Archive for the ‘Tools and Resources’ category

BCC Faculty Showcase 4-28

April 11th, 2011

The Third Annual Bronx Community College faculty technology showcase will be held on Thursday, April 28, from 9:30am to 2pm. Please join us for all or part of the day if you can. BCC faculty will be demonstrating instructional applications in geospatial and automotive technologies, multimedia integration, and ePortfolios. And that ain’t all…

You can register for the event here, and you can view or download the event flyer here. Refreshments will be served and a good time will be had. For information, directions, or any other questions, contact Albert Robinson at 718-289-5100, x3063, or albert.robinson@bcc.cuny.edu.

Weekly #EdTech Roundup (3/10/11): Efficient Academics Edition

March 10th, 2011

So much to write?photo ¬© 2009 Justin See (coming back) | more info (via: Wylio)Was there some official decree to make this week about efficiency? Many of my usual blog-reads were offering up tips on time management. Maybe it’s the spring-thaw meets almost-middle-of-the-semester-freak-out meets just-far-enough-from-january-to-still-try-your-resolution-before-giving-up? Either way, here’s what folks were saying:

First up, Google has launched a new labs feature called “Smart Labels” that filters bulk and notification emails out of your inbox and into another labeled box that sits under the “sent” and “draft” labels. You have to go to labs to activate it. I’m going to give it a try. I have a fairly elaborate labeling system in place, but it seems like merchants/politicians keep devising new ways to get past those. And, apparently, this new feature will play nice with your existing labeling system, allowing for modifactions and revisions.

ProfHacker documents both the Pomodoro technique and Pareto’s principle both of which, interesting, seem to be time management techniques that originated in Italy. These techniques deal with both effective time management and increasing productivity. The Pomodoro technique basically trains you to work in 25 minute segments with 5 minute breaks in between. Pareto’s principle is basically an economics rule — that 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your clients. Applied to academia it can serve as a reminder that, as the ProfHacker columnist points out, 80% of your tenure success may come from your publications and therefore you should spend 20% of your time writing. Not a hard and fast rule, but an interesting guide. I used an approach similar to the Pomodoro technique to get through my dissertation revisions, only it was 10 minutes on and 2 minute breaks. It worked…when I stuck with it. ūüôā

While these things may help you make better use of your time, there’s also something to be said for bucking the system, right? Another ProfHacker post discusses the importance of not sticking to the syllabus when current events could serve as important teaching moments. But let’s say you really want to throw productivity and efficiency out the window. Well, there’s good news for you then, Angry Birds is coming to Facebook.

In other news: my favorite citation manager Mendeley is trying to get developers interested with a $10,001 prize and Mashable offers 5 Free Tools for Screencasting.

Weekly #EdTech Roundup: It’s all about the collaboration

March 1st, 2011

In this week’s roundup I focus on the idea of collaboration, since there seemed to be a number of intriguing posts on the Edublogs…

Mashable brings us a really excellent and thorough post about¬†Facebook’s Growing Role in Social Journalism. The article considers how major news sources, such as NPR, have begun using to solicit sources for timely stories and the role the network has played in the recent events in Egypt and Libya.Stop, Collaborate and Listenphoto ¬© 2008 Mark | more info (via: Wylio)

Wired Campus reports on an novel idea — the¬†Embedded Librarian. A reference librarian worked directly with a college class during their meeting hours to interact via Twitter. She was able to follow the class discussion, answer questions, and respond with useful links. Though the collaboration was ultimately very time-intensive it serves as a great example of how we can make better use of librarians and bring them in at the very beginning of students’ research processes, rather than half-way through. This could be especially important since a recent study shows that “87% of students believe online libraries and databases have had the most significant impact on their overall learning.

Two interesting posts bring up one common question: how much structure is too much structure? TeachPaperless blogger John T. Spencer considers this while watching his son color in a coloring book vs. drawing his own monsters. Using this experience he reflects on the use of graphic organizers and technology in his class and the extent to which they urge deeper thinking. Similarly, though at a larger scale, Jim Shimabukuro laments the restrictiveness of LMSs (Learning Management Systems) in terms of stifling instructor and student creativity and documents his history of blending LMS with other open-web resources.

And in other news, NspireD2 announces there’s now a¬†Free Wikispaces upgrade for higher ed¬†and Skype launches a beta version of it’s¬†Skype in the Classroom, designed to allow classes from around the world to find other classes that would like to engage with them via Skype.

Weekly EdTech Roundup, 2/23/2011

February 22nd, 2011

Pen en papier / Pen and paperphoto ¬© 2009 Nationaal Archief | more info (via: Wylio)A useful post at ProfHacker outlines an interesting way to¬†“Avoid ‘Grading Jail’ through Course Writing Contracts”¬†in which students create their own due-dates and these serve as binding contracts. The papers trickle in throughout the semester and you’re faced with a little bit of reviewing/grading per day than a whole stack a few times per semester. I experimented with a similar approach by having a large class divided into groups that had rotating due dates. I also remember my Human Sexuality professor providing a list of response paper topics and their due-dates and we were instructed to complete any three of our choosing by the end of the semester. I suspect this worked particularly well because the topics were often personal and controversial and so interest is what drove our decision to choose an earlier paper rather than procrastination.

Will Richardson, author of¬†“Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms”¬†has a post outlining the difference between¬†“online coursework” and “online learning”¬†and his skepticism at the increased lauding of online courses as the silver-bullet of education reform.

Finally, as a follow up to last week’s post about Twitter and Classroom engagement, I appreciated this post at TeachPaperless on How Social Media Changed My Novel. The author cites Twitter and blogging as two major influences in the writing of his recent novel. Twitter helped him tune in to writing more succinctly and blogging helped him find his voice (and also provided a useful forum for feedback on drafts). The benefits and drawbacks that he discusses are readily applicable to your own writing and particularly to how students conceptualize and write-up their ideas in your classes.

Other notable bits:

Weekly Roundup (2/14): Academics and the Interwebs, sittin’ in a tree…

February 14th, 2011

After perusing my Google-reader this week I noticed there were a handful of posts addressing academia and technology or, more specifically, having an academic identity online. The following links in this roundup follow that theme and range from simple how-tos to more philosophical questions about taking your scholarly presence online. And, in the spirit of the day, they document the ups and downs, loves and hates, of engaging online.

154 Blue Chrome Rain Social Media Iconsphoto © 2009 webtreats | more info (via: Wylio)

Defining your web presence: ProfHacker has a useful post about¬†Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics. As someone who is currently on the market I’ve been receiving a lot of those little notifications from Academia.edu that someone Googled me and landed on my Academia profile. Do you have one set up? Are there other ways that you have built an academic web-presence? This post also suggests LinkedIn, discusses the benefits of Tweeting (or not), and highlights the usefulness of RSS feeds. It also dovetails nicely with NspireD2’s¬†Three Easy Ways to Make Academic Websites¬†post including a range of out-of-the-box options to more customizable platforms (such as WordPress, which I wholly endorse).

I appreciated this (yet another) ProfHacker post on¬†Encouraging a Conference Backchannel on Twitter. After attending a few DH and IT heavy conferences over the past year (Digital University @ CUNY and both CUNY-IT days) I found the Twitter participation intriguing and, ultimately, helpful. At first I was put off by how many people seemed to be engaged with their devices during a presentation, but I also realized that they were often going deeper with a line of thought and at some points were even having Twitter exchanges with the panelists! But the real value became more apparent to me after I attended a conference this past month in Arizona. There was no social-networking component and, low and behold, I didn’t meet anyone. I stayed with my usual circle of colleagues (all folks I enjoy, of course) but didn’t really make connections with others sharing my research interests. This stood out in sharp contrast with the conferences that had a hashtag and a group of even 5-10 active Twitterers — I made some solid connections that have presented a number of opportunities to build relationships. If anything, Tweeting a conference helps shy types like me get a foothold in that ever important conference-networking door.

A guest blogger,¬†Katrina Gulliver, on¬†TenuredRadical¬†debates the merits of identifying your blogging vs. operating under a pseudonym. The post raises important questions about performances of online identity(ies) and the ever-diminishing online privacy (i.e. ability to actually operate anonymously). Her post provides examples of scholars who have helped shape their fields through their online presence and considers how social networking has changed during her career and the specific value of social media for history. Dr. Gulliver also makes use of the about.me platform mentioned in the NSpireD2 link above to create a visually appealing “meta” page that compiles all of her online activities¬†into one page.

Finally, when you’re putting your words in the public forum, whether online or in print, there’s a great post over on Cac.ophony that considers¬†what happens when you lose control of your words, as seen recently with the hullabaloo around Frances Fox Piven.

What would you like to know about engaging with your students online? Don’t forget to take our poll (to the right!)

Weekly Roundup: 12/6

December 6th, 2010

What a busy week! Today’s flurries of snow follow a flurry of interesting activity on the educational technology front. Read on to see what caught my eye.

Free Technology for Teachers, which is an unbelievable wealth of constant ed tech information, has a post about free ebooks for teachers and parents. Two that you might find useful are 20 Webtools Applied to Teaching, which provides summaries and sample ideas for webtools such as Voicethread (which we love here at BCC). Microsoft has a free pdf guide for Developing Critical Thinking Through Web Research Skills. Of course it is Bing-centric but it is filled with resources for you to use to help your students evaluate information online.

It’s also time for ProfHacker’s monthly Teaching Carnival. These carnivals are basically a roundup of the top news of the month on “teaching in college and university classrooms.” There’s a ton of content in this one so I recommend sending the ones that intrigue you the most to Instapaper or bookmarking the page for those Sunday mornings when your neighbor swipes your Times, you know, if you still get paper delivery.

Oh, reflexivity. In every syllabus I make sure to include the requisite “Your paper must be in APA style, 12 point Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1 inch margins and page numbers in the header” blurb. But why is it requisite? A post by Evan Snider at ProfHacker sort of blew my mind a little when he argues “such draconian formatting requirements stifle students’ creativity and cut off any critical thinking about what should be a crucial part of any writing-intensive classroom, namely visual design.” I’m all about visual research methods when I’m wearing my researcher hat, so why have I kept the visual out assignments? Snider engages the skeptics and followers with a lengthy discussion about the how and why of document design and how to encourage your students to break the mold. There’s quite a healthy follow-up discussion in the comments as well.

And, finally, there’s an interesting article from Edudemic documenting How the Harvard Law Library is Embracing the 21st Century. They chronicle the changes the library is making to move into the digital era and how these changes in information management have influenced other areas of the university. The guiding principle behind the library’s organization is “to define it before it is decided for us” which is a sentiment that I think is often echoed throughout our own engagement with technology and our own institutions.

Honorable Mentions

CUNY IT Conference Day 1

December 4th, 2010

Friday marked my first time attending the CUNY IT conference, and it was definitely interesting. Having only attended academic or grad student conferences I was surprised by the size, the suits, and all the vendors. The sessions were filled with lots of useful information and even the occasional heckler (who knew?!). Below are notes from just the sessions I attended, hopefully others will post about other sessions since there were so many at the same time that looked great. Below is my summary of day 1, looking forward to day 2 at The Grad Center.

ePortfolios Across CUNY: Aggregating and Integrating Information

Barbara Walters, Joe Ugoretz, Sarah Morgano and our own Howard Wach presented an opening session on the experiences of ePortfolio use and development on their campuses. Barbara outlined a set of “Universal Concerns” that any school/program/instructor interested in implementing EPortfolios would have to consider. Joe and Howard gave a history of ePortfolio development at Macaulay Honors College and Bronx Community College, respectively. And Howard brought up the interesting point that ePortfolios are much more of a pedagogical concept than just a technology.

All of the presenters have worked hard on a public Commons wiki page for ePortfolios. As with all wikis, they depend on collective upkeep, so if you have resources to add as you’re browsing their thorough collection of links I’m sure they and others would appreciate it!

The big questions that came out of this session: Is there any one-size-fits-all model of ePortfolio that will work across the CUNY campuses? (I know, rhetorical, but still useful) What does the “E” add to the concept of a portfolio? How do you prepare faculty for using ePortfolios? And, of course, the always-present-even-if-not-spoken-aloud question of assessment: how can we use ePortfolios to assess both individual learning and programmatic development?

Resources: Commons ePortfolio wiki page, AAEEBL, Bronx’s ePortfolio resource page

Blogs, ePortfolio and Assessment in the Majors: Pedagogies and Rubrics in Three Programs

Michael Cripps, Xin Bai and Michael Smith gave a great presentation on their experiences with blogs and ePortfolios. My notes are a little lacking because I entered late (tremendously long lunch line) and had no outlet for my limping laptop (note to self: charge laptop fully before tech conferences, doh!).

I came in just in time to see Michael Cripps showing how his students have used blogs differently, including a really creative use of a fiction blog, in which a student blogs from the perspective of a young woman who has survived a zombiepocalypse and found a computer on which to chronicle her experience. What a great way to see how students can take a technology in a direction you might never have thought. Cripps also showed blogs that were for a specific project juxtaposed with the same student’s more general ePortfolio. I found this to be a great example of how blogs can provide a more “messy” (in a good way) writing workspace for the nuts and bolts development and discussion and the final products can be shared in a portfolio, which is even then still developing over the course of the students’ education. It’s like viewing a digital spiral or concentric circles of writing, learning, development and identity.

Xin Bai presented on using ePortfolios as a way for teaching education students to meet NCATE requirements. This is definitely a great use of ePortfolios that I’ve seen before. ePortfolios seem particularly useful for applied fields where students need to graduate with a display of core competencies. At BCC we’ve seen a lot of success with this in our Media Technology program. It also made me wish I was preparing an ePortfolio for my job market package instead of the generically presented b/w teaching and research statements. Surely a search committee would find an ePortfolio more interesting and I know it would reflect more of “me” than my little blue folders and linen paper.

The issue of students needing a visible display of their talents/competencies was a point also raised by Michael Smith in his presentation of the great student work happening at York. But one of the most poignant moments came when Smith reminded us that Blackboard gives students practically zero control over their own work at the end of the semester (unless they happen to export it all). As instructors we know that learning is developmental and cumulative, so why would we use a software that requires all evidence of the work that took place, especially the collaborative and process-based work to be closed after the finals are in? Of course there are distinct advantages of both platforms, but this is an important question to consider.

Finally, out of the comments and discussion came reference to the great work being done at Baruch when Luke Waltzer mentioned Tom Harbison’s very impressive collaborative Modern American History course blog.

Facts (and Myths) about Student Perceptions and Use of Technology

In a completely packed house (many of us sat on the floor), Queens college faculty members Michelle Fraboni, Eva Fernandez and Nancy Foasberg presented findings from a student technology survey. They opened by juxtaposing student sentiments toward technology use in the classroom with their self-reports of their own technology savviness in sometimes contradictory ways. For instance, some students who are tech savvy report not wanting much technology use in their classrooms. Others, who may be more skeptical about technology report wanting more online course offerings. The presentation was helpful in that it reminded us that students we perceive as digital “natives” or digital “immigrants” may have very different ideas of what they want out of the classroom and their learning experiences.

For me this brought up two questions. First, the obvious, how should this finding shape the choices we make in the classroom about the technology we use? Second, I think many of us assume that it is important to use technology in the classroom to improve our students’ “information technology literacy” — but if students are seeing their school and personal “tech” lives as distinct, should we reexamine our expectations on how the tech in the classroom makes its way into their daily tech lives?

Finally, part-way through I found myself wishing the presenters would compare the QC sample with the recent ECAR report, since I was thinking that QC students are of course quite different than other samples. They didn’t disappoint! They presented percentage comparisons between the two samples and the QC and ECAR samples were actually quite similar. Though questions were raised about recruitment methods and sample size, it was still interesting to see yet another common assumption brought up for questioning in light of contradictory data. I guess we don’t always know what we think we know about students and technology.

(The full presentation of slides are available here.)

Peer Mentoring: A Catalyst for Faculty Innovation

Rounding out a day of helpful sessions, TE(A)CH’s own Moronke Oshinmartin, Charles Alston, Albert Robinson, Laura Broughton, Giulia Guarnieri and Stephen Powers gave a great presentation about peer mentoring. What really stood out to me in their presentation was how mentoring can grow organically when the stage is set with a blended model that breaks down any sort of hierarchy and instead focuses on knowledge and enthusiasm. They documented how faculty members go through training and then become peer mentors themselves but they also showcased their innovative Instructional Technology Tutors (ITT) program that trains students to be technology assistants for faculty members and their student peers. Their model exemplifies the kind of collaborative development where all parties benefit from the process. But, of course, I might be a little biased. ūüôā

Some great resources came out of their presentation including: Voicethread, Scribblar, Audacity, CamStudio, Windows Movie Maker. I couldn’t write them all down because I was busy snapping photos, so if I left some out please add them in the comments.

All in all it was a long but very useful day. It was also interesting to see the different worlds of CUNY IT converge in one space. As someone who tends to work on focused projects with a few faculty members I didn’t quite have an appreciation for the scale of technology at the institutional level, the administrative and security concerns, and the number of other folks who are considering the same questions from different perspectives. That was certainly helpful to see. My only disappointment was in not walking away with one of the many (and, frankly, pretty decent) raffle prizes. *sigh*

Weekly Roundup: 11/29

November 29th, 2010

Do edtech bloggers rest over a holiday weekend? I think not! Lots of good ideas were percolating this week in between lots of eating and decorating. Here’s your roundup:

  • The promise and hope of distance education for renewing higher ed opportunities in Haiti is the subject of this Mashable! post. The table showing the losses to the higher education system in Haiti (from human casualties to building destruction) is tremendous. University of the people is constructing online work centers to help students gain access to distance learning programs to help continue their education while the universities are rebuilding.
  • In summarazing the need for a purposeful education technology plan, one of the key suggestions is to make use of “the disciplines.” In my previous work at LaGCC I found the discipline approach particularly helpful in encouraging faculty to identify writing projects/techniques specific to their students’ needs, what’s to say we can’t capitalize on it for encouraging technology use as well?
  • Honorable Mentions: Enter the Group for group collaboration; 18 Tasks You Can Crowdsource, from website design to transcription; and, as I wearily rub my eyes and reach for the eye drops I’m reminded of 5 Important Tips for Better Eye Health in a Digital World.
  • Irrelevant-but-too-humorous-not-to-post-bonus: Sesame Street’s savviness with social media never ceases to astound me. Their latest campaign? Cookie Monster to host SNL.

Weekly Roundup: 11/22

November 23rd, 2010

1. Blogging success: Organic integration. Erica, a blogger at Cac.ophony, finds that blogging has been embraced by students in her course. They eagerly share other bits of media and relate classic works to current events. The blogs have produced some of the best writing in her course, but she wonders, how can excellent blog posts make the jump to well-written course papers? Chris Clark at NspireD2 was also a blog skeptic, at first, but outlines 8 strategies for using blogs in a course that have turned him from skeptic to convert. Already using blogs in your class? Check out this post on developing blog grading rubrics.

2. Presentation success: Beginning with a story. NML Blogger Shawndel offers her tips for developing “organic” presentations through digital storytelling and Prezi (full disclosure: I’m a recent Prezi convert myself). Though he takes a completely different approach, discussing the use of Powerpoint for presenting forensic evidence, Slaw blogger Nils begins with a similar point, the best presentations start with knowing the story you want to tell.

3. Technology in Education. If you’re reading this post you probably don’t need convincing about the power of technology for education. But if you want to see some very cool examples, check out Mashable’s post on 8 ways technology is improving education. Although, some students in Ohio may beg to differ, now that “snow days” have become “e-days.”

Honorable Mentions:

(Blog wordle via Flickr from KristinaB)

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