Friday, January 28, 2011

So far...

I have had five responses to an anonymous1 Blackboard post about the possibility of using twitter.

One response said that it was a good idea.

However, all of them responded on various shades of, "Helllllll noooo." Actual stated reasons so far vary from, "I think Blackboard works just fine," to "I don't want to check something else," to "It's blocked from my phone."

I'll keep you updated if more responses come in.

1: Anonymous, as in the thread group is marked, "Questions from your teacher," but the setting is set to keep the poster's identity anonymous. Even from me. So while I am curious to know about our "Helllllll noooo" poster, I am left in the dark.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

*stares superhard at blackboard*

I'm teaching two sections of the same course, and had my sections cross-listed on our university's version of Blackboard. That way the students could work together and collaborate on projects, comment on each other's weekly reading journals, etc.

The first reading journals were posted tonight, and so I have gone in to grade them. All my students are listed in the grade book... but when I try and grade the journals (blog-type discussions), it only seems to let me grade one section of the course. *sigh*

Tomorrow I'll be looking into this more. I can't tell if I am missing a setting in Blackboard or not, but this is a little frustrating. But still much cooler than collecting 120 pages worth of journals and hand-writing comments.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Even smaller update

Wimba Pronto is the coolest thing ever.

Chats, private messages, virtual office hours, shared whiteboards, video chat, "AppShare" (showing others your computer and the applications you are running)...Totally awesome.

I especially like this because it can help you show a student around a website, around Blackboard, around Microsoft Word, etc. Especially as a literature teacher with students who may not know how to change settings for document writers (margins, weird paragraph spacing, etc - THANK YOU SO MUCH, MICROSOFT, FOR YOUR WEIRD DEFAULTS IN WORD 2007 AND LATER), this is the best thing ever.

Short update: thoughts on Twitter and the classroom

After reading the other blogs from my technology course, I find myself thinking about twitter.com and our classrooms. Some made the argument that further conversation about the course could take place on facebook.com or twitter, while another made a case that we should be respecting our students' personal time.

More than the problem of personal time, I also worry about privacy issues, especially with facebook. Facebook means creating profiles with personal information, and students may feel uncomfortable using their personal profiles for the course, even with protected groups only available to invited persons. Without the strictest privacy settings - which facebook constantly changes, making it hard to keep your profile completely private from non-friends - our information becomes available to other facebook users, and gives them access to us through private messaging.

Twitter, however, is often used without giving up so much personal information. Usernames are often "handles," rather than real names, and users often leave their profile information sparse, using a first name and last initial, or false name. Open twitter profiles - such as a teacher may use for a course - can be looked at without constantly following, meaning that cautious students could find the course tweets without potentially linking their twitter profile to the course profile. Quick polls could be taken if the students interact often enough with the course profile.

For instance - our first few days of the university were cancelled due to snow. Saturday make-up days were created. I originally was not going to use the make-up day for the class I am teaching, but we're slightly behind in reading our first book. If I were running a twitter account for the students to follow - and if I knew they were checking often - then I could run a poll on twitter.

We do have Blackboard, but students - myself included for my courses - often will sign in only when they have assignments due. Even when we provide updates semi-daily (such as pages to read for the next class date), it's possible that they are not checking every day. Twitter could potentially open up a way to communicate with our students about last minute items, like room changes, or take polls about make-up dates or movie nights. It's not perfect, but it does seem like a potentially helpful medium.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

techno time: starting to use technology in a literature course

Last semester became a round of firsts for me. First time to move out-of-state, first semester as a doctoral student, first course to teach. Working on classics like The Aeneid and The Decameron, I thought that technology would sometimes be useful, but wasn't certain about how useful. I used Blackboard as a backup, asking my students to email me papers as well as uploading them, and gave one or two quizzes online.

This semester, however, my course schedule (for classes I was taking) seemed to be scattered. I would find a course I wanted to take, and it would conflict with another. A course I was enrolled in was dropped. Graduate seminars beckoned me, and interfered with my plans to take a fun history course. Still, I thought I could make the Spring work for me. And then I started looking for courses to fit with a teaching certificate offered by the University.

I found a promising course: Teaching with Technology in the College Classroom. I thought it was perfect. I was going from teaching one not-so-popular course to teaching two sections of a course that covered a university requirement. I was looking for easier ways to assemble my students' works, such as weekly journals on books we were reading. Not only was this course going to fulfill a requirement for the certificate, but it would also provide a good background in Blackboard and other technology resources that would make my teaching semester easier. So I signed up.

This semester will be interesting. I have had mixed feelings about courses in which I was required to use online forums for discussion, or to find resources to add to my learning in a course. But as we continue to find ourselves in a world of technology, it seems that using technology in the classroom is an important step towards the future. It gives me more chances to communicate with my students, and helps them develop practical skills they will continue to use in their future. So, although the literature may be older than the technology we use, I look forward to exploring options I can use in my courses.