PowerPoint MAGIC!

I was today years old when I learned that you can create a banner, as in for a website, in PowerPoint. I hope this will be helpful to those creating online courses but who don’t have a graphics design program or know how to use a graphics program, such as Photoshop. Check it out!

Here’s the PowerPoint 2016 for Mac step-by-step, screenshots follow:

Design ribbon > slide size (far right) > page setup > click the “slide sized for” menu > select banner > ok > select “scale images”

It’s very easy! NOTE: I work on a Mac. The Windows version of PowerPoint may have a slightly different menu, but you get the point. Whether to scale the images depends on if you have already designed the slide; if it’s blank, your selection for that issue doesn’t really matter.

Happy designing!

Legal Education Model: Community of Inquiry

In the classroom, I like to think of myself as a guide, not as an authoritarian, all-knowing, fountain of knowledge to be revered. I learn with my students every day; as I help them realize new skills and how to self-teach, I find new realizations for myself. I’ve always called it a collaborative philosophy, but it has a name, so I recently learned. Community of Inquiry.

Primarily inspired by online learning, the Community of Inquiry model emerged over the last couple of decades and is based on a social-constructivist philosophy, influenced by John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky  Though there are differences between each of these philosophers’ education theories, they were aligned with the concept of education as a process involving social and personal dimensions. CoI, a collaborative-constructivist theory, calls upon the educational institution, faculty, student body, and community to “collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding.”

Purposeful Critical Discourse. I like it!

The CoI theoretical framework advances three educational process elements:

  • Social Presence – Social presence involves open communication, affective expression, and group cohesion. Social presence theory not only studies how social cues are transmitted, but also how desirable personal, social, and psychological traits facilitate building trust.
  • Teaching Presence – the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of meaningful learning. This involves the (1) instructional design and organization of the course and activities, (2) facilitation of the course and activities, and (3) direct instruction.
  • Cognitive Presence – the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse.

The ultimate goal of the Community of Inquiry is to build a solid foundation of social presence and teaching presence to stimulate cognitive presence in a course. Purdue University

The Community of Inquiry

According to research, there is a relationship between the three presences and students’ perceived learning, satisfaction with the course, satisfaction with the instructor, actual learning, and sense of belonging. Akyol & Garrison, 2008; Arbaugh, 2008; Richardson, et. al., 2017. Though these studies have only focused on the community of inquiry in online learning, especially helpful during the COVID-19 online teaching norm, the principles would bear fruit in traditional classrooms. For example, mindfulness to social presence should influence how we use and ask students to use technology during in-person class time; can we maximize social presence if the lecture relies entirely on a PowerPoint presentation while students are buried in their laptops?

There is room and need to expand the model, given the current health crisis and astounding technological innovations. As Terry Anderson explained,

The march of progress over the past two decades has also seen the call for additional ‘presences’ with a goal of more completely describing the educational experience. These include vicarious presence (Sutton, 2001), emotional presence (Cleveland-Innes & Campbell, 2012) and autonomy presence (Lam, 2015). There have been efforts to expand the social presence category in the COI model (especially for application in blended contexts) to include affective association, emotional presence, community cohesion, instructor involvement, interaction intensity, and knowledge and experience (Whiteside, 2015). I would argue that each of these already exists in the original model, but further definition helps focus on particular salient components of social presence.

None of these proposed additions has received wide adoption and there is certainly something to be said for the parsimonious advantage of only three presences.

Terry Anderson 

I am excited to explore the Community of Inquiry model in the legal skills classroom, and I suspect more of us use this approach without labeling it. If you’re using the CoI framework or some variation thereof, I’d love to chat with you about it.

Check out this CoI survey that could serve as a guide for course development.

Visualization: Trial Brief – Summary Judgment

My legal writing class is working on their second trial brief. I created the visual example, below, to help them “see” the motion for summary judgment structure.

We began the semester with a Motion/Response to Dismiss. The class was divided into 6 “mini-law firms,” and for the motion to dismiss, they wrote together and argued as a team. For the Motion for Summary Judgment, on the same problem, they switched sides of the case, and the teams were scrambled. However, for this project, they are researching and writing independently and only arguing as a team.

The students have offered positive feedback about the project. They’ve had the opportunity to develop collaborative work skills with two different teams, and they will have had two opportunities to practice oral advocacy before the final appellate argument (we will also have two practice sessions closer to the appellate arguments). I had them use Google Docs for the first trial brief, and I tracked their individual contributions and comments. For the summary judgment brief, I gave them the option of Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 (we are fortunate that students have a free Office 365 account at IU). So in addition to the collaborative skills, the students are also gaining new tech skills. I’ve eased them into persuasive writing and removed supports along the way until, eventually, the appellate brief and argument will be entirely independent and a new problem.

To help the shift from motion to dismiss to summary judgment, I offered this visualization:




            According to some experts, 2020 will be the year of the QR Code. Remember QR codes? They were interesting for a while but also annoying because you needed an app to scan one. However, with Apple and Android adding native QR scanning capability to their cameras, QR codes are on the rise. Most view QR codes as a marketing tool, but they also have tremendous classroom utility.

What is a QR Code?

            QR Code means “Quick Response Code.” Notice that it is capitalized. QR Code began as a patented and trademarked matrix barcode system, invented by the Japanese automotive industry. At a basic level, they are two-dimensional, matrix barcodes that contain data, such as a locator, identifier, or tracker that points to a website, file, or application. QR Code uses four standardized encoding modes – numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji, and a code image can store up to 7089 characters. In other words, it’s data – a lot of data in a tiny image. Matrix barcodes store more data than a Universal Product Code barcode (the back of your cereal box). A UPC can only store 20 digits.

Why QR Codes in the Classroom?

            Matrix barcodes can be useful in the classroom in many ways. The value lies in the amount of data that may be stored in one image and engaging the student with kinetic activity. One matrix barcode can replace a cluttered mass of information on a Power Point slide, and forcing students to use a device (that they’re probably already using for something other than class) for an academic purpose, brings back their focus while reinforcing the visual and aural cognitive pathways.

            As all professors know, students are distracted by phones and laptops, even with the most dynamic PowerPoint slide show and lecture happening. An interactive slideshow can be worthless unless all students have it open and are participating. When you ask students to scan the code, for example to visit an in-class quiz or survey, they are engaged kinetically, a learning domain that is difficult to reach in higher education classrooms. Placed strategically at certain intervals of the class period, the professor can use matrix barcodes to revive focus in students who are near checking out.

            Matrix barcodes help to declutter information-packed slides and web pages. The general rule of thumb is to limit the verbiage in a slide show. Yet, when you know students revisit slides to study, it’s tempting to load them with as much information as possible, including URL’s to more information. Matrix barcodes allow greater information density without visually burdening the reader or presenter. For example, a professor could create a page in Canvas, BlackBoard, TWEN, Lexis Classroom, or CALI, that contains all of the information ze would like to include on the slide, and one simple matrix barcode could link to the webpage.

            Similar to visual clutter, data-dense presentations may also create slower application or computer hardware responses. For example, rather than embed a pdf as a large object, why not simply create a matrix barcode to point to it in your cloud storage? That solution also allows students to download the document, whereas a secure PowerPoint presentation (you secure your documents, right?) doesn’t allow downloading of the objects contained in it.

How to Use QR Codes in the Classroom.

            Matrix barcodes eliminate the need to type-in a lot of data. For example, rather than type a URL, you simply scan the barcode. Taking it a step-further, they can automatically create a v-card, follow someone on social media, open applications, connect to wifi, send text messages, and open an email addressed to the barcode’s creator. The barcode may be static (never changes) or dynamic (you can edit the information later). The utility is limited only by a developer’s creativity.

            The webpage offers a simple “how to” example for matrix barcode development. Let’s say, I want a code to place on my CV that directs readers to my website, www.jajonesjurist.com. First I need to grab the URL, so I copy the URL. Then I go to a QR Code generator. I like the free QR Code Generator website, but there are many apps available. I paste the URL in the text area (you can also upload a file), and the website does the work. I download the jpeg, and then, I can use the barcode in documents and presentations. Voila. Go ahead, scan it.

Title: QR Code to Access JAJONES Jurist - Description: Click here to visit www.jajonesjurist.com

            This week, in my legal writing class, I had a few matrix barcodes in the PowerPoint presentation, and I placed them at points during the class session when I know students tune out a bit. Students who don’t participate very often were suddenly engaged at the novel idea of scanning something in class. Even those who did not have the slide show open on their laptops were able to scan the barcode from the projection screen. The first code was placed about 20 minutes into class and went to a recent Indiana Supreme Court opinion. After reading the opinion, a second code took them to a quiz on our class Canvas site. At the end of class, I reminded them to register for an upcoming workshop, and I included a matrix code that linked to the RSVP form on Google Forms.

Best Practices

            Accessibility – documents and presentations must always be accessible. When inserting a matrix barcode into a document, remember that it is an image. You must provide alt text, and for example, if the matrix code redirects to a website, include that hyperlink information so that the screen reader can open the website. For printed materials, you should use the “Berman Corner,” a 45-degree cut on the top, left corner of the page that indicates there is a matrix barcode within 3.5 inches of the cut.

            Other Services  – the action of a matrix code is up to its creator. Think about how you can use the code to cross reference materials stored in your learning management system, social media, YouTube, and other services.

            Purpose – too much of anything can be bad. Use matrix barcodes sparingly and with purpose. Strategic placement during the class/lecture can help engage students who lose focus.

            Static v. Dynamic – if you have reason to think you’ll need to edit content later, for example if you might move information to a different webpage, consider using a dynamic code rather than static. Static QR codes can also rot or become orphaned like URL’s.

            Experiment – don’t be afraid to try. As with all technology, your first time using a matrix barcode in the classroom may be a flop. Keep at it, and you’ll discover new and useful ways to pack lots of data into the short span of your class time.

If you have questions or ideas about using QR Codes in the classroom, send me an email! Happy scanning!

Mindfulness Moment: Good Deeds

Continuing with our Mindfulness Moment in my first-year legal writing course, today we spoke about good deeds for others.

Research shows that humans are designed for altruism, and when we do good for others, we improve our own happiness. And that’s good news for lawyers because we are so often called upon to contribute our time and money to non-profit service. From the first day of law school, young lawyers are reminded that we must do good, as we do well.

Students shared examples of good deeds they had recently committed and whether those good deeds were selfless or with an ulterior motive to gain something. This Friends clip was the perfect media add on:

We also discussed boundaries. Unfortunately, some folks will take advantage of good deeds from others. And lawyers are the worst about saying no. Doing good does not mean doing good to the point of self-detriment.