Monthly Archives: March 2014

Google Sites to present projects or portfolios

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Using Google Sites is a fairly easy way to create a website, without really needing to know HTML or other code. It is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) format, which makes its use accessible to the average person. I was introduced to Google Sites in a graduate class I took a few years ago. Our instructor had us create a Google site page to “house” the various projects we created during the course. In the end, it provided each of us ultimately with a portfolio that displayed all of our work, given us easy access to it, as well as visually pleasing way to present to others (should we choose to share it for professional purposes).

Now, for another graduate course I am enrolled in, I have utilized this platform again to showcase my research on Twitter in a more digital format that can be accessed by many. This research project is still a work in progress, but for those who are interested in viewing it, you can check it out here. I find it easier to make Google Sites look like a website as opposed to a Word Press blog. However, I have heard you can make the blog look like a website, so perhaps, I need to investigate that more to make a fair comparison. 

 For those who would like to know more about how to begin creating their own Google Site, I would recommend reading these directions to help you get started. In addition, there are several videos out there to help you create the site. I suggest starting with this video. You can find additional videos by that same person, or similar videos created by others, on YouTube.

 

 

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Ethics in Using Technology for Research and Education

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I read an article for my Computers and Composition class this week entitled, “The Ethics of Digital Writing Research: A Rhetorical Approach” by Heidi McKee and James E. Porter. The article opens with three possible ethically debatable situations. I am including two below to give you an idea of what was discussed:

“A teacher-researcher conducts a case study of several students’ remediation of genres in
the multimedia compositions they created for class. When presenting his research at a
conference, he shows, with his students’ permission, the complete video files for
students’ digital autobiographies. In these digital autobiographies, students incorporated
photographs, videos, and sound clips of friends and family members — and, in some
cases, the family members are providing sensitive personal information about their lives.
While the researcher has the permission of the students who created the multimedia
compositions, does the researcher have any ethical responsibilities to the “third parties,”
the family members represented aurally and visually in these digital works?

A researcher studying young adults’ Web blogs notices that several blog writers have
expressed suicidal feelings. Because she does not know the names or emails for many of
the authors, she decides not to try to direct people toward resources for help as she would
had students written such disclosures in, say, a live, face-to-face forum such as her
classroom. When encountering distressing information like suicidal tendencies in texts on
the Internet, what ethical actions, if any, should a researcher pursue?” (McKee and Porter 1).

As soon as I read these situations on the opening page, I was hooked. As I read these, I thought, “I see both sides of these issues.” It awakened me to the idea that like most things in life–using technology for research and educational purposes–is not so black and white. Often, there are no easy answers as to what is acceptable. Throughout the article, they referenced these two situations again in more detail. In the latter one, the researcher did not attempt to gain the name of suicidal blogger until much later in her study, but it was too late. The researcher received an email back that informed her the blogger had committed suicide (McKee and Porter 8). When I read that, my heart sank. I am sure it devastated the researcher. This was not someone she knew personally, but still, she saw the signs and reacted too late. That is a complex situation that occurs regularly on the internet, perhaps even in every day life. What if we see troublesome posts, but we do not really know the people? Are we obligated to get involved and try to help?

The first situation mentioned above was addressed later in the article. They discussed how this researcher was working with multimedia projects that students created. These projects contained pictures and videos not only of the students themselves but also of their family and friends. The researcher had obtained the necessary signed consent of the students, but she did not have the signed consent of these third party people. Unfortunately, when she realized this in the almost-publishing stage, it was two years later (McKee and Porter 22). What should she do? That is situation I am sure that happens a lot, especially in multimedia. She decided to blur the images of the images of the third party people. Sounds like an easy decision, but how many people would have even thought about that or considered it?

These are only two situations; however, they make me aware that anytime technology is involved–whether with students in a class or “subjects” for research–much thought is needed about your personal responsibility with interactions between people and technology. It is not cut-and-dry or black-and-white. Failure to consider the many sides of potentially complex situations can leave one with regret. On the other hand, to just say, “Well, I just won’t use technology then.” is not really an option either in this digital age. That is just a stick-your-head-in-the-sand approach.

So before you begin your next research study or technology project with your class, pause for a little bit and ask yourself, “What are my ethical obligations to these people? What permission should I obtain? What should I inform them about ahead of time?” To some extent, as is true in most of life, I think the Golden Rule can help guide you–Treat others how you would wish to be treated yourself.

I wonder, “Why?”

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I wonder, “Why? Why don’t teachers, especially college teachers, use technology to enhance their teaching and instruct students in a way they process information?” It seems many teachers still instruct students the way they learned 30 or 40 years ago, which consists mostly of lecture and individual practice (aka worksheets or textbook practice). I have noticed this inability to recognize the need to change teaching styles is prevalent in college–well, at least at the college where I teach. However, I suspect that attitude is widespread among many higher education faculty. The part I struggle with is why. Do these professors not see a need for it? Or is it too much extra work (especially for those who have been teaching their courses for years)? Or is it a lack of knowledge? Do they really not know that so much of this technology exists? I have reflected on this topic from time to time throughout my teaching career. The last two years teaching at the college has led me to ponder these questions even more, as I notice the general apathy, and sometimes disdain, among faculty towards teaching with technology. Of course, they use projectors and PowerPoints, but that is almost a 20-30 year old practice itself. These last two years I have heard all three reasons speculated above as answers. Even this week, I was amazed when one of my colleagues asked while we working together if I had a flash drive to save our work. I responded with, “I save almost everything on Dropbox and my hard drive.” She countered with, “Dropbox. Never heard of that.” Having interacted with this woman many times, I sincerely believe she does not realize there is such a concept as saving things “in the cloud.” Part of me wants to believe she is the minority—the anomaly—but deep down, I know that is not the case. I will leave you with this video we viewed in my Computers and Composition class at the beginning of the semester. It’s thought-provoking.

Google Forms and Auto-graded Assessments

A few weeks I was faced with a challenge: how to create something online that would grade students work for a placement test for a new modularized course plan we are trying. I knew there had to be programs out there would that allow students to input answers and grade it for me. And there were–plenty actually. Since I love Google docs already, one idea I really liked was using a Google Form and then using a Flubaroo script to have it auto-graded. Here is a written explanation of how to do this, as well as this video demonstration I stumbled upon on YouTube.

Unfortunately, that did not quite fulfill my needs, as I needed three separate scores dependent upon the answers to certain questions; however, I saw the immense value this Google Form self-graded tool could provide to a teacher. It allows you to type explanations in the comments, so it can provide a chance for students to learn and self-remediate while taking the assessment. It allows those who have access to computers (such as a portable or regular computer lab) an easy way to assess students and provide them feedback a quick manner, as well as make the job of the teacher easier because it is graded automatically.

For those curious, I did find a workable (not perfect but doable) solution for my situation. I used the Google Form I created to take the test with the correct answers. That then become the first line of my spreadsheet. After I created color-coded conditions upon each answer column related to the correct answers. So if students answered question 1 correctly that column turned blue, if they answered question 2 correctly it turned green, and so on. I did that for all 18 questions varying the color-coding based on the type of questions. 

Wow…who knew?

I attended the Southeast TYCA (Two Year Colleges of English Association) conference here in Tampa, FL, last weekend. One of the sessions I attended was presented by one of my colleagues, Dr. Rick Gaspar. His session was entitled, “Becoming a Digital Sherpa.” If you are interested, you can view the accompanying PowerPoint for his presentation here on his blog. There were two images he showed that overwhelmed and excited me at the same time, both related to the number of social media sites that exist presently. Here is the more organized image of the two, which breaks down social media sites by their primary function:

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On one hand, I am overwhelmed. I mean who knew there were so many social media sites? I surely did not! I know the handful most people know: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Blogger, WordPress, Delicious, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr. I do feel some relief that most of the ones I know cover a vast area of the different functions and purposes. One area I realize I am deficient in is my knowledge of social media gaming sites; although, I think I know some not listed here, such as Words with Friends, Scramble, etc. As I stated though seeing this list also excites me. Why? Because I love technology, and especially social media, so knowing that there is still so much to learn makes me thrilled to know I have many more sites and apps to discover. Now, I just need to find the time. Of course, that is easier said than done.

The World of Video Making

So a couple of years ago I learned how to use Jing. I was quite fascinated with it when I first learned how to use it; however, my teaching assignment at the time did not really need me to create many videos. Having taught online before though, I recognized the immense usefulness in being able to take a screen shot of something you were working on and add labels, arrows, and the like to it. One great feature of Jing is that you can create videos of whatever is on your computer screen (or a portion of your screen) and record your voice while your screen is showing. Later you can edit aspects of the video and easily share it in multiple platforms. The free version (who doesn’t love free?) allows you to create videos up to five minutes in length and then stores them on a screencast account for you. It then gives you a web link you can share for people to view it. If want to learn more about how to use Jing, I suggest watching some of these videos

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Another video creator I discovered the past few weeks is Camtasia. This program appears to be created by the same makers of Jing, but it has many additional features Jing does not. For instance it allows you to put yourself into the video as a “talking head” in a small screen in the corner of your video, if you so desire. (I know many people do not like to do this, but if you are creating videos for an online class and you wanted them to “connect” with and see you while viewing the lesson, this option is there. Personally, I will not be utilizing that feature much myself, but it’s there.) One of the advantages to Camtasia is the editing options. They are more complex, allowing for multiple audio and video tracks of information which allows the creative users almost limitless possibilities in the quest of producing a captivating video. It also allows you to place a hyperlink into the video itself. I have not actually tried that feature myself, but it sounds quite useful. Since I was introduced to the program two weeks ago, I have dabbled with some of its features and created my first video this past week. I will be teaching my first online class at the college level this coming fall, so I anticipate producing numerous videos over the next few months. If you would like to read a more thorough review of this program, click here. Of course, there is a catch with this program, and that’s the price tag. It’s a whooping $299, but if you are fortunate, your school maybe already purchased it.

In another week’s post, I will discuss YouTube videos–both as ones you can watch and ones you can make. That’s another viable option as well, but if you want the best video possible, then I suggest Camtasia.