Monday, May 9, 2016

Using Infographics in Class

Have you thought about having students develop infographics in your classes?

Having students create infographics supports the skills identified in Bloom's Taxonomy and can be used to develop and assess the abilities of MCNY students:
  • Ability 2 - to communicate effectively through reading, writing, listening, speaking and other modes of expression.
  • Ability 3 -To develop an appreciation of art and aesthetic awareness.
  • Ability 6 - to describe social, natural and technological systems, using methods specific to the humanities and the social and natural sciences.
  • Ability 8: - to use mathematical reasoning to analyze the world.
What's an infographic?

What is an Infographic?Created by Customer Magnetism.

You might begin with using infographics to display information to students (check out the Daily Infographic or the New York Times for infographics you might use in class).

An assignment that has the students design their own infographics and present them in class (in-person or online) can help develop analytical, communication, technological and visualization skills. Projects can be created by individuals or groups and can be an interactive component in a hybrid or web enhanced course. For example you might ask students to develop an infographic on a social problem, the history of their agency or to display their research findings in their CA. These can be presented in class or posted online for discussion.

Check out Vennage a free resource for making infographics, which I have used for student assignments and have gotten outstanding results.

You fight find the following resources useful:
Infographic: Capabilities Created by Infographics in Education | Venngage

Friday, February 12, 2016

Life a an Adjunct Series at MCNY

As higher education's heavy dependence on adjunct labor to educate students seems to have no end in sight, I believe we as educators (& administrators) have a duty to help foster our adjuncts both in the classroom and professionally.  In the spirit of providing training, support, and career growth for adjuncts, my colleagues and I created a series that would give training in pedagogy to help improve the classroom experience but also provide professional development as our adjuncts move on, hopefully, to full-time appointments.

“Life of an Adjunct” is a new series of workshops designed and facilitated by the Directors and Dean of the Audrey Cohen School for Human Services at Metropolitan College of New York to promote professional development, share best practices in teaching, develop training and resources for academic and professional success, and foster collegiality.  Workshops are open to all faculty members at MCNY, and we encourage participation and suggestions for future sessions.  Registration is free, but RSVP is required. 

Spring 2016 Semester

2/19/16:  Going Beyond the Scantron:  Creating an Exam with Purpose
In this workshop, participants will learn how to write creative exams that not only test but challenge student learning.  Topics to be covered will include best practices in exam design and designing assessment tools.

4/1/16:  Professional Development:  Designing a Winning CV & Cover Letter
In this hands-on workshop, participants will be exposed to multiple CV formats that can be tailored to their particular career needs or goals as well as how to write effective cover letters in response to a job post.  Bring an electronic copy of your most recent CV and a sample cover letter.

Summer 2016 Semester

6/17/16:  Professional Development:  Developing Online Presence & Portfolios
Topics to be covered in this workshop include using social media for professional purposes and how to develop an online academic portfolio using blogs, Vitae, Google Drive, and other sources. 

Fall 2016 Semester

9/16/16:  Master Your Moodle:  Developing Engaging & Interactive Moodle Shells
In this hands-on workshop, participants will demonstrate creative ways to engage students via Moodle.  Topics to be included will include how to use sidebars to tailor, embedding versus hyperlinking, and using alternative formatting options to make your Moodle shell engaging and informative.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Power of Tweaks and Nudges

Some recent articles talk about small tweaks or nudges that can motivate people to engage in activities. As we enter the second half of the semester, some students are falling behind or forgetting to do assignments. It may be time to increase the tweaks and nudges.

My own experience with hybrid classes reminded me that students lead very busy lives and don't always read the syllabus, course calendar or moodle shell. I found that even though I had given all the dates for the  assignments and I wanted them to be independent learners, that they did not always do assignments on time. I then started to send short reminder emails (using the moodle news forum), trying to be positive and motivational and discovered that the submission of assignments in a timely manner seemed to increase.

When discussing this with students they felt that the reminders were helpful in keeping them on track and made them feel that I really cared about them and their success. This was especially true when the tweaks or nudges had some positive content (ie. After our discussion in class, I look forward to reading your papers) rather than simply a reminder message.

This strategy also worked in classes that meet on a weekly basis. Why not give it a try?

Here are two recent New York Times articles that talk about the the good, the bad and the ugly of tweaks and nudges.

A Better Government, One Tweak at a Time

The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Students Are Neither Visual Nor Auditory Learners! They Are Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners!

Obviously, something was going wrong!

It was the first day of Math class, and there I was, at the front of the classroom, pointing at the board, going over the text I had written on it word-for-word, reiterating the course code, my name, my email address, my office hours, smiling, firmly in the role of the Professor. I had respectfully greeted each of my students as they had first entered. I had warmly welcomed each student to my course. 

While we did make some brief eye-contact initially when I had first greeted them, and then, again, when I had begun to speak, I realized that no one was paying any attention any longer to what I was saying.

Fifteen minutes into the course, I felt that I was no longer connecting with my students.

When it comes to teaching and learning, I have always trusted my intuition. My intuition was clearly telling me that I was losing the battle for my students' attention, interest -- and that the battle for their engagement (and for my relevancy) was already not going my way.

I instinctively stepped back. I re-examined the behavior of my students for clues. What were they doing? What was I doing? What was I missing, or overlooking?

Two students on different sides of the room were texting using their cell phones. Another was busily wandering through her fashion magazine, recognizing one celebrity after another on the fashion pages. A fourth was applying blush to her cheeks. Another student sitting at the back of the room was putting blank pages into her binder. A young man by the window was folding his newspaper into thirds, neatly fitting it into an inside compartment of his backpack, between what looked like a set of textbooks and his bag lunch.

There I was, standing up there, at the front of the room, speaking to no one.

So . . . I stopped what I was doing.

These behaviors comprised clues to solving the puzzle: my students were busy doing things with their hands. They were engaged in tactile tasks. They were not reading. They were not listening to me. By implication, they were letting me see that they were kinesthetic, hands-on learners. To reach them effectively, I needed to mirror that learning style and engage them in a manner that would be compatible with how they learned.

Instinctively, I decided to alter my approach. I re-joined the battle with a new strategic plan. I began by handing out blank pieces of paper to each student. Everyone took at least one page. I had begun to model their hands-on behavior.  That tactic worked: I suddenly had captured everyone's attention. Next, I modeled how I wanted them to fold this paper. Fold in half, then in thirds again.  Everyone followed. Everyone succeeded at this task. I praised everyone. I received smiles back. We were all in synch, together. I knew I was on the right track.

Next, everyone wrote on their topmost fold, "Rules for Adding Fractions," and then copied the rule for addition when denominators were the same, and gave two of his/her own fractional examples of that rule in action.

"Any questions so far?" I asked. More smiles. "Is everybody with me?" I inquired further? More smiles and nods. We were learning and re-learning.

"Okay, we ready for what to do when the denominators are different?"  Everyone was truly ready for the last part of the instructions.  This time around, I was the one to give the fractional examples.

I went step-by-step, starting by identifying numerators and denominators, revisiting the concept of the least common denominator. At each step I paused and encouraged questions or comments. Students spoke up. They asked; they inquired. They disclosed what they did not understand. I acknowledged and valued their disclosures and each one of their questions. I answered everyone, in turn. I addressed misunderstandings and clarified their concerns. It was happening. Everyone was learning. Moreover, they were helping and learning from one another. When someone did not understand or grasp the concept, others spoke up. We all became teachers and learners.

I looked up when the folded page was complete. An hour and a half had passed. The students were happy. They had gotten it.

"Now, put your names on your papers. Show your children how these rules work, and how to do it," I added. It was that easy. I devoted the rest of the semester to creating similar foldable papers, covering a variety of other Math topics in the curriculum. Students came away with permanent learning tools they could always use, for themselves and for their children.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pew Research Center

As we are all putting the finishing touches on our syllabi and moodle shells for Spring 2015, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite resources for lecture materials, handouts for discussion, interactives and visualizations of data with charts and graphs. Pew Research is considered valid and reliable and I have seen it cited by The New York Times and CBS News. I always manage to find up-to-date information for my classes.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research.

Their many projects include:
Here is an article that I think presents a good summary of the kinds of material published by the Pew Research Center - 14 striking findings from 2014.

You can also subscribe to their extensive selection of email newsletters at

I would like to hear from other members of the faculty about resources they find useful.
(This post was originally posted to the Audrey Cohen School for Human Services and Education Faculty Moodle Portal.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

New study: ‘Chalk and talk’ teaching might be the best way after all

What’s the best teaching method?
Nov 24 2014
Seventy teachers from the UK were sent to Shanghai to study classroom methods to investigate why Chinese students perform so well. Upon their return, the teachers reported that much of China’s success came from teaching methods the UK has been moving away from for the past 40 years.
The Chinese favour a “chalk and talk” approach, whereas countries such as the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand have been moving away from this direct form of teaching to a more collaborative form of learning where students take greater control.
Given China’s success in international tests such as PISATIMSS and PIRLS, it seems we have been misguided in abandoning the traditional, teacher-directed method of learning where the teacher spends more time standing at the front of the class, directing learning and controlling classroom activities.
Direct instruction vs inquiry learning
Debates about direct instruction versus inquiry learning have been ongoing for many years. Traditionally, classrooms have been organised with children sitting in rows with the teacher at the front of the room, directing learning and ensuring a disciplined classroom environment. This is known as direct instruction.
Beginning in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, teachers began to experiment with more innovative and experimental styles of teaching. These included basing learning on children’s interests, giving them more control over what happened in the classroom and getting rid of memorising times tables and doing mental arithmetic. This approach is known as inquiry or discovery learning.
Based on this recent study of classrooms in the UK and China and a recent UK report titled What makes great teaching?, there is increasing evidence that these new-age education techniques, where teachers facilitate instead of teach and praise students on the basis that all must be winners, in open classrooms where what children learn is based on their immediate interests, lead to under-performance.
The UK report concludes that many of the approaches adopted in Australian education are counterproductive:
Enthusiasm for discovery learning is not supported by research evidence, which broadly favours direct instruction.
Especially during the early primary school years in areas like English and mathematics, teachers need to be explicit about what they teach and make better use of whole-class teaching.
As noted by John Sweller, a cognitive psychologist from the University of New South Wales in the recent Final Report of the Review of the Australian National Curriculum:
Initial instruction when dealing with new information should be explicit and direct.
Many in Australian education believe children are only really learning when they are active. As a result, teachers are told it is wrong to sit children at their desks and ask them to listen to what is being taught.
Again, the evidence proves otherwise. The UK report suggests that even when sitting and listening children are internalising what is being taught. Learning can occur whether they are “active” or “passive”.
Often derided as “drill and kill” or making children “parrot” what is being taught, the UK report and other research suggests that memorisation and rote learning are important classroom strategies, which all teachers should be familiar with.
The UK report states that teachers need to “encourage re-reading and highlighting to memorise key ideas”, while research in how children best learn concludes that some things, such as times tables and reciting rhymes, ballads and poems, must be memorised until they can be recalled automatically.
Trying to cater to everyone has no effect
One of the education fads prevalent across Australian classrooms, and classrooms in most of the English-speaking world, involves the concept that all children have different levels of intelligence and their own unique learning styles. (For example, some children learn best by looking at pictures, by being physically active, by hands-on, tactile learning or by simply reading the printed page.)
The UK report concludes such a teaching and learning strategy is misplaced:
The psychological evidence is clear that there are no benefits for learning from trying to present information to learners in their preferred learning style.
Instead of taking the time, energy and resources to customise what is being taught to the supposed individual learning styles of every child in the classroom, it is more effective to employ more explicit teaching strategies and to spend additional time monitoring and intervening where necessary.
Lavish praise does no-one any good
One of the prevailing education orthodoxies for many years is that students must be continually praised and that there is no room for failure. The times when “4 out of 10” or an “E” meant fail are long gone. Supposedly, telling children they are not good enough hurts their self-esteem.
The UK report says that, while praising students might appear affirming and positive,
the wrong kinds of praise can be very harmful to learning.
Overly praising students, especially those who under-perform, is especially counterproductive. It conveys the message that teachers have low expectations and reinforces the belief that near enough is good enough, instead of aiming high and expecting strong results.
There’s not just one way to teach
To argue that some teaching and learning strategies are ineffective does not mean that there is only one correct way to teach. While research suggests some practices are more effective than others, it also needs to be realised that teaching is a complex business. Teachers need various strategies.
In the early years of primary school, children need to memorise things like times tables and poems and ballads so that they can be recalled easily and automatically. Education is also about curiosity and innovation and there will be other times when rote learning will be unsuitable – for example, when students explore a topic that excites them and where they undertake their own research and analysis.
Depending on what is being taught, what has gone before and what is yet to come, whether students are well versed in a particular area of learning or are novices, and even the time of day, teachers must adapt their teaching to the situation and be flexible.
The problem arises when teachers and teacher education academics privilege one particular approach to the detriment of all others.
Published in collaboration with The Conversation
Author: Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education at Australian Catholic University.
Image: A teacher gives a lecture at a cram school in a Goshichon, which means “exam village” in Korean, in Seoul December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won.
Posted by Kevin Donnelly - 12:20

Gurpal Singh, J.D.
Adjunct Professor

Monday, November 3, 2014

FERPA, Teaching and Social Media

Originally prepared and presented to Faculty of the Audrey Cohen School for Human Services and Education.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Using Popular Culture in the Classroom: “black-ish”, Thick Description, & Twitter

Let me preface this by admitting that popular culture is not solely a tool I use in the classroom; my academic work usually focuses on how popular culture gives insight into the social order in which it exists.  That said, whatever your field of study or the topic of your class, incorporating popular culture is a great way to enliven the classroom, promote student engagement, and teach course content.  This will be a part of a series on my use of popular culture in the classroom, and I invite you to share your own lesson plans by responding in the Comments or posting your own Blog.  (To become an author, email

“black-ish” as “Thick Description”
In an Ethnography class (Communicating Across Cultures) in the BAUS program at MCNY, students are introduced to Clifford Geertz’ “Thick Description.”  Students understand how Geertz’ descriptions of the wink, the imitation of the wink, the rehearsal of the wink, and the parody of the wink are all imbued with different cultural meaning, but when asked to create their own “thick description” of a gesture in their cultural scene, they often have difficulties.  For Geertz, thick description is the foundation of ethnography, and I want it to be a useful tool for students to use in their own ethnographies. 

A recent episode of the new ABC comedy “black-ish” gave me an opportunity to re-teach thick description in an interesting and approachable way.  The episode features the father trying to teach his son the importance of “the nod” as an act of communication between black men.  While watching the father struggle to show his son the importance of this gesture in his cultural scene, the show became, for me, an extended “thick description” of the multiple meanings of this seemingly simple gesture.
The next day in class, I showed a clip from “The Nod” episode (Season 1, episode 4) of “black-ish”.  Afterwards, we mapped the multiple meanings of “the nod” as a class.  Through this mind map and discussion, we discovered that “the nod” is a sophisticated form of communication that signifies a connection between black men and comes to serve as an acknowledgement of that shared identity and history. 

During the discussion, I nodded my head often, and then asked, “How is my nod different than ‘the nod’ on the show?  The movement is the same.”  I asked them to identify the concept we had studied this semester which demonstrates how the two nods are different.  Almost immediately, one of the students answered:  “Thick Description.”  The room lit up with light bulbs going off over our heads.   “OOOhhhhhh,” a few of them said in this collective moment of realization.

“black-ish” and Racial Inequality
The television show “black-ish” made an appearance in a few of my classes this week.  This new ABC comedy has been met with some controversy over the title of the show and concerns that the show reinscribes stereotypes of black people.  Donald Trump even got involved in the discussion, posting a Tweet that read:  “How is ABC Television allowed to have a show entitled “Blackish”?  Can you imagine the furor of a show entitled “Whiteish”!  Racism at highest level?”

I brought this Tweet up in an Introduction to Sociology course during our discussion of racial inequality.  The simple Tweet allowed us to have an engaging conversation about race, to define “racism”, and to return to other key concepts we had defined, including white privilege, prejudice, and discrimination.  One of the students brought up the term “reverse racism,” and our discussion allowed us to unpack and problematize this term.  This ”real-world” context allowed us to have candid and thoughtful discussion of race in modern American culture.  It also allowed us to ask, “What can be done to combat these systems?”  The students came up with some interesting starting points, including increased conversation, education, and talking more about how racism still exists today though we purport to live in a “color-blind” society. 

“black-ish” and Twitter
I was so excited by the effectiveness of these lesson plans using “black-ish” in the classroom that I Tweeted about my experience, including a picture I snapped of the mind map we made from the class discussion on “the nod” as thick description.  I even Tweeted the image to the show’s creator, Anthony Anderson, and he favorite and retweeted my Tweet to his followers.  This was exciting for me and for the students.  Furthermore, it allowed for our course content to expand far behind the four walls of our classroom. 

Using Twitter to analyze and post course content allows us to see how the work we are doing in the classroom connects to the larger world.  (I require two of my classes to keep Twitter accounts, and use course hashtags for labeling my Tweets that connect to content in my other classes.)  With our collective experience of seeing the application of classroom concepts to the real world, coupled with the “real world” answering back, the students got to see Purpose Centered Education in action. 
By using popular culture in the classroom, it allows the students access into the course material.  By bringing into the classroom what is happening “in the moment” in popular culture, it also encourages students to think critically about the culture all around them.  Often times we look at popular culture as simply entertainment, but as this use of a comedy sit com begins to suggest, pop culture can be a rich way to teach theory.  Furthermore, it’s just plain fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Using Twitter in the Classroom: 5 Steps to Get the Most Out of Your Twitter Experience

I assign Twitter in my classes, and I struggle with how to get students to use it.   I wrote the following to help the new user turn a basic social media interface into a robust tool for Purpose Centered Education. 

How to Get the Most out of Your Twitter Account and Assignment
So you’ve created an account, followed your professor and perhaps a few classmates, and maybe even uploaded an image of yourself or one that represents you to your Twitter account. You read and respond to the “Tweets for this Week.” 
“Now what?” you ask.  “Twitter isn’t so great.  I don’t get what the big deal is.”  Like many things in life, you will get out of this assignment what you put into it.  Furthermore, the more you use Twitter, the more robust it becomes.  Here are some ways to help make that happen.
  1. Follow Interesting People, Important Organizations, & Reputable News Sources

Think of who you follow as a giant dinner party; the conversation at the dinner party will be as interesting as the people you invite.  If you don’t know where to start, follow some of the people your professor follows, or an agency you would love to work for, or a local (or national or international) politician or activist.  

Follow reputable news organizations that post content.  That way when you check your Twitter, you will be exposed to what is going on in the world.  You will start to discover that many use Twitter to post links.  In this way, you can catch up on the news while accomplishing an assignment for class.  This also helps you become more involved in the world around you, which will inevitably help you in your future career and lives as change agents.

  1. Retweet & Favorite

When reading your newly robust Twitter feed (thanks to completing #1 above), you will come across Tweets that you think are interesting or funny or important or….  You get the idea.  You can Retweet or Favorite those Tweets.  A “Retweet” puts the Tweet on your feed so that your followers will see it.  A “Favorite” gets a star; I think of that as akin to the “Thumbs Up” on Facebook.  I will often favorite a student Tweet, but I only Retweet those I want my followers to see.  

Remember that your Twitter Feed is a representation of you, and so what you chose to Retweet will, in turn, show the world the issues that are important to you. Because I will look at your content and learn from you, I often Retweet things you have Tweeted.  In this way, we share sharing information, and that can become infectious.  In a good way. How you decide to use the two is up to you, but remember Retweeting adds content to your Twitter Feed.  

  1. # versus @

Getting down the differences between # and @ will help you Tweet like a pro.  You may have seen some Tweets that look like Newspeak from George Orwell’s 1984.  Usually those writers are using lots of # and @ signs.
The # is known as a Trending Topic.   The @ is a Twitter account.  So when you Tweet to #CritThinkWrite, you are connecting your Tweet to other people interested in that topic, and also Tweeting to that # or Trending Topic.  When you Tweet to @CritThinkWrite, you are connecting your Tweet to my Feed, as that is the address of my Twitter account.  The @ is a great way to connect ideas to people, and people to ideas.

  1. Use Those Trending Topics (#)!

The Trending Topic connects you to other people interested in the same thing.   If you write a post ,for instance, about concepts from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave that you saw in The Matrix, you might add a hashtag #funassignment.  That way you are connecting your Tweet to any other people who also had a #funassignment.  

You can follow major issues or cutting edge news in this way, too, by searching for a hashtag. During Hurricane Sandy, I often used Twitter to find up-to-date information since the news usually lags behind at least a few hours.  New York Times Magazine or Atlantic articles can take months to write, but people are Tweeting their experiences all the time.  Of course we have to assess that information, as not everything we see on Twitter is true or comes from a reputable source, but Twitter provides us with of-the-moment connections to real people and real issues throughout the world.

  1. Use Twitter to Document Your Research & Development of Ideas

If you are doing a research project for a class, or you are trying to figure out, say, how to use Twitter, then document your research process through Twitter.  The links to articles and your ideas are there.  Your Twitter feed will serve as a log of your involvement with that project or idea.  You can also use Twitter as a partial log for fieldwork, or to document your progression in school over a long term period.  In this way, Twitter can serve as a mini journal.  

Your Twitter account also shows potential future employers the types of issues you are concerned with, and the ways that you are thinking critically about course material and the world.  This is Purpose Centered Education in action, as Twitter allows you to connect what you do in the classroom to the real world.  In this way, Twitter can be robust tool for you to complete your Constructive Actions.  Social Media is not always used productively, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to help you accomplish your goals in school and in your life.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Telecommuting Students into Class

I recently had a experience where a student had an injury that prevented her from physically attending class. Since I had been offering students the opportunity to use skype for online meetings, she thought we might be able to use facetime to have an online meeting. I then began thinking about having her telecommute into class and came up with several options.

Since I use the classroom computer for moodle, lecture slides and videos, I could not use the class computer to communicate with the student. Classroom computers also do not have cameras or microphones. But both myself and students have smartphones and tablets.  Also since I have my lecture slides with embedded videos on moodle and open them during class so that students can follow on their phones, tablets or laptops as an option to viewing the projected images, a person at home could also follow.

Hearing the lecture and discussion might require two pieces of equipment such as a phone for the audio and a tablet or computer for moodle. If students only have the equipment for the audio, they would essentially be the same as a conference call and could hear what occurred in class. They could review slides and videos afterwards.

If there is only one student, I could connect to them with my ipad using either skype or facetime.  I would probably not use the video because I doubt if I could project the screen clearly and I move throughout the classroom. It is my understanding that skype allows group calls but I have not been able to figure out if this works with ipads. If there are multiple students who might require this, maybe members of the class can use their phones to connect them. Skype uses the school's wi-fi conenction so that such students do not need to pay for their telephone calls or use their data plans.

This option also requires faculty to make some policy decisions about who and when such actions take place. For example, it might only be used for those with documented medical needs that prevent them from attending class.  It might also require permission of other class members during planned discussions.

I would like to hear from others who have used or have ideas about using technology strategies to help students participate in classes when they are unable to physically attend.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

World AIDS Day - 2013

The following is a posting that I emailed to the MCNY faculty:

As I sit here on December 1, 2013, I think about all the friends, colleagues, students and clients I have lost due to HIV/AIDS and renew my resolution to include HIV/AIDS education in all my classes. This week seems like an appropriate time to do it and I invite all of you to please add content on HIV/AIDS into your classes also. Certainly HIV/AIDS remains relevant to  the lives of our students and to the professional disciplines they are studying at MCNY.

"On December 1, people throughout the world observe World AIDS Day. The theme—"Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation"—highlights the global commitment needed to achieve that goal" ( "UNAIDS reports a 52% reduction in new HIV infections among children and a combined 33% reduction among adults and children since 2001. World closing in on Millennium Development Goal 6, globally the AIDS epidemic has been halted and reversed—race is on to reach universal access to HIV treatment" (

The following are some resources that might help you incorporate HIV/AIDS content into your classes:

     US - (
     UK - World AIDS Day (
     UN - World AIDS Day (
     UNAIDS (
     Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (

After sending out this email, I thought of many more Resources for Teaching about HIV/AIDS and so I created a pinterest board on this topic. I will continue to update these resources and it will replace my World AIDS Day web page. I have also created a public and reusable prezi using infographics from the web.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Using Pinterest for Educational Projects

Pinterest ( is a social networking site through which users share their favorite images of interests, hobbies, and activities.  It is estimated to be the fastest growing and third largest social media site, only behind only Facebook and Twitter, with over 48 million users as of April 2013. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 12% of online adults and nearly a fifth of online women (19%) use Pinterest. 

The user space is the equivalent of virtual bulletin boards, within which one can pin or collate images from all across the Internet. Users can have multiple boards for different topics or themes. Postings are called “pins” and users can either use Pinterest buttons embedded by owners in their web sites or a “Pin It” button in their web browser to create a pin. Each pin includes a caption, a short descriptions of the image, and links back to the site from which it originated. Other users can comment on pins and also repin items to their own boards.

While many hobbyists and retailers use pinterest to collate pictures of projects from the internet, pinterest can be used to support teaching and educational functions. Students can use it to collect resources for a project by pinning them to a board, adding captions and writing comments. These boards can be public or private. For a private board the only person who can see the board is the creator and individuals who are invited. Thus a student could collate a collection of pictures and resources that might only be available to a teacher or other students. Pinterest boards can also be group boards that allow all the members of a group to work together on a board that can either be public or private. Basic directions for setting up a pinterest boards can be found here.

All kinds of student projects can be supported by pinterest. For example, an earth science class might ask students to prepare presentations on different weather phenomenon and each student can create a board for their topic and share it with the class. Current events lend themselves easily to pinterest projects. Student assignments may want to include directions for a certain number of original pins rather than them simply repining from other boards. Students may be required to do in-class or online presentations using their pinterest boards.

In Purpose 5 Systems, MCNY Human Services students are required to develop a website for education, prevention and outreach. The development of a pinterest board can provide a preliminary step to this project and can be developed in an earlier purpose. For example, in Purpose 2 Systems, I  have my students develop and post to moodle fact sheets with internet images and resources based on their readings in Trattner's From Poor Law to Welfare State. This assignment could easily use pinterest boards. Students can provide captions that explain the images used and other class members may be required to comment. For additional ideas you might wish to look at  Using Pinterest in Education.

While learning management systems used in schools may be limited to use by students, faculty and staff, pinterest boards can be shared with others. A Constructive action project might include the development of a a board with community resources that could be linked to an agency's web site.
Faculty can use boards to to collect and share resources with others. For an example of these, check out my boards:

The first board is clearly to collect resources for myself and share with other faculty. I often find myself going to my pinterest board to find to locate a resource. The last three are listed as resources for students on all my moodle shells and the last two boards were in response to students asking me about books to read or films to use in presentations or their agencies.

There are some limitations for using pinterest for projects. For example not all web sources have good quality items that can be pinned. I have sometimes been known to find a picture from one website and use a URL in the caption to go to another site. I often had to do this with the book and film boards since I wanted a picture of the book or film, which did not appear on the page with the review or article about the material. Also pins can not easily be rearranged on a board, so it requires planning and or sometimes removing and repining. Captions are limited to 500 characters so that students have to write clearly and succinctly, but it is significantly more characters than a twitter posting. Students will have to add a "Pin It" button to their web browser or use the "Pin It" app on their phones and tablets. Faculty will need to decide if they want to set up a class account that can have a board for each student or group. Faculty will own these boards, will need to add students as pinners using student email and can delete them these boards. If students are required to have individual accounts they can be asked to add faculty to their boards as editors and a method will need to be devised so that other members of the class can view the boards. If others are required to view the boards online, I suggest using a moodle forum to have students post the links to their project boards. And currently analytics are only available for business accounts.

Pinterest offers a tool for helping students and faculty to collate and share resources from across the web and is only limited by one's imagination. I would love to hear how others are using pinterest in their classes.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Using Blogs to Create Life-Long Learners: Sample Student Blog

I assign blogs in some of my classes, and believe that blogs fill some of the goals of this college's mission of Purpose Centered Education.  Blogging invites students to form their own opinions, reflect on their experiences and the material, and craft responses that are then published in a public forum.  Recent scholarship shows that blogging promotes active learning and accountability.  Ellison and Wu found that students “attend more carefully to online writing opportunities (as opposed to papers submitted to an instructor),” and that they “read these texts [assigned] more carefully when they know their interpretations will be online and therefore accountable to a larger audience.”  In their study, Ellison and Wu identify some of the positive outcomes of student-generated, new media enhanced assignments such as blogs and E-portfolios, including:  increase student engagement, enhance informational technology skills, harness intrinsic student interest and involvement, promote ubiquitous and asynchronistic learning, provide evidence of student progress and teaching effectiveness. 

Scholarship shows that blogs help students become better writers and more invested in their work both inside and outside the classroom.  Further, it has been suggested that writing a blog can become a productive, life-long process, one that helps students to develop a voice as they express issues of concern to them in a public forum.  Some students who are introduced to blogging in my class continue to do it outside of the classroom setting.  One of these student blogs received the attention of the college and eventually local media as he was featured in an ad campaign promoting the college's Purpose-Centered Education model.  Blogs, and social media more generally, can lead to "Education that Works," as they invite students to become citizens who actively participate in a democratic society.  I have written more fully on this here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Go Paperless! Turn your Handouts into PDFs

As we turn increasingly towards online delivery of content, and students and faculty alike become accustomed to reading content on electronic devices, the traditional photocopy may becoming obsolete.  Luckily, our photocopier allows you to turn paper copies into PDF files.  PDF files can then be easily uploaded to Moodle, or sent directly via email to students.  Simply follow these easy steps:
·       Enter security Code
·      Select Tab labeled “Image Send” (located on top of screen)
·       Select Tab labeled “Address Entry” (located on left of screen)
·      Select “Email”
·      Select “To”
·       Type in your full email address and press “OK”
·      Place document to be scanned in the feeder and press the Copy button (the largest button to the right of the numeric keypad)
·      After document feeds, press the “*” (or “Logout”)
·      Go to your email, and the PDF of your file will be there!

The many advantages to this include:  saving time for faculty, decreasing paper waste, allowing student access to materials if they are absent from class, etc.  Of course copywrite laws must be enforced, but for those of us who deliver original contact in class via handouts, this is a great way to deliver that content more efficiently in a media-rich world.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Helping Students "Construct" Their Constructive Action Documents

Approximately two weeks before the end of every semester at Metropolitan College, I see the same long gray lines begin to form. No, these students are not waiting at Student Services counters to re-enroll. These students are merely trying to survive their current semester. 

A "CA Plague" has suddenly descended upon many of them and has afflicted them, as in Biblical land of Egypt. Lambs before the slaughter, like a rows of blanched vegetables ready to be sliced and diced by the Grim CA Professor/Reaper, their drawn faces made colorless by fatigue, their weary bodies made to sit motionless for hours at a time, worried, panicked, they huddle closely together behind MCNY home pages, desperately asking: "What Is A Plan of Action?" "How Many Critical Incidents Do I Need?" "Where Does My Abstract Go?"  "What Goes Into My Table of Content?" What Is A Needs Analysis?" or, most plaintively, "Is My Setting Analysis The Same As My Situation Analysis?"

I have been privileged to teach at Metropolitan College since 2003, and I have seen this phenomenon too often.  It became too painful for me to watch.  I decided to take some constructive action of my own, to alleviate the unnecessary suffering.  My simple remedy: have my students format their CA documents as blank shells first, and then populate each section, one week at a time (their Abstracts, last of all). 

What was also helpful in this process?  With permission, I distributed an example of a beautifully crafted and thoughtful CA from one of their predecessors, who had graduated with honors. My students saw the Gestalt at work: how the whole became greater than the sum of all the parts, and understood the value of the Constructive Action process at firsthand.  Armed with a model to go on, they developed confidence that they, too, could master high-stakes writing.

The result: the melee of desperation and confusion became an elegant ballet.  Once freed from the tyranny of simultaneously formatting AND writing their documents, students were able to focus upon uncovering real needs, and developing real solutions.  Immediately, my students took real ownership of their CA's, and made them living documents.  The documents they created reflected their real interests and the emergent in curriculum, rather than some practiced form or their 'going through "the motions," ' for another semester.

I wanted to share my experiences with my colleagues.  Might this procedure work for you?  I welcome your feedback.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Using Skype to Increase Student-Faculty Interaction

Has this happened to you? You sit in your office for three hours between classes and no one shows up for office hours. Then five minutes before class students show up and want to talk with you about their papers or assignments.

Now it is true that our students lead very busy lives with family, school and work responsibilities. In addition, they are all commuter students so that none of them reside on campus and can simply pop over to our offices.

So how do we increase the opportunities for them to have discussions with faculty. Email offers some opportunity for additional interaction, but email is not a totally adequate solution for holding deep academic discussions. It is possible to have a back and forth discussion, but it is a longer process and is dependent on writing skills. Text might also offer some options, but I don't text. :)

This semester I am offering students the opportunity for online Skype appointments. Skype is a free internet video conferencing service that allows both individual and group web conferencing. It requires all the parties to have a webcam, microphone and internet connection and runs on smart phones, tablets laptops and desktops. I have set up a separate account for my school work and only open it when I am expecting to meet with a student. A premium account is required hold group videoconferencing. And if you are in your pajamas or haven't taken your shower yet, you can turn off the video portion and just talk online. This allows faculty and students to talk without disclosing personal phone numbers.

I have been opening this account during my real life office hours and leave it on in the background. Since my office computer has neither a webcam or and microphone, I use my ipad. 

To increase opportunities for students, I have also been offering them the opportunity to email me so that we can set up a specific time and place for us to have a skype appointment. Again I open my school skype account when I have a scheduled meeting. I am not available 24/7 on skype, but have blocks of time when I am willing to talk with students in addition to my posted office hours. So when they ask if I have office hours on Wednesday, I can say "No, but I can talk with you on Wednesday between 3-5 pm on skype. Would you like to make an appointment?"

So far no students have taken the opportunity. I wonder if anyone else has been using skype to increase their office hours.