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Fall 2014 Faculty Showcase Series

In November and December we invited Emerson faculty with exemplary use of technology in their instruction to share their methods and impact with other members of the community.

Presenter Department Topic
Paul Mihailidis Marketing Communication Socrative, Storify
Ruth Grossman Communication Sciences & Disorders EduCanon, Whiteboards
Janet Kolodzy Journalism WordPress
Daniel Kempler Communication Sciences & Disorders Canvas
Jena Castro-Casbon Communication Sciences & Disorders Facebook

In addition to introducing the tool and sharing a little bit about how it operates, all of the presenters offered some insight into its success in their course.

Every presentation focused on a different technology, but there were a few common goals:

  • Facilitating communication to improve the classroom experience.
  • Giving students a public forum for their work to improve its quality and relevance.
  • Building learning objectives around the technology that will help to accomplish them.

Both sessions were live-streamed using Adobe Connect, which served as a digital classroom and allowed people who couldn’t attend in person to listen, ask questions and give feedback.



How well are your students understanding your lectures? How valuable would it be to know this when preparing tomorrow’s lecture? How about in the middle of class, before moving on to the next topic?


Personal whiteboards

Let’s just talk whiteboards for a moment. Of any technology in the faculty showcase series, I was most impressed with the simplicity of dry erase markers on personal whiteboards distributed to each student at the start of class. Ruth Grossman highlighted the benefits: easy to acquire, easy to use, the insight of a pop-quiz with the atmosphere of a game show.

Grossman encouraged talking about the purpose of the process and stressed 100% participation for every question. Once students adopt this platform you’ll be better able to gauge their understanding of topics as they’re presented and adjust lessons on the fly.

Whiteboards aren’t the only tool that can get a quick read on the room. If you’re familiar with clickers, a polling technology with remote controlled units, you understand that hardware and software can come together to capture the student response to questions digitally.



For a large class, Paul Mihailidis made use of Socrative, web-based polling software that allows anyone to use a mobile device to answer questions that have been prepared in advance or impromptu. He recommended it for use with sections of 60 or more students and found it to be a powerful way to guide the focus of smaller breakout groups.

This kind of data can also be useful outside of the classroom. Ruth Grossman highlighted her use of eduCanon to annotate recorded lecture materials. These videos play back just like any YouTube clip, but at predetermined time-stamps the recording will pause and present a question to the viewer that they must answer to continue watching.



Grossman got overwhelming feedback in her course that multiple choice questions were helpful when presented at the times she specified in the clips. By providing insight with the responses, the students could see the answer in the context of the lesson and also learn why other answers were incorrect.



While Grossman used eduCanon with her own recordings, the tool can be paired with any publicly visible YouTube clip. As this trend grows, it’s important for web users to be savvy about what resources they’re utilizing. To this end Paul Mihailidis challenged his students to create narratives that make use of this digital gluttony of information.



Storify is part word processor and part search engine. It lets you do your research and writing side by side so that the evidence becomes part of the story. Mihailidis uses this tool experimentally and treats it as an opportunity to help build an understanding of what makes a source credible.

In Janet Kolodzy’s courses, budding journalists face similar challenges in their research for the Survive and Thrive project. Visit surviveandthriveboston.com and you’ll find articles that were prepared using WordPress, a self-publishing platform.


surviveandthrive.com (WordPress)

Each student commits to a topic and writes their post with a shared audience in mind. They are collaborating to tell their own stories in the context of a larger one. Kolodzy appreciates WordPress for its ease-of-use and real-world application and believes that students take greater ownership in their work when publishing online.



Synchronizing a technology with course learning objectives is an art. In Jena Castro-Casbon’s Connecting Online group she crafted a meaningful tool for her graduate students that also enhanced the lives of the clients they supported through the Robbins Speech, Language and Hearing Center. This is an example of Facebook at its finest.



Castro-Casbon created a closed Facebook group that she, her students, and the clients joined to connect privately without revealing their interactions beyond the group or personal account details to one another. Over the course of the semester, the students guided the clients through the communication challenges and hesitations they had while educating them on the social customs prevalent in the platform.

With Castro-Casbon’s adminstrative oversight the students improved in their ability to support the clients. The clients, though, got a different benefit – they left feeling confident in their ability to communicate with friends and family in a previously daunting digital space. This was a successful match between the technology implemented and the educational goal.


Canvas discussion board

Daniel Kempler also made use of a digital space to improve communication. He wanted his students to be able to have professional conversations on industry topics online so that they would be able to better connect with their colleagues as they entered the professional realm. Utilizing a few key features in a Canvas course, Kempler had his students work through two assignments.

In one, he asked students to share a journal article and comment on those selected by their peers. Questions on why a treatment worked or didn’t and what could be done differently fostered thoughtful discussion from students that might have otherwise been silent in a classroom.

In his second assignment, Kempler assigned a short paper and had students break into small groups. He asked them to collaborate outside the classroom but did not designate a particular technology to facilitate the group work. Students suggested that they would have benefited more from completing this assignment during class due to the confusion around how and when students would contribute to the shared effort.

Similar to the other projects reviewed, both of these assignments generated valuable feedback and illustrated the importance of the relationship between course goals and the tools used to achieve them. The Fall 2014 Faculty Showcase highlighted just a handful of the creative ways technology can enhance education and demonstrated some of the challenges and rewards of innovation.

As always, if you have any questions about bringing a new technology into your teaching, don’t hesitate to contact ITG by emailing itg@emerson.edu or by calling 617-824-8090.

WordPress 3.8 update

Happy New Year! In the spirit of starting fresh, on Thursday, January 9th, from 6 – 8 a.m., WordPress will be unavailable while it updates to the latest version, 3.8.

Version 3.8 includes the usual security updates and patches, but also a gorgeous new dashboard design, that offers eight color scheme options for your enjoyment. However, all functionality within the Dashboard, while updated, remains the same.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact ITG at ext 8090 or at itg@emerson.edu.

Faculty Technology Survey Results!

In the spring, ITG asked the faculty what they thought about educational technology at Emerson. A good mix of full time (46%) and part time (54%) faculty from all departments responded.

The most interesting question to us was “What do you think of Canvas so far? What is easy, and what is confusing?” 74% of responses had feedback on specific features: organizing content (21%), assignments (19%), grading (19%) and the gradebook (17%).

We also categorized the responses as mostly positive or mostly negative:

69% had positive comments about Canvas, with only 5 negative comments

…and positive won by a landslide!

Sample comments:

 AMAZING. It's easy to post, email, receive work. Discussions are a bit confusing (though I haven't played around with it as much), student view seems less intuitive for certain things like submitting assignments and peer review. I think this just calls for extra clarity in instructions from the professor.

Canvas was easy and I thought a much better experience than when I used to use Blackboard. My students didn't have many issues, either.

Canvas is great! It helps me and students keep organized and tracks important information, such as assignment due dates and upcoming events. As far as improvements go, I think the icon/link that lets students see the annotated version of their drafts needs to be larger and prominent.

Nothing is easy. Its really not intuitive. There is an unavoidable, perhaps, learning curve. It will take a few cycles to fully utilize.

 I absolutely love Canvas so far. It serves as a single space for all of my class needs--from grading to assignments to syllabus to peer reviews. It's been fantastic. I love the Speedgrading feature along with the rubric function; it's made grading so much easier. I also love that the peer review feature allows for comments and replies to comments directly in the draft. Having all of that information (including attachments) directly in Canvas has been very helpful. Using Canvas has allowed me to go paperless for the first time.

More results:

Most respondents said they use Canvas, and they use it mostly to distribute content and for other administrative tasks like receiving assignments and grading.
68 responded: 67% did, 32% did not.

Of those who didn’t use Canvas, the biggest barrier was the lack of time to learn it. Other frequently used technology tools are Powerpoint and Google Docs.

Faculty’s main goals when using technology are to distribute course content (87%), save time in managing courses (76%) and provide supplementary materials to students (76%).

In general, faculty are comfortable using technology:

0 answered not comfortable, 16% somewhat comfortable, 42% confortable, and 42% very comfortable

What hinders them from using it is the time required to use it in the classroom (34%) and lack of technical skill (32%).

Faculty generally learn about technology from a staffer or by experimenting on their own:

77% from a technology support staffer, 76% on own by experimenting, 46% on their own by reading support documents, and 35% from a colleague

When asked “Is there anything else we should know?”, the responses were categorized as follows:

46% of answers were categorized as love, 42% uncategorized, and 10% of faculty said they had no time to learn technology

Sample comments:

You guys are awesome. Great support, quick response, very knowledgeable. The office makes instructors feel welcome:)

 The College IT/media learning support is good. The problem is finding the time to update skills in these areas.

We adore you too!


Student Technology Survey Results!

In the spring, ITG asked students their views about educational technology at Emerson.

As with the faculty survey, we were eagerly awaiting answers to the question “What do you think of Canvas so far? What is easy? What is confusing?”

The results are in, and students love Canvas even more than the faculty do!

77% viewed Canvas positively2% negative reaction to Canvas

Many had feedback on specific features: most of it was about organization of content (20%), and the Canvas user interface (17%).

43% of answers had feedback on features

A significant amount of students wanted professors to use Canvas even more! Sample comments:

I like it when professors use all of these abilities it has to offer because looking track of everything becomes easier.

I love it. I have one professor who has been taking full advantage of it and it has made submitting assignments and keeping track of grades so much easier. My one complaint is that not all of my teachers have made the switch.

 I like or when professors use all of these abilities it has to offer because looking track of everything becomes easier... I love it. I have one professor who has been taking full advantage of it and it has made submitting assignments and keeping track of grades so much easier. My one complaint is that not all of my teachers have made the switch...  I absolutely love it! So far only one of my classes utilize it though, History of Jazz. I want more classes to use it...Love it! Really easy and straightforward... It's really easy to use and is much better than webct

The ability to reference course content is seamless and easy to use. The only confusing thing I have found is the grading which seemingly calculates the points you have made out of the total possible points, for the semester...  I really like it a lot. It has a ton of features and is easy to use. Nothing is really confusing after you play around a little bit. I wish I used it in more of my classes...  I like Canvas a lot. I think it's very user-friendly... Much easier than webct... I like Canvas so far, but I don't think my professors have completely figured it out yet so I don't think we're using it to its full potential.

More results:

More undergraduates (79%) than graduate students (21%) responded. Almost all of the respondents use Canvas, and they report their professors use it to distribute content (97%) and for administrative tasks (72%).

90% yes, 10% no

Other frequently used technology tools are Powerpoint and Google Docs.

Students’ main goals when using technology are to access course content (96%), organize due dates and scheduling (78%) and to turn in work (75%).

Students are even more comfortable using technology than faculty:

not comfortable .5%, somewhat comfortable 4%, comfortable 44%, very cofortable 51%

They report that what hinders them from using technology is when professors lack technical skills (51%) or choose not to use it (57%).

They are much less likely than faculty to learn technology from a staff member, and more likely to learn by experimenting on their own or from a friend:

40% from staff, 56% from a friend, 81% on own by experimenting, 56% on own by reading support documents

When we asked “Is there anything else we should know?”, we got more positive comments about Canvas, a lot of pleas for professors to use Canvas more, some slightly disturbing information about people’s underwear, and a shout out from a student who works at the IT Help Desk. Hi Lindsay!