Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The New VoiceThread: A Peek Inside

VoiceThread has released a new interface that has some nice changes. If you use VoiceThread in an individual account (or free account), you have the option to use the new VT now.  If you are part of an organization that uses VoiceThread, the organizational administrator may make the switch any time between now and this August. In August 2015, the new interface will be implemented for all users.

The 4-minute video above demonstrates:

  1. The new "Home" page, which takes the place of "My Voice."
  2. The uploading interface and editing canvas.
  3. The new commenting interface.
  4. How to disable the video countdown.
  5. How to make a voice recording using the new keyboard shortcut (just press R).
  6. When you leave more than one comment on a slide using the same Identity, your profile pic/avatar will appear again. This is going to be very helpful for teaching!
  7. How to move comments simply by clicking and dragging the corresponding avatar. This is a big improvement over needing to press and hold "Shift" while relocating the small gray segments at the bottom of a screen.

New HD Player

One thing I failed to realize while recording the video is that the new VoiceThread uses HD dimensions. As you watch the video, you'll notice the black bars on the sides of my slides, which are the result of my slides being set to "standard" size (4:3) in Keynote.

New VoiceThread showing media with a 4:3 ratio.

I resized my slides to HD (16:9) (which requires some redesign too) and uploaded them again into VoiceThread.  The image below displays the HD slide. It's much more lovely when the image fills the entire viewer.
New VoiceThread showing media with a 16:9 ratio.

So, what do you think?

Have questions about the new VoiceThread? Search the new support site here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Share your stuff: #ET4Online CFP is open through 12/1

Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C)

8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning 

International Symposium

Call for Proposals is OPEN through Dec. 1, 2014. 

This year's tracks include:
  • Organizational Leadership & Challenges for Innovation -- New!
  • Learning Environments & Frameworks
  • Open & Collaborative Education
  • Evidence-Based Learning & Assessment
  • Effective Teaching & Learning Pedagogy
  • Technology Test Kitchen -- New!
Take a moment to identify what you want to share and submit your proposal today! Academic Affairs and IT leaders from organizations are encouraged to attend with faculty and instructional designers to increase dialogue about the the use/impact/implementation of emerging technologies in online learning.

Hands-on workshops are included within the conference program (as opposed to an extra fee as pre-conference events).  This year's program features provocative presentations by Mimi Ito, Gardner Campbell, and Bonnie Stewart; the 3rd annual Launch Pad (featuring promising ed tech starts selective through a competitive application process); and the new Teacher Tank, a dynamic session that will engage Launch Pad ed tech start up participants in a pitch and feedback dialogue with higher education leaders.

It's going to be GREAT! Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

8th Annual #ET4Online Symposium - join us!

OLC Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium

April 22-24, 2015, Dallas, TX

 Follow @OLCToday for updates!


Sloan-C has been newly rebranded as the Online Learning Consorutium and this April, the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium will convene in Dallas, TX for its 8th annual event.  This year's symposium, which is a joint event with MERLOT, is shaping up to be dynamic!

Keynote & Plenaries

Mimi Ito is confirmed as the keynote speaker.  Ito (@Mizuko) has contributed ground breaking research about the impact of digital media on today's youth. Gardner Campbell (@GardnerCampbell) and Bonnie Stewart (@BonStewart) will be presenting the plenary talks at the symposium. Together, these presentations will engage in a mindful exploration of how emerging technologies are reshaping formal and informal learning, as well as impacting the nature of identity for us all.

More Hands-on Experiences!

Also included in this year's program you'll find the Technology Test Kitchen, where brief hands-on sessions will be conducted to introduce you to an array of new technologies that hold potential for reshaping and improving the way we teach and our students learn online. The Technology Test Kitchen was introduced at #Blend14 and will also be part of the OLC's International Conference in Orlando at the end of October. I'm really looking forward to this new program feature!

EdTech Startups Return with a Revamped Launch Pad

The Launch Pad will also be back again this year with a new feature -- the Teacher Tank, which will provide our Launch Pad participants with an opportunity to pitch their product to a panel of online educators. Anchored in the context of formative feedback and learning, this event will be fast-paced and high energy! Join us!

Submit Your Great Ideas: CFP Opens 10/1!

If that whets your appetite, mark your calendar for the Call for Proposals which will be open from October 1-December 1 (no extensions will be provided).   YOUR participation will make this symposium more diverse and representative of how emerging technologies are reshaping online teaching and learning.

I hope to see you in Dallas!
Michelle Pacansky-Brock, @brocansky
#ET4Online Conference Chair, 2015

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Online Learning: Are We Doing It Wrong?

Tomorrow, I will be making two presentations to two very different audiences. One is a free webinar I'm doing for the TLT Group (register here) -- the audience will be primarily college instructors and instructional designers. Another is for the California Community College Online Education Initiative -- the audience will be a diverse group of stakeholders collecting input about the important characteristics for a statewide LMS for California Community Colleges (for classes that are offered through OEI initative).

Both of these presentations will incorporate my experiences and my students' experiences with using VoiceThread as an asynchronous discussion tool since 2007. 

"Experiences" is the key word here. This is not about a tool. It's about how teaching with a tool not typically found within an LMS toolkit can create a learning environment that impacts the student learning experience differently.  It's about the importance of relationships and affective learning in an online environment.  It's about the power of the human voice when a person is trying to figure out a new idea or delivering feedback. It's about supporting and inspiring students to be vulnerable.  It's about what gets lost if online instructors rely only on the LMS toolkit.  It's about how LTI integration with web-based tools saves faculty time (and money) and lowers the barrier of adoption of emerging technologies by providing embeds with a click, secure activities, grading from the gradebook, and automatically generated student accounts (with a single sign on), and the ability for students to generate their own creations that can be shared with a public audience (or secure to just the class registrants).

Below is a presentation you may review that provides the current (through Spring 2014) results of four consecutive semesters of anonymous online student surveys about how using asynchronous voice/video conversations impacts their experiences.

As I reflect on these findings, I am left with one question: Are we doing it wrong?  What are your takeaways?

To be clear about my relationship with VoiceThread, I am a college instructor and instructional technologist who has taught online and face-to-face with VoiceThread since 2007.  I supports faculty with the effective pedagogical application of the tool. The community college at which I teach has a sitewide license with LTI integration of VoiceThread into Blackboard and so does the university where I work as an instructional technologist. In the past, I was a paid higher education consultant for VoiceThread (to develop a higher ed webinar series) from 2012-2013.  In 2013, I authored a self-published eBook with compensation from the last months of consultancy at VoiceThread.  This eBook is available at no cost to VoiceThread site license holders and it is available for sale or rent to the general public. I receive royalties from the sales of the eBook.  I am a doctoral student working with VoiceThread as my research site to explore how the use of an eBook as a faculty support resource for a web 2.0 tool impacts faculty perceptions about the tool. Currently, I receive no income from VoiceThread.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting Started with "Connected Courses"

I'm putting my best learner foot forward and attempting to engage in an open online course that is filled with EdTech rockstars and exploring the dazzling topic of learning in the open web through peer interactions.  The course is called Connected Courses (#CCourses) and includes all of these amazing people as facilitators.

I'm making this post to be able to connect my blog to the syndication feed for the course.  Want to join in?  Sign up today (yes, it's free and open to all who have an interest in joining together to explore the possibilities of connected learning in the open web.  The class officially begins on September 15th. The first unit will explore:
What is, or should be, the future of higher education?  What do we stand to lose or gain in pursuing the possibilities opened up by the Web?  What are the underlying logics and effects of different approaches to teaching with technology/online?

Friday, August 15, 2014

VoiceThread Research Study

As some of you know, I am completing my EdD in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University.  My dissertation research study will explore how eBooks provided as a faculty support resource impact faculty perceptions about teaching with VoiceThread.

You are eligible to participate in this study if you:

  • are a part-time or full-time higher education faculty member in the United States
  • have a VoiceThread account (free account, individual higher educator account, department license, or site license)
  • over the age of 18 (the previous age limit has been eliminated)
Participants do not need to be actively teaching with VoiceThread, nor do they need expertise with the use of VoiceThread.

For more information about how to review the full risks and benefits of participating in this study and to sign up, please click the link below:
I am happy to assist with any questions you may have. My contact information is on the website linked above or you may contact me directly through my blog using the "Contact Michelle" form on the right side.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Liquid Syllabus: Are You Ready?

Liquid Gold by mcdarius. CC-BY-NC
by mcdarius CC-BY-NC
Liquid content refers to web content that is highly shared - where the desire for sharing is driven by contagious or 'viral ideas' within the content. OK, ok. Maybe a college course syllabus won't become viral (for good reasons) but what if a course syllabus could transform into a content experience that students really wanted to look at and engage with, as opposed to resource we dictated they "must read." Are we at the tipping point for this to happen?

Back in 2011, I wrote a post titled "Time for an Extreme Syllabus Make-Over?" In that post I explore the importance and value of the course syllabus to both instructors and students, ideas I still support. I also explored the value of communicating with students more visually than faculty generally do in higher education. This argument was contextualized in a brief reference to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and mentioned the general shift toward the visual digital media context our students toggle in and out of as they move between their formal (i.e. in Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, Canvas, etc.) and informal (in the open web -- YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.) environments. That dichotomy remains -- if anything, visual content has become more central to an individual's informal learning as the ownership of smartphones has accelerated in recent years.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on this notion of the 21st century syllabus (and chuckling to myself that I would even use such a phrase). Three years ago, I found a visually compelling PDF to be cutting edge. Today, with so many students accessing content from smartphones, is a PDF the best format for a syllabus? I think not.  The syllabus should be a resource that could be easily accessed and bookmarked on a phone, not locked inside an LMS, and a resource that does not need to be downloaded.

I receive a notification in my email each time someone downloads the "Educator's Guide to a 21st Century Syllabus" that I shared back in 2011. And each time I receive one of those notifications, I am torn -- part of me wants to take that resource down, as I think it needs some serious updating, but I also feel it is helpful to faculty who may not be ready to leave the PDF format all together.

This is where digital media can really become transformative for a resource like a syllabus.
Here is my grand vision. Imagine with me. What if your syllabi were beautiful? What if they were a pleasure for students to engage with? What if they provided opportunities to not only understand and access policies, expectations, schedules and such, but for our students to meet us?  What if the syllabus became a site where former students could share voices (stories, feedback, words of encouragement) with future students? Isn't THIS what our goal should be as we move into this amazing landscape of mobile, digital media?

What if these syllabi were all open websites, as opposed to documents secured inside a Learning Management System, as so many are? Thiw would encourage sharing of ideas amongst faculty and students could bookmark them on their smartphones and refer to them frequently, on the go.

But beyond that, they could be linked to pre-registration experiences for learners. Why do students need to wait until after they register for a class to review a course syllabus? This has always made me scratch my head. Imagine if the registration process was truly student-centered and students could not only review the course syllabus but also experience a video from each instructor and any other creative resources designed into that syllabus.

Now we're talking.

Now you may be thinking, "I don't know how to make a syllabus like that" or "faculty at my institution aren't that tech savvy."  Well, you are wrong -- and I hope you take that as a challenge.

In the past year, many micro-publishing tools have emerged that facilitate simple creation of beautiful, captivating single-page websites.  They are perfect for making a liquid syllabus.  In past blog posts, I've referenced Populr, Smore, and Tackk -- and all three of them make great tools for creating beautiful, mobile-friendly course syllabi (or digital flyers that link to course syllabi)!

Below are a few examples of syllabi for you to explore that have been created with these micro-publishing tools.  I encourage you to view them on both a web browser and your mobile device, an important experiment for testing the value of new tools in our mobile learning society.

  • Offers a robust ad-free account for educators, although you would never know it based upon the design and organization of their site. Populr.me offers institutional accounts too, which could be incredible transformational for faculty across the board, as the upgraded options included blocks of content that can be customized and updated from single point and pushed out into templates across the institution. While I have not used this type of account, I imagine this being a pathway towards supporting faculty syllabus creation by establishing a template with institutional policies plugged in, saving the faculty time and creating more consistency in the student experience overall.  Of course there are many other uses too like faculty pages, faculty training offerings, events, committee meeting notes, and more.
  • How are you using Populr.me?
       Populr.me Syllabus Examples:

  • Tackk is my newest find and we are becoming very happy together. I'm using Tack to create Unit Overviews for my online class (which I write about here and plan to blog more about soon).  Tackk does not have options for creating multiple columns but the user experience is lovely -- very simple and the content is beautiful. Each Tackk also has the option to include a stream at the bottom to which viewers may comment. Tackks can be embedded (adjust the height and width provided to make it larger and fit well in your LMS) and even when embedded, the videos play great on my iPhone and iPad (which I can't say about the same YouTube videos I embed directly into Blackboard...sigh). Customizable URLs are also built right in, which is nice!
       Tackk Syllabus Example:
  • I have not actively used Smore so it's tough for me to comment on its features. Smore offers educator accounts for $59/year and details are available here.
  • In the limited use I have with it, it seems to have fewer layout options than Populr.me (which can be limiting for syllabus creation). Smore is marketed as a tool for creating digital"flyers." It is simple to use and the content you create is beautiful. Analytics are also included.
  • How are you using Smore?
        Smore Syllabus Example:
  •  Disabilities in Society by Jill Leafstedt at CSU Channel Islands. (I should note that this is an old syllabus of Jill's. After learning about Populr.me she made the move and started using it for her syllabus.

Monday, August 11, 2014

VoiceThreading Learning Opportunities Ahead!

I am coordinating a series of events in collaboration with the TLT Group, a non-profit group of higher education faculty, staff, and administrators exploring opportunities for using new technologies to improve teaching and learning. 

The series will be anchored around my eBook, How to Humanize Your Online Class with VoiceThread.  The events will include one webinar that will be free and open to the public followed by a series of deeper dive experiences designed to engage participants in group dialogue and reflection about the eBook's narrative which is designed to support an individual's pedagogical growth, experimentation and development. 

Learning Out Loud Webinar
Fri, Sept 19th
11am-12pm PT/2pm-3pm ET

(this event is free and open to the public)
This 60-minute webinar will be interactive and provide opportunities for Q&A. It is intended for VoiceThread beginners who are seeking to learn more about the unique benefits that VoiceThread brings to the college teaching experience. I will draw largely upon my own teaching experiences and share findings from an ongoing study about how learning out loud is impacting my community college learners.

Book Discussion & VoiceThread How-To Series

Thurs, Sept 18th through Wed, October 15th

(this series is open to members of the TLT Group)

This series will include:

After Oct 15th
Continue the learning in the VoiceThread Google+ Community.  

Stay tuned! I hope to organize a Hangout on Air to showcase some of the recent innovations occurring in the VoiceThread higher education community. If you have a creative teaching use of VoiceThread you'd like to share with me, please let me know!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Humanizing Online Learning at CSUCI!

An online faculty development offering for CSUCI
Last March, I was hired by CSU Channel Islands to support faculty with the exciting journey into online and blended teaching and learning. Between March and June, I worked furiously to develop a series of online courses for the small, creative, and entrepreneurial campus. If that sounds like an unsual way to describe a public institution of higher education, you're right. And that's one of the things I love so much about this institution -- and why I decided it was right for me to work here. :)  It has a vibrancy and sense of curiosity about learning that makes me feel very at home.

Risky Business

Me Hanging Out with my CSUCI colleagues,
Jill Leafsted and Michael McGarry.
The simple fact that CSUCI was willing to hire me to work remotely to support faculty in this endeavor says a great deal. I know, I know -- how can hiring a remote employee have a "humanizing" effect?  What am I, nuts?

Well, on the one hand, it really makes a great deal of sense.  One of my major tasks is developing online trainings, facilitating these trainings entirely remotely, supporting the vetting of emerging technologies for the campus, and working with faculty (which I do through asynchronous and synchronous technologies). For example, I participate in one-on-one and group meetings with my colleagues via Google+ Hangouts.  This process has been an enriching learning experience on both sides, I believe, as many individuals on campus have had the opportunity to learn experientially about the humanizing effect of technology without being explicitly told that's what their learning.

I don't want to come across as one who is advocating for the virtualization of brick-and-mortar campus employees. But I think there is something to be said about considering the option in certain scenarios when it makes sense. That requires a leader to do something against the grain of what's typical in higher ed tradition and that can be immensely difficult and scary. Roselind Torres would say this is a characteristic that defines a 21st century leader.

The Courses

The three courses I've developed for faculty are each two weeks long. We offered the first full series of the courses in the Spring (May-June), as I was developing the final course. The feedback has been extremely positive...but, yes, these are the early adopters so it's more likely to see positive reactions to online learning, in general.

The courses include:
Image of The Tool Buffet site, a resource for the CSUCI "How to Humanize Your Online Class' course.
The Tool Buffet, a suite of emerging technologies
with humanizing potential.
Click here to visit the site I've put together for CSUCI faculty, which includes a link to each syllabus.  The How to Humanize Your Online Class course is a unique offering to CSUCI (as far as I'm aware). Its intent is to model to faculty how to effectively integrate outside (web-based) technologies into an LMS (in our instance, Blackboard), review recent research that explores how voice/video and social technologies are being used to improve teaching and social presence, experience the humanizing impact of select tools within an online learning environment, encourage faculty to experiment with emerging technologies, and to reduce to fear and anxiety often associated with participating online in video and voice. The faculty that complete the course each produce an online video introduction for their course, in a tool of their choice, and share it in a (closed) Google+ Community for CSUCI faculty, as well as create a "humanized course action plan" which is intended to be a reflective learning experience to help faculty be cognizant about their growth (this too is shared in the Google+ Community with peers).

Here is a link to the Tool Buffet that is provided to faculty in the "Humanizing" course. Notice that it is created in a web-based tool (Populr.me) (the same tool used to create each online syllabus), which enables faculty to bookmark the URL during course and visit it later for continued learning (as it is continuously updated by me!). Populr.me also renders content very well on mobile devices, which makes it a great match for online learning. Each course ends with a live Google+ Hangout to dig deeper into questions that have been collected on a collaborative Padlet board throughout the 2-week class. 

A Potential Humanizing Workshop with ELI!

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Veronica Diaz at EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and we are discussing the possibility of offering the Humanizing course as an multi-week online session in May through ELI. Details will be shared as they come into focus!