CER: How will this happen?

GH: It seems clear that the online lecture will become the new textbook. I will assign students to watch some lecture material maybe a couple of 15 minute chunks. They will be expected to come to class and put their knowledge to use. I'll recap the online lecture, address a few questions, do a problem or two, and then they will work through problems in small groups on their own while I am available to help.

In a setting like this I can get an immediate sense of the roadblocks. Right now, I only have trailing measures. I see where they are struggling only after they turn in assignments. In the new model, I can see it as it unfolds. I'm not completely sure where we are headed and how we will get there, but group learning will be an important component.

CER: What is your philosophy of teaching?

GH: I want my students to get the big picture, the intellectual sweep of where we are as a field, and how the field is evolving. My philosophy is that when students walk away from my class, they should know factual content, but should also see how these pieces fit together within the bigger picture of computer science.

 

VII   Internet2 Upgrade

Internet 2 LogoJohns Hopkins maintains several high speed connections to the outside world. Everyone is familiar with commodity Internet services that provide access to the web, but JHU also has a high speed connection to Internet2 (I2), the advanced research network. Hopkins has been an I2 member since 2001. As of January 1, our I2 connection has been upgraded to 10 Gigabits, a 10-fold increase in speed. This upgrade allows for much faster transfer of data files to other research institutions that also use Internet2. Today, the I2 community includes 221 U.S. universities, 45 leading corporations, 66 government agencies, 35 regional and state education networks, and more than 100 national research and education networking organizations representing over 50 countries.

This upgrade benefits Hopkins in many ways, including:

  • Enables large scale transfers of research data sets to other I2 participants
  • Benefits all faculty, students, and staff who are engaged in the development of middleware efforts, health science initiatives, existing grants, arts & humanities, science & engineering, and research and education networks
  • Positions Hopkins for future grant initiatives
  • Enables Hopkins to leverage future long-distance data circuit offerings from I2

Examples of ongoing national I2 initiatives that Hopkins may be able to leverage include: Internet2/McGraw-Hill eText Pilot, performing arts productions over advanced networks (New World Symphony), cloud services, The Commons (video collaboration initiatives), and continued development with InCommons (trusted shared management of online resources).

If you have questions about Internet2, contact Dean Zarriello at deanz@jhu.edu or 410-516-0571.

 

VIII   Technology Classroom Updates

Academic Technology Facilities Logo

The process for requesting "on demand" classroom support for faculty and instructors will be changing this summer and continuing into the fall semester. The most important aspect of these changes will be a transition to a phone-based support process (410-516-6699) coupled with the retiring of the "Help" button across all Homewood general pool classrooms. This will provide immediate voice contact with technology support staff during normal support hours and confirmation that a technician is being dispatched to the classroom if on-site support is needed.

Additional information will be posted in the classrooms and sent to faculty and department administrators prior to the start of the fall semester. Feedback or other suggestions can be directed to Graham Bouton at graham@jhu.edu.

 

IX   Brody Learning Commons Set to Open this Summer

Brody Learning Commons Exterior

Finishing touches are being applied to the Brody Learning Commons. The commons is a four-story hub for collaborative learning situated directly south of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. We're on schedule to open in late August, so when students return, they'll have access to study spaces full of natural light and the latest technology. Plus, there will be a new 75-seat café, perfect for those informal meetings with students. Stay tuned for more information in our next edition.

 

X   JHU Mobile Launch Planned for May

JHUMobile App Screenshot

After visiting other schools and sampling popular mobile applications, Hopkins students expressed interest in developing similar applications here. With guidance from various stakeholders, students have led the technical implementation of an application that will launch by May and will provide a course list, map of campus (with a list of buildings and what is in each building), bus tracker, library search, news reader, images and videos from groups around Homewood, emergency phone numbers, athletics results, academic calendar, and links to the websites for Hopkins Groups and the Student Government Association website. While the initial application is geared towards students, it will serve information that is useful to visitors, faculty, and staff as well.

JHU Mobile is an application for iOS, Android and BlackBerry. It will be accessed from anywhere a cell phone can be used. No Wi-Fi required (except on iPods), no Hopkins authentication required. Because it is a mobile application, the information is available on the go when access to it will be most useful.