Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting Students to Create Their Own Blogs (Critical Thinking and Signature Assignments)

Last semester, I taught ENG 110 -- Critical Thinking. When I first heard of the ideas and practices of the "Signature Assignment," I was demonstrably concerned with what I thought would be the slight repetitiveness between the journal assignment (Logs) and the signature assignment. So, instead, I decided to request that the students create their own blogs in order to do centrifugally-critical things:  (1) increase their positive web presence, and, (2) learn a new piece of internet software on their own.

So, I offered that, once a week, they should find a piece of media on the internet (picture, video, link, article, etc...) that dealt with that week's reading and discussion in a critically-synthesizing manner. This could be done on either blogger, blogspot, wordpress or tumblr. I also made a blog while the students were making theirs in order to match their work. An example might be that a photograph of a family watching television compares visually and ideologically with Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." And, as a sidenote, this photograph, let's say, also acts as documentation of American racism, which then recreates the discussion on what it means to think critically as well as what it means to "read" in the sense that we should deconstruct all images and videos in order to rebuild them and learn from them.

We made proper use of APA citation where necessary and, as well, committed to mild professional research from sources like NPR, BBC, NYTimes.com, and National Geographic. I have done this before at other schools (Brooklyn College, NYU, and Mercy College) and feel that a blog is a great tool because the static feeling of who-is-the-audience increases as does the grammatical correctness and presentation since it is a public venue, technically and not a diary. We also get to make use of multimedia (New Media) and comment/follow on each other's blogs. This also brings up great discussions, like what does it mean to be private and public (especially in lieu of Plato's cave and Dante's hell. We also were able to discuss what kind of rhetoric is conversational, professional, explanatory, etc. And, perhaps most importantly, we discussed the timeliness of accurate revision processes because you don't want something to be victim of the public eye (errors on a blog) for too long. So, in that case, pre-writing becomes absolutely necessary. 

In a world where some job interviewers ask for credit reports, website addresses and Facebook passwords, we are slowly seeing the normal binary of public and private life interweave into a mesh of gray. It is seemingly growing more impossible to discern that your personal history is your public present. And, I think many in the MCNY community need to understand the pertinent imperative that having a positive web-presence is. 

The link to my course below is HERE.

You all can read it from the end of the semester (top of the site) to the beginning (bottom).

Ken L. Walker

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Resources for Teaching with Technology

Reposted from an email sent to all MCNY faculty on 5/8/12.

A couple of summers ago I developed a Faculty Development Workshop on creativity to help faculty incorporate online resources into their classes and Moodle shells. As we move forward with our Strategic Plan and our efforts to provide significant course content online, this becomes more important.

At that time I collected a list of web resources that could be used across the MCNY curriculum and placed them in a Moodle shell that was available to all the workshop participants. I still use many of these resources and have added others over the years. Of course some of them have morphed into something different than they were, totally disappeared, or been replaced. New ones have been developed. But I keep finding myself going back to that old Moodle shell to find something.

So I thought about updating this resource list to make it more accessible and since I wanted to try out my new Pinterest account (the fastest growing new social media network), I set up a Pinterest board on "Resources for Teaching with Technology". Piniterest boards are like bulletin boards where you can "pin" pictures from all over the web and add some descriptive text. When a visitor clicks on the picture, they are taken to the original source of the picture. I have also set up some other boards that can be used in my teaching ("Human Services Interest Board", "Documentary Films - Society and Human Services" and "Books Worth Reading"). The film and book boards are in response to questions that students often ask about seeing additional films or recommendations for books.

Please feel free to check out the Resources for Teaching with Technology board at: http://pinterest.com/draweiner/resources-for-teaching-with-technology/.

You can like items, "repin" them to your own boards, follow a board, or write comments. I would be interested in hearing about the creative ways you are using some of these resources. Please let me know about other resources you find useful. Unfortunately not every resource can be pined since some of the web sites do no have usable photographs, which is the main element of a pin. Groups can develop boards since the owner of a board can add others who also have the ability to pin to that board.

We can also talk about how to use Pinterest itself as a teaching tool. Happy pinning.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Are You Tired of Powerpoint?

PowerPoint is a necessary evil for teaching in a technology enabled classroom. And if you don't believe me, read Tufte. E. (2009). PowerPoint Is Evil. Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.(http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/ppt2.html) Ever since Adobe Persuasion was discontinued I have been forced to use Powerpoint. I have even tried using Pages on my Macintosh and iPad. 

For the last couple of years, I have been making Quicktime videos of my lecture slides and placing them in the Blackboard or Moodle shell so that students can review them. I am often asked why don't I just create handouts. I don't for several reasons. I believe that....
  • students are responsible for their own learning.
  • the ability to identify and conceptualize is important for students to develop and a tool for doing this is note taking
  • active learning involves "activity" such as writing notes, hi-lighting, typing, etc.
Students are able to stop and review slides as many times as they want. And in fact this makes for more interesting interaction in the classroom, since students are not trying to be human xerox machines, copying every word on every slide. Many no longer take notes in class and are fully engaged in listening and discussing.

But it is a long process to make the original PowerPoint slides, turn them into Quicktime videos and upload them to Moodle. Every time I make a change in a slide set used in class, I have to make a new movie, remove the old file from Moodle, and upload the new file, and then make sure that it works.

So what if some presentation software came along that was could be edited online so that you only need to place a link or embed it in a Moodle shell. Well it does exist, meet Prezi (http://prezi.com/).  If I make a change in my Prezi slides, all I have to do is save it in my Prezi account. (Which it does automatically while I am editing.) When the student clicks on the link or the embeded Prezi, they see the most recent version. No need to upload, download or redo movies. Not only that I can import my large collection of PowerPoint slides into Prezi, which also easily imports resources such as images and videos from the web. Prezi also allows collaboration through shared editing so that students could work on a presentation together. Purpose Faculty might jointly create a Prezi that could be used by all.

And best of all, it is free to students and faculty with .edu email accounts. Prezi also has an iPad app. It is easy to learn and comes with some very suitable templates. A full series of tutorials and cheat sheets can be found at http://prezi.com/learn/.

I gave my Purpose 8  Constructive Action students the opportunity to use Prezi instead of PowerPoint for their final in-class presentations and the Prezi presentations did seem more interesting and dynamic. Prezi also has the potential of allowing students to make online presentations without the difficultly of creating, uploading and downloading slide shows. All they have to do is post their link or embed their Prezi into a Moodle forum and the other members of the class can review the presentation and comment.

To learn more about Prezi...

Have You Discovered TED?

I have been using TED Talks Videos in many of my classes (http://www.ted.com/talks). Many are short and can easily be used as discussion starters and to encourage reflective thinking. The tagline for TED is "Ideas Worth Spreading".

Now they have a new resource for teachers, TED ED (http://ed.ted.com/), Lessons Worth Sharing.  They developed some pre-made lessons, using animators and the TED Talks Videos that can easily be linked or embedded into Moodle. Lessons come with a video, quick quiz, thinking questions and additional resources.

But it gets better, faculty can "flip" the lessons to individualize them for their classes. To Learn more about flipping a video got to http://ed.ted.com/about#/flipthisvideo.

This platform also allows users to take any useful educational video, not just TED's, and easily create a customized lesson around the video. Users can distribute the lessons, publicly or privately, and track their impact on the world, a class, or an individual student.

Try it out. I think we might be able to create some interesting transdisciplinary lessons that we can share and used in support of our unique PCE curriculum.