Time For Some Updates

I have been a member of the SIF family now for a little more than two months, so I guess it’s about time to go through all of my projects for this semester and give you updates on each.

1) Hybrid Pedagogy Promotional Videos

This project has been a straightforward one from the beginning. The general idea is to record a series of interviews with faculty members who are experienced with a teaching that blends online and offline (i.e. in-class) activities–in other words, hybrid teaching. For this, we have come up with a set of focused interview questions, and over the course of the first 6 weeks we have conducted various interviews with faculty members. We have been able to compile a great amount of material to work with. We are currently in the post-production phase of this project, or should I say the first stage of this project since we believe that promoting hybrid teaching should also be considered from the students’ perspectives. To that end, we are planning to conduct more interviews with students in the course of the next semester in order to balance the information we have so far received from faculty. I am currently in the process of learning Adobe Premiere Pro so that I am also able to help out with the post-production process.

2) Outreach and Documenting

Similar to the project above, this one is also clearly situated in the world of promotion. The basic premise of this project is to promote places at GSU where students have the opportunity to access, use, or check out technology devices. Find out more by reading this great post from my colleague, Amber. Granted, the GSU website already provides a great amount of information regarding those places, but we came to the realization that they didn’t really showcased these spaces “in action”. So, during our early group meetings we noted all of the technology sites that are currently available at GSU, and quickly honed in on the Digital Aquarium, the Aderhold Learning Lab, and the Exchange. For each space, we had planned to shoot short, 1-minute videos that highlighted less what these spaces offer, but more how students might be able to use available devices. Unfortunately, as this idea began to take shape, we learned that each of these spaces is going do undergo major design changes, so any video we recorded would have had a pretty short life span because they would have all featured each space in its current state. That caused us to go back to the drawing board. Now, we will be focusing solely on the new CURVE space in the library in order to give GSU faculty incentives to assign activities in their classes that would make their students come to CURVE.

3) 3D World and Gaming Environment

This project is quite unique. The basic idea is to virtually re-create a city-block in Atlanta, the one where Classroom South is located to be precise, and display how this block might have looked like in the 1930s. Check out this great post by my colleague, Robert, to learn more about the virtual environment we are creating. In addition, we are planning to populate that space with objects and characters that students can interact with and learn more about the history of Atlanta. Furthermore, we also hope to have writing students create narratives and stories that further help to shape this virtual environment. Throughout the first couple of weeks into this project, I have been mostly involved with trying to consult archival sources such as photographs and newspaper articles to help our production team design the space through a gaming engine called “Unity”. We have now, however, reached out to other teams at Emory, which have also been working on a similar mapping project in order to combine our resources and see how we can help one another. My responsibility now is to facilitate that discussion and further help adding content to the virtual environment.

4) Deliberation Mapping Tool

For this project, we are currently in the conceptual design stage. To give you a general idea of what this project is about, I want to refer to this great post by my SIF colleague Nathan: “Deliberation Mapping – Shaping Online Discussion“. Over the course of the last two weeks, we had some great meeting sessions, to which Siva and Ram have wrote engaging blog posts: “Integration and Finalization!!!” and “Where is the big picture?” The situation we are presently dealing with is how the different ways a user participates in a deliberation are represented visually. Below are some impressions from today’s meeting:


Justin giving directions.



Figuring out participation parameters.

At this stage, our main goal is two-fold: we need to find ways of facilitating ease of use both for students and their instructors  as well as to come up with ideas on how to avoid asynchronous deliberations of becoming messy from a visual perspective.

5) Data Visualization Workshop for Research Purposes:

This is a project that emerged in the course of October. At the beginning of the semester I had been tasked with a project to create a software tool that would help a researcher visualize vocal parameters such as volume, pitch, and timber. Fortunately, I have been able to help guide the researcher to various audio production programs and tools that already offer those kinds of visualizations. So, once that project was completed, I created the “data visualization workshop” project together with Justin and Joe. The basic premise is to offer innovative ways for students and researchers to evaluate research results that they retrieve from academic databases. Oftentimes, when we access the GSU library to search for sources, we type in keywords and receive long lists of results. What if we had a way to transport those results into a visual environment and easily identify how the search relates to, let’s say, publication venues, its use in research studies over time, the kinds of disciplines that do the most research on the search term, especially when it’s a topic that is oftentimes evaluated in interdisciplinary ways. Translating my findings into a workshop was the logical conclusion. However, in order to determine the kinds of programs that are necessary to visualize database research results, I first need to identify how to best export the search results from the database. In the course of the next week, I am planning to have meetings with database experts at the GSU library regarding this issue. Once I know what’s possible, I can move further with this project.


I feel very fortunate to be part of the SIF team. I have already learned a lot and I am eager to see how all of these projects will turn out. That’s all for now.



Following up with Nicole’s recent post

I’m writing this blog post as a follow up to Nicole’s “Innovation and Education” post that she published on October 13. What I particularly liked about her approach to tackling the concept of innovation is that it’s not certainly necessary to “reinvent the wheel” but to take into account as many perspectives as possible when attempting to create something new.

Following this line of thinking, being innovative can be seen as doing something else with knowledge and processes already available to us. In turn, it stresses the idea that innovation always comes from “somewhere”. In few cases, innovative ideas emerge our of nothing. What I have found quite helpful in applying this logic of “somewhere” is to subscribe to as many online outlets that relate to your interests. In my case this meant subscribing to the various Youtube channels of the conference series known as TED. Below is a list of channel links:

TED, TED-Ed, TEDMed, TEDFellowsTalks, TEDxYouthTEDxTalks.


For those of you who are not yet familiar with the organization, TED is a conference platform that works to share ideas worth spreading. This year marks its 20th anniversary with conference presentations that deal with a broad spectrum of topics and issues coming from the fields of technology, entertainment, art, education, business, and medicine. The organization curates most of those presentations on its various YouTube channel, thereby creating an impressive archive of information and knowledge. Tapping into this knowledge can really help generate ideas that we can consider innovative.

For example, this past summer I attended a TED conference in Berlin, Germany, where one of the presenters talked about a software application that helped visualize how TEDFellows were collaborating all over the world. The premise of the presentation was merely to show what the organization was doing and how the TEDFellows were fitting into the mix. Each fellow was represented as a colored dot and the collaboration between fellows was shown through curved colored lines that connected the dots. The size of each dot would, then, represent the extent to which each fellow would collaborate with others, i.e. the bigger the size the of dot, the more the fellow has been engaged in collaborative projects. Furthermore, a user could also select a fellow by clicking on the dot which would grey out most of the dots and lines and only leave those lines and dots colored that connected to the one selected.

I was blown away when I saw that. It made so much more sense than, let’s say, going through a traditional table layout and comparing mere numbers for each fellow with one another. With that software, the process of comparing relationships became a much more intuitive process. When I got back home, I went back to working on my research for my dissertation, and I started thinking: “There has to be a better of making sense of all the sources, concepts, and ideas that authors in my field of research are bringing to the table. And that’s when I thought back to that moment at TED, and I realized that visualizing research strands could be a very helpful way for me–and other researchers for that matter–to make sense of the huge amount of sources I am dealing with.

And so now I’m working towards finding easy accessible ways to get available software programs to do that very thing. Hopefully, this will all make its way into a workshop that I am going to give at GSU.

I will keep updating my progress regarding this project on the blog, but what the whole thing boils down to–echoing Nicole’s recent post–is that you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” to do something innovative. Instead, what I suggest you do is to take advantage of what the Internet offers to all of us: access to a huge archive of knowledge. The TED channels I’ve linked above could serve as a great starting point. And if you find that TED actually interests you beyond advancing your knowledge, then I suggest you get in touch with TEDx organizers in your city. The are already a number of TEDx groups in the city of Atlanta, such as TEDxAtlanta and TEDxPeachtree, and also some affiliated with universities such as TEDxGeorgiaTech and TEDxEmory. Maybe it’s about time to thing about TEDxGeorgiaState?





And I thought we’d moved on…?

I’m confused right now, so be prepared that this post is going to be half-informative and half-venting. I’ve recently come across a Youtube-sensation, for lack of a better word, and I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m talking about Salman Khan whose free learning website, Khanacademy.org, hosts more than 3000 lesson videos and his Youtube channel attracts millions of students and teachers alike. Apparently, it all started in 2004 when he just wanted to help his cousin with some private tutoring lessons in math. Fast forward ten years later, and Salman Khan is known across the world as the “global teacher”. Pretty impressive, yes, but what I find even more confusing is that he manages to attract such widespread attention with a teacher-centered, lecture style approach to teaching that many of us teaching have found to be an antiquated and, flat out obsolete method. Why? Well, the most common argument is that frontal teaching limits students in developing their own critical thinking skills. Rather than having students engage with content actively, they passively consume the lecture.

So, I’m wondering why Khan’s approach has been working so well. Usually his videos last between 8-15 minutes, are produced in a relatively simple fashion, i.e. he uses a screen capturing software where he solves math problems for instance, and his voice narrates the whole process. So, you only hear him but you never see him. Instead, you see a black canvas on which he scribbles the equations and explains the whole process. Aside from math, physics, chemistry, and economics, he also teaches history and biology (the last two not being his particular area of expertise), even admitting that he gets most of his information for those topics from Wikipedia entries.

I find that whole thing fascinating and scary at the same time. I wholeheartedly reject the teacher-centered approach to pedagogy, always trying to empower my students so that they can develop their critical thinking skills. And then I see Khan and his success with an antiquated teaching method, and it seems to work. Khan has been receiving wide-spread media attention now for years, and many students have said that before they take high school level or college-level tests, they would watch a couple of Khan’s videos to prepare rather than going over their class-notes (check this link).

What do you think / how do you feel about this? I’m really interested to read your comments, and have a lively discussion about the potential merits of such an approach to teaching.