Active Teaching Lab: Faculty Development in Educational Technology

In Fall of 2014, I wasn’t sure the idea would make it beyond a semester, but five semesters, 80 Labs, and some ~1300 participants later, I’m pleased to report that this idea of a collaboration between the UW-Madison Teaching Academy, where I’m an Executive Committee member, and the Division of Information Technology’s Department of Academic Technology, where I work, is successful. What it is Each week during academic semesters, the Active Teaching Lab invites an instructor to come share a Continue reading Active Teaching Lab: Faculty Development in Educational Technology

Canvas-themed Active Teaching Labs

As UW-Madison transitions from D2L and Moodle to Canvas, I’ve been hosting weekly Active Teaching Labs that feature: Early-adopting faculty sharing their stories (successes, challenges, frustrations, workarounds, etc.) of using Canvas tools. Independent, guided, hands-on experience through Activity Sheets (example) on each theme. Quality Q&A and discussion about the pedagogical aspects of the tools and their use —informed by the hands-on experience. It’s been moderately successful with about ~15 coming each week. Afterward, we create a simple recap with takeaways and videos of the Continue reading Canvas-themed Active Teaching Labs

Good Learning Principles in Canvas

Teaching Effectively in Canvas

I’ve been asked how a course framework (e.g. a course site in a Learning Management System such as Canvas) can encourage better learning. This is an early/simplified attempt at explaining and identifying what those indicators might be, and how they can increase learning. This is work inspired in part by Gee’s identification of 13 principles of good learning in good games. General Principles of Learning We are sensing and social animals. Embodied: we learn most powerfully through direct interaction with our environment, through Continue reading Good Learning Principles in Canvas

Engagement & Gamification Takeaways


I was recently asked to briefly summarize “takeaways” for gamification and student engagement. This was not easy for me, as there is so much on these topics, and so many nuances that defy summary. As a student of Squire, Gee, Steinkuehler, Halverson, etc, it is perhaps no surprise that I used Gee’s 13 principles as a base. I am sure there are things I’ve missed. Gamification: Players (learners) are not alike: Some like to accumulate points, but some play to socialize, some to explore, Continue reading Engagement & Gamification Takeaways

Google Docs: Embedding Tricks for Canvas (and other systems)

there’s the official way to publish google Docs, and it works with various degrees of success. Depending on the system, it may strip out width and height defaults, or other small details that make the content look good. I’d like to share some alternate methods.   This is Monday’s schedule for a course design bootcamp I help run, and here’s the HTML iframe embed code: <iframe src=”” width=”100%” height=”1200″></iframe> Ignoring that, for this post in WordPress, I changed the width Continue reading Google Docs: Embedding Tricks for Canvas (and other systems)

Google Forms as a Student Response System

I led a workshop Wednesday, March 30 from 2-4:30 on how to do this and get other types of formative feedback. Details here. I’ve been figuring out how to use Google Forms as an alternative to costly student response systems (SRS, aka “clickers”). I presented on it at EDUCAUSE Connect in 2014 using Google Sites as a (clumsy) prototype that I had session participants access quickly with their devices at But I haven’t had the time to dig into it Continue reading Google Forms as a Student Response System

Communications Strategy — The Active Teaching Lab

While image is NOT everything, the presentation of a program is important in conveying what it’s really about. That’s why, in our communication plan, as in our sessions, we aim to be clear, playful, and branded. Clear We aim to make the language used in communications concise and clear, actively limiting unnecessary sentences and words. Because we understand the power of the visual, we will communicate with graphics as much and often as possible. Playful We know that learning is more Continue reading Communications Strategy — The Active Teaching Lab

The Active Teaching Lab

Active Teaching Lab banner

I’ve been very lucky to be given the go ahead to turn this pilot into a program! We’re doing fun stuff again this semester! Sponsored by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW Teaching Academy, the Active Teaching Lab provides a safe space and refreshments for structured explorations of the cool teaching tools and techniques that your peers are using to engage students and teach more effectively. If you missed an event, each session page has a link to a video of the Continue reading The Active Teaching Lab

Designed [Learning] Experiences


This article, “Why Schools And Hospitals Should Be More Like Theme Parks” speaks to the call for the design of what Ellsworth calls processual paths through pedagogically charged learning environments (Ellsworth, 2005). While this author focuses on physically-designed space, I recommend reading as if it were describing a semester’s course schedule, or even an hour of class time. For example, this excerpt: THE ANATOMY OF A MAGICAL EXPERIENCE So what does a well-designed environment look like? Varied rhythms are key—you Continue reading Designed [Learning] Experiences

Heartland Ramblings

heartland rambling

A Curious Intellect* Visits the Heartland Once. There was big, beautiful, clever brain. It was a very curious brain, and traveled all over the world of ideas, from field to field, across seas of knowledge and mountains of data. It collected trophies and specimens and souvenirs from its travels. By studying these carefully, it unpacked many mysteries, and discovered significant systems that seemed to be foundational patterns underlying the secrets of the universe. It was a happy brain. But there Continue reading Heartland Ramblings

Active Teaching Lab

This past Spring, with the wonderful support of DoIT Academic Technology and the Teaching Academy, I launched a series of Active Teaching Labs — low-commitment, structured explorations of cool teaching tools and techniques to teach more effectively. The response to them was very positive. GOAL: Capacity Building at faculty level; create deeply-embodied and socially-playful environments & experiences for learners — Lure with low-risk involvement. Inspire with stories. Motivate with hands-on success. SUCCESS: Because it is a safe & playful, low-risk environment where faculty are Continue reading Active Teaching Lab

Teaching & Learning Symposium 2015

Last Wednesday was my birthday, and for my birthday my university held a huge two-day party, invited my favorite people, and held all sorts of sessions about my favorite topics. They called it the Teaching & Learning Symposium. I got to take pictures, show a poster, and help facilitate a few sessions, and attend others. There was cake (well, sweet breads and bagels) and ice cream (actually creamer for the coffee), and coffee, and sandwiches and fruit, etc. Learning Outside; Mobile-Enhanced Continue reading Teaching & Learning Symposium 2015

What I learned: Professional Painter

The biggest lesson is that I’m as good or better at mudding and painting (albeit considerably slower) than the pros were. I think it’s because it’s my place, and I care about it, whereas for them it’s just another day, and another job. Lesson #2 is “buy good paint” and OMG Benjamin Moore’s Aura is amazing! A gallon of that covered the whole room —and it covered so well. I bought “Moonshine” (2140-60), though it looks more green at night than it did Continue reading What I learned: Professional Painter

A Game Design Framework for Course Design

Who is the Course Designer? Jamie attends a class that her instructor has spent months creating. Her instructor, let’s call him Dr. X, has slaved to make sure that all the content he wants to cover fits in the course. He has active learning activities peppered throughout the semester. He has chosen the best readings for each of the topics. He has weekly quizzes written to keep students accountable, and tests designed not just to assess but to teach. He Continue reading A Game Design Framework for Course Design

Blending Active Learning with Twitter

As some of you know, I have been using Twitter the past 2 years in my CP125 (and have had several instructor consultations. Twitter shows some promise for blended and active learning (constructive) to crowd-source (student-source?) content application and knowledge construction. WHO TWEETS? Although not everyone has a Twitter account, all of my Fall 2013 Freshmen students had a Twitter account, and 18 of 24 of my Fall 2014 Freshmen students had one. Everyone had Facebook, but using it for Continue reading Blending Active Learning with Twitter