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The Rewards & Perils of Teamwork: Can It Be Taught?

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #308:

How can teamwork and its real world payoffs be taught within an educational setting where individual effort rather than team output remains the primary source of evaluation and rewards? Can faculty go beyond the mechanics of team organization, incentives, and leadership to have our students learn how to be good team players? Can the norms that various cultures employ to solve the teamwork dilemma be taught within a university setting? Or, are they internalized at a much earlier stage within the family and community? Is there a common set of ethical precepts of teamwork and leadership that should be taught and discussed? This panel brings together multidisciplinary perspectives—from economics, sociology, business, and public administration—to discuss how educators can successfully bring into the classroom the varying real-world work contexts, incentive systems, and notions of fairness and justice that motivate successful teamwork.

Nimai Mehta (SPExS)
Anna Amirkhanyan (SPA-PUAD)
Dave Luvison(KSB-MGMT)
John Willoughby (CAS-ECON)
Gay Young (CAS-SOCY)

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Encouraging Discussion, Participation, and Enthusiasm in Class

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #303:

This interactive conversation provides an opportunity to learn various techniques and ideas for encouraging students to participate more in class discussions, and to be more enthusiastic and motivated. It describes how to create an atmosphere in the classroom of warmth and trust, so that all students, even shy ones, are more willing to actively participate.

Chris Palmer (SOC)

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Creating an Inclusive Classroom for Introverts, Ambiverts, and Extroverts

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #302:

This panel of faculty and students discusses strategies for making the classroom inclusive to introverts (as well as ambiverts and extroverts). Traditionally in the college classroom, all students, regardless of where they fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, are expected to present themselves as extroverts if they are to excel in the classroom. Given that nearly half of college students fall on the introvert side of the spectrum, are these students being well served? Although introverts can recognize that they can gain from participating as if extroverts, faculty (many of whom are introverts themselves) may be missing opportunities to meet the unique needs of introverts with a more open and innovative approach to class participation (perhaps with the help of technology) and to use the unique contributions introverts are capable of providing.

Kelly Joyner (CAS-LIT)
Arielle Bernstein (CAS-LIT)
Lee Alan Bleyer(CAS-LIT)
Madelyn Daigle (Class of 2016)
Leah Johnson (CAS-LIT)
Brittany Jones (Class of 2018)

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Pedagogical Strategies for Fostering Inclusivity that Radiates beyond the Classroom

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #201:

One of the primary duties of a faculty member is to facilitate in-class discussions that are engaging, intellectually challenging, and inclusive. However, establishing and maintaining an environment in which students can express their ideas without fear of retribution or ostracization can be challenging. This session offers strategies for leading in-class discussions that are mindful of power, privilege, and racial, ethnic, gender and cultural considerations. The panel will debunk the myth that some courses are neutral by exploring how faculty members across the campus are managing in-class discussions and addressing so-called hidden curriculum—without neglecting the core subject matter they teach. Importantly, while in-class discussions ostensibly end when class periods do, the most impactful discussions have lasting effects on students, who walk out the door exhilarated and impassioned. By leading by example, faculty members can do their parts to ensure student discourse outside of the classroom is civil and inclusive.

Michael Moreno (CAS-LIT)
Fanta Aw (OCL & SIS)
Briana Weadock (SPA)
Amanda Taylor (SIS)
David Curtiss (Class of 2018)

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Supporting Student Engagement and Risk-Taking in the Classroom

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #109:

In this session panelists will share how they create a classroom environment that connects students to each other and where students feel safe and supported, and as a consequence, are willing to take risks and be vulnerable. This strategy is used in two Executive Masters Programs at AU, as one way to continuously search for creative ways to prepare students for the increasing demands of leading in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. This approach to developing students who are not only leaders, consultants and entrepreneurs, but are also able to deal with multiple demands and uncertainty, can be useful in multiple classroom settings, including undergraduate classes over the course of a semester. The panelists will share their strategies, including group development and trust building in the classroom. Participants will have an opportunity to engage in a brief exercise as an example of experiential learning design.

Ruth Scogna Wagner (SPA-PUAD)
Patrick Malone (SPA-PUAD)

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Education Web Tools to Use in Your Classroom

Working on a computer

Web tools can be a vibrant supplement to lectures or assignments and can take student learning to a new level. Whether you want to try flipping your class or are wanting to move your discussions online, these tools will be a welcomed addition to your modern classroom.

Synchronous Communication
  • Google HangoutsGoogle Hangouts is Google’s free video chat tool that enables one-on-one chats and group chats with up to ten people at a time. Anyone with a Google Plus account can create a Hangout (information on getting started with Google Plus can be found here).
  • Skype: Skype has led the videoconferencing scene for so long that its name has morphed into a verb. Whether you’re hosting a video chat or want to share your screen, Skype is a popular alternative to Google Hangouts.
Sharing Files
  • Google DriveGoogle Drive offers a comprehensive suite of collaborative, online tools including word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms. After signing up, you’ll have 15 GB of free Google online storage to keep photos, designs, recordings, videos, and more. Others can be invited to view, download, and collaborate on your files in Drive, and everything is accessible from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
  • DropboxDropbox is another great resource for sharing files with students. Upon signup, you’ll get 2 GB of space to share documents, PDFs, videos, and images with students’ own Dropbox accounts.
Content Management
  • WordPressWordPress is a versatile Content Management System that can host class blogs, group projects, and ePortfolios. Customize your website further with the vast collection of free WordPress themes and plugins available.
  • PinterestPinterest is a visual collection of online resources where you can use online “pinboards” to save articles, photos, blog posts and other resources in one place. Create multiple boards to collect and organize ideas for class projects.
  • PocketPocket is a program that allows for saving content to read it later. Pocket can keep articles organized by tags and is a powerful tool for gathering and analyzing information. Saved content is available to view offline and can easily be shared.
  • Evernote: Evernote is a multi-function app that lets you create content with notebooks, or collect content by clipping articles or taking photos and  allows for endless organization. Use Evernote to capture feedback from students, collect snapshots of the whiteboard after class, and share notebooks with your students.
 Social Network & Discussions
  • Twitter: Twitter can be used both synchronously and asynchronously to engage learners and others outside the classroom. Encourage your students to use assigned hashtags to exchange ideas, articles, project resources, and have a conversation.
  • Facebook: Facebook is another platform that can accommodate classroom discussions. Easily create a Facebook Page or Group that can be effectively used to share information, and facilitate discussions within a page.
 Audio/Video Recording
  • Audacity: Audacity is a sound editing/recording tool that can be used for creating Podcasts, recording speeches, and recording sound for Powerpoint presentations.
  • YouTubeMake your class visually stimulating by creating YouTube videos for your students. Videos can supplement lessons, or ask students to make their own videos to present information or respond to a discussion.
  • VimeoVimeo is a video-hosting application that has the same uploading, comment moderation, and sharing options as YouTube. In addition, with Vimeo you can organize content into albums and channels and customize the look of the the video player.
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Anki: The intelligent way to memorize

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The Monthly App-etizer is CTRL’s regular feature where we talk about the latest app, software, and tools that could make teaching (and life) a little easier.

ankiThey say the best way to get information glued to memory is to revisit it consistently until it becomes a regular part of daily thought. At least, that is what practitioners of spaced repetition believe to encourage long-term retention of important concepts, key terms, and even a 2nd language.

anki3Create a new flashcard deck for all your subjects

Enter Anki—an intuitive app designed to make memorization less time consuming and as painless as possible. Much like standard flashcards and digital study apps like Quizlet, Anki allows you to create customized flashcard decks. You can store your cards in several decks based on topics, and even embed audio clips, images, videos, scientific notation, and language characters (e.g. Chinese, Sanskrit, etc.)

anki2What makes Anki special is the way it allows users to review their flashcards. Its algorithm separates the easy cards from the ones you struggle with the most. Every time you review your flashcards, Anki spaces your cards out, allowing you to review the difficult concepts more often and, over time, cement it to your long-term memory. You could even review your progress over time.anki4

For all its usefulness, Anki does have a few drawbacks. Getting started with the platform and a creating new flashcard deck may not be as intuitive. It may also not be the prettiest flashcard app you could find in the market. But, it is free and downloadable across all platforms (iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux, etc.), allowing for easy access to your flashcards from virtually any device. And, no matter how many flashcards you have in your deck, you could bet that it will operate fast and with limited error.

Download Anki here:

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Snow Day? Stay Connected.

Desk with Coffee and Laptop

Spring is finally around the corner along with its promise of blue skies and jacket-free days, but the threats of icy conditions still loom well into March (remember when white was the new green on St. Patrick’s Day 2014?). Below are a few tips that will help you keep your students engaged when the weather is too critical to hold classes at the university.


Send emails and use the Announcements feature in Blackboard to keep your students updated on class activities.

Record your class

Panopto allows you to pre-record a lecture that you can upload to Blackboard for easy access by your students.

Meet virtually

Use Blackboard Collaborate to meet in real-time with your students (available in Blackboard under Tools). Collaborate will let you upload a PowerPoint or OpenOffice presentation and even record your webinars.

Start a Discussion

Post questions in Blackboard’s Discussion Board over a variety of topics that students can respond to. Make sure your students know how to comment on a discussion board, and remind them of “netiquette” principles.

The American University Be Prepared site offers more preparatory advice on keeping classes going while campus is closed.

What strategies do you use to keep class going when campus is closed? Comment with your ideas!

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Organize Your (and Your Students’) News

RSS Icon

rss RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds and their little orange icon have been around the web for a long time (remember Google Reader?). Usually, people use RSS to collect personal news digests. However, the ubiquity of specialized feeds and the recent increase in academically rigorous blogs means that beyond just getting you your morning news, RSS feeds can also collect articles related to your research and teaching.

The beauty—and main selling point—of getting your news through RSS is that content from around the web is collected in one location for you. This means that rather than remembering to go to a dozen different websites, you can just go to one location where it is all waiting to be read.

Feeds can also help you filter out the noise from sites you visit. Rather than sifting through an entire website to find stories you are interested in, subscribe to a feed about a specific subject. Do you just want the local stories from the Washington Post? There’s a feed for that. Do you only want the evolutionary psychology stories from Scientific American? There’s a feed for that. Are you specifically looking for stories about China’s economy from The Economist? There’s a feed for that.

Don’t stop at traditional news sources. Most organizations have a feed that contains all of their press releases and publications. Does your research involve staying current on particular elected officials, businesses, agencies, organizations, etc.? Subscribe to their feed and immediately get notified anytime they produce new content.

Beyond organizing your own news sources, RSS feeds can also help organize what your students are reading. Rather than just tell your students to “stay up-to-date on current events,” give them a curated list of feeds that you expect them to read before each class. Essentially, you can use RSS to create a free, supplemental electronic textbook that updates in real-time. If your students are each researching a particular topic, have them find feeds that keep them updated on their chosen research area. The possibilities for tailored news digests are endless.

There are a number of RSS readers on the market today, but we recommend Feedly ( The free tool has a clean, easy to use, problem-free interface on both the web and mobile devices.

To learn more about using RSS in your classroom schedule a one-on-one tutorial or attend one of our workshops this coming Spring.

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Collaborative Research using Google Drive

The importance of peer collaboration keeps rising, for students, business, and research. Fortunately, the tools for collaboration keep improving, too.

One great tool, available to all AU community members through Google Apps for Education, is Google Drive. If you think you know Google Drive, but haven’t used it for a few months or a year, you should check it out again – Google is continually adding features to Drive products.

google drive

Google Drive is a cloud-based software and storage system that allows users to create, upload, and save documents online in multiple formats. That means you can either use it just as a storage drive, by uploading your Word documents, pictures, or many other formats, or you can create new documents using several native software formats. These include Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms, and others. Users at American University can access Google Drive through their email account. All you need to do to collaborate using the Drive is to share your document or folder with other users and set their level of permission. If all shared users can edit, you can all work on your research at once, with no need to email multiple copies back and forth.

Here are a few of the newer features that unique to online software systems like Google Drive, rendering them great collaboration tools:

1. Research in Documents

One of the previous shortcomings of Google Docs/Drive was that it did not allow for footnotes or connection with citation programs, like EndNote. Now, using the “Research” tool located under the “Tools” menu in a Document, Google Drive allows users to search for their sources directly from the web, or from Google Scholar, and then insert that source directly as a citation. You can even select the citation format, including APA, MLA, or Chicago. It’s really one of the easiest ways to cite sources around. Plus, it allows for you to conduct and save online research directly in the document, which means that multiple users can work together in both the researching and writing stages.

research tool

2. Comments in Documents

Writing is a part of the research process, and one that’s especially hard to perform collaboratively. Microsoft Word has some useful collaborative tools such as Track Changes and Comments, but usually only one user at a time can work on the document and you have to keep track of multiple versions. In Google Documents, multiple users can make edits at the same time, and inserting comments can be a great way to communicate about the edits. If the issue in the comment has been dealt with by everyone, then the comment can be marked as “Resolved.”


3. Creating Lists in Google Spreadsheets

This is a cool feature that really takes advantage of the fact that the software is online. If you type in two related items in adjacent cells in the Spreadsheet, highlight both cells, Click on the small box in the corner of the highlighted cells, and then press CTRL while dragging the box down to later cells, Google spreadsheets will pull information from the internet to auto-fill a list based on the items you’ve entered. Excel can do this with certain items, like numeric patterns or common entries like days of the week. But Google will pull lists from Wikipedia or the CIA World Factbook, too. (Maybe it’s not as much a collaboration tool as it’s just pretty cool.)

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4. Google Forms

This software allows you to create custom surveys, set your fellow researchers as editors, and then email the link to your survey respondents. Once you get all of your results in, you can convert the data to spreadsheet format or export them to your preferred data analysis software. The respondents you send the survey to don’t have to be Google users, and you and your research partners get to share and save all of the results in Google Drive. The tool is meant more as a planning tool, like Doodle, but it can be used for data collection, like Survey Monkey – the advantage over these programs is that you don’t have to create and keep track of separate accounts.



That’s all we’ll cover in this post, but please, share with us what your favorite features of Google Drive are in a comment, or let us know about other online tools for collaboration!

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