Reflections on Teaching with Technology during the Online Fall Semester

On November 9th ITS hosted a panel for faculty to share their experiences teaching with technology this past semester. The event featured Jody Valentine, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics, Katy Muzikar, Biochemistry Laboratory Coordinator, and Mark Allen, Professor of Art.

Professor Jody Valentine opened the panel with a grounding exercise and a call for faculty to sometimes slow down and distance oneself from the constant desire for productivity and perfectionism. After the grounding exercise, Professor Valentine discussed her use of Pressbooks, Hypothes.is, and WordPress this semester. Pressbooks enables the creation of open-source electronic course readers, which allows for all course content and resources to be located in one place. Pressbooks are also compatible with Hypothes.is, an online social annotating tool. With Hypothes.is, users can annotate online content and engage with other users’ annotations. Professor Valentine also discussed her use of WordPress to create course websites for blog posts and other student content. She has used WordPress in her teaching for years, but this semester she made the decision to expand her use of it so that students can create more content and engage more deeply with each other online.

Professor Katy Muzikar spoke about her use of the Sakai Lessons tool, VidGrid, and Virtual Laboratories. Instead of requiring students to be on Zoom for almost four hours straight (the usual length of a lab), she created weekly in-depth modules with the Lessons tool for students to complete asynchronously as a ‘pre-Zoom’ section of the class. The Sakai Lessons tool enabled her to organize and deliver content to the students in a clear and concise manner. To see a “dummy” version of Katy’s Sakai site (without student data), please do the following:

  1. Log in to Sakai
  2. Click on the “Home” site tab
  3. On the left menu, click “Membership”
  4. Within that window, click the “Joinable Sites” tab
  5. In the search bar in that window, type “Biochem” and press “Search”
  6. You should see “Biochem Lab Example Site” pop up in the list of results, as a site you can join.

In addition to the Sakai Lessons tool, Professor Muzikar also made use of VidGrid to help build community among her students by having them create video introductions before the first class meeting. This not only allowed them to meet each other and feel more comfortable with one another during group work activities but also gave Professor Muzikar the ability to refer back to the videos throughout the semester. She also discussed her success with Virtual Laboratories and how they served as a way to replicate in-person labs.

Professor Mark Allen discussed his use of Slack in order to recreate the social dynamic of his classroom. With Slack, students can share their artwork with their peers and receive feedback, similar to the dynamic of an in-person classroom. It also creates an informal way for students to communicate and create a community online. Unlike email, Slack allows for the ease of movement between group and individual conversation as well as the ability to archive all conversations and files for easy searching. For these reasons, Professor Allen has abandoned the use of email to communicate with students and instead uses Slack. He wrapped up with his explanation of class timing and the use of breakout rooms. He explained how interspersing breakout rooms through the duration of the class gives students ample time to converse and be creative with each other, while still establishing a full class dynamic.

The panelists’ generated many productive discussions and hopefully encouraged and inspired faculty to get creative with their use of technology in pedagogy. To access the captioned recording of this event, visit the RITG Events page.