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January, 2012:

Making Lectures Effective

There’s no doubt that lectures are often student’s and faculty’s least preferred method of instruction. After all, many believe that lectures are always long, boring, and bad for learning. However, this is not true, because when lectures work, they work well. But how do instructors make them beneficial for both them and the students? The answer is a mix of planning, interactivity, and student engagement. In the September 2011 issue of The National Teaching & Learning Forum*, Jason N. Adsit of SUNY Buffalo offers some advice on how to make lectures more effective and engaging. In this post, we’ll summarize the tips Adsit gives in his article.

First though, why lecture? The fact is, lectures have stood the test of time because according to Adsit, they have “been shown to be particularily effective for

• Setting the context of a topic or field for novice learners.
• Disseminating a common set of material to a broad audience.
• Providing a synthesis of information from various sources.
• Clarifying complex information.
• Transmitting conceptual and systematic knowledge.
• Offering students a model of professional practice, i.e., the lecturer and his/her approach to the subject.”

In other words, lectures are a simple way to reach everyone in a common and effective manner. However, to maximize these benefits, one must design their lecture in a way that effectively engages students and serves as a tool to help the learning process. Here are the tips Adsit gives to do this:

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In Case You Missed It: Major eTextbook Announcement by Apple

Last Thursday, Apple unveiled iBooks 2, the company’s new platform for interactive eTextbooks. TG Daily reports that since then, Apple has sold over 350,000 of their new textbooks.

Also unveiled (which may be more exciting for instructors) was a Mac App called iBooks Author. iBooks Author is a free app that allows anyone to create an interactive textbook for the iPad. It supports images, slideshows, and various other widgets.

Currently, there are only eight available textbooks in the iBooks 2 store, all seemingly at high school-level. This makes sense, considering the keynote presentation focused mainly on the education of K-12 students. However, we can’t help but cross our fingers in hopes that this new approach to textbooks catches on in the world of higher education as well.

If you have an iPad and would like to take a firsthand look at what these new textbooks are all about, E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth is available for free on the iBooks 2 store. The other eTextbooks are still priced reasonably at $14.99/book.

EDIT: Chelsea Stark, of Mashable, posted the following chart several hours ago, comparing iBooks Author to other self-publishing software. Check it out:

Make 2012 the year you learn code!

In this day and age, computer skills are becoming more and more necessary for employment–especially in the field of technology. Additionally, as technology advances, it’s no longer just “the basics” that impress employers. Computer programming is a major advanced computer skill with a huge payoff…and one site wants to teach you how to master it in a year or less!

Codecademy is a brand new start up, launched on January 1st, 2012. The site offers completely free computer programming lessons to registered users, which according to TechCrunch, hit the 100,000 mark within the first 48 hours of the site’s launch. This is incredibly impressive for such a new company, and just goes to show how many people are interested in learning code.

Basically, with Codecademy, there are two routes you can go with learning code. There’s the independent, at-your-own-pace route, where users can log onto the site and take lessons whenever they want. The alternative to that is signing up for Code Year. If you sign up for Code Year, you’ll start receiving weekly emails that contain lessons. Code Year is a great option for those of us who have trouble remembering to log onto sites like this on a regular basis.

If you’ve always wanted to learn code, but haven’t had the time or money for a course, definitely look into this FREE resource!

DC1 Final Projects: Fantastic UWB Student Work!

Ever wonder what first-year UWB students are doing in their Discovery Core classes? Well, now that Autumn Quarter 2011 is over, you can take a look at students’ final projects from two very interesting, technology-enhanced courses:

First is a video from BCUSP 110B: Digital Thinking: Animation, Video Games, and the Social Web, a 5-credit DC1 class taught by Kelvin Sung. The video tells the “story” of the class from the beginning of the quarter to the end. The students start off without experience, then build up to basic animation exercises, get more advanced while learning about digital art and how games work, until finally producing a (very cool) video game final project! Check it all out here:

Another batch of great projects comes from the Discovery Core series BCUSP 104G/107G: American Idol(s): How Stories Shape Culture and Identity, taught by Amoshaun Toft and Kari Lerum. The course focused on personal storytelling and the study and analysis of storytelling in popular culture and academia. Additionally, about half of this course focused on students’ production of their own stories. The final project was a showcase of the digital storytelling skills students had learned in the form of a 3-5 minute video. In it, students were asked to tell a personal story while incorporating visuals and extra sounds. Students wrote, recorded, edited and exported their stories, which turned out wonderfully. To see some of the stories, visit the Films section of the class website.

Great job to students and faculty this quarter!