Archive for March, 2013

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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A ‘rhizomatic’ take on Semester one so far

Last week I had the good fortune to hear Professor Diana Masny speak about her Deleuzian approach to researching multiliteracies theory (which she referred to as ‘MLT’). Masny is from Ottowa, Canada, and is an adjunct prof at QUT.

In this presentation I was returned to the idea of ‘the rhizome’, something that had interested me when I encountered the work of Deleuze and Guattari. The idea behind looking at things rhizomatically is that we can stop focussing on binary oppositions, or organising concepts into ordered taxonomies and such. Instead, rhizomatic analysis involves looking at things and ideas spread/propagate…and at where new possibilities ‘shoot off’ out of of what already exists.

A rhizome in plant form

A rhizome in plant form

This talk by Masny was interesting for a number of reasons to do with designing research methodology, as well as considering MLT from new angles. One thing that inspired me was the way that her presentation was organised around ‘entry points’ to her own topic as a rhizomatic collection of findings. This is in contrast to a presentation that tries to summarise ‘key findings’ or ‘ways forward’. Seeing as I most often use my blog to reflect on ‘findings’ and ‘planning’, I thought it might make a nice change to adopt Masny’s (after Deleuze’s) approach of exploring the ‘entry points’ into my practice so far this semester…

ENTRY POINT: Attendance

At QUT we have a policy that attendance is not to be counted in any way toward assessment, and that students choosing to catch up on their study from home are to be supported in that choice. I have heard some lecturers complain about this – they think students would learn better if they turned up to all the classes, and wish the university would enforce this. Most of us, however, respect the purpose of this arrangement, which is to provide flexible study options for the grown-up human beings that are our ‘students’, and cater for a range of learning styles. Personally I find it very motivating, as it forces me to think about HOW I can make my lessons “worth coming to”!

I’m really happy with the attendance rate in my classes at the moment. Out of the 110 students I have studying on campus, almost 100% turned up in Week one, and the students that were away mostly emailed in their apologies. In Week 2, attendance in tutorials and the lecture was down to about 85%, which is to be expected. What I am eager to see is that 85% attendance rate maintained for the rest of the 9-week semester, rather than drop of over time to 20-50%, as other lecturers often report. I’m pleased to say that in the past few years here, I haven’t noticed the same kind of drop of, and I like to think this reflects the usefulness of my classes.

ENTRY POINT: Engagement

As always it has been a slow start on Twitter…but as always, there are several students ‘coming around’ to the tool already and engaging with informal peer tutoring as well. Once again, I am glad I chose to persevere with introducing students to an unfamiliar (and for many of them, unloved) social media tool.

I had a really great out-of-context engagement moment as well last week, on Pinterest. I use Pinterest among other things to collect useful resources for English teachers, and one day I saw a collage about English teaching and ‘re-pinned it’ to my board. I thought (and commented) ‘wow…this is just like an activity I do in class!’. Then I realised that I was following one of my students already, and that it was her! Funniest bit was though, she had been following me too without realising who I was, or making any connection to out uni lives. Good times!

There has been a growth in socia media profiles and ‘chats’ that I can now connect my students to, and the most important of these is the #ozengchat that takes place on Twitter on Tuesday nights. Feeling like they are engaging with ‘real teachers’ seems to be helping with motivation in the class, but at the moment that’s just my anecdotal take on the situation.

ENTRY POINT: Assessment

In my class students undertake THREE assessment tasks:

  1. Personal essay on teaching philosophy and resource analysis (individual, 30%)
  2. Lessons plans for a junior English class (in pairs, 40%)
  3. Portfolio of completed learning ‘challenge tasks’ (individual, 30%)

What I like about what I have achieved with this set of assessments is that there is a balance of individual and group work, that there is a variety of tasks, and that no task is worth more that 40%.

At this point I’ll put myself out there to say I am disappointed to see how many uni coordinators choose to use just TWO assessment piece in their own classes. This is not good practice imo! Having less assignments does mean a smaller marking load for the lecturer, and less due dates for the student, but at what cost?

I really do believe that students in uni should not have assessments that are worth 50% or over, as this is too high-stakes to promote good learning. To do this, you must have more than two assessments for a unit in a semester.

FINAL WORDS: The CLB018 ‘assemblage’

In the theory of Deleuze and Guattari, the context of my CLB018 class provides an assemblage of bodies and things that can produce any number of effects. I hoe to keep reporting throughout the semester on the effects (and affects) of our assemblage!

In the meantime, any comments on these POINTS OF ENTRY are most welcome.

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