Analyzing Scope and Scale of On-Line Antiquities Courses


Smart people have thought a lot about how to teach classical antiquity and archeology on-line, but it’s mostly new wine in old amphorae.

The arts of ancient Greece: the birth of classical taste by Plantzos Dimitris, University of Athens 

I’m working on a micro learning module of a CUNY Graduate Center MALS course on classical antiquity in New York architecture.  To get a handle on the size and subject range of e-learning in a related subject, I examined an on-line course offered by the University of Athens, “The arts of ancient Greece: the birth of classical taste”.

The syllabus for the 12-week video course provides a good structure for dividing the subject into time and topic headings and methodology. The Athens course is a digital reflection of a face-to-face course. Each week a new lecture video or set of readings is posted to the class along with assignments and exercises. One face-to-face class is scheduled with the teaching staff, and students are encouraged to email and post questions to stimulate interactivity.

In the end, it seems like applying new technology to old methods, using video and a learning management system to replicate the classroom experience. It’s time-shifting and place-shifting with some increased student autonomy, but it can’t deliver the full value of the face-to-face experience. Compared to the old methods, it’s only slightly different and not any better.

Jack Powers

Essential tech skills for the new lawyer

This week I’ve been focusing on coming up with a solution to some of the technical missteps some schools make when they integrate technology within legal education. While they are able to teach/integrate technology used in practice such as e-filing and other trial based courtroom tech, they are not able to as my last lightning round article discussed create lawyers that are “information handler[s]”.

Earlier this month an article hosted on the ABA (American Bar Associations) Student Blog, detailed the essential tech skills all new lawyers should have.  The article describes the lack of skills current practicing attorneys have via an assessment test, Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel to Kia Motors, conducted on the various law firms Kia works with to conduct business. The goal was to audit the firms to test their ability to do basic skills that would help reduce billable hours and created a requirement that those working with Kia should have these skills or they wouldn’t get the job.

Sample tasks include (a) formatting a motion in Word, (b) preparing motion exhibits in PDF, and (c) creating an arbitration exhibit index in Excel. The specific tasks, however, are of little importance as they are designed to test general skills. The foregoing examples could just as easily be (a) formatting a contract in Word, (b) Bates stamping a document production of PDFs, or (c) isolating pertinent performance data in Excel—or, really, any of the other myriad, routine, low-value-added tasks that lawyers regularly complete on their computers (or should). – Casey Flaherty

Not surprisingly the results were not a good and most failed tasks, especially timed ones. So, how do we fix this?

The article does go into detail about some of the basics students especially, 1Ls-first year law students, should have and master. In thinking about my own project, I did notice that technology is largely used once students are at the tail end of their school careers, which for many may be to late especially if they don’t take more practical classes or clinics.

My new goal, rather than just thinking about the future of legal education, will now be to try and create a digital literacy curriculum by which students can use to gain these skills, most of which are already available for free online, similar to the now $200 assessment and trainer marketed by Mr. Flathery. I hope to tie in other things that will be pertinent to their entire professional development starting from day one and promoting it as a requirement for the 1L year.

National Council on Teacher Quality Spring 2017 “Landscapes” Report on Secondary Ed Programs

The national Council on Teacher Quality put out their 2017 report on teacher prep program’s secondary education preparation.

“Landscapes in Teacher Prep: Undergraduate Secondary” (Spring 2017)

Top ranking programs:

NCTQ’s Top Tier: The Nation’s Best Undergraduate Secondary Teacher Prep Programs: Hunter College is on this list

Arizona State University (Phoenix) Messiah College (Grantham, PA)
Clemson University (Clemson, SC) Ohio Wesleyan University (Delaware, OH)
Coe College (Cedar Rapids, IA) St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN)
Colorado Christian University (Lakewood) University of Iowa (Iowa City)
CUNY – Hunter College (New York, NY) University of Minnesota – Duluth
Gordon College (Wenham, MA) University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg)
Hope College (Holland, MI) University of Utah (Salt Lake City)
Lipscomb University (Nashville, TN) University of Wisconsin – Platteville
Western Governors University
    In 2017 NCTQ released their teacher quality report, which looked at Science and Social Studies. One of the main issues they found effected quality teaching was how thorough teacher ed programs were at preparing pre-service teachers for each area within their given field, (e.g. Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, under the Science umbrella). When prep programs teach content specific to areas, rather than generalized science or social studies, they found more effective teaching had a lot to do with strong understanding and knowledge of all areas across the subject. But, many states and programs do not adequately require a deep understanding of each content area or do not assess thoroughly enough to recognize where preservice teachers are lacking and leading.

NCQT says that adequate preparation for teachers requires at least 50 credits in the discipline, cross-minoring in 2 relevant content areas (e.g. Social Studies and History), and subject specific testing.

NCQT found that 81% of teacher prep programs earned an A in content readiness in Science, either because the state measured subject specific content or required content coursework.  65% of teacher ed programs earned an A in Social Studies. Only 3 states look at specific Social Studies areas (econ and hist, etc. )

Multi-subject General Certification Programs (Brooklyn College is on this list) 

The NCQT also looked closely at practice teaching and found when methods courses required field-work or practice teaching that provided thoughtful evaluations, helped students apply theory to practice. 76% or programs currently do one or both. 47% of programs require a methods course without an application component.

When looking at Student-Teaching  the NCQT looked at how well the programs vetted cooperating teachers and how often programs assessed their student teachers and provided feedback to them. An A or B do both, C and D do one of the two and an F does none.

4% = A

2% = B


33% =D

22%= F

Only 8% actually collect information on the cooperating teacher’s mentoring  and teaching skills. Right now ed programs find cooperating teacher under these criteria: 3+ years teaching, certification in the same subject as the student teacher, and needs to be “master” in the subject (although “master” is never defined).

Lastly, one of the most important factors in preparing strong teachers is giving them the opportunity to learn how to manage classrooms and discipline in appropriate ways. 44% of prep programs actually evaluate classroom and behavior management. This finding is consistent with the NCQT’s assessment in 2014 of classroom management, when they found that teachers who had been adequately prepared to deal with behavioral issues, were more effective teachers.


Topic: Increasing Student Retention-The Problem of Greek Life

“Student Involved in Greek Life Show Low GPA, Higher Retention” by Spencer Harsh. College Heights Herald. 


In search of this week’s lightning round article, I elected to scout for something that would help to slightly unhinge the assumptions I have formed in regard to my thesis (big idea). As I am essentially attempting to expand outward from Student Involvement Theory by way of a big idea that proposes cogenerative programs as the best means of retaining students, a process that in turn generates a student base typed as an “educational citizenry”, I needed something that suggested that Student Involvement was in some way(s) flawed.

The article I selected does a decent job of this, directly speaking to a combination of national (across the board) and local (Western Kentucky University) research which makes the reasonably intuitive, though theoretically troubling, claim that participation in Greek Life both increases one’s retention and decreases one’s GPA. This may be due in part to the seemingly insidious support networks that provided the backbone of many a Greek Life Institution, in which students may be informed of particularly easy or low-intensive courses and majors that can speed them in the direction of a certain graduation date. Clearly, this is student involvement gone wrong. 

After this statement of “fact”, the article swings in a partisan direction, in favor of fraternities and Greek Life-of which I find generally unconvincing.

No matter the “facts” of the situation, it is clear that such a seeming paradox-increasing retention and overall rates of college success while lowering actual incremental success (i.e. grades, performance, acquisition of skill, and rigor-everything one goes to college for) seems to be nearly criminal; an easy way for a college to hollow out the core of their educational space and pad the numbers with a mind toward artificial outcomes alone.

As initially I thought to suggest peer-to-peer programs that could foster cogenerative behavior and in turn instate an “educational citizenry” as a means of increasing retention, I am in fear that such programs, if set loose without vetting, may, in turn, retract and become mockeries (means of cheating the system as opposed to best engaging with it) in the same way that this article at first implies that Greek Organizations are apt to do.

I suppose one question I now must deal with is how do peer to peer programs give rise to and sustain a code of ethics? Need the code be fluid to meet student demand? And, more so, what would the implications be of such a code or vetting process? How could one ensure that a student sustained program didn’t go off in a clever, though foolish, direction?

There would be little use in investing energy into a program that increases retention while lowering educational experiences. Both must be had or, at a minimum, the first with a neutral influence over the latter.

Topic: Designing a New Curriculum. Sub-topic: Assessment (Progress Test)

Article: Wrigley, W., Van Der Vleuten, C. P., Freeman, A., & Muijtjens, A. (2012). A systemic framework for the progress test: strengths, constraints and issues: AMEE Guide No. 71. Medical teacher, 34(9), 683-697.

For this week I chose an article about one of the assessment tools that I want to include in the curriculum I am designing: the progress test (a longitudinal, multiple choice question assessment tool). This is an assessment instrument conceived and applied at the level of the whole program (not at a course’s level). It is thus a good fit for a problem-based-learning approach. I deliberately looked for an article pointing to weaknesses of progress testing (and hopefully ideas to overcome limitations), so the attached article seemed like a good choice.  

The article offers an “empirically-based, systemic framework for progress test practices and processes” (p. 684). The authors show that after 30 years of its inception, progress tests are used by higher education institutions in all continents. However, they are used mainly medical schools. More recently, progress tests have been implemented in other health-related educational programs. The authors stressed the positive role of institutional consortia that allow economies of scale for the creation and administration of the tests.

The framework for progress test includes four components: (i) Test Construction, (ii) Test Administration, (iii) Results Analysis and Review, and (iv) Feedback to Stakeholders. The authors elaborate on each component, including phases and products, required resources, mechanisms of quality control, and actors involved.

Test Construction starts with a blueprint and follows with the item authoring phase. It demands a review committee and appointed coordinators.

Test Administration includes decisions about the test purpose, frequency, duration, synchronicity, and delivery method.

The stage of Results Analysis and Review includes the score calculation methods, reviews by national/international committees, item evaluation by students, and decisions about the standard-setting method.

Finally, the Feedback to Stakeholders stage is conceived as quality control for teaching and learning, providing information relevant to students, item authors, faculty members, the school/institution, and local or national/international overview committees.

Take aways for My Big Idea

The framework is extremely useful for designing one of the assessment instruments in my curriculum.  I can use ideas from every component of the framework. Particularly, the fourth component (feedback) sparked ideas that I will include in my design, combined with the use of “degrees of certainty” given by the students for every answer (for example, I will provide automatized feedback about items in which the student gave a “dangerous” answer (wrong and highly confident) or a low-confidence answer (right but unsure). In order to lower the burden of item creation, perhaps the feedback won’t include the actual item text, but rather a description of the involved content(s) and mental process(es) -according to revised Bloom’s taxonomy , for example. Contents and mental processes will be established in the blueprint of the test, in the Test Construction stage.   

Some of the issues or limitations that the authors mention are related to measurement decisions that impact the test scores (particularly the penalty for guessing and the introduction of an “I don’t know” option). By including the “degrees of certainty” (Leclercq), I will address these issues. Instead of penalizing students for guessing, or to giving them the omission option (“I don’t know”), you ask them to “guess”; i.e., to chose one alternative and indicate “5% sure”, as a way to detect partial knowledge. Other weaknesses are related to available resources; for this project I will assume I have enough budget.

I will recommend that the school imparting the curriculum I’m proposing establish all possible alliances with other schools using progress test, hopefully in several fields and disciplines, in order to benefit from economies of scale.

Article: Wrigley_et_al_(2012)

Using Time to Reduce Crime (Miriam)

Using Time to Reduce Crime

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) sent a series of questionnaires to over 30,000 people incarcerated in federal correctional facilities to learn more about the frequency, type of quality of educational programming offered in federal facilities. They received over 2,000 survey responses from men and women serving time in minimum, medium, and maximum security federal facilities. Although nonpartisan, FAMM is strongly supported, including financially, by the Koch Brothers. However, this report is one of the few that is based almost exclusively on the input of incarcerated individuals.

The survey responses elucidated a few key inefficiencies regarding education and training in federal facilities: inconsistency in quality and availability of education and training classes, overreliance on incarcerated individuals to teach classes, the lack of accreditation and relevance to outside labor markets, prohibitively expensive college programs, and a dearth of access to computers. I was pleased to discover that my proposal addresses many of these inefficiencies.

In terms of jobs in prison, over half of survey respondents reported holding which exist in order to keep the facility operating. Some individuals reported frustration about there not being enough jobs for everyone in the facility and others complained about the scarcity of number of hours available per week (e.g. 1 hour per day, 5 days per week) and the low wages (e.g. 17 cents per hour) (7). However, there were some respondents who “held and praised jobs and apprenticeships in the trades, including HVAC, electrical, woodworking, plumbing, welding, and commercial driving” (6). I’ll be looking at these key areas of interest to see if these would be viable skills training, in terms of teaching through a university and job placement upon release, to include in my Big Idea.

The report found that the most commonly offered educational classes fall under the broad umbrella of “adult continuing education” and cover topics ranging from high school equivalency prep, financial literacy, and parenting to “classes on movie reviews, crocheting, the card game Bridge, and Jeopardy (the game show)” (9). Because incarcerated individuals teach these classes 93% of the time, the topics vary based on the facilitator’s interest and the substance of the course and skill of the teacher also vary widely (9). Many skills based programs were taught by other incarcerated individuals or unqualified/unlicensed volunteers and staff (7-8) so my proposal will include a provision about hiring qualified instructors and offering only courses which lead to credits and/or industry recognized credentials.

Access to these educational and training programs is a huge problem. Because spots in training programs are limited, often only individuals close to their release dates are offered placement (8). My proposal would alleviate some of this pressure by increasing the number and types of classes offered. Another major impediment is the cost of college programs. Since the repeal of Pell grants for incarcerated individuals, college programs are rarely available and rarely free, meaning that prisoners must attempt to save money for college while making wages like 17 cents per hour or rely on funding from their families, many of whom cannot afford to assist (9-10). By utilizing Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship to expand CUNY/SUNY access within all state facilities, I hope to create substantially more classroom seats and make college program affordable for all incarcerated individuals. Many individuals complained that, in order to participate in a particular program, they were forced to request transfers to different facilities, often farther away from home which makes family visits more difficult or to higher security facilities (9). Although my proposal won’t eliminate this issue, because it would be impossible to offer all programs at every facility, I hope to increase the number of programs and provide more choices at each facility, which could reduce the likelihood of individuals needing to request a transfer to find a suitable program.

Another key area in need of improvement is access to computers and the internet. This is important in terms of expanding options for coursework as well as enabling students to conduct research more quickly and easily. Additionally, computer skills are an essential component of any job so the lack of access negatively impacts both academic and career readiness. This is one area that I need to conduct more research in order to make viable suggestions for improvement.

A major survey finding was that 97% of respondents stated they would participate in programs if doing so would result in a sentence reduction (14). Other persuasive incentives were expanded visitation and phone time, but sentence reduction was the most popular and impactful (14). Based on the feedback here and from the Indiana model I looked at for my last lightning round, I now plan to include sentence reduction as part of my Big Idea project.

Project Update:

I’ve found a lot of really interesting research so I’m now trying to distill the most relevant pieces to form a succinct and convincing argument to support my proposal for an expanded CUNY/SUNY/DOCCS system. The program would offer associate degrees that are a pairing of concrete hard skills and general education requirements so individuals are well suited for entry to employment in in-demand industries and/or to local colleges near their homes anywhere in the state. I’ve shifted my focus to include less of a broad historical background and instead focus more directly on the current problems and inefficiencies of the system as I see them and how my proposal attempts to fix them. I’m still working out the best way to present my project, both in terms of the final assignment and the presentation to the class.


Review of Teacher Prep Research

This article focuses on research done in the last 17 years in looking at efficacy in traditional versus alternative teacher preparation programs. The main conclusions from the piece were that:

“Traditional teacher preparation consistently yields better instructional knowledge, self-efficacy, and teacher retention than alternative preparation across all levels of schooling, except kindergarten…Studies comparing alternative and traditional teacher preparation programs have yielded mixed results in relation to student achievement. Several studies revealed that less selective alternative preparation programs were either substantially less effective or slightly less effective than traditional programs.”

The issue with the argument and most of the reviews for me as a reader is how these researchers assess teacher effectiveness. Teacher effectiveness is commonly assessed student learning gains in end of year term scores or standardized testing. I am not sure if this is giving us the right information because student success for one person may be very different for another.

The article did support one portion of my big idea, the plan to include selective admissions criteria in the teacher preparation program.

“Some studies revealed that less selective alternative preparation programs were either substantially less effective or slightly less effective than traditional programs.”

The need to push through and create a more revolutionary program within a traditional teacher preparation program seems to be a benefit for both the teachers and their students.


Fostering Collaboration b/n Departments and Students in Developing a Social Justice e-Portfolio


Lightening Round: 11.15.17 / The Social Justice e-Portfolio

Thanks to Serena for generously recommended this Lightening Round reading!


Dr. Laura M. Gambino’s piece, “Putting e-Portfolios at the Center of Our Learning” is an exploration of how Guttman Community College has used the e-portfolio to support student learning, student-centered pedagogy, and comprehensive skills based academic and professional development. The e-portfolio becomes the site through which the main components of higher education, which Gambino identifies, as “multiple high-impact practices…first year experience, learning communities and experiential learning”. Additionally e-portfolio advocates assert that this platform addresses “student engagement, success, retention and graduation rates.” In this way, a successful e-portfolio model combines both process and product, a binary that is explored in composition rhetoric fields. Gambino of course, is writing to an audience of academics in an academic publication. What happens when this discussion begins to encompass student collaboration?  In this part of of my proposal, I am looking at two major actors in my discussion: the academic department, and student cohorts with whom I work, and challenges around developing a “social justice” e-portfolio that serves our program.


Gambino points out that the usefulness and success of the e-portfolio model in this context depends on its “centerpiecing”. Curricula, teaching, and student services must co-build and collaboratively incorporate “high-impact practices” and connect to the e-portfolio. In other words, these departments must agree to collaborate meaningfully with this platform. It could be argued that on one hand, this requires processes of curriculum evaluation which itself is an onerous process. Yet, such ongoing evaluation is a part of a well-functioning structure. More significantly, will liberal arts and social science departments like my own, consider this kind of restructuring of coursework? What are the challenges? (to be continued)


It’s also important to collaborate with students to build e-portfolio platforms that serve interests and goals that they identify as meaningful. Otherwise, Gambino writes, the experience can feel “fragmented” and intimidating. It seems that making students equal partners in pedagogy, evaluation and decision making around the components of this platform is part of its appeal as a “technology. Gambino rightly reminds her academic readership that the Guttman project was revisited and revised to be more responsive to the learning needs of students. I build on this and suggest that more processes of student collaboration can be built into this platform, so that the e-portfolio in process holistically represents the choices that a cohort would make in using these platforms to develop their work.


Similarly, it would seem useful to have this platform connect to other competencies that students carry with them beyond their degree. These would include components that allow them to record, edit and release their production. In example, I am working with students on a mobile podcast, in which students record their talk while walking through a particular neighborhood toward the “object” of their research, which may be an “occupied” park, a street that represents gentrification, or an interview with subjects. Once this capability is supported, students will be able to develop and share their work. Finally, this platform must be “owned” by the student, who has the discretion to share/make private components of her work. The work here would be to support students in training around these competencies.

Research on Micro Learning vs Long Form


In micro learning, not only is the content short and compelling but the quizzes come fast and full of cognitive engagement.

Distributing vs. Blocking Learning Questions in a Web-Based Learning Environment by Felix Kapp, Antje Proske, Susanne Narciss and Hermann Körndle, Journal of Educational Computing Research January 1, 2015 

Why Microlearning Drives Over 20% More Information Retention Than Long-Form Training by Lenny DeFranco, 2015

Researchers at Germany’s Dresden University of Technology studied the efficacy of web-based micro learning by examining learning outcomes across three different quiz approaches for a course on intellectual property law. As described by reviewer Lenny DeFranco:

To do this, the researchers divided a 16-chapter online text into three sizes. The “fine-grained” group of learners answered a learning question after reading every single chapter; the “medium-grained” group answered four questions after reading four chapters; and “blocked” learners got eight questions after each half of the digital text. After all of this, the participants all took the same multiple choice test covering the whole lesson.

Out of a total population of 61 students, the simple outcome is that the fine-grained students who took a quiz directly after each chapter did better than the blocked students who had four or eight chapters to consume before each quiz. The study measured many factors like demographics, interest-level and both page and quiz reading times. An achievement test at the end using new questions also found that the fine-grained test takers did better.

But in addition to varying the amount of content before each quiz, the researchers also constructed multiple choice “learning questions” for each quiz that were carefully designed for maximum content processing. The researchers’ example

A learning question within the web-LE on “Basics of Intellectual Property” could sound as follows: “Which of the following activities does NOT prevent an invention from getting a patent? a) a publication of the invention in a scientific journal, b) a presentation of the invention on a scientific conference, c) a presentation of the invention to a cooperation partner, d) selling of a prototype of the invention.

More than just a true-or-false test of knowledge acquisition, the learning question “support the knowledge construction by helping learners with the integration and organization of content and by providing necessary information for an assessment of their own learning progress.”

The researchers compare their results to pre-digital learning tests that found a much weaker link between fine-grained and blocked quizzes, and they point to areas of additional research needed to evaluate the differences between e-learning and conventional study.

Jack Powers



Legal Education in the 21st Century

This week my research centered around finding any resources discussing the changing legal curriculum via the introduction of various technology. Through my search, I was able to find a great article, Law School Education in the 21st Century: Adding Information Technology Instruction to the Curriculum , where authors Kenneth Hirsch and Wayne Miller argue for the creation and implementation of a law and technology curriculum to address the growing importance of technology within the field. As a result, they conclude their study by proposing and laying the foundation for the Technology in Law course still currently taught at Duke Law.

Similar to my own approach in tracking technological development, the authors researched the course descriptions listed on various law school websites to determine if any mention of the use of tech was present. However, they also surveyed via their list servers and consortium of other law schools to determine the “self-perception of the technology interested component of the law school community”(pg. 5). Click here to view a sample of the survey. 

Given the data already conducted, it provides me with a poignant and helpful window into key moments in time towards the use of technology within law school. As sited by Hirsch and Miller, most government arms such as the courts and firms already utilized technology and most legal research technology was already firmly embeded within both practice and legal education as early as the late 1980s to early 1990s. However, their purpose in conducting this research was in order to understand where and how schools were addressing this gap between practice outside of law school and legal curriculum and create a course to mend this disparity. In their view,

Thinking like a lawyer is no longer enough; a lawyer must also think like an information handler in an information age.

In continuing my research, I’d be interested in seeing if technology is still currently being used as more of a practicum tool rather than for the larger purposes outlined by the authors.