Under Investigation

investigationThese last few weeks have been a whirlwind in terms of  learning new technologies, both in practice and in theory. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have learned so much in such a short time. Because the course is ending, however, does not mean that my investigation into technology ends. Rather, because of the course, I’ve learned about or more about tools to enrich student learning. The only way to check effectiveness and fit for me and my teaching style is to experiment. Thus, some technologies which I’d like to further investigate include: podcasts and adding voice or music to a Prezi. Podcasts could create a sense of warmth and welcome for students. Further, adding voice or music to a Prezi could enhance a presentation. Also, I’d like to figure out how to wrap text around an illustration in this blog. To summarize my investigation into technology tools, especially for the format of online teaching, has, in the words of the Grammy-Award winning group, The Carpenters, “We’ve Only Just Begun”. For those unfamiliar with the song or the group, here’s a link for your enjoyment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__VQX2Xn7tI&feature=kp


My List of 23 Things


According to the final #TT1411 assignment, a list of “23 things”, Helene Blowers, “an ingenious librarian”, is credited with the creation of such a list to be used for “independent self study”. This is My List of 23 Things that a facilitator should know before beginning online instruction. Only the first point is prioritized. Further, this list should be viewed as a list of 23 things to know before entering a virtual classroom. Be open-minded and know that this list or any list could ever be comprehensive. Just as technology changes by the moment, learning should be ongoing with a never ending list. So, consider My List of 23 Things as a snapshot of things that might prove useful when about to teach an online class.

1. Be a student first. If you are to teach an online class, it’s important to be able to relate to your students.  It would be inconceivable to relate to your students if you haven’t been an online student yourself. Remember the activities you found most beneficial and utilize them.

2. Links, resources, and recommended readings. If you provide a list of recommended readings, resources, and links, check them before you post them. Online data changes rapidly; make sure that your links work at least on the date you post them.  Otherwise, your students will experience frustration. Also, evaluate recommended resources and readings in terms of what benefits the students.

3. CMS. Know how to use the course management system at your institution. Whether it’s ANGEL, Blackboard, Moodle, or another system, learn it, use it, and practice the tutorials. Be able to use it, insist your students get to know the system, and be able to answer questions about it. Meanwhile, keep the IT number handy.

4. Diversified learning styles. The lack of face to face contact necessitates even more the importance of keeping students engaged. Remember each student learns in a different way. Find ways to engage the visual (spatial), aural (auditory-musical), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinesthetic), logical (mathematical), social (interpersonal), and solitary (intrapersonal) learners. Embrace variety.

5. Time management. Online education is not for everyone. It is important to convey this point to students. Offer tips and resources before the class starts. Have students take an online survey to assess their aptitude to do well in an online class. Remember to manage your time as a facilitator. Limit your time.

6. Terminology. While you do not need to be a walking glossary of online terminology, you should be aware of terminology, understand it, implement it, and stay in tune with trending terms. If a term throws you, contact IT.

7. IT. Connect with your institution’s instructional technology department. It’s a resource for you. Your students will come to you and if you don’t know the answer, you need to find it. Don’t you tell your students to use their resources?

8. Resources. Remember you are a resource to your students. Students are taking an online class for a reason. Remind them to remember their end goal. Let them know that you are available as a resource to help them achieve that goal. Remind them that there are resources available to them as students.

9. Surveys. Ask for student feedback as the course happens. Students generally will give their honest opinion when asked, especially if given an option for anonymity. They just aren’t used to being asked. Perform them frequently to weed out the disgruntled student who didn’t study or do an assignment and uses the survey to blame you. On the flip side, look at remarks carefully, and remember your goal to become an effective online teacher.

and More surveys. Create an online survey for students to take prior to taking the class. This will provide a class overview. Give a reflection survey at the end of each module. Ask for feedback on activity benefits and on facilitator access. As a result, students assess their own learning and the facilitator gets information about student connectedness and has a chance to modify instruction as needed.

10. Asynchronous Communication. Remember that most communication with students will be asynchronous. Make sure it’s thoughtful, responsive, and reflects a tone and attitude that is positive and encouraging.

11. Discussion boards. Provide a variety of discussion boards. For each board, students need to engage to at least two other responses and reply to comments about own response. Begin with a general introduction board. With the second discussion board, post one question about the readings with each student answering the same question. With the third board, list a variety of questions and have students claim a question, then return to respond to it. Diversify the discussion boards. Consider having a student-generated question discussion board.

12. Synchronous Communication. Remember your goal to be effective? Sometimes, a student needs the direct, real-time communication. Unless there’s some overriding reason that you’re unable to talk, IM, or video chat, do it. If there is a reason, let the student know of your extreme unavailability and be clear when you are able to be available.

13. Rubrics. Make sure each activity has a rubric. Students need to know how they will be graded. If there is a final project or an activity that goes longer than one module, make it available to the students in advance.

14. Gradebook. Make sure it is up to date. Some students like to track how they are doing in class and check grades to see if an assignment is missing. If you notice a student missed assignments, send a message through the CMS or an email. Provide feedback.

15. Be present. Make comments on discussion boards, yet avoid overlooking students. Post announcements. Send emails. Remind your students that you are part of the class by being part of the class. Facilitate and engage the students. Offer a variety of contact methods: email, messaging, chat room forum, telephone, and by appointment video chats.

16. Colleagues. Talk to others about their best practices as an online instructor.

17. Free stuff. There are many resources online that are free. Research them. Try them, and if they don’t meet your needs, eliminate them, and try something else.

18. Online library. Establish a class digital library of useful articles for the students.   Have students join and utilize social booknoting and establish their own libraries.

19. Expectations. Post the syllabus. Post a course calendar. Post the readings. Post activities and due dates. Post a statement on punctuality and grading. Post something about you. Let the students know in a clear, concise manner what it is you expect of them and what they should expect of you.

20. Communication outlets. Establish a chat or water cooler room, a forum to post general class questions, and an announcement board.  Respond and post frequently.

21. Campus activities. Remind students that they are part of a larger group than an online class. Remind them to visit campus or attend an activity on it. Let them know about events, clubs and organizations, career fairs, and special happenings.

22. Priorities. Remember that being an online facilitator is not, nor should it become, a 24/7 position. Yet, just as online learning provides easy access for students, it ALSO provides easy access to facilitators. Try and remember NOT to check the class activity every time you are on the computer. Time is a valuable, irreplaceable commodity. Just as students need to manage time, facilitators need to as well.

23. Assessment. Use student surveys, review activity engagement and grades, review the readings and assignments, review the notes you may have taken during the course and just as you assessed your students, evaluate what worked and what didn’t work. Make changes as needed and always remember it is up to you to implement the best strategies to meet the learning outcomes of the class.

Go Bananas Over SurveyMonkey


SurveyMonkey, according to its company website,  is a free “online survey software and questionnaire tool” for users to create a survey. It’s easy to use and offers a variety of question types. The basic format, which is free, allows 10 questions. Realistically, a 10 question survey is enough. If, however, a longer survey is needed, a premium membership is available for purchase.  Like other technologies, it is a matter of playing with it and using it. This is a tool to find out things. For example, it could be used to create a student survey about likes and dislikes on types of assignments. Thus, the results would help me better plan for the future. Using a self-created survey could provide valuable feedback. In fact, the questions in this survey are ones which will affect initial course developments if and when I teach an online course. Here’s the link to my survey:


MOOC: The Ever Changing Road to Education

MOOCs are growing in number of course offerings and in participant enrollment. Opinions vary regarding the impact they will have to student enrollment. Most agree, however, that if enrollments drop at secondary institutions,  rising tuition will be the culprit, not MOOCs.  Rather, most agree that  MOOCs perpetuate learning after college. The following reflects an end of the Module assignment: http://prezi.com/ri_qzrlyesuq/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

An Educator’s Dilemma: Designer or Off the Rack?

To “jazz things up” and to engage diverse learners, educators constantly seek innovative ways to introduce and reinforce content to students. YouTube, Prezi, and repositories are but a few locations to find ready-made content. While easily accessible, it takes time to research, preview, and select the right material. Although online material is abundant and will satisfy the learning objective, sometimes “Good enough” isn’t acceptable, thus creating one’s own content becomes a necessity. The distinct advantage of creating content is the product will be designed to  meet a specific need. Further, “settling” becomes a non-issue because when one creates his/her own content, the points will be presented as one wants and in the order desired. Also, the format and style will be exactly as one wants. While it takes time to select ready-made content, it takes time to develop and create content. Content, like clothing, becomes a choice between off the rack or custom-made. And like clothing, time factors such as “How long until I need it?” and “How long until I get it?” affect the decision whether to choose ready-made or designer content.

The Prezi Drawing Board

preziI first began checking out Prezi earlier this month. I spent more hours than I care to admit to develop a lengthy presentation that incorporated PowerPoint slides, video links, and practice sessions. It is meant to be viewed in sections. However, the assignment for this unit is very specific in that the time maximum is five minutes. Of course this makes sense given that a presentation of this nature should fall within given proven parameters of success. Thus, literally, it was back to the Prezi drawing board.

I forgot the frustrations I had previously experienced when playing with Prezi. Yet, overall I am glad I created this presentation. Its purpose is to provide students with Brainstorming strategies to develop a Dual Text Analysis essay. The presentation addresses the Venn Diagram, the T-Chart, and the Outline. It is meant to be used in conjunction with handouts which will provide students with opportunities to practice the concepts presented.

I wonder if the time investment (again, more hours than I am willing to admit) is worth the value of the learning tool. Since it as of yet untested, I’m trying to remain open-minded. However, I think other methods, such as PowerPoint, have proven value and took far less time than I invested. To be fair, part of the time invested reflects my learning curve which I would identify as in the “under development” phase.

Here’s the link to my Prezi Presentation on Brainstorming for the Dual Text Analysis essay:


I look forward to your feedback!

Multimedia Usage Enhances Student Learning

Give a couple examples in which multimedia (any combination of video, audio, graphics) would help the learning process. Give a couple examples in which you would NOT want to use multimedia.

As with any resource utilized in a class, careful selection is key.  In other words, multimedia should not be used for the sake of using multimedia. Rather, multimedia should be selected to compliment course materials.  As a result, effective multimedia selection will enhance student learning.

Most educators have utilized videos or DVDs in their classrooms. However, sometimes a clip from a film is all that is needed to convey the point needed in using this multimedia format. For example, there is a scene from the movie “U-571” which shows racial intolerance and compliments Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son. The visual representation depicts Wright’s ideals in a way that brings his literature to life. The video creates a reality for students in a way that they are able to connect.

Music is often overlooked as a multimedia format. I have played music as a journal assignment. I usually select something I know students are unlikely to have heard. I play it twice. Students are to respond on an emotional level on the first play, and then an intellectual level for the second play. A class discussion follows. Its purpose is to stimulate critical thinking skills where students are told, “No longer is a Yes/No response acceptable. You need to substantiate your viewpoint.” This activity helps students learn how to use critical thinking skills which they transfer to writing paragraphs or essays.

Audio recordings help students comprehend a difficult story or poem. As a side benefit to a literary audio performance, students are able to hear words that may be difficult to pronounce or dialects that may be difficult to imagine. This is as close to podcasts as I’ve utilized thus far; however, podcasts are now on my radar. According to Gardner Campbell in “There’s Something in the Air”, student podcasts provide a sense of connectedness and a forum for discussion.  Campbell introduces the term “profcasts” which is a podcast recorded by a professor. He suggests that a profcast will “plant seeds of interest” for the student. Dan Baltzer and Susan Manning in their podcast “Hearing Voices in Online Courses” (on which our instructor Norm Garrett is referenced) concur. Baltzer and Manning suggest that podcasts provide “contextual information to support the readings” and provides a forum to personalize the class and create a connection with the students.  Thus, podcasts are a technology I need to evaluate if and when I teach an online course.

Using multimedia addresses diverse learning styles and creates different types of opportunities for student learning. Other than a lack of unavailability, I’m unable to think of a scenario when I wouldn’t consider multimedia implementation if it would enhance instruction.

Using A Podcast: Critical Thinking Skills at the University Level

The following podcast defines critical thinking skills and how a student should apply them to university studies: https://library.leeds.ac.uk/podcasts/episode/1/critical_thinking_and_writing  An audio transcript is provided. The first step of writing is brainstorming. This podcast addresses the issues of mind mapping, data chunking, and notetaking. The information in the podcast reinforces ideas presented in class, so I would assign listening to it for homework and have students take notes on the podcast. In class, I would allow students to use their notes to write a paragraph about the key points learned from the podcast. I found it difficult to find a podcast that I would use as a class assignment.

Repositories Offer Cross-Curricular Opportunities

I like to think of repositories as materials to use for cross-curricular activities. So often, one source material has multiple applications.  For example, pbs.com offers a selection of materials that while organized by content areas are easily used in other content areas than intended. For example, the series, “Drama Based on Historical Characters: Angus Augustus Burleigh, Civil War Soldier” is found under the Social Studies area. However, if the course curriculum references the Civil War and includes readings about it, this particular video could bring the time period to life for the student. It could offer the same viewpoint, if the viewpoint is the Union, or it could provide an opposing viewpoint, if the reading is from a Southern perspective. Most importantly, the visual of the video will help put the course material in context. This piece could be used in a history class for the same reasons as in the English class. Here’s the link for this particular repository item:


Video Flick Depicts Student Concerns

I’ve been looking for a video to reinforce my introduction to the Comparison-Contrast essay. Because students analyze two pieces of literature, I teach them to write a Dual Text Analysis.  I found GoAnimate “Writing the Comparison-Contrast Essay” at http://goanimate.com/videos/01MfpW6tSMYU. This particular video will help students overcome the fear of writing in a new style and offers insight into the importance of the essay thesis.

Students will respond to this video because of its anime format. Further, the characters react just as students react when unclear about an assignment. The video will reinforce materials in a somewhat comical way, yet with serious undertones.

This video will be shown after students receive introductory materials about this style of writing. I will then show the video. Students will then react to the video in a reflection which will then be discussed.

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