Tag Archives: Tech I Love

Okay, All Your Students are Online. Now What?

I still chuckle when I think about every teacher I work with is now doing some form of remote or online teaching. I know it’s not a laughing matter, but I can’t help it. After spending four years as eCourses coordinator at the college, I know the reality of that statement. I’m sure everyone is doing their best. However, I can’t help but think about that select few who wanted to teach online because they thought it would be easy. Well, it’s not so easy after all, especially when you only get two weeks to do it.

It’s easy to post content (documents) online, and most LMS’s make it easy to record video and audio. But the hardest part is engaging students. How do you even know they are watching, listening or reading what you put online? I hope I’m not freaking people out, but trust me, they’re not watching, listening and reading all that stuff you just put in Canvas. They are just looking for the stuff the “counts.” I know I sound pessimistic, but I speak from experience. When I first started teaching online over 15 years ago, the first thing I noticed was that if there was no point value attached, it got ignored. That included textbook chapters, handouts, content pages in Canvas, and yes, even YouTube videos. I was shocked. They don’t like my videos? Did anyone even watch them?

I couldn’t really tell if students were engaging or not with my content, but they were missing huge gaps in knowledge that would have come from engaging with that content. I constantly found myself asking in my feedback, “Did you watch the video?” or “Did you read the handout?” It was definitely frustrating especially since I made a ton of videos. Once I got fed up with that I decided to change the design of my courses. I now have several different formats depending on the course. I made a couple of videos showing how I changed things up that you can watch below, but I’ll summarize here first.

For my ENH114 African American literature class where reading is crucial (Duh!), I changed the course so that every reading is an assignment. Yes, you read that right. Every single reading is an assignment. I call them lessons, and each lesson either has reading handouts, video or audio and then something for students to do. For example, in Lesson 1.1.1 Origins of African American Language, students watch a YouTube video and then write a summary about what they learned. Simple. I create this by using Assignments in Canvas, embed the video, write my instructions and then set the assignment to accept text and uploads for submission. The best part is I didn’t have to make the video. Thank you internet and YouTube.

Another example from the ENH114 class is a lecture I wanted students to read. Again, I made it a lesson: Lesson 1.2.1 Importance of Negro Spirituals that included a recording of me reading the lecture as well as the text of the lecture, and then asks students to answer a question about the content. I use rubrics so the students know what I’m looking for, and it makes it easier for me to grade. The idea that everything I want students to do is graded in some way can be daunting, but using rubrics makes quick work of it. I’ll demonstrate more ways that I engage students in this class in the video below.

For my freshman comp classes, I have a slightly different approach. Not everything I want for them to read and do is made into a lesson, but I do wish that would work. However, I do consistently make some of the content into lessons. You really need to have something for students to engage with on a weekly basis. If you don’t, students get in the habit of “skipping” weeks. Having assignments with weekly due dates draws them into the course. They don’t have to be much, just something that says, “Hey, remember you have this English class over here.” You can see more from these courses in the video below. You can find the YouTube Series I mention here: Crash Course Navigating Digital Information.

Lastly, I teach a hybrid (used to teach a hybrid) JRN203: Writing for Online Media course. Luckily for me, I design all my courses as online courses, so I only had to make a few adjustments in this course to transition to online. The biggest change was adding more online discussions. Oh, I know. That sounds so boring, especially since students hate online discussions. But these discussions are fun. I use FlipGrid. It’s a social learning platform that allows educators to ask a question, then the students respond in a video. Students are then able to respond to one another, creating a “web” of video discussion. They’re fun and students really like these discussions. Some are a little shy at first, but they quickly get over it. I got permission from my students to show a discussion they are working on currently in class. See below.

The reality of the situation is I didn’t create all of this in two weeks. These are things I’ve added as I’ve taught over the years. For many faculty out there now rushing to move content online, my best advice is to pick one thing you can add now to help engage students, and as the semester continues on, consider what else you might be able to add. You can’t do it all now, but just one thing might prove helpful.

Engaging Students in JRN203 with FlipGrid
ENH114 Course Using Canvas, Softchalk, and FlipGrid
ENG101 Composition Course Using Canvas,
McGraw-Hill Connect & YouTube

Remote Teaching: More Questions Answered

So I’ve gotten a few more questions from faculty about moving content online. The questions are good questions indicating that they have the right idea about adding audio and video. After posting on Instagram about using my iPad in some of my videos, Mary wanted to know if I could record live using Notability in a Google Hangout. I don’t usually do it that way, but I was curious too, so I tried it. Notability is a notetaking app on the iPad. It works like a digital whiteboard if you have an Apple pencil. I use it to show students how to correct errors in their papers. I’ll pull up a document that has sentences double spaced and use my pen to show how you can add a comma and conjunction to a run-on sentence and make it a compound sentence, for example. I usually just do these alone and record the screen using the built-in recording feature on the iPad. I can also do the same thing using Explain Everything Whiteboard, but that is not free ($25).

Anyway, this method of recording videos is perfect for the instructor who likes to write on the board while teaching. I don’t do that often, but when I do students like it. Here’s an example of How to Write a Basic Essay that I created in Explain Everything. Now back to Mary’s question. Yes, you can log into a Google Hangout Meet session on your iPad, start presenting, open the Notability app and start writing. As I tried this, I was also logged into the webinar on my desktop and could easily see what was going on on the iPad. I might have to try this in my next webinar class.

iPad and computer screen
Presenting from Explain Everything on the iPad in a Google Hangouts Meet session.

Another media question I got today was about recording audio in a Canvas quiz. Yes, you can do that. Canvas is good at giving the ability to record audio and video either from within Canvas or uploading it from your computer. Most already know you can record audio and video in assignments and pages, but even I didn’t know about adding it to quiz questions. So when you’re setting up your quiz and you add a question, just click the “record/upload media” button on the menu bar. You can record right there in Canvas or you can upload a file recorded earlier on your computer. This is a good solution for a class that is learning pronunciation or a foreign language.

The rest of the questions I got today were about the extended delay for beginning face to face and hybrid courses. I think the messaging just confused everyone who worked their butts off to be ready for next week and now we have to delay. It’s really not fair to those who are teaching 8-week courses that were to start this week. Essentially they are not only moving the content online but now they have to teach it in 5 weeks. That’s crazy. We don’t even teach 5 week online courses in the summer in our department. My advice was to just start now if you’re ready. Students will do what you tell them if you help them. I have two hybrid courses that didn’t skip a beat. We are moving on as planned. They’re showing up to webinars, submitting work, and asking good questions. We’re going to get through this and finish on time.

Remote Teaching. We Can All Learn Something New

This week many of my colleagues are frantically working to accommodate a district mandate to move to remote teaching. For many who have never taught online before, this is a daunting task. Even if they are not being asked to teach online per se, essentially a similar skill set is needed. The number one skill is being fearless. You can’t be afraid or nothing will go right and nothing will happen. You have to have a “F it” attitude and say I’m just going to try it. If it doesn’t work, oh well. At least I tried. Nine times out of 10 it will work well enough (not always perfectly).

I already teach mostly online, and my two hybrid courses are already designed to be taught completely online. So this transition is a simple process for me. But I feel for my colleagues and I’ve volunteered my expertise to help others. So far it’s been surprisingly quiet. I’ll go through a few of the questions I’ve received and my suggested solutions in my next few posts. Let’s start with this one.

I’m still learning new things during this process too. I got a question about how I teach my students to “do the stuff” online. It was a little vague, but I think I understood. The hardest part for me about teaching online is not being able to experience the course and materials the way my students might. I can’t see what they see, but I can show them the way I see it. So I make videos using the student view in Canvas and videos on my phone showing them the mobile version. I use either SnagIt or Camtasia to record my screen, and I show them how I want them to do something. Both are not free tools, but you can do the same thing with Screencast-o-matic, which is free. Snagit is $30 and Camtasia is $170, but GCC may have a few licenses available that you could use, and I hear TechSmith is making Snagit free to use through the end of June 2020 to any organization that needs it. Visit: https://discover.techsmith.com/remote-techsmith/

Clearly I take advantage of working from home by not getting all “dolled up.”

The reason I use Snagit and Camtasia over the free tools is the ease of saving and sharing. TechSmith Screencast® online hosting services allow you to share video, screen captures and multimedia content with others. They make it so simple to record and share. I made a video of how I use this service here.

Stay tuned for more questions I’ve gotten about teaching online or remotely in my next post.

A Blog Post About Nothing

I seriously can’t think of a damn thing to write about, so this is a blog post about nothing. This could be a sign of burn out or maybe I’ve lost my motivation. Motivation to write that is. I still want to live. 🙂 I’ve seemingly written about everything already over the past 20 years. That’s how long I’ve been blogging. My freshmancomp.com self-hosted blog was started in 2006 when I transferred over to GCC from SMCC, but I blogged on Blogger before that. It’s fun to go back and read what was so important to me back then in old posts. The very first post to this blog was about whiteboards in October of 2006, thirteen years ago. I wrote:

I’m teaching a developmental writing course here at GCC, and unfortunately I have no access to technology in the class itself besides my shiny white boards, overhead projector from 1950, and a vcr/dvd combo and television. This of course is no reflection on the college; it’s just a this is what’s left situation.

Ha! I remember this vividly. I was a temporary one-semester transfer, and I got stuck in a classroom in the CL building. I really didn’t know what to do with myself in that room. Luckily I was able to sneak over into HT1 often enough to salvage the semester.

As I reflect back and peruse other posts, one thing stands out about my posts. They are always about technology and teaching. In 2007 I blogged about using del.icio.us, Ning social network, Bedford Bibliographer and podcasting. Wow! Does anyone remember any of those things? Well, I guess podcasting is still around, but the rest are dead and gone. Good thing I’m not dead and gone although I do feel pretty old sometimes. Podcasting is still around, but the technology we used “back in the day” has definitely changed. Check this out.

I’ve been experimenting with flash players for my weekly podcasts in my freshman composition courses. This one from MyFlashFetish.com was pretty cool. I’ll paste the code into the course blog and see how students like it.

I wish I could say they liked it, but to be honest they probably couldn’t care less. Anyway, that website is certainly gone. I still podcast or create audio for my student, but today I use Soundcloud to host my podcasts. Anywho, I’ll end this rambling with a shoutout to two of my favorite podcasts on Soundcloud.

Shoutout to my girls in the CTLE – Two Profs in a Pod
This is my JRN203 Students’ Podcast: The Weekly Gauchos. Some are better than others.
New-season starts Friday.