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Session recording (requires WCSU login)
You are invited to CELT online faculty panel discussion… Friday, May 8, 12pm-1pm, via WebEx (WCSU Login required to access WebEx meeting link)
Please join your colleagues for another thought-provoking conversation about the digital pedagogy of teaching online hosted by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.
This session will focus on fostering online student engagement and learning through fostering community and rapport in the class. We will discuss a variety of techniques, such as group work, discussion, peer to peer learning and other online course community building techniques. Faculty panelists will share their experience, tips, techniques, and lessons learned on this important and challenging aspect of online learning.
Hosted by Adam Brewer, CELT Director
Opening Remarks by Missy Alexander, Provost
Moderated by Aura Lippincott, Instructional Designer
Watch the recording (requires WCSU login)
4/17/2020 With four weeks of emergency remote teaching behind you, are you looking to take your online teaching to the next level? Are you new to online, or have some experience, but want to learn “how others are doing it?” As we have all moved to remote teaching, what are some lessons learned that we can apply to the rest of the semester and beyond? During this session, faculty panelists – from brand new to experienced practitioners – will share their experiences, lessons learned, “aha” moments, and the challenges and rewards of online teaching. Learn about what is involved in planning, preparing and facilitating an online course. Gain insights on how this modality is different from (and the same) as on-ground teaching. Learn valuable lessons, tips and tricks from those who have already tried (with or without success).
Hosted by Adam Brewer, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Moderated by Aura Lippincott, Instructional Designer
Director of Data Science & Systems Lab
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science
This is the final faculty interview conducted and written by a talented WCSU MFA student, John Bonanni. Our goal is to celebrate and learn from some of WCSU’s dedicated teachers and scholars.
Those of us who have been overcome with the struggle to understand the nature of computing can seek the refuge of Dr. Sean Murthy, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Data Science and Systems Lab (DASSL, read dazzle), a research lab for data science and data-intensive systems.
Dr. Murthy offered a comprehensive discussion defining the scope of the discipline. He feels entering students possess an inaccurate view of the subject, having been exposed to the “Hollywood notion of what programming is about.”
To remedy the issue, Dr. Murthy encourages the potential student to think deeply about selecting Computer Science (CS) as a major. He encourages students to complete at least the first two courses. He then asks a simple question. “Why do you want to take CS?” Many respond, “I like games.” The professor then offers an analogy that succinctly defines the credibility of the discipline. He offers the yarn of driving a car for 30 years without an accident. He indicates that he is a good driver, and he likes to drive, but that does not make him an automobile engineer.
The defining word is “engineer,” and achieving competency in using “professional tools and implementing them in a professional manner.”
As an accomplished architect of software used in Fortune 100 companies, Dr. Murthy emphasizes the need for the student to engineer software, which requires “discipline, patience, thinking, and deliberation on the part of the practitioner.” The professor’s detailed approach to achieving competency in the field is apparent in his overview. He imparts the notion that CS students are problem solvers, not gamers. Students must understand the problem before they can solve it. That requires the student’s understanding of the industry in which the problem exists. He reminds them that “every software is implementing a solution,” making “software-engineering necessarily interdisciplinary.”
Dr. Murthy follows a philosophy of “democratizing access” to improve accessibility and availability, making students their own time managers in learning and assignment submissions, and still have a physical campus connection. This synergy between online and in-class applications consists of making courseware accessible on OneDrive, and making tools accessible at locations others than just the computers in assigned classrooms.
In a data-management course that was using a commercial database system available from only the 20 computers in the classroom. With 40 students enrolled (two sections), availability was generally low, being rather poor especially the night before assignments were due. To address this problem, Dr. Murthy worked with 2 volunteer students and replaced the proprietary system with a new, home-grown, free, and open-source system called ClassDB, which he has made usable from any computer on campus and on students’ own computers anywhere.
Dr. Murthy just completed negotiations with Microsoft to provide normally cost-prohibitive tools free of charge to CS students, faculty and staff. This arrangement lets students install professional tools on their own computers to complete assignments and to practice, making them better prepared as potential hires.
Dr. Murthy is convinced that embracing technology in designing courseware, teaching, and interacting with students has increased efficiency, clarity, and connection to the contemporary environment of the student.
Interview conducted by John Bonanni & Ronald Samul
Author Bio: John Bonanni spent the last forty years in the theatre on tour, on Broadway, at Radio City Music Hall and many places in between managing every sensitive personality he encountered. He now writes about them, among other things. His articles have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Inspired Living Magazine, and Senior Outlook Today. He is currently enrolled in the MFA in Creative and Professional Program at Western Connecticut State University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Stephen “Mitch” Wagener
Chair at the Jane Goodall Center
Professor, Department of Biology & Environmental Sciences
This is the third in a series of faculty interviews conducted and written by talented WCSU MFA student, John Bonanni. Our goal is to celebrate and learn from some of WCSU’s dedicated teachers and scholars.
Convergence, Connection, and Results:
Enlightenment from an Unpretentious Scholar
Be careful not to misinterpret the folksiness of Dr. Wagener to be an impassive approach to his profession. It is, in fact, the core element of his teaching philosophy. “Mitch”, as he prefers to be addressed, politely abstains from any formal educational theory, though he is quick to express support and appreciation for colleagues whose theories work for their students.
His theory is no theory. In fashioning a learning perspective for students, Dr. Wagener emphasizes connection. “Look at the humanity of it,” he advises. Referring to his students, “These are not robots. Theory won’t help if the basis of humanity is not met.”
Part of that expression of humanity is an instructor’s ability to admit they are part of the process of learning. “We don’t know everything,” he claims. That perspective sets the basis for 23 years of successful connection to the changing diversity of his students. Dr. Wagener creates an invitation to partner in discovery, where the fence between provider and receiver are dismantled through accessibility and relationship.
He has an inviting, non-threatening, demeanor that encourages an educational fellowship. “I’m a hillbilly from the Ozarks,” he enjoys proclaiming, setting a comfortable tone for his next comment, which is bound to be erudite and profoundly relevant. His approachability stems from the personal comfort of living a multicultural home life. He spent a year as an exchange student in Thailand, where he became used to being “the strange looking person in the school”. Rita, his wife of 35 years, is Ugandan, and both attended the University of Alaska. Beyond science, his concentrations included Russian studies. Both he and Rita have lived in Belize. He spent time in Russia. He considers his grandchildren “21st century children.” He feels these experiences prepared him to easily connect with immigrant students who are comfortable sharing the “good things and bad things” of their lives with him.
His advice to first time instructors?
Find the way to relate to the issues of the world of today that will be of concern going forward. Teach “with your head and heart.”
Believe in the potential of your students. Dr. Wagener senses “this generation [millennials and GenZ], despite the criticism from us old folks, have more going for them than what we give them credit for.”
The professor’s most dynamic innovation is the crafting of an honors class where a multi-disciplinary approach is implemented. As an ecologist and tenured faculty member, Dr. Wagener uses the opportunity to develop competencies in a grouping of related fields that can enhance the relevance of the syllabus to meet contemporary challenges. As an example, he incorporates human history, ecology and climatology; connecting with specialists in each field to maintain continually changing information that relate to the quality of life outside the campus. Students are then equipped with time-sensitive information to become informed problem solvers.
“Teaching is just about the most humane thing you can do.”
The professor advocates the importance of delivering academic product to the public to enhance accurate comprehension of issues beyond partisan considerations. Students furnished with useful knowledge become decision-making members of society, creating the embodiment of an informed public. This is the professor’s defining pedagogical mission.
Dr. Wagener envisions an aesthetic inclusion into the science curriculum. He notes that an “academic life is a creative life. More non-scientists are writing books about climate change.” That collaboration will enhance the scope of understanding and arm the student with a communicative advantage in dispersing this information to the public.
The professor prefers the teaching atmosphere of Western over a research university environment. “You can mold your career around your talents rather than being in a place where you may not fit in or have the chops to be successful here.” The school’s size is “small enough you have repeat students, so you get to know them, and a relationship develops. You become a mentor.”
We exist in an “unsustainable environment,” the professor reminds us. The relevance of his didactic philosophy addresses the urgency to deliver accurate information to a world where traditional economic perceptions threaten the quality of life. The intimate relationship of ecological and climatological health is not only a multi-disciplinary academic exercise, it is the basis of convergence where scientists, economists and artistic vision can fashion an operating environment of sustainability and function.
Dr. Wagener summarizes the initiative in the words of a fellow Midwesterner of unpretentious origins:
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.
The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion.
As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.
We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
-A. Lincoln, 1862
Dr. Katherine Allocco
Chair of the Women’s Studies Program
This is the second in a series of faculty interviews conducted and written by talented WCSU MFA student, John Bonanni. Our goal is to celebrate and learn from some of WCSU’s dedicated teachers and scholars.
Dr. Katherine Allocco credits her upbringing in a historically vintage revolutionary town in New Jersey as the root of her passion for history. Her extensive research in the study of medieval women and their empowerment options delivers a relevant, erudite feminism that transcends reactionary and activist responses to the subject. This is especially significant for contemporary female students who have been awakened to self-determination yet lack the tools to apply it to their daily lives. Dr. Allocco achieves a connection to this gap by creating an interactive program requiring students to select female historical figures and research the social, political and economic environment of the era in which they lived. This concept of historicism allows the student to gain a more accurate understanding of the challenges and opportunities afforded women in a medieval environment. Students are exposed to a well-researched, formal methodology providing details employed by women in the timeframe. Feminine management and leadership skills attributable to men at a time when the feminine gender served medieval social and economic patriarchal structures are explored and discussed.
Though the study of historical feminine empowerment may seem distanced from the general assumption that university study is a direct perquisite for higher economic and social quality of life, Dr. Allocco’s underlying objective is to inspire women to attend college beyond available job-seeking goals and experience intellectual enlightenment and self-development. She feels the task requires direct, relational interactivity between subject matter and student, and she delivers the theater to implement the concept by inviting students to pick a female medieval individual, research and explore the cultural environment around their daily life, and produce an in-class presentation of their findings. The activity provides a comprehensive, accurate historical context to historical individuals whose identities would otherwise be relegated to existing literary references.
The historical, gender-centered focus includes the high-profile women of history, like Joan of Arc and Guinevere, but it also explores the management and leadership capacities of lesser known individuals like Katarina von Bora, a former nun and wife of Martin Luther and Cristina, a murderess who succeeded in petitioning Queen Isabella for a pardon. Though the narrative of these individuals is educational, it is the discovery of effective negotiation, shrewd management, and significant influence of these medieval women within a gender-restricted society that defines their importance and relevance for the contemporary student.
Dr. Allocco suggests the students’ dearth of international experiences can also be alleviated by independent study. She points out the successful outcomes of students that have been exposed to on site history with field exploration where historical, evidential paradigms of Western civilization can be explored. Students benefitted from a recent trip to Ireland and England, producing for one individual a choice in their academic discipline.
The professor is not a proponent of online teaching primarily because of the non-interactive design of the process. She cites that connection between students is reduced, since students naturally shy away from reaching out, and loss of control of reliable research sources cannot guarantee accurate suitability of findings. The students are “alone, not connecting with people.” She feels the practice is a symptom of “living in a post-humanistic world,” and the challenge for connection is increasingly difficult.
Dr. Allocco suggests that women need to “find themselves, know who you are,” before settling for available careers. Her multidisciplinary design of History and Women’s Studies imparts pertinent knowledge of the invention and innovation of women who lived ages before us. For students, especially young women, the experience may be just the perfect underpinning to establish one’s own self-determination.
Professor Paul Echeverria
Founding Director of DIMA,
Assistant Professor, Communication and Media Arts
This is the first in a series of faculty interviews conducted and written by talented WCSU MFA student, John Bonanni. Our goal is to celebrate and learn from some of WCSU’s dedicated teachers and scholars.
The truth is on the wall in Professor Paul Echeverria’s “corner” office. The current schedule of the iconic Film Forum is prominently displayed just inside the entrance to a room filled with film, camera and sound equipment. Bearing witness to uncreative commercials and music videos from his experience in a film rental house, Professor Echeverria sought a platform to develop experimental and independent filmmaking as an art and a career. Progressive jaunts in digital filmmaking at the Manhattan Youth Community Center and as a fifth-grade teacher at Public School # 85 in New York City made this professor an experimental media sage.
Professor Echeverria is primarily a storyteller, and in his present position as Founding Director of the Digital Interactive Media Arts Program, or DIMA, his objective is to develop the pure art found in the work of student expression and integrate the process within an interdisciplinary framework that includes digital interactive media arts, computer science, and art.
His biggest challenge is preventing his students from being affected by the contamination commercially generated art that infiltrates the student’s creative perspective. Social media, advertising, unrelenting aural and visual technologies inevitably influence that creativity, transforming it through a branding process into a marketable product with broader appeal. The art then becomes profitable. Professor Echeverria reflects that the art “becomes sanitized and loses the purity” of its original content and artistic purpose. He advises that the result eventually “makes the students consumers of art rather than producers.”
He also fights the trend to resist media arts as educational tool. Media Arts still bears the stigma of an elective discipline. Professor Echeverria advocates the discipline deserves inclusion into the general curriculum as a respected communicative tool. He dismisses the false concern that technology will replace the written word. He reminds us “the book is the longest lasting form of media available,” and “there was no recorded media or [reproduced] sound for five hundred years.”
His students produce text printed magazines. He reminds us that “there would be no Twitter without the Gutenberg printing press.” Learning the new language of technology just increases the vocabulary in which we communicate. His curriculum ensures this by including tech heavy classes.
Protecting the “avantgarde” purity of student generated experimental filmmaking is essential to the pedagogical objective of the department. Professor Echeverria notes that nearly every experimental art form runs the risk of morphing into a commercial product. He remarks that the only survivor of an experimental art form that still retains artistic purity is punk rock, a musical art form that never mainstreamed into wide commercial appeal.
Many students come into the program today only knowing the mainstream product of the art. His advice is to “find something, a movement or form that will inspire to break the rules. Google your dreams, find out what they are looking for, then tailor your path to the job.”
Pretty sage advice from a free-thinking artist with a well-organized sense of direction.
By Sharon Young, WCSU Department of Social Work
I was fortunate to take the online teaching workshop offered by CELT/TIDDL last summer. Like many of my colleagues, I felt intimidated by the idea of conveying classroom content in an online platform. The workshop spurred me to think about new ways to use technology to have an asynchronous dialogue. The message boards on Blackboard are fine, but I wanted something better. This is where Voicethread comes in. The Voicethread platform is easily, yes easily, accessible through computer, tablet, and phone. My students get a log in so they can view and create their own Voicethreads. My social work research course has always involved student presentations of research proposals. Voicethread allows them to easily upload Powerpoint slides, photos, or videos and comment on each slide. Then they can get feedback from me and their peers about their work. I can upload my lecture slides and record my voice, make notes on each slide, and drop in any media along the way. Check out my quick video below to see it in action.
I had the pleasure recently of attending a NERCOMP workshop on humanities-focused applications of virtual, blended, and augmented reality and 3-D printing. The workshop was conducted by faculty and technology staff from Yale University. It was terrific to listen to humanities faculty share their insights on the significant potential new technologies have for changing the face of teaching and learning in higher education. (For more information about some of the exciting work being done, check out http://blendedreality.yale.edu/ )
There’s a lot to think about there. In the best of all possible worlds, we at public regional universities would have access to the same resources, and the time to engage in this sort of project and program building. But the experience also got me thinking: many of us already employ our own version of “virtual reality” in our teaching. Any time we ask students to participate in a simulation, to work through a detailed case study, or to engage in role playing in the classroom, for all intents and purposes, we immerse our students in another place and sometimes ask them to travel to another time.
I have built several history courses, including a First Year Experience, around the face-to-face role playing games, Reacting to the Past (RTTP). (You can find information about the program, developed by Mark Carnes at Barnard, as well as descriptions of the published and in-development games, at https://reacting.barnard.edu/). The games are designed to be taught by faculty across disciplines, and are the centerpiece of First Year programs across the country. Though students balk initially at the idea of role playing, by the end of the game – each of which lasts four-five weeks – the vast majority of students admit that the experience was transformational. Role playing builds oral communication and writing skills. It encourages empathic thinking and critical analysis. And it’s fun! Students have inhabited the roles of loyalists and rebels in revolutionary New York, suffragists and labor activists in Greenwich Village in 1913, and scientists and Vatican clergy in Galileo’s world. Published games include one that takes place in Athens in 403 BCE, India on the eve of independence in 1945, and France in the midst of revolution in 1791. Games in development explore the discourse on creationism and evolution in Kansas in 1999, and Yalta in 1945, among two dozen more.
It would be great to get a feel for how many faculty at WCSU are employing simulations, case studies, and/or role playing in classes. Ancell faculty, how many of your management/marketing or JLA courses rely on case studies and simulations? Do these pedagogies appear in courses in SPS? What are your experiences with these pedagogies? What are the strengths and weaknesses? I’d love to hear from you.
If you were not able to attend the recent two-part program on using technology to engage First Year students, the materials are now available for your review (requires WCSU login). Included are the slides for sessions 1 (held on campus) and the slides and webinar recording for session 2 (held via WebEx).