Sunday, December 27, 2009

Keynote: Student Engagement for the 21st Century Learner

Recently I was asked to present a keynote at Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ. I was both surprised and honored for the invitation, and I immediately accepted. I talk about teaching with technology all the time, so this was a great opportunity to share my insights on the topic. But first I had to narrow my focus, as there is so much to be said today about teaching with technology. Thanks to the help of my colleagues, Lisa Young and Shelley Rodrigo, I was able to come up with my topic of student engagement. One of my goals in this presentation was to try to engage my audience by using some of the same technology tools I would talk about in the keynote. I was able to use Animoto, Wordle, Poll Everywhere, YouTube, Voicethread, and MindMeister. The presentation was recorded and put together by Thatcher Bohrman at Yavapai College. Thanks Thatcher!

Links from the Presentation:
Presentation Slides:

Creative Commons License
Student Engagement for the 21st Century Learner by Dr. Alisa Cooper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at

Monday, November 23, 2009

Schedule Student Conferences with TimeDriver

Every semester I schedule conferences with all my students to talk about their final papers before they start to finalize the paper. It was always a pain trying to schedule these 60+ conferences with students until I found TimeDriver. Watch how I use TimeDrive to schedule student conference fast and easily.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How to Collaborate Using GDocs (Students)

We recently started our group project module in ENG101, so I introduced students to a few tools to help them be able to collaborate with each other during this process. One tool in particular is Google Docs. This video was created for students to show them how to collaborate using Google Docs to complete their projects.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Creating Macros in Word 2007 for a Grading Toolbar

One of my most popular posts on this blog was a post on how to create a grading toolbar in Word. Well, it has since become outdated after Office 2007 was introduced a few years ago. I'm finally getting around to creating a new version, so here it is.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Teaching with Email in the Online Classroom

Over the years education has continually changed, or evolved into something that is considerably different from what education was when I was in school. One major difference is the inclusion of online and hybrid courses into the course offerings. This is still evolving on most campuses, so it's understandable that many people in charge of educational institutions aren't always clear about how faculty use certain technologies in their classrooms. So I'm going to try to clarify some things.

First, we've used email for many years in our district, and all employees are given an email address to use to communicate official district business amongst ourselves. This system works well, as it's easy to find an email address in the district and send a fellow employee a message. We can even create distribution lists to send to certain groups of people. It works so well, that we used to get tons of emails on a daily basis from just about anyone who had a cause, a need, a show, or any important information they felt everyone in the district needed to know. Mercifully someone recognized the overload we all experienced, and we adapted to a "only specially designated people on each campus can send ALL district emails. Thank God or whoever made that decision. It was nice to see that we could recognize a problem and find a solution.

But as I mention, delivery methods of teaching have changed too, and faculty are now using email in lots of different ways. Before I started teaching online classes, I never gave my students my email address. I couldn't imagine how I would handle all that email, and there wasn't really a need. If they had a question, they could just ask me in class. When I first started teaching online, I recognized the need for students to be able to contact me and quickly created an email account just for that purpose. Since then how I use email in my online and hybrid courses has evolved along with the courses themselves. I don't use email as just a way for students to ask questions. It is so much more than that.

Email can be a drafting space, prewriting activity, organizational tool, assignment dropbox, conferencing space, peer review tool, and so much more. It is so essential to teaching online that it always surprises me that as an educational institution, we have never sought a more robust email tool for faculty to work with. It has always been up to us to figure out how best to make it work. It wasn't until webmail evolved that some of us began to dream big with email and start to use it in more ways than the obvious. Now it's hard to imagine teaching without it.

Here's a brief example of how I use email in the first week of school. I begin by sending all my students an email introducing myself and giving them a list of things I'd like for them to do before the first week of the semester ends. This list includes filling out a form and providing me with a convenient email address for them. If it's convenient, they'll use it and hopefully read my correspondence to them. I use the collected information to set up folders, filters and auto-responders in my email client. To get students familiar with using email in my classes and to help me set up the filters, I have students send me an email after they have completed the first assignment. That email is received, filed, and an auto-responder to that particular email is sent out. It all works quite smoothly. I get what I need and students get instant feedback.

I also keep track of student activity on the course network via email. When students fill out the form, register for the network, and participate in the first discussion, I get an email notification for each. This allows me to quickly approve their registration and then welcome them to the network right away. Students feel a part of a community and feel as if there is someone present to interact with in the online environment. In the first week, many students are nervous about the online class and have questions. During this week, I try to answer questions as soon as possible. For instance, the bookstore had a mix-up with the books for my class. After reading the syllabus, students discovered that the book listed in the bookstore was different than what was listed on my syllabus. Many emailed me to asked about this. One student had even emailed from his phone while he was still in the bookstore and got a response right away. He was able to purchase the correct book right then.

I don't profess to respond that quickly all semester long, but to me it equates to all that extra time all faculty spend during the first week giving directions, advice, answering questions and just plain being "present" on campus for students. Students have responded well to this interaction in my classes. Just today a student responded to me with,
"Wow, I am seriously impressed by the quick response. I will have to remember this when I do 'Rate my professor'."

Once the first week is in the books, I continually use email as a teaching tool in my online courses. Students in the ENG102 course send me research prospectuses and we have email conferences about their research progress. Students collaborate on writing projects in Google Docs and use email to invite me to see their work and to receive updates on revisions made. And I use my email contacts groups feature to take role and keep track of attendance in my hybrid and face to face classes. These are just a few of the ways that email has evolved for me.

When I'm teaching, I don't have time to deal with emails about:
Biology instructors needed, weekly air quality, and employment opportunities. I'll handle that later when I get back to my work "office." I have email for teaching, and I have email for work. My work email stays at work, and my teaching email goes with me to my many teaching environments and teaching moments. I control when, where and how I want to deal with it. I love that freedom, and I love that it allows for me to serve my students. I couldn't do this if I had to deal with all my email in one standard, made for business, work email account. That just doesn't work for me.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Update your Calendar & ToDo Lists via Twitter

My first post about Twitter, Little Known Facts about Twitter in the Classroom, talked about some easy uses for Twitter in the classroom. I said, Twitter is connected to everything. I can update my Google calendar and ToDo tasks via Twitter, and I can set it up so Twitter will broadcast my blog posts from my blog to Twitter with a link sending people back to my blog to read the post. Think announcements for students with that one. It's also connected with a very nice polling site, Poll Everywhere, that lets your respondents vote in your polls via Twitter. Twitter makes their API available so any company can develop tools that will work through Twitter.

This post follows up that and talks about the calendar and ToDo updates via Twitter. If you're busy, like most people are, you might find that your calendar and a ToDo list are very helpful in keeping you going. I rely heavily on both in my everyday life. Usually when I'm out and about, and I need to either add an event or meeting to my calendar, I find it a hassle to pull up my calendar program and add it. Same thing with my ToDo lists. But I've found that sending a text message directly to Twitter can do that for me. All I have to do is text a direct message to my Google Calendar or Remember the Milk ToDo service and it automatically posts to my calendar or list. Click the links for more information about each.

I use this when I schedule conferences with students. I grab my phone and send a text message to 40404 with "d gcal Meeting with 'Student' Tuesday at 11am." The d is for direct message, which is private on Twitter, and gcal is the Google Calendar Twitter name. The rest is the event I want added to the calendar. When I get to a computer, all the appointments are there in my calendar. And since I sync my Google calendar with my Blackberry, they show up on my phone calendar too within minutes. The screencast below shows you how this all works.

Part II of III tips for using Twitter in the classroom. Part I covers using Twitter via text messaging on your cell phone, Part II update calendar/ToDo list via Twitter. The last tip will show you how to use Twitter with a polling service PollEverywhere.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Teaching Kids Technology

I had and opportunity to teach a bunch of Upward Bound students how to use various technologies over a 6 week period this summer. We learned to create photo essays using Animoto, and plain Word documents using Creative Commons images. We used Picnik to remix photos. We also learned to create videos using Flip cameras and Windows Movie Maker. And our last project was creating podcasts using Audacity. Below are a few of the podcasts they created. I was really proud of their work.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's on Your iPod Touch? Mobile Apps for Learning

We've been having a little exchange on our list about mobile gadgets and apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, so I decided to blog about what I have on my iPod Touch. Not so surprisingly, I have very little music. I have an iPod Video and Nano for that. The Touch is for mobile learning. I'm trying to see how this gadget can be used in education. The obvious is podcasts, both audio and video. It's easy to find good podcasts to share and recommend with students, as well as create your own. So I have over 3 GB of video on my Touch, mostly video podcasts. One of my favorite apps on the Touch is iTalk. I can hook up an external microphone and record lectures right on the Touch. Then I can sync and have the podcast uploaded to where ever in a matter of minutes. Sound quality is really good.

Most of my apps are free, unless indicated by (paid). Here is a list of my first page of apps on my Touch.
  • Google
  • YouTube
  • Remember the Milk (RTM)
  • Twitterific & TwitterFon
  • iTalk
  • Facebook
  • Bb Learn
These are all obvious choices. We haven't had a chance to try out the Bb Learn app yet. District says we will be able to do so after the upgrade, which just happened, so I'll check into that next week.

My second page of apps is a mixed bag. I have a few ereaders I'm trying out and some blogging tools.
  • Kindle & eReader & GReader (Readers)
  • Google Voice & GV Mobile (Paid)
  • Google Talk & Skype (chat)
  • Gyminee
  • Wordpress
  • Animoto
  • WootWatch
  • Tumblr
  • Where
  • Brightkite
  • TripIt
  • Nike +iPod
These are some of the more important mobile tools for blogging, reading documents, books and RSS feeds, and communicating via chat, voicemail and text messaging.

As I move through my app pages, the apps get less and less relevant to mobile learning. So far we've seen lots of social networking apps and reading and writing apps. That trend continues, but I start to add more home automation and fun stuff. I mean, you never know when you will need to Tivo a show for class, right.
  • myhomework (Keep track of classes and homework)
  • Evernote (This could be a big elearning app)
  • Shakespeare (Complete works on my iPod)
  • Yelp
  • Yahoo!
  • LinkedIn
  • i.TV & DirecTV & PhoneFlix (Schedule DVRs & Netflix)
  • fring (IM & Skype in one/VOIP)
  • Assistant (PageOnce - Acct Management)
  • WSJ (Wall Street Journal)
  • Flickr
  • Ustream (watching only)
I found lots of apps that have created collections of works like the Shakespeare one. This would make teaching a lit class easy in terms of access to free books. Evernote has the biggest potential for impact in the mobile learning space. I will be exploring this a bit more this summer.

My last two pages are just a bunch of games and sports apps like for the Master's and the NBA playoffs. Also MLB (At Bat) lets you listen to live game audio for $10 for the whole season. I also have the Stanza ebook reader, a dictionary, notes, and a calculator. That's it. And like I mentioned earlier, I only paid for 3 apps. As I explore and try new ones, I'll probably purchase more if they are worth it. We'll see.

So what's on your iPod Touch or iPhone? Leave a comment and let me know so I can add to my collection.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Little Known Facts about Twitter in the Classroom

The whole world is talking about Twitter, so this post is probably nothing new to some. Most people get that you can post a short message about what you are doing, and anyone who follows you on Twitter will be able to see the message. I follow you, I see your messages. You follow me, you see mine. But many people still don't understand how it works beyond that. For instance, many aren't aware that you can have selective tweeters' tweets delivered directly to your cell phone via text message. And you can reply back to Twitter via text message. Once you and your students are signed up and properly set up, the whole process can be conducted via cell phone text messaging, making the whole process mobile and not tied to a web page on a computer.

Another little known secret to novice Twitter users is that Twitter is connected to everything. I can update my Google calendar and ToDo tasks via Twitter, and I can set it up so Twitter will broadcast my blog posts from my blog to Twitter with a link sending people back to my blog to read the post. Think announcements for students with that one. It's also connected with a very nice polling site, Poll Everywhere, that lets your respondents vote in your polls via Twitter. Twitter makes their API available so any company can develop tools that will work through Twitter. There are so many more, but in the following movie I focus on the first tool mentioned above. In subsequent posts I'll show you the other tips. Have a look.

Using Text Messaging with Twitter from soul4real on Vimeo.

Part I of III tips for using Twitter in the classroom. Part I covers using Twitter via text messaging on your cell phone.

One of the things I forgot to mention is once you get your cell phone set up to receive text messages from Twitter, you can post a tweet by sending it to 40404 from your phone. Next up, update your Google calender and ToDo tasks via Twitter.

Twitter Killed My Blog - Almost

Wow! I hardly posted at all this semester. Two times. That's it. I'm going to blame Twitter on that. Who has time to blog when we're tweeting all day. :) Well, I was inspired to come back to traditional blogging after the MaricopaTech conference earlier this week. So here I am. I'm breathing a little life into "The Maricopa Experience" because it is quite an experience working in one of the largest community college systems in the country. Not only that, but times are tough, and as the district cuts more and more of our resources, like faculty professional growth, this blog may become a valuable tool. It can be used either for whining and complaining about the cuts or building resources for others who are stuck in the same situation. I'm leaning more towards the latter.

I anticipate next semester I'll have more to blog about since I'm transferring from my current campus to a much larger one, GCC. That should be enough fodder alone, but I have some ideas to share until I get to that point. My plan for this summer is a series on mobile learning. I will be reading up mLearning and playing with lots of mobile devices and programs designed for these devices. I'll also be looking a ways to enhance online courses using mobile gadgets. Can't wait to blog about all that. In addition, I plan a series of posts on how I'm using some of the newer Web 2.0 tools in my classes or how I plan to.

So the blog is not abandoned; just consider it having been on vacation. Now if you'll be patient, I'll be back with a post about "something" in a few. If you want, you can follow me on Twitter. I'm soul4real.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wordles are Really Cool

I've been seeing Wordles around all over the place lately, and I've been wanting to create one but didn't really have a need. I still don't, but I thought it might be fun to see what my Delicious bookmarks look like in a Wordle. If you're wondering the same thing, wonder no more. Here it is:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Moving on Up to the West Side

I'm in a funk at the moment, and just can't get motivated to do all the things I really need to do. So I'm blogging. I think the reality of my decision to leave my current job has something to do with my funk. I decided some time ago to leave South Mountain CC and transfer over to Glendale CC. It's the same job, just a new location in the district. I spent a semester over there 3 years ago and enjoyed it, but I just couldn't pull the trigger on a transfer until now. So why am I leaving? Many have asked, and this is my response. It varies depending on what day it is.

I guess I'm leaving because I'm ready for a change. 11 years in one job is a long time to me. It's the same old thing over and over again each semester. And I realized that it's really up to me to make things fun, to make things happen. So for the last few years I've been social networking with other techie geeks in the district, some from my college, but most from other colleges in the district. I realized that Maricopa is a wonderful place to work because of the many resources we have available to us and the awesome people that work in the district. But Maricopa isn't always fair in their distribution of resources to the various colleges. South being the smallest gets left in the dust in many areas. As a result, technology isn't a big focus for most of the faculty on the SMCC campus. There's nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I live for technology and with all the research I've done in the last 8 years, I realize our future in education relies on that technology.

So I guess what I'm saying is I love the people at SMCC, but SMCC isn't helping much for my portfolio in terms of being innovative and using technology in my teaching. I'm very limited in what I can do with the limited resources and expertise on campus, and I spend way too much of my money on resources and too much time on other campuses in the district learning new things. What I've learned is I can still be friends and socialize with the friends I've made at South, the best part of South, but work elsewhere where I'll have the resources available and the money needed for more. Those resources include a faculty that is experimenting with new technologies and teaching in creative ways I have yet to experience.

I will always love South and the people I've worked with for the last 11 years. It is truly a special place and has grown tremendously since I first arrived on campus in 1998. They even have wireless on campus now (except for in my building). South Mountain CC will continue to be a great college whether I'm there or not, but will I still be the teacher I want to be if I stick around. Who knows, but I'm not sticking around to find out. I am the master of my own destiny, and the master says I need to go give GCC a try.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New FAQ Avatar for my Online Students

I've been playing around with SitePal for a year and a half now. I love the idea of having an avatar for students to interact with, but it has proven to be a bit time consuming and expensive. My initial investment was a cool $99 to get five avatars and scenes with 1 minute of audio each (Bronze). One minute is not a lot of time and during the first year I had a hard time keeping to the limit, so I ended up neglecting my avatar, dubbed Associate Professor Sam.

But instead of giving up completely on the idea, I decided to invest a bit more money into it and see if I could make it work. Initially the lowest SitePal plan costs $99 but didn't include Text to Speech (TTS). That is how I make Sam talk to my students. Without the more expensive plan, I had to create my own TTS, which I did with a separate program called TextAloud. The program works great and I use it for other non-avatar announcements from Assoc. Prof. Sam that are usually much longer than 1 minute. But if I was going to really utilize the avatar, I needed to eliminate a few steps. So I upgraded to the Silver package for this semester only (3 months). The additional costs ($100) is a bit much for me to have to pay out of pocket, but for 3 months it wasn't so bad ($24), especially since SitePal was offering a discount.

So I created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) box for Sam and posted a few questions for students on the Ning Social Network. It was really easy to type out the answers to the questions and have SitePal convert to speech. They even had my same voice for Sam. I posted the widget below so you could give ole Sam a try.