Thursday, January 6, 2011

My love affair with Glogster

I have known about this tool for quite some time now, but just recently I did an experiential learning with it and fell deeply in love! Glogster, Glogster, Glogster! Perhaps it's that I'm finicky for a creative learning outlet, but I'm sold on using this tool for learning and evaluation. This is what I did in a nutshell:
  1. developed a workshop wiki for teaching my college's Health Sciences division about the many ways to use Glogster for learning/assessment:
  2. Then I started gathering examples of Glogsters.....realizing that there was a bit of a deficit in higher education examples, I got to thinking.....
  3. I needed to create a legitimate higher ed example! Being that I have formed a book club at my college to read and discuss "DIY U" by Anya Kamenetz, I thought I would use my "reading comprehension/verification" assignment as an example. I read the introduction and Chapter 1 and then proved that I read it by creating a Glogster media-rich collage that depicted the main concepts discussed in these chapters:

The long and the short of it is.....I LEARNED SO MUCH BY DOING THIS! If I had to write up notes or even a paragraph to prove that I read and understood these chapters, I would have been bored out of my mind. So, three things were learned here:
  1. I expended more time and effort doing this and therefore learned DEEPER.
  2. I actually cared enough to expend the extra effort because the outcome was something "pretty" or as my good friend and colleague, Shelley Rodrigo, says: "it was refrigerator door worthy!"
  3. I learned MORE because I had to make my summary visual -- i.e. had to metaphorically think about images to include as well as find literal images that depicted the concepts.
Glogster is an easy tool for students to learn how to use. It's easily shareable and can be used for many types of assessments! You should try it!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

GateWay Fall 2010 Faculty Inservice

Monday, August 2, 2010

My new Animoto introduction video

So, for the past 3 semesters, I've had my online students do introductions in the discussion board using an online tool called Animoto. Students can create 30 seconds of video using still images & video, music & text and publish to the web in a very short time. I love this assignment because it immediately develops a sort of familiarity and community amongst the students. As an instructional designer and e-learning specialist, I know that community in the online classroom is paramount. My students repeatedly tell me that their favorite assignment was the Animoto introduction. They share it with their family and friends along with their classmates. What's more, when I'm responding to their emails and grading their assignments, I often times go back and look at their videos to remember who they are. It helps me to be more compassionate and a better teacher. I think that sharing my Animoto video with them lets them know that I'm approachable and human....not just a computer. Here is my Animoto video that I share with my students (I also accompany it with a brief bio/introduction):

Create your own video slideshow at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can't build an LMS on a house of cards

I just realized that often times I blog when I'm really frusterated....I need to work on that. I don't want to come off as a ranter -- there are really exciting things I learn about that I need to reflect on in my blog as well. I'll put that on my to-do list :).

So, I'm bothered today by the first phone call/email that greeted me as I walked into my office. Of course, it was another Blackboard issue. I was hired as an instructional designer, but have become the Blackboard technical liason for faculty instead. I don't want to complain, because there definitely needs to be support for the college Learning Management System....and I don't mind being that person. What I do mind is that the college LMS is built on a house of cards! It's crumbling beneath our noses. We upgrade every May in the hopes that it will fix the gajillion issues/bugs/quirks, but all it does is provide more and different issues/bugs/quirks that we then have to re-learn and support. My job has been consumed by Blackboard issues. My time and faculty time is being spent mindlessly trying to fix issues and create work-arounds instead of focusing on teaching & learning. Mind you, teaching & learning cannot happen without a solid LMS. I truly believe that. We need an online medium for dispersing knowledge, whether the course is online, hybrid or face-to-face. BUT, this online medium needs to have some basic functionality! What do you mean the Discussion Boards "don't work????" What do you mean that you spent four hours grading discussion boards and all the grades disappeared? This is problematic to say the LEAST.

I am a technology user and an innovator. I don't mind spending an inordinate amount of hours learning new technology.....with the thought that it may fail or not be adoptable. However, when I'm supporting the majority, I like a bit of predictability. I can deal with bugs and workarounds if I'm given sufficient enough support AND if those bugs don't change every time I finally get a handle on them (i.e. upgrading every year to a new version!) There has got to be a solution to the bugginess of a system that doesn't include the company telling you to upgrade. How about you FIX YOUR BROKE SYSTEM! We were told to upgrade the past two times to fix issues we were having. I would kill (not really) to be back on Bb 7.3. We didn't know how good we had it!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Workshops and training NEVER work: the disconnect between instructional design theory and practice

I know it's a bit of a negative title to the blog....but it's how I'm feeling at this very moment. As an instructional designer, I am schooled in the business of designing instruction that is aligned and designed to move participants from a start point to measurable outcomes. In theory, all of these outcomes should be met to a particular degree. When I design my courses, I find that I have the typcial frusteration of students who do really well followed by a large gap and then students who struggle and quit due to outside factors. In comparison, I see that my workshops (faculty professional development focused) follow a similar pattern, but sometimes the success rate (acheiving the projected outcomes) is even more dismal than my academic courses. Now, if I step back and take my instructional designer hat off, I'm not as dissapointed. I look at the faculty and staff that attended and see that though they didn't acheive the exact outcomes, they did move a step or two in the right direction. Often times, they acheived what they wanted out of the workshop. With professional development, isn't that what's truly important? So then I get to thinking. Why do I prepare these robust workshops with various outcomes....spend planning time....prep time....create handouts and websites...practice my content delivery...follow-up, etc.... If they truly are going to "get what they get" out of the workshop, why don't I just customize all my professional development attempts? How about picking several faculty a year to work with individually to customize their professional development endeavors. Measurable payoff for a small portion of the faculty, but less time spent on prep for a workshop in which most participants do not reach the projected outcomes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Community of Writers

Time to talk students. I've been meaning to blog about this for a while, but life kinda got in the way! Which brings me to my thoughts on/about my students. I love my students. They are amazing people. They have careers, families, bills, inconveniences, tragedies, and more. I can completely identify with them, and them with me. I tell them about myself and the fact that I'm over-extended too. I find that this helps to set the stage in an online students tend to be more open to share, peer review, admit ignorance, ask for help, ask for clarification AND they help eachother which is paramount in an online environment. All in all, we are a community of learners. I find that in English this is instrumental...writing is a very personal experience, yet to become a good writer it's essential to involve a community of learners. That perspective was validated yesterday while talking on the phone with one of my students....this student mentioned that they would wait for another particular student to post assignments so they could get an idea or an example of how to proceed. In all of their assignments they see a lot of examples, but it's amazing how much more powerful it is for them to see examples from someone they "know".

There are so many reasons why I continue to over-extend myself by teaching each semester, but the one reason confirmed semester after semester is that I love my students. They are amazing. As funny as it sounds, I feel a sense of pride sharing their work, writing, and anecdotal stories. Sure it's discouraging to start the semester with 20 and end with 10, but those 10 impact me greatly. I realize not every student is cut out for online learning and sometimes they try again in my class the next semester....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Standardized Faculty Professional Development = Monetary Savings?

I invited myself to an interesting 21st Century Maricopa Faculty Professional Development meeting on Friday morning last week. The meeting's focus was on the recommendations of the consulting firm that studied our community college district's business practices. In general their feedback was this: we need to streamline and standardize faculty professional development across the district. In doing so, we should be able to trim 207,000 dollars off our expenditures. This statement was extremely confusing to me for several reasons and I will list them below:

1. The consulting firm did not speak with any faculty professional developers from the meeting that I attended -- nor did they speak with any of the developers I know that weren't at the meeting. (do you see a major problem with that??)
2. In connection with the first concern, myself and several other colleagues (also faculty professional developers) pride ourselves in collaborating and sharing resources when delivering professional development events.
3. There is an assumption that standardizing and streamlining will save money without understanding some of the real barriers in place that make this impossible for our colleges.
4. Professional development (especially faculty professional development) is a unique area that cannot follow a cookie-cutter approach.

I will go into further detail on these concerns. My first concern is a "no-brainer". As an instructional designer, I understand the consulting model. You first need to interview ALL stakeholders in order to get a good picture of the problem and formulate an extensive needs assessment. Had they done that, they would have realized that a good majority of the Faculty Developers ARE collaborating in order to streamline FPD opportunities. Red flags raise when I hear people say "standardize," so I'm avoiding saying that we are trying to standardize any FPD opportunities. Each college and faculty member has unique needs. Standardizing an approach to FPD wouldn't be effective in meeting the needs. I also don't believe this would save us any money. Most of our FPD events are run on a shoestring budget. We have salaried employees that run events and we don't usually provide much of anything worth a monetary value. I'm confused how this consulting firm made the connection between monetary savings and streamlining and standardizing. Especially because we are already collaborating to share resources --speaker expenses and district-wide events. Is anyone else confused about what they mean in regard to streamlining and standardizing???

As for doing more streamlining and standardizing than we already's important to understand that we can't completely wipe our slates clean of the various college cultures as well as the fact that our district spans about a 50 mile radius. There truly is no way to create vanilla events that will completely wipe out the need for "college-specific" professional development needs. I would argue that we've standardized our events as much as we can. With budget cuts, we have stretched our faculty and employees thin. We must provide learning opportunities in close proximity of their offices as well as specific to their particular job and college needs -- otherwise, we become irrelevant and unnecessary.

I'm probably taking this recommendation a bit too personally, perhaps it's not meant for me and what I do (???). I take my job very seriously and the colleagues that I work with do too. We have a 24/7 work ethic, we are constantly trying to meet the needs of faculty. We are extremely creative because we know it takes this creativity to come up with new ways to meet the ever-changing needs of classroom faculty. Our brains respond to innovation and creativity - if we trade that in for standardization, where will we be? My former k-12 mind shudders thinking about standardized tests -- what exactly do those tests measure? What is their value? I don't want any of my learning opportunities to be dismissed like many of these standardized tests. Let's not make incorrect assumptions. I do NOT believe that standardizing and streamlining faculty professional development opportunities will create monetary savings. I hope that we can find ways to save this money, but I'm not sure it's going to be in the way the consulting firm suggested. What do you think?