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.
I attended my first OpenEd conference Nov. 6-8th in Park City, UT. Click the link and you too can see some of the sessions from the conference. I went with a team of people from Maricopa representing the Maricopa Millions Project. What I learned was that James Sousa from Phoenix College is famous in the OER world, and the SCC math department is cutting edge. Who knew? When I returned, I did a presentation last Tuesday from 2-3pm in the CTLE on OER to help everyone at GCC understand OER and the Maricopa Millions initiative. I shared information about the initiative and the call for proposals that went out last week. Proposals were due last Friday. Here is some information about the project from the call for proposals.
The main goal of the Maricopa Millions Open Education Resources (OER) Project is to reduce educational costs for students. Spending less money on textbooks and materials will foster greater access to materials for students, which may enable them to stay on track with completing their courses.
The Maricopa Millions OER Project includes developing a strategic, sustainable OER infrastructure that would include: awareness, professional development, OER development and technical support, marketing and technical structure. In order for OER to be successful at MCCCD, we have established an OER strategic planning and implementation team to establish and oversee specific OER outcomes over the next 5 years.
The driving objective for the project is to save MCCCD students $5 Million Dollars over the next five years through the use of OER materials. The sooner we begin, the sooner the students can realize the savings.
This Maricopa Millions OER project, through an internal grant process, supports the adoption, adaptation, and development of complete OER course materials for high enrollment courses in the MCCCD. The final product will be OER course materials that can be easily adopted and modified by other faculty (including adjuncts) teaching that course.
I wanted to point out many of the different facets of the program, one main one being that there is a “low cost” option available as well. This means that faculty could choose finding or adopting materials with a lower costs instead of building their own OER. For instance, in composition we are comfortable using an online publisher product with a built in ebook that is currently half the price of the average textbook cost for composition courses, so we are already saving our students money. There are many other scenarios for the low cost option.
Also, the call was for a specific list of high enrollment courses (ENG101, PSY101, COM100), but that should not discourage anyone who teaches smaller enrollment courses from participating with OER. It just means that at this time, the committee wants to start with supporting the higher enrollment courses to get a bigger impact on the numbers out the gate. Any faculty who wants to work on an OER project can do so without the support of the committee. The goal is to save students money and not everyone doing so will be able to be supported by the project.
Below is the agenda and all the links we talked about and shared during the presentation. Feel free to ask me questions about the Maricopa Millions project if you have any. In the mean time, check out some the resources below and start exploring OER. Read more
I just recently returned from a conference and was intrigued to find that a presenter didn’t particularly like the idea of using modules in his hybrid course. In fact, he said that “all that extra junk” was confusing to students. I was assuming all the “extra junk” was referring to some of the standards Quality Matters suggests we add to our course in order to have quality. I often find that many online courses don’t bother to list course objectives or link them to the learning, something many students couldn’t care less about. But even if there is just one student who wants to know why they are doing a particular assignment, we should make the effort to tie it all together for him/her.
Basically this instructor had a problem with the modules option in Canvas and avoided setting up a modules page in lieu of a front page with links to weekly pages. In the weekly pages, which could be considered mini modules, he posted everything the students would do for that week. I failed to see how that was better than using the modules. In fact, you can create the same effect in modules.
The whole concept behind using modules is it benefits students; first by providing consistency. “By incorporating the same types of components in each course module, students quickly pick up on the course’s rhythms and patterns and have a better idea of what to expect than if the course were designed using a varying structure,” says Rob Kelly in his article in Faculty Focus titled “A Modular Course Design Benefits Online Instructor and Students.” He goes on to quote Andrea Henne, dean of online and distributed learning in the San Diego Community College District, who said, “Often online students get a little bit lost, and they don’t understand what they’re expected to do. But if the course follows a format that’s recognizable and comfortable, then the second week and subsequent weeks are consistent.”
For me, I use the end of a module to trigger major assessments like an essay and/or a module quiz. I want to evaluate students to see if they are ready to move on to the next sequence or module. I have smaller assessment in each week (assignments) to keep student actively learning and building skills for the larger assessments. But when my students move to the next module, they can expect the same pattern, smaller assessments, lessons, discussion, major assessments (quiz and essay) at the end. Take a deep breath and move on to the next.
Consistency should follow through within the week pages as well. For my class, Read more
Recently I’ve been doing some more work in SoftChalk, developing online lessons for my online and hybrid courses. I’m still a little nervous about relying so much on SoftChalk Cloud since the district is in the middle of an RFP for a tool that does the same thing. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that SoftChalk wins the bid, mostly because this is what I’m familiar with and have already invested so much time working with. I’m unsure if GCC will continue to buy it for us if the district goes in a different direction. The only way to guarantee that is to get more users on campus. We have 50 licenses and plenty are still available for use.
In an effort to generate more users here on our campus, I made two videos to tell people more about SoftChalk. A while back I create a video: What is SoftChalk? and now I want to share with you Softchalk Cloud and how and why I use it in my class. See the video below.
SoftChalk Cloud is the fastest, easiest, most flexible way to create and manage e-learning content for delivery inside or outside of a LMS. Educators can create engaging, interactive, media-rich learning content that directly integrates with any LMS or website.
I’ve been mostly pleased with how SoftChalk integrates with our LMS, Canvas, especially with how quizzes or activities built into a SoftChalk lesson are scored and added to the Canvas gradebook if you add the lesson to an assignment in Canvas. That is a super nice feature.
Here is a slide that I cover in the video that talks about how I teach and what my needs are in regards to technology. Watch the video below to listen to my thoughts on this.