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Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

5
Apr

Can AI Grade My Essays For Me?

I made a joke with Beth a few days ago about how I wished AI would grade my essays for me. And then I really thought about that, and now I can’t stop. I mean seriously if AI can write the students’ papers for them, what about us? Why can’t it grade papers too? Well, guess what. It can. I tried it. Shhh. Now don’t tell on me. I used both ChatGPT and Microsoft’s tool built into Bing. GPT is much better.

First off, it was a lot of work, probably equal to if I’d just graded them myself, but the benefit was far better for the student. It spat out paragraph long feedback on what was wrong, how the paper did or didn’t meet each rubric standard, and how to improve the work. I was simply amazed. If I were to leave that kind of feedback on a paper, it would take me days to grade instead of hours. As it is, I’ve already moved to grading by recording my feedback, so I can say more and make it easier for students to understand what I’m saying, but this was amazing.

But like a said. It wasn’t easy or quick. I first began by asking the AI to find a rubric for a news article using a summary lead and following the inverted pyramid style. It quickly pulled up a rubric that was adequate, but it was only on a 10-point scale. I used it anyway to see how it would work. Then my next prompt asked Maud, remember, I named her Maud in my last post. I asked her to grade this news article using that rubric, and pasted in a student’s news article. Surprisingly, it worked. She put the two prompts together and graded the article. It was okay, but there wasn’t much detail and it didn’t really meet the standards I was looking for. I decided instead to ask Maud to build me a rubric and added the essential things and the total points I needed. She created this.

Okay, that was interesting, but could she grade a news article using that rubric? I wondered. Yep! She gave the article a 47/60, provided the tally from the rubric AND added this feedback:

Strengths:

  • The article follows the inverted pyramid structure.
  • The information provided is relevant to the target audience.
  • The article includes quotes from reliable sources.

Weaknesses:

  • The lead is weak and could benefit from being more focused.
  • The article could use more clarity in its presentation of information.
  • The article could be more concise.
  • The article could be more explicit in identifying biases or opinions.

Suggestions for Improvement:

  • The lead should be more specific and focused on the key point of the article.
  • The article should be more clear and concise, with shorter paragraphs and simpler language.
  • The author should explicitly identify any biases or opinions and explain how they might influence the article’s content.
  • The author should consider additional sources to provide a more complete understanding of the issue.

Crazy, right? I probably would have scored it a bit higher, but I noticed Maud didn’t say anything about grammar and punctuation in her feedback and I found a couple of specific errors, so I asked her about them. I typed in, “What about grammar and punctuation?” She replied:

As an AI language model, I don’t have the capability to fully analyze grammar and punctuation, but I can tell you that there are a few errors in the article. For example, in the sentence “This issue goes for not only students but members of the community who live downtown,” the phrase “goes for” should be replaced with “applies to.” Additionally, there are a few instances where punctuation could be improved for clarity and readability. Overall, however, the article is well-written and understandable.

She was right. In another instance, Maud pointed out two run-on sentences in the article and offered a suggestion for how to fix it. Amazing.

Yep, I’m obsessed, but that took a lot of work. In fact, I paused playing so I could quickly grade those news articles and get them back to students. This was going to take all day. First, Maud would forget my rubric after a few follow-up questions about the article she graded, so I’d have to start all over. Then sometimes she would ignore my rubric and just give a paragraph analysis of the article or she would leave out key elements. Basically, she was not consistent and I had to keep retraining her. She gave good feedback, but not the same feedback for each student.

7
Mar

My Heart Just Wasn’t In It After Day 1

I taught my first face-to-face class in two years 3 weeks ago. It’s a late start ENG102 hybrid that meets once a week in LA108. I didn’t really want to teach the class face-to-face, but my chair said that admin would like us to have more on-campus classes this semester. “The data show that is what students want.” I saw the data and had a completely different interpretation, but I’m a team player, so I agreed to teach the class. It is one of the two classes I previously taught on campus in 2020, so the class was prepared and ready to go.

The first indication that things were going to be different is when I noticed I wasn’t teaching in my preferred space. Apparently, HT2 classrooms were not big enough to accommodate our class sizes (18). I was bummed but verified I’d have a Chromebook cart in my new teaching space. On the first day, I arrived about 15 minutes early just so I could familiarize myself with the technology in the classroom. I’d promised students I would do a live-online class so students who couldn’t make it to class for whatever reason could attend live from home. I also have the same course as an all online and thought it might be nice to offer the option to them. Turns out LA108 is a cave with no cell service. You might think that fact is not that important, but trust me it is.

I began by trying to log into the teacher station computer, which I haven’t had to do since Duo Two-Factor Authentication was introduced into our lives last year along with having better log-in passwords. I had found a loophole and was successful in using the same password for probably 3 years. I should be ashamed, but I wasn’t. I actually knew my password back in the day BC (Before Covid). Today, not so much. My souped-up 17 digit numbers and symbols are a solid password now. So I looked up my password on my phone using my LastPass app; I have offline access on my phone, and I typed it into the prompt on the computer at the teacher station. The computer went into some weird realm that took probably 5-6 minutes before it stopped and prompted me for a user name and password again. Again? I looked it up again and typed all the letters, symbols, and numbers again. After another ridiculous amount of time, you know what happened. No, it worked, but our new friend Duo popped up. I asked Duo to send me a text. She goes into spin mode waiting for me to complete the action on my phone. Nothing appears on my watch or phone. So I kindly ask Duo to send me another text. And then again. By this time I have about 5 students sitting in front of me watching. Duo never complies so I give up on that endeavor.

I thought to myself, I don’t need your crappy technology. I’ve got a backpack full of it sitting at my feet. We are about 10 minutes into class time at this point when I realized I needed to log into the WiFi on campus if anything was going to happen today – my first day back in the classroom after 2 years. That wasn’t going to happen, so Maricopa net or whatever the open wifi is called was it. Fifteen minutes into my first class, with 5 students sitting in front of me, and one single person online, I was finally ready to teach. I learned later that several students gave up on the online class when I wasn’t there to let them in. Bummer. But hey I was ready. I say to the students in front of me. Let me just “plug” my laptop into the teacher station and you’ll be able to see my screen. I had already started teaching but had no visual for them yet.

Let me ask you a question before I continue. Does anyone have one of these plugs on their computer anymore? Oh, never mind. The whole point of this post is to point out how I was done after day one. And I can’t say that the following week was any better. I had a whole new set of problems. I’m so out of practice with trying to use someone else’s technology that my heart is just not into teaching face to face anymore. It ruined my experience. Technology should enhance, not prohibit. Apparently, you need cell service in order to get Duo prompts or be logged in to wifi on a computer to get a password to log into the computer. Or you need to remember to put your dongle in your backpack so you can connect your fancy technology to the old school kind in the classroom. Or…(fill in the blank). It’s just too much to deal with. I need to stick with what I do best and tackling GCC technology ain’t it.

P.S. Thank you Caryn Bird for hiding whiteboard markers in the classroom because of course you have to bring your own low tech too.

20
Nov

Have Students Engage with Guests in the Classroom via Video Discussions

Most of us are missing the normal student engagement we used to have in the classroom. Even I, who taught mostly online except for two hybrid courses, am missing those one day a week meetups in the classroom. What I miss most is seeing and hearing the enthusiasm and excitement about a topic or discussion from my students. You can’t really see or hear that in a regular asynchronous discussion. But you can bring a little of that back with a video discussion tool like FlipGrid. I’ve written about FlipGrid in the past, but today I want to share how I use it to bring guest speakers into the classroom as a way to have students engage with professionals in the field.

Luckily for me, I work in a wonderful district full of people passionate about teaching and helping students. One such person is the talented Sam Fraulino who works at PVCC as a Senior Software Developer. He works in the Center for Teaching & Learning helping faculty with their online courses, but his talents go far beyond that. Last semester I invited Sam to be a guest speaker in my JRN203 Writing for Online Media class. I thought he would have a lot to share with my students who are predominately Digital Media Arts students, and many are aspiring artists and very talented. We have a module on Citizen/Participatory Journalism where students learn how to capitalize on social media for their own benefits whether it be self-promotion or news dissemination. And Sam is a great example of someone who does that with his own artwork on Instagram.

After the pandemic hit and this hybrid course moved fully online, I didn’t want for students to miss out on this experience, so I invited Sam to visit the class virtually. But instead of making it a live webinar, I had Sam record a short video showing students his art studio and talking about his job, art, and experience using social media. Students were then asked to compose questions for Sam about his presentation and ask them in the discussion. To make all this flow, I used FlipGrid so both sides could see and hear each other. I hadn’t actually planned for Sam to respond to individual posts/questions, but he volunteered and it worked out better than expected.

Students were truly appreciative of his time and excited to engage with him online. And Sam had similar sentiments. He said,

All of them were so well-spoken, confident and so appreciative of my time; that was very nice and this was a very cool experience.

Sam Fraulino

Here’s a quick video showing how I set this up and how it works in Canvas and FlipGrid.

6
Aug

3 Discussion Tools for Engaging Students in Online Courses

Last year I participated in a district pilot of a new discussion tool – Packback. It took a whole year to stop calling it backpack. 🙂 But I was initially intrigued by Packback because of its built-in AI moderation which meant less grading for me, but more meaningful participation from students. It took a bit to wrap my head around using it in ENG101, but it fit well with my literature course this summer, and students really like it. Check this video out to see what the concept behind Packback is: https://vimeo.com/163888277

They offer a consultant to each faculty using Packback, so you have someone who will work with you to get it set up and learn how to best utilize the tool. I found that very helpful. We already have the LTI integration in Canvas so set up and use is pretty easy. For more information on how Packback works, watch this “Engaging Students with Packback” video. The district has paid for a license, so it’s free to use with in MCCCD.

This next tool was introduced to me by Dr. Jennifer Lane, our CTLE Faculty Director.  Perusall is a social annotation tool that integrates with Canvas via LTI assignments. Perusall allows students and their instructors to collaboratively markup documents. Instead of reading a document and discussing it in person, Perusall brings the discussion to the text online. Learn more about how it works by watching this video: https://youtu.be/ODE6v4YOo0E And… wait for it… Perusall auto-grades effort and engagement with the text and scores are added to your Canvas grade book automatically. This frees up time for you to analyze the discussion students are having around the document and where you can help clarify or provide more instruction. It’s really cool and students actually like it (after they figure out how to score full points). It takes a few assignments before they figure it out, so it’s best to use it often and not as a one-off. This tool is also free.

Lastly, I’ve already introduced you to FlipGrid. See my last post. I’ll be doing two workshops for the CTLE in the next few weeks. They should be sending out information soon. Join me if you want to learn how to get set up and use video discussions this fall. My workshops are scheduled for next Thursday, August 13th at 1 pm and Tuesday, August 18th at 1 pm.

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