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Let's say that you used to begin class with a moment of silence. Or perhaps you incorporated some other elements of mindfulness or contemplative pedagogy into your teaching.

Did those practices survive the transition to remote teaching this semester? Perhaps they fell by the wayside in the rush to get "up to speed" with unfamiliar technology.

It takes a special effort to bring mindfulness to the classroom when the classroom is a virtual construct. However, in this unsettled and uncertain time, the lessons of mindfulness would seem to be more important than ever. Furthermore, the online environment can often add an extra layer that separates the student from learning even more than in a traditional classroom. Practices that connect to our basic humanity are arguably even more important when teaching in a context mediated entirely by electronic technology.

Aurora D. Bonner offers some guidance in her new article for Faculty Focus, "Mindfulness in the (Online) Classroom."

  • Be present
  • Take time to check in
  • Believe your students
  • Don’t be afraid to share

Read the full article for details. It's brief and worth your time.

This might be a good time to check out the webinar by Karen Nichols and yours truly (Bart Everson) sponsored by D2L, "Present, Calm, and Ready to Learn – The Value of Contemplative Practices in an Online Course."

Bonus: You may also be interested in next week's online practice, "Exploring Uncertainty, Finding Possibility Through Contemplative Art," facilitated by Beth Berila throught the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

All we have to do is click with the right clique.

Anyone who has spoken with me in the past month knows that I am not a fan of synchronous remote teaching. Beyond the basic belief that teaching in the classroom and teaching online are two radically different pedagogies (in other words, A ≠ B (in other words, "You can't fit a square peg into a round hole")), there is the greater problem of imposed pedagogy -- requiring faculty to teach in a specific way rather than empowering them to teach in the way they think best. Moreover, the use of Zoom and other teleconferencing systems as a means of achieving that required synchrony have raised other concerns, such as the unfortunately named zoombombing, wherein bad actors disrupt the virtual classroom, often with hate speech, and the as yet unnamed problem of invading our students privacy.

Despite all that, I have done my best to follow the expectation to meet online with my classes according to the original class schedule, and to be honest, many of those meetings have not gone well, in part because getting students to engage in a large-group synchronous discussion online is even more difficult than getting them to do so in person. I find they are more willing to do small group discussions, using Zoom's Breakout Rooms function (here's a quick tutorial on setting up Breakout Rooms), but I have learned over the years that while consistency in teaching is good, redundancy in teaching is not good. So, I've been trying to find ways to run my classes that give them work that both challenges them but that keeps them connected to the actual class.

Photograph of Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden / CC BY

One of the classes I'm teaching this semester is called Dystopias, Real & Imagined (I think I deserve some kind of award for that level of prescience, to be honest), so for the past six weeks, I've been able to do a lot more just-in-time teaching than I had anticipated. Last weekend, I came across a video interview with Edward Snowden talking about the risks to civil liberties that come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Under normal circumstances, I would have posted the link to Brightspace and told the students to watch it on their own before Thursday's class, since under those normal circumstances, I don't like using class time to deliver content. Given our current circumstances, I thought about using Zoom's screen sharing function to watch the video together during class, but I've seen other people try this, and the video usually ends up being unwatchable (choppy audio and such).

So I did what I often find myself doing and borrowed an idea from my wife, who teaches high school English. Since going remote at her school, she has been using EdPuzzle, a site that lets you create assignments by embedding videos and inserting questions and commentary at specific points during the video. While this can be used to simply test understanding/attention (by asking a simple multiple choice question about something that was just said in the video), they can also be used to encourage/demonstrate critical thinking and to prepare students for a post-video discussion.

Active Listening

At one point in the video, Snowden starts to talk about the expanded surveillance powers the federal government gave itself after 9/11. Before he does so, I inserted a multiple choice question that asked students when they thought those emergency powers were retracted. After they answered the question, the video resumed, and Snowden gave them the correct answer. (Take a look at the screen shot below for the answer.)

Screenshot of the multiple choice question about the Patriot Act.
A question like this one about the Patriot Act prompts students to speculate on what is about to be discussed in the video. Prediction is a key function of active learning.
Screen shot of the question as presented to students during the video.
Making personal connections to course content is another important aspect of critical thinking.

At another point, Snowden explains how our cellphones are being used to analyze social distancing at the local level. Here I paused the video and gave the students a more complex task by asking them to use Unacast's Social Distancing Scoreboard, a site that uses the data Snowden discusses in the video, to look up the county in which they are currently living. Although the text box seems small, it expands with whatever the students type. A few of my students wrote short essays on why they think their home counties are getting such bad grades for social distancing.

One of the best functions of EdPuzzle is that you can prevent students from skipping ahead or even going backwards, so in order to answer these questions, they had to watch the entire 22-minute video. While this is a useful way to monitor student engagement, it's also, I think a way to make the task more transparent -- the system makes it impossible for the student to misunderstand what is being asked of them. Moreover, EdPuzzle tracks everything they do with the video -- when they started it, how much of it they watched. For the MC questions, EdPuzzle will automatically grade them; whereas for the open-ended questions, I went through after class and read each one and awarded the points.

To be honest, I was hesitant to use this. The interface for EdPuzzle is clearly designed for grade school teachers, as are many of the settings (EdPuzzle integrates very well with Google Classroom, but not at all with Brightspace). Also, sometimes my students get frustrated with my attempts to trick them into learning more actively. Two things convinced me I was wrong to worry though. First, about a third of my students, without any prompting, told me how much they enjoyed this activity.

this is a really cool activity

Second, once everyone was done with the video (after probably about 40 minutes, since some wrote really long answers), we had the best discussion we've had since going remote. Both these things really moved me. I don't know about you, but this past week, the students have really seemed to sink deeper into the malaise they've been in since going remote. They've been a lot less engaged, so it was great to see that must natural positivity coming through the screen.

A conversation between Xavier's very own KiTani Parker Lemieux (Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences), Raven Jackson and Thomas J. Maestri (Division of Clinical and Administrative Sciences), hosted by CAT+FD's Jay Todd and Elizabeth Yost Hammer, on how College of Pharmacy is adapting to remote teaching during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr. Jackson teaches in several courses within the PharmD curriculum including Neurology Therapeutics, Interprofessional Education, Medication Therapy Management, Self Care Therapeutics, Point of Care Testing, as well as a lecture on the Pharmacogenomics of Diabetes. Dr. Jackson also teaches an Infectious Disease Point of Care Testing Lab. As a component of her clinical position, Dr. Jackson provides Diabetes Medication Management at the Family Doctor’s Clinic at West Jefferson Medical Center where she serves as a preceptor for both Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience and Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience.

After graduating from Xavier’s College of Pharmacy in 2014, Dr. Jackson went on to complete her Post Graduate Year 1 (PGY-1) training at Purdue University, in partnership with Walgreens where she obtained skills in Medication Therapy Management, Point of Care Testing, Diabetes Care, Precepting, and Pharmacy Management. During this time, she also successfully completed the Indiana Pharmacy Teaching Certificate Program (IPTeC). After completion of her residency, Dr. Jackson obtained a position as Pharmacy Manager of a Walgreens location in Texas where she remained for one year prior to accepting her current role at Xavier University.

Dr. Maestri is currently a board certified psychiatric clinical pharmacy specialist (BCPP) serving as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy. His area of expertise is the pharmacologic treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. In his role, he provides both experiential and didactic learning opportunities to Xavier Pharmacy students in psychopharmacology, substance use, and ethical principles of pharmacy.

As part of his practice, he works in collaboration with the LSUHSC psychiatry department at University Medical Center (UMC) to provide optimized care to patients with acute episodes of psychotic, mood, and substance use disorders. This work is performed in the settings of the inpatient psychiatry units, the behavioral health emergency department, and the psychiatry consult liaison service.

Dr. KiTani Parker Lemieux is an Associate Professor in the Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, where she also serves as the Director of the Center of Excellence (COE ) Scholars Program. She received her B.A. degree in Biology from Fisk University, her M.S. degree in Biology, from Tennessee State University, and her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Clark Atlanta University.

Dr. Lemieux completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health Sciences Center. She has served as faculty at Dillard University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Since joining the faculty at Xavier in 2007, Dr. Lemieux has focused her research to better understand the role of the noncancerous microenvironment in breast cancer metastasis, especially in triple negative breast cancer, which disproportionately impacts African American women. She has published in the field and is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society for Cell Biology, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Elizabeth Yost HammerElizabeth Yost Hammer is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development and a Kellogg Professor in Teaching in the Psychology Department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Tulane University.


Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He teaches English and serves as Associate Director of CAT+FD.

Links for this episode

Transcript ...continue reading "Conversation #96: #KeepTeachingXULA (Part 3)"

A conversation between Xavier's very own Asem I. Abdulahad (Chemistry), Lisa J. Schulte-Gipson (Psychology), and Steven J. Salm (History), hosted by CAT+FD's Jay Todd and Elizabeth Yost Hammer, on how we're adapting to remote teaching and life in general during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Asem I. AbdulahadDr. Abdulahad earned his B.S. in chemistry from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA in 2006. He then received his Ph.D. in polymer chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY working under the guidance of Professor Chang Ryu. Subsequently, Dr. Abdulahad worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Integrated Science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Here, he helped to develop laboratory curricula for the Integrated Sciences Curriculum at Virginia Tech and performed research on synthetic polymer materials for high performance and biomedical applications. Dr. Abdulahad spent three years as an instructor of General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry at Jefferson College of Health Sciences prior to joining the Department of Chemistry at Xavier in the Fall of 2017.

Dr. Schulte received her BS from Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA). She attended SUNY Albany where she earned both her MA and PhD in Social/Personality Psychology.

Dr. Schulte has worked at Xavier University since 1993. Throughout her tenure at Xavier she has served both the University and Department in many capacities. Her current research focuses on both the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) and positive psychology (specifically as related to enhancing well-being among students).

Steven J. SalmDr. Salm teaches courses in African history and popular culture, the Black Atlantic World, modern colonialism, and research methods. He has conducted fieldwork in several West African countries, including Ghana and Sierra Leone, and has received a number of awards and fellowships for his work, including a William S. Livingston Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. He has published six books, as well as chapters and articles on topics as diverse as gender, youth, music, literature, religion, urbanization, and popular culture. He currently holds the Alumni Class of 1958 Endowed Professorship in the Humanities and serves as the Department Chair of History and the Division Chair of Fine Arts and Humanities.

Elizabeth Yost HammerElizabeth Yost Hammer is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development and a Kellogg Professor in Teaching in the Psychology Department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Tulane University.

Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He teaches English and serves as Associate Director of CAT+FD.

Links for this episode

Transcript ...continue reading "Conversation #94: #KeepTeachingXULA (Part 2)"


A conversation between Xavier's very own Robin Vander (English), Terry Watt (Chemistry), and Sloane Signal (Education), hosted by CAT+FD's Jay Todd and Elizabeth Yost Hammer, on teaching and learning after our quick pivot online in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sloane SignalSloane M. Signal holds a BA in Spanish and an MBA in both Marketing and Management from Tulane University, and completed her PhD in Higher Education Leadership and Administration at Jackson State University

Robin VanderRobin Vander holds an M.A. and  Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Terry WattTerry Watt holds an M.S. in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology

Elizabeth Yost HammerElizabeth Yost Hammer is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development and a Kellogg Professor in Teaching in the Psychology Department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Tulane University.

Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He teaches English and serves as Associate Director of CAT+FD.


Coming soon!

If you're like me, you spent a lot of time in the past week thinking about how you will hold your classes online, but not a lot of time thinking about how you will hold your office hours online. Office hours don't usually require much forethought. You show up and deal with whatever comes up.

But now we need to think about our office hours, in particular, how we will make ourselves available to our students during those times. There are a number of options for doing this, including Virtual Classroom and Google Hangouts. I've decided to use Zoom, since that's what I'm using for my synchronous class meetings. But instead of creating a new Zoom meeting for every office hour (which would make for a real mess every time I log into Zoom, even if I just did recurring meetings), I'm going to use my Personal Meeting Room in Zoom.

Personal Meeting Room

Zoom's Personal Meeting Room is a meeting you set up once (although you can change the settings whenever you want), but that you can start and stop whenever you want. This way, there's only one URL you need to provide your students. It's sort of like telling your student where your office is on the first day of class. Once they now where it is (theoretically) you never have to tell them again.

For the most part, setting up your Personal Meeting Room is the same as setting up any other meeting in Zoom, but you don't give it a special name or description, and you don't have to worry about any scheduling details. To change the settings, click on the Personal Meeting Room tab.

The toolbar for Meetings on the Xula.Zoom.Us web site.
The tabs available when on the meetings page on the Xula.Zoom.Us site.
The toolbar for Meetings when in Brightspace.
The tabs available when on the meetings page on the Zoom page in Brightspace.


One of the nice options with the Personal Meeting Room is that you can change the Join URL to make it more personal. Whereas with regular meetings, you just use whatever 9-digit code the system generates for you, with your Personal Meeting Room, you can customize the link. This makes it easier to for students to remember (just like how they remember your office location). It also gives you the opportunity to do a little personal branding.

A screenshot of the Zoom page listing the settings for my Personal Meeting Room.
With Personal Meeting Rooms, you can customize the Join URL to make them easier to remember (and to do a little personal branding).
Screenshot of the main menu on the Xula.Zoom.Us web site.
The profile settings, and many others, are only accessible by logging into Xula.Zoom.Us.

However, you don't change it on the Edit This Meeting page. Instead, you need go into Profile, but you can only do this through the Xula.Zoom.Us web site. You can't access your profile settings by going in through Brightspace. When you log into Xula.Zoom.Us, you'll see the following menu on the left of the screen. Click on PROFILE, and you'll be able to change a number of details about your account, including the profile picture that will appear in a meeting when you have your video camera turned off. You can also connect your Zoom account to your Google calendar, and many other things from this page. What we're interested in here, though, is your ability to change your Personal Link. Click on Customize, and you can change what follows the the main part of the URL ( Instead of a randomly generated string, I plugged in my name: jason.s.todd. Your customization can be between 5 and 40 characters, but it can only contain letters (a-z), numbers (0-9) and periods (".").

A screenshot of the profile settings page on Xula.Zoom.Us.
From the profile page of the Xula.Zoom.Us site, you can change a variety of settings that you can't access through Brightspace.

So now I can add this link — just one link — on my Brightspace course. I can start and stop this "meeting" whenever I want, so when it's time for an office hour, I just go into Zoom, click on Personal Meeting Room, and click Start Meeting. I should note that this new URL I've created is just an alias of my real PMR link, that string of random characters. Still, it's a handy way to make it easier for your students to get in touch with you.

Calendar Events

I've also created recurring events in Calendars for each of my courses in Brightspace noting my office hours and providing the link. I've done the same thing with our regular class meetings. This way, when the students look at the Upcoming Events or the Course Schedule on Brightspace, they'll see, in addition to their upcoming deadlines, reminders with links for my office hours. In addition, if the student has installed Brightspace's Pulse app on their smartphone, they will receive notifications about these events.

This is a screenshot of the upcoming events section in Brightspace.
Using Calendar events and Due Dates in Brightspace provides students with clear reminders about what's coming up in your class. For new remote learners, this may have a significant impact on their ability to keep on schedule with your class.