I’m excited to be blogging again with my colleagues at GCC as part of the Write 6×6 Challenge. We had such success with our inaugural challenge last spring, so I was a bit nervous that no one would sign up for round 2 a year later. Luckily I will not be the only one blogging. We have 20 faculty, staff and administrators signed up! Yay! We even got the president blogging again.
In week one we are blogging about how we make a difference, although everyone is free to write about what ever. I’ve learned that most people just want to be told what to write about. Funny how faculty and others are just like our students in that regard. I tend to like to reflect on things in general and then write about what stands out the most. That’s a real challenge when you have a ton of stuff going on. Nothing tends to stand out, yet everything weighs heavy on my mind.
Sometimes I feel like I need a kick to help get me started on things, and that’s how I feel I’m making a difference at GCC. I’m providing the kick that others need to get started. We all have great ideas to either work on or share, and everyday in the CTLE we work to find ways to help faculty and staff hone those skills to develop their ideas or to just share them with others. We challenge them daily to learn new things, get involved, experiment and share where otherwise they would not feel challenged to do so or feel they don’t have the opportunity. If faculty and staff want to be challenged and want to be engaged, we’re here to make a difference.
There’s a great feature in McGraw-Hill’s Connect Composition called Power of Process. “Power of Process guides students through performance-based assessment activities that require them to apply active reading and writing strategies while demonstrating critical thinking and analysis of a reading selection with their own writing.” It’s truly a great tool for teaching students to critically read and annotate research articles for research papers. The only problem is the program only accepts doc and docx files. The way my assignment works is students do research and then upload the articles they find into the Connect Composition Power of Process assignment. The first assignment is a web search assignment, so most students find web articles, but the second assignment is a periodical database search and many of those articles are PDF files. In both cases students must turn the content they find into a Word document.
The first is easy, as student simply cut and paste the web content in a word processing program of their choice and export as a doc or docx file. Done. I don’t even have to tell them how to do that, but with the PDF files, many students are stumped. One tool that I’ve found to help with this is To ePub. To ePub allows you to convert PDF and other types of documents to a variety of ebook formats, but it also works the other way. It converts PDF to doc, docx, text, image, and png. It also allows you to combine multiple PDF files into one. It does the job.
If you find yourself in need of a Word document instead of the PDF file, check out To ePub.
It’s FEP time again. Every 3 years and 2014-2015 is my turn again. For my FEP this year I chose to use a portfolio again as means of assessment for each of the “REQUIRED,” “ELECTIVE,” and “RELATED” areas that are evaluated. My professional blog: Freshmancomp.com serves as my portfolio and links to all the relevant parts are listed below in the FEP description. Enjoy.
To complete an FEP each faculty member must engage in a self-examination of “THREE REQUIRED AREAS”:
- TEACHING (OR OTHER PRIMARY DUTIES). For example, instructional or service delivery, content expertise, classroom or program management, instruction/program design. This year as faculty director of the CTLE, I decided to focus on service delivery.
- COURSE OR PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT/REVISION. For example, a review of syllabi, tests, and course or program content, including competencies and objectives. I decided to design of a new online OER course for ENH114, African American Literature.
- GOVERNANCE AND/OR COMMITTEE PARTICIPATION AT THE COLLEGE AND/OR DISTRICT LEVELS. I serve on the eCourse Committee, Technology Alliance Committee and the CTLE Advisory Committee on campus. I serve on a district committee for OER, Maricopa Millions.
In addition to an assessment of these “3 REQUIRED AREAS” (RFP Section 220.127.116.11.) , “AT LEAST TWO ELECTED AREAS” (RFP Section 18.104.22.168.), and other “RELATED AREAS” (REP Section 22.214.171.124.) may also be selected by the faculty member to review, in order to bring into better focus their full professional involvements at the college or within the District. Examples include program coordination, research projects, department/division chair responsibilities, student activities-advising/mentoring, professional involvement in the community, professional growth, involvement/projects, professional interaction with colleagues, etc.
- AT LEAST TWO ELECTED AREAS:
- RELATED AREAS:
As a means of designing an FEP that is flexible enough to respect the broad diversity of the faculty role, a faculty member developing and implementing the plan should select ways of examining his/her performance that will most effectively describe his/her: current performance, future goals and actions needed to achieve them, accomplishments in the professional areas to be examined, etc. These may include different means of assessment for each of the“REQUIRED,” “ELECTIVE,” and “RELATED” areas that are evaluated. Examples of different means include checklists, observations, student evaluation instruments (which can be customized), student skill inventories, video assessments, portfolios, written summaries, conferences, etc.
I teach English at GCC. Technically I teach Freshman Composition, but we say English when asked what we teach. Composition is writing. This is a very interesting considering I majored in English Literature. You know: Beowulf, Shakespeare, Austen, Joyce and Lawrence. I was never taught to write beyond ENG101 and ENG102 in undergrad, but I was expected to do it in every literature class I took. I eventually graduated with a degree in English Literature. So what kind of job does one get with a degree in English Literature? Education or teaching is the number one option. So here I am, teaching English at GCC.
What you can garner from that short story is that most college students get very few opportunities to learn how to write, even when you are studying to be an English teacher. I eventually earned a masters degree in education where I learned to teach writing, but composition classes prior to that were minimal. That is why ENG101 and ENG102 for our students is so crucial. For most it will be their only opportunity to learn to write for their college careers and life in general. Those important skills they learn in Freshman Composition include:
- Written and other communication skills
- Understanding complex ideas and theories
So the pressure is on for English teachers – ENG101 and ENG102 teachers. These are important skills that go beyond just writing an essay. We’re trying to teach students to think critically, read critically, research critically, and then write. That’s what makes Freshman Composition challenging for students. For the most part, students know how to write or they should considering they just spend four years in high school learning how to do it. But college writing is different. There’s more at stake considering this may be students only chance to learn these skills. Yet many students don’t see the importance of these two courses. They take it for granted.
As I sit here reflecting and writing, I’m all that more thankful for the English teachers I had at Phoenix College and Yavapai College. Because with out that foundation those instructors instilled in me, I really don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing today. And I don’t just mean teaching English. I mean blogging and writing all over the internet in social media sites, writing emails to my colleagues, and writing in my profession. I’m thankful I have the skills, written and other communication skills, critical thinking skills, and research skills, to do my job and do it well.
We have had continued success with Write6x6 at Glendale Community College. In our third week we were able to produce another set of meaningful, inspiring, enlightening pieces of writing – 18 total for week 3. We slipped a bit in number of posts, but the quality is still high. This week we wrote about professional development, fitness, student success and two administrators wrote about being a student then and now. Good stuff, and I expect a few more will come in over the weekend for Week 3.
We now have a total of 65 posts in only three weeks from 25 participants. We represent administration (8), faculty (10), adjunct (4), student services (3), administrative/business services (3) and other (2). Thirty total signed up, but 5 have not posted yet or are part of a team. For instance, Dean of Strategy, Planning and Accountability (SPA), Alka Arora Singh, has not posted, but her team has contributed 3 awesome posts about our student demographics and internships for students in their department. I’m a big fan of the team approach. We also have a joint post this week from two faculty who team teach, so 1 post for 2 people. Again team work is awesome.
We are all unique in who we are and what we do on our campus, and sharing what we do, how we feel, how we make a difference and what we do for student success is the best professional development anyone can ask for. I look forward to each post each week and do my best to get others in the education community to read our blog. Just yesterday while at the Wired & Inspired conference in Vegas, I crashed Todd Conaway’s session on his 9x9x25 Challenge at the #eLearning2015 conference across the street. He was presenting to an audience of about 23 on his awesome idea to get faculty blogging at his college. This is the idea we
stole borrowed for Write6x6. What’s really cool about this is other colleges across the country are also using Todd’s idea on their campuses. We have various renditions of it:
It was fun listening to Todd, Dr. Karly Way, a Yavapai instructor, and Skyped in guest Mark Dulong from NMC talk about their projects. Thanks for inviting me to tag along Todd. Be sure to check out their blogs and read posts from their faculty and staff. And for a little extra entertainment, check out NMC’s video about their 4x4x16 Challenge in Michigan. You’ll be glad you live in Arizona after watching the opening scene.
Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but if I’d said, “Most everything I know about teaching with technology and technology in general I’ve learned from reading blogs,” that would have been too long a title for this post. Either way, the point is blogging is huge, and I’m so excited to have 32 people from GCC blogging on Write6x6.com. Except we’re not calling it blogging because that complicates things. People know how to write, but many don’t know how to blog. And that fact alone prohibits many from sharing their expertise with the world. So we’re writing, not blogging.
We learn so much from each other, yet we rarely talk to each other. This is often the case on a busy campus or workplace. I’ve worked at GCC for 6 years now, and I have to admit, I don’t know half the people whose writing I am now reading each week. But I’ll know them better after these 6 weeks are over. I’m already starting to feel a connection with many and learning lots of cool things. But that’s normal for me – Reading blogs, engaging with an online community, Tweeting.
I’ve had this blog, freshmancomp.com for about 9 years, but I started blogging back in August of 2006. I had a Blogger blog back then that still sits untouched with my early writings. The interesting thing about that first blog is my first blog post ever was a post I wrote about my first day at GCC on August 13, 2006. I didn’t even work here permanently then. I was doing a semester long transfer with Nancy Siefer that fall. She was me at SMCC, where I was a full-time faculty member for, at that time, 6 years, and I was her here at GCC. I still think that was a brilliant move on our part to finagle that trade because look where I am now – at GCC for the past 6 years. Anyway, enough about me. Let’s get back to me and blogging.
Throughout the years blogging has not only been a way for me to share what I’ve learned about teaching with technology, but it’s been my primary way to learn about what others are doing in that same realm. I read over 159 blogs! Yes, 159. Seems impossible, but I’m only reading the good stuff. Using a feedreader like Feedly.com allows me to subscribe to many different blogs, collate them into a single space, and organize them by topic, making it easier to skim through and read what I want. Click the image to see a bigger picture of what that looks like.
I can honestly say I’ve learned more about teaching and learning, technology and instructional design from my online reading than I did in my doctoral program in instructional technology and distance education. That’s not a crack on my education. It’s a reality that once you graduate, your education stops. Let that sink in. But the world and your field doesn’t stop. In order to keep up, we all have to keep educating ourselves. I could never do this job, Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Engagement based on my degree I earned back in 2006. See the correlation now? Once my degree was complete, I started blogging AND reading to keep the education going. And now I’ve been able to move to a new position and have the knowledge and skills I need to do it well (well, I least I think I do it well).
I’m hoping that our Write6x6.com professional development activity at GCC will inspire others to keep the education going and not only keep blogging, but also keep reading and educating themselves to be better educators, administrators, managers, support staff or better at whatever it is they may do at GCC.
For you educators, check out a few of my favorite blogs:
- Alan Levine’s CogDogBlog http://cogdogblog.com/
- Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/
- Edudemic: http://www.edudemic.com/
- GCC CTLE Blog: http://gccazctle.wordpress.com
As tri-chair of the Maricopa Millions project in Maricopa, much of what we do is speak to the values of the project. The goal is to save students $5 million in 5 years and to radically decrease student costs by offering LOW COST or NO COST options for course materials. We were nominated for a Futures Assembly Bellwether award this year and became a Top 10 finalist. Last week we traveled to Orlando, FL to present our presentation to the judges. Our project didn’t win the Bellwether, but our students in Maricopa are the real winners. To date we have save students $3,458,000 and we still have two years to go. If students have affordable materials from day one, this increases the chances of student success. Below is the infographic Sam Frauline from PVCC created for our project.
If you have any need for annotating webpages or PDFs for a research project, then Diigo is the tool for you. Diigo is a social bookmarking website which allows signed-up users to bookmark and tag web-pages. Additionally, it allows users to highlight any part of a webpage and attach sticky notes to specific highlights or to a whole page. This is especially helpful for students working on research projects, as Diigo is web based and free.
I’ve shared information about Diigo previously, Using Social Bookmarking in Research Assignments, so check that post out as well. But in this post I want to share with you how to set up an assignment for students to create a modified annotated bibliography. The gist of the assignment is: Students will search for and find web articles relevant to their research projects and create an annotated bibliography with those sources.
- Go to http://diigo.com and click Sign Up. You can apply for a teacher account option here, after you have signed up.
- The next step is to set up in a group for your class. Watch a video to learn how to set up a group in Diigo. Groups are nice for organization by class, but not necessary.
- Next get students signed up for Diigo. Send them to http://diigo.com and click Sign Up. You can set up accounts for students, but that’s more appropriate for K-12 students who need more guidance and greater privacy.
- Then give them this assignment: Annotated Bibliography Using Diigo
PDF annotation can be done by first uploading the PDF file and then opening it within your Diigo library, or alternatively and often more conveniently, by opening it directly in the browser and using the Diigo browser extension for Chrome and Firefox. (extensions for IE, Safari, and Opera currently do not support this capability)
Diigo is free with an option to Go Pro for a few extra features. They also have educator accounts. There is a heavy focus on education with this tool, so if you sign up with an educator account, you’ll end up with a Teacher Console area where you can manage all of your classes (groups).
Here’s How it Works
I was in the process of writing about all the new add-ons for Google Drive when I came across @CoolCatTeacher‘s (Vicki Davis) blog post on the 15 Best Google Drive Add-Ons for Education. I can’t top the presentation she created that highlights the top additions, so I’m sharing a link to her post here.
Why should you care about Add-Ons for Google Drive? Because that is what our students are using these days, and these add-ons give students the ability to insert citations directly into Google Documents directly within the document using EasyBib, take bulleted lists and convert it into a mindmap for a graphical depiction, and track changes in a Google document. Yes, I said track changes. If you’re not convinced, click through anyway, as there are 12 more add-ons that Vicki shares. She also includes a video on how to enable add-ons for Google Drive.
There is a lot of talk these days about going digital, and in an online teaching environment, going digital is just common sense. The problem is up until recently digital options were not all that great. It started with companion websites that were difficult to integrate into your course because they were just stand alone websites. Then we got companion websites that offered a few tools (peer review, bibliography tool, etc.), but again no real integration with the LMS and they were clunky. Then came the ebooks, but they were just PDF files of the same old paper texts. Nothing ever seemed to solve all the needs, nor did they seem worth all of the time needed to set things up. And on top of that, students just didn’t really like most of this stuff.
I really think publishers needed some time to develop digital content that made sense, and as a result the offerings are getting so much better. Four years ago, we had the foresight to consider our digital options when we did our last book adoption. My job was to explore all the current digital tools and help make a decision as to what would be best for our faculty. At that time I played with MyCompLab, InSite, and Connect Composition. We went with Connect, and in the following video I explain what the major factors were for why we chose Connect.
The product has evolved over the four years we’ve used it, and it just keeps getting better. They’ll be rolling out Connect 3.0 in the fall, and I’ve already had a chance to check out some of the new features. The biggest change is the addition of LearnSmart and a new SmartBook option. The new SmartBook has finally brought the concept of an ebook into a more modern adaptation. It’s certainly not a PDF file anymore. It’s an adaptive learning experience for students. The only think I would like to see is mobile access for some of the tools in Connect and better Canvas integration. Mobile access would be huge.