Week 16: Our Students Online

As a graduate of this program from last year’s cohort, I can honestly say this section was one of the most educational for me. As you read through the samplings from this week I think many of you might be astounded at all of the assumptions so commonly made by both F2F and online instructors. I say this as someone who definitely made those assumption myself, so don’t feel alone as you read and find yourself going, “Well, heck that makes a lot of sense!” 🙂 For example, one connection I noticed between “College Students on the Web” and the “ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students” was that so many people simply assume that students are “technology wizards” (Nielsen), when in fact their knowledge of the technology WE need them to be proficient in to do well in our online courses might actually be very minimal. I was reminded, harshly, of this over the summer when I taught a remedial writing course at Cal State San Marcos. The class was a F2F class, but designed as an online course…go figure. We had five weeks together in a computer classroom and the majority of the student work was completed online via our CMS, Moodle. My POT training came flooding back to me as my students, two weeks out of high school, sat down to their computers looking at me, their first ever college professor, with their big doe eyes filled with fear! Their first task was to write a paragraph in Microsoft Word and email it to me as an attachment. I was struck by the number of students, about 14 out of 20, who did not know how to save a file in Microsoft Word as a .doc instead of a .docx. I was further surprised that the majority had difficulty saving to their computers and then finding the file again to attach it to the email. Finally, I was most surprised that students genuinely did not understand how to name files. They often didn’t name them at all, instead allowing Word to simply use the first word of the file as the name. That’s all well and good if you do not begin every single file with the same word – your first name- as they were. It became obvious to me within the first two hours that this remedial writing class was also a remedial computer class, and my fellow colleagues who were teaching the other sections of this class encountered the same problems. The Dean, upon hearing of the strange first day we all had, simply said, “Well, whatever they ended up learning, although it might not have been our plan, was obviously something they needed to learn.” These issues have been built into this summer’s course schedule as we now realize our incoming Freshmen are not the tech wizards we thought they were. I must re-iterate, this was a F2F class that allowed me to walk around from computer to computer and walk the students through every step and allowed them to ask me questions in real-time. We do not have this luxury as online instructors and unless we plan for those types of scnearios, we may end up losing connections with some of our students before the class really ever gets off the ground. As you read this week’s readings, although there will be an emphasis at times on college Freshmen, teenagers, and other young students, remind yourself that our online students are often NOT from these demographics. Our online students are often returning students who are working full time as many of us, are retired, are returning or even active military, are not necessarily computer literate let alone technology literate, and sometimes they are excited to take an online class and at the very same time they are terrified of it – say nothing of how they feel about the actual subject they are enrolled in. You’ll be asked to write a FAQ this week. Consider the reading carefully before developing it, and then, after getting some amazing feedback from your classmates, save it somewhere safe where you can get to it and use it for your real online classes. It will prove to be a very practical and useful tool for you and for your students. It is a pleasure to virtually “meet” all of you! Erica


Summary of All Posts

Okay, it is May 1st, and talk about the last minute here, but…here are the posts!!

Week One: Yay! We began our POT program this week. I introduced myself very early on (two weeks or so before the class began) and was anxious to start. I joined Diigo, which I had never heard of, and managed to join the MCC Pot group as well. I immediately realized in this week I was jumping into some foreign waters, but was excited to learn.

Week Two: I really enjoyed week two because we were able to go and visit other teaching blogs and learn from those (like learning about course flipping!). I had not seen one before, and I was really impressed with what I saw. We also had to watch a lecture by Alex Couros, which I enjoyed very much. I had not heard of him before, but I am now a fan. We also learned about RSS feeds and I set up a GoogleReader account and added three RSS Feeds there. The RSS fee portion of this week felt like Greek to me!!

Week Three: This week was about Pedagogy and Course Design, which I liked. I got a lot out of this week’s assignments (especially the rubrics!) and felt that it was a good combination of assignments to have early in this course. These offered a way for us incomers to evaluate where we are and what we prioritize in our teaching before moving forward into the online world. That created a pause for us to reflect and really think about how to translate ourselves into the online environment.

Week Four: I managed to write a massive post for week four, so you only have to click on one link! We looked at Prezi, which I was smitten with at first and now am beginning to see is a bit dizzying, but with strong potential in my future teaching. We discussed HTML and how much of it we feel we might really need and finally we talked about Chapter Three from Ro and Kossen.

Week Five: I enjoyed week five’s readings and videos about the online and interactive syllabus. We were encouraged to think outside the box and reconsider how much of our syllabus was set up, I suppose, for us versus our students! I liked that. I also like that the syllabus for an online class really should be different in many ways than that of a F2F course.

Week Six: We had to create either a Jing or a Slideshare this week and then embed it into our blog. I did create a Slideshare presentation, but didn’t do a very hot job of embedding it! Tutorials and all, I didn’t seem to make this look like anything other than a link 😦

Week Seven: I had to post this a bit late, as I had too many personal things going on that particular week that interfered with this class and my others. We joined Facebook (I did not blog about this, but did join and am friends with Lisa and have participated in discussions on the wall), engaged in a two week discussion with our classmates about a topic of our interest related to online teaching, and watched a workshop by Pilar on building online communities.

Week Eight: We had to join Google+ and I did this late, but did it. I then added a few friends from the POT class. Overall, after surfing through Google+, I found I really preferred Facebook. I find Google+ less user friendly in so many ways, but the biggest difference I saw between Facebook and Google+ was the atmosphere. I feel that Facebook is relatively welcoming and comfortable, whereas Google+ literally feels like I’m inside a webshell that I should be entering some HTML. I had the overall impression it was quickly constructed to compete with Facebook, and nothing more. I’ll be honest, I did not end up having a “hang-out” because I do not intend to use Google+ any further. We also explored Elluminate, which I DO love for educational purposes and have used in my class this semester (since my blog post) and thoroughly enjoyed. This is a helpful tool for my purposes as a composition instructor. We also continued our two week discussion. I was a little late to the game (not posting my own question for classmates to respond to in week seven, but I did comment on theirs). My question in week eight was whether or not schools hiring for online instructors should prioritize a terminal degree in a discipline over online teaching experience and online curriculum development if the person is being hired into a position that specifically requires those. I found everyone’s feedback very insightful and corroborative 🙂

Week Nine: So, this week was pretty interesting because we entered into Second Life. I had some conflicting feelings about this program. It is FUN, but I don’t see the educational value in it (yet). I’m not saying it won’t happen, but I’m unlikely to use this in my online courses because of the age group I see enrolled in my classes. I discussed this at length in my post. We also were introduced to MERLOT, which I found pretty helpful and fun and do plan to use in the future, but were not required to post on it, so all of my bookmarks are in Diigo. We also commented on the week’s readings by Rossen and Ko.

Week Ten: This week we created mini Google Site (lots of fun!), discussed the usefulness of blogs, and explored Engrade (also very cool). Overall, I really enjoyed all of the tools we used on week ten. I will use these further in my actual classes.

Week Eleven: In addition to reading about student accessibility issues, which I enjoyed, we watched a presentation by Larry Lessig that was very informative and creative. He really made me think about how this current generation is interacting with media in ways I suppose I had no previously considered. We always hear that this generation of ‘kids’, if I may, is the most technologically advanced and connected, but Lessig breaks it down so that you really think about what that means. This means we used to “watch movies” and they can “make movies” simply because of what is available online. I enjoyed his presentation immensely.

Week Twelve: This was our final week and in addition to posting up link to all of our blog posts (which you are reading now), we also had homework J I really enjoyed this week’s assignments because we were introduced to Project Guttenberg, OpenTextbook, and the Internet Archive. I was aware of PG before this course, but not those other resources. I was impressed by the volume of work that is free and available to folks who are NOT enrolled in a program or college. For some reason this just made so many connections come together for me and I also realized the real power these texts could have, too, for a MOOC.

Week Thirteen: I learned how to use Flickr, which made me feel like the only person on the planet who did not yet know how to use it, j/k. I only uploaded one photo, but did it successfully  I talked a bit about how Flick was intersecting with an esay I was currently assigning in my composition course and I felt that the use of Flickr in the future when I taught that assignment would be helpful. I also explored Creative Commons more and found amazing pictures there. We were supposed to do a Screen shot this week, but my computers would not cooperate. Although, I did mention that I have not needed to use a screen shot, ever, so I was not terribly worried about it.

Week Fourteen: My lame week! I was sick, and the assignments were not only overwhelming, but also not tools I had any real interest in learning. I do not wish to record my voice for my online classes, and that was the crux of the assignments for this week. so, out of all weeks, I feel this one was not my best.

Week Fifteen: This was a week I had to make-up later, but I did. The two best tools for me this week were mindmapping and SurveyMonkey. I had never used mindmapping before, and although I had a lot of trouble getting the program to work (Mind Meister) I plan to go back to this. As I mentioned in my post, it seems to do a lot of stuff I already do in other programs but take far longer to do. I see mind mapping programs as a way to express myself more easily and am anxious over summer to sit and start plugging some of my own class content into them for readiness in fall. I also created a brief SurveyMonkey for the week. It was not too expansive, more just to get the hang of it, but I liked it. I do surveys in my F2F classes, but have yet to do any online, so this will be a nice tool to try out.

Week Sixteen: I had such a fun time this week! I created a FAQ page for the class I currently teach online and was able to put it to immediate use after creating it. We also had some really interesting reading for this week that helped me to see things a bit better from my students’ perspectives. I tend to think of myself as being fairly good at understanding where they are coming from or how they will view things, and this week reminded me that I am not necessarily as good as I think I am when it comes to that 🙂

Week Seventeen: Honestly, I created the most boring Powerpoint this week to sum up the ideas I had about the readings. The readings were not boring – in fact I had a lot to say – but the Powerpoint, now that I look at it, is dry, verbose, and could have easily been a long blog post. I didn’t utilize the cool tool that can be the Powerpoint Presentation. This goes back to a longstanding struggle I have and that is trying not to be soooo wordy. I tend to start typing and I just keep going, and even I know pedagogically that works against me. Students, classmates, readers in general, can only look at soe much text before they start to scan or tune out. This Powerpoint, although it met the requirements for the week, is a perfect example of what would not work in an online class. My immediate thought as a student would be, “Man, I have to read another Powerpoint?! They’re so boring!” Well, and mine is. It didn’t have to be, but I didn’t see it at the time. Only after going back do I see how that would really present to others. Good learning experience.

Week Eighteen:We talked about our views of CMSs this week and I created a Prezi for my blog post. It was far better than my week seventeen Powerpoint! I really do like working with a CMS simply because I work with freshmen who often come into the University already feeling overwhelmed by the number of new things they need to master. If I can work within a CMS that all of their other classes are also using, it saves them having to learn something new just for my class for the sole purpose of me delivering info to them. That being said, if I were to be designing courses that were just online (because my example was for my F2F classes), then I might consider using a blog with tools like Flickr, Prezi, Mind Meister, etc…built in.

Week Nineteen: Here I pondered my past experiences as both student and instructor in hybrid courses, both of which I noted as being negative. I then went on to discuss how much I would like to teach another hybrid course knowing what I know now!

Week Twenty: Another week where I had fun creating a Prezi. This one was in response to just one of the readings from the week because I connected with it the most. I responded to “Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind?” and I really had a lot of fun thinking about the many different opinions that I hold about this. I feel strongly that technology is imperative to know and understand because our world is ever more reliant on it, and yet at the same time I am also scared that our society is placing less and less value on more traditional ways of knowing things due to the access to technology. One example I often site it that many people no longer know how to read maps because they have GPS systems in their cars or on their phones. While this may not seem like a big deal, if they needed to know how to read a map, they would not possess that knowledge that years ago was considered very basic. I struggle with the benefits and disadvantages of technology, all the while teaching and learning within it!

Week Twenty One: I created a fun Powerpoint this week! I cut down on some of the wordiness and block text that has plagued me in previous presentations and used multiple graphics from Creative Commons to liven up the slides. I was really happy with the result and had fun creating it. I also talked about what I was mulling over for my final presentation. I knew I wanted to address student expectations at the beginning of an online course, and I just did not know yet how I would do so. I ended up creating a letter to the students.

Week Twenty Two: This week we looked at “sharing.” Our culture has become one of sharing, in many way, and our readings this week focused on how we can incorporate this concept into the classrooms in practical ways. I relaly felt as I read and watched the videos this week that we, as educators, need to respond not only to the way in which technology is changing our world, but also how the technology is allowing sharing on a completely different level than ever seen before! It seems all of this weeks readings were encouraging educators to become a bigger part of the sharing process rather than stifling it with the “what ifs” inherent to academia. I enjoyed the readings a lot this week and felt the video by Dean Shareski was very helpful.

Week Twenty Three: My presentation! I created a Prezi that was an open letter to online students. I tried to incorporate all of the ideas I had learned throughout the year in POT and encapsulate them into something FOR my students. I wanted to create a Prezi that was practical beyond just being a final assignment in POT. I also wanted to find a way to let my students know that I am on their side…that we are a team…because that is what I learned the most in POT. I am really happy with the final result of my Prezi, plan to use it in upcoming online courses, and feel it represents what I learned as a student myself.

Week Twenty Four:
Course Reflection:
One valuable thing I learned as a result of taking this course was how difficult it is to actually take a course while teaching so many classes. In the fall I taught seven classes and in the spring I taught six, so trying to do my POT assignments was overwhelming at times. While I always worked two jobs at least as a college student, there was no take home work except homework, so I understand and sympathize with traditional student workloads. However, I now have a much stronger understanding of my non-traditional students’ workloads as well – those students who work 40 hours per week, have kids, and still manage to take a class or two. POT really gave me a new perspective on learning, as well as teaching.
Additionally, I realized that as an online instructor, although I have had experience teaching online, I have used Blackboard, Moodle, and WebCT and never ventured out on my own prior to POT. I really had no idea what all was out there. The end of the year survey asked us how we viewed online teaching now and I marked that it was a different discipline entirely. I feel it certainly has intersections in so many areas with F2F teaching pedagogy, but there are multiple elements that are so inherent to online teaching alone. If one does not recognize those elements, nor fully understand how to work with them, the online class could easily fail. For example – one might assume that using a lot of online tools is necessary to a successful online class, because he/she might assume that the technology is what is so different about an online class. It can be different, yes, but it all still boils down to modes of delivery, and the instructor must still pick the most successful modes, whether in class or online. An intro to college class online might not be a great place to have a lot of tools for example, but a limited number accompanied by very strong content. So, overall, POT really made me value myself more as an online instructor, made me hold myself to a higher standard, and taught me that everything I do online is equally as important as everything I do in person.

Week 14 Catch Up

So this week we had to do several readings, explore YouTube, create an audio file thur Audacity or a similar program and finally uplaod something into a Slideshare with the audio file or do an EyeJot.

I was incredibly sick during this period and did not do more than the reading. I’ll be honest – the assignments compounded with my health were overwhelming this week and on top of it I didn’t feel like they would match up well with what I would use. I have yet to record my voice, and this is for two reasons. One, I did get a microphone, but it didn’t work, so I had to take it back and at the time that was the last one RadioShack had. so, I didn’t end up purchasing another one (lame excuse I know, but it’s what happened) and secondly, my voie on audio sounds quite literally like a 6 year old child’s – I don’t even record my home phone machine message for this reason. For this second reason, I really don’t have any intention of recording my voice for my online classes. I would not mind recording a video so they could see me talk, but I am not at all inclined to record my voice for a presentation. I realize this might hold back some of my presentation skills, but it is simply a personal preference.

So, out of all weeks, week fourteen was easily my weakest. Although I read through the readings, and did explore YouTube, I did little more 😦

Week 22 Post (Catch up)

Apparently I did not post this week, although I clearly remember doing the reading, watching the videos, and even drafting a post. But…where is it? Okay, so I will start over. Oh, dear. It is end of the semester brain!

This image by Alec Couros really spoke to me bcause it gave me a very quick and immediate visual representation of all of the input and valubale sources we rely on to inform our decisions. I think this image is valuable for instructors and students! It also connected so well to Dean Shareski’s video, “Sharing: The Moral Imperative.”

Shareski’s idea that once we begin to think about protecting our work we become the very antithesis of what a teacher should be really made me stop and think. He said we lose our inner two year old! As children we share. We are taught to share. We also learn we should do it willingly and that behavior is positively re-enforced. Yet, as we grow older, we wonder, as he points out, “is it safe?” We begin to protect our ideas, our work, and somehow this leads us to think that people will steal what our ideas are. We re-enforce this concept by telling students not to cheat, don’t plagiarize, give credit where credit is due, and so on. All of those are powerful lessons, but I can see how they would also be viewed as “anti-sharing.” I’ll never forget in graduate school I took a composition class for future K-12 educators. The instructor was talking about plagiariasm and how different cultures view “sharing” differently. She provided an example of Chinese students who learn to work together because they view themselves as a unit. The idea that they could not use each other’s ideas was quite literally foreign to them when they came to America and were told in their college classrooms that sharing ideas between papers and students, wording, and so on, was considered plagiarism. This boiled down to a cultural distinction betwen the two countries and often led to much confusion for the Chinese students who had to learn to be individualistic and protective of work they normally would have willingly “shared.” Coming from that very individualistic American mindset myself, the idea that their own work as an individual creation was eye opening to me. I see this same idea coming forth again in “The Moral Imperative.”

Someone else said, and I’m sorry now I don’t remember who, that she loved this word “share.” The concept itself is so wonderful, and I agree! It is wonderful that we have become a sharing culture, and I think eduation needs to atch up with that. This week’s readings taught me how that was practical in an education setting!

Week 15 make-up

I did all of the Ko and Rossen reading for this week, which was informative, but much of it I felt I would not really use for my courses. It’s not to say I cou;dn’t use it, I could, but I feel after reviewing everything there were only two things I would probably really put to use: mind mapping and Surveymonkey.

In terms of SurveyMonkey, I did a very brief reading and writing survey. I typically offer this type survey in my F2F classes, but have not yet done so for my online courses. I would like to implement this and now that I have actually done a survey via Survey Monkey, plan to go back and tweak this to make it really ready to wear! Here is my draft:
Click here to take survey

Mind mapping was really great looking and I like the idea behind it A LOT. I had significant trouble though with MindMeister. It was not compatible with my browser and ended up deleting my mind map about three modes in, which was a bummer. I did not get a chance to try Personal Brain, but I will. I like the idea of mind mapping because it gives me the ability to graphically do the type of presentaiton I would normally draw out on a board in a F2F class. Before I have done Word documents with text boxes and so on for my online courses, but this is what mind mapping does and I think it will make my life much easier. I like the convenience (once I can get it to work) of the mind mapping and really did like MindMeister, but need to spend more time in it and perhaps use Firefox next time.

Jing – ahh, Jing. I can’t get into it. It wasn’t something I really liked…at least yet. I did not do a Jing. I’m sorry 😦 It was not a tool I felt comfortable in (much like Eyejot) and don’t envision myself using as a tool. I do see the benefit, possibly, of learning it, but I have trouble imagining myself using it practically.

Week 23 – My Presentation

For my presentation I really got to thinking about how my view of teaching in the online environment has changed, and moreover, how I would like my students in the online world to be able to understand where I am coming from. In person I set up a tone/message on the first day of class and I believe I carry that same tone throughout the semester. In my online class I think I have tried to do so before, but often incrementally, add to my message throughout the semester on an as-needed basis. I was aiming for a nice intro letter here – a consistent set-up if you will of my expecations of them, their expecatations of me, and what all of us being in this together looks like.

The readings and activities we have done in this course have taught me several things, but most importantly, it is that student engagement online is so much more than someone signing in and completing the work. How do we make that work matter? How do we make the student realize we think it matters? That they matter?

So..I have done a Prezi and again, am linking ehre since WordPress seems so adamantly against us embedding. I considered adding in sources on Prezi in terms of the influences for each of the points I address in the my “open letter” but I realized that would not fit IN the letter. It wouldn’t be the right place. I hope, as you read, you see the culminating knowledge of our year long journey through this open letter to my online students…

Open Letter to Online Students

Week 21 embedding…

Okay – I got my Slideshare upload to work! Here it is…

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