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If you are looking for the POT Certificate Class, the guided class ended in December. We currently offer our Yellow Submarine open syllabus for the class, available for free use by departments and colleges. Any department, cohort or group may take the class together at any time, simply by using social media for community. The POT Facebook Group and Google Plus Community are always available for independent classes.
Beginning March 2015, this website will host Pedagogy First!, featuring a number of authors writing posts about teaching using technology. We’ll feature posts by experienced online instructors, those using technology in their classrooms, and leaders in the field. Subscribing to our site will bring these posts directly to your email.
I am interested in using student-generated content (educational material authored by students) in my classes–which generally encourages student engagement, authority, and accountability– so I thought I would highlight a few online tools that students can use to create course content to share with their peers.
This free, accessible tool allows users to create their own surveys or quizzes which can include a variety of questions from fill-in-the blank to multiple choice to ranking responses. These surveys or quizzes have a unique URL that is easy to copy and paste into an email to respondents. Survey Monkey also automatically analyzes the results and provides graphics for easy comprehension.
Students can use this tool to poll peers, gather research, create sample test questions for review or for a question bank, in addition to many other useful outcomes. (I’ve used Survey Monkey to poll students to select essay topics and readings of interest.)
This free (for students and educators) tool allows users to create flowcharts or “brain maps.” Students can chart steps in a sequence of events, associations among concepts, or paths to various outcomes. (I’ve used Lucid Chart for writing prompts—like the Rhetorical Mash-up below–that require a variety of steps to be taken in a specific order.)
Discussion Boards & Wikis
Both discussion boards and wikis are often integrated into Blackboard and other LMSs which provide students an opportunity to carry on conversations with each other in an asynchronous format. Wikis allow students to collaborate on documents—think Google Docs—and generate content that can be edited by all users.
Students can be leaders in discussion board threads throughout the semester to engage with their peers in meaningful ways and demonstrate authority of topics. Wikis are great tools to use for group projects or generative assignments when students are asked to create a resource list, prompt, etc. (I’ve used discussion boards in onsite classes, too, especially when an interesting group discussion is cut short because of time constraints—we continue the conversation online!)
Capturing the image of our computer screen or recording our screen is a necessary task for both instructor and student. Screencast-O-Matic is a simple tool to use for this purpose. Screenshots often give important “guideposts” to students that help them navigate the online course components. Screenshots are also useful troubleshooting tools. If a student is having technical trouble, a screenshot of the issue might allow the problem to be easily solved or at least verified by the instructor.
While not a true screencast (although it attempts to be one), I like showing my students this youtube video that demonstrates the process behind writing a simple email. It’s a fun snippet that helps us English instructors emphasize the importance of everyday rhetorical decisions.
Useful tools can transform the experience in both teaching an online class and taking a class online.
Technology can make an online class captivating, fun and interesting.
When I was completing the Program for Online Teaching through MiraCosta College I discovered a plethora of tools–for online and on campus classes. I still absolutely love discovering new tools.
It’s important to find the RIGHT tools for your class. Since there are so many out there you have to, in some ways, “weed-through” to discover the ones that will make your online class successful.
I also believe it’s important to be consistent with what tools you use in your classroom. Students like consistency. I believe it’s better to have less tools that are very useful and you use consistently in class rather than using a bunch of tools only once.
Here are some tools I’d recommend:
Screencast-o-matic records screen captures. I use Screencast-o-matic to create tutorials for my students. Here are some examples of some of the tutorials I’ve created for my class:
Present.me uploads your Power Points and records a video of yourself. Why do I love Present.me? Because I’ve been able to upload Power Point Presentations I already use in my on campus classes and record my lecture. It simulates what I’d teach in the classroom.
Here are some examples of videos I’ve create for my courses:
Google Drive uploads documents you’ve already created so you can share them. You can also create documents in Google Drive. Dropbox is another similar tool that uploads your documents. You can access both Google Drive and Dropbox from any electronic device.
Here are is an example of a handout I share with my students early on in the semester:
You can also create surveys with Google. I receive feedback for my classes by asking my students to complete this survey at the end of each course.
Blackboard contains many tools I find useful for an online class. From creating surveys, tests, writing assignments, the Discussion Board, Voice Board (to record oral exams), Blackboard Collaborate. Each is worth exploring to find out what is right for your online class.
YouTube may be a popular tool but also a very useful tool for instructors. I’ve found many useful videos for my students on YouTube.
I really like creating movies usingiMovie (Apple). If you’re unsure where to start, YouTube different tutorials to help get started. I’ve used iMovie to create videos of interviews of other French-speakers or daily scenarios. Here are some videos I’ve created using iMovie:
GoAnimate is a fascinating video maker! Create videos based on cartoon characters you choose. Use the voices available on GoAnimate or record your own. I’ve found GoAnimate helpful to show how you’d use something taught in class (for instance verbs).
SoundCloud records audio. Why do I like it? Because you can record using just your smartphone. A few Summers back I went camping with my family and I recorded audios for my online class while my children were napping! Since there’s an application for SoundCloud, students can listen to your audios from anywhere, pause, repeat, listen to the audio again.
I use SignUpGenius for my office hours. When students sign-up for office hours, they reserve the “spot” so others can see that that spot is taken already. They receive a notification two days prior to remind them. It’s helped me avoided having to go back and forth with emails. I also use SignUpGenius so students can sign-up for oral exams and the final oral exams.
Skypeis a popular tool. I personally use it in my class for my office hours. If students can’t make it on campus, they can Skype me. I also use it for oral exams and the final oral exams.
There are so many tools out there and I believe finding the right ones for your class is essential. It’s worth trying each out so you can know which ones you prefer. Test them out and ask your students what they think.
I hope this post was helpful. Thank you for reading!
I would like to personally thank Lisa Lane for everything she taught me through the Program for Online Teaching.
On the process of devising your online class, online collaboration tools are one of the corner stones, since they are the vehicle to reach the pedagogy goals for your class and have profound effect on the learning outcomes of the student (Katz, 2008).
Recently, collaborative activities have become increasingly popular in the classrooms as multi-disciplinary researches have shown that the benefits and learning gains are significantly greater than working independently, Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1998). Nevertheless, Hershock and LaVaque-Manty (2012) point out that “Although research clearly suggests the virtues of collaborative learning, it is worth noting that these impacts depend upon how instructors implement and manage collaborative activities. Key considerations include, but are not limited to, task design, group formation, team management, and the establishment of both individual and group accountability” (Finelli, Bergom, & Mesa, 2011; Michaelson, Fink, & Knight, 1997; Oakley, Felder, Brent, & Elhajj, 2004).
Keeping these ideas in mind, online instructor should carefully design online collaborative activities to create the appropriate interaction that promotes content learning and engages student interaction. In my experience as an online instructor I consider this task quite important yet difficult. While the use of instructional technology can also considerably improve student collaboration and learning (Zhu & Kaplan, 2011), introducing and keeping up with new instructional technologies and integrating them productively into your online course, “can be challenging” (Sorcinelli, Austin, Eddy, & Beach, 2006; Zhu, Kaplan, & Dershimer, 2011, Hershock & LaVaque-Manty, 2012).
Through the years I have been improving and refining the collaborative activities and tools I use in my online classes. With the appearance of new tools and technologies, new opportunities for improvement are always coming. The variety of collaborative learning tools in the Web 2.0 is vast and varied but the decision about which collaboration tools to use should be driven by your course learning objectives more than the tool. Another aspect that you should consider is that the less variety of tools you adopt in your class the better. Introducing many different technologies can be counter productive and time consuming for your students. The research conducted by Hershock & LaVaque-Manty (2012: 7-10) narrowed some of the main factors you should consider when electing a tool to the following aspects:
Start-up costs. Instructors should consider how difficult it is for them (as well as their students) to set up and learn any given tool.
IT support. What technical support is available to students and instructors?
Tool overload. Students can be overwhelmed by the diversity of instructional technologies in several ways. First, they may become frustrated if they have to learn how to use many different tools to complete similar tasks across courses.
Is the technology accessible to students with disabilities? For example, Google Docs are accessible to some users with disabilities, primarily via keyboard shortcuts, but are not accessible to visually or dexterity impaired users who depend on screen reader or speech input technologies.
Protect students and their privacy. Instructors should think about how widely information from a course or a tool will be shared.
Resist the myth of “the tech-savvy student”. It is a mistake to assume that all of our students are extremely sophisticated users of contemporary technologies
Develop guidelines for equitable and inclusive participation. As with all group work, instructors should consider using strategies to foster equitable participation and accountability as well as to develop guidelines for appropriate etiquette just as they do for in-class discussions.
Actively foster and sustain desired student engagement. Getting students to use a tool and then keeping up with what gets produced can be a challenge. Simply making a tool available for students doesn’t mean that it will get used; students may need some incentive to use it.
Have realistic expectations. Technology can fail mechanically. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place, especially if your learning activity depends heavily on a particular technology.
Keeping these premises in mind. I would like to share some of the collaborative tools that I am using on my online classes. I am a Spanish language instructor but these particular tools can be used in different disciplines.
Wikis and blogs– I use the wiki and blogs tools that come in Blackboard, which is the system management that my institution uses. Nevertheless, there are many sites to create wikis here is a list of free software platforms. Right now, I am having great success using them for compositions, peer reviewing and editing to improve the students writing skills. By providing critical feedback to other students, they learn about vocabulary, different written styles, spelling and grammar while increasing the student motivation.
ThingLink- It is a tool that enables students and teachers to collaborate creating interactive images that can be embedded in websites, add files and/or media. There are multiple uses for ThingLink in education, here is an article that will give you an idea of the things you can do. Part of the curriculum in a language class is to learn culture while practicing the student’s language skills. With this purpose, I used ThingLink in my classes partnering 2-3 students to create an image with information about a Spanish speaking country. They have to write about the country and its culture and include videos, images and text. This is a very easy and fun tool to use. Recently, ThingLink has partner with Qzzr to combine quizzes and video. I haven’t used this feature yet, but I find it quite interesting since I could use it to create quizzes about videos in Spanish allowing me to assess the student’s language comprehension. Here is a link to a video on how to use it for quizzes.
Voicethread– It is a group audio blog for asynchronous digital conversations. It allows users to record text and audio comments about uploaded images. In the past, I have used Voicethread for my language classes but it doesn’t allow you to provide personalized and private feedback to each of your students. Most teachers use Voicethread providing a general feedback, but recently I found a video that teach you how to create different identities on voicethread allowing you to record more than one feedback message. If you are interested in using this tool I recommend you watch this video.
Zoom.us-This is definitely, one of my favorite tools for my online language classes. I use it for videoconferencing between students. While there are a wide range of tools for this purpose, like Skype or Google hangouts and even Blackboard Illuminate, but this is a particularly useful tool because it is free, it is very easy to use and most importantly because the conversation can be recorded. Right now, I pair my students to interview each other in Spanish using this tool. I ask them to record their conversation and to e-mail me the video file once they end their conversation. I am finding that this tool is increasing the speaking interaction between my students and allows me to review and assess their conversations.
Lastly, I want to share with you a video in which I compiled the tools I mentioned above.
These are the main tools that I have used with great productivity to create project-based collaborative learning. All of these tools are currently available and are free in the basic service. I hope this post helps you to successfully integrate instructional technologies in your online classes.
Silvia Vazquez Paramio- Online Spanish Instructor
Finelli, C., Bergom, I., & Mesa, V. (2011). Student teams in the engineering classroom and beyond: Setting up students for success. CRLT Occasional Paper, No. 29. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan.
Hershock, C., & LaVaque-Manty, M. (2012). Teaching in the cloud: Leveraging online collaboration tools to enhance student engagement. CRLT Occasional Paper, No. 31. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan.
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. A. (1998). Cooperative learning returns to college: What evidence is there that it works? Change, 30(4), 26-35.
Katz, R. N. (Ed.). (2008). The tower and the cloud: Higher education in the age of cloud computing. Washington, DC: EDUCAUSE
Michaelson, L. K., Fink, L. D., & Knight, A. (1997). Designing effective group activities: Lessons for classroom teaching and faculty development. In D. Dezure (Ed.), To Improve the Academy, Vol. 16 (pp. 373-398). Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.
Nelson, M. M., & Schunn, C. D. (2009). The nature of feedback: How different types of peer feedback affect writing performance. Instructional Science, 37, 375–401.
Oakley, B., Felder, R. M, Brent, R., & Elhajj, E. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of Student Centered Learning, 2(1), 9-34.
Sorcinelli, M. D., Austin, A. E., Eddy, P. L., & Beach, A. L. (2006). Creating the future of faculty development: Learning from the past, understanding the present. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Zhu, E., & Kaplan, M. (2011). Technology and teaching. In M. Svinicki & W. J. McKeachie (Eds.), Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (13th ed., pp. 229- 252). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
My goal as an online instructor is to create an engaging and dynamic classroom for my dynamic and diverse students—I assume this is the same for most instructors. Part of my desire stems from discussions with students and friends who have tried online classes and determine that the online learning environment is not for them. I should probably say, “fine, online learning is not for everyone”, but instead I usually ask why. In fact, I had this discussion just this past weekend. My friend said she preferred face-to-face classrooms because she was not so great at expressing herself in the written form, such as discussion forums. This also reminds me of a conversation I had with another student who said that most online instructors spend most of their time corresponding with students via email and therefore, written form. Therefore, as an instructor looking for ways to improve upon this seemingly one-dimensional teaching style, I am looking for ways to provide students with a more diverse experience.
There seem to be a million tools out there to use to meet this goal, but today I will focus on one, VoiceThread. What I like about this tool is it offers an alternative to the text heavy engagement with material. VoiceThread in fact offers students the ability to use voice or text to interact with material.
Voice thread is especially dynamic as users are able to create presentations using media, voice, and text. Responders can leave comments in a variety of ways as well, including their phone. While, the free version is limited in the amount of threads you can create, a Higher Ed subscription is $99 a year and the program can be integrated into an LMS; something to consider anyway. https://voicethread.com/
VoiceThread is also very easy to use. Create an account and then begin. You can upload documents—including images—from your computer, record videos, or upload from media sources integrated with VoiceThread.
So creating the thread is dynamic. Once a VoiceThread is created, the class can comment on content using a variety of means. Not only could this be used to make discussions more interactive, but students could produce presentations using VoiceThread and receive a variety of feedback.
And of course VoiceThread is also available for your mobile device, so you can create and comment on material from your phone!
As an online student, it can be challenging to feel part of the “classroom”. I can identify as a student–one of my two Master degrees was completely online. But I can also identify as an instructor. So what are some ways to keep our students feeling a part of a community in our online classes?
Here are some ways I believe we can help our students to create a community online.
As a student
Something I make my students do the first week of our semester together is to pair up with another student to practice weekly. I teach French (I’m originally from the South of France) and practicing a language is essential in learning it. So based on their usual weekly schedule, students pick a time/day that usually works for them and they can either meet in person or via Skype to practice. Weekly, I provide them with a prompt so they can know what they need to practice (which correlates to our lesson).
They also have to jot down the time/day they practiced and provide me with other details.
The Discussion Board on Blackboard is a great way to keep our students feeling involved in our online community. I’ve seen instructors use the Discussion Board in a variety of ways to keep students plugged in (pun intended) to their classrooms. Here are some of the ways I personally use Blackboard.
At the beginning of the semester, I ask students to introduce themselves and include a picture or avatar. I ask a few more things based on their level, modeling it by introducing myself first.
Throughout the semester I’ll create different posts (not an overload, but a few) such as asking them what their hobbies are. By seeing their classmates’ hobbies, they can connect outside the classroom (and hopefully speak/text/email in French together!).
Mid-Terms are another way to get the entire classroom to get to know one another. I assign them with a Group project and then they have to comment on one another’s presentations.
Throughout the semester I encourage them to do activities with their classmates, outside of the classroom setting. I inform them about upcoming local events (relating to the French language) they might want to attend.
I also recommend they form study groups (based on their location) so they can study together.
As an instructor
Something I saw demonstrated so well by my (absolutely amazing) grad Professor (Dr. Beth Ackerman) was to personally reach out to students. I believe it’s important we show we genuinely care about their success but also about them as a person. Writing a short email asking how they are doing, can help create that community we are looking for. I will also email them if they are missing assignments or have been “absent” online for a while (they might have something going on at home that I should be aware of). Since we can’t always sense the “tone” (or see any facial expressions) in an email I always try my best to sound understanding, professional and personal. I make it a point to respond to emails as soon as I can (usually 2-3 business days). It helps me create a relationship with each individual student.
I encourage them to sign-up for my office hours. I use SignUpGenius to schedule my office hours. I give them the option to meet in person (on campus) or via Skype. I tell my online students that I’d love to meet them in person.
Half-way through the semester, I have them take an oral exam with me (instead of with a classmate). This gives me an opportunity to “meet” them (online or in person). It also makes it less intimidating for them when we have our final oral exam together.
Weekly, I create short videos to give them announcements and introduce the new week ahead.
I send out announcements (sent directly to their email inbox) several times a week. I’ll keep them updated on what I have graded (I try to grade any submitted work within 1-2 weeks), let them know of any important assignments coming up and give them additional resources, tools, etc.
To me those are small ways to keep students in our online class feeling part of the community of our classroom.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to thank two wonderful Professors who have helped me in my journey in online teaching: Pilar Hernandez and David Detwiler.
I hope this post was useful to you. Thank you for reading.