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Innovation Grants

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Call for Proposals

The Center for Teaching and Learning is pleased to announce our annual call for Innovation Grant proposals. We hope (pending budget approval) to award up to four grants in the amount of $500 each (final amounts will be announced as soon as the budget is approved) for proposals that develop and support innovation in teaching and learning. Grant funds may be expended upon travel, training, and/or material purchases. Stipend requests will not be funded. Materials requests that could be covered by departments will receive last preference. All Fitchburg State faculty and librarians are eligible to apply for an Innovation Grant.

Due: Grant applications will be due by 5PM on Friday, October 4, 2014, to

Proposal Requirements: Proposals, to be no more than two pages, single-spaced, should outline new teaching methods and/or the use of new instructional technologies. Applicants should include a plan for collecting implementation data and a projected timeline for the completion of their work. They should also demonstrate willingness to design a plan for disseminating their projects to the campus. Proposals should include a detailed budget.

Evaluation Criteria: quality and promise of innovation, benefits to relevant constituencies, and plans for data collection and dissemination of work to the campus. All proposals will be reviewed by the 2013-14 CTL Advisory Board and the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Other Details: Awards will be announced by the end of October (pending formation of the Advisory Board), with monies to be spent by the middle of the spring semester. Awardees will be expected soon after receiving word of award to discuss a plan with the CTL Director for disseminating their work to the campus during the academic year.

Previous Grant Awardees

AY 2012/2013, AY 2011/2012, AY 2010/2011, AY 2009/2010, AY 2008/2009, AY 2007/2008, AY 2006/2007

AY 2009/2010 Award Winners

Jack Ou, Industrial Technology Department

Funds were used to purchase hardware for use in the IT course Electronic Communication Systems. This hardware will allow Dr. Ou to use experiential teaching methods with his students. The grant provides an opportunity for students to work together on “immersive” projects which engage both the technology and problem-solving skills that will be valuable in their careers.

Dawn Roberts, Exercise and Sports Science Department

Funds were used to purchase a new generation of pedometers for use in several courses in the Exercise and Sports Science curriculum. The availability of this technological tool will have wide impact as the pedometers can be used in introductory level courses allowing students to quantify physical activity and use this knowledge to reflect upon their health and lifestyle choices. Upper level Exercise and Sports Science majors will be able to use these pedometers to develop and design research studies. Finally, the data collected across these uses can create a basis for statistical analysis. Again, the Innovation Grant creates a opportunity for Fitchburg State University students to obtain valuable hands-on experience with up-to-date technologies.

Annette Sullivan, Education Department

Funds were used purchase books and commercial games developed to enhance student learning in mathematics (grades 1–6) as well as materials for teacher candidates to use in creating their own mathematical games for classes. This grant has great impact across many constituencies. Fitchburg State faculty in the Education Department will have access to mathematical trade books and games for use in their courses. Fitchburg State students will have the opportunity to use such books and games, as well as develop their own educational games, developing skills which they will carry on to their own classrooms. Finally, the students (grades 1-6) will have an enhanced mathematical learning experience.

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AY 2008/2009 Award Winners

Laura Baker, Economics, History, and Political Science Department

Susan Williams, Economics, History, and Political Science Department

Our project has evolved, or rather expanded since we first conceived it. Our original intention was to build a visual library of significant local and regional architecture erected during Fitchburg's glory days of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. We would then "map" these buildings using GIS technology to two existing panoramic maps of the city (one from 1882 and the other from 1915), and to available demographic information. While this remains a goal of our work, we have pushed back our starting point to the mid 19th century. Working with students, Susan Williams has begun developing databases using information from the 1850 Fitchburg city directory and the 1850 U.S. census. We are currently documenting buildings that we can connect to this data, and to the 1882 panoramic map. In order to make the project manageable, we are focusing on one section of the city at a time, beginning with the neighborhood to the immediate north of Main Street near the old high school (now Academy Middle School). Simultaneously, we will pursue a more systematic cataloging of all existing buildings in the area with the intent of creating a visual archive of early 21st century Fitchburg of use to current and future students of the city's built environment.

Matthew McGee, Industrial Technology Department

I used the grant money to host a representative from Maxwell systems quest estimating / engineering software company. The grant enabled me to host a trainer in our new state of the art construction management lab, and learn how to fully integrate the software into our curriculum. The training allowed most of the Industrial Technology Department faculty to be trained on using the software, and become certified in using the quest software. We were able to immediately implement the software in our construction technology, and estimating courses. Students used the technology to compete in the 2009 National Association of Home builders competition, and place in the upper tier of finalists against other Universities from across the country during the presentation at the International Builders Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Earthworks software was integrated into the freshman level construction systems courses. Students are now able to perform a survey of a site, and create a 3-d image of the site to analyze site conditions and costs associated with development. Seniors were able to get exposure to the state of the art technology. We enjoyed a 100% job placement of our construction technology graduating seniors. Exposing students to the latest construction and engineering software gives students interested in careers in construction management a competitive advantage over other schools.

Tom Pellinger, Exercise and Sports Science Department

In order to optimize critical thinking and create opportunities for practical application of the knowledge and skills needed to excel in a clinical physiology setting, I am implementing a case study and team treatment plan approach that I have used in teaching Clinical Physiology. After building a foundation in pathophysiology, diagnostics, pharmacology, and disease intervention with these students, we will move into the laboratory to gain valuable hands-on experience in conducting various diagnostic and functional assessments. To simulate real clinical situations, students who portray the patients undergoing these assessments will exhibit various signs, symptoms, and complications that require the students conducting the assessments to rapidly respond in an appropriate manner. These exercises will set the stage for students to work in teams to create realistic profiles and case studies for their very own fictional patients. The creation of these patient case studies will require them to synthesize what they have learned about pathophysiology, pharmacology, diagnostics, and functional exercise testing. This series of exercises will conclude with the presentation of comprehensive team treatment plans by each team of students, in response to the patient case studies they have randomly received from groups of their peers. These treatment plans will include additional medications and assessments each team deems necessary for their patient, as well as detailed exercise prescriptions and any other behavior modifications needed to aid in patient recovery. The presentation of the team treatment plans will give students beneficial public speaking experience while serving as a culmination of what they will have learned throughout the course.

Benjamin Railton, English Department

The CTL Innovation Grant, which allowed me to purchase a wide variety of texts and materials for the two Introduction to American Studies courses that have been added to the catalog in the past year, has been extremely important for three distinct but equally significant reasons:

  1. Both courses, as we have constructed them, depend on access to a large number of texts: the first half, which focuses on the 1980s, requires multimedia (such as film, TV, and music clips)and visual (such as books on art and fashion) texts alongside more conventional literary and historical ones; and the second half, which introduces American Studies scholarship, requires critical readings from across the 20th century. In both cases we cannot ask the students to buy the majority of those texts, and neither does the web provide sufficient breadth for our purposes. So the CTL Grant has allowed us to build a library of materials from which we can draw those texts very easily.
  2. Moreover, the explicit goal of the burgeoning American Studies program is that multiple faculty members from a number of different departments can and will teach these courses. While every faculty member will bring his or her unique interests and perspective to the courses, that existing library will ensure that there is continuity across the semesters and that every faculty member has a strong starting point for his or her efforts.
  3. Last but certainly not least, every new program depends for its survival and success on support across the University community, and this Grant exemplifies how much support the American Studies program has from Fitchburg State faculty and programs on every level.

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AY 2007/2008 Award Winners

Bornali Bhandari, Social Sciences Department

Pirudas Lwamugira, Social Sciences Department

The funds from the Innovation Grant will be used to buy a Data Analysis and Statistical Software, specifically STATA. This software will be used in the ECON 3700: Econometrics, a class scheduled to be taught in the Spring semester of 2008. Additionally, this software will be used in the assessment process of Economics students. The justification for the Econometrics class and the software are linked to each other. Econometrics is an introduction to econometric methods, statistical inferences and testing hypotheses. Model building techniques and their theoretical justifications are presented and evaluated in terms of their performance. The software will help the students to learn the application of the theoretical tools learnt in class. The Economics students of Fitchburg State are handicapped both in the job market and graduate school if they do not graduate with the knowledge embodied in Econometrics. The STATA program contributes by giving the students practical training in this arena. Ultimately, the students gain analytical skills which are so valued both in the job market and graduate school.

Ellen Borsuk, Education Department

This award will greatly facilitate the experience I am planning with Morningside Academy, a private school in Seattle. Morningside Academy bases all teaching on cutting-edge, research-based instructional techniques across curricular areas, including reading. This summer I will have the opportunity to be a full-time apprentice in a reading classroom that includes methods such as Direct Instruction and Precision Teaching, as well as progressive instructional technology. This experience will further enhance my expertise in the area of reading assessment and instruction, which will be of great benefit to the Fitchburg State University students in my classes. Given the dire consequences of failure to learn to read, it is critical to promote effective, evidence-based reading instruction for our children and to equip teacher candidates with the necessary skills.

Thomas Schoenfeld, Biology and Chemistry Department

George Babich, Biology and Chemistry Department

Classroom Response Systems (CRS) are a recently introduced classroom technology that enables an instructor to broadly sample, interactively and in real time, how well, or how poorly, his/her students are learning the material being presented in a course. Overall patterns of responses to questions can be used to modify teaching styles and goals, both on the fly and over the course of the semester. Faced with large lecture sections (~100 students) in Anatomy and Physiology each semester, we see CRS technology as an immediate solution to student passivity, but we also want to foster its more general adoption on this campus for virtues that apply to classes of all sizes, such as automatically taking attendance, grading quizzes and homework, and taking anonymous surveys on controversial topics. Innovation Award funding will support our ongoing implementation and exploration of the Interwrite Personal Response System (PRS) as a top-rated model of CRS. Funding will also enable us to organize training seminars and a conference to gather and share the experiences of others, for the general benefit of faculty at Fitchburg State.

Joshua Spero, Department of Social Sciences

"Simulated Crisis Management Decision Making"
15 May, 2008 (17 minutes, 16mb)

Critical thinking for learning how to research and analyze in our rapidly changing and transforming classroom environment technologically challenges us as teachers for how we can best try to prepare our students. Not only do the technological challenges of helping students to learn age-old methodologies of critical thinking, decision-making processes, options development, and problem solving involve a basic understanding of applying theories to evidence-based evaluation. But, the critical thinking of today’s fast-paced and technologically advancing world of learning challenges professors and students to grasp how to learn—not just to earn—to comprehend, apply, synthesize, and evaluate decisions to shape career paths. The emphasis on absorbing material technologically, often instantly, appears to outdo methodologies concentrated on memorizing and, unfortunately, frequently forgetting material quickly. Technologically simulating crisis management decision-making (SCMD) can enable greater appreciation for how budding student careers can improve professional growth and development. The SCMD methodology integrates simulation practices, role-playing leadership techniques, collaborative learning in real world situations and scenarios, based on scholarship and its theoretical and practical application. Yet, this method of teaching and lessons learned constantly needs to account for new technologies integral to the classroom and globally competitive career paths, for research, analysis, and evaluation. Discussion, debate, deliberation, and decision about SCMD for presentation at national conferences over this year and on which the Center for Teaching and Learning Symposia can educate provide opportunities for our teaching to guide our classroom learning.

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AY 2006/2007 Award Winners

Mel Govindan, Biology and Chemistry Department

"Implementation of Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL)
in an Introductory Chemistry Course for Allied Health Majors."
1 October, 2007 (14 minutes, 12mb)

Process-oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL) is a teaching and learning technique originally developed by chemistry educators to improve critical thinking and problem solving in science courses. Despite many reports on the effectiveness of non-traditional approaches to science instruction, the lecture model remains the preferred form of teaching. Lecturing is based on the assumption that all students need the same information, presented orally and at the same pace, with little dialogue with the presenter. Although lecturing is an efficient way to present information, it does not necessarily result in efficient learning. The POGIL approach, on the other hand, involves creating a learning environment where students are actively engaged in mastering a discipline and in developing essential skills by working in self-managed teams on guided inquiry activities – referred to as "Chemactivities" in my courses. The activities are designed to guide them through concepts and applications discussed in the textbook. These materials supply students with data or information followed by leading questions designed to guide them toward formulation of their own valid conclusions; this is essentially a recapitulation of the scientific method. The presentation will discuss the general aspects of the POGIL methodology and its implementation in my introductory chemistry course. It will also contain information about the workshops offered by the NSF-supported POGIL project.

Jane Zhang, Geophysical Sciences Department

"Why GIS (Geographic Information Systems)?"
17 September, 2007 (10 minutes, 9mb)

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based technology for mapping and analyzing feature events on earth. Examples of daily use GIS are Google Earth™ and MapQuest™. GIS technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, environmental impact assessment, urban planning, cartography, criminology, history, sales, marketing, and route planning. For example, a GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, a GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution, or a GIS can be used by a company to find new potential customers similar to the ones they already have and project sales due to expanding into that market. Differences between GIS vs. GPS, as well as commercial GIS software vs. open source GIS, will also be explored.

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