Message Options

Today, I had a choice to send an Instant Message (IM) to my instructor, Norm, or to send him a text. The goal is to use a new technology.  Ultimately, the exposure to using technology in different settings as a student will aid me in deciding whether to incorporate the technology into a class when I’m the instructor.  Since I send IMs frequently through Skype, sending a text for an educational purpose seemed the obvious choice.

So, I sent Norm a text message. There was no learning curve involved to send the text; I text frequently with my children and friends. In fact, it probably took me longer to program his cell phone number in my phone than it did to write and reply to Norm. However, I have to say it felt odd to send Norm a text message because up until today, I had only sent text messages to people I’ve actually met. Also, I have to say, it was fun. Although he posts a picture and a welcome podcast, I’ve never met Norm. I think I felt comfortable sending him a text because he had posted the podcast. While a stranger, through emails, messages, and course materials, it seemed typical to send him a text. His response was similar to one I’d receive from anyone I know. Thus, it was a positive experience.

I foresee the day coming when the only contact number I have will belong to my cell phone. Thus, since I do believe it important to offer telephone access to students, the reality is if my students want to contact me, they would be able to text me. I will let students know that while they are able to call me, they should refrain from sending me a text message and contact me in writing by email. Otherwise, I foresee total chaos for me to keep matters organized. By using email (or an LMS message system if available), the likelihood of maintaining the information on a computer system is far better than that of me keeping a text message on a phone that inevitably will give me problems.

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Time to Break the Silence

The question, “As an online student, which form of interaction do you feel is most effective for you, synchronous, or asynchronous? Why?” intrigues me because my reaction to it surprises me.  While I like the idea of having an avatar as in the “Comparing 2D to 3D Learning” YouTube video, the reality is that right now as an online student I prefer asynchronous communication. In part, I think it is because synchronous communication is readily available as an option through Elluminate on Moodle or by telephone.  If I had a matter of urgent concern, synchronous communication would be my “go to” method; however, I enjoy the ability to read discussion posts or tweets from my #TT1411 classmates or check updates in diigo without regard to a clock or scheduled appointment.

Unlike synchronous communication, there is no need to silence any speaker to send a message or an email or to respond to a discussion post. Asynchronous communication forces me to be direct and focused. It also allows me to multi-task. For example, as I process this question and consider my words to respond to this discussion question, the Canadian and German Olympic curling teams are moving stones or rocks down a long ice alley toward a target with a broom. I enjoy the background of athletic rumblings and a commentator talking about a “hammer” as a backdrop to my studies which exemplifies asynchronous timing. The event to which I’m listening occurred yesterday. Asynchronous communication which suggests the ideal that communication would not be in sync is rather an opportunity to be in sync with one’s self.  I’m able to communicate with others on my schedule; others communicate with me on their schedule.

Admittedly, I am most assuredly looking forward to synchronous communication with a classmate. Sometimes the silence needs broken.

Cell Phones as a Teaching Tool

#TT1411 students were asked to answer one question: Would you consider the integration of cell phone technologies into your teaching?  Students were to consider messages, reminders, and polls as possible implementations of cell phone technologies and were to choose from among three answers: very likely, thinking about it….maybe, or not likely at all, Students then had three technologies from which to choose as to how to answer the poll question: cell phone with text capability, web, or Twitter. I responded that I was not likely at all to use cell phone technologies in my teaching, and I chose to cast my vote on the web at http://pollev.com.

Polls, like surveys, are used to gather information. According to the website http://www.differencebetween.info/difference-between-polls-and-surveys, polls and surveys differ in that “a poll is small, simple and quick”. Typically, polls ask one question and offer two to three answer choices. On the other hand, surveys tend to be more reflective and open-ended. Thus, it’s easy to see the possibility of using cell phone technology as a polling device or to send text messages or reminders to students. For example, if a guest speaker has only one available date and the date is for the upcoming class, a good way to check possible attendance (and potential benefit to the class) would be to set up a cell phone poll to ask: Possibility of guest speaker. Will you be in class tomorrow?  Two answer choices would be offered: Yes or No. If the class overwhelmingly voted No, I would cancel the guest speaker’s visit. Text messaging could be used to individually respond to or clarify student questions. Further, a general announcement text or a reminder text to the entire class could alert students of a class cancellation, a room change, or an assignment deadline.

Because students would receive or respond at different times, using cell phone technologies for polls, text messages, and reminders or announcements exemplify asynchronous communication. Interestingly, as I think about why I voted as I did, it boils down to how I view cell phone technologies. While I see the possibilities and practicalities of implementing cell phone technologies in a classroom, I view cell phone technologies as a tool for synchronous communication. For me, my cell phone connects me in “real time” to those near and dear to me. Since most of my loved ones are at a median mileage of 789 miles away from me, my cell phone serves as a tool to talk to my loved ones no matter how much geographic distance is between us. Admittedly, I occasionally use my cell phone for business; however, I prefer to maintain my cell phone as a synchronous tool to talk to loved ones, rather than to use it as an asynchronous tool to text, announce, remind, or poll students.

A Blog, a Wiki, and A Rose

I teach English 101. In the class, students learn to write a literary analysis essay, synthesizing data from several resources. Students frequently have difficulty comprehending the iconic American short story, “A Rose for Emily” written by William Faulkner. Before writing, much class discussion is devoted to the story’s plot, setting, and other literary elements. While I have some tools to aid their comprehension, this assignment for me as a student helped me find a few more tools to help my students.

The first is a blog: http://en.wordpress.com/tag/a-rose-for-emily/. It is a blog because the information is unchangeable except by the owner. However, while Michael Dubon is the name most prominent, it appears that this might be a class project.  This blog is dedicated to William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”. DuBon has an audio entry and reads the short story. Other entries include reviews and comments referencing “A Rose for Emily”. If the site had a different name, I might call it, “All things Miss Emily”, which I foresee as a possible collaborative activity for an online class. I think my students would benefit from hearing the story read aloud. While not an overly dramatic rendition, it’s reflective of the Southern setting which might give student’s a different perspective in comprehension. Further, the other entries on the site might be useful to cite in their own analysis of “A Rose for Emily”.

The next site is a wiki: http://aroseforemily.wikispot.org/. It is a wiki because site visitors are able to edit the information on the site. However, only those with membership to this wiki are able to modify the content. A page at the site provides a history of edits. In addition to information about “A Rose for Emily”, by clicking on wikiproject, the site visitor will find useful information about wikis. It would be a literary connection to any online class that discusses wikis; however, I would use this as a resource for student reinforcement after a class discussion. For an online class, I could use it as a springboard for my own class wiki to have students review the site and analyze the site. I would use the wiki analysis as a springboard to introducing the literary analysis format of writing.

Wikis and blogs offer two new tools to teaching. In addition to utilizing what’s already out there, class wikis and blogs offer collaborative uses to implement today’s technology.

Online Education: Asynchronous Discussion?

The following answers the question: Could an online class be conducted without asynchronous discussion? What would be the advantages and disadvantages, if any?

Module 3 focuses on 24/7 asynchronous communication. The resources for this module maintain that discussion forums, blogs, and wikis foster a sense of course connectedness and increase critical thinking skills. Thus, I found the question about conducting an online class without asynchronous discussion intriguing. Immediately, I began thinking of advantages and disadvantages of a discussion forum.

First, a discussion forum provides the facilitator with an outlet to assess student comprehension. For the #TT1411 student, it provides an outlet to analyze resources and consider applications needed to become an effective online teacher. Kim Cavanaugh on a YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7XiCg_wpzE) segment of Palm Breeze Café with Lee Keller (both in the instructional technology field), said that blogs first saw widespread use in 1998. Cavanaugh said that someone posted a list of favorite websites on a weblog, and that since then blogging as an educational communication resource has exponentially increased.

The article, “Learning with Blogs and Wikis”, found in the February 2009 online issue of Educational Leadership (http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Learning_with_Blogs_and_Wikis.aspx) , suggests that professional training would be better served by blogs because educators would truly utilize their critical thinking skills and have more to discuss with their colleagues. While blogs are self-guided and a discussion forum guided, both offer the same result. A discussion forum, like a blog with followers, provides a network of sorts.

As a student, I find myself looking forward to reading what my classmates think. As an instructor, I would enjoy knowing what my students think. Maja Cherif of Qatar University in her YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eltMryuXnU) says she uses discussion forums for students to collaboratively problem solve and suggests that discussion forums promote student-based learning. Others might consider discussion forums as an invasion of privacy. For the most part, replies and comment become a matter of public record. While a consideration for the instructor, the student needs to recognize, at least in the case of #TT1411, only participants are able to access the class forums, thus privacy exists among our student colleagues.

However, if someone enters a class and expects it to be a social outlet, disappointment may result. Devon Haynie in the article, “Benefits, Drawbacks of Online Class Discussion Boards”, published on www.usnews.com says, “Our online discussion board did little to create the kind of relationships you often find in face-to-face classrooms.” Students need to have a clear understanding of an online class format. A student needs to clearly understand the separation of students in a virtual classroom from that of a face to face class.

Finally, an online class without a discussion forum would be like a chocolate chip cookie without chips. While it would still be a class and a chocolate chip cookie would still be a cookie, what would the point be to attend a class without discussion or to eat a chocolate chip cookie without chips?  Why bother?

And diigo is its name…

Diigo

D = digest of   

I = Internet  

I = Information  

G = Groups and    

O = Other Stuff

 

According to sites.google.com, in its Diigo section, diigo “is a powerful free social bookmarking website with annotating capabilities”. At first I thought diigo was simply a place to house bookmarks. While it is just a place to collect resources, it is also a bit more. As an advocate of booknoting and old school in preferring books to online materials, diigo at least provides a compromise for me. Using diigo allows me to bookmark sites that interest me and then store the URL in a place other than on my computer. Since my bookmark list of favorites on my computer merely reflects sites of intermediate interest, diigo is a useful tool. Further, diigo allows me to store the site or article in My Library. Click here to see what I’ve stored so far:

https://www.diigo.com/user/loriisack

At first, I was unhappy about adding additional software to my toolbar, yet the blue symbol (a cobalt blue box with the white outline of what looks like a lower case “d” missing part of its stem top or a musical note located in the upper right corner of my computer does not detract from or interfere with anything else I have loaded on my computer. If I’m on a site such as sites.google.com to learn about diigo 101 and I want to save the site for future reference, I click on the blue symbol. Next, when taken to the diigo site, I choose My Library, and click on the Add+ button. It’s that simple.  As a member of the MVCR Technology Group, I have the option of storing materials that I think others might find useful, in the group section.

As one who likes to underline, comment, question, and connect to literature when I read (hence I enjoy booknoting), diigo enables the user to highlight and save the highlight. Further, it allows the user to add a sticky note and make comments and ask questions on it, and then save it too. The annotated site, filled with highlights and sticky notes can then be added to My Library in diigo by clicking on the symbol just as I saved a site.

This site is one I could suggest to students who purchase online textbooks. In this way, they would be able to annotate and increase their comprehension and be able to easily access the remarks they made and placed in their library. I could establish a class library too and leave participation as optional or offer minimal extra credit to those who utilize diigo. Initially, I didn’t see diigo as a teaching tool; however, I now see some exciting and engaging possibilities.

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Monday, Jan. 20, 2014

This is a new blog site established for an online course. Welcome!