Reflecting on My First Semester (GAANN Report #1)

Every semester, we develop a teaching experiment plan to guide our learning process as we gain more experience and expand our ideas of teaching. Here is my report on my experiences throughout the Fall 2019 semester.

It’s been a pretty good semester! 🙂
The teaching seminar discussions and workshops I’ve attended have definitely gotten me thinking more about teaching, myself, and what matters to me as both a student and (one day) instructor.

Learn how to use Canvas

Canvas is a course website management system that we use at UNC Charlotte.

For this semester, I worked with my own “Canvas Sandbox” to get some practice with the system. The sandbox is a “course” on Canvas that we have instructor access to so that we can play around with it. To quickly summarize what I have done:

  1. I uploaded content into the modules
  2. I edited the front page with course information
Yay! My own sandbox.

First, I have uploaded content from Dr. Ras’s Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD or ITCS 8162) course into my own “Canvas Sandbox” under the modules tab. In Canvas, modules are usually a way of organizing course content (such as by weeks) so that students can find what they need more easily. While I have only uploaded PowerPoint slides (as seen in the image below), it is also possible to add links to other types of content, such as videos or quizzes.

Next, I edited the home page to include the KDD course’s information. This is the first page that students see when entering the Canvas course. On the top, we have both the name of the course and the day, time, and location in which the class meets. Underneath, we then have the rest of the course information, such as: prerequisites, textbook, grade breakdown and scale, and the list of course topics covered.

Complete the teaching seminar course

As a GAANN fellow, we must take the teaching seminar course (ITSC 8665) four times. This semester, the seminar was led by Dr. Farah Tokmic and we covered the following modules:

  1. Getting Started covered (1) how to create a background survey, what it is, and why it is useful, and (2) computational thinking, what it is, and how to incorporate it into teaching.
  2. Preparing a Course discussed ideas around planning and organizing a course, as well as how to make a syllabus and what should be included in one.
  3. Engaged and Inclusive Teaching defined what an “engaged learner” was, discussed inclusive teaching, and introduced Canvas and Poll Everywhere.
  4. Building a Conductive Learning Environment presented what a “growth mindset” was, and also included a workshop by guest speaker Dr. Tonya Frevert on equity and inclusion in education.
  5. Pedagogical Design Patterns defined “pedagogy” and included a discussion around different best practices of teaching led by Nasrin Dehbozorgi, a PhD student whose research includes computer based education and CS education. She also presented The Connected Learner project.
  6. Instructor’s Roles Inside and Outside of the Classroom showed us “the seven C’s of effective teaching” and a paper on helping students develop creativity in the classroom.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this seminar’s format, the overall environment of the class, and all the discussions we have had. It took me some time at the beginning to become comfortable participating in discussions, but we have all gotten to know each other a little more throughout the seminar and have had many insightful discussions. 🙂

For class activities, I worked a lot with both Stephanie Conte, a master’s student who also taught her first courses at a community college this semester, and Johanna Okerlund, a PhD student whose research focuses on the “Maker phenomenon.” I particularly enjoyed creating our “Silly-bus” (syllabus) to guide students through course topics in a gamified manner, discussing our own emphasized “C’s of teaching” (“caring” was definitely my strong point while “challenging” could probably use some work), and thinking up ways to help students be creative.

I’ve also created my own syllabus focused on the Introduction to Programming 1 (ITSC 1212) course. I was a teacher’s assistant for this course for about two years and so I had some experience and ideas on how the class was formatted. The syllabus can be viewed below.

Lastly, we have discussed and created our teaching philosophies. Mine is definitely just an initial version and will go through multiple iterations as I continue to think more about teaching and who I want to be as a teacher. My teaching philosophy is posted here, or you can view the file below.

Once again, I’ve really enjoyed this seminar and have learned a lot through our discussions. I will be looking forward to next semester’s seminar as well!

Develop our websites and teaching portfolios

This semester, I have started my own website (this!). 🙂

I had thought about making a personal website for a while, but never really had an immediate reason to do so. Now, I finally have the beginnings of one! It is definitely still in the early stages, but I will continue to work on it over time.

Currently, I just have an “about me” page, “teaching” page, and home page to show posts that I will start to make periodically. I’m excited to have a place where I can start reflecting on my experiences and keep them all together in a format that is way more organized than my messy notebook. As of right now, the teaching section is focused on GAANN and my teaching plans. However, I will also begin to add more information on my teaching experiences (such as past teaching assistant positions). I also plan to add a page for research and service.

Attend one CTL Seminar

For this semester, I chose to attend the Center for Teaching and Learning workshop called “Difference in the Classroom.” To summarize, we learned how everyone has implicit biases that lay in our subconscious minds. These grow from our environments (family, friends, media, and just society in general). While we may not be able to escape these biases, it’s a good first step to simply become aware that they exist so that we can actively make choices to avoid the consequences of potential biases.

I’ve written more about my thoughts on this workshop here.

I also attended two of the CEI Drop-in Coffee Series. In the first one – “A Grace Hopper Download” – I helped discuss some of our experiences at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando this semester. I really enjoyed the discussions had and hearing more about everyone else’s experiences here. In the second one – “The Missing Course” – we discussed the book “The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching” by David Gooblar.

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