Monday, March 11, 2013

A Feminist MOOC/DOCC

An unusual MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) exploring feminism and technology is being organized for the 2013 fall semester.  Unlike typical MOOCs, this one is being organized by a large collective of feminist scholars and will be offered as a credit course at 15 or more universities worldwide.  Hence, it is being denominated as a MOOC/DOCC (Distributed Online Collaborative Course). A large series of Boundary Objects that Learn (BOTL) are being developed by members of the collective, and each Professor at the participating universities will choose which BOTLs to assign her students.

The “Feminist Dialogues on Technology”  MOOC/DOCC will be a 10 week course, each week centered on a video discussion by ‘experts’ on the following topics: Archive, Body, Ethics, Difference, Discipline, Labor, Place, Race, Sexualities, Transformation.  One can enroll as a student at one of specific university sites, enroll for independent study (get your own professor to provide credit at your home university), or just be a self-directed / drop-in learner without course credit.  Info from FAQ for FemTechNet.

The collaborative, collective development of the course is being organized by FemTechNet – “a network of international scholars and artists activated by Alexandra Juhasz and Anne Balsamo to design, implement, and teach the first DOCC (Distributed Online Collaborative Course), a feminist rethinking of the MOOC. . . This project uses technology to enable interdisciplinary and international conversation while privileging situated diversity and networked agency. Building the course on a shared set of recorded dialogues with the world’s preeminent thinkers and artists who consider technology through a feminist lens, the rest of the course will be built, and customized for the network’s local classrooms and communities, by network members who submit and evaluate Boundary Objects that Learn—the course’s basic pedagogic instruments. FemTechNet invites interested scholars and artists to join this project and help build this course. “ Source: NITLE.

Related Sources

To learn More about this Feminist MOOC

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Learn by Writing Multiple Choice Questions

Peerwise, a free online app developed and widely used in Australia, encourages students to create multiple choice questions. Students must provide at least four possible answers and a justification for the answer they think is correct.  Other students then comment on the question, evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. Peerwise seems to used by many math and science instructors at university level.

David Korfhage at ED: Social Media discusses the pros and cons of Peerwise (post dated 7/29/12):

Pros: By forcing students to write their own questions, as well as explanations for the answers, Peerwise forces students to process the material more actively.  Writing questions will also help prepare students for multiple choice assessments, and with proper modeling, they can also use their question writing to work on analytical thinking (and not just recall questions).  The social aspects and competitive/gaming aspects could be fun for some students.

Cons: The focus on just multiple choice questions is fairly narrow, and could tend to encourage students to focus on convergent, rather than more open-ended questions.  In a history class, students already tend to see the learning history as a matter of memorizing facts; used improperly, Peerwise could merely encourage that way of thinking.

Bottom line:  Since I use multiple choice questions in my classes (if for no other reason than to give students practice for the multiple choice college board exams), this looks like this could be a useful tool.  I have in the past encouraged students to write their own multiple choice questions as a way of studying; the social aspects of this site could make it more enjoyable for students to do that.  Again, a structure well be necessary: Peerwise recommends a minimum question contribution requirement, to which I would add clear guidance about writing multiple choice questions.  In particular, students need to understand that questions should not be just about memorizing facts.

Piazza: Discussion Board for Classes

David Korfhage at ED: Social Media provides the following description for Piazza which might be a useful alternative to Google Groups or discussion boards on Moodle, Blackboard, D2L, etc. For an illuminating demonstration of how it actually works, see this demo page at the Piazza web site.

Piazza  describes itself as “a place where students can come together to ask, answer, and explore under the guidance of their instructor.”  In practice, it’s rather like a fancied-up discussion board.  Students can post questions for other students to answer, or post private question for the instructor’s eyes only.  In addition, the instructor can post notes (for announcements, or such like) for all students to read.  There are a few bells and whistles (for example, the instructor can “validate” a correct response to a student), but largely the purpose seems to be to encourage student interaction for purposes of mutual aid in studying and learning.

Pros: Easy to use interface.  It’s good to have a forum in which students can learn/be encouraged to ask their own questions.  Anything that gets students to take the lead in learning, rather than just relying on the teacher, is welcome to me.

Cons: If it’s really a big discussion board, why not use an existing service, such as Moodle (at my school), Edmodo, Schoology, even a Facebook group?  Does Piazza’s extra functionality really make it worthwhile to add one more site to the students’ on-line agenda?

UPDATE: The good folks at Piazza have contacted me to tell me that Piazza has integration with both Moodle and Facebook connect.  I haven’t looked into the details yet, but if so, that would at least address the concern about “one more account to remember.”  There is still the question of whether it’s worth using Piazza rather than an alternative service.  But given student dislike of Moodle, I imagine they’d prefer Piazza to Moodle, at least.

Schoology, referred to above, is a free LMS (course management system).  As an alternative to the better known Moodle, it has the advantage that can be used by just one teacher (doesn't have to be installed/purchased by a school system) and is available entirely online.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

iAnnotate for Grading on Tablets

In Grading with my iPad author says he first converts all his students’ papers (submitted digitally) to PDFs, then imports them into iAnnotate ($10 for iPad, free for Android) which has lots of tools such as text comments, lines, and stamps (for importing a graphic). Apparently you can use your fingers to “write” annotations in iAnnotate as well as using iPad’s keyboard.  Author uses a Pogo Sketch stylus to make writing on the iPad easier. In Prof. Yearwood's article "App of the Week Review: iAnnotate PDF", which provides a comprehensive description of the features, he claims you can also add a voice recorded note.

iAnnote's usefulness is not limited to grading.  It is also handy for annotating articles you wish to study or adding notes to PDF versions of PowerPoint.  iAnnotate syncs with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and Microsoft’s SkyDrive, thus making a wide range of PDFs easily available.  According to an article at PRweb, iAnnotate is used by 600,000 people worldwide and has been purchased by many universities for use by their students.

From the description of iAnnotate in the ProfHacker blog (6/4/10), the tools in iAnnotate look very similar to ones I use in the free PDF Xchange Viewer (download desktop version from Tracker Software or a portable version from Softonic).  Both apps allow the saved annotated version of the PDF to be read in Adobe Reader, etc. with all the annotations visible.  iAnnotate is only available for tablets, while PDF Xchange Viewer is limited to Windows computers. I like the text annotation tools in PDF Xchange better because comments can be placed in any white space available and are always viewable.  With iAnnotate, the text Comments are in a special box which is only visible when you click a red bubble in the text. See screenshots for both apps below.

 Some useful tutorials at YouTube for iAnnotate:
  • iAnnotate to Take Notes on iPad   Very clear about how to highlight and how to write margin notes with a stylus (helps if you enlarge document first)  
  • iPad– iAnnotate PDF – Fall 2010   This tutorial, prepared for students in a geography course, is a very detailed demo showing how to add a text comment, highlight, underline, and handwrite on slide.  
  • iAnnotateDemo 2  Very clear on how the text Commenting function works.  Also shows how to download add’l PDFs.   

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Simple Technique for Online Video Lesson

Just discovered "Picturing Information" a 4 minute video which analyzes an Infographic depicting per cent of mothers of 4-year-olds who work outside the home. After pausing to give viewers time to study the infographic and make their own analysis, author analyzes the infographic: Why does child have sad face? Why is mother pictured as a professional (vs blue collar job)?

As you can see from the video below, this is a very simple technique for creating a video to serve as an online lesson.  In many discussions of the 'flipped classroom' (where instructor records and posts a lecture for students to study before class so that classroom time can be used for actual discussion or hands-on activities), the tools involved are quite sophisticated and/or expensive.  But the technique here is easily available to anyone sitting at their home computer who has a smart phone or digital camera that records video.

One can easily adapt the technique of this video to use with widely available PowerPoint.  Just insert the infographic (or poem or short text) in a slide, record your narration, then convert to video (this function included in MS Office 2010 and later).

Monday, February 6, 2012

College faculty NOT preparing students with Web skills.

Lisa's (Online) Teaching Blog of 12/25/11 investigates a study by Pearson and Babson Research, published in April 2011, which reports that “over 90% of all faculty are using social media in courses they’re teaching or for their professional careers outside class”.  Are faculty really so involved in Web use?  By delving into the study, Lisa found Figure 15, which shows that less than 10% of faculty require their students to actually create content on the Web.  Students are not being given practice in Web skills that employers will find useful - ability to create & post video to YouTube, maintain a blog to involve customers or clients of employer, etc.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Computer Skills for Aspiring Professionals

Many have asked why a Women's Studies program should include a course teaching computer skills and Web tools.  Aren't today's students already familiar with Microsoft Office and masters of the Web?  While students are definitely adept users of Facebook, most seem to lack experience with web tools more relevant to their future employment.  Few of my students have heard of, let alone know how to use, web tools such as:
  • Blogs - used by many nonprofits, advocacy groups, and businesses
  • Social bookmarking sites like Delicious - a handy research and networking tool
  • RSS Readers or Start Pages -  to aggregate recent articles and blog entries in specified topics, very useful for keeping up-to-date with latest developments in your field
  • Social media like Facebook and Twitter -  for professional networking and the promotion of social causes
While all students regularly use Word to compose essay assignments, few know how to use Heading Styles to provide a handy navigation aid for a long report (think of preparing quarterly sales reports or annual summaries of activities at a nonprofit agency).  All have prepared PowerPoints for class, but few have a clue about avoiding "death by PowerPoint" (avoid the same boring Microsoft templates, more single images & less bulleted text).

With so few job openings and so many candidates, students who can demonstrate some of the above skills provide added value to employers and are more likely to be successful in their job search. 

The skills described above are also useful for active citizenship, whether students only desire to be well-informed voters or intend to be participants in advocacy groups, political parties or trade unions.

It is not only WS majors who would profit from acquiring these computer and web skills; they are equally relevant for gerontology students, aspiring social workers, sociology and other liberal arts majors.  Perhaps social service programs and liberal arts departments should consider combining to offer a "Computer Skills for Aspiring Professionals" course to their students.

Resources and Examples: