On May 16, I'll be visiting NCSU in Raleigh-Durham to speak about course redesign. I've been invited because the Intro Biology course there has gotten fed up with trying to use the commercial course management systems and is looking at other options, including Moodle. I'll be speaking about the work we've done building course resources for faculty that provide a shared environment for collaborative work with and among students. I was excited to see an announcement recently that Moodle is rolling out tools to help build collaborative syllabi with student participation. That sounds really cool.
I assume I'll also be able to talk about our laboratory improvements and the transformation of the lecture, from a passive learning environment to a place where students work collaboratively on model-based reasoning problems. I have some time before me, but over the next few weeks, I'm going to try to pull together a group of images to build my presentation and try to actually generate some text that could get published somewhere.
Over the past week, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the cool stuff I've been able to be involved in at UMass Amherst. This semester, I'm having a great time with the writing class and the collaboration with Alan Snow, our local tree warden, to have students doing something authentic and relevant by participating in the Amherst Tree Inventory. It's been tremendously rewarding to see the new Bioimaging and Histology websites get filled with cool imagery. It's particularly great to see the looks on the faculty's faces when they experience the student excitement over wrestling with real data. In traditional classes, I always ask "But what are the students going to do?" When you let students do things, amazing things always seem to happen.
I let Kathy talk me into teaching Organisms: Diversity and Interactions again next fall -- So many people have told me how much they love the design of the class. I'm supposed to talk with Tom later today and see if I can get him to be a teaching assistant for the class. That would be really great -- I've gotten to work with Tom in so many contexts -- it would be wonderful to have them interact with the students as well.