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.
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.
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.
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 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.
What is SoftChalk Cloud?
This 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.
I own a total of four video cameras, but lately I haven’t used any of them. I’ve fallen victim to the old adage, the best camera is the one you have with you. And that camera just happens to be my cell phone. Clearly my other video cameras are better than my cellphone, so it would seem. I have a Canon Rebel T1i that shoots HD video, a Panasonic HDC-SD5 that shoots 1920×1080 HD, a Flip camera (remember those), and a Contour Roam helmet cam that also shoots in full HD. I have all of these great cameras and I can’t even remember the last time I shot video with any of them. Yet everyday, I shoot video and take pictures. Yep, I use my Samsung Galaxy SIII cellphone. It’s my stand alone camera these days. But it can’t be as good as the full HD I can shoot with the others, right? Wrong. It’s awesome.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 cellphone has a 8 megapixel camera that shoots full 1080p HD video. Many cellphones these days do, so you don’t really need to carry around a “real” camcorder anymore unless you are a “real” movie maker. So as proof of concept, I set out on a mission to create a video advertisement for our upcoming technology conference. My goal was to use only my cellphone and a web app to edit the video. No complicated expensive software allowed. I figured if I could make something useful, why couldn’t our students. They all have cellphones and there’s no cost after that. Here’s what I did… Read more
I presented the following presentation at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, NE this week. My slides and notes are posted below.
Title: Student Engagement in a Changing World * Overall Theme: Student Engagement
I. Introduction: This presentation was designed to demonstrate different ways to engage students using a few technology tools along the way. (Animoto video) + Storytelling: Used to be a track coach, busy all the time, quit, realized I was bored with teaching, students were bored and unmotivated, started using tech to mix it up, went back to school, learned how to do it right, better engage students in their own learning. Student engagement is important in what we as teachers do.
“Students learn more when they are actively involved in their education and have opportunities to think about and apply what they are learning in different settings. Through collaborating with others to solve problems or master challenging content, students develop valuable skills that prepare them to deal with the kinds of situations and problems they will encounter in the workplace, the community, and their personal lives.”
Introduce CCSSE study – purpose.
II. CCSSE Data (Poll Everywhere)
2012 CCSSE Executive Summary (PDF) focuses on the importance of relationships among students, faculty, and staff, and with institutions themselves: how they evolve, the value they add, and the importance of building and sustaining these critical connections. The report offers data about the quality of community college students’ educational experiences and describes how colleges across the country are intentionally making connections with students online, in the classroom, on campus, and beyond.
“Personal connections are the unanticipated success factor — a critical variable that improves the odds of persistence.”
The five benchmarks of effective educational practice in community colleges are active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for learners.
Show key results from active and collaborative learning – Open a poll (“…79% of entering students report that they plan to earn an associate degree, but just _____ of full-time students meet that goal within six years. What percentage met this goal?) Answers: 35%, 45%, 55%, 75% <–PollEverywhere/ View our results and then the CCSSE results for A and C learning.
One more area possibly – Student/Faculty Interaction – another poll question – Transition -relate to student engagement
III. Student Engagement– occurs when “students make a psychological investment in learning. Read more