Day: November 20, 2018

eLearning supports “Teaching Thanksgiving” event with Blackboard Collaborate

Vince St. Germain, eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialist, assisted in facilitating a livestream with live captions using Blackboard Collaborate for the Multicultural Affairs department at GVSU.

This event was held as part of GVSU’s Native American Heritage Month on Monday, November 12 from 4 – 6 pm in the Kirkhof Center. Using Blackboard Collaborate, the event was streamed live to a variety of remote locations.


Session Title:

Teaching Thanksgiving: A Discussion on Reframing Representations of American Indians

Session Description: 

Where many people in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving and may perceive it as a harmless and apolitical holiday, it remains to be a complicated holiday and a painful reminder of colonial violence and indigenous erasure for American Indian communities. This panel will explore how the myths and lies of Thanksgiving are taught and reinforced in the school systems. Invited panelists will discuss how they educate about Thanksgiving and have a focused discussion on creating culturally-appropriate curriculum reflective of the contemporary experiences of American Indians.

The audience will leave this lively discussion with an understanding of how the Thanksgiving myth does harm and receive resources, strategies, and best practices on how to intervene on inaccurate representations about American Indians in the school systems and our communities.


  • Andrea Riley Mukavetz, Liberal Studies Department, Chippewa of Thames First Nations
  • Steve Perry, artist, educator, and philanthropist, LTBB and Garden River Ojibwe
  • Hunter Genia, Resilience Counseling and Consultation, Gun Lake
  • Levi Rickert, Native News Online, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
  • Jannan Cotto, Director of Niigaandiwin Education Department for LTBB, LTBB
  • Amanda Weinert, Curriculum Specialist for Niigaandiwin Education Department for LTBB, LTBB

About Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate™ is a simple, convenient, and reliable online collaborative learning solution. Collaborate delivers a level of engagement that makes learners feel like they’re together in the same room via collaboration and conference tools.

Collaborate provides opportunities for:

  • Live Class Sessions
  • Online Office Hours
  • Online Guest Speakers
  • Interviews
  • Advising
  • Study Sessions
  • Small Group Projects
  • and more!

Learn more about using Blackboard Collaborate for live events and to support teaching and learning at GVSU.

ETOM Meet-Up Focuses on Gamification and Badges

On November 15, Szymon Machajewski, CIS affiliate instructor, Matt Roberts, instructional designer, and Eric Kunnen, associate director of elearning and emerging technologies, participated in an Educational Technology Organization of Michigan (ETOM) webinar Meet-Up.

ETOM Meet-Ups are an opportunity for members to meet up virtually and discuss topics relevant to Distance Learning and Instructional Technology. This very informal, 45 minute session allows participates to share what they are doing at their school and seek advice from others. Meet-Ups will be held the 3rd Thursday of every other month from 12pm-12:45pm.

In this session, a variety of topics and resources were shared, including:

  • Accessibility has been a focus at our institutions, complying with the law while also supporting and encouraging faculty to adopt principles of universal design for learning. GVSU has recently adopted Blackboard Ally to support the university’s work in inclusive education.
  • Badges, why are they important?
    • Szymon indicated that for students there is an interest, for 3 years, CIS 150 (1800 students and 36 sections) courses have used badges through Blackboard’s achievements tool. If you pass an exam at 95% you are issued a badge, you can export into Mozilla Backpack. Pearson also has badges. We want students to have additional benefits of taking the class, and badges provide this.
    • GVSU is using faculty badges as an initiative to provide faculty with new ways of capturing and promoting their professional development activities.
    • The goal for badges is often to increase student engagement and retention.
  • Gamification in CIS 150
    • Szymon is developing a theory about what it means to run a game in a classroom. Short game – activities and lectures and long game – grades. He has a website: which is an educational game.
    • The app tracks progress through missions for students, read this chapter, answer a question, etc. reveals a code (text or QR). Students can gain experience points and displayed through a ledger. See Szymon’s post on the Blackboard Blog: The Short & Long Game Theory for Academic Courses.
    • Students can purchase “items” such as a late assignment and “Piece of Mind Points”.
    • Do students like it? Are badges silly? Well, in Jane McGonigal book “Realities Broken” she talks about negative view that games sometimes have. Sometimes we struggle with this concept in academic and “rigor”. However, in a Teaching Professor blog the illusions of rigor in higher education, a lot of learning is sometimes inflated. On the other hand, games are well designed work. Not a trivial thing, but one of behaviors.
    • In the world, there are more 2.6 billion gamers. What would it look like if we tapped into the gamful learning principles to make education this exciting There is joy in playing games, can we make learning in our classes motivating and joyful? Games and interactive play stimulate the brain vs those that have passive exposure.
    • Voluntary games as optional, a choice. Games provide autonomy, personalization, mastery, and purpose.  Matt talked about one of the reasons gamification is successful because of the underlying concepts. He uses a system of grading called the Specifications Grading model. Changing the way grades are assigned to allow mastery, and flexibility of assessment paths.
    • Enter the “Heros Journey”. Szymon presented in a Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series webinar in a session entitled: “Finding the Heros Journey in Course Design and Engagementbitshero
    • Szymon suggests using Kahoot games in class, for learning and for fun. “Students love it!” – and meanwhile it creates teachable moments through allowing students to connect their responses to the concepts and to create achievement loops. Socialization in class, also allows students to be their best self in the competition.
    • Failure is part of success. We need to stop turning mistakes into negative points, and using failure as an opportunity for student to practice and learning. Szymon has written an article here on the topic of failure entitled:  “Getting Comfortable with Failure and Vulnerability to Facilitate Learning and Innovation in the Game of School

What makes life fun? Instead of saying NO PHONES let them take advantage of Kahoot and Quizlet for quiz and exam reviews.

– Dr. Szymon Machajewski, GVSU