3 Facts about Mindset in Learning

November 20th, 2015

by Janice Florent

mindset in learning infographic

Mindset is a crucial factor in learning. In a Learnnovators.com blog post, Arun Pradhan lists three well established aspects of mindset in learning. They are:

  1. You can prime your brain
  2. Interest drives learning
  3. A growth mindset matters

Each fact is supported with a tip for learning design to make the most of that fact. For more information refer to his 3 Facts About Mindset In Learning infographic.

Conversation #37: Service Learning

November 17th, 2015

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Ryan McBride

A conversation with Dr. Ryan McBride of Tulane University on teaching, learning, and service learning.

The service project complicates the readings, and the readings help complicate the service project.

Links for this episode:

Another Great National Distance Learning Week!

November 13th, 2015

by Karen Nichols

National Distance Learning Week 2015 has been a whirlwind of free webinars and events across the country and even a few other countries participated as well.  I’d like to share with you a few of the webinars I attended that I found interesting and useful. When you click on these links, you’ll be taken to Blackboard Collaborate so you’ll need the Bb Collaborate Launcher installed in order to view the archived presentations.

Discover The Latest Mobile Learning & Collaboration Technology” This one includes a discussion about the merits and disadvantages of native apps and web-based apps as well as some good questions posed by the participants.

“Virtual Presence: Inspire and Engage in the Virtual Classroom and Beyond” An actually inspiring presentation to me as a trained actress discussed techniques to use as an instructor in an online environment to engage your students.

“10 Signs That the Shift to Digital Is Underway – and 5 Ways to Get Ahead of the Curve!” One of the signs is that we have proof that students really do their homework at 1am!  This presentation contains several resources including the one below.

e-Literate TV is also an interesting concept introduced in this latter presentation. What do you think of it?

Social Injustice and Service Learning

November 10th, 2015

by Jeremy Tuman

the working poor

It’s hard to think about social justice without thinking about social injustice: those aspects of our society that seem inherently unfair. Chief among these aspects in my mind is how a person can work a full-time job and remain living in a somewhat mysterious category called “below the poverty line.” I say this category is mysterious not because the realities of life in this category are too far removed from most of our daily lives, and not because most of us don’t see or know or interact with such people. Of course we do see them, and know them. They are among us everyday, and in fact they are us, in the sense that the working poor are a huge part of our New Orleans community. I say the “poverty line” is mysterious because it’s derived by statistics, averages, and mean numbers, and these numbers are “mean” in both senses. The “line” implies that those living above it are okay somehow, that their struggles to make rent, pay bills, pay for health care, pay for child care, provide education, and cover transportation are somehow greatly eased by the simple fact that they live above the poverty line, just outside the mysterious, or maybe mysteriously derived, category.

But any working person who has used a monthly paycheck to calculate a monthly budget, and then imagined trying to calculate the same budget with a paycheck half as much, even one third as much, has a strong understanding that the amounts of money we’re talking about are simply not enough. The expenses are too great, too numerous, and at times too unpredictable or unexpected. The poverty line for a family of four is $24,250. A number so low that the logistics and realities of supporting oneself while raising kids on it simply boggle the mind. That working people are forced to survive on less than this, in a society that prides itself on its wealth, is in itself an injustice. That working people earning twice that amount face almost the exact same difficulties, yet receive less attention and assistance because they live above the poverty line, is an even bigger injustice.

The ranks of the working poor are growing in this country, as inequality widens and the middle class is dissolved. More and more of our income is distributed upward, as the costs of health care, education, communication, and transportation rise. These areas are not luxury items or even optional purchases. They are areas of basic need for every American, yet they remain prohibitively expensive, even out of reach altogether for some, even as the economy improves and corporate profits rise. The only thing that remains cheap is food, well, certain foods at least, namely cheeseburgers and fries. But as our tax dollars are used to keep these foods cheap, thereby subsidizing the profits of the corporations that sell them, while at the same time our tax dollars pay for the health care and even the food of employees of these corporations, then cheap cheeseburgers start to seem like less of a bargain. Factor in health care costs associated with over reliance on these cheap foods (how could you not, at poverty line incomes?) then the value meal itself begins to look like an injustice.

It’s not hard to find injustices in our society. A school like Xavier, that has the promotion of a more just society built into its very mission, has plenty of work to do and huge challenge to accept. As our first-year students prepare to engage in their required service learning in the spring semester, they have a tremendous opportunity in front of them to effect social change, and to gain a deeper and lasting understanding of both the meaning of social justice and their role in it. Of course this opportunity is facilitated by the faculty, who take on this additional challenge of teaching Freshman Seminar, and designing and leading service learning projects, when the majority of their colleagues choose not to teach the course. These are the teachers at the front line of the intersection of the school, its mission, and its first-year students, a crucial intersection where lifelong purpose can be forged. And I commend them, and encourage them to consider the injustice at the heart of their service learning project, no matter what project they choose.

Balancing Act

November 9th, 2015

by Bart Everson


As you may have noted, CAT+FD’s got a new expanded mission that says we’ll support faculty work/life balance.

Thus it was with great interest that I attended a panel discussion on just this topic at “Meaningful Living and Learning in a Digital World.” I listened attentively as panelists critiqued the current academic culture, which has become a culture of looking busy-busy-busy, of appearing to be more harried than one really is. Often faculty really are busy, it was pointed out, but even during the rare moment of leisure, it is of crucial importance to continue to look and act busy — lest anyone think we aren’t pulling our weight.

The deleterious effects of this culture were detailed at some length. It creates an atmosphere of constant stress, distrust, and fear. It is not conducive to thinking deeply, teaching, or transformational learning.

“It’s the single most crucial issue facing the academy,” one panelist said.

A culture shift is needed, the panelists agreed, and I found myself nodding along with them. But what came next was a shocker.

The culture shift may need to start with staff, including administrators, who have less flexibility than faculty.

Woah! That got my attention. Even though I work closely with faculty from every discipline, even though I identify with faculty on many levels, I’m on staff. What can I do, despite my limited flexibility, to facilitate this needed culture shift?

As it turns out, actually, I am well-positioned to make at least a few modest efforts. After all, I actually work in a unit that includes work/life balance in its mission. For some while now, I’ve been working to help develop and cultivate personal practices that aim to foster a more contemplative mode of living. See, for example, our Contemplation & Conversation series.

I’ve got something else up my sleeve as well. I’ve noted that faculty frequently express a desire for more guidance with time management. Frankly, we could all use some tips and techniques for making the most of our time. So, over the course of this semester, I’ve been implementing various time management practices in my own life, as a form of experiential research for a workshop on this topic. We plan to offer a workshop on my findings next semester. Stay tuned for details.

So that’s what I have in mind. What about you?

When “Alt Text” is not Enough

November 5th, 2015

by Janice Florent

Computers can read text on a screen but images, graphs, and charts are meaningless to visually impaired users. Alternative text (alt text) is an alternate method for supplying information about images, graphs, and charts to users who are visually impaired.

Adding alt text to images, graphs, and charts is an important part of making them accessible. Most images, graphs, and charts can be made accessible using alt text descriptions. However, complex images, graphs, and charts require more detailed description than the limited one or two brief sentences that are used in the alt text.

complex scientific images

Examples of complex scientific images

What should you do when you have a complex image, graph, or chart whose meaning cannot be conveyed with alt text alone? There are several ways to handle complex images where a short description is not possible. The best solution is to include a thorough description of the complex image in the content of the page, immediately before or after the image. If you don’t want to add more content to your page, another preferred alternative is to create another web page with the thorough description of the complex image and link to it near the image.

You may be wondering what exactly should you include in the thorough description. The Diagram Center (Digital Image And Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials) is an excellent resource that provides comprehensive guidelines to make it easier for you to make complex images accessible to all learners.

Here are a few additional resources to help you with describing complex images:

It is extremely important for students with disabilities to have access to accessible course content. Describing complex images utilizing these tips is good course design. Even though you may not have a student with a disability currently enrolled in your course, you will find students without disabilities will take advantage of accessible content as well.

Conversation #36: Coaching Circles

November 3rd, 2015

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Debra Lohe

A conversation with Dr. Debra Lohe of Saint Louis University on teaching, learning, and coaching circles.

If it feels like jumping through hoops, it won’t be as rich an experience as it really could be.

Links for this episode:

Debra Rudder Lohe is director of the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at Saint Louis University. In this role, Debie sets vision and direction for the Center, oversees the creation of new programs and collaborations across the University, and manages the daily operations of the Center and its staff. Ultimately, she sees her role as helping educators move from intuition to intention in their teaching, advancing evidence-based teaching methods and interactive learning spaces, and promoting a culture of critical reflection in the university.

Adventures in the Library

November 3rd, 2015

This summer I discovered an invaluable resource I never realized we had here at Xavier (I am embarrassed to say after 12 years here) and that is our research librarians.  I was writing a pedagogical paper which used very different search engines and resources than my normal scholarly publications in chemistry.  Quite frankly, I was at a loss as to where to start searching for background materials related to my paper.

On the library main page, you can select services and click ‘request consultation’ to get to the form.  (Or click here: http://www.xula.edu/library/forms/reference_consultation_form.php)

Johanna White contacted me and we had a great chat about what I was trying to do.  She walked me through a few resources and then decided to dig around on her own.  About a week later I got a great email from her with more suggestions on which journals to search and how to access them.

If you are considering writing and publishing  a pedagogical paper (which is, in fact valued by the university and the rank and tenure committee) but the educational and social sciences are outside of your field of research, I can HIGHLY recommend working with one our our research librarians.   Once you summarize your project on the form they will decide who would be the best fit for your project.  It is as easy as that!

Now, if only someone can help me with not using the passive voice…

Cheers, Stassi

Please Forward for Classrooms

November 2nd, 2015

by Bart Everson

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it previously, but there’s a new book out which has a couple Xavier connections.

The book is Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina from UNO Press. It collects numerous writings that were shared online in the aftermath of the flooding of New Orleans, and the devastation of the Gulf Coast, from 2005 to 2007.

One contributor is a Xavier prof, the noted theologian and biblical scholar Michael Homan.

Please Forward

The other Xavier connection? Well, that would be yours truly.

We’ve got a copy of the book here at CAT+FD for your perusal, so stop in and take a look.

If you’re interested in using the book in your teaching, read on…

We’ve been contacted by a handful of teachers and professors who have added Please Forward to their course syllabi. If you, or someone you know, might be interested in using the book in the classroom, teachers and professors can request a review copy by emailing unopress [at] uno [dot] edu and putting “Please Forward for Classrooms” in the subject line.

Footnoote: This is a topic of particular interest to me; see also my series on The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans

Have a Tweet Spree Using Twitcam!

October 29th, 2015

by Karen Nichols

I attended a presentation on using social media to engage underrepresented students at the most recent Online Learning Consortium in Orlando.  Several apps were discussed and Twitcam was one of them.  I decided to investigate it for myself.  If you go to the twitcam website:  http://twitcam.livestream.com/ the directions say you can begin in three easy steps.  Well, that wasn’t quite my experience, but it was still pretty easy just the same.

So, from the Twitcam homepage, I was told that Flash needed to be installed.

Then I was told to set up my webcam.  Fortunately, mine is built in.

Next I have to log into Twitter.  But wait, there is no sign of Twitcam inside my Twitter.  What they should say is to “scroll down to the bottom of the Twitcam page and click on Broadcast Live.  THEN you’ll be taken to Twitter where you can log in and see Twitcam.

Once there, you must “allow” Twitcam to access your webcam and microphone and then it really is easy to follow their directions.  You will be tweeting live which could be a really wonderful learning experience for various concepts you’re teaching.

When finished, click on stop recording and you’ll be asked if you want to archive your video.  So not only could you reach students as you streamed your video live, you can provide the link to the video for anyone who missed it or who would like to replay it later.

So here’s just a quick example of a twitcam video I made.  Because this is a free service, you’ll have to view all or part of an ad before the video will play.  Since you can tweet as you’re videotaping, you can add the text of what you’re saying to make it accessible since I don’t see any way to add captions, or add something else like an assignment.  You can provide a link to the archived video or embed it.


I’m really interested to know if you think you may like to try something like this and create a video tweet spree for your students.  If you do, please share!