100 Best 2.0 Classroom Tools

More tools to discover, courtesy of this post.  I’m highlighting below the tools that I think would be relevant to graduate education:
















I’m looking forward to exploring the tools I’ve not used before.  I’d be interested in hearing of your experiences with any of these tools for educational use, as well as other social media tools not listed above.

No quick fix for universities

Good article below on the current situation that many of us are facing in our universities, namely the decreasing number of full-time (and tenure stream or tenured) faculty and an increase in student-teacher ratios. It has certainly been my experience that faculty are teaching more, rather than less, yet are still expected to perform to high standards in both research and service.  The increased reliance on part-time instructors is problematic; this is not to say that such instructors are not effective or excellent instructors, but they are not always available to teach on a regular basis, and thus it is difficult to ensure a consistency in how and when courses are taught. Furthermore, part-time instructors are often not involved in the scholarly activities that contribute so crucially to the teaching process, and are not always expected to contribute to service, which means an increased burden on full-time faculty to fill all needed committee positions.

No quick fix for universities – thestar.com.

Students Push Their Facebook Use Further Into Course Work

This article discusses how university students are increasingly using Facebook to discuss homework assignments and exams. “More than 30 percent of students say they use sites such as Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google+. Nearly a quarter of students report using social studying sites, such as CourseHero and GradeGuru, and 11 percent say they wish instructors would incorporate these sites into the curriculum more often.”  It’s not clear to what extent this use of technology may impact upon matters of academic integrity. I have discussion boards for assignment questions where students can ask me general questions; if the questions are too specific, then I direct them to contact me in person, but I make it clear that any answers should come from me.  This sounds a bit controlling, perhaps, but I discourage students from using our online discussion boards to discuss assignments amongst themselves, since it becomes difficult to determine how much of the student’s work is his or her own; furthermore, sometimes students given themselves incorrect advice with unfortunate results for the accuracy of their work.

Below is the infographic that summarizes students’ use of technology:




Could Professors’ Dependence on Turnitin Lead to More Plagiarism?

Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The article is timely, given that my university has cancelled  its subscription to Turnitin.  The article presents a different perspective in that it suggests that the software “needs the help of instructors who are willing to investigate suspicious papers; otherwise, greater reliance on Turnitin could lead to more plagiarism.” In other words, the software alone may not be sufficient, and thus creates a false sense of security.  I think this is a very valid point.  I’ve heard some colleagues tell students “we will submit your work to anti-plagiarism software, and you will get caught,” or words to that effect, but I think the cautionary note raised by this article is worth bearing in mind.

How far should we go to help students?

This post raises some very interesting and important questions about the extent to which faculty members should allow students to experience failure.  The author asks: “How many of us—as college or university faculty—take on …. “hovering parent” traits and strive to make paths smooth for our students instead of teaching them how to navigate a rough path themselves?”  Examples of such behaviour include:

  • Remind students again and again to turn in their homework or assignments
  • Call a student if he or she has missed a few classes
  • Provide extra credit to raise students’ grades in a course
  • Grade on a curve
  • Change course requirements mid-way through a semester because students complain the work is too hard or that there’s too much of it
  • Place all lecture notes and relevant information on a Course Management System so students don’t have to take notes or even attend class

I have certainly done the items in the first two and the last bullet.  I often find myself struggling with this very question:  My instinct is to treat my graduate students as adults, which means expecting them to take responsibility for their actions and behaviours; on the other hand, I want to help them avoid pitfalls, if possible.  I think there is increasing pressure on faculty to not let students experience failures or obstacles.  I’ve always believed that however painful, failure is a learning experience and an opportunity for growth; more importantly, that we must accept responsibility for our actions, or lack of action. I am increasingly concerned about what I see as a growing societal intolerance towards criticism and complaint, even if constructive, and labelling them as negative and therefore inappropriate, even if valid points are made.  But that’s another matter.

In response to this post, a person said that he/she would be having a discussion with students on the first day with respect to expectations on the part of both students and faculty, which is an approach I try to take, but which I will be sure to spend more time on.

Connecting e-readers to public libraries

Public libraries in Columbus, Ohio, are embracing the growing popularity of e-readers by creating displays that show clients how they can integrate the library’s digital collection with their e-readers. I think this is an excellent example of going with a trend, rather than fighting it. Given my own love of digital collections and e-readers, I hope that all public and academic libraries will follow the example set by Columbus. I know that my local library system in Halifax has a growing digital collection and is lending e-readers; I think more can be done to bring this collection front and centre to the public and to integrate it more fluidly into the mainstream catalogue and to have full bibliographic and MARC records. I certainly will be discussing the cataloguing of digital media and e-books this term, as I think it’s important that catalogue records for these media not be seen as the poor relations.

New academic year

Tomorrow will start the two-day Orientation event for incoming students for the 2010/2011 academic year. This is will mark also the beginning of my term as Director of the School of Information Management. The only major thing I regret about being Director is my reduced teaching load and the fact that I won’t be teaching the core course “Organization of Information,” of which I am very fond. Still, the course is in the very capable hands of one of our part-time colleagues. The up side is that I’ll be teaching cataloguing again after a two-year absence (sabbatical and reduced teaching load). This will be the first year that the advanced cataloguing course will be offered; I am gratified that the class enrolment for this new course is already high, especially considering that it won’t be taught until Winter. I love teaching cataloguing; I know the subject has a reputation for being dry and boring, but I think it’s great fun to delve into catalogue records and to actually create something that has an impact on retrieval.