The Beloit Mindset List

As promised, here’s a link to the Beloit Mindset List for the Class of 2017.

For a little humor, you can check out the blog Beloit Mindlessness, dedicated to dissecting items on the list. (Hat tip to Hack Education.)

I have to admit that the total irrelevancy of some of the items on the list leads to me question the utility of such a project in general. The list might give greater consideration to the perspectives of international students, students of different socioeconomic levels, and students of different races and ethnicities. Yet each entering class is composed of such a wide variety of individuals that no list can really sum up a single “mindset.” The fault isn’t in the items on the list, it’s in the idea itself.

Needless to say, the list has become a touchstone for how the media talks about new classes of college students.

I can see the value in trying to get a sense of who the students are as a group, especially if one starts with the understanding that statements are not universally true and significant. Is the answer to focus on skills? Something like, “Most students know how to do x . . . .” Or does this assume too much reliance on the flawed narrative of digital natives? Maybe it’s better to focus on lived historical experiences? Those key shared experiences don’t come around every year, however. For example, most students in the class of 2017 were about six years old when 9/11 happened.

It’s worth repeating that your students may not share your experiences or perspectives. The real purpose of the list may not be to help instructors get to know the students, but  to get instructors to choose examples, cultural references, and jokes carefully.

Tutorials: Show us How it’s Done

Here’s hoping your first week has gone smoothly!

To keep things running well, I wanted to share a few tutorial options with you. Linking to or embedding a brief tutorial can be really helpful for introducing students to new technologies, procedures, tools, or other course-related items.

For example, suppose you are requiring students to use a LearningStudio feature with which they may be unfamiliar. Perhaps you’ve explained it in class – and even given a demonstration. But what happens when the deadline approaches and students go to post or submit items and things just aren’t jelling for them? Embedded LearningStudio video tutorials to the rescue!

“Great,” you say, “but my issue is with specialized software / lab equipment / physical actions. My students need to do these things just so.” Time to become a virtual expert and an on-call resource for your students. That is, you can create your own tutorial that students can call up as needed. We’ve reviewed Learnist and Instructables; we’ve also covered ShowMe and SnapGuide.

Better yet, why not have your students create tutorials to teach each other? Of course, there’s a case to be made for you, the instructor, creating tutorials in situations where safety or a lack of specialized knowledge would present a true barrier. But in situations where students could safely and reasonably figure out and then teach each other various aspects of the subject at hand, why not let them? There are a myriad of benefits to this active learning approach: the act of having to teach a concept can help students clarify their own thinking, students are likely to pay close attention to their peers, and successes or mis-steps in the tutorials provide both an authentic opportunity to gauge student learning and some great discussion fodder.

It’s true, students might produce tutorials with misinformation or misleading conclusions. Sharing control of the class can be messy sometimes. In cases where the tutorials aren’t of the quality you’d like, you can then help the students in question – and the rest of the class – discover what might work better. Tutorials don’t have to be right; they just have to be memorable. Doing things incorrectly, generating negative results, or demonstrating a failed reaction are all pretty memorable and, thus, valuable learning experiences. (We’ve written about learning from failure, too. You can think of those sub-standard tutorials as really efficient learning experiences.)

Sample tutorials might include: how to use statistical software to calculate various functions, greetings in a foreign language based on different ages / genders / group size, how to search specialized databases, different techniques for measuring a key course component, etc.

Let us know if you’re using tutorials or considering using them!

Happy New Semester!

For me, the start of a new school year is a much more significant marker of time than a new calendar year. I like a good New Year’s party, but, in the spirit of getting down to business, let’s talk about resolutions for the new semester. (I’m a super-fun party guest, I promise!)

Do you make resolutions for the start of the school year? Do you have some this year? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Or are you open to the idea of mixing things up, trying something new, collecting new data, etc., but aren’t quite sure where to begin?

Continue reading

Starting Strong on Day One

As you prepare for the first day of class, here are some helpful resources:

First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning. What I like about many of the simple suggestions on this list is that they encourage students to think about their own role in the learning process. Having your students articulate what works – and doesn’t work – for them not only helps you, but also helps the students become more self-aware learners.

Chris Clark from the University of Notre Dame’s Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning has a blog post about get-to-know-you surveys for the first day of class. In addition to the general course overview questions (“What do you hope to learn?”), the blog post also contains an extensive list of course-related topics about which you might ask your students (career direction, volunteer work, heroes, life experience relevant to class, etc.). Getting to know your students need not be formulaic! If you decide you’d like to take Chris’ advice and use Google Forms, the Koehler Center has a Google Forms tutorial, complete with directions for embedding this in your LearningStudio course shell.

Last, we’d like to draw your attention to the TCU syllabus template, The Koehler Center workshop and open lab schedule, and our Pearson LearningStudio tutorials and videos.

Have a great first day!

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts about resolutions for the first day of class, student technology use, and scheduling office hours. Are there other topics you’d like to hear about? Let us know!

Virtual Field Trips, Part II

We wrote about virtual field trips in June, including some options for integrating these into your course.

Virtual field trips are a featured collection this week in the apps and iTunesU sections of the iTunes Store. There are both iPad and iPhone apps that cover museums, historic sites, national parks, libraries, and performing arts.

Here’s a screenshot of just a few of the apps in the collection:

screenshot of iTunes store field trip apps

Sample listing of virtual field trip apps from the iTunes Store.

Happy travels!

p.s. If you’re looking to explore the world in a less focused manner, you can check out my favorite new addiction, GeoGuessr. This is a free online guessing game based on Google Street View images. The game will show you a random image, and you drop a pin on a world map based on where you think the image was taken. The game then calculates the distance between reality and your guess. This is a fascinating way to make the work of decoding images fairly transparent. It’s also a great illustration of how little images really tell us – or maybe I’m just uniquely horrible at the game!

iPad Presentation Apps

How timely! We’re in the process of re-working the Tablet and Smartphone, Collaboration, Presentation, and Web 2.0 areas of our website. I’m thus particularly delighted that a colleague shared this lovely collection of resources from edshelf with me: 27 Presentation & Creation iPad Apps.

Here’s a snapshot of the various apps the site highlights (click on the image below to see the tools in their full glory over at edshelf):

Best, the site has a short introductory video for each app, plus user comments. Talk about simplifying the app research process: you and your students will be sharing content in no time!