Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hangout on Air: Building Community in Your Classes

Join me on Monday, May 11th at 4pm PT/7pm ET for this Hangout on Air!

Join in on the back channel with #AISMOOC.

The purpose of this Hangout on Air is to learn how to cultivate, grow and leverage vibrant communities in a virtual or blended class and share instructional strategies that will maximize the potential of the community to boost learning in your virtual classes.

Chris Long will be facilitating this HoA, which is in support of the Virtual Classroom MOOC he is currently teaching for UCI Extension’s Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom offered through Coursera. Everyone is invited to view and ask questions!

  • Chris Long, AIS MOOC Instructor and Technology Coordinator for Huntington Beach Union High School District
  • Michelle Pacansky-Brock, Teaching and Learning Innovation Specialist at CSU Channel Islands, Associate Faculty at Mt. San Jacinto College
  • David Theriault, High School English Literature Teacher
  • Matt Payne, online student

How to view:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ELI Course: How to Humanize Your Online Course

I've written previously about the institutional focus at CSU Channel Islands, my place of employment, to foster a culture of "humanized" online learning.  In April, Jill Leafstedt, Kristi O'Neil-Gonzalez and I facilitated a workshop at ET4Online titled "How to Humanize Your Online Course" and next week, I will be starting a 4-week online course for the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) on the same topic.  This course does require registration through ELI. A discounted rate is available to ELI members.

The ELI course will incorporate asynchronous activities, including participating in a VoiceThread conversation; participating in Twitter polls; sharing reflections/resources/questions via Twitter (#HumanizeELI); creating a high-energy course bumper video in Animoto; creating a course banner in Canva; and curating these visually-oriented content creations into a Tackk that will be posted to our course Tackkboard!  The course is intended to pull higher education faculty, instructional designers/technologists, administrators (and other roles I'm missing) into an immersive learning environment that is designed around the principles of humanizing an online class.

An ELI digital badge will be earned by those who are willing to step out of their comfort zones and into the exciting landscape of content creation!

The asynchronous activities are anchored by the following four live sessions:

  • "The Foundations of Humanizing"  
    • I am the presenter for this one. Tues, 5/12; 10am-11:30am PT/1pm-2:30pm ET
  • "VoiceThread for Universal Design: Supporting the needs of diverse learners" 
  • "Reaching out, being there: What we know and don't know about social presence"
    • Guest presenters: Patrick Lowenthal, Boise State University and Joanna Dunlap, University of Colorado, Denver
    • Thurs, 5/28; 10am-11:30am PT/ 1pm-2:30pm ET
  • "Humanizing share session!"
    • In this session, I will invite volunteers from our course to share their Humanizing Showcases and reflect on their experiences and key takeaways.
I look forward to learning with those of you who participate. Everyone is invited to follow our hashtag on Twitter and learn with us! #HumanizeELI

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

#ET4Online Reflections: The Shifting Nature of Conferences in the Connected Age

Last week, I attended the 8th Annual OLC/MERLOT International Symposium of Emerging Technologies for Online Learning (#ET4Online) in Dallas, TX with over 600 other educators in person and roughly another 500 (going from memory on this figure) who attended virtually.  Over the past several days, I've been reading Tweets and blog reflections shared by attendees.  This conference will re-emerge in April 2016 with a new title, OLC Innovate: Innovations in Blended and Online Learning (to be held in New Orleans in April 2016). The transformation of the conference is significant, as there are many elements shifting in the conferencing landscape.

I had a moment during Mimi Ito's keynote that made me pause. Dr. Ito asked each member of the audience to hold up a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate their perception of the impact technology has on young people today.  I was stunned to see how many thumbs down I observed -- in an audience of online educators. Changing this attitude is important. If we, as educators, do not value the potential of the connected age, how can we design and facilitate learning experiences that empower students to harness the opportunities presented to us?

#ET4Online showed that use of Twitter in higher ed edtech circles has matured (and the conversation continues, as you can see in the search widget below) and, as such, is deeply reshaping what it means to "attend" a conference. Rebecca Hogue (on-site in Dallas) and Maha Bali (attending virtually, based in Egypt) piloted an ET4Buddies concept. Using mobile video technologies, Rebecca pulled Maha into face-to-face conversations and events at the conference. Maha also participated as a panelist on the Women in EdTech: a Conversation and Messy Learning panels.  

On the Women in EdTech Panel, Maha noted her deep appreciation for Michael Berman (whom I have the pleasure of working with), an individual who supported Maha's efforts to get to Dallas in person this past year. After the conference, Jill Leafstedt (another colleague of mine) noted that she was impacted upon hearing Maha, in Egypt, speak of Michael's supportive efforts. Jill wrote on her blog, "working closely with Michael I already know he is a great mentor, but to hear this coming from someone halfway around the world was truly remarkable. I don't know if Michael and Maha have spent much time together face-to-face, but it was clear, Maha knew the same Michael that I knew and that this connection was having a deep and lasting impact on her career." What's fascinating is that Maha and Michael, to this day, have never met face-to-face. 

In Dallas, I sought out meeting Adam Croom after Laura Gibbs, over Twitter, strongly encouraged me to connect with him at the conference.  I did so and found myself excited and speaking about the ideas that Laura and I regularly share. Interestingly, I've never "met" Laura either. Yet, she has played a formative role in how I think about teaching online.  I also connected in person for the first time with Sam Eneman and Dave Goodrich, after years of online interactions.

Several people have noted how more meaningful the conversations were at ET4Online this year and in comparison to other edtech conferences. Patrice Torcivia said it best, "There were less power points and more crayongs; less talking at us and more listening; less structure and more messiness; less learning objectives and more learning subjectives."  I believe this is deeply interconnected with changes in the nature of relationships.  And, as such, I question what the phrase "attending a conference" means today.

Mimi Ito and Bonnie Stewart, two of the great general session speakers at the conference (Gardner Campbell is the third) mentioned "knowledge abundance" in their talks. As we continue to convene once a year in this context of knowledge abundance, we must be rethinking what "a conference" should be like -- structurally and procedurally. Mimi also has audience members use their smarphones to Tweet out findings from small group conversations and Bonnie showcased her powerful findings from her dissertation study, which examined how participation on Twitter shapes the identities of educators. 

How we define value is shifting in the social era.  Community and openness are valued more and the relevance of sitting and collecting/absorbing information from an expert is diminished.  Hopefully, these insights help us to identify with the preferences of our learners. 

One outcome of this connected age is a new sort of preciousness or aura of face-to-face experiences. We still long to be there together, but for different reasons. So, a good question to consider is, "Why do we attend conferences today?" Virtual relationships are flourishing. Faculty, IDs, instructional technologists, CIOs, and more are learning from each other beyond the edges of our institutions and the close of a conference.   When we are together in person, there seems to be a desire to spend time relating to each other as humans and less time passively receiving information. Patrice Torcivia reflected on her experiences at ET4Online (specifically in reference to the Women in EdTech Panel), "The conversation was raw, emotional, and transparent. ... We need as many conversations like this as it takes." I agree, Patrice. And, as such, I've heard many requests for shorter "sessions" and longer "open time" between these formal sessions to allow ample time for spontaneous conversations/learning/connections to occur.

What do you want OLC Innovate 2016 to look like? Let us know here (shout out to this year's amazing OLC Program Chair, Laura Pasquini, for developing this form!).

Monday, April 20, 2015

#ET4Online This Week in Dallas - what's on tap?

Tomorrow, I'll be flying to Dallas to attend #ET4Online, the OLC/MERLOT 8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium 2015. I have attended every one of the previous seven ET4Online events, but this year is special for me as I have the honor of being the Conference Chair.

The past year of planning has brought me closer to many amazing leaders in the online learning space, including Jason Rhode, Assistant Conference Chair; Laura Pasquini, OLC Program Chair; and Jane Moore, MERLOT Program Chair. This dynamic group brought endless energy, ideas, and creative problem solving skills to our planning. The conference steering committee was also incredible to work with. Far too many rock stars there to list!

While there is no way for me to capture all the great things happening at ET4Onine in Dallas this Wednesday through Friday, here some of the sessions I'm especially looking forward to. If you attend any of these sessions, look for me and say hello! :)

Wed, 4/22
*Sessions noted with an asterisk will be streamed live for our virtual attendees.

  1. 8:30am-10:00am: How and Why to Humanize Your Online Class.*  #ET4Humanize. I will be co-facilitating this workshop with my great colleagues, Jill Leafstedt and Kristi O'Neil-Gonzalez. In-person attendees (up to 50) will receive a copy of our infographic (shared in this blog post) and I'll be raffling off two copies of my book for those who are there in person (sorry, virtual attendees).  
  2. 10:30am-12:00pm: VoiceThread 101*.  If you are reading this blog, you know I'm a fan of VoiceThread. This workshop by Jaimie Hoffman (a colleague of mine) and Patrick Krispen will be a must-attend for anyone interested in becoming a VoiceThreader! Oh! And they'll be giving away a PRO account or two. VoiceThread is also a National Sponsor of the conference this year and will be on site in the exhibition room! Stop by and say hello!
  3. 1:00pm: Leading from Where You Are: How to Develop Great Ideas and Get Senior Administration to Support Them*.  Michael Berman (who I work with), Crista Copp, Kyle Johnson, and Jennifer Sparrow will lead this session. What can I say? They're all incredible, so how could I miss it?
  4. 2:00pm: EdTech as a Practioner/Leader - Career Forum Roundtable.  I'll be one of the featured panelists and will be joined by Michael Berman and Sorel Reisman.  Catherine Honig and Barbra Sperling will be facilitating this event. I look forward to sharing some of the things I've learned in my career as I shifted from an art history professor to a consultant and then into my recent role at CSU Channel Islands as a Teaching & Learning Innovation Specialist. 
  5. 4:00pm: Connected Learning, keynote by Mimi Ito.* To me, there is nothing more important than examining how social technologies are changing the way people learn. We are so very fortunate to have Dr. Ito present this year's keynote. I've been excited about this since last summer!

Thurs, 4/23
  • 8:15am: Beyond Alt-Metrics: Identities and Influence Online.* Plenary session by Bonnie Stewart. Issues of identity are always of interest to me. It will be especially intriguing to hear findings from Bonnie's research on this topic, as they relate to online experiences.  
  • 9:40am - Teacher Tank.* #ET4TTank. NEW this year! Join five of the startups in this year's Launch Pad as they each share 5-minute presentations designed to dazzle our superstar edtech sharks: Tanya Joosten, Bonnie Stewart, and George Siemens. Thanks to Donna Murdoch for coordinating this session! Also, the winner of the Teacher Tank will lead a hands-on session in the Technology Test Kitchen at 4:30pm on Thursday!
  • 3:30 - EdTech Women: A Conversation.* Inspired by a blog post by Rebecca Hogue after last year's conference, I coordinated this panel comprised of Amy Collier (moderator), Tracy Clark, Keesa Muhammad, Patrice Torcivia Prusko, and Maha Bali.  Can't wait to hear the reflections and stories shared by this diverse group of women in edtech. 
  • 6:00pm - Women in EdTech Dinner. This new, special event is sold out! But you can follow our reflections via Twitter using this hashtag:  #ET4Women.  A generous sponsorship by LoudCloud allowed the $20 donations contributed by each attendee to go towards funding an EdTech Women scholarship for the 2016 OLC conference.  Many thanks to Whitney Kilgore, Christine Hinkley, Katie Fife Schuster, the OLC leadership team, and LoudCloud for supporting this extra endeavor this year!
Fri, 4/24
  • 8:00am: Thought Vectors in Concept Space*.  Plenary Session by Gardner Campbell.  I've heard so many great things about Gardner Campbell and this will be the first time I will have the pleasure to hear him. Looking forward to this one!
  • 1:15pm - The ET4Online Unconference -- follow along at #unET4Online.  This year's unconference is going to be dynamic and inclusive, as it will be fueled by the energy of Jesse Stommel (on-site facilitator) and Maha Bali (virtual facilitator). I arrange my flight home around this event! See you there!
Other things not to miss:
  • The Technology Test Kitchen -- a hands-on lab for emerging technologies led by Master Chefs. You'll find the TTK in the exhibition hall. Many thanks to Laura Pasquini, Jessica Knott, and Ben Scragg for their great work on this event!
  • Discovery Sessions -- This year, for the firsWht time, the Discovery Sessions will be shared on-site and online!  Virtual attendees may view the presentations through this ThreadBox (a curated collection of VoiceThreads) and ask questions in the form of voice or video comments. ThreadBox is a VoiceThread feature that has not yet been released to the public. This exciting sneak peek was made possible through the generous sponsorship of VoiceThread. VoiceThread also provided all participating Discovery Session presenters with a free 1-year Individual Higher Ed License ($99 value). 
  • Launch Pad -- Visit the seven edtech startups that were selected to participate in the Launch Pad this year! Interact with these entrepreneurs and provide honest feedback about their emerging products. There are some great tools to check out here!
  • Virtual Buddies -- #ET4Buddy. If you are attending virtually, Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue are pairing up this year to pilot a new idea. Maha will be attending virtually from Cairo, Egypt and Rebecca will be on-site. Rebecca will be using synchronous video tools to pull Maha into the live action. These video feedback will be pushed out to Twitter so all virtual attendees (or anyone else) can share in the experiences. To engage, check out #ET4Buddy.
I know I missed a lot of great happenings in this list -- but I hope it's helpful to you, especially if you are a first-time attendee at ET4Online. See you in Dallas!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Infographic: How to Humanize Your Online Class

Click here for the online version of the infographic.

I have a vivid memory from my experiences teaching as a full-time art history instructor at Sierra College that has left a lasting impression on me. It was around 2004 and I had been teaching online for about a year or so and I was seated with other faculty at the Sierra graduation ceremony. It was a hot Rocklin afternoon and the sun was in my eyes, but I was excited to experience the magical, inspirational event of graduation. As I sat listening to the names of students be called out as they walked across the stage and accepted their diplomas, I heard the name of one of my online students be announced. An strange, unfamiliar feeling came over me. Yes, I clapped and cheered, just as I was doing for other students (especially my own), but it was different. At that very moment, I realized that he and I would not be sharing a handshake or a hug, as I would do with my face-to-face students, after the ceremony. It dawned upon me that he would not be able to identify me as his instructor and nor him.

That moment awakened me to the gap that can exist between students and their instructors (and students-students) in online classes.  And, from that moment, I made an effort to reconcile this gap. I started by toying with Audacity to transform my text announcements into voice messages to my students.  That was a good change. But it wasn't until I started using VoiceThread and bought a Flip video camera to record an introductory video of myself that I had evidence of bridging this gap.

The evidence came on another warm afternoon when I pulled into the college parking lot. As I opened the door, I was greeted by a young man who exclaimed, "You are my online instructor!" It was a very cool moment and one that I cherish to this day. We had a brief conversation and I walked away with a smile.

Since then, I've tried lots of different strategies in my classes and, despite the fact that our world has become more connected through social technologies in recent years (that are easy to use and often free), I still have students who regularly share with me that my class is different -- because they feel like they know me and they feel like I care. This isn't to say that online instructors who use voice/video and interactive tools to design and facilitate their courses are the only instructors who care. But these strategies are key to my ability to be present in the experiences of my students. And they're key to my ability to share my inflection, my concern, and my enthusiasm for them -- nuances text cannot convey.

This week, a series of online conversations spurred by Laura Gibbs and Amy Collier surfaced that delved into the value of an active, authentic presence by an instructor in online classes. They made me recognize how important this conversation is and I hope these dialogues continue.

Meanwhile, my with my team at CSU Channel Islands, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to "humanize" an online class. I started using this term when I wrote my eBook about VoiceThread, but using VoiceThread is not the only way to humanize an online class.  Below, you will see a new infographic I put together in an attempt to concisely communicate what humanizing is to me.

These are principles we have infused into the Online Teaching Program at CI and they seem to be making an impact on how faculty relate to the idea of online classes.  It really does matter when faculty development for online teaching is provided in an online format. It is the only way to immerse faculty in an experiential learning experience and recognize just how meaningful online learning can be and how important it is to know your instructor as a human.  I work about 300-miles away from the faculty I support in these classes.  I believe their experiences would not be quite as impactful if I was in an office down the hall.

We've shared the infographic is shared with a CC-BY license, which provides permission for you to re-use the infographic without permission, as long as it is attributed (this item has a joint attribution to me and Teaching & Learning Innovations@CI).

Next week at ET4Online in Dallas, Jill Leafstedt, Kristi O'Neil, and I will be using the infographic to frame our workshop, How to Humanize Your Online Class. And next month, I'll be facilitating an online workshop for ELI on the same topic.  I hope to connect with some of you in these two venues!

I hope this is a resource that will be used by many.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Get the Sexism out of EdTech

To my fellow EdTech colleagues,

As you begin to formulate your next blog post or article, I'd like to make a suggestion.  The voices of women contribute valuable ideas to the future of teaching and learning innovations. As such, it is my hope that we can all work together to foster a culture in EdTech that encourages women to be active participants in this evolving space.  

Here are a few ideas.

What not to do.

  1. Don't correlate educational technology with the sale and exchange of women's bodies for sex.  If you aren't sure what I mean, please see Perry Samson's "Pimp your LMS" post on LinkedIn for an example.  The glorification of pimp culture undercuts the severity sex trafficking, which is a reality for millions of women around the world.  Hopefully, you can be a bit more creative than this and come up with a reference that doesn't alienate your female readers or make them never want to use your product (Echo360 in this case).
  2. Don't associate texting in class with male masturbation, as Stephen t. Ziliak did in today's issue of Inside Higher Ed:
"Texting off in class means just as it sounds. It begins when a texter-offer has the urge to text off or when he feels in his pants the vibration of incoming text or data, which might, in fact, have been delivered by a classmate seated close by to him. Even in courses strictly prohibiting texting during class, today’s texter-offer can hardly resist, and many give in to the temptation."
We've seen enough products be deemed "sexy" through the media and pop culture (guns and cars come to mind).  We don't need to sexify educational technology too.  It's not witty. It's offensive.

What to do:

  1. Focus on the issues.  
  2. Contribute thought-provoking conversations that foster inclusivity.
  3. Discuss and recognize the achievements of women that are often overshadowed by those of men. For an example, see this post by Michael Berman, "Who is Sharla P. Boehm?"
That is all. 


Michelle Pacansky-Brock

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Turning Infographics into Posters

Recently, I shared a post about an infographic I created using Piktochart.  The infographic is titled, "6 Tips for Recording Video" and I put it together really as an experiment with Piktochart.  Well, today I was on a video call with some of my colleagues at CSU Channel Islands and Michael Berman said, "Hey, Michelle, look what we made!"  He held up a giant poster of the infographic, which our Teaching and Learning Innovations team will display on the walls in the Faculty Innovations in Teaching (FIT) Studio on campus.

What a great idea! The quality looks pretty good too, which was surprising. I just had to share!

Here is the direct link to the graphic: 

Below is the embedded version.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hangout on Air: Diversity in Groups, a Cross-Cultural Connected Learning Experience

I'd like to extend a warm invitation to you to view a Hangout on Air I will be moderating tomorrow -- I think you will love it! 

I will be facilitating a conversation with Jaimie Hoffman, Lecturer and Instructional Technologist at CSU Channel Islands in California, and Mario Perez, of Asia Pacific University in Beppu City, Oita, Japan.  Jaimie and Mario will be discussing an innovative teaching experiment they collaborated on together that brought together Jaimie's students in California with Mario's students in Japan to learn about diversity in groups.  Jaimie and Mario selected VoiceThread as the tool to facilitate the active learning experience for their students.

Jaimie has written a fabulous reflection about the project (including lessons learned) on the VoiceThread blog. Check it out!

Then join us tomorrow at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern for the Hangout on Air. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

6 Tips for Recording Video

Today, I've been experimenting with Piktochart, a super tool for creating infographics (for free).  Here is my first creation and the context for its creation.

I work with college faculty who are just getting started with teaching online or are looking for ways to revitalize their existing online class.  Video has changed dramatically in recent years, providing simple tools that enable video creation from webcams and mobile devices.  Locating a tool that aligns with your instructional goals is important.  However, there is a handful of "tips" I find myself sharing over and over again.  I attempted to capture them using Piktochart so I can share them in a more visual and engaging way.  Of course, I hope you will find them useful and share them as well! It is shared with a CC-BY graphic so feel free to re-use as you'd like.

Here is the direct link to the graphic:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Online Teaching: A New Beginning

This post was first shared at CI Teaching & Learning Innovations blog.

I started teaching online in 2003 and as I grew into the role of an online instructor a lot of things began to change for me.  My teaching (both online and face-to-face) became more active, placing my students at the center, and my views about how people learn also began to change. Last spring, I accepted a position at CI that provides me with the opportunity to support faculty with their own journeys into online teaching.

Shortly after I started at CI, I facilitated our first Online Teaching Preparation Program, which has been completed by 17 in the first two offerings. The fully online classes that make up the program place faculty in the role of an online learner, providing an authentic experience to relate to the array of challenges and unique opportunities that their own students will encounter.  Additionally, faculty create and share reflections about their journey at different points in the program.  I enjoy reading these reflections immensely.

Stacey Anderson, a full-time Lecturer in English and First Year Composition Coordinator, shared a poignant reflection that, to me, captures so much of the transformative aspects that can be intertwined with “becoming” an online instructor.  Stacey has given me permission to share her reflections below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

A New Beginning," by Stacey Anderson

“In the summer of 2012, my family and I made the first of what will be many visits to the Cook Islands. The population of the entire country is about 11,000 residents, comprised primarily of Maori natives and New Zealand transplants. It is a rustic and amazing place to lose and/or find yourself.
On the tiny island of Aitutaki (population 2000), our favorite spot to eat, shop and hang out was the Koru Café, owned by an energetic, adventurous couple who left their familiar lives in New Zealand to return to the culture of their ancestors.
The koru symbol was everywhere in the café, including the stylish business card that was attached to every purchase, and I asked the owner, Trina, what it meant. She said it symbolized “a new beginning,” which signified what starting up a new business in a small island country meant for her and her family. In that moment, I visualized everything they had risked, what they had left behind, and how they had to adapt, and would continue to do so, to embrace this new life – a life that discarded the creature comforts to which they had become accustomed but offered a whole new world of simpler pleasures, as well as challenges. I purchased the necklace pictured above for myself and the women in my family as a remembrance of what I had learned and experienced.
Throughout our trip last year, and in the time since, the koru has been a powerful symbol for me. The symbol itself is based on the “fiddleneck” frond of a fern before it has unfurled. A bit of internet research reveals that that its circular, cyclical shape “conveys the idea of perpetual movement” as well as “a return to the point of origin” – in other words, “a metaphor for the way in which life both changes and stays the same” (“Mountain Jade”).
The koru provides an apt metaphor of my transition into online teaching, exemplifying Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s call for us to “be true to” who we are “while embracing the full potential of” the “online learning landscape.” This is a process of continuous unfurling, reaching forward, growing, while always hearkening back to where I began, and what matters to me as an educator in any learning environment.
Teaching online is truly a “new beginning,” for me personally as well as on a larger scale. The transformation that these three classes have precipitated for me has been more profound than I ever would have anticipated. Like the owners of the Koru Café, I am embracing a new adventure that is filled with risks but also great rewards. Hard work lies ahead. But it is also meaningful work, work that is helping unfurl potential I didn’t know I had. I am so hopeful and optimistic that I can help my online students experience a similar transformation and embrace a “new beginning.”
I am immensely grateful to everyone who has participated in this extraordinary journey with me. This process has been unexpectedly cathartic, inspiring me to take risks in ways I never could have in a less trusting, supportive environment. I hope we can all continue to turn to one another as we strive to put what we learned into practice. I would happily share a cup of tea or glass of wine with any of you – either here stateside, or at the Koru Café. In the meanwhile, as they say in Maori, Kia Orana (‘be well’)!”