The First-Year Experience Conference was an excellent conference that I would recommend to anyone working with first-year students in any capacity. As I look back on the sessions and put them in a broader context, one of broad concepts that came away with was that first year students (and their parents) are in the middle of an enormous life transition, something that is easy to forget when you see a new batch of first-year students each year. There are many things we can do at the University to facilitate this transition. Another theme I found in the conference was the use of technology to engage first-year students. The participants ranged from administrators at large, public universities to librarians at small private institutions. I even met an administrator for New Zealand! I came away from this conference with a new energy to look for ways to engage students and make then feel a part of our community.
In the '2008 First-Year Experience Conference' Category...
Monday, February 18, 2008
Building a Digital Library for the Provisioning of Mobile Orientation Presenter, Jim Hahn, Orientation Services Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign
This poster session professed that campus orientation professionals can draw on techniques of digital librarianship to deliver digital learning content to their new students. Some of the software used for this task included; LibGuides, Greenstone and iTunes. The focus here was on both orientation and mobility, with all the content being formatted for video cell phones that can support the .3GPP standard. One resource for converting .AVI to .3GPP can be found at http://www.media-convert.com.
Face-Time: Millennial Perceptions of One-on-One CSI Meetings Presenters, Cathy Warner and Jana Tramper, Central Michigan University
Each year, 6,000 CMU students are asked to participate in the Noel-Levitz College Student Inventory. Results are delivered through a variety of means. When examining this process, it was discovered that if the results are delivered in a one-on-one meeting with a first contact professional like a student affairs administrator, they are more likely to seek support and advice from that individual and other support staff at the University in the future, especially when this meeting occurs in the first 8 weeks of the first semester. While this may seem obvious, for first year students, having a point of contact at the University can be key to their success and student retention.
Session: “Helicopter Parenting”: Stunting or Supporting First-Year Student Growth? Presenters, Deborah Taub, Associate Professor of Higher Education, UNC-Greensboro and Deborah Bennett, Associate Professor, Purdue University.
This session was standing room only! Deborah Taub begin by having the participants shout out words that they thought of when they heard the term “Helicopter Parent” Terms ranged from the very negative such as “co-dependent” to some positive terms like “partner.” She expressed that in addition to the ease of communication created by new technologies (students contact parents an average of 10.4 times per week now!) K-12 schools were also a contributing factor, teaching parents that a good parent is an involved parent. She also shared a few stories with the group and did a great job facilitating a discussion. She made a point to show us that the term “Helicopter Parent” focuses on the parent when we all have a role to play in this behavior, students, staff, and faculty alike. For example, when we act based on a parent’s call but not on a student’s request, we teach students to step aside and let the parent handle the situation. She describe how when parents send kids off the school they are taught at each level of education to give the kids more freedom and decision making opportunities, but often this is not covered at the college level. We talked about how college is a safer than average environment for kids to grow and make decisions that teach them this skill without putting them at undo risk. How various schools attempt to communicate this information to parents was discussed, and some anecdotes from participants shocked the crowd, describing some parents of seniors actively taking a role in the student’s career placement process. In addition to the usual stories of parents contacting housing to complain about a roommate that the student didn’t know was a problem until housing contacted them about the parent’s intervention, there were great stories from parents about how not intervening on a student’s behalf created a very positive learning experience. Finally, how Universities could perhaps leverage these involved parents in a positive way was discussed. For someone like me without kids, this was an enlightening session.
Session: Learning Academic Integrity with Audience Response Technology. Presenters, Christine Bombaro, Coordinator of Information Literacy, Dickinson College and Eleanor Mitchell, Director of Library Services, Dickinson College.
This was the only program on clickers at the conference. It was very well attended! Mitchell quoted a survey that showed up to 80% of high performing high school students admitted to cheating. Dickinson is 2,400 full-time students, 10% abroad at any given time. In the past there was not a consistent message about cheating, passive listening approach, and little concrete information. The goal was to reach the 635 first years students. They wanted to avoid the response “Nobody ever told me that was cheating.” Their approach was to make it NOT BORING! They got the clicker idea from chemistry department that makes all students have a clicker for class participation and attendance. They are using the same TurningPoint system we use at ZSR. Presentation used examples of plagiarism and then how to fix each example. They asked students before and after the program if they thought they had plagiarized and every time once they had been through the program, more of them self-identified as having plagiarized. Included a reading aloud section that shows how easy it is to detect. They also give a matrix of the penalties for plagiarism.
Plenary Session: Meeting Students Where They Are: Adventures in Experimental Instruction, Jacqueline Fleming, Texas Southern University
Meeting the needs of Urban Millennials is very challenging. They have all the expectations of their middle class peers, but without the benefit of helicopter parents or the technology skills of their more affluent peers. Texas Southern University is attempting to fix these issues through a variety of methods run through the Experimental Instructional Laboratory that brings students to campus in the summer to prep them for college and follows them after. Methods used with those students included having faculty follow a more Socratic approach where students were guaranteed to be called on and perform, the inclusion of multicultural content which helped the less academically inclined students, but not the more academically inclined students, and a motivation method of a subliminal CD (yes, I just typed “subliminal CD”) which rated highest in improved performance results with Socratic method coming in second. (Many at the session had questions after about the subliminal CD approach and the methodology of the study. Was it the CD, or some kind a placebo effect?) More help in the classroom to offer individualized support also generated a positive effect.
Session: First-Year Programs and Information Literacy: Challenges and Opportunities, Presenters, Ann Grafstein, Coordinator of Library Instruction, Alan Bailin, Assistant Professor of Library Services, Hofstra University
The session began Describing a collaboration that began in September 2003 at Hofstra between the first-year program and library course (like WFU’s Lib100, but pass/fail). These programs developed independently. FYP program wanted to promote social cohesiveness, Library 001 wanted to students to succeed and fulfill the expectations of future employers who wanted graduates with better research and critical thinking skills. In the beginning most Library 001 students were Juniors and Seniors who needed 1 credit to graduate. (Thought of as the failures of the advising system.) Administration recommended attaching Library 001 to FYP clusters. This removed the issue of having upperclassmen in the class and removed the artificially of the annotated bibliography project. Over time the school is getting it more right, but never getting it perfect according to the evaluations. It is a moving target. The timing of the Library 001 and FYP was a challenge. After the pilot, the pass/fail was changed to a letter grade to encourage taking the class more seriously. In 2007 they tried embedding the Library 001 course in the First-Year class. Basically, it was a tough road no matter how you sliced it. Their model really focuses just on the annotated bibliography as the deliverable. Administration wants to see all students getting a research component to the First-Year experience. The school is looking at hiring adjuncts to allow for more sections to be taught or to use Blackboard or some other technology to allow more sections to be taught in a blended approach, not an exclusively online approach. They are looking ahead to potentially offer the Lib 001 course that does not focus on an annotated bibliography deliverable.
Session: Incorporating High-Impact, Low-Cost Technology in FYE Classes: A Beginner’s Guide. Presenters, Robert Feldman, Associate Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Feldman began by reminding us technology is just a tool. First-year students are different now and he wanted to show us technology that could help us engage them. Students now have a broader range of ethnicity and of age range. Students are often more aware of their learning style and often are a varying levels of cognitive development. Why use instructional technology? Well, there is theoretical support for technology as a means of information transmission. Additionally most students want a moderate amount of technology in their classes.
- Electronic Whiteboards
- Course Management Systems (Blackboard)
Advantages of Virtual Interaction
- Greater accessibility
- Allows more contact
- Permits the shy to participate
Disadvantages of Virtual Interaction
- Reduction in face time
- Heavy reliance on technology
- Puts demands on their time management skills
- May increase the digital divide if the students don’t all have the same level of access.
Interactive Classroom Technologies
While this session did not introduce any new technologies to me, (I would have enjoyed hearing more about incorporating RSS or even Twitter into a class.) it was interesting to see these technologies presented from a faculty member’s perspective.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Session: Leveraging Facebook Applications for More Effective Orientations
Red Rover is a Facebook application (free) by SwiftKick, the presenter was Kevin Prentiss. It is a connection tool, not a communication tool.
Began by telling us that Mark Zuckerberg wrote Facebook in 3 weeks at Harvard, he is 23 and his company is worth 15billion. 3.5 years old, worth more than GM. Prentiss described one Wisconsin University Facebook group with 28,000 members; that equated to 110% of enrollment.
On average, 80% of 70 schools surveyed had a freshman group that was formed by a random student about 10 months out. Freshmen are self-orienting on Facebook. (And that one random freshman can email everyone!)
One challenge we face at Universities to get them to check the official email. Facebook is checked 5-6 times a day. The goal for students is to find their people and get comfortable. Some university staff are “seeding” these groups with positive topics, a subtle approach. They join the group and then slowly introduce positive things to meet around.
Some assumptions and beliefs around Facebook:
- Assumption 1- If we don’t introduce them around something positive – they will meet over beer.
- Assumption 2- From Learning Reconsidered, social, academic and institutional context all overlap.
- Assumption 3- Facebook relationships are a good thing, face to face is better and preferred. Social capital, bonding capital, bridging capital (Christmas card friends) Students using Facebook have more bridging capital (small town America)
- Assumption 4- Students looking to Facebook for bridging capital and social integration
- Assumption 5- Institutions must facilitate social context with being the parent at the party.
- Assumption 6- Faculty participation in Facebook is a best practice (for those who can do it well) chronicle of higher ed dec 4 2007
- Assumption 7- Schools are not going to beat Facebook, so don’t recreate or buy a new social network and try and impose it (students use Facebook 15 times more than official portals)
- Assumption 8- Doing a few things well is better than doing many things “half-vastly.” The goal should be simple, NOT comprehensive.
- Assumption 9- To stay relevant schools must experiment faster. It is getting cheaper to be wrong.
Demo of Red Rover:
- Identity profile- Red Rover helps theem write a profile, then we can see the diversity. Also lets them see all the tags of all the groups on campus.
- Only thing Red Rover hides is phone number, all information is public and searched by Google.
- Red Rover is publishing only positive academic stuff in red rover
- Tags appear, choose tags that apply to you.
- They find out by school emailing it, and by dropping it in the facebook freshmen group.
Session: Engaging an Entire Campus Community in the First Year Summer Reading Program
The presenter was Dr. Vickie Folse of Illinois Wesleyan University. She began by describing the school and the student population. There are 550 incoming first year, transfer and international students. Students all take a Gateway Colloquium, similar to the Wake Forest First Year Seminar. (Similar tuition to WFU) They use the gateway class as the group, rather than advising group as we do at WFU.
Previous program prior to 2002 had not been successful. From 2002-2005, the model was more of a festival for orientation. In 2005, the school wanted to have students participate in a shared intellectual conversation with the campus community.
School felt it had to be more than a one time event/discussion, needed to be integrated into the first year. They wanted students to talk about the book in small groups, large groups and to write about it. They tried a very classical approach, reading Shelley’s Frankenstein, and it was a failure. Now they try to focus on issues like civic engagement and global citizenship (most of their students do a semester abroad)
When selecting the text, they asked the faculty who were freshman advisers for their feedback and asked Gateway Colloquium instructors. After the fact, they surveyed and found the summer reading program was either despised or loved. Much depended on the group they were in.
In 2007 they teamed with Development and Alumni Relations to invite select graduates to participate, about 15 participated. They even approached the Board of Trustee with the President’s support. They also included orientation leaders, student leaders and others. This gave them many facilitators and co-facilitators. (Student criteria included: under 300 pages, something that grabbed students immediately)
Recent reading choices have been: “Nickled and Dimed” by Ehrenreich, “Mountains beyond Mountains” by Kidder, and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Haddon. Kidder was also a convocation speaker. (They considered Freakonomics but it would cost $75,000 per author to have them come and present) They do make the students purchase the text. They also try to engage the parents. Parents come to summer workshops and at those they encourage the text. Discussion questions and facilitation skills are shared with the discussion leaders.
Facebook has become an active source of information. They also set up man co-curricular activities around the text.
Session: Taking it to the Streets: Extending a First-Year Reading Program to the Community
This program was not my first choice, but by mid-morning the number of attendees had grown and my first choice was beyond standing room only, I thought the topic of extending reading programs to the community would also be interesting, especially given the location of the program and its’ chosen speaker, so I headed to that session!
The presenters were Katherine Powell and Clarice Ford of Berry College in Rome, Georgia. (Which happens to be where I went to high school) and the speaker they brought to campus was Maya Angelou. They had a desire to find an author who was also a public figure and would engage the community. They partnered with Shorter College and Darlington School, my alma mater. Events around the evening with Maya Angelou included an all day reading of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” a writing contest through the local newspaper, film viewing and discussion and numerous other events.
Almost 2,000 people in the community attended these various events. After getting the primary event venue donated, they were able to get other donors for other venues and items. Their assessments of community members after the events showed they were successful in some areas and not others. They only had about 35 responses to their survey which was done in survey monkey and required users to click on it.
Session: Not Just Smiling and Nodding: How to Use and Engage Student Members of Committees
The speaker, Kelly Thorngate, was a second semester senior at Edgewood College. She discussed her observations as a member of the common reading program committee. First she discussed communication and creating an open environment to get students to participate. She also mentioned point of view and not assuming students have the same institutional knowledge as faculty and staff. Another potential problem she mentioned was coordinating with faculty and staff and handling differing schedules. She also mentioned using student to get feedback from other students, but not to be the sole student voice.
Interestingly, a secondary discussion started about common reading programs. In this group they were less common than in some of the morning sessions. One school even had a common reading program for faculty and staff. Also discussed were how to manage student expectations on committees and aligning programs to the University mission statement.
Session: Transforming Library Research in a Web 2.0 World
The speaker was Colleen Boff, First Year Experience Librarian, at Bowling Green State University. By a show of hands, half the people at this session were librarians/library staff. Bowling Green is a 4 year residential campus with 17,000 undergraduates and 5380 first year students. 88% of undergraduates are from within Ohio. Her job is constantly changing. There are three major library consortia there. OhioLINK in higher education pools resources of 80 libraries and 300 databases. Everyone struggles to incorporate all this into their sites.
Next she discussed Curriculum Mapping, “the process for collecting and recording curriculum -related data that identifies core skills and content taught, processes employed and assessments used for each subject are and grade level. The completed curriculum map then becomes a tool that helps teachers keep track of what has been taught and plan what will be taught.” (as defined by Linda Starr, Education World)
When polled on 4 of the 40 people in the room were using Blogs and Wikis. Boff started using Blogs and Wikis when the University took control of department website away from individuals. She created a blog to discuss the work of the common reading experience selection committee (the book, Mountains beyond Mountains, by Kidder, got another mention here) Also using blogs to create pathfinders. She also used Ebsco Composer to create a cool page of resources. Explained reAssess, a software developed by students, faculty and staff at Bowling Green. It can be used to develop online quizzes, tutorials, evaluations, assessments and surveys. Boff also discussed WebQuest, a tool more often used in the K-12 environment, but useful here as well.
Opening Session and Keynote Address – Saturday, February 16th 2008
I am very excited to have this opportunity to attend the First-Year Experience (FYE) conference, as a member of the Freshman Orientation Committee at WFU, and as the manager of the Technology@WFU, I know I will hear some new ideas for engaging first year students in the college experience. The conference was opened by M. Stuart Hunter, the Assistant Vice Provost and Executive Director of the Natural Resource Center for the First-Year Experience. She began by expressing all our concern for those involved in the recent University tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University as well as at other schools since the last conference in early 2007 and ended by announcing that almost 2000 people will be attending this 27th FYE conference and introducing leaders from the institutions co-hosting the event.
Robert Corrigan, president of San Francisco State University and Robert Cooper, Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies at San Jose State University both welcomed us the conference. Robert Corrigan mentioned some of the things they were doing at San Francisco State to deal with so many freshmen on campus. Freshmen on campus is unusual and unexpected for SF state. The California university master plan in the 1970′s expected universities to be fed by the community college syste, but in recent years there has been a shift and this year, more students started at SF state than transferred. Robert Cooper stated that his school, like all schools, was trying to address the diverse needs of students in this day and age. Cooper also commented how no one model of FYE was right for every student and multiple formats were needed ranging from a first year seminar focus to group models that help students develop a support structure.
M. Stuart Hunter took the stage again and mentioned this is a very sharing and friendly conference. She made us all stop, turn around and meet someone we didn’t know. I met Quentin James from Furman U. who knows Connie Carson who just left WFU to work at Furman. Next, she introduced John N. Gardner, the Executive Director of the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. He announced if we were there looking for epiphanies about engaging students, we were in the right place!
The keynote speaker, Parker J. Palmer, founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage and Renewal spoke on “How Meeting the Needs of First-Year Students Can Make Higher Education More Life-Giving For All.” After a glowing introduction by John Gardner, Palmer started by telling us his father’s aphorisms he would tell his children to start the day. One was that “the only difference between a rut and a grave is width;” another was “Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster.” He began discussing how the first-year experience is a time filled with the potential for success and calamity. We as staff, faculty and administrators need to be aware of the vulnerability of these students. He described them as canaries in the coal mine, saying that if we help the canaries we help everyone. He described our mission as one of “knowing, teaching and learning.” He then offered the word “hospitality” as the focus of his talk, not the standard idea of hospitality, but something deeper that would make students’ entry into college better a better experience. The first type of hospitality involves engaging students who feel intimidated and tuck away part of themselves. He went on to describe how they live in a parallel reality to the reality of faculty, staff and administrators, their social world where students feel more at ease. Palmer gave an example of going to where the students are. He described a VP for student life who put a “Lucy booth” (the doctor is in, from the Peanuts cartoon) in the student union. It took a while, but students started stopping by and discussing problems and offering suggestions to transform the University. He used the booth for over 15 years and found it a great way to hear the needs of students. Palmer believes people need permission to do what they want to do especially when it is awkward in nature. It is up to us to create environments that engage them and encourage them, it is not enough to just say it is hard and ignore it.
As an example of how to be hospitable and engage students Palmer told the story of Uri Treisman a math professor at Berkeley in the late 1970′s. He observed phenomenon that Asian Americans were learning math more rapidly that other students. He became an anthropologist among his students to find the root cause, and learned that if you got a snapshot of learning as they all left the classroom, everyone was about equal, but after they left, the Asian Americans students were engage in collaborative learning outside of class. He got funding to create hospitable spaces for all students to engage in collaborative learning outside of class. Here is a link to the article.
Next he described hospitality in terms of encouraging it in our students. He called it hospitality to otherness, saying that deepening people’s capacity to take seriously ideas that shake our reality is the key. We think of rigor coming from confrontation and competition, not hospitality. What constitutes rigor in a classroom setting? Concrete behaviors that question the content. Student don’t ask questions unless invited to. Honest questions make you vulnerable, but most questions are playing academic “hard ball,” showing the professor what you know. Learning to accept and hear diverse viewpoints, needs to be encouraged. Tony Bright and Barbara Schneider Carnegie Foundation did study of 1990s school reform in Chicago public schools. They found an unexpected variable called “relational trust.” If the school had high relational trust at beginning of 1990s it had a 5 in 7 chance of performing well. That differential around relational trust was there no matter how much money the school had. The hardest place to get relational trust was faculty to faculty. Palmer said we need a more hospitable way to accept a range of teaching techniques, methods, approaches and should avoid the “method dujour” approach that can create an inhospitable environment.
It was an interesting and thought provoking keynote address. I can’t wait to see what’s in store today!