Friday, May 2, 2014

Everyone Should Teach Writing

Most of my faculty colleagues agree that Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), in which the task of teaching writing is one assigned to all professors, not just those who teach English or composition, is an important academic concept. If we had a WAC playbook, it would sound something like this: students need to write clear, organized, persuasive prose, not only in the liberal arts, but in the sciences and professional disciplines as well. Conventional wisdom and practical experience tell us that students’ ability to secure jobs and advance in their careers depends, to a great extent, on their communication skills, including polished, professional writing.

Writing is thinking made manifest. If students cannot think clearly, they will not write well. So in this respect, writing is tangible evidence of critical thinking -- or the lack of it -- and is a helpful indicator of how students construct knowledge out of information.

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Libraries Navigate the Messy World of Discovery Tools

As researchers (students and faculty, alike) turn increasingly to Google for their searches, university libraries - and the companies that provide the software they use - are having to rethink how they organize information and structure searches. Many are considering turning to the Google-like one-stop search box. While this structure has the benefit of elegance and simplicity, it also runs the risk of inundating researchers with loads of irrelevant results - a particularly vexing problem for those of us teaching young researchers how to gather the best information possible.

This move also impacts the very nature of research itself, how we find information, and how we use what we find. As the author of the article states: "The big question is how these emerging tools are influencing research. Scholars have begun several studies to find out. The work is important because "unlike almost anything that libraries have done before," the rollout of one-stop search tools is 'really intentionally trying to change the way people do research,' says Michael Levine-Clark, associate dean for scholarly communication and collections services at the University of Denver Libraries. "That’s bound to change what people find."

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Will Digital Humanities Disrupt the University?

Some 10 percent of humanities scholars currently self-identify as digital humanists, which is either an alarmingly large encroachment or a too-modest development, depending whom you ask. As such, digital humanities is the consummate academic hot-button topic: Everyone has vehement opinions, but few actually know what they’re talking about.

So what is “DH,” as the academic cool kids call it (and yes, “academic cool kids” is a misnomer)? Should everyone writing a Chaucer dissertation learn how to code, and if so, why? Will DH be the Facebook of the academy—or its Pets.com?

The field itself isn’t actually new. According to Roopika Risam, assistant professor of English at Salem State University and co-founder (with Richard Stockton College assistant professor Adeline Koh) of the project Postcolonial Digital Humanities, it is the current incarnation of humanities computing, which has been around since computers were the size of a room.

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Faculty Achievement Event

Thursday, May 8, 2014 at the Social Center, Inn at Depauw, beginning at 4:00 p.m. The annual gathering to celebrate the scholarly and artistic achievements of DePauw's faculty.

2014 May 8 The Flipped Classroom: a free webinar from Inside Higher Education

On May 8 at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed presents a FREE WEBINAR, with editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman who will explore a range of ideas and opinions about the flipped classroom.

The idea of the “flipped classroom” has taken off in higher education in recent years – and it is used to describe a wide variety of teaching styles. What they have in common is that they largely replace the lecture. For material that might have been delivered in lecture format previously, online instruction is provided in advance of the class. This allows for time in class to be used in different ways – group work, discussion and other forms of highly engaged participatory learning become the norm.

Discussion of the flipped classroom thus is a mix of teaching with technology – and teaching without technology. It’s about pedagogy, learning and the role of the instructor. And in an era in which educators and policy makers alike want to promote student learning and achievement (not just showing up in class), the flipped classroom has become a key strategy.

Read up before you participate! Visit their website  to download The Flipped Classroom, a compilation of news articles and opinion essays, the latest in Inside Higher Ed's series of booklets on hot issues in higher education.

Inside Higher Ed's The Flipped Classroom webinar is made possible with the support of Adobe. Your registration information will be shared with the company.

Read The Flipped Classroom

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oft-repeated complaints that our students can't read long and complicated materials may not be as accurate as the observation that they simply don't want to.

A Washington Post article by Michael S. Rosenwald said that researchers were finding that the habit of scanning and skinning material online was changing the human brain and hindering people’s” ability to read long, complex and dense material. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, a professor at the University of Virginia, is highly skeptical. Instead of rewiring our brains, which are not likely to have the capacity to evolve so quickly, it is more plausible that our relationship to content is changing. In other words, oft-repeated complaints that our students ʺcan't read long and complicated materialsʺ are probably not as accurate as the observation that they simply don't want to. It's not brain function at fault but, rather, the will. The counter-argument suggests that the internet provides us with so much opportunity to find other information that we are less willing to put up with something that doesn't interest us or that we find disagreeable. The problem is social, not biological.

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Facebook in the Back of the Classroom

We all know just how frustrating it can be to look across the students in your classroom and see clear evidence that many of them are paying more attention to the latest Snapchat message or texting their sibling at another school. But what are we to do? Should we rail about incivility? Should we demand a technology-free classroom? Should we punish them for their insensitivity with pop-quizzes or calling on them when we know they haven't been listening (that great cinematic trope)? Or should we accept the technology and it's capacity to distract? Should we even embrace it? A recent column in Inside Higher Ed seeks to open up a discussion about good tactics for dealing with what many of us feel is an unwelcome intrusion into our pedagogy, but which others feel offers new opportunities for teaching our material in innovative ways.

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