Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

19
Mar

What’s the Hardest Part About Teaching Students Research?

Grading the final paper? Ha! Just kidding.

Although grading those research papers has been a painful experience in the past, I’ve been on a mission to improve the process for both myself and my students, and lately things have been a lot better. So I’d say the hardest part about teaching students research is getting them to understand what synthesis means and how to do it properly. Research papers for most students means taking pieces of content from others and piecemealing together what they want their paper to say. This type of paper is painful to read and grade. I figured if I could get them to understand how to synthesize to support their own voice, I could probably get some decent papers. So this is what I did.

First, I stopped spending so much time on teaching APA format and asking students to spend time reading text about HOW to do research. My new approach is we are just going to do it. A little at a time. I started by creating a list of lessons to help teach students about research and the research process. These lessons are created using tools like Softchalk and Storyline 360. These tools allow for me to talk to students about these concepts, show examples and then ask quick questions about their understanding. It’s much more engaging. The way these lessons are integrated into the course, it makes students feel as if it’s just another opportunity to hear from the instructor about another piece of the process. A quick snapshot of some of the lessons are displayed here to the right.

The next step was to adopt a technology tool to help students learn APA documentation style without it being a hindrance to the process as a whole. The tool I chose was NoodleTools. I learned about it from one of our awesome librarians, Pamela Gautier, and it’s a tool created by librarians. I needed a tool that was not just a citation generator. I wanted something that could be used to teach students and to help students through the whole research process, thus allowing me to spend more time on teaching synthesis and analysis of sources instead of how to manage a research project.

NoodleTools is an online platform designed to be a one-stop support system for students’ research. It includes a thesis writing feature, research planner / due date reminder, notecard generator, development space (collaborating with GoogleDocs) and, of course, a citation generator.

One of my first assignments for students is to teach them about creating an annotated bibliography to keep track of their sources during the research process. NoodleTools has a lot of resources for students and faculty to help teach many concepts as well as how to use the tool. My focus is more on the purpose for keeping an annotated bibliography and how the annotations are written. NoodleTools helps instruct students on the process and format. For instance, NoodleTools will show students a list of possible source types to choose from (see image). Depending on the citation type selected, a Show Me tutorial may be available to help students evaluate the source. The lessons are differentiated based on which level the student is in: Starter, Junior, or Advanced.

Once students start to fill in the citation form with information about their source, the form provides further support with pop up dialogue boxes. So when a student puts the cursor in the Article Title form field, a pop-up with the follow message appears: “Article title: Capitalize sentence-style (only the first letter of the first word in the title and in the subtitle (if any), as well as the first letter of any proper nouns).” For students learning APA, this is a big change from MLA, which they learned in ENG101. So it doesn’t just format the citation for students. They are learning as they use the tool. After I’ve taught student how to write annotations for the sources, they come back to NoodleTools to add them to each citation, which again is a very easy process for students.

I could set up a dropbox (Inbox) in NoodleTools for students to submit their projects for me to grade in NoodleTools; however, for the annotated bibliography I want for student to see how it is formatted. So I instruct students to Print/Export to Word or Google Docs, and their annotated bibliographies are formatted beautifully. I almost wanted to cry when I got 90% correctly formatted assignments. I was able to spend most of my time grading the content and very little correcting APA formatting mistakes. Students felt less stressed about it too. Here’s an example of what the annotated bibliography looks like exported directly out of NoodleTools. Not perfect, but a good start.

Now for the good stuff. Remember the good old days of physical notecards. We color coded them, stacked them in piles, wrote all over them. Organized them in ways to help write the paper. It was glorious. But I stopped requiring physical notecards for my students 10 years ago when I started teaching online. For obvious reasons, but I truly feel as if it affected my students’ ability to synthesize. I was desperate for a solution, and NoodleTools did the job. In the image to the right you can see some digital notecards that can be color coded and tagged and moved around the virtual desktop. This is really cool, but the best part is teaching students how to create good notecards.

NoodleTools helps immensely with this process. In class we learn basic note taking skills using summary, paraphrase and quotes. Why and how. We also practice annotating sources using Hypothes.is. After they have that down, we learn to make notecards. The process makes it impossible for students to not cite their sources correctly. Well, nearly impossible. Once they click the New Notecard button, a dialogue box appears (see below) that guides students through the process of taking a note. It prompts them to choose a source for the note, and there is a drop down menu of all of their sources (4).

They title the notecard to help with organization, and in box 5 on the left they add in a direct quotation. I can edit the instructions that pop up in each box. For instance, I’ve added to my assignment that students should wrap that direct quote in quotation marks. On the right side is where they put in their paraphrase or summary using their own words. I have students do both so they can choose which to use in the paper later. Lastly they add their own ideas, original thinking in the bottom of box 5. Again I’ve edited the instructions to meet the needs for the assignment.

The next step in the process is to create an outline for the research paper and then have students add notecards to the outline. This helps students organize the notes they plan to include in the paper. It also helps them to visualize how synthesis works. They are adding notes to help support their own arguments, and not just adding notes to make up the paper. So it helps to get students to start with a good outline. We start small with a template (see below) and then fill it in with complete sentences as we continue the process. Students can drag the notecards from the left and drop them right into the outline on the right.

Overall NoodleTools has been a great tool to help teach students the research process, and it’s also been easy for me to keep up with the grading, as students can submit their research projects in a NoodleTools Inbox that I can set up, or they can easily download to Google Drive or Microsoft Word and submit in Canvas. It’s definitely worth checking out.

 

29
Sep

Online Editing Tools – Benefit or Crutch for Students?

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 checker, 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. During my summer project, time was spent using some of these editing tools to discover which make best use for students and studying how these programs work to discover if in fact they are accurate and how accurate they are. Although most of the programs are expensive for students, three stood out as being accurate and useful for students.

I am officially hooked on Grammarly; however, I did cancel my membership after my 3 month trial period. It’s just too expensive to justify even though the service was good. And the free version still offers features that are usable to me and others.

This small project gave me the time and the motivation to dig in and see if any of these tools are useful, which I discovered that they are. I discovered their usefulness for students, and learned how to use them for my own benefit. I spend half my day writing, so this is useful for me too. Doing this project also helped me increase my knowledge of tools in which I can share in my role in the CTLE where I’m responsible for delivering innovative workshops for faculty, so I’ve shared these resources with the English department and colleagues who are constantly asking me about these different tools. I now have a working knowledge of these specific editing tools. It’s been awhile since I’ve research and written anything. As community college faculty the opportunities are not abundant. In fact, the last time I did any research and writing was when I was a MIL fellow. It’s good practice to indulge in scholarly endeavors even if they aren’t as heavy as a dissertation study. It keeps the mind sharp and keeps you current in your field. So for me partaking in this small project was doing that for myself. Read moreRead more

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. 

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.

10
Jan

Converting Files from PDF to Word for Power of Process

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.

toepubThe 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.

27
Mar

Google Docs Just Got Better – Sharing a Post

15 Best Google Drive Add-Ons by Vicki Davis

15 Best Google Drive Add-Ons by Vicki Davis

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.

5
Feb

Why We Chose Connect Composition for Our Digital Solution

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.

28
Oct

Defending Modules in Online and Hybrid Courses

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.

Module 1

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  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 moreRead more

17
Oct

How I Teach with SoftChalk Cloud

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.

slide

What is SoftChalk Cloud?

19
Sep

Basic SoftChalk LessonBuilder Training

softchalk-7This week we hosted a Basic Softchalk training in the CTLE. You can use SoftChalk LessonBuilder to easily create interactive lessons designed to engage your students in your subject. LessonBuilder allows you to quickly turn Word or PowerPoint documents into web pages for your students that include interactive learning games, quick response questions, and pop-up text annotations for definitions–all without being a programmer! It truly is that easy.

MCCCD used to have a district license for Softchalk, but we are in the middle of a process to either re-subscribe or obtain a license for some other lesson builder program. I have no idea what those other options are, so I’m secretly hoping Softchalk won the RFP process and will be back in our hands by Spring. In the mean time, GCC purchased a 50 seat license just for our campus, so we are still up and running in Softchalk Cloud. The rest of the district is limited to just Softchalk 7 and zip files. It’s still a good option.

In the workshop I walked participants through the process of downloading and installing the software, creating a lesson from a Word Document, inserting page breaks and headings, adding an Image, adding a YouTube video, adding audio using the Windows Sound Recorder  (Windows Media Audio format- wma), adding QuizPoppers, choosing Style Properties and exporting to Canvas using zip files (not Cloud version). I created a cheat sheet for the class below.

Read moreRead more