Category Archives: Classroom Techniques

Daniel Stanford

Intercultural Empathy in Class and at Work: Practical Tips from the Ashoka Exchange Conference

In 2016 I learned about a conference hosted by Ashoka U, an organization that supports universities in fostering “social innovation” and “changemaking” on their campuses. It sounded fascinating despite the fact that I had no idea what these terms meant. After reading a bit further, I learned that these are relatively new umbrella terms that include elements of social justice and social entrepreneurship. In a nutshell, social innovation in higher education can include any initiative that exposes students to social justice, intercultural collaboration, and concepts like design thinking and business/nonprofit management.

I wasn’t quite sure how all of this might relate to instructional technology, but I had a feeling it could be relevant to the type of online international collaborations we’re establishing at DePaul through our Global Learning Experience (GLE) program. In GLE projects, our students collaborate online with faculty and students at foreign universities, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to help our students collaborate more effectively with peers from different cultural backgrounds. While I can’t fit everything I learned at the conference in a single blog post, I’ve included a few of my favorite lessons below.

Building Empathy for Speakers of Other Languages

 At the start of a session titled, “Using Human-Centered Design to Encourage Inclusive, Globally Aware Education,” the presenters asked attendees to introduce themselves to and learn a bit about the person sitting next to them. It seemed like a perfectly ordinary way to start a conference workshop until the presenters added that we’d be doing these introductions without using our native languages.

After taking a few seconds to process this limitation, my neighbor and I began searching for a common language. None of the foreign languages we’d studied overlapped, so we quickly jumped to pen and paper and began drawing. As we drew, each of us spoke in a language that was not native for the speaker and almost completely unknown to the listener.

This simple exercise was a great reminder of the struggles students face when they attempt to collaborate across language barriers. It’s particularly difficult for some American students to imagine what it would be like to communicate without relying on English as a universal language, and I love the idea of having DePaul students engage in this sort of exercise with their classmates before beginning a collaboration with students who don’t speak English as a native language.

Fostering Introvert-Friendly Spaces

I’d describe myself as relatively extroverted, but I also love having an hour or two each day when I can close my office and enjoy focused, quiet time to work alone. During a session on collaborating with introverts, I made note of several practical tips that I’m planning to put to use and share with my colleagues. Some of these tips should also come in handy in the classroom by helping students appreciate their classmates’ unique strengths.

  1. Cluster meeting times in the morning or at the end of the day. This helps ensure longer periods focused work time with minimal interruptions.
  1. Don’t neglect one-on-one meetings. As our schedules fill up, it’s easy to cancel one-on-one meetings to make room for things that seem more pressing. It’s important to avoid this temptation because private meetings give introverts a chance to share insights and ask questions they might be reluctant to address in group settings.
  1. Give everyone time to reflect and prepare before meetings. Large meetings can be stressful and frustrating for everyone, but they’re especially challenging for introverts. Share an agenda and key questions in advance so that attendees have time to collect their thoughts and do their homework beforehand. For many introverts, being asked to respond to a complex question or make a sensitive decision without warning (and in front of an audience) is a waking nightmare.
  1. Agree on “do not disturb” signs or visual cues everyone can recognize. For instance, how much someone’s door is open might have a specific meaning in your office. Fully open means anyone is welcome to drop in for any reason, nearly closed means please don’t enter if your question can wait until later, and closed means do not disturb unless there’s an emergency. For employees who don’t have private offices, they might wear large headphones to signal that they need time to focus. (Providing noise-cancelling headphones can be a great perk for any employee, especially introverts.)
  1. Establishing do-not-disturb etiquette and ground rules is a big help for online collaboration, too. If you use online chat and video conferencing tools such as Slack or Skype, take advantage of the settings in these tools that let others know more about your availability. Your status on these systems can often be customized so that collaborators know if you’re available for impromptu meetings, if you’re only chatting with people by appointment, or if you’re only available for urgent questions.
  1. Take time to validate what introverts do well. In Western culture, we don’t often think of introverts as leaders, but they bring skills to the table that others might lack. For instance, they can:
    1. listen actively and deeply when others might become bored or try to dominate the conversation
    2. encourage reflection and generative conversations when others might be too hasty
    3. co-create long-term solutions rather than focusing on reactive problem solving and dictatorial decision-making

While it’s great to praise all types of students and coworkers for a job well done, extroverts often get more feedback and recognition because they’re more vocal and harder to overlook. Taking time to acknowledge introverts’ strengths does more than simply boost their morale. It can also remind more extroverted members of the value of diversity in collaborative work.

Cari Vos

What I Learned in Autumn Term

When I started to think what I could write about for this blog post, all I could think about was what I could possibly add to the conversation. What perspective do I have that others may not? What insights could I offer? And I began to consider the insanity of this last term. Over the past 11 weeks, I had three roles: I was a student, an instructor, and a staff member. If you had asked me during week 7 how things were going, this is probably what my response would be like:

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Bridget Wagner

Thinking Intelligently About Intelligence

I teach in the First-Year Writing program at DePaul, and during Autumn Quarter especially, my classes consist mostly of freshmen. I love to watch how their demeanors evolve throughout the quarter as they become more confidently part of DePaul’s academic community—but joining this community isn’t natural for everyone (and wasn’t for me when I was an undergraduate student).

So as I’m submitting final grades for Autumn Quarter, pouring over my course evaluations, and thinking about the fast-approaching Winter Quarter, I’m reflecting on how I can better help the students that don’t as easily find their groove in my classroom and others.

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Sharon Guan

Exploring Mindful Learning

Downward facing dog
Lift your right leg up
Move your right leg forward
Land your right foot next to your right thumb
Move your right arm forward…Warrior II
Bend your right knee, move your left arm up, and right arm down…extended side angle

The voice of my yoga instructor whistled by my ears as I followed the flow of movement. My mind drifted. What should I write for my blog?

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Elisabeth Ramos-Torrescano

Give the People What They Want

Drew Lapp, a product/interface designer and user experience researcher, wrote a blog post that resonated with me, “Design and the Art of Listening.” Over the years, with more design experience, gained trust by faculty, and a desire to move beyond a task list, I listen more. Listening closely and actively to faculty, students, and administrators have enabled me to propose ideas that put me in the position of a co-collaborator. By listening, I am able to empathize and offer an idea for a solution that is relevant and (hopefully) addresses the root of the issue. It’s amazing how much information can come from individual meetings with faculty, hallway comments by students, and discussions in department-wide meetings, just by listening. As I move amongst these user groups, I start to hear common complaints, challenges, and gripes…a designer’s dream! I get fired up to find that solution, but not so fast. As Lapp says, “…much of the time people aren’t able to tell you what they want right away. Sometimes it takes a while to get the answer; sometimes they aren’t able to articulate it themselves. So how do you figure this out? You listen and you listen some more.” Exactly. Back to listening, but now I can ask more intelligent and refined questions that start to get to the heart of the complaint or issue, so that eventually I can, as Lapp so eloquently says “give the people what they want.” Isn’t this the designer’s ultimate goal?

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Ashanti Morgan

Get in Sync! 5 Tips to Better Domestic and International Collaborations

Collaborating across the globe is gaining much-needed traction thanks to the access we have to technology tools and internet connectivity. While there are some countries that still suffer from digital inadequacies, the proliferation of mobile device and tablet accessibility is changing the game and thankfully, beginning to level the playing field.

Social media and other mediums have shown the humanizing impact that integrating video into a conversation can have that somehow, makes us feel connected to those that we haven’t seen in years and/or live thousands of miles away. And now, other industries are starting to take notice.

The academic and business world as we knew it decades ago is evolving to new heights. With more online courses at the collegiate level increasing to the exponential growth of global virtual conferencing in the workforce, our brothers and sisters around the world are much easier to engage on a regular and consistent basis.

Make no mistake, if you’re going to connect sizeable groups of college students or colleagues in a meaningful and engaging way, it takes time and strategic planning. Unlike social media, in academia, business corporations, healthcare, and other industries, structured and formal real-time (live) video interactions can take weeks, maybe even a month, to execute flawlessly. Continue reading

Daniel Stanford

Intro to Google Quizzes

I’ve been working on a side project recently to help young people improve their financial literacy and job skills, and I needed to create a quiz that would be accessible to anyone with the link. I’d heard from a colleague that Google recently rolled out a feature allowing Google forms to be turned into quizzes, so I decided to give it a try. The process was easier than I expected and, in less than 30 minutes, my “ultimate credit score quiz” was live for the world to see.

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Screenshot of Daniel’s credit-score quiz that uses Google Forms

If you’re accustomed to having students access your learning materials within a learning management system like Canvas, Blackboard, or D2L/Brightspace, you might wonder why you’d ever want to create quizzes outside your LMS. I had a similar perspective until I began working on projects that included students outside of my institution. For instance, through DePaul’s Global Learning Initiative, I frequently work with faculty who are collaborating with foreign instructors and students.

Before the rollout of Google quizzes, the only way we could provide our non-DePaul collaborators with access to quizzes was to add them to our LMS. This process is time-consuming and tends to reinforce the feeling that, as an American institution, we’re requiring our partners to learn our systems and do things our way. Because Google quizzes can be accessed by simply clicking a link (no login required), and because many Google products are widely used in many countries, we now have an option for online, auto-graded assessments that feels more open and familiar to students outside of our institution.

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Kevin Lyon

“Please, do take it personal…”

A few weeks ago, I attended the Brightspace Fusion 2016 conference.  While the conference itself is hosted by the team that develops our LMS (Learning Management System), many of the sessions focused on strong use of technology in general, as well as tested strategies for engaging learners, whether online, hybrid, or in traditional classrooms (in other words, these ideas apply regardless of the LMS you may be using).  If I had to pick one theme that stood out to me most, it would be the idea of personalized learning and instruction.

I know what you may be thinking now—we’ve been hearing about this for years and it still doesn’t seem to be that common, and most people push back by saying they don’t have time for creating individualized items for every student in the class.  I couldn’t agree more; that’s why the point here isn’t necessarily making many individualized items for each and every student, but personalized to different styles of learning, or even to your personal style of teaching your subject.  From what I see, the point here is that much of the content for courses is ubiquitous now—anyone can search online for countless bits of information, textbooks, how-to guides, websites, or videos on a topic; because of this, the real art and strategy of teaching is not so much in what we present, but how we present it.  The personalization is as much about the instructor’s style as it is the learners’ styles—the questions we need to answer are “How knowledgeable and authentic is the instructor? How can an instructor use their personal experiences or examples to make the content more accessible?”

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Jan Costenbader

What Are They Saying?

It’s just after your first class and the students are filing out of the room and you happen to be standing near enough to catch a few of their comments. You only get snippets of the conversations, but you hear…

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In a face-to-face class, your presence is partly defined by your demeanor, persona and actions while in front of the class.

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Sharon Guan

Create a Trailer … for Your Course…by Yourself

An intro, to let students know what will happen in the class; a highlight, to capture the meaning of the subject; a heads-up, on what to expect; and maybe, a rationale, for the format in which the course is delivered.

To accomplish all of these in a quick and engaging way takes more than a syllabus or a course homepage. It requires condensing the course description and combining the presentation with multimedia or special effects…like a movie trailer.

According to a report by the Chronical of Higher Education, course trailers have become increasingly popular with the growing use of social media. The report cited Harvard University as an early adopter of course trailers because students there spend the first week of the semester “shopping” for courses they may want to take. So course trailers are a big help for boosting student interest and attendance.

Here is a course trailer for CS50 at Harvard University, a course that focuses on an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming:

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