Friday, June 8, 2012

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.  


  1. My new mantra: "Never assume students know how to use social media and that they ALL LOVE IT!"
    I came across several students who loathed the idea of using social media...almost as if they want to escape from it, but here we were offering as if it was gold!
    Your ability to make this happen while traveling is really inspiring!
    I will def. be introducing a simple instructions list for my next course.

  2. What an interesting reflection. When I first started teaching online stuff years ago at Queens College, I realized that students really weren't geeks, either. The problem was that I wasn't one, either, so at least you had that advantage.

    I'm not sure why it takes students so long to sign up for websites, but you clearly are more generous with your time than me. I create the instructions and then tell them to find a 'how-to' video. I go over it in class, too, a couple times, but I really don't have the patience to help them do something I consider self-explanatory. So one thing I learned from your blog here is your dedication: it's truly impressive. Especially the 3 am calls: wow! It's cool that Skype ended up being good training...I've really been wanting to bring Skype into my class assignments, and you're the first person I found that's done this. That's terrific about the student interview.

    Your observation that students feel emboldened by writing online is apt, and something I feel we've all recognized. There is something fundamentally empowering about writing for an audience, and not turning in writing as if it's a job. I'm sure the connection between the assignment and real life experience made a big difference, too, as you explain. It made me curious to know what they said about sexual harassment - could you provide a link in your blog so we can read what they said?

  3. Wow. Five am skype interviews! I had similar issues with setting up blogs. I spent the first ten minutes of class for about two weeks each semester trouble-shooting and walking students through basic steps. That was frustrating in terms of losing the class-time to teach content, but I suppose that knowledge of these online skills are going to be part of what is expected of our students in their lives and hence the time is worth it. Your interview example really drives home the point.

    I taught a class online in Arizona years ago using blackboard for discussion of controversial ideas and had similar results to what you describe above regarding the level and intensity of argument that an online platform can generate. Hence, I agree that an online platform is ideal for this type of assignment.

  4. Your class sounds practical and down to earth. I think Skype has lots of potential.

    The first few weeks were the worst part of my painting class last semester, too (it was not hybrid). I found one student who never used Blackboard (!!) and none of his classes were listed when we logged on his site together. There are still those painters in art whose lives are permanently off-line, so I decided to give him paper handouts since the course itself was not hybrid. However, he learned how to blackboard at the end of my course (to check his grades) and made an ePortfolio like anyone else in the course.