Category Archives: General

Expanding boundaries and increasing diversity by teaching with technology


Arthropod Ecology

“As teachers, technology encourages us to be more creative, more influential, and more mindful of the implicit and explicit impacts our words have on students, and to explore new ways to make our classrooms more diverse”.

That’s a quote from a paper by Josh Drew, published last week. In this paper, Drew provides some fascinating case studies about how teaching with technology can help break down some strong barriers in higher education, with a focus on STEM disciplines. For example, students from the LGTBQ community, visible minorities, and other marginalized groups are often at a distinct disadvantage in a university context, whether it’s lack of access, finances, support, or mentorship. Drew argues that teaching with attention to this problem, and in a way that embraces diversity, is critically important, but is also a challenge. Technology can be a potential facilitator for this, and help overcome the challenge. To help…

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Ephemeral art


An interesting post from Chris Buddle about a rogue artist in his class. What a wonderful way to start your class every week! Has this ever happened in your class?

Arthropod Ecology

It’s a difficult time of year for many people: Instructors are looking at how many lectures are left before final exams, and starting to panic about how much material hasn’t yet been covered! We are planning field seasons, applying for research permits, juggling meetings, and starting to think about how the summer’s work-life balance will play out. As we approach the end of term, stress levels in the classroom are also building. Students are working madly on term papers, scrambling to get things organized for summer jobs or internships, and looking ahead to final exams.

It’s busy. Everyone is too busy. The days are too full and it’s not easy.

Then this happens:

A gift on the chalkboard A gift on the chalkboard

I teach with chalk, and in my lecture hall there’s a vertical sliding chalkboard. When I enter the room, the front, upper board is where I start the lecture and as…

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The effects of Twitter on student engagement and learning


A great summary of a recent article submitted by Lauren Soluk and Chris Buddle on the effects of Twitter on student engagement and learning. Thanks Chris for sharing your findings!

Arthropod Ecology

There are lots of ‘feel good’ stories about using Twitter in teaching, and I’ve long been a supporting of using social media in undergraduate classes. But does it work…? What effects does Twitter have on learning?

An example of a student Tweet, used to promote their blog post. An example of a student Tweet, used to promote their blog post.

This was a question we decided to tackle in my field biology class, and recently, in a collaboration with Lauren Soluk (as part of her graduate work), we surveyed students about using Twitter in the classroom*. Here are the take-home messages from the work:

  • Students Tweeted over 200% more than what was required as part of the course work
  • Students used Twitter in many different ways, from informal communication, to promoting their own blogs, to asking questions of each other or of the course instructors and TA.
  • Students used Twitter to communicate with their instructor or TA 56% of the…

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Formative – free student response / online formative assessment tool


An interesting student response system designed to give a greater range of formative feedback to students on their learning. Of particular note is the ability for students to “show their work” as they work on a class problem. If anyone is interested in trying this tool, or has tried it already, please let us know.

ICT Across the Curriculum

FormativeFormative is an online student response system / online formative assessment tool which is made by teachers from across the US and is free for teachers and students. The tool enables a range of responses including multiple choice, numeric, text, drawing and taking pictures. Assessments are shared with students via a quick link or access code and student responses are sent to the teacher in realtime so that early intervention and tracking of student responses can be undertaken.

This video provides a useful overview of the tool.

There is also a useful tutorial video which shows you how to upload and convert a .pdf into a digital formative assessment. This video helps to show you the potential of the tool for setting online assessments as homework or classwork. As student work is completed it can be monitored in realtime.

I really like the potential of this and hope to give…

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Student for a day (Part 3): operation dissection


The third and final post in the “Student for a day” series by contributor Chris Buddle. Thank you Chris for your thoughtful reflections on the student experience!

Arthropod Ecology

This is the third and final post about going back to the classroom: you can find the first post hereand the second one here.

We rushed from the lecture hall to the basement of the main teaching complex on campus. I walked down the hall towards the lab, that old familiar smell was in the air: it was the “face-muscle dissection day” in Comparative Anatomy. This took me immediately back to my undergraduate days at the University of Guelph.  There were just over a dozen students in the lab, and the ‘specimens’ (I shall NOT mention what they were!) were sitting on stainless steel lab tables, with the dissection gear at the ready. Scalpel? CHECK. Forceps? CHECK. Scissors? CHECK. It was operation: dissection. I was nervous…. then I was handed rubber gloves and a labcoat. I was WAY out of my element…

The instructor started with…

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Student for a day (Part 2): the lecture hall


The second of Chris Buddle’s series on being a student for a day. Thanks Chris, we look forward to part three!

Arthropod Ecology

This is the second of a three-part series on going back to the classroom: check out the first part here.

So far I was enjoying shadowing students for a day: I was excited after my exposure to the research project course, and was fuelled up on coffee as I checked the schedule, wolfed down my lunch and met my next chaperone. We walked together to a different building and to a more traditional setting: a lecture hall. The class was about animal health, and the content was about a retained placenta in cows, and how this affects bovine health and how the retained placenta might lead to other uterine diseases. The instructor, after setting up the Powerpoint, first took 5-10 minutes to ask the class questions from the last lecture. It was clear that this was a normal start to each lecture as the students had dutifully prepared…

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Student for a day (Part 1): spaces for discussion


Chris Buddle, Associate Dean for the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (and regular blog contributor) writes a thought provoking piece about being a student for a day. The first of three parts, stay tuned for more…

Arthropod Ecology

Yesterday I went back to the classroom and shadowed undergraduate students for the day. I did this because I just don’t really know what happens in classrooms. As an Associate Dean, I feel a responsibility to be aware of what students face throughout their day. I think this will help me gain perspective in my administrative role, and allow me insights into other instructional styles and approaches to teaching and learning in different contexts. After all, I really only know my way of teaching: I’ve not been an undergraduate student for a very long time.

Due to a bit of poor planning on my part, and since we are nearing the ‘end of term madness’, I wasn’t able to get a schedule for the whole day, and instead attended only three classes, with two different students. These students were my chaperones, and took me under their wing as they went…

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