August 18, 2020
Volume 5, Number 1
Welcome Back
Hello, Howdy, Ciao, Salute,
Welcome Back to MSU!

We are back for a never before seen Fall semester!
I hope that you and yours are healthy and that you are ready to be creative, innovative and curious about what this semester will bring.

This newsletter starts the fifth (5th) volume of the Teaching Tuesday newsletter. The previous volumes can be found here.

As we pivoted to online in the Spring 2020 semester, the FCTL developed the Online Teaching Strategies & Tools (OTST) newsletter. This newsletter provided resources to help with the pivot to online and can still be used as an online teaching resource. The OTST newsletter can be found here.

Since many of us are teaching online or in a hybrid format for the first time I wanted to share this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on engaging students in an online environment. The article also provides advice from fellow instructors on how to teach in online, hybrid, or distanced classrooms.

Online Engagement Through 'Making Cool Stuff'
Sometimes in teaching you have the right idea but — at first — the wrong way to go about it. That’s what happened to Vadim Keyser, an assistant professor of philosophy at California State University at Fresno. Several years ago, Keyser was teaching an upper-division philosophy-of-science course, and wrestling with the idea of engagement in online courses.

Specifically, how could he help his students, who were both science and nonscience majors, better understand the complex concepts he was teaching? At first, says Keyser, who was then working at Cal State at Sacramento, he thought the best way might be to use his background in art and animation to create catchy videos: some animated, some in the clever style of Bill Nye. So, with the help of a grant, he created an experiment that he could run in different sections of his course.

But when test scores came back from his 200 or so students, he didn’t see any difference between those who had been given his creative tools and those who hadn't. That was puzzling to Keyser, who had been sure that “making cool stuff” was the way to better understand tricky scientific concepts. Around the same time, he was also teaching a course in the honors college, on civic engagement and service learning. Those students worked on a large sculpture project for the community. It was “massively exciting” to the students, recalls Keyser.

After that first failed experiment, in 2013-14, and with the honors-college experience under his belt, Keyser had a small epiphany: Maybe his students, not he, should be the ones making things. So he tried the experiment again, in 2015. Except this time, he asked students to work in groups and make something that visualized a concept they were learning. It could be a film, a conference presentation, or a graphic novel. It didn’t need to be sophisticated or high-tech. What mattered, he says, is that they worked together to analyze scientific information and visually represent it in a way that demonstrated their understanding.

When he tested his students, the scores among those who had created videos and visualizations were about 25 percent higher than those who had done traditional note-taking summaries. While it was a small experiment and a single test, Keyser says, it changed how he engages students in an online course.
“My initial thinking was that engagement was about exposure to information,” he says. “Then it changed to engagement is about teaching students how to navigate information.”

To continue reading this article click here

– by Beth McMurtie, Teaching Newsletter: The Chronicle of Higher Education.

What I Love About Teaching
Hello MSU Educators!

The FCTL is looking for your response to the question "What I love about teaching?"

Click the link below to share your response:

Here is a response from Julia Finch, Associate Professor Art History

What I love about teaching…  
What I love most about teaching is how human it makes me feel. It’s what I’ve always loved most about being a student as well. Teaching in the Caudill College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Morehead State University, I am surrounded by faculty and students who create, research, investigate, and teach about all aspects of human relationships. The teacher–student relationship is one in which we should be honest and open. As a teacher, part of my job is to normalize changing my opinion when presented with new information.
I started writing this prior to the global coronavirus pandemic, prior to all of the fear and uncertainty that came along with it, prior to our campus closure and having to teach remotely to our students. I started writing this prior to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, but subsequent to having lived my entire human existence in a country where so many Black men, women, and children have lost their lives due to racist policies. I started writing it in “the before time,” and when I returned to it recently, I could not finish my initial reflection without acknowledging where we are today. Each day I am torn between keeping my kids healthy at home, and joining the crowds of protesters in the streets who are holding America accountable for a system that propagates anti-Black racism, culminating in the loss of Black lives. In 2020, we are witnessing firsthand the best of humanity, and the worst. And I am feeling more human than ever in my conflicting responses and emotions to these two monumental human crises: fragile yet powerful, ashamed yet proud, fearful yet brave. I recognize my privilege in these statements, not only due to my whiteness, but also to my ability to maintain my family’s safety and financial stability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I teach art history, with a focus on premodern Europe. I know now that “Western tradition,” or “Western civilization,” is a sanitized term for “white history,” which is a history of colonizers, slavery, and white supremacy. In my Renaissance art class, I teach my students that, in an attempt to break with the deep religiosity of the European Middle Ages, humanists of the 15th and 16th centuries emphasized individual human endeavors, the agency of human beings to affect their world through the accumulation of knowledge and the ability to innovate. In the past, I embraced elements of the philosophy of humanism that celebrated the individual genius with unbridled creative potential, and affirmed freedom and progress. But, this is not the whole story. In the future, I will teach Renaissance humanism in my introductory art history classes alongside of the history of the Atlantic slave trade, which began in the 15th century with Henry of Portugal, celebrated in Western, white history as Prince Henry the Navigator for his sponsorship of the exploration (and exploitation) of western Africa. Presented with new information, or more accurately, confronted with the realization that I have been teaching using the images, tools, and texts produced within a system of racial oppression and white supremacy, I will normalize the changing of my opinion, and model antiracist strategies and pedagogy in my classroom in the future.
As a student, whether I was 8 years old or 18 years old, what I loved most about the best teachers I had was how they made me feel important. They made me feel that I had something to say. When I was in 2nd grade, for example, my teacher Mrs. Zinger looked at a notebook I had filled with stories and drawings, and told me that I should publish my work some day. I kept writing stories, and then wrote about my research, and eventually began to publish my own scholarly work. When I was a junior in high school, I took an AP Art History class. On the first day, my teacher Ms. Reitz showed us slides of herself on a camel near the Pyramids at Giza, and she told us that travel would challenge us and make us better learners, and that we could go anywhere we wanted. This was huge for a kid like me, a future first-generation college student, who knew there was this great big world out there, but didn’t know how to access it. When I was a junior in college, one of my art history professors, Dr. Holod, held a series of dinners at her home, inviting us to speak informally with faculty and invited guests who told us about how they had achieved successful careers in the history of art. They spoke to me as a future colleague rather than a student, giving me confidence that I too could succeed in this career. I am reflecting on each of these moments today, and recognizing the implicit bias present in these pivotal moments on my academic path. I think back on school experiences where I witnessed and was complicit in anti-Black racism. I think back to when we attended Dr. Holod’s dinners and did not see Black faces among our university professors, because (at that time) there were no Black art history professors at my university to invite. Would I have felt important, would I have felt supported to pursue my educational dreams, if I did not see myself represented in academia?
I find myself a student again, this role that makes me feel so very human. My teachers are my colleagues, my friends, my children, social media strangers, and New York Times best-selling authors. I am learning to recognize anti-Black racism that I have facilitated in my past. (In fact, my own cultural and racial biases are probably apparent in this piece of writing, and I own that.) I am learning how to honor the trauma of Black academics, resist anti-Blackness and white supremacy in academia and beyond, and facilitate accountability. I am also reckoning with my own past as a first-generation college graduate. My father graduated from high school and went to work in the steel mills of western Pennsylvania. My mother attended a semester of college before she dropped out to work, have three children, and raise her family. My background had challenges, and I am learning that I do not have to minimize that as I begin to amplify awareness of anti-Black racist policies that gave me financial and educational opportunities while denying them to my Black and brown peers.
In these uncertain times when we are practicing social distancing, feeling the lack of human contact, and feeling that our country is lacking in compassion and humanity towards Black Americans, immigrants, and other marginalized groups, I pledge to be as humane as possible to my students. I pledge to fail in front of them, to learn with them, and to challenge them to work to dismantle systems of racial and LGBTQ oppression in academia and beyond. I will make mistakes, but I will learn from them and I will do better. I ask you, my academic colleagues: will you join me?
Julia Finch, Ph.D.
Blackboard Buzz
Overview of Blackboard
Are you teaching online this semester? Are you new to Blackboard—MSU’s learning management system (LMS)? 
Blackboard is an easy-to-use online learning management system that is available 24/7. Faculty can post syllabi, readings and assignments in one easy to find location for their students. Blackboard also enhances faculty-to-student and student-to-student communication via email, virtual chats and discussion boards.
For general information about Blackboard, including course components, go to this introductory YouTube video. For on-campus support, email
Ambassadors for Excellence in Teaching
Morehead State University