Materials

Is a recording of a lecture a substitute for the real thing? A new study by psychologist Dani McKinney suggests that the answer may be “Yes.” (via New Scientist).

In fact, a podcast of a lecture may be better. Students watching a podcast can pause and rewind through missed points, they can pick their strongest time of the day to focus, and they can wear headphones to tune out distractions.

Just as students can stumble into a lecture hall and nap in the back row, simply listening to a podcast isn’t as important as how the students use the podcast: students who listened to the podcast one or more times and took notes while listening actually scored better on the test than students attending the lecture.

All the usual disclaimers apply: this was just one study of only 64 students, in one lecture, with one test. However, it does encourage us to take a closer look at podcasts as a powerful tool for teaching.

about podcasts

Podcasts are like radio or television shows you can download to your computer and listen to or watch wherever and whenever you want, on your computer or on a portable player such as an iPod. All you need to start podcasting is a podcasting client, such as iTunes.

contexts has a podcast!

If you want to hear an example, I’ll shamelessly plug our very own Contexts Podcast. We release episodes every other week and each episode features an interview with leading scholars—frequently authors from our magazine—and discussions of our favorite discoveries. Each episode is about 20-25 minutes long and are great to listen to on your daily commute or even to assign to your students to compliment your own course material.

On our podcast homepage we have links to many other podcasts listed in the sidebar that you may find interesting. If you find other good ones: let us know & we can recommend those too!

teaching with podcasts

But this post started with a study of podcasting lectures themselves, not just using them as supplementary course material. But podcasting your own lecture isn’t that hard, and some sociologists are doing it already, such as Gianpaolo Baiocchi’s Sociology of Race Relations (iTunes link), and Tina Fetner’s Intro to Sociology (iTunes Link).

If your university participates in iTunes U (for example, our home, The University of Minnesota, does), then it’s easy to get your podcast put online where others can find it. With the rise in online distance education, universities are increasingly well-equipped to handle this sort of thing, so ask around on your campus. Hopefully, you’ll find IT support people excited you’re trying something new & willing to help. (I know we benefited greatly from help from our college’s IT unit when we got started.)

Remember the study’s findings though! Encourage your students to listen to each lecture twice, or at least go back to the parts they struggled with later. Also, the students who did the best had printouts of slides to follow along with as well. And they still took notes, even though they weren’t in the physical class room.

Still not bright enoughFor many instructors, putting together a syllabus is the first (and often daunting) step toward a new teaching experience. A few years ago, at the American Sociological Association’s annual meetings, a panel on ‘Teaching Sociology for Beginners’ dealt with syllabus construction, among a number of other topics aimed to provide more resources for first-time instructors of introductory-level courses. The sociology department at the University of Buffalo has made some of these materials available electronically. 

Check out the links below.

Managing conflict with students in the classroom is something that many instructors struggle with. Both new teachers and those with years of experience often express anxiety and frustration about how to address some of these issues. The following tutorials are provided by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

Why is it important to address these issues?

Managing a classroom well–balancing your instructional authority with your students’ concerns–comes with experience. Sometimes painful experience! Small problems poorly handled can distract you from teaching well and cast a pall on the semester. And while many are ready to complain about situations, we don’t often engage in constructive talk about how to manage and minimize the troublesome issues when they arise.

These scenarios help instructors think about what to do when a student complains about a great, doesn’t think s/he will ever ‘get’ the concept, misses work because of a sick child, disputes classroom or assignment directions, or asks you to meet off campus.

How to use the tutorial:

Select a scene (see below) and you’ll have a chance to view an encounter between a student and an instructor.

Following the clip, you’ll likely want to think about how you might have handled the situation—there’s no single correct approach. After you’ve formulated an opinion, you can choose to listen to several teaching consultants to see how they might have worked with the student to resolve the conflict.

Transcripts of both the scene and the advice are available on every page and further resources can be found on the workshop’s resources page.

Take a look at the scenes below…

Scene 1 – Why Did You Take Points Off?
Scene 2 – I’ll Never Get It!
Scene 3 – Could You Talk to the Professor for Us?
Scene 4 – It’s a Zoo in Here!
Scene 5 – Let’s Meet for Coffee
Scene 6 – I Had to Go to a Funeral
Scene 7 – Sorry, but I Don’t Always Understand You
Scene 8 – Do the Problem for Me!
Scene 9 – I Had a Sick Child!
Scene 10 – You Never Told Us That!

PowerPoint 12Many instructors are now using PowerPoint to present lecture material, integrate technology in the classroom, and project videos for their classes. Below you will find some useful tips and tricks compiled by University of Minnesota PhD candidate Jon Smajda, also the Web Editor of Contexts Magazine.

  1. Use the Dual Monitors mode in Powerpoint: Ever wished you could look at your own notes on your laptop screen while keeping the Powerpoint presentation up on the projector screen for your students? You can do this! You have to enable Dual Monitor mode on your laptop and Powerpoint and then you put the Powerpoint slide on one “monitor” (the projector screen) and have your own laptop monitor free to do whatever you want. Here are the instructions: http://www.onppt.com/ppt/article1026.html.
  2. Navigating to a specific slide: Say you’re on slide #12 and you want to go to your web browser to show the class a website or you want to bring up a Word document to show the class. When you go back to Powerpoint, you select View Show from the Slide Show menu and you’re right back at slide #1. Then you have to quickly cycle through each slide to get back to slide #12. There are three ways to avoid this. First, before you enter slideshow mode, instead of using the menu use the tiny “Slide Show” icon in the bottom left corner of your screen (its icon looks like a projector). If you click this, you’ll be taken straight to the slide displayed in your editing mode window, not the first slide. Second, while you’re in slideshow mode, if at any time you type a number and click return you’ll be taken to that slide: so “12 return” takes you to slide #12. Third, if you right-click anywhere on the screen while in slide show mode, and go to the “Go” menu you can go straight to any slide that way.
  3. Drawing on the screen: If you type control-p (or command-p on macs) while you’re in slideshow mode, you’ll get a pen icon. You can then draw on the screen. This is helpful if you’re looking at graphics or lots of text, for example, and want to draw attention to one element (or if you simply want to pretend you’re John Madden drawing out football plays on the telestrator). If you click “E” your drawings will be erased, and if you go to another slide and come back, they’ll also be erased.
  4. Blank screen: If you click “W” while in a slideshow, you’ll get a blank white screen. If you click “B” you’ll get a blank black screen. Just click W or B again to return to your slide. This is helpful if you want to move into a discussion portion of the class and don’t want everyone pretending to study your slides as a way to avoid making eye contact with you when you ask them questions.
  5. Other shortcuts: Microsoft has a table of other shortcuts like this available on their website: http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/assistance/HP051953031033.aspx

Also, if you are looking for more detailed online tutorials and references, check out the links below…

Know of other great tricks for making the best use of PowerPoint in the classroom? Comment below!

Contexts Magazine graduate editorial board member Shannon Golden has offered a syllabus and in-class exercise to our readers for a course addressing ‘Sociological Perspectives on Race, Class, and Gender.’ The materials were developed as part of a course in the Sociology of Higher Education offered by Professor Ron Aminzade in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.

The syllabus:

  • For a semester-length course meeting twice weekly
  • Assignments include weekly media reaction papers as well as two longer papers, designed to be ‘writing-intensive’
  • The section devoted to ‘Course Dialogue’ provides a great example of how to encourage students to engage in respectful debate about controversial issues.  – A must-read for all first-time instructors.

In-class exercise:

  • Title: ‘A White African-American?’
  • Written scenario about whether a student typically identified as ‘White’ can be considered for an academic award aimed at recognizing accomplishments of African-American students
  • Provides discussion questions to get students talking about the scenario
  • Engages students in small group discussion
  • Based on an actual event, with some details modified

For those of you unfamiliar with the Contexts Crawler, this blog provides summaries of sociological research in the news as it hits the presses (or the web). The site houses daily posts of news articles from national and international news sources and summarizes the key findings of social science research and highlights the relevant discussion by the media. The Contexts Crawler can be a valuable resource for instructors of sociology to bring current events into lectures and in-class activities. You can find up-to-date news stories on the topics you cover in the classroom, using newspaper articles as a way to help your students understand different sociological concepts with current and innovative research…

How to use the Crawler to find articles for your classes…

All of the posts in site are fully searchable, using the ‘Search’ function on the left-hand side of the site (about halfway down). Using this function, you can look for news stories on particular topics like race, gender, sexuality, youth, and work – among many others.

Another handy way to navigate the Crawler is to use the tag cloud on the left-hand side of the page. (See this for an explanation of a ‘tag cloud.’) This part of the site displays the number of posts on a particular topic by the size of the text. For example, the tag ‘culture’ is used more frequently than the tag ‘youth.’ Although stories are available for both of these topics.

Visit the Contexts Crawler at www.thesocietypages.org/crawler

For beginners: What is a blog?

Check out this great resource from Contexts Magazine Graduate Editorial Board Member Kristin Haltinner. This proposed syllabus was prepared as a part of the ‘Sociology of Higher Education’ graduate seminar taught by Professor Ron Aminzade in the department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. 

Assets of this syllabus:

  • Outlines a community service learning (CSL) opportunity for students
  • Provides a number of well selected video clips for course topics
  • A great template for the section on ‘Course Expectations’
  • See the section on ‘Classroom Etiquette’ – especially helpful

Teaching an undergraduate or graduate level course in culture? Or even a seminar on the sociology of knowledge? Take a look at this reading by Ann Swidler and Jorge Arditi. 

This article (an Annual Review piece) provides an excellent summary of “how kinds of social organization make whole orderings of knowledge possible, rather than focusing on the different social locations and interests of individuals or groups.” This is a particularly interesting reading in the larger scope of sociological work on knowledge…

Full citation:
Ann Swidler and Jorge Arditi. 1994. “The New Sociology of Knowledge.” Annual Review of Sociology 20:305-29.