Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What do we talk about when we talk about TRANSFER?

Dear Community 2.0 participants,

Hope it's not too late to send you this message!

LaGuardia's Center for Teaching and Learning would like to invite you to join our efforts to facillitate transfer for our stsudents wishing to continue their education, and to ensure their success beyond admissionn to a baccalaureate institution. At LaGuardia, while 80% of our students seek a B.A., only 10% achieve it in 6 years.

Here is a brieff description of our project:
Funded by a Title V grant, the Making Transfer Connections project was launched this year, creating a partnership with four other CUNY colleges: Queensborough Community College, Bronx Community College, Queens College and Lehman College. LaGuardia is leading this collaborative network in a sustained effort to use ePortfolio to crreate a pervasive culture of transfer, encompassing instruction, advisement and assessment.

To this end, the LaGuardia Making Transfer Connections team began visiting various CTL seminars this spring, exploring possibilities for integrating a focus on transfer and on ePortfolio as a tool to support transfer success. We talked with participants in the Capstone, Mini Grant, Connected Learning and New Faculty Colloquium seminars, and piloted the integration of ePortfolios in the Art of Advising seminar. In each case, the integration of transfer and ePortfolio has taken a different shape.

Our hope is that your collaboration and creativity will help us understand how the Community 2.0 seminar can contribute to the successof our students regarding transfer; that you think about transfer and ePortfolio in the context of instruction, as you experiment with pedagogies that take advantage of the continuum of web environments available to you. How do we teach for transfer? What is it that gets transferred? How do we help students actively construct the knowledge and know-how they will need to move to the next level of academic work? How could ePortolio, in addition to the many other interactive tools you're using, help students integrate, connect, reflect on and make sense of the multiple dimensions of their coursework, their aspirations and their lives?

We welcome your thoughts on this. Your seminar leaders have graciously invited us to join your blog. We look forward to an ongoing conversation about transfer.

Thanks to all, and best wishes for a great summer from the Making Transfer Connections team (Bret Eynon, Judit Torok, Clarence Chan, Mercedes Del Rosario, Jiyeon Lee, Max Rodriguez, Carolyn Henner Stanchina, Mikhail Valentin).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seminar Agenda 15 June, 2011 E255: 10:00-02:00

Community 2.0 Seminar Agenda
15 June, 2011
E255: 10:00-02:00

10:00-10:30: Discussing Online Privacy
Please read Considering Internet Privacy, making notes as you read. We will use this document as a starting point for discussing whether or not LAGCC should have an internet privacy and interaction statement for faculty, staff, and students and, if so, what it should entail.  

On your own, you may also want to read  Considering How to Evaluate Online Interactions when putting together your courses for 2011-12.

10:30-11:30: Exploring Tools in Connection to Bloom’s Taxonomy
There are many online initiatives that attempt to tie the objectives in Bloom’s Taxonomy to digital/online tools(see print handout). We would like for you to explore the tools on one such initiative at “Bloom’s Web 2.0.” on Symbaloo. Also, at Dr. Sanchirico’s suggestion, you may want to check Go2Web2.0.
Please post a report on the tools you have explored as a comment on today’s agenda in the Community 2.0 blog.

Optional: check Bloom’s Taxonomy in RadioJames Objective Builder, a great tool for creating course objectives; we recommend you watch the tutorial first.

11:30-11:45 Break

11:45-12:30 Thinking and Writing about Final Reflections
Use the Contributor  Tags on the right hand menu to locate the final reflections of the three participants assigned to you HERE. Read each reflection and respond to it (via the Comment function) by listing the three main ideas/concepts/issues that you see in the three reflections (this will help us with the large-group discussion). Of course, feel free to add any other comments of your own. You will have 45 minutes to read and respond to the three reflections.

12:30-01:15 Round-up Discussion on Reflections and more

01:15-02:00 Lunch and further discussion
Please complete the Faculty Post-Survey

Reminder: if you did not have your students complete the student post-survey as requested, please email them the link (perhaps using the Blackboard class email function). The link is HERE.

Considering staying with us as a Community 2.0 Affiliate? Click HERE to sign up!

Seminar Agenda: 10 June 2011 (New & Returning Participants)

The printable version is HERE.

Community 2.0 Seminar Agenda
10 June, 2011
E141: 10:00-01:00
10:00-10:45
10:45-11:15
  • Reviewing a Course Description Model on the Community 2.0 Wiki
  • Creating your own Course or Project Description(s) on the Community 2.0 Wiki
    • Accept the invitation to the Wiki on your e-mail
    • Log in (see instructions on the Home page)
    • Create a page for the course/project you plan to include in the Community 2.0 networks.
    • For each page, please write the following categories (to be filled out later, as you plan the course[s.]). Or you may cut and paste them from HERE.
      • URL/Web Address:
      • Teacher/Project Leader:
      • Quick Description:
      • Fall Schedule:
      • Tools/Platforms I plan to use:
      • Course/ Project Objectives:
      • Theme Tags:
      • Others I plan/wish to connect to:
      • Main Texts:
      • Feedback and Evaluation:
11:15-11:30 Break

11:30-01:00
Think about the learning objectives for your students in a particular course or for a specific module or activity. What type of Web 2.0 tool seems the most useful to fulfill these objectives? Why? Or would you need another type of tool? What kind? Why?

Work for Next Seminar
  1. On Wiki: Complete your Course or Project Description(s) following Ximena’s Brave New World example by Friday, September 2, 2011.
    1. Submit a Syllabus and Tentative Schedule as attachments to your wiki page.
    2. Consider incorporating privacy and netiquette issues in your syllabi (see “Internet Privacy and Responsibility” for ideas).
    3. Decide on the best way how to grade your online component (see “Evaluation Styles for Online Interactions” for ideas).
  2. On Wiki: by the end of Tuesday, September 6, 2011, read the Course/Project Descriptions of other seminar participants, and make comments on their wiki pages.
  3. On Blog: Update Google Docs with your requests for computer labs.

Monday, June 13, 2011

C2.0 and me: past, present, future

Hmmm: lessons, things to learn, favorite moments, suggestions, future of my classroom with technology...(I might mix these up a little :) Dr Van here (I hate having to read whole post without knowing who is talking...)

Is it ok if I start by whining just a tad? I was relieved to read Ximena's post on glitches connecting with Justin because I spent the first 20 minutes trying to enable cookies which for some reason blogger told me (the lack of such enablement) was keeping me OUT! This is perhaps symbolic of my general frustration and inexperience with the online world--it seems like there is so much gatekeeping going on that if I have been off a particular site for more than a few days, someone in cyberspace has decided I have to start at zero or remember a pw I haven't used in months...enough of that ...

sidebar to Susan--I think you have a couple of very helpful points in your posting, about the omnipresence of English folk and the need to have more F2F with faculty group. When I started the seminar, I too was a little nervous that I wouldn't find people to connect with because I was kind of "theme bound." What the Seminar taught me is that there are multiple ways to think about connection--in this way it took the concept of learning communities in a very positive direction for me--maybe we need to brainstorm together with the new group all the possible ways of connecting and get a little more creative in our thinking. I agree with Linda; Susan has a lot of expertise and perhaps going forward (suggestions for future category) we can draw on seminar participants expertise for some mini lessons--we did this a little in the new group last Friday (which yes is much more balanced I think--did not do count though...)

btw I read posts by Jason, Ximena and Susan--each time I had to go back to main page to find the next--are there more??? I am not yet agile--feel a little like Frankenstein's creature in online world...

so what did I learn? and what were best moments?

--Corbett's wiki project is at top of my list--it was a blast to walk through her examples from classical and popular culture on the use of "apostrophe" (A Donne poem and "The Sound of Silence")--and when I showed it in class, my students loved it. Her assignment had lots of steps and lots of different media--visual and aural as well as text--it seemed a model activity for online format--and my students were invited to add an example of their own. I learned from Ximena that simplest way is to pair students, which I did, and about half of them were successful--some said they hadn't been confirmed and thought they couldn't do it (I wondered if they were malingering--also note to self--make this stuff count for grade more explicitly--none of that "I thought it was optional" stuff); one said the student erased his comment! I asked everyone to send me an email of what they did so I could give them credit for it--(this falls in category of accountability--working on that one); haven't heard from C so look forward to feedback to improve this kind of exchange. Also, my students wanted ACKNOWLEDGEMENT of what they did, not only from me but from the students whose wikis they added to. So this brings me to interesting topic of netiquette...I plan to talk more with partners and with my own students on this...

We also interacted with Magda --here the lesson learned was that I need to work more carefully with my students on the question of TONE--a few went in kind of strong and told hers to dump a particular thesis--Ximena tells me Magda said (I think Ximena lives in the CLOUD), in another post, that this actually worked out well in the long run--revealing another of my inadequacies--I couldn't find that post! I am used to the NING where if I want to see what a certain student/individual has posted in order I can go to that person's PAGE--can this be done on blogger?

From work in my own class on NING I remain committed to extensive blogging as great class prep for both me and my students--it's evidence of their commitment that conversation continued (their lead) on my NING over last weekend even though class is over and last assignment has been submitted! I thank Ximena for introducing me to NING last year (I now have 4 of them). I am adding WIKI in Fall in two capstone seminars--for GROUP RESEARCH--I'm very excited about this and would love to talk to others who us WIKI about how to best organize this venture. I'm committed to finding ways to make research fun and something they want to do--this is not the general tone of research among students but I am happy to report that students were so interested in a couple of issues in our novels that they did some amazing spontaneous online research and shared it on the NING--one even found a just published dissertation on Haruki Murakami and put it on the NING advising students to go to page 232 to see that the author made the same point that he (student) had made in class about this writer!--this brings me to one BIG goal for next year.

I want to make the online work more student centered--I want them to create as many fora (forums for the non latinate) as I do--my current NING shows 27 of mine and 6 of theirs--and while I am not as much of a data person as Jason (just kidding) I am really interested in evaluating their online work and their experience of this world. To this end I created my first survey monkey asking them to evaluate my class after the end of semester--with special emphasis on online activities. Am very proud that I figured out how to do this all on my own :). Let me see if I can figure out how to link it here: SURVEY.

On subject of evaluation, special shout out to Dr S and X for giving the new group the site on "how to create goals" that fit with Bloom's taxonomy--I am super excited about this and suggest you share it with the "old" group. I can't really speak about 5-10 years ahead--will I be here??? but I definitely want to continue to learn (despite my whining) how to use more tools and make my classroom like Jason's "newsroom"--well, let me qualify that--I am jealous of my classroom time--I don't want to work in a lab--I want to be in close personal conversation with my students because that is what I love the most (I guess X and J would say they are too and I'm not arguing with that) but for me, the goal is to get them to be online together and in conversation together and creating together--outside my class (I just use a smartroom--and btw this works just fine--no issues whatsoever about access).

Finally, advice to others: stay focused on what works for your teaching goals and style and for your students' learning, and develop skill in one internet tool at a time. I have worked with NING for two years and am now ready to add WIKI. I think this is a reasonable staging for me and for my students too--and all this is a personal choice--I can see, for example, how Jason can do a student centered active, focused class in the lab and appreciate his forthrightness about his methodology because it is about who he is! We each, as we venture forth into the cloud, need to keep our own style in mind...

OK signing off for now but will try to hunt down other posts and see if I have more thoughts...


Reflecting on the 2010-2011 Seminar

Overall, this has been a really fantastic and productive year for the seminar and for my classes: and I say this with the perspective that it was a very tough year for me professionally, not in the sense of "things going wrong" but in the sense of "things that must be completed".

Data, Retention, and Success 
I am in a data mood, so I'll admit right up front that I have specific quantifiable goals for my classes. I know some of you may consider this evil, or at least the spawn of evil, but it helps me plan my courses for the future. For the past several years, particularly in Basic Skills (ENG099), I have had a target every semester of a 90% retention rate and an 80% success rate. Since I started using Web 2.0 tools (and, admittedly, a computer classroom for every class session), I have hit that 90% retention rate on average for the last several years. Let's face it: if done right, our students LOVE being in the computer classrooms, and I have been teaching in one, off and on, for 20 years now. If your virtual environment is designed well students will be engaged, and engaged students learn. Great. I effectively use technology to keep them in their seats and, ostensibly, working.

Now, more complex is that "success rate". (If you feel the need for a massage, this should help.) In ENG 099 we now have the CAT-W as the exit test. With the previous test, the CUNY-ACT, my students were inching up from around 50% to around 75% when we killed the CUNY-ACT. With the CAT-W it looks like an average of around 60%, but I am also seeing a lot of "near misses" with students getting scores of 55 and 54 with 56 being the cut-off. Those students can advance to an "express" class, so if I include them we are looking at a 75% "success rate".

Anecdotal Evidence (which is not de facto "bad")
But what does any of that have to do with the seminar and Web 2.0? Here comes the anecdotal evidence which I have been trained to deliver (despite some institutional claims that we are not trained to assess our own outcomes). I can tell you that I am a more effective teacher using technology than without. As a person, in person, I speak really fast, my thoughts tend to wander in and out of ideas spontaneously, and if I have a "plan" for class, no matter how well prepared, I often ignore it when the time comes. Which is not to say my courses were not fun or educational. Students used to tell me that I should be a professional comedian or that I sounded "smart". Did they learn anything? I had no idea, really. But now, when I use the internet, I tend to plan the course meticulously, follow the design, modify where needed, and I can see what the students are actually doing--and so can they! They can see one another working and see the work.

Newsroom Approach
I grew up in a newspaper/journalist family, so I tend to call this the "newsroom" approach. In my father's newspaper when I was in high-school, all of the departments (sans the actual folks who ran the printing press) were in one large room. Reporters, editors, advertising reps, the layout team, all of them were in one shared space and worked together to produce something every single day. My father was the publisher of the paper and his job was, essentially, to set the timelines, the context, the tone, and to connect with the larger community (and, of course, deal with the budget and his bosses). I think my Web 2.0 experience is very much like that.

Internet Pedagogical Ethics 
As you all probably know, I have become very interested in the "ethics of the internet" in regards to higher education including issues of privacy, agency, and advocacy (OK, I am not exactly sure what I mean by "advocacy" there, but it sounds right, so I am sticking with it) and may plan a larger research project around those issues. I suppose this harkens back to my previous aspirations to become a lawyer. I would like to draw your attention to the discussion about how to handle inappropriate posts (and etc.) HERE. I find this subject very interesting as we move forward towards more "open" "classrooms" (and I find the necessity for quotation marks here intriguing).

That Said . . .
I think this is the best seminar and project ever. The participants ARE the content! All the wonderful things you guys do, even the glorious failures, we learn from and build on. I can feel (anecdotal evidence again) that this is a serious move in academe and pedagogy and that we are giving it serious attention and having a great time doing it. I almost feel like I am in my first semester of graduate school again. "Wow!", "What the heck does that mean?" and "How do I learn more about that?" are my favorite phrases again.

Thanks to you all. Really. (Or as Dr. X is prone to say, "Really, really, really. really, really, really, really.") And finally, I must say thanks to Dean Arcario and Dr. Van for envisioning my little Web 2.0 experiment as a project and seminar and to Dr. X for doing the really hard work every day and pulling it off. You go grrrl!

Not Goodbye, but Hope to See you Soon

So,

From Scientific American
It has been an exciting but hard year for me in terms of teaching and learning with technology (not to mention helping to run the seminar!). Both the excitement and the hardship come from the fact that so much of what I have been doing is experimental, and so I had to spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that the activities would be useful, engaging, but above all—work! To give you three examples:

1. Connecting with another class via Google Docs: one of the main issues we have as a group is that we are using different platforms for our classes, and, therefore, we have sometimes to ask students to join other platforms to interact with others, all of which can be a hassle. So when I invited Dr. Rogers-Cooper’s Seminar in Teaching Writing class to give feedback to my students on their summaries, I suggested that they post their comments under my students’ summaries in a Google Docs that “anyone with the link” could edit. The document was posted on my blog. My students, who were logged when they wrote on the document, had no problem posting. But Dr. Rogers-Cooper’s students experienced enough lag when interacting with the document in their lab that he decided to send me some of their responses via e-mail instead and I ended posting these in the Google Docs. Later, I tried to interact with the same Google Docs myself without signing in, and realized that, at first, there is considerable lag from the moment one types something to when is posted, but the lag diminishes notoriously in about 5 minutes. Therefore, when I repeat this type of activity, I will tell my partner that the students may want to open the Google Docs a while before they post to it and that they should expect some lag if they are typing directly on it (none if they cut and paste).

Another option I am considering: using a public wiki for interactions

2. Connecting with other classes via Google Groups: one of the basic activities we work on in DFL (2.0 or otherwise) is creating prompts that will encourage meaningful online discussion. Dr. Smith and I (and later, Dr. Vasilieou) wanted to extend this type of activity across classes using Google Groups as our medium, since all of our students could easily join discussions. Dr. Smith and I tried first with a common film, The Truman Show, but after the discussion we came to the conclusion that the analytical questions that I had written during the summer for the film (meant for face-to-face discussion with instructor input) did not work as well for online discussion across classes: the answers were too long, and so students coming later into the conversation did not read much of what earlier classes had posted. We decided, then, to create a new kind of discussion for The Matrix. Our new prompts encouraged rapid and structured discussion, and students could quickly move from one discussion to the next to read and respond to others in different classes. This second attempt also had the advantage of helping students practice writing arguments using claims, reasons, and evidence, which tied with our overall objectives for the course.

3. Creating a different type of group work that takes advantage of the online environment: I spoke at length about this experiment in my "Classes without Borders" post HERE. What I learned from struggling to do useful group work with my students this semester is that, too often, I have been translating what I do in a regular classroom to the web-enhanced classroom in a way that I did not do when I taught online. What I mean is that there are activities that work face to face, there are activities that work online only, and now I have to figure out which work in a “mixed” classroom, where we are half online and half face to face.

Also, after spending a year and a half reading the Community 2.0 blog, my one suggestion to new participants would be to follow it and post and comment on it beyond the "weekly duty," if possible. I cannot tell you how many issues we have solved through the blog, and how useful it became when you became frustrated with any of the many hard aspects of teaching (with or without technology)--there are just too many such instances. It helped me understand your worries and your triumphs. It is the pulse of the seminar, the heart of the seminar...(okay, I am waxing too lyrical, and, anyway, I cannot decide on an apt metaphor).

So, where are we headed? Good places, I think. When smart people get together and work together to the best of their abilities to encourage learning, the chances that the end result will be good are higher. And that is what I see us trying to do here, slowly but surely. :-)

C 2.0ers, it was a pleasure to read your blog entries. I hope you consider becoming affiliates and keep posting to the blog.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reflection on Community 2.0

I started putting my reflections on paper between too many end of semester activities. When I read over what I wrote, I decided to wait until after the first meeting of the new group of participants. This was a conscious decision since my experience was not as rewarding as so many of the others that I did not want to put a damper on the first day for the new folks. However, since I try to follow through on all the activities that we were assigned, I am posting my thoughts.

When I started in the seminar in Fall 2010, I had mixed feelings as to whether I should even be there. I have been teaching online and hybrid for almost a decade and have used many different activities integrating technology into my courses and utilizing the options that Blackboard provides plus Web 2.0 technologies (including “cloud-based”) – wikis, Voice Thread, Voki, Google Docs, PortableApps, OfficeWebApps. My classes are also designed to be the introductory courses for the creation of ePortfolio – not that students take it when they should – so I am involved heavily with Digication. After a number of requests from colleagues and suggestions from my chair that I participate in one of the seminars in 2010-11 (I did none in 2009-10), I decided that Community 2.0 seemed to represent an interest and I needed more exposure to blogs and Facebook to see if this was viable for my classes. As a licensed social worker, I have always been concerned about privacy and confidentiality issues, encouraging students NOT to reveal too much personal information on their ePortfolios, etc. I was wary of using some of the social networking tools for academic purposes. Perhaps some of this is generational and I may be too old to think we always need to work outside of organizational structures. While Blackboard is not perfect, it represents a CMS that works for so many of our activities. I also think that working with many organizations through the internship process, I understand about how individuals need to function within these structures. That does not mean I am unwilling to utilize new techniques just that I am not necessarily ready to throw out the old. As most of you know, my courses are generally technology heavy.

Starting in September 2010, after my syllabi had been created for the semester, there was discussion in the first seminar meeting about creating linking opportunities with our colleagues in different departments. I think at that point I was already concerned. I felt like I was in a time-warp seminar created for English faculty. There were only a few of us outside the English department and we were all “singles” from our departments. It is not so easy to make connections for students across disciplines when content and timing are difficult to mesh. It was much easier for the English faculty to connect their classes and many did so for editing/researching, etc. I was able to connect my own classes but the heavier portion of my teaching load was in Fall I & II since I was anticipating major transitional issues with the Co-op restructuring for Spring. So….plans for Fall I were established over the summer before the seminar began so I connected my own classes on a number of assignments without changing my syllabi too much. In fact, one of the activities is the Voice Thread interview preparation that I add to each semester since 2009 only this time I made a conscious effort to connect classes. That was continued also in Spring I. In Fall I, the students in the internship seminar added content to the wiki that was started in Fall II 2009/10. In Fall II, I connected two of my classes to work jointly on a wiki based on internship experiences.

Wikis have been one of the collaborative activities that I will continue to use. They are easy enough to create and you can keep them very private so they are almost impossible to find. Students are generally willing to share their work here but some often ask that if I decide to make the wiki public, to remove their names. They seem to be willing to share with other classes but often not the rest of the world. As we discussed in the seminar, the rest of the world may not be so interested in reading their work.

I like the structure of a wiki and find it easy to organize. While I posted on our blog weekly (not easy for me to do) and reviewed some of the class blog links, I do not believe that blogs would work as well in a career development class. The blog format works better for a writing intensive class since the focus is also to get them writing more. My classes have written assignments that are submitted and students also need to write/respond on the discussion board. Personally, I don’t like scrolling to locate a post and tags don’t always work the way we’d like. Blogs is not a function that I activated in Blackboard nor did I use their wikis since I have been using PBWorks for a number of years.

Google Docs, PortableApps, OpenOffice, have been used by students in my classes for a few years now. It is a great way to provide open source software for those who select not to, or cannot afford to, purchase software. Last Spring, I started using OfficeWebApps which is the Microsoft Live applications that students can access with their LaGuardia email accounts. I created a Live account myself so that I can easily share folders of documents for students. I have continued to use all for various purposes and to promote technological literacy in my classes. However, some of the documents and presentations that students create with these applications may also be shared within their groups in Blackboard.

Using audio activities prepares students for presentations so I continue to use some low stakes audio and video activities. These are shared within the Blackboard and Digication accounts. We have used VoiceThread, Voki, MovieMaker, webcams and started with Voice Board in Blackboard. We have listened to podcasts and created our own. We used to use Gcast but like so many of the former “free” tools, times have changed so we look for alternatives. It was easy enough to export and stream the recordings from VoiceBoard to share across classes.

Even though I was not convinced at year’s end that blogs or Facebook are better alternatives to Blackboard and Digication, I acknowledge that they serve a purpose. If it meets the objective of the assignment and it engages students, then that’s a good idea. I also think though that we need to acknowledge what engages us as faculty. If it works for both, wonderful! As Corbett mentioned, she now receives so many more messages with a different sense of familiarity that some of the professional role is lost. Preparing students for internships and the professional environment pushes me to establish clearer boundaries.

The best part of the seminar has always been the opportunity to interact with colleagues and share, discuss, and learn from each other. I appreciated Rich’s technological expertise, Ximena and Jason’s energy in all things Community 2.0 and the multiple links they created for us. I would have liked more hands-on, structured activities when we did have f2f meetings. I also think it would have been better if those who committed to the seminar were available and able to attend the meetings since faces varied when we met and this changes the dynamics. While it was nice to meet the new participants for the Spring, this is the first time I participated in a seminar where additional participants were added…..and they were English faculty. There needed to be a more diverse representation of departments if one of the objectives is to connect across the college. I did share this with Center staff before the new applications were submitted so I hope this is reflected in the new group.

I encourage the new participants not to be overwhelmed. Start small and test out the activities/technology. Don’t go jumping around too much the first semester since you may feel that nothing works. This all takes time and what you think is wonderful may not be so wonderful in the eyes of the students. While many are digital natives, there are still students who are technologically challenged so you need patience. As Steve mentioned, some may not be interested in the technology component. I have created a number of “tutorials” with screenshots when I anticipate potential problems and then recycle them each system. Think about what you are asking and then if a technology novice could handle it. I also search online for other schools who have, what I consider to be, Blackboard for Dummies since we don’t have quick guidelines for students who rarely use Blackboard. I have used digital stories in my classes and adapted that also for my own purposes by creating a “movie” (using MovieMaker) to walk students through my syllabus for my online courses. Web 2.0 tools change constantly and new ones replace the old especially when the old start charging fees even for educational accounts. Most of us use the “free” tools since the college will not cover the cost and often we are not willing to pay for this either. Find a good source to locate what you need. Here’s one place to start that I like: Go2Web - and another that I have used Web 2.0: Cool Tools for Schools. Technology takes time but when used creatively can add much to the classroom.

I see much of this changing and expanding over the next decade as we run out of classroom space and begin to offer more hybrid and online courses. There will probably be the introduction of more online degrees within CUNY also but then there needs to be more technology support for staff who are willing to teach in these programs. Personally in 5-10 years, I may be teaching online as an adjunct and will be checking in on you as I will be retired traveling The Great Loop in my trawler.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

End of year Reflection

This year has been a whirlwind of data and technology and web tools. I entered into this after just starting to integrate tech into my classroom. I’d tried Blogger, and a wiki creation page (WikiSpaces), but was having a hard time trying to figure out how to streamline the tech I was using in a classroom, how to make the tools out there work for me and for my students. For me, the most important and valuable aspect of this seminar has been seeing all of the various forms of web tools that other instructors have been integrating into their classrooms and the amount of variety I’m seeing in the use of Web tools and platforms. I’m particularly inspired by the use of Facebook as a Course management and networking tool for students, such as the Facebook groups set up by Jeremy, Michelle, and the presentations given during the seminar about GoogleDocs.

In one way this has been extremely helpful for me to see all the possibilities out there for integrating this technology into my teaching, and in another, it presents an overwhelming obstacle for learning these tools. I’m learning that my technical savvy about Web Tools is not nearly as advanced as it could be, and that embarking on a journey to learn as many of the tools available to me is possibly unrealistic. So, my goal for my summer classes is to try to get everything all in one place or at most two: I’ve been working on trying to become more familiar with Facebook to use it as a place to post assigned texts that link to a discussion forum of them (especially poems and short stories, short films, links to sites, surveys, etc.) and Google Docs to see if I can use it to replace Blackboard for essay and assignment submission. I’m pretty wary of the latter, but so many C2.0 folks are using it successfully that I’m going to give it a try. If any one has any trial-by-fire suggestions for how this can go horribly wrong and how to avoid disaster, I’d appreciate any advice I can get.

Beyond the Seminar, my use of the tech in the classroom has met with pretty mixed success. I’ll try starting with the success. Being able to have access to all of my materials online and being able to make all of the materials available to students online is something I simply can’t do without anymore. Using an online tool to have students generate small stakes work about a text they are reading before we discuss it in class is also something I just can’t do without anymore. Having a projector to be able to put poems and assignments up on the wall is something I can’t do without (especially because students never bring their materials!!).

But these are all really just conveniences. Inspiration comes from having the students be responsible for a complete space, and having them build and create the content for a wiki. This is especially satisfying when I see at the end of the semester that some students are still building the wiki and tweaking it even after their project has been graded, and when they are still visiting eachother’s wikis and commenting on them. Some students have approached me for information about how they can start their own wiki outside of school. This is cool, and it makes it feel like the learning process in my classroom extends beyond literature and composition, which, after all, is what composition classes should be doing --teaching you ways to use writing in all aspects of life. So that’s exciting.

Problems with the tools: some students are really easily confused by steps and have trouble following instructions. And I don’t have a computer lab, so I can’t easily show them how to do things. I put the instructions in writing and include pictures (which takes forever) but many don’t bother to read instructions at all, so things get messed up. I haven’t had anyone completely delete anyone else’s work yet, but I’m worried about it. They put their documents in the wrong places, upload assignments with file extensions I have no way of opening, and no matter how many times I tell them what are acceptable file extensions, they keep messing it up because of the aforementioned difficulties with following instructions (and not knowing what a file extension is in the first place). And then there are the plagiarism issues! And, also, no matter how many times I tell them, they don’t backup their work, so suddenly they mess something up and delete their entire wiki 2 days before the due date, and I’m stuck giving them extensions so they don’t fail the class, waiting until 10 minutes before grades are due to see if they’ve resubmitted their work. ETC.

And here’s one I’m just starting to realize is a problem: once I open the room up to FB and blogger and online office hours by chat, they just message me and email me incessantly and about anything and everything and never sign their name or address me in a professional way, because I am their “friend” apparently. So there are some politeness issues that I’m not too thrilled about and that don’t set up a very good precedent for students learning what are appropriate modes of and means of communication with people in positions of authority. Has anyone else noticed this?

As I mentioned earlier, the support network created in this seminar has been one of the most important elements for me, not just in terms of helping me come up with ideas for making a class more webby, but for the discussions that surround the benefits and also the obstacles created by webbiness (?). I’ve found Luke’s posts really helpful here (Esp Nov 6) Jason’s March 14th posting on techno-anxiety, and Richard’s techno-savvy posts that verge on a Rain-Manish expertise, when I can understand the technical side, can be very helpful (though often a bit like reading a William Gibson novel). His April 25th post discussing issues of transferability and moveability of course materials to alternate online platforms came at a time when I was struggling between Blackboard and Wetpaint and trying to get all the materials for two different classes transferred from older classes. Very frustrating activity and very helpful blog.


Where am I going with all of this? Oh, gawd I don’t know. I can’t seem to figure out a way to be happy and satisfied with anything that I do in these classes. Nothing seems to work all the tome or with any regularity. I’m constantly frustrated by other people’s frustrations, but I can’t go back to just making copies of everything at the print center 48 hours in advance and having a giant stack of handwritten papers handed to me every day; I can’t deal with writing comments by hand until my arm falls off; but if one more student complains that they forgot their password and can’t login to the Wetpaint or Blogger, or that Blackboard just doesn’t work for them because their name is too long or because the registrar’s office has them mixed up with their brother, or only their classes from 3 semesters show up on their class list… Argh. I know in 10 years that my classes will involve a large amount of material submission and class participation online, so I just want to develop a system that I and my students are all comfortable with and that is conducive to both critical thinking and development of better composition skills.

But honestly this year is making me hope for some sort of wide-scale technology breakdown, a technological devolution. In such a case, I will be happy to go back to teaching with individual slates and chalk. Construction paper. Dioramas. Dumb Shows. Smoke signals. Morality Plays. Cave painting.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Final Reflection K.Sharif

The use of social networking sites in the aim to provide a more enhanced ambiance conducive to learning has resulted in both challenges that are yet to be faced, and advantages that are proving to be beneficial to the students. The purpose of encouraging students to post blogs on such networking sites is to furnish them with the opportunity to connect with the class outside the classroom, and thus increase their ability of asking questions, taking notes, and reinforcing concepts of biology that they may have missed during the class lecture so that they are fully equipped with an active interaction of the course.
This goal is slowly being met; but with various complexities that are yet to be resolved, as they become a source of hindrance to the students’ use of blogs and social networking sites. For instance, an initial survey in the class revealed that only one student was familiar with even the concept of the blog and the initial use of the google groups as a way to posing questions and having them answered did not prove fruitful-- students hardly responded to utilizing it. Not many were motivated to actively engage in writing in discussion groups. Additionally, contrary to what was expected, not many students interacted in a study discussion online prior to quizzes. The reason for this can mainly be attributed to time restraint in this fast-paced course-- students usually do not find enough time to post their thoughts, questions, notes, etc. online and then have an open discussion with others in an attempt to study.
Another possibility as to why students are negligent in posting may be the lack of incentive. However, even when extra credit points were offered for the first person to respond to a posted question, there was no response. In this regard, perhaps the assurance of knowing that the credit will be received bears great importance and directly affects the students’ participation in an online forum. Moreover, due to the fact that this is a science class, in which several topics/concepts are covered within an extremely short period of time, as opposed to a writing class or a more discussion oriented class, the difficulty remains of how students can connect with each other in studying the material online and actively participate in online discussions. It is obvious that only detailed questions pertaining to a broad concept are appropriate for posting online for a biology course; a question on an overall concept or chapter has a minute chance of being answered because it can only be covered within a class lecture, and cannot simply be posted on the internet. At the same time, it is necessary for students to realize that in a course which moves rapidly, they need to connect to get help.
Finally, another challenge that is somewhat already taken care of is to utilize a tool that is already familiar to the students. For example, when “Google Discussions” was used, the participation from students remained very low. However, when Facebook was used, more students showed interest and became more active in contributing to the online panel. Between different classes, the use of different tools tends to impose a burden on students, who then need to keep track of passwords, ID’s, etc. In this regard, a uniform platform appears to be advantageous to the students.
While solutions are being discovered to ongoing difficulties with the online discussions, a number of favorable outcomes are emerging from the use of such online tools. With Facebook, students are more readily posting questions about when a particular quiz, exam, class, lab, etc. will be held, and what the content will be. Some students are also posting videos they found on the Internet that are relevant to the topics covered in class. These videos are most certainly playing a role in furthering the connection between students, as students are free to view them and also post comments about whether the videos are useful or not. One student has also shared a source for downloading free biology content. Facebook also enables small announcements to be easily posted for the students to read and provides a direct link between professor and student. Students are free to pose questions, clarify a concept or idea, and reiterate what they have learned by posting comments. An overall sense of connectedness is there and the students are learning to interact with one another in sharing what they find interesting learnt in class. It is hoped that these key advantages will continue to nurture and foster a vibrant learning environment outside the classroom through social networking sites.
Last but not least, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the organizers and all the participants of the seminar for all the help and ideas and introduction to various web 2.0 tools. Special thanks to Ximena for constant reminders about the seminar and to Jason for his willingness to be available for help whenever needed.

Community 2.0 meeting date?

Could anyone remind me when and where we are having this semester's last Community 2.0 meeting? Is it this Friday, May 10?

A Year Spent in 2.0

Certain things that changed this year because of my participation in community 2.0 changed so early that I had forgotten they were a result of the seminar. Case in point, my use of google docs as a the main form of feedback and grading (http://lagccnetworks.blogspot.com/2010/09/google-docs-and-blog-comments.html). More than once this year I wished I had stuck with traditional paper grading; first, because you can simply grab a bunch of papers and take them to a coffee shop or even a restaurant whereas laptop s carried to such places seems cumbersome and rather geeky. Yet when it comes to effectiveness in teaching, google docs wins hands down. Because these comments were going to be there for students to see throughout  the semester, I realized that I tended to give more global comments with specific support from a paper. As an example, I would say “you tend to not connect your paragraphs well: look at the lack of transitions between paragraphs two and three.” On a paper my ink note would be a “no transition” comment, and the same would go for other editing and grammar issues. I realize that such on-the-spot notes allow students to think that fixing this problem in this paper is all they need to do, as opposed to seeing a tutor for the pattern of problem, for instance. I noticed that in subsequent papers students would know and make references to my comments in conferences (“I make this mistake—I saw your comment” would be a typical statement).

The biggest change for my classes, however, was what peer review came to mean. I am not sure if there was any method to the madness or this just happened, but both semesters my classes experienced giving feedback, via blogger, to students in another section before they had done so to students in their own section. Both semesters, the experience for the students came to be a meaningful one for a variety of reasons: one time it was because they were responding to an ENA 99 or an ENG 99 class, so they saw themselves as having more writing experience which they could share. Another time they connected to a different ENG 101 section, one with a focus on masculinity rather than our class’ media and philosophy focus, and that interaction allowed them to have a break from our own thematic concerns and spend some time exploring that issue. I find that whatever the reason, peer review was an endeavor I did not have to justify for it provided its own rationale in the assigned context. By comparison, when we then had to conduct peer review on each others’ blogs students did ask for a reason behind this; they protested that they could simply walk over to the person and talk to them and also that they felt uncomfortable critiquing someone in the room. For the whole year I have been observing this from the perspective of what it means for peer review, but of course there are larger implications for what students consider happens in the grading process: they assume that knowing the writer of the person always means softening the blow and therefore when they receive a grade from their instructor they factor in their assumed instructor willingness to account for the interpersonal relationship. I believe there are possibilities, for future participants of this seminar, to also study what happens when different instructors offer feedback to students in other sections.

While I am focusing on instructors, I will also mention another overlooked aspect of these interactions between classes that took place this semester: I ended up having my students share activities, in one form or another, with five different sections over the year. Not once did I or any of the other instructors spend a moment explaining what our grading priorities are etc. Given how both students (as mentioned above) and others in the academic world often claim assessing writing is a subjective enterprise,   the reality that all of us who engaged in these interactions ended up having a common set of criteria which we had not sat together to predetermine is itself important.

Finally, while I am sure others in the seminar will mention this, a future participant of the seminar should be prepared for two realities: one is that often technology will not work and there will always be a need for a back-up plan. While this may seem like extra work and an incentive to avoid technology altogether, the advantages, at least for writing classes, far outweigh such concerns. The second reality (and this comes from my own observations alone, not some detailed study) is that the weakest students will also tend to be the ones with the most problems as the class sets up technology. I know that there is some urban myth out there that this generation lives and breathes technology. I did not see that in four different sections this year. What they are good with is the particular gadgets they learned through trial and error, but to use any particular new platform (blogger, ning, etc) quickly one has to follow directions and read these directions carefully. Nothing about these terms (reading, following, carefulness) comes naturally to the weaker students in the class, no matter how many videos they can download on their smartphones. So, the best approach would be to see helping students set up technology as helping them develop a set of skills which is vital for their success as college students.

Final Reflection

A frequent kvetch I hear is how despite the official embracing of pedagogical ideals, the time we are allowed to devote to teaching seems so limited. (“It’s like teaching is side hobby.” Or maybe I am just a little beleaguered by committee work that I can’t put my heart in.) While of course this seminar and resulting activities required a time commitment (that I wish I could have more diligently adhered to), it also provided some much-needed moments to reflect on what we are all doing here - thinking about the teaching process itself and what directions we want to drive it in.

Working with Magda’s ENG101 class was a very positive experience. Facilitating group work is always going to have glitches (particularly when one of the classes is online), but it turned out better in the second semester. As many other people here have said, we have to be ready for a lot of trial and error.

I had the opportunity of meeting Magda’s class in person by doing their library intro session. This helped materialize the connection between our classes to some extent too, I think. Conversations with one student in particular, Claudia, who was working on the topic of Asian masculinity, were also fun and productive. She even came to a panel discussion I put together about Asian representations in comic books and asked Larry Hama (the GI Joe writer) some excellent questions. I was very impressed.

Part of the reason this worked out well was because of my particular interest in the topic covered in this class (masculinities). I wish library faculty could pair up with classes more in this way. The emphasis here in the library is on providing general orientations for whoever requests it, but it works out so much better when our familiarity with the content is not so superficial. Beyond this, if relationships with particular classes/instructors could be established beyond the one isolated session, it would also help us support the work better. What role will libraries play in these developing learning contexts?

- On future directions, generally: are there any aspects of the current classroom model (a room with someone lecturing before 30 students) that we want to preserve? Thinking back on my own experiences as a student, I can’t recall any “best classroom experiences” from anything that resembled this setting. Do some of those anonymous, silent students do benefit more from online instruction? Educational use of technology is often looked at skeptically as a mere cost-saving measure (a concern not to be dismissed, to be sure), but in what ways will this hybridity increasingly become the instructional norm? What are we going to have to let go of?
- How can we extend these online communities we’ve formed beyond the boundaries of this seminar, and find ways to collaborate with other classes and departments?

- How can both faculty and students in the LaGuardia community find new ways of connecting with each other online? Facebook? Something like the Academic Commons, but more targeted towards our specific needs?

The Ning platform is not ideal, but students this semester were again very enthusiastic about its use as a Blackboard alternative. I’ll try looking into other possibilities this summer.

I appreciated how time was set aside in our meetings for independent investigation of the various tools/platforms/lessons that our colleagues from different semesters tried out. This is the sort of thing that always gets pushed aside to some imaginary downtime in the future.

I wish I had more answers (or at least constructive suggestions) to these questions, but these are a few things for me to continue thinking about. One promising connection: after a conversation with someone participating in Community 2.0 next semester, I think I have another future class collaboration partner. I also very much appreciate how this seminar allowed me to learn from all the experienced and generous faculty both conducting and participating in the sessions. If our role in the development of new pedagogical practices is going to be more than just reactive, projects like Community 2.0 will need to continue to be supported.