Category Archives: General Announcements

Sir Ken Robinson and Higher Education

Today, we held a noontime round table to watch a short video from “Conversations from Penn State” with Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and education.  Some of you may have seen his TED talk on education reform, and this video covered similar territory.  We had a handful of Schreyer people in attendance, as well as faculty and advisers.  A few interesting topics were discussed after the video, one being discovery majors.  Our Division of Undergraduate Studies does a fantastic job helping students identify good majors, but we were discussing more the idea of faculty and advisers encouraging students to go outside of a discipline track if they aren’t happy, and try and discover majors on their own.  For instance, even within a College, a student might not be encouraged to enroll in courses that are somewhat tangential to her own major.  But, by doing so the student might discover she is much more excited and engaged in the tangential subject. 

Coincidentally, when I came back to my desk after listening to Sir Ken and talking about education reform, I had a chance to finally read an interview titled “What’s Wrong With the American University System“, an interview with Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, authors of Higher Education?  The interview, and likely the book, paint a bleak picture of higher education across America, specifically in the area of undergraduate teaching.  The authors specifically address tenure at one point in the interview, claiming that it doesn’t preserve academic freedom, something they claim it was intended to do.  From the article:

They [faculty] have to do things in the accepted way that their elders and superiors require. They can’t be controversial and all the rest. So tenure is, in fact, the enemy of spontaneity, the enemy of intellectual freedom. We’ve seen this again and again. And even people who get tenure really don’t change. They keep on following the disciplinary mode they’ve been trained to follow.

I do find some interesting and curious aspects of the tenure process here at PSU, but is it as bleak as the authors describe in this quote?

New copyright allows Profs to show video clips with fewer restrictions

Today, an article in InsideHigher (see: discussed how professors will now have an easier time showing videos in class for academic use.

Per the article:

“One change in particular is making waves in academe: an exemption that allows professors in all fields and “film and media studies students” to hack encrypted DVD content and clip “short portions” into documentary films and “non-commercial videos.” (The agency does not define “short portions.”)

This means that any professors can legally extract movie clips and incorporate them into lectures, as long as they are willing to decrypt them — a task made relatively easy by widely available programs known as “DVD rippers.””

As far as general video resources go for faculty, here are some options that are popular for classroom use:

Teaching with Blogs

In today’s InsideHigherEd posting, see:, Lanny Arvan poses very interesting thoughts on the use of blogs as a teaching method. I highly recommend this article for professors who are considering using blogs in their classes. I like the fact that it dovetails with Chickering’s and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.

Digital Textbooks via Blackboard

July 15, 2010: “In a series of moves that could give a boost to an e-textbook industry that has been treading water for years, Blackboard announced Wednesday that it is partnering with a major publisher and two major e-textbook vendors to make it easy for professors and students to assign and access e-textbooks and other digital materials directly through its popular learning-management system.”

“The company, which controlled about 60 percent of the learning-management market as of last year, said it is partnering with McGraw-Hill, a top academic publisher, as well as Follett Higher Education Group and Barnes & Noble, two major distributors that operate a combined 1,500 college bookstores in the United States and Canada.”

“But can Blackboard, through these arrangements — and other learning-management providers such as Desire2Learn, Moodle, and Sakai, through CourseSmart’s Faculty Instant Access program — help publishers move more e-textbooks? Despite substantial buzz, e-textbooks have so far failed to catch on in academe, capturing 3.5 percent of the total textbook market, according to last year’s Campus Computing Survey. Recent polling by the Student Monitor reveals that student awareness of e-textbooks this spring was down from the previous spring, to 50 percent from 59.”

See the rest of the story at:

Study Abroad bodes well for students

In InsideHigherEd today, “they’ve found that students who study abroad have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, higher graduation rates, and improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups. They’ve also found that studying abroad helps, rather than hinders, academic performance of at-risk students.”


Penn State’s Global Programs has many resources to help faculty engage with topics germane to overseas studies —

In particular, please refer to the: Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit

This toolkit has been developed to be used primarily by faculty to aid in the development and implementation of embedded programs. The toolkit complements university administrative and logistical services by offering a portfolio of tested and applicable instructional strategies that leverage the embedded international travel component of these courses to optimize academic learning and the development of global citizenship.

I think that concepts of global citizenship should be incorporated into as many Penn State courses as possible; what do you think?

Schreyer Institute July Update

Each month we release a short PDF newsletter that is distributed to the various Department Heads across Penn State.  I’ll try and also post the newsletter here each month anyone interested.

July’s newsletter introduces our two new team members, Chas Brua and Larkin Hood.  Although in a new position, Chas has worked with the Institute for a while, including a stint as a Postdoctoral Fellow.  Larkin comes from the University of Washington, where she coordinated educational outreach programming for the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Other highlights include New Instructor Orientation, beginning August 19th, and a WikiEducator workshop offered online beginning July 21st. 

Penn State’s Methodology Center

When I left IST and came to the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, one of the biggest challenges for me was the scope of work.  I was used to working within a single College here at PSU compared to working with the Institute, interacting with Faculty and administrators across the entire state-wide system.  Over the last 8 months, I’ve discovered many new centers or organizations within Penn State.  The latest discovery is the Methodology Center.  From their website:

The Methodology Center is an interdisciplinary center that comprises faculty, research associates, post-docs, and students from several academic disciplines, including human development, psychology, statistics, and public health. Our work is funded by the National Institutes of Health and by the National Science Foundation.

We recently received a methodological question here in the Institute and struggled to find an answer until Ann pointed us to the Methodology Center.  Thanks Ann!

Penn State Career Services Conference

Cindy and I presented at the Campus-wide career services conference yesterday in the Career Services building at University Park.  We tried to cover four main areas:

  • Basic Schreyer Institute overview
  • Collaborative opportunities
  • Engaging students (focusing on generational characteristics of millennials)
  • The assertion-evidence model for PowerPoint utilization

The advising folks were great, contributing many ideas and really helping to make the session interactive and giving us some things to think about in the future.  The whole topic of generational differences seems to be coming up more and more lately, with a LOT of varied opinions and viewpoints on the subject.  Yesterday, the big debate was around ‘tech savvy’ students.  Some of the literature does point to millenials being tech savvy, BUT we often find students are only savvy with email, social websites and mobile devices.  We concluded that we might want to stress continued growth and utilization of basic tools like the MS suite (lots of stories of seniors not being able to format resumes and inability to leverage basic spreadsheets), audio and video tools and image editing software. 

Thanks for everyone who attended!  Feel free to check out the PDF of our presentation.

Welcome to the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence Blog

We are experimenting with a Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence (SITE) blog over the next few months.  If you happen to stumble upon our blog, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think!  We are currently not advertising this space, primarily using it as a way to communicate and share ideas internally at this point.  Should we find it useful internally, we may integrate the blog into our primary SITE website.