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Red Leaves

The nearest airport is in Connecticut, so when your plane lands you still have a good long drive to get to Amherst. You talk to the shuttle driver. She has an accent you can't place, but she's lived in Massachusetts for at least a decade.

She drops you off at Allen House, a little bed and breakfast you found online. It proves to be a lovingly-done Victorian-era restoration, cozy and charming. The place is booked full of people from all over the world who are here for the same purpose as you. An instant and easy camaraderie springs up between you.

You're here for the Fifth Annual Conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE), which is being held at Amherst College.

You make your way up the street to a noodle shop with a couple fellow travelers for a quick dinner. It's cold, much colder than New Orleans, but only outdoors. You're surprised to find that it's warm and toasty indoors wherever you go. Apparently central heating is to New England what air conditioning is to the Deep South.

Then you walk over to Amherst College campus. The conference begins this evening. After registering at Converse Hall you find your way to Stirn Auditorium.

The ACMHE conference is a little different from other conferences, and that's evident from the start. The opening plenary begins with silent meditation. There are a couple hundred people packed into the auditorium. Though no one says a word, you feel the power of their presence all the more. You are aware of the potentialities that will unfold over the next 40 hours.

If that wasn't enough to distinguish this conference as unique, what comes next certainly seals the deal. An extra space has been reserved on the keynote panel. An audience member is randomly selected to fill it.


And so the conference begins. The theme this year is "Integrity of Practice." The panel considers questions that revolve around this theme. Then the audience members discuss the questions amongst themselves, and finally share their thoughts with the larger group.

Integrity of Practice

The next morning you have breakfast at the Amherst Inn, owned by the same people who run Allen House. The breakfast table serves as an extension of the conference, the conversations of the night before continuing over pancakes and coffee.

Very soon, you're back on campus for the first of the parallel sessions. There are nine sessions running at the same time, and all the topics look fascinating. How to choose? You find yourself drawn to a session by David Forbes of Brooklyn College/CUNY, with the provocative title, "Contemplative Education and Neoliberalism: A Perfect World Still Requires Radical Action."

A Perfect World Still Calls for Radical Transformation

Forbes' presentation is chock-full of ideas, far more than even a fast-talking New Yorker can cover in the allotted time. He is asking all the right questions. "What is the purpose of contemplative practices in education? Is it enlightenment/awakening and the elimination of greed, ill-will, and delusion for everyone and at all societal levels, or is it a relativistic technology used to improve attention, reduce stress, and gain personal success and productivity in a competitive society?" The conversation that follows is galvanizing.

The morning continues. All the sessions look so promising that you decide to take a cue from the previous night's panel and select your next session randomly. You end up listening to Ed Sarath from the University of Michigan hold forth on "Integrity of Practice in Meditation and Improvisation Pedagogy."

Ed Sarath

You're stunned to realize that improvisation has been perhaps the most central musical practice throughout world history, except for a period of about 200 years in Europe. This seems to throw light on the state of the modern academy, which even in America tends to be both highly traditional and Eurocentric. But that is changing.

You've come here from a historically Black university, so it is with special interest that you attend your next session, "Contemplative Race Theory: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Racial Discourse." The presenters, Seth Schoen and Rev. Christopher Carter, seem very young. In fact, they are graduate students, and this is their first such presentation.

Contemplative Race Theory

They present a "compassion practice" which they have developed together, a fairly advanced guided meditation that is grounded in critical race theory. It would seem to be a good way to prepare classes for difficult, sensitive or contentious discussions. They hope to publish on the practice soon. You make a note for future reference.

In the afternoon, there are open space sessions, organized around topics suggested by participants that very morning. You attend a discussion on race, class and gender.

Open Session on Race, Class & Gender

The conversation is heartfelt, respectful yet challenging. You are taken by one participant's observation that contemplation disrupts her "default modes of being," which suggests the subtle potential of such practices for subverting engrained social structures.

The theme for the conference is "Integrity of Practice." But your own personal theme is beginning to emerge. It might be called, "The Joy of Walking Slowly." You find yourself walking often in the company of two women who walk slowly for different reasons. Karen is walking with a cane. Eileen simply seems to be the sort of person who is never rushed. You find you must make a conscious effort to slow down and stick with their pace, but this seems entirely in keeping with the spirit of the conference.

Before dinner on Saturday evening Karen reveals she doesn't have a sprained ankle or a broken foot. She suffered a life-threatening stroke some while ago. You listen in awe to the story of her recovery, and how her 30-year practice of meditation helped her through a very difficult time.

It's been a full day. You're tired. You sleep like a rock that night, for about ten hours, disturbed only by a welcome nocturnal visitation from the B&B's resident housecat.

Sunday morning begins in much the same manner as Saturday, with conversation around the breakfast table as stimulating as any one of the formal sessions. You walk to campus with Robert-Louis Abrahamson. When learning of your fascination with seasonal progress, he bestows upon you a touching gift: a copy of his own CD and accompanying booklet, Journey Through the Seasons, a cycle of meditations on the five Chinese healing energies.

You're excited to attend a roundtable discussion on "The Role of Teaching Centers in Introducing and Supporting Contemplative Practices," convened by your new friend Eileen Abrams.

The Role of Teaching Centers

A nascent faculty development network seems to be emerging. You know from previous experience how powerful this can be, and the exchange of ideas is invigorating. For example, one colleague suggests exploring the connection between contemplative pedagogy and retention rates. It seems like a promising line of inquiry.

But the best has, perhaps, been saved for last. The impromptu student panel was one of the most engaging sessions at the ACMHE conference. This was, in part, an opportunity for faculty to ask students, "What do we need to know from you?"

Student Panel

A number of new connections are made for you. For example: Metacognition is enhanced by meditation. We've sponsored workshops on both topics but never drawn that connection. You think to yourself: We should sponsor more student panels at CAT. We have much to learn from our students.

On the ride back to the airport, you find yourself once again conversing with the shuttle driver. He hails from Morocco and is a big fan of the Boston Celtics. As you describe the conference you discover what you've learned.

Pedagogy must connect course content to a larger whole; otherwise, we are merely conveying disassociated tidbits of information, quickly "crammed" into short-term memory and just as quickly forgotten. Pedagogy must be meaningful, purposeful, and connected to deep values in order to be effective and transformative. You're struck by the awe-inspiring scope of this charge. You realize that this domain — the domain of meaning, purpose and values — provides a good working definition of spirituality. These issues are the main concern of many religions. Therefore, in order to be effective, teachers must be on a spiritual path or grounded in a spiritual practice. It's not something extra, some "value added" proposition. It's absolutely essential. It's the core, the foundation of what we do. And it follows that a holistic faculty development program must provide support for the spiritual development of faculty members.

The implications are staggering. However will you communicate this to the folks back home?

I recently attended the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) conference on Transforming STEM Education: Inquiry, Innovation, Inclusion and Evidence. It was an information-rich conference which highlighted the amazing initiatives currently taking place in the field of STEM education.To give you a taste of the veritable smorgasbord of information provided at the conference, I have prepared a summary of the sessions I attended in the whirlwind two days that I was at the meeting.

Please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss or learn more about any of the topics included in the summary. Bon appétit!


"Video Everywhere" is a new feature in the content editor that allows you and your students to:

  • Record short YouTube videos on the fly using a webcam and seamlessly embed the video into your course materials, interactions, and feedback.
  • Reuse previously recorded YouTube videos by choosing from your own "library" of videos.

Videos are uploaded, processed and stored in YouTube. The videos are uploaded to YouTube as "unlisted" videos. An unlisted video is publicly visible, but not indexed in any search engines. Only people with a link to the video can view it. Videos uploaded through the content editor using "Video Everywhere" will have a link that users in your Blackboard course have access to.

Video Everywhere
Record from webcam

"Video Everywhere" is available in Blackboard wherever the content editor is available. A Google account and YouTube channel are required to use "Video Everywhere."

Follow these steps to do it.


Start by ensuring your Google/YouTube accounts are setup correctly:

  1. Create a Google account.
  2. Sign in to YouTube using your Google account credentials.
  3. Click arrow next to your icon (avatar).
  4. Click on [My Channel].
  5. Click [OK] to confirm new YouTube channel.

Note: Setting up your Google account and YouTube channel is something you will do one-time only. You do not have to repeat this process.

Video Everywhere

To record or use a previously recorded video:

  1. Click on the [Record from Webcam] button in the content editor.
  2. Click the [Sign in to YouTube] button. Sign into Google using your credentials.
  3. Click the [Grant access] button.
  4. Click the [Record from webcam] button. Optionally, you can click on the "Browse" tab to select a previously recorded video and then follow the prompts.
  5. In the Adobe Flash Player Settings window, select the "Allow" box to allow access to your webcam.
  6. Click on the microphone and camera tabs to verify the settings are correct.
  7. After verifying the microphone and camera settings, click the [Close] button to close the Adobe Flash Player Settings window.
  8. You may get a message asking to allow access to video camera. If so, click [Allow] and then click [Ok] to the YouTube message.
  9. You should see yourself in the Webcam Recorder window. Click the [Start Recording] button to record your message.
  10. When you are done recording click the [Stop Recording] button.
  11. Click the play button to review the video recording. If necessary, click the [Start over] button to record another video.
  12. Click the [Upload] button to upload the video to your YouTube channel.
  13. Choose your playback options and then click on the [Insert] button to insert the video into the content editor.
  14. You should see a placeholder (frame) for the video in the content editor. You will see the actual video player (or a thumbnail) once you click Submit to save the information. If you don’t see the video, click on the refresh button to refresh the Blackboard page.

Want more information?

Getting Started with Video Everywhere [pdf] [video].
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.

I've just finished up a series of six essays for College Contemplative on the topic of "Contemplative Faculty Development."

  1. Greetings & Introduction
  2. My Story
  3. Stepping into Silence
  4. The Transformative Banquet
  5. Sustaining the Dialog
  6. What's Next

Read at your own risk; I apologize in advance for the length. Now I'm off to the Fifth Annual Conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education to present on this same topic. Catch you on the flipside! And please don't miss our Nov. 14th workshop on Zen meditation.


Download Conversation #21

Kenneth Crews

A court ruled last year that at least within limits it was fair use to scan pages from a book and to make those pages available to students in connection with teaching at a university. Now, you're thinking to yourself: But we do that here all the time. And the answer is: I know, it's happening all over the country — and somebody finally got sued. The case is up on appeal.

A conversation with Kenneth Crews of Columbia University, on teaching, learning and copyright.

Links for this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #21: Kenneth Crews on Copyright"

Next week (Nov 11-15) is National Distance Learning Week.

What does that mean for us at XULA Online? Annual events afford us the opportunity to see how far we’ve come and make sure we’re on the right track to get where we want to go. On a national level, we are also part of a larger community of learners, all striving for similar goals.

So, let’s start by looking back. This time last year (November 2012) Xavier had just offered 8 online summer sections in the College of Arts and Sciences and we were gearing up to offer more for the following summer. The FaCTS topic of “Engaging Students in Online Courses” had just been announced and the E Learning Committee had been formed and was meeting to analyze what challenges must be overcome if Xavier were going to make a push to increase online/hybrid course offerings.

Now, in November 2013, Xavier has just offered 28 online/hybrid sections this past summer with an enrollment of over 450 students, and that from very minimal promotion of these courses. The students found the courses because the demand was there. This fall, our FaCTS panel discussed their online experiences to a filled seminar room. The E Learning Committee has been morphed into the XULA Online Advisory Board and tasked to work on Faculty and Student Handbooks among other things. In addition, a respectable number of online/hybrid courses is being offered this fall and in the spring plus plans are being made for an even larger selection of summer courses.

We’re making available to instructors the CAT Online Faculty Resource Center very shortly, have conducted several Blackboard Collaborate training sessions, and have met with individual faculty members and department representatives to discuss future offerings and how to prepare instructors. To celebrate National Distance Learning Week, Quality Matters is offering special workshops and if you’ve already taken the first Quality Matters course, you’re eligible for one of these workshops as well. (If you didn’t receive the email and may be interested, just contact me at x7692.)

Services are being considered for ensuring academic honesty in online test-taking (Respondus Monitor, student readiness to succeed in online classes (SmarterMeasure) and a much-needed 24/7 student technical support service (Blackboard Student Services).  In addition, XULA Online is now part of social media: is our email address; is our website, and we're on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.

Quite important for me is that I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as the not so new now Distance Education Coordinator and I’m just thrilled to be learning so much from my CAT colleagues and meeting with faculty and student!. I am doing my best to listen and respond to your suggestions, needs and challenges.

Moving ahead amid the flurry of so much activity in so many different arenas, it’s important to always, always remember that STUDENT LEARNING is our goal for XULA Online. After all, it is called National Distance LEARNING Week! I’m looking forward to November 2014 and excited and curious to see what I’ll have to report then.

David Powell

David Powell explains his recipe for success in Spanish 1020 online.

Here at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Stassi DiMaggio (Chemistry) and Mr. Jeremy Tuman (English) as our newly appointed Faculty in Residence.

Dr. DiMaggio is the CAT Faculty in Residence.

The CAT Faculty in Residence has primary responsibility for enhancing and leading programming for first year faculty. Duties include: assisting in the planning and implementation of new faculty orientation; facilitating new faculty mentoring; organizing and implementing the new faculty "brown bag" series; organizing and implementing a coherent set of workshop open to all faculty but focused on new faculty; assisting in grant writing for CAT initiatives related to first year faculty development; and assisting in the assessment of CAT's programs related to first year faculty development.

Need to get in touch? Contact Dr. DiMaggio.

Mr. Tuman is the Faculty in Residence for Service Learning.

The Faculty in Residence for Service Learning at CAT works in close partnership with the Center for Student Leadership and Service to provide services to faculty incorporating the pedagogy of service-learning into the curriculum and promoting civic engagement through meaningful community participation. Duties include: creating and implementing training workshops and program materials; assisting in identifying service-learning faculty and courses; and serving as the co-chair of the service-learning faculty advisory board.

Need to get in touch? Contact Mr. Tuman.


Due dates, availability dates, and adaptive release dates are usually entered when you create assignments, assessments, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, journals, etc. You can use due dates to help keep students on track. Students see the due dates when they go to My Grades to view their grades and when they look at entries in their course Calendars. With the new updated Calendar students can see the due dates for items in their courses. Assignments, assessments, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, journals, etc. with due dates automatically populate into the Calendar.

The new Date Management tool allows you to easily change due dates, availability dates, and adaptive release dates at one time (all on one page). If you have to modify dates for two or more items you should consider using the Date Management tool to adjust the dates. The Date Management tool will save you some time as you will not have to edit each individual item to adjust the dates.

The Date Management tool can be very useful when you use the Course Copy feature. For example, if you created a master copy of a course and copied the content from the master course into a blank course, you can use the Date Management tool to easily adjust dates after the course copy.

Note: You cannot use the Date Management tool to adjust dates of Collaborate sessions, Bb partner integrations or publisher content items (e.g. Turnitin, McGraw Hill, etc.)

Follow these steps to do it.

To adjust content and/or tool due dates, availability dates, and adaptive release dates you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for the course and click on the [Course Tools] link to expand it. Click on [Date Management].
  2. Choose whether you want the system to automatically adjust dates to new dates or if you want to "List All Dates for Review". The "List All Dates for Review" option allows you to review all dates and manually adjust dates yourself.
  3. Click Refresh to ensure the page is up-to-date.
  4. Review all dates and adjust accordingly. You can filter your review by item type (e.g., assignments, blogs, journals, discussion boards) and date types (e.g., due dates, availability dates, adaptive release dates).
  5. You can adjust dates individually, two or more at one time, or automatically. Use the pencil icon to modify dates for individual items.
  6. Click [Run Date Management Again] to automatically adjust dates.

Note: If you do not see Date Management in your Course Tools, you should verify the Date Management 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 the Date Management tool. Click [Submit] to save the changes.

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions are available [webpage] [video].
Copy Course Contents into another Course [webpage].
Master Copies of Courses [webpage].
Blackboard Calendar [video].
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.


Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could take our students on a world-wide tour of the greatest museums or laboratories so that they can see original artwork or DNA research being carried out firsthand? With the latest technological advances in 3-D and other apps now so readily available, these same museums and labs have developed and posted online, virtual tours of their treasures. Including these in your online classes or even as a project or enrichment assignment in your face to face classes, can greatly enhance the students' learning experience and have them googling for more.

ABPI (The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) has actually developed an entire site of tours and activities designed specifically for schools and the virtual tours are user-friendly.

For museums, one of my favorite series of interactive tours is on the site of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. It doesn't hurt that the tour allows you to choose a painting or other piece of art and email it as an ecard to someone. I love to send ecards and what better choice than a specially-chosen work of art for the recipient?

So if you'd like to share with your students a best-loved museum (for me, Musée PIcasso, Antibes) or give them a new and different experience (Alpine Astrovillage AAV Lue-Stailas), spend a few minutes searching the internet and you'll soon find numerous virtual tours that, for a moment, will make your students feel they're on the Riviera or looking up at the stars in the Swiss Alps.

A student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Cape Coast

More and more professors are using midterm student evaluations, experts say, and more and more colleges are strongly urging their faculty to collect student feedback midway through their courses. (Medina, 2011, Chronicle of Higher Education).

Can you believe midterms are upon us? It's that time of the fall semester that brings tons of grading, Halloween decorations, and of course, midcourse reviews. Midcourse reviews provide feedback that can potentially assist you in fine-tuning your course while it is still underway.  Sometimes called a formative evaluation, the midcourse review is an optional and informal supplement to the end-of-semester summative evaluations.  Interest in these reviews is driven by a desire to see what’s working well in your class and what could be improved to aid student learning.  The advantage of doing these at mid-term is that you are able to make adjustments to your course this semester.

In a midcourse review, a facilitator will ask your students in groups to discuss three questions:

  1. What is working well in the class (i.e., what is helping you learn)?
  2. What is not working well (i.e., what is hindering your learning)?
  3. What suggestions do you have for improvement?

By the end of the 20 minutes, we will have a composite list of student reactions to these issues.  Then, at a mutually convenient time, the facilitator meets with you to confidentially discuss what the students said.  In general you will get an accurate “barometer reading” on how the class is going.

Still on the fence?  Check out this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

If you are interested in scheduling a midcourse review, get in touch now.

Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection via Compfight cc