Category: Teaching Page 1 of 5

Video in situ

I’ve only recently stumbled upon La Blogothèque, a French website / YouTube channel that produces fantastic films of music being performed. They have beautiful concerts like this one of The National, ‘Live in Cork’.

The National, ‘Live in Cork,’ produced by La Blogothèque

Even better are their “Take Away Shows” where they get a band to perform a song or two in unusual places. Phoenix is a really popular band from France, and they have done a bunch of these videos. Here’s one of them performing a couple of their songs on a double-decker bus as they pass by the Eiffel Tower.

Phoenix, “Lisztomania” & “One Time Too Many,” produced by La Blogothèque 

Jack White’s performance from the Château de Fontainebleau trades the gonzo hit and run style of the Phoenix performance, for a beautiful, acoustically rich chapel.

Jack White at Château de Fontainebleau, produced by La Blogothèque

Watching these videos got me thinking about how we film educational video for blended and online courses. The worst of these videos are shot from a camera set up in the back of a lecture hall. Unfortunately, this has been common practice since we started putting lecture content online. 

The Blogothèque videos above help to illustrate why this is such bad practice. Compare these videos with static-cam concert footage shot from the audience at a Jack White show.

I was talking about SAMR with Keegan yesterday, so I’ll borrow that language for this analysis. The back of the concert / back of the classroom footage uses technology as a substitution for the actual experience, and it’s fairly obvious how the substitution fails to live up to the authentic experience. The best you can hope for, is that the viewer wishes they were at the actual event.

The Blogotheque videos sail through augmentation and modification, landing instead on redefinition. Without the technology of video, wielded by a director with a great eye (Colin Solal Cardo), it is inconceivable that you could listen to Jack White from the roof a French Château or hear the acoustic differences of Phoenix performing under a bridge.

There are a few programs playing with instructional video in really interesting ways. At OU, we have moved away from back-of-the-class lecture capture, producing instead sets of short videos where the instructor explains the key concepts. We have built a light screen so instructors can write like the would on a white board while looking into the camera and talking to the students. I think this takes us passed the poor substitution standard and into augmentation. 

William Farrell explains how we produce instructional video at OU

What I would like to do more of is move into the field, both with faculty and through the lens of student and partner cameras. We were able to do that a bit with the Chemistry of Beer course here at OU. Mark Morvant, a professor of chemistry and at that time, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, lined up interviews and opportunities to film brewers to walk us through the various stages of making beer.

Chemistry of Beer video shot on site at a brewery

We were also able to take people into chemistry labs when we were putting together an introductory chemistry textbook in iBooks.

Recrystallization experiment as a demonstration of the chemical concept

While the Blogothèque videos are generally highly produced, the video of Phoenix performing on a bus shows that part of the appeal of this type of video is the feeling of unvarnished realism. In the chemistry lab videos, we can see how students can benefit from seeing instructors in their research environments, even with relatively low-production video. Here the technology again achieves that high goal of redefining lecture for online/blended students, taking them out of a classroom and putting them on-site with an expert.

I would love to see more faculty take a camera with them to shoot short instructional videos as they visit field sites, research labs, and historical landmarks. Taking it a step further towards putting you on the roof with Jack White, Ashley West and the emerging technologists in the OU Libraries are now teaching faculty how to use 360 degree cameras to create experiences that students can dive into with VR headsets.

If You Can’t Write a Letter of Rec for Every Student, Change the Way You Teach

 TLDR: Replace your course rubric with a letter of recommendation.

It’s time that we take responsibility for knowing our students. If you can’t write a letter of recommendation for your best students, you should rethink your teaching. If we center the letter of recommendation at the core of our assessment strategy, we can create a more student-centered classroom that recognizes and advances the goals of students.

Start the Semester by Drafting an Opening Paragraph for Each Student

Start off the semester by getting to know your students. Whether you use an icebreaker or an ungraded formative writing assignment, ask your students what they’re interested in and how your class can help them grow. Ask them what their majors are and how they envision those degrees helping them in life. Ask them what they’re passionate about and how college can help to deepen that passion. Ask them how they got to where they are and what they’ve done to prepare themselves for life after college.

Take the student responses and write a paragraph about who each student is, what they want, and what you can do in your class to help them. If you don’t do anything else, you’ve already shown interest in each of your students and thought about how your class relates to them.

How Does Your Course Help Your Student Grow?

Can you identify something you did for each student in your class that helped them grow both academically and towards their long term goals?

Now that you have a sense of who your students are and what they are hoping to gain from your class, you can use that to assess their performance in their class. How does the project they are working on for your course advance their goals while also demonstrating mastery of the course material? How does their participation in in-class debates demonstrate skills like critical reasoning and oratory that will benefit them in both their future jobs and make them better members of society? In what ways do they display leadership in your class? If you see them struggling, can you coach them on ways to develop both their grasp on course material and soft skills?

While it’s relatively easy to find things that the best students did well in your course, the goal in using these letters of recommendation is reorienting your teaching towards helping each student grow. What did the best student do in your course that they couldn’t / didn’t do before? How did you help other students improve their writing, speaking, or analytical skills? As the semester goes along, can you identify something you did for each student in your class that helped them grow both academically and towards their long term goals?

End of Semester Reflection

At the end of the semester, have students reflect on what they have learned from your class and how they’ve grown. Give them back copies of whatever they wrote at the beginning of the semester or remind them of what they said, and have them evaluate their advancement. Then meet with each student for 15 minutes and talk with them about the class.

Students don’t always recognize the underlying intentions behind various course activities, so take this opportunity to ask them if they got what you were hoping for out of your activities and class as a whole. This is useful feedback in the iterative design of your class, so take seriously their feedback, both positive and negative.

Sample Letter of Recommendation

Dear Search Committee,

I am happy to give the strongest possible recommendation on behalf of Jane Doe. I had the pleasure of teaching Jane in my history of science course at the University of Oklahoma. I think Jane will succeed in whatever she decides to do next, but she seems particularly suited to graduate studies. She is one of the rare students who values learning over grades. Based on her commitment, leadership, and creativity, I believe that she will succeed both in pursuing a master’s degree in Organizational Dynamics and as an entrepreneur.

In talking to Jane, I have been struck by the diversity of her life experiences. Before taking my class, Jane spent a semester abroad studying development in West Africa. She drew on this experience in my class by researching the history of mining and metallurgy in Ghana

Jane’s leadership was also noteworthy. Early in the course, she took the lead on a group project in which each team edited a Wikipedia article related to our course. One of Jane’s teammates became interested in the subject they were working on and edited an additional article in his own time. Although Jane had nothing to gain personally, she came to my office and advocated on the other student’s behalf for extra credit.

Jane would make a great addition to your program. Based on my experience teaching graduate students, I feel that Jane’s internal motivation will propel her through the sometimes fatiguing and frustrating challenges of completing a master’s degree.On many of the assignments for the course, Jane not only exceeded the requirements but provided genuinely entertaining, humorous, and interesting contributions. I am pleased to give Jane the strongest recommendation possible and am sure that she would be a valuable addition to any graduate program.

Fake News and Fact Checking

Keegan is wrapping up the first week of his Information Literacy Faculty Learning Community as I type.

The FLC, especially for weeks 1 & 2, draws heavily on Mike Caulfield’s work on media and information literacy, especially his recent work around what he calls the ‘Four Moves’ of fact-checking. Mike has built out an challenge bank to test your fact checking at Four Moves and you can delve deeper into his work in his OER textbook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.

Within the FLC, Keegan is encouraging us to reflect on the material for each week by answering three prompts:

What should we be teaching our students about this topic?

I think there is an overlapping set of skills that can variously be called digital literacy, information literacy, media literacy, civic literacy, etc. There is a lot of overlap within the Venn diagram of these skill groups and there are identifiable pieces and disciplinary histories that help to define and separate each of the sets.

At OU we’ve had an initiative called ‘Writing Across the Curriculum’ in place for several years that tries to get students to write essays in classes across campus, not just English classes. Similarly, I would like to see a ‘Literacy Across the Curriculum’ initiative that emphasizes whichever sets of literacies are most applicable for each course (media literacy for journalism classes or information literacy for library classes, etc.). These skills are naturally part of many classes already, but a concerted effort to emphasize these skills in all (or as close to all as is practical) classes would both introduce and reinforce these real-world, necessary skills for students.

In my role within the Office of Digital Learning, I advocate for and help instructors integrate digital literacy lessons into their classes. Finding information online and vetting that information is a key real-world skill. In my history of science classes, I teach how scientists fought for authority/respectability and their rhetorical strategies for arguing their scientific theories. I want students to understand how to evaluate the trustworthiness of scientific rhetoric, and I think that’s an obvious place to extend the lesson into evaluating the trustworthiness of all rhetoric.

What’s a small change you can make in your course for the benefit of your students?

I really like Mike’s activity bank. I’ve used activity banks in my classes for a while now. I usually set these up as an array of different activities that reinforce the material from class. Students can choose those activities that reinforce the skills and/or content that most interest them in order to exercise those skills and deepen that knowledge. I think I can integrate Mike’s activity bank into my own to encourage students to practice their fact checking and broader digital literacy skills.

Feel free to share any other thoughts or comments you have on this topic:

I’m hopeful that participants in the FLC will integrate some of Mike’s work into their own teaching and courses. When I look around the ecosystem of Digital Literacy education in higher education, Mike’s work stands out as being incredibly timely, important, and practical.

I really like how Keegan has curated the material for this FLC. I know that we’re going to talk about Chris Gilliard’s work on Digital Redlining in the coming weeks. Amy Collier and her team’s Digital Detox project is another very accessible and adaptable entry into the field and served as a model for Keegan’s work.

I’m currently participating in the #engageMOOC and next week I’m leading a graduate student workshop on Digital Identity. My field, educational technology, is in this space right now, and I think that’s significant of the broader cultural awakening towards the threats of Fake News, digital manipulation, and the eroding of truth and trust in society. I’m hopeful that Keegan’s work and the work of all of the participants in his FLC can do at least some good in addressing these issues on our campus. I’d encourage you to participate in the FLC online and think about how to address them in your own work.

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