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Often instructors are looking for images to use in their courses because images can liven up the course and help students understand the course material.

magnifying glass clipart

Be careful using a Google search for images. Many of the images that you find in a Google search are copyrighted. Images you use for your courses should be free of any copyright restrictions.

There are several sites that I like to use to find free images that are either in the public domain or covered by licenses that allow you to reuse images under certain restrictions. Those sites are:

You may have found an image you want to use, however, you would like to make changes to it. You can find image editing software suggestions in the Xavier Library Digital Humanities Toolbox. Just make sure the image copyright gives you permission to modify the image.

What’s your favorite site(s) for finding free images? Let us know by leaving a comment on this blog post.

ICYMI, read my blog post on Digital Copyrights for copyright information.

Photograph of Jose Bove speaking at a conference.
Jose Bove was one of the early proponents of what would come to be called the Slow Food movement.
I'm at an interesting confluence of professional development methodologies. For the Xavier University Faculty Writing Group, the guiding premise is Just Do It™ -- force yourself to write, even if only for 15 minutes a day. Squeeze it in however you can. (I've been pushing myself to do 30 minutes.) This makes sense; it's the same advice I was given as a creative writing graduate student; it's the same advice you get from any successful writer: write every day no matter what. But I'm also in a book club that is currently reading and discussion The Slow Professor by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber, a book that attempts to embrace the ideals of the Slow movement while living the life of the modern academic. Berg and Seeger, I think, would not agree with the Just Do It™ premise of my writing group.

Berg and Seeger argue for a greater mindfullness of our time, even if they never use that particular language. They argue for faculty to incorporate into their lives what they call "timeless time," sessions that are purposefully (mindfully) organized in order to allow us to focus wholly and completely on an activity... an activity like writing. According to Berg and Seeger, a session of "timeless time" requires several things of us:

  • A period of transition, time to focus our energies on the upcoming activity;
  • The acceptance that we will probably need more time than we think accomplish this activity;
  • A sense of "playfulness"; and
  • A silencing of our inner and outer critics who think that such activity is a waste of time (and money).

So on the one hand, I'm encouraged to squeeze in 15 or 30 minutes to write, no matter what, to be consistent and regimented -- the same 15 or 30 minute every day of the week, while on the other, I'm encouraged to not simply carve out a chunk of time during which to write, but to create an extended session of timelessness -- a meditative, almost spiritual experience.

At first, this seemed contradictory, but they're not. They just need to balance each other. So I'll be trying something new in the next week: I'm still carving out that 30 minutes each day (I've been doing it at 8:30 every night, after I've read to and put my son to bed, because I'm not a morning person (I'm really just not)), but I'll be leaving the first 5, 10, or 15 minutes to prepare myself to write for the rest of that half hour.

The question now is what to do with that "period of transition." I want to say I'll do some kind of focusing meditation; however, I'm guessing that will often be supplanted by a need to review some research before I start writing. A challenge I've found with the write every day model is that you need to be prepared to write -- not psychically prepared, as Berg and Seeger suggest, but prepared with the research in mind. When I do creative writing, that's often not an issue, as it's all in my head. But scholarly writing, but its nature, can't be all in my head. So I've found myself leaving big gaps in my writing these days, notes to myself to "check the literature on this" and "verify this idea." So that transition period may become a literature review period. We'll see.

Note: This post first appeared on the Xavier University Faculty Writing Group's blog.

luggage with stickers and caption Brightspace is replacing Blackboard

Brightspace (formerly called Desire2Learn or D2L) will replace Blackboard as our learning management system (LMS) starting spring 2018. Brightspace has an intuitive design that makes it easy to accomplish tasks quickly. There are a number of features that faculty and students will find useful, including drag-and-drop file management, a mobile friendly interface, virtual classrooms, student portfolio tool, end-user support, and built-in analytics. Visit the D2L website for more information about Brightspace.

Brightspace training sessions will be offered starting mid-October. You can sign-up for training sessions on our events page.

Additionally, our Brightspace Migration FAQs have been updated. Please review the updated FAQs, they should be able to answer your questions about our migration plan.

A 2016 book by University of Wisconsin at Madison professor Randy Stoecker makes an interesting critique of service-learning at universities, one that I've heard before, particularly in an interview I conducted with professor and activist Corey Dolgon. The critique is basically this: service-learning does a poor job of helping communities, and in some cases may do more harm than good.

The book is titled Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement (Temple University Press), and in it Stoeker argues that the reason for this poor job is mainly that service-learning projects are heavily focused on student learning outcomes and are less focused on the outcomes for community members. Teachers have many ways to measure student learning. Doing so is one of our primary functions. But when it comes to measuring outcomes in the community, often the measures are relegated to the numbers of people "served" or numbers of contact hours, and are not more qualitative measures.

There are good reasons for this. Qualitative measures can be difficult to obtain, since they often play out over time periods longer than the semester when students are present. Community organizations whose primary functions would ostensibly include measuring improvements also have difficulties making these sorts of measures, and also rely on numbers served instead.

Stoecker makes an analogy to point out the semester-length challenge. If fire departments ran like service-learning programs, the fire fighting would end at a set time regardless of whether or not the building is still on fire. Another point on this same analogy: firefighters would only fight fires near the station, when in fact the need may be farther flung.

But there's another key difference between a community and a classroom which Stoecker points out: classrooms are places designed for experimentation and failure. Learning takes place through trial and error, conducted within a laboratory that is sealed from the public sphere until results are in. Our communities are no place for this type of experimentation. Indeed treating them as such could replicate the negative effects of systems and structures that contribute to the problems communities face.

Efforts to address the gap between measuring student outcomes and measuring community outcomes are being made. Andrew Seligsohn, president of Campus Compact, notes that a group called Democracy Collaborative is currently developing ways to measure the impact of campus service projects on communities. But he acknowledges that we aren’t close to where we need to be.*

Stoecker argues for an approach to community engagement that empowers communities, as opposed to an approach that views service through the lens of charity, and the recipients as needy, instead of as people caught within an unjust system. Seeking safe and uncontroversial routes, schools tend toward a model of simply helping those in need, and avoid supporting the messy politics of student activism. This approach, Stoecker notes, too often replicates power imbalances, with schools naming the community need and providing outside help to those seen as lacking resources to help themselves.

I would add that this critique is not a call to abandon service-learning, but rather to rethink our approach, especially those of us who have been involved with the same community organizations and have conducted the same projects for several years. Since we as teachers mainly determine the outcomes for our projects, there’s nothing stopping us from revising those outcomes to focus more on communities: on actively listening to members, on talking with them about past efforts and their successes and shortcomings, on advocating for systemic change through policy, or through public pressure in the form of protest. These are forms of student learning as well, as important as, and certainly tied to, outcomes of personal growth, awareness, empathy, and critical thinking. Instead of students learning from the teachers, and from the “experience,” perhaps teachers and students should learn from the people of the community as well.

*Andrew Seligsohn and Randy Stoecker were interviewed by Ellen Wexler of Inside Higher Ed, and information from her article is used in this post.

Download Conversation #60



A conversation with Joli Jensen of University of Tulsa on scholarly writing.

Throughout my academic career I have struggled to combine my academic writing with other commitments. What I’ve learned about overcoming obstacles to my own academic writing has led to my current focus — offering academic writing support to colleagues in the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

Links for this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #60: Joli Jensen on Scholarly Writing"

pitfall street sign

In my blog post on using gamification in your courses, I wrote about why educators are using gamification in teaching and learning. If you are considering using gamification in your courses, beware of pitfalls.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Srividya Kumar wrote,

When gamification is not thought through and designed well, it can have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

Srividya indicates that gamification can be like walking a tightrope in order to get it right. She goes on to provide some pitfalls to watch out for. The pitfalls she suggests you avoid are:

1. Superficial Engagement

Having learners fall over themselves to earn goodies, or compete to achieve top position on a leaderboard is great, but if these are the only reasons that spur learners to perform the desired behaviors, then it’s not going to last very long. Extrinsic motivators can only go so far to engage and motivate. Make sure to have more intrinsic motivators than extrinsic motivators.

2. Unintended Consequences

Think long and hard about the motivators, rewards, and consequences. While encouraging and rewarding the right behaviors does definitely motivate people, sometimes unintended, and even undesirable behaviors can be the side effects of a gamification initiative, as evidenced by the cobra effect.

3. Rewarding the Wrong Behaviors

Avoid Kerr’s folly, rewarding A while hoping for B. Your reward structure shouldn’t undermine your goal. You should be clear about the goal and the outcomes you are aiming for. Measure and reward what is important, not what is easy.

4. Rewards That Learners Don’t Find Valuable

You may have received a gift that you really didn’t like or could not find much use for and struggled to tell the person that you did not like or could not use the gift. That’s exactly what would happen if you throw a bunch of worthless badges at learners, without thinking about whether they would find these badges valuable. Avoid this situation by thinking about whether your learners will find your rewards useful/exciting.

I’m sure you can think of other pitfalls to avoid. Please use the comments below to let us know your thoughts on this topic.

If you are interested reading more about these pitfalls, refer to the “4 Gamification Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” blog post.

Photo Credit: Pitfall Str | CC BY 2.0

One feature missing from Blackboard is the ability to get a word count for discussion board threads, blogs, wikis, and journals. Currently, most professors get a word count by copying text from Blackboard, pasting it into Microsoft Word and then getting a word count inside MS Word. The "Word Count" Add-on for the Firefox web browser skips this whole process and gives you the ability to get a word count for discussion board threads, blogs, wikis, and journals while on the respective page in Blackboard.

image showing word count

Follow these steps to do it.

First download and install the Add-on:
Liberty University Word Count Add-on for Firefox
To get a word count in Blackboard:

When on the Blackboard page (i.e., discussion boards, blogs, wikis, or journals), you will see a button labeled ‘Word Count’ at the top and bottom of the page. Highlight the text you would like to count and click the Word Count button. A count of the number of highlighted words will be displayed in the box next to the Word Count button.

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.

Gamification is making a boring process interesting by using fun elements from games. Educators have been using gamification even before there was an official term for it.

board game

Gamification gets people excited like no other strategy does, probably because it holds the promise of fun and engagement, and extraordinary results. Research has shown that using gamification in education can increase learner motivation. Incentives, badges, levels, and a spot on a leaderboard are all motivators to learn. They let learners achieve in the short-term by providing visible goals.

A leaderboard that measures progress can motivate learners at all levels. A leaderboard that measures skill can fail the learners who are at the bottom.

Making Knowledge Public Using Educational Technology is the theme for our 2017-18 FaCTS initiative. We decided to add gamification to our week-long FaCTS summer seminar. Unlike past FaCTS initiatives, there were a lot of assignments that had to be completed before the first day of the summer seminar. Additionally, it was important that homework assignments that were due each night of the summer seminar had to be completed to keep us on track.

We setup a friendly EdTech Mage competition between the FaCTS cohort where they could earn XP for completing assignments. Our hope was that the participants would keep up with their assignments, have fun while doing so, and that the competition would give the cohort some ideas about how they might use gamification in their courses.

Because the XP earned by the participants would change often, we wanted an easy way to keep up with the points and have the cohort see the leaderboard rankings. Also, we were not sure how the participants would feel about having their names on the leaderboard, so we asked participants to provide an alias to use instead.

To set up our EdTech Mage leaderboard, I created a self-ranking leaderboard using a pivot table in a Google spreadsheet by following Mariana Garcia’s YouTube video instructions.

Here’s what our EdTech Mage self-ranking leaderboard looks like:

The cohort was provided the following documents related to earning XP:

  • EdTech Mage Ranking System (explains the levels and the points needed to achieve each level)
  • EdTech Mage Points (explains the assignments/activities you can earn points for and the number of points the assignment/activity is worth)

You can see the incentives that were given as levels were achieved in the EdTech Mage Ranking System document. If everyone completed their summer seminar preparation assignments they should have earned enough points to reach the Magician level. Therefore, on day one a prize was given to the first person who had reached the Magician level. As the week progressed, a prize was awarded to the first person to reach Sorcerer level. On the last day of the summer seminar a prize was awarded to the top three participants on the leaderboard.

Overall, we received positive feedback from the cohort about adding gamification to the summer seminar. Those of us who organized the summer seminar felt adding gamification helped to motivate the participants to complete their assignments in a timely manner and helped to keep us on track.

Gamification may not suit everyone and may not work for every situation. But for those who can find a use for it, the benefits of gamification can be substantial.

For more information about gamification read my "Why Use Gamification in your Courses?” blog post.

If you are using gamification in your courses or in faculty development, we would love to hear about it. Please leave us a comment and let us know how you are gamifying your courses or your faculty development efforts.

Photo Credit: Board Game | CCO

Yes, it’s true! We are moving from Blackboard to Brightspace!

Bb to Brightspace logo

Brightspace (formerly called Desire2Learn or D2L) will replace Blackboard as our learning management system (LMS) starting spring 2018. Brightspace has an intuitive design that makes it easy to accomplish tasks quickly. There are a number of features that faculty and students will find useful, including drag-and-drop file management, a mobile friendly interface, virtual classrooms, student portfolio tool, end-user support, and built-in analytics.

All faculty will get an opportunity to attend Brightspace training sessions that will be offered beginning in October. Here is a list of the Brightspace training sessions that are scheduled this fall. Stay tuned for more information about the training sessions. In the meantime, you can visit the D2L website for more information about Brightspace.

Additionally, we’ve prepared these Brightspace Migration FAQs to answer your questions about our migration plan.

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Educators are using Twitter in creative ways to engage students inside and outside of class, to stay on top of education news, and to expand their personal learning network (PLN).

Twitter bird with chalk in wing in front of chalk board

Are you looking for information and ideas about teaching with Twitter? If so, check out these resources:

Please leave us a comment and let us know how you are using Twitter in your teaching and learning. Also, follow us (CAT+FD) on Twitter @xulacat.