Working with CTSI: from Work Study to Videographer

By Wes Adams, Videographer, CTSI

It’s been almost a year now since I started working at CTSI. I began this position a little under a year ago as work-study student with the role of video editor and assistant to the department’s talented Communications Coordinator, Kathleen Olmstead. Other than the exciting prospect of getting some hands-on experience in video production and editing and satisfying the lack of practical applications in my cinema studies program, I really had little idea what CTSI was. As a student of film (double major in cinema studies and political science), especially in a strictly theory-based program, I could not wait to sink my teeth into a project that involved actually planning and creating a visual work as cinema and filmmaking have been passions of mine from a very early age. Over the nine months, my duty in this role has evolved into much more than that, especially in terms of my understanding and appreciation for what CTSI does.

Having had experience as a production assistant, as well as filming and editing projects such as PSAs, promotional videos, and personal short films, I felt that this position would allow me to grow in terms of technical skill. On top of the technical experience I’ve gained, I also feel that the experience of collaborating on projects related to pedagogical practices and research has really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes at the university. The amount of research and effort that goes into improving teaching practices within U of T is something that a small amount of undergrads get to experience or even comprehend. The benefit for a student to experience this backstage view is that it takes the impersonal aspects of an undergrad degree, at such a large institution as U of T, and makes tangible the intangible aspects of how courses are designed and why professors and TAs teach the way they do.

In a similar sense, my role of creating video content that highlights the behind-the-scenes aspects of teaching and learning at U of T makes this hidden process of teaching research and course design accessible to undergrads and faculty alike, which creates a more inclusive atmosphere. Apart from the valuable experience I’ve had applying both my passion for and knowledge in film and capabilities in editing, I’ve also gained a greater appreciation for the education I’m receiving.

What I find most appealing about this position is the ability to creatively fuse a practical medium I have great passion for with an academic field. It is the capability to use an artistic yet accessible medium in order to convey what is typically an inaccessible academic area. Of the many videos I’ve collaborated on with CTSI’s Communications Coordinator I have and continue to enjoy working on the TATP Shorts series, which are short videos featuring a TA elaborating on a teaching strategy, or ‘tip’, that they use in their classroom presented in a colourful, fast-paced, and quick-cutting format. I find that these videos have not only enlightened me in terms of the different pedagogical practices that can be implemented to improve learning, but also have allowed me to improve my own skills as a videographer in terms of attempting to create a work that intellectually stimulates, entertains, and informs. What I like most about this series is that it has given me an opportunity to be more creative in terms of stylistic features and structure while still adhering to coherent, formal features to articulately present the information. I thoroughly enjoy the freedom of creativity, but the necessity for concise and comprehensive information delivery creates a fun challenge.

These past nine months working at CTSI I feel has truly helped me develop stronger critical, academic, and, importantly, technical skills. Importantly, over these past nine months I have developed a greater sense of community at U of T, which appeared in my first year of study to be a somewhat daunting institution. I excitedly look forward to collaborating on future projects and can’t wait to continue to engage in more critical, artistic and creative endeavours with CTSI.

Group Work By Design – graduating my group work grump

By Kelly Gordon, Assistant to the Directors, CTSI

This past fall I became a student again. After 7 years of “real life”, I slid back into the murky world of choosing courses, writing papers, getting grades, and the one thing I was dreading above all others, doing group work.

Some context – during my undergraduate career I did not raise my hand once to participate in a class discussion. I maxed out the number of correspondence classes I could take while living on-campus (a means to avoid having to do work with anyone else). I avoided taking courses with mandatory tutorials. My reticence stemmed from real life experiences of awkwardly trying to assemble a group, uneven instances of work division and a general feeling of nervousness, anxiety and discomfort.

Even though I could recite the pedagogical benefits of group work, or “cooperative learning” (working at CTSI will do that), I planned to continue my NO group work policy in grad school. The real life positive points to group work remained the Polkaroo of instructional strategies – something I heard people talk about, but never saw manifest in real life.

Three weeks into my first course – I knew something was different. I found myself in a group, and I was excited about our work. My inner design nerd wanted to know why this time felt different and so I uncovered my “group work game changers”:

  1. Having time in class to work with the group! Not only did this give us, a group of busy adults, a chance to work together, but it also gave us time to get to know each other face-to-face.
  2. Learning from other groups through class status reports and check-ins.
  3. Dividing up an assignment already organized into parts. Built in assessment checkpoints, allowed our group to easily balance the division of work and stay on track!
  4. New tools– use of online collaboration tools to reshape how we work together.

It turns out there is design behind group work! Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation breaks down the design of successful group projects using the work of Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991 to offer practical strategies to architect a group-project built on a foundation of best practices. They offer three main practices: creating interdependence, devoting time to team work skills and building in individual accountability to guide the design of a positive group assignment.

The University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence takes the design of group assignments one step further and details roles and responsibilities beyond the initial design phase. They deconstruct a group assignment into five stages (preparing, designing, introducing, monitoring and closing the assignment). This framework is helpful as it allows the instructor (designer) to walk through their assignment (design) as the student (user) would experience it. I’m sure we can all recollect a start to a group project that began with an awkward moment of trying to form a group out of a class of strangers. Designing a group selection process is just one of the strategies offered in the Waterloo’s Centre’s phased approach to design.

Finally, while the work of the instructor/designer is essential in creating a positive group project experience, true excellence requires some responsibility and ownership on the student side as well. Charles, our wise beyond years student blogger wrote his own post about group work and spells out 6 practical tips to help you as an individual work better “ensemble”.

As I gear up for another year of course selection, I no longer have the urge to comb through the layers of a course syllabus, scouring the assessments for avoidable group projects. Now, I look for elements of design.  If you think about a course as a road trip, assessments are the planned pit stops on the way. And while a perfect group is never guaranteed, like a well curated playlist, the effort you put in at the start, allows for smooth cruising along the way.

 

Happy New Year from Your CTSI Programming Team

2015 is off to a running start here, as we’ve kicked off our winter programming series and are looking forward to our summer offerings and beyond. The spring (if we may be so bold to dream of spring in January!) brings with it the chance to get a head start on thinking about your summer research projects or course design goals. Today we’re profiling two initiatives dedicated to teaching, learning and building a community around innovating in these fields: the Course Design Institute and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Institute, open to faculty members.

Course Design Institute (CDI)
2015 marks the 5th anniversary of the CTSI Course Design Institute, running this year from May 20-21. This annual institute introduces the principles of course design to faculty members who are either developing a new course, or who would like to refresh courses they’ve already taught and refine their course design skills. Over two days of sessions, you will learn how to re-work or create your course in order to enrich students’ learning experiences. Through the knowledgeable guidance of CTSI and external facilitators and collaborators, you will explore the steps of the design process and leave with a useable framework for your own course, including an outline, an assessment scheme and a lesson plan. To get a taste of what the CDI can offer you, take a look at these comments from 2014 participants:

“I learned a lot and had a wonderful time learning in such a short time. Most importantly, I am able to apply (or at least consider applying) everything we have talked about in CDI. Very practical!”

“The material and information was great. I honestly loved talking to faculty from other departments. It is great to have an opportunity to share experiences and ideas with people who are not in your field, who have questions that you would never think about or who have tried some engagement activity and can let you know how it worked or did not work for them.”

2013 Course Design Institute

2013 Course Design Institute

Watch this space and the CTSI newsletter for more detailed information on this year’s iteration of the CDI, as registration will be open shortly. You can view more testimonials from past CDIs at the following links: 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) Institute
The CTSI SoTL Institute is a June two-day intensive event (June 3-4) for faculty interested in innovating or studying effective teaching and assessment at the University of Toronto. This year’s institute marks the 3rd offering of this event, in which participants are introduced to the principles of designing, implementing and disseminating research studies focused on teaching in higher education. Guided by facilitators from CTSI, the Institute combines various presentations by University of Toronto SoTL researchers and Liaison Librarians with activities to support diverse SoTL interests.  As with many CTSI workshops and events, participants appreciate the multidisciplinary discussions and cross-pollination of pedagogical ideas, an inspiring way to kick off summer reading and perhaps to pursue research collaborations with colleagues:

“I really liked the group interaction. The most valuable thing overall was talking to other people working on SoTL projects. The content of the curriculum just gave a context to those conversations”

“This was a highlight of my professional development here at U of T. It was great to have two days to focus on pedagogical research, especially with colleagues from across the disciplines and across the university, many of whom are knowledgeable.”

CTSI scholarship of teaching and learning

Working together at the SoTL Institute

Participant feedback has been an integral component in our yearly Institute planning, and we have acted upon the myriad suggestions to increase opportunities for SoTL discussions at U of T. A key development has been the creation of the SoTL Network, a regular series of events that connect members of our teaching and learning community (http://www.teaching.utoronto.ca/teaching/sotl.htm). To receive email notices of these SoTL events at CTSI and within the broader U of T SoTL community, please subscribe to the SoTL list-serv by emailing Kathleen: k.olmstead@utoronto.ca. For more information on SoTL activities at U of T please contact Cora McCloy, PhD, Faculty Liaison and Research Officer, CTSI (cora.mccloy@utoronto.ca).

Registration for the Course Design and SoTL Institutes is announced via various CTSI communication channels, including our newsletter, list-serv and website. Registration for both institutes will open in the coming months. Consider joining us for these annual institutes, get a head start for your fall courses and think about your teaching process from an innovative perspective! Feel free to contact Erin Macnab, Programs Coordinator (erin.macnab@utoronto.ca) with any questions you might have.

Question: What do Mark Zukerberg, Oprah Winfrey and the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) have in common?

By Professor Carol Rolheiser, Director, CTSI

Answer: All have established book clubs; mind you, not your average book clubs!

All of us are pretty familiar with Oprah Winfrey’s launching of her book club that was active between 1996 and 2011. Through this club she not only propelled many authors works to bestseller lists, she also succeeded in encouraging large numbers of people to read more literature. Her online version, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, was launched in 2012 and uses social media to once again engage people in discussing books. In a January 6, 2015 Globe and Mail article by their Book Editor Mark Medley, entitled “Mark Zukerberg on books: Oprah II?”, he noted that Mr. Zukerberg took to his Facebook page early in January 2015 to announce that he will read a new book every other week!  As a result, Facebook has already created a hub, “A Year of Books”, which already has over 253, 000 Likes.

While CTSI cannot boast the reach of Oprah’s or Zukerberg’s book clubs, we are proud of having just completed our second offering of CTSI Page Turners, a four-session book club series.

Book clubs are becoming increasingly popular not only for recreational reading, but also in K-12 and higher education sectors to support educational development (Kooy, 2009), and as a means for teachers “tuning into practice”. Online, hybrid and face-to-face clubs are being initiated in colleges and universities for instructors as a means of enhancing community, reflecting on practice, and inspiring cross-disciplinary discussions and networks.

The model our CTSI team developed is based on the concept of student literature circles (Daniels, 2002; Lin, 2002). While participants in our book club are in charge of their own learning, they are supported by a facilitator who helps establish group norms, and sets the stage to maximize individual accountability and the development of positive interdependence within the group.

Saira Mall, Carol Rolheiser, Cora McCloy

CTSI Book Club Team - Saira Mall, Carol Rolheiser, Cora McCloy

Some of the goals of the CTSI Page Turners include: supporting pedagogical professional development through the examination of educational ideas; reflection on practice; exploration of innovation in teaching; and, discussion of aspirations for student learning.  The structure used for the CTSI book club includes evidence-based design features, such as: 1) the optimal number of participants (e.g., Brabham & Villaume, 2000, suggest that 4-8 participants is an ideal number for a literature circle); 2) determining group norms (e.g., participation and interaction to maximize learning together); 3) building inclusion (e.g., through community-building activities that provide context for each participant’s goals and motivation); and 4) establishing the roles and responsibilities of both participants and facilitator.

The first two offerings of CTSI Page Turners series focused on the book, Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley (2010). The four 2-hour sessions provided an opportunity to explore a conceptual framework for understanding student engagement, while also examining tips and strategies for influencing motivation, promoting active learning, building community, ensuring students are appropriately challenged and promoting holistic learning. As well, instructors analyzed practical student engagement techniques focused on learning outcomes that included knowledge and skills, learner attitudes, values, and self-awareness. While the culminating activity involved each instructor participant sharing a concrete plan for “putting print into practice” in their next course, most of the participants began implementing ideas right away in the courses they were currently teaching!

Book Club Participant Poster

Book Club Participant Poster

Each of the four book club sessions was facilitated through the use of text protocols and other reading/discussion formats (Bennett & Rolheiser, 2001; Lipton & Wellman, 2003). The value of the protocols was expressed often by participants, in terms of how such protocols supported their exploration of the book being studied, but also their use and adaptation of these protocols with their own students. For example, one of the protocols was entitled “The 4 A’s” (adapted from Judith Gray, 2005, National School Reform Faculty, http://www.nsrfharmony.org.)  As participants pre-read the selected chapter they chose an excerpt related to each of the following four A’s, and the subsequent book club session focused on discussing these with their colleagues:

  1. What Assumptions does the author of the text hold?
  2. What do you Agree with in the text?
  3. What parts do you want to Argue with in the text?
  4. What parts of the text do you want to Aspire to?

In the final assessment of the book club one of the participants commented specifically on the value of experiencing the protocols, stating, “I really enjoyed the use of protocols to guide the sessions. It was great to see how these would work in practice.”

Another one of our book club members wrote, “I keep coming back [to CTSI] because I am finding that teaching is a process that requires constant reflection and consideration of the back and forth between talking about how to teach and implementing teaching ideas”.  CTSI Page Turners has been an exciting way to encourage the exploration of teaching research and practical ideas, to reflect on one’s practice, and to work with colleagues in other departments to try out new practices. We are looking forward to our next book club series and the examination of another book –stay tuned to our CTSI newsletter for the announcement of our next Page Turners series.

If you would like to set up your own instructor book club in your department or unit, please feel free to contact us and request a consultation to support you in getting this launched.

Happy reading!

Emanuel Istrate, Institute for Optical Science

Emanuel Istrate, Institute for Optical Science

Heather Buchansky, Student Engagement Librarian, U of T Libraries

 

References:

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bennett, B. & Rolheiser, C. (2001).  Beyond Monet: The artful science of instructional integration.  Toronto, ON: Bookation.

Brabham, E.G., & Villaume, S.K. (2000). Questions and answers: Continuing conversations about literature circles. The Reading Teacher, 54(3), 278-280.

Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups (2nd ed.). Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Lin, C-H. (2002). Literature circles. Eric Digest.
file://localhost/Retrieved from http/::www.ericdigests.org:2003-3:circles.htm

Lipton, L. & Wellman, B. (2003). Mentoring matters: A practical guide to learning-focused relationships (2nd Ed). Sherman, CT: Mira Via.

Kooy, M. (2009). Collaborations and conversations in communities of learning: Professional development that matters. In C.C. Craig (Ed.),  The Association of Teacher Educators’ Teacher Education Yearbook XVII: Teacher Learning in Small Group Settings (pp. 5-22). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Publication/Rowan & Littlefield.

Recognizing and Valuing Teaching at UofT

By Pam Gravestock, PhD, Associate Director, CTSI

I recently had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Excellence in Teaching reception, honouring faculty who have received teaching awards over the past year.  Hosted by Vice-President and Provost, Cheryl Regehr, this event recognized the accomplishments of our great teachers – those who have received internal awards, such as the Faculty of Arts & Science Outstanding Teaching Award, the Early Career Teaching Award in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and the President’s Teaching Award, along with recipients of external awards such as the OCUFA Teaching Awardand the Alan Blizzard. As Provost Regehr noted in her opening remarks to those gathered, “Collectively, you exemplify ongoing innovation in knowledge building and sharing.  You exemplify a passion for helping students expand their horizons and discover new ways of thinking.”

This is something I know first hand. Each and every day, I have the opportunity to learn about the teaching excellence of our faculty and I am constantly amazed at the commitment, care and attention that faculty, at all levels of their careers, put into ensuring our students have meaningful and valuable learning experiences. One of the most enriching aspects of my portfolio involves a focus on teaching awards. For more than a decade, I have been engaged with preparing award nomination files for internal and external awards – giving me a window into the contributions our great teachers have made and continue to make.

At U o fT, our highest honour for teaching is the President’s Teaching Award (PTA). Established in 2006, it recognizes excellence in teaching and educational leadership. Recipients become Teaching Academy members and serve in an advisory capacity to the President, Provost and CTSI.  As of 2014, the Academy includes 35 members from both the tenure and teaching stream, representing a wide range of disciplines, including Chemistry, Computer Science, English, Engineering, History, Education, Pharmacy, Medicine, Women & Gender Studies, Geography, and so on.

Since the inception of the PTA, Academy members have been coming together to collaborate on initiatives such as Large Class Teaching modules, the Teaching Matters articles (published with U of T’s Bulletin), and on pedagogical and educational research.  They have served as ambassadors of great teaching within our institution and beyond – speaking at convocations, recruitment events, and at local, national and international conferences, including U of T’s Teaching & Learning Symposium.

While some have called into question the benefit of teaching awards (Aron, Aucott & Papp, 2000; Chism, 2006; Evans, 2005), arguing that they hinder academic careers, particularly in research-intensive universities, or that they are merely awarded based on popularity – I wholeheartedly disagree. I have seen the evidence from students who speak to the impact that faculty have had on their university experience – the passion that instructors bring to their discipline or the opportunities for engagement in research that has spurred an undergraduate to continue on to graduate school, the mentorship provided to graduate students as they move toward and eventually step into their own professional careers, or the integration of an inclusive teaching approach that helps a student meet their learning goals.

To dismiss the importance of teaching awards devalues the voices of our students who have been the beneficiary of great teaching. Moreover, the absence of such awards can signal that institutions don’t value teaching.  At U of T, we have a wealth of superb teachers and a multitude of ways to acknowledge the significant impact they have in the “classroom” (be it in a room on campus, in an online environment, in a lab, or in the field) and at the leadership level (through innovative course and curricular design, initiatives to support and enhance student learning, and so on).

For me, the existence of the PTA and the Academy signals that teaching is not only recognized at U of T but that it is truly valued at all levels.  As Don Boyes, 2014 PTA recipient notes, “The President’s Teaching Award is an incredible honour but, more than that, it shows just how much teaching is valued at the University of Toronto.  I know that the award gave me something to aspire to, and past winners were great role models and a real inspiration to me.  The Teaching Academy provides great leadership to the teaching community and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the wonderful work done by its members”.

Don and his colleagues in the Academy work to further not only the conversations about teaching within our institution and beyond, but also actively lead and engage in initiatives that advance teaching at U of T.

Nominations for the 2015 President’s Teaching Award are now open – please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the process or if you have a candidate in mind.

 

Ramping up for the new school year

Image: Walking on St George StreetRegistration for this year’s Back-to-School Series is now open. A complete list of workshop titles and descriptions is available online. This year, we have a new featured event – a Teaching with Technology Fair on Wednesday, August 28th. This all-day event, hosted by CTSI and Academic & Collaborative Technologies (ACT), is an opportunity for the U of T community to meet with educational technology specialists to learn about available free tools (and to discuss how these tools can be used in the classroom and online). You can read more about (and register for) this event online – information about visiting specialists will be added soon.

These sessions are for new and returning University of Toronto faculty. All sessions are free but registration is required.

For those of you who really like to plan ahead, the Call for Proposals for the 8th Annual Teaching & Learning Symposium is available. This year’s theme is Learning Across & Beyond Borders. As always, the symposium offers the opportunity for U of T faculty, staff and librarians to share research, experience and ideas about teaching, hear from the 2013 President’s Teaching Award winners, participate in workshops and enjoy a day together in Hart House. New sessions have been added this year – Lightning Talks and Nifty Assignments. You can ream more about them online. The deadline for proposal submission is September 16th.

On the graduate student side, the Teaching Assistants’ Training Program (TATP) has just completed a week of training for its new staff. Each year, the TATP hires 15 senior graduate students as peer trainers. They lead mandatory departmental training for new teaching assistants and course instructors (in CUPE 3902, unit 1), microteaching sessions, workshops and offer consultations on teaching dossiers and in-class observations. We’ll be posting more information about this new team shortly.

It is a bit surprising that we are almost half way through the summer months but it does feel good to have the jump on fall. Because it’s always a little closer than you think….

 

 

Grand Opening: CTSI, Robarts Library Reference Services and new student study areas

It started with a need for new student spaces. After conducting focus groups, surveys and consultations with students, we knew U of T students wanted study spaces with natural light, comfortable seating, access to computers and wireless networks, and conveniently located to other resources (e.g. books). Thanks to a generous donation by Russell and Katherine Morrison (who have already made significant contributions to St. George campus in the past decade – including Morrison Hall residence at University College), we now have a beautiful new space for study and collaboration for students – and for CTSI and Robarts Library Reference Services, too. On October 2nd, U of T Libraries and CTSI officially opened our newly renovated space that also includes study areas and a computer lab for students.

Mr. Russell Morrison

As the university has changed, Robarts Library has followed suit. Students’ needs change as the community diversifies, technologies evolve and academia grows to encompass more views, more areas of study and, quite simply, more students. These latest renovations reflect that need but as Cheryl Misak, Vice-President and Provost, said, “Of course, this new space is also about teaching.”

We now have two computer labs and the Blackburn Room for training, workshops and events (we included photos of these new spaces in a previous post). All of these rooms have been in full use since the end of August (when CTSI held their Back-to-School workshop series) and staff, instructors and students have all given them high marks. The spaces are flexible (easy to move furniture around to suit workshop needs) and technology is available and accessible (not to mention functional). On the CTSI side, we now have two new rooms for meetings and consultations and a collaboration space for staff to meet, schedule and plan upcoming events and projects.

The architect firm Gow Hastings – as well as everyone else involved in the design and coordination of these renovations – did a marvellous job listening to all our concerns, and our wish list, so that we can all – staff and students alike – enjoy a comfortable and welcoming work environment. And the sunlight, let’s not forget the sunlight! This new space also provides more opportunities for CTSI and Reference Services Librarians to cross paths. Not only is it nice to know your neighbours, we’ve already started a number of projects together simply because we run into each other in the hall and start a conversation. Let the collaborations continue!

The next step – hopefully not too far down the road – is the Robarts Common, a student centre scheduled to be built at the north-west end of the library. The hallway to the centre will extend right from our new space. According to Chief Librarian Larry Alford, “The new five-storey pavilion will become a new face of Robarts, opening up the west side of the building to the street, bring a flood of natural light to the lower floors and making the overall environment more inviting, accessible and productive for students.”

Phrase that describes your favourite learning space

Who supports your learning?This post also appears in the U of T Libraries’ Noteworthy magazine.

Life @ U of T and CTSI

We are excited to welcome Lori, the newest member of the CTSI family. Lori will be contributing regular posts to the Life @ U of T blog. I will let Lori introduce herself – her first post went up on Thursday and her second post appeared today – but we wanted to add that we’re looking forward to reading her insights and observations of the University of Toronto. The Student Life blog is a great resource for getting to know U of T students and learning what concerns and what drives them. It’s also a great way to find out about events, projects, classes and free stuff around campus. I am perfectly happy to follow the lead of Student Life bloggers – it often ends with cupcakes or an interesting lecture at Hart House.

This is our second year with our Student Life blogger. Last year, we were fortunate to have Erin post about her interactions with faculty and experiences inside and outside of the classroom as she navigated her final year as an undergrad. All of her posts can be found on the Life @ U of T blog.

 

Home, sweet home….

After 9 months in our temporary space, CTSI has finally returned to our (newly renovated) office on the 4th floor of Robarts! There are still some boxes to unpack and construction is still on-going but we are ready and open for business. We’ve already held workshops in the Blackburn Room and computer lab and welcomed instructors and graduate students into our new offices and meeting rooms. It didn’t take long to settle in – and we’re doing our best to keep out of the way of the construction crew finishing up the final details. We look forward to celebrating our new space with our colleagues!

Our new reception area...

Our new meeting rooms come with sunshine.

 

 

 

 

 

Blackburn Room

CTSI computer lab
CTSI computer lab

While, we are excited to set up shop in our bright and shiny new space, I will be sad to say goodbye to a few things from the 7th floor.

Ye Olde Card Catalogue
Our office is divided down a firm line: those of us who are nostalgic about library card catalogues and those who have never used one, never seen one before arriving on the 7th floor and have no idea how to use one. (I haven’t asked if this latter group is also unfamiliar with dot matrix printers and rotary dial phones because I’m not sure if I want to know the answer.) Apparently, the bank of cards were no longer used even before I arrived in the late 80s. (When I arrived at U of T to start my undergraduate degree, the catalogue was computerized. We searched for books using terminals in the library, which seemed very futuristic to me. You can imagine, then, how impressed I was when a housemate hooked his computer to the phone line and accessed the library catalogue from his room. We could research a topic from the comfort of his room! It felt very War Games and top secret.) I like to think that my father rooted through these cards when he was completing his undergraduate degree in the early 50s. They were a nice – and tangible – tie to U of T’s past. I liked flipping through the cards, hoping to finding a handwritten one or one with comments. It was comforting to think that many of the books could still be found in the stacks.

Does anyone even use index cards any more?

The Live Action Angry Birds Game
…. even though it never really got off the ground. We did our best to make use of ackwardly placed cubicles and masking tape, turning space (well, my cubicle to be exact) into a target zone for incoming stuffed birds. Points were awarded according to how close birds landed to the centre. We established a few rules – you had to be sitting in a chair, you had to be behind ‘the line’, you had to warn me with a call of ‘incoming!’ – and kept score on a white board. Unfortunately, the competition didn’t last much past our first few weeks in the space. I kept the tape on the floor, though, just in case there was a sudden need. My new space is more ‘put together’ so no more angry birds. We’re all fine with that, though. We’re busy personalizing our new spaces and getting ready for another fall of workshops (and workshops), the symposium and whatever else the new school year may bring.

My new 4x6 home....

 

STLHE 2012 – Montreal

Several members of the CTSI team attended the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education conference in Montreal last week (June 19-22). It was an eventful and stimulating few days (although that also meant we didn’t have much time to explore the city). Pam Gravestock, Associate Director, presented a research paper, Does Teaching Matter? Assessing Teaching for Tenure at Canadian Universities, on Wednesday. Addressing the pervasive assumption that research activity trumps teaching contributions, Dr. Gravestock reported on her comprehensive review and analysis of tenure policies at 46 Canadian universities and reveals the common practices and differing policies throughout. It was a successful session – with more than 80 in attendance – and there was a lively Q&A period afterward.

Our second presentation was a half-day pre-conference session demonstrating our Exploring Large Classroom Teaching module. The theme of this year’s conference was “Learning without Boundaries?” and our module addressed this topic in a number of ways. First of all, the module is available to anyone with access to the internet. You do not need a University of Toronto login to view or participate. We designed the module so the user can forge their own path, decide what to view next and what resources will be most helpful. Also, we employed a simple platform to make the module accessible and as intuitive as possible (which isn’t an easy task but we’re pleased with the results).  By breaking the topic into four broad topics (Planning, Strategies, Assessment, Technology), we can dig deeper into each area without cluttering the web page with too much information. Our 3-hour workshop led the participants through our process in creating the module (it was a very iterative process) and the many ways we’ve used it since its launch.

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