VT Assessment Showcase (Feb 9-13)

This afternoon I attended the first of five “Live Assessment Briefings” that will be held this week as part of the Virginia Tech Assessment Showcase. This inaugural event features successful assessment and evaluation initiatives from across the university. Today’s assessment briefing included the following talks (the image below provides a summary of the remaining four sessions):

  • Catherine Amelink20 – Assessing Changes in Entrepreneurial Mindset Among Faculty and Students.
  • Michael J. Kutnak – Creating a Master Transition Plan for Virginia Tech.
  • Sophie Wenzel – Virginia Tech Faculty and Staff Tobacco Free Campus Policy Assessment.
  • Jack Evans – Assessing Active Learning in Introductory Biology Courses.

Given my interest in using Google Apps to support teaching, I found the talk by Jack Evans on the ‘flipped classroom’ model being advanced for their freshman Biology Course of particular interest. I believe there is an opportunity to leverage different Google Apps to support their new model of student engagement/learning and reduce the burden of administering the class via the VT Scholar system. In particular, I believe Google Drive, a (private) Google+ Community, Google+ Circles, Google Docs (for co-creating work), and Google Classroom (to administer assignments) could be set-up as an integrated platform for the ‘flipped classroom.’ I also believe Apps like ParticiPoll could be used effectively for in-class polling (or quizzes), which would replace the current use of clickers. Other Apps like Splashtop could also be an effective way to enable instructors to control their laptops remotely from an iPAD, tablet, or smartphone. I plan to follow-up with Jack’s team in the near future to discuss these ideas and to learn more about their teaching model. I also plan to develop a wishlist of Google Apps functions that could enhance the use of this platform in a teaching environment. I’ll post the list here when its ready.

Posters from the Assessment Showcase speakers will be on display all week in Newman Library with a live “popcorn and posters” session on February 13 from noon – 2:00 p.m. I encourage anyone on campus to drop by the event to learn more about the various assessment activities that are underway at the university.

The photos below were taken during the event using Google Glass.

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UAP Wins Exemplary Program Award

This evening, the Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) program received Virginia Tech’s Exemplary Program Award. The three other award recipients were the Department of Chemistry in the College of Science, the Department of Psychology also in the College of Science, and  VT Engage in the Division of Student Affairs.

The 2014 award focused on recognizing groups that are developing and sustaining innovative and effective departmental approaches to fostering Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) at the undergraduate or graduate level.

I have posted a few pictures from the event below, along with a video I took through Glass of Diane Zahm receiving the award on behalf of UAP.

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Hokie BugFest

2014-10-11 11.44.36One of the great things about living in Blacksburg are the events that the university hosts. I spent this morning at the 4th Annual Hokie BugFest held at the VT Inn. This extension outreach event is hosted by the Department of Entomology in cooperation with Virginia 4-H and the W. B. Alwood Entomological Society. The images below (taken through Glass) provide a sample of the event’s installments and activities.

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Second Meeting of the DAC

This morning we held the second meeting of the Dean’s Advisory Committee (DAC) for the University Libraries. The committee was asked the following questions which led to an engaging conversation that touched on the opportunities and challenges facing colleges, departments, programs, research institutions, faculty, and students:

  • What will research and teaching look like in ten years?
  • Is there anything you wish you could change about your research practices and the way you teach?
  • What barriers or obstacles prevent you from teaching differently and approaching research differently?
  • What core research, teaching, and learning skills, literacies, abilities, or mindsets could faculty and students develop at Virginia Tech? (How do we prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet?)


Since I have been using Google Glass and Apps to advance the way I teach and undertake research, I have been confronted with a number of these types of questions over the past year. From this experience, I believe the future of teaching will be heavily influenced by “teaching analytics” that will enable faculty (and students) to identify how, where, and when student learning occurs. I also believe these data will enable faculty to become better teachers by identifying those techniques that effectively engage students.

As a relatively junior faculty member, I would also like to see the creation of “teaching coaches” who mentor faculty in the art of pedagogy. These coaches could be identified through VT’s awards for teaching or through projects funded by TLOS (Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies and be compensated (either financially or through a reduction in duties) for their mentoring work. The creation of an environment where faculty can experiment with new techniques, approaches, platforms, etc. is likely to be critical to advancing teaching and learning.

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Welcome PGG and MURP Graduates!

I enjoyed meeting the new graduates in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) doctoral program and the Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) program this afternoon. We have a diverse group of students this year who come to Virginia Tech from various U.S. states and countries such as China, India, Russia, and Colombia. I look forward to getting to know them this coming semester. The images below were taken #throughglass.

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IDPS Final Presentations

This afternoon, students in the International Development Planning Studio (IDPS) presented their final project proposals to a review panel of international development experts from Virginia Tech. This final session of the studio provides students with an opportunity to showcase and defend what they have been able to develop over the past 14 weeks. This year, I was very pleased to have Susan Marmagas (Public Health), Michael Bertelsen (Director, OIRED), Kurt Richter (Associate Director, OIRED), and John Browder (SPIA) serve as members of the review panel. I’d like to congratulate the students on making it through the event and for giving a series of professional and high-quality presentations.

The images below (taken #throughglass) capture a few key moments from the final studio session.

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