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9
Mar

Is It Time for Happy Hour Yet?

That’s a pretty relevant question. It is Thursday, and the To-Do list is fairly long. So why not shirk all responsibility for 30 minutes or so and blog about happy hour? Sounds good to me. Happy hour is the obvious choice for this week’s writing prompt for Write6x6Building Relationships. How do you build relationships with faculty, staff, and students on campus? How important are these relationships to you?

First, I’m going to point out the obvious. There will be no happy hour with students, but everyone else is fair game. It’s the perfect way to build relationships. When I left South Mountain Community College 8 years ago, one of the pluses on my Pro/Con list for leaving the college was building relationships and community. I have some wonderful friends at SMCC and built some long lasting relationships, but not many of those relationships went beyond the boundaries of the college. I just felt like if I was going to spend 6 hours a day with people, I should be friends with those people outside those boundaries – at least some of them. So I left. I felt like a bigger campus, more people would open up those doors. And I was right. I went from having 6 faculty in my department to 40. There might have been more at SMCC if I counted the Reading faculty, but I didn’t really know of any of them. But you get the idea.

Everyone is busy, and teaching schedules can be chaotic. It’s difficult to build relationships when you never see the people you work with. So I made it a habit of walking the halls and spending time in my office beyond the required 1 hour office hour, just so I could connect with my peeps. After a while, I quickly learned that I was never going to get much work done when I was in the halls of 05. I spent my time there popping into offices, talking with colleagues, answering questions and generally just chilling.  It was a great trade off. Not everyone agrees with that sentiment, as there were plenty of closed doors in the hallways.

But there are also many happy hours. Meeting up off campus allows for people to feel free, be more relaxed, and open up a bit more about how things on the job are really going. It gives us all a chance to problem solve together and brainstorm ideas. But it also builds stronger relationships. I work with a bunch of awesome people who travel to conferences for professional development together, submit proposals for grants together, work on projects together, and of course, attend many happy hours, dinners and gatherings in our own homes together. We’re just one big kumbaya song.

24
Feb

How to Combat Fake News

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Fake News BBC

Studies show that students have ‘dismaying’ inability to tell fake news from real news. Fake news stories can have real-life consequences, so it behooves us as educators to teach students how to fact-check the news and get the facts. We’re offering a workshop in the CTLE this spring on Fake News. The workshop will be a lesson in fake news that can also be used with students.

For the workshop, I’ve compiled a list of resources to help you and your students understand the fake news epidemic better, and the workshop will cover:

  • What is fake news?
  • How is fake news and “alternative facts” a problem for society?
  • Where does fake news come from?
  • How to check news and use fact check sites.
  • How to avoid fakes news on social media.
  • Best practices for questionable sources.

One source in particular that I found useful was False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources by Melissa Zimdars which offers a huge list of fake news sites and the following tips.

Tips for analyzing news sources:

  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo (Newslo is now found at Politicops.com). These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
  • Watch out for common news websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources (remember: this is also the domain for Colombia!)
  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue. Thanks to Ed Brayton for this tip!
  • If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.
  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Sources such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.
  • For more tips on analyzing the credibility and reliability of sources, please check out School Library Journal (they also provide an extensive list of media literacy resources) and the Digital Resource Center.

If you want more resources and information about fake news, sign up for one the two sessions below:

18
Feb

Evaluation Plan for Faculty Can Be Fun. Really.

© Laura Strickland/MyCuteGraphics.com

So I’m a member of the Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) committee again this year. As a member of this committee, I have agreed to be a mentor for a probational faculty member that needs to comply with the RFP requirements. When I heard about these new requirements for probationary faculty, my first thought was, thank goodness I’m not probationary. I don’t want to have any part of that. Well, it turns out no one can really escape PAR. Even us old residential faculty, as all the newbies are required to have mentors. And with so many new faculty, pretty much everyone who is not new is a mentor.

The Maricopa Community College District implemented this new peer assistance and review model (PAR) for probationary faculty about 4 years ago. Faculty are considered probationary for 5 years. Under this new model, probationary faculty are assigned a residential faculty mentor to help guide them through the process to becoming residential (tenured). As part of the PAR, probationary faculty have the opportunity to document their professional growth, mentor evaluation, administrative evaluations, and student evaluations in a Google Sites template.

I actually ended up with two pretty awesome mentees. Both are excellent teachers and fun to work with. The best part is they make being a mentor fairly easy. I’m going to share my recent evaluation of one although evaluation isn’t quite the right word. It was more of an observation with feedback. Evaluation indicates the making of a judgment about the value of something; assessment. I’d like to believe all teaching has value, and it’s really not up to me to judge someone’s value or their teaching. I like to observe and then give feedback. Lucky for me what I’ve observed has always been inspiring.

Recently I sat in on an after class review session and the room was full. My first observation was how does that happen. Students stick around for a study session after class? The whole class was engaged. They were divided into groups of 2-4 and it appeared that they each had an assigned topic to cover. As the instructor called on each group, students were prepared with their information. Some reading from notes or slides; others reciting information from memory. My mentee was encouraging and peppered the whole class and group members with questions. Students volunteered answered. Whether they were correct or incorrect, they each received the same kind feedback that the answer was correct or incorrect. It didn’t seem punitive if the answer was not correct. Someone else was just called on to provide a different answer. The whole session was positive and encouraging. I was inspired, and I wasn’t even a student in the class.

It’s really good to see good teaching, but the best part is there is no one way about it. Every instructor brings her own touch to the classroom, and we can all learn by observing how others get the job done. Turns out that this whole PAR thing might not be such a bad thing after all.

9
Feb

Need a Grammar Checker? I Want to Find Out

Writing today is almost a completely online or computer aided experience. Students are composing in word processor programs as well as online in programs like Google Drive or directly in Canvas. While most of these text editors will probably have built in spelling and maybe a grammar check, a more robust dedicated editing tool can find hidden errors that are easily missed on a standard text editor, and there are many of these tools available on the web for free and for pay. I decided that maybe our students and even faculty and staff might benefit from some of these tools, so I wrote a summer project proposal to research it this summer.

My goal for a summer project is to spend some time using some of these editing tools to discover which make the best use for our students and for us. I also want to study how these programs work to discover if in fact they are accurate and how accurate they are. In addition, I’d like to research whether these tools actually benefit students by teaching them to become better writers or if they are simply a crutch. With this knowledge, I’d like to develop a plan for how best to use these programs with students so that the tools can be more of a teaching aide than a tool that makes corrections only for students. So my proposal includes academic research, activities that can enhance my professional knowledge and expertise, as well as field research to learn innovations. 

I think this will be great way to spend my time this summer, so I plan to complete this project over a 4 week period during the month of June. Did any of you submit a proposal? I’m curious how you plan to spend your summer if you did. 

6
Feb

In Search of My Inspiration. How Do I Expand Beyond?

I have to admit I’m borderline burnout, but what keeps me going these days are the people I work with on a daily basis. My inspiration comes from all of those faculty and staff who take the time to better themselves and be the best they can be and utilize the CLTE to help them with that. I can’t be a slacker around these folks. Oh no, so I’m inspired to step my game up and help provide the services they need, and it reminds me of why I’m doing this job in the first place. It’s easy to forget at times.

So the last thing I need to be doing right now is agonizing over a journal post, but I’m inspired to do so because of the 10+ posts already posted on Write6x6.com from last week. They are my inspiration to post, to share. They are my inspiration to complete a tedious FPG application for an upcoming workshop. My inspiration to schedule FMS training in the CTLE. My inspiration to send out yet another announcement about what we have to offer, knowing very few will bother to read it. But it’s that few that inspire me.

Recently I attended a district event at SCC called TechTalks. It’s a TEDTalks type of event where 8 speakers talk about their experience with using technology in their life or work environment. These talks are very inspirational, but on this particular Friday I had every legitimate excuse to not miss work and not attend. I’m so glad I didn’t give in to any one of those excuses because that’s all they are is excuses. Attending TechTalks rejuvenated me. It inspired me. It made me want to go and do ALL those things those speakers talked about. I wanted to understand data, play with virtual reality, create portfolios for my students, create OER, and even make a music video despite my lack of music and movie making skills. I was inspired. Again by my colleagues in Maricopa. I’m so glad I didn’t pass up this one of a multitude of opportunities to be inspired because what good am I to you, my colleagues, my students if I’m not inspired to do my job?

19
Jan

Hello 2017 Let’s Get This Blog Going

Occasionally everyone needs a good excuse for not doing certain things they’ve promised they would do. I know I have a few up my sleeve. I’ve always loved blogging. It sounds so much better than saying I love to write, which I’ll deny vehemently. Don’t tell my students. But blogging is different. I just love it. But I haven’t blogged consistently in the last two years. The time frame of my slacking off coincides with when I took over as CTLE Director at GCC, so yes, I’ll use that as my excuse. But blogging as been calling me lately. I’m feeling disconnected from the world of technology. I haven’t played with a new tech tool in a while, but I’m inspired to jump back in. I even bought some toys recently. So I’m coming back. My next posts will be about my new VR Headset and the set of Kindle Fires I purchased for the CTLE. Now what’s a girl to do with those? We’ll see. For now, I’m off to go read some blogs. I’ve got some catching up to do.

Happy 2017 – Let’s keep our heads up.

6
Sep

Improving Retention in Online Courses Takes Work, But Do Retention Techniques Help?

I’ve been teaching online now for 18 years. Makes me sound old, especially since so many instructors are brand new to teaching online. Well times have changed, students have changed, and the technology we use to teach online has changed too, not all for the better. What I mean by that is students have different expectations of what online learning is and most mistakenly believe online courses will be easier for them to complete. As an online instructor, this is often difficult to deal with especially if you’re set on improving retention in your courses. Over the years I’ve developed some pretty standard processes to help with this, but more so lately I’ve found that those strategies are reaching directly to the student and not necessarily the course design. However, I’ll preview a few of each in this post.

First, students need to be aware of what the expectations are for the online course up front and preferably before the course begins. This way students will have an opportunity to learn what is expected and make a wise decision to continue on or drop and add an on-ground course. As a policy for our English department online courses, we open the courses 3-7 days before the start date. We also send a welcome letter to students outlining the expectations of the course, which generally discusses expected study time each week and advice on what it takes to be successful in the online course. Here is an example letter here. I’ve had a few students opt out of the class after reading the letter and taking a look around the online course.

Another retention technique is to include an orientation in the first week of your course. The orientation will give students early on a taste of many of the kinds of tasks they will be assigned to do throughout the course. Having them experience these things early on with low stakes makes doing these tasks later on much easier. It also ensures the instructor that all students know how to do what is expected when it’s time to do them. I require students to complete the orientation within the first five days of the course in order to remain enrolled in the course. If they don’t complete it, they are dropped as a No Show and get a full refund.

The orientation includes things like Read moreRead more

2
Mar

Using Social Media to Collaborate and Spread Love

That title is so vague, right? Well if you’re reading, it worked. Next week is Open Education Week, and as part of the Maricopa Millions Steering team, I will be using social media to help share all the love for OER we have in Maricopa. My job is to organize the team to get our word out using the hashtag #openeducationwk. Let’s just say that is an impossible job, but I’ve got this. I have a great plan to make this work. So here’s what we want to happen. It might be similar to what you might want to happen in a class. We have 12 people on the committee. Everyone is responsible for writing at least one tweet and a blog post in one of these five areas:

  1. What is OER? 
  2. How do I find OER? 
  3. Faculty experiences developing OER,
  4. Faculty experiences with using OER, and
  5. FAQs.

We then want to tweet and post all that content using the designated hashtag. We’ll be using the same Twitter handle @MaricopaOER and posting to the same blog: https://maricopamillions.wordpress.com, but having everyone logging in using the same credentials can get quite messy, plus you risk the chance of someone just messing the whole thing up. So I set up a shared Google Doc with all five categories and the names of those responsible for each category and then left a blank spot for each to fill in their contribution. Here’s an example below:

  • Faculty experiences developing OER – Sian Proctor, Alisa Cooper
    • Tweet
    • Blog/Email:
    • Tweet:
    • Blog/Email:

TwufferEveryone knows how to work in a shared document, so this step was a breeze. The team has been adding their tweets and blog posts to the document. Next I started scheduling the tweets and blogs posts to go out in a timely manner next week because no one person has time to be tweeting and blogging all day, every day for a week, right? So we used Twuffer to schedule our tweets to go out 2-3 a day for a week at 10:00 am, noon, and 2pm. “Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets, and schedule their release.” We have 14 scheduled so far, and I had my work study student set all this up.

For the blog posts, we are using our WordPress blog, so there’s a feature in there to schedule blog posts. Just cut & paste the content from the shared doc into a blog post, add the appropriate title, tags, and categories and then choose the day and time you want it to go out. We’ll be posting blogs every day at 9:00am and noon if we get enough posts. That’s a hint if anyone from the steering team is reading.

Finally for an added bonus, WordPress gives you the opportunity to automatically tweet out your blog post every time you post. So what that means is when the blog posts go out an additional tweet gets sent too. The tweet automatically sends the Title of the post and a link for people to read it. I had to go in and add the hashtag for open ed week, so those tweets will be a part of our arsenal next week too. Below is an example of what auto tweets from a blog look like. This is from our Write6x6 blog posting to our CTLE twitter account. Our WordPress stats show that many people click through from Twitter to read our blog. That’s because of these auto tweets.

Tweet from Blog

So we’re all set for Open Ed Week next week. If you want to follow us or all the tweets about open education week, click through to Twitter by clicking the links in the previous sentence. Or maybe you can think of a way to set something up like this for your students to tweet and blog together about a special topic in your class.

23
Feb

How Do You Rank in Terms of the Top Ranking Capabilities of Successful Graduates?

successLast Friday, February 19, from 8:30 am to 11:30 am, I attended a presentation/workshop with Dr. Geoff Scott from Western Sydney University. I wasn’t given much information about the presentation other than I was invited along with the other Center for Teaching & Learning Directors, Instructional Designers, and Faculty Professional Growth Directors in the district. In fact, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Who wants to spend a Friday listening to someone talk about assessment. Not this girl. Turns out Dr. Geoff Scott, Emeritus Professor of Higher Education and Sustainability at Western Sydney University and a National Senior Teaching Fellow with the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching is on a fellowship trip visiting colleges and universities across the world. Maricopa was lucky enough to be his only community college stop. His focus was on “Powerful Assessment in Higher Education” and it was quite entertaining. Of course it helps if the presenter has a funny accent and throws out words like bloody, whackit, popo, and mucking around. For example, he told us we have to detoxify the POPOs on our campuses: The pissed on and passed over. I really got a kick out of listening to him and time flew by. Mostly because he was an excellent storyteller. His delivery of the content came alive and was very informative.

The one thing that stood out for me was a list he shared with us that came out of the research they did. They discovered what the top ranking capabilities were successful graduates. The list made me think about my own successes and how my own capabilities contribute to that success. It also made me think about my colleagues that I work with on a daily bases. It reads like a dream list to me, as not everyone is as capable in all 12 areas, but it is something to aspire too. Have a look for yourself. Where do you stack up? How successful are you in your job?

Top ranking capabilities successful graduates in 9 professions

  1. Being able to organize work and manage time effectively
  2. Wanting to produce as good a job as possible
  3. Being able to set and justify priorities
  4. Being able to remain calm under pressure or when things go wrong
  5. Being willing to face and learn from errors and listen openly to feedback
  6. Being able to identify the core issue from a mass of detail in any situation
  7. Being able to work with senior staff without being intimidated
  8. Being willing to take responsibility for projects and how they turn out
  9. Being able to develop and contribute politely to team-based projects
  10. A willingness to persevere when things are not working gout as anticipated
  11. The ability of empathize and work productively with people from a wide range of backgrounds
  12. Being able to develop and use networks of colleagues to help solve key workplace problems
19
Feb

My Professional Development is Important to Me. What About You?

busy-coop

Maybe I should take a Photoshop class.

I’m a busy person. We’re all busy, but being the Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Engagement has really challenged my perception of what is really busy. But no matter how busy I am, one thing is always constant; I always have time for professional development. I’ve participated in pretty much everything Maricopa has offered us. MIL – Done. MET – Done. MSI – Done. Sabbatical – Done. Learning Grant – Done. Multiple times. Summer Projects – Done. Diversity Infusion Program – Done. What ever dollar amount district makes available for us to travel – I spend every dollar. Every year.

Learning is my passion, as I demonstrated in my Ignite GCC talk last semester. It’s just something I can’t turn off. I want to learn new things. Every day! So I always have time for professional development. Which is why I’m so surprised that the CTLE doesn’t attract bigger crowds. Isn’t everyone like me? Doesn’t everyone live for professional development? Unfortunately, no. Faculty are busy. They’re either doing their own thing or just can’t find the time. This is unfortunate indeed because we are awesome if I have to say so myself. 🙂

The CTLE team works hard each week to combat this lack of interest in “our” professional development. We offer rewards for blogging, and then debate about the healthiness of these rewards. We throw big events like Ignite GCC and GCC’s Rockin’ New Year! We offer all the latest trends in education as workshops, and to combat the ever present comment, “I can’t make that time,” we offer the “Have it Your Way” form where faculty and staff can choose their professional development AND when it is offered. Just for you.

So this might sound like I’m about to complain, but I’m not. Yes, I would love to see every single person on this campus come through the CTLE for professional development (actually that would be quite overwhelming), but the reality of this is, that’s not going to happen, no matter what we do to get them here. And I’m okay with that because the people who do come, and who do participate and engage with us, are the most awesome people I’ve ever worked with. They make it all worthwhile knowing that we were able to help fuel their own passion for learning. So I hope you all keep coming.