Simple Solutions to Inspire Engagement

Much of the excitement from the Educational Technology Teaching Fellows program (ETTF) is a product of faculty innovation through simple solutions. In two specific projects, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences faculty made creative use of basic Canvas tools to enhance the student experience in their spring courses. 

Denise Meuser, an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of German, launched a series of digital projects that allowed her students to enrich their coursework with various types of media. Using simple Canvas tools like Discussions, Meuser’s students were able to share their work, and in the process, curate learning resources for the entire class to share in.

In her digital poster for the 2017 TEACHx conference, Meuser described her German 201 course as “an advanced intermediate level language course that examines the explosion of art and industry at the turn of the century.”  Students are introduced to the period of the German Empire or Kaiserreich (1871 – 1918). “This epoch in German history is emblematic for modernism and included substantial opportunities for women. Extra emphasis was placed on the stories of these women artists.”

Meuser notes that while the class is offered to students with at least six quarters of German, and while they work intensively on their reading comprehension skills, “201 also challenges them to improve their writing and to fine tune speaking skills.”

In the spirt of using simple solutions to meet learning outcomes, students used Canvas to enhance their written work with visual images and media. In one assignment, students visited the Art Institute of Chicago and chose a European work of art from a specific time period as their inspiration. After uploading a “selfie” from the museum, students added their own accompanying audio in German, describing the work and introducing the artist.

Tasha Ann Seago-Ramaly teaches first year Spanish and handles technical coordination for a series of courses. Through the ETTF program, Tasha revamped several facets of her Spanish 121-3 Intermediate Special topics course: Searching for Social Justice in a Marginalized World.

“I wanted to update an already very unique course whose goals are to have students leaving the course passionate about the fight for human rights.  For the film selection, I wanted to include a seminal work of the LGBT community of Latin America that would be accessible to students from all backgrounds.”

While the separate special topics courses all dealt with different subject matter, the courses traditionally used the same films. The ETTF program helped Ramaly tailor the course’s digital resources more directly to the special topic. Through ETTF, Tasha was able to digitize and write pre-readings, vocabulary lists, and quiz pool questions for Contracorriente, a LGBT film from Peru.  She also experimented with Yellowdig, posting new videos that complemented the readings and encouraging students to post their reactions to these videos in Spanish.

In the spirit of simple solutions, students in Spanish 121-3 also completed mini-theater projects to present to the class using nothing more than Google Docs. This simple tool allowed their instructor to watch their progress and help with any difficulties, while at the same time “allowing them to creatively collaborate in a specific space using the target language.”

Tasha and her students found the project to be a rousing success. “The results of the mini-theater project were just amazing! I was a bit apprehensive about the results, wondering if they would spend the effort on such a project at the end of the term. They all exceeded my expectations!”

While Tasha found her project with the ETTF program to be a rousing success, she remains diligent in exploring new projects and committed to finding new ways of, as she put it, “getting students actively involved in the class through technology while still keeping the in-class interactions the main focus of the course.” 

Visit our Educational Technology Teaching Fellowship page to find out more about the program, or to apply.