Posted by: awapter | January 6, 2011

Teachers Talking Technology Tools from Bob Hughes

On November 15 Dwight Hughes, James Wilkins, Kathy Chatfield and myself had opportunity to attend one of the T4 (Teachers Talking Technology Tools) Workshops sponsored by the Centers of Excellence for Careers in Education . I am pleased to see opportunities of this sort continued to be offered throughout the state. In the past I have found workshops where our peers share tools and technolgies to be informative resources.

The format for this one held at Lower Columbia College featured two sessions. The first was by Sue Frantz, a psychology instructor from Green River Community College. Sue’s session Tools For Teaching, consisted of discussion and overview of a wide collection of online tools and resources for tasks scheduling, website sharing, email management, feedback and more. Fortunately, she maintains a very active blog, Technology for Educators  that is filled with tutorial-like entries with step-by-step entries which demonstrate and evaluate many of the tools she introduced during her session. It is well worth checking out and setting on your RSS feed.

Some of the tools presented such as Dropbox, Prezi, and Illumuinate are familiar to Clark folks because they have been presented at the library’s 30 Clicks series or at Focus on Learning. Yet Sue brought lots of other promising resources to the session that I look forward to exploring further such as zamzar.com that will allow one to convert files such as online videos to portable files. Another resource I have checked out is nudgemail.com which will send you reminder emails at any scheduled interval you wish. I also am excited with the potential of markup.io which allows one to easily annotate a capture of a website and post it.

Fortunately, the T4 session format is set up with a follow up session scheduled two months later where attendees can return to return with their experiences and insights on tools and resources that caught their interest.

The second session was a presentation on screen capture by Shiloh Windsor, an English instructor at Gray’s Harbor Community College. It was the first time that I had opportunity to see Tegrity lecture recording demonstrated. If you want to see Shiloh’s lecture presentation it is available at  along with some links to other screen capture tools such as Jing and Camtasia.

On November 12, the Teaching and Learning Center hosted a GLBTQ panel. Four Clark students discussed what instructors do and don’t do to help them feel welcome and safe in the classroom.

I’ve been concerned with GLBTQ student issues for nearly a decade and make an effort to do what I can to create a safe learning environment for these groups. So I was surprised that I learned so much that afternoon. But what surprised me more was that I was one of only a handful of faculty members who attended.

I wasn’t the only one who was surprised. One of the panelists said he had never felt marginalized at Clark until he witnessed the meager attendance at the panel. The irony was at best irritating given all of the heated discussion following the current controversy concerning the distribution of racist propaganda on campus. A lot of talk ensued but when it was time to listen to GLBTQ students, no one showed up.

So what did I learn? I learned that we as instructors have a lot more impact through our communication than I thought we did when it comes to creating a safe environment in the classroom. One of the panelists said that he felt safer in the classroom when instructors spent significant time discussing the classroom conduct and respect policies the first day of class. He said it was a red flag when instructors just glossed over this topic. Silence is powerful. As one of the panelists put it, when an instructor fails to deal with even the slightest derogation in class, the “silence is equated with shame for the student.”

Posted by: awapter | November 30, 2010

Grades and Learning by Sally Tomlinson

I have wondered about how the grading system at community college aligns (or not) with systems at four-year universities, of if any “systematic” approach to grading is followed at any institution.  Within our Clark community, I also think about whether there could be, or should there be?, guidelines for grading so that we have some agreement about standards.  It appears that some classes are perceived as “easy” and others as “hard(er)” (sometimes reflecting individual instructors’ approaches to one topic), and I wonder if an absence of standards or guidelines raises any issues within or across disciplines. Perhaps academic freedom on the part of instructors is perceived as more important that grading guidelines.  Or maybe no system exists because there is no way to systematize or implement a grading standard.  Does anyone else wonder about these things?  Might we have an open conversation about it?

Synthesizing  all  the responses to the Faculty Focus session facilitated with such passion and professionalism by Debi Jenkins is a learning experience in itself.  It probably comes as no surprise that feedback from participants of that workshop represent a broad spectrum of ideas.

 One of the more interesting dichotomies relates to the applicability of the information to Clark College, as reflected in such comments as “much of the faculty I believe already understand most of it”, and “it was all old information.”

 Contrarily, scores of faculty described how they became much more aware of both their own privileges and the many ways these could unintentionally have a negative effect on the learning environment.   “Eye-opening” was an oft-repeated phrase.

 By far the most common responses asked for ways to deal with issues of power, privilege and inequality in the class room.  Toward this end, TLC is hosting two informal sessions on Tuesday October 5, from Noon to 1:00 p.m., and Thursday, October 7, from 5:00 p.m.-6:00 P.M., which will look more closely at dealing with power, privilege and inequality in real-life situations.  Both sessions will be held in GHL 207.

Posted by: awapter | September 15, 2010

Going Public–It’s Our Space

As I mentioned yesterday morning at Faculty Focus, the previous posts were all improvised as I tried to determine if I wanted to “go public” with them.   I am convinced that the potential for using this blog to further faculty development at Clark can be as far-ranging as we want to make it.  The initial posts are intended to give just the slightest suggestion of the range of possibilities.  I see this as a work in progress, and am eager for ideas–and technical expertise!–to make this a vital resource for the Clark community.

Posted by: awapter | September 14, 2010

The Pivotal First Week–Creating Community in the Classroom

Establishing the  environment where students can succeed is a key factor in the first week of class.  At yesterday’s Faculty Focus plenary session on “Power, Privilege, and Inequality”, a common theme in the group report-backs was learning more about students so we can treat them as individuals.  This is a major factor in establishing a positive learning environment, but it is important to realize that there is no simple formula to accomplish this.   From the student’s perspective, if every instructor began with the same introductory exercise, the entire effort would quickly be stripped of its authenticity.  Part of the challenge is to integrate aspects of your specific class into the community building strategies you employ. 

This Fall TLC will host a series of informal conversations related to the ideas and initiatives that are essential to learning at the highest level.  The first topic will be “The First Week of Class”–and we will do this, well, the 2nd week of class :).  This will be a time to share succesess and concerns, to learn from colleagues about best practices and to trouble-shoot how to do it better the next time.  The conversations are scheduled for Noon-1:00 p.m. on Monday, September 27 and from 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m on Tuesday, Sept. 28.  Both meetings will be held in GHL 207.

Posted by: awapter | September 7, 2010

It’s a College–that’s why we cultivate collegiality

Last week I had the privilege to be joined by 15 new Clark faculty members for 3 days of work focused on deepening our understanding of what it means to be an effective contributor to a learning-centered community.  Our time together was richly intense, including the tension that inevitably arises when we recognize the gap between where we aspire to be as professionals and where the challenges of the profession remind us that humility is one of our greatest tools.

Short story:  A diverse group of people, representing the vast arrray of disciplines taught at Clark, came together to support each other; and because of the collective caring and sharing, each came away with a deeper awareness of how to be successful in the class room.

Posted by: awapter | August 30, 2010

Memorization and Learning

I awoke this morning from a dream where I was telling someone about a You Tube video I had seen (a video I have also told people about when I am awake!)

The video shows a 3-year old boy reciting a rather sophisticated (and IMHO, a very enjoyable) poem.  I have watched the video five or six times; I learned upon waking from the dream that I had also memorized a large portion of it without really trying.  Follow THIS LINK TO ENJOY THE VIDEO.

I found this pretty amazing and then I remembered a conversation I had a few months back where a colleague expressed to me that memorization was an under-utilized pedagogic method.  My initial reaction to this was “how odd, how so not-up-to-date”–and then I realized how I still retained things I memorized back in grade school.  And not just poetry and important dates in history.  To this day I remember the trick my 6th grade teacher used to help us remember the departments of the US cabinet—using the acronym SPIT AD CLAH.  (I can still tell you what these initials stand for, but it also dates me as some of these departments are obsolete).

Then I thought of the foreign language class I attended at Clark, which involved Michiyo Okuhara dynamically demonstrating the creative facilitation of memorization.  I remember leaving that class with a sense of awe at Michiyo’s commitment to provide multiple associative triggers to stimulate the students’ ability to retain the information. 

I also realized that during all the years that I taught theatre, it never occurred to me that the memorization process was a powerful learning tool.  Yes, of course there is the drudge work–learning does have an element of drudgery (alas, so does teaching!).  But to memorize effectively goes far beyond rote routine.  If you look at the little boy in the video, you can see how he visualizes, physicalizes and personalizes the language—to the extent that he understands it.  To be sure, successful memorization requires empathy, developing a personal creative association with the material—and because it ignites the brain in so many different ways, it has incredible staying power.

Posted by: awapter | August 25, 2010

Faculty Focus, 2010

The schedule for Faculty Focus is now available.  Panels and workshops will be facilitated by over forty Clark faculty members—we ARE committed to a learning-centered culture.  Click here to see what’s in store.

Posted by: awapter | August 25, 2010

Columbia Tech Center

I spent an hour touring the Clark campus at Columbia Tech Center this a.m., and greatly appreciated the time generously devoted to me by Randy Blakely, the CTC building administrator. I’m not an expert on architecture and room design, but I came away with the sense that CTC is an amazing asset.  If you ever have a chance to visit there, I am sure you will be impressed by the quality of design and the amazing resources available to faculty and students.  If you teach at CTC, please let us know how TLC might serve your professional development needs.

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