Ed Tech Vignette: Seminar In Architecture

Instructor: Daniel Abramson

Department: Art and Art History – A&S

Course: Seminar In Architecture

Technology Used: WordPress (sites.tufts.edu)

Site: https://sites.tufts.edu/govcenter/

How ETS supported this: Working with the instructor ETS designed the shared WordPress site and provided students with a FAQ on how to add and edit the content.

Tags: WordPress, Art History, Art

What were the learning goals for the project?

govcenter

To have the students understand better the history and design of Government Center, and to get experience turning their research into a webpage.

In what way did using the WordPress site support those goals?

Using WordPress was absolutely essential for having the students learn to translate their academic work into an internet media.

WordPress was simple and easy to use.  The students were both able to do basic inputting and formatting, and use their creativity.

Next Steps/Refinements

I don’t plan on teaching this course again.  But I would use this technology again for another course.

Ed Tech Vignette: First Year Writing Program

Instructor: Grace Talusan

Department: English – A&S

Course: First Year Writing Program

Technology Used: WordPress (sites.tufts.edu)

How ETS supported this: Helped the instructor identify an appropriate WordPress theme, information architecture and workflow for publishing the students’ work.

Tags: WordPress, English

What were the learning goals?

The main goal of the First-Year Writing Program is to prepare students for the writing they will do in other courses at Tufts. In addition to that, I wanted students to practice every step of the writing process, from idea stage to final draft.    

In what way did using WordPress support these goals?

I thought the WordPress site, which includes all the students who wanted to participate from across the three courses that I taught, would be a great way to showcase a finished work. They had to make choices about what they wanted to share with a public online audience.

What did you feel worked well/not so well?

I like that students can read each other’s writing and that they can share the link to their piece easily. Some students had trouble using the site and I ended up uploading their work. I need to build in more class time to help those students upload their writing themselves, unless they want to be uncredited or anonymous.    

Next Steps/Refinements

I will continue to use the website and I will use it earlier. I didn’t take advantage of the editing possibilities, but used the site to post finished work–although there are still some typos here and there.

 

Ed Tech Vignette: Biochemistry II

Instructor: Diren Pamuk Turner

Department: Chemistry – A&S

Course: Biochemistry II

Technology Used: WordPress (sites.tufts.edu)

How ETS supported this: Working with the instructor ETS helped create a site template that students could use for their web site projects. Once the template was refined and agreed upon ETS then replicated the site for each student group and set the appropriate access permissions.

Tags: WordPress, Chemistry, Biology

What were the learning goals for CHEM-172 final project?

biochemIIStudents are expected to read and analyze the primary research papers in chemistry/biochemistry/molecular biology and synthesize the knowledge to answer “a big question in biochemistry & and human health”. This requires the students to go through the data in literature and understand results of many experimental techniques and then recreate their own data tables, figures and diagrams to illustrate the  important features of a research that best answers the question they posed. In the past, this was done via writing a 15-20 page paper and then presenting it to the audience using PowerPoint. By using WordPress, we were able to combine the submission of the paper and the presentation into one website. Students were able to create news/journal article type of text, which had to be condensed without losing the key concepts, and also incorporate various visual media to support the information they put up on their site. Because the sites were mostly created with plenty of figures, the presentations were done using the pages they had created. It was kind of an “online presentation”, where the students walked us through their website in a 20-25 minute “TedTalk” style presentation.

I think having both the paper and the presentation on the same document (page) made student concentrate on how to present the material in the best way possible by summarizing and using apt figures, instead of just giving a long description in a text (in fact this would happen in a paper submission in the past).

What worked best?

Students were requested to provide feedback to each other’s webpages, by using the comment feature in WordPress. This definitely worked better than having them collect each other’s written papers and provide feedback in time to make necessary changes. The comment feature allowed them to comment on each page, and the author was able to see the comments immediately, which allowed him/her to either respond to the commenter to provide explanation, or edit the page/paragraph to relay the information better. I think I am most happy about how student paid extra attention to each other’s pages and read through to give best recombination possible. Reading through a multimedia rich website might have also made the commenters’ job easier, because it feels less of a “paper assignment’, but more like reading a research review, or a scientific news report. Also since everything is online, the pages remain as living projects and the students are free to further develop their topics if they would like to do so.

What did not work?

When there were several people commenting on the websites, the sites had crashed. this was very unfortunate and created stress among those who were working close to deadlines and dealing with a lot of exams at the same time. Additionally, due to these delays of receiving the comments when sites crashed, the website owners had to keep checking in constantly to see if there are extra comments that came in after the deadline. Lowering the spam restrictions did not help -unfortunately- since there 35 students and they had be writing to at least 3 sites during the reading the period.

Editor’s Note: When ETS was made aware of the “crashing” problem we were able to address it. The site was not actually crashing. The problem was that our anti-spam features were blocking users who triggered our “frequent commenting” threshold that can often be a signature of spambots. We relaxed the trigger criteria somewhat to resolve the issue and created a more user friendly warning page.

Next Steps/Refinements

I would be willing to use this technology again for a similar purpose.  I will be co-teaching a class this spring with Prof.Kumar: Medicinal Chemistry : CHEM157. It is an upper level undergrad/ grad course. The course usually ends with a research review paper on mechanism of action of a drug molecule. However, I think this time we will also ask them to create a webpage.