Pedagogy, Books, and Java! A Professional Development Book Club

Our Pedagogy and Pizza Luncheons has been a huge success. Thanks for joining us for lively and thought-provoking discussions. For the Winter term, we’re going to try something a little different … a faculty development book club!

We buy the book, you read it, and we all show up to talk/listen/debate over coffee and pastries catered by Pronto Caffè & Gelateria!

The book we’ve chosen is “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School“. John Medina, a molecular biologist, researcher, and professor, takes what neuroscientists have learned about the brain and explains it in a way so that anybody can understand. With countless references to peer-reviewed studies, Medina explains 12 basic principles that help you understand how the brain functions. Having a better understanding of how the brain works means (hopefully!) that we can use our brain the way it was designed to be used and change the way we think about learning, so that we can be more impactful teachers.

If interested, please sign up at (PBJ = Pedadogy, Books, and Java). Enrollment is limited to 10, so register for your spot now!

Not Your Mama’s Classroom!

We’re 😍 with active learning classrooms! You know, student-centered, flexible learning spaces that allow for a range of teaching and learning activities. What does an active learning classroom look like?

According to Baepler, et al. in “A Guide to Teaching in the Active Learning Classroom: History, Research, and Practice”, active learning classrooms (ALCs)

“typically feature round or curved tables with moveable seating that allow students to face each other and thus support small-group work. The tables are often paired with their own whiteboards for brainstorming and diagramming. Many tables are linked to large LCD displays so students can project their computer screens to the group, and the instructor can choose a table’s work to share with the entire class. Wireless Internet plays an important role in retrieving resources and linking to content management systems, and depending upon the size of the room, table microphones can be critical so that every student’s voice can be broadcast across the room. Unlike the lecture hall with its clear division between front and back, the ALC is designed to even out that hierarchy and increase mobility for the instructor and students.” (p.10)

Inside the Ruscio Center for Global Learning (CGL), Rooms 104, 114, 115, 211, and 212 certainly fit the bill! Look at those:

  • movable tables and chairs allow the professor to circulate and interact for improved student engagement
    • movable chairs were designed for quick, easy transitions from one teaching mode to the next, like lecture to group work without interruption, are lightweight, portable, stackable, and COMFORTABLE! Small holes in the material allow your body to breathe, so moisture and heat dissipate, so you remain cool! (CGL 114 and 211)
    • node chairs in CGL 115 and 212 have swivel seats that give students the freedom to shift focus throughout the room. The base of node chair provides a unique storage solution for backpacks and student belongings that usually clutter the aisles. And it has an adjustable worksurface, that accommodates both left- and right-handed students and provides a perfect fit for students of all shapes and sizes.
  • multiple flat screen displays ensures that every seat is a good seat (CGL 115 and 212)
  • flip tables: allows you to save space (CGL 104)
  • dual projectionthe option to display a single source on both projection screens increases the sight lines of the classroom (CGL 115 and 212)

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Compare that to college classrooms of the past …

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So … which classroom is more likely to support teaching and learning in an atmosphere conducive to engaging students actively in their own learning?

blocks that spell out DUH

[Curious about active learning, a pedagogical approach that emphasizes student engagement in the learning process? Check out this great op-ed piece by Cathy N. Davidson in Inside Higher Ed, “10 Key Points About Active Learning“.]

Academic Technologies’ Active Learning Fellows Initiative (ALFI)

ALF (a.k.a. Gordon Shumway, a friendly extraterrestrial nicknamed ALF, an acronym for "Alien Life Form")
ALF (a.k.a. Gordon Shumway, a friendly extraterrestrial nicknamed ALF, an acronym for “Alien Life Form”)

Ha ha, ALFI, not ALF! ALFI stands for the Active Learning Fellows Initiative.

Academic Technologies is thrilled to support faculty interested in building their repertoire of active learning techniques by providing an opportunity to explore and reflect on active learning pedagogy with like-minded colleagues who also wish to examine the use of classroom space and share their teaching practices.

Professors selected to participate will receive a $1,000 stipend and must be able to meet the following requirements:

  1. As part of the cohort, the professor agrees to read and discuss the recommended articles on Active Learning prior to meetings.
  2. The professor will incorporate active learning elements into a Fall 2019 course. (The professor should have taught the course at least two times previously so that the content is very familiar.)
  3. The professor will identify at least one module in the course that can be reworked using Active Learning techniques.
  4. Cohort members will attend up to four meetings over the summer with Academic Technologies staff and/or other cohort members to work through the process of planning and building the active learning module, and one meeting in the fall to discuss progress. (If you’re planning on being away/abroad for most of the summer, this program may not be for you.)
  5. Professors will provide feedback to Academic Technologies on what worked, what needs improvement, and give suggestions on how to improve the program in the future.
  6. Participate in a Fall or Winter Academy panel session on Active Learning, sharing results of the program.
  7. Participate in future active learning fellows cohort meetings/luncheons, when new participants are ready to discuss how to rework modules, and other sessions, when available.

If you’re looking to try novel teaching practices and experiment with new technologies to better meet the ever-changing needs of today’s students, apply now to be an Active Learning Fellow next summer.

Registration for Fall Academy 2018 Opens on August 1st!

Registration for Fall Academy begins on this Wednesday, August 1. Visit to see all the technology instruction, pedagogy discussions, guest speakers, hands-on workshops, panels, and other sessions for new and returning faculty and staff!

Fall Academy begins on Monday, August 20 and runs through Friday, August 31. There are 90+ sessions this year being offered this year in coordination with the University Registrar, Dean of the College, Office of the Provost, and other offices.

Join us for the 4th annual Digital Storytelling Workshop over Feb Break!

Academic Technologies is teaming up with StoryCenter once again to offer our 4th annual 3-day Digital Storytelling workshop on February 20-22, 2018. This is a fantastic opportunity for professors to learn first-hand how to create a digital story using iMovie, as well as how to use digital storytelling in the classroom. Digital storytelling can be tailored to the pedagogical needs of many disciplines: language, science, history, business, English, law and more. Samples of digital stories can be found on the StoryCenter website:

If you’re interested in incorporating Digital Storytelling into your course, this is the perfect workshop for you. It takes place on campus during Feb Break. Breakfast and lunch are catered, so all you need to do is focus on creating a digital story.

Apply now at

Questions? Contact Julie Knudson at or x8125!

iPad Pro and Apple Pencil Available for Checkout!

Have you wanted to use an iPad Pro or try the Apple pencil?

The ITS Help Desk located at the Information Desk on the main floor in Leyburn Library has them to check out to faculty and staff.

iPad Pro data details

Selected features:

  • iSight Camera – 12-megapixel iSight camera
  • Video Recording
  • Speakers – 4 speaker audio w/ high-fidelity speaker in each corner
  • Microphones – Dual microphones
  • Battery – Up to 10 hours

Apple pencil details

Selected features:

  • Highly responsive. Virtually no lag time. Draw lines of any weight.
  • IPad Pro is designed with palm rejection technology, making it possible to rest your hand on the iPad screen while you use Apple Pencil.
  • 12 hours of battery life. Slip off the magnetic cap of Apple Pencil to reveal a Lighting connector that lets you charge Apple Pencil simply by plugging it into iPadPro.
  • Use Notes to jot down ideas or sketch a diagram during a lecture.
  • Use your Pencil to mark up a PDF or document in your own handwriting.
  • Use Pixelmator on your iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil and 16K image support, Pixelmator is the ideal photo editing tool for imaging professionals. It offers advanced features like layer-based painting, cloning, and blending modes while working with the powerful multitasking abilities of iOS.

How do I reserve it?

  • Send an email to requesting to pick one up, and include the start/end dates.
    • Stop by the Information Desk in Leyburn Library to check one out.
    • Call us at 540-458-4357





Digital Storytelling Workshop during Fall Academy 2017

Academic Technologies will be teaming up with facilitators from StoryCenter ( to offer a 3-day workshop on Digital Storytelling, Wednesday, August 23 – Friday, August 25. If you’d like to attend, please apply at

If you’re interested in incorporating Digital Storytelling into a course, but you’re wondering exactly what it is or how to go about it, this is the perfect workshop for you. It will take place on campus during Fall Academy. Breakfasts and lunches are catered–all you need to do is focus on creating a digital story.

Questions? Please contact Julie Knudson ( or Brandon Bucy ( in Academic Technologies to find out more.

Experiments in Virtual Reality at W&L’s IQ Center

by Paul Low and David Pfaff

The Integrative and Quantitative (IQ) Center at W&L is a collaborative space where new technologies are made available to the entire campus – often before we know exactly how those technologies will be used. A recent example of this is virtual reality (VR). At W&L we’ve been experimenting with the technology for a couple years, starting with cell phone-based VR systems (like Google Cardboard) but in the past year, the price and quality of VR hardware has reached a point that has attracted a much wider audience, including retail consumers and small schools like ours and this year we upgraded to a dedicated VR headset, called the HTC Vive. These new VR headsets provide a compelling (and immersive) way to visualize and interact with content but there is very little educational content currently available, especially for higher education. This means that, for the time being, getting the most out of these systems requires either creating original content or adapting existing material to work in VR. Fortunately, when it comes to visualization, many of the workflows that we have developed over the past few years for generating and manipulating 3D content such as molecular modeling, 3D animation, motion capture, photogrammetry, geographic information systems, 360-degree photography and video, etc. translate well to VR platforms with a little work and a healthy respect for the current limitations of the hardware. Developing interactive scenes for VR takes a little more work and some specialized skills but the potential for creating educational tools that facilitate active and blended learning at all levels of education are virtually limitless.

Since we are so new to VR, most of our projects can be generously described as “ongoing”; nevertheless, this summer we had our first team of student VR developers – a group of incoming first year students participating in the month-long W&L Advanced Research Cohort (ARC) program. Their project involved capturing motion of themselves performing various exercises (running, yoga, etc.) then visualizing and analyzing the movement in VR. This fall, we developed our first VR “homework assignment” with Jill Leonard-Pingel for her “General Geology” (100-level) class, and most recently worked with a couple of teams from Gregg Whitworth’s “Molecular Mechanics of Life” class to create interactive scenes that require “player” input to complete complex biochemical reactions in VR. Our ongoing projects include faculty and students in the many STEM fields as well as dance, digital humanities, and theater. The video below shows some of our ongoing projects in VR (most demonstrated by Ashley Ooms ’17), in addition to those mentioned above:

  • Examples of interactive structural biology models (catalyzed phosphorylation reaction)
  • Photogrammetry model of the Liberty Hall Ruins (on the W&L campus) and a laser scan model of a Wooley Mammoth downloaded from the Smithsonian both viewed at 1:1 scale
  • Viewing crystal structures in 3D (from the virtual homework assignment mentioned earlier)
  • Interactive scene developed for a group project in an upper-level biology class (Molecular Mechanics of Life)
  • A 1:1 scale version of downtown Lexington, VA in 1867 created in Sketch-Up by former VMI French Professor Ed Dooley
  • “Grabbable” MRI scans of the brain from the “Glass Brain” project
  • Motion capture animation from a dance class taught by Jenny Davies.