Now available at a table near you … power squids!

large orange squid

Recently, a member of the Library Student Advisory Board wrote to us, requesting charging stations in Leyburn Library. We get it: nothing is more frustrating than helplessly watching your battery life furiously dwindling away, knowing your charger is tucked away back in your dorm room.

In 2015, ITS purchased and  installed several cell phone power kiosks in strategic locations across campus, but, ultimately, students didn’t use ’em because they didn’t like to abandon their phones.

Well, you asked and we listened.

All around the Main Level and Lower Level 1 of Leyburn Library, you’ll find 20 power squids plugged into tables with outlets so you can charge your Apple and Android phones and tablets with your device safely within reach. Each power squid has four cables: one USB-C, two Apple lightning chargers, and one micro-USB.

Black power squid that you'll see around Leyburn Library
Please do not remove me from Leyburn Library!

Charge away!

Active Learning: Challenging Perceptions for Better Student Success

Students in an active learning classroom. The focal point is a group of three students in pod chairs working together.

Despite numerous studies showing the effectiveness of active learning in improving students’ performance, its actual adoption in classrooms remains limited.

In a recent episode of the Teaching for Student Success podcast, host Steven Robinow discussed a study that aimed to measure students’ perception of learning when active learning is toggled on and off. Louis Deslauriers, Director of Science Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Senior Preceptor in Physics, and his colleagues at Harvard University found that students preferred traditional lectures but performed better in active learning environments.

Deslauriers observed that students often feel they learn more in traditional lecture formats, as more materials can be covered. However, he argued that this is a misperception rooted in a cognitive bias. “In a well-constructed, student-centered environment, students have to struggle with content. That struggle, in turn, forces the learning and leads to a much deeper understanding than they would get from a fluent lecture.”

The study suggests that both students and faculty need to understand the value of active learning. Deslauriers recommends that from day one, students should be informed about the benefits of active learning, even if it can be frustrating at times. He stated, “You just talk to them about how these notions of perceived fluency will influence how much you think that you’re learning.”

Faculty members must also change their perceptions and overcome cognitive dissonance. Active learning can have a significant impact on students who are struggling academically. Deslauriers explained, “We’ve got students who are failing because we’re not providing the environment they need to succeed.”

Embracing active learning strategies in higher education classrooms can help bridge the gap and improve overall student success.

Worried about the AI revolution and how it’ll impact education?

faux computer chipset with a CPU shaped like a brain embedded in the middle

Yeah, we are, too.

But history has shown that technological revolutions have had a profound impact, bringing about significant improvements in our quality of life, no? While not insignificant challenges and adjustments along the way are inevitable, the AI revolution has the potential to be a force for good and is best approached with an open and optimistic mindset rather than fear.

Ethan Mollick, associate professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where he studies and teaches innovation and entrepreneurship,  and Lilach Mollick, director of pedagogy at Wharton Interactive, recently wrote an insightful piece that could change your perspective on the use of AI in academia. They acknowledge the concerns of cheating, but argue that focusing on problems distracts from the opportunities that AI can provide.

Rather than banning AI tools, incorporating them into the classroom is a worthwhile endeavor. As AI becomes more and more prevalent, students must learn to use these tools effectively to be competitive in the workforce.

As such, educators must themselves become familiar with AI tools like ChatGPT and OpenAI Playground and experiment with these systems to understand their capabilities and limitations. By doing so, we can work with students to properly use these tools and develop the skills needed to succeed in a world that appears to be increasingly reliant on AI.

The Mollicks offer guidance on how to create a clear policy outlining when and how to use AI. This policy should includes transparent expectations, proper citation of AI-generated work, warnings about the technology’s tendency towards deception (false information), and ethical considerations. It is a comprehensive resource for educators who are interested in incorporating AI into their curriculum.

Ethan and Lilach also posit that using AI tools can help level the playing field for students who struggle with writing or have language barriers. By producing error-free writing, AI can help improve student performance and encourage them to think more deeply about the material.

However, producing meaningful and insightful content through AI requires both topic expertise and skill. Therefore, instructors should encourage learners to practice with AI tools and credit AI for their work while providing the prompts they used to generate the content.

Read the full article, “Why All Our Classes Suddenly Became AI Classes: Strategies for Teaching and Learning in a ChatGPT World“.

ALERT! The 2023 ITS Survey of Students and Employees is Coming Your Way!

"WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK" in black on a yellow speech bubble against a purple background Information Technology Services wants your opinions and perspective on the current state of technology services and resources at W&L.

An integral part of the academic enterprise, technology is an essential means, not an end, toward the goal of educating learners and managing university operations. We need your help to ensure ITS is doing its part to chart a course that addresses the challenges, solutions, preferences and access to educational and operational technology for all students, faculty and staff.

Who can take the 2023 ITS Survey?

The survey is open to all current students, faculty and staff. ITS staff are not eligible.

When does the survey open?

The survey will be open throughout the entire month of February 2023.

How does one get access?

A survey invitation link will be sent to the W&L email addresses of all current students, faculty and staff. Data collection and survey management will be handled through Qualtrics. Please be on the lookout for an email invitation coming directly from the Qualtrics survey tool.

Are survey responses anonymous?

Yes, absolutely. Our goal is to gather an honest impression of the state of technology services and resources from the perspective of all W&L users. Rest assured, ITS will not collect any personally identifying information or data in the survey. This means that all responses, including open-ended comments are completely anonymous.

Will there be prizes? Of course there will be prizes!

A random drawing following the close of the survey will be held for the following prizes. Once you complete the survey, you will be given the option to enter the drawing. This will occur outside the Qualtrics survey application so that your entry cannot be linked to your survey responses.

picture of Apple iPad, AirPods Pro and a $25 Main St Lexington gift certificate

Students – 17 Total Prizes

  • 15 Main Street Lexington Gift Certificates valued at $25 each
  • 1 AirPods Pro valued at $249
  • 1 iPad valued at $449

Employees – 10 Total Prizes

  • 8 Main Street Lexington Gift Certificates valued at $25 each
  • 1 AirPods Pro valued at $249
  • 1 iPad valued at $449

Contest Rules: The survey and contest entry is open to current W&L students, faculty and staff from February 1- 28, 2023. ITS staff members are not eligible to participate in the survey or the contest. Individuals can submit one entry and are eligible to win no more than one (1) prize from the drawing. A random drawing for prizes will be held on March 1, 2023, after the survey closes. Winners will be notified by email. Prizes are considered taxable earnings, and are subject to being reported to the IRS.

AI Content Detectors to (Potentially) Assist Identifying Whether Text is Human or AI-generated

The face of a female-appearing android overlaid with microchip pattern over random, color-coded source code in the background

Looking for help to detect texts or parts of a text generated by GPT-3 or GPT-2 or another artificial intelligence model?

[Note that it’s extremely difficult to definitively determine whether a language model was used to generate a piece of text, and no tool is guaranteed to be 100% effective. However, they could be potentially useful to help you identify potential instances of language model-generated text.]

That said, here’s a short and ever-growing list:

Writer AI Content Detector
AI Text Classifier
OpenAI’s GPT2 Output Detector

How do these tools detect AI-generated content?

These tools generally:

  • Look for common linguistic features or patterns in machine-generated text. AI-generated text, for example, may be more repetitive or have a reduced degree of complexity and variability compared to text written by a human.
  • Check for specific formatting or structural features that are common in machine-generated text. AI-generated text might have a more uniform structure or lack the variety of formatting styles that is typical of human-written text.
  • Check for certain keywords or phrases that are commonly used in AI-generated text. That’s a lot harder already. In general, there are statistically significant patterns known and detectable of which word combinations a model like GPT3.5 picks.
  • Compare the content with known examples of machine-generated text to determine the likelihood that it was generated by a machine.

There’s still time to sign up for tomorrow’s Technology and Tacos lunch-and-learn session: 

Gray human brain situated against a background with mathematical concepts on the left (logic) and a tangle of colorful swirling lines on the right (creativity) Tuesday, Jan 31 @ 12 PM | Leyburm 119. A good defense is the best offense and grounding your teaching in good pedagogical practice can help to ensure that ChatGPT's disruption of our students' learning is minimal. Join Dr. Paul Hanstedt, Director of the Harte Center for Teaching and Learning, for a discussion of effective practices in the age of AI. Sign up at

A Great NEW Space to Record and Edit Podcasts: WLUR Studios

chat bubble heart, microphone icon, female mouth open, headphones icon, podcast in speech bubble

Podcasting continues to skyrocket – with over 2 million active podcasts  and 71,548,284 episodes (as of September 2022) to choose from,  140 million US podcast listeners can’t be wrong!

Creating audio narratives in the form of storytelling, interviewing, and podcasting also continues to be popular assignments for W&L students. Why? Students have to contend with a new medium and the challenge of sharing information in their own voice. It brings together familiar patterns of research with a less familiar medium.

If you’re interested in encouraging creativity, fostering collaboration, and providing a sense of community in your course while giving students opportunities to practice both writing and presentation skills and expressing themselves through multimedia, consider adding podcasting to your classroom!  ITS Academic Technologies can support your class by offering in-class training about interviewing techniques, workflows for recording and editing, as well as assistance/troubleshooting outside of class.

As you hopefully already know, The Harte Center is home to three state-of-the-art video/audio editing suites — Leyburn 123, 124, and 125, reservable by students, faculty, and staff in 25Live — that are ideal spaces to record and/or edit video or audio projects. Towards the end of the term, it can be difficult to reserve these very in-demand rooms. That’s why, we are especially excited about a newly configured space for podcasting located within W&L’s student-run radio station, WLUR 91.5 FM, in Elrod Commons.

This morning, ITS Academic Technologies met with WLUR General Manager and Program Director, Steve Cross, to get a quick tour. The podcast “studio” features professional, high-end audio and video equipment with the ability to record — up to six different microphones! — and edit prerecorded audio content. The studio is available for use by W&L students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Contact Steve directly at scross [at] wlu [dot] com to ask about availability. You can also reach out to Steve to explore the world of broadcast, too.

Interested in podcasting but not sure how to get started? Contact ITS Academic Technologies. We’re here to help.

Welcome, NameCoach!


red "HELLO my name is" name badge with IMPORTANT filled inNames matter. Pronunciation matters. 

W&L has adopted a new tool that allows faculty and students to record the pronunciation of their names to aid others in saying it correctly and listen to the recorded names of others: NameCoach

How it works: Students voice-record their names and instructors can access this information within their Canvas courses. Faculty and staff can also voice-record their name and add a link to their email signatures.

Want to get started? Read these how-to guides: 

Also, Director of Academic Technologies, Julie Knudson, will be offering a session about NameCoach during Fall Academy on Thursday, August 25, at 1:30 pm in Leyburn 109. Sign up at

Have questions about NameCoach? Need help? Contact the ITS Information Desk at 540.458.4357 (HELP), email, or stop by the ITS Information Desk on the Main Level of Leyburn Library. We’re here to help.

“Strategies to Ensure Your Students Feel Heard” from The Faculty Lounge, brought to you by Harvard Business Publishing Education

cartoon female in red blouse with eyes closed, listening intently

Adapted from 6 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills by Rebecca D. Minehart, assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School; Benjamin B. Symon, faculty for the Debriefing Academy; and Laura K. Rock, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School

When our stressors increase, our executive functioning and cognitive flexibility are taxed, making it harder to give our students the full attention they deserve. We talk when we should listen. Prescribe solutions when we should ask for details. Lose the thread on conversations when we should be helping to find the focus.

The good news is, with practice, we can all be more effective listeners. Here’s how.

Determine your default listening style

Learning to listen well begins with understanding what type of listener you are. In our work, we’ve observed four distinct listening styles:

  • Analytical listeners analyze a problem from a neutral starting point. Example: You listen to two ExecEd students debate the relevance of a recent article to their industry, taking care to explore both students’ viewpoints before responding.
  • Relational listeners build connection and seek to understand the emotions underlying a message. Example: You notice a student’s voice quivers when they talk about an upcoming paper that’s due, so you consider whether they’re stressed and why.
  • Critical listeners judge both the content of the conversation and the reliability of the speaker themselves. Example: A student challenges you about a grade, so you listen to their reasoning to determine whether this is just about their GPA or whether it’s worth changing your viewpoint.
  • Task-focused listeners shape a conversation toward the efficient transfer of important information. Example: A student asking for a deadline extension attempts to offer a lengthy justification for the request, but you interrupt early to find out how long of an extension they’re seeking.

With these definitions and examples as a guide, ask yourself, Which style do I default to most?

Recognize when your default listening style is disruptive

Sometimes our usual listening style can sabotage our goals. Maybe you tend to use a task-focused or critical listening style so you can make rapid decisions. That’s great when there is time pressure, but it can backfire when a student needs more support.

Consider this scenario:

Student: “I don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of the class. Everyone judges me.”
Educator: “Of course no one is judging you! We all feel like that sometimes, but the best solution is to dive in and give it a try.”

Here, the student is displaying emotion, yet the educator is responding with a task-focused response, missing a valuable opportunity to acknowledge and explore what the student is expressing. The educator’s response is likely to make this student feel unheard and discouraged from sharing.

Recognizing this disconnect is a critical step in improving your listening skills.

Adapt your listening style to achieve mutual conversational goals

There are myriad reasons why we listen the way we do: to be efficient, to avoid conflict, to gain attention, to support, or simply to entertain. When those reasons are repeatedly (and perhaps unconsciously) prioritized, we shortchange other listening goals such as mutual understanding and greater connection.

If we can instead learn to shift dynamically between listening styles—by matching the speaker’s needs with the most appropriate listening technique—we may have more productive conversations.

Let’s go back to our example from above and instead use a relational listening style.

Student: “I don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of the class. Everyone judges me.”
Educator: “That’s a tough feeling to have. [Pause] Do you feel like talking about it?”

When a student expresses stress or fear, responding with validation and curiosity may allow you to capture valuable information and more effectively address the student’s needs.

Here’s another example scenario:

Student: “I’m scared about the midterm test.”
Educator: “I’m not planning on throwing any curveballs into the exam. But it’s normal to be nervous before a big test. [Pause.] What’s scaring you the most?”

What you learn from their response may change the way you approach that student’s learning in the future.

The impact of better listening

Experimenting with how we listen solidifies our active partnership in conversations. It expands the space for others to reveal what really matters to them and can allow us to get to the heart of the matter more deliberately. Through intentionally applying new ways to listen, we can build relationships, better understand others, and collaborate and problem-solve more effectively.

Are there culturally diverse image galleries?

Ever search for stock images and come up with, well, rather …. homogenized results like this?

visual results from a search for "woman" in a stock photography website that consists of young caucasian females

Not all women are young, white, thin, able-bodied, and beautiful. Nor are all couples of the opposite-sex, white, thin, able-bodied, attractive, enjoying a posh, upper-/middle-class lifestyle. I think it’s safe to say these search results aren’t reflective of diverse lifestyles, experiences, or communities.

If you’re looking for more diverse stock images, check out this list of image galleries to promote accurate and equitable representation, compiled by Kevin Kelly, EdD, in support of the Peralta Community College District Equity Initiative:



Save the Date! Perusall Exchange 2021, May 17-28

Perusall - Every student prepared for every class

Perusall is a social reading platform that allows students and instructors to collaboratively markup documents (PDF, EPUB, Word and Excel documents, source code files); video that is hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, or Dropbox; podcasts; and websites.

Students help each other learn by collectively annotating readings in threads, responding to each other’s comments, and interacting with one another.

Only 20-30% of students in the average classroom do assigned reading; in Perusall classes, > 90% consistently do the reading. Peer-reviewed, published, and patented research shows that Perusall works.

Incredible stuff, right? And there’s even MORE to be excited about!

From May 17-28, Perusall will host an asynchronous social learning conference with more than 50 sessions across a diverse array of disciplines that highlight innovative pedagogical approaches by instructors using the platform.

You will be able to pick and choose the sessions that pique your interest — whenever it suits your schedule — and engage with the presenters and other participants asynchronously using the Perusall platform.

At the end of the conference, presenters and participants will gather in a live session to continue the discussion.

Among the sessions currently scheduled are:

  • Perusall Pedagogy for Inclusivity and Active Learning
  • From Novice to Expert: Developing Students’ Metacognitive Reading Practices with Perusall
  • Just in Time Chemistry in Perusall
  • Small Teaching: Building Community in the Online Classroom
  • Analyzing the Breaks: Teaching Hip Hop History with Perusall

Sign up now!

We’ll be there. Will you?