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Last Fall, we were happy to introduce some of the work that Professor Katherine Mirica (Chemistry) has done with her students in Wikipedia in the post, Authentic Knowledge: Students in Wikipedia.This is the second part in a series about using Wikipedia for student assignments. 

Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy, photograph, 1901
Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy, photograph, 1901

...continue reading "Authentic Knowledge: Students Bring 19th Century Russian Literature to Wikipedia"

SwayneSteve Swayne, the Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department, offered a MOOC with the OperaX team last fall titled: OperaX: An Introduction to Italian Opera. Spring 2016 is the first term in which Steve has offered his residential course, Music 11: Introduction to Opera since creating the MOOC.

Please click “Continue Reading” for a Q&A with Steve about his course and his experiences collaborating to create his course. ...continue reading "Dartmouth Students Experience OperaX in Music 11"

On Friday, April 8th, students in Professor Tom Hendrickson's Ancient Books course (CLST 10) gathered in the Arts and Humanities Resource Center for a very unusual assignment. Using papyrus purchased 323_Thomas-Hendricksonwith funding from Dartmouth's Experiential Learning Initiative, they were constructing scrolls for the first of a multi-phase textual criticism project.

Please click "Continue Reading" for a Q&A with Tom about his course, the assignment, and experiential learning at Dartmouth.

...continue reading "Students Construct Ancient Scrolls in CLST 10"

Will your students be giving a final presentation at the end of the spring term? If so, you might consider encouraging them to use Prezi instead of PowerPoint.

canepaNancy Canepa, Associate Professor of Italian, teaches a Comparative Literature course on Fairy Tales (as COLT 10 or COLT 39). For the second offering in a row, students in the course have used Prezi for their final presentations. Prezi is a cloud-based presentation tool that allows students to put digital objects into relationship with each other in such a way that enables a visual representation of their argument. Whereas PowerPoint is linear, Prezi allows for much more flexibility in the structure of a presentation. It has some drawbacks, however, which should be taken into consideration when deciding on an appropriate tool for your students' projects.

Please read a Q&A with Nancy after the jump and explore the prezi, entitled "Hansel & Gretel Around the World", submitted by Savannah Moss '18, Christopher Park '17, Priscilla Salovaara '19, and Neha Shetty '15.

...continue reading "Professor Nancy Canepa on Prezi and Fairy Tales"

noelia.cirnigliaroby Noelia Cirnigliaro
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies

Professor Cirnigliaro and her literature students have created an online, virtual museum. Read below to learn about her motivations, techniques, and recommendations!

...continue reading "i. Mu.S.E.O. Interactive Museum of Spanish Early Modern Objects"

Looking for an engaging activity for your students during winter term? A blogging project on WordPress could be just what you're looking for!

alex_halaszAlexandra Halasz, Associate Professor of English, was developing a new assignment for her course on Shakespeare during Summer 2015. She wanted to give her students the opportunity to develop a responsible public voice in a personalized and engaging forum. After consulting with the instructional design team, she decided that a WordPress blog was just right for the assignment.

Please read a Q&A with Alex after the jump and take a look at her students' Exploratory Shakespeare blog!

...continue reading "Professor Alexandra Halasz on WordPress and Shakespeare"

By Paul Christesen, Professor, of Ancient Greek History & Chair, Department of Classics

Note: Professor Paul Christesen has been one of the faculty teaching in the Berry Innovation Classroom (Carson 61), an active learning incubator space at Dartmouth.  

Carson 61 has turned out to be a literally transformative teaching space. I have to confess that I began the semester with the expectation that the room and its capabilities would be quite helpful but I didn’t harbor larger hopes. However, as I was watching the students work today I fully realized for the first time just how great an impact the room has had on both the students and on me, and not just in the way we work, but also in the way we think.  

First, the students sat and worked together in small groups the entire semester, in a space that facilitated face-to-face interaction among the group (while also enabling them to easily focus on another person or place outside their group as and when that was necessary).

Carson 61 made it possible for me to make small-group, active-learning exercises a fundamental part of the course. Furthermore, the students in each group got to know one another on an intellectual and personal level, and by the end of the semester had formed groups that worked very effectively and also had meaningful personal connections with each other.

Second, the easy access to equipment, in the form of both projectors and whiteboards, facilitated presentation and visualization of information, on both a small-group and whole-group basis. This equipment made working collaboratively more efficient and effective than I ever seen it happen before, and made sharing the results of collaborative work across the entire group much more feasible than in other previous classroom configurations.

Moreover, in the fifth or sixth week of the term, without planning it or really thinking about it, I started creating on-the-spot visual representations (in the form of flow charts) of the chains of historical cause-and-effect with which we were wrestling (specifically with respect to the reasons why the Persian War of 480-479 BCE and the Peloponnesian War of 431-404 BCE ended as they did).  I had not previously done this, in nearly 20 years of teaching this material, but it proved to be tremendously helpful in helping the students think clearly and carefully about the complex issues they were confronting through their readings of Herodotus and Thucydides. The students picked this up immediately and without any encouragement from me, and, leveraging the projectors and whiteboards, began using it to very good effect in the active-learning, problem-solving exercises that they were carrying out on a small-group basis.  

For our last class session, I asked each group to generate one complete cause-and-effect chain that ended with Spartan victory/Athenian defeat in 404. Every group, without any prompting from me, used their whiteboard and, over the course of 30 minutes of very active and productive discussion amongst the members of the group, created elaborate flow charts that beautifully visualized the hundreds of pages of text they had read and their analysis of that text. As I watched that unfold, it struck me that both the students and I had found a new, different, and better way of approaching texts that I’ve read literally dozens of times, and that they would certainly carry that approach to textual analysis with them going forward. It was a remarkable instance of a facilities-specific capability making itself felt in important ways even in the absence of any conscious planning.

Everything that is possible in a “normal” classroom is possible in an active learning classroom space such as this, and many things that are not possible otherwise suddenly become feasible.  

Have you ever read a student's term paper or research paper and thought, "This is so good that the rest of the world should see it"? But how?  Where? Read on for an assignment idea that you may like to try in your courses.

WHY ask students to contribute?

Professor Katherine Mirica (CHEM) knew that her CHEM 157 students had much to contribute to the world's knowledge base in the rapidly evolving field of nanomaterials.  Learning objectives for students in this course include:

  • Analysis and evaluation of the structure and properties of nanomaterials, including their capabilities and limitations
  • Engagement in conversation, both local and global, about these materials
  • Enhancement of scientific writing and presentation skills

A project asking students to develop and share their ideas by contributing to the world's biggest online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, helped Katherine's students to best meet these objectives.  The students enthusiastically undertook this challenge, contributing to the world's knowledge base in a truly authentic manner.

Motivated by their own experiences with the content, and with Wikipedia, research began.  One student commented about feeling glad to have a chance to contribute to Wikipedia in a meaningful way; he had used the site frequently himself.  Frequently faculty warn students about using Wikipedia as a reference source; this is a very different approach.

HOW can students contribute?

Wikipedia was a perfect choice for this course because the information on these materials changes so quickly.  Throughout the course of the term, students in CHEM157 went through the following steps:

  1. Selected a topic.  Students were asked to pick a topic based not only on their interest, but by reviewing the existing information available on Wikipedia.  Students were most interested in updating current entries that were vague, with minimal (or even incorrect) information.
  2. Created outlines.  Students mapped their plans to present the information they discovered in their literature reviews and research on Wikipedia.  They were asked to think about a global audience, using as many illustrations (either open access or created by the students) as possible.
  3. Draft of a Wikipedia page for peer review.
  4. Revise based on peer review and submit to Professor.
  5. Edit and post on Wikipedia!
  6. Share.  Students also completed in-class presentations on their topic.
WHAT did students contribute?

Michael Ko worked on Wikipedia's page on Carbon Nanotubes.  This was a great example of an older page (it's been around since 2001). Michael chose to work on this page because it was incomplete and out of date.  He added a section on the modification of Carbon Nanotubes, citing a number of new papers that had been published since the page was last updated.

Selbi Nuryyeva had a different experience.  Prior to her work, there was a Wikipedia entry for Phospherene, but since the material was just discovered in 2014, and the field is rapidly evolving, the page had much room for improvement.  Selbi read about phosphorene in Scientific American at the beginning of term, and was motivated to learn more.  She created images based on the research she read.  When her classmate asked Selbi what was the most difficult aspect of the project, she replied, "Every time I stopped researching (in order to write the page), there was a bunch of new information!"

Click below to see the pages created by each of the Chem 157 Fall term students.  PLEASE NOTE: These pages may have been edited since the students last posted - click the View History tab to learn how they've changed over time.


Professor and students
Professor Katherine Mirica (left) and the students of Fall 2015 Chem 157
Advice for trying this in your class

Professor Mirica and her students have some suggestions for those who might be attempting an assignment like this in the future.  The first revolves around the challenge of editing information that has already been written.  When attempting a massive change, the students were forced to consider the best ways to organize and present the story.  When one student attempted to make major revisions but deleting what had been there, the student was flagged as a possible vandal by Wikipedia.  Therefore:

Tip 1: Make incremental changes.  Do not remove entire sections at once, but rather add as needed.  Additionally, keep your text and references in another tool while working - large wiki pages can sometimes crash in the middle of your editing process.

Tip 2: Search images that are already on Wikipedia before creating your own - there is a wealth of illustrations that can be used to describe multiple phenomena.

Tip 3: Allow enough time to iterate drafts, find or create images, and give/receive feedback before posting a final version to Wikipedia.

Finally, watch what happens when your classroom meets the world!

Having Fun!Petra Taylor photo

Now that it’s no longer the beginning of the term and things have calmed down a bit I’d like to take some time to reflect on the many fascinating projects in which I have been fortunate to be involved in my role as Faculty Fellow in the Instructional Design group. If you missed my first post, you can read more about my path to this interesting position here.

Having taught mathematics and scientific computing for many (many!) years, what I find most striking about my new role is the variety of subjects and faculty (and with that, of teaching strategies) with whom I get to interact. By thinking about learning and teaching challenges in subjects different from my own, I am able to leave my own quantitative box and allow myself to imagine scenarios which I would have previously thought not applicable or impossible in my own teaching. I very much hope that my interactions with faculty members have been fruitful for them, but they most certainly have been enlightening for me.

Here are just a few examples of topics I encountered.

Recently, I visited a class in the Russian department, which happened serendipitously: while working with the faculty member on the course site design, my German accent came through. Since the class focuses on cultural understanding, rather than solely studying Russian culture, a variety of other cultures are also explored, amongst them the German culture. The faculty member invited me to class where a really interesting discussion ensued that opened my eyes to some of my own cultural heritage of which I wasn’t previously aware. Sure, there were the somewhat expected topics such as punctuality, precision, etc. (and I presented a perfect German example, showing up 10 minutes early and fretting over the two clocks in the room which showed different times, neither of which agreeing with the actual time). But a more subtle discussion ensued around ways in which managers communicate criticism to employees. While it is common practice in this country to precede any criticism with a compliment to the employee on something they have done well (“I am very impressed with …. However …”), the ambiguity of the compliment joined with the critique would make many German employees quite anxious. I wonder how many times in my teaching career I have made students uneasy by drawing on my own cultural heritage, without taking theirs into consideration.

I've also had the chance to help Mike Goudzwaard (one of my ID colleagues) with setting up some assignments for a Religion class in which students discuss the use of religious rhetoric in political speech. This is a fascinating ongoing assignment in which students count, compare and rate (based upon a lexicon rating system which they derived in class) presidential candidates’ use of religious rhetoric. Here is an example graph, created from the students’ ratings:

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 8.58.20 AM

Students have reported how this type of crowd-sourced engagement has enhanced their participation in the course and their understanding of these issues.

I have also had some really interesting discussions with several faculty members about team-based learning and group work in the classroom, and I’ll leave these for a future post!

"Throw Open the Doors" on the Humanities with MOOCs

On Friday October 16th, Dartmouth hosted faculty and instructors from several institutions teaching MOOCs (massive open online courses) in humanities disciplines. These teachers and scholars were joined by members of the Dartmouth community to discuss the particular challenges and opportunities related teaching a humanities course on a massive scale.

Learn more about the event and view recorded sessions here.

Participants were invited to consider the following questions:

  1. What does it mean to teach arts and Humanities disciplines for a global audience?
  2. How and why might we scale up learning opportunities up in the Arts and Humanities?
  3. How have instructors adapted new digital learning strategies for the Humanities residential classroom?
panel speakers
Steve Swayne (Dartmouth), Emily Silk (Harvard), Adrienne Raphel (Harvard) , & Jed Dobson (Dartmouth)

The dedicated faculty who spoke about their experiences provided much groundwork for continued conversation.  There were some answers, some new questions, and a wealth of "teacher talk". And as good teachers know, the best conversations come from questions. Jed Dobson (Dartmouth) convened the presenters from a range of disciplines within the Humanities and provided context and opportunity for a fabulous discussion.

As someone entirely new to the Humanities, it was my pleasure to learn from these amazing folks.  I'd like to share with you six big questions that were raised for me throughout the day.

...continue reading "Catalyzing Community: Reflections on Digital Learning in the Humanities"