Cool Tools–Scalar and Omeka

DP@AC is happy to offer AC faculty the opportunity to experiment with two powerful new tools for digital scholarship and pedagogy.

Scalar is a digital publishing platform created by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, based at USC. According to the developers,

Scalar is a free, open source publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online. Scalar enables users to assemble media from multiple sources and juxtapose them with their own writing in a variety of ways, with minimal technical expertise required. Scalar also gives authors tools to structure essay- and book-length works in ways that take advantage of the unique capabilities of digital writing, including nested, recursive, and non-linear formats. The platform also supports collaborative authoring and reader commentary and annotation.

Here’s a quick video introduction (also, for a showcase of projects authored with Scalar, go here):

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Omeka is also a web-based digital publishing platform. Developed by the Roy Rosenweig Center for History and New Media, Omeka is particularly designed for publishing collections and galleries of digital media in an open-access environment.

Omeka is a next-generation web publishing platform for museums, historical societies, scholars, enthusiasts, and educators. Omeka provides cultural institutions and individuals with easy-to-use software for publishing collections and creating attractive, standards-based, interoperable online exhibits. Free and open-source, Omeka is designed to satisfy the needs of institutions that lack technical staffs and large budgets. Bringing Web 2.0 technologies and approaches to historical and cultural websites, Omeka fosters the kind of user interaction and participation that is central to the mission of public scholarship and education.

Religious Studies professor Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan and her students and other partners utilized Omeka to create the acclaimed project, “Mapping Cultures,” a Mellon-funded digital humanities project on Tibetan cultures and cultural preservation.

Again, here’s a video trailer, and a link to a showcase of Omeka projects:

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If you’re interested and would like to learn more, just let us know…we can do individual consultations or small workshops as desired.

Guest Post: Classroom Salon–Using Video Annotation to Reflect on Student Teaching

classroom salonLast year I read Focus on Teaching: Using Video for High-Impact Instruction, by Jim Knight, and was sold on the idea of having my student teachers record themselves in the classroom and then reflecting on the video with them. I decided to implement this strategy in my Fall 2014 course, EDUC 475, “The Learner, The Teacher, and the Curriculum,” and began to explore what technology would be required. Where would students store and post their videos, and how would we engage in discussion about them in a private and secure space?

About that time I talked to Mo Pelzel, AC Digital Pedagogy Designer, who told me about a resource that would meet my needs. Classroom Salon is a web-based document and video annotation platform. Learning spaces, called “salons,” can be set up for individuals or groups of students to access, annotate, and discuss written documents as well as videos. For this class, students each have their own private salon. They post videos of their teaching that only the two of us can see. This means that they feel very safe in the learning process. I provided them with four sets of prompts to guide them in their video analysis. Students examine themselves, their students, teacher-student interactions, and pedagogical strategies. The ability to comment upon the video at specific points in the timeline makes possible a deep level of reflection and metacognition. As I watch the videos I type in my comments. The students also can see exactly where my comments are in the video. These can then become talking points as we discuss their growth as teachers.

The result is that I have seen students that are empowered to look at their work and make instructional decisions based on their analysis. They are taking ownership of their growth and development as teachers. Classroom Salon was a very helpful tool for me and my students, and I will utilize it again this semester. Several of my colleagues are following suit. I will also continue to collect data to better understand the efficacy of this approach and fully expect to share my findings at a conference on teaching.

Digital Pedagogy Johnson Center Lunches–March 5, 19

johnson centerBernice Melvin, Director of the Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, has graciously offered DP@AC two Thursday lunch periods for March. We’re kicking around some ideas for discussion, but we’d like to hear from faculty…what issues and topics related to digital pedagogy would you like to discuss and hear more about? We interpret “digital pedagogy” pretty broadly, so if you’ve got any thoughts or suggestions, post a comment and let us know.

“Search Yourself” links

Here are links to some sites and materials from this week’s discussion about web identity, agency, and networking:

These two guides give you a checklist of steps in assessing your Web persona:

How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic
Building a Digital Reputation

Articles relevant to the Domain of One’s Own Program:

A Domain of One’s Own
An E-Portfolio With No Limits
Reclaiming Innovation
A Personal Cyberinfrastructure

College/University Domain of One’s Own Sites:

University of Mary Washington
Emory University
University of Oklahoma

And a TEDx talk by Jim Groom of University of Mary Washington on the DoOO concept:


Several Points of Contact in the New NMC Horizon Report

nmc_itunesu.HR2015-170x170This year’s New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report just came out last week, and there are some intriguing points of intersection with the trends they identify and digital pedagogy practices and initiatives we’re interested in @AC.

For example, NMC identifies six trends accelerating higher ed tech adoption in the next few, including “Increased Use of Blended Learning,” “Redesigning Learning Spaces,” and “Increasing Cross-Institution Collaboration.” Each of these figures prominently either in the structure of the Mellon Digital Pedagogy grant itself and as a topic of conversation at Johnson Center workshops and lunches, around campus, or both. Of the challenges impeding adoption, “Improving Digital Literacy” and “Teaching Complex Thinking” are both issues we have been dealing with for several years if not longer.

Among the other developments highlighted, flipped classrooms and makerspaces are both concepts that have been much discussed of late. Makerspaces, in particular, are an early focus of this blog, and chemistry professor Andy Carr’s flipped classroom experiments are supported directly by the Mellon Digital Pedagogy grant.

I’ll have to agree with NMC that these issues will be prominent ones to watch at we move deeper into 2015.

Make Moody Hall a MakerSpace?

makerspace logoRecently at Austin College we’ve started discussing the future of Moody Hall, the former home of the natural sciences departments of the college (which moved into the new IDEA Center in 2013). One possibility that is being talked about is to use some of the space in Moody to create a “makerspace” area.

The “maker” movement in education and learning has been gaining momentum for several years now. The underlying idea is to give students a laboratory or studio or workshop type of environment in which to tinker and hack, to learn how to use tools of various kinds, and to pursue projects involving original design and innovation. Spaces typically have tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, robotics equipment, art supplies, and high-end computer and digital media production resources. The movement lends itself to collaborative and team-based approaches to projects, and partnerships often develop with local businesses.

A couple of recent articles provide a helpful overview of the maker movement on college campuses. The Educause Learning Initiative did one of their “7 Things You Should Know About…” articles on makerspaces in 2013. Also in 2013, Audrey Watters, who writes at the always bracing Hack Education blog, posted a presentation on “The Case for a Campus Makerspace.” Among her observations:

It’s a case that invokes some of the educational practices that we know work well: small group discussion, collaboration, participatory, project-based, and peer-to-peer learning, experimentation, inquiry, curiosity, play….

Makers work with Arduino, paper mache, Legos, cardboard, robots, rockets, welding machines, gears, circuit boards, computer-assisted drawing software, string, vinyl cutters, LED lights, the command line, string, rubber bands, wire, duct tape, play dough, steamworks, sensors, hot glue guns, scissors, Raspberry Pis, gyroscopes, tesla coils, musical instruments, fire, water cannons, plastic, wood, motors, solar power, wearable computers, and 3D printers. For starters….

Makerspaces give students–all students–an opportunity for hands-on experimentation, prototyping. problem-solving, and design-thinking. By letting students make–whether they’re digital artifacts or physical artifacts–we can support them in gaining these critical skills. By making a pinball machine for a physics class, for example. Making paper or binding a book for a literature class. Building an app for a political science class. 3D modeling for an archeology class. 3D printing for a nursing class. Blacksmithing for history class. The possibilities for projects are endless….

Makerspaces expose students to cutting edge technologies that could in turn lead to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. And because of makerspaces’ connection to open source hardware and software, students aren’t learning just how to use proprietary tools. They aren’t just learning a specific piece of software. Instead, they learn how to find resources and–this is key–they learn how to learn.

Dozen of colleges and universities have established makerspaces on campus. Here are links to a few that you might find of interest:

Davidson College Campus Maker and Innovation Space
Rice Design Kitchen
University of Mary Washington Think Lab
University of Texas at Arlington Fab Lab
University of Victoria Maker Lab in the Humanties
Wheaton College (Mass.) Autonomous Learning Lab

So…what do you think about the possibilities at Austin College? Let us know with your comments and discussion.

Wednesday Lunch–“Search Yourself: Managing Your Web Identity as a Professional Academic”

What happens when you Google yourself? (Or Bing yourself, or maybe even DuckDuckGo yourself?) You are, of course, searching for yourself on the world wide web. At one time this may have been dismissed as the vanity of egosurfing, but these days, being aware of and managing your web presence is an important element of developing personal and professional identity. You can pretty much take it for granted that if someone wants to know about your professional activity, or if you apply for a job or a grant or admission to a program or school, the first thing that folks will do is search your name on the web. What will they find among those first few hits? Will the top spot be occupied by your profile on

If you’d like to learn more about managing your identity, network, and reputation on the web, join us for “Search Yourself: Managing Your Web Identity as a Professional Academic.” This will be a lunchtime bring-your-tray presentation and discussion on Wednesday, February 18, in room 231 of the Wright Campus Center. DP@AC will pick up the tab for your lunch that day, so what do you have to lose? We’ll meet from about 11:30 to 1:00, so drop in whenever you can.

We’ll be picking up on some ideas presented in a recent article in the Chronicle, “How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic,” so you might want to give that a look ahead of time. We’ll discuss options for setting up a website, the relevance of blogging and tweeting as an academic professional, networking and social media, and whatever else you’d like to talk about.

And what does this have to do with pedagogy? Lots, actually. As our students participate in their academic fields, apply for jobs and graduate schools, and develop their careers, they’ll need modeling and guidance in establishing their own professional online identities. Having a well-crafted e-portfolio of their work, for example, will help students showcase their strengths. And the web skills and digital literacy that they pick up along the way will enhance their prospects for career success. So join us next Wednesday!

10 Things the Best Digital Teachers Do

Here’s a helpful article posted last week by Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “10 Things the Best Digital Teachers Do.” The authors begin by noting that

Both of us came to digital teaching early but somewhat reluctantly. What we love most about teaching are the interactions with students, and 15 years ago we didn’t see clearly how adding digital tools would allow us to strengthen those interactions.

The truth is: Face-to-face teaching has no direct digital analogue. However, digital technology has helped us have different kinds of interactions, and with a much more diverse set of students. Likewise, using digital tools has allowed our students to interact with a global community.

Sometimes we might think that the use of digital resources would compromise the kind of faculty-student interaction that Austin College is known for, so it’s encouraging to hear colleagues affirm that digital technologies can enhance engagement with students. Give it a read and let us know what you think.

By the way, UMW has been in the news this week because Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has proposed further cuts in state funding to higher ed coupled with increased faculty teaching loads. As one state legislator put it, “Of course I want research, but I want to have research done in a way that focuses on growing our economy, not on ancient mating habits of whatever.” Just a thought as you plan your research agendas!