Musings and professional dossier of an educator, geographer, and educational developer

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My biggest little science writing tip: Customize your autocorrect

If you do any kind of science writing and you use Microsoft Word, you likely find yourself repeatedly formatting for subscripts, greek characters, and math symbols.

Until Microsoft Word has AI learning capabilities, autocorrect can take you one step closer to uninterrupted writing flow. It takes a few minutes to set up, but then you can forget about formatting, special character maps, alt codes, subscript and superscript shortcuts.  If you’re anything like me and you can’t move on with CO2 looking like that, this tip is for you.

I can’t overstate how much time this saved me. In addition to reducing time formatting, it reduces the need to stop mid-sentence and break precious writing flow.

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Reflections on an in-class research conference

Learning outcomes are aligned with assessments which in turn are aligned with Teaching and Learning Activities

By the end of my 3rd year environmental change course, students are expected to demonstrate that they can orally communicate environmental change research to specialist and non-specialist audiences. To assess this learning outcome, students deliver research presentations at a mini-conference that they organize themselves. I have been so pleased with the presentations themselves and at the opportunity for community building that I thought it was worth sharing the experience.

My assessment planning (simplified below) is guided by principles of constructive alignment to ensure that students learn the skills they need to succeed at demonstrating their achievement of the outcome.

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Social media solutions

On July 6, 2015, attendees at the Future Professor Series session (Western University) brainstormed responses to potential social media scenarios. Read on for summaries of the ideas that participants brainstormed in response to the scenarios.

Scenario 1: The revamped lab
The instructor for the first year course you TA has noticed that her students seem to be bored and creatively unchallenged with her standard (and slightly repetitive) weekly laboratory assignments. Design a new, creative assessment, incorporating social media, to replace the lab surrounding next week’s topic, the skeletal muscle system.

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The casually tweeting instructor

Photo: Beth Hundey, Uinta Mountains

Photo: Beth Hundey, Uinta Mountains

There are many great examples of assessments and activities on the web that involve using twitter to interact with students… but what about those instructors who would like to use twitter on a bit more of a casual basis?  If you’re not assessing students, and just communicating, are there rules? Is it a free-for-all? Go wild?

Here are tips for the casually tweeting instructor by the casually tweeting instructor .

Setting up

  1. Create a hashtag unique to your class.  Using this hashtag, students can see what you have said, but also follow the discussion of their classmates (provided they also use the hashtag, when relevent. Basically, a hashtag serves as a common discussion topic.
    1. Think up a hashtag. E.g. #litwestern #ENG2500
    2. Search for the hashtag in twitter.  If nothing (or very little) is returned, this is a unique hashtag
    3. Tell students to include the hashtag in the posts intended to be shared with the class.
    4. You have now completed the most important task. #hashtag
  2. Ask students to follow you.
  3. Don’t follow students back (and tell them you’re not going to!).  You can still see what they post about the class because they will either include your handle or the hashtag.  You don’t need to know what else they are tweeting about, and it could cause problems if you do know what else they are tweeting about.

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How To Add A Live Twitter Feed To Your PowerPoint Presentation

These instructions via Liz Gross on displaying live twitter feeds in powerpoint are perfect for those of you who want to display tweets in class. I think it would be great to display my class hashtag as students come in to class as something visual to get them in the mindset and to see what’s been said in the last week on twitter by their classmates.

Reflection: Technology in teaching

There are many reasons why instructors use new technology in their teaching

  • It’s shiny and new, it’s fancy! Of course I want to use it!
  • If I don’t do it, I’ll be a dinosaur.
  • My students are using technology that is alien to me – I better pick up on it so I can speak their language.

Why do you choose any of the teaching methods that you use? Why do you sometimes pick up chalk or a marker instead of showing a downloaded image? Why do you demonstrate how to do something rather than give a handout? I’m sure you have your reasons, and your teaching methods that involve technology need good reasons too!

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Collaborative Mind-Mapping Sesh a Succesh!

I’m not sure how other educators decide when to incorporate active learning, but for me the process goes something like this:

Not total chaos...

Not total chaos…

In sum, I generally develop/ incorporate active learning activities to deal with the boring-lecture-problem, rather than start off with active learning activities that I’m dying to incorporate.  This might explain why I use the most random mix of active learning activities, many of which don’t have names (that I know of).

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