Restarting Blog


I’m planning on restarting this blog. I’ll be traveling to Ireland at the end of the week, and I want to write some travelogs from there; in addition, I’m going to be writing posts on some of my interests, including diet, cooking, travel, hiking and the outdoors, and, of course, paleoanthropology. While traveling, I’ll post a link to this blog on Facebook – we’ll see how it goes!

iPad Part 2


Well, I finally got an iPad, through the generosity of the Benedictine University Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. As a first impression, I have to say that I think the teaching and productivity opportunities are endless. For one, I am writing this blog entry on an iPad, and as I look at my last blog post before this I see that it has been about 9 months since I last updated my blog. I think the iPad will make me a more productive writer. In that vein, I am using an app, Papers, that syncs my virtual library of pdf’s and helps me organize references when I’m working on manuscripts. Second, I will be using my iPad for teaching. I discovered this new app, Educreations, that functions as a virtual whiteboard. I am going to use it in my lectures instead of Tegrity/Capture. I am currently in the process of transferring images from my PowerPoint slides over to Educreations, and when I lecture I’ll draw and write on the images and record the presentation. Educreations then spits out a short link, just like Tegrity does, which can be uploaded to D2L or Blackboard. I’m also using the iPad to draw images to upload to my course notes on Squidoo – you can check out an example here: Squidoo Lesson 1. (And yes, my artistic skills date back to kindergarten or thereabouts). All in all, I think the iPad has the chance to be transformative, and you can’t really say that everyday.

I think it’s official – I’m one of the last educators to NOT own an ipad or other type of tablet. I haven’t really seen that one killer app that makes me go “I need to own this.” Today in our New Media Seminar, we are talking about the use of tablets in education, so maybe I will finally see a convincing reason to make the splurge – I’ll let you know.

As per our discussion a few weeks ago, here is an article in the latest issue of Science Magazine about open access journals. Ironically, you will need a password to access the full article …

I finally got a chance this morning to look through the Coursera line-up of courses, and I have to admit that it is pretty impressive. I found a course called “Introductory Human Physiology,” which is taught by Emma Jakoi and Jennifer Carbrey from Duke University. Looking through the course description, I got really enthusiastic about taking it, but I haven’t (yet?) signed up for it (it doesn’t start until February 25th). I taught physiology last year at University at Albany as part of a year-long Anatomy and Physiology course, but I’m not a physiologist and I’m sure I would pick up a few things in a full human physiology course. I need to weigh my time commitments for next semester before making this decision.

Just looking through the Coursera website brought up some interesting possibilities. For one, there are many courses that one could conceivably take and treat as professional development resources, such as Introductory Human Physiology would be for me. I can also see how a student already at a university could take a course that their university doesn’t offer. If I still had graduate students, I would consider requiring them to take courses in subjects such as statistics or mathematics if my university didn’t have appropriate course listings in those areas. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, after taking a closer look at Coursera, I am more onboard with MOOC’s. As Chris said in his blog, it’s not a matter of if online courses take off, it’s when. It might take a little while longer before I am fully onboard, but I’m getting there.

Today in the New Media Seminar Julie used the term “flipped classroom,” and I knew exactly what she meant even though I was not familiar with the term. When I got back to my office after teaching this afternoon I received an e-mail from the Teaching and Learning Center at University at Albany (where I was a visiting assistant professor last year) about flipped classrooms, and so I thought I would share the contents. This sounds very similar to an initiative undertaken at Benedictine (last year? a few years ago?):


Applications are still being accepted for The “Flipped” Classroom Project. To apply, please visit and fill out the online form—Note that partial applications will not enter the pool of candidates.  Recipients of this award who meet all requirements will be provided use of an iPad, access to lecture capture technology, staff assistance, and $1000 in funding. For details, keep on reading.


Are you ready to Flip your classroom?

If you’ve ever wondered whether your in-class lectures are the best way for students to learn, you might be ready. 

If you’ve been wanting to make your classes (large or small) more interactive, you might be ready.

If you’ve been wanting students to work with more energy and focus, you might be ready.


So, what if you took the content of your lectures and converted it into media modules, which students could watch/listen to over and over again before coming to class?

You’d suddenly have a very different relationship with students. In the Flipped Classroom students get the necessary content outside of class—through various media—and then use the face-to-face class meetings to practice (while in your presence) applying and working with the content. The mediated content can be produced by you (edited lecture capture, video demos, animated slide shows, etc.) or borrowed and mixed from existing sources (TED lectures, YouTube, Khan Academy, materials stored in Blackboard and Electronic Reserves, Wikipedia, and of course, traditional readings in print or on-line, etc.).


This project provides funding, equipment and direct staff support for you to…

1) rethink your course design for flipping the classroom,

2) produce and organize your content for students’ self-directed study (which may require you to learn a few tools)

3) develop in-class tasks, activities, and assignments to reinforce and assess learning, and

4) manage the new student-professor and student-student dynamic.



Proposals will be accepted from full-time faculty and instructors/lecturers, part-time instructors and professional staff who teach. (Sorry, current UAlbany graduate students will not be eligible for this round). Priority will be given to individuals who have not received ITLAL funding for the past three years. If you are interested but have recently received funding, feel free to apply and get on the waiting list, in case slots become available.



1. Participants whose proposals are accepted will take conditional possession of an iPad in December 2012, for use in developing instructional materials for Spring 2013.

·         Instructors who satisfactorily meet all of the benchmarks listed below will be awarded permanent professional use of the iPad in May 2013.

·         For instructors who fail to meet the benchmarks in Spring 2013, possession of the iPad will be re-negotiated pending progress on the project, or returned to ITLAL/ITS in May 2013 for assignment to another project.


2. Additionally, participants who achieve all the benchmarks will receive $1000 funding to be used for miscellaneous professional expenses such as , software, hardware, conference travel, books, materials, etc.



(1)    Complete the online application and make the case for why you are an appropriate candidate for this project. Proposals will be evaluated and accepted on a rolling basis.  The window for submitting a proposal closes on November 30.  Successful applicants will be notified on or before December 3, 2012.

(2)    Meet one-on-one with ITLAL and ITS staff by December 11 for needs assessment interview

(3)    Attend half-day Academy workshop on December 13, 9:30am to 1:00pmOR 12:30 to 4:00pm. Lunch will be provided.

(4)    Consult with ITLAL and ITS staff during December and January regarding three sample flipped classroom lesson plans for completion before classes begin

(5)    Produce/develop corresponding course content (3 lessons) to fulfill the self-directed study aspect of the flipped instruction

(6)    Consult with ITLAL and ITS staff regarding course syllabus at least two weeks before semester begins. (Specific date will be negotiated.)

(7)    Allow for collection of student data (midterm survey) and have a classroom observation (by ITLAL or ITS staff) before mid-term of Spring semester 2013.

(8)    After implementation of flipped classroom principles, conduct a self-assessment and write a brief reflection statement, according to guidelines which will be provided by ITLAL and ITS.


Some background

Some of the best and early iterations of the Flipped Classroom concept can be found in the work of Physics Professor Eric Mazur of Harvard (follow this link to see his excellent video clip), who “flips” the classroom using traditional textual or web-based explanations of concepts in physics. Mazur demonstrates how flipping the classroom allows him to use class time to assess student understanding and student ability to use targeted information. Another popular manifestation of the Flipped Classroom grew from the Khan Academy initiative. We strongly recommend that you take a look at the talk by Khan Academy founder, Salman Khan. The Khan Academy has created a valuable repository of instructional videos for many disciplines. Because of the Khan Academy’s popularization of representing content in videos, many people mistakenly think of the Flipped Classroom as the simple replacement of live classroom lectures with videotaped lectures or other videos downloaded from the internet. In fact, the Flipped Classroom is a more comprehensive instructional strategy that exploits the convenience of video clips, among other tools.


The Purpose of the Flipped Classroom is to…

…increase student learning by making information more accessible and cognition-friendly;

…validate the instructor’s expertise by using it where it counts most: in direct response to student work and thinking during class meetings;

…increase student-professor and student-student interaction during class time, even in large classes;

…create an environment where students are the primary, autonomous agents of their own learning;

…support a more personalized learning environment for students, who might work individually or in small groups during class.


The Flipped Classroom is NOT…

…the simple replacement of face-to-face class meetings with videos and lecture capture, although videos and lecture capture may be among the tools and media being used;

…an online course, although online tools and strategies can certainly help in course management;

…an unstructured, free-for-all use of class time: in-class student applications, problems, cases and other learning tasks are carefully planned and managed;

…computer assisted instruction, although CAI as well as instructional video games could figure in the mix of tools, if your discipline warrants it and you can find the materials.

Honestly, until about five minutes ago, I had no idea. I’m from New Jersey, so I knew what a “mook” was, just not a “MOOC.” It turns out that it is a “Massive Open Online Course,” which is a new trend in technology and education that aims to deliver open course content to a large number of participants via online resources, largely contravening colleges and universities, which are the traditional purveyors of such content.

We are discussing MOOC’s today in my New Media Seminar at Benedictine University. I will be very interested to see what everyone else thinks about this topic. Intellectually, I am all for open access free education, and I like the idea that MOOC’s seem to combine elements of user-defined content, crowd-sourcing, automated feedback for evaluation, and directed learning, but practically I am somewhat more reticent. I don’t know if there are any enthusiasts of The Wire in this blog’s audience, but reading about MOOC’s I kind of felt like Frank Sobotka, a dock worker and union boss in the second season, when he is listening to a presentation on the automation processes employed at the docks in Rotterdam (“can’t get hurt if you’re not working, right?”). As an educator, MOOC’s have the potential to be threatening in the same way.

Or are they an opportunity? As I think more about it I am sort of doing something like this with my Human Anatomy course – that is, I am putting content online with learning objectives and automated quizzes (check out one of the lessons here). The idea is for students in my course to use these “lessons” as class notes, but others outside the course can follow along and learn about human anatomy, if they so choose. My long-term plan is to add more content and evaluation to the point where these lessons will form a sort of online course. At that point, I guess I will have fully embraced the MOOC concept.