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The First Day of Class

For many instructors, the first day of class can be nerve-wracking. Carnegie Mellon University has published a good article highlighting the key objectives that instructors should cover on the first day. Excerpt:

The first class meeting should serve at least two basic purposes:

  • To clarify all reasonable questions students might have relative to the course objectives, as well as your expectations for their performance in class. As students leave the first meeting, they should believe in your competence to teach the course, be able to predict the nature of your instruction, and know what you will require of them.
  • To give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are.

These two basic purposes expand into a set of eight concrete objectives:

  1. Orchestrate positive first impressions
  2. Introduce yourself effectively
  3. Clarify learning objectives and expectations
  4. Help students learn about each other
  5. Set the tone for the course
  6. Collect baseline data on students’ knowledge and motivation
  7. Whet students’ appetite for course content
  8. Inform students of course requirements

Read the full article at http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/firstday.html

Despite Booming eReader and eBook Sales, Many Students Still Prefer Traditional Textbooks

Campus Technology reported last week that although the eReader market experienced a dramatic increase in sales during the last holiday season, the e-textbook market has yet to feel the boom.

Companies specializing in e-textbooks, such as Inkling and CourseSmart, offer a fairly wide range of textbooks for a fraction of the price most university bookstores would charge for them. The books are purchased, downloaded, and viewed directly on an eReader or computer. Cheap textbooks and easy accessibility- it seems to be a college student’s dream come true!

But in one study, 3/4 of students surveyed said they would prefer to use a traditional paper textbook, as opposed to a digital e-textbook. Students found traditional textbooks much easier to interact with, and many thought them worth the higher price. Matt MacInnis, CEO of Inkling, even seems to agree:

“A book provides a really good user experience. It doesn’t crash. It’s predictable. You know exactly what you’re going to get. Simply putting a textbook on a Kindle or a Nook is actually a worse experience. You’re working entirely within the constraints of the book, but you’re taking away the convenience and reliability of the book.”

However, MacInnis’ company, and others like it, are working on ways to better, establish and differentiate the eReading experience, rather than mock the experience of reading from a book. According to MacInnis, in order for e-textbook companies to succeed, the experience needs to be “appreciably better than using a book”. Inkling has even gone as far as calling their e-textbook “titles” in place of the term “books”. Hopefully, these proposed modifications will speed up this slow-starting industry.

This year, eReader owners are expected to spend $1 billion on eBooks alone. By 2015, the amount is expected to increase to $3 billion.

To read the full article from the Campus Technology blog, click here.

Popular Tablets Compared

Conflicted about which tablet you want to buy? A few weeks back, Engadget compared the technical specifications behind four of the most talked-about tablets: the HP TouchPad, Motorola Xoom, Blackberry Playbook, and the Apple iPad. Although the TouchPad and Playbook haven’t been released yet, it is rumored they will be here before Summer 2011. The comparison is shown below, and you can find the full article here.

Engadget Tablet Comparison

Social Media Class Skypes with Internet Celebs

At the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, students enrolled in the course Social Media Optimization & the New Web learn and become “experts” on web applications such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. They stay up-to-date on the latest trends on the Internet by reading and thinking critically about the industry and reporting on the changes that are occurring.

An interesting part of the class is that students get to Skype with several industry leaders:

Craig Newmark – founder of Craigslist
David Meerman Scott – author of the New Rules of Marketing & PR
Guy Kawasaki – author of The Art of the Start
Zadi Diaz – host of Epic Fu
John Batelle – founder of Wired

Find out more at Inside Higher Ed: Social Media Class Skypes with Internet Celebs

Using Backchannels in the Classroom

A backchannel is the use of networked computers to maintain several side-conversations while the main conversation is occurring concurrently. In higher education, a model of this would be an instructor lecturing about a topic with students collaborating in small groups at the same time. The Twitter Experiment at UT Dallas is an example of conducting a backchannel through the use of mobile technology.

This post at the Teaching with Classroom Response Systems blog  outlines nine possible uses of backchannels in education as well as several examples of backchannel use at other universities. Check out the page at: http://derekbruff.com/teachingwithcrs/?p=472