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I’m going to begin my post with a story so bear with me.

Immediately after graduating from college, I secured a job and moved with what few possessions I owned to Philadelphia. I had worked throughout high school and college and my “new to me” car was a symbol of my responsibility and hard work. Within a few weeks of moving to my studio apartment located in what at that time was a rundown neighborhood, my license plate was clipped and the registration sticker stolen. The fact that someone felt they could steal something that was rightly mine left me feeling violated.

Maybe if I had the resources, I would have tracked down the perpetrator of the stolen sticker. Maybe I could have hired someone to find the free rider and bring them to justice.  But I had laid out too much money already paying for a new plate and registration stickers. The most I could do was what so many others had done before me; report it and keep my new sticker in my wallet, along with my registration card so it wouldn’t be stolen again.

Words like stealing and theft in combination with possessions or property often elicit visceral reactions and feelings of injustice and violation. During the DCAL session on April 5th, William Patry, author of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, pointed out that these and other words/terms became part of the rhetoric around copyright during the late 1970s.

In the late 1970s, former Motion Picture Association of America leader Jack Valenti argued before Congress that the protection of copyright was a public good and that the piracy or theft of copyrighted material by free riders was an assault on the People. Patry noted that in reality, Valenti was arguing to protect the economic bottom line of the media industry from the perceived threat of a new technological innovation called the VCR, not the public good. The entertainment industry’s push for copyright protections was a preemptive action to try to prevent the potential loss of revenue from commercial spots because this innovation would allow VCR owners to skip the commercials when they watched the programming after the fact.

During the discussion, Patry spoke to the power of metaphor in relation to copyright. When referring to copyright as property it triggers associations of ownership and that it is mine unless I agree otherwise or society through the proper channels intervenes. This argument weighs the scales for the copyright owner, making it more difficult to argue otherwise. Referring to copyright as a social growth program for the benefit of everyone; however, would put everyone on the same plane and affords greater opportunities to benefit from it. Unfortunately, from the beginning copyright has been overpromised and as such has largely failed as a public growth program.

Patry suggested that innovation is actually the public good and copyright as it stands is the free rider. We are currently in a position where innovation and copyright are pitted against each other. As such, we as individuals need to work together to identify that which is impeding innovation and offer solutions on how to address it. This type of action can be seen with the recent defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and with the development of Creative Commons.

Let me go back to my story for a moment. Interestingly enough, a few years after I moved out of Philadelphia, the increase in reports of stolen plate stickers resulted in the DMV piloting rear window stickers. Unfortunately, the rear window stickers were disbanded after five years. While I am not privy to the reason for the pilot failure, I’m going to take some liberties and make a few assumptions.

  • I’m pretty certain the folks who had been clipped continued to keep the stickers in their wallets for fear that now their windows would be smashed.
  • The clipping issue existed primarily in Philadelphia, thus making an exception for a small subset of Pennsylvanians.
  • Philadelphians traveling elsewhere in PA were subject to increase police stops and possible profiling due to the new window tag.

So what does my story and the assumptions about the failed pilot have to do with my take away from this session? My comparison and comprehension of the discussion may seem a bit obtuse, but I came out of the session thinking that:

  • Fear of copyright should not deter Higher Education from facing the issues surrounding it.
  • Higher Education as a whole (faculty, staff, students and administration) will need to come together to identify the issues faced by academia regarding copyright and then work toward unified solutions.
  • Higher Education’s support of efforts such as Creative Commons and Open Publishing have the potential to support knowledge generation, creative endeavors, and sharing as a way to overcome the inadequacies and misuse of the current copyright system.
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Librarians from Special Collections led a group of faculty members and librarians through an exercise that could be tailored to the objectives of almost any course at Dartmouth. Jay Satterfield and Peter Carini distributed to the participants a set of documents from special collections and gave us the following very minimal instructions as if we were a group of students.

In groups of two, look over the document and respond to the following prompts:

  1. What is this?
  2. What is its information value?
  3. What questions does it prompt you to ask?

We worked in groups of two for about 15 minutes, then the six groups each reported their responses one at a time. It was difficult for us to refrain from starting discussion and sharing questions right away. It was even more difficult for Jay and Peter to refrain from supplying corrections and special information they had about the documents. They kept this activity focused on the students.

Here’s a list of the documents we looked at in pairs. We did not have this list; each pair had only the primary document before us; we were tasked with making some sense of the document without knowing what it was.

  • A “memorial” of a petition by Dartmouth students addressed to their neighbors asking for permission to undergo inoculation for smallpox in January 1777
  • A recipe for a prescription for smallpox inoculation written by one Dr. Tiffany
  • A letter from Ebenezer Haseltine to his brother, dated February 12, 1777
  • Acts and Laws of the State of New Hampshire promulgated from July-December 1776 and published in 1780
  • Reasons against the Practice of Inoculating the Small-Pox. London 1722
  • A Narrative of the Method and Success of Inoculating the Small Pox in New England. London 1722

As each pair reported, we could not help but learn new things about our document and even start to construct a narrative. When all six pairs had reported, Jay asked several people, in turn, to tell the story they were constructing from all the documents. Not surprisingly each narrative offered was different. Some told a story about the 18th-C controversies about small pox inoculation; another told a story about students responding to a smallpox outbreak at Dartmouth; still others wanted to tell a story about reactions to epidemics.

What’s more, each story needed more information to become truly useful. We were prompted to sort our questions into those that could be answered by further research in secondary sources, those by research in more primary sources, and those that might require careful interpretation and speculation.

Then we stepped back into our roles as teachers to consider how an exercise like this could be useful in one of our own courses and how it might further the learning outcomes we want our students to achieve.

Finally Peter Carini shared with us his list of “Skills for Primary Source Research,” a list of the outcomes he expects students to realize by using primary materials in Special Collections. Everyone started planning such exercises for future courses.

Sustainability in Rauner

Rauner Special Collections Library holds many collections that lend themselves to the study of sustainability. The Papers of Donella Meadows and the polar research collections are complemented by smaller collections that can provide a deep historical context to today’s sustainability movement. College Archivist, Peter Carini, and Special Collections Librarian, Jay Satterfield, visited DCAL to lead a discussion of strategies for introducing these resources into the classroom.

Jay began by providing an overview of the strategies the Rauner employs for collecting. Specifically, he says, “In Rauner we aim for curricular support, we want to get our collection into the hands of undergraduates, while not ignoring other research purposes. We want to select materials as ‘teachable packages.’” In some areas, the collection is fairly deeps, such as for Robert Frost, Daniel Webster, and 19th century New Hampshire politics.

Satterfield continued with some show and tell from another deep collection, known as the White Mountain Collection. One table was full of samples from the collection, but Peter took some time to read from three guide books for the area from three moments in time: a guide book from 1851 that reflected a romantic view of nature; a 1912 guide that begins with a “road trip” view, alluding to the changing options for transportation; and a 1973 guide that warns of the threats of nature from overuse.

Peter Carini then took over to give an overview of the “college grants,” which were established at different times in the College’s past to provide a financial sustainability option for its ongoing needs. The first was supposed to setup a system for tenant farmers to bring income through agriculture, while the third was to provide income through logging leases to the timber industry. From records in the collection, we know when Dartmouth hired its first manager of the logging operations, who also became the first to head up the Outdoor Club.

Thirty-eight years later, in the late 1960s, we start to see documentation about conservation for recreational use in College Forester’s Records. Not long after, in 1970, Dartmouth established its Environmental Studies Program. Now, in 2012, we are seeing new plans for the College take shape in which “sustainability” will be part of the core that defines Dartmouth for the future.

The audience seemed quite interested to know how Rauner can play a larger role in helping faculty to visualize the collections for specific purposes. There were others, too, who wondered if an advisory board could be assembled to discuss how to further develop a “sustainability collection” at Dartmouth.

Today’s DCAL conversation, “Professing Our Deepest Convictions,” co-sponsored by the Tucker Foundation, took up the question of how (and whether) professors should incorporate their own convictions into their teaching, especially when the subject matter is controversial. As Richard Crocker, Dean of the Tucker Foundation framed it, What parts of ourselves should (and should not) be left at the classroom door?

The faculty panel of Irene Kacandes, Russell Muirhead, Annelise Orleck, and Don Pease expressed variously nuanced opinions. However, they did concur that controversy should not (and perhaps could not) be avoided in their classrooms. They further agreed that their convictions are, in one way or another, present in their teaching—what one chooses to include or exclude on a syllabus can be understood as an expression of one’s values, after all. And yet, the faculty also acknowledged that an over-zealous expression of conviction could have a disastrous effect, in that students either mimic the professor’s convictions for the sake of the grade, or close up around their own deeply held convictions, so that no real learning can occur.

Each of the faculty brought to the table some very thoughtful observations about how we might engage students and their convictions. For me, the most interesting observations came at the end of the discussion, as the participants joined the panel in considering methods for encouraging students to examine or construct belief. Some at the table thought that we best teach students by asking them to suspend their beliefs as they encounter texts, ideas, or value systems that are new to them. Understand first, we tell our students, and then evaluate in terms of how these texts confirm or challenge your convictions. Others at the table argued that students should not be asked to suspend their beliefs—rather, they should be asked to come to class with their convictions fully present, thereby engaging fully with the texts and the ideas that they encounter. In this latter scenario, all convictions are welcome and all are tolerated (even, one professor pointed out, intolerance)—but all are subject to rigorous inquiry as well. Students will have to defend their convictions, reflect on them, and perhaps even come to change them.

The session closed without a conclusion being reached—and perhaps without convictions being changed. But the discussion was lively, and participants walked away with considerable food for thought.

This term’s TWIT (Teaching with Information Technology) session focused on ways in which teaching and learning is facilitated through technology, but the technology itself takes a background seat to the task at hand. Often, we appear to be showcasing the technology over the learning, when what we prefer is the usually the opposite.

Prof. Tom Jack, from the Biology department, and Christiane Donahue, from the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, kicked off the session with a dual-class collaborative wiki activity designed to increase Biology students’ ability to communicate science to a lay audience and increase non-scientists’ ability to interpret science.

Tom teaches BIOL99, a Senior Honors Thesis class, in which students work on preparing their senior thesis. In this particular assignment, the students are asked to write their scientific abstract, then an abstract for a lay audience and also to prepare a two-minute video describing the thesis for the lay audience.

Students in Christiane’s WRIT7, a first-year writing course, have been developing their ability to read and provide feedback to peers in a process designed to improve their own writing. For this assignment, they become the audience for the BIOL99 students. They read the abstracts, watch the videos and then, as someone almost certainly unfamiliar with the senior topics, provide insightful critiques and feedback on the materials.

The process is designed to strengthen the skills of everyone involved, and it is all mediated through the wiki tools available in Blackboard, the campus LMS. The videos that the BIOL99 student make are filmed in a studio space within the new Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center, against a green screen. The senior students then select a representative image of their work to insert via post-production.

—–

In the second presentation, Prof. D.G. Webster, from the Environmental Studies Program described the development of a webpage using text written by students and images they shot during a trip to the New England Aquarium in Boston. Students in D.G.’s ENVS17 Marine Policy class documented their visit to the aquarium with an eye toward sustainability and seafood. After writing up their reports and submitting their images, D.G. worked with the department administrator to add the pages to the department website using OmniUpdate. The work now stands as an effective advertisement for the course the next time it is offered.

Prof. Webster also presented the work of students in her ENVS16 Business and the Environment course. In the course, the students explore “green” businesses and D.G. provides a series of writing prompts for the students to use after selecting a business for research. The students respond to the prompt by writing blog postings to a private GoogleSites webspace. By the end of the term, the students have sufficient material to organize their blog postings into a more formal final report, which is also assembled using GoogleSites. Unfortunately, due to litigation risk, the students’ final projects are only made available to the instructor and to each other, although we were able to see a few during the presentation.

Look for the next TWIT session in April.

Often times the largest barriers to learning are the preconceived ideas or mis-conceptions that we as learners bring into the classroom. While this is true for many subject areas, it seems most pervasive in learning science and mathematics. Given this knowledge, it is important to address these misconceptions and provide the students with the opportunity to unlearn and relearn these concepts.

During the February 9th Teaching Sciences Seminar in DCAL, Professor Chandrasekhar Ramanathan presented on the active learning teaching practices he was exposed to during the American Association of Physics Teachers workshop for new physics and astronomy faculty. In keeping true to the topic, those in attendance at this TSS were not passive recipients of the knowledge but active participants in the session.

After reviewing the philosophy behind Active Learning, Sekhar engaged the group in the practice of Peer Instruction. Made notable by Harvard Professor Eric Mazur, Peer Instruction involves students in their own learning during lecture by focusing their attention on underlying concepts.  In modeling Peer Instruction, Sekhar presented the group with a variety of common Physics questions and first asked the participants to answer as individuals. After answering individually, we broke off in groups of two to three to discuss the reasoning/thinking behind our answers. The group was then re-polled and the answer revealed with explanation/clarification as necessary. Not only was it fun to learn this way, but it allowed each individual to share their knowledge and become active participants in their learning. Find one of those who attended the session and ask them about the Car vs the Train.

Professor Ramanathan then discussed to the technique of Interactive Lecture Demonstration (ILD).  During ILD students first make predictions about the results of the demonstration. Once the demonstration is completed, the students discuss the results compared to their predictions. Reflection is key as it is through reflection that we can work through our misconceptions. Unfortunately, as noted by many in attendance, often times the traditional lab does not allow for reflection and that a standard “solution set” while often reproducible with that same set, does not afford students with the opportunity to reflect upon the process of solving the problem set and then applying the knowledge to other solution sets/situations.

The third active learning technique presented in the session was that of JITT or Just In Time Teaching. JITT engages students in learning activities before a class meeting. The type of activities can vary but may include video tutorials, simulations, and problem sets. The goal is to have students engage in the content and concepts outside of class and submit questions or reflections about the assignment to the instructor before class. This practice allows the instructor to focus on the knowledge gap and potential misconceptions the students bring to the content as he/she prepares for the next class meeting.

The session was fun, informative, and full of important takeaways. While incorporating Active Learning practices into the teaching and learning experience are extremely valuable; implementation is key.

  • Align Outcomes with Assessments, Assessments with Activities, and Activities with Outcomes.
  • Provide a supportive environment within the active learning classroom.
  • Explain to the students what you are doing and why.
  • Meet students where they are; don’t try to predict what they will have problems with.
  • Recognize that students may feel that their intelligence is being questioned when their understanding (misunderstanding) is challenged.
  • Provide opportunities for reflection for both the students and for yourself.
  • Consider how you will evaluate the success of the teaching techniques.

John Pfister (Psychological and Brain Sciences) and Leigh Remy (Assistant Dean of Undergraduates) led a lively discussion on Tuesday, January 24 about how well students take responsibility for their academic success and how faculty instructors can help them.

John prompted the group to construct an inventory of what we consider success-driving kinds of student behavior:

  • when students appear “3 steps ahead” of classroom discussion
  • showing up
  • asking questions
  • motivated by something other than grades
  • enjoying themselves in class discussions and assignments

Next we constructed a list of behaviors that indicate lack of success:

  • not showing up
  • neglecting to pick up graded work
  • passive, exhausted, invisible, miserable
  • deflecting responsibility onto instructors or circumstances
  • asking frequently for extensions

Finally, we brainstormed about things faculty instructors can do to promote success-driving behavior and discourage unsuccessful behavior:

  • design class time to be active and engaging—make class about what students do more than what instructors do
  • invite students to office hour conferences
  • require students to produce questions and insights before class
  • make the first day of class exciting/use pre-course surveys to cover syllabus material
  • ask students to generate class material and activities
  • give students time and opportunities to use feedback to improve their work
  • invite students to articulate their own goals and expectations
  • expect students to be actively engaged in each other’s success
  • make class time enjoyable
  • involve others when you see negative behaviors—call a dean!

Students respond well to anything we do that signals we are invested in their success.

info-fetishist

yeah, it's long -- I didn't have time to make it shorter

Feral Librarian

Research libraries & higher education. Sometimes music, sports, & other stuff.