Week 12: Response to Assignments for this week

Wow, my head is a flutter with the cool websites that POT directed us to this week! I’m going to be investigating these for a while.

First, I investigated Open Textbook and I WANT to like it. I’m still of the mind though that wikis can be dangerous (am I too set in my ways for thinking this?). I decided to go to a book in my area 0f English Composition, and more specifically, Analyzing Arguments. The information provided was quite good and I have to admit, I would pull from this website (as is encouraged to do). I’m not sure yet if I would refer my students to it though because there is no author listed except the “staff” and I feel like I’m such a stickler about my students finding credible sources, that it would be difficult for me to recommend going to a textbook that was from an unknown author and free to edit. Regardless, I still like this site.

I also checked out OpenLibrary which I was connected to by searching for texts at the Internet Archive. Holy smokes! I LOVE Open Library! This is like Project Guttenberg, but bigger. They are hooked up to PG whenever possible, but also have more books. There is also the ability to add information, like a wiki, but not to that actual text itself, like Open Textbook. I like that. They have a massive eBook lending library and you can get many books full text. They are also linked to WorldCat whenever possible to try and get people paper copies of books when available.

I didn’t check out Mira Costa’s library sources, as I do not teach there, but I did further investigate Cal State San Marcos. AS always I was impressed with their large number of full text articles and eBooks. They also have an excellent interlibrary loan that delivers texts to email and in person. They even have a link that is now prominent on their website for “eJournals” to make this easier for students to find.

Finally, Ko and Rossen’s points were good this week and continued to give me a bit of a headache about what we can and cannot do. I’ve determined that I should simply consult this book, and other credible sources when I am in doubt. In all of my reading so far about intellectual property I an honestly say I cannot think of an instance where I may have crossed a line, although I am sure there will come a day when I might need to give this much stronger consideration. so far all of my uses of photos or film snippets have been well within the boundaries listed by Ko and Rossen, as well as the other sources we have read.

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Week Eleven: Accessibility Issues

 

The article on accessibility issues was actually different than what I assumed it would be. When I saw “accessibility” I assumed physical disability issues that might prevent someone from being able to use the Internet or different parts of a course. That’s actually a topic I hope we still cover, as I know several students who are disabled and have “accessibility issues” but not the ones mentioned here.

It is funny because the ones discussed in this article apply to me. As I mentioned at the beginning of this course, I live out in the boonies and do not have access to high speed Internet (although I’m told a tower will be installed within the next year that might end that problem). In order for me to “access” my courses, both this one that I am enrolled in and the ones I teach online, I typically have to use computers and wi-fi on campus while I am teaching my face-to-face classes. Therefore, much of what was discussed was close to my heart and I could relate to.

That being said, perhaps I am also a bit too unsympathetic (for lack of better wording here) than perhaps I should be for those who have accessibility issues. I was just at dinner the other night with a friend who also teaches online and she said she currently has a student in one of her online courses who does not have Internet at home, so he sometimes has trouble downloading files she has up in Blackboard because the computers he works off from do not always have the most current software and he finds himself constantly having to either update, upgrade, or switch to another computer. He was frustrated, as was she. She was emailing him the files directly that he might need, but it was not always practical to simply copy and paste the file’s content into the body of an email to avoid any downloading whatsoever. As her and I discussed this student I wondered whether this was his first online class and thus this was the first time he might be experiencing these issues. If so, this might be a real learning experience for him in the sense that he might shy away from online courses in the future unless he can get access to better facilities and computers. If this is a student who is taking courses online regularly, I am surprised he has continued with so many hurdles and that he has not yet found a way around some of these. The instructor, I felt, could only make so many accommodations.

I agree that the instructor has the responsibility to make sure the website is not so specialized that it is difficult for most people to access. The guidelines referred to in the Web Accessibility Initiative suggest, for example, that different browsers like IE and FireFox be used to access the site to ensure that the page is visible to both users. In my courses if I have to give them a .pdf file to open, I make available a link immediately by that .pdf for them to update their version of Acrobat Reader, because I understand that can be a common issue in accessing a file. I also feel .pdf’s are a common type of file they will open often in their coursework, so I don’t feel too bad in giving that to them and letting them know they may need an update to read that assignment.

Where I began to feel a bit unsympathetic was in regard to how much access to the Internet the student may or may not have. That is simply something the student has to decide to have or not and make it work. The instructor cannot feel responsible for that. I do not expect the student to be online every day, although I know of some instructors who expect a student to log-in to the class each day. I think that is unrealistic because a student in college doesn’t even typically go to a face-to-face course every day of the week, so why should an online class require that? But if we ask the student to log-in at least three times per week, I feel that is realistic and typical of an online class. It also gives the student a head’s up of the amount of time they need to plan ahead in order to find access to the Internet – just as I do each week in getting around my dial-up.

Overall, this was informative because it did give me several suggestions in technical areas I might not have thought of, or may have only superficially given thought to before. However, I also feel that the instructor can make the course technically accessible and should, but has no control over the student getting online.

Week Eleven: Larry Lessig’s presentation

 

This week’s You Tube video of Larry Lessig was not only incredibly entertaining (I’ll get to that in a minute), but also made me really re-think the laws we have in place currently regarding copyright and technology, specifically the Internet.

He talks about this “read write” culture that has been revived and brought back to life via the Internet and I truly never thought about pre-Internet, pre-technology culture in that way. He says there was a shift from “read write” culture to “read only” culture and now back to “read write” because the general population now has a creative voice again.

Throughout his lecture he kept referring back to “our kids” – he was saying that they are different from us – and by using “our kids” again and again he only hammered that point home. He implied this current copyright predicament is not only current, it is one we will continue to face and more importantly our kids will continue to face if the laws are not brought up to speed with the technology our kids, and us of course, are now working with.

I felt that his solutions at the end were slightly vague. I think he set up the problems quite well, and he made an excellent point about the fact that w are “criminalizing” creative behavior because we simply do not have laws in place that really leave that creativity open without punishment for infringing on copyright. But, I didn’t feel his solution was very clear or very developed. I wanted to hear a bit more about what a practical solution would look like – rather than what it just sounds like. I wanted about fifteen more minutes out of this presentation 🙂

Overall, as I said earlier, I not only learned how to re-cast this issue in my own mind, I was also entertained. I literally laughed out loud throughout his video presentation, as did most of the crowd. This was a fun assignments this week.

(this video was just too funny 🙂

Week Eight – Google +

So, I’m trying to play catch-up this week as POT has very kindly allowed us to do. I have just joined Google+. 

 I’m at work and it says I need a webcam. I cannot install that here obviously, but is this true? Google+ requires a webcam in order to do a “get together”? Thanks for help in advance. Sorry for the newbie question. If I need to get a webcam, I need to get a webcam.

P.S. – is it bad to say so far I find Facebook a bit funner/easier to use?

My mini-website at Googlesites

First, I want to thank Pilar for always creating easy to follow tutorials 🙂 I appreciate them.

Second, I managed to create a very mini-website this week. I am currently teaching a grammar class at Palomar College, hence my focus on grammar lately in Diigo and now in the Google Site. I had more on this little site but didn’t hit save, or something, and had to start all over 😦 so, I did not spend AS much time the second time around. However, I feel now that I can safely add to this.

I do like how user-friendly Googlesites is. There are “gadgets” and things to add, which are also fun and I intend on experimenting with. I tried adding a dictionary, but couldn’t really see how it worked because my browser is outdated…so I’ll work on that as well to get the full experience.

Anyhoo, here goes nothing: Nifty Grammar

Impressed by Engrade

There are a few things that really impress me about Engrade:

  • it isFREE. I’m still surprised at how many free tools there are out there. Maybe I just sound jaded by saying that, but wow! This is a pretty neat program to get for free.
  • there are numerous features in addition to the gradebook element. I like the fact that students can submit work via Engrade, and that students can be messaged through there as well. These are all elements that would strike me as useful and practical.
  • the set-up appears to be very simple and user-friendly. I can see having students sign-up for this and receiving minimal complaint 🙂
  •  

While I currently use Blackboard for my online classes, it is simply because it has so many tools built in that really work well for me. I know, I know ….we are “occupying” this week 🙂 but, I don’t hate Blackboard yet…sorry! 🙂 However, with Engrade I am now beginning to really feel like I can see how a class could easily be built inside of a blog (using that as the hub) and then connecting it to something like Engrade for the bookkeeping aspect of it. That aspect is important and confused me before. I was unsure how folks who ran their classes out of a blog alone handled grading, although some mentions of various methods were used. I think Engrade, or something similar, would solve that for me.

A close friend of mine teaches in K-12 and she is always inputting grades online. I do not know what program she uses, but always assumed it was something set through the school or district. I see her tomorrow, and I’m going to ask if it happens to be Engrade!

 

Blog, Blog, Wonderful Blog

I am still new to blogging and thoroughly enjoying WordPress. I can see the value in having a blog for a class either as a hub for the course, or simply as a tool used with other tools.

Currently I only utilize blogs as part of a research component. When I take my students to the library at CSU San Marcos to find scholarly and outside sources for their essays, I set up a blog for them to post up their sources to share with their peers. They are required to post up links, and information about the source and where they go it. We then refer back to that same blog throughout the duration of working on that assignment. I encourage students to add to it and to pull from it as they work on their papers.

After seeing the many other creative ways instructors have used blogs, I would definitely consider making use of blogs more often and in possibly more effective ways.

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