Every year, the New Media Consortium’s summer conference includes a plenary session known as “Five Minutes of Fame” in which a series of presenters have five minutes each to show off an innovative project or idea. To add a bit of levity and suspense, an official timekeeper shuts down any presentation that hits the five-minute mark by striking a large gong with a mallet. As a kid, I loved watching reruns of The Gong Show, so Five Minutes of Fame is easily my favorite part of any NMC conference. (For those of you too young to remember The Gong Show, picture America’s Got Talent, but with a lot more polyester.)
This year, the NMC conference also included another rapid-fire showcase known as the Emerging Leaders Competition. In this session, each presenter has 10 minutes to show off a promising project and explain its impact (or potential impact) on the world of education. After the presentations are finished, the audience votes to decide which project should receive a $2,500 grant to support further development.
Both Five Minutes of Fame and the Emerging Leaders Competition featured projects that I was eager to share with my colleagues. Here are three of my favorites:
RISE Model – Anyone who has tried to incorporate peer reviews or critiques into their courses knows how challenging it can be to get students to share constructive feedback that is supported with evidence and references the original assignment requirements. To address this challenge, Emily Wray, a graphic design instructor at Full Sail University, developed the RISE Model. The RISE Model provides clear guidelines and grading criteria for student-to-student feedback and self-assessment. The website for the model includes a rubric that clearly identifies what students must do to meet each standard in the four levels of the model. If you’re looking for a scaffold that can help students move beyond comments like, “Nice job,” or, “I disagree,” the RISE Model should come in handy.
The Mixxer – This site was created by Todd Bryant from Dickinson College to help students find language conversation partners via Skype. To date, the site has helped over 100,000 language learners connect with native speakers. When I heard about this project, my first thought was, “Surely this site is crawling with spammers who bombard students with inappropriate content and encourage them to transfer large sums of money to foreign bank accounts.” Yet, according to Bryant, these types of incidents are surprisingly limited. The process for having someone banned from the site is very straightforward, and users are encouraged to use Skype’s block feature if they have any issues with their chat partners.
MACAW – MACAW stands for Mouse Analytics for Computer-Assisted Workshops. In a nutshell, it provides a system for monitoring student mouse activity during hands-on activities that take place in computer labs. The end result is a collection of screen captures from all the students’ machines that, when analyzed collectively, can be used to identify and troubleshoot portions of the lesson that were unclear, boring, or challenging. While MACAW addresses a relatively small niche, I was impressed with how much its developer, Nico Carver from the University of Delaware, has been able to accomplish so far. The audience seemed to agree, and chose MACAW as the recipient of the $2,500 Emerging Leaders Competition prize.