Beyond the Teaching Assistant Orientation

posted in: Newsletter, Teaching | 0

photo of participants attending the NIU Teaching Assistant Orientation

Over 220 Graduate Teaching Assistants, presenters, and staff attended the 2016 Teaching Assistant Orientation on August 16, 2016 in the Holmes Student Center. The Teaching Assistant Orientation is offered to new and returning teaching assistants each year to learn more about their role as a TA and the support services at Northern Illinois University. However, this isn’t the only opportunity for TAs to develop their teaching skills. Teaching assistants can also attend other Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center programs throughout the year. In 2015-2016, teaching assistants accounted for 40% of program attendance, which equates to almost 600 registrations.

To find out more about TA workshops, look for our monthly calendar of programs. All TAs receive the schedule via their NIU student email.

The TA Orientation is offered each year through the collaborative efforts of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, the Graduate School, and other departments and support units. The annual event helps graduate teaching assistants develop their teaching skills and introduces them to university resources that will support their work. The TA Orientation is always well attended and attendees consistently agree that this event will benefit their students. Although the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center does not require new TAs to attend the orientation, 29 unique academic departments required their TAs to attend. Over 85% of the participants agreed that their objectives for attending the orientation were met.

If you were unable to attend this year’s TA Orientation, you can review the presentations and handouts online.

Finally, the Teaching Across the Disciplines panel of experienced teaching assistants is always popular. We asked our recognized experienced TAs to share more about their role as a teaching assistant with some strategies and tips. For more advice go to: Tips for New Graduate Teaching Assistants from Your Experienced Peers

 

Smart Classroom User Training

Smart Classroom User Training — The Division of Information Technology is offering training on using the audiovisual equipment in Provost sponsored smart classrooms.Smart Classroom

Both new and returning instructors should benefit from these brief tutorials. A complete demonstration with hands on practice could take a half-hour of your time.

 

TRAINING DATES

Tuesday, August 16th

Cole Hall 106, from 8:00AM – 3:00PM by appointment call 753-0172

Wednesday, August 17th & Thursday August 18th

DuSable Hall 348, from 8:00AM – 12:00PM and 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Friday, August 19th

By appointment during the day (call 753-0172)

 

Wednesday/Thursday seminars are open-ended and run continually so you won’t miss a thing- no matter when you drop by. A complete demonstration with hands on practice could take a half-hour of your time. If you cannot attend one of the above sessions, please contact Keith Bisplinghoff (753-0172) to arrange for an appointment or for other training opportunities.

Celebrate Earth Day with Greener Teaching Practices

posted in: Resources, Teaching | 0
Davis Hall viewed through spring tulips at NIU
Photo Credit: NIU Creative Services

As educators, we strive each day to teach our students to be global citizens and good stewards of the world around them. One of the ways we can model this is to incorporate greener teaching techniques into our courses. Here are some easy steps to improve your teaching green footprint, which are good for the environment and good for your students’ success.

Provide your students with more than printed materials

An overall push to reduce printing is a good first step in reducing your environmental impact. Moreover, reducing printed materials is also good for your students’ learning. Providing your students with a variety of materials through multiple modalities can help offer choice and preference in how they learn content best. You can now find materials in many forms such as e-books, online tutorials, videos, infographics, and written materials. Your students can access museum archives, listen to a symphony on a train, or review your lecture notes from their phones at their convenience beyond the regular class period. Simply by providing your students with electronic materials in a variety of formats reduces your carbon footprint and is often more accessible to a diverse student body.

Assess your students and grade their work online

Consider changing up your assessments and putting more of them online. By using Blackboard assessment tools, students can submit their work electronically and grading can be easier.  Some of Blackboard’s most commonly used assessment tools include Assignments, Tests, and Discussions forums. One of the real benefits of online assessments is the ability to provide your students with valuable feedback on how they are doing with no printing necessary.  Find out more about Blackboard’s Inline Grading. Other benefits to putting your assessments online, include using SafeAssign for plagiarism detection and managing due dates.

Attending Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center’s Teaching with Technology Institute on June 2, 2016

Beginning this summer, the Division of IT is planning to migrate NIU student email into the Microsoft Exchange system, so that NIU faculty and students will be on the same email system for the first time ever. This adds even more functionality to Microsoft Office 365, which students have had access to for over a year. Students will have the ability to easily share files, work collaboratively, and share media-rich notes. During the morning session of the 2016 Teaching with Technology Institute, participants will discover how to use these tools in new ways to communicate and collaborate with their students.

Resources

Greener Teaching Techniques – This article is a compilation of techniques for environmentally-friendly teaching from a variety of sources, including other academic institutions and environmental agencies.

NIU Green Team – All students, faculty, and staff are invited to join and help shape the future of NIU.

 

 

When the Community and the Classroom Collide: Service-Learning at NIU

college student reads book to children

This article is guest-authored by Renique Kersh and Michaela Holtz from the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, and Destiny McDonald from Student Involvement and Leadership Development. We are grateful that they have shared their expertise on Service Learning for our blog and spring 2016 newsletter!

Service Learning, as a practice, “deliberately integrates community service activities with educational objectives” (Bringle & Hatcher, 1990, p. 180). As a transformative learning pedagogy, service learning, uniquely combines student learning, perspective shifting and meaning making. The process of meaning making, for students, is important as it causes critical shifts in schema. At its root, meaning making assumes that students better understand how they fit into the world around them. Service learning experiences enhance this process and encourage a sense of social and civic responsibility. Student engagement in quality service learning experiences challenges their assumptions, ignites their moral compass and disrupts prior knowledge.

As previously explored in the fall 2015 newsletter from the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, service learning takes many unique forms. Academic Service Learning has been defined as “a specific pedagogy that integrates academic coursework with service which meets a community-identified need.” Important to the integration of Academic Service Learning into courses is the inclusion of critical reflection, which is the venue by which students begin to unpack old knowledge and create new knowledge. This practice results in a deepening of learning. It has been hailed as a practice that promotes an “enlightened understanding” for students and emboldens clarity around social responsibility and the interweaving of the student’s experience and the experiences of those in the world around them (Bringle & Hatcher, 1999, p. 179). Other scholars suggest that critical reflection is a means by which educators can assess student learning and therefore make assumptions about depth and breadth (Molee, Henry, Sessa & McKinney-Prupis, 2010).

Further, the definition of Academic Service Learning includes a reference to meeting a “community-identified” need. This suggests that incorporating these activities into courses cannot be one-sided and must include the thoughtful cooperation of community partners. This highlights the need for university collaborators to be reminded of the importance of the reciprocal relationship and collaborative problem solving (Bringle and Hatcher, 2002). There are a number of other important things to consider when coordinating service learning activities, which may pose challenges for community partners. These challenges include the lack of training for students engaged in these experiences and the impact that this may have on community organization’s ability to meet their identified mission. Other challenges include student’s level of interest, communication and sporadic schedules (Smith-Budhai, 2013).

Another important consideration for faculty interested in utilizing Academic Service Learning is how its use can be influential in the process of tenure and promotion. Institutions like Colorado State University provide faculty with guidelines for how to articulate the curricular impact of Academic Service Learning in the tenure and promotion dossier. The National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement confirms the importance of pedagogies like Academic Service Learning noting the importance of strategies that “engage faculty in academically relevant work that simultaneously meets campus mission and goals as well as community needs”.  Although much of the research on service learning focuses on student learning outcomes, faculty-related outcomes and community partner outcomes must be considered as well.

So where do you go from here? The Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning in partnership with the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, invite you to learn more about Academic Service Learning, community partner expectations, the use of critical reflection and considerations for tenure and promotion at the upcoming Service Learning Institute titled “When the Community and the Classroom Collide: Service Learning at NIU” on May 18, 2016, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. This fully online institute will be easily accessible from any location and will include a keynote from service learning expert, Dr. Patrick Green of Loyola University in Chicago. At the close of the institute, participants will have an opportunity to learn about a new Faculty Fellows program scheduled to launch in the summer of 2016! The Faculty Fellows program creates a learning collaborative in which new and experienced service-learning faculty deepen their knowledge and share best practices. In addition, selected Faculty Fellows will receive a small stipend to support professional development and the integration of service learning pedagogy into new and existing courses.

We look forward to having you join us!

 

References

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1990). Reflection in Service Learning: Making Meaning or Experience. Educational Horizons, 179.

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (2002). Campus–community partnerships: The terms of engagement. Journal of Social Issues, 58(3), 503-516.

Gerstenblatt, P.  (2014). Community as agency: Community partner experiences with service learning. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 7(2). Retreived from http://jces.ua.edu/community-as-agency-community-partner-experiences-with-service-learning/

Smith Budhai, S. (2013). Two sides to every story: Exploring community partners’ perspective of their service learning experiences. Journal for Civic Commitment, 20, 1-13.

Mezirow, J. (1990). How critical reflection triggers transformative learning. Fostering critical reflection in adulthood, 1-20.

Molee, L. M., Henry, M. E., Sessa, V. I., & McKinney-Prupis, E. R. (2010). Assessing learning in service-learning courses through critical reflection.Journal of Experiential Education, 33(3), 239-257.

Web Sources

http://www.scholarshipofengagement.org/

http://www.gvsu.edu/servicelearning/service-learningdefinitions-11.htm

Communicate with Your Students On-the-Go!

Tracy Miller using a selfie stickVideos can be a great way to deliver a message to students in your online course, and it’s never been easier. Many of us carry our video cameras with us everywhere we go, after all. So let’s start with pulling out your smart phone, and follow these four easy steps.

1. Pick a Location: Find a location that is convenient or important to your message. You will want a nice background, with minimal clutter but more interesting than a blank wall. Try different locations around campus or your home. Even better, record video at conferences or while completing field research, so that the location is relevant to your content.

2. Plan Your Message: Think about what you are going to say. Are you welcoming your students to a new week? Do you want to remind them of a due date? Did something important come up in the news? You can write a script, if that helps you feel more comfortable, but it is generally better to sound casual and conversational as opposed to reading a very formal written script. Students appreciate when you sound approachable!

3. Record Your Video: After you have thought about what your message is, just start recording. You can have a colleague record you, prop up your phone on a bookcase or other handy furniture, or use a “selfie stick” and record on your own.

4. Edit and Publish: After you’ve recorded, upload the video to a video hosting site like YouTube (where you can keep the video Unlisted, if you want, so that you don’t accidentally become a viral video star). You can do that directly from your phone using the YouTube app. The video can then be edited and enhanced if you wish, and you should edit the captions to improve upon the often-glitchy auto-captions YouTube provides automatically. Then you can add it to your Blackboard course by using Video Everywhere to search videos in your YouTube channel, by posting the Share link, or by using the Embed code.

Unfortunately, if you ever used Video Everywhere to record from a webcam, it is no longer an option in Blackboard Learn. Google eliminated the ability to record from a webcam on YouTube, so it is no longer available in Blackboard, either. However, using your mobile device to record is easy and unchains you from having to record from your desktop or laptop computer.

Some benefits of capturing these quick and easy videos:

Convenient: Recording short video clips from your mobile device be done anywhere, anytime. All the equipment you need is in the palm of your hand. This method is great for when you are at a professional event and you want to share the experience with your students.

Connective: Videos are useful in helping students feel like there is a human being guiding their learning process in an online course. By creating on-the-go videos you will allow your students to see into your professional world and that world doesn’t revolve around a desk.

Contagious: Videos work for you and your students. Students can use videos to respond to discussions, as part of an assignment submission, or as a presentation tool.

Tips for communicating with your students with a video message:

  1. Outline what you want to say, but keep it informal (It doesn’t have to be perfect)
  2. Keep it short and to the point!
  3. Take a few minutes to think about your location (lighting, background)
  4. Save your video as Unlisted within YouTube and embed it in your Blackboard course to keep the message between you and your students
  5. Use YouTube’s Manage subtitles and closed captions for accessibility and usability

Sitting at a computer is not the only online teaching and learning environment. Mobile technologies make connecting with your students simple, yet meaningful. It is important to communicate with your them frequently in an online course, and using videos can enhance your interaction. For more information about online learning technology, watch the recording of our workshop on Promoting Learning with Technology, below.

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