Saturday, December 18, 2010

Emerging from the black hole of grading: Status

I thought this might be a common thread amongst us. Well, I would like to report that I am searching for other countries/colleges who might be interested in connecting for a joint project involving virtual blogging and beyond. We are, as Rich reported, ahead of the game as far as I can tell. I want to add video to my next term blogging. Other countries are blogging about snowball fights. Yes: from Germany to China. Snowball fights appear to be a major problem. What do you do with a student who throws snowballs at another student with intent to harm? How interesting is that to learn what the school issues are across the world. Snowball fights? Who'd a thunk it? My next blog may be a video one of snowball fighting....or my next assignment in 101 Fall II might be to respond to the question of snowball fights to those students far away.Or will that give our students ideas?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Community 2.0 and CUNY IT....

I took a break from grading [!] to go to the second day of this year's CUNY IT Conference held at the Graduate Center last Tuesday and thought I would share some interesting trends and even some relevant news. I was struck with two things: first, how mainstream IT and education are now (before this event was for 'sysadmins' and, well, 'geeks'). Secondly, I was amazed that the panels on online courses relied so much on Blackboard (and not so much streaming videos of mini-lectures) or Web 2.0 tools. I know some of us at LaGuardia are involved with online / hybrid courses. My department doesn't do this yet, but when if and when we do make this leap, we should be absolutely confident that we are ready for online instruction-the participants in this Community 2.0 are farther ahead than the presentations I saw when it comes to Web 2.0 tools!

The last panel was the most interesting, and we should all be aware of this. There is a movement underfoot to build a CUNY-wide 'student-publishing platform' using open-source tools like WordPress (blogs) and MediaWiki (wikis) with social networking ability using the expertise gained from an ad hoc group (centered at the GC and City Tech including English professors--who seem to have time to design and manage software development! -- and programming talent from the GC). They have put together the CUNY Academic Commons (which was launched last year). See . I haven't used the Commons much, but it seems simple enough: a social networking, publishing and blogging platform for CUNY Faculty only (and Faculty guests from outside institutions) to promote awareness and connections of research initiatives and particular programs. (I saw a strong demo. from a New Media program from York College. Using the Commons to promote itself instead of an in-house website is one solution to nder-responsive in-house IT support and restricted resources that they said they have at York. I wonder if there are any programs here which might take advantage of this approach.)

The flip-side to this effort is a similar platform for students. All kinds of issues and concerns were discussed including liability for inappropriate content, copyright, administration, hosting and development costs, etc. The CUNY Technology Director George Otte (whom I had the pleasure to work with at Baruch and at the GC) was in the audience, and he said a smart thing, "Build it and they will fund." Various ideas for funding a pilot were then discussed. And so this initiative is underway. (There was a fascinating discussion -- well, for me anyway, since I used to know a thing or two about designing software -- and that was their model at the GC and the Commons for supporting users, fixing bugs and such comes from Faculty and users, not from IT. This is possible only because of the ethos of open source, where any modifications can be easily requested and quickly made. If you have an iPhone / iPad this sort of thing goes on all the time with iPhone apps, which are not open sourced. You can write the developer or at least leave feedback with particular fixes and requested features. Try that with Google or Microsoft, for instance.) If and when the student version of the CUNY Commons arrives, it will be in what they said would be a 'federated' model where code and servers would be maintained on each campus, but content could be searched and shared across the University. This begs the question of what distinct advantage a 'curated' social networking / blogging site might offer vs. public Web 2.0 tools that we are using for the seminar and that students use in their spare time. I think there are several advantages: easier transfers between schools (overcoming huge costs for mis-matched Gen Ed. courses for transfer students as was mentioned), and also single-sign on for students, which means just one password. Student clubs and organizations could also establish an 'official' online presence more easily. (This interested me as an emissary for the upcoming Journalism Option at LaGuardia, for example.)

The last and most salient point was that for learning communities, resources and points of contact in content could be shared. I spoke up in my small group and mentioned that we are engaged at a pilot of just such an operation at LaGuardia! (That's us!) But wouldn't it be pretty amazing to connect students across CUNY campuses, for example, between Journalism students at LaGuardia and Brooklyn (where we will be sending students with an articulation agreement) and between LaGuardia and Queens / John Jay for our Writing and Literature Major, etc.? 'Virtual mentoring' between 4-year and 2-year colleges would seem to be a natural way to improve pass rates and promote student retention. Well, one day. We are already ahead of the curve, aren't we in this seminar? Well, back to my final grading.... Happy Holidays to All!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

E-Readers in the Classroom

Apologies if this is a little OT, but I sure need help with this (end of semester desperation). I know we're giving our students so many online surveys, but would anyone be willing to send out this short e-reader survey to their classes?

Basically it just asks them how they got ahold of their course readings and if they have any interest in using portable devices. We're doing an exploratory study with a bunch of Sony Readers. A bit aggravating, but I learned a lot about the IRB process at least (which caused a bit of anxiety, but went ok).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Community 2.0 Seminar Agenda / 10 December 2010 / C740: 09:00-12:00

Community 2.0 Seminar Agenda
10 December 2010
C740: 09:00-12:00
  • Freewrite: Envision the end of Spring semester. Where would you want your students to be? What do you want them to be doing? How does this seminar help to achieve this vision?
  • Follow-up Discussion: What are you trying to accomplish for your students through this seminar?
  • Assignment of Professional Support Pairs
  • Break into Professional Support Pairs
  • Adding information to the wiki (if needed); reading the wiki; working with your support partner to articulate what you want to do for a specific course or courses and how and with whom; problem solving.
Touch base with Network Partners

11:00-11:40 Demos
  • Netvibes
  • Google Cluster: Blogger/Docs
  • Ning
  • Discussion
    • Next time: Facebook!
  • Expectations for Spring
  • Course Codes for this semester
  • Homework

  • By Friday, January 7: Use your Contributor Tag to check all your blog entries this semester. You may also want to refresh your mind as to what others are doing by checking their Contributor Tags. Then compose a Reflective Blog that
    1. begins by restating your goal(s) for the Spring
    2. reflects on your own entries over the semester.
    3. reflects on what someone else said that you found provocative and link it to what you have done or are planning to do in this seminar.
    • By Friday, February 4: Update your syllabi/course descriptions on the Community 2.0 wiki. Remember, in particular, to identify themes and possible network partners (see, for example, Ximena’s entry for Brave New World.)
    • By Friday, February 11: Examine the syllabi/course descriptions of your Professional Support Partner: What are is/she planning to do? How is s/he planning to do it? What is s/he struggling with? Exchange supportive feedback via the Comment function of the wiki page (at the bottom); please be specific about the feasibility of your partner’ s plan in particular.
    • By Thursday, March 3: Have your revised syllabi ready for the seminar meeting the following day!

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    An unwelcome guest in the Community 2.0 homestead

    Those of you who still subscribe to (or, like me, forgot to unsubscribe from) the digest of our recent JAM might have noticed today's new post urging us all to "Think about your marriage and get a trusted women [sic]" (screen-captured below, in case the JAM administrators elect to delete the post):

    It seems to me that one might reasonably look upon such a post as an intrusive violation of the Community 2.0 space, or simply as an innocuous (and grammatically laughable) pest. Either way, it serves as a helpful reminder of the nature of public online forums, and potentially a useful teaching point for your classes. Posting and exchanging ideas freely on the Web is a bit like living in a house made entirely of screens: ease of entry for some means ease of entry for all, so we should all be prepared with a flyswatter in hand.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Final thoughts...

    I do apologize for the late post, but aside from not having much to share regarding my class, I just needed a break from blogger. Last week, on Friday, I administered the final exam in the computer lab, but as some students wanted to take the exam the old fashion way (i.e.bluebooks), I made a sing-up sheet which each students signed indicating whether he/she were typing the exam or completeing it in the bluebooks. Basically the split was down the middle. But as they were working, about forty or an hour into the exam, I noticed that the students who were typing their exams only worte one or two paragraphs and were constantly flipping between screens -the readings and their exam. I haven't graded the exams yet but am curious to see if overall those who worte rather than typed the exams did better?
    Also, as the semester draws near the end, students are raising numerous arguments regarding their grades. For example, today we had a peer review and each student was asked to bring in 3 hard copies of his/her first draft of the research paper 2. Of course, the usual suspects came to class 1 and 20 minutes late asking to be allowed to participate in the peer review as they " were on time but there was a line in the library"? Another student felt that just because he saved instead of posted his blog assignments on his blog, those assignments are technically on time and he should be allowed to repost them and his grade should be adjusted.
    And lastly, following a class debate on Nov. 15, which I recorded and posted on the class blog on Nov. 20, I asked the students to cast a vote as which side- that defending men or women- should be the winning one. On Nov. 15, after the debate, I told the students that once I upload the video, they are to vote and then we will determine the winner. I finally managed to post the video on Nov. 20, and posted asking students to vote. Then in class, I reminded them to vote, once again. I included the vote as one of their blog assignments for the third blog assessment period, and uploaded the blog assessment form on Nov. 29, which listed all of the assignments I would be grading on Dec.5. I reminded the students in class to review the blog assessment form and update the blogs, and also posted on Dec.3 another reminder about the blog grading which I asked all the students to read before they left after the exam. This morning- last night I e-mailed students their blog grades-I received an e-mail from one student who said it was unfair to count the vote on class blog as an assignment as he chose to be neutral and didn't want to vote...So to be democratic, I told the whole class in class today, that they can think about this and tell me what their decision is this Friday- either I remove the debate vote as an assignment from the blog assessment and readjust all their grade or keep it as is.

    I apologize for this lengthy and uninteresting post, but this incident has made me more aware of how precise I need to be with outlining the distinction between class blog and student blogs. I though I was pretty clear on the class syllabus as the blog grade includes blog assignments,blog maintenance and participation. And also I need to be much stricter with my grading rather than accept the bare minimum. In other words, I have been trying so hard to engage the students and encourage them to use the blog as a forum of exchange and communication, that I rewarded even poor work/incomplete posts and provided feedback on drafts which came to the sum total of two sentences or one paragraph.
    Well there is always next term...:)

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Final thoughts...

    As the semester nears end, the class activities have been more focused on advisement, DegreeWorks and how to use eSIMS. Nevertheless, I did want to share a recent article from Time Out NY. It’s a cute article about New Yorkers who are obsessed with updating, documenting, and sharing their experiences with a larger web community, and in the process, may end up becoming observers of their own lives. The article also raises an interesting question that I have often thought about “Are we frantically documenting our outings because we want someone to know we were there, or because examining and sharing them somehow adds to them?

    Read more: Is social media bad for NYC? - Things to Do - Time Out New York,3#ixzz1794hZaTe

    I also learned a new word this past week at a SEEK/CD counseling conference; netiquette, etiquette rules for the online community.

    Audio files

    A number of the students are still doing the VoiceThread assignment. Some had problems with logging in - how many times do we need to say use your LaGuardia account since that is what Blackboard uses? On the other hand, I was excited with the results I had on Voice Board from my CPC - The Future of Work seminar class. Students had to locate an article on making the most of their internship and then provide one piece of advice to the class on Voice Board. They had to respond to two other students which I usually require in my online classes but they had the option to respond with another audio or a text file. First, the advice and articles they used were good! Then I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of students opted to respond with an audio file. Voice Board seems to work so I will probably use it more frequently. Still need to figure out why it doesn't show directly in the Grade Center.

    I am in the process of reviewing the CPC final projects which included PowerPoint, podcast, audio, etc. and the wiki. I'll be able to tell you how these went when I see you on Friday.

    As for last Monday's videotaping - only one student did not show. Technically two but one disappeared since the group project. A few students plan to do their video over at home before posting to the ePortfolio.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Virtual Minds: Blog Evaluation System

    Virtual Minds: Blog Evaluation System: "I am working on a new blog evaluation system for next semester. I am going to have students post weekly blog entries and then pick ONE to re..."

    For Marianne

    So, I'm planning to have a post where I summarize my successes and misses for networks this semester, but, in the meantime, I thought this reflective post for my Shakespeare class would serve as a point of departure for the kind of survey Marianne wants to do with her students:
    Take a look around the whole Ning (at your page, other people's posts, my comments and assignments, etc.) and write a response to Ning 15 that explains

    1) one assignment that was fun to do and why
    2) one assignment that made you learn something about something (what are those "somethings"?)
    3) one assignment that you did not care for (why?)
    4) one kind of assignment or task that we did NOT do that you either did on your own (say, customizing your page, adding a discussion), or an assignment you would have liked to have done, or a TYPE of assignment you would have liked to have done more of
    5) whether, overall, you think the Ning was a useful tool to learn about Shakespeare (in what ways?)
    6) Lastly, what were YOUR three very best Ning entries and why do you consider them the best? (this last answer will count toward your overall Ning grade, so give it some thought).
    Notice that only one question asks about the tool itself (#5). That's because, as I said in a comment to Marianne's earlier post, I'm less interested in the tool than in understanding how the tool has helped my students learn or not.

    BTW, this is not a reflection on the whole course, but just on the work we did in the Ning. The reflection on the course is separate.

    Next Semester: Famous Last Words

    My classes late start at securing a computer lab in conjunction with my zeal for creating a megapolis definitely hampered the functionality of this past semester blogs. However, I am going to look at restructuring how the blogging pattern is used and to what end for Spring term. I have to decide what aspects really do translate to student success and which ones just become cumbersome chores for the students. Hmmm. Famous last words!