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Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

27
Mar

Okay, All Your Students are Online. Now What?

I still chuckle when I think about every teacher I work with is now doing some form of remote or online teaching. I know it’s not a laughing matter, but I can’t help it. After spending four years as eCourses coordinator at the college, I know the reality of that statement. I’m sure everyone is doing their best. However, I can’t help but think about that select few who wanted to teach online because they thought it would be easy. Well, it’s not so easy after all, especially when you only get two weeks to do it.

It’s easy to post content (documents) online, and most LMS’s make it easy to record video and audio. But the hardest part is engaging students. How do you even know they are watching, listening or reading what you put online? I hope I’m not freaking people out, but trust me, they’re not watching, listening and reading all that stuff you just put in Canvas. They are just looking for the stuff the “counts.” I know I sound pessimistic, but I speak from experience. When I first started teaching online over 15 years ago, the first thing I noticed was that if there was no point value attached, it got ignored. That included textbook chapters, handouts, content pages in Canvas, and yes, even YouTube videos. I was shocked. They don’t like my videos? Did anyone even watch them?

I couldn’t really tell if students were engaging or not with my content, but they were missing huge gaps in knowledge that would have come from engaging with that content. I constantly found myself asking in my feedback, “Did you watch the video?” or “Did you read the handout?” It was definitely frustrating especially since I made a ton of videos. Once I got fed up with that I decided to change the design of my courses. I now have several different formats depending on the course. I made a couple of videos showing how I changed things up that you can watch below, but I’ll summarize here first.

For my ENH114 African American literature class where reading is crucial (Duh!), I changed the course so that every reading is an assignment. Yes, you read that right. Every single reading is an assignment. I call them lessons, and each lesson either has reading handouts, video or audio and then something for students to do. For example, in Lesson 1.1.1 Origins of African American Language, students watch a YouTube video and then write a summary about what they learned. Simple. I create this by using Assignments in Canvas, embed the video, write my instructions and then set the assignment to accept text and uploads for submission. The best part is I didn’t have to make the video. Thank you internet and YouTube.

Another example from the ENH114 class is a lecture I wanted students to read. Again, I made it a lesson: Lesson 1.2.1 Importance of Negro Spirituals that included a recording of me reading the lecture as well as the text of the lecture, and then asks students to answer a question about the content. I use rubrics so the students know what I’m looking for, and it makes it easier for me to grade. The idea that everything I want students to do is graded in some way can be daunting, but using rubrics makes quick work of it. I’ll demonstrate more ways that I engage students in this class in the video below.

For my freshman comp classes, I have a slightly different approach. Not everything I want for them to read and do is made into a lesson, but I do wish that would work. However, I do consistently make some of the content into lessons. You really need to have something for students to engage with on a weekly basis. If you don’t, students get in the habit of “skipping” weeks. Having assignments with weekly due dates draws them into the course. They don’t have to be much, just something that says, “Hey, remember you have this English class over here.” You can see more from these courses in the video below. You can find the YouTube Series I mention here: Crash Course Navigating Digital Information.

Lastly, I teach a hybrid (used to teach a hybrid) JRN203: Writing for Online Media course. Luckily for me, I design all my courses as online courses, so I only had to make a few adjustments in this course to transition to online. The biggest change was adding more online discussions. Oh, I know. That sounds so boring, especially since students hate online discussions. But these discussions are fun. I use FlipGrid. It’s a social learning platform that allows educators to ask a question, then the students respond in a video. Students are then able to respond to one another, creating a “web” of video discussion. They’re fun and students really like these discussions. Some are a little shy at first, but they quickly get over it. I got permission from my students to show a discussion they are working on currently in class. See below.

The reality of the situation is I didn’t create all of this in two weeks. These are things I’ve added as I’ve taught over the years. For many faculty out there now rushing to move content online, my best advice is to pick one thing you can add now to help engage students, and as the semester continues on, consider what else you might be able to add. You can’t do it all now, but just one thing might prove helpful.

Engaging Students in JRN203 with FlipGrid
ENH114 Course Using Canvas, Softchalk, and FlipGrid
ENG101 Composition Course Using Canvas,
McGraw-Hill Connect & YouTube
26
Mar

Set Up Conferences with Students Using Appointment Slots in Google

Most of this week was spent getting students started on a research project in my 8-week ENG102s that started right after Spring Break and rallying my two hybrid courses to continue on and finish what we started. I also have a 12 week online ENG102 that’s just cruising along as if nothing has happened. I’m thankful for that class.

I scheduled online webinars for the usual class time slot of my two hybrids and I’ve surprisingly have had a pretty good turn out. Those students are doing great. But my new online students are a bit shell-shocked, so one of the things I did this week was give those students an opportunity to meet with me one-on-one to discuss their topics. In order to do that, I used Google Appointment Slots to set it all up and we met via Google Hangouts Meet. The video below shows you how I did that.

18
Mar

Remote Teaching: More Questions Answered

So I’ve gotten a few more questions from faculty about moving content online. The questions are good questions indicating that they have the right idea about adding audio and video. After posting on Instagram about using my iPad in some of my videos, Mary wanted to know if I could record live using Notability in a Google Hangout. I don’t usually do it that way, but I was curious too, so I tried it. Notability is a notetaking app on the iPad. It works like a digital whiteboard if you have an Apple pencil. I use it to show students how to correct errors in their papers. I’ll pull up a document that has sentences double spaced and use my pen to show how you can add a comma and conjunction to a run-on sentence and make it a compound sentence, for example. I usually just do these alone and record the screen using the built-in recording feature on the iPad. I can also do the same thing using Explain Everything Whiteboard, but that is not free ($25).

Anyway, this method of recording videos is perfect for the instructor who likes to write on the board while teaching. I don’t do that often, but when I do students like it. Here’s an example of How to Write a Basic Essay that I created in Explain Everything. Now back to Mary’s question. Yes, you can log into a Google Hangout Meet session on your iPad, start presenting, open the Notability app and start writing. As I tried this, I was also logged into the webinar on my desktop and could easily see what was going on on the iPad. I might have to try this in my next webinar class.

iPad and computer screen
Presenting from Explain Everything on the iPad in a Google Hangouts Meet session.

Another media question I got today was about recording audio in a Canvas quiz. Yes, you can do that. Canvas is good at giving the ability to record audio and video either from within Canvas or uploading it from your computer. Most already know you can record audio and video in assignments and pages, but even I didn’t know about adding it to quiz questions. So when you’re setting up your quiz and you add a question, just click the “record/upload media” button on the menu bar. You can record right there in Canvas or you can upload a file recorded earlier on your computer. This is a good solution for a class that is learning pronunciation or a foreign language.

The rest of the questions I got today were about the extended delay for beginning face to face and hybrid courses. I think the messaging just confused everyone who worked their butts off to be ready for next week and now we have to delay. It’s really not fair to those who are teaching 8-week courses that were to start this week. Essentially they are not only moving the content online but now they have to teach it in 5 weeks. That’s crazy. We don’t even teach 5 week online courses in the summer in our department. My advice was to just start now if you’re ready. Students will do what you tell them if you help them. I have two hybrid courses that didn’t skip a beat. We are moving on as planned. They’re showing up to webinars, submitting work, and asking good questions. We’re going to get through this and finish on time.

17
Mar

Remote Teaching. We Can All Learn Something New

This week many of my colleagues are frantically working to accommodate a district mandate to move to remote teaching. For many who have never taught online before, this is a daunting task. Even if they are not being asked to teach online per se, essentially a similar skill set is needed. The number one skill is being fearless. You can’t be afraid or nothing will go right and nothing will happen. You have to have a “F it” attitude and say I’m just going to try it. If it doesn’t work, oh well. At least I tried. Nine times out of 10 it will work well enough (not always perfectly).

I already teach mostly online, and my two hybrid courses are already designed to be taught completely online. So this transition is a simple process for me. But I feel for my colleagues and I’ve volunteered my expertise to help others. So far it’s been surprisingly quiet. I’ll go through a few of the questions I’ve received and my suggested solutions in my next few posts. Let’s start with this one.

I’m still learning new things during this process too. I got a question about how I teach my students to “do the stuff” online. It was a little vague, but I think I understood. The hardest part for me about teaching online is not being able to experience the course and materials the way my students might. I can’t see what they see, but I can show them the way I see it. So I make videos using the student view in Canvas and videos on my phone showing them the mobile version. I use either SnagIt or Camtasia to record my screen, and I show them how I want them to do something. Both are not free tools, but you can do the same thing with Screencast-o-matic, which is free. Snagit is $30 and Camtasia is $170, but GCC may have a few licenses available that you could use, and I hear TechSmith is making Snagit free to use through the end of June 2020 to any organization that needs it. Visit: https://discover.techsmith.com/remote-techsmith/

Clearly I take advantage of working from home by not getting all “dolled up.”

The reason I use Snagit and Camtasia over the free tools is the ease of saving and sharing. TechSmith Screencast® online hosting services allow you to share video, screen captures and multimedia content with others. They make it so simple to record and share. I made a video of how I use this service here.

Stay tuned for more questions I’ve gotten about teaching online or remotely in my next post.

26
Feb

A Blog Post About Nothing

I seriously can’t think of a damn thing to write about, so this is a blog post about nothing. This could be a sign of burn out or maybe I’ve lost my motivation. Motivation to write that is. I still want to live. 🙂 I’ve seemingly written about everything already over the past 20 years. That’s how long I’ve been blogging. My freshmancomp.com self-hosted blog was started in 2006 when I transferred over to GCC from SMCC, but I blogged on Blogger before that. It’s fun to go back and read what was so important to me back then in old posts. The very first post to this blog was about whiteboards in October of 2006, thirteen years ago. I wrote:

I’m teaching a developmental writing course here at GCC, and unfortunately I have no access to technology in the class itself besides my shiny white boards, overhead projector from 1950, and a vcr/dvd combo and television. This of course is no reflection on the college; it’s just a this is what’s left situation.

Ha! I remember this vividly. I was a temporary one-semester transfer, and I got stuck in a classroom in the CL building. I really didn’t know what to do with myself in that room. Luckily I was able to sneak over into HT1 often enough to salvage the semester.

As I reflect back and peruse other posts, one thing stands out about my posts. They are always about technology and teaching. In 2007 I blogged about using del.icio.us, Ning social network, Bedford Bibliographer and podcasting. Wow! Does anyone remember any of those things? Well, I guess podcasting is still around, but the rest are dead and gone. Good thing I’m not dead and gone although I do feel pretty old sometimes. Podcasting is still around, but the technology we used “back in the day” has definitely changed. Check this out.

I’ve been experimenting with flash players for my weekly podcasts in my freshman composition courses. This one from MyFlashFetish.com was pretty cool. I’ll paste the code into the course blog and see how students like it.

I wish I could say they liked it, but to be honest they probably couldn’t care less. Anyway, that website is certainly gone. I still podcast or create audio for my student, but today I use Soundcloud to host my podcasts. Anywho, I’ll end this rambling with a shoutout to two of my favorite podcasts on Soundcloud.

Shoutout to my girls in the CTLE – Two Profs in a Pod
This is my JRN203 Students’ Podcast: The Weekly Gauchos. Some are better than others.
New-season starts Friday.
18
Feb

Is There Value in Having Students Do Collaborative Group Projects?

Collaborative group projects in online and hybrid classes – Is there value in having students do them?

I go back and forth with whether I should dump it or keep it. Students hate it, but I think there is value, and it’s a lesson students need to experience. Things don’t always go the way they should, and students can learn a lot from having to deal with this adversity.

I’ve been using a group project in my ENG102 hybrid course for about two years now, and I think it teaches students a lot about collaborating, working in a team, and sharing in the learning process with others. In the video below, I’ll share my process with you, as well as a few tools in Canvas that you may or may not be familiar with: Collaborations, Groups, Perusall and NoodleTools. 

Purpose: The purpose of the project is to teach students the process of writing an argumentative research paper. In groups of four the work through the whole process in four weeks. The only thing they don’t do is the actual research. I provide that for them. Let’s take a look, and I’ll show the tools as they are integrated into the process. 

Collaborative Group Projects in Canvas
19
Mar

What’s the Hardest Part About Teaching Students Research?

Grading the final paper? Ha! Just kidding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

29
Sep

Online Editing Tools – Benefit or Crutch for Students?

Writing today is almost a completely online or computer aided experience. Students are composing in word processor programs as well as online in programs like Google Drive or directly in Canvas. While most of these text editors will probably have built in spelling and maybe a grammar checker, a more robust dedicated editing tool can find hidden errors that are easily missed on a standard text editor, and there are many of these tools available on the web for free and for pay. During my summer project, time was spent using some of these editing tools to discover which make best use for students and studying how these programs work to discover if in fact they are accurate and how accurate they are. Although most of the programs are expensive for students, three stood out as being accurate and useful for students.

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

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

9
Feb

Need a Grammar Checker? I Want to Find Out

Writing today is almost a completely online or computer aided experience. Students are composing in word processor programs as well as online in programs like Google Drive or directly in Canvas. While most of these text editors will probably have built in spelling and maybe a grammar check, a more robust dedicated editing tool can find hidden errors that are easily missed on a standard text editor, and there are many of these tools available on the web for free and for pay. I decided that maybe our students and even faculty and staff might benefit from some of these tools, so I wrote a summer project proposal to research it this summer.

My goal for a summer project is to spend some time using some of these editing tools to discover which make the best use for our students and for us. I also want to study how these programs work to discover if in fact they are accurate and how accurate they are. In addition, I’d like to research whether these tools actually benefit students by teaching them to become better writers or if they are simply a crutch. With this knowledge, I’d like to develop a plan for how best to use these programs with students so that the tools can be more of a teaching aide than a tool that makes corrections only for students. So my proposal includes academic research, activities that can enhance my professional knowledge and expertise, as well as field research to learn innovations. 

I think this will be great way to spend my time this summer, so I plan to complete this project over a 4 week period during the month of June. Did any of you submit a proposal? I’m curious how you plan to spend your summer if you did. 

19
Jan

Hello 2017 Let’s Get This Blog Going

Occasionally everyone needs a good excuse for not doing certain things they’ve promised they would do. I know I have a few up my sleeve. I’ve always loved blogging. It sounds so much better than saying I love to write, which I’ll deny vehemently. Don’t tell my students. But blogging is different. I just love it. But I haven’t blogged consistently in the last two years. The time frame of my slacking off coincides with when I took over as CTLE Director at GCC, so yes, I’ll use that as my excuse. But blogging as been calling me lately. I’m feeling disconnected from the world of technology. I haven’t played with a new tech tool in a while, but I’m inspired to jump back in. I even bought some toys recently. So I’m coming back. My next posts will be about my new VR Headset and the set of Kindle Fires I purchased for the CTLE. Now what’s a girl to do with those? We’ll see. For now, I’m off to go read some blogs. I’ve got some catching up to do.

Happy 2017 – Let’s keep our heads up.