Monday, February 25, 2008

The Jing Project ROCKS!!!

Screen Capture is an awesome way to lecture because you can show students exactly what you want them to do, how to do it, and why it's valuable. Only problem is most screen capture programs are expensive.

But NO longer.

The Jing Project is FABULOUS!

Check out this screen capture lecture I made for Twitter.

I got cut off, but all I was saying was explore and have fun with it.

Now I just need to say everything I need to in 5 minutes or less.

Also, I need to work on the sizing and such. But I'm thankful to be able to create screen capture lectures for free now!

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Observation Worth Mentioning

All of my classes are going exceptionally well this semester.

I seriously hands-down have the BEST face-to-face class ever in my whole teaching experience.

Also, I'm subbing for a class that's shy but sweet and smart.

And the online class is going along smoothly. Except for one complainer.

It doesn't matter the essay assignment, online in-class task, or homework assignment, the complainer complains every chance he gets. And get this: he's one of my my non-trad students, which is rare. Most of my non-trad students are over-achievers who are eager to push their limits and do their best. They might have more questions than a first-year student, but they're also a lot less shy and bit more focused.

The point of this post is not to turn into a complainer myself. (I LOATHE when teachers complain about their students!) My point is to share what I think is the root of the complaining in order to reflect on how to road-block complaining in the future and to honestly share my experience with fellow online instructors.

I'm wondering if the root of the complaining is this: perhaps this student is resisting assignments, particularly ones that involve new technologies because he's not of the generation that is embracing these new technologies. If this is the case how do I bridge different generations of students with different views on/abilities with technology? And are online students who have been distance learning students for the past decade at a disadvantage b/c online classes are changing so rapidly and becoming more interactive with Web 2.0 apps? In other words, past distance learners got the assignments and did the assignments, now they are being asked to interact with classmates through discussion boards, wikis, Twitter, etc.; they're being asked to write blog posts and respond to peer blog posts. They're listening to podcast lectures for the material, not just simply reading it. Are these more interactive tasks a possible cause of resistance? First-year students are used to these technologies and whole-heartedly embrace them. Perhaps the generation gap is making a few non-trad students feel a little "left out in the cold."

Another possibility is that some non-trad students don't realize that online class coursework has to be equal with the course work of a face-to-face class. In other words, my face-to-face students listen to lectures, do group work, do brainstorming, do in-class writing, do material reflections, and much more during the 3 hours they are in class with me. (Ask any of my face-to-face students; we always go the full time and the full time we are WORKING!) On top of their in-class time, they have about 2 hours of homework or more per class meet. It's ENG 112, for crying out loud. They have tons of reading to do to prep for class discussions and essay writing. They have out-of-class writing to reflect on lessons and begin drafting for essays. ENG 112 is an academically rigorous course to prep students for the rigors of higher-level academic writing. This is NO sail-on-through course. I'm wondering if the complainer and a few other online students don't understand that online classes (in order to defend their credibility and worthiness) have become just as rigorous as face-to-face classes or even more so. Online classes must produce and replicate the EXACT same work as face-to-face classes, and that's exactly what my online classes do. Perhaps some distance learners who are used to the "old way" of online learning are having a difficult time understanding the "new way" or the "way it should have always been" (at least in my book).

Finally, I wonder if the complaining has to do with the gender difference. I had hoped those days were long gone when older male students discriminated against younger, smart, spunky women instructors. Perhaps those days are still with us. If so, it truly saddens and frustrates me.

Regardless of the causes of the complainer, I do want to make one thing clear. I only have ONE complainer in my online class this semester, and last semester I had none. Every now and then I do have online students email me that they have a concern with a certain assignment or they're worried about finishing the work on time because of work-related or family-related emergencies. That's life. I always try to help those students by working with them and supporting them. But those circumstances only come up once a semester per student. To have a student complain at least once every week or more is a new experience to me.

What the complainer has given me is a new appreciation for first-year students. They bust their butts and don't question it. At least my batch of students don't. And I think that's because I tell them what every assignment means and how it plays into what they are learning and working towards in our class. Also, full-time students balance so much. Maybe even more than those who are distance learners. I understand we all have our busy schedules and families and work, but full-time students do it ALL ALL of the TIME. I have students taking online classes and face-to-face classes with 19 credit hours who work part-time or full-time AND have families, a strong campus community presence and rich social lives. They're balancing a LOT, and sometimes I don't think students get the credit they deserve. I think all instructors feel their classes are the most important of all. I think we as instructors need to see that students have lots of other classes and obligations that may have kept them from doing that one assignment or participating that actively in one class discussion. I'm not excusing "obviously-I-don't-care" behavior. I'm just arguing that more students do care than we sometimes give them credit for. And we don't need to be lenient in our expectations or grades, but I think we could be a little more understanding and not so quick to complain about them.

In terms of how to revise my online classes to avoid complaining, I think in my intro screen caption lecture I could clarify that the work load is the same as face-to-face classes and explain how each assignment builds on the next to work towards a final, spectacular BIG Researched Paper. And I could more clearly state the the Web 2.0 apps help us interact with one another to create a writing community. As for the gender difference possible issue, I don't know. I just have to keep being myself and demanding the same expectations from ALL of my students. And I just need to forgive and forget negative comments so I can keep on doing my job.

As Rob and Big say, "Do Work! Do Work!"

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Borrowed from my Personal Blog but a Teaching Reflection Nonetheless

Yesterday in my computer lab Composition class I tripped over some computer cords and bit the dust in front of my students. I caught myself on the wall and popped up like a puppet, laughing. They got a kick out of it too.

Apart from thinking about tripping I've been thinking about something we began talking about--digital identity. I'm sure most of you are all familiar with digital identity and digital narrative theories, but it was cool to explain it for the first time to this class of students. We've been talking a lot about Pop Culture and Technology, and yesterday was the perfect day to share with them the formal term. I pulled up my Facebook account for the whole class and explained to them that I'm only choose apps and giving details of the things I want them to know about me. I'm only presenting "the me I want people to see" on Facebook; I'm not sharing the things I might not like about myself or the things I deem private. I watched their faces as I defined this term that they were all kinda dancing around in the conversation, and I noticed several "AHA!!!!" faces. I love those teaching moments. And I really enjoy that class. The students in there are bright and motivated. They make me want to be a better teacher, scholar, and student myself.

Our class discussion, though, has me thinking a lot about Facebook. I'm totally addicted to that crazy thing. It makes it so easy to catch up with distant friends, loved ones, former students, and colleagues. I've been toying with creating student groups for my classes or developing the "Courses" app that gives classes space for a discussion board, a place to post assignment sheets, and an area to post announcements. My students seem kind of reluctant to use Facebook as an education tool. I don't blame them--at times. I think Facebook will be the new Blackbaord, but ,seriously, it's the best toy (and stalking tool) in the internet.

And while thinking about Facebook and digital identity, I've become obsessed with my Profile Picture. I can't find one that cute enough, smart enough, skinny enough: "me" enough. Either I'm having self esteem issues or I need a haircut (that always makes me feel better) or my New Year's Resolution to not buy "new" clothes has left me feeling a little under the weather.

[Talked about the weather, puppy, yoga, creative writing, then...]

Which reminds me of digital the blogs of the writers who only talk about writer-ly things. Though I respect many of these kinds of blogs, I'm skeptical of others. I'm wondering if all this digital identity isn't just perpetuating stereotypes and locking writers (and teachers) into these oversimplified personifications of their traditional roles. Aren't we all more dynamic than that?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thanks, IDEAL!

Want know more about teaching online?

Check out this podcast interview with yours truly in the IDEAL monthly newsletter.

I don't want to sound egotistical, but I'm kind of proud of myself...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happily Back At It Again!

We're entering the Third Week of the Semester, and I couldn't be happier with how well ENG 112 Online is going!

One of the BEST revisions I made to my online teaching environment is I used Camtasia to create an audio and visual screen recording to help my students better understand my expectations, how the course is set up, how to create a blog, how to edit a wiki, and how to succeed in ENG 112.

I strongly recommend using a technological tool like Camtasia to solidify your course expectations with distance learners. Plus, they get a feel for who you are, which I think personalizes the whole online learning experience.

I'm really looking forward to this semester! My online students seem very ambitious and contribute fantastically to the Discussion Board and Wiki.

What a blessing!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

When It's All Said and Done...

The Fall 2007 semester has come to an end, and with it my section of ENG 111 Online.

I'm happy to report that all the online students' portfolios I submitted passed!

(For more information on my department's portfolio process, check out this link. Keep in mind that the portfolio process for online classes is a little different.)

Looking back, there are only a few changes I would make to the online class:

1.) Use a screen capture lecture with audio to better help students understand the layout of the course and my expectations, which I AM doing right now as I'm developing my section of ENG 112 Online.

2.) Post more on the Discussion Board during the week. Every day I checked the Discussion Board, but I didn't post but maybe once or twice on each thread b/c I really wanted students to rely on each other for the discussion, not me. However, I noticed that when I did post students did seem more engaged and the discussion really went to the next level.

3.) Create a screen capture of how to use a wiki so students better understand what the is purpose of the wiki and to teach them how to use a wiki. I DID add this to my screen capture on the course expectations for ENG 112, so I'm excited to see how students respond to wikis this semester.

4.) Figure out how peer review online could be more meaningful. The majority of the students didn't like peer review if it meant posting a paragraph to the Discussion Board or using Word's Comment feature. I'm very open to ideas on how to get students (online and f2f!) engaged in peer review.

Besides those 4 things, I'm really happy with how the class went. Once I got a feel for online teaching, I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of the experience. I plan to teach more online courses in the future.

The one piece of advice that I can give future online teachers is: DON'T do it because you think it's going to be easy. Grading essays online takes a lot more time than grading them in person. I had to keep reminding myself that I couldn't really use the codes I do on f2f students' essays and I had to better explain what I meant in each comment b/c I couldn't "talk through my ideas" in a classroom setting, like I do when I give my f2f students back their rough drafts and final drafts. So, be ready for longer grading sessions. It's important to take the time and provide very specific, detailed comments, so online students can understand exactly what you mean and learn from the comments without any verbal explanation. It's strange, but once I got used to it, I liked it. It taught me a lot about my teaching style and helped me articulate more clearly what I feel is essential to academic writing.

I'm excited to teach ENG 112 online. 112 is the research writing part of the composition program here at BGSU. We spend a lot of time teaching what are credible academic sources, how to find those sources, and how to synthesize sources in order to create intelligent academic writing. As I've been creating the Blackboard shell for 112 Online, I've been realizing that 112 is perfect for online courses! I've been creating assignments that allow students to make more use of online medias. I feel confident doing this b/c by now students have a grasp on argumentative writing, so now I can focus more on finding sources online and doing activities that encourage students to think about those sources and how technology influences/contributes to those sources.

I promise share some of my ideas once I iron the out after the semester begins.

During the interim, have a great holiday season!

Monday, November 5, 2007

I've Hit My Stride

Here we are in the beginning of Week 12, and classes are going great, especially my ENG 111 Online Class.

The Online students and I are working well in our class weekly routine, and I'm excited to report that they have figured out the wiki and are posting to it.

Also, I've noticed lately that the Online students have been having stronger and stronger online discussion via the Discussion Board. I'm really proud of the way articulate their own thoughts and respond to one another by addressing specific ideas in a response or raising thoughtful questions to the post.

Two weeks ago, my f2f classes had an online discussion regarding a sample essay, and I found that their responses were more thoughtful and articulate (probably because they had more time to think about the essay and respond to it when they were ready--right after or a few hours after reading, not when I beckoned them in class...), and they responded to each other in more detail than they do during our in-class discussions, which I assume is because students feel less shy with a computer screen facing them rather than 22 students and their instructor.

Based on this info, I'm leaning towards using the Discussion Board for reading discussions in my f2f classes. I would assign them for homework and use the free time in class for working more with audience and counterargument or in-class writing. I've heard that quite a few teachers use the DB for reading discussions, so I feel kind of behind the times. I guess I just had to come to that realization on my own.

As for planning for ENG 112 Online, I say, "Bring it on!" My ups and downs with ENG 111 Online have really helped me see what is feasible for future online classes and what I can expect from online students. I really want to take 112 to the next level, though.

On top of doing screen capture lectures of my course expectations, wiki directions, and blog directions, I really want to create assignments that take advantage of our online medium. For Essay 4, the big 8-10 page researched essay, I'd like students to do some kind of online presentation at the end of it. I'm thinking something along the lines of a blog post, wiki presentation, or, if students have the devices, a YouTube video or a You3B compilation.

Check out this great video on YouTube:

(Thanks to Terence for showing it to me!)

Of course, whatever medium a student chooses to use, I'd like to see a written text accompany the visual text. I don't want the paper word-for-word, but rather a summary of the paper and a reflection on the writing process and how the essay has affected the student or what more work the student sees ahead of him/her in regards to this topic--some kind of extension of the topic or connection of the topic to the student's life.

I'm still working through the details of this ENG 112 presentation assignment. I'll be excited to see the end result.