Innovative Digital Pedagogies

The Office of the Provost is pleased to award support for curricular-development projects, through funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The funded projects are designed to explore digital pedagogies and new technologies that have potential to enhance student learning within the context of the face-to-face learning that is at the core of our liberal arts pedagogy. New technologies and pedagogies can enable learning beyond the classroom in additional physical and virtual environments, and facilitate the sharing of information asynchronously. This can free up class time for interactive analysis and in-depth exploration of material and develop students’ skills with cutting edge tools for finding, analyzing, and presenting ideas. These projects are overseen by a collaboration of the Office of the Provost and the Digital Learning Team.

The Innovative Digital Pedagogies Initiative was comprised of three distinct rounds spanning the period 2012-2015:

  • Round One - invited faculty to apply individually or in pairs to propose course redesigns to integrate digital tools
  • Round Two - expressly required collaborations among two or more faculty
  • Round Three - extended across the curriculum with a focus on integrating geo-spatial technologies across the curriculum and promote a faculty peer group for related curricular development

Below is a list of the first projects. Faculty participants are engaged in their implementation and assessment plans, are collaborating with academic-support staff of the Digital Learning Team, and will formally report on the advantages, disadvantages, and overall feasibility of the digital pedagogies they employed. These requirements position front and center the need to not only assess learning outcomes but also articulate related best practices for others to follow.

Round Three Project: Geo-spatial thinking and tools for the classroom

During the 2014-2015 academic year, several faculty participated in workshops and discussions designed to introduce strategies for the classroom integration of spatial thinking and geo-spatial tools. The workshops and discussions were facilitated by Robert Beutner of the Digital Learning Team. Individuals who participated included:

Elizabeth Belanger, Assistant Professor of American Studies
James Capreedy, Assistant Professor of Classics
Christine de Denus, Associate Provost; Associate Professor of Chemistry
Kevin Dunn, Professor of Political Science
David Finkelstein, Assistant Professor of Geosciences
Sarah Greenleaf, Associate Librarian for Technical Services
Charity Lofthouse, Assistant Professor of Music
Whitney Mauer, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Peter Mayshle, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric
Rob Beutner, Digital Learning Consultant

In the fall of 2014 a series of workshops were presented with the goal of introducing geo-spatial technology to new users. During the workshops, participants used desktop GIS software to learn about geo-spatial data types as well as leveraging historic maps for spatial analysis. Story maps that facilitate map-based storytelling were also created using the Colleges’ online mapping platform.

Following the workshop series; participants met periodically during the spring 2015 semester to discuss ideas and opportunities for faculty to integrate spatial thinking into their teaching and learning.

From these discussions, faculty identified opportunities for:

  • Teaching about maps as documents and teaching students to read maps and spatial information critically
  • Performing pre-assessments and post-assessments on student knowledge of maps and spatial thinking
  • Scaffolding spatial ideas of scale, boundaries and landscape
  • Leveraging instructional design
  • The development of support materials for curriculum-based projects

The information and strategies shared during the meetings were incorporated into the document, ‘Technology Integration Guide for Geo-spatial Technology’. This is intended to be a guide to help faculty get started with integrating spatial thinking into their teaching and learning goals.

In the summer of 2015, Professor Elizabeth Belanger and Professor Jim Capreedy along with Digital Learning Consultant Rob Beutner will be attending the ESRI Education GIS Conference. The focus of this conference is ‘Learning and Leading Through Service’. Workshops and hands-on sessions will provide an opportunity to learn more about spatial thinking and the ways it can be used in the classroom.

Based on resources and the outcomes of the discussions; curriculum-based assignments and projects that have been drafted during the year will be put into practice in the coming academic semesters. Further details on the assignments and outcomes will be forthcoming.

Round Two Projects

In Spring 2014, a second round of four proposals that incorporated small teams of individuals from the same departments/programs or crossing departments and programs were funded. Below are the abstracts for each of these projects.

Professor John Vaughn works with Nick Schmidt '14

Augmented Teaching in the Field

Christine Chin, Michael Tinkler, and Grey Hayes
In this grant we propose using technology to bring some of the advantages of the contemporary classroom, which has been highly refined into a pedagogical space, to students outside the classroom, where they can learn through active embodiment. Four Art and Architecture courses – Imaging Rome, Introduction to Imaging, Inventing Rome, and Layers of Rome – will use the iPad, and its high resolution screen, as a field viewing device. For photography classes, the iPad will primarily provide immediate feedback on images taken in the field. For historical and analytical courses, the iPad will augment field lectures with images that might provide comparisons across geographic and historic space or provide additional information for analyzing sites, such as building and site plans.

Department-level ePortfolio Assessment Plan Using Canvas

Jim Ryan, Sigrid Carle, and Susan Cushman
With the advent of digital technologies, paper portfolios are increasingly shifting to electronic portfolios (or ePortfolios). Electronic portfolios allow tracking of student progress over time (i.e. a 4-year undergraduate program). The ePortfolio artifacts collected help monitor learning outcomes and demonstrate proficiency. Additionally, student ePortfolios persist over several semesters, allowing students and faculty to compare earlier work to their current proficiency level. This can be an excellent student motivator. We will develop a model ePortfolio program for assessing student learning in biology. Biology majors will create ePortfolios that are self-reflective and require students to demonstrate how they have met the objectives of the biology major. The Canvas Learning Management System at HWS Colleges will be used to pilot the ePortfolio program.

Digital Workshop

Gabriella D’Angelo, Stan Mathews, John Vaughn
Department of Art + Architecture in collaboration with the Departments of Mathematics + Computer Science The Digital Workshop is an initiative to expand Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ digital toolboxes and engagement with technologies applicable cross disciplinarily. As a crucial component in the conception and realization of contemporary developments, digital technologies have made vast transformations within a number of professions. In an effort to gain new skills and perspectives of digital applications and fabrication methodologies, these workshops are designed to provide participants with the knowledge necessary to apply AutoCAD, SketchUP, laser cutting, and 3D printing skills to their academic and professional pursuits. The hope of these workshops is to not only familiarize our campus with digital technologies, but allow for us to be participants in its ongoing evolution.

Spatial and Quantitative Reasoning in Environmental Studies Core Courses

Kristen Brubaker, Chiyo Crawford, Beth Kinne/Environmental Studies Program
This project will develop a pedagogical module using excel and open-source spatial visualization programs to be integrated across multiple sections of ENV 110, a high demand interdisciplinary course in the Environmental Studies Program. With this digital pedagogical tool we seek to standardize the learning objective for spatial literacy and quantitative reasoning skills across the various topical sections of ENV 110, which currently are individually designed and taught by all Environmental Studies faculty. We will use pre-unit and post-unit qualitative assessment (in the form of a questionnaire) of students’ confidence and ability to use quantitative reasoning and spatial literacy to analyze and explain environmental problems. Students will also be assessed on their ability to complete a project tailored to the course material in their particular ENV 110 section.

Round One Projects

To see more detailed project profiles, please click here.

Nan Crystal Arens, Associate Professor of Geoscience

Challenging Scientists to Communicate to the Public

Nan Crystal Arens, Associate Professor of Geoscience
Scientists must communicate science to policy makers and the public. Yet science curricula do not prepare science students to communicate with non-scientists. We will use stop-motion photography as a medium to challenge science students to communicate to a non-science audience. First, students will distill their scientific knowledge into key concepts and translate them into visual storylines. Students will then use time-lapse photography in the field and stop-motion white board animation to tell these stories. Initial work focuses on two projects: ocean trash encountered during a field course in the Bahamas, and key concepts in earth science presented in white board animation. In addition to professional critique, films will be made available on YouTube and comments tracked to assess the effectiveness of our communication.

Teaching Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Literacy in the Social Sciences

Kristen Brubaker, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Christina Houseworth, Assistant Professor of Economics
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial statistics are becoming requisite tools for working with data in social sciences. Although students in our natural science and environmental studies curricula are learning GIS skills, many students in other social sciences lack opportunities to learn these spatial techniques. An obstacle to integrating spatial skillsets into social science methods courses is the steep learning curve associated with GIS. Most faculty are not familiar enough with GIS to incorporate it, and there is not enough time in course schedules to teach students the challenging components of GIS. Through this project, we aim to create interactive-learning modules to integrate spatial thinking and GIS into the social science curriculum. The modules will be of different lengths and incorporate training materials to facilitate their use.

A Digital Ecumene

James Capreedy, Assistant Professor of Classics
This project will develop a mapping program where students populate locations on a map of the modern world and create their own narrative of these locations with images and trade routes. Students can then utilize their collective work as a research tool. In addition to developing this technology, the project will also address the following questions: how does creating our own narrative of locations and studying geography affect our analysis of history? Does placing a narrative of ancient locations on a modern map present problems between how we view the world and how the ancients may have seen it? Can a mapping program change the way we think of and connect to the past when we read literary sources?

Rodmon King, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Increasing Mindful Practices Among Classroom Teachers (IMPACT)

Mary Kelly, Associate Professor of Education
Sherry Gibbon, Assistant Professor of Education
Jennifer Harris, Assistant Professor of Education
For effective self-reflection and development to occur in teacher education, student teachers need opportunities to critically examine and attempt to solve classroom dilemmas, to reflect on the values and assumptions they enact, and to see more objectively the interactions among the students. Project IMPACT will utilize video tools and Web 2.0 technologies to promote critical self-reflection and collaboration. Using videotaped sessions of their own classroom teaching, teacher-education students will participate in a collaborative online community of practice that scaffolds self-reflection and learning to help student teachers become more effective teachers. Results will be compared with the reflections of teacher-education students not engaged in the collaborative video-based self-reflection process in order to assess the impact of the process.

The Phaneros Project: Integrating Digital Concept Mapping into Pedagogy in Philosophy

Rodmon King, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Philosophy is a demanding field of study replete with abstract concepts, subtle distinctions, and complex arguments. These present serious barriers to learning. Students often struggle to grasp philosophical content because it is difficult for them to understand the relationships that hold among various concepts, claims, principles or arguments. This project uses digital concept mapping tools to help students comprehend content in philosophy courses. Concept maps present the relationships among a set of connected concepts, claims, or ideas. They are a visual way to display how the mind "sees" some certain content. By constructing a concept map, students must reflect on what they know and what they don't know. This, in turn, facilitates discovery and understanding.

Eric Klaus, Associate Professor of German

Cultural Collisions in Virtual Fictional Landscapes

Eric Klaus, Associate Professor of German
What would it be like to descend into Dante’s hell? Or to walk the streets of Yevgeny Zamiatin’s dystopian OneState? How can building and exploring these fictional worlds develop critical thinking skills? These and other questions surrounding cultural construction and fictional landscapes will be explored in this project, which will enhance a first-year seminar. The class will analyze texts that construct fictional spaces and reconstruct these spaces digitally. After building the virtual maps, students will compose travelogues where they assume the identity of a person from one era (14th-century Florence), and journey through the digital representation of a different text (25th-century OneState). A main goal is to show students that all cultures whether fictional, foreign, or their own, are constructs, whose otherness can be negotiated and incorporated into personal experiences.

Neil Laird, Associate Professor of Geoscience

Bringing Digital Pedagogies to Geoscience Fieldwork

Neil Laird, Associate Professor of Geoscience
Tara Curtin, Associate Professor of Geoscience
Geoscience is the applied study of the Earth and its different dynamic systems. At HWS, fieldwork is an important aspect of teaching and learning across meteorology, geology, and hydrology. The projects associated with this grant will use iPads and a GigaPan to greatly enhance student experiences and learning associated with several Geoscience courses ranging from introductory on-campus courses to the two-week intensive off-campus field course. The projects will improve course meetings through (a) enriched and new laboratory experiences with students in the field; (b) greater incorporation of geospatial software, databases, and analytical techniques; (c) development of pedagogically rich data visualizations and specialized databases; and (d) using technology to scale up successful pedagogical approaches that are currently based primarily on non-digital media.

Digital Strategies for Social Documentaries

Linda Robertson, Professor of Media and Society
This project will introduce students to the research and technology skills and creative vision needed to produce digital socio-historical documentaries. Over the course of the semester, students will trace their own lineages, or those of people of local prominence, and illuminate provocative or meaningful events in the context of social, economic, and political realities. Throughout this research and discovery process, students will navigate digital resources, explore digital toolkits for grappling with primary sources, and then utilize media for constructing a visually and orally rich digital narrative, incorporating moving and still images, music and voiceover. The digital genre is derived from the PBS project of Henry Lewis Gates and a popular PBS series, History Detectives.

iAnatomy: A Virtual Anatomy Class Using eBook Case Studies

James Ryan, Professor of Biology
Interactive case studies are a key means for developing necessary skills for pre-health students. In order to stimulate problem-solving and critical reasoning skills, this project entails developing 15 new interactive case studies for a new iAnatomy eBook. These studies involve presenting students with a short summary of the case and a series of questions designed to help them properly diagnose the patient’s problem. These case studies are intended to simulate going on rounds “virtually”. This eBook is intended for use on iPads with interactive videos and in-text (clickable) quizzes; and, being mobile, the eBook can be incorporated into class and lab as well as the dorm or library. Additionally, this project will develop video tutorials for building interactive eBooks. Jim’s collaborator is Jeremy T. Cushman, B.S. Hobart ’96, MD, MS, EMT-P, FACEP, Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester and Monroe County and City of Rochester EMS Medical Director.

Leah Shafer, Assistant Professor of Media and Society

Born Digital Foundations for Media Studies

Leah Shafer, Assistant Professor of Media and Society
Lisa Patti, Assistant Professor of Media and Society
This project supports the collaborative creation of a modular, visually rich, “born digital”, electronic textbook for introduction to media and society, the foundational course of the media and society curriculum. Chapters on media literacy, film history, and media industries will engage: collaborative learning; archival research; acquisition of a formal vocabulary; curatorial skills; and, the screening of visual material linked to key concepts in the field. The authoring and use of digital textbooks integrates digital humanities practices into the liberal arts media studies classroom by transforming humanities research in general, and media studies research in particular, into a more active, collaborative, and public endeavor.

Every Student, Every Class: Improving Active Learning by Flipping a Russian Classroom

Kristen Welsh, Associate Professor of Russian Area Studies
Grammar, grammar, and more grammar: although necessary in elementary Russian, formal grammar lectures reduce in-class practice time and can increase student passivity. When a class is flipped, lectures on basic concepts are presented via digital applications as part of homework. More time becomes available for active classwork in the fundamentals: speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Flipping is ideally suited to introductory language classes, but is not used as often in this discipline as it is in math and the sciences; Russian teachers have barely tested it. Used wisely, flipping gives students greater access to the best of what their tuition dollars represent: highly experienced, devoted teachers; small-group and individual learning experiences; and a vibrant classroom environment.


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To see more detailed project profiles, please click here.

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