Hiring Outstanding Student Technology Fellow

Student Technology Fellows:

The Mason Library Academic Technology hires students as Technology Fellows to assist peers with class assigned digital projects. The Student Technology Fellows (STF) are carefully selected to participate in the program where continuous learning and skill development are expected.  Once hired, fellows will complete a training regimen that includes Canvas and other common web-based tools such as basic audio/video editing (such as Movie Maker, iMovie, Audacity, SoundCloud), WordPress and other blogging and social media platforms. Student Technology Fellows are expected to work one-on-one with other students, lead classroom demonstrations/presentations, and assist with updating help documentation. Following every session, STF are expected to submit a written summary to the Director of Academic Technology who will then share the summary with the professor.

During employment, Student Technology Fellows develop a high level of technical fluency, communication and interpersonal skills, and presentation skills.

As a Student Technology Fellow you are expected to:

  • Lead sessions (one-on-one and face-to-face) with students that support faculty initiated digital projects;
  • Meet with students interested in learning more about particular technologies in which STF are trained;
  • Visit classes to conduct orientation sessions for particular technologies or projects;
  • Complete a session summary for every session (one-on-one, face-to-face, demonstrations/presentations to be submitted to the AT director and the faculty member (if appropriate);
  • Update/develop online training materials;

Student Technology Fellow do this by completing assigned training modules and by:

  • Developing knowledge of web technologies and tools used to support teaching and learning;
  • Improving presentation/demonstration skills;
  • Staying current with new features and developments in technologies for which you’re trained;

As a fellow, you will regularly work with students who are completing graded assignments and projects. Your job will be to provide them with basic, general instructions when necessary, and to guide them in the process of answering more complex questions. You should not complete their work for them or take control or responsibility for the final product.

Qualifications to become a Student Technology Fellow:

  • Full time, work study eligible student;
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • The ability to communicate clearly and patiently about complex technical issues;
  • Insatiable curiosity about learning new technologies and skills;
  • A strong work ethic.

Apply here.

The Web, Student Work and Your Syllabus

The work behind the development of the boiler plate syllabus language and the post below was done in 2010 but we’re re-posting because, well, it’s important to understand FERPA  and students rights when asking them to produce academic content for the web. Further down in this post is language you can modify to use in your syllabus.
In collaboration with IT and the Registrar’s Office, CELT will be developing some boilerplate text for faculty to use on their syllabi regarding student FERPA rights.

Syllabi should always have some FERPA guidance on them, but the situation is particularly important to classes using Web 2.0 technology, where encouraging students to cultivate a public presence is often an important pedagogical technique. In discussion with the Registrar and IT we determined that :

• Classes using such techniques must provide reasonable accommodation to students who have issues with “being public”
• For issues that relate to “being public”, that accommodation can be agreed on between the student and the professor. It could involve the use of pseudonyms, or an alternative non-public assignment the student could work on. The professor should always state this in the syllabus, so that students understand they have the option to request this.
• For issues relating to grades, or official records, there is a much more rigid line. Under no circumstance can any official educational record be divulged without explicit written permission of the student, specifying exactly the people to whom the record will be released.
• Professor comments on blogs are not, in most cases, official student records. They are not information maintained by the college, not part of any permanent assessment, and as long as they do not mention grades, etc., are probably best seen as ephemeral notes or classroom comments.
• Here’s an interesting point I hadn’t thought of before: if you can’t do it on the web because of FERPA, you can’t do it in class either. FERPA makes no distinction between revealing elements of the educational record to a students classmates and revealing them to the greater web. A comment that related to a student’s grade that was illegal on the web would likely also be illegal in the classroom. If you can’t force students to post their art on the web (and you likely can’t — you have to provide an alternative to those who ask), you can’t force them to post it in the school’s hallway either.

That said, the key word is accommodation. With the exception of official student records, which must be treated strictly, most FERPA issues come down to whether the professor and the student can jointly work out an alternative that meets the needs of the course and with which the student feels comfortable. And the first step in that process is letting students know they can request accommodation, and that doing so will not affect their grade.

Which, coming full circle here, is why we hope to develop some syllabus boilerplate that deals with this issue. And we’d like to thank the Registrar’s office and IT for offering to work with us on this very exciting project.

Suggested statement for inclusion in syllabi:
In this course we will be using interactive web tools selected to continue teaching and learning outside the physical classroom. You should be aware that most applications used by Keene State College provide a variety of options for maintaining and controlling access to your work; protecting individual privacy, as a matter of policy and practice, is of utmost concern. Should you require accommodations regarding the completion of web-published assignments, or have general concerns or questions, please meet with the instructor during office hours to discuss your options.

Web 2.0 Tool Usage and Student-Produced Materials (full statement):
In this course we will be using various interactive web tools which have been selected to continue teaching and learning outside the physical classroom. These tools push us towards a better understanding and a better utilization of the changing landscape of online media. Assignments published on the web, unlike traditional “paper” assignments, can be shared, distributed, and critiqued by a global audience. Protecting individual privacy, as a matter of policy and practice, is of utmost concern to Keene State College. Therefore, information such as grades, the professor’s formal analysis of student assignments, or other information that should remain private will never be communicated through public channels on the web. Should you require accommodations regarding the completion of web-published assignments, or have general concerns or questions, please meet with the instructor during office hours to discuss your options.
You should be aware that most applications used by Keene State provide a variety of options for maintaining and controlling access to your work. You are responsible for understanding the various privacy options the technology allows, and choosing options appropriate to your needs. You may also wish to license your material in ways that make it more easily shared and ensures that course-related assignments are not only credited appropriately, but that you determine the rights associated with your intellectual property (for more information about licensing your content please visit http://creativecommons.org/).

Rethinking Canvas Online Discussions

On Thursday, 11/12/15, Kate Tirabassi (English) and Karen Haas (Education) led a discussion on strategies for designing online discussions that engage students in the learning process. Also discussed were qualitative and quantitative ways to assess posts without making it an overwhelming task for instructors.

Kate has used online discussions for a number of years but recently found that assigning students to online peer writing groups provided students an opportunity to begin a writing assignment in advance of the deadline, offer feedback to writing-in-progress, respond to feedback from peers and to revise their writing. The benefits to her were notable as well and include build drafting/revision into an assignment or course and to ask students to provide substantive feedback to drafts, even in a larger class.  Click on the thumbnails below to see Kate’s presentation and handout.

Rethinking Canvas Discussions – presentation (PDF)

Kate Tirabassi Handout for Rethinking Canvas Discussion
Online Peer Writing Groups: Canvas Discussions as a Space for Feedback – handout (PDF)

Karen has a lot of experience designing discussions questions and over the years has fine-tuned her assessment strategies that always keep her students at the center of every decision she makes. Karen designs discussions based on the best practices culled from experience teaching fully online classes and web-enhanced face-to-face classes. Her advice? Before you post a discussion question, think about the following:

  • What do I want students to be able to do?
  • In what ways do I want students to understand this material?
  • What is the purpose of the discussion?
  • Does the prompt foster dialogue?
  • Does the prompt make students think?

If you were able to answer the questions above, you are ready move forward but before you do, you need to think about your strategies for facilitation. Here are some suggestions:

  • Give students clear expectations about online discussions requirements, deadlines and grading procedures.
  • Assess the quality and quantity of posts.
  • Provide a schedule for student’s upcoming discussion deadlines.
  • Provide a structure for students to post to threads. A good structure lessons the frustration of what to write.
  • Make yourself visible in the discussion. Students will be more likely to engage in the discussion if they see you as being a part of it.
  • Don’t allow domination of the discussion. If students are dominating the discussion, privately ask them to slow down a little.
  • Have students moderate. This can take some of the pressure off of the instructor and encourage participation. Sometimes students respond better to each other than they do to the instructor.
  • Give students choices. Have more threads then required for student to post to and give them some freedom to respond where they like.
  • Consider a rubric to help clarify discussion expectations.

One common complaint of instructors is that the number of posts can quickly become overwhelming for both students and instructors. Rather than instructors bearing the brunt of reading all of the discussion posts, Karen suggests a distribution of labor strategy. For example:

  • Small group conferences. Students conduct web conferences and discuss a question or topic, and then report to the instructor of the whole class a summary or consensus of their discussion
  • Students are divided into groups and one or two per group are assigned to facilitate the discussion within their group for a week with the option to rotate over multiple weeks.
  • Students take on the role of an expert, research an area and report back to the group.

Providing feedback can take a lot of time but Karen suggests trying some techniques such as audio feedback as a way to save time while also providing an opportunity to provide encouragement and direction. Audio feedback, a feature within Canvas, is valuable to students in the following ways:

  • Improved ability to understand nuance. Students indicated they were better able to understand the instructor’s intent. Students also indicated that instructor encouragement and emphasis were clearer.
  • Increased involvement. Students felt less isolated in the online environment and were more motivated to participate when hearing their instructor’s voice.
  • Increased content retention. Students reported that they retained audio feedback better than text feedback. Interestingly, they also reported that they retained course content to which the feedback was related better that with text feedback. These self-reported findings were supported by the fact that students incorporated into their final projects three times as much audio feedback as text feedback.
  • Increased instructor caring. Students interpreted the instructor as caring about them and their work more when they received audio feedback over text feedback. This difference was due to audio feedback coming across as more personal than text feedback.

Some of the questioning techniques Karen has found successful include the following:

  • Convergent questions may require students to demonstrate an understanding of content by interpreting information in a new way. These questions utilize verbs such as: judge, explain, demonstrate, and support.
  • Divergent questions seek to stimulate creativity by asking for alternative outcomes or variations to a scenario.
  • Evaluative questions afford learners reflective opportunities through questions that call for justifying beliefs and gathering resources to defend and support one’s opinions.
  • Socratic-questions ask learners to examine reasons, assumptions, and perspectives and to provide justification and evidence for them (Walker 2005). Use of these questions types is most effective for promoting critical interaction when implementation in asynchronous online discussions.



Rubric for Asynchronous Discussion Participation

Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation (page 7)