Faculty Tech Showcase Descriptions
Introducing the High-Performance Computer Cluster
Lewis & Clark has recently acquired a High-Performance Computing (HPC) cluster for the purpose of tackling large data problems. This is an exciting opportunity for students and faculty, as it will allow them to pursue research questions involving very large sets of data. Example applications include bioinformatics, text analysis, GIS methods, video analysis, and much more.
The HPC cluster should be ready for use in late 2017. If ready by FTS, we will demo some sample application and will discuss ideas on how it can be used in various disciplines.
Digitally Mapping Northwest History
Watzek Library has been developing a couple interesting digital mapping projects this year. This summer, a student georeferenced and uploaded a number of historical Portland maps to our geospatial data repository. They can be overlayed on top of current maps in Google Earth to visualize changes over time in our city. Hopefully, they will be useful to students doing research on Portland-related topics.
Two History seniors have been working on a practicum with Watzek Digital Initiatives to develop a modern map of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Though the Expedition is widely studied and referenced, there are no online maps that use updated web technology. This map marks the most accurate trajectory of the expedition and allows toggling of a number of layers, including significant waypoints, current and historical political boundaries, tribal regions, and biospheres. The practicum has been an opportunity for the students to develop public history writing skills and GIS skills.
Gradescope: Exam Grading Made Easier
I’ve recently begun using a program called GradeScope to improve my speed, consistency, and feedback when grading. It is extremely useful when grading short-answer questions in courses with 20 or more students, although it could be used in other situations.
To grade an exam in GradeScope, I first scan in all of the paper exams. (Our printers can scan in bulk, so this is not too onerous. It also nicely gets all of the physical paper-pushing out of the way at the beginning.) After some brief setup, I can then start grading. GradeScope shows each answer anonymously and allows me to build a rubric on the fly as I see what kinds of mistakes students have made. I can even adjust the rubric retroactively (“Hmm, I now think that answer should be worth 4 instead of 3”) without having to dig back through the papers I’ve already graded. When I make comments, I can easily reuse comments I’ve already typed for other students, so I don’t have to write the same thing on a dozen papers. After I’m done, the grades (along with the rubrics and detailed feedback) are automatically emailed to students. There’s even a mechanism for them to submit regrade requests. GradeScope makes grading faster, better, and less annoying.
Digitization of the Watzek Exhibit: “When the ‘Yellow Peril’ Became Just Like US: Americans’ Changing Perceptions of China in World War Two”
In Fall 2016, I worked with Zach Selley and a team of students to install an exhibit in Watzek called, “When the ‘Yellow Peril’ Became Just Like US: Americans’ Changing Perceptions of China in World War Two.” It told the story of how The United States’ alliance with China during World War Two transformed Americans’ perceptions of China. Feedback from students and colleagues suggested it would be worthwhile to give the exhibit a life beyond glass cases that originally housed it. The digital version allows me to continue to use the exhibit in my teaching. It will feature prominently in the later weeks of my “Making Modern China” course in spring ’18 and in other courses in the future. After final edits, I’ll also share it with colleagues on other campuses. The digital format also makes it easy to include music and video.
We created the platform for the exhibit with ESRI Story Maps, which is not just for maps. It’s a great way of telling a story with sound, video, text, and image. We also used OMEKA as a virtual filing cabinet, and Flickr for photo editing and storage. All the software we used was free. The desktop version of Story Maps has many advantages, but it only worked on PCs. There is a monthly subscription for Mac-compatible software, but it’s expensive, and when the subscription end, the work disappears. The company may be developing a desktop version for Macs.
What we learned
- Have at least one tech-savvy person on your team. I had three terrific student assistants, and was lucky that one knew her way around software and compatibility issues. We also had invaluable support from the Library Staff, headed by Digital Services Coordinator Jeremy McWilliams.
- The biggest challenge was getting the different software to work together. There’s a lot of “playing around” with the software. That’s where tach-savvy people can save lots of frustration and time. But problems will still pop up. See below!
- Determine on the first day whether your software will allow more than one person to work in the software and will save those changes. The version of Story Maps we used did not.
- The people on your team need a good eye for design. As the exhibit moves from 3D to 2D, it loses the three-dimensional arrangements of objects that makes a display come alive. Team members with an eye for color, fonts, and interesting layout are key to keeping it interesting.
- Try reclaiming some of the 3D quality with cool technology. Jeremey McWilliams created some digital flip books that we linked to the scans of book covers. Justin Counts has created some images of objects using a 3D scanner.
- Sit down early and often to organize duties and schedules, and to troubleshoot.
- Always make the best image, every time, all the time. Often scanning it better than photographing. We had to re-scan some items because early on I took photos and scans just for my own catalogue.
PollEverywhere for In-Class Polling
Polling, or audience response, can be an integral part of interacting with students. Greg will share how he’s been using PollEverywhere, an online service that allows you to poll using text-messaging.
iPads for In-Class Demonstration
A set of classroom iPads have been incorporated into the curriculum in a small section (16 students) of General Chemistry I in the Fall of 2017. In order to facilitate conceptual comprehension of difficult concepts including atomic structure, three dimensional molecular shape, and properties of ideal gases, interactive computer simulations of these topics were explored in the classroom setting. The majority of simulations were selected from a set of resources available online from the PhET simulation team at University of Colorado Boulder with one simulation of gas laws from University of Texas. These simulations were aligned with lecture topics and students interacted with concepts via iPads either at the introduction of a new topic to encourage personal observation of trends and properties or in the middle of a topic to explore deeper into the implications of chemical phenomena.
Legalcide: A Law Resource
Legalcide is a website, audio-program and creative space designed for sharing legal ideas, experiences and information quickly, through mediums accessible to lawyers and laypeople alike. The site features Juris Cadence, a column that explores recent but underreported legal development and Life with Tenure, an editorial comic that satirizes legal education. The site also has two podcasts: Legalcide and The Legal Gaggle, which look at law from the opposite perspectives of lawyers and the people who need them.
Student Video Essays for Videographic Criticism
The video essay has been the central project in my Spring/Fall ’17 capstone courses. A video essay draws on the language of film editing to create an argument about moving images. More than a lecture played over clips, the video essay is both poetic and analytical, and it challenges students to learn an entirely new way to craft a scholarly text: one that combines images, sound, music, voice-over, and quotes into videographic criticism.
PearDeck: In-class Polling Without Clickers
Whether it’s doing a pre-class survey, conducting on-the-fly polling during class, or having students use surveys to gather research data, polling can be an integral part of interacting with students. Jens will share how he’s been using PearDeck, an online service that allows you to poll using any device that can access a web page.
Moodle Analytics via Self-Refreshing Excel Sheet: “We May Not Have Fancy Learning Analytics but We Can Still Do It With Duct Tape”
As our students engage in online learning activities, we can start to gather and analyze the details of individual student interactions. Esme will share how this might work with an example using existing reporting capabilities in Moodle.
Methods of Motivation: Visualizing Activity Using Fitbits and Google Maps Increases Steps and Goal Attainment
Twenty six community members at Lewis & Clark college tracked their activity over a four-week period using a Fitbit activity tracker. The participants tracked their steps for the first week in a baseline condition. Then, they had their step counts displayed online while traversing routes (1) individually, (2) competing head to head, and (3) competing on teams for six days each in a counterbalanced order. In all conditions participants logged into a website called WalkLC every day to see their daily steps translated into progress on a route displayed on a Google map. The site also showed a list of the days they met their individually selected step goal.
We delineated multiple incentives that were present in different conditions. All conditions after baseline included visual feedback, step goals, and streak bonuses (making their step goal 3 days in a row). Conditions gained social (competition and collaboration) incentives in a stepwise fashion. We predicted that as social incentives are added, step count and goal attainment would increase.
All three WalkLC conditions significantly increased the percentage of steps taken per day over the baseline condition (p<.003). Individual, Head to Head Competition, and Team Competition conditions led to a 22.8%, 20.5%, and 21.9% improvement over baseline, respectively. Our hypothesis about increasing benefit with additional social motivators was not supported. All three WalkLC conditions were statistically equivalent in terms of steps walked. However the conditions that used social referencing increased the number of days that participants met their step goal compared to the individual condition. Head to Head Competition led to a marginally significant 17.1% increase (p = .08) and the Team Competition condition led to a significant 20% increase (p = .02) over the individual condition.
Future research will explore adding a communication channel to strenghen social referencing and personalizing incentives and route specification to further improve the WalkLC app.
Neuroanatomy in Virtual Reality
Neuroanatomy is a crucial component of the undergraduate neuroscience curriculum but can be a rather daunting topic. One major barrier that many students face is difficulty with the spatial reasoning skills needed to associate two-dimensional representations of the brain (e.g., an image in a textbook or research paper) and the three-dimensional reality of neural structures. The use of immersive, virtual environments allows students to visualize and explore these complex three-dimensional brain structures (while keeping their hands clean). Todd Watson will discuss how he used VR anatomy software running on Informational Technology’s Oculus Rift system to support student learning during an in-class, team-based, “case study” project in his Spring 2017 Cognitive Neuroscience course.