The Personal, Adaptive, and Sensitive Future of Learning

So I may be a language technology nerd. But I’m not alone. Each year, some of the geekiest geeks meet at the annual conference of CALICO, the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium.  This year, Cecile and I attended and occasionally pushed up our glasses as they would slide down the bridges of our noses — as all nerds do — and tried to fit in.

If there was a take-away message that prevailed, it was this: the future of learning will be increasingly personalized, adaptive, and deeply aware of the learner. Just how deeply aware? Perhaps more than we think. The growing prevalence of smartphones, smart watches, and other monitoring devices combined with an emerging interest in big data and data science could spell a future where learning systems can psychologically and physiologically detect and reproduce the conditions under which individual students learn best.

The vision shared at CALICO, even if more focused on language instruction, is nonetheless a harbinger for the rest of the educational field. In a recent EDUCAUSE article written by Learning Initiative Director Malcolm Brown, “Six Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education,” Brown sees the opportunity of mobile devices in a post-digital-divide era, looks forward to open educational resources and learning spaces, and eyes a future for learning analytics. The language nerds at CALICO obsess over these themes constantly as they imagine the future.

The future, it turns out, is not only talked about in abstract far-away presentations. The future is taking place here at Northwestern, too. Full Post

Canvas Tips and Tricks

For the last year or so, I’ve been leading a double life (cue exciting spy-movie music).  Oh yes.  Working at the illustrious MMLC is great, but I’ve felt compelled to broaden my mind and explore new educational adventures.  So last Fall I bid adieu to what little free time I had and started taking classes for a Speech Pathology degree. My last five classes were entirely online (both in Blackboard and Canvas), and my experiences have given me some insight as to what works and what doesn’t.  So whether you’re incorporating Canvas into your classroom-based course or teaching entirely online, here are some observations and suggestions to help your students get the most out of your class.

Full Post

Don’t Lose It! Move It!

A blast from the past… the “old” MMLC lab in Kresge Hall with a co-led MMLC - NUIT workshop on migrating content to Canvas…  Vicki Getis from NUIT talks with Penny Fahey (middle) as Katrin Volkner listens.

A blast from the past… the “old” MMLC lab in Kresge Hall with a co-led MMLC/NUIT workshop on migrating content to Canvas… Vicky Getis from NUIT talks with Penny Nichols (middle) as Katrin Volkner listens.

This month, the University’s main course management system, Canvas, will move front and center, and Blackboard will be taken off line at Northwestern at the end of August. The systems will change, but the content inside won’t for NUL services like Course Reserve.

In fact, in changing from working with Blackboard to working with the more modern Canvas, the Course Reserves area has become a one-stop location for all reserved materials, from streaming media clips to full-length films, to books, journals and articles.

Kurt Munson, the University Library librarian who heads up services like Course Reserves, says that the move from Blackboard to Canvas certainly made things easier for faculty and students.  And the Library has been consolidating services for requesting reserve materials and centering the requesting reserves and the delivery of those same materials in the same place: right inside each Canvas course site. Full Post

Technology for n00bs: iMovie

You may not know this, but I wasn’t always a proud employee of this illustrious institution known as Northwestern University. Oh no!  I actually had quite a crazy 11-year run as the co-owner of a high-end aquarium company up until 2012. Yup, I sold fish tanks. We specialized in saltwater and reef aquariums, and as such, I became an expert of all things marine.

So when my parents treated me to a vacation down in St. Thomas last year for my birthday, I took full advantage of the reef right outside our door. I went snorkeling for hours every day, clutching my trusty GoPro camera and capturing the magic under the waves. It was glorious!  But then I came home and wondered what in the world I was going to do with all this amazing footage. I needed to make a movie, of course!  That meant teaching myself how to use iMovie, the one stop shop for turning your raw videos into thrilling films. It was truly addicting, and I had such a blast arranging my clips that I ended up with THREE movies instead of just one. Do you want to join in the fun?

Full Post

[Re-] Visualizing the Novel

Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, is one of the most endearing and best-known novels of all time. Judged a literary masterpiece by many, when it was first published in 1862 by one of France’s greatest literary heroes, the work was met with hostility for political and aesthetic reasons. Yet, the story has been popular, published many times over, translated into several languages, and adapted in recent years to its perhaps most widely familiar forms on the musical stage and cinematic screen.

At Northwestern, the novel is a frequent centerpiece of courses offered by Professor Michal Peled Ginsburg, of the Department of French and Italian. From Spring of 2014, with assistance from both the MMLC and from NUIT, she has worked to boost students’ and scholars’ understanding the novel via two key visualization techniques: first, a series of updated maps to indicate landmarks, event locations and paths traveled, and secondly, a series of insightful computer-generated illustrations of the book’s characters and their relationships to one another. Full Post

Get Thee to Canvas!

Graphic showing 70% adoption rate of CanvasThis graphic from the Canvas Transition team in NUIT shows almost 3/4 of the classes at NU are now using Canvas Learning System for classes

Canvas, the new learning management system for classes at Northwestern, will be the only platform available for class use next academic year.

Already more than 70% of classes have made the switch, and for faculty who have not made the switch from Blackboard there are people from the MMLC, and NUIT, and even Canvas support staff waiting to help you make the transition with workshops, drop-in labs, even online chat available 24/7.

Remember, NUIT will switch off Blackboard for good this summer.

To help you get prepared for the move, we asked four Weinberg faculty to play mentor and guide for a few moments, to encourage colleagues to make the “leap” to Canvas.  We spoke with Denise Meuser from the German department, Raquel Amorim from Spanish and Portuguese, Noriko Taira Yasohama from Asian Languages and Cultures, and Lam-Thao Nguyen from the French and Italian department.  All have taught classes using Canvas this year, and they shared with us advice and tips to help you make the plunge with Canvas.

Full Post

To Connect and Serve: Where to go for MMLC Support Services

mmlcmanexportcameraGood news for you Humanities faculty out there! The MMLC has completed our move to the NU Library and many of you may be wondering where you can go or how you can get the same services you were used to getting in Kresge. The MMLC may be spread out across campus now, but we are committed to supporting you and your students. All of our facilities are open when classes are in session, and among some of our new spaces are:

  • The MMLC Computer Classroom (NU Library Lower Level, Room B183)
  • The MMLC Equipment Checkout Counter (NU Library Lower Level, Room B185). Open Monday-Thursday 8:30am-6:30pm, Friday 8:30am-5pm
  • The MMLC Activity Space (Deering Library Second Floor, Room 208 – shared with the Music Listening Library). Open Monday-Thursday 10am-10pm, Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 1pm-5pm, Sunday 1pm-10pm.
  • The MMLC Student Project Studio (Locy Hall Room 316)
  • The MMLC Digital Art Computer Lab (Roycemore School B37)

Full Post

Bye-bye Blackboard, hello Canvas!

After a year of pilot testing, Northwestern officially debuts Canvas —  a brand new learning management system — this fall. Some of you might currently be in the middle of getting your Canvas site ready for fall courses, others will continue to use Blackboard this year and switch to Canvas at a later point. (Blackboard is scheduled to go offline in August 2015.) No matter what your timeline is, we thought it would be good to get you up to speed on Canvas highlights.

Over the past several months, the MMLC has enjoyed working with Faculty Support Services (FSS) from NUIT Academic & Research Technologies, the team that is implementing and supporting Canvas at Northwestern. Together, we have collaborated on hosting workshops and experimenting with the many features and functions of Canvas. We would like to introduce you to some of the staff and resources around Canvas so you can benefit from their insights. Before we get to that, let’s review how you can get started and find any needed support. Full Post

It Don’t Mean A Thing, If We Don’t Have A Swing (Space)

This summer will mark the beginning of a massive renovation of Kresge Centennial Hall. The MMLC, along with many of the building’s faculty occupants, departments, programs and centers, will move to a set of temporary locations during the nearly 3-year project. We’re very excited for Kresge’s future, but we’re also working to make sure that our assigned interim “swing space” in Northwestern’s Main Library allows us to continue meeting the learning and instructional needs of Weinberg students and faculty. In this article, we want to provide more details about our upcoming temporary home, explain how our operations will change, and share some suggestions that may help. Full Post

Design – in Time – Saves Nine

Front page of "old" Obamacare Sign-up site.

The “original” front page of the insurance exchanges site in fall of 2013.

picture of iPhone and Galaxy

Hmm. Which one is the iPhone? Hint: it is not the left one.

The word “design” seems to be used more as a noun than a verb in the last decade or so.

The “design” of the website for insurance exchanges,, was a big issue last fall, as it interfered with signing people up for healthcare.

Court rulings on whether or not Apple’s “design” for the iPhone was copied by Samsung have made headlines for several years as the trials wend their way through the courts.

Design has come to be affiliated with a kind of “personal” style. Adopting the “look” of Ralph Lauren’s clothing, or the look of Gucci or Levis, or Old Navy says something about you, and how you want to be viewed by others. Some would never wear Gucci and Old Navy at the same time. Some people would never wear Gucci, period.

You get the idea.

Can the same be true of documents, and web pages and PDF files you create? Is there “fashion” in fonts? Or at least better at doing their “job” than other fonts? Full Post