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Scott Belsky has written an interesting article titled "What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space."

We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.

The relevance to the Academy and the "life of the mind" should be clear. The themes Belsky raises resonate with the message of David Levy's stunning "No Time to Think: Reflections on Information Technology and Contemplative Scholarship." (See the video, read the paper.)

Belsky's article helpfully includes five potential mindsets and solutions to consider. Check it out.

Professors frequently copy information from Microsoft Word and paste it into Blackboard to save time when creating content in Blackboard. Often unnecessary Microsoft specific code is included when text is copied from Microsoft programs and pasted directly into Blackboard. This extra code may cause unforeseen results (e.g. browser instability, slow course load times, unexpected text formatting, random font size/style changes, students are abruptly exited from exams).

There is a new "Paste from Word" Mashup tool that allows you to paste the text you copied from a Microsoft Office program into Blackboard. The Paste from Word Mashup tool strips off the MS Office hidden proprietary code. You should use the Paste from Word Mashup tool when you are pasting text from Microsoft programs into Blackboard in order to minimize potential problems with Blackboard. You should suggest to your students that they also use the Paste from Word Mashup tool whenever they are pasting text from a MS Office program into the visual text box editor.

Follow these steps to do it.
1. Start by copying the desired text from Word.
2. In Blackboard, enter the item where you want to paste your information.
3. In the visual text box editor, click on the Add Mashup icon and select Paste from Word. The Paste from Word window will open.
4. Click on the Paste icon. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + V on your keyboard (Mac users should press Command + V).
5. Your browser may block the paste from working. If this happens follow the prompts to allow access.
6. Once the pasted information is shown in the Paste from Word window, click on Submit. Your text will be pasted into the visual text box editor.

NOTE: The Paste from Word Mashup will not include any images that were in the copied information. Images should be inserted using the visual textbox editor’s Attach Image button.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

The digital dropbox is not available in Blackboard Learn version 9.1. The digital dropbox was replaced with a more robust Assignment tool. The Assignment tool significantly improves file collection and exchange. Rather than having one large unorganized drop box, the Assignment Tool lets faculty create a secure location for students to submit work for each course assignment. Faculty use the Grade Center to monitor the submission process, to view and/or download submitted work, to compose and send confidential feedback to students, and to grade the assignment. Faculty can download all of a particular assignment’s student submitted files in a single zip file. In the download zip file, each student submitted file will be renamed automatically to include the assignment’s name, the student’s username, as well as the filename the student originally submitted.

Multiple options are available when creating an assignment:

  • Assignment Files - allows faculty to attach supplemental information
  • Assignment Availability - allows faculty to create assignments in advance
  • Date and Time Restrictions - allows faculty to decide when students can access the assignment
  • Individual or Group Assignments – allows faculty to choose who has access to assignment
  • Tracking Statistics - track the number of views and by whom

Want more information?
Getting Started with Assignments - instructors [PDF].
Submitting Assignments - students [Video].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Turnitin is a tool available in Blackboard that you can use to prevent plagiarism and provide feedback to students. With Turnitin you can check a student’s work for originality, have peer reviews of papers, and grade papers electronically.

OriginalityCheck - Ensures original work by checking submitted papers against 14 billion web pages, 150 million student papers and leading library databases and publications.

PeerMark - Engages students in the writing process by providing structured, anonymous feedback of other student's written work.

GradeMark - Saves time and improves feedback through online grading where standard and customized marks appear directly on the student's paper.

Turnitin can be used as an instructional tool to help improve the student writing cycle by preventing plagiarism and providing rich feedback to students.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

The Rubrics tool in Bb Learn 9.1 Service Pack 6 is a new tool. It is not the same as the Rubrics tool you use with Turnitin. The new Rubrics tool lists evaluation criteria for an assignment and can be associated with any column in the Grade Center. Rubrics can help students organize their efforts to meet the requirements of an assignment. Instructors can use Rubrics to explain their evaluations to students.

Instructors can associate Rubrics when creating gradable content items, including Blogs, Journals, Wikis, Discussion Boards, Assignments, and short-answer, file-response, or essay questions in tests and pools. Rubrics can be associated with multiple items, and all associations can be viewed from the Rubrics tool. Multiple rubrics can be associated with an item. Instructors can choose to have the rubrics visible to students at any time, only after grading has been completed, or not shown to the students at all.

When creating a rubric, instructors can assign weights to categories, allowing the same rubric to be used across multiple items with different possible points. Rubrics can be imported and exported for use across courses.

Rubrics can be viewed from the Grade Center during the grading process. Instructors can interact with any associated rubric for grading in a grid or list view, and feedback can be typed for each criteria as well as the entire assessment. Grades calculated using rubrics can be overridden. When a rubric has been used for grading, a report is available to view the results of all content graded with that rubric.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [HTML].
Creating a Rubric [Video].
Associating a Rubric with a gradable item [Video].
Grading with Rubrics [Video].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418


You can personalize your course by adding a banner to your course. A course banner is an image that appears at the top of the course entry point of your course.

Follow these steps to do it.
To add a banner click on [Customization] in the control panel to expand it. Then click on [Style]. In the Select Banner options, click the [Browse My Computer] button and navigate to the desired image on your computer. Select the desired image file and click [Open]. Click [Submit] when you are done.

NOTE: The recommended size for course banner images is 480 X 80 pixels (8 inches X 1.25 inch). You can create a course banner using PowerPoint. Step-by-step instructions are available.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions for adding a course banner are available [PDF].
Step-by-step instructions for creating banners using PowerPoint for Windows [PDF] and Mac [PDF] are available.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

CAT was fortunate to be able to co-sponsor the sixth annual Rising Tide conference last weekend. It was a great success by most every measure, with programming on a diverse variety of topics.

One panel of particular interest was "Social Media, Social Justice," examining the intersection and interaction of social network services with the struggle for a more just and humane society. (Perhaps I'm prejudiced because I helped put this one together.) Here's the video.

Xavier's Kimberly Joy Chandler (Communications) moderates; other panelists are Jordan Flaherty, James Huck and Stephen Ostertag. Sadly Cherri Foytlin was stranded in Charlotte by Hurricane Irene so she does not appear, but thanks to Mary Joyce for filling in on short notice.

Twitter Pickles

Do you have any stereotypes in mind about users of social media? If popular culture is any indication, the common view would seem to be that people who use Facebook, Twitter and the like are narcissistic, superficial, self-involved, self-important and just plain silly. And of course, it's mainly the younger generation that is perceived as having a social media problem. The consequences for public life, for an educated and engaged citizenry, would seem to be quite dire.

Do we view our students this way?

If so, it might be worth taking a look at the Pew Internet & American Life Project's recent report, Social networking sites and our lives.

Among the findings, there is evidence that many may find surprising. For example, social media users are more "politically engaged" than the general population.


There is no evidence that [social networking site] users, including those who use Facebook, are any more likely than others to cocoon themselves in social networks of like-minded and similar people, as some have feared.

This is the first national survey of its kind, and worth a quick look — if you don't mind challenging those amusing stereotypes.

PS: If you're interested in this sort of thing, you might want to check out the "Social Media, Social Justice" panel at Rising Tide 6.

Circle of Chairs

Over the past year or two I've become increasingly interested in the idea of contemplative pedagogy. This is the notion that we can foster a more thoughtful way of living and learning in our students and in ourselves by cultivating reflective and meditative practices in our teaching.

To this end, I've relished the opportunity to engage in a series of discussions on this topic with faculty, and I've challenged myself to incorporate contemplative practices into these sessions whenever appropriate.

Most recently I had the opportunity to lead a short discussion with participants in the Faculty Communities of Teaching Scholars. Our theme this year is "Promoting Critical Thinking and Self-Authorship in the First Two Years." Contemplative practices seem like a perfect fit for developing self-authorship, and so once again I attempted to teach by example. As we were thinking so intensely about our students' needs and capacities, I decided to conduct a loving-kindness meditation. Also known as Metta Bhavana, this is an ancient practice from the Buddhist tradition. I modified the typical practice to focus specifically on our students.

In some ways, I may have been overreaching. I am not a practicing Buddhist, and more to the point I had never done Metta Bhavana before. Nevertheless, I went forward with it. I even went so far as to rearrange our classroom into a configuration more conducive to the practice.

I was fairly pleased with the results. Certainly I did get some good feedback from the participants, with at least one person saying she repeated the practice later on her own time. That's wonderful.

All the same, in some ways I consider the exercise at least a partial failure. The problem was not the practice itself, I think, so much as what followed. I was so intent on preparing for the Metta Bhavana itself that I did not attend to the context. I failed to make a strong connection between the meditative practice and the larger conversations that had been emerging in the classroom over the previous days. That left some participants wondering what to make of it all.

But if this was a failure, at least it was an educational and perhaps necessary one. I learned a valuable lesson. Several in fact. Always attend the context. Always make the connection. When trying something new, don't neglect these important basics.

In the event of an emergency that disrupts the University’s ability to have classes on campus for an extended period of time, you can be ready to continue your classes online. Here are some things you can do to be prepared should the need arise.

  • Understanding and Building Your Course
    • Getting Started with Course Environment (Video) (PDF)
    • Getting Started with Course Content (PDF)
  • Utilize Blackboard’s Communication Tools
  • Collecting Student Work
    • Getting Started with Assignments (PDF)
  • Utilize Blackboard’s Collaboration Tools
    • Blogs, Wikis, Journals, & Discussion Boards Explained (PDF)
  • Posting Grades
    • Getting Started with the Grade Center (PDF)

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDFs] as well as
on-demand videos.
Signup for Blackboard workshops or request one-on-one help.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418