Faculty Guest Post: Course Changes as a Result of the FTI

This week our guest faculty blogger is Dr. Richard Southgate from the Biology Department.


In May 2012, I attended the College of Charleston’s (CofC) Summer 2012 Faculty Technology Institute (FTI) for the very first time, which was a great personal learning and eye opening experience, especially as I learned a lot about the potential impact of new technologies on teaching. Currently I teach upper courses: Cell Biology (Biol-313, class and independent labs.; Fall) and Developmental Biology (Biol-322; a combined class and lab.:Spring). My first impression of the FTI meeting, however, was mildly cool as I have only taught traditional courses so far. As a teacher, I am always seeking out new ways to improve my teaching but after the FTI meeting and a Cell Biology Summer I course last year, I really began to think, in practical ways, how to use these new “tools” and how to “safely” implement these changes, thanks to the FTI meeting.


Currently, I do not believe a totally reversed classroom in higher classes is the best choice, at least without a lot more research. I am willing, however, to implement changes in my future courses in a sort of a hybrid, that incorporates the best features of these two contrasting teaching strategies and then analyzing the effects of these changes before making any major new decisions. I say this because I am ultimately always responsible for my students’ success. My initial 1-1-1 commitment to FTI is to use several I Pad apps and a better student assessment method in my future courses.


Compared to the past, I will place a greater emphasis on recorded home study videos (made by myself) or videos from course textbooks, or on YouTube or any useful educational videos I can find. I will use more animations, annotated PDFs, as well as a collection of short videos describing like specific biological concepts, techniques, and historical experiments in details. I will also beef up my courses’ guides and laboratory’s instructions like above.


Recently, the Biology Department purchased a Moticam X camera,

http://www.microscope.com/ microscope-cameras/motic-moticam-x-wifi.html  which can be attached to any microscope to make videos or images by MotiConnect with an I Pad https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ moticonnect/id576308144?mt=8. This will be a great teaching help in my two lab sessions.  My Developmental Biology course has also a large but rapidly ageing slide collection that can now be easily digitalized (and saved, both physically and financially, with this system, which costs ~$450). When testing this system, I found the best way to project great slide images was to use an iPad, a VGA adapter, a computer/projector/screen, as laptops usually had pretty crummy images.


My wish is to try and free up time in the classrooms, by shifting a greater part of the course details to student home studies, textbook readings, videos etc. and allowing more detailed discussions in the classroom at the beginning of the new class together with a mini-review to revise a “bicycle effect”, followed by a short quiz on the material looked at the previous class mini-reviews. At this same time, I can assure that students are following the class plan and not lagging behind. I will test the students with short quizzes in every class, compared to once per week in the past, thus creating quicker feedback, allowing me greater flexibility to deal with any problems. In essence, I am trying to create a bridge between these teaching styles with the hope to use their most productive parts with the goal to improve overall the students learning efficiency.

To help in this change, I will be using either one or a mix of the below apps like:

Screen Chomp, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/screenchomp/id442415881?mt=8,

ShowMe, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/showme-interactive-whiteboard/id445066279?mt=8,

GoodNotes and Airsketch https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goodnotes-notes-pdf/id424587621?mt=8https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/air-sketch-free/id376796733?mt=8,

iAnnotate PDF http://www.branchfire.com/iannotate/ ($9.99;  etc. as there are other apps) to add sound, written comments etc. to slides, images, videos, which will be loaded on OAKS as part of the student’s home studies. All these apps have good and not so good functions, and I will explore them more in this summer to find my best choice.


In Cell Biology class in Maymester 2013, I also successfully tried out Socrative, which is a free smart student response system using smartphones, laptops, and tablets/iPad. http://www.socrative.com/; https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/student-clicker-socrative/ id477618130?mt=8,

To get an idea of how students liked this new app, I did an end course questionnaire and my 13 students claimed it was easier to use than I-clickers, because

  1. They did not to have to take their I-clickers to class, as they often forgot them,
  2. They said it was easier to follow the instructions, and liked the feel of the app and
  3. Most felt it was financially better for them as it was $0 rather than $20 for an I-clicker.


Many of my students did complain, however, that after answering a question wrongly, frequently by accidentally touching on their device before their response, they could not go back to change their answers (and their grade), so I will explore if this problem can be resolved or at least to pre-warn the students of this issue. The instant answers (visualized on an excel spreadsheet) were immediate and informative. If anyone wishes to use this program, and when setting up your quiz questions, on the first line make sure that your students add their names: last name and then their first name because otherwise you will have a mixed alphabetical list of the student’s names …

I only tried Socrative with 13 students so far, so perhaps larger numbers may cause greater problems, but I liked the program and I could use it very quickly (rare for me). Below are some instructions on how to use Socrative and I can also give a personal training, if requested.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dIknV18geliXcjzeVuwQglEKOh_z-9Kbs797p7LlCLM/edit?pli=1; http://gcisdtraining.wikispaces.com/file/view/Socrative.pdf.

It is also possible now to add images in the questions as well as: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80psYr6T240&feature=youtu.be;   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TXSqdZlr3w;


This is clearly a tentative modification of my regular courses and I will see if any of these changes were useful or not. In anyway, I want to thank CofC’s FTI for introducing these new ideas and it will be very interesting overall to see that all the teacher’s different approaches results in real positive benefits in CofC teaching.

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