The following is my scrapbook for the ION course Tech Tools for Teachers. In order to keep this as one page of my teaching blog, I have continually added to the same page. Please find my entries below!
Social networking/media: facebook.com
Though I did open a twitter account for this class, I decided to include facebook rather than twitter because I prefer its layout and functionality. I think the ability to write longer posts will be more useful when communicating with my students, and by creating a group for my class, I can create a visually pleasing, uncluttered space for my students to connect. I can also more easily link them to other resources that exist through my college.
I see a couple of benefits to using facebook in an online setting. First, much of the research I’ve done in pedagogy shows that students need to be emotionally invested in the class and feel connected to their classmates and instructors. In an online environment that is mostly text, students may not feel as connected to their classmates and instructor as they would if they met them in person. Encouraging students to share facebook profiles is then a very effective way to help them get to know one another without face to face contact. Though this information about their classmates and instructor (photos, interests, status updates, etc,) may appear irrelevant or even distracting from course content, it may be exactly what they need to feel connected to the learning community and more deeply engage with the course. Second, much research also shows that students struggle with transferring learning from one context to the next. If we can integrate their classroom life with their personal life as much as possible, we may start to see more transfer as the lines between these two worlds are blurred. For example, in my English class, when my students get a new essay topic, I encourage them to post on facebook and ask their facebook community for their opinions on the topics and/or anecdotes or examples they may want to then use in their papers. Aside from it being a great way for them to generate ideas, in doing this, I am trying to encourage my students to talk about their schoolwork with their friends and family in a hope that they will get in the habit of sharing their learning. Third, students check facebook all the time whereas they (me included) often put off checking school email or course sites. I think this is because we automatically associate school related sites as potentially anxiety inducing. Facebook, on the other hand, is a site many people have positive associations with. Rather than avoiding it, they often turn to it when procrastinating. Thus, making course announcements or other course-related material available through facebook situate it in a place where they have positive associations and are less likely to avoid.
Asynchronous communication: Blackboard Discussion Group
Blackboard discussion group: I think this can be a great tool for asynchronous communication, and it exists within my college’s online platform, making it the most obvious choice. There are many ways to set up the discussion group. When I was recently facilitating an online group of about 35-40 participants, I arranged them into what I called “round tables” of 7-8. Each “round table” had its own forum to discuss the week’s questions. They could “pop into” another forum and comment there as well, but they were responsible for responding first in their own forum. I liked this format. I thought it kept groups small and manageable so that they could get to know each other and read each other’s posts, but it also allowed them to sit in at other “tables” if they wanted more perspectives. Still, some groups functioned more efficiently than others, so it’s always going to depend on the group. More recently, I had a small group of 7 and each participant was in charge of leading for a different week and then reflecting on their experience leading. I thought that this worked pretty well. The hope is that if students know they are going to have to facilitate, they will be more active participants so their peers will return the favor. However, I found from a recent survey I did of this group, that some students felt frustrated because they felt their peers did not take the discussion facilitation as seriously as they had during their week. Thus, I will have to revisit this organizational structure before trying it again. It may be useful for me to lead the first several weeks to set the expectations.
Synchronous communication: google hangouts
I recently started using google video conferencing and I love it! I use it for ongoing groups I’m in as well as to run work meetings. It has been very successful. Pros: free, easy to use, takes just a moment to download online, works pretty well, has a chat function that can happen during the video call. It also has a number of features, like people can be muted by themselves or others, their screens can be locked, or it can bounce to always show the speaker. Also, files can be shared at the same time through google drive. Cons: can freeze at times. Might become cumbersome for a large group. Still, I think it’s pros far outweigh its cons!
Ready-made content: Ted.com
Ted.com is a fabulous site for finding short video lectures on a variety of topics. I plan to have my students explore this site and find favorites to share with the class. One of my favorite TED talks to use is Clint Smith’s The Danger of Silence. I would like to use this in my developmental English classes when we talk about the power of communication. Not only is the message that Smith makes important and exactly in line with the content of my class, but he uses powerful and detailed examples, so the talk itself actually illustrates how writers and speakers can use powerful details to engage their readers or listeners. I think this video is one that could actually be shown a few times within the class period, since it is short, yet there is a lot for students to sink their teeth into. Multiple viewings would allow students to really take it apart and discuss together what makes Smith’s talk so powerful.
This I Believe Podcast: This website houses a set of podcasts that are each only a few minutes long, each one explaining something the narrator believes. The “This I Believe” essay series. Here is how the site describes itself: “This I Believe is an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives. Over 125,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, have been archived here on our website, heard on public radio, chronicled through our books, and featured in weekly podcasts. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.” (http://thisibelieve.org/) What I really like about the “This I Believe” Featured essay site is that essay topics are easy for students to scan, allowing them to quickly find essays that may interest them, because each title includes a one-sentence summary and the author’s photo. I think having the author’s photo is important because it allows students to find and listen to essays written by people who look like someone they would look up to. I have not yet, but would love to, ask students to search the site, find at least three brief audio essays to listen to, and then of those, choose their favorite one to review and share with their classmates. Not only will this expose them to new ideas, but it will also help me as a teacher learn more about what interests them and what types of voices/authors they find powerful.
Content I’ve produced: Youtube Video
This is a youtube video I created to help other teachers see how I might explain reading to my students — so the audience was not students, but actually my colleagues. I found it to be a very effective way for me to explain my philosophy of reading to other teachers *and* to get feedback from them on how I might chose to explain it to my students.
Office Mix: I tried out Office Mix, which I had never used before. What awesome free technology! When I tried this tool out for class, I took a warm-up I might do with my students in a developmental writing class and was able to narrate the warm up, giving them time to pause to complete it, and then explain the error they should have found. I found the technology to be extremely easy to use. Although the audio quality isn’t fantastic, the fact that I was able to do it without a headset or anything was great. What I especially love about creating a video is that students can easily pause it or go back ten seconds to hear answers again. This makes it a great way to do a quiz review or review for missed in-class work (as I was demonstrating here).
I have found both SurveyMonkey and Google Forms to be extremely useful. I’ve used both in an educational context and have found both to be equally effective. At this point, I do not have a preference between the two. I think both can be used very effectively to gather information about your students at the beginning of the semester. They can also be used periodically throughout the semester in order to allow students to weigh in on portions of your class or offer opinions anonymously.
Something new you’d like to try: Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG)
The Student Assessment of Learning Gains is a free resource for faculty that includes numerous pre-loaded pre and post assessments that allow students to anonymously share details about their own assessment of their learning. This would be a great tool to use to collect data on your students’ sense of how much they have learned in a course. I look forward to trying it!
Diigo account: https://www.diigo.com/user/cccjeni?type=all