Friday, June 8, 2012

Agenda 8 June 2012 10:00a-01:00p E255


Community 2.0 Agenda
8 June 2012
10:00a-01:00p E255


10:00-10:10 Welcome & Post-survey HERE!

10:10-10:30 A Discussion about the Survey Data HERE.

10:30-11:00 Tool Time: Easy Bib

11:00-11:15 Break Dancing

11:15-12:00 Reflection Reading and Round-Robin Response 
Reflection Prompt HERE

12:00-01:00  Lunch & Discussion

Reflection


As I look back at the Web 2.0 year-long seminar, I can say it was a quite unique one compared to the several seminars that I have participated in the past. It was very interesting to hear how my colleagues in the seminars have innovatively used different web tools to enhance their teaching and engage their students in the learning process.  Whether they were using Facebook, blogger or YouTube, many of them have successfully incorporated them into their classroom. I was very intrigue and inspired to explore one or two of these Web tools in my future mathematics courses.

This past spring semester, my colleague (Ingrid) and I used “Tumblr” to connect several classes and engaged them in online problem solving sessions. At first many of my students were very excited to use the site and most of them find the collaboration very useful in strengthen their mathematical skills. It became a challenge for me to enforce the online dialogue as the term progresses. Part of the reason may be that I introduced “Tumblr” into my hybrid class where my students were already engaging in another online learning system. Perhaps it was too overwhelming for them to divide their time between the two. My goal was to use “Tumblr” as an open source for additional engagement between students of my class and students from any others of the same level. Even though it wasn’t a total success, it did bring a different dimension to my teaching than those in the past.

As I think of my future classes, I will continue to explore the use of “Tumblr” and try YouTube to enhance my teaching so as to effectively engage my students throughout the learning process. One of the things that I will do over the summer is to redesign my syllabus to incorporate these Web 2.0 tools. I hope the vision that I have will not only make my teaching more exciting, but also make my students better learners.

I am grateful to be part of this seminar because I have gained an enormous amount of knowledge and ideas to help me develop strategies in using technology to deepen my teaching in mathematics. It is not so difficult to use technology to deliver instruction, but a bit challenging to use it to teach a concept. The student and teacher interaction and student-centered activities are difficult to achieve on an online environment.

The seminar was well organized and conducted by two brilliant colleagues, Jason and Ximenia. Thank You!

Reflections on the fear of technology

When I signed up for this seminar I signed up as one who does not own a television, and will never buy a smart phone.  I signed up as one who worries about becoming that old man who is out of touch with the ways of the world and how the next generation goes about navigating life online.  I carry by nature a distrust of things mechanical and high tech.  I prefer to begin writing projects in a notebook, and to engage students in a face to face Socratic style that emphasizes live interaction.

Taking this seminar has taught me several things.  First, I am not one who will ever fundamentally base my pedagogy on online resources and platforms. Second, employing online resources does indeed enhance the classroom environment of even professors such as myself.  Third, others have found ways to use online resources to increase the level of communal interaction in their classrooms using online platforms that challenge me to rethink further what can be accomplished online.

As the year progressed I created a larger space for online tools;  I used blogger to create an online source of information regarding assignments and had my students connect to my blog with blogs of their own.  I encouraged them to post links on their blogs that tied in with Environmental Ethics and gave them opportunity to announce these links in class.  Some of these links generated significant discussion in the comments box.   I had my students post a reflection essay on the "fracking " lecture event that was held during Green week and as a part of this assignment they also commented on each others reflections.  This was an extra credit assingment and about half of my environmental students participated.

I was honest with my students during the semester that I myself was just beginning to learn about online tools and we commiserated together as we set up our blogs and solved problems often relying on the more adept students to help.  The main value of this seminar for me was having my fear of the online world chipped away at and having solid guidance as I took a few steps into this water.  I am thankful for having participated in this seminar even though I do not think that I took advantage of the resources available as much as I could have.  Yet, creating a blog and using it to facilitate interaction was, for me at least, a large step.

Finally, I would like to note that the themes of online interaction also affected what I did in the classroom.  I dedicated much more time than I have in the past to peer review exercises, especially in regards to essay development.  This improved my student's writing immensely and I would not have become as aware of the value of such peer feedback activities if I had not been involved with this seminar.

Once more, with feeling

My reflection...
...as a Community 2.0 Participant

This has been a year of confirming what I have been suspecting all along:


1. Blogs are excellent platforms to teach the writing process (duh! Ximena: they are publishing platforms). Why?
  • They are individual, informal, messy spaces that encourage creativity and thus are less threatening than the blank page or the blank simulated page of MSWord.
  • They allow for “learning by lurking”--I have countless reports of students reading each other’s blogs for inspiration and understanding
  • They are excellent spaces for all kinds of commenting from simple encouragement to formal peer review
  • They give writers a quick and powerful sense of their development as writers. Example: This semester, as my ENG099 students wrote the first paragraph of their end-of-class reflection, which required them to “identify their 3 best blog entries,” I saw a student ignoring her posts from the beginning of the semester. I said: “Have you looked at your March posts? There may be something good there.” “I already looked at them,” she answered. Pause. “They are so...short.” “that’s one of the reasons why I make you write these reflections, “ I say. “So that you can see what I see: you are a much stronger writer now. Your posts are long, detailed and full of interesting ideas.”
The usefulness of blogs to fulfill the goals of my writing classes is enough to convince me to keep using them. However, keeping track of blogs is A LOT OF WORK. My big challenge, then, will be to figure out how to assign and evaluate work so I do not burn myself out.


2. I like to “edupunk” tools. Example: Google Forms for brainstorming (see the full post HERE).

3. The shared Community 2.0 blog has become an indispensable resource for my own teaching. The insights of my colleagues, their queries, their immediate support when I have a problem, all have helped me when taking on unfamiliar roles as I experiment with new approaches to teaching and learning. A million thanks to everyone for all your hard work!!

...as a Community 2.0 Leader


1. Repeat after me: “The tool must fit the instructor, must fit the purpose of the class.” (Blackboard is very nice as a one-size-fits-all tool, but, as we all know, one size fits all means it fits no one well).


2. I really, really like learning about new tools and helping others navigate new tools.


3. Because the focus of our community is not so much the online work per se but the connections and interactions it encourages, we have had some interesting discoveries in terms of audience, peer critique, and community creation that are unique to experimental endeavors such as Community 2.0. By having two or more parallel sections share, collaborate, and asses each other’s work, for example, we put in motion one of humanity’s most powerful motivators: peer pressure. Thus, our students have reported that seeing other students’ work in progress makes them want to put more effort in their own assignments. They also report a high level of “learning by lurking”—that is, learning by reading or following other students’ work without being compelled by the teacher. And, as Luke reports, in the case of a higher-level course mentoring a lower-level course, the pressure on the higher-level students shifts to acting responsibly toward the lower-level students so that the advice being dispensed is as useful as possible. This pressure to “do well” and “act appropriately” seems to be enhanced by the fact that the students are not familiar with one another except online.

4. As many of you have reported,by belonging to Community 2.0, students begin to feel part of a larger community of people with the same objectives and challenges as them. This sense of community also extends over time, as for example, when I showed my students sample Final Projects from last semester: as we browsed through last semester’s blogs, my students could see how students just like them had fulfilled the requirements for the project and the course, and hopefully, felt they could follow in their footsteps. Lastly, the connection to higher-level courses helped create a sense of continuity and progression that is particularly helpful for advisement: what better way to explain to a student the requirements of an ENG101 class than to show her what the class is actually like as it progresses?


For incoming leaders!
There is no “off time” in Community 2.0 leadership, nor are my interactions with participants confined to seminar time: as I write this, I know there is at least one blog entry from a fellow participant awaiting my response.    :-)

Pedagogy 2.0

The conclusion of Community 2.0 leaves me with bittersweet feelings. On the one hand, it means the summer has finally arrived (although I've got two classes to teach - doh!). But looking back on the conversations and experiments that occurred because of the 2.0 seminar, I wish the semester was still going. Colleagues like Michelle Pacht and Maria Jersky have already pointed out so many of the general and specific reflections I also note. Jason and Ximena, our super leaders, have also left some terrific reflections to close this semester's blog. 

Looking back, my pedagogy definitely advanced in new ways, and some of them were unexpected. At the beginning of the seminar, I thought I knew how to use blogs; I didn't. I was worried about incorporating Twitter; it became very useful. In one respect I was too ambitious - I really wanted to create a peer-to-peer chat out of class that functioned like a peer review. I'll attempt it in the fall.

Blogs

By assigning blogs I realized that they were as useful for building and practicing specific skills as they were repositories for student reflection. They functioned better, actually, as vehicles to practice summary, paraphrase, direct quotation and citation, writing to an audience, and, later, critical thinking. In ENG 101, I can't assume students automatically have thoughts about texts and ideas; it's a bit strange, then, to have them "blog" in the sense that we associate with commercials blogs (ruminations, reflections, analysis).

The largest and most surprising evolution in assigning blogs was the peer evaluation that came with cross-class connections. My ENG 101 students seemed to incorporate revision suggestions more often from their peers than from me, the professor. They enjoyed those connections more. I did have to work hard to "train" students to evaluate other writing, and provide rules and guidelines for it. This training took class time, but it was valuable because it often doubled over the very same writing techniques I was already teaching them. Assigning students regular reading from their peers that involved them identifying those techniques and evaluating them sped up the pedagogy process. In a very real sense, I believe this one of the ways that 'faster' technology accelerated student learning, literally.

I was also surprised by how my ENG 220 class, the peer tutor training course, quickly adapted to a number of peer evaluations involving both ENG 101 students and ENG 099 students. The virtual connections they made with the 099 students prior to their 'live' tutoring built confidence, allowed them to practice skills, and gave them familiarity with 099 student writing. I actually don't think I'll ever teach the 220 class without this element, in the future.

Twitter

Twitter was the main focus of my experimentation, and I changed how I assigned it in the fall versus the spring. In the fall, I made it a regular component of class discussion and out of class reading. There were several advantages to this: I could monitor and learn from student reading; I could facilitate classroom discussion better by incorporating their Tweets; and the class had more connections out of class than otherwise would be possible. I noticed students form conversations on Twitter beyond what I assigned - this was learning for learning's sake.

In the spring, I cut back on the weekly element of Twitter and used it to strategically experiment. Students Tweeted on films we watched, which provided myself and them with a collection of notes to draw upon for essays and assignments. Some students chose to revise their Tweet observations directly into their essays. This was a very real way that Twitter became part of the student writing process, and fed directly from a low-stakes, in-class assignment into a high-stakes, staged formal writing assignment.

I also began to use Twitter as a research tool in the spring. I gave students mini-research assignments related to class discussions. They had to conduct Google searches, find news articles, and Tweet those articles into their Twitter feed. They then had to Tweet a second time, but this Tweet was a comment upon the article just posted. In this way, students were able to pool research information and evaluate that information in a space outside the classroom. This worked rather effectively, and some of them incorporated that research into their blogs, and later into their essays.

Pedagogy 3.0

In the future, I want to increase the opportunities for "live" chat and conversation between connected students, possibly in the same class and even outside of the class. I'd also like to continue posting my experiments with Twitter and Blogger on this site, even as it perhaps goes quiet next year. I want to continue building new technologies into my class as it becomes feasible. I cannot, for a fact, imagine teaching without these tools in the future. My pedagogy is officially socially networked.

Highlights

HERE 
HERE
HERE
HERE
HERE
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HERE


An Unruly Pedagogy


I have used web 2.0 tools for a couple of years now, maybe more, and my thinking on how I use them for pedagogical purposes has shifted from the emphasis on what students gain to an exploration on what the academic process as a whole gains. To elaborate:

The benefits for students were anecdotal but nonetheless strong from the very first time I connected a composition class with another composition class—I believe the very first was my ENG 101 with an ENG 099 Ximena was teaching. Students saw the process of offering feedback to another set of students, people who were not in the class, as an authentic, meaningful experience serving real needs. Peer review within the classroom could not compare to connecting with another person whose blog and personalization of it revealed a character yet unexplored. There was no mystery in looking at a classmate’s paper any more than there was in their looking at their own—they were all hoops to jump through set by the professor. For reasons I do not pretend to fully understand, the same text posted somewhere as a blog entry produces different reactions. Maybe we (or the students’ generation for certain) live in an era where such online identities are real identities—it is of little importance for my exploration. What did matter was that in that interaction students produced feedback far better, in quality and quantity, than they did in the confines of the single traditional classroom.

In following semesters I replicated these with both others’ sections and my own. I even have presented at a couple of conferences on the benefits of online peer review across sections using 2.0 tools. There is of course extra burden both with setting up this kind of class and coordinating such activities. If we also consider the possibilities for things to go awry, from technology problems to students being resistant to these kinds of innovation, there are almost as many reasons to not engage in such 2.0 techniques—at least there are many such reasons from the instructor’s side. One semester I taught a particularly unruly liberal arts cluster using blogger and these kinds of interactions. There were many moans and groans which frequently had me question whether the class was indeed benefitting in a way worth all the trouble; a couple of semesters later, I had two of the same students in my ENG 102 class. Because it was a Fall II class and I wanted the short session to be different anyway, I conducted that class with no 2.0 tools. At the end of the first week, one of the students from the previous semester came to my office and asked “what happened to the blogs.” I responded that given the complaints, I would have thought nobody missed them. His response pointed to an aspect I had never even considered. He told me that when he wrote in the blog and he knew that others would read it and respond to it, he never felt like it was a lonely homework endeavor in which he was engaged. Thus began my own shift in focus.

Academic institutions see knowledge as proprietary—they teach students so with their emphasis on intellectual property and plagiarism, which I joke with them is academia’s cardinal sin—one will be forgiven for all else, from sloppy argumentation to poor editing to lazy research, but there is no forgiveness for plagiarism. I am not against the emphasis on individual discovery, but there are side effects of that emphasis. Academic institutions end up seeing the production of knowledge as happens in the classroom to be proprietary as well. Even if classrooms have visitors and observers, even if faculty have an open classroom, the system still limits access to what happens in the class, and if there are observers, they certainly expect that they come to learn from the professor peers, not from the students. Having a class that is wholly accessible to the public through non-proprietary platforms like blackboard and eportfolio is radical in the simple way most truly radical ideas are, in that it eliminates the strictures of the institutional walls. The public nature of the class also conveys a different hidden curriculum than the traditional classroom, in which writing a paper or reading is a solitary activity and where even peer review is justified in the name of learning editing skills students will then transfer to their own writing. As my student pointed out, using interactive 2.0 platforms conditions them to thinking of learning as a shared, communal experience. Perhaps that is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those of us that we desire such change, the extra effort is more than worth it.

The Year in Review
June 2011
Romney runs for President,
Anthony Weiner resigns
Marriage Equality is passed
Community 2 started. 



In the last year my take away was sometimes larger than I was able to comprehend at the time it was happening.  I made some assumptions about using new online tools that proved to be somewhat false.  
  1. Students were NOT as internet savvy as I thought they would be.  They are outstanding on Facebook, and the I-phone, but beyond that they sometimes struggle.  
  2. What I thought was important about today’s learning did not ring true to my students.

Fall 1 2011 was spent helping students to understand how a blog works, how to obtain a gmail account and how to post to a blog.  This was a good learning experience for me and laid the ground work for better communications tools for Fall 2 and Spring 1.   As I said earlier the greatest learning that took place here was my expectation that my students would have a very good understanding of computer technology and would go and run with it.  Many hours were spent on the cell phone walking them through the steps of enrollment and creating blogs.    While I consider myself a major “geek” when it comes to technology, I was blindsided by my students non geek status.  
As I moved into the SHORT Fall 2, I was faced with the difficult task of teaching a course using similar tools to Fall 1.   This time however, I was teaching the on-line class from Malaysia and Turkey.  So I knew my highly dependable cell phone was going to be out of the question as I brought my new group of students up to speed.    
However, I was ready to rock with these students as I had prepared a detailed instruction sheet on how to get yourself into a blog and post.  Just in case they needed a life-line by giving everyone my Skype account.  This decision proved useful as I added a new feature, face to face interview with me using Skype.   The logistics of setting up the calls was simple, arranging meeting times with a 7 and 13 hour time change was a little bit more of a challenge.  However, I only had about five 3 am Skype interviews to do.  
My high point for the semester was one of my students was actually interviewed for a job, using SKYPE a week after we completed our interview..  Her practice run with me made her interview go smoothly.
I want to talk about the learning experience for the students.  I had the most success in the Critical Reflection class.  I ask students to analyze a real life situation and draw their own conclusions about what was the right solution.  I encouraged all students to either question or challenge each others solution to the particular problem.   We did four blog activities but the one that generated the most amount of interest was on sexual  harassment.  Some of the students became highly passionate about the situation and almost took it on as a personal cause.  Since these were real life situations they would often speculate on what was the actual solution.  When I would share that solution with them the passion they showed was inspiring.  Do I think they would do this on Blackboard?  I don’t know as I have not tested it, but the Internet community for reasons not completely known emboldens people to write more directly than they would in other forms of media.
I would not be true to myself if I questioned some of the validity of what I did.  The internet offers the student freedoms that they don’t have on Blackboard or other form of closed media a school might use.   However, it might give them a false sense of reality. When they enter the non academic work force they will likely find employment in companies that have very restrictive accesses and severe punitive measures for using technology except for business purposes.  To some degree Blackboard mimics the business world and is thus the start of a reality check for what lies ahead.  However, I will continue to use Blogs and Facebook as a learning tool as  think it has opened my eyes to a broader understanding of what is possible.  
Over the next couple of semesters    I hope to explore some of the other programs that I was introduced to including Twitter to created a more continuous stream of connection between the class members as well as with me.  I also think that ten years from now technology will exist that we don’t even know about right now, after all twitter is less than 5 years old and the internet has not yet celebrated a 25 anniversary.  

Final Reflection


My involvement in the 2011-2012 Community 2.0 seminar helped facilitate a distinct shift in the way that I run my hybrid-online Introduction to Art course.  I have begun incorporating more web 2.0 tools into my curriculum, and I find that this has resulted in increased class participation, better quality writings, and lower rates of student attrition, compared to previous semesters. Below I will discuss some of the most helpful elements of this seminar and what may be in store for the future.

Blogger is one of the most influential tools that I have recently incorporated into my curriculum. Contributing weekly posts to the Community 2.0 blog has familiarized me with this software, and has shown me how helpful blogs can be for connecting ideas and information among peers. I did not have much prior blogging experience, and now I feel more comfortable with updating and managing blogs. Starting last semester, I have required my Intro to Art students to create Blogger accounts and maintain their own class blogs. Here, they post everything from field trip reaction essays, to short-form written reflections, to digital art projects. Before this, I had students upload their writings to Blackboard and post their digital projects to Blackboard Expo. My primary issue with students uploading their writings directly to me was their inability to see and respond to each other’s work. Also, the interface for Expo is not as user-friendly as it is for Blogger. Navigating from one student blog to another in Expo can be quite cumbersome and time-consuming. Due to Blackboard’s monolithic firewall, students were not able to share their work outside of the class. In contrast, Blogger allows students to easily view each other’s posts, and their sites can be shared with anyone who has the link. I am even able to link student blogs directly to the class blog for ease of access. Rebekah Johnson shared a very helpful document with me that walks students through the process of creating a Blogger account. I found this to be helpful for students who need that extra bit of guidance getting started. You can view the post at her Language of Art class site: http://language-of-art.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-make-blogger-account.html
Here is a good “How-To” video for creating a Blogger account that is posted in the “2011-2012 Info” tab on the seminar blog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA4s3wN_vK8

Although I am obviously a fan of the connectivity that Blogger allows, I am also wary of the privacy issues that this online visibility presents. I try to stress to my students that they should only post information about themselves or their viewpoints that they are comfortable displaying to the entire searchable world. This is especially pertinent regarding the dialog of art. This conversation can involve topics that some students may consider uncomfortable or even taboo. The solution that I have found is that students can be selective about what personal information they share (ex: First name only, or alias in user profile), and they can choose to make their blogs visible only to myself and to the other students in the class. Still though, there may always be a greater degree of self-censorship when students share their work beyond the instructor. On the brighter side, I have noticed that this peer visibility has improved the quality of spelling and grammar in writings, and the instances of plagiarism have decreased substantially. Ximena posted some very helpful handouts for instructors and students regarding online privacy. I will likely post the “Internet Privacy and Etiquette” document for future classes. You can access Ximena’s post here: http://lagccnetworks.blogspot.com/2011/11/this-apparently-is-week-of.html

My future goals relate to student connectivity. I got a taste for the cluster teaching model last semester as a consulting member of Rebekah Johnson and Hugo Fernandez’s Language of Art. It was a learning experience to see how they were able to link the content of ESL and Art. Next semester, I will be participating in clusters of my own. I am excited to find ways to link art to other subjects, and I am sure that web 2.0 tools like Blogger will be a perfect platform to start this collaboration. One of my short-term goals is to incorporate other social media platforms into my pedagogy. I feel that Twitter could be a good way for my students to communicate, especially on field trips, from web-enabled devices.  However, the one major downside that I see with Twitter is how much space it takes up on a smartphone. I had to delete the app almost immediately after we did Justin Rogers-Cooper’s Twitter activity earlier in the seminar. I would also need some more sustained practice with Twitter before I would feel comfortable making it part of my course. Additional Twitter exercises could be beneficial for future sessions of the seminar. For reference, here is the agenda for the meeting that included Justin’s Twitter activity: http://lagccnetworks.blogspot.com/2011/12/agenda-9-december-2011-1000-0100-b123.html

My long-term goals are to begin connecting my students to other classrooms, locally, nationally and even worldwide. This is when tools like Blogger, Twitter and Skype can really come in handy for both synchronous and asynchronous communications. The dialog of the fine arts is one that is both international and culturally inclusive. There is something that I find very fitting about using new media and web tools to facilitate this dialog across borders, cultures, space and time. My greatest take-away from the seminar was the hands-on experience with web tools that I may not have previously explored. My vision for the future of the Community 2.0 seminar is one that keeps adapting and responding to the most current trends and tools that are available to instructors in the online environment.

Community 2.0 - A Look Back

I have really learned a lot, experimented some, and gotten many ideas for future courses from collaboration and connecting with colleagues in the Community 2.0 seminar.

As I look back at the blog work I have done with classes, I see interesting transformations and distinct "blog identities" for each class and semester.  I was interested in the work presented by Ximena and Jason last year and became affiliated with the Community 2.0 group then, unofficially, and thus began my experimentation.

In the beginning...

My first attempt at using blogs was in both of my ESL 098 classes last spring, in which the students were reading the common reading "Fast Food Nation."  (See the blog here ).  I had all the students make their own blog accounts and they responded to posts that students in the other class made, as well as connecting to videos and information Ximena and Jason were using and cross-course interactions with Jason's class allowed my students to interact beyond our own class.  I learned what problems students have creating blogs and I learned much more about making them, myself.  We did not post so many times on these blogs, but we explored interesting topics.  It felt fresh, interesting, and full of possibility.

Branching out

Then in the Fall I, 2011 semester (coinciding with the start of this Community 2.0 seminar), I took the class blog idea much further.  In my paired course - ESL 099 with Intro to Art - the class blog was a place to share information, do research on various art topics, and for both instructors to post assignments and see student responses to the other instructors' posts.  (See the blog here ).  It was a great place (a "third space" - see this article for a definition) to continue the work and ideas from both classes and to "meet" outside of class for both the students and instructors.  From this experience, I truly believe that any two courses can work together, as long as there is some type of shared space (using any online platform).  Collaborating with other instructors suddenly seemed more feasible and with access to the blog from anywhere (work, home, smartphone), it was uber convenient.

I also began to use the blog as a place to post links to relevant sites, post homework assignment and test information, and to alert students to various other important information.  This works better than sending out emails through Blackboard, if students are used to checking the blog frequently.  And, in fact, this makes them check the blog frequently, so they read the posts and link to one anothers' blogs more often.

I also used a blog for my other course, Introduction to Language (aka Linguistics 101) in Fall I, 2011, and it was here that I realized the vast possibilities for posting interesting, thought-provoking assignments for students, as the ELL 101 class is a higher level than the ESL courses I had been using it with.  (See the blog here ).  I had fun designing the activities on the blog but yet was a little timid in creating them.  In the future, I will do a lot more with the ELL 101 class and blogs (or perhaps try another online platform).  I am very intrigued by the idea of the "reverse classroom" (article: "Flip your classroom through reverse instruction") and want to do more of this type of writing, researching, thinking, and discussing outside of class in order to do further activities and discussions on the topics inside of class.  I would like to put the lecture Power Point slides online and have students go through them before class so that we can discuss them and do follow-up linguistic activities during class, rather than spend far too much class time on the lecture.

Now I just need to determine how to create the slides with a voice over (what software) and where online to post them.  Any suggestions for this are welcome!

Moving along

Then in the Fall II, 2011-12 semester, I created what I consider the most successful class blog and set of activities, related to both this year's common reading, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" and our other course text, "The Urban Reader." (See the blog here).  I feel that the variety of activities done on the blog or linked to from the blog were more interesting than some I had done in classes in the past, but it also got a little unwieldy and seemed a little disjointed, hopping from the HeLa topics to the Urban Reader NYC social issue topics (health, local government, debt management, obesity, social work, etc.)  I think that unifying future courses in a better way around themes that are more closely related would be better.

This semester - going backwards?  Plateauing?  Or still evolving as a blogging instructor?

Now, I feel that the class blog I have had my ESL 097 class do has not been as successful, because the assignments were less ambitious or less interesting, and I felt a little mechanical creating blog assignments, at times.  I don't know if I am now experiencing "blogging burnout" or if the lower level of my students and, thus, the limitations to what they can do make the assignments less diverse or interesting. (See the blog  here.)  I have also been busier than ever with other administrative duties and felt I didn't spend enough time developing the blog activities enough.

One other reason it wasn't as dynamic was that I used one blog for everything, where students all posted on the same blog page, rather than creating their own blogs that linked to the main class blog, as I had always done in the past.  I was inspired to try this by our own, shared Community 2.0 blog, but I felt it was a little less interesting for students.

On the other hand, I systematically had students read each others' posts and comment on them, which relieved me of the responsibility of commenting on each one and also made students regularly read each others' posts and "get to know" each other that way.

At the end of the semester, the students reflected on the blogs and their comments were the most positive out of all students using blogs in my classes over the past year (as examples, see one student's reflection and another student's reflection.  Was it because blogging and technology, in general, were more novel to students at this lowest level?  Or was it because we were all on the one blog and everyone's work was there and readily accessible?  Or was it because I had students do more blog post assignments than ever before, so that it was a regular part of the class?  Or was it because they also read and commented on one another's blogs more than in past classes?

I also did not connect to other classes or to outside people until the very end, and my students did enjoy reading and commenting on Dr. Jerskey's class posts (see her student responses to my students here).  I think that had these classes connected earlier and multiple times, the students could have all enjoyed "outside" connections more.  I will strive to plan further ahead and plan better for such connections in the future.

Final thoughts...

I have really tried a lot and learned a lot over this past year and a half of using blogs in all of my courses, and I will certainly use blogs or some other type of online third space for classes in the future.  I need to figure out how to keep it interesting for me and to maximize the learning and usefulness for the students, and not just have it become a routine activity.

I really do want to figure out how to do the "flip classroom" and post more lectures online and have more discussions in class.... and I would love to talk to any of you about such ideas!!!

Thank you all so much for such an interesting collaborative professional development experience!

Sincerely,
Rebekah


Lessons learned and moving forward…

Throughout this seminar there were a few observations that occurred to me time after time.  I was impressed by the many ways colleagues embraced specific 2.0 technologies and integrated them into their assignments and in the classroom. The level of creativity and willingness to try new modalities was inspiring here. And although there were challenges-scheduling labs, helping students set-up blogs and the like the results seemed well worth the effort.

Students who embraced the technology really seemed to take their learning to another level. It seems that having students from two classes working together was a very effective strategy.  Students working together in that way seemed to generate a synergy that might not have happened otherwise here. (I also believe that using technology in this way is important to students’ professional development preparing them for tasks they will perform in the workplace.) 

Another observation is the amount of time and energy it takes to build these technologies into the classroom. The learning curve, at least for me, was much steeper than I expected.   I spent the year exploring ways to use Blogger and NING to share career planning and labor market information to help students and advisors make sound decisions. I explored many blogs to find examples to use as a guide. I end this seminar still uncertain of how to achieve my vision. I will preserve until I figure it out.

Based on these observations I learned that it would be helpful to start with an identified group that has something in common. My goal was to engage the college community-faculty, staff and students- that was very unrealistic to say the least. As the College implements plans to realign Student Affairs and Academic Affairs I will be moving from ACE to Student Affairs and heading a Career Development Center for credit students. Web 2.0 technology will play an important role in the development of services and this seminar has helped me see some of the possibilities.

Bloom’s Taxonomy was new to me and developing an understanding of it was helpful. It helped me to organize the materials for a hands-on resume writing workshop that will be used in ACE vocational training programs. It seems to be effective because participants are learning new information (currently accepted resume practices) and applying it to their personal and work experience. This workshop is being piloted now and will be evaluated over the summer.

I have incorporated Diigo and Evernote into my personal life and that’s helping me achieve my goal of a paperless household.

The most challenging aspect of the seminar was that I found myself overwhelmed by the wide variety of 2.0 technologies that we discussed. I felt like I need to incorporate everything into my project and that was paralyzing- (and faulty thinking on my part). A focus on a few options and going into greater depth would have been helpful to me.  

My suggestion to future 2.0ers is to go into the seminar with another faculty member as partner. I think it might be helpful to have smaller communities within the larger one that focused on a similar assignment or a particular technology.

I am keeping my eye on how the strategy of “flipping the classroom” develops over the next couple of years here. I like the idea of learning material in advance and then working with an instructor to follow-up on areas that are unclear. I am also interested in watching how sites such as iTunes University and the Khan Academy develop. I see these sites as a supplement to classroom learning rather than as a replacement for classroom learning.  I’ve used both and have found them to be useful when pursuing a subject of interest. Crowd sourcing has some potential in the classroom too. So many good things on the horizon here!

Dear Community 2.0 Participants 2012-2013,

Signing up for Community 2.0 was a wonderful extended-learning experience.  Looking back, I cannot believe all the things I did not know about blogging and creating meaningful connections within academia by using social media platforms for our students.  I knew my blogging would be a bit different from my Community 2.0 counterparts, with the exception of Prof. Meangru because he and I co-facilitated MathBlogLaGCC.  (Most faculty and staff hosted English and Humanities’ courses).

I joined this venture to capture and lessen students’ apathy towards Math and in turn motivate students to attend tutoring, ask questions online and to support each other as they navigated their MAT096 or MAT115 courses/experiences.  The most valuable lesson in planning was at the of the fall semester, as we learned that running the interactive Fall Activity should have taken place earlier in the semester, as opposed to the first week of December, when students’ anxiety rise and all papers are due and looming finals near. For the Spring Activity we had better results.

My advice to all technology related new/old platforms is to begin with a strong plan and then allow yourself to be defeated at times by technology. Practice at the lab you will hold your activities and blogging exercises.  DO NOT ever try to show a blogging activity and/or a social media platform on a new setting (lab or computer you ever used yourself).  Not all the computers will have all the I-movie set up you want to run a short film from YouTube and the wireless connection may be a little slow or completely gone.  Never trust technology and have Plans A-Z ready!

I synchronized our TumblrBlog with a FacebookFan Page and a Twitter Timeline to allow students to follow our posts from the social media of their preference.  What we learned is that the meaningful interactions surprisingly took place rather on the blog and not on Facebook. We assumed that that ALL of our students love for Facebook would lead them to comment and interact on the Fan Page.  Boy, did we learn it was quite the contrary!!!  During class the interactions were intense, but outside the meeting times, traffic was always slow. Was it because it was Math and/or school related?  Whatever you do, Do Not take it personal and emphasize that participating in the blog is either mandatory and/or part of the course.  Once the students begin participating, it will be hard to stop them.   We just have to use the right bait.
My long term vision is to maintain an open dialogue about Math and Communications courses.  As hard as it was to maneuver writing and talking about Math anxiety I deeply believe there’s a lot of work to get done for our students at LaGCC.  The remedial math dark cloud will continue to challenge students personally and academically and it is our roles of faculty and staff to provide that emotional support to encourage students to keep trying and to use all the resources we have on and off campus (online or not).  Ten years from now, I hope our blogs can be used as archives to learn how our students learned and how we continue to evolve with technology.

I wish we had more in person seminar meetings. I know. I know... you may roll your eyes, as LaGCC folk do not need any more meetings, but once you join the seminar and understand that we’re so lucky to have Ximena and Jason run this seminars with such efficiency and open creativity, you’ll understand my wish.

To end, this seminar hands-on experience is so easily transferable to our student population and to keep things “fun”, but as I mentioned preparation for worst-case scenarios is key!

You shall not be disappointed--Carpe Diem and enjoy the summer and the year ahead!

Best,

Prof. De León

Final Reflection

This seminar has provided so many great lessons, but the most valuable for me was the chance to see how other faculty members use technology in unique and fascinating ways.  It’s been truly eye opening to see these tools being used to help students in every kind of class from Math to English to Philosophy of Art.  Even if I never get on the Twitter-bandwagon, it’s been educational for me to see how it can be used to expand learning opportunities for students and faculty alike.  The combination of face-to-face meetings and the seminar blog have worked together beautifully to give us hands-on time but also time to explore on our own and report back on what we’ve learned. 

I guess what I would always like to know more about is how to keep doing this for myself, especially once I no longer have the support of the seminar.  I’ve tried various things with varying degrees of success but I know that there’s so much more still out there that I have not yet tried. Plus, there are new things happening every day and the need to keep up feels a bit overwhelming.  I’ve come to realize that it’s OK not to do it all but I would like to have a strong repository of tools that I know work for my classes.  This seminar has definitely helped me get closer to that goal but I’m not there yet.

My favorite and least favorite moment is one and the same and it exemplifies both the possible advantages and possible drawbacks of the work this seminar encourages us to do.  Ximena, Jason, and I connected our classes in a discussion of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain” (I write about it here and here and share student feedback on the activity here).  As I’ve written already, the plan was somewhat complicated and the fact that we were using different platforms (Facebook and GoogleDocs) was confusing.  The timing was also not great; it was just the second week of classes and things were still very new for students.  Because Jason and I both had classes that met just once a week, we felt rushed to squeeze everything into a limited time frame.  Despite all the things I would do differently, it was truly exciting to see students so engaged in the work of their peers.  They were fascinated to learn what other students had to say about the poem, to see what other professors were doing in their classes, and to get and provide comments to fellow students.  My biggest regret was not doing another similar activity at another point in the semester.  This activity took so much time and energy and generated so much stress for me that I just didn’t do it again and that’s a shame.  My students would have enjoyed doing similar interactions in a more sustained way.  Of course, we continued to use Facebook to interact amongst ourselves but I could have kept us connected to other classes and I wish I had done a better job of that this semester.

The future is so hard to predict.  The technology we use today may be obsolete in 5 or 10 years or it may be so different from the current version that it won’t serve the same purposes.  My goal is to keep up as best as I can so that I will continue to try new things and see whether or not they work.  I am somewhat concerned about using computer labs so heavily in classes.   I firmly believe in the importance of class discussion and sitting at computer screens can make the student interactions I would like to see more difficult.  I have developed strategies to combat this problem but it’s still an issue, especially for my once-a-week class that meets only in a computer lab. 

Future participants should be ready to experiment, to try things they don’t feel comfortable trying, to fail, sometimes, and learn from that failure.  Technology is exciting but also scary for many of us and this seminar can help conquer that fear if you’re willing to go with it and see what happens.  Keeping an open mind is also important, as is a willingness to see things from different perspectives.  I would also suggest you not be too hard on yourself.  This isn’t easy and one yearlong seminar is not going to answer all your questions.  It will, however, introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities and that’s a wonderful thing.  My thanks to Jason and Ximena for making this seminar such a rich, rewarding, and fun learning experience.

Final Reflection

The lessons that I will be taken away from the seminar are:
Anyone has something to offer in the field of hybrid teaching because nobody is able to test out all tools at all occasions. Digital technology changes every day, so someone new can contribute to the community based on her or his own experiences, and that is what we want. For this reason, our community must be able to accept anyone at any point of her or his development in order to sustain itself as a meaningful group.

As a newbie, I enjoyed creating an assignment for two different platforms: Bad Drawing for ePortfolio and Bad Drawing for Blogger. 


Students’ works based on that blogger platform are great. People can read my blog post on this topic when they feel like it.

Warning: Always assume that students do not post their best drawings from their sketchbooks. They might feel their best drawings are the worst ones. They may be afraid that someone might steal their original materials when they post the drawings online. Hybrid teaching is not "online" teaching for this reason and I would inspect their actual sketchbooks before grading.



The Things I might have wanted to know more about: 
Hmm...can I be honest? I think I was the first Professor (ever) in my department asking beginning painting students start blogging, without knowing the fact myself. It was historical and I am pleased to learn that I contributed to the institutional achievement, but I might have wanted to know the fact in advance. Also, I was probably the first Asian Professor teaching painting at LaGuardia and my blog helped my students, who were not familiar with the Japanese accent, understand me better. I actually encourage everyone to take one Japanese course before graduation (LaGuardia offers the most comprehensive Japanese language program at the community college level among CUNY and is starting its Asian Studies Program with Queens College), but it is good to know that hybrid classroom can support students in the multicultural environment.


My favorite moments in the seminar are:
When I re-consider traditional structures of the university classrooms and/or the program.

This is weird, but my workshops, not classes, this semester made me re-consider my art classrooms. Not having a class made me feel free from obligations and allowed me to think the way I do not normally think. I often tried to evaluate the differences between a regular art studio session and a museum/ culture center workshop. I feel workshop formats may be better for a few studio sessions in my art appreciation courses.

As a child, I liked museum workshops more than school art courses probably because teachers were less prepared and more open to unique ideas (note: this is my memory from Japan). Some of them did not seem to know how to form a functional classroom environment, but that was okay and I enjoyed it or even exploited it at times.


On my blog, I think this is the most (intentionally) unstructured class assignment that I made this year.


Suggestions that I have for future participants in the seminar are:
Just listen to your seminar leaders. You cannot go wrong with them, so listen to them carefully.
Use more art for your blog post!!!!!
Start painting.



Useful, helpful, or interesting posts/threads to discuss: 
Food Art. I notice that many people use the common reading and developed assignments around that topic. Ari's Food Art site is a useful resource for everyone who would like to explore the theme.


Future:
I think individual interaction/ connection will be the main teaching method for art in five to ten years. Three types of online connections I learned in the seminar are individual (skype, facebook chat, etc), small group (forum), and large group (wiki). All modes of communication can be useful for art production, but I feel intense art advising through conversations can only be realized through individual interactions with master artists.

Dear Future Comm 2.0 Seminar Participants...

I’ve been working with Web 2.0 platforms (mostly blogs!) for a couple of years now. I was interested for a couple of reasons including engaging multilingual writers and promoting student writers’ self-efficacy. But when I introduced these blogs into my classes, it felt as though we were this self-contained blog network. Despite having students create and post on their own blogs and respond to others’, it didn’t “take off.” (Sure there was always the occasional student or two who made their blogs their own, adding unassigned related posts that interested them, but that was because (a) they loved the content of the course and (b) they were Web 2.0 literate/comfortable.) (I reflect more on that here. And here).

Having said that, there were a number of positives. Writing on blogs (at least from my preliminary data) did improve both writing self-efficacy and fluency in multilingual writers; it also positively decentered the classroom away from me as the hub: students read each others’ writing and drew from each other as models. (That is, in observing each other’s writing, they generated their own descriptors of “good” writing.) Yet, compared to the potential Web 2.0 platforms hold, my classroom (virtual and otherwise) still felt two-dimensional. As I approached the Community 2.0 seminar, I was asking myself, “How might I get students to sustain engagement more meaningfully?” Looking back now, I think an additional, implicit question was, “How might I sustain my own engagement with Web 2.0 platforms more meaningfully?”

My participation in Community 2.0 had to do with immersing myself in writing and teaching through the lens of Web 2.0. I think to begin with, as a writing teacher and writing textbook author, I couldn’t help but notice and be intrigued by the potential of Web 2.0 platforms to transform society the way writing did way back.... well, that’s a different story. Fast forward past the cave walls and stone tablets, the first papyrus scrolls, the pens, the ink, the monks doing their illuminated manuscripts and on to the Gutenberg Press—not only do you have evolving technologies, but transformed minds because of those technologies. Transformed minds because of the increasing availability of literacy--the availability to receive texts—but also transformed minds because of the ability to create a range of texts: to express one’s meaning with an ever-evolving sense of one’s audience and one’s purpose in writing. It went slowly enough that one could begin to think writing was all about putting language on the page (or some other flat surface!). But it’s always been about language in some code (writing) and design. If you fast forward to today, you see that everything is still going fast forward. When did this permanent fast-forward happen?

Look at all this stuff!



[This weekend I just read an amazing, compelling, couldn’t-wait-to-get-back-into-it, sci-fi short story composed entirely in tweets. Look at how Jennifer Egan composed them—on paper! I love it.]


As a writer, I feel compelled to jump in, try this out, and make it my own. But what is “this?” What does it feel like learning these (so, so, so, many) different platforms? What control do I have over my “message?” My “aesthetic?” How does my message and aesthetic change with the platform? How does the platform change with the audience? How does my audience change how I use a platform?

These are some of the questions I want my students to grapple with too. (They are not very different from Classical Rhetoric’s concern with the relationship among audience, form, and purpose.) Technology has been one of the elephants in the classroom for a long time. This explosion of technologies, though, has, I think, made visible the elephant. We can’t get through the classroom without knocking up against it. As a teacher, how do I address this? When should I ask students to hand things in hard-copied and typed? When should they email me? Should they use their smartphones in our smart classroom? What kind of degradation of attention span have I unleashed in the computer lab when students have twenty million windows open checking FB, the weather, and the cheapest flight to spring break? Some reflections on that hereMore thoughts on that here.

Community 2.0 has given me the opportunity--and community--to think more deeply, and more reflectively about my own role in making visible this elephant and, in doing so, developing a dynamic (as in ever-changing, rather than super-energetic) relationship to Web 2.0 activities and the kinds of meaning-based, knowledge-building, reflective interactions I’d like to stimulate and model in my classes, with my students.
Having said that, my immersion into Web 2.0 has been modest at best. Over the year, I’ve linked Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets to my blog with varying degrees of success. While I was satisfied to have everything there—blog, course calendar, assignments, links to uploaded PowerPoints, etc. it became a bit of an unexpected commitment keeping it updated. Students too became overwhelmed, particularly this semester when I asked them to post all their assignments on Google Docs and create a list of links on their individual blog’s page. I was platforming for three classes (i.e., getting a lot of practice); most students were only doing it for one. The students who weren’t as facile with Blogger and Google-World struggled a bit. But isn’t that the dynamic of a semester? We’re all keeping more and more balls in the air as we juggle towards the final weeks.

In terms of connecting to another class, that was challenging this semester with my linguistics class. Rebekah Johnson (teaching first level ESL) and I had our students correspond to each other while my students were studying second language acquisition. It was late in the semester, however, and based on how much my students enjoyed it, I regret not working it in sooner. This brings up a big challenge with Community 2.0: you want to try out different platforms and certainly to CONNECT with other classes, but you also have a curriculum to get through and students who need basic support—often in the very basics of how to be a student: how to study, how to read, how to write, how to research, how to not only tolerate confusion, but to use it as a springboard to inquiry. Did incorporating platforms complicate that? Maybe, but not necessarily in a negative way.

I found myself flailing in depths beyond my comfort zone, but in the end, the platforms did come together into a cohesive whole. Students did learn how to use them and connect to each other—with varying degrees of proficiency, but all improved. But this was not a class in Web 2.0 platforms. My success can only be measured in how the platforms served the higher purposes of student engagement in the content of the course and student engagement in learning. The last couple of days of class, we had presentations of research papers. It was rewarding (okay, amazing!) not so much how they cited from each other’s blog posts and linked writing assignments—I told them to go ahead and do that—but to see how they connected their own learning trajectories with others’ observations and stories. I suspect the writing and posting and reading and commenting had a cumulative and sustaining effect. And certainly I am much more proficient at integrating for my purposes of teaching and writing the limited platforms I use and feel like I could take on a few more next semester. I hope my students do too.

One of the best moments was when one of them asked at the end of the presentations, “Can we create one central place to post all of our papers, so we can all read them?” The class erupted with, “Yes! Can we?” The class papers had transformed from a dreaded, or at least disembodied, required assignment into a trove of treasured, connected artifacts containing remnants of what we had learned together and from each other about language and learning. [Posting t/k!]