Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Managing online-only classes

I'm doing another 1-credit online-only class (LRC103) using Ning and it's going fairly well so far. In the past it seemed more difficult to keep the activity level up but this time around the students have jumped right in. In the first week I asked about prior experience taking online classes here and this was one of the comments:
"I am very happy that there are more and more classes online. Instead of coming to school, it really allows one to work at their own pace. Having a newborn at home, the online class really allows me to make my own schedule and not have to worry about being on time or about attendance. I am also taking a sociology class which is hybrid. It isn't entirely online, but half of it is and its great! I think that we should try to persuade LAGCC to add some more online classes especially since a great majority of students work during the day."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Facebook Takeover?

I had an interesting observation earlier today as I walked by the C-building lobby. There are eight quick reference computers set up for student use and every single station was occupied by a student who was updating his/her Facebook account. I know the “sample” size was small, but it was still an interesting observation. I wonder if anybody else has had similar experiences with students either requesting to use Facebook instead of some other online platforms, or just being surprised by the popularity of this networking tool.

It is a challenge!

I asked my students to do the survey by giving them the link in the blackboard announcement. In one class 7-8 students have done it. I have encouraged the others to do so. I will find out about the other class tomorrow.
This is a biology class where we cover a lot of material (25 chapters!). So we have to move at a very rapid pace. What I thought was to engage students in blog discussions where they could post their questions to each other and thus get help for those concepts that they could not follow in the class. So for the first week, I asked them to ask me questions in the class so that I could answer and then suggest to use blogs rather than class time for questions. But so far they have not been much into asking questions. Moreover, what seems to be another challenge is that only one student in this class has ever used a blog in the past and I will find out what it is like for the other class. This will be a big challenge to motivate them to come up with their questions and then post in blogs! any ideas?

Week 2: Blogging Along in Ning Land

Even without a computer lab most of my students are now in the blogs for my two classes: Justice for All (lib arts cluster with theatre and philosophy) and World Lit in English....what I'm most impressed with is the quality of the posts--so much more thoughtful than the piddling remarks they used to make on BB discussion board. They clearly love the Ning, write extensively (500+ words) and the responses, especially in the lit class are really thoughtful (see World Lit295 ning). In my Eng 101 course in the cluster, we began with something you would risk your life for (prep for Antigone). They wrote dramatic narratives, not just summaries so my Theatre teaching partner asked me to post his assignment to turn the narratives into a Blog-Play. Students eagerly created characters and stories with 2 characters and conflict as per Will's instructions--results on Justice101cluster ning. So this is a cool example of co-authoring the Ning in a cluster. I am going to ask Charity Scribner who teaches another section of World Lit if she would like her students to blog with mine since she mentioned it would be nice if our students could meet :) .

In Ning land I am having only modest difficulties--2 students whose text comes in black which can hardly be read--can't figure out how to fix but can read by highlighting it; another savvy student set his post to open on a future date (maybe he didn't want others stealing his ideas)--and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't respond--he explained); another set hers not to allow response--will be taking some smartroom time to review the management options they seem to have control of! One quirky development: someone who is not in my class started responding to our readings in World Lit--and other students answered him. I decided, why not? and have sent him titles of next readings students will be blogging about--he finds the stories and blogs along with the others...kind of cool...I look forward to our next meeting and making new connections for our research project in 101 (hate crimes)--Laramie Project and other examples (maybe Rosewood). Laura Tanenbaum (affiliate) suggested great piece by James Baldwin, "A Stranger in the Village" which was perfect for discussion of Eurocentrism, Grand Narratives and Orientalism...we are focusing a lot on methodology and tools right now...maybe if we talk in more detail about content it will help us find partners???? just a thought...

Monday, September 27, 2010


I may be very out of the loop, but I never knew about "Tumblr" until now. I just tried it. It seems
quite straightforward. I'm still hooked on my city concept but am finding it difficult to be mayor and architect.

Living in the sticks……

While I really appreciate living north of the city in a town with no sidewalks or streetlights, it becomes a problem when power and/or cable goes out. I am one of those “triple” Optimum users so was without internet/phone/cable for about 5 hours yesterday. Very difficult when you are teaching two online and two hybrid classes! In additon, my home is in a cell phone pit so I needed to go outside to even call the cable company to see what was going us. Very frustrating so I was forced to clean out part of my attic :-)

About last week – I posted the survey as an assignment in Blackboard and asked students to complete it. Many have indicated that they have done so. I plan a reminder this week when I post new assignments.

Avatars - Students have been creating their avatar introductions and are experiencing difficulty posting in Bb8 even with my step-by-step instructions. I cannot understand why it is so difficult as I have been using this activitiy for two years and this is the first time it has created such a probem in three of my classes. Could it be that these students are less technologically literate? One student posted in my “virtual office hours” asking for step-by-step instructions. These are posted and I have referenced the help sheet with a link within Bb8 more than once. Frustrating for all but a good activity when it works so we will continue since there is another similar assignment in a few weeks. I have asked those who continue to have problems to come to my office during office hours since I have the instructions posted, demonstrated in my f2f classes, so I don’t know what else I can do. Suggestions?

Last week, students completed free inventories on learning styles, emotional intelligence and personality type (MBTI). This is the beginning work for their career research. In addition, students have virtual retirement accounts so that we can track their $10,000 virtual investment over the semester. This is the beginning activity to address workplace changes and employee benefits. This week student accounts will be created in Focus Career where they will complete an additional inventory based on Holland and access to multiple activities regarding careers. So much of this beginning work frames the semester and prepares them for upcoming assignments. We will also be establishing groups this week based on personality type. Groups in one of my hybrid classes will then work on a virtual enterprise project and make group presentations in mid-November asking “local investors” for a million dollars to expand their business. More about this activity in the next few weeks.

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity | Video on

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity Video on

Setting up my Blogger

This week I met only with my Wednesday group because of the Commencement on Tuesday. About one third of the students had created their Blogger accounts and the others had either forgotten or were unable to create one. I reviewed the instructions one more time, and referred any additional problems or technical questions to B-333 (thanks Dr. X). Some students suggested using Facebook instead of Blogger because of its popularity among students and frequency of use. I will definitely consider using it next term, however, I have decided to stay with Blogger for now as many of the students had already created their accounts. Nevertheless, I am experimenting with Facebook this semester on a separate, but related project. I recently created a Facebook page for the College Discovery Program and Alumni, and I will be using it as a communication tool with CD students. I will keep you posted on the success of this page as well.

I decided to go with Blogger as my web 2.0 platform for the semester. It took me a while to figure out how to create the horizontal page tabs, but managed to create them after utilizing the help-index (it’s quite helpful by the way). I’m still having trouble attaching my syllabi (word) and a handbook (pdf). Steve and I continued to discuss various ways to connect across curriculum, and some of the ideas were:

1. College life at LaGCC
2. Professors’ expectations and/or appropriate classroom conduct
3. How to prepare for exams
4. Tips and tools for college survival

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Google Docs and Blog comments

Here is my report on two fronts:

Google docs worked great. Somehow my students were not asked to create gmail accounts, but I did ask them to send me the very same e-mail account they used in creating their blog (some had aol, some yahoo, some hotmail). Maybe because some had blogger already before class it made a difference. Or maybe google is messing with our minds. Nonetheless, I am really excited with having all the comments on their drafts in one place. I am going to test the capacity, but I plan to paste the whole document and "bubble" comments in the future.

Speaking of comments, it is funny to see the different number of comments blogs get from classmates. I plan to see when it will become noticeable so that I can address the issue with students--that they in fact have to consider how their audience reacts (or not) and change what needs change. An interesting question came up regarding what is the final form of a post. A student asked what happens if they go back and edit past the deadline or after a comment was posted and they try to address whatever issue the comment addressed. I told them I would prefer that for essays at least they post another blog titles "revised essay" so that both forms are present. I do not know if that was just my gut reaction, however, used as I am to non-electronic texts.

And as you have been reading, my students will have some interaction with Ximena's and Jason's classes soon. I am curious to how this will go.

Virtual Minds: Tech tips from my students #1

Virtual Minds: Tech tips from my students #1: "Press F5 to skip the advertisements on YouTube."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Disparity between on-paper/blog writing and students' romance on the blog

My students and I, are slowly but surely getting the hang of blogging. Some of the obstacles that came up this week-My request for students' blogs URLS went unnoticed by half of the class, which cut into our computer time/writing time. One of my students has a minimal knowledge of computer use and I found myself helping him work the mouse. Last but not least, I had to remind my students that their blogs are worth 40% of their final grade, and 10% of that 40 is basic maintenance and updating.
On the other hand, most students' blogs are turning out wonderfully. They are actively engaging with the assignments, composing insightful posts in response to quotes from the readings and one student in particular has not only created a wonderful theme for his blog, Zeus-father of gods and men,which is super great as the class theme is masculinities) but his posts go well above and beyond the required length. I'm so impressed with his work. If anyone gets a chance, check out his blog
But I have also noticed that the students' posts, in comparison to their diagnostic, are often lacking in basic punctuation, capitalization and spelling. Should I comment on this when I comment on the student's blogs or just mention it to the class in general (i.e. blogs are a reflection of the student's work as should be made presentable, yady, yady, yada)? Maybe I'm just expecting too much?
Another issue which is developing is that two of my students appear to be dating, and when I ask the entire class that each student comment on another student's blog, the female student makes comments such as "i'm hanging out with my bf" or "you[addressed to the boyfriend] can say whatever you like it's your blog". Maybe I'm blowing this way out of proportion but, I'm a bit concerned that the female in particular is not taking the class or the commenting on other students' blogs seriously. I mentioned, before these comments even made an appearance, to the entire class on the first week that their blogs are academic projects and the content posted there should reflect that. Any suggestions?

The Matrix, Supernatural, and my Freerice Warriors

So, it seems that I now have 100% of one of my ENG102 sections blogging and linked and about 90% of the other 102 section blogging and linked (they have only met once so far due to the wonky schedule, so that is OK) and the ENG099 is 100% for those attending (I have three students MIA). I have run into an issue with having both my 102s on the same blog when they only meet once a week--my posts are sequential and there are sometimes several per class so when the Tuesday class meets next week their "To Do" list will be three posts down. I think what I might do is temporarily hide the additional posts just for that class period until I need them. However, I know many of the students are checking the blog during the week. In any case, I think I can figure this one out. This may be a case where, in the future, I'll need to switch off of the blog as my "Main Page" and use Google Groups or Google Sites instead and then use the blog only for the blog assignments. I'll think on that one this upcoming wee, but I think I can solve this using blogger if I design my posts better and post them in a different order.

My other issue is that I need to start having students responding to one another's blogs from home, preferably across classes, but the wonky schedule currently has put the two classes out of sync. I'm going to try and rectify that next week.

Coming up Luke and Ximena and I are going to be trying a simple intervention where Luke's cluster class is going to read and comment on some of our students' posts on The Allegory of the Cave. We have all approached this from different angles. Mine are using the Hero's Quest/Monomyth as the basis for "reading" the dialog and then comparing it to their own lives (an assignment based on one from John Chaffee's book Thinking Critically). I am looking forward to it and the students seemed excited about connecting with other classes.

Freerice Wars! On a lighter note, my students took my at my word that we would be competing with other classes on Freerice and have managed to rack up thousands of grains each in both vocabulary and grammar. OK, so I did assign it for part of their lab hour, but they took this seriously and are really working hard. Watch out you Freerice people! The Matrix Team is in the house!

Friday, September 24, 2010

To surveil or not to surveil

I'm using a site called Wetpaint which allows me to create groups and wikis and discussion forums and it is magnificent. I've used Blogger, and Ning, and a couple others, and one of the things I find so fantastic, yet frustrating, is how I am able to keep minute by minute tabs on the class. In the first week, especially. The course calendar can only be found online, the readings can only be found online, and in order to participate in the online discussion forums for the readings one must be, well, online. And their first homework assignment is to create a Wetpaint account, and to email me, subject: "[Your Full Name], LaGuardia, ENG102." Twelve students joined the course website on the first day, and six emailed me. Now, by the end of the second week, all are at least members of the site, though only 14 have contributed. Still only 17 have emailed me. Easiest. Homework. Ever. And i harp on about how important it is every day. I had to cancel class on Monday, and I emailed all students who had emailed me hours in advance to let them know, reminded them about upcoming assignments and an adjustment I made to the calendar. And only half the class got the email, because they did the first day's homework assignment.

So, I'm rambling, but here's the point. The connectivity lets me see who runs to the library after class and logs in and who completes the blogpost in a timely fashion, and who never does anything. I can see who has read something, and I can see who never checks the calendar, and who never comes to class prepared. And there is something awesome and simultaneously frighteningly Big Brother about that. I control this mini-univers full of all these people who are just little red lights of "connected" and "disconnected", "on" and "off" and I see it in real time, and constantly, monitoring their homework habits.

When it was all paper, did I know how many of them just never prepared themselves for class? Has it always been only half the class? Is the internet/wiki intimidating, or would they not have read the poem if it were in a 50 dollar anthology either? I don't know the answer, but there it is. 50% of the class is doing the work. And I know when they are sleeping and when they are awake. And I'm not sure it's fair for me to know that, but there is something to having that kind of control. There is something.

Update: Google Docs Gradebooks and other

Potential Google Docs as Gradebook users read this!

So I had mixed results with Google Docs Gradebook. Reason: I used student's e-mail addresses for sharing. BUT if the e-mail address is NOT Gmail, the student was prompted to create a Google Account to be able to see the document (sneaky b------s!).

Sooo, for those with the students who have AOL or Yahoo! or whatever I am going to create a shareable link for each document this week-end.*sigh* I guess with technology you always have to try everything more than once for it to maybe work.

So far, so good--I've got all my students "wired" and working. My Basic Writers are in Blog 3 and have completed the Student Survey, my Shakespeare in Ning 4, and may complete the survey today.

Also, Luke and I are plotting to have his ENG101 students descend on my ENA099 students next week (details forthcoming) and this morning I shared the gradebook Google Docs with most my Shakespeare students. I am just holding back on a few because I want to make sure that they want to use that e-mail address. Why? Well, for instance, one male student gave me an e-mail address that is clearly a female's e-mail address, so I want to make sure he's the only one that can view his own grades.

Lastly, I am working with Linda on her Spruz community today. Anyone that needs helps with tools, let me know.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This week my cluster students made real progress on their blogs for ENG 101, ENG 103 and LIB 110. We have a 'blog roll' posted here if you want a look. At first, they did not name their blogs with anything recognizable, so today I invited them to use their first names. I used this custom web script to automatically generate the HTML for the blog roll: (Feel free to give it a try; you just enter the list of URLs--collected from a signup sheet for instance, and it does the rest. View the HTML source, select the HTML between the commented sections and paste into Blackboard, or wherever.) So we are ready to go with using blogs in the class. I will be making some connections with others in the seminar soon!

Setting up Blogs and Labs

This week I've been helping students set up AMAZINGLY awesome looking blogs (they've discovered some advanced features that I still don't know about) and getting labs straigtened out.

At the same time, I'm trying to strategize the best way to grade low-paper (considering that much of my 'grading' time is not-connected to the web). I think I'll have to go half paper-based essays and half electronic ones. Its not ideal, but a good compromise.

Monday, September 20, 2010

List of student computer labs?

In response to Marianne's post-Creating Blogger Accounts, Doctor X mentioned that computers are available to students in student computer lab in B333? Does anyone have or know where to look up a list of all student computer labs and their schedules?

New Start

I had my 1st Group Dynamic class on Saturday 9/11 and introduced the topic of working with a New Student Seminar class. Marianne and I started to work on some ideas to see how new students can benefit from upper level students.This Saturday, my second class, I will set up groups in my class and they will begin to decide on their group project. I hope to have at least one of the groups work with the new students in the New Student Seminar.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Creating Blogger accounts

With the first week behind, I’m anxiously looking forward to the next one. Hopefully, the next week will be less hectic. I experimented with a shared, collaborative blog in one of my Spring courses, and I was vacillating between a shared blog, individual blogs, or maybe switching to a completely new platform such as Ning this Fall. I even went as far as creating the basic Ning account and paid the $19.95 basic membership fee to ultimately settle on individual Blogger accounts. I teach two sections of the Freshman seminar that meet once a week for an hour. I was able to secure a computer lab for my Tuesday class, but to my dismay, the Wednesday class had been assigned to a Smart classroom. Thus, most of the students in my Tuesday class were able to create their gMail and Blogger accounts in class, whereas the Wednesday group will create their accounts as homework. Most of the students had heard of blogs and “online journaling” whereas others were new to the idea. Approximately one third of the students were unable to create their Blogger accounts in class due to “account verification” issues. Students were asked to confirm the authenticity of their account requests by providing a phone number in exchange of a verification code. Many of the students felt uneasy about providing their cell phone numbers and others did not have active cell phones. I instructed students to create their accounts at home, and to let me know if they continued to experience problems with the Blogger. Maybe there was too much internet traffic from one location and Blogger randomly requested additional account verification for some of the new accounts?

As far as connecting with other classes, I’m planning on having my two groups interact with each other and I also met with Steve this past week to discuss different ways of connecting with his Group Dynamics class (more about that later). My goal for this semester is to have students reflect on their learning in class and to document their experiences as a first semester student.

Another semester begins........

This was an interesting week – I hate having a week’s worth of classes before the last day to add/drop a class. As usual, my roster has now changed and I will have new students again on Monday. When I try to start with the first class and cover the basics, it seems unfair to these students to hear me repeat myself for the new ones next week but if I don’t those who are new are always the students who seem lost later in the semester. I strive for a balance to “reward” those who start at the beginning with a quick assignment that is only worth a few points in the larger scheme of things. At least I can begin to create student groups next week!

In Co-op we are all using Digication for ePortfolios and have been using Blackboard consistently for years. For some of us, we use many of the Blackboard features and as I explained earlier, I am concerned about privacy issues with some of the writing that my students do so I feel safer in Blackboard. I will consider making additional moves towards more “public” spaces for the Spring. For now, my courses are in Blackboard but I utilize a number of Web 2.0 tools for assignments. For student introductions, particularly in my two online courses, I use Voki for one minute introductions. Students create their avatars and then post in the Discussion Board. I use this tool in a number of ways during the semester. In my CEP 121 classes, I will be using VoiceThread for interview practice and will add these classes to the existing assignment so that they can review the answers given by students in my previous classes. This will happen later in the semester. We will also be using audio files in a number of ways – podcasts, PowerPoints, informational interviews. I’ll post more on these when I make some final decisions. My internship seminar class (which is an online class) will add to the wiki that my hybrid seminar created last winter.

I haven’t been as successful with groups in the online sections, have used Google Groups/Docs with limited success so plan to try something different. I figure that students all have LIVE email accounts from the college so I thought we would experiment this semester with using OneNote which is accessible through their email account. They also have access to Word, PowerPoint and Excel – the MS Office Web Apps and SkyDrive. If we have reasonable success, I will probably merge my two CEP 121 classes. I am considering the best way to have my CEP 121 and my internship seminar courses to participate in a discussion board – two online/one hybrid class.

There is much I would like to do but with the pending structural changes in Co-op I am hesitant to move too fast too soon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Getting Started

First, a quick heads-up for the rest of the team. Google, in its infinite wisdom, is blocking certain workstations in the computer labs from creating new Gmail IDs in an effort to block spam. If you try to create a new ID, it just gives you a message that you are blocked because the same workstation (I guess logged by network address?) has been flagged as creating a lot of e-mail addresses in the past. Not so smart for academic environments where students would be using the same computers over time to sign up for different accounts. We just couldn't do it in E-106 the other day. The workaround is just to use a non-Gmail ID with Blogger. Case closed. You will notice, too, that Google seems to be 'harvesting' cell phone numbers (again to 'verify identities') as you sign up. This happens whether or not you use a Gmail ID or no. It's not like Google has anything to do with cell phone market.... Hmmm.

We will try again next Monday for my main classes--ENG 101, 103, LIB 110, a cluster. It will be interesting to see the connections we can make within a traditional cluster. I can see my cluster students benefiting with blogging with their brick-and-mortar classes, as well as moving beyond those confines to other courses.... I hope so....

Speaking of confines, did anyone see's epigraph on the end of the open internet as we know it?(UK lowercase usage here)? Chris Anderson suggests we are seeing the end of an open, public internet in favor of 'platforms' (Facebook, etc.) and Apple 'apps.' It's a provocative argument and suggests of course that platforms and proprietary software are taking over.... or at least getting a lot of press. (Does that mean Blackboard, Moodle, ePortfolios for education?).... If so, I'll miss the do-it-yourself aspect of Web 2.0, which we are digging into here.... At its best, Web 2.0 sites really can work together pretty creatively. It would be a shame if we all wind up on Facebook for everything in the near future using only cell phones or tablets running custom little apps instead of 'open' browsers....

Lastly, I turned my ENG 274 Creative Non-Fiction Workshop loose with signing up with Blogger last Thursday. Several students are already blogging elsewhere--great! I've decided to encourage these students to keep a private paper-based or online journal, too. I think these blogs will be really strong, but I don't really know where a creative writing class fits into the rest of our seminar.

We should have two 'blog rolls' (one from the cluster, plus the writing workshop) by late next week--stay tuned.

Setting up student blogs and blackboard readings issue

As my class meets on Mondays and Fridays, and it is on the latter day that we have a computer lab, yesterday was the day the students set up their individual blogs. So just to back track a bit, I decided to use blogs for my class; we have one class blog and each student has his/her own blog. Thus far it is quite hard to gauge whether how the students feel about the blogs. When we discussed it on the first day, they kind of accepted it as just another requirement for the course. For homework, I assigned them a short reading- Deutsch's Male Privilege List, and the task of setting up a gmail account, if they already do not have one, as well as to check out the class blog. So once I got home after Monday's class, sent an e-mail to check if I have all the students' e-mail addresses and also sent each student an invite to the blog. By Friday, only about three students accepted the blog invite (currently the total number of student followers on the class blog is seven). Then yesterday, when we got into the computer lab and after they all completed the student survey, we began setting up the blogs. The blogger website prompted them to enter their phone #s in order for them to receive verification codes. This got a bit troublesome as some students' phones had no reception and one student's phone's battery died. But within forty minutes they were all exploring the blogger gadgets to add to their blogs. Of course, in all this excitement, although I asked them to add a link to our class blog to their individual blogs, I didn't ask them for the URLs of their blogs. The discussion of the reading, the individual entries on the Male Privilege List that they found interesting, curious or disagreed with went well, and then I asked them to create the first blog post commenting on one of the items on Male Privilege List, much like in our class discussion.
So when I got home, I posted on the class blog, asking all students to post their blogs' URLs. For those who used gmail accounts, like I asked, and joined the class blog, I was able to view their URLs by clicking on their picture icon in the followers list. Bad planning and monitoring on my part.

But the most problematic aspect is the use of Blackboard for the class readings. Some students are completely unfamiliar with it, although in the beginning of yesterdays class I asked all of them to log into their Blackboard accounts and almost all of them were able to do so. Those who weren't, stayed after class and we resolved the issue. So now I'm contemplating requiring all of the students to purchase a reading packet, which means I have to print all of the readings and get them to the print shop. I really wanted to save on paper and for the students' sake, on money, by only asking them to purchase The Little Penguin Handbook ($24 on but now am having second thoughts. Also am worried about including the readings on the class blog as all the readings are sections/chapters of books and I don't want to get in trouble for violating copyright laws.
So should I be tough and tell the students to deal with Blackboard or should I cave, and get the packets?
Also, how often should I check up on the students' blogs? And comment on their posts? I mean it's impossible to comment on all of their posts...right?
So overall am still a bit discombobulated but super excited about the be cont.

The First Week Shuffle!

First off - I have to give my thanks to the scheduling gods for at least SOME lab time in every one of my classes!!!! However, the first week was marked by a lot of room shuffling which resulted in less than ideal conditions to "set the tone" for the semester. But, onward and upward and with fixed schedules into the future.

This semester I will continue to maintain course blogs and I will continue to have students build and maintain their own blogs where their work will be posted. There are a few major changes I am making this year:

1) I hope to have less paper-centric class. I want to read and respond to student writing electronically. I haven't figured out how yet, but Jason and Ximena have made great suggestions. I'm open to others. (I am still using a print coursepack. I love the idea of digital reading, but I also love the idea of students having their reading in front of them and making notes on it - even on the tech-free classroom days.) @ Jason - how do you handle this?

2) I am using facebook, del.ic.ious and twitter as parts of the class for the first time. I continue to use blogger, youtube, TED, podcasts etc. as before.

3) I am having 101 students from different sections cross evaluate drafts of papers.

4) I am training my 103 students as research coaches who will help 101 students write research papers.

All in all, I'm over my head but very excited!

Virtual Minds: Paperless or Paper Light? Technology and The Black...

Cross-posted: Virtual Minds: Paperless or Paper Light? Technology and The Black...: "So, for several years now, I have been virtually (pun intended) paperless in my classes. All documents and readings are online (excepting wh..."

Ning Highs and Lows Week 1: Keeping Up?

In my Liberal Arts Cluster we were in computer lab on day 2 so it was super easy to get them all on and writing in two hours--shout out to Rich for Embracing Love (opening balloon sequence) which fit perfectly for my first blog topic in the Justice for All? cluster (and I got it on Netflix instant play in lab)--what would you be willing to risk life or reputation for? This is only my second semester having students blog every week and I am completely sold--they write energetically and a lot--while there are technical issues of sloppiness (blogspeak) I am insisting that they quote twice from the text and that the quotation has to fit and be analyzed--they did this rather well for a first time round with little prompting so I am developing a theory that the platform encourages better/more engaged writing despite blogspeak. Luke--on reviewing my syllabus I am not sure I can do Oedipus but we did discuss the story in depth and they were riveted--so we can still talk about a conversation with Minority Report--I'll check to see who has seen it...maybe some other films would also fit--Fight Club? What is it to know thyself?

In my World Lit in English class we have a smart classroom but not lab--I am fine with that--it took a little longer but I collected emails and sent invitations--this was less disruptive for me than having them sign up in class. First assignment is their own cultural bricolage (which I did last semester) and it seems like a great entry to a course that is so much about colonialism and hybridity and globalization--most have done it and their posts are fascinating--and they are responding to each other though I have had more problems with students saying they didn't get email invite--a veteran student reminded us to check spam folder!

I guess if I have a question it is about how to keep up with reading all this and comment efficiently and productively! This is actually more writing in week one (we are up to blog #2 in both classes).

Making Connections (with Only Two Bars)

The first of the semester is always a crazy rush of this, that, the other, and then the unexpected. No exception here. For the first time I am teaching ENG102 as a three hour course, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. I made this decision without really looking at the Fall I calendar so it finally sunk in on the first Tuesday that I would not see these students again for two weeks! If we did not get the technology (at least Blogger and Google Docs if not Gmail) then we’d have to spend a big chunk of the next class, two weeks later, on tech help. 

Suffice it to say we did get it all up and running, but this involved students running outside of the building to get a signal to pick up texted codes to verify their existence to Google. In some cases students could not get a signal at all, so Google now has my cell-phone number on file quite a few times (thank you, just this once, Verizon Network).  So suffice it to say that at the end of the first week 95% of my ENG 102 students are online and posting and are all linked through my blog. But I need to sit and rethink what we do in class and what we do at home since we will miss that one or two day gap between shorter classes for things to “sink in”. I think I will be answering a lot of student emails this semester, though I am thinking of setting up a Q&A on my classes’ Google Groups instead. 

That said, currently I am also considering collapsing my Google Groups for all my classes into one. After all, I cannot think of a good reason to separate them at all and it might be interesting to see if my 099 students wander into my 102 discussions and vice versa without my prompting. By analogy, on Blackboard this would be like 3 classes sharing the same discussion board but with the bonus of being able to start their own discussions and upload images and etc. I think I will set that up this weekend. So, my 102’s are ready to be “one big class” and I will have them start cross-posting and –cross evaluating over the next few weeks.

The ENG099 class is mostly up and running on Blogger. The "tornado" on Thursday was just prior to my class and quite a few students came in over an hour late, so I had to work with them at the end of class. However, everyone had a great time on and a few of my students donated 1000 grains in under 30 minutes. Next week we are going to sign up for the Beta version which tracks scores and allows teams so we can compete with other classes. 

One quirky thing I have done is have my 099 class read and discuss The Hero’s Quest/Monomyth before my 102 classes do in a few weeks. So my 099 students will be charged with writing up a collective introduction to the Monomyth for the 102 students! I hope. We’ll see how that goes.

As to connections outside my own classes, I am working with Ximena for sure around mid-term and Luke and I getting together to consider connections a bit later in the term between my 099 and his 101/103 cluster. I also need to contact Magda and Corbett about connecting either this semester or building up something for next. If I can just get through the next week!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Considerations when picking an online tool

This semester I am working on two different platforms (a social network in Ning, and a hub-and-spoke blog network in Blogger) and the experiences I had getting the students to sign up for each were insightful. To wit:

It took about an hour of class time in a computer lab to get my ENA099 hub-and-spoke blog network (my blog connected to 20 students’ blogs via the blogroll) completed. This was mostly because I asked my students to join Blogger as homework from Monday to Tuesday, and only about half of the class followed my instructions and were ready to go. Therefore, I had to spend time helping that half of the class get a blog while the other half typed the diagnostic they had written on Monday. Only when everyone had a blog did I have time to sit at my computer to add all my students to my blogroll. Just in case you are interested, how I did that is HERE.

In contrast, enrolling my Shakespeare students in the Ning was a breeze. I gave them a reading, and then called on students one by one to join the Ning using the computer in the smart classroom. It took about 40 minutes to enroll 28 students (they have to create profiles) so they were set to go. That is less than a minute and a half that each student spent getting enrolled. In a way, I was lucky (smart?) to have decided to use a social network for Shakespeare because that’s a class where I cannot afford to waste any time—and it probably would have taken a whole class meeting to get my 28 students in a hub-and-spoke blog network.

This set me to thinking: if I could enroll students faster and with less work using a social network, why even bother with blogs?

I decided it is all about objectives: in the case of Shakespeare, the tool (Ning) is just an occasion for us to do work together online. On the other hand, blogs are more than just occasions; because they are individual and personal and they are publishing tools, they quickly become an intrinsic part of a writing class such as ENG/A 099, and so learning how to create and tweak a blog can be considered part of the process of learning of to write, inasmuch as writing is communication (see Luke’s comments on this subject).

In short, “picking the right tool” may mean many things; in my case, for a class where there will be much discussion, a simple, “transparent” (that does not attract attention to itself) social tool such as Facebook, Ning, Spruz and etc. seems to be best; for a class that needs to learn the ABCs of writing, a personalized and customizable tool such as a blog seems best. The fact that it takes longer to have everyone on the same page with blogs just reflects the facts that blogs are by design decentralized, personal, individual, less controllable; in other words, less teacher-centered (though I am still “the hub” of the class).


Using Community 2.0

I am indeed using you people already. Sorta. I decided to use the connections through this seminar to talk about conceptions of audience. I added Jason and Ximena's blogs and Phyllis' Ning to the blog roll of the class blog and when we were discussing audience I informed students that they should expect both other faculty and students to be audiences for them--not audiences they have to target, but audiences they have to consider. However, I also let them know of the upcoming connections (through The Matrix and Oedipus) in which there will be interactions where the other students--and perhaps faculty--will be the intended audience. It was one of the few instances ever where talking about audience did not feel like a fabrication, and that was a very empowering sensation. So, things have been going well so far. In fact, I am thrilled to have a computer lab twice a week, one for ENG 103 and one for LIB 110, as students have been doing their work in the lab, but this weekend they had their first out of class blog assignment. We will see how that goes.

Trials and Tribulations of Launching a City

It is difficult to be a virtual mayor of a non-existent city with few occupants. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I now have a resident of Lautrecville. My idea is to use the city as metaphor. To that end, I have photos or odd pictures. Ideally, a person can click on the pic and go right to the page where that "office" is located (another page).
I need to put this in working order before I can get my class to sign on. BUT, I am hopeful....thanks to Dr. X who has offered to assist me!
Am I over my head? Me thinks, perhaps.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A new rubric!

Hi all--

I just wanted to share a new rubric that is quick and easy for scoring blogs as a "portfolio". It is based on 100 points. I plan to have students use this one on one another to test drive it.

Click Me.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Ethical Query.


So I'll start off with an ethical, rather than technical, problem.

I really want to be paperless. AND I really like the transparency of using blogs. Students write, their peers comment, everyone can watch the writing process and its feedback loops.

I know what criteria I want to use to grade my student's everyday blog entries.

However, some of my students' blog entries are substituting for papers. Rather, they are formal papers posted on the blog rather than printed and handed in. As such, they require more detailed feedback. in many cases, they will be failing papers that need a lot of feedback.

Must I send a private email with this feedback and grade to each student? Is there a way to still post my feedback as a public comment (without the grade maybe?) so that other students can learn from this? I like the openness, but I don;t want students to feel that their privacy is violated or something. ....



Too Much Fun!

What a great opportunity to work with such wonderful and creative people. I was reminded of hte good old days when I used to be a techy. That's why I ran home and launched Spruz. Lo and behold, I saw that I could create a whole digital city: Lautrecville. I can't say that there is much to the city yet....more like a burnt out abandoned blight at this point. BUT, the point is that there are so many new fun (or "phun," as I tagged it) things to learn and do. Now, I am thinking of having my English 101 classes build a virtual city. Each city will have a radio station (podcast), a newspaper (articles), movie theater (well, we'll see about that), and presentations. I'm hoping to build this brick by brick. Anyone who wants to help is exceedingly welcome. Ideas? Thanks, you guys! I think that this is going to be a phenomenal (or should that be "fun-om-in-all"?) experience. I'll keep you posted with "postcards" from my cities.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Next Steps

Thanks for a great seminar yesterday!  :-)

Here are our next steps:

1. The student pre-survey is now live at
You will also find a link to it under the area “Links” on the Community 2.0 blog. Please try to give this survey to your students early on. You can print paper copies from the link. If you do so, please put the completed surveys in campus mail to Jason Smith in E-103.

2. Confirm the SIMS numbers for your classes.

3. Please set up your online platforms and send us their URLs/addresses ASAP so we can add them to the blog. For each platform, please create a link back to the Community 2.0 blog at

If you need help setting up or configuring platforms, or figuring out how to get your students working on it, let us know and we will be happy to help.

4. We have updated the blog with the new theme tags AI, careers, education, fate, groups, ideology, masculinity, sexuality, and stereotyping; we also updated the Contributor Tags with your last names (on the right-hand column—scroll down a bit). Please check that we did not miss anyone!

5. Refresh your memory about connections by reviewing the posts we wrote during the Wednesday face-to-face seminar. Try to make a comment or two, or “vote” on the blog post by clicking any/all of the buttons labeled “cool,” “interesting,” and “tell me more.”

We will be sending a follow-up e-mail next week to remind you to post and tag your posts, comment, etc. In the meantime, if you need anything, let us know.

Seminar Schedule
Participants will be responsible for posting to a shared public website and participating in online discussions. This is a year-long seminar. Face to face seminars will be held in Fall I and in Spring I as follows:

Wednesday, September 8, from 9:00-1:00
Friday, October 29, December 3, March 4 and April 29 from 9:00-12:00
Wednesday, June 15, from 10:00-2:00.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Community 2.0 or Online Support Group

On my way to today's Community 2.0seminar, the first for this term, I was a little apprehensive sort of as if it were the first day of class and I was the new kid. Also, aside from not being incredibly technology/Internet savvy, I am still working out the exact format for the ENG 101 class I'm teaching this term. But during the course of the seminar and the super fun 'speed dating' activity, I found that the participants and their exciting courses will be a wonderful resource in both constructing my course as well as exploring different, innovative ways of enriching not only mine, but my students' ENG 101 experience. As the theme of my course is masculinities, and one of the units will focus on media portrayals of men , Luke Vasileiou's SciFi and Philosophy course, particularly its popular culture aspect, will be a great means of connecting our classes. Another aspect of masculinity or it's physical formation which my class will discuss, will benefit greatly from Karim Sharif's biology class. There are numerous other connections I made with other instructors reading common readings, like the Icarus myth, which Corbett Treece will be reading with her ENG 102 class and possibly a Shakespeare play that Xiema Gallardo's class will be reading. Last but not least, I'll try to connect my students with Ann Matsuuchi's students regarding research and source evaluation when they are working on their research papers. Having met a number of new colleagues, I am looking forward to a fun and exciting semester.


This was a great way to kick off a semester but if we met in June it would have given me more time to figure out what I wanted to do over the summer especially since classes begin next week. I have a hard time waiting until next Spring to put this fully into action! The speed-dating was an interesting activity (what I have always called ice breakers) to learn more about individuals in the seminar since we will be meeting online for most of this seminar – a way to connect a name and face is always helpful. I like the opportunity to connect outside of my department and pleased to see that there are pieces of assignments in a number of courses that would be available for student connections – Lizzie, Rich, Linda, Luke, and Marianne. Many times I try to do too much – myself and with my students – so I need to think small for the first time. My courses are very specific and I rarely have the flexibility that I see in some of the English courses regarding material. I know that many of my students postpone taking English and if I can connect and introduce some of the material that I have viewed today perhaps I can encourage them to register for these classes in Spring….forging another connection. However, as a licensed social worker, issues of privacy and confidentiality concern me since many of the assignments my students complete are personal. I need to negotiate the line about what is private since many of the tools are public.

Reflection, first session

It was great having the time set aside to both meet more colleagues and spend some time thinking about implementing some new ideas in my online class. My students should be able to provide research assistance and source evaluation to any other classes interested in collaborating.

Hopes and expectations

Initially I was not sure how will I be able to use Web 2 tools in my biology class. Meeting and discussing what others were doing and how we could connect has given me ideas which I am hoping will be very useful in helping my students understand biological concepts and also to be successful in my class. I am looking forward to trying out some of those ideas for my class and follow through to see the outcome.

I look forward to working with you all

I'm excited to be included in the forums. Looking forward to hearing all your web war stories and victories. Also looking forward to the fact that when next I participate it will most likely be from home in my pajamas.


Corbett Treece

Great to See So Many New Faces


I am really looking forward to working together this semester!!!!

I was really inspired by so many of the great ideas for classes and room for collaboration!!!


Lots of great ideas!

I loved the speed dating. It really helped to give me ideas and tips about how to use web tools to enhance course content. I'm going to go home and try to use some of them as well as figure out how to integrate this into my courses. I think that students will be very motivated to contribute this way...much more so than writing in class. It is easier than ePortfolio and less restrictive.

Community 2.0, v. 1.00

It was exciting to see so many possible connections between classes with other members of the seminar. I hope to follow up online soon to create interactions between classes. The only challenges I see are that it might be difficult to synch up with different syllabi and so forth. Anyway, it was wonderful to meet everyone and find so many classes sharing common themes. As always, with the Internet, it is a question of finding the good stuff--it's all out there--and I hope we can all find a 'workflow' that allows us to make the 'use cases' outlined on our flyer of ways to connect (sorry about the jargon). It strikes me that there is an opportunity to create some best practices on how to connect classes (which are not entirely public and not entirely private) and the notion of a small (but not so small) 'garden' (that's a metaphor), not quite walled off, but open to visits by other classes....

Reflection on 9/8 seminar

As it turns out, I found out from the "speed dating" activity that there are lots of possibilities of connecting my cluster with other classes. There were some obvious connections to begin with, since both Jason and Ximena include The Matrix and the allegory of the cave in their courses. Additionally, Richard deals with ideas of brains, minds, consciousness in his ENG 101 class and Magda is also looking at media in her ENG 101 class, so I will be able to have my students interact with her students, seeing as how I am teaching a media cluster.
I have taught this class before (as an ENG 101) and there had been some issues that had come up during class discussions for which I wished I had more outside input. In the discussion of Gattaca, for instance, I would have liked for the students to get some feedback from someone with knowledge of biology as to what is plausible in that movie, and I will be able to do this by connecting with Karim's Fundamentals of Biology class. Also, when in class we discussed Minority Report, I would spend some time going over some basic plot points of Oedipus the King but this mere mention did not do justice to the connections the movie has to the classical play. Thanks to Phyllis and her liberal arts cluster, my students will be able to interact with students who have read the play and they will be able to discuss what kind of conclusions they draw about the issues of fate, foreknowledge, and free will based on the texts (film, play) they respectively read and what kind of comparisons/contrasts they reach.
As to what I am concerned with now, I simply want to see how I will be able to utilize all these connections in my students' blog assignments schedule.

New Connections!

The "speed dating" gave me several exciting ideas on how to connect across disciplines and classes. The Freshman Seminar teaches valuable "survival" skills to new students, and through my discussions with Community 2.0 participants, I might be able to collaborate on topics such as career development (Susan), and/or develop "Dear Abby" Q&A with (Phyllis) on student success skills. I also have a few aspiring Biology, Chemistry and Allied Health students in my seminars, and connecting with Karim's Biology class could introduce my first semester students to the rigorous Biology curriculum. Similarly, my FSM students could assist Karim's Biology students with effective study skills etc.

fate, identity, soul, challenges

Luke and I are making a connection between Oedipus and Minority report re fate and free will--the way you can know your fate (prediction), try to avoid it; struggle with ethical consequences of choice; function of oracle; Rich and I may do something with and Ishiguro theme (his cluster, my World Lit class)--souls and soullessness--what happens when you are trapped by ideology [but aren't we all??]; (I am teaching Remains of the Day; he is teaching Never Let me Go)--conversation with Rich--he reminded me of film version of McKewan novel, Enduring Love--which deals with question I am already using for first class (Justice Cluster) --what would you sacrifice your life for--us or me question--I use a Peter Singer Story about a boy, a train and a Bugatti (forced choice); Marianne and I are thinking about having her FSM students mid semester answer questions posed by my 101 students about challenges they are facing first semester in college (dear abby); Marianne says this would be a good way of finding out what they have incorporated from her class. Linda and I are thinking about Orwell connection (her text and maybe mine--Why are Beggars Despised?). And Ximena and I are working on Shakespeare's ideas about justice (mid-semester) and then her students can help mine prep for final on justice (she has elective on Shakespeare--I teach Macbeth in 101).

1st Time Blog

I still need to determine what would be most helpful for students in my class. I would like to use this opportunity to explore options and to develop this tool as another resource for students to learn.

First Blog Entry: Reflection

For your first blog entry on the 2010-2011 Community 2.0 seminar, we would like you to take a few moments to reflect back on your experience today and particularly on the speed dating. What connections are you thinking about forging? What was most interesting? What are you concerned about right now? Please keep in mind that this is a public blog when framing your response.

Hello Y'all!

Hi Y'all!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcome to the 2010-2011 Seminar!

Hello everyone!

We are very excited about out upcoming first seminar meeting this coming Wednesday, September 8th from 9am to 1pm in room E-228. We will have coffee, tea, and light breakfast starting at 8:30 followed by a very full and active 4 hours to get us ready for the semester’s work.
As you already know, most of the work for this seminar is online and, therefore, we need to maximize of face-to-face meeting times as much as possible. We’d like to request that you review the following documents prior to the meeting, especially the spreadsheet that details everyone’s course information:

Fall 1 Participant Information
Participant Responsibilities
Possible Interactions
Possible Tools

Wed September 8, 2010 Meeting Agenda9:00am-1:00pm Room E228`

09:00-09:15 Welcome
09:15-09:30 Review of Responsibilities
09:30-10:00 Review of Community 2.0 Blog and Tags
10:00-10:30 Types of Interactions (handout)

10:30-10:45 Break

10:45-11:30 Themes and Connections (Using Seminar Spreadsheet)
11:30-12:30 Speed Dating
12:30-12:45 Survey
12:45-01:00 Tools and Tips (handout), First Blog Entry, and Next Steps

Seminar Schedule

Participants will be responsible for posting to a shared public website and participating in online discussions. This is a year-long seminar. Face to face seminars will be held in Fall I and in Spring I as follows:

  • Wednesday, September 8, from 9:00-1:00
  • Friday, October 29, December 3, March 4 and April 29 from 9:00-12:00
  • Wednesday, June 15, from 10:00-2:00.