Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Maricopa Girls @ ELI Annual Meeting

This week's learning adventure took me and a group of others from Maricopa to San Antonio, Texas for the ELI 2008 Annual Meeting, Connecting and Reflecting: Preparing Learners for Life 2.0 at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio–Riverwalk.

I've never been to an ELI conference before, but when Veronica suggested we write a proposal to present, I took her up on it. We enlisted both Amy MacPherson and Cheri Hebert to join us in our presentation: Your 2.0 Life: Models and Methods to Meet Learners' Needs in a Technological Age (Innovative Practice). It was a great presentation if I have to say so myself. I think there will be a podcast of it soon on the ELI website. Our interactive session reviewed characteristics of Life 2.0 learners and examined how they impact faculty and their teaching and learning practices. We presented data and research on instructional models, emerging web 2.0 technologies, and organizational strategies that address new learner needs and faculty instructional challenges.

I'll post more reflections from the conference once I get home. In the picture we have: Jennifer Strickland, PVCC, Veronica Diaz, MCLI; Cheri Hebert, EMCC; Alisa Cooper, SMCC; and Amy MacPherson, SMCC.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Students are Loving the Network

I'm trying out a social network in my ENG101 and ENG102 courses this spring. I'm trying to make English fun, but there are also some very useful features built into the Ning social network. So far I'm loving just about everything but the adds. I'm not ready to fork over cash to get rid of them, but if I can make a compelling enough argument, make my division chair might consider picking up the tab. We'll see.

One thing that is really neat is that the students just naturally pick up on the fun things there are to do in there. I instructed that there were only two required parts: discussion forum and personal blog posts. Everything else they do is just for fun and up to you if you want to participate. Well, it didn't take long for them to fill up the site slide show. It's neat to see all their faces and their families too!

Find more photos like this on Freshman Comp

I've been using it to post my weekly podcasts too. It has an embeddable player that I can add mp3s to. I can either upload to the site or upload via a web link. I like to upload my content on my own servers and then link to it. This will save me later with having to deal with bandwidth and file size. Here's our podcast player from the network.

Find more music like this on Freshman Comp

In case you're wondering, most of the content in our class network is private, so content that students create for the class and a grade is private - only members can see it. But adding photos and videos is optional, not class related, and acknowledged that it will be public because it shows up on the front page. I could make the whole site including the front page private, but then my announcements won't have a RSS feed and I won't be able to subscribe and feed them into Blackboard or offer email subscriptions. So I leave the front page public, and protect the rest.

I'll post more about this experiment as we play with it more. So far we're all loving it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Made Decisions About What to Use in Sakai

This is technically my 3rd day working in Sakai. At the start of today's work, I really didn't have much accomplished. I'm really rushing because I didn't give myself enough time, and I'm getting frustrated that I can't just make it happen all right now. So today I decided to just create the first module instead of all five. I really like having it all designed and ready before the semester begins, but I'll settle for one module. So I had to make some decisions.

You have removed the following:

Discussion Board
Sakai News (News Tool)
ENG101 Blog (Web Content Tool)

And have selected the following for your site:

Chat Room
Announcements (News Tool)
Site Editor
Tests & Quizzes
User Profiles

I'm scaling back my plans for using Sakai. I really wanted to try to use it all for everything, but I'll end up using it just like I use Blackboard. I have a RSS feed coming in for announcements. I like posting announcements on a blog because it's more convenientfor me and students can subscribe to get email updates. I can post via email or log into the site. I can easily add photos and make it look nice. CMS announcements often look boring.

I've also opted against using both the Discussion Board and Forums in Sakai, mostly because having my students keep a blog is very important in my course. I really couldn't figure out how I would have each student keep a blog in Sakai that was going to be easy for me and other students to read. I like being able to subscribe to the RSS feeds of the blogs and read them in a feed reader. Students also use their blogs (Wordpress) as their writing portfolio. I guess I could have used the wiki in Sakai, but I really like the blog route.

For now, I'll be using everything else.

I discovered today that you can link to files that I uploaded in Sakai. I created a folder in the Resources section and uploaded a few files. Then in the Lesson section I made a list of readings for the lesson and created a link to a file I had uploaded in the Resources section. We didn't have that ability in Blackboard. I really like this. It's like having a file drawer in your CMS and all your files are in one place.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My Sakai Experiment

Shelley Rodrigo over at MCC wrote a grant to do a pilot study of Sakai, an open source course management system, for this spring. She got awarded and sent out a plea for some victims to volunteer to switch over from either Blackboard or WebCT. I thought anything that can get me away from Blackboard can't be all that bad. So here I am.

I just started playing in Sakai this week (Monday). My first impressions are that it is slick, full featured, yet minimalistic. There's not a lot there to make this thing look fancy, but it is adequate for conducting an online class in. I think it's more similar to WebCT than it is to Blackboard, so Bb users may feel like they're playing with a whole new toy. At least I do.

Playing in Sakai is teaching me a whole new perspective about learning and using technology. I now understand that fear that some faculty have. I fear that I will create something and then decide it doesn't work. Then I will not be able to change or remove the offensive object or tool. I'd be stuck with it. So I've been hesitant to jump right in. Sound familiar? Well, it's not realistic to think that I can create a complete online class in a week using a new tool. Remove the stress and Sakai is a user friendly tool. The Site Editor, similar to Bb's Control Panel, only has 9 options. I kept looking for more stuff. Where is everything? It's all built into the individual tool section.

As an instructor I automatically see editing features when I log in and go to a certain section. I don't have to go into the control panel. I like that. So I have to make some decision about Sakai and get that course built. I only have six days left.

Student Blogging & Privacy

I love helping faculty, but I also love being faculty. I got this email today from a faculty member in the district, and I thought I'd share with others in case they had a similar question.

Hi Alisa,

I attended one of the podcasting workshops that you did. I had a question not about podcasting, but about something you mentioned during the session. You stated that you have students blog their journals. As the blogs are open for anyone to see, what instructions and or disclaimer do you include in your syllabus or tell students in class regarding privacy issues? I am helping a faculty member get her students blogging and that is one concern we had. Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.


Here is my reply:
I begin with a discussion with my students about writing and the writer/audience relationship in writing. I tell them that writing that has no audience is generally not good writing, so they must take into consideration who their audience will be. We talk about how the audience will help determine not only what they say, but how they say it. Then I have them imagine that their audience could be anyone they want and that leads us to blogs.

When I have students register for their blog, I give them instructions to not use their full name - first name only. I have them Google their name (lots of fun) and we talk about how stuff they publish online is easily found by doing a Google search, so if they don't want it out there... I also remind them to not disclose any personal information. I give them a list: address, phone, ss#, workplace. Also, my journal prompts don't really give students much room for personal disclosure. Most are directed at the writing assignment and the module theme. Example:
Respond to one of the articles in the Module 1 Readings on Education (Your Choice). Comment on a particular excerpt that was enlightening or interesting in some way to you. Be sure to include the title of the article in your post title.

In the summer I often get students under the age of 18. I let them know up front what the requirements are and that they should talk about it with their parents. They need an audience, so if their parents object, they have to type up every journal and make copies for everyone in the class. Haven't had to do that yet.

Lastly, if you use Wordpress (my fave), you don't have to make the blogs visible to the whole world. You have options:
Blog visibility:

The last options works well for only having students see each others blogs, but you have to get every students to register with each blog OR get every student to add all the others to his/her blog. A better option is to use a social network like Ning. You can make it public or private and all the student blogs are built into the site. Here's an example: We are just getting started so it's open for now.

Okay, so I let J off the hook at this point even though I wanted to go on and on. I mean there are so many options out there. LiveJournal is another good one with the friends feature built in. And there's always a wiki...