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24
Oct

We’re Still Not Blogging Much on Our Campus

Yep, I said it. I’m calling out GCC and their lack of initiative to get students writing for a real audience. Part of the problem lies with the lack of tools available that are supported by the college, but that’s really just an excuse. I even heard someone say yesterday that now that Blackboard is going away, she won’t be able to have her students blog any more. Well, fear not. Blogs live on, and the fact that they are not bastardized and hidden in a LMS should be liberating. For you, and the blogs. You have free reign to choose the tool that is best suited for your pedagogical need, not what is forced upon you by technology designers who probably have never taught a day in their lives. What the LMS might be pedaling is often something trying to be one tool for every need. We all know how that works out in the end. No one gets what they really need.

But there are blogs galore available for use on the web, and most are free. There are traditional blogs, micro-blogs, and micro-micro-blogs, like Twitter. You’re bound to find something to meet your needs, and all it takes is a little patience to learn the basics. I’ll be doing a workshop next week in the CTLE on Blogs for the Classroom, November 1, 1pm – 3pm in HT2-139. Join me in a discussion about using blogs for teaching and learning. There are many uses for blogs from providing content to providing students with a method to share their thoughts and writing with you and their peers. This will be both an informative and hands on workshop. To sign up go to our web page: http://www.gccaz.edu/CTLE/cal.cfm

To hold you over until then, I created a video to show you how quickly and easily you can set up a blog and start blogging today with Blogger. Blogger is available to us as part of our new Google Apps, so it’s linked to your school Gmail account. Look at all the tools that are just one click away from your email (image above). We have tools for videos, photos, wikis, websites, and blogging to name a few. We actually have two blogging tools available to us through Google, but I’ll just show you one today. Join us on Thursday more.

Setting Up a Blogger Blog for Teaching Using Maricopa Gmail

9
Oct

Benefits of Asynchronous, Direct Communication and Interaction Between Teacher and Student

I’ve been podcasting for years now, and I’ve always found the benefits of doing so in my online and hybrid courses valuable to the success of those courses. When I first started teaching hybrid and online back in 1998, I always thought there was something missing. I missed the ability to “talk” directly to my students, to point out missing points or correct behavior or provide motivation. Podcasting has allowed for me to add that back into my courses. I was just reading a journal article from the British Journal of Educational Technology where Rob Van Zanten, Simon Somogyi and Gina Curro (2010) wrote a paper that:

“explores how students interact with different types of podcasts. The study compares download and course evaluation data of a series of short-summary podcasts with full-lecture podcasts produced for the same university course. The findings show that students value full-lecture podcasts as highly as the short-summary podcasts, despite the fact that full-lecture podcasts are downloaded to a markedly lesser degree.”

This is interesting to me, as I’ve always heard that the most effective use of podcasts were to have short micro-lecture podcast and not full lectures. If you’ve always thought the same, then this article should be of interest to you.

Regardless if you go for the short-summary podcasts or the full lecture podcasts there are many benefits for including them in your courses. I could bore you with text, but why when I can demonstrate the value of a podcast. The following video describes the benefits of podcasting in the classroom.

Yes, a video can also be a podcast depending on how you distribute it. All videos on YouTube have a subscription option turning video channels into podcasts. The benefits of podcasting that I see are a bit different from Doug Saunders’ video from 2009, and I don’t have time to make a video to match his. However, audio podcasts can be just as effective, so I’m going to share a few more benefits below in an audio podcast. Feel free to make this podcast interactive by providing comments in the podcast stream.

Soundcloud, the program I used to create my podcast, provides a service called Timed comments that let your students and/or fans give you valuable feedback at specific moments throughout the podcast. You can pinpoint exactly where to leave a comment and start a conversation around it. Give it a try.

You have to sign up for a Soundcloud account before you can leave comments, but it’s quick and easy to do so.

27
Sep

Lunch & Learn 1: Engaging Students with Mobile Devices

Workshop: Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the CTLE in HT2-139
Lunch and Learn with Dr. Alisa Cooper: Engage Your Students with Mobile Devices. 11:00 am to Noon.

This workshop discussed mobile apps that can be used to engage students in the classroom, although all three web apps demonstrated can be accessed via web browser on a mobile device. Both Socrative and Piazza have native apps for both Android and Apple devices, but GoSoapBox can only be accessed on mobile devices via web browser. This method can actually be easier and quicker for students as they don’t have to download the app first to get started using the program.

During the demonstration we noticed that Socrative was problematic for some users and was overall very sluggish and slow to load pages on the mobile devices. Socrative is currently free and probably still working to polish its product before they move to a paid model. At this point, despite it’s clear usefulness, it may not be ready for prime time. It is worth giving a look at for use in the class however. Just don’t rely too heavily on it just yet. I’ve had trouble every time I use it.

GoSoapBox, a $90 per year paid for applicatoin, worked flawlessly. I guess it’s true. You get what you pay for. They have an alternate pay model where students can pay $10 per year for use instead of the teacher paying $90. Many institution will not find that model permissible at their institutions. For the most part, the features in both apps are similar, with GoSoapBox adding a “confusion barometer” in their app. “The Confusion Barometer allows students to indicate when they’ve become confused with material, or need the teacher to slow down. The teacher sees a graphical representation of the number of students who are confused at any point during class.”

There are some more subtle differences between Socrative and GoSoapBox, but both will do the job to get students engaged in your in-class lectures. I really like the ability to do “Instant Polling” in both applications. This gives you the ability to randomly ask a question verbally during class and have students answer on the device without you setting up the question in the program. You can write the question on the board or just speak it aloud, then give students an option to choose A, B, C or D or a free response answer on their device. This is great for questions that pop up last minute. My favorite feature out of both products is Socrative’s “Exit Tickets”. “Check in on your students’ understanding as they head out the door.” This pre-designed activity is already set up, so you can just instruct students to do it before they leave.

Lastly, I demo’d Piazza, a Q&A system that integrates nicely with Canvas. If you teach a class that could benefit from a place for students to hangout and ask questions and work together, Piazza is your application. Or if you find yourself saying, “if I have to answer that question one more time, I’m going to scream,” then Piazza if for you. Again this application works on a mobile device via app, but even better in a web browser. The mobile device does make it much easier to keep up with all the interaction happening on the site however. My class is not as active this semester, so once I get more use out of it, I’ll have report back about some of my favorite features. Until then take a look at all three applications below and play around with them for yourself. GoSoapBox offers a 30 day free trial and the other two are free (for now).

GoSoapBox: Instant Student Feedback App

The web-based application GoSoapBox allows teachers to gauge student understanding or confusion levels throughout a lesson, poll students and track the data for future reference. It can be used on laptops, tablets and smart phones, which sets it apart from some other clicker/student response systems. $90 per year or $10 per student per year. 30 day free trial.

 

 Socrative: Student Response System

Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. FREE

Piazza: Online Q&A Site for Courses

Piazza is a free online gathering place where students can ask, answer, and explore 24/7, under the guidance of their instructors. With Piazza, easily answer questions, manage course materials, and track student participation. FREE

Additional Information

  • PollEverywhere is another similar application to GoSoapBox and Socrative; however, until recently their pricing model was a bit steep for individual instructors, the number of students permitted to participate was too small, and there wasn’t a mobile option for the instructor, only responses. That has since changed a bit, and I look forward to checking it out again in the future. Check out PollEverywhere’s limited comparison of similar products
18
Sep

I Respectfully Disagree With Your Decision to Deny My Travel Request

The very first conference I ever attended after starting work in Maricopa was the TYCA West conference. 1999 “Climates of Inquiry: Classrooms, Curriculum, Theory, and Assessment.” Park City, Utah; October 14-16. My division chair at the time suggested I go, and practically signed me up for it. I was grateful. I was hooked. Not just with this conference, but going to conferences in general and learning from others who do exactly what I do everyday. It’s refreshing. TYCA-West is a unique conference, and I’ve tried to go as often as possible over the years. It’s a small intimate conference, often garnering less than 50 participants. But it’s always rewarding, and even when I can’t go I try to help out in any way I can. Last year I did a redesign on the website for them and have helped them maintain it with backups and upgrades. It’s just what we do to help support things we believe in.

Well, last week I filled out my travel request forms and submitted all the required documents to the proper people for signatures to attend this year’s TYCA West conference in Salt Lake City. I submitted a proposal to present on hybrid course design and was looking forward to yet another awesome conference. But my excitement was put on hold when my travel request was denied. Yep, denied. Rejected. Fail! There is never enough space to write much of a justification on the form, so I didn’t think much of it and typed out a much longer justification and emailed it to my dean’s secretary addressing his concerns. Much to my surprise, it was denied again. The request to add additional wording on how my students will benefit from my travel was addressed in my eyes, but for some reason he didn’t like it. No explanation was given. So on my third attempt, I went back to what I know best. Take the required questions, dissect them and answer each part piece by piece. REJECTED for the third time. Apparently the dean or Vice President of Academic Affairs has his own ideas about what we should write for a justification for our professional growth now. I thought it was my professional growth.

It’s not clear who is denying my request as each secretary has blamed it on the other “boss.” I didn’t even get the courtesy of an email directly from the person rejecting my request. I’ve been going back and forth with the secretary. By the time the he said she said trickles down to me something is lost in translation. I have no idea what they are looking for. It’s obviously not MY professional growth activity any more. It will be what they want it to be or I don’t get to go. Doesn’t sound fair to me, and after 13 years of submitting travel requests in the district, this is the first time where my justification for wanting to attend a conference wasn’t good enough.

Here’s what bugs me the most. On our professional growth website, it states as the guidelines for use of FPG travels funds:

FPG travel funding is monetary support of any event for the purpose of professional growth that will increase knowledge, skills, or attitudes enhancing one’s role at the college.

It doesn’t say anything about “student benefit.” Why? Because that’s obvious. As I wrote in my justification, “Student learning and achievement increase when educators engage in effective professional development focused on the skills educators need in order to address students’ major learning challenges.” What those skills will be is unknown until you attend the conference and how that will directly effect your students is mere speculation. Why bother? The focus should be on my opportunity to “increase knowledge, skills or attitudes” to enhance my overall role at GCC; not just my role as a teacher. But by becoming a better teacher, obviously I become the benefit to my students. Me. I’m the benefit. They benefit from me and my increased knowledge, my increased skills and my postive attitude I will have because my administration doesn’t stand in the way of MY professional development.

To read my attempts at justification for my travel request, click here: Travel Request Justifications Denied

 

18
Sep

Travel Request Justifications Denied

In Maricopa, in order to take advantage of the available professional growth travel funds ($3500), you need to fill out a travel request form, provide all the proper documents, answer two questions and get the proper signatures: yours, department chair, travel rep and either the dean or VPAA. I honestly don’t know which one is supposed to sign off on it. The form leaves very little room to answer the two questions, so it’s literally a practice in being concise. Following are the two questions (bold) and my responses that were denied by the dean. My additional followup attempt, trying to address his concerns follows the two required questions. This justification was also denied. As of Tuesday, I have not been approved to travel. ;(

Purpose of business travel, including relevance to employee’s position in the District:

The purpose of my travel to the TYCA West conference is to directly support my role as assistant chair and eCourses coordinator for the department. Attending this conference will give me the opportunity to learn about different pedagogical practices in regards to teaching freshman composition at the two-year college. As a leader in the department, I plan to share what good practices I gather from my participation in this conference with my GCC colleagues. I will also be sharing what great things I’ve been able to accomplish here at GCC with participants during my presentation on hybrid courses.

Tangible benefits derived from business travel:

Tangible benefits derived from my travel to this conference include knowledge, strategic, networking, and team building benefits. I will learn about different practices my colleagues from other organizations are using at their institutions. That would include anything from technology tools to pedagogical practices. Attending the conference will enable me to see how other institutions anticipate, understand, and adapt to changes both in the teaching environment and in professional practice. The conference will enable me to meet professionals in similar roles and 2-year organizations on the west coast. Finally, as I have encouraged several younger faculty to also attend this conference, the conference will help build our department by providing a forum for faculty members to learn and discuss best practices, new tools, and emerging trends together.

Additional Justification requested by the dean’s secretary. This is my second attempt.

Professional development may enhance student learning through its effects on teaching practices, and effective professional development may contribute to the professional skills of participating teachers, thereby increasing the number of highly skilled faculty available at an institution. What does that mean for students and the institution? It means that I will be able to better my performance as a teacher and raise student achievement (theoretically). Student learning and achievement increase when educators engage in effective professional development focused on the skills educators need in order to address students’ major learning challenges. Many conferences that we attend give participants a variety of learning options in which to choose. Aside from the main idea, theme or major focus of the conference, no one can say specifically what they will learn and how students will benefit from this knowledge.

I could speculate and say that based on the theme of this year’s conference, “Alterations: The future of two year college English departments,” that I will learn more about the recent developments in higher education and how they are putting more pressure on two-year colleges to “move students through the system more quickly” and yet to provide “quality higher education” to some times under-prepared students. I will learn how these pressures impact development of curriculum, courses offered, textbook selection, staffing of classes, admissions policies, uses of technology in online and in-person education, as well as writing centers and academic advising. If I learn ALL that, students will benefit from better curriculum development, courses offered, text book selection, uses of technology in online and in-person classes, as well as better writing centers.

And as professional development should be reflective, I’ll be sure to share what I’ve learned with others who also believe in staying in touch with their profession.

Read More: I Respectfully Disagree with Your Decision to Deny my Travel Request 

6
Aug

Creating an Online Class Orientation (video)

Creating an online class orientation is very important when teaching online. A good introduction to your online class could make or break the course for some students. If they can manage the orientation it’s a good sign for both of you that managing the class is possible. This video shows you how I’ve set up my online course orientation for a freshman composition course based on the QM rubric standards. You can download a copy of the QM Rubric from their website.

27
Jul

The Best of Both Worlds – Hybrid Courses at GCC

Image from: tmaworld.com

Hybrid courses, also known as blended learning, are the best kept secret of all things GCC has to offer. We don’t offer many of these types of courses in some departments, mostly because students are unfamiliar with the delivery style and shy away from them. It’s a shame because hybrid courses are great courses offering students the best of both worlds. That would be the world of traditional face to face classes and fully online classes.

We all know that online classes are not for everyone. Online classes required discipline, self direction, self motivation and lots of time. Albeit the time factor is flexible in that you can “go to class” when you want and not on a predefined Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday-Thursday at 8am schedule, but you still have to be disciplined enough to get your work done. Online courses can be tough, especially if you sign up for these classes for all the wrong reasons.

Hybrid courses are designed to give a taste of that online learning freedom, but with the comforts of having an instructor available to guide you. If you don’t quite have the discipline necessary to do online learning on your own, you can rely on still having to come face to face with your instructor once a week to face the music. Hybrid courses when designed correctly eliminate the boring class sessions when you drive to campus only to sit and listen to your instructor lecture for 50 minutes. Then you turn in your homework and leave. You could have done all that from the comforts of your own home. With a hybrid class, instructors find more creative ways to “lecture” the course material, like using video or audio. The lecture could come in the form of additional reading or multimedia lessons designed for online distribution. Or better yet, you could learn by doing.

With hybrid classes, you’re still held responsible for doing not just your homework on a weekly basis, but also your newly assigned online work. The online work is not just out there for you to figure out when, where, and how to do it. It’s tied in closely with your face to face class work, and most times, if you come to class ill prepared from not doing your online work, you won’t find the in class sessions meaningful. You’ll be wasting your time. So the discipline and guidance most students crave and need is still there, but in-class sessions are transformed into more meaningful, learner centered, and fun classes.

Give hybrid courses a try. We have plenty still available for Fall. They come in many different “blends,” so make sure you sign up for a full semester hybrid (08/22/2012- 12/14/2012). If the time period is shorter than 16 weeks, you will be registering for an accelerated class and that might be challenging your first time out. Also note that hybrid courses can be one day a week (my favorite) or even two days a week. It’s like making a smoothie in the blender. You decide what goes in and how much of each (F2F and Online) goes in.

 

20
Jul

Create Multimedia Lessons with Tegrity

This post is actually kind of funny when you think about what I’m doing. I used a screencapture program (Camtasia 8) to record of video of how to use another screencapture program (Tegrity) to create multi-media lessons. Brilliant! Anyway, I just recently upgraded my Camtasia to version 8, so I was anxious to try it out. This is a paid program that I chose to purchase years ago to help with creating lessons for my online courses. Not everyone teaching online can afford to buy their own software, so I’m glad that McGraw-Hill purchased Tegrity and now makes it available in Connect Composition 2.0. We adopted Connect with our English textbooks a few years ago, but McGraw-Hill just this summer updated the site to include this awesome lecture tool.

So the video that follows, created in Camtasia 8, shows how to get started with creating a lesson using a PowerPoint in Tegrity. Are you still following me here? No? Just watch the video then.

My first impressions of Camtasia 8 are wow! They totally revamped the program to make it even easier to use. It’s definitely worth the price to buy it. Even though we now have Tegrity, I still have uses for Camtasia.

19
Jul

Customizing My Canvas Course Part 1

I’ve been teaching in Canvas for a year now, but this fall Maricopa is officially switching over to Canvas on 9 of the 10 colleges. Remember RIO marches to the beat of their own drum. Anyway, it has been interesting to see how faculty in the district have reacted to this new change in LMS. Most seem to be happy, but others I feel are a bit intimidated by having to learn something new. It’s really not that difficult, but it will require some time to roll up you sleeves and dig in. It will be worth it.

I’m going to start posting some random videos of things I’ve done with my Canvas courses. Hopefully you’ll find something useful that you can use in your own. This first is a quick video to show how I’ve added buttons to my Canvas class for easier navigation on the home page. Also, I wanted to add a little branding and color to the class.

12
Jul

Gmail to Gmail Migration in Maricopa

Today was go live day for Google Guides at GCC. We are switching our email from an archaic MEMO system to shiny new Gmail. All I can say is finally. I’ve been using Gmail for at least 5 years both with a Gmail address and my own domains (freshmancomp.com), so I’m very familiar with the perks. So I’ve been waiting for this moment.

My excitement was dampened a bit when the first thing I tried to do didn’t work. What? All I wanted to do was get all of my emails, folders and filters from my existing Gmail account moved over to my new Gmail account. Can’t be that difficult, right? Well, actually it’s not, but I just couldn’t get it to work.

I found instructions for moving from Gmail to Gmail here: http://www.twistermc.com/27915/move-gmail-to-gmail/ and basically it explains that you need to:

  • Download Thunderbird and set up both the Gmail account and the work Gmail account in it.
  • Both accounts would then show in Tbird and then you can just drag folders from one to the other – Easy Peasy.
But I ran into a bit of trouble:
  • The work Gmail account kept giving me an error when I tried to set it up. It said that either my username or password was incorrect. I tried both the alisa.cooper and MEID at the beginning of the email address AND I reset my password in PAT to the same thing and it said it was synchronized in MEMO.
  • I also made sure both accounts had the IMAP option turned on in Gmail.

I was stumped, so I kept playing around with it, asked everyone I knew on Twitter, Facebook and CyberSalon if they had a solution. I even called the Helpdesk. Nothing.

In the mean time, I paid yippiemove.com to do the migration for me, but I still wanted to find the answer to the problem. Not everyone is going to be willing to pay $15 to have it done for them, even if it worked great. So after a few more inquires, one of my CyberSalon pals pointed me to the MCC wiki and I found this article: Google Apps – Setting Up Thunderbird on Mac.

The information provided here was much different than the basic directions found elsewhere. The main difference was the need to input both the First.LastName and the MEID parts of the email address in the setup process. Also I had to really change my password first. Doh! Previously I had just updated it by inputting the same password in the PAT tool. Not sure if that worked, but the settings below did after I changed it.


Make sure everything matches what I have entered above and it should work.

If you want to move your filters too, you will need to do this separately, as IMAP doesn’t import/export filters. Just export/import them right in Gmail. That worked flawlessly as well. Don’t forget to turn on “Import Filters” in Labs first. Here’s how to do it.