Sizing up the competition

September 23, 2010

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just hit a button like this? Just one little button, on our computers, laptops, phones, home and work computers, and we could begin directly typing into our blog?  Better yet, how about that same key gives us instant access to not only our blogs, but instinctively knows what blogs we would have interest in and brings up those as well?  Well…we’re close.  iGoogle is doing a fine job of keeping all of my blogs in order.  I have to really determine which are best suited to my needs, but this is a start:

http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/ 2cents Worth

Even though his September 17th entry reads more like a consumer review than an informative blog about teaching and learning, David Warlick is a skilled writer with a lot to say.  He captures the essence of creativity (he calls it “innovation”) in a 21st century world, seamlessly merging his thoughts with external input (tweets), and places to go for more information or related upcoming events.  A particularly intriguing post explains the joy of the iPad, and its potential downfalls (can you produce?), noting, however that we still have many capabilities to learn.  He expands the idea of literacy to include 21st century goals such as exposing the truth, employing the information, and expressing the ideas effectively.  For Mr. Warlick, these are the new “3 R’s” of education.  In the end, educators need to seek out literary tools, not the necessarily the newest piece of technology on the market without regard to what literacy is and how a literacy tool functions.

http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/ Cool Cat Teacher Blog

Vicki Davis, a teacher from Georgia has created a blog with topics varying from internet connectivity to people with disabilities.  As a participant in the Flat Classroom Projects http://www.flatclassroomproject.net/ , she seeks to connect the members of classrooms.  Her blog is focused on K-12, primarily upon junior high and high school learning and experiences.  Her spot on a student produced YouTube video, featured the student’s appearance on Edutopia http://www.edutopia.org/.  Look to this blog for a wide variety of subjects pertinent to junior high and high school education.

http://janeknight.typepad.com/socialmedia/ Social Media for Working and Learning

Janet Hart, a “social business consultant,” blogs to a sophisticated reader about advancements, evolutions, and new products in the world of social media.  Her blog is not for beginners.  Although the beginner can certainly learn something from her blog, e.g. a Twitter list for working professionals http://c4lpt.co.uk/connexions/wpl.html, the claim (with well-supported reasons) for having public social media, not banning social media, and keeping social media active in the workplace and in organizations; her blog is certainly geared toward the reader with considerable social media savvy.   I suspect that after following her blog for some time, readers will gain this level of sophistication and move into the realm of her intended audience.  DO not give up on this blog, beginners, you’ll get there.

http://drzreflects.blogspot.com/ Dr. Z Reflects

Dr. Z, Leigh Zeitz, posts what he is passionate about.  This certainly is focused on technology and learning, but includes anything that seems to inspire him, and he passes this on to inspire others.  He reports current events, like his September 13 post about a Wisconsin school removing internet filters.  In addition, he offers valuable advice to new and seasoned educators.  He reminds his readers to integrate the technology in addition to modeling the technology.  He asks pertinent questions and truly “reflects” on the information he has presented.  This is a representative conclusion to his August 9 post, “Do you know a source for finding/identifying the necessary knowledge/skills/attitudes/tools for optimizing a technology-rich learning environment?  What do you think?”

All of these blogs remind other bloggers of the scope of the content that one can post.  All four are very professional, well organized, easy to navigate, and aesthetically pleasing.  They all provide models for other bloggers while providing the readers with information they can use in practice and in theory.  In 2cents Worth,http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/, Mr. Warlick demonstrates a clear sense of style and personal voice that is refreshing in such an informative blog.  Ms. Davis http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com focuses on topics relevant to her audience.  Ms. Hart http://janeknight.typepad.com/socialmedia/ thrusts your social media awareness to the next level, while Dr. Z http://drzreflects.blogspot.com/ provides inspiration for his readers, mixing pedagogical theory with instructional practice.  I am hopeful that I, too, may be able to emulate some of the bloggers.


3 week learning curve

September 16, 2010

Three weeks.  That’s what it takes.  About three weeks and the students weren’t asking where things were located.  Three weeks and things were being submitted on time.  Three weeks when frustration waned and technology competence set in.  How does an instructor handle a three week lag in an eight week course?

Perhaps this was just because it was their first online course.  I, too, as a first-time online student remember the three week learning curve.  However, now that I have several online courses on my transcript, the three week rule still applies.  Perhaps I have been able to cut the time down to 17 days, maybe even 16, but the curve is not with the technology so much as it is figuring out where the information is located.  It’s much like teaching in  a new building.  You need to find your room (the syllabus) and you need to know where the office is (course policies/schedules/guidelines).  You need to find the copy machine (how and when to submit assignments) and of course, you need to know where the bathroom is (frequently asked questions or an open-forum discussion board).  I have taught in a lot of different buildings; however, every time I teach in a new location, it doesn’t make finding these places any easier.

Frustration

June 10, 2010

“I am finding your directions very hard to follow and communication with you difficult. Would it be in my best interest to drop this class and take it next semester from a different instructor?”

This is never a good email to receive.  I asked him to clarify.  I wondered if it was my ability to communicate with him in emails, or response time, or something else.  He explained that he was having problems understanding the directions for my assignments. Obviously, as my first online experience, I cannot anticipate all of the clarifications or questions that students are going to have only seeing my assignment descriptions as text.  I always have time for questions and answers in my regular classroom and thought about them as a normal and welcomed part of the class.

In a distance learning environment, you cannot take this kind of clarification for granted.  I have decided to start keeping better track (on paper, instead of mentally) and cataloging all questions about assignment descriptions.  Normally common questions lead me to add something or clarify the assignment description in class—but outlier questions  are dismissed.  I am positive that there will be some overlap between face-to-face and online questions.  In addition, I asked the student quoted above to be specific so that I could make improvement going forward (as I have yet to create the last half of the course).

Nope. Zero.  That’s how many students cared when I removed drop boxes.  So, my new post is how to ask them to drop.  First of all, they will probably still get some sort or refund this early, second, I can stop being annoyed by seeing their inactive accounts on my course website.

Dear X,

As you have not been an active participant in our first week of class, you have missed a substantial amount of the total points of this course.  I suggest that you contact me immediately or drop the course in order to receive the refund.  However, at this point in the semester, I suspect you will not have the capability and resources to be successful.  I will sign any slip that releases you from this course.  I hope that you can find time to retake this course and be successful. [Notice that I end on an upbeat note?]

Best of luck,

First due date

June 5, 2010

It came.  It went.  It was 11:55 PM (Why not midnight, no idea? The system was default to 11:55 and I couldn’t figure out how to change it).  My first due date.  Four assignments due.  Four assignments to complete in four days.  No assignment over 250 words.  Eight (out of 16) students did not find the time or the motivation to complete these 4 assignments.  I sent them email reminders, I put an announcement on the home page, I sent a desperate email an hour before everything was due detailing exactly what assignments were missing.  Still 8 students.

I expect that in the morning I should have about 6 (at least 2 won’t care in the slightest) equally desperate emails with desperate excuses and pleas for them to be able to submit the assignments.  What do I do?  Tough love?  Compassion?  I’ll let the nature of the predicted email determine my response.

Day One

June 1, 2010

Are you kidding me?

So, I had ran into a colleague who offered to let me “use” her course as an outline.  Absolute life-saver.  I began by comparing my print syllabus to her online syllabus and reconciled the documents to make things “online appropriate.”  Actually, although I have more assignments with my online course, I did have to cut some overall content (2 chapters and an essay).

I got everything to together and posted 4 folders: “Important Information Before Beginning This Couse,” “Week 1,” “Week 2,” and “Week 3.”  This is an 8-week course, so I felt good about tackling a 3-week chunk.

The course becomes available for student viewing at midnight.  I wake up at 8.  At 2 AM, I have not 1, but 2 angry emails from a student who cannot navigate my site.  She admits that this is her first online course and that she is already getting lost and frustrated.  Two hours.  She decided that in 2 hours that she was “lost.”  Wow.  I am very happy that I included the folder “Important Info. BEFORE Beginning This Corse.”  Distance ed. requires a certain amount of patience and dedication to self-learning that this particular student does not have.  Hopefully, the online readiness surveys will show her that and she will make adjustments accordingly.

Are you kidding me? 2 hours.  That’s at 2 AM.  “Lost.”

Pre-planning

May 1, 2010

Here we go.  I have been asked (and finally agreed) to teach my first online course.  I have had no training for online teaching, I have no distance learning pedagogy, and frankly sometimes technology scares me a bit–but alas, they would like me to teach an online course.

The chronology: I was asked about mid-April to teach an online class in June.   My instistution offered training…about 45 minutes of training with the techonology person (not an instructor).  Therefore, as I already knew how to log onto the system and picked up navigating it quite easily, my trainer had very little to “train.”  o real examples were used, and I could not anticate any issues I may have in future.  Frankyly, it was a waste of time.

Next, I spoke with a colleage.  She not only had taught online (and hated it), she offered to “give” me the templete for her class.  This is a must.  Find someone.  Anyone who has taught the course you are about to teach.  Ask if you could have the latest version of the class to use as a templete.  This way, you at least have a safety net if all else goes awry. In addition, you can build from it, steal from it, or even plain out use some of it completely unchanged.  It alleviates a lot of the pressure and anxiety you have and then, and only then, you can start to think about the bigger picture…pedegogy.

For me, I realized it  is important that my students know what to expect.  Therefore, I want to set up a section of the course called, “Before you begin.”  For starters, I want an online readiness survey.  I have found 3, 2 pdf’s and 1 online survey.  Of course they were created by another institution, and I will only be borrowing them (and provideing cittation information) for educational purposes.  I hear that online learning has higher attrition than face-to-face courses, and I aim to combat that before the class even gets started by having the studetns assess their own readiness.

Online course readiness surveys

READINESS SURVEY

online_readiness_survey

I think that I am going to use all three and make them a requirement that the student has to submit back to me by the..let’s say..third day of class.