Posts Tagged online tools

Risk-taking and risk-aversion in teaching

Happy 2014 to all! It seems I inadvertently took a blog break over summer holidays – a break from most things digital, in fact. I’m back in the swing of things now though, with a head full of ideas and energy stores replenished. Who knew I was so tired after 2013? Well OK, I did. Now you do too ;)

So, this is my fourth year at my job as a lecturer. How time flies eh? Reflecting on my time so far I can confidently say that I’ve continued the spirit of innovation I had as a high school teacher into my university teaching. I’ve pushed forward with using social networks to support student learning, with developing project-based learning pedagogies, and with developing blended learning experiences including wiki work and blog-based assessment.

But this week when I was offered a chance to trial a new technology with my class, I turned it down.

There are any number of reasons that teachers say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to trying something new. Watching this keynote by Sarah Howard from 2012 today gave me a chance to reflect on my own tendency to be a risk taker in my practice – I usually see the benefits of innovation as outweighing the costs:

…and boy last semester there were some costs. Some cyberbullying from a student really put a damper on my teaching with Twitter, and right at the end of last year I experienced a big delay in giving students assignment feedback after a swathe of electronic assignment files got deleted. Further technology fails ensued as I struggled to negotiate student assignment return via Blackboard, our university LMS. It was a nightmare, and a confidence shaker.  In a university teaching context where a whole semester of awesome learning can be overshadowed by a single student complaint to the wrong person, I ended 2013 wondering if all my efforts were ‘worth it’.

Fortunately I value innovation and creativity to such an extent that taking risks in pursuit of better practice is still worth it to me. In her keynote Howard explains that people are less likely to take a risk to pursue something they see no value in, which makes sense really.

I guess the shift for me will not be from being a risk-taker to being ‘risk-averse’ – I haven’t had the stuffing beat out of me quite hard enough yet to be averse to risk! For me the shift will be from high-stakes to more low-stakes risk; rather than pushing the boundaries with a wildly new practice I’ll be consolidating and refining my current pedagogies and taking stock of where I want to go with my teaching in 2015. Which will be nice timing, given the massive course changes we are implementing next year (PS. in six months if I disappear completely, somebody please come find me, I may be perishing under a mountain of new unit outlines…).

Do you see yourself as a risk-taker in your teaching? How risky are you planning to be in 2014?

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Using social media to support FYE

Ah, “FYE” … the new acronym in my life!

It stands for First Year Experience, and now that I’m the FYE Coordinator for my Faculty, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

As a school teacher, the role reminds me a LOT of being a Year Advisor, but with one difference. Instead of staying with my year group and looking after them until they graduate, at the end of the year I send my group off to second year, and prepare to look after the FYE of a new cohort.

My FYE jobs

This is my first year in the role, and one of my ‘big jobs’ is to consult with unit coordinators to identify students in need of help with academic literacy. Students have a raft of assignments due around weeks 4-6 and using those we can make early recommendations for study skill support.

I’m also one of the main points of contact for first year students, and I get to go to many (very interesting, seriously) meetings about student engagement and improving campus life. My personal engagement project is a knitting club that I am launching for Education students in Week 5 of semester :)

Enter Twitter

Twitter stats March 2013

Something else I am trying this year is the establishment of a Twitter account (1styear_edu) to communicate messages relevant to students in first year Education. I’ve stated nice and clearly in the bio that I am behind the tweets, and the profile pic is a shot of our lovely main admin building at Kelvin Grove campus. I’m not following students back (yet), but am following things that I think they would like, or that I would want to retweet from.

So far I’m up to 93 followers, out of a potential 650 (ish). It’s Monday of week 4, out of 13 week semester, and on the whole, I am happy!

Yes, yes, some things I already know:

  • Almost all first year students use Facebook, with only about 10% entering our courses using Twitter. We know this from a student survey. I think this is great, because it means most of them are up to date with the digital literacy skill needed to use Twitter, and just need some guidance to transfer those practices.
  • Not many students like Twitter when they first join it. I know this anecdotally, but I don’t see this as a reason not to persist with the service. In fact, I think it’s good to put students out of their learning ‘comfort zone’ … especially students that are trying to become teachers!
  • Most students won’t go to Twitter regularly for announcements. That’s OK! They should be going to the institution’s ‘Blackboard’ (or other LMS) for essential announcements. Although I do repeat some key announcements on Twitter, it would be inequitable to announce important stuff there without also placing it on Blackboard. Twitter is for engagement, tips, and social study support.
  • Students don’t use their social media for learning. Well, I know that some already do, actually – you should meet them! But I sincerely hope that by the time the others graduate from a year (or four) at QUT that their attitude to Personal Learning Environments will have changed! Using Twitter is just one thing I can do to help them over this threshold.

What is to come?

I hope that students will increase their take-up of Twitter for crowdsourced note taking. I’ve attempted to lead some tweeting using the unit codes #EDB006 (for ‘Learning Networks’, the only core unit that first year students share) and #CLB320 (a unit on ‘Studies in Language’ that about half the cohort undertakes).

I also want to show other teachers the power of using tools such as Storify to collect tweets about a topic that can be used later as a teaching aid. For example, here is my collection of tweets from the start of EDB006:

http://storify.com/kmcg2375/edb006-tweets-and-media-weeks-1-and-2

Other than that, I think I’m just hoping for some more discussion between students … but I don’t mind if that doesn’t really kick in until later in their degrees. For now I’m just stoked to have seen any interaction at all!

93 followers, baby … how long will it take me to double it? I’ll be sure to report back when we hit 186 ;)

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Blog Wordle

Wordle is so cool!
I have seen these before, but never knew how people made them. Cheers Darcy :)

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Podcasting

One of the tools I didn’t get up to in the Online Pedagogy workshop at ETA conference was podcasting.

For those after some information:

  • A podcast is an audio (sometimes also video) recording that can be downloaded, ‘streamed’ and subscribed to by users.
  • The word originally was a blend of the words ‘iPod’ and ‘Broadcast’, but they can actually be used anywhere (not just iPods!), so now the word stands for ‘Personal On Demand broadCAST’
  • I use Audacity to record my podcasts.  It is free, and very easy to use – you just need a microphone plugged into your computer.
  • And I use PodBean (www.podbean.com) to put my podcasts up on the web.  It is like a blog, but for your podcasts.

I also heard that podOmatic is a good site for podcasting.  It looks like you can record straight on to the podOmatic website, cutting out the need to use Audacity.  Persoanlly, I like to use Audacity first, so that I have the sounds file saved on my own computer.  This means it is backed up, I can use it without being online, and if you wanted to you could even get the files put up on your school website or intranet (one day I plan to actually do this!)

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Getting students involved in blogging

Barriers to getting involved:

  • Access issues – power in rural and remote areas
  • Equity issues – not all students are digitally literate
  • Equipment access – access to computer labs, laptops, broadband
  • Home access – students with no computers or internet access at home
  • Behaviour management – ICT TOO EXCITING!

Please add any ideas you have for overcoming these barriers…

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Online Pedagogy

In today’s conference workshop I will be exploring four important issues relating to learning and teaching strategies for using online tools:

  1. How the purpose of your site relates to its form
  2. The intended teacher-student dynamic online
  3. Students and internet safety
  4. Getting students involved and monitoring contributions

Please respond with comments to this post if you have any questions, information or anecdotes from your own teaching context.

(DET Interim Guidelines for using blogs and wikis)

(from the ETA Annual Conference @ UNSW )

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Connectivism

Thanks to Darcy for tweeting this link to the Connectivism Wiki.

There are some great ideas here – I especially like the entry on Externalising Ourselves.  I am going to use a quote from this in my ETA Conference presentation on Saturday about Online Learning and Pedagogy:

The ability to connect concepts and ideas and to understand and be understood by others requires that we render our thoughts in some type of format that permits communication. The development of symbols, language, and writing permits externalization of thought and thereby the capacity to create and network concepts and ideas.

The same wiki page also has a link to a very interesting document about Connectivism as a Learning Theory.  I had to laugh at the title, as it sums up so many arguments discussions I have had with people about using online tools, for teaching or otherwise: ‘Connectivism: Learning Theory, or Pastime of the Self-Amused’!

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Cool tools for schools wiki

click, click, click…

After reading my blog comments I clicked through to Lee Mowbray’s Twitter account, then through to her shared blog Stepping Stones for teachers, and from there I found a link to a wikispace called Cool Tools for Schools.

The Cool tools for schools wiki stores information about a wide range of useful web-based tools, sorted by category (video tools, writing tools, image tools, quiz and poll tools etc.)

I love expanding my professional learning network!  Thanks Lee :)

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