CAT News: January 2015

January 27th, 2015

CAT XX 1994-2014 Sustainability

Celebrating Twenty Years

This spring, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) continues to mark its 20th anniversary year. Since its inception in 1994, CAT has existed to fulfill its mission “to advance the art and science of teaching and learning” and has enjoyed broad faculty participation in its services and activities. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, CAT staff have planned a series of special events, including a gala on February 3rd, at which we will recognize faculty who have served over the years, and announce our new plans and initiatives for the future.

CAT has been able to sustain its initiatives and offerings over two decades by evolving with the times to meet faculty needs. In celebration of this success, CAT staff have organized their offerings around the theme of Sustainability — exploring issues related to sustainability in the curriculum as well as sustaining the whole faculty member across all areas of responsibility.

Over the past several months, CAT has explored ways to expand its services (and ultimately its mission) in supporting the faculty member in all areas of responsibility – Teaching, Scholarship, and Service – utilizing a teacher-scholar model based on comprehensive faculty development. To this end, CAT put together a team with a representative from each Division to explore an expansion of its mission/values/programs that takes a holistic approach to developing the faculty member. The report from this group proposes some bold changes for CAT and is currently under consideration by the Vice President for Academic Affairs.


In the fall we organized our Eighth Annual Fall Faculty Book Club. In keeping with our Sustainability theme, members discussed Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect by David W. Orr.

CAT has a full calendar of activities scheduled for the spring semester that can be viewed on our website. We are offering a slate of workshops this semester on topics including mentoring, teaching with technology, developing a personal vision and many others.

As part of our continuing series, “Contemplation & Conversation,” CAT is sponsoring a series of meetings in the Meditation Room of the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel. These sessions are intended to support faculty well-being and open up a dialog about contemplative pedagogy.

Programs for New Faculty

In the fall, we welcomed twelve new faculty members to Xavier University. Throughout the academic year, we host monthly brown bags for this group, discussing topics such as teaching at an HBCU, getting grants, and creating effective assignments. The New Faculty mentoring program is also underway. Dr. Stassi DiMaggio (Chemistry) continues to serve as faculty in residence, working closely with new faculty in their transition to Xavier’s culture of excellence in teaching, scholarship, service and collegiality.


The Center for the Advancement of Teaching is honored to receive a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation. The grant, entitled CAT Turns XX: Sustainability for Teachers-Scholars, will provide continued support for our Faculty Communities of Teaching Scholars initiative as well as establish a Contemplative Pedagogy Working Group. The grant will also support new scholarship-related initiatives offered through CAT.

In early January, CAT submitted a proposal for a $944,000 Cyberlearning and Future Technologies grant to the National Science Foundation.

Staff News

Mr. Bart Everson (Media Artist, CAT) attended the annual conference of the International Digital Media and Arts Association at Utah Valley University in November.

Ms. Janice Florent (Technology Coordinator, CAT) attended the Bb World, UB Tech, and InfoComm conferences this past summer.

Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer (Director, CAT) led a workshop on Active Learning and participated in a panel on Trends in Higher Education at the University of the Andes in Bogota, Columbia.

Dr. Karen Nichols (Distance Education Coordinator) attended for the first time the annual POD (Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education) conference in Dallas in October.

Bb Tip #127: Course-to-Course Navigation

January 27th, 2015

It is not necessary to go to the Home page or Courses tab to access your other Blackboard courses. The course-to-course navigation feature allows you to quickly move from one course to another.

Follow these steps to do it.
Click on the course-to-course navigation arrow and select the course you want to go to.


Note: When selecting a course using course-to-course navigation, you will land in the same content area or course tool when you enter the selected course. For example, if you are in the Grade Center of a course and use course-to-course navigation to enter another course you will land in the Grade Center of the selected course. If you switch to a course that does not contain the same tool or task, the page set as the course entry point will appear.

Want more information?
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Maximize In-Class Time by Moving Student Presentations Online

January 26th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of a students looking at a computer screen

Virtual student presentations allow students to research scholarly literature related to course content, present their findings, and receive peer feedback; all outside of class time.

Virtual presentations are an option that allows for quality student presentations and does not take up too much valuable in-class time. Of course, virtual presentations may not work for all situations, but it is an option you should consider if you have student presentations and want to find a way to maximize in-class time.

Stephanie Smith Budhai, PhD, assistant professor of education at Neumann University, explains the benefits of virtual presentations and lists four steps to implementing virtual presentations in your classes. You can read more in her article Maximize In-Class Time by Moving Student Presentations Online.


January 23rd, 2015

by Janice Florent

Are you looking for a simple solution to be able to do in-class polling of your students? Try Plickers.

image - plickers logo

Plickers is a powerfully simple tool that lets educators collect real-time formative assessment data for free, without the need for student clicker devices. Just give each student a “paper clicker” and use your smartphone (or iPad) to scan the cards (paper clickers) to do instant checks-for-understanding and impromptu polls. Students respond to your poll questions by rotating their cards to indicate their A, B, C, or D answer. You scan the room with your mobile device to capture the student responses. The results are displayed on your mobile device and can optionally be displayed on your computer in a “Live View” through your Plickers account.

Does this sound interesting to you? If so, you can get more information at

Also, check out my How To Use Student Response System (Clickers) Effectively blog post to get information on how best to use clickers for student engagement.

January 23rd, 2015

by Karen Nichols

When Sue Frantz was here last week, she mentioned during one of her presentations that MOOCs are being used by people who already have degrees but who are interested in lifelong learning opportunities. Well have I got a website for those of us who seek self-improvement! Do you know about

This site is edited by Dan Colman, director of Open Culture at Stanford, and not only has links to MOOCs on myriad topics, he also searches for lectures, audio books, digital books, movies and any other educational media that he believes may be of interest to lifelong learners.

The curation of the multi-media items is well organized, so whether you’re looking for a lecture lasting a few minutes or an online course on a literary movement, you can easily find what suits your needs.  If you have young children, there’s even a K-12 resource site.  It’s good to have a safe area to send the children to for their multi-media needs as well.

In addition, there’s an area for learning another language or two. Since languages are my area of specialization, I’m anxious to try some of these sites. Having recently begun tracing my genealogy, I’ve become interested in Gaelic. Sure enough, there’s a site in the list for learning the basics.

I also think this site may be of use to your students. Take a look at your subject area to see what may be available. If you see a film or lecture or even an introductory course for students who may need a refresher on the basics, you can post the links inside your Blackboard course for your students. There’s also a section on free textbooks that are available. With the rising costs of textbooks, wouldn’t it be useful if there’s one that students can use for free?

I’m quite interested in the lectures available.  There’s an entire series in French of Roland Barthes, one of the sources from my dissertation that I’m looking forward to listening to.  Here’s one from Leonard Bernstein, part of his 1973 lectures on music at Harvard:


Check out the site and let us know what you find interesting and useful.

How To Use Student Response System (Clickers) Effectively

January 22nd, 2015

by Janice Florent

Do you want to know more about just how to use clickers to best help your students learn? This short video shares best practices in clicker use, including tips on writing clicker questions and getting students to talk about them, the finer points of running a class discussion about a question, and how long to allow for this process.

Additionally, the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado has a number of clicker resources you may find helpful.

When Not to Use Technology

January 21st, 2015

by Janice Florent

image showing brain with USB connections

Most of us know better than to use technology for technology’s sake…Using technology for practical purpose, and not for the sake of using technology, must be the clear objective.

Here are a few suggestions from a post by Saga Briggs, at informED, for when NOT to use technology:

  • When it undermines deep learning
  • When it undermines basic learning
  • When it decreases interaction
  • When it reduces the chance of failure
  • When you don’t have time to integrate it
  • When it doesn’t support connecting and sharing

You can read more about this in Saga’s post When Not to Use Technology: 15 Things That Should Stay Simple in Education.

Conversation #29: Sustainability in Higher Education

January 14th, 2015

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Download Conversation #29

Meghan Fay Zanhiser

A conversation with Meghan Fay Zanhiser of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education on teaching, learning and sustainability in higher education.

We are a nonprofit membership-based organization that exists to serve anyone in higher education working on sustainability.

Meghan Fay Zanhiser is the Executive Director for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). She has been with AASHE for six years and previously held the positions of Director of Programs and STARS Program Manager. Previously, Meghan worked as Sustainability Specialist at NELSON, where she provided sustainability expertise and consulting services to various clients. She also spent over five years working at the U.S. Green Building Council where, as Manager of Community, she developed and managed a local chapter network for building industry professionals and helped create the Emerging Green Builders program that integrates students and young professionals into the green building movement. Meghan also worked as Environmental Educator for the University at Buffalo Green Office, organizing campus and community education focused on energy conservation, green building, and sustainable living. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences, with concentrations in environmental studies and health & human services, from the University at Buffalo and a master’s degree in Organization Management and Development from Fielding Graduate Institute.

Links for this episode:

Digital Distractions in the Classroom

January 13th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image showing distracted students in a classroom

Technology in education is great, distraction is not…Digital technology in the classroom is here to stay, whether it’s provided directly by the school or used surreptitiously by students on the sly. The question is not, “Should we allow digital devices in the classroom?”, it’s “Now that they’re here, how can we prevent digital devices from becoming a distraction?”

A post by Leah Anne Levy, at Edudemic, suggests the following tips for dealing with digital distractions in the classroom:

  • Destroy the multitasking myth
  • Rethink smartphones bans
  • Write how they read
  • Use their unique distraction styles to spark learning
  • Don’t post everything online
  • Create opportunities for curiosity outside the digital space
  • Teach grit

You can read more about this in Leah’s post 7 Ways to Deal with Digital Distractions in the Classroom.

Bb Tip #126: Link Checker

January 12th, 2015

Quite often faculty insert links to external web sites into their courses. This makes it convenient for users to get to the external web sites. While the link may be a live link when it’s placed in the course, there is no way to automatically know if a link later becomes broken.

link checker

You can use the “Link Checker” course tool to check for broken links. With Link Checker, you can run a quick scan of your course to determine if any of the web page links are no longer valid.

Follow these steps to do it.

To verify web page links in your course are still valid, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for that course and click on the [Course Tools] link to expand it. Click on [Link Checker].
  2. After a few moments, a list of all the web links in your course will appear.
  3. Broken links will have an “X” in the valid column.
  4. You cannot remove a link with Link Checker, but you can make it unavailable by hiding it. Check the Hide box for the link you want to make unavailable.
  5. Click on the [Submit] button when done.

Note: If you do not see Link Checker in your Course Tools, you should verify the Link Checker tool is available in your course. To verify, go to the [Control Panel] click on [Customization] to expand it and click on [Tool Availability]. Make sure there is a check mark in the available box for Link Checker. Click [Submit] to save the changes.

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.