Author Archives: Pam Patterson

Alina Nevins wins Spot Award

spot-alina-nevinsOur very own Alina Nevins won a CIO Spot Award from ITS. From the website:

A Support Technician wrote on behalf of several members of the ITS Help Desk to express thanks to Academic Technologist Alina Nevins, who wrote high-quality knowledgebase articles supporting Classes*v2.  “The articles are very well written and clearly spell out what we need to know,” he wrote. “I received a number of emails about Classes*v2 this morning. The articles made it very easy for me to provide information to the clients.”

From ITG

Alina not only wrote high-quality knowledgebase articles supporting Classes*v2. She has taken over the very large support shoes of our dear retired colleague, Gloria Hardman (and is doing an extraordinary job of it). Alina offered hands-on training to HelpDesk staff regarding the use of V2. It’s our first service which has tier one support at the help desk. She’s managing the V2 queue and our great staffer Jennifer Colafrancesco’s work on the service, mastering Drupal for course and educational technology services support, has just gotten a new “Senior Academic Technologist” title and is an all-around great team member.

Thanks Alina and congrats from the crew!

ELI 2015 Conference Notes

Highlights from the ELI 2015 conference in Anaheim, CA (besides the 75 degree weather).

blendkitFrom my alma mater, the University of Central Florida. This mooc/resource is for helping faculty and institutions created blended learning courses. From the website: The goal of the BlendKit Course is to provide assistance in designing and developing your blended learning course via a consideration of key issues related to blended learning and practical step-by-step guidance in helping you produce actual materials for your blended course (i.e., from design documents through creating content pages to peer review feedback at your own institution).

The-Symbiotic-Research-ToolkitA research toolkit for students from Georgia University. The idea being that students don’t always know how to use the internet as a resource for research. Might be a good resource in the CTL.




trophyNot Everyone Gets a Trophy – Mark De Vinck, Dexter F. Baker Professor of Practice in Creativity, Lehigh University

Outcomes: Understand the importance of creativity as it relates to innovation, understand the value of hand-on learning, learn how to teach failure without failing.

This faculty member runs a maker lab at the university and provides structured lessons to help students overcome failure. Teaching them to be persistent and resilient in the face of failures. Each student keeps a inventors notebook which documents their tries and processes as well as ideas around real hands-on work on problems. He’s found the most useful boost for innovation is the creation of a safe space for students to explore all ideas and to approach obstacles as opportunities for learning. Claims that all is needed for a maker space is a couch, a popcorn maker and coffee. De Vinck talks about using systematic creativity (nicely defined by Mindfolio here) and the 6 hats of creativity defined as follow (found in wikipedia) :

Six distinct directions are identified and assigned a color. The six directions are:

  • Managing Blue – what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is the goal?
  • Information White – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions Red – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment Black – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
  • Optimistic response Yellow – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity Green – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

Take aways: I enjoyed this talk and the enthusiasm of the professor. Wondering if we could incorporate this type of problem solving to humanities courses. These innovative and maker space work well in engineering and other sciences. But maybe in Public Humanities, Public Health? Perhaps where working as a group to discover underlying concepts in a discipline might benefit from using a systematic approach to thinking innovatively.

harvardcrestLearning at Scale and the Science of Learning – Justin Reich, Richard L. Menschel HarvardX Research Fellow, Harvard University

Outcomes: Learn how to distinguish between participation data (which is abundant) and learning data (which is scarce), learn about taxonomy of current research approaches ranging from fishing in the data exhaust to design research in the core, understand the importance of randomized experiments (A/B testing) to advancing the science of learning.

At the last ELI conference in New Orleans in 2014, MOOCs were in high profile. They were reaching a peak of interest and a flurry of activity. Now that we’ve got a body work done, we seem to be entering a time of deep assessment of the outcomes. Reich has written a few white papers about his research of HarvardX (one found here). Just like there is diversity in learning experiences there is also diversity of goals. Diversity is central to understanding of the enterprise. There is a difference between measures of activity and measures of learning – there’s a lot of data about what people click on but not what goes on in their heads. The question is: What kinds of things are students doing that are helping learning outcomes?

Reich believes we should reboot MOOC research by offering suggestions for how we might do more research on the learning rather than the engagement (clicks).

Improving structures for assessment

  1. measure full range of competencies
  2. measure change in competency over time
  3. borrow validated assessments from elsewhere

MOOCS research has the following options at this time:

  1. fishing in the exhaust (tracking in the clicking data)
  2. experiments in the periphery – domain independent (don’t have anything to do with the disciple being taught i.e. learning styles or course design options) which means you can plop it into different domains (disciplines)
  3. design research in the core – helps explain how to get students past a barrier or threshold and how to help students learn core concepts in a course better

Take aways: I thought this talk highlighted just how hard it is to create meaningful assessments of learning in an area that has such a diverse set of students. It would seem to me that assessment might be based on the goals of the groups who want information about how MOOCs are doing. Faculty would probably be interested in assessing if students are understanding the core concepts of a course, administration might be more interested in enrollment numbers and completion rates (perhaps the amount of clicking), students are probably interested in ease of use and the quality of the material – this group is probably the hardest to understand in terms of what their goals are, it’s a broad group over many lands.


Frontiers of Open Data Science Research – Stephen Howe, Director of Technical Product Management-Analytics, McGraw-Hill Education.

Outcomes: Learn how data science is being applied to gain new insights about learner and instructor behavior.

The next generation of education technology will use open data to provide a foundation of learning analytics and adaptive learning. The new frameworks will give continuous quality personalized feedback to help align curricula and assessments and help students make course corrections in their learning. Using open data educators can provide measurement and reports that will affect learning outcomes. There are 3 areas that can be explored:

  1. Prescriptive – base line requirements
  2. Predictions – attention lost? off course? don’t understand
  3. Prescription – how to adjust – adaptive learning

Using adaptive learning environments and providing realtime feedback, students will have a pathway to what is known and what should be learned next. How can we take the power of adaptive products that are locked into software? Howe stresses the need for open architectures and standardized data output.

  • IMS Standards
  • LTI – interoperability for integration and identity
  • QTI – assessment interoperability
  • Caliper – a new standard for data exchange – common data exchange (JSON)

Howe shared a graphic of 3 main areas. The first area is the data source of learning events which is then converted to a  data common language. From that common language input APIs are processed in a learning analytics store house where the data is sorted. From that storehouse output APIs publish to products (phones, computers, dashboards, etc.) Howe claims you must start with the product that is trying to answer a question (goal outcome). Then you backwards architect how you sort the data.

Take away: The crux of the biscuit is always the open and standardized data source. Hard enough to do across a single institution let alone across many institutions. However, I don’t believe we’ve done enough here at Yale to leverage product API’s, and LTI’s in our LMS. However I know it’s in our sites and roadmaps. Future frontier looks bright.

Overall, I believe the conference themes that resonated throughout were learning analytics, hands-on learning assignments which give students the opportunity to fail and try again, and competency based learning objectives. And did I mention it was really warm and sunny there?

ELI 2014 – intuition rules

Are there rules to intuition? One rule emerging from the study of the brain is that the mind needs to allow the “brain voices” space in order to synthesize what was learned.  In the 1990’s the LMS was (and can still be) very freeing. It allow students and faculty one spot to share and pass along digital information. But now it binds us to a technology that is a bit dated and doesn’t adapt quickly or easily to other platforms. This is the shackle of a silo. That’s not to say that all new technologies aren’t silos. Case in point, designing an IOS app that must use Apple’s SDK and app store and the moment it was written, it is becoming obsolete. Sometimes shackles can be freeing and sometimes a shackle is just a shackle.

One thing about conferences, you hear buzz words. We hear the buzz of innovation and transformation. This has been the battle cry since I started this job 13 years ago. We practice the art of combining lightweight tools to get things done.  Is that innovative? Is it trans-formative? Possibly. But it’s less dramatic than that, it’s willing to look at the same old same old day after day and suddenly see it in a new combination. In order to do that you have to be willing to work shackled then you have to be willing to break free.

noSilosBuzzword 1: ‘connected learning environment’ – some use use the term ‘learning ecosystem’. It’s the holy grail at the moment and one that AIT seems intent on exploring with good reason. No more silo’s – creating a community of learning tools that are accessible no matter what the platform. LTI’s and mobile apps can help us with this dismantling of silo applications which don’t speak to one another.

big-data-straight-aheadBuzzword 2: ‘BIG data’ – Discussion of data storage and preservation is necessary – it’s the mechanics of beast – just like I need a cup to hold liquid. But the question in AIT becomes how do we provide access, analysis and the “brain voice” space for students to come to the critical thinking part of learning. We can help students accomplish this by applying “backwards planning” – which in my way of thinking isn’t backwards at all. What are the competencies expected? What is the mission and vision of the program/course/discipline? Let’s create a concept map – on paper, with a pen OR on a tablet device with a mind map/drawing tool. The mission or the competency is in the middle. OR, rogue thought here, what the student is hoping to gain from the course. Now let that brain voice take over and start using your creativity based on the facts/ideas/tools you know but put them in a new order. Here’s a concept map I created at the end of the conference:

A here is a really cool one from this website (which i didn’t know existed!) and it’s from 2009 – I see a lot of innovative ideas we still wish for today.

How do we tie the connected learner to big data?  What we need are tools for the end user to be able to SEE the data and make their own intuitive best guess about how it all comes together. Do we really want students to use the word research as a way to  merely to spit facts back to the instructor? Or do we want research to mean “this is how I am thinking”. I think therefore I research. (see Bret Victor’s work here: And if you get a chance to view the taping of Campbell Gardner’s 15 min introduction to Bret Victor’s work, it will inspire you. (

Bret Victor speaks about the animation of complex concepts (which can be contained in big data) and the use of interactive personal computing. He says that creation is discovery. If we can provide students with a tool to turn in assignments for a static grade but also a tool that provides a window into their thinking, a place where they can make clear how they come to hold the view/argument they are supporting with those assignments, we will enable a generation of students who reduce abstraction and indirection and pursue passion. It is in this arena of visible and immediate reflection that learning happens.

campfiregirlBuzzword 3: Badges – now I must confess I was a scoffer. Badges brought to mind the small stint I did in Campfire Girls (ah, google it, we sold candy not cookies). We earned badges and stuck them on a sash. It was fun, but what I never really considered what was under each badge. I gained either a skill or it was acknowledged that I participated in something. Those badges said to my peers and my leaders that I had worked at something. Suddenly, I’m sold. Let’s say a student is in a course and he passes with a C. If the course had 3 competencies to be gained, it’s possible that the C student only learned one. What if students earned badges for each competency with the help of blended learning (buzzword alert) tools: modules, lecture, in-class second screen back channels).

Here’s a concept map of second screen back channels I created:

We can enriched student learning by introducing badges across the curriculum. This provides students with tools to tie their learning together and help them make connections beyond their chosen disciplines. Those badges can be mined by potential employers who are searching for specific competencies. Badges can also be related to ePortfolio’s in a meaningful way – the ePortfolio (buzzword) can show tangible digital evidence of a learned competency. If we provide students with areas for reflection and blocks of obtainable goals, we will increase their potential for learning. Many of these buzzwords are from listening to Kyle Bowen, Director of Informatics at Purdue University and his featured session on “Four Big Ideas for What’s Next.” I really enjoyed his talk. It pulled some many things in the conference together for me and had a tone of practicality that I appreciated.

The ideal student will become a systems thinker, a communicator, a creative problem solver and culturally responsible. We “backwards” construct from this ideal and identify tools that enable/enhance the learning process to help students obtain these goals. I believe that is the trans-formative power of technology enhanced learning – providing tools and incentive that allows digital learners to free up some brain space for creative problem solving.

The conference generated some ideas for me outlined at the following website – I encourage you to login to that site comment on those ideas and add your own.

ELI 2012 – Living and Learning in Cyberspace Blogging at VA Tech

Panelists: W. Gardner Campbell, Dir., Professional Development and Innovative Initiatives, Shelli Fowler, Exec. Dir. of Graduate Development Programs and New Pedagogies, Jennifer Sparrow, Dir. of Emerging Technologies and New Ventures and Robert Stephens, Assoc. Prof. of History, Principal, Honors Residential College. Other examples of student blogging at VA Tech, – this is not the same as the residential blogging initiative, these blogs are running off Google’s The take away here is that blogging is an easily accessible tool for students to create connections between real world experience and their academics.

A  blogging initiative was started to provide students with a platform for making learning connections across disciplines. VA Tech is running WordPress blogs for about 300 students in the Honors residential college. Students are given a blog as incoming freshmen. It’s introduced into the residential college because it provides longevity. Students will live and study together (across disciplines) for 4 years. There is a faculty adviser who provides guidance but for the most part there are no specific requirements. No specific requirements proved to be the biggest hurdle for the students who wanted to know what the topic of the posts should be, how much they should blog, how often and what’s the grading requirements? The faculty member finally gave into the desperate pleas for structure and said they had to post at least 12 times, and he was reluctant to give that requirement. The 300 students posted between 3000 and 5000 posts. Students had a conceptual problem at first. Blogging was not a word processing, term paper grading arena, but a multimedia platform for ideas, civic discourse and connection with a larger community. This was an arena to aggregate the individual’s learning experience.
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ELI 2012 Conference – Featured Speakers

The annual ELI conference in Austin opened with a keynote address by Adrian Sannier from Pearson Publishing. It included this cheery quote from H.G. Wells, “Human history is more and more a desperate race between education and catastrophe.”  Wells died in 1946 and as our speaker pointed out, we’ve been on the verge of a technological revolution for 50 years. So it would seem that while we’ve been preaching revolution we’ve been practicing status quo. The art of teaching in the classroom hasn’t change for quite some time but there are signs of the disruption of the status quo from the bottom up as we see more and more access to expert information for free. There is a democratization of information that decentralizes and leverages expertise at the scale of the individual rather than in a classroom setting. The revolution is taking place all around us but it still hasn’t taken place in the classroom. Faculty use LMS (learning management systems) but mainly for administrative purposes. This talk was a call (once again) for those of us in the technology field to drive innovation. Creative destruction has to happen at every level of the enterprise (ITS re-org anyone?). Are we still stuck because of the resistance to not challenging the status quo? As the discussion becomes more and more about the science of education and less about the art of education, it means that things are about to change. Some suggestions from our speaker include: community based research activity, new models of progress based collaboration and the discovery, and the creation and distribution of digital materials. Pearson Publishing has introduced Open Class ( What is OpenClass? Here’s the info from the web page: “OpenClass is a dynamic, scalable, fully cloud-based solution that stimulates social learning and the exchange of content, coursework, and ideas — all from one integrated platform. Of course it has all the LMS functionality needed to manage courses, but that’s just the beginning. OpenClass actually advances education by using social technology to encourage collaboration and communication for students, faculty, institutions, and administrators around the world. OpenClass also features an idea exchange that will make it easy to find and share the latest teaching approaches, educational content, and curriculum.”
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Divine Blogging

Professor Giuseppe Mazzotta’s course, ITAL310: Dante in Translation. “[attempts] to place Dante’s work in the intellectual and social context of the late Middle Ages by relating literature to philosophical, theological, and political concerns.” Carol Chiodo, Ph.D. candidate in Italian, led a section for the course. She decided to use a blog to help students develop their scholarly voices.

Rather than have students access the Divine Comedy through the lens of  secondary sources, one assignment urges students “[to] not look any further than what you have in front of you: a careful reading of the Comedy and portions of the texts you have selected should yield some intriguing arguments which you may later want to take up for your papers.” Within this structure, the students created a  number of high quality papers. Some of the papers were sent to another organization as candidates for awards.

Chiodo found that 50 minute sections weren’t long enough for the discussion.  The posts created a conversation and then set a boundary for the discussion. This helped to level the playing field for students in other disciplines. All came to the text with the same set of tools. The blog became organic to the group, morphing from being an assignment to a pool of resources. Using tagging to feed a tag cloud, the students created access to their own resources.  While Chiodo would have tagged more and even require tags on each post, she was able to use the tag cloud to tailor the secondary materials.

This is not a unique use of blogging software but it highlights the benefits of giving students an arena where discussions of course topics can be explored, outside of the sections.



Elihu Rubin,  Assistant Professor of Architecture and Political Science, and his students have been creating a New Haven building archive. His current course, “Urban Research and Representation” explores the utility of research and representation techniques and presents that work as a multi-media group exhibition in the form of  an interactive web-map of historic New Haven architecture, organizing five years worth of research by both graduate and undergraduate students. Professor Rubin’s students have been collecting New Haven building data since 2007.

The current website allows students to capture their drift in a particular neighborhood through images, maps, prose and other ephemera. Students enter data about a building such as original tenant and purpose, architect, year built, and architectural style. This listing of a particular building is added dynamically to a Google map of the area. This ongoing data collection will also include crowd-sourcing, allowing readers in the community to add images, anecdotes and personal histories associated with New Haven architecture. These practices of walking, flânerie, photography, and cinema give students a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city.


Digital Scholarship Sites

While listening to the Digital Campus podcast out of George Mason Univ., a biweekly podcast about how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums, two sites authored by Lisa Spiro, director of the Digital Media Center at Rice University’s Fondren Library caught my attention.

First, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities is a blog about how digital resources and tools are affecting scholarship in the humanities and consider the potential for digital scholarship. She poses questions (taken from her about page):

  • What kind of resources do I find by relying on databases and search tools? What kind of searches work best? What hasn’t yet been digitized or is difficult to find?
  • Does tagging help me to organize and share my research?
  • What new insights come out of using text analysis and text visualization tools? What’s hard about using these tools?
  • How do you make available not only research conclusions, but also the detailed research process that undergirds these conclusions–the successful and unsuccessful searches, the queries run in text analysis software, the insights offered by colleagues and commentators?
  • How will all of this information be preserved for the long-term?
  • What effect will making the research practice transparent have on the way that research is conducted, and what kind of scholarly community will come out of this work?

The second site, also edited by Spiro is DIRT – which is a wiki that collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars. Here’s an example of the list….

I want to…

The approach on these two sites is interesting because it approaches the problem from the prospective of “what do i want to do?”, or “what outcome or goal am I trying to obtain?”

Another blog mentioned on the podcast was Found History “which explores public and digital history in all its forms. Found History is produced by Tom Scheinfeldt, Managing Director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.” While very thought provoking the Briefly Noted postings have a lot of information to digest, with many many links. I fear sifting through all of them would take the better portion of my day….