Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Everybody had a good year
Everybody let their hair down
Everybody pulled their socks up
Everybody put their foot down
Oh yeah
~The Beatles, "I've Got a Feeling"

It's all over now, baby blue. Wait. I can't--I shall not--mix artists here. My students received feedback from Michelle's class last week. They were, indeed, waiting with baited breath to hear what their peers would say about their essays. Let me add: the assignment for Michelle's students was not easy. They did have to put on their "Evaluation Caps" and assume (as Michelle noted in her post) a position of authority. They needed to bring the thunder. And I think they did. Looking at what Michelle's students wrote, I found most of the comments to be pretty spot-on. My students admitted that the comments were helpful. One student protested during class and announced that the comments she received were inappropriate. This turned out to be a joke. The comment was something like "This is good work." Which, actually, and ironically, was inappropriate--I think the student needed to do more and proofread for common (and careless) grammatical errors. Anywho. It's nice they had fun with it. 

My students are now revising their essays based on the comments and suggestions they received. Of course, Facebook bein' (The) Facebook, we had issues with some of the comments disappearing. (Oh, where do these tidbits wander?) This morning I went over the group and made sure that everybody had a comment. I believe I ended up writing 7 or 8 comments. In the future, I would tinker with this tool and see if there might be an easier way to organize documents.

And: After my students received their comments from Michelle's class (but BEFORE they revised the essay that Michelle's students commented on--if that makes sense) they wrote another Short Writing Assignment (one very much like what Michelle's students saw). I do believe that reading the peer evaluations BEFORE writing that short essay really helped to inspire their writing. I noticed serious improvement (better attention to form, grammar, analysis) in their work. Let's hope that continues to the researched essay.

NISOD Conference Report

Paul Arcario asked me earlier in the semester if I would help run a workshop on Web 2.0 at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Conference (http://www.nisod.org/) in Austin, Texas. First off, it was hot in Austin, near 100 degrees, and hazy and windy, which I was guessing was from wildfires started by lightning from the recent thunderstorms. That said, the 2 hour workshop was organized into three segments: organizational concepts and programs using Web 2.0 tools, the use of Web 2.0 tools, and institutional policy issues. With me on the panel were Karla A. Fisher, Vice President of Academics, Butler Community College (KS); Meg McGranaghan, Director of Instructional Technology, Butler Community College (KS); and Kerry Keith Mix, Interim Dean of Enrollment Services, San Jacinto College (TX). We had a good turnout of about 25 folks--a mixed bag of administrators, faculty, and staff.

Karla, Kerry and I presented in the first segment, organizational concepts, which included the data supporting student success and engagement in online and hybrid education, the most surprising of which was the fact that in online classes all demographic factors--age, sex, race, marital status, and so on--cease to matter. That is right, folks, when you take the students out of the physical classroom they become equally as likely to succeed! One might say "equally as likely to fail" but why be a pessimist? Kerry discussed some of the programs his campus has initiated using Web 2.0 tools in advisement and I, of course, presented on our Community 2.0 project. What we are doing is pretty hard to explain in 5-10 minutes, but I am getting a little better at it and everyone seemed interested. "Encouraging mentorship" and "creating responsible citizens of the wired world" were my buzz-phrases and they seemed to work. Everyone loved Ximena's new "crazy slide" and asked lots of questions about it.  

A Community 2.0 Network by Ximena Gallardo C.
Following a discussion session Meg presented on a whole bevy of tools and brilliantly framed her organization of the Web 2.0 tools around Bloom's question classification levels (aka "Bloom's Taxonomy") using the presentation format called "PechaKucha", or "20x20", which is a presentation program that runs 20 slides of 20 seconds each, timed so they run automatically (more or less 6.6 minutes total). If you want to know how to say "PechaKucha" watch this short video HERE. I wish X and I could work up a 20x20 for our presentation at Faculty-Staff on Wednesday, but I think that doing one between today and tomorrow would be a little crazy, but I am certainly thinking of working 20x20's into my classes and maybe the seminar.

All of the tools were interesting and there were too many to list here, but Meg also organized all the tools using Symbaloo, a graphic bookmark organizational application, which you can see HERE

When it came to the policy issues discussion, run by Kerry and Karla, I realized very quickly that our group should probably start thinking more actively about institutional policy issues such as "Should faculty friend their students on FB" and "Can faculty require the use of a social-networking tool in class?" These questions have already come up, of course, and I have my own answers ("no" and "yes, with responsible provisions for maintaining the student's anonymity to persons not in the class"), but some sort of policy will be coming down the pipe and I would rather it start with our group than elsewhere. There were a couple of very disturbing anecdotes which I will not share in detail here, so suffice it to say a lot of things can happen with a camera and a Facebook account that I never would have thought of.

Overall, it was a great session and I might ask Dean Arcario if maybe some of our team could apply to run a pre-conference workshop next year.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Trouble with FB activity

I had designed a FB activity for my Wednesday group for students to write and post their proposals in FB docs. Unfortunately, the lab that we were using had blocked FB (unbeknown to me) and only a few of the students were able to post their assignments on FB. Thus, students completed and printed their assignments on MS word and traded papers with a partner for written feedback. Even though the activity worked out fine on paper, I still missed the more “public” venue of sharing students’ work. Some of the proposals were nice, and I wish students could have reviewed and commented on more than just one proposal. Also, trading papers seemed a bit cumbersome after using Blogger and FB with previous assignments.

And the Student of Spring I 2011 Award goes to...

Although it may seem silly, almost elementary and junior high school-ish, I try to have an award ceremony in my classes where I either make certificates for my students or give them little trophies(i.e. 99cent store items such as foot-long pencils or keys- Christmas tree ornaments- spray painted gold). I'm fairly certain most students think I'm a bit nuts for doing this but I think some of them get a kick out of it. Last time when I made the awards, I made sure that everyone received at least one; these awards ranged from perfect attendance, class participation, highest grade on particular writing assignment, to  the most positive/upbeat disposition and most improved writer. (It it very possible that these awards are much more for myself, to assuage the guilt I feel and that queasy feeling as I prepare for the final conferences which I dread every year. Don't get me wrong, I stand by my grades but I still dislike, and always will, the encounter with that students who has done below the bare minimum, missed numerous classes and was often late, yet comes to the final conference meeting and argues for half an hour that he/she deserves an A or B).

I'm not sure if I'm going to make certificates for my students this semester, which is not to say that this semester or any other semester there aren't wonderful students in my classes, but there are several students who have done incredible work, both in terms of writing and the blogs. Butoves Mede  is the star student of the class; not only is he a wonderful writer but an incredible asset to class discussions.
Ying Ying Jiang http://bluesky-manshat.blogspot.com/and Angel Ovcharik http://angela0764.blogspot.com/ are two students for whom English is not the first language but who have embraced every assignment, took full advantage of composing several drafts, sharing these via google docs and their blogs, as well as taking into consideration comments from peer reviewers - classmates, other classes we connected with like Luke's Heroic Lives and Dr. Van's Honors Lit course, and myself. Another two students who have done impressive work this semester and stay on several occasions after class to continue discussions are Claudia Gomez http://claudiagee.blogspot.com/ and Jonathan Gomes http://theuniversalmen.blogspot.com/. Claudia has failed ENG 101 once before but this term she has worked very hard and the numerous slips from the Writing Center are yet another proof of that, and she has been exchanging e-mails with Ann Matsuuchi regarding research (Ann's LRC 103 students were research advisers to my students for their first and second research papers).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reflection Time

One concern I had about mid-year was that my themes/tags were different from others--we weren't working on Fast Food Nation or NYC; and even though there were some connections to the theme of "Masculinites" (abusive law of the father types on our novels)--figuring out how to link discussion was difficult. What I learned was something someone from the Writing Center told me ages ago: you don't have to have read the story to be a good tutor. So even though I had reservations about getting my students to peer critique across platforms, they were easily able to enter Magda's and Corbett's courses and comment on a) research drafts and b) wiki entries--and I was very pleased that they were on board about this--though I have to check to be sure that they ALL did it! Need a structure for this. My current one is to have them send me an email of what they have written--which has been helpful for other reasons! When I set up the exchange with Magda I talked to them at some length about TONE, reminding them of their own experience when they receive comments. What Jason and Ximena have mentioned about the willingness of students to comment more honestly about work of others NOT in their class is too true: they were sometimes (in my opinion) too blunt. For example (paraphrase)--"you should completely change your thesis and proofread more carefully!" (or worse). So we have revisited the discussion of tone and how important it is to say something positive first! Nonetheless I think it was a positive exercise for my students to take on the voice of a professor and think about how to encourage a writer. Students in my class were intrigued by Magda's "Masculinites" theme and they thoroughly enjoyed Corbett's wiki project which I showed them in class. They had no difficulty entering either site, so I am looking forward to further collaborations next Fall.

Overall this has been a great experience for me--"this" being C2.0 and becoming more comfortable in the hybrid online environment. I am now completely dedicated to student blogging--it has deepened our discussion and keeps students on point in the reading. I frequently highlight specific blogs in smart classroom (no, we do not have lab)--and have had not difficulties with technophobes. All their blogging takes place on their time and has to be in midnight before class. Frequently I make a few notes before class on key things students have said and organize groups around specific original comments (Charles, you had a great post on the frame story for this novel--why don't you lead that group). I am also committed to one platform, not several. My students are completely at home with NING after the first week and feel comfortable talking to each other as well. Going forward I want to encourage more independent blogging--why don't you start a thread on that topic?? I also want to increase the % that the blog counts in my class and tweak the rubric so as to encourage more cross-conversations :). Jason and Ximena have been great about keeping us on task and in conversation, so I'm looking forward to doing more next Fall :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cross-Class Peer Review Part II

This past week my class read and commented on essay drafts written by Jeremey's students. Since most were partnered with the same students who had reviewed their work the week before, there was a sense of community despite the lack of one-on-one contact. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was nervous about using class time on this so late in the semester but it was well worth it.

First off, reading poetry essays reinforced the work my class did at the beginning of the semester and served as a reminder that learning/thinking about a particular genre is not over once that segment of the course ends. They also seemed happy to flex their literary interpretation muscles after working on a research-based essay for the past few weeks.

Secondly, my students realized just how difficult it can be to read someone's draft and provide constructive feedback. Seeing the revision process from this side allowed them to experience what it feels like to make judgments on a piece of writing and many said that it helped them read their own work with fresh eyes.

Finally, they seemed pleased with the feeling of authority the process provided them. I reminded them that you need not be a college professor to read and respond to an essay and this exercise brought that home for them. After a semester of reading, writing, and revising, they felt comfortable enough in their own abilities to express their opinions freely. Their feedback was also quite good, overall, and they provided Jeremey's students with thoughtful comments, constructive criticism, and encouragement.

The one minor difficulty was Facebook's inability to accept 20 or 25 posts at the same time (it's a drawback of doing this during class time). By now we knew this would be coming, though, so we were able to manage that fairly easily. Those who couldn't post while in class saved their work and posted it later.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the process and so were my students. I just hope Jeremey's class found the feedback to be useful in their revision process.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Penny Dreadful Project Geared For Press

I haven't had a chance to review my posts over the past school year. But, I have a sinking feeling of disappointment at what I meant to accomplish was a far cry from my concept. I wound up going quite a different direction ( which is an odd thing when you consider that I spent a considerable amount of time and effort at ITP at NYU using and learning Electronic Publishing). Gosh...here I am ABD in Educational Communication and Technology, and looking anywhere but at the technology aspect. Go figure! The thing is this: Even without examining my posts, I know that I started out with a "city concept." I was building Lautrecville, a place where students could upload their own music, graphics, artwork, poems, essays, thoughts. Each part of the city had its own dept, such as a "newsroom." Well, that didn't work. As my Blackjack phone app tells me, I "busted." But, I found that the students were actively engaged in our Penny Dreadful Project that was simultaneously targeted at both print and web. They didn't blog. They couldn't get on. They didn't like it. I assigned Editors...those who could go in and "edit" (correct) the text of the lesser skilled students. One student confided in me, "The summary was grammatically a mess!" I didn't want the students to "critique one another's work. The class was small, and I envisioned, as can happen, a mean spirited discourse rather than help. So, I chose the Editorial, Writers, Photoeditor route, and...it worked. They made some comments to one another, but those were very limited. I didn't wind up with a successful blog...to tell the world..."HEY, this blog is great." But, instead, I wound up with a magazine for print to be uploaded. It was STILL a team effort...very much so.
Until I am more skilled in the program that I am requesting students to use, I'm going to continue to work in this fashion. I'll not be doing Web 2.0 next year, but plan to do another graphic novel and try to build it into ePortfolio, AND keep the print option. I am also going to try to learn some more technical skills that I USED to have so I can be ready when the "twains" meet.

ASAP Tumblr

We received positive comments on our ASAP Tumblr. Student goverment students are also reading the comments and suggestions.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's a 'Workflow'?

In my previous career as a 'technologist,'' I was able to carefully define business processes for new software systems, which I then programmed, tested, deployed and supported. (I even once taught a course in formal software engineering at Columbia--well I taught about 80 courses there in their IT Programs division in a dozen years, all this in the evenings. Those were indeed the days of plenty and fervor about new technology like web software, thin and thick client computing, etc.) I worked in magazine publishing during the day (creating different software for editorial staff), I often interviewed or shadowed people as they worked. Software or business analysts do this sort of thing all the time, and I am struck by now that we are all trying to devise 'workflows' between classes using blogs and social networking tools.

This is very hard to do, even when you have budget, time and software design expertise. Well, we all have an amazing level expertise in this seminar, but it's hard to know what steps to follow to engender these conversations (which are really workflows) between different users, er, I mean students and professors as they create topics, draft, blog, revise and then turn in formal papers.

Professional content management systems (CMS) allow for different roles (writers, editors, reviewers), steps, checks and balances and so forth. The workflows in Facebook, for example, are not very advanced. They are there, btw, but we need to define steps and 'best practices' to foster (the right) connections. Of course, the dream (I think) that social networking is like magic. Students will magically stay on task, interact in a responsible and thoughtful way (while not paying more attention to the fun, distracting stuff that is the essence of social networking). Maybe this happens, maybe it doesn't. Like others in the seminar, I have noticed a creeping blogging voice in formal papers. (In my ENG 102 class the other day, I gave them a 'successful' research paper example from an earlier class. One response was: "This doesn't have an opinion!")

To foster two 'virtual peer editing' sessions and mentoring between classes, I created handouts with a signup sheet for the target class. (This was ENG 101 and LIB 200--they had covered the World's Fair at different points in the course.) I created a guide sheet for the peer editing for my LIB 200 students, and offered to give them extra credit (for any missed blogging assignments). It worked like magic. My 'paper based' workflow seems to have worked. But it's interesting to think of an 'ideal' system for allowing peer editing. (That would be some sort of CMS, btw. Publishing companies managed content all the time--involving writers, editors, managing editors and even legal departments to approve, edit and then publish content, including version control.) Most of us are probably against 'platforms' like this, but they might have advantages.

Next year, I will be investigating using a customized version of (open-source) WordPress to expand The Bridge, LaGuardia's student newspaper as part of our new effort with the Journalism Option in the Liberal Arts, which I have been working hard to create. (Starting in Fall I 2011, LaGuardia students can take a program of courses and then graduate with a degree that mentions Journalism.) I'm betting there are add-ons to WordPress to add some control of workflow. (There are a lot of smart people using this for the CUNY Commons at the GC and other CUNY schools, who I have been talking to lately.) WordPress is also used at several major media companies as an online publishing 'platform.' One day, we'll see a sort of platform for researching and writing student papers too. It's interesting how life circles back and forth. I hadn't thought about the word 'workflow' much at all lately, but in a conversation with one of my oldest friends in NYC, who is now a senior technologist at a European publisher, who also has over a dozen published peer-reviewed papers on the history of science and software design--the topic came up. I realized I was trying to do this in setting up my two recent 'virtual peer editing' exercises.... It turned out, we still had something to talk about.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stealth Class Connection

From the beginning of Community 2.0, the availability of a class on public domain has fascinated me the most. I have made a lot of connections where I and other instructors organized the logistics, whether be it with individual classes (Ximena, Magda, Jason) or with a couple of classes (as in the google groups discussion with Jason and Ximena). However, last semester I had success with an unscheduled, unannounced connection (when my students explored Magda’s student blogs and conducted a forum analysis) so I wanted to do the same. I decided that I wanted my ENG 99 students to be able to read essays from another class, so I created the following assignment.

First, I went through the practice essays Jason’s students had written for a particular set and chose three that demonstrated different types of essays that are common for ENG 99 developing writers. One that was weak on structure, one weak on focus, and one that was barely passing. I made sure that the barely passing one however would look less developed than the other two: while these two were lacking in focus and structure, they had a lot of generalities that made the students usually consider them good essays. I created links to these essays (calling them Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3) as well as to the prompt essay Jason had given hos students, and gave the following set of directions (whole link is here :
Blog 14: Learning from another ENG 99

First, read the text here:

Then read the three students essays below. Post 1:  Post 2:  Post 3:
make some notes: which of the three is the best? Why? What about it do you like? Did you learn something from reading it? Can you suggest any changes? Rank all three posts. Then post a blog titled "Blog 14: Learning from another ENG 99" where you argue why the post you chose if the best of the three. Use specific evidence to support your position and also discuss what you learned from it and if you could suggest any changes. Also give your ranks for the other two essays (second best, third).
Students were excited to read these essays, to look at other prompts, to read what other students do. I realized that ENG 99 with its ever-present pressure of the test creates a very insular experience for them, more so than other classes. They felt like being on a field trip or like actually visiting that other class by this activity. The discussion that ensued had more students engaged than is usually the case, while students were also very curious to find out what the intructor of the class thought of the three essays and their rankings (to date they do not know as that would take away from the reflection I wanted them to engage in as they were providing feedback). Of course I also realized that an experiment like that involves people/students/classes in the same discipline, so I wonder what one across disciplines will look like and what form it can take.

Group Research Project and some misunderstandings

This term I decided to assign a large group project and leave the group formation, policing and responsibility assignment to the members of each group. While many of you are probably thinking this is a recipe for disaster, so far it is going quite well. Granted when I announced to the class that research paper 2 will be a group project, couple of students asked if they can simply work on their own, ultimately the groups they have formed or ended up in (those students who did not find/form groups, ended up in one group) consist of nice balance between stronger and not so strong students.
The only requirements I set for the project are that A. the groups must have a minimum of 3 but no more than 4 members B. the research paper topic cannot be the same as that which any of the groups members wrote about for the first research paper C. the topic must be related to men and/or masculinity.

As the end of semester is fast approaching, several students have stopped posting on their blogs/completing assignments/attending class. This has of course caused some frustration to some of the groups; three have lost one of their members and there are now three, instead of four members in their groups. Some groups members approached me/e-mailed me asking what they should do if their group member is not responding to e-mails/texts/calls and not posting work by the deadlines agreed upon by the group. I've advised them to discuss this with their group, and make a decision whether to A. remove the group member's name, the one who has not contributed, from the portion of the project. (The project, as all the research paper projects I assign, consists of a proposal, annotated bibliography, first draft and peer review, and final draft). B. if that member, aside from not communicating with the group, has stopped attending class, then contacting him/her that he/she is not longer part of the group. Of course, both of these options mean, that the three members now have a bit more work to do; instead of doing 1/4, they are doing 1/3.

So far, the groups have completed the first two parts of the research paper- proposal and annotated bibliography- and it seems that some groups are dividing the work equally between the members(the annotated bibliography consists of 4 sources, and each source is written in a style/tone/mode particular to each group member), and others are either working together and reviewing each other's work before submitting it, or one group member, or the strongest writer, is doing most of the work. I'm hoping to get a bit of an insight into each group member's contribution during the presentations of research papers, which will take place on the last day of class.

Lastly, I really dislike offering extra credit or mentioning it, as students automatically begin asking whether everything we do in class is extra credit and therefore optional. My students and I are still debating what to do with the extra credit associated with a class debate. The debate was not an optional activity and everyone was required to participate. But I told the class, that the team which wins the debate, and we will decided this by voting on the video of the debate I'll post on the class blog following the debate, will receive extra credit. This of course caused some controversy as A. some students believe it was unfair they didn't get to choose which side of the argument they are asked to debate for/argue for B.others feel only those who spoke should receive extra credit...
Also, since we, the faculty, have embraced web attendance, and are now actually given the option of marking students excused as well as going back and excusing those students who provide documentation for their absences, this in no way actually helps us when it comes to students missing numerous classes or being late an hour to a two hour class. I would think that the attendance office would generate some kind of e-mail notice, warning students that they have missed several classes. Attendance is particularly tricky to enforce(that sounds too excessive but it's late and I can't come up with a better word/term) in a hybrid class as some students argue they can catch up on their work by posting it on the blog at a later date and that, as one of my students told me, "life happens [and sometimes students cannot make it to class]."
But surely, most of our students have other responsibilities that require punctuality and regular attendance/presence- work, internships, organizations...How is that different from attending class? And they are paying to be in school....I realize that this is not just a Community 2.0 issue, and pertains to the college at large, but if in fact students are only allowed to miss 2 classes, or four hours of class, per term, it would be helpful if this rule was reiterated to students via reminders from the attendance office...

Monday, May 23, 2011

ePortfolios and the last few weeks of the semester

I asked students in my IND class to review the ePortfolios of at least two students from the class and with a grading eye, make comments towards improvement. Well, I wasn't very surprised that this was not done....many comments, didn't know we could view them, didn't realize you wanted them written, etc. So, we used part of the class Wednesday night to make constructive criticism on ePortfolios that were developed this semester. Most were reasonably well done but as usual, there were spelling errors, font inconsistencies, font color not compatible with selected templates. Some were resistant to making some changes -- "I like the color green" "script is nice", etc. Reviewing the concepts of "professional ePortfolio" a number of the students started to make changes....at least until they are graded. I would suspect that some will revert after the class is over.

My CEP 121 class is finally having some success with Voice Thread. Still no idea why there were problems since I have used the same "voice" since 2009. Since I have transferred to the Business & Technology Department, I plan to create a new one for the Fall but give students access to the old one. However, since this is an online class, there are some problems with the online Studio Hour. Students have been encouraged to go to the Studio Lab in E-273 but most have not done so. It would be helpful if the Lab had evening or weekend hours for our evening students. I'm making some revisions to my grading here and have advised students that if they continue to have problems, they will need to make an appointment to see me. One thing with the online students, some willingly come to meet me and others try to stay away from campus. I hope they don't all wait until the last week of classes to try to finish everything.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Networking: Blue Meanies Attack

My class networked with Michelle's on Tuesday. I had a ridiculous cold, so I was moving at about half speed, which wasn't quite fast enough. Anywho. We reviewed the assignment, and then got to it. (Facebook was weirding out [again] on Tuesday. My students were posting comments, and then Mark Zuckerberg snapped his fingers and the comments disappeared. Damn, that guy is powerful! And I was no match, with my cold and all. Four of Michelle's students lost their comments. :[( We eventually figured this out, though. My students just had to re-post.) Like Michelle mentioned in her post, my students had to have their requests to join the Facebook group accepted even though the group was "public." This came as a surprise. Thankfully, Michelle was at her computer--shaking her fist in the air no doubt as nearly thirty requests came tumbling in at various intervals. So much for Tuesday morning office work, Michelle!!

My students were tasked with reviewing, and commenting on, a research question that had been paired with a tentative thesis statement (the statement, of course, should answer the question). At first, my students were puzzled that all they had to review was a question and a statement. They quickly found that this was MORE than enough for them to analyze. In other words, they learned that it's not quite that simple. They realized that it takes a good bit of time to seriously consider research questions and thesis statements. I encouraged my students to be direct, honest, and fair in their comments. The goal, I emphasized, is to assist--not condemn. They took that advice seriously and showed real concern as to whether or not they were being "mean." A "mean" statement, for some, sounding something like: "This thesis statement does not answer the research question." Really? That's mean? Wow. Hmm. Isn't it pretty to think so. Umm. "No, that's not mean," I told them. "Wait until you see what I wrote on your essays." 


We've all done peer reviewing before. It's a staple--like corn. What's new here, I think, is that students are actually interacting with other students--rather than merely scribbling comments and then moving on to the next thing, having forgotten all about John/Jane Doe's paper. Here there's a dialogue. There's responsibility. Read: Response-Ability. And for that reason, there's some amount of trepidation regarding their comments. Which translates, one hopes, to a more thoughtful analysis. Facebook seems to excel in this regard, as students get a "like" or an actual "thank you" or some other sort of acknowledgment. Students know that their "partner" is right there, waiting, watching, ready to read the comment. And respond in kind (but perhaps not kindly). 

I'm curious to see how Michelle's students respond. By respond, I mean get their revenge on when they network with my class tomorrow morning. Meanies Unite!!


I just attended a 4-day Student Success workshop in Baltimore and this is one the many videos that were shared with us. I hope all Community 2.0 participants find it inspirational as we are getting ready to write our final reflections. Enjoy!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Virtual peer review

Michelle and I had our classes exchange annotated bibliographies for a cross-course peer review.  I've done these with two different classes that I teach, and its always a really great exercize.  In the past, I've found that students tend to be more forthcoming with feedback and take the work more seriously. 

From a pedogogical perspective, the exchange was a wise one.  Both classes were learning how to build annotated biblographies for research and both were focusing on topics related to food.  However, in practice, this exchange had challenges that kept it from being as productive as it might have been. I'm going to focus on these challenges and what lessons I've been able to take away from the experience.

1) Scheduling - There was some frisson from our imperfectly aligned schedules.  Michelle's students may have benefitted from peer editing my students' projects before starting their own, but my students had over a week between creating their annotated bibliographies and editing others.  On my end, this dragged the topic over 4 classes (assignment set-up; looking at the reviews others gave them; planning for a week-end assignment; reviewing the project).   This off-schedule also necessitated that my students perform much of the work unguided, "at home" and on unfamiliar schedules - a perfect storm for things to go wrong (emails don't arrive or go to the wrong address; students, used to only having work due before class, suddenly needed to do things by a Saturday evening schedule and forget, students who miss class don't know to do the homework).  In the future, I would try to structure the interaction so that students performed most of the work in class (so I could troubleshoot any number of personal, pedagogical or technological issues) and so that I could reassign editing jobs on the spot to ensure all of Michelle's students were covered. 

2) Different Platforms -  As Michelle notes below, there were some issues with her students (who are not used to Blogger) commenting on my students' pages.  Her students are in a facebook group. While mine are also in a facebook group, they would have to independantly join her class's group for the weekend - a process which seemed terribly unwise and ripe for things to go wrong.  We ended up working by email, but only approximately 50% of my students claimed to have received anything.  Which leads to ...

3) Accountability Issues - Its pretty hard to track independant work between classes or to ensure who-emailed-who or to cross-reference to accuracy of a student claiming to have not received an email from a student I don't know.  I had my students "forward" me their responses to Michelle's students, but a number forgot to do so.

I'd love to try this again with some tweaks to minimize the challenges and really let the strengths of this assignment shine through.

More on virtual peer review

My class has connected with Jeremey's ENG 102 class with good results so far. My students posted their working thesis statements on Facebook and Jeremey's students used a worksheet I created to respond to them online. Almost everyone got a thoughtful response and some of my students wrote back to thank them for their work. Most of the suggestions were right on, though of course some were not quite on target. As with any peer review activity, I told my students that it was up to them to either accept or reject these suggestions and that the process of vetting the comments was itself good practice for them.

The next step is for my students to review and respond to an essay posted by Jeremey's students, which we will do in class on Monday. (As an aside, some students who received more criticism than praise were glad to know that they would soon have the opportunity to critique the work of their partners -- I think the word "payback" was used (kiddingly, of course) so this should be interesting...)

So now for the inevitable technical difficulties: 4 of my students didn't get comments because of a FB glitch that erased them. Because we could all see what was posted, Jeremey's students were able to re-post. I was also able to provide feedback to anyone who didn't get a response. Also, I had opened my class FB page so that Jeremey's students could join. I didn't realize that I would still have to accept each student in order for them to post. Luckily, I was online Tuesday morning (when Jeremey's class met) and was able to accept the requests as they came in. But, if I had been away from a computer the whole exercise would have been stalled. To avoid that problem, I asked my students to join Jeremey's FB group over the weekend. This way, he can accept them at his leisure but before my class meets on Monday.

I am somewhat concerned about having my students respond to a poetry essay when we did poetry so many weeks ago in my class. I think it'll be good reinforcement for them but I hope they don't feel that the flow of the course is being interrupted. I'm also struggling with a lack of time as the end of the semester approaches. My experience with Lizzie's class tells me that doing it together in class works better than assigning it as homework so I will do my best. If time gets too tight, I might get us started in class and have them finish at home. We will see...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Classes without Borders: Group Work without Grouping

By Courtney Gibbons

My Basic Writing students have been griping about group work since the second week of class this semester. You see, in Fall I discovered by the middle of the semester--to my chagrin-- that we had been doing so much individual work that the students hardly knew each other. So this summer I put together some excellent questions for students to discuss the main texts of the class. Then it turned out that THIS class just does not like to work in teams at all. *sigh*

Before you write to tell me about the latest strategies for group work, let me tell you I pretty much tried All Combinations Known to Man: informal, formal, with assigned roles, without assigned roles, etc. In the process, I discovered their particular issues were a) some students feeling they were doing all the work; b) personality differences and shyness; c) a reluctance to part with their space (a.k.a. "their" computer in the lab).

This last issue intrigued me. As one student explained to me, in a regular classroom she did not care about moving her chair for group work because she brought all her stuff with her, but she did not like having to leave her station to go sit at someone else's place, especially if it meant logging out from her computer, logging in to a new computer and then having to complete both steps again after we were done with group work.

As I was mulling about what she said, it suddenly struck me: I was doing group work as if it were a regular classroom, but the computer classroom is not a regular classroom. So I decided to try a way of doing group work that took better advantage of the online environment:

I created separate Google Docs, one per group, with questions for the group. I assigned each student to a group. Each student read the questions, answered them individually from her computer (no grouping), and signed them so we could recognize her contribution to the discussion. If the student finished her work early, she was to check the work of the other groups (all questions and Docs were posted on my blog).

When everyone in the group was done (and I could check their progress every few minutes just by clicking on the Google Docs), each student read her group mates' answers and considered what she wanted to say about what she had read to the class. Only then did we open the discussion to the whole class, with different members of the group explaining the group's ideas and acknowledging their group mates' ideas by using phrases such as "As Y explains in the group document..." and me writing their main points on the whiteboard for everyone in the class to take notes.

The discussion is to be followed by each student writing a blog entry for homework that answers one (any) of the group questions by incorporating and acknowledging the ideas from group members into the entry.

While on the surface it would seem that I merely reversed the traditional order of group work (discussion leads to writing), what happened was a bit more complicated, as the individual answers at points doubled as discussion when students edited their responses to connect to their peers and later, when they acknowledged each other's contribution in the large group discussion.

Also, my students' feedback on the exercise was overwhelmingly positive: pretty much every single student gave it a thumbs up, though their reasons ranged from "I can get other people's opinions easily and I can really work with them because we write it at the same time so that we can help each other" to "Now we don't have to do work for other students who are lazy" (?!)

So, I am going to tweak the activity and try it again next semester. In the meantime, I invited Jason's classes to use my group Google Docs  for their group work. I can't wait to see if my students incorporate his students' answers into their blog entries. :-D

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What is in a name?

Hi all--

I am still worrying the ongoing discussions about what constitutes a "class" and what is considered "in class" or "part of class" and what is something totally different.  The term "class" means essentially two things in this context: the students' rank in the educational hierarchy and the scheduled meeting of the teacher with the instructor of a course. The physical space is then called "the classroom" as it is the place used for the scheduled meeting and is usually set-up to accommodate the meeting (with chairs and what not).

My course is primarily composed of online work. My students do meet in a computer lab for 4 hours a week, but virtually nothing in my course design requires the students to be in the same physical space. So what does happen in the classroom that could not be done from home? There is a certain amount of bonding and course and group identity through physical immediacy. I engage in a lot of hands-on troubleshooting. The boundaries of the room define a clear "workspace". Meeting at the same times established a "time for work".

In my role as cheerleader, I spend a lot of time reassuring people that "they can do it" (it is easier to smile in person than online). I think all of these elements are important, but certainly I am not doing "in the classroom" what has been traditionally thought of as "teaching" and most of my "class"--the actual course design and work--is on the internet in a variety of linked virtual spaces (though "space" is another problematic word that I will not get into here). Maybe the problem is that the words themselves are outmoded or becoming so. Would it help us conceptualize new ways of learning if we changed the words?
  • From "classroom" to "collective workspace"
  • From "course" (of study) to "learning program"
  • From "textbook" to "media engagements"
  • From "teacher" to "concept designer"
  • From "instructor" to "facilitator" 
  • From "schedule" to "course plan"
  • From "syllabus" to . . . . nah, "syllabus" is good. I like "syllabus".
In any case, these may seem silly, but I am still thinking about it.

When Blogger is M.I.A

Last semester, I had my students debate whether stereotypes have a greater impact on men or women, and I recorded the debate and later posted it on the class blog. The students really enjoyed this activity. This term, just this past Wed., I had my class debate whether masculinity stands in the way of men entering female professions as well as getting involved in child care. It did not go as well as the debate last term and one student posted a scathing review of the activity on his blog. In my comment, in response to his post, I told him we can discuss his concerns in class on Friday but as he did not attend class on Friday and blogger service was unavailable, I couldn't ask students to respond to his post. If you'd like to check it out - Flaws of a Group Debate at http://richgranados.blogspot.com/ .

Following an in-class screening of Gone Baby Gone last week, on Friday, May 13, I reserved half of the class period, or one hour, for my students to compose their Blog Post #10 which was a response to Prof. Luke V's Heroic Lives students' essays on consequentialism in Gone Baby Gone. Luckily, I composed the directions for this assignment- Luke's essay prompt and which aspects/how my students should respond to his students' essays, and list of my students and their partners from Luke's class- in Google Docs rather than as an unposted blog post on my class blog as since Thursday, some time in the afternoon, Blogger service was unavailable. As a result blog posts posted on Wed. and Thurs. were erased, and while one could read whatever was posted on the blogs prior to Wed., signing in, posting or commenting functions were unavailable. As a result, I had to e-mail all my students with extensive directions on how to complete all their assignments- blog posts and formal assignments- in google docs and share these with me and once blogger becomes available to post the links on their blogs as we have done since the beginning of the semester. Blogger service was restored at some point on Friday afternoon. Some of my students, over the weekend, did post the links to their Google docs document containing responses to Luke's students' essays on both, their own blogs and as comments on Luke's students' blogs.
Am slowly losing my faith in blogger and if I use a platform next term, I think I'll consider tumblr or NING.

This is just a bit of a rant-on Friday night, the boiler in my complex broke(they still have not fixed it) so I have not had hot water or heat, and still don't, and my internet provider cut my connection off claiming another account which is connected to my account(huh?) has not been paid for for 180 days. So not heat, no hot water and no internet until last night...

Monday, May 16, 2011


Sorry for the delay with posting but my move to the B-building had me crazy. Between packing boxes (who had time to go through anything) and then trying to get settled and get work done, it's been a nightmare. In addition to all this, I had to be ready to present the two new courses that will replace the Cooperative Education courses in the Business & Technology Department. Did this on Thursday at CW-Curriculum and they were passed unanimously so one hurdle down, Senate to go.

Here's what we've been up to in my classes. CEP 121 is currently working on interviewing skills so we are using the Voice Thread activity. Ran into a snag since my comment button disappeared and students were unable to answer the questions. Took a few days but we are back on track. Still, some students have ignored the new "invitation" I had sent from Voice Thread with the correct link....plus I changed it in Blackboard. Looks like any reason not to record their voices. I wonder what will happen when the professional pitch video needs to be uploaded to their ePortfolios?

My IND 100 class is finishing up their ePortfolios. Digital stories are complete, music and all. We had a "screening story hour" the other night and some wanted popcorn which is not possible in a lab. In all, there is only one student who is technologically challenged and is making little effort to help himself. One other student has taken him under his wing so that is helpful. I guess I am surprised at the lack of tech skills in someone so young.

I have been using Blackboard Assignments to return corrected work. Since this is the online class, it seems to work but let me know if you have a better strategy. I make comments in the instructor's box and upload the corrected, in this case the resume, as a scanned file. Takes a bit more effort but I can make my scribbles in color pen and then scan and upload. Does involve printing but I find it easier than using the comment feature for this activity. Many students don't know how to use comments and depending on their software version, it becomes problematic.

Grammar, Google, Goals

When students arrive to the lab on Tuesdays, they know that they're going to have to work. I'm there as a guide, as a resource, as a teacher--but the students are there to do it to it. We've been writing 600-word (minimum) responses every week. And 800-word responses for the longer essay assignments. That's a lot of writing. I dare say it's more writing than I've ever assigned for an ENG102 course. And I'm pretty sure that it's more than they've ever had to write in an English class. This is good.

However, this week I'm trying to focus on grammar issues in their latest set of essays. And I'm lamenting the fact that I need to do this with hard copies. This work is slower and more tedious than it needs to be. One issue, for me, is that I'm not proficient with the "commenting" feature of Microsoft Word. I should learn. Using Facebook doesn't help either, because I'm not able to do anything fancy with their text--or, in any case, treat the Facebook document as I would a document in Word. Should I be using Google Docs for these longer essays? Probably. Should I learn more about Google Docs? Yes. This is my goal (one of many) for next semester.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Technology support...

Two technology related questions… I’m currently using Facebook groups for my Second Semester Seminar and I’m gearing towards the end of the semester projects and reflections. My students completed mid-semester reflections in class (on paper) a few weeks ago, but I would like to have their final projects online for everyone to see and comment on. (I’m still trying to reserve a computer lab for 5/25 and 6/1 from 1-2PM; Let me know if you have any suggestions). As their final project, students will write individual project/event proposals on a topic of their choice. The goal is to have all the proposals in one common place where students can give and receive feedback on each others’ proposals the following week. Do FB groups have a feature where students can post, edit and comment on each others’ proposals/posts? I don’t want them to create yet another online account but instead, use our existing platform.

As my second question, does anybody know how to post comments onto an online discussion board via text messaging? College Discovery Program is hosting an Honors Reception on Tuesday and we would like to elicit a few word responses from our graduates and Deans List students during this event. Students would text their comments to a number that relays them to a discussion board (projected on the wall) for everyone to see. Similar to what we did during the Spring Opening Sessions. I did a Google search but couldn’t find anything relevant. I was only able to find websites that offer free text messaging service from computer to cell phones, not the other way around.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Global Connections

It has been great to see what is happening in the "global-virtual" world. Some of the 3D virtual exhibits are incredible. This has been an amazing experience with terrific people, all engaged in various ways in collaborating with other educators all over the world. The Shanghai project was engaging. What I found most interesting was the research that identified the social component/behavior/undertones of ethnic groups/avatars and culture. Great stuff. I'll be connecting (hopefully) this semester, but definitely by Fall, and maybe even by summer with my global- connections in the UK and Austria.
One issue that was discussed was the one that Rich and Karim and I had talked about at the last web 2.0 meeting: that with different platforms, communication becomes more difficult.
Well,I'm ready for 3D! Okay, I may be going out on a limb here, but I do have new ideas.
I did hear frequently that Second Life is,"the way to go," but, as Jason and Ximena know, our server can't handle it...or can it? I've been told repeatedly that many colleges are lecturing in Second Life...some exclusively so. I'm going to try to launch it from home. Wish me luck.

working with other classes

So this week my students read Magda's students' first drafts of research papers and commented--I asked them to send me a copy of their comments and told them I would give them an extra credit grade. Some seemed to really get into it and we had a small discussion about how it was interesting to look at essays from the point of view of a professor. M gave us suggested guidelines. I will wait to hear more from her about her class's reactions. In some cases they couldn't find the paper (only an outline) and in one case I heard that a discussion ensued with disagreement; it made me wonder if my student was too forceful in his opinion--maybe this is an issue to discuss with this group--teaching students how to frame their remarks :)...I have a smaller class so I gave a couple of students two partners; then there is the problem of absences and such--a little monitoring to be sure everyone is contacted--we might not have done a perfect job.

Next week we are entering Corbett's students' wiki site--if you haven't seen this you really should take a look--Corbett sets up a sample WIKI for them where she illustrates a literary term, first in classical literature and then in pop culture which is basically their assignment--go to http://cunycomposers.wetpaint.com. I am definitely stealing this assignment. My students are going to add an example to to the students' wikis. My class also just did the post for the survey monkey and they basically said to me that NING is by far the most accessible and least annoying site to work on (no ads!)--and that they like the online component of our class.

The Perils of Peer Review

So, Lizzie and I had out students exchange work for the first time this past week and for the most part it went really well (at least on my end -- we'll see what Lizzie says!) There were some technical difficulties (hence the title of this post) caused mostly, I think, by the fact that Lizzie is using a blog and I am using Facebook. My students were able to access the blogs of her students but many were unable to post their comments, even when they signed in. So, I had to create a contact list and ask students to e-mail their partners directly. And, since Lizzie's students aren't on FB, my students had to e-mail them their own work to be commented on, something most of them did but some did not.

Despite this, the exercise itself worked really well. My students were happy to see various examples of an Annotated Bibliography before having to create their own and the process of answering the questions I gave them allowed them to see things they might not otherwise have seen (for example, how one can distinguish a reliable source just by looking at the citation). I asked my class to do a short reflection on the process and most found it to be very useful and made them more confident when producing their own work. A few didn't like being asked to judge the work of other students and some felt that they were not "expert" enough to give advice, particularly when it comes to MLA citation style. They should be receiving comments from Lizzie's students over the weekend, so we'll see how that goes.

My students will be sharing their draft thesis statements with Jeremy's students this week and I'm hoping the fact that we're both using Facebook will make the technical stuff easier to manage. Let's see what happens...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Media Grid Conference Boston is Great!

Hi, folks! I'm at the Boston Conference on Virtual Reality and International Immersion seeking collaborators. I have been meeting some great people and seeing interesting presentations. It's amazing how much is out there that we don't know about. Today was NASA day. Do you think it's too late for me to become an astronaut? Does my fear of heights have an impact on that decision?
I have some ideas that I am going to try to implement when I return. Watch out, NY!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Progress in SCB201

As mentioned in my last post, there has been a sense of connectedness in the class now with the facebook. Some students have been uploading videos relevant to the lectures to share with others. I started including some questions in my powerpoint and provided students with flashcard with answer choice so they can flash the answer without a fear that their answers may be wrong. Also this way I am able to get a response from every student and know how each of them is doing. One student actually put a survey question on the facebook to find how students like this approach and how it can be improved. Well I still have to get the results. But even this, to my surprise, the number of students responding was very low- only four students by last Tuesday! Anyway the sense of connection is there and I am able to reach to them for announcements and they are getting the sense of sharing what they find interesting to others in the class.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The ASAP TUMBLR has been up and running for the last 3 weeks. We have been able to post weekly on Career Exploration, Academic Support and Success Stories. There are 197 students that are receiving the weekly post. The site is ASAP-LAGCC.TUMBLR.COM

The Peer Advisor BLOG has stalled at this time. I have given it over to one of the Academy Coordinators to see if she would be able to oversee the BOLG. This BLOG would be a great connection for new students to receive information and ask questions to the Peer Advisors.

Unfortunately, we were not able to link up with the Business / Technology department on an advisement BLOG. I think that we need to re- introduce the idea in the future.
The new direction has to do with New Student Orientation. I may have the opportunity to present the Community 2.0 vision to the committee. We may be able to use the concept for pre-freshman.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The public dimension of 2.0

While I was going to wait until my students interacted with Magda's class to report this week, but X's blog entry had me thinking: in our community 2.0 classes, where is the class, i.e. the non-physical one. For instance, a Ning seems a self-contained entity and one can get a near-full view of the activities in the classroom: the assignments, blog entries, discussions, etc. But what about my classes? I use Blogger, but also google docs and google groups. Because google groups came as a later addition this semester, there is no direct link to it on the class website, only a link on a week's post where the assignment called for using the platform. As for google docs, I give feedback and grades there, so there is no public access and for good reason.

My thinking here connects to our commitment to use open platforms, which was present from the pilot and got me really excited. Truth be told, if students were to connect only with other LaGuardia students then there would be a way around that in blackboard. Perhaps a bit cumbersome, but in a way more efficient as we would also be on the same platform. I would like to think that eventually we will find ways to connect with students/teachers/classes from other schools, but this brings me back to my first question: what constitutes the public dimension of community 2.0 classes? How public is it? Platforms certainly have a lot to do with that (for instance, facebook is non-public since you need to have an account, as opposed to blogger which can be completely open).  I guess this is probably the point where we move to the next level, whatever that may be, and perhaps to research on the public dimension of teaching and learning, processes that since the establishment of universities have always been considered private and exclusive.

Advantage of Hub-and-Spoke Blogs over Centralized Systems such as Ning

Last week, I set aside a class period to have student-teacher conferences while the class worked on a three-page article on environmental justice that called on people of color to take action in bettering their environmental conditions.

Unfortunately, a few of my students misread the data-filled article as an attack on white people (??), and thus their responses reflected their animosity towards the perceived slander.

Now, as a teacher of writing, this reaction is worrisome, as it throws out of the window everything I have taught so far this semester: to read carefully and annotate, to summarize the main arguments, and to respond in a reasonable manner, that is, using a claim/thesis, reasons, and evidence. It also shows a complete lack of awareness of the fact that members of their primary audience (their classmates) may find their animosity alarming (as some of them indicated to me during the student-teacher conferences).

As a teacher, I understand that race issues in the United States are and have been hard to understand and discuss, especially since they are so distorted by the media and by politicians. Some professors have even suggested that I steer away from including readings related to race to avoid volatile reactions in the classroom. But I cannot make myself to banish discussions on race issues altogether, as that of which we do not speak just festers, to completely misquote Langston Hughes.

On the other hand, I could not endorse of the postings by these students, as they were not just inaccurate but inappropriate.

So I deleted their links to my class blog.

Of course, that does not mean I will not read their blogs or not grade their blogs as I always do. I saved their blog links to a Google Docs. It also does not mean that I will not counsel them on how to rewrite their blog posts if they wish to do so. I am, after all, a teacher and this is one of those “teachable moments.” (The move was suggested to me by Dr. J, who unlinks his blog from any student who plagiarizes on her/his blog until the student fixes the plagiarism).

Which brings me to the title of this blog post. I remember that Dr. Van Slyck had a similar issue a few semesters ago, but since she was using a centralized system (Ning), she found herself in a conundrum, as the options to distance herself from some of the ill-worded comments were drastically reduced by the fact that Ning (like Blackboard) is a shared space.

I could go on, but at this point I am interested in your views on whether such social “voting” (un/linking to sites, clicking on “like” in Facebook, etc.) is or could be useful as a teaching tool.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Video Peer Review and connecting with Prof. Van's Honors Lit Ning

As an exercise, for  peer review of the first draft of research paper #1, I asked my students to make a video of themselves reading their paper and then post this video on their respective blogs. Then I paired up those students who posted videos, and asked them to comment on each other's readings by responding to the two questions: how the ideas discussed in body paragraphs are related and whether they support the thesis, and whether the paper is clear. Currently, 19 of 22 students have completed the first draft of research paper #1;11 of the 19 students have posted videos. I'm not sure if this is due to lack of access to media equipment necessary, or are students uncomfortable with reading out loud and posting a video of them doing so on their blog? Or maybe they just chose not to do the assignment. Tonight, I was listening/viewing their videos, and what I found, and what often happens, is that students read in corrections(subject verb agreement or pauses in run on sentences) as they were reading their work out loud. But now, how do I get them to make those corrections on their papers?
 As this assignment is due Wed. May 11, only few students have comments on their partner's work.
But, the most interesting comment thus far is the one my student received from a student from Prof. Van's Honors Literature class. Or at least, I assume it is Prof. Van's student as she and I decided to connect our classes for a peer review session.  Although I forgot to mention, to Prof. Van, that my students will be posting videos of them reading their work, one of her students viewed the video of my student reading her work and he advised her that he "would also delete this video, as it sounds flagrantly racist and your 101 classmates are bound to take it out of context just like anyone else would." 

I viewed my student's video and read her paper, and do not agree with the student's comments but maybe I'm missing/missed something? If anyone is interested, go to my student's blog and view her video-http://angela0764.blogspot.com/

Appeal to present your ideas on blogs, Facebook, etc. for the English Department

Pardon the interruption with a quick request for help....

I am Chair of the English Department's Professional Development Committee, and I would like to offer an mini-CFP / appeal for short presentations (about 12 - 15 min.) for the committees' Mini-Tech Forum, which normally happens near the end of the semester.

It's a chance to share some ideas on technology in the classroom--obviously, anyone in this group could participate. Last year, we had an excellent presenter from the Humanities, for instance.

I've already reached out to several of you individually, but we could use an additional presenter or two. We reserve the lab next to E-255 and present a few ideas on tools or pedagogical techniques usually going through a PowerPoint with optional
quick demos. of websites, Web 2.0 tools and whatever. In the past two years, it's been a good event, though we could always could get a few more attendees.

Possible dates and times for this would be Monday, 5/23, Wed., 5/25, Wed., 6/1, or Monday, 6/6, all afternoons.

If you are interested, please e-mail me at rdragan@lagcc.cuny.edu with a few sentences on what you would be presenting on, and which date(s) would work. This is a real chance to show what great work you have been doing in this faculty seminar to the English Department. Thank you for your time and consideration with this. I look forward to hearing from you! --Richard

Looking Ahead

One aspect of online classroom activities I'm enjoying this semester is that we're almost entirely paperless. Students regularly exceed the minimum word count for the week's Short Writing Assignment, which we do together during our two-hour lab period. I wonder if we were handing in hard copies each week, how much paper would we be using? How many reams? I see a lot of paper wasted at LaGuardia.  Would I eventually like to run entirely paperless classes? Would Google Docs help? Would I then need to switch to Blogger or Ning? Or Tumblr? Which platform works best for an entirely paperless class? I find myself buried underneath piles (multiple) with other courses I'm teaching, but my web-enhanced (can I call it that?) ENG102 is so fresh and so clean clean. Not having to sort, divide, and conquer is not only Earth friendly, but also a time saving alternative. [Slides soapbox back into closet space.]

I'm looking forward this coming week to distributing an assignment for my class that will be analyzed by Michelle's students. I'd like to design something that will be a user friendly, plug-and-play sort of exercise for Michelle's students. Something they can pick up and run with. Something that isn't confusing. Something that will benefit my students--focusing on errors I'm witnessing each week. So, now I'm stuck with two questions: What are my students' strengths (they should be able to show off a bit)? What are my students' weaknesses (where might blind review help most)?

By the way, the last 2.0 meeting was very helpful!

I realized that I meant to compliment the chefs: Ximena and Jason for the last Web 2.0 meeting. Sick as I was, I never thought that I would be able to stay awake, let alone participate. The time we spent learning from others and sharing concepts was truly helpful. It may be that now we are learning more what we "don't" know, but I learned something from each person I spoke to that day. Rich mentioned that part of the difficulty in connecting is that we are on different platforms. Karim and I wanted to connect, but the reality of trying to make our content connect was much more difficult. I think we are learning.
Three cheers to Ximena and Jason!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Creating Virtual Groups

It's funny that Jeremy writes about creating virtual groups/pairs in his blog because that's an issue I've been struggling with this past week. I created a Group Article assignment in which each of 6 groups was assigned a different article to read. Each member of each group was then assigned a separate task (1) summarize the article, 2) evaluate the sources used, 3) choose two important quotations, and 4) write two discussion questions) and post their work on FB. I then paired the groups and asked students to read what their paired group had written (so they can learn about a second article) and respond to one of the discussion questions.

I think the assignment itself worked out really well, offering possible research sources for their upcoming essay, modeling how to analyze and evaluate a source, etc., and most students did impressive work. But, some have not done their assignments. Normally this would only affect that student's grade but pairing them the way I did means that some students cannot do their homework until other students post theirs.

I resolved this temporarily by letting students switch their paired groups to one whose work is complete. And, of course, this can happen with live peer review, too. How many times have I carefully crafted student groups only to have absence, lateness, and/or unpreparedness interfere? In a way, doing this online makes it easier in that they have the whole weekend to post their work, not just a one- or two-hour class session. Also, students can look around at what other groups are doing and I was able to switch groups fairly easily. But, it's been a bit clunky and I would welcome suggestions for future implementation of this sort of assignment.

Friday, May 6, 2011

McGraw-Hill Campus, a report

Last week, we attended a presentation given by textbook publisher McGraw-Hill introducing their free “MH Campus” [http://www.mhcampus.com/] service. A number of local library and academic IT staff were present. It wasn’t a live demo, but we got some sense of what their plans are. It is basically a free add-on to mainstream learning management systems (LMSs) like Blackboard and Sakai to allow easy access to all that supplemental stuff that accompanies popular textbooks (slides, videos, learning objects, tests/quizzes, etc.)

Basically, it would eliminate the need to deal with those access codes that accompany a McGraw-Hill textbook. It offers suggestions to faculty and student for useful resources even if the textbook used is not McGraw-Hill (it guesses based on their own equivalent textbooks). This advertises the existence of McGraw-Hill content at the same time. Seems like installation into BB would be fairly easy.
So, could we try it out? Not right now since we are using BB 8 - any trials would have to be CUNY-wide. But if enough people are interested, it might be worth looking into. -- Ann and Priscilla