From our Educational Technologoy Experts:

From Ryan Green, Educational Technology Liaison, CTSI is a recently developed website that does just what its name implies; it allows anyone to record and distribute audio as an MP3.  What makes this tool interesting is that it is done entirely through your internet browser, and does away with the need to install any software.  Users just need to have a recent browser, an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash player, and of course a microphone.  Once a user has recorded their audio they have the choice of downloading and saving the MP3 file, or they can use a short URL to share it with anyone.  This ability to either download the file or share a link provide some interesting opportunities for engaging your students in recording their own snippets of audio.  The saved file could easily be submitted as part of an assessment or activity, and the link would allows students to share their recordings with each other, providing the opportunity to give feedback, potentially as its own recording.

I would definitely recommend experimenting and playing around with the tool. I would avoid long recordings, though. When I was using it a couple recordings never finished uploading. They were lost and had to be recorded (which is why I suggest shorter recordings). I would also advice restarting your browser before re-recording. So while there may be the occasional hiccup, the ease of use and sharing still make this a tool worth trying.

Narratives and teaching

Robin Sutherland-Harris and I were co-facilitators of a TATP workshop today.  The workshop challenged TAs to convey a narrative (or a story) in a lesson for their students.  One of the foundational assumptions of the workshop was that narrative is a part of everyday life, including classroom life.  In the words of Abbott in The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (2008), “We are all narrators” (p. xii)

As part of the workshop, we introduced Prezi as a platform for the TAs to build their narratives for classroom use.  According to the Prezi website, Prezi is software which exists in the cloud.  It is something between “whiteboards and slides” and features a “zoomable canvas” where you can “explore ideas and the connections between them.”  TAs, faculty and staff at U of T may be interested to know that they can sign up for educational accounts at Prezi if they are interested in exploring this zooming interface for classroom presentations.

We found a number of great Prezi exemplars online that we showed during the workshop to try to get the creative juices flowing.  To begin, we were very inspired by the big picture timeline provided by the Great Jazz Bassists and their Influence through the Ages Prezi.  We also felt that a presentation on the Physical Geography in Africa was great for demonstrating how you can hone in on concepts (or geographic features) in Prezi by using the zooming features.


Is Student Engagement Related to Disappointment, or Just a Misunderstanding?

CTSI’s interest in student-faculty interaction stems from it’s significants as a benchmark of student engagement, in the NSSE, or National Survey of Student Engagement (affectionately known as “Nessie”). And, it’s not just for undergraduates. Two similar surveys also measure engagement from students before their first year of University (Before College Survey of Student Engagement, the BCSSE or “Bessie”), and Faculty perceptions of student engagement (Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, the FSSE or “Fessie”). But what do the different surveys suggest about student engagement?

This question was the focus of a recent publication from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), “Disappointment, Misunderstanding and Expectations: A Gap Analysis of NSSE, BCSSE and FSSE”,  by M. Mancuso, S. Desmarais, K. Parkinson, and B. Pettigrew, from the University of Guelph. They compared survey data from the BCSSE, NSSE and FSSE taken at the University of Guelph from 2005-2007, to figure out how much students were disappointed about their experience following their first year, and how strong the misperceptions might be between students and faculty about the student experience.

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SOPA / PIPA and a Canadian perspective

If you were browsing in the internet today (January 18, 2012), there’s a good chance that you’ve encountered ‘black’ sites or sites with messages protesting two bills before US Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are designed to criminalize acts of piracy on the internet (i.e. downloading or sharing copyrighted materials without permission to do so) and provide the means to prosecute the offenders (in some cases without due process). If these bills are passed, they will “essentially blacklist foreign websites accused of hosting copyright-infringing content” (Globe and Mail, January 17, 2012) and would effectively shut down sites like YouTube and Flickr. SOPA and PIPA were written with the express purpose of protecting the entertainment industry, which means that the entertainment industry (i.e. private organizations) will be defining proper use of the internet and will have control over content and accessibility to content on the internet. I am not someone who illegally downloads music (honestly, I will pay my 99cents for a song) but I recognize the dangers these restrictions present.

Questions of copyright, maintaining and honouring it, are common and vital in the academic sphere just as it is in the literary, music or art fields. People’s opinions may differ but there must be a middle ground between complete open access, no barriers files and sharing and this tightly controlled and oppressive mandate. Because, according to the SOPA bill, no matter what your opinion of copyright accessibility, you are still libel for prosecution if you link to a site that contains pirated or copyright infringing material. So, unless you can scan through all of YouTube to ensure that there are no offending videos contained within (which is pretty much impossible), you had best not link to anything on the site. The same can be said for Flickr, wikipedia, reddit or any other user driven site.

Not too surprisingly, the internet is responding in full force to protest these bills and encourage people to voice their concerns and opinions. Many sites, like the popular internet comic strips xkcd and, Wired Magazine and the American Google main page ( rather than provided individualized content to illustrate why they oppose the bills and how readers can voice their concerns to their representatives. Twitter was even considerate enough to link to a petition for non-US residents. The Globe & Mail has a great article covering the 4 main reasons that we (as Canadians) should be concerned (including the point that the many Canadian IP addresses are held in the US and would therefore be under these proposed laws). Creativity Online lists their 10 best online protests (which only makes me love McSweeneys even more, if possible). And, last but certainly not least, the folks at Twitter have created a video that captures the ins-and-outs of this bill (they focus on PIPA) and it’s hard not to be concerned about these proposed laws and their implications.

There is some push back, even from early supporters of the bills, but they are still scheduled (at this time any way) to go before the house next week.


Upcoming at CTSI

We are working on a new project with Student Life that will be launched at the end of January. We don’t want to give too much away – there’s something to be said about the element of surprise – but we thought we would offer a few hints.

The first clue (if it isn’t already obvious by these photos) is that the project involves a video starring faculty members and directed by CTSI work study student Tyler Blacquiere (if you don’t know Tyler yet, don’t worry. You will):

Please note that Tyler takes his role as a director very seriously, keeping the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock alive (or taking inspiration from Sam Raimi. I didn’t ask which he preferred) by wearing a suit and tie on set.

Props will be used.

And just in case you missed the props in question….

We are halfway through our shooting schedule (we’re off to UTM on Monday) and pretty pleased with the results so far. Our faculty have been  generous with their time and willing to act a little silly (not that I’m suggesting finger puppets could be interpreted as silly) in front of the camera for a good cause. We are all excited to see what comes next.

Evaluating participation

Students in discussion at desks

Image by lynn dombrowski; Used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Evaluating student participation in tutorials or seminars can be a challenge for everyone from first time TAs to experienced instructors.

Recently, I came across an interesting suggestion posted on the Student Participation/Active Learning page on the website of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.  They offer the suggestion of providing students with the opportunity to assess themselves part-way through the term and receive feedback.  The blockquote below shows the choices that the University of the Sciences suggest for students to engage with for self-assessment:

  1. I contribute worthwhile comments several times during every class. Please cite an example
  2. I contribute one or more worthwhile comments almost every class. Please cite and example
  3. I often contribute or participate in class discussions. Please cite an example
  4. I occasionally contribute
  5. I rarely contribute

January is Assessment Month at CTSI

Assessment is not only about testing knowledge and content but supporting students in developing learning strategies. CTSI’s January and February workshops highlight alternative approaches that integrate assessment into learning and personal reflection. Topics include Communicating with Your Students: Effective Oral and Written Feedback, Assembling Your Teaching Dossier (both a workshop and a clinic) and The Challenge of Teaching Effective Scholarly Writing.  We’re also pleased to present two workshops with David DiBattista, Professor and 3M National Teaching Fellow (2007), Department of Psychology, Brock University. Professor DiBattista has published several articles on the use of multiple-choice questions (in The Journal of Experimental Education and Canadian Journal of Higher Education, among others) and regularly presents on his research. He will be joining us on February 7th to lead two workshops: Getting the Most Out of Multiple-choice Questions and From Principles to Practice: Examining the Structure and Content of Multiple-choice Items

To learn more about these events and workshops, please visit the CTSI website.


About Your Portal Course

Please note: this post will be a link within Portal for summer 2012 courses. It will be updated with information regarding the course lifecycle throughout the term.

The following information was provided by Ryan Green, Educational Technology Liaison, CTSI:

This entry will be linked into every Summer 2012 Portal course, via a link at the bottom of the Course Menu.  It will provide us an opportunity to place support material directly into every course, hopefully right where it is needed most.  We envision this content to be more than just links to help documentation; we hope to provide resources that will help course instructors improve how they use their Portal courses.

The menu item is intended for course instructors and will be visible to all course staff but  it will not display to students.  The link on the menu will be static but we will be able to update this post whenever the need arises.

If you have suggestions of what type of resources you think this post should contain please don’t hesitate to contact us at

CTSI: the view from the 7th floor

With the start of the new year, we have settled in our new, albeit temporary, home. Our space on the 4th floor of Robarts is under renovation – our office has grown considerably over the last few years with the amalgamation of offices (Office of Teaching Advancement, Teaching Assistants’ Training Program and Resource Centre for Academic Technology) in 2009 and the addition of staff and services – so we are residing on the 7th floor of the library until July 2012.

We packed up our old space just before the holidays and many of us felt a little sad. There were no actual tears (at least not that I know of) but it was hard to say goodbye.

Throughout the time we occupied the space (as individual offices then one big pedagogical family), we enjoyed countless workshops and events, facilitated 6 Teaching & Learning symposia and many conferences, supported the implementation of the UofT portal (Blackboard) and training for instructors, graduate students and staff, supported teaching award files and facilitated the TATP Teaching Excellence Award and met with many, many instructors and graduate students on a number of teaching related issues and questions.

Thankfully, we’ve landed in a space that allows us to continue this pace and there will be no break in our schedule or programming. The one drawback is that we don’t have a seminar rooms right next door that we can use for workshops and training but the upside is that we can explore buildings and rooms around campus with our winter 2012 workshop series. And personally, I rather like being surrounded by old card catalogues and library stacks. It’s comforting. Also, we have space for the desktop computer archive so I know that we are home.

To reach our office, take the #4 elevator from the 2nd floor of Robarts and follow the signs. All of our other contact information remains the same.

To reach an individual staff member, please visit the CTSI contact page.