Category Archives: Uncategorized

Done. Wow.

This is my last assignment for the M.Ed in Instructional Technology.  I’m done.  Wow.  A year ago, when I was having major eye problems and facing surgery, I didn’t know if I would be able to finish.  Two years ago, the fact that I was working on this degree moved my application to the top of the pile and helped me land my first full-time professional librarian job.

I have learned so much from my classes, my professors, and most of all, my classmates.  I am really lucky that I got to know all of you virtually. 

Good luck to all of you!

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My struggles with CMS’s

I teach a face-to-face course, Library Research Methods, in addition to my regular librarian-related responsibilities.  We use Blackboard Learn for our CMS.  Each semester, I change the way I use the CMS, not because I am implementing new and amazing ideas, but because I haven’t figured out the best way to integrate a CMS into a face-to-face course.  My students complain that it is one more space they have to check into, in addition to attending class.  I can’t say I disagree.  It seems extraneous to me, too.  Not only do I have to come up with a face-to-face course, but I also have to come up with a significant chunk of activities to just take place in the CMS.  This is a problem that I comes up each time I am planning the course for the next semester.

Primarily, I use Blackboard as a place to store course materials for them to review later and also a place store the gradebook.  I have required weekly discussion board participation in the past, but this past semester, I dropped that in favor of class presentations and graded class discussions.  It’s a tough balance.

Most of my students are college freshmen, and this is their first time using a CMS.   I have a very difficult time to get students to understand that they need to submit their assignments in Blackboard instead of printing them out and handing them in to me in class.  I understand the confusion.  After all, they see me in class, so why shouldn’t they just hand it in to me there?  I have never cracked down on and forced them to submit their assignments through Blackboard, though several of my coworkers have.

When I taught 100% online courses, it was much easier.  The CMS was the classroom, and everything took place in that space.  There was no confusion over where to go or what should be submitted where. The CMS was just the online classroom, and everyone accepted that.  The place of a CMS in a face-to-face or hybrid course is where I get a little lost.

As a student who has taken more online classes than I can remember, I love what CMS’s have done for online learning.  I don’t think I would be graduating with my second master’s degree if it wasn’t for the advances in online learning.  I live in the middle of nowhere.  A second master’s or (hopefully) a Ph.D would not be possible for me without distance education.

What is social curation? (Hint: It’s really cool!)

For my part of the class wiki, I focused on the social curation tool, Scoop.it.  I had never heard of it until a Facebook friend had to use it in a geography class.  I looked it up and discovered a very neat tool for education.  I also never knew that social curation is a whole new area of Web 2.0 tools!

Social curation involves sorting through the vast amount of content and pulling together resources – images, videos, websites, articles, ebooks, and anything else you can think of – together on to one page.  The idea is that users don’t have to sort through content that isn’t credible, reliable, and accurate to get to the best sources.  As a librarian, this really appeals to me.  I am always looking for ways to make sorting through information easier for my students.  To some extent, I already do this using LibGuides.  At my university, we create Subject Guides for each major.  These subject guides are general guides that connect students with the best research for their major.  We also create Course Guides, which are course-specific guides that are tailored to the assignments and topics in a particular course.  Here is an example of a Course Guide that I created for a history course on the Middle Ages.  Although I never thought of LibGuides as a social curation tool, that is exactly what it is.  Faculty, students, and (unfortunately) spammers can submit content that we can choose to include on the Course Guide.

Scoop.it is similar in that it allows anyone to gather resources on a particular topic and store it on a single page.  You can enrich each “Scoop” with comments and tags that help other users.  Scoop.it also suggests other resources that you can include; however, when I looked through the suggested Scoops, I was really disappointed in the suggestions.  I created a topic page on resources about slavery.  Scoop.it’s suggestions included a lot of irrelevant or racist content.  It would be nice if Scoop.it offered child-safe controls or another way to filter out that content.  To see my topic page, click here.

There are many other social curation tools.  One other one I looked at was Bundlr, a site that is very similar to Scoop.it.  I think Bundlr is much more user friendly than Scoop.it, but the Scoops that you pull onto a topic page includes an image, while Bundlr just includes text.  The images in Scoop.it are more attractive.  Here is an example Bundlr page.  Bundlr doesn’t seem to allow comments on each item, and every Bundlr page is public, which may deter teachers from using it.

bundlr

MIT’s Immersion program

This is neat.  TechCrunch posted a link to the Immersion program developed by MIT.  According to TechCrunch, it is a “cool visualization program to map how the National Security Agency can understand your relationships based on who you contact via email and how often. While we still don’t know whether the NSA is collecting the content of phone calls and Internet activity, we know from court documents and Senate testimony that the government broadly mines so-called “meta-data” about whom users interact with.”

The TechCrunch article.

Immersion.

Here’s the chart of my kent.edu email:

email_metadata

 

Podcasting Apps!

My laptop is on its last legs, if the number of times it has crashed in the past month is any indication.  Ever since buying an iPad when they first came out, I have been relying on my laptop less and less.  If I can do something on my iPad, great.  If not, then I’ll reluctantly fight with my old Dell.

When I saw the podcast assignment, my first thought was, “Oh no.  My laptop can’t handle this.”  Then: “Oh no.  I don’t have a microphone that can handle this.”

I was right on both counts.  My computer refused to recognize the microphone, and when it finally did, it sounded like I was underwater.  I didn’t want to go out and buy a new microphone because it might not be any better.

On a whim, I searched the App Store for podcasting apps.  One of the first results was Bossjock Studio.  It looked really cool, but it also looked simple enough that even I could use it.  At $9.99, it was going to be much cheaper than a second microphone.  I downloaded the app and then discovered what I should have realized earlier.  You can’t plug a microphone into an iPad.

I checked Staples and Amazon for iPad microphones and came across a few suspicious looking splitters.  Finally, I decided to try the iPad’s built in microphone before buying another microphone.  I launched the BossJock app and created a test recording.  The sound was crisper than anything I had recorded so far.  The microphone was excellent.  I was able to record myself, and the product didn’t make me sound like I was talking around a mouthful of cotton.

I recorded my podcast in short segments to give myself time to breathe and prepare for the next segment.  After about three minutes, I would start to lose my breath and my focus.  In my first podcast, the sound was crystal clear.  A little too clear.  About three minutes in, I heard my dog snoring.  Five minutes in, I heard a fire truck in the background.

I re-recorded the podcast and then exported it as an mp3 file.  I imported the file into Audacity and then used Audacity to add the intro music, transition, and concluding music.  Cutting and pasting in Audacity was surprisingly easy.  I probably could have edited the podcast in Bossjock, but I was more familiar with that feature in Audacity, so I used that.  Hopefully, I managed to cut out most of the “Ums” and “Uhs.”  I also cut out a segment that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the podcast.

I still really hate listening to the sound of my voice, but a higher quality mic made a big difference.  I’m thrilled that I was able to find an iPad app that I could use for part of the assignment.

The BossJock interface:

Image

Podcasting…what is it good for?

I’m a visual learner to the point where anything that just contains audio can’t hold my attention.  As much as I love books, I can’t listen to audiobooks.  I have a difficult time following the plot, and that’s assuming that I can stay awake.  When I started college, I tried recording lectures and replaying them later to increase retention, but again, I couldn’t follow.  I needed something visual in order to retain the information.
When I first heard about podcasts, I tried to find ones that would interest me.  I listened to podcasts on iTunes U.  I downloaded podcasts from NPR.  Just like with audiobooks, I had a hard time finding a podcast that I could follow.
When creating or using podcasts in an educational setting, I think it’s important to remember the different types of learners.  Auditory learners will benefit from podcasts the most, especially if they are listening to podcasts that review lessons.  Visual learners need graphics, charts, or text in order to learn material.  These students may find themselves unable to focus on the content of the podcast.  For these students, a screencast or vodcast that gives them something to look at will be more beneficial.  In my case, I found it easier to pay attention to lectures when I could take notes.  Maybe I am a bit of a kinesthetic learner as well.  For kinesthetic learners, podcasts and screencasts may be difficult for them to follow.  Simulations where they can complete an activity would be the most helpful.
Instructors can’t control what types of learners they have in their classes.  Most likely, they will end up with a mix of all three types, so educational materials need to be available for each type of learner.  A course that just uses podcasts to teach the material will frustrate visual and kinesthetic learners.  A course that just uses screencasts will frustrate kinesthetic learners unless there is a hands on component.
When I am designing educational materials, I know that I tend to create materials that would appeal to visual learners.  Because I respond to graphics and videos, I rely on those tools heavily.  I don’t usually record podcasts because they never cross my mind as helpful tools for learning.  (Well, that, and the fact that I hate the sound of my voice.)
I think instructors need to make a conscious choice to create materials that appeal to all learners, if possible.  It is easy to fall back on what is comfortable and familiar, but in order to appeal to all students, we may have to step outside that comfort zone.

Technology with a purpose

A friend of mine complained today that an undergraduate geography professor is requiring students to sign up for a bunch of social networks – Twitter, Google+, and a few others.  they were told that they have to tweet each other, follow each other, etc., very similar to what we are doing in this class, except with one major difference.  The social media part of the course isn’t mentioned in the syllabus, and the professor has not told the students how tweeting and posting fit in with the objectives of the course.  In a face to face course where students already communicate, the extra social media communications are superfluous.  From what my friend said, the students taking the course are really unhappy.

I think this situation brings up a really important point.  If an instructor wants to incorporate social media tools into a course, they can’t take an “everything but the kitchen sink approach.”  Unless the course is about social media, asking students to sign up and keep track of four or five different accounts, in addition to regular course assignments, is a recipe for disaster (or bad course evaluations).  If the professor doesn’t connect the use of social media to the course objectives, then students will feel that it’s busy work or useless.

Another aspect that troubled my friend was the privacy issue.  He prefers to have a minimal presence online, and he is uncomfortable with the Terms of Use for most social networking sites.  Facebook owns our posts.  Instagram owns our photographs.  Anyone who is concerned about privacy and ownership of content is unable to use social networking sites.  Where does this leave the student, who is required to create an account and sign away these rights in order to participate in the class?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think the answer is to expect students to sign up for social media because “it’s fun” or “it makes the course more interesting.”  Technology for the sake of technology can’t be the answer.  The use of social media in a course has to be backed up with solid pedagogical reasons.  It has to be clear how social media fits in with the objectives and benefits students in a way that they won’t get from anything else (like an in-class discussion).  Still, what do we do for students with very real concerns about privacy or, God forbid, safety?

Fun with video!

I attended a workshop last year that featured a presentation from a librarian at Ohio State. She showed videos from the Digital Storytelling project and explained how students, faculty, and community members created digital stories. If you have never heard of digital stories, they are short videos (around 3-5 minutes long) that use images, music, and narration to tell a simple story, usually with a lot of emotion.

Ever since I attended this workshop, I have been really interested in digital storytelling and other ways to use video in the classroom. Unfortunately, my interest is far greater than my ability. Luckily, with digital storytelling, you don’t have to be the next Martin Scorsese to create a great video. I think this is why digital storytelling works so well. Anyone can create one, regardless of age or ability. You don’t need an expensive camera or a professional crew. You don’t need expensive video editing software. Give a group of sixth graders a Flip camera, and they can create a digital story.

Wesley Fryer’s recent post on Moving at the Speed of Creativity offers another great suggestion for using video in the classroom. Fryer suggests that video also can be used to create narrated art projects. Narrated art projects include an image and an accompanying narration that explains the work. This could be useful for all ages, from kindergarten all the way through college. Who doesn’t love to talk about their art work? Fryer also has a presentation explaining narrated art in more detail. I’ve included the link below.

I really love how digital storytelling and narrated art projects can be used for most age groups. It even can be applied across the curriculum. With careful planning, each of these projects could be entertaining and educational.

OSU’s Digital Storytelling: http://digitalstory.osu.edu/

Moving at the Speed of Creativity: http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2013/06/20/visual-notes-and-narrated-art-benefits-of-student-created-videos-on-youtube/

Wesley Fryer’s presentation on narrated art: http://wiki.wesfryer.com/Home/handouts/narrated-art