Interdisciplinary learning through accessible, intentional technology

Hong Qu, Adjunct Lecturer in Public PolicyHong Qu, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, taught Data Visualization virtually last spring to over 70 students from different Harvard Schools, levels of experience, and corners of the world. To foster a close-knit community among students from diverse backgrounds, Qu intentionally curated a set of online tools and learning exercises to generate an “ambient telepresence.” For instance, he assigned group data visualization projects to promote peer learning and used VoiceThread for assigned peer critiques. During synchronous class time, students were invited to sketch with Qu using Jamboard on the shared screen—a novel form of participation to draw out the inner artist/designer in every student. “I wanted to give them a sense that we’re spending time with each other in this very challenging period to learn as a community, to work together on group projects, and to achieve organic connections and authentic relationships between all our unique places during this pandemic."

Polls (Canvas)

The Polls for Canvas app is the easy way for instructors to request student opinion in the classroom. All students need is a smartphone. Download the Polls for Canvas app on Android and iOS devices.

MagicMarker iOS Tablet Guide (Canvas)

The MagicMarker app for Canvas is designed for instructors and is the efficient and effective way of recording mastery of learning outcomes in the classroom.

Mobile (Canvas)

The Canvas by Instructure app is the mobile version of Canvas that helps you stay current with your courses anywhere you go. Download the Canvas by Instructure app on Android and iOS devices.

Research: The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard

Researchers found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand, likely because computers encourage verbatim transcription rather than synthesis.

Professor Simmons's device policy

The below is excerpted from the Hum 10a. A Humanities Colloquium: From Homer to Descartes Fall 2015 syllabus: 

Course Policies


Laptops and other portable electronic devices are not permitted in lecture. The reasons for this policy are: (a) their use may be distracting to others around you; (b) their use may be distracting to you (who can resist the temptation to check FB or email or texts?); and (c) note-taking on a laptop often amounts to passively taking dictation,...

Read more about Professor Simmons's device policy