Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Hiding in Plain Text: Tools and Techniques for Teaching Effectively and Efficiently

Event Series 


Faculty, Staff, Graduate & Professional Students, Postdoctoral Fellows

Event Time 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Location Name and Address 

CTL Room 118A
301 York Street
06511 New Haven , CT

Event Topic: 

Hiding in Plain Text: Tools and techniques for teaching effectively and efficiently

Event Description 

CTL Tech Talks are hour-long, informal discussions on teaching with digital technologies. Invited speakers will present and lead an open discussion. It’s an opportunity to share your experience with digital technology tools in and outside of the classroom with your colleagues. These are brown bag lunch events and they will take place in the CTL from noon to 1 p.m.

Register here

Presenter: Dr. Simon Queenborough
School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Click here for the presentation

Dr. Queenborough notes that he often struggles with how to maximize student learning (teach effectively) and make best use of his time spent doing so (teach efficiently).

Dr. Queenborough will address the progress he has made on teaching effectively and efficiently, with examples from teaching courses in statistics and programming, and field ecology. The principles should apply to all fields.

Teaching effectively enables student learning as best as possible—teaching for learning rather than “teaching to the test”—and increases understanding and application rather than rote learning and parroting. Dr. Queenborough will describe his process of course design and how he assesses learning goals, using interactive technology in the classroom and on Canvas. He will discuss interactive use of the command-line interface on students’ personal computers and the comment feature on Canvas.

Teaching efficiently allows Dr. Queenborough to invest more time in the students and less time in peripheral tasks such as typesetting. It is easy to spend large amounts of time preparing teaching materials, making handouts, questions, or slides look “just right”. He will describe an approach that separates the content of teaching material from its’ appearance. Specifically, this approach involves using plain-text files and various open-source and freely-available software (git, pandoc) to prepare teaching materials and convert them to a variety of formats and automagically format the output.

Teaching effectively and efficiently requires more work up-front (much like active learning techniques), but Dr. Queenborough believes that this investment is worth it and allows more time for interacting directly with students.