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Tuesday is for On Campus Teaching

I have a hybrid learning community class on Tuesdays. Yes, you read that right. It’s a learning community with ENG102 and CRE101, and my class is hybrid (Tuesday only). The class meets without me on Thursdays for Critical Reading.  So I’m in class from 10-12:45pm on Tuesday. First for my own class, and then for Cindy Ortega’s CRE101 class. I haven’t team taught in many years, although it’s a stretch to call it team teaching. It’s really more collaborative teaching, but it’s working really well. It takes a lot of time to get the coordination down and to see the connections in both classes, but it’s helping to sit in on both classes. I feel like I’m being schooled with all the active learning techniques Cindy whips out each day. You’d be surprised, or not, at how close the two classes are aligned. I’m surprised we don’t have more learning communities like this one.

Cindy and I have scheduled collaboration sessions on Thursdays, but we’ve been doing a little extra touching base on Tuesday mornings before class. I have an office hour from 9-10am, and as anticipated, I don’t get many student visitors (0 so far), so this time doesn’t go to waste. We went over some things for class, and I created a Pop Quiz in Canvas. I wanted to see if the students were doing their scheduled online class activities. Days like Tuesday are easy for accountability. 9-10am office hour, 10-12:45pm in class, and 1-2pm I’m in the Writing Center helping students with writing assignments if they don’t stand me up. I’m still there even when they don’t show up or sign up, which was the case on this Tuesday. By the time I make my way back to my office, check in with a few people, it’s 3pm, and my 6 hours of accountability are fulfilled.

You don’t think I went home do you? Of course not! The people I work with like to talk. I swear I spent an hour trying to convince a colleague that it probably wasn’t appropriate for me to go to the national TESOL conference, especially since I didn’t even know what TESOL stood for. I have to say it was a good sell, but I declined. Since my Monday schedule was off, I still had to make up the two podcasts for my online courses. I whipped out the Week 3 Weekly Podcast for my ENG102 course with a few brief interruptions, mostly people standing in my door with surprised looks on their face, followed by “You’re here. What are you doing here?” Hey! I work here. Well, I’m trying. And I can take a hint.

At 5pm I decided it was time to go home, as I appeared to be “the last man standing.” And it seemed like an appropriate time to leave work. Not sure why, but Tuesday was a cool “8 hours of accountability” none the less. I’ve got an overage of 3.5 hours. I wonder if there is any way to cash in on that on, say Friday. Hmmm….

Read More in this Series


Crazy Mondays – Project 6 Hours Accountability

The first two weeks of the semester are just crazy, and there is no way I want to write down all that I do to make my courses successful during that time. It’s just too much work. So week 3 seems more like a better place to start to give people a picture of what it is like to teach online in Maricopa. I like to think of my Mondays as online days. I don’t want to be bothered with meetings on campus or any other work related stuff that doesn’t directly link to my teaching. If I had my way, I’d stay home all day and work in my pajamas on Mondays, but I don’t have my way. So here’s the run down for Monday of Week 3.

At 8:30am, I logged onto Canvas on my home PC and started grading my ENG102 online assignments. They had two assignments due on Sunday by midnight. One was an assignment uploaded to Canvas; the second was an assignment completed in Diigo. I worked for 2.5 hours grading those assignments. The Diigo assignment takes more time because it’s not a traditional assignment. I have to check 10 bookmarked links per student. This is a double class (2 online in one) with 42 students. I was able to finish grading both assignments in 2.5 hours only because not all of the students did both assignments. During this process, in Canvas, I can send out messages to students who didn’t complete the assignment, reminding them that they can still do it for 10% off. I try to make these messages sound encouraging – “You can do it. Don’t give up.”

I also answered emails and a few text messages during this time. This is the hardest part to keep track of. Well, actually Google (Gmail/Voice) does a great job of keeping track of all the emails and texts I get from students, but for me to actually put a time on what I spend responding, that’s difficult. I’m going to go with a straight 1 minute per text, and students never send just one. There’s always follow up, and of course, I don’t want to be rude, so I always respond back with “You’re welcome” after they’ve thank me for being so accessible.

Moving on the the afternoon. I had a 12pm Hiring Committee Meeting on campus, so I sat around and reviewed internal applicants for the technology training position on campus until 1:45pm. While doing that, I answered two emails and 1 text message from students. We shall call this double accountability.

My normal Monday morning usually includes creating Weekly Podcasts for all 4 online courses, so I spent from 2-5pm doing that in my office at school. Since I was at school, I used my iMac to create video podcasts for ENG102/CRE101 hybrid and ENH295 online using iMovie. I will have to do my ENG101 and ENG102 online classes tomorrow morning, as I ran out of time. Campus is a ghost town after 5pm.

So let’s talk about why it takes my 3 hours to create to video podcasts that are between 5-8 minutes long. At home I could probably do it in 2 hours, but here, well my door is open, and people come in. It’s very social at work, so I’m interrupted several times during my process, and it takes time to get back into the editing flow. I don’t mind, but it takes time. If my job paid me for my time to do my job, I’m sure I’d be required to close my door and shut the world out so I can work. Also the network on campus is slow. The time it takes to upload a video to YouTube seems like it’s double.

Monday: 7.5 hours of accountability

Read more in the series:  Project 6 Hours Accountability – New Blog Series


Project 6 Hours Accountability – New Blog Series

There’s been a lot of talk in the district recently about faculty accountability, especially on my campus (GCC).  Some of the talk is positive, and some could be construed as negative. There is the belief that with the change in the way we deliver instruction that our hours of accountability might also change to meet the needs of our new teaching and/or delivery method. On the other hand, some interpret 6 hours as 6 hours of face time on campus, preferably in the classroom and your office. So at GCC we formed the new Faculty Roles & Responsibilities Committee to discuss issues of  equitable faculty committee assignments, hours of accountability, and office hours that reflect the needs of our students.  In the most recent meeting the committee tried to clarify faculty adherence to the Residential Faculty Policies (RFP). I’ve been in the district for 13 years and I’d never even read the RFP, so I didn’t have much of an opinion at first. But after I started looking at the way I teach and work within Maricopa, I could see how people might not see how I meet my hours of accountability. I decided to spend this semester exploring “6 Hours Accountability” from the view point of a fulltime online/hybrid instructor.

To start, I read section 5.4. Accountability/Professional Responsibilities in our RFP. Riveting stuff. It begins:

Instructional Residential Faculty members are required to meet the thirty (30) hours of professional responsibilities per week.

  • to meet all classes as scheduled;
  • to hold a minimum of five (5) scheduled academic support hours reflective of instructors’ teaching schedules; and
  • to participate in department, division, college, and/or district activities as defined in Section 1.2.20.;

First, where does 6 hours a day even come from? Someone for sure made that up. I think the RFP is easy enough to understand. Meet all classes as scheduled does not designate a location, so an online class is online 24/7. If I go online and teach my class on a daily basis, I’m covered there. I’m sure “daily” will come up at some point, but for now it’s a skip. Holding a minimum of five scheduled academic support hours seems easy enough, but it’s the next part where people have had trouble: reflective of instructors’ teaching schedules. So if I teach online, that should mean I can hold online office hours or if you teach a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, your office hours should be on MWF. That’s how I read that. But then this statement is added:  “All faculty shall meet their hours of accountability/professional responsibilities within the parameters of the day program as defined in Section 1.2.3. unless initially hired under different circumstances or amended by mutual consent.” This means that all office hours and other activities should be done during the day; I presume 8-5pm. That really doesn’t apply for all faculty, although I do hold online office hours in the morning and at night. Should we ignore the fact that many of our students work during the day after class and study at night?

The last part is my favorite. Maricopa is a big district, and why should we limit ourselves to just one campus when we can be involved anywhere in the district. Hey, the RFP supports that: participate in department, division, college, and/or district activities. So who’s job is it to keep track of everyone? The person assigned to me would have to request of weekly agenda or follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty sure that’s what my Department Chair does.

This spring 2012 I really want to explore this notion of “6 hours of accountability” in Maricopa. I’ve been lucky that my Department Chair respects the faculty in her department enough to let us do our jobs and not lay her interpretation of the RFP down with expectations of what she thinks we should be doing. She expects that we will do our jobs and honor the RFP, and most of us do. Hey, I can’t vouch for everyone. The blog posts in this series (Category: 6 Hours) will demonstrate not only how teaching has changed, but how our responsibilities to our students and our campus have also changed. And most importantly these post will reflect how this new approach to teaching may not fit in with what some people are used to in their interpretation of the RFP.


Black Out: Writing about Real Issues in Composition Courses

This post was initially posted on the Glendale Community College Blog on January 18, 2012.

In the ENG102: Freshman Composition courses I teach, I require students to write argumentative essays on topics about personal freedoms. I do this because I find it a perfect opportunity to not only teach the competencies of researching and writing arguments, but also because it gives students an opportunity to learn more about issues that affect this country and them personally. So many students live in a bubble of apathy, concerned only about the little things. This often shows up in my classes when it’s time to choose an issue to write about. But I want them to think bigger. So I’m writing this message to my students and all students currently in writing courses.

There is so much going on in this country right now. Today. Stuff that will affect every one of us, yet most Americans are ambivalent or apathetic to the world around them. We often wonder how some of these controversial laws were passed in the first place or we complain about the current government. I always ask, “Did you vote?” “Did you read the propositions before you voted on them?” It’s scary how many have not done either, and you, my students, are the biggest offenders. Two years from now, or even sooner, you’ll all be complaining about censorship of the internet because it will have changed, and the internet won’t function the way it does today. It will suck, and you will hate it. But today when you could have made a difference in the decision, you didn’t even know about it. Or tomorrow, you may be detained, interrogated and prosecuted all without a trial – effectively stripping away your right of habeas corpus. And again, your personal rights were stripped away without your knowledge or even a chance to react.

Could you have made a difference then? Can you make a difference now? Who knows, but at least trying gives us hope, makes us aware, and gives us the power of the people. And that is what education is about, giving students the opportunity to learn about the world we live in, but also how to be a participant in this world, in our country. For Freshman Composition, this is why we learn to write, so we can have a voice. Once you graduate, you’re never going to be asked to write a comparison/contrast essay again, but you’ll have plenty of opportunities to write your representatives to argue your position on a new bill. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to write an argumentative blog post, like this one, to share with others the injustices of the current legislation or a proposed bill. Writing, and writing well, gives us a voice.

So instead of wanting to research and argue trite issues like abortion or the death penalty, wake up and pay attention to what’s going on right now. The National Defense Authorization Act passed recently by President Obama puts a damper on your precious civil liberties. Do you care?  How about SOPA? The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) could effectively change the way the internet works today. People on the internet are reacting. What do you have to say about it? Sounds like a great ENG102 research argument paper to me. By the way, don’t bother searching Wikipedia for information on any of these topics because today, in protest to SOPA, Wikipedia and other internet sites have gone BLACK. Check out the screencapture from Wikipedia for today (Jan. 18th and again on Jan. 23 Only). Find out why.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Followup on the Texting Students Question

While answering a tech question earlier in the week, I discovered an existing app on my Android phone that allows me to send one text message to a group of people, students in this case. You can read, Tech Question of the Week: Group Texting here. The app was Go SMS Pro. We ran into a slight problem in the testing phase. The new question now is “how do I send a message “from” my Google Voice number in Go SMS. I never considered this because I’m always replying back to students. I never initiate the text, and there is no issue with that. So before I answer that question, first a bit more information about Go SMS and Google Voice. Essentially the way Go SMS works is you use it in place of your stock sms program, and it will handle any and all sms/mms messages coming into your phone. It will take messages from your regular cell phone number and from your Google Voice number and put them in the Go SMS program. When you send a message out from Go SMS, it uses the numbers you have in your existing address book and sends from your regular cell phone number. There is no obvious way to send it from a Google Voice number. However, the way that Google Voice works actually eliminates this problem. Here’s an explanation from Whitson Gordon at Lifehacker.

The number from which you received that text is the number through which Google Voice routes communication with that contact. We’ll call it their “alternate number”. If you text this number back, they’ll receive that text on their phone—and it will have come from your Google Voice number instead of your phone’s number. Add that number to your contacts as “Mobile 2” (or something similar) for that person. That way, when they send a text to your [Google] Voice number, you’ll be able to see that it’s from them, and not from some number you don’t know.

So what that means is that the way Google Voice works is it creates a new 406 or 976 number for everyone who calls or texts you (I’ve actually seen other numbers used as well). This 406 or 976 number replaces their real phone number. So if I text you a message to your GV number. Pretend my cellphone number is 1-(555) 123-4567. When GV forwards the text to your cellphone, it will seem as if it is coming from 1-(406) 123-4567 or 1-(976) 123-4567. This 406 (or) 976 number will be linked to my phone number 1-(555) 123-4567. So each time you call or text that number (from a cellphone attached to your GV), it will show as if the call is coming from your GV number.

Walla! There’s the answer. Okay, it’s not that easy, but what that means is you have to have ALL your students text your first before you can add them to a group and send a group text message to them. That really sucks, but it’s not impossible. It’s actually a good way to allow students to opt into receiving text messages from you. Here’s what you can do. Email or print out a message to all of your students telling them to opt into receiving text messages by sending you a text to (602) XXX-XXXX (Your GV number). Tell them to text something like: “Add Angela Jones to text reminders please” or just their name would work.  Then go into Google Voice online and add all of the new text messages to your contacts list, and create a group at the same time. This is very easy to do on the website. Make sure you add the GV number and not their real number, as you will be able to see both. You will be able to tell which is which because the GV number will be a weird combination or the 403 or 976.

So there you go. This would work great in a face to face class because you can have them all text you right there at the same time, and all those messages will be grouped together in your inbox when you go to add them. And I highly recommend adding names to the numbers in your contacts. I didn’t do that this semester it’s hard getting texts from students when you don’t know who it is. I’ll never skip that step again.


To Tablet or Not to Tablet


So I broke down and bought another tablet a few weeks ago. This time I opted for the Android version and bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab. I’d always thought the 10.1 inch was pretty sleek and sexy, but it just seemed too big. The 7 inch was just too small, but when the 8.9 version came out, I was sold. So far I’m pretty happy with my purchase.

Now I learned from my first foray into tablet land that this was not going to be a work device. It’s just way too difficult to do anything work related on this thing. For instance, I’m typing this post on the Tab right now. Even though I have Swype, it’s still difficult to type quickly. It’s kind of frustrating. I’m party sure I can type faster on my Thunderbolt. In fact, I find myself abandoning the Tab in lieu of the Thunderbolt to answer a quick email. Then back to the Tab for what I bought it for.

So what do I do on this thing? Lots! Mostly I check up on social media sites. The widgets on this thing are good for that. I also like to read my RSS feeds. I have several apps for that. You can see my favorites in the photo above. I have all my Kindle books synced with the Tab, so I often read books on it. But I really prefer reading on the actual Kindle. No tablet will ever replace the Kindle. I’m not much of a TV or movie watcher but HD video looks great on this thing. I’ve been watching more Netfix and Amazon Prime movies. I’ve even delved into the realm of torrents. As you can see, this is pretty much a media consumption device. Other than taking a few screen capture shots, I really don’t use it to take pictures or movies. I might try it at some point, but for now I’ll just stick with what I’m presently doing. It works for me.


Is It a Degree or an Education That You Seek?

I originally posted this on the Glendale Community College blog, but I thought I’d share it here on my own blog.

It’s been a long time since I was in undergrad, so maybe I’m a little out of touch with the reality of today and today’s college students. Today is a technological world and times are tough. People work hard to make ends meet, and many people return to college seeking better opportunities and a chance to get ahead. Others rush to college to update outdated technology skills to better compete with the new net generation. In a competitive job market where the college educated and tech literate are winning the jobs over the less educated and tech savvy, I understand the rush back to college. I get that. But I’m not sure if all students understand why exactly they are here. When I ask my students why they are in college, I rarely here a response like, “I want to learn about space,” or “I’m really interested in improving my writing skills.” I know. Who says that? Everyone wants “to get a good job,” “make good money,” “get enough credits to get to ASU, NAU or U of A,” and “get a degree.” That’s great! Those are all worthy goals, but there’s something missing for me. Don’t students want to learn anything? Don’t they want to be educated?

Earning a degree doesn’t guarantee anyone anything. Trust me, in this economy I know plenty of degreed individuals seeking meaningful employment. These people have years of experience in the workforce and yet employment somehow escapes them. Maurice Johnson is homeless with 2 master’s degrees (VIDEO). Is earning a degree enough today? No, it’s probably not, but it is a good start. But that shouldn’t be the only goal. Along with that degree students have to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with often better educated, better experienced, and more seasoned individuals who are now willing to take less pay just to have a job. The key to success for students today is knowing what skills employers are looking for. Degree? Check. Educated? Check. Skilled? Check.

So what does it mean to be educated? Here is a list of the top 3 skills employers are looking for and how students in college today can learn these skills. “The one skill most often sought by employers is the ability to communicate well – to listen, write, and speak effectively” (Barnes, 2009). It’s interesting to me how many students sit in the back of the room and don’t participate in class discussions unless called upon. What faculty are trying to teach students is that by participating in class discussions, students can practice those much needed communication skills. So speak up and show those teachers that listening and speaking effectively are important to you. Don’t hide in the back of the room. Come to class prepared and participate. That is part of the education we are trying to teach.

Another sought after skill is the ability to work with others in a professional manner while achieving a common goal. This skill has become increasingly important in today’s work environment, yet in the classroom before I can get the two words (group project) out of my mouth, there are groans from my students. Very few want to work in a group. The complaints are numerous. I tell my students they should be thankful if they end up with a “dud” in their group. Think of all the valuable experience one can gain in overcoming all the obstacles. Working with people is often going to be difficult in many different situations, including the work place, so learning how to deal with those difficulties and still accomplish the goal is valuable. Sometimes all it takes is someone stepping up and taking the lead even if it might mean taking on a bit more of the workload. Be that leader.

The last skill, not to imply there are not many more necessary, is “the ability to find solutions to problems using creativity, reasoning, past experiences, available information and resources.” Demonstrating good problem solving skills can indicate how well you will lead when you are put in charge. So all those excuses about why that essay didn’t get submitted on time only demonstrates to your professor that you lack problem solving skills or initiative to get started in a timely fashion. We’ll save the latter for another time. Instead of excuses, try solutions. Be creative. Faculty have even been known to learn something from students who have taken the initiative to solve problems in the classroom. And it’s much more pleasurable to listen to creative ideas than excuses all day.

The choice is yours. Are you just seeking a degree or do you really want to be educated, to learn what it takes to be successful in today’s world? What your teachers are trying to teach you in those college courses goes beyond the subject matter of the class, which is important. But being educated doesn’t mean just answering all the questions correctly on the test. Being educated is “a demonstrated ability to listen carefully, to think critically, to evaluate facts rigorously, to reason analytically, to imagine creatively, to articulate interesting questions, to explore alternative viewpoints, to maintain intellectual curiosity and to speak and write persuasively. If we add to that a reasonable familiarity with the treasures of history, literature, theater, music, dance and art that previous civilizations have delivered, we are getting to [sic] close to the meaning of educated” (Denning, 2011). And I’ll leave you with that.


Tech Question of the Week: Group Texting

Not a day goes by that someone isn’t asking me some kind of tech question. Often I just get these random text messages from students, friends or colleagues. This week’s tech question comes via random text. Because I use Google Voice, often the texter is unidentified, so my usual response to random anonymous texts is first, “Who is this?” What’s funny about this question asker is before I could text my usual response, she realized her anonymity and quickly sent another text identifying herself. It made me laugh, so I was eager to help.

So here’s the question:

Now, I’ve gotten this question before, so I knew that Google Voice only permits you to send text messages to 5 people at a time. I had originally hoped that I could create groups in GVoice and then send text messages to that group, but that is not the case. Bummer. Google should really consider this, as there aren’t many options out there for this feature.

My next thought was to suggest one of the many new group texting apps that hit the market this year, GroupMe and FastSociety being my two favorites. But the problem with “group texting” is that their sole purpose is to be a mechanism for groups to communicate with each other. In the case of Terry’s question, she simply wants to send a message to all of her students. She doesn’t want to create a conversation amongst them via texting. That could result in a lot of unwanted text messages going back and forth between 20+ students. She just wants one way distribution, and if students want to reply, they can only do so back to her, not the whole class.

In order to do this, I had to search the web for a good alternative to the existing text messaging program on her cell phone. Luckily Terry has a shiny new Android phone, so this will be an Android only solution, but I’m sure there are apps for the iPhone that do the same thing. After my search I was surprised to find that the program I already have installed on my HTC Thunderbolt does exactly what Terry needs, and I didn’t even know it. Yep, Go SMS Pro (Download from Android Market) lets you send text messages to groups of people in your address book. And the best part is it uses your existing groups that you have set up in your Gmail contacts. It basically does what Google Voice should do.

Go SMS Pro works well with your existing messaging program on your phone, and it has a much nicer look and feel. There are lots of add on and features (that I didn’t even know about) to help you improve your texting productivity. To make GO SMS Pro your default messaging program and avoid receiving two notifications when a message comes in, open your stock SMS or other SMS app in Settings, disable the Notifications, and in GO SMS Pro’s Settings and verify that the Notifications option is enabled.

Some other cool features that I’m just now learning about are scheduled messages: Allows you to set a future point in time, and then send a text to single or multiple contacts. A ring tone appears when sent successfully. This is a nice feature. This app is definitely worth giving a try even if you’re not interested in sending text messages to groups. You’ll like the look and feel, and you’ll be able to so so much more with texting.



Late Night Post

Posting from my Android phone tonight after a day full of emerging technology and department partying. A day full of colleagues and talking shop. Loved it. Good thing I get to do it again tomorrow. This is what is great about Maricopa.


Tips for Creating Audio for Multimedia Projects

I’ve been assigning multimedia projects for students for years, and I’m always pleasantly surprised with what my students give me. With absolutely no training, they have managed to present some pretty exciting projects that include audio, video, photos and various other types of media. They have used wikis, blogs, webpages, Google Sites and even Web 2.0 tools to display their masterpieces. And I’ve provided little to no training, just suggestions for tools to use. I’m rarely disappointed.
This semester, however, I thought I’d raise the bar a little and provide a little training in the form of short videos introducing a tool and briefly showing them how to use it. I’m curious to see if more students will choose to use the tools and thus produce even better multimedia projects. Well, we’ll see. Projects are due on Sunday. Below is one of the short videos I created for them to introduce using audio in their projects. I introduce Audacity, AudioPal, AudioBoo and iPadio.


Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.

More Audio Podcasting Tools

  • AudioBoo is a mobile & web platform that effortlessly allows you to record and upload audio for your students or the rest of the world to hear.
  • ipadio allows you to broadcast from any phone to the Internet live.  Phone blog, collect audio data, record and update the world, or simply let your mates know what you’re doing – ipadio is integrated with Social Media & Blogging platforms.
  • AudioPal: anyone with a personal website or blog can easily add audio to their site. Engage your visitors by creating an instantly interactive website using AudioPal. Just create your message and embed your flash audio player.