I had a fantastic time Saturday at the Jacobson Symposium. I’ll post some info about what I said tomorrow or so, but I thought the other presenters were excellent and I feel like I came away with a lot of good ideas. I guess it just goes to show that they’re doing some great stuff with technology here at Creighton.
So, here’s a run-down of my notes, my impressions, and my miscellaneous observations:
- I ended up sitting at a table with long-time computers and writing familiar face Joan Latchaw from the University of Nebraska, Omaha. I think we had met before, but it was nice putting a face with a name. And a big howdy to the other folks from UNO, too.
- Creighton President Father John Schelegel gave some opening remarks that I thought were pretty interesting. Schelegel said that Creighton was the “Silicon Valley of the Jesuit order,” which appeared to me to be the case based on my short visit.
- The first group of presentations included talks by Eileen Dugan about cool uses of audio files/podcasts for her History lectures; Rob Dornsife, an English professor who generated a lot of talk and thinking about the “cult-like” status of things like handwriting; and Joel Davies, a professor in Journalism and Mass Communication who talked about graphic design stuff. Two things that Joel said I thought were worth noting: first, he talked about the frustration he has with the amount of time it takes to get students “up to speed” with the design software and hardware and how that takes away from talking about other design issues (I can relate). Second, and this goes out to my EMU colleagues, all of the journalism students have to take web design.
- The next session featured Tobias Nownes, an Instructional Designer at Creighton, talking about some of the more nuts ‘n bolts stuff with blogging software and such. He had a pretty cool little web-based tool for converting PowerPoint presentations into web sites; I thought I had the link written down, but maybe not.
After him, there was a presentation by Bridget Keegan and Matthew Low about using a blog in an introductory literary theory class. They have a web site up with much of their presentation notes on it. Again, a great talk, one where I think they do a good job of modeling some of the “best practices” in class blogs, including a lot of the common concerns and problems: flaming, FREPA issues and privacy, resistance to technology, etc., etc. Two things that I wrote down: I really like the way that they had students in this literature class work at coming up with the “best practices” for what a good blog post should look like, and I thought the list of attributes that they had at the end of the semester was interesting too. To me, it looked like a lot the initial group of practices focused on mechanics; later in the term, the practices seemed more about “good writing.” The second thing is that I think that Bridget captured one of the major problems of blogs in teaching: it’s supposed to be a “fun” activity, and she thought that her students were resistant to doing something that was supposed to be kind of fun in a class.
Last but not least here was a presentation by Gintaras Duda, who is a physics professor at Creighton. He gave a great talk about his experiences in using blogs to teach an introductory physics class. One of the things that Gintaras said was, according to past surveys at other institutions, students leave intro to physics courses with even worse attitudes about the class than before it began. So, in an effort to combat these “bad attitudes,” Gintaras set up a blog where he posted things in an effort to connect physics to the “real” world and invited his students to post to it. The incentive for students was the blog space was extra credit, which, in the context of this particular class (and also if you think about blogging as one of those things that ought to be kind of “fun” or at least voluntary) made a lot of sense.
Also– I guess maybe because of he is a scientist, after all– Gintaras talked about some of the statistical work he did comparing student attitudes about physics in his classes, where there were blogs, with sections of physics where students didn’t have blogs. In the classes with the blogs, students had better overall attitudes. Sure, no doubt that there are a lot of other factors here, but I for one really appreciate the fact that he’s making the effort to demonstrate some sort of statistical evidence for the value of blogs.
Like I said, really great stuff.
Of course, it’s taken me a couple days (off and on) to write this up since it’s been a pretty crazy getting back into the swing of things. And before I know it, it’ll all be over for the semester, too….