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2017 Award Recipients

Pablo Calvi

Dr. Pablo Calvi

School of Journalism

cloud-based newsroom

I teach multimedia journalism, a very intense journalism course which I created based on the Teaching Hospital model. Unlike other courses at the J-School, the students are pushed to report on the communities around Stony Brook, and on Long Island, and produce hyper-local stories which have shown to have a direct impact on our communities. The stories are all published in two magazines and (they feature some of the media platforms the students learn in class, including interactive graphics, video for the web and audio, on top of text on Wordpress).

Certain sections of Long Island are media deserts. But because the stories we produce are interesting and appealing to local readers, we’ve developed and cultivated a readership that ranges between the 10,000 and the 25,000 unique visitors weekly, an unusual number for an in-class student publication. But the readers keep coming and it's become time to expand and improve our publication routines and systems and bring them to the cloud, with a better design for mobile devices and the potential to work remotely.

That’s the main reason I’m applied to the TALENT grant. In order to make this transition I'd need some actual (financial and technical) support, required to redesign these magazines, move the production structure to the cloud (mainly using Google Docs and Google Drive), and expand our range of coverage with the possibility of teaching the entire class online. As an example of our production I attach here a few stories that may give you a sense of the type of content we are producing:

1. Bellport Bays’ Clean Water Passageway to the Ocean Endangered by Man  

2. Real beard Santa impersonators gear up for Christmas 

David Ferguson

Dr. David L. Ferguson

Department of Technology and Society supporting collaborative learning on projects

I, like many instructors, find that, while collaborative group learning projects offer numerous hypothesized benefits, groups are difficult to manage in practice. Monitoring team interactions is costly, challenging, and often ineffective. Then, making sense of that collected data is a difficult task for instructors. Ultimately, this not only prevents us from realizing the potential benefits of teamwork, but if students are not adequately supported, we are likely teaching them to dislike and actively avoid working in teams in the future. is a collaborative learning support platform that promises comprehensive support for collaborative learning group projects. A brief demonstration of the functionality showed support for self- and peer-assessment, simulated groupwork experiences to stimulate pre- and post-project discussions, gamified activities and the option to calculate ‘diversity points’ functionality to estimate and promote the value of the diversity offered by a group’s individuals. The self- and peer-assessment component is unique in that it takes a formative and non-judgmental approach. The web-based system asks students to assess themselves and their peers on a weekly basis (as opposed to at the end of the project). Furthermore, the assessment uses an innovative interface that asks students to allocate individual contributions to the group effort rather than assessing quality - a zero-sum game. Importantly, the self- and peer-assessment data is made available through a reporting interface that will offer me insight into the group’s dynamics (as perceived by the students). I would like to work with Dr. Modell, a researcher focused on collaborative group learning and author of the system to integrate the platform into my own courses. Some system customizing may also be necessary to meet the needs of my classes.

Paul Fodor

Dr. Paul Fodor

Department of Computer Science 

online learning instruction and testing system for programming languages

The existing classroom versions of the CSE307 (Principles of Programming Languages) course often has a long waiting list of students trying to register. This proposal’s activities will alleviate the waiting list and will allow faculty to focus on improving learning outcomes. This course consist of teaching central ideas of computing and computer science, practices of computational thinking, and appropriate computing technologies as a means for solving computational problems, exploring creative endeavors, and procedural and object-oriented programming methodology. Student enrollments are over 300 students per year and we strive to provide adequate programming experience to the students by assigning problems that require a programmed solution. This practical side of the course teaches students to solve complex problems under strict requirements; document sources of code; program in an object-oriented language using concepts such as object classes, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism; and use fundamental data structures such as arrays and stacks by writing sound code structure and using systematic software debugging and testing techniques.

A comprehensive online programming learning environment will be developed where students are able to receive immediate feedback on their code; identify logic errors in addition to compiler messages; access correct running solutions submitted by the instructor or other students; and view step-by-step video tutorials for extra help (in effect, making coding less intimidating and more fun). Instructor tools will include: a repository of questions for students; the ability to select problems for assignments, set deadlines, monitor and assess student learning; and an ability to determine common student errors. The assessment data collected each semester will help improve teaching and assessment practices in subsequent semesters, thereby closing the loop that connects academic assessment with effective pedagogy. Student engagement will increase through the use of a more interactive environment that can match a student’s busy schedule and provide a means through which students may repeat computer programming exercises as many times as desired. As part of this online environment, an assessment system will be designed with the purposes of improving student outcomes and meeting the requirements of the Computer Science degrees.

   Thomas Graf

 Dr. Thomas Graf

 Department of Linguistics 

using jupyter notebooks as an interactive, open source, learning platform for mathematics in linguistics

I intend to develop an interactive learning platform that teaches students the core mathematics they need for computational linguistics. The platform will greatly improve instruction at both the undergraduate and the graduate level, enhancing Stony Brook's ongoing development of Computational Linguistics curricula. By making the platform freely available online, it will furthermore help establish Stony Brook as a leader in the field of computational linguistics instruction.

Computational linguistics is a booming field in industry and academia alike, and Stony Brook has launched a professional M.A degree and has plans for a B.A. in the future. In contrast to most linguistic subfields, computational linguistics involves a significant amount of mathematics: linear algebra, abstract algebra, logic, graph theory, and formal language theory, among others. At the same time, instructional materials are scarce. Only two textbooks on the market introduce the essential math, but they still do not cover all the basics. Even more problematically, neither one is suitable for undergraduates.

n order to start offering computational linguistics courses at the undergraduate level and to strengthen our current offerings at the M.A. level, we have to create the first comprehensive yet approachable mathematics resource for linguistics students. There are four central design desiderata: 1. Application-driven: Linguistics students like language, not math, so all mathematical concepts have to be introduced through concrete linguistic problems and applications. 2. Learner-driven: The mathematical aptitude of linguistics students varies enormously. Hence the material has to be modular and flexible, giving weaker students ample opportunity to practice their skills with self-grading exercises while stronger students can dive deeper into advanced topics. 3. Interactive, multi-modal: Mathematics is hard to learn from static text, intuitions are best developed interactively from dynamic dashboards, animated figures, modifiable plots, and so on. 4. Free, open source: All materials will be freely available online, not just for consumption but also for modification. These desiderata are best met by using Jupyter notebooks, which allow static text to be combined with dynamic code snippets for user interactivity. What more, Jupyter notebooks are easily shared and can be hosted online so that they are usable on any device with a web browser.

As part of my graduate course "Mathematical Methods in Linguistics" (LIN 539) this semester I have already begun writing the static parts of the Jupyter notebooks. In the Spring semester, I will revise these static parts with a group of undergraduates as part of LIN 488. If I receive the requested funding, I will hire a graduate student to assist me in the creation of the dynamic aspects of the notebooks: dashboards, interactive plots, animations, an in particular self-grading exercises. The expanded notebooks will then be used when I teach LIN 539 again in Fall 2018 (open to advanced undergraduates), and will play a central role in developing an undergraduate version of LIN 539 to be offered in Fall 2019. Pre-post assessments and in-class surveys will be used to evaluate the usefulness of the notebooks.

Peter Khost

Dr. Peter Khost

Program in Writing and Rhetoric

writing transfer mobile app pilot and assessment

I propose to pilot test an open educational resource mobile app that I have recently invented for the purpose of improving students’ transfer of learning gains from their required first-year writing (FYW) to other courses involving written work. This technology also doubles as a tool for collecting rare data about student writing after FYW at SBU, whose analysis will, in turn, inform FYW pedagogy and assessment. In collaboration with the Teaching and Learning Lab, I have developed this mobile app on the basis of two original prior iterations using proprietary survey software, which was unwieldy to use and administer and was not as pedagogically effective as the current model is. Following this proposal I will email the Faculty Center four supporting documents: a peer-reviewed published article on version 1.0 of my transfer tool, a final report on version 2.0, IRB approval to conduct research with the tool (I'll submit a modification for the app), and a fourth document described below. I am fully committed to making this easily scalable learning app an open educational resource, and toward that end, its code and instructions are already available on SBUtltmedia GitHub at:

The app works by reminding and helping users to transfer (i.e., reapply or repurpose) learning outcomes from WRT 102, SBU’s FYW course, or even another institution’s equivalent course. These outcomes are universal across all sections of the WRT 102 requirement at SBU: genre awareness; revision; research skills; argumentation; analysis, evaluation, and synthesis; rhetorical strategies; revising and editing; metacognition; and multimodality. Teachers of participating courses across the curriculum assign use of the app for homework (a method whose merits I have already confirmed in pilot 2.0) a minimum of three times a semester: the first and last of which function as pre- and post- measures of the effect of the intervening treatment.

This “treatment” takes the form of rating-scale and short-answer survey questions in the app that 1) ask students to consider applying their lessons from WRT 102 to their upcoming writing tasks, and 2) prompt metacognition on their perceived self-efficacy in corresponding learning categories. The fourth attachment I will email the Faculty Center to supplement this proposal is a peer-reviewed book chapter I published this year about the rationale for and value of researching student writers’ prompted metacognition on perceived self-efficacy. In short, I have found that brief intermittent reflections of the kind stimulated by my mobile app can yield significant positive effects on student writers’ performance.

I estimate that my spring 2018 app trial will involve over 300 students across six SBU courses, and my follow-up study will gather feedback on the app from 30 of them. Together with my facilitating teachers and a research assistant, I will analyze my findings, modify the app for widespread rollout in fall 2018, present corresponding pedagogical and assessment recommendations, and prepare reports for peer-reviewed publication. Results will benefit the writing program and departments across the curriculum at SBU, writing and disciplinary faculty at other institutions, and best of all, our students.

Andrew Newman

Dr. Andrew Newman

Department of English 

interactive, open-access anthologies of american literature

For Spring 2018, in EGL 217 (“American Literature 1”) and 301 (an intensive-writing course on 19th-century American literature), I will use OER instead of conventional anthologies. My students will save money; the Norton package for “American Literature 1” costs nearly $70. However, while etexts have important advantages, they also invite distraction, as those who object to the use of computers in the classroom assert. A TALENT grant would support my development of OA anthologies that capitalize on the affordances of OER and increase engagement.

I plan to build websites for both courses. These will feature OA anthologies that replicate the centralization of conventional anthologies, putting primary sources (imported from OA repositories like Project Gutenberg) and reference materials in one place. The 316 anthology will compile American tales, from the anonymous “Amelia, or the Faithless Briton” (1789) through Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892). The 217 anthology will adapt a course-design I last used in Fall 2016, in a hybrid version of 217; I had the students read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s historical novel “The Scarlet Letter” (1850) throughout the semester, and linked outwards (conceptually) to other works that are historically- or thematically-related. “The Scarlet Letter” lent coherence to the syllabus, which in turn enriched our understanding of the novel.

Both anthologies will be dynamic, integrating tools and approaches my students and I experimented with this Fall in a doctoral seminar on the digital humanities. Using hyptothe.sis, students will collaboratively annotate our texts, explaining historical usages, obsolete words, and historical references, and actuating the conversations within and among texts through jumps and links. For 217, I also plan to develop an interactive syllabus timeline, using the TimelineJS tool. I’d love assistance developing exercises that enhance the students’ engagement with e-texts as such, including machine-reading and basic text-encoding.

EGL 217 is fully-enrolled with 39 students. EGL 301, capped at 19, has 7 enrolled. I would adapt this model in future iterations of 217 and other courses in American literature. I’d showcase it to other instructors at Stony Brook through the Teaching and Learning Colloquium, in a departmental workshop, and on the EGL blog; I’d like to see the use of DH tools and OER emulated by graduate-student instructors, especially. This work would also inform my participation on an ad hoc committee with colleagues in English and Writing and Rhetoric to discuss the creation of a minor in the digital humanities. I’d also advertise the model through early-Americanist and OA networks, possibly as the topic for an invited contribution to “Open Access Scholarship,” the forthcoming volume edited by the SBU librarians Darren Chase and Dana Haugh.

The website development and preliminary editorial work will be conducted during winter break. It will involve importing and excerpting texts, and seeding them with annotations and embedded discussion questions. With the grant, I could hire GAs to help. I would continue to develop the anthologies and exercises throughout the semester, with contributions from students.

Kristen Nyitray

Kristen Nyitray

University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives 

from text to texting: engaging students in primary source literacy

Primary source literacy is critical to original research and writing. Students are often required to include primary sources of information in research papers, but they are unsure how to identify, access, interpret, and incorporate these compelling sources in their assignments. Funding and support will provide the resources needed to devise and publish an open educational resource in the form of an engaging, interactive, and instructive online tutorial. This project will improve and impact student learning by demystifying primary sources. Core competencies and learning objectives will be aligned with “Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy” developed by the Association of College and Research Libraries, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section-Society of American Archivists Joint Task Force on the Development of Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy.

Special Collections and University Archives of the University Libraries has a significant and sizable trove of primary source materials in the form of diaries, letters, and photographs. Examples include: spy letters written by George Washington during the American Revolution; photographs of student activism at SBU in the 1960s; research notes of prominent scientists; one of the first maps depicting Long Island as an island; and postcards of Stony Brook’s original train station. Drawing upon these unique research collections, a selection of 50 diverse items representative of the varied disciplines taught at SBU would be digitized, described, and incorporated into the tutorial. Formats would include printed text, still images, audio/video, and born digital content, such as tweets. The tutorial and the digital objects used for illustrative purposes would be made accessible and available to students, faculty, and staff for educational purposes. Research, learning activities, and outcomes include: 1) understanding the scope and nature of primary sources; 2) how to identify primary sources; 3) how to evaluate sources; 4) how to use these collections in research assignments; 5) how to cite primary sources; and 6) the promotion of student inquiry and critical thinking skills. Student interns and volunteers would assist with the digitization processes and the development of the learning tool.

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