CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology

Archive for June, 2008

Important copyright case

Posted by Cathy Kelley on June 27, 2008

An article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education discusses a case that was brought by three publishers against Georgia State University. The publishers (Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Sage Publishers) object to librarians and professors disseminating course readings online, through Blackboard / WebCT or other electronic means.


The university claims that these activities are protected under academic fair use. However, the publishers argue that fair use was violated because the amount of material disseminated this way was systematic and widespread. In other words, many professors and librarians were doing it.

There are no “rules” about how to apply fair use. Instead, there are four factors that are considered in determining whether a use of copyrighted materials is fair or not. These are the purpose and character of your use (academic use is a plus); nature of the copyrighted work (use of factual works is more likely to be considered fair, whereas use of creative works is less likely to be considered fair); the amount and substantiality of the portion taken (and “substantiality” is at least as important as actual amount); and the effect on the potential market for the material.

It seems that the publishers are making a case that the last two factors weigh against fair use in Georgia State’s case. But note that any individual professor’s use may not be substantial or have a noticeable effect on the market. The publishers claim that in the aggregate, the practice of online dissemination affects their business.

The outcome of this case is extremely important to any universities who make use of electronic reserves, or whose instructors distribute readings via Blackboard or similar means. If the publishers win, I could see many universities simply banning all electronic distribution of copyrighted materials, unless permission was obtained from the publisher. Note that obtaining permission usually means that a royalty fee must be paid. Payment of royalties would be a substantial new cost for universities.

On the other hand, if the University wins, it will clarify how fair use applies to electronic distribution of course materials.


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Students’ Perspectives on Their Own Learning: FDU’s Global Mission

Posted by ctlt on June 6, 2008

The final presentation for the 2008 TNT Institute was “Student’s Perspectives on Their Own Learning: FDU’s Global Mission,” presented by Diana Cvitan, Director of the Office of Global Learning. You may download her PowerPoint presentation here.

Diana noted for participants that global education is part of FDU’s Mission Statement:

The University’s Mission

Fairleigh Dickinson University is a center of academic excellence dedicated to the preparation of world citizens through global education. The University strives to provide students with the multi-disciplinary, intercultural, and ethical understandings necessary to participate, lead, and prosper in the global marketplace of ideas, commerce and culture.

The Office of Global Learning is a central resource for the university that doesn’t offer a single, formulaic approach to global learning, but rather supports student participation in multiple activities, and thus is truly student-centered, and encourages engaged learning.

Diana provided an overview of several programs supported by the Office of Global Learning:

Faculty in the Global Virtual Faculty Program work all around the world and have lots of different backgrounds. They join in an online partnership with FDU, and have participated in online discussions in core courses (such as The Global Challenge), English and Literature courses, courses in Nursing and in Pharmaceutical Management. There are different models for GVF participation, which may be as long as a semester, or several weeks, or as short as a single week. To request a GVF, or to nominate someone to become a GVF, visit the GVF Website.

FDU Study Abroad is another form of active learning for global education. Students become immersed in a foreign country, and record their experiences, either in a traditional travel journal, or a travel blog, or by creating other blogs or email journals. For more information, visit the FDU Study Abroad Website.

FDU’s UN Pathways Program takes advantage of FDU’s close relationship with the United Nations. This rich resource offers a lecture series featuring UN delegates, videoconferencing on important global issues, using FDU’s Interactive Television (ITV) classroom, and other global education activities. The videoconferences are recorded, and then streamed through FDU’s Global Issues Gateway (GIG) Web site. The recordings may be linked to from within Webcampus (FDU’s Blackboard installation). See the UN Pathways Website for more information.

The Global Issues Gateway (GIG) Website is another important resource for global education. As noted above, this is where UN Pathways videoconferences are streamed, and where students can find the Global Virtual Classroom. The GVC offers students a chance to communicate and collaborate with their peers in another country through an online discussion board. GIG is also home to Exploring Globalization, an online scholarly journal. A recent article co-authored by University President J. Michael Adams and Director of Communications Angelo Carfagna, based on their course “Globalization and World Citizenship” (which in turn was based on their recent book Coming of Age in a Globalized World: The Next Generation) discusses the semester-long project they assigned. The assignment was for students to create their own blogs on global issues. The article is available online: Using Weblogs to Prepare Active World Citizens.

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Digital Storytelling

Posted by ctlt on June 6, 2008

Peter Burkholder, an Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and History at Becton College, taught the Institute’s final hands-on session, on “Digital Storytelling.” What is “digital storytelling?” Peter offered a few examples of student work from his courses, in two main categories: history music videos and digital narration projects.

He also discussed why he assigns such a project in his courses: because the project asks students to synthesize what they’ve learned from more traditional course materials and to translate that into video form, a form many seem more comfortable and perhaps more fluent with.

The music videos and narrated videos his students produce may use various software options, including MS PowerPoint, Apple’s iMovie and Moviemaker. an editing application that’s now part of the installation for MS Windows operating systems.

Peter began working with digital storytelling as part of a scholarship of teaching and learning project while he was teaching at his previous school. At that time, he received help from the Visible Knowledge Project at Georgetown University.

While Peter says writing is certainly an important skill, he thinks the digital storytelling projects give students a chance to work with other skills, and highlights students’ non-traditional abilities. Another advantage he’s found is that working with digital storytelling methods is more meaningful and memorable to students, and makes the pop culture they’re immersed in more relevant. Anyone can do it, he says, at some level.

There are drawbacks. Inevitably, there are always technological problems. Presenting information using digital storytelling techniques is not particularly conducive to treating complex topics, so instructors may have to change their expectations somewhat. Further, the process is very time-consuming. It requires substantial in-class preparation time, students need several class periods to work on group projects and to present their final projects. Peter also noted that the instructor has to be available to troubleshoot problems with the students, to overcome whatever difficulties they may encounter. Digital storytelling also requires different evaluation techniques, which may also prove time-consuming.

Peter believes there are additional advantages to digital storytelling:

  • Completed projects are sharable with classes in the present, and also future classes.
  • The assignment is potentially applicable to any course, in any discipline.
  • The project pushes the instructor to learn new evaluation skills.

Is it good pedagogy? The projects themselves should demonstrate the sort of mastery that students can achieve, but Peter also points to various student evaluation results he’s obtained. The digital story often scores at the top or near the top of the list students have made to rank how each type of assignment helped them learn the course materials. It also ranked highest in terms of the workload that students took on, so they spent a lot of “time on task” working on their projects.

Peter shared several examples of student projects with the workshop, and then led participants through a couple of short activities to demonstrate important methods for constructing digital storytelling projects. Peter’s “Technical Guide to Digital Storytelling” may be downloaded here.

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Wikis As a Teaching Tool

Posted by ctlt on June 6, 2008

Daniel Cassino, Assistant Professor for Social Sciences and History at Becton College, spoke about his use of Wikipedia and a private Wiki as teaching tools. Wikis are collections of Web pages, often put together as online resources that are used as books, particularly reference books. In contrast to traditional reference books, such as encyclopedias, Wikis are generally written and edited by groups of self-selected people, who often have volunteered to write articles on specific topics because they have “fanatical” interest in those topics. Daniel pointed out that the variety and length of articles in a Wiki is determined by the depth of interest of those collaborating on writing and editing them, and not on any particular commitment to a breadth of interest.

He used as an example his class assignment he called the “Harry S. Truman Project.” The assignment was to go through the Truman biography at Wikipedia, find citations for any uncited information, and add those citations to the Wikipedia article. This led to a student making an edit to Truman article, which led to that student getting banned from Wikipedia, and Daniel’s discovery that there are some 50 pages of discussion on Wikipedia of whether there should be a period after the S in Harry S. Truman’s name. People at Wikipedia discuss everything, in extensively documented discussions.

Daniel concluded it was important to keep students out of the “shark-infested waters” of such intense discussions, and keep them in the “kiddie pool,” at least until they became more accustomed to how Wikipedia works, and what reactions to their edits might be like.

He recommends encouraging students to contribute to general items, where there’s not that much depth of interest. For example, “Realigning Election,” on the topic of political realignments.

Given that academics generally consider Wikipedia an unreliable source, and try to discourage students from going there, why should faculty encourage students to use Wikipedia? For one reason, because we can’t stop them.

Daniel discussed additional reasons:

  1. Make students contribute to Wikipedia. They’ll discover how unreliable it is.
  2. It’s a good writing assignment, and you can require the highest level of scholarly documentation.
  3. The visibility of work “published” at Wikipedia makes them care more about the quality of their work. This applies peer pressure to encourage better quality work.
  4. Working on Wikipedia performs a real public service. Responds to the academic responsibility for getting our (specialized) knowledge out to the general public. Their work improves the quality of Wikipedia as a resource for other students.

Daniel recommends encouraging students to work on articles where there is general interest; that is, where there is a breadth of interest without a fanatical depth of interest. Working in a limited domain of knowledge helps, too, since it will be less open to controversy, for example over what is or is not important. He also noted a snowball effect. Since Wikipedia reports new articles, longer, more detailed articles tend to attract more participation from volunteers on Wikipedia.

This reminds us that Wikipedia is part of a social network, and there are ways to show respect to the community when writing or editing Wikipedia articles. When students edit a page, they should enter information into an Edit summary, describing their change and explaining why they made the change. It’s even better to use the Discussion tab, to talk about a proposed change, and how they think it will improve an item.

Students don’t often start an article from scratch; usually there’s a “stub” for a topic. Students can search for a topic, and if that topic is not found, they’re automatically given the option for creating a new page. Another important suggestion Daniel makes about having students work on Wikipedia is that it’s better not to start a new page with just a couple of paragraphs and a plan to come back later to complete the article. Such token articles may simply be killed by volunteer editors. Daniel recommends having students work in groups, and to have them prepare a well-written, well-cited article, and then upload it in its more complete form.

Daniel also addressed the issue of assessment. How should faculty grade students who work on Wikipedia articles? They should be evaluated as other written assignments are evaluated, starting with standard issues such as punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and then consider principles of academic writing, such as whether an item is well-sourced, proper citations are provided, and so on. Then consider which course this work is for, at what level and how specialized a topic, and such matters. He discouraged focusing too much on quantitative factors, since that seems to encourage students to focus on meeting those expectations narrowly. He also requires print outs for students’ work, which is particularly important, given that Wikipedia entries are always subject to change by someone else.

Daniel said that for his freshman and sophomore students, he prefers to have them work on Wiki projects in a “walled garden,” a private Wiki, which everyone can read, but only FDU professors and students can edit. He’s found pbwiki to be a good, free platform. He’s created his own Wiki: fdupolitics.pbwiki.com which anyone can read, but only those with a User ID and password can edit. Educators can quickly create their own Wiki, and share the password with their students. Work that’s available online through a course Wiki can become part of the study guide for students for that course.

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3D Modeling: Tied Up in Knots

Posted by ctlt on June 5, 2008

University College’s Ellen Campbell, Assistant Professor of Education, led a hands-on workshop on her constructivist approach to using 3D animation software, with commentary on issues for the assessment of such projects. Following constructivist theory, educators put their students in a quandary, a condition of doubt or uncertainty, and ask them to take a risk. This is what Ellen’s title refers to: you are supposed to be tied up in knots and to struggle with some mental messiness. She’s worked with students who are preparing to be math teachers, and her approach teaches both the importance of persistence, and the importance of creating constructivist environments, where students may struggle with mental messiness without jeopardy. Educators must avoid the environmental factors that cause discomfort, because when people encounter those, they avoid taking risks, and encouraging them to take such risks is the point of the constructivist approach.

Ellen spoke about issues surrounding the use of visual methods, and reminded participants that much of what we take in from our experience and make sense out of, comes to us visually. Another consideration, particularly in an educational context, is the problem of assessment. People are usually comfortable with assessing an essay. Is such assessment of visual products (images, 3D models, animations, and so on) as subjective as some may claim? Ellen noted that we should be able to assess elements of the visual products people create.

After all, there are rules to this game. Does an image have a Center of Interest? One main quality that you find yourself looking at? Are there secondary, supporting features, or supporting details, to give extra, added interest? How does the eye flow around the image? Does it have some kind of tension, some tension points that need resolution? And there are considerations of proportion, scale and directionality. Your attention should flow around and the picture elements should bring you back into the picture.

Ellen uses Carrara 3D modeling software in her classes. The software enables us to show and demonstrate knowledge. To share and examine it.

Her approach uses the concepts of Visual Literacy. Visual literacy studies the use of visual methods as a unique symbol system. That understanding supports an approach to assessing visual products in the same way we would assess an essay. We look to assess two main areas: syntax and semantics. Syntax is the form and structure of words (morphology), with words as symbol systems. Semantics in concerning with meaning. What actually happens? Semantic considerations have very broad application. Ellen also noted for educators that the New Jersey Board has four standards for literacy that deal with nonverbal standards.

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The Innovation Imperative: Student Centered Models for Learning

Posted by ctlt on June 5, 2008

The University Librarian for the New Jersey Institute for Technology, Richard Sweeney, spoke on “The Innovation Imperative: Student Centered Models for Learning.” The “innovation” in Richard’s title acknowledges that we’re in a period of transition, a shift in the way colleges and universities operate. He raised a Fundamental Question: Is our goal to give our students the best teaching? What if the way they learn is different from what we’re used to? Different from preceding generations? Based on a lot of research, particularly dozens of focus group meetings with members of the Millenials Generation, who were born between 1979 and 1994, and are coming to colleges and universities with different expectations and different ways of learning. That’s the basis for the imperative we face in higher education.

The research Richard and several others have conducted on the expectations and behaviors of Millenial Generation students has resulted in many articles that compare that generation with earlier generations of students, from whom they differ in several important respects.

Millenials expect more choices in everything they do. They expect greater personalization and customization of those choices. They’re more likely to seek out social networking opportunities and to engage in collaborative activities, while working and playing. They prefer modes of interaction that offer greater flexibility and convenience. They read less. Their approach to learning is more experiential, and they prize interactive learning experiences, both with faculty and with instructional resources, including online course delivery systems. And they are impatient; they have no tolerance for delays. Richard’s summary handout of Millenial behaviors is available here.

You should take some time and go through the many links that Richard provides on his Web page, which provide a great deal of background information on Millenials and research on them, as well as links to several Powerpoint presentations Richard has used when presenting the results of his studies to various groups and organizations. Rich in details and provocative in his discussion of their implications, his PowerPoint slides for his TNT presentation are available here.

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Podcasting in the Virtual Classroom

Posted by ctlt on June 5, 2008

Linda Elfers-Mabli, who teaches English and Communication courses for Petrocelli College and has extensive experience with online coursework, taught a session on “Podcasting in the Virtual Classroom.” Linda based her discussion on several Webpages she’s made available on her own Website, specifically http://web.mac.com/tntworkshop/2008TNT/Welcome.html

Podcasting is a relatively new way to distribute media files. Faculty have long been able to upload files to course management platforms, such as Blackboard or Webcampus, but now they can combine the availability of uploaded files with the advantage of prompting students to view the latest files through RSS syndication. Linda demonstrated how easy it is to podcast a lecture by recording her introductory remarks and posting them as she spoke. Linda was using Apple technology, and posting to her http://www.mac.com Website, but other technology is available; for example, there’s Jing.

Linda took us to her Webpage on podcasting Uses and discussed the various ways faculty can employ podcasting in both traditional and online classrooms:

Traditional Class

  • Listen to lecture segments missed while busily taking notes in class.
  • Listen and listen again to difficult concepts.
  • Watch and review classroom demonstrations.
  • Review material for an exam.
  • Listen or watch lectures missed because of absences.

Online Class

  • Summarize weekly discussion board postings and replies by students.
  • Summarize content of student essays.
  • Direct students to relevant supplemental material.
  • Present portions of online lectures.

Moving to another page on her Website, Linda discussed the availability of various methods for Creating Podcasts, on both MS Windows and Apple Macintosh platforms.

Finally, Linda took us to her site’s Exploration page, where we found links for downloading iTunes (which lets you subscribe to podcasts from a wide range of sources) and to several sources, both academic and general interest, for downloading and enjoying podcasts on innumerable subjects, as well as links to news podcasts from such sources as PBS, CNN, MSNBC, and others. Class participants then spent the remaining minutes of the session familiarizing themselves with these various sources, and sampling what was offered by them.

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Posted by Cathy Kelley on June 2, 2008

The Wired Campus Blog (produced by The Chronicle of Higher Education) had an interesting post today about a “new” concept that has been called “Edupunk.” Edupunk is a rebellion against one-size-fits-all  course management systems, and takes advantage of free Web 2.0 tools and other DIY approaches to education. The idea is to put students in the center of learning – which was the theme of this year’s TNT event. The analogy to punk music is that punk was also a do-it-yourself approach to music, opposed to big business, and represented a rebellion against the sterile pop sound of the late 70s and early 80s.  Edupunk is do-it-yourself, opposed to big business, and is a rebellion against the sterile environment of corporate course management systems.


Make sure to follow the links inside the article to get a full understanding of Edupunk.

I think that the case against the big learning management systems is somewhat over-stated; after all, these are just big containers and you can put into them whatever you like. While there are compartments for various kinds of materials, you can ignore them or use them your own way. And not everybody is cut out to be a DIY-er.

On the other hand, it is also true that learning management systems have among the worst user interfaces of any product I’ve used. They are also designed to be very teacher-driven; only the instructor can post or edit content, for example. While this is necessary for many kinds of material, there are times when it makes sense for students to contribute material and take a more active role in the educational process. We’ll never get away from the sage-on-the-stage / lecture/ pour-knowledge-into-kids-heads model until we move away from such strongly instructor-centric course models.

I have many more thoughts on this, but I’m curious to hear what the community thinks. If you read the blog, please comment – it’s getting to feel kind of lonely in here.

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