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: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/4669055-5tipsandtoolsforrecordingvideo

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’)!”

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Qualified Self

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend the NMC Black Swan Ball.  I had been looking forward to this event for months.  It's not often that I get invited to spend a few days at a 4-star resort to contemplate the impact of emerging technologies on higher education along with about 100 rock stars from around the world. Um, actually, this was the first time that's ever happened to me. :)

The New Media Consortium organized this retreat in support of the Horizon Report, an annual publication that identifies major technologies anticipated to impact formalized learning institutions. The first Horizon Report was published in 2004 and since then, the reports have taken a multidisciplinary approach by looking at the topic through the lens of higher education, K12, museums, and libraries in international contexts.  I think I read my first Horizon Report in 2007. After that, I'd look forward to each one like a big geek.

At the Black Swan Ball, we were tasked to contemplate a series of technologies or technological concepts and examine them in ways that stretched our thinking. Taking a page from Taleb's book, our goal was to challenge ourselves and move our conversations into unexpected contexts, seeking and exploring ideas through our multidisciplinary experiences the highly improbable, or black swan. This approach was initiated to try to move away from a centrist way of locating impactful technologies, which is really the outcome of bringing a series of people together to discuss "what we expect to happen" in edtech.  In other words, if we only discuss what we expect to happen, we are risking the discovery of something amazing.

One of the topics we discussed during the retreat was The Quantified Self.  This was a topic that resonated with me in some pretty unexpected ways.  Yes, I have a Jawbone Up that counts my steps and buzzes each time I am idle for 45 minutes. Yes, I have lived in horror of my scale -- the displayer of those damn numbers that mean so much (especially to a woman) in our society.  But I've also experienced a number of medical procedures in my life that have placed me front and center with quantified reflections of my experience as a human. And they leave me empty.

I have written here and here previously about a journey I had in 2006 with open heart surgery. After a routine echocardiogram on my heart (for a congenital heart disorder), I had learned that I had an aneurysm in my aorta.  Aneurysms in aortas are bad, let's just say that. In a whirlwind two week span, I had a series of tests, each more invasive than the last, and each one resulted in a quantified measurement of my aorta. I heard "4.2 cm" and then "4.8 cm" and then, finally, "5.2 cm."  During this time, I met with a surgeon who said, "We typically want to operate at 5.0 cm, because that's when risk of rupture is highest." Fun times.

Here's the thing though. When I was in the recovery room after the last procedure that discovered the 5.2 cm measurement, I was also shown an image of my aorta that was taken during the procedure. That blurry, black-and-white image changed everything for me.

I heard to the data. But I felt the image. When I had the opportunity to "see" the bulge in my aorta, I could simply relate to what was happening in a different, more connected way.  The way I felt about the surgery that was ahead of me changed.  I looked at it as something that I must do, as opposed to something I wanted to find a way out of. A sense of commitment came upon me that is difficult to explain. No, the fear did not go away, but I related to the journey ahead of me in a very different way.

Now, my background is in art history. I've taught visual classes for more than a decade. Yes, I have a bias about images and the importance of them in our lives. But sometimes it's really important to look back on our history.  Before we could write, we would draw and paint and sculpt. Images are in us. Images impact us as humans on an entirely different level than numeric data.

Images are powerful. Images tell stories. Images make us feel. Images are like qualitative data.

I am engaged in quantifying my experiences. But I will never let go of my qualified self and I hope you won't either.

(Credit for these reflections goes to my "Wolverine" superhero group members: Jason Rosenblum, Malcolm Brown, Terra Graves, Joan Lippincott, and David Thomas.  Check us out on Twitter @NMCWolverine.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The (Inspirational) Story of an Online Community College Student

By Environmental Illness Network, CC-BY-NC-ND
I believe student stories hold potential to dispel some of the myths that of shape the mental models that undermine change in higher education.  One of my own online community college students recently shared his story with me.  As I read it, I am reminded of so many others that have inspired me over the past 10+ years of community college teaching -- a student who was severely burned in an accident, several students with cancer, an online student awaiting an organ transplant, a student completing her college degree online to avoid being stalked by her ex-husband, a student with epilepsy who was fighting to complete her first college class, and countless online students who gave birth during the semester.

The student story I share below is now part of me. I will carry it with me and allow it to remind me why I love teaching at a community college and advocate wholeheartedly for their support.  As you read this story, I encourage you to reflect on your own perceptions about community colleges and online learning and discover if this story challenges or supports them.  Enjoy!

The following story is shared with permission from a former online student who will remain anonymous.
"I attended Brigham Young in Utah for 2 semesters as a freshman in college. In my family, attending BYU wasn't so much a matter of "if" but rather a matter of 'when.' My family is deeply rooted in the Mormon faith, so as a High School Senior who secretly didn't share the same faith, I was conflicted but I went to BYU anyway. After my freshman year of college, everything reached a boiling point when the pressure came to serve on a 2-year Mormon mission. I knew I couldn't preach something I didn't believe myself, so I used the opportunity to finally be truthful with my parents. I did not share their faith, I was leaving Brigham Young and I was gay. This marked the beginning of a bittersweet period in my life. On one hand, I was free to live a life of my own. On the other, I was left without financial or emotional support to continue my education. After about 6 months of dead end jobs and living on my own to support myself, I knew I had to make a change. 

As I researched schools to transfer to, I became distraught at the staggering cost of college, expenses I would have to come up with on my own. One day, a family friend told me about how she was attending a local community college and was able to afford it with financial aid and scholarships. I enrolled and began taking classes while working full time. When I arrived on the community college campus, I was ashamedly surprised. In High School, community college has a reputation as the place where "dropouts go" or "a dead-end". However, I saw something very different. I saw a handful of professors that were deeply passionate about their topics and teaching. I saw an opportunity to explore many different disciplines that interested me throughout the humanities and social sciences. I saw a diverse group of students from all walks of life working to overcome adversity and build their futures. I enrolled in the Honors Enrichment Program, and took classes that felt on par (and sometimes more rigorous) than the ones I took at a prestigious private university. Also, I made an important choice that made all the difference while in community college; I sought out leadership roles. Being engaged in student leadership, clubs and extracurricular activities weaves you into the fabric of an institution in ways not possible otherwise. (Sidenote: I'd like to see more opportunities like this for "distance learners". I'm curious how it could be made possible.) 

After 3 great semesters at the community college, I still had little idea of a major or career path. So I embarked on a 2 year adventure with AmeriCorps NCCC, a national service program that sends 18-24 year olds to serve their country building trails, reconstructing homes and doing disaster relief. The federal program awards a scholarship for every term of service (10 months), and is equivalent to a pell-grant (approx. $5,700). I decided to put online education to the test during my service. With a rigorous and demanding schedule, I was nervous I wouldn't be able to keep up. I was also worried that Online Learning just simply wasn't a suitable environment to learn. This is what I discovered: the online classroom has the potential to teach, inspire, and engage in ways I had previously deemed impossible. However, not all online classes are this way. I took two classes last semester, one from an ENGAGED professor and one from a DISENGAGED professor. One utilized new tech, creative assignments, and fostered a learning community while the other used outdated content and did little to nourish a community of student learning (One sign of this may be that I cannot remember even a single name of my peers in that class, whereas in my ENGAGED online class, I remember many names and personalities). 

After completing my service with AmeriCorps in late November, I have returned to Southern California to finish the courses I need for transfer. I am returning to the physical campus with a new understanding and faith in online learning. In many ways, being in online classes while traveling across the Southeastern United States kept me engaged in learning and familiar with the habit of studying and deadlines. All in all, I have been incredibly grateful for my time at the community college, whether on campus or online, because it has allowed me to create an affordable liberal arts education for myself that feels much less like a "dead end" and more like the beginning of something pretty awesome."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Improving Faculty Attitudes about Online Teaching

Online Learning: More Faculty Are Engaged ... And Skeptical

The New Media Consortium has identified the "evolution of online learning" as a key trend that will accelerate adoption of ed tech in higher education for the next one to two years. Meanwhile, a recent study by Inside Higher Ed shows that while the number of higher ed faculty teaching online is increasing, many remain skeptical about whether online learning is effective.  Improving faculty attitudes about online teaching is important to students and the future.

In general, attitudes are mindsets that inform a person's behavior. Attitudes are complex and are theorized to be comprised of three components: feelings, thoughts or beliefs, as well as actions.  Our attitudes influence our choices and guide our behavior. An online instructor with a poor attitude toward online learning is less likely to be dedicated to creating an engaging, student-centered learning experience. 

Given the correlation between attitudes and behavior, we should be pondering the impact that skeptical faculty have on the future of high quality online learning.  Institutions should be making an effort to explore ways to improve faculty attitudes about online teaching and learning. To change a person's attitude, one must be engaged at both a cognitive and emotional level.  For example, if you wish to convince me that I need to exercise every day, you'll need to provide me with information, as well as engage me emotionally by making connections between this new behavior and the things that are important to me.  Just telling me to exercise because it is good for me will not be enough to sustain a change in my attitude.

Supporting the Emotional Aspects of Becoming an Online Instructor

The work of Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt discusses a need to cultivate a "phased approach" to faculty development to support the shifting needs of faculty as they move through the stages of Visitor (one who is contemplating teaching online) to Novice, Apprentice, Insider, and Master.  The four core facets of the online faculty development experience, according to Palloff and Pratt, include: personal, pedagogy, content, and technology.

What's intriguing is how faculty prioritize these four facets differently as they move from the visitor to the master phase. 

Copyright: Rena Palloff, 2014

Of particular interest is how the need for support with the "personal" element of online teaching becomes a top priority at the novice phase, while it moves to last at the other four phases.  Palloff and Pratt note that the types of personal support needed by faculty at the novice phase include reassurance and help overcoming "any fears about online teaching" (Palloff & Pratt, 2011, p. 25).  Novice online instructors need support with improving their confidence about their ability to transition from the face-to-face to online environment.  They need to experience how to foster a presence online. New online faculty frequently need to understand how to convey a sense of who they are online -- without being physically present with their students.  Many desire to learn how to convey their sense of enthusiasm for their discipline through an online course. Others need to explore their teaching style and develop an online teaching philosophy, as well as improve their confidence in their ability to use technology.

How to Humanize Your Online Course

In my role as Instructional Technologist for Online and Blended Learning at CSU Channel Islands, I have had the opportunity to develop and facilitate an Online Teaching Preparation Program for new and experience online instructors.  The program was launched in the Spring of 2014 and is comprised of three fully online 2-week courses.  Faculty may take all three courses to complete the program or select to take courses a la carte.  The outcomes of the courses are aligned with the CSU Quality in Online Learning & Teaching (QOLT) framework and are anchored in fostering of student engagement, human presence, student-student and faculty-student interactions, and  At CSU Channel Islands, our program begins with the class, "How to Humanize Your Online Course" and is followed by "How to Design Your Online Course" and "Designing Engaging Online Activities."

Courses two and three reflect typical courses you will likely find integrated into most online faculty preparation-type programs.  The Humanizing course, however, is unique.  It is designed to provide the type of personal support Palloff and Pratt identify as a priority to novice online instructors. In the 2-week class, faculty engage faculty in a meaningful, experimental, and supportive experience that involves investigating and reflecting on research about the role of social presence in improving online student learning.  Through the course, faculty participate in asynchronous VoiceThread conversations (in voice or video), share content they have created with a tool of their choice from the Tool Buffet, and create a humanized online course action plan in which they reflect on the particular behaviors and strategies they will utilize to improve instructor presence.  The course is supported with a Google+ Community (where faculty share a course introduction video and their humanized course action plans in written or video format) and ends with an optional Google+ Hangout.

Changing Faculty Attitudes through Immersive Faculty Development

As the facilitator of the courses, I realize the critical impact I have on each faculty member's attitude about online teaching. The course design is critical, but being an active, supportive, flexible, and empathetic facilitator is essential.  As online learners themselves, faculty experience the challenges of figuring out how to navigate an online course, how to use new technologies, identify elements of a course that support their needs as a learner, and feel the value of an instructor who provides flexibility with due dates when a crisis surfaces.

Perhaps the thing that is most unique about the Online Teaching Preparation Program at CSU Channel Islands is the fact that I work remotely.  Not only do faculty in the program learn to teach online through the lens of an online student, but most of them have not met me face-to-face at the start of the program. This is important because they can reflect on how technology can be effective at establishing a relationship at a distance.

We have just wrapped up the first year of the program.  The presentation shared below showcases some of the data we captured through anonymous faculty evaluations at the end of each course. As I reflect on this data, I am excited to see evidence of improved attitudes about online teaching from novice instructors. One faculty shared that the Humanizing course is "a must take course for faculty ... who think online learning is nothing more than a glorified correspondence school." Another noted, "I am heartened by the approach of starting first with humanizing the online experience. It helped alleviate my major fears about teaching online, by being able to get right to what worries me the most and see that there are tools and strategies and people who care about the topic. I see the possibilities so much better now."

What do you think? Is it important to immerse higher education faculty in an online experience to experience cognitively and emotionally how effective online learning can be? What strategies are taken at your institution to achieve this goal?


Palloff, R. M. & Pratt, K. (2011). The Excellent Online Instructor: Strategies for Professional Development. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R. M. (2014) Promoting Excellence Online: How to Develop Excellent Online Instructors. Inside Higher Ed webinar. Retrieved from: https://www.insidehighered.com/audio/2013/12/12/promoting-excellence-online-how-develop-excellent-online-instructors

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Realities of the College Transfer Experience

photograph of trees lining a pathway
This post reflects on his struggles and the ways convoluted higher ed processes can derail students trying to earn a degree. It also provides some general information about the public higher education system in California and tips for transferring. I hope this information will be helpful to many.

The Many Values of Community Colleges

The public higher education system in California is immense. And the complexities involved with moving between institutions are too.  In CA, there are 112 community colleges (CCCs) that serve more than 2 million students. On the four-year side, the California State University (CSU) system includes 23 campuses and the University of California (UC) has 10 institutions.

The CCC system enrolls 24% of the nation's CC students. I'm an advocate and supporter of community colleges. In the 1960s, my father left his impoverished family of fifteen siblings on the east coast and became a resident of California to enroll at Porterville Community College, which was then free to CA residents. He then transferred to San Jose State University (part of the CSU system) and completed his Master's degree and then moved to Iowa State to complete his Ph.D.  The opportunity provided to my father through California community college and the CA Master Plan for Higher Education improved his and my economic and social status. It also produced a healthy stream of educated workers in California, creating a fertile soil for transforming CA into a nexus of innovation. 

While CCCs are no longer free, they are still an incredible financial value. They provide the same lower division coursework that 4-year institutions provide and usually do so in a smaller class environment with instructors whose primary responsibility is to teach, as opposed to research. I plan to have my two boys attend a community college after high school. They are fully aware of this and they understand why.  My boys will spend two years at a CC to explore and figure out what they love to do (assuming they don't figure it out before then). They will transfer to a 4-year institution and complete their undergraduate degree there.  I have also taught in the CCC system, as both a full-time and part-time faculty, for twelve years.

Our family plan will, of course, save my husband and I thousands of dollars too.  Student loan debt in the U.S. has now topped $1 trillion.  If a student completes a 4-year degree within 4 years in the CA public higher education system and the first two years of transferable, lower-division coursework is completed at a community college, the savings is roughly $10,000 if the student transfers and graduates from a CSU and more than $20,000 if the student moves on to a UC. 

That plan seems simple and worth it in many ways, doesn't it? And many families/students follow it with success. Each year, according to the Community College League of California, roughly 60,000 students transfer from a community college in California to a CSU or UC. And 28% of UC graduates and 55% of CSU grads started their higher education journey at a CCC.

The Student Experience

As we consider this data and the critical role community colleges play in the college completion process, let's also consider the student experience. My nephew is in the midst of transferring from a CCC to a CSU. He, and most college students, do not view their higher ed experience through a bird's eye view of institutional organizations.  I know I didn't when I was in college. It took me a long time before I even understood how CCCs, CSUs, and UCs were different and had the potential to function as an interconnected system.  Nonetheless, my nephew has learned that navigating the transfer process is no simple feat.  He completed some of his course work at one community college in CA and then moved to a nearby city and began attending a separate community college, where he completed his lower division coursework.  Both colleges are "feeder schools" for the 4-year institution to which he is transferring.  A counselor at the second college provided him with  list of courses he needed to complete to be ready to transfer.  He completed all of the courses on the list.  However, one of the courses, a math class, was completed at the first community college.  He learned late in the game that the university only accepts that math course from the second community college and not the first.  As a community college instructor, this did not surprise me.  But I certainly saw it through a new lens -- and realized how this convoluted system messes with students' lives and finances.

What did surprise me was the plan his counselor suggested he follow to remedy the problem.  The counselor suggested he enroll in an out-of-state university and complete the math course online. The online course from the out-of-state institution would articulate to his university of choice and he could then officially transfer.

He accepted the counselor's suggestion, as it would not require him to travel hours to the nearest community college at which the math class is offered (with full articulation).  He could also pick up additional hours at work, while completing his class online.  So, now he is paying out-of-state tuition to complete a single online math class to enable him to transfer from a California Community College to a California State University.

This situation reveals how online classes can improve a student's chances for succeeding with their educational goals.  It also reveals the tremendous need for CA's CCCs to continue to be leaders in the online learning space, but also to create fully online lower division pathways for students with the ability to enroll easily in these classes, as opposed to needing to register at each individual college.  This plan is in motion and our students in California, as well as our state, will benefit from it greatly.

Next, I asked my nephew how the online class has been (as the semester was coming to a close).  "Rough," he replied.  He shared that math is difficult for him and he has feels that he learns best in a face-to-face setting.  I asked him if the instructor was present in the online class.  He said, "No. In fact, when I emailed her for help, she gave me a phone number for a support center." I asked him if he experienced interaction with his online peers in the class.  He said, "No.  I just read the book and completed assignments in a Pearson website."

That's unacceptable and demonstrates that, while he is completing the required course to be able to transfer, his learning is suffering due to a poor quality learning experience. How will this impact his success in his future math classes? How does this impact his confidence as a human and as a student? How does this reflect on the general attitudes about online learning? All of these questions, and more, are critical to the future of higher education and often get lost.

Transfer Tips

Research shows that 1 in 10 students who transfer from a CC lose credits because they are not transferable. This extends the duration of the degree, as the courses must be repeated, and wastes time and money (albeit, these courses may provide value in other ways!). If you know a student planning to transfer from a community college to a 4-year institution, here are some resources to help improve the experience.
  • If the institutions are located in CA, become acquainted with Assist.org. It provides up-to-date information about which courses at your CC transfer to the your 4-year institution of choice.  CaliforniaColleges.edu also provides a comprehensive set of resources to guide students from high school through the completion of a 4-year degree.
  • Create a mobile toolkit. More and more startups are forming around the goal of improving the student transfer process.  Transfer Bootcamp (founded by a former community college student) is designed to improve a student's organization and awareness of the transfer process.  ImFirst is an app designed to support, guide and celebrate first generation college students through graduation.
  • Become familiar the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program if you live in a western state (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, N. Dakota, Oregon, S. Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming). This program provides residents of these states an opportunity to apply for a significantly reduced out-of-state tuition rate.
  • Use the tools the counselors use. The site, CCC Transfer, is developed and used by counselors throughout the CCC system to assist students with the transfer process. It is packed with great resources!
Please share your own tips and experiences about transferring from a community college to a 4-year university in a comment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

ET4Online CFP Closes 12/1!

The deadline to submit your proposal for the OLC Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium (April 22-24, 2015 in Dallas) is December 1st!

This year's OLC (formerly Sloan-C) Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium, a joint symposium with MERLOT, offers you the option to select from a variety of presentation formats and six different tracks.


When you submit to a track, you will have the option to:

  • Be a chef in the Technology Test Kitchen (submit to the Technology Test Kitchen Track be considered as an ET4Online Chef!). What is this, you ask? View this 1 1/2 minute video:

  • Present an interactive workshop (of 90 or 120 minutes). Workshops are included in the standard program (no extra fee for participants).
  • Present a 50-minute information session.
  • Share an Electronic Discovery Session.  This year, all Discovery Session presenters will receive a complimentary 1-year license to VoiceThread (a $99 value!), in exchange for sharing your session online with our virtual attendees in the form of a VoiceThread.  More details here.
Don't miss out! #ET4Online has it going on!

Click here for full details!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

OLC Partners with VoiceThread for ET4Online's Discovery Sessions

Today, I was part of an exciting conference call with the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C) and VoiceThread.  The two organizations have established an exciting partnership for the 8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning (ET4Online) Symposium 2015!

The partnership will connect face-to-face ET4Online Discovery Session presenters with virtual conference attendees (and beyond).  Simply by uploading a PDF of one's Powerpoint or Keynote presentation into VoiceThread and recording  personalized voice comments to expand upon each slide, each Discovery Session presenter will also create an asynchronous voice conversation about their session topic.  VoiceThreads are interactive, providing an opportunity for virtual attendees to view and ask questions on any slide in a VoiceThread.

But that's not all ... each ET4Online 2015 Discovery Session presenter will also receive:

  • A complimentary 1-year Higher Ed Single Instructor license. This is a $99 value. Wow!
  • The opportunity to be part of a cutting-edge VoiceThread feature (not even released yet!) that will facilitate the curation of a group of VoiceThreads in an embeddable content frame.
The Call for Proposals for ET4Online 2015 closes December 1, 2014.
VoiceThread Resources:

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Beautiful Stroke

"You had a stroke," said the ER doctor last Tuesday, as she looked straight into my eyes with an expression mixed with surprise and concern.

At that moment, everything around me seemed to disappear -- the doctor, the nurse by her side, the hospital room I was in, even the sounds in the distant background.  I felt as if I was alone and very small in an empty, dark, and quiet space.  The moments after I heard my diagnosis were strange and uncomfortable. I hope to never experience that feeling again.

Six days later, I am feeling well and immensely grateful for recovering virtually unscathed.  I'm not one who believes my life is guided by a predetermined plan, but I do believe life is the greatest teacher there is. So, as I transition back into my daily activities, I am reflecting deeply on what I can learn from this experience and use it to impact my life in positive ways.

Past Experiences Shape Our Behaviors 


When I was released from the hospital, my husband and I sat down to talk about what had happened.  He asked me, "How did you know? I probably would have ignored the symptoms you had." This question has sat with me now for several days. The answer to that question is quite simple and it makes me think differently about my students and the faculty I work with.  Each human filters external stimuli through her or his past experiences.  These experiences deeply shape our behaviors.

The Event


Six hours before the doctor informed me that I had a stroke, I was running on my treadmill.  About ten minutes to my activity, my left arm and hand went numb and heavy. While most 43 year-olds may not take this incident seriously right away, I immediately reacted with concern. It was a holiday, my husband was out of town for the day and I was home alone with my two boys, ages 12 and 14. I knew if these symptoms were stroke-related, they may progress and I instantly began to prepare for this scenario.

My Reaction


Being the tech geek I am, my first reaction was to document the event on video with my smartphone -- thinking if something more happened to me, the video would be important data for the doctors.  Then I went downstairs and informed my boys of what was happening, trying to stress (without scaring them) that it was only my hand and arm so they would be clear how things started if I lost more motor function. I called the advice nurse who connected me with an ER doctor. The ER doctor felt quite certain I had a pinched nerve, but encouraged me to come in for testing just in case.


 My Past Experiences 


Nine years ago, I had a large aneurysm in my aorta that prompted a 5-hour open heart surgery to replace the root of my aorta and my aortic valve.  The valve that I received is a mechanical St. Jude valve.  I take warfarin every day to protect myself from blood clots -- the body's natural defense to a foreign object.

Since my surgery nine years ago, I have lived in a continuous state of heightened awareness about my body. I react to each twitch, each pain, each irregular heart beat wondering if it is something to be concerned about.  I often report symptoms that turn out to be nothing. So, when my arm went numb and heavy, it was natural for me to jump into gear, but I also expected the tests I would have that day would turn up negative. I was wrong.


 Why This Matters


As a teacher and an instructional technologist, I create experiences for my students and colleagues.  These experiences are intended to challenge, provoke, and initiate the process of learning.  I frequently think about how the learning preferences and differences of my students and the faculty whom I work with are impacted by the design of the online experiences I create.  I am also aware of the tremendous value the diverse experiences of learners bring to an online class and strive to create an environment that depends on the sharing of these experiences to cultivate meaningful connections between individuals, as well as make learning relevant. Yet, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about how a person's past experiences inform how she or he reacts to particular external stimuli.

When I was a child, for example, I was introduced to computers and networking at a very early age. My father was a research scientist at IBM and he was the first person in our neighborhood to have a computer at home in the early 80s that was connected to a mainframe.  My earliest memory of my dad's computer was anchored in relationships, not high technology. I have a memory of my dad calling me into his home office and saying, "Look at the screen. What do you see?"  I peered at the large black display screen and read emerald green courier font that said, "Hi, Jake. This is ____." I can't remember the person's name right now but it was one of my dad's colleagues writing to him from his own home office.  I can remember feeling dazzled, amazed, and totally overwhelmed by the thought of another human communicating with my dad in real-time -- from a completely different physical location.

Positive experiences like this one, which anchor technology in human connectivity have shaped my attitudes about technology.  Not everyone brings these types of positive experiences to the table in an online classroom or in an online teaching preparation program. This lesson is important, as it highlights one thread in the complex web of human behavior.  Understanding how and why people respond to situations as they do is a skill that is very necessary today in education, as technology continues to play a bigger role and hold new possibilities each year.

How Smartphones Can Help Humanize an Experience


Last Tuesday, I had very little control of my left hand. My pinky and ring finger were virtually useless.  I already shared how I used my smartphone to document the event on video. As the day continued, I found myself unwilling to put my phone down, even though it was tricky to use it with a single hand.

I used my phone to take photographs of my various environments -- the CAT scan machine, the cardiac bubble test, my breakfast tray, my view from the ER bed.  Those photographs grew more important to me as I returned home. I can't put my finger on why exactly, but they are precious reminders of the day that I frequently look back on. I know some of you may find that odd, but I find the images to be important reminders for me as I move back into my routine. I want to remember this event. I want it to stay vivid in my mind, so I continue to live each day with gratitude. I do not want to forget it -- and that is what happens over time without photographic documentation.

I used my phone to stay in continuous contact with my husband during the day and my sisters. I sent a text message after each test result was shared. I asked my sister to contact my other sister and my parents after I learned I had a stroke. At one point in the day, a nurse was taking my blood pressure and said, "Put your phone away and just relax."  I turned my phone off and felt more anxious than ever.  That phone allowed me to have my family with me. But the nurse clearly did not see it the same way as I.

Finally, I used the voice-to-text feature built into my smartphone to enable me to communicate without the need to type.  This was tremendously valuable to me while my left hand was not functioning well.

Why This Matters


I imagine many educators may find it difficult to value a smartphone as a vehicle for enabling human relations, documenting personal experiences, and supporting the diverse needs of users.  But that's precisely how I view them and this experience has reinforced that value for me. Being sensitive to your environment and placing a priority on interactions with humans around you is an essential characteristic for living in a mobile, digital society. But there were plenty of medical professionals who poke me, prodded me, even placed me inside of machines in the hospital without interacting with me at all.

As I watch my two boys grow into teenagers with smartphones in tow, I can understand that their phones mean something very important to them.  Their phones are very much a life line. They have friendships with individuals via text, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, and Vine do not have the same depth in-person. They communicate with people from away -- past friends that have moved, friends that are not local, and, yes, and superstar soccer players and golfers.  They document everything meaningful to them in photographs and share them with their network of friends.  The role a smartphone plays in the development of relationships and human memory takes me back to my childhood memory of my dad's computer. Yet, today, we hold this potential to connect and share in the palm of our hands.  As educators, how can we not embrace smartphones as powerful communication and learning tools?

Finally, as an educator who designs online learning environments, I have a refreshed perspective about the value of voice technologies. I am a long-time user and advocate of VoiceThread, as I've discovered many powerful findings about how it impacts learning, the development of online community, and empowers students to become more proficient verbal communicators.  And now I see the value of voice-to-text communications, as well. I think about dyslexic students and how this emerging technology opens new opportunities for demonstrating their knowledge and participating with peers in text-discussion -- with the challenges of writing greatly diminished.

I do not ever wish to have another stroke. But I'm grateful for what I've learned from this experience.