Final wrap-up
Final wrap-up avatar

As I reread my posts over these few months, the most dominant theme I see is my stress (ha!). Generally, the prospect of creating an online class makes me very overwhelmed, so I need to remember to use only the tools I need (at least at the beginning) and avoid overcomplicating the class. Oddly enough, I’m also curious about new technologies and creating a completely new experience for online classes. The other point I keep coming back to is the very specific task of online discussions, as they are very important to the tone of the class, my goal of using student generated content, and being the most challenging to replicate in an online environment. Overall, this process has been very helpful, allowing me to understand my priorities, test out and struggle with some interesting technological tools, and get awesome advice from my colleagues here. Thanks so much for all your thoughts, recommendations, and kind words. See you around!

Here are the links to my posts: 1. goals, 2. tech overload, 3. questions, 4. introduction lesson, and 5. readings and discussions.

The readings and our discussion of them: Last but not least post
The readings and our discussion of them: Last but not least post avatar

There was a lot to respond to in the readings. I’ll discuss some ideas that resonated with me.

As far as the choice of book, online readings obviously. Why would you do it any other way? We can’t assume students are able to get to the bookstore (although they mostly buy their books online anyway). It would just be easiest for them to get the readings from Canvas like everything else. I also love what Megen did last week, opening the text as a google doc and having students interact with the text that way. One question I have about the readings is about Warnock’s point that we should make a solid choice about using a link or a file format like word or pdf (61). Has either proven more foolproof than the others for you all? I realize that sometimes links disappear, and I wouldn’t want that to happen when students need to access the reading. But can all computers open all file formats?

Warnock  ensures students read by giving them a quiz (64), which sounds like a good idea to me. One thing I hadn’t thought of, but seems necessary, is making the quiz timed, like for 5 minutes, to be sure they aren’t looking up the answers in the reading. Has anyone done this before? Can you time a quiz in Canvas?

One aspect of teaching online I’m interested in is informal posting in place of f2f discussion, the former allowing ALL students to participate. Even in my onsite classes with the most participation, there are students who tend to dominate, and some who never say anything at all. When I taught at Southwestern, very few students would talk during class (I would be lucky to have 2 that would answer questions), and I instituted calling on students. I never wanted to do it, but it was that or no conversation at all. It seems that all of those worries would be eliminated in an online class. Often the shyest students have the best comments to contribute, and this would allow them to get those ideas out in the open.

Warnock loves the “message board,” which I’m assuming is akin to what we’ve been calling the discussion board. He mentions a lot of the same benefits that we’ve talked about these past weeks, and gives us some ideas about how to “run” the board. I like the reminder that their posts are “short, mini-arguments to a diverse audience,” which is closer to what they will do in the real world after their education (72), a point I feel really strongly about. Most employees do not write essays for work, but they respond to each other’s emails or write a memo to their colleagues, and they do this under a deadline (in hours, not days). We should encourage this type of writing and I’m glad that the online space makes it easier to do so. In my f2f classes, students write lots of little things on the fly, but we don’t always make them public – rather, they are for them to gather their thoughts before a discussion. Online, everything is public and critiqued by their peers. A nice addition of pressure and criticism, whether anyone critiques them or not.

As far as my role as facilitator of these discussions, the way Warnock breaks up our responses seems overly confusing. I’m hoping and assuming that when I’m needed I’ll know.

I feel similarly to Warnock about chats. I haven’t used them in class, but I personally feel rushed to respond, and end up often skimming what the other person wrote in order to keep the conversation flowing or avoid having them thinking I’m not there and asking me more questions. And that’s when there are only two participants! I don’t think I could possibly be responsible for mediating a chat with 5 or so students. It all just flies by! And I’ve seen curry or Jim ALSO juggling a Zoom video conference (whew! No way).

Warnock’s discussion of his grading made sense to me, where a decent post gets 8/10, and it can go up or down from there. The other thing I thought was interesting is when he says, “If I post an opening prompt that asks a question, and seven students simply respond to it in similar fashion, by students seven I am giving 8s, even on otherwise good posts. This is one way to check that students are building on the conversation” (88). I like this for two reasons: 1. It encourages students to read the posts that came before them and add something to it, and 2. It rewards students who post first, since they don’t have to read the students who posted before, and they aren’t held to as high a standard.  

Some thoughts on Anna’s videos: Yes, students read! Even if young people aren’t reading the newspaper or a novel, they read in ways lots of older people just don’t understand and consider silly. Thinking back to when I was a kid, my mom talked on the phone all the time, and that was the only way to communicate with your friends. There was no social media, texting or emailing as a way of communication. We read and write almost exclusively in social life and at work. What we should be worried about is people’s face-to-face or telephone skills. Also, the progression Anna took us through to show us students read is almost the exact one I do with my students in class to show them that they read, but they might not be accustomed to reading the exact types of things that we assign, therefore: boom! Active Reading.

Anna’s note that she uses groups of 7-8 makes sense to me. The amount of primary posts to read is overwhelming, especially if they are as long as Warnock requires (basically mini-essays).  

One activity I do in my onsite class is to have students read a fairly long and complicated article, and when we come to class they get into groups (of say 3-4), and each group is assigned a section they will be responsible for. Their job is to summarize the section and add it to the google doc I’ve created, which is just a table dividing the sections. This activity would translate nicely online. I would worry that one student would do all the work, though, since there isn’t a ton to write for a summary, and it’s hard to collaborate asynchronously for some thing so small. Perhaps the groups could “meet” somewhere different online to work out their summary together before posting it to the whole-class, more formal space. Or maybe each group member could post one summary and they could decide which to use or meld them together to make a great one. Still thinking on this one…

Thanks for reading!

Online class introduction lesson
Online class introduction lesson avatar

Hi all!

All the readings for this past week were interesting, but the one that related most closely to my lesson was Warnock’s Principle 4 from Teaching the OWl Course. He reminds us that planning a class online requires the migration of onsite work to online environment, NOT doing everything from scratch (167). That was the process I used to create the following lesson. I had to remind myself that I did not need to not create a new lesson – the change in medium is enough.

The next quote is a governing principle of teaching my onsite class, and will be for online as well: that the best practices about writing essays and doing research comes from the students, just as it would in an onsite discussion, but better, because it’s all written down and more students contribute (169). I don’t know if all these points are true, but I sure hope so! It makes teaching online worthwhile.

And now for some context on my video: This would be for Essay 1. Let’s assume students have read the assigned texts, done preliminary writing/brainstorming on the essay prompt (in the form of homework questions), had deeper discussion questions getting into the prompt in a more detailed way, have submitted outlines of their essay plans, and now writing the essay itself. Here’s the link to my lesson on introductions.

Thanks for watching!

Chapters 4 and 5: So many questions!
Chapters 4 and 5: So many questions! avatar

This week’s readings prompted a lot of thought about the logistics of the online discussion, syllabus, and organization of an online class in general. I realize all my questions don’t need to be answered right now, but I appreciate any insights you all have!

Warnock’s Chapter 4 (and also Tony’s video) made me realize the #1 thing I should be looking for when setting up my class in a LMS are the collaborative spaces. The areas in which students can “talk” and see their classmates’ ideas are going to be key in designing an online course. These are areas of Canvas I haven’t used much at all teaching on-site (except Google docs). The discussion board section, the place that will replace the in class whiteboard will the of utmost importance in an online class. This leads me to wonder: what are those spaces in Canvas? And how many different spaces like that do you utilize to keep the class interesting and dynamic, but not so many to make it annoying or gimmicky?

Also, Warnock recommends using chat features for synchronous textual conversations (32).  I understand how chat works when you’re signed in to Google, but what about Canvas? There isn’t chat there, right? I think Zoom has the chat option, but could you or would you use it without also using video? Warnock also mentions “whiteboard” technologies (34). What would be an example of that (besides Anna’s imagined LMS). Maybe when he wrote the book the tools were going in a different direction…?

When thinking about planning a lesson or series of idea-generating elements (like Tony demonstrated in his video) the stages or steps become really important, since the instructor has to wait for everyone to get a chance to respond asynchronously. Warnock recommends to “pose simple, direct questions to students initially, and then during the week, work toward a more complex learning goal” (31-2).  I’m wondering about the logistics of this type of back-and-forth. How many due dates per week do you all give students? (I haven’t taught more than a two-day-a-week class, so I’m unsure if it’s appropriate to assign more items due in a week than that.) In an onsite class, a few steps can be worked through in one class period, since you’re all together. 

In Warnock’s blog, in his “Online peer review writing groups” entry, he discusses some of the challenges with f2f peer review (similar to the issues Anna mentioned last week), and how much better peer review is in an online class. He says the reviews are cumulative, so each new peer reviewer needs to account for and comment on the previous reviewers’ comments, whether they are agreeing with them or contradicting them, and the student writer could then check with the writing center or the instructor to feel more confident in the “right” answer. He also mentions student are more apt to trust each other’s comments when they’ve been reading their writing all semester as a way of communicating online. I can’t imagine that cumulative reviewing will solve all/any problems Anna mentioned, like peers not trusting each other’s feedback, and not having the skills or confidence to do a helpful review, but I appreciate his optimism.  Making a consultation with the instructor or writing center a final step of the peer review process seems like a good idea to me. I always encourage students to do this, but very few of them take advantage of the additional help.

In Chapter 5, about the syllabus, the one note that struck me was accessibility. For my f2f students, I answer emails as long as I’m awake, pretty much immediately because they email me so infrequently. In an online class, I am afraid I would feel the same urgency to answer and then it would feel like I was always working. I relate to Warnock’s point (somewhere in there) that student availability might be very different from mine, since I wake up early and go to bed early. Most of my student’s work comes in when I’m asleep. So do I give them hours I’m available to answer emails like 9-5? Or should it be a few hours a day? And of course if I’m working from home (which means also parenting) my actual hours I’m answering emails will vary daily and are quite unpredictable (try telling a 3 year old you can’t find her lovey because you are working). What do other instructors do about their hours of availability?

Lastly, and this is a bit of a tangent, but Warnock mentions video games as a new space for teaching. I’m not into video games, but I am into art, and the game element got me thinking about an immersive art experience my friend just visited in Santa Fe called Meow Wolf. It’s a house you can walk through and interact with, and there’s a mystery to solve of some missing children and a devilish uncle, and some magical elements like portals and afterlives. The house is full of clues to put the puzzle together, in the form of letters, newspaper articles, family photos, websites, articles about portals, etc. There’s a lot of texts to “read” along with the physical interaction. I started to wonder if there was a way to make a class like this. It would be almost like a game, with a problem to solve at the beginning, and clues provided throughout. Each unit gets you deeper into the puzzle and readings are about various aspects of the puzzle. Student essay assignments could be themed around some element they’ve figured out, or a theory they’re responding to. An online class seems to be the most natural way to go about it. The only challenge is that I’m not a writer or an artist! I also realize the topic would have to be expansive enough to keep everyone interested the whole semester, but my friend spent 8.5 hours in Meow Wolf, so it’s definitely possible. If only I could “borrow” all the materials they’ve already prepared 😉 Perhaps choosing a real-life topic, like that podcast “Serial” that built a story over the course of many weeks with research and talking to witnesses and so on. What do you guys think?! 

Thanks for reading!

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!


#Goals for my hypothetical online course
#Goals for my hypothetical online course avatar

Warnock’s recommendation in the introduction to organize the class around “your teaching style and strategies (ix) resonated with me, and made the daunting task of setting up an online course seem more approachable.  I started thinking about a few parts of my onsite classes that I like the best and I think are most helpful to students. They include:  

  1. Student-generated information on the elements of writing. Usually a few (or a lot) of students have prior knowledge about how an essay is organized, what goes into the intro, how to do an MLA in-text citation, etc. In my onsite classes I acknowledge this and have the students fill in the blanks during these discussions. For an online course, perhaps I could have a blank google doc that students can edit, filling in the info and providing suggestions to each other about some useful writing tools. We could have a day or so to fill in a bunch of information, and everyone could contribute at least one idea. Ideally it would help students gain confidence before they begin writing.
  2. “Conversations” about the readings. This is my favorite part of the onsite course, and I’m not sure exactly how it would work online. In a f2f class, the initial questions I ask to generate discussions are merely a jumping off point, and students go off on tangents, relate it to themselves, and explore unanticipated areas of the text. I’d like to keep some of that flexibility, and some possible ways to do that might be to have students come up with these discussion questions, or different groups work on different questions, or lots of students responding their peers’ posts.
  3. Feedback at all stages of writing process. In my class, we break the essay down into small chunks, and peers and I provide some type of feedback at every stage. In my onsite course we are limited by the number of times we meet each week, but online I could play with the due dates in a more effective way. I would like students to write about or submit some sort of brainstorm initially to get ideas flowing. Perhaps they could be in groups determined by the prompt they wish to answer. Then submitting and getting comments on an outline, a paragraph or two of the essay, then full rough draft.  Perhaps the course could be organized by modules, then week 1-4 or whatever within each module. Each unit’s activities will follow a similar trajectory so the expectations and workload are consistent, as curry mentioned in his video.

I’m sure I could think of more, but perhaps it’s best to start small so I’M not overwhelmed, never mind the students!

Additionally, something that struck me in this week’s reading was the reminder that an online class, as Warnock points out, “by its very nature – requires students to learn to use writing to interact with others” as well as  EVERY SINGLE OTHER TASK (xi) in order to complete the course. At the very least, students will get tons of writing practice in different venues online, whether casual or formal, with the instructor or other students.

Lastly, here is my video tour, and here’s the link to the original video I reference.

(After posting 5 times with the video embedded in my preview but not on the blog, I’ve used a hyperlink instead…I only have so much patience.)