Faculty Feature: Mark Hendrickson

Professor Mark Hendrickson of the Department of History uses Peer Instruction in his courses to increase student engagement. He recently shared how and why he applies this pedagogy to his courses this video interview.

Academic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) helps faculty integrate the i>clicker student response system into their courses. Learn more about clickers and how they support Peer Instruction at clickers.ucsd.edu.

Faculty Feature is a series of articles highlighting faculty and their creative use of technology in the classroom. Check back regularly to find out how UC San Diego faculty are moving the future of education forward!


Faculty Feature: Amy Lieberman

An example of one of the Media Teaching Lab's cameras available for checkout

Mitchell Wright of the Media Teaching Lab with one of the Media Teaching Lab’s cameras available for reservation.

Dr. Amy Lieberman, Research Scientist at the Center for Research on Language at UC San Diego, had an ambitious idea for her Child Language Acquisition course: have her students experience every aspect of obtaining a language sample, in this case an example of a parent and child communicating. Though she had plenty of subjects that her students could observe to get their sample, she quickly ran into a roadblock. “I couldn’t figure out how to get access to video cameras that the students could use,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman contacted the Media Teaching Lab to see if they could support her course. Adriene Hughes, Managing Producer-Director at the Media Teaching Lab, saw an opportunity to support UC San Diego’s campus goal of improving the student experience. She used Lieberman’s class as a pilot project for the expansion of the equipment checkout service, which was planned for Fall Quarter 2014. “I was thrilled to hear this as it was the one missing piece I needed to be sure I could go ahead with assigning this student project,” Lieberman said.

The Media Teaching Lab purchased three cameras that were easy to operate and provided better quality video and audio than a cell phone video camera could provide. Adriene gave an in-class demonstration of how to use the cameras and check out equipment from the Media Teaching Lab. “There were three cameras and about 20 student groups, yet we have never had an issue with a camera not being available,” Lieberman said, “All students have been able to access a camera when needed.”

The Media Teaching Lab made the equipment checkout process easy for the Child Language Acquisition students. Students made reservations to check out cameras online through the online equipment checkout system. “The student feedback has been uniformly positive,” Lieberman said. “Everything from checking out the cameras, filming the child, transferring the files, and returning the camera has been seamless.”

Working with the Media Teaching Lab enriched Lieberman’s class. “The collaboration [with the Media Teaching Lab] has made all the difference in being able to assign students a project that I feel has been one of the most effective learning experiences in the class, in that it is hands-on and interactive,” she said. “I’m sure that there will be countless classes (including my own) that will benefit from this program in the future.”

To find out how your course can receive support from the Media Teaching Lab, contact Adriene Hughes at (858) 534-1175 or email.

Faculty Feature: Zeinabu Davis

Professor Zeinabu DavisZeinabu Irene Davis, professor in the Department of Communication, teaches a wide array of courses to undergraduate and graduate students on subjects including film history and theory. An accomplished filmmaker, Professor Davis offers media production courses where students create their own video productions. Collaborating with the ACMS Media Teaching Lab enriches her students’ educational experience.

“I could not teach my courses without the Media Teaching Lab,” Professor Davis said, “Adriene [Hughes], Lev [Kalman], and Mitchell [Wright] are basically the other parts of my hand in terms of teaching here at UC San Diego.”

The Media Teaching Lab’s mission is to collaborate with all faculty in their courses. “In production it’s all about teamwork, and everyone plays a very important role in making a film happen,” Adriene Hughes, manager of the Media Teaching Lab, said. “Teaching is the same [kind of] effort.”

Professor Davis’s students take advantage of the numerous workshops offered by the Media Teaching Lab each quarter. With only three hours in class per week, Professor Davis does not have enough time to cover all of the aspects of video production that her students need. The Media Teaching Lab bridges that gap. “They are my teaching partners, that’s what I like to think of them as,” Professor Davis said, “because they will get the students through editing situations or they’ll get them through learning how to use the camera, the microphones, the lighting equipment, all those sorts of things.”

Some of Professor Davis’s students have a critical need for the Media Teaching Lab’s services. “Even though I’m in the Department of Communication, all of my students do not necessarily come from the department. Some of our courses service students outside of the major,” Professor Davis said. Winter Quarter 2014 saw graduate students from the Departments Ethnic Studies, Literature, and Sociology, as well as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, enroll in her courses. Media Teaching Lab workshops gave the students without a media production background the skills they needed to succeed in courses like those offered by Professor Davis. In fact, the Media Teaching Lab can support any UC San Diego course that has a need for video production resources, not just those from the Departments of Communications or Visual Arts.

In addition to training, the Media Teaching Lab provides students enrolled in media production courses with access to the Equipment Checkout Facility. Students can check out cameras, microphones, lights, and other equipment needed to create videos for their classes. They can also reserve time in one of the Lab’s editing suites to do post-production work on their projects.

Professor Davis could not overemphasize how much the Media Teaching Lab enhances her courses. “It’s really, really important to me that the Media Teaching Lab exists,” she said.

To find out more about how the Media Teaching Lab can support students enrolled in media production courses or graduate students who use media in their research, visit the Media Teaching Lab website or email them at medialab@ucsd.edu.

Faculty Feature is a series of articles highlighting faculty and their creative use of technology in the classroom. Check back regularly to find out how UC San Diego faculty are moving the future of education forward!

Faculty Feature: Kim Albizati

Kim AlbizatiKim Albizati, lecturer with potential security of employment (LPSOE) in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has a mission: to bring electronic lab notebooks to the University of California. Lab notebooks record procedures and observations about scientific experiments. Currently, UC San Diego uses paper lab notebooks in both teaching and research labs, but they are not an ideal way of capturing data. “Chemists generate a lot of raw machine output and make a lot of observations,” Dr. Albizati said, “With any one experiment there could be more than 30 pieces of data associated with [it]. It’s a problem to associate a piece of raw machine output data with a specific page in a notebook.” Private industry has already transitioned to using electronic notebooks, but academia has not yet adopted them due to the gigantic undertaking required to make the shift.

Dr. Albizati introduced electronic lab notebooks in two of his chemistry laboratory classes in 2012-2013. Students used their own computers to run the software, but this method resulted in immediate problems. “There were a lot of issues in compatibility,” Dr. Albizati said. “It was a nightmare. It was a 30-email-a-day kind of thing. Obviously, student satisfaction wasn’t very high.”

In Fall Quarter 2013, Dr. Albizati partnered with the Computing Infrastructure team at Academic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) to find a better way to implement electronic lab notebooks for his Chemistry Honors 143A Organic Chemistry Laboratory course. They worked with Dr. Albizati to solve his hardware issues and help him purchase 25 netbooks. “That’s enough for about a 100 person course because we run about 25 [students] at a time for labs,” Dr. Albizati explained. These specialized netbooks were well suited to the lab environment, but ultimately could not support all of the auxiliary software required to run the electronic lab notebook. The Computing Infrastructure team configured the netbooks to connect to virtualized desktops on an ACMS server (like those used in the GoVirtual computer lab, which is available to all students) allowing students to access the needed software at their experiment stations in the lab.

Student satisfaction with electronic lab notebooks was markedly higher than in his previous efforts. “The satisfaction level was edging into two thirds to three quarters, whereas it was more like a little less than half prior to this,” Dr. Alibzati said, “I think that’s because the hardware problems were eliminated.” With each pilot program he has learned “a little bit more about what this system needs to look like and what students’ expectations are and where to go next” in implementing electronic lab notebooks at UC. Dr. Albizati said that Computing Infrastructure “absolutely couldn’t have been better” throughout the process.

Faculty who have ideas about exploring how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning are encouraged to contact ACMS by emailing acms-consult@ucsd.edu, attention Jim Rapp.

Faculty Feature is a series of articles highlighting faculty and their creative use of technology in the classroom. Check back regularly to find out how UC San Diego faculty are moving the future of education forward!

Faculty Feature: Maureen Feeley

Maureen FeeleyClickers have become a popular tool for engaging students in the classroom as part of a pedagogy known as “Peer Instruction.” This teaching method was developed by Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard, in the early 1990s and is designed to deepen student learning by engaging them in the process of answering and discussing questions in the classroom. Peer Instruction allows students the opportunity to practice and apply concepts they have just learned. Traditionally, clickers and Peer Instruction have been associated with use in the physical and biological sciences. That did not stop Maureen Feeley, lecturer with potential security of employment (LPSOE) in the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego, from exploring how clickers and Peer Instruction could be used to improve student learning in her upper-division undergraduate political science courses.

“With Peer Instruction, every single student in the class has the opportunity to participate.”

“I decided to experiment with [Peer Instruction] because a large and growing body of evidence-based research demonstrates it significantly enhances student learning,” Feeley said. She cited a study by Catherine Crouch and Eric Mazur from 2001 that found Peer Instruction resulted in double and triple absolute learning gains. Clickers are essential for Feeley in facilitating Peer Instruction because of the ease with which they allow her to engage students and gather data about their performance. As Feeley pointed out, “If we were to do this in a large lecture hall without technology, grading 300 questions—even just one quick question—is a considerable time investment.” Clickers, on the other hand, “provide immediate feedback, without overburdening graduate TAs or faculty.”

In adapting Peer Instruction to her political science courses, Feeley explains that she asks two different types of questions. “Factual questions are based on students’ readings for that day or on a concept I’ve just presented in class. These questions are designed, pedagogically, to heighten critical reading and thinking skills, and to provide me with immediate feedback as to whether students have understood the concept just presented.” The second type of question she asks are discussion questions. As she explained, “these are designed to provide students in large lecture classes with the opportunity to practice making logical, persuasive, and evidence-based arguments to support their positions in the context of a small group.”

Regardless of the kind of question Feeley asks, students always “click in” or vote individually first. On factual questions, “if 80% or more of the students answer correctly, we move forward with the lecture. If not, students break into groups of three to five students with their seatmates to discuss the question; that is, they engage in “peer instruction.” After discussion with their seatmates, they then “vote” again.  This process is repeated, with additional instructor explanation, until a large number of students answer correctly. Feeley then displays a histogram of student responses so that initial and final responses can be compared and discussed.

The learning impacts in Feeley’s classes have been impressive. She has found that classroom participation has increased dramatically, especially in large lecture halls with 200 to 300 students. In a regular lecture without Peer Instruction at UC San Diego, Feeley says she has found that, “you’ll still get students who participate, but typically it’s only a small subset of the class. With Peer Instruction, every single student in the class has the opportunity to participate.” Feeley’s own research on the use of Peer Instruction in the undergraduate classroom has shown how valuable Peer Instruction can be. “One of the things that was surprising to me in the end-of-term anonymous student surveys we conducted is that students report a much stronger sense of belonging and inclusion in my Peer Instruction classes.

“…The benefits for student learning are significant and more than outweigh the costs.”

They report feeling less anonymous and that their perspectives on course materials matter, not just for their own learning, but for their classmates as well,” Feeley explained, “Ultimately, I’ve found that Peer Instruction creates a more supportive learning community and a greater sense of responsibility among the students for their own learning. That is, students feel more responsible for coming to class, and for coming to class prepared, because they do not want to let their fellow seatmates down in the small group discussions. I, also, have learned much about student learning from the insightful comments students have provided. For example, many students have reported that they read in a more active and engaged way because they’re constantly trying to anticipate what kind of clicker question might be asked.”

Feeley strongly encourages other faculty at UC San Diego to experiment with Peer Instruction and clickers. “Yes, it takes some time to develop questions and implement the pedagogy, so there’s that cost, but I think the benefits for student learning are significant and more than outweigh the costs. Also, it’s possible to introduce Peer Instruction gradually with just one or two questions per class period,” Feeley explained. “The research on improved learning outcomes with Peer Instruction is extremely robust. Not only do students find the pedagogy improves their learning and their motivation to learn, but as an instructor, Peer Instruction provides you with immediate feedback as to whether students understand theories, concepts, and ideas presented. This type of immediate feedback inevitably makes you a better teacher.”

Faculty who are interested in learning more about Peer Instruction can contact the Center for Teaching Development. Academic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) can also provide technical support for faculty who want to begin using clickers in their classrooms.

Faculty Feature is a series of articles highlighting faculty and their creative use of technology in the classroom. Check back regularly to find out how UC San Diego faculty are moving the future of education forward!

Faculty Feature: Dr. Julian Parris and Clickers


Dr. Julian Parris, lecturer in the Department of PsychologyWalk into any lecture hall in UC San Diego and the chances are good that you will see students with clickers, a handheld device that allows students to answer questions in lecture and provide instructors with instant information about the class’s comprehension. ACMS sat down with Dr. Julian Parris, who teaches statistics in the Department of Psychology, to find out about how he uses clickers in his classes.


Dr. Parris started using clickers in his very first class at UC San Diego, a social psychology course during summer session. He wanted to find a way to keep student attention focused throughout the three hour lecture. “I had little quizzes every day about the reading and mini quizzes at the end of every hour so my thought was, especially in the summer, instead of just having huge midterms that take three hours I’ll just do scoring having all these tiny, little, lower-stakes tests,” Dr. Parris said, “It worked out great.” When he taught for the first time in a regular quarter he used clickers again and found that students responded well to them. It has been a staple of his lectures ever since. The adoption of a campus-wide standard system (iClicker) also made Dr. Parris comfortable using clickers because he did not feel like he was forcing students to buy clickers solely for his courses.


In his lower division courses, Dr. Parris uses clickers to gauge student understanding of material and identify where his students are having trouble with concepts. “They can try something out that I just taught them. They can actually work in groups. All the stuff with peer instruction kind of falls into this because there are students in my class who are certainly on the ball with it and others that are certainly struggling and you just put them in groups and they work out a problem together.” Following recommendations from iClicker, he makes clicker participation a small part of the course grade. However, this grade is not just based on a student’s individual performance. “Part of the credit…is what their own click was and the other half of the credit is based on what proportion of the class gets it right,” Dr. Parris said, “so they have a vested interest in making sure people can do it around them.”


Clicker questions are also used in Dr. Parris’s upper division courses for a small amount of extra credit as well as for an original purpose. The raw file outputs collect student reaction time to questions and this provides data that students can use in class. “We’ve done experiments just in class with reaction time to stimuli and they have their own data and they analyze their own data,” Dr. Parris said, “That’s been a really fun use of [clickers].”


Dr. Parris has used clickers to transform his students from passive learners into active ones. Rather than chafe at clickers in the classroom, students have responded positively to their integration into Dr. Parris’ classroom. If you are interested in using clickers in your courses, Academic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) can help you get started. Contact Jenn Mueller at j2mueller@ucsd.edu or by phone at (858) 534-0992 for more information.


Faculty Feature is a series of articles highlighting faculty and their creative use of technology in the classroom. Check back regularly to find out how UC San Diego faculty are moving the future of education forward!

Faculty Feature: Dr. Julian Parris and Tablets

Dr. Julian Parris, lecturer in the Department of PsychologyThe current surge in popularity of tablet computers (most popularly in the form of iPads) has caused a buzz of excitement over the potential application of tablets in the classroom. But how exactly would this work? Dr. Julian Parris, lecturer in UC San Diego’s Department of Psychology, regularly uses a tablet as part of his lectures.

Dr. Parris uses his tablet to annotate his lecture slides during the course of lecture. He uses a program called OmniDazzle, which allows users to make marks over any other application with ease. With OmniDazzle enabled Dr. Parris can use a stylus with his tablet to move the mouse cursor, write notes, or draw formulas on top of his prepared PowerPoint slides. This creates a more visually dynamic experience for students rather than only using slides.

The ability to call students’ attention to information in the slides is one of the primary instructional benefits of using a tablet in the classroom. “One thing I find is really powerful about this is I’m standing up there and I’m lecturing and what I want to do naturally is just point to something so that I can notate where it is and [using a tablet] gives you that ability. I’m now often just notating where students should look,” Dr. Parris said, “From what the students tell me they can follow what I’m trying to indicate their attention should be directed to.”

Being able to direct student attention in such a manner dovetails with natural human behavior. “It is really important as far as interpersonal attention direction,” Dr. Parris said, “That’s a really important feature of how we teach people or just indicate things. We like to point. We’re a species that is built to know where people are looking or pointing.” Using his tablet with a stylus to draw on top of his slides has felt much more natural than using a laser pointer, the mouse touchpad, or PowerPoint animations. “One thing I don’t have to do all the time is now make slides that have, ‘Okay, a circle appears over this,’ before it animates next, because I can do that in real time.”

Using his tablet to annotate his slides allows Dr. Parris to seamlessly pivot in the middle of lecture to respond to areas where students are having trouble. “I can also change paths,” Dr. Parris said, “If somebody has a question I can go back and actually work something out.”

Dr. Parris also has his students use the tablet to apply concepts they are discussing in class. One example was having students estimate the next point in a graph based on a model developed over the course of a lecture. Dr. Parris sometimes connects an iPad Mini to his tablet through VPN, allowing students to do work the entire class can see from their seats rather than from the front of the room. “That was a boon to their confidence because they’re still in their little area, they have their computer around them. They’re not staring at everyone’s faces. They’re just in the crowd still. It’s much less intimidating,” Dr. Parris said, “In a big class like Pysch 60 with 300 people there’s no way anyone’s going to come to the front.”

Using his tablet also provides Dr. Parris with a way to centrally provide students with lecture notes that reflect everything discussed in lecture via screencasting. Screencasting records material projected during class. As a result, notes made on the blackboard are not recorded. However, all of the annotations Dr. Parris makes via his tablet are captured in a screencast. “I think that [screencasting] is a wonderful pedagogical tool and I haven’t seen declines in attendance, which is what most people’s concern seems to be,” Dr. Parris said. In fact, he’s found that students use his screencasts, provided through a private link on YouTube, as a way to review material, not skip lecture. “I have a class of 29 right now and the lectures from two days ago probably have 90 views on them, which means that most of them have gone back to it several times and watched particular parts and my students even tell me they plan to go back in parts of slides and really take notes.”

With such high enthusiasm for using a tablet to supplement his lecture, Dr. Parris has no intention of discontinuing using one in his courses, especially given how much students tell him they benefit from the practice.

Faculty Feature is a series of articles highlighting faculty and their creative use of technology in the classroom. Check back regularly to find out how UC San Diego faculty are moving the future of education forward!