by Jerod Quinn, CTTL Instructional Designer.
In my line of work as an instructional designer, I get to be exposed to new ideas and tools all the time. Some of those ideas manage to grab my attention and take hold of it. Here are three that I have come across in the last few months that are inspiring me with their potential to influence teaching and learning here at SLU.
Students as Producers: http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/2013/09/students-as-producers-an-introduction/
I stumbled onto the concept of “Students as Producers” through a blog post from Derek Bruff at Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching. The idea is that “students should not be merely consumers of knowledge but producers, engaged in meaningful, generative work alongside the university’s faculty” (Center for Teaching, 2014). The important change is that the student becomes the producer and the faculty the collaborator, not the other way around. That’s no subtle difference. Students as Producers also demonstrates the power of undergraduate research, which is one of the AACU’s High-Impact Educational Practices (High-Impact Educational Practices, 2014).
If we go back to where the term Students as Producers originates we end up at the Centre for Educational Research and Development, the University of Lincoln, Galway, Ireland. Students as Producers came out of the “attempt to reconfigure the dysfunctional relationship between teaching and research in higher education and that this can be best achieved by rethinking the relationship between student and academic” (Winn, 2012). The University of Lincoln has created something that goes way beyond adding a research project to a course. They are changing the experience of undergraduate education at their university, along with demonstrating the value of open research, and it’s blowing my mind.
I have always drawn all over my notes. Sometimes my doodles illustrate points from the meeting or class, other times they are merely expressions of a wandering mind. Even with access to a laptop, I prefer to take handwritten notes. At a conference this past winter I was introduced to the concept of sketchnotes and pointed towards the Sketchnote Handbook, by Mike Rohde. Dual-coding theory, a theory of cognition, suggest that our brains process concepts in verbal and visual modes. Sketchnotes are a form of note taking that engages both the visual and verbal modes. Instead of drawing in the margins of your notes, the drawings become meaningful illustrations of the knowledge you are trying to retain. These visual notes act as a map of the ideas you hear. Rohde lays out a framework for creating sketchnotes by offering many practical tips, some design concepts, basic drawing tips, and many examples of how others practice sketchnoting. After several practice runs I tried live sketchnoting at a Missouri Department of Conservation gardening workshop a few weeks ago. As I was explaining my sketchnotes to my wife, I was absolutely shocked at how much I remembered and retained from the workshops. I also stumbled upon some recent research that indicates hand-written note taking influences deeper learning than typing lecture notes on a laptop (Herbert, W., 2014). My experience sketchnoting and the recent research on writing notes combined to make me wonder how many of our students could become better engaged with our courses if they learned about sketchnotes?
Google Apps for Collaboration:
A couple weeks ago I facilitated a workshop on using Google Apps for Collaboration. I was already using Google Apps in my everyday work, and also when I teach courses at SLU. In preparing for this workshop I learned a few new tricks that Apps can do. For example, Google Docs and Sheets now have the ability to add plugins (called “Add-ons”). I’m using one right now called EasyBib that creates and adds properly styled references to the bottom of my Google Doc. Google Sheets has an add-on called mapping that takes locations in a spreadsheet and automatically plots them on a Google Map. There are dozens of these potentially useful add-ons to help broaden the functionality of Google Apps. I was also reminded that not everyone really knows about Google Apps, even though we are a Google campus. Our workshop discussion demonstrated ideas about how Apps can assist with collaborative projects in and outside of the classroom. Several of the participants mentioned how a shared spreadsheet or a collaborative writing assignment came together relatively easily using Apps. I have provided links to my presentation and some resources if you would like to learn a little more about Google Apps for collaboration.
Google Apps Presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19ir8TeR3lf2sEsoEag5txbrcq5PDRZO5mZiH45wB0LM/edit?usp=sharing
Center for Teaching. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2014, from
Herbert, W. (2014, January 28). Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note-taking. Retrieved April 08, 2014, from
High-Impact Educational Practices. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2014, from
Winn, Joss. (2012, March). Hacking the University – Lincoln’s Approach to Openness. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from