Google Hangouts to Facilitate Classroom Discussion

Today, a lot of student work is done on computer. To facilitate discussion and encourage students to share and demonstrate their work easily in class room, Google Hangouts can be a good tool.

For classroom use, here is the basic configuration:

  • A projector is connected to the teacher’s laptop, and projecting to the screen that everyone can see.
  • The teacher log in his or her google account, and generate a Google Hangouts link (go to, and click “Video Call”. It will open a new page, you can copy the url of the page. )
  • Then you can put the link in a publicly shared calendar items for the scheduled courses. E.g. you can put the link in the description of the related calendar item.
  • The teacher’s laptop and the students’ laptops should be able to have internet access so they can see the Google calendar items and connect to linked google hangouts.

Here is how to use it:

  • Both the teacher and  the students who are going to present their work go to the calendar item and click the provided hangouts link.
  • The teacher shows the webpage with the hangouts to the projected screen. And everyone can see the people logged in.
  • The person who wants to demonstrate their work share the screen (click the menu icon on the top right, and select “Share screen”), then student can go to the work he or she wants to demonstrate.
  •  The teacher can click the icon of the student who wants to present in the Google Hangouts page, then it will switch to the content the student demonstrate.

Pros and Cons:

  • It will minimize the equipment / presentation set up time, and make the demonstration and dissection in a group easily. It will help students focusing on the discussion part.
    • For the students, they just click the hangouts link, join the hangouts and share the screen.
    • For the teacher, he / she just click the hangouts link, join the hangouts and switch to the different students who want to share.
  • Depends on the internet speed, there is some lag on screen sharing.  Anyway, if the student are not going to show a video, it will still be fine.

So far, my students are enjoying this hangouts experience.

And definitely, it will be good for online class discussion as well.


Categories: iTechnology

A Memo to Students on Cheating

From: A Memo to Students on Cheating, by 

To: My Students
From: Your Teacher
Re: Cheating

You know the message on cheating: Don’t do it. Yet despite knowing that it’s wrong, many students still cheat. Why? In response to a survey about cheating a student compared it to speeding. Everybody knows you shouldn’t speed, but most of us do. And when the weather is good and the road is clear, the risk of an accident is small. There is the matter of getting caught, but that risk is also low, so, the student reasoned, cheating is like speeding.

No, it’s not! Here are seven reasons why you shouldn’t cheat, and getting caught isn’t one of them.

  1. When you cheat on an exam, it looks like you know the content, which means whenever you’re confronted with that material, you’ve got to fake it. Moreover, it looks to me like you understand, so I move on, assuming you know what you got right on the exam. What you didn’t learn in one course can be required knowledge in the next course. Knowledge in most fields is cumulative. It builds on previous knowledge. If you don’t understand the prerequisite content, you can’t learn the new stuff—so later you’ll either need to do double-duty learning or what you don’t know widens from a gap to gulf.
  2. When you cheat, important skillsets, those things employers assume college graduates possess, remain undeveloped or underdeveloped. You learn problem-solving skills by solving problems, not by copying answers. Your writing improves when you write, not when you recycle someone else’s paper. Your abilities to think critically, analyze arguments, and speak persuasively all develop when you do them, not when you parrot the thinking, arguments, and persuasive ploys of others. Just as standing around exercise equipment does not build muscle mass, borrowing the work of others does not build mental muscle.
  3. Don’t kid yourself, a small cheating problem seldom stays that size. Think more along the lines of a malignant tumor that starts tiny and quietly grows into something big and ugly. You may start by peeking for answers in a required course that you don’t want to take. In that first course in the major, you decide to copy homework answers—you’re busy and all that content will be covered again in later courses anyway. You cheat in the special topics course because you won’t use the content in the area where you plan to work. You end up fudging data in your senior research project because it isn’t a “real” study anyway. The research is clear. Students who cheat don’t do it just one time or in just one course.
  4. Cheating in college sets you up for cheating in life. Maybe you’re telling yourself you’ll stop when you graduate. The research says otherwise. Those who cheated in college are more likely to cheat their employers or employees, fudge on their taxes, and use unethical business practices. It becomes a lifetime habit right along with the lying that covers it up.
  5. Cheating puts your personal integrity at risk. What kind of person do you want to be? The actions taken now are defining who you are and will likely become. How does it make you feel when someone you care about lies or cheats on you? Do you hold those who cheat in high esteem? Your personal integrity is something you wear every day of your life. You can wear it with pride or you can slink around trying to hide the holes and cover the rips.
  6. You can accomplish what you need to without cheating. Some students cheat because it’s easier than working for the grades—the reasons outlined above illustrate why that’s a cavalier, short-sighted rationale with serious consequences. Then there are the students who cheat because they don’t think they have the smarts to get the good grades they need. Success in college is much more a function of your study habits than your brain size. Good study habits are so not rocket science. And don’t say they don’t make a difference unless you’ve tried them. Start with one course and see if short, regular study times alone and with a buddy, regular class attendance, and keeping up with the homework make a difference. Bottom line: most students are way smarter than they think they are.
  7. Cheating prevents you from being the person you want to be. Grades that you’ve earned provide a sense of accomplishment. They’re a source of pride. They say you’re a person to be reckoned with. Grades you haven’t earned also make you a person to be reckoned with but not for the reasons you’d wish.
Categories: Uncategorized

Prepare for IT Interview

08/29/2017 1 comment

Here I summarize some resources for students to prepare for IT interview:

Meanwhile, there is some opposite opinion about whiteboard interview:

Some other recommended books are:

Basically, whiteboard interview is a good tool to check / demonstrate a person’s problem solving process. However, it is not good enough to check students’ practical skills in debugging a piece of code, searching related reference and reusing existing code, etc.

For students, it is important to know the interview style on whiteboard, fluently use at least one programming language, and be able to demonstrate their thinking process to solve the problems. Other than that, practical experience working on some open source projects will help to improve other part of practical skills, such as debugging, etc.

Categories: Uncategorized

No Student Left Behind

This seems to be ideal for students’ learning. However, when I think about this, a lot of challenges appear in my mind, especially for HBCU students.

As we all know that, HBCU students come with diverse knowledge background, and mostly underprepared. There are many issues associated with that. It is very challenging to teach students with diverse levels. Class time is limited. How can I take care of the slow learners and the fast learners at the same time? If I focus on the need of the slow learners, then the fast learners will feel like that they already know that and it wastes their time. If I focus on the fast learners, then the slow learners have no idea what you are talking about. So, in class, a teacher can only focus on the middle level students. It is reasonable, but not ideal.
And I also have some make up strategies to help students:
(1) Encourage and comfort my students that, it is not a big deal if you learn things slow or fast. As the kids learn how to walk, some slow, and some fast, while when they grow up, it makes no difference. The key is that you have to find ways to master the skills or knowledge.
(2) Encourage students to use my office hours, and I can use extra time to help the students who are a little behind.
(3) Assign extra tasks or assignments to fast learners, to challenge them to learn more.

Above strategies are traditional ones. They do help the students who are motivated and willing to learn. However, there are more challenges today. Not many students are willing to learn, or they have no idea how to learn, or they are occupied by many other things and have no time to learn. Those who really need extra help seldom use the office hours. If a student misses the classes very often, and don’t use the office hours to look for help, how can a teacher really help him / her? This is more common in HBCUs. And HBCU faculties actually are doing a lot of “baby sitting” things: sending reminder emails / making reminder calls; pushing students to learn; studying and trying different teaching strategies to motivate students; giving second chances / grace periods, etc.

It’s not all about teaching knowledge. Students should take the responsibility of learning, and they need to be trained about how to learn efficiently. One day, I visited a small Christian private school, and the teaching style really inspired me. One teacher are dealing with multiple level students from 1st grade to 6th grade. The classroom is separated to small box, each student is watching video and interacting with the virtual educational program. The teacher’s responsibility seems to be organizing and managing the learning environment, and making sure all the kids follow the instruction in the virtual educational program. Maybe the teacher answers the special requests from each individual kids too.

So, I’m thinking if we can have a virtual educational program to deal with different level of students’ need. More than the case above, I will expect that the virtual educational program can evaluate the students’ knowledge background, diagnose the students’ level,  and provide suggestions about the students’ learning plan. Then the students will take the responsibility to lead their own learning progress. And a teacher’s responsibility will focus on the students’ learning progress and help the students to learn better. Traditional role of teacher needs to be re-considered.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Letter from Student

I feel so blessed when I get the following email from one of my previous students. I’m so glad and proud for my student. To be a good teacher is not easy, I’m still learning. Hope the following email can be an encouragement to all teachers. Life can change lives. (Note: To protect some privacy information, I hide some personal information on purpose. Thanks for understanding. )


Categories: Student News

Research Conference for Undergraduates

To encourage and train our students to do research professionally, some national or international research conferences for undergraduates could be very helpful. So far, I find some resources collected here for future reference:

Categories: Ideas / Resources

Twelve Characteristics of an Effective Teacher

There are some good points from:

Characteristic 1: Prepared
The most effective teachers come to class each day ready to teach.
1. It is easy to learn in their classes because they are ready for the day.
2. They don’t waste instructional time. They start class on time. They teach for the entire class period.
3. Time flies in their classes because students are engaged in learning — i.e., not bored, less likely to fall asleep.

Characteristic 2: Positive
The most effective teachers have optimistic attitudes about teaching and about students. They
1. See the glass as half full (look on the positive side of every situation)
2. Make themselves available to students
3. Communicate with students about their progress
4. Give praise and recognition
5. Have strategies to help students act positively toward one another

Characteristic 3: Hold High Expectations
The most effective teachers set no limits on students and believe everyone can be successful. They
1. Hold the highest standards
2. Consistently challenge their students to do their best
3. Build students’ confidence and teach them to believe in themselves

Characteristic 4: Creative
The most effective teachers are resourceful and inventive in how they teach their classes. They
1. Kiss a pig if the class reaches its academic goals
2. Wear a clown suit
3. Agree to participate in the school talent show
4. Use technology effectively in the classroom

Characteristic 5: Fair
The most effective teachers handle students and grading fairly. They
1. Allow all students equal opportunities and privileges
2. Provide clear requirements for the class
3. Recognize that “fair” doesn’t necessarily mean treating everyone the same but means giving every student an opportunity to succeed
4. Understand that not all students learn in the same way and at the same rate

Characteristic 6: Display a Personal Touch
The most effective teachers are approachable. They
1. Connect with students personally
2. Share personal experiences with their classes
3. Take personal interest in students and find out as much as possible
about them
4. Visit the students’ world (sit with them in the cafeteria; attend
sporting events, plays, and other events outside normal school hours)

Characteristic 7: Cultivate a Sense of Belonging
The most effective teachers have a way of making students feel welcome and comfortable in their classrooms.
1. Students repeatedly mentioned that they felt as though they belonged in classrooms taught by effective teachers.
2. The students knew they had a good teacher who loved teaching and preferred it to other occupations.

Characteristic 8: Compassionate
The most effective teachers are concerned about students’ personal problems and can relate to them and their problems. Numerous stories established how the sensitivity and compassion of caring teachers affected them in profound and lasting ways.

Characteristic 9: Have a Sense of Humor
The most effective teachers do not take everything seriously and make learning fun. They
1. Use humor to break the ice in difficult situations
2. Bring humor into the everyday classroom
3. Laugh with the class (but not at the expense of any particular

Characteristic 10: Respect Students
The most effective teachers do not deliberately embarrass students. Teachers who give the highest respect, get the highest respect. They
1. Respect students’ privacy when returning test papers
2. Speak to students in private concerning grades or conduct
3. Show sensitivity to feelings and consistently avoid situations that unnecessarily embarrass students

Characteristic 11: Forgiving
The most effective teachers do not hold grudges. They
1. Forgive students for inappropriate behavior
2. Habitually start each day with a clean slate
3. Understand that a forgiving attitude is essential to reaching difficult students
4. Understand that disruptive or antisocial behavior can quickly turn a teacher against a student, but that refusing to give up on difficult students can produce success

Characteristic 12: Admit Mistakes
The most effective teachers are quick to admit being wrong. They
1. Apologize to mistakenly accused students
2. Make adjustments when students point out errors in grading or test material that has not been assigned