CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology

TNT Institute — 2006

TNT Institute 2006

From the opening greetings to the closing remarks, this year’s TNT Institute was a great success. The theme for this year’s institute was “Virtual Communication Strategies,” and participants explored many innovative forms of interaction and social networking that hold abundant pedagogical promise.

After welcoming statements and introductions from Cathy Kelley, Assistant Provost for Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology, and Sandra Selick, Director of Teaching and Learning Center, we adjourned to a nearby computer lab. The first session began with a bit of role-playing that gave everyone a brief overview of podcasts, wikis and blogs. The result was a wide-ranging discussion of the cultural, social and ethical issues provoked by the new technologies of computer-based communication, with a focus on their significant implications for teaching and learning.

After lunch, that brief overview was followed by a compelling keynote presentation by Richard Sweeney, University Librarian for NJIT. His slideshow on “Millenials: The Digital Generation” tied together many of the themes we’d looked at on an introductory level during the previous session, particularly as they apply to people who are the age of most of our students.

[Richard Sweeney’s PowerPoint presentation is available at his Web site: http://www.library.njit.edu/staff-folders/sweeney/ ]

Robert McGrath (School of Psychology, University College) and Keith Williams (Coordinator of Instructional Design, Teaching and Learning Center) led a session on “Synchronous Communication Strategies.” This session included “hands-on” activities with Webcampus/Blackboard’s live communication tools: virtual classroom, and virtual chat.

To conclude the first day, Diana Cvitan, from the Global Learning program, led a lively panel discussion that included several faculty members. Members of the panel recounted their online experiences with global virtual faculty (GVF) from a number of disciplines. The discussion showed a healthy interest in presenting both the “upside” and the “downside” of working with GVF.

Second Day

During the opening session of the second day of the institute, Peter Burkholder (Social Sciences and History, Becton College), presented on “The Classroom Connector.” In its original form, The Classroom Connector provided a platform for faculty around the world to create their own profiles, list their goals for collaboration and to propose projects, and to search for collaborators and other projects.

Then Susan Gerson, the Director of College Writing at Becton College, presented on blogs and blogging, and led a hands-on workshop for institute attendees. The workshop took attendees through all the steps for creating their own blogs, from signing up for free e-mail accounts, through registering at Blogger, to publishing their own blogs.

In addition, workshop participants were cautioned on the pitfalls for blogging, such as publishing too much personal information, or being careless in attributing material to original sources. On the positive side, Gerson also discussed the pedagogical aspects of blogs, and how they can be used for teaching and learning.

After lunch, Clinical Assistant Professor Gerard Cleaves, of the Silberman College of Business, presented on his experiences working with Global Virtual Faculty (GVF) while teaching courses in pharmaceutical management and business ethics. Cleaves contrasted how students from FDU’s different campuses had different kinds of backgrounds and levels of exposure to other countries and their cultures. Discussing the important ethical issues of pharmaceutical development and delivery from multiple perspectives has led to richer understanding of how even large corporations may try to contribute responsibly to solving health care problems internationally, without necessarily seeking an immediate profit.

The final session of the day was taught by Allen Debren, Director of Instructional Technology for the Peter Sammartino School of Education, University College, and Keith Williams, Teaching and Learning Center. Debren and Williams used a Web page to organize the resources available for their workshop; that page is available here.

The topic of Debren and Williams’ presentation was “Lots of Cool Communication Tools,” and they succeeded in showing off lots of cool tools and techniques. Highlights were learning how to search for video clips available online at Video Google, and how to embed the video and its player into Web pages, including documents in Webcampus (Blackboard).

Third Day

The schedule for the third day was short but action packed! After the light breakfast, Vicki Cohen, the Director of the Peter Sammartino School of Education, University College, made some introductory remarks about the importance of an electronic portfolio system for FDU’s education program. FDU will be evaluating various portfolio systems over the next few months, and will select one for university-wide implementation.

Cohen then introduced a couple of speakers representing Blackboard, and their ePortfolio system. Darrin Schmautz, Regional Sales Manager for Blackboard, and Robin Robinson, the Director of Distance Education at Framingham State College in Massachusetts, presented Blackboard’s CMS and ePortfolio systems (and referred very briefly to the associated eReserve system).

Darrin introduced Blackboard’s standards-compliant system and described how its “role-based access” works to help students demonstrate the proficiency they’ve gained during their coursework, faculty document outcomes-based assessment, and administrators integrate the portfolio system with other database systems across the university.

The emphasis was generally on how students would create and manage digital portfolios for collecting their work, but the underlying CMS also helps faculty share teaching resources (learning objects) as well as collecting their own materials for review during promotion and tenure processes. An additional application of the CMS that faculty may make use of is to use the CMS as a platform for collaborative scholarship.

Robin spoke about her experiences on the ePortfolio project team at Framingham State College. FSC went through an extensive process to select an ePortfolio system, to identify areas where FSC wanted students to collect documents to demonstrate their proficiency and to provide evidence of their growth over time, and to pilot the use of this system with students and faculty at FSC.

The final session of the institute was led by Paula Hooper Mayhew, Professor of English and Comparative Literature (School of English, Philosophy and Humanities, University College), and Keith Williams, Office of Educational Technology.

After inviting members of the workshop to record video messages through a Webcam attached to a laptop, Mayhew talked about traveling to South Africa and working with a Global Virtual Faculty (GVF) member to offer more context for the study of South African literature. Williams then presented a Camtasia video that integrated a Webcam-based narration from the South African GVF member (edited from several video clips) with still images from locations in South Africa.

Mayhew and Williams then discussed the problems they had to overcome to create a polished video presentation, and what kinds of advice and encouragement they recommend to give to a GVF when developing such videos.

The institute ended with acknowledgments and thank yous from Cathy Kelley and Sandra Selick, and prize drawings, during the closing lunch.

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