Technology overload? Deep breaths can do wonders for tech anxiety.
Technology overload? Deep breaths can do wonders for tech anxiety. avatar

Boy, this week was a doozy! All I could think about was how much set-up an online class requires, and hoping that when I teach my first one I’ll have plenty of time to prepare. Warnock makes it seem simple and straightforward, but when I looked at all the possibilities for cool tools out there, it was nothing like simple. How is one to master even a few of these? And how, as Conrad and Donaldson insist, is one to ensure “all participants have the necessary skill level with the communication tools” used in the course (qtd in Warnock 19)? I guess it means I’ll have to make lots of handy teaching videos like curry, which will require me to have even more mastery of the tools than my students.

In my onsite class, I don’t use a ton of technology. I have been using Canvas for a few semesters and love the ease of setting up the course, the possibilities for altering the look of the class, and the course copy option (which I used very effectively this semester for the first time). I use Speedgrader, and I like the options available for grading. It looks so much cleaner than my handwritten scribbles that students had to decipher, and I like that I can mute the comments and work on all the papers together, giving me freedom to revise my comments. When I’m done grading, I unmute so students can see them. As far as wondering if grading online is effective, I have no guarantee that students are looking at my comments. I could assign a response paper about the comments, but I have yet to do that. I figure if students aren’t doing well and are looking to improve, they will look at the comments (Ha! Fingers crossed). To simplify my online course, I plan to use Canvas’ peer editing tool so students don’t have to learn a separate technology from the one they get from me. Plus, Turnitin’s peermark link we looked at this week was insanely overwhelming and caused many of my brain’s synapses to shut down. On the plus side, it made me really appreciate curry’s video on using Canvas’ PeerReview as a much more effective way for students to learn the system. That is, until I started thinking that I would have to make my own video for my own students, and down the rabbit-hole of worry I went: how will I ever make a video like this? I know how to log in as my student self, but that’s the extent of it. How will I get a sample paper to open? How will I assign that person as my student-self’s peer? Okay, deep breaths…

In my f2f classroom I use Google docs to collaboratively add to summaries of difficult texts, quote notes and other items that students can access at home through Canvas. The Google docs info link provided in this week’s bibliography reminded me of two other features that appeal to me: presentation sign-ups and student groups’ chat option alongside the groups’ shared document. Those are two items I haven’t taken advantage of yet, and I plan to implement immediately in my onsite course! I think Google docs could also be used like a big open discussion board, where students can workshop thesis statements or add information about the readings. And there might be some visual appeal to having everyone in one document rather than everyone’s separate threads/posts in a discussion board.

For online class lessons, I’m comfortable with Powerpoint and Prezi for info-heavy material.  I appreciate curry’s notion of Prezi as “interactive, self-pacing, and non-linear,” some traits I think can be effective for our wide range of learners. I haven’t used Prezi much myself, but I like the way the presentations look, apart from making me feel nauseous. I plan to use Screencast-o-matic for mini-lessons showing students how to use an area of our course (like curry has done), or as an addition to a Powerpoint or Prezi. Voice thread was new to me, and seemed cool. I could see starting a discussion of a text this way. I’m just wondering if some of these technologies are tech just to be tech, and not useful enough to warrant using them in a class. I really have to ask myself: does this tool warrant the learning curve? Does it do its job better than anything else? Is it overly complicated? Will we use it often? If any of those answers are “no,” I should probably pass.

I found it interesting/strange that Warnock relied on email for so many of the tasks in his online course. The last thing I want is to have hundreds of emails in my inbox to sort through, and which could very easily get lost in the fray. I’m assuming his heavy reliance on email stems from the book being almost 10 years old. Get revising, Warnock!

Given all the above, Warnock’s “Guideline 9: Don’t be any more complicated technologically than you have to be” (19) is becoming my new motto with the overwhelming amount of information and options this week. If/when I teach online, I’d like to find a few tools to use, mix them up, and use them throughout. I don’t want to overwhelm myself (or my students) with too many programs that all have a learning curve and bugs to work out. My experience with tech is that something always goes wrong with every technology at the beginning. When I first started this online certification, I couldn’t post on wordpress, then saving my screencast to youtube didn’t work, then I couldn’t embed my screencast in wordpress, and so on… Just posting and linking my first blog/video took close to an hour! The more outside websites students have to log in to and get to know is host to at least one student having a problem every time, and I don’t want time taken up with problem solving when I’d rather be teaching.

Whew! Thanks for reading!