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24
Sep

Summer Project 2013 Final Report: Developing My Personal Learning Nework (PLN)

PLN2My project involved establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for myself and faculty on our campus. It involved establishing an online presence and building a community on various social media sites for myself and our CTLE. I researched blogs, organizations and professionals to include in this community, as well as produced content for our blog covering the best pedagogical practices in online teaching. The goal of the PLN was to get faculty to connect, collaborate and contribute so that we can become aware, connected, empowered, and confident learners. I spent time researching and learning about creating a successful PLN and how to get others involved. I attended a national conference, researched and read to help me produce PLN content and connections.

A description of your experience and the achievement of expected learning outcomes of the project.

I now have a better understanding of the effective uses of discussion in online courses, strategies for preparing students for effective and productive discussion, ground rules that help make students feel sufficiently safe to participate in discussion, and how to structure discussion to help achieve learning goals after attending a pre-conference workshop at the Teaching Professor conference in May. After I returned from the conference, I was able to immediately improve my online summer course to include better student to student interactions as prescribed by the best practices presented at the workshop. I picked up lots of best practices, not just in the pre-conference workshop, but in many of the sessions as well. Students in my summer online class expressed appreciation for the new, small group led discussions.

For the PLN part of my project, I was able to create a list of possible content for our blog, which is the hub of our PLN and the mechanism for sharing with other faculty within the network for these best practices for teaching online. I was able to research and find free Twitter curation tools to enhance the PLN. I also learned more about hashtags and how to get more out of your PLN using Twitter and hashtags. I wasn’t able to work closely with our CTLE, but the completion of the project resulted in some good professional development activities, not just for me, but for all faculty on our campus. I created content for workshops on building online lessons with numerous online lesson creation tools. I’ve presented on that twice so far this fall. And I’m putting the final touches on a workshop on How to Get More Out of Your PLN. So I was able to improve our workshop offerings for faculty to include information learned at the conference, as well as during the development of the PLN.

Describe your professional growth. Read moreRead more

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.

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24
Aug

CTLEAZ Diigo Group is Newest Edition to Our PLN

diigo PLNFor my summer project this summer, my goal was to develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for our campus. We already had social media on our campus: Twitter, Google+ and a WordPress blog; however, these tools were not being used effectively, not in the manner I knew they could be. So I worked on connecting some elements and creating new ways to connect and share. This Diigo group is part of my project.

So, what’s a Diigo group? First, Diigo is a social bookmarking site. Don’t worry, it’s nothing like Facebook or Twitter. Social bookmarking is a method for Internet users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online. It’s just like what most of us do everyday when we come across an interesting article or helpful instructions on the web. We bookmark it in our browser and save it for later. The difference with social bookmarking is that when you save something, you save it on the web, and you can then access it from anywhere and share it with others. You can also highlight, tag, comment and reshare it. I do a lot of reading on the internet. I read blogs on teaching and learning and teaching with technology; I read tweets on Twitter, posts on Google+. There is a plethora of useful information out there. Most of it I feel is relevant for other teachers like me, so I save it to Diigo, comment on it, and share it with my friends.

So I created a group on Diigo, one of the most popular social bookmarking sites, to start sharing resources with you. However, social bookmarking works much better if we have a community of readers and bookmarkers. Med Kharbach, author of Educational Technology and Mobile Learning said, “Social bookmarkers depend on the power of their community members to elaborate and expand on what they have bookmarked through commenting, tagging, highlighting, and sharing. It is a reciprocal process in which you share bookmarks with your colleagues and they interact with what you have bookmarked by, for instance adding comments…” (Social Bookmarking Explained for Teachers). If you’re intrigued, click the link (CTLEAZ Diigo Group) and take a look. If you see something interesting, read the article and make a comment. If you find the information valuable, join the group and let the bookmarks come to you. And don’t forget to reciprocate and share some great stuff with us.

Read: 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking

28
Apr

MIL Research Project: Social Bookmarking/Diigo Discussions

The following post is part of my MIL research project and is the third of four posts that describe the asynchronous discussion assignments I used in the study: peer review/small group discussion, medium group discussion with very directive  guidelines, social bookmarking with Diigo discussions, and multimedia discussion forums. 

Giving that the ENG102 course is research based, having students collaboration and share in the research process is invaluable. This is easily done with the help of social media sites like Diigo or Delicious. Diigo is a social bookmarking web service that not only allows for one to save and share bookmarked websites, but also to highlight, take notes, grab images and write comments on said web sites and save them all with tags and categories for easy access via any web browser anywhere one has internet access. It’s a great tool for doing research. With Diigo research doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. In this case, students are beginning the research process with a pre-research activity where the goal is to discover possible topics for an argumentative essay that fits the class theme of personal freedoms. Most students at this point don’t have an idea about what to write about, so not only are they exploring for themselves, but all of their ideas are saved and shared with the whole class.

The instructor can set up a group in Diigo which provides the class with a single URL to access the group bookmarks and discussions. It also permits the instructor to limit participation to only students in the class. Students can be invited to the group via email or they can sign up individually at the group page. For the assignment, students are instructed to save 10 websites with personal freedoms themes, tag the sites with our class tag (personal+freedoms or “personal freedoms”) as well as other relevant tags, and then write a 2-3 sentence summary of what the web site is about and why it could be valuable for someone who chooses this topic. This assignment is easily converted into an asynchronous discussion assignment by additionally requiring students to read back through the group’s bookmark list and comments and then comment on bookmarks that look interesting to them. Students can also “like” saved bookmarks that they think are best suited for the class by clicking a thumbs up symbol next to each bookmark. The compiled list of bookmarks gives the students a starting place for exploring possible paper topics and a place to discuss those topics.

The first image below shows what the Diigo group list looks like with student bookmarks, comments, likes and tags. Read moreRead more

23
Apr

MIL Research Project: Medium Group Discussions – Prompt and Group Size Matters

The following post is part of my MIL research project and is the second of four posts that describe the asynchronous discussion assignments I used in the study: peer review/small group discussion, medium group discussion with very directive  guidelines, social bookmarking with Diigo discussions, and multimedia discussion forums. 

Successful discussion is all in the discussion prompt and size of the group. It’s pretty much a given that whole class discussion for classes with more than 20 students are not that effective because of the volume of content 20+ students can create, so dividing the class in half or in medium sized (5-10) groups can be beneficial and better for discussion. If students are overwhelmed with the volume of posts to read and respond to, often they opt out completely or try to participate partially. This means that they aren’t reading all the posts and thus not truly participating in the discussion. This is understandable; therefore, it’s best to create a discussion that minimizes the quantity of posts to allow students to be able to thoroughly read and participate in a discussion. Most LMS’s permit instructors to set up multiple discussions and assign students to select ones. If not, instructors can still set up multiple and instruct students as to which they are to participate. A helpful tip here is to set the options to “students must reply before seeing comments.” This prevents students from one group from reading and copying content from other groups they are not members of.

The number of participants in a discussion is not the only factor in its success. The questions or topics you have students discuss also play a factor. Discussion prompts are the written “springboard” from which online discussions are launched and are essential to encourage shared understanding (Du, Zhang, Olinzock, & Adams, 2008). Taking into consideration your purpose for the discussion, let that drive your discussion prompt. “Explicitly described and well-structured prompts support the students to interact and co-construct higher order knowledge” (Pedagogical Repository). For instance, in my ENG102 class, students are writing argumentative essays, so they are learning how to address opposing views and counter arguments in their papers. To help with this process, I have students participate in a discussion where each student is asked to present an argument that supports the thesis of the paper they are writing and briefly explain it to the group. Other students in the group are then instructed to provide a possible opposing view to that argument. Again they are asked to briefly explain the opposing view. And as a follow up each student who posted an original argument must now offer a counter argument to the opposing view that was posted in response to their argument. This gets students thinking about possible opposing view that they may not have thought of, but it also gives them the opportunity to test their counter argument skills. The discussion can end there or students can be instructed to provide feedback on whether they feel the counter argument was effective or whether or not it was presented correctly (accommodate or refute). It becomes a learning opportunity as well as another opportunity for students to provide feedback and connect with one another.

There are many alternatives to the usual whole class discussions that ask students to comment on readings in general. More focused and directive discussion prompts will get a better response from students. In her study, Nancy Bryant stated one of her biggest insights as, “The format and topic of the prompts influenced the amount of internalization for the students, as well as impacting the amount of self-directed research the students were willing to initiate. When the student had some control over their topic and format, their participation and quality of posts increased. The students asked more questions of one another and also generated more quality responses” (Brunsell). Check out the article for more common themes related to asynchronous discussion.

Related Posts: MIL Research Project: Peer Review & Asynchronous Discussion

22
Apr

MIL Research Project: Peer Review & Asynchronous Discussion

The following post is part of my MIL research project and is the first of four posts that describe the asynchronous discussion assignments I used in the study: peer review/small group discussion, medium group discussion with very directive  guidelines, social bookmarking with Diigo discussions, and multimedia discussion forums. 

peerreviewMost people don’t think of peer reviews of student essays as discussion, and if you stop at the step where students provide feedback to each other on the written work, then yes, there’s not much discussion going on there. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn peer review into a meaningful asynchronous discussion activity. Here’s how I run peer reviews in my ENG102 class. First I create groups of 3-4 students. Then I set up the questions that I want for students to answer during the peer review process. Giving students specific things to comment on helps them stay focused and makes it easier for them to provide meaningful feedback. The questions usually stem from the rubric that was provided to students during the writing process. My thought is that if students composed their essays under certain guidelines, providing feedback based on those guidelines could be helpful. So for example, the rubric points out that 10 points are awarded for a strong thesis statement that either takes a position or proposes a solution to a problem. During the peer review process, I ask students to review the essays of the students in their group and answer the provided questions. One question instructs students to highlight what they think is the thesis, identify it as either a position or proposal statement, and then weigh in on whether the thesis is a strong thesis or not. During the writing phase, students are tasked with writing a strong thesis, so this feedback they receive from peers is valuable.

Once each student has participated in this phase of the peer review, they are instructed to move over to Piazza for a small group discussion on the peer review process. This discussion is open ended with no specific guidelines about what needs to take place. The instructions simply ask students to continue the discussion from the peer review by providing further commentary on the overall work that each student did for the essay assignment. Comments in this phase of the asynchronous discussion activity are the ones I found most enlightening. Many students took this time to thank their group mates for the valuable feedback they provided in the peer review phase. They express their pleasure in participating in such activity, and showed enthusiasm for helping each other. One group was so exciting to start the discussion phase that they started their own group before the instructor had a chance to set it up.

An additional benefit to a discussion like this is the opportunity to build community among students. If students feel like there are others who are willing to read their paper and provide valuable feedback, they often feel obligated to do the same – provide valuable feedback back. But they also grow to like the people in their group forming a bond that carries over to other activities in the class. I often find groups start to ask questions of each other instead of asking the instructor. This is facilitated if you have a good tool to do so, which is why I adopted Piazza to help with Q&A and discussions in my class. Students don’t feel like they are alone in this process after they’ve completed the first peer review/discussion assignment.

Related Posts: MIL Research Project: Medium Group Discussions – Prompt and Group Size Matters

4
Apr

Cell Phone Video & Online Editing – It Works!

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.

blog-wevideoThe 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 moreRead more

29
Mar

Student Engagement in a Changing World (Presentation)

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 moreRead more

25
Mar

Using Google+ for Teaching, Learning & Building Your PLN (CTLE Workshop)

Last week I did a CTLE workshop to try and share the joy of Google+. The workshop was scheduled a day after an email from Chancellor arrived in our inboxes, instructing us to stop using Google Apps. So I think many faculty may have thought that the workshop didn’t apply any longer, but that is not true. First off, G+ is not a Google App, and secondly, many of the things I shared in this workshop related to student-faculty use in the classroom (online or face-to-face). So we’re good with student use as long as you follow FERPA rules. Below is an outline of what I covered in the workshop. There are videos attached, so you can see the tool in action.

When: Wed, March 20, 12pm – 1pm

Where: GCC CTLE HT2-139 (map)

DescriptionGoogle+ is a social media tool built into our Gmail system, but why should you care about it? Come learn how you can use this new tool for teaching and learning, as well as building your Personal Learning Network (PLN). This session will highlight how G+ is used as a live online classroom tool, online office hours, video chat, blogging, content curation, joining communities, and connecting and sharing with colleagues both on a desktop and on a mobile device.

Tools Covered

  • Google Hangouts: Host face to face chat sessions, virtual online meeting, or broadcast live
    • Chat with students online about progress in class
    • Schedule office hours online in a Hangout
    • Broadcast a live class session for students not in class – Tape if for later viewing
    • Share your desktop, Google Docs, YouTube Video
    • Connect with colleagues in your field from around the world
    • Join public Hangouts on Air for topics you’re interesting in
    • Read moreRead more
11
Mar

Summer Project Proposal – Establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN)

plntoolMy project involves establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for myself and faculty on our campus. It involves establishing an online presence and building a community on various social media sites for myself and our CTLE. I will research blogs, organizations and professionals to include in this community, as well as produce content for our blog covering the best pedagogical practices in online teaching. The goal of the PLN is to get faculty “to connect, collaborate and contribute so that we can become aware, connected, empowered, and confident learners.” I will spend time researching and learning about creating a successful PLN and how to get others involved. Attending a national conference, researching and reading will help me produce PLN content and connections.

As an online instructor and eCourses Faculty Lead for my college, the general purpose of my project is to increase my knowledge and the knowledge of our ecourses faculty of the best pedagogical practices in online teaching by establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN). “Personal Learning Networks are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning.” It’s a system of lifelong learning and provides support for learners to manage their learning and to communicate with others in the process of learning. This PLN will be used for professional development and will help myself and other faculty learn from content-area specialists and each other. In order to create this network, I need to improve my skills and knowledge in the process and learn about best practices for creating such networks, as well as learn how to help and motivate others to join the network. The true value of this project is that the learning doesn’t end after the final report is submitted.

My goal Read moreRead more