With so many digital tools available for teachers and students to use and based on the ISTE Standard 3 for coaches, I wanted to know how coaches can evaluate, select, and manage these digital tools for teachers. To answer this question I first took a look at what my own district does to help make this process smooth for all staff members.
One Districts Technology Integration System
There are many different ways for districts to select and manage different digital tools for all staff members. My own district has a good system in place to make technology integration seem smooth and simple (in my opinion). To help manage all of the digital tools available for staff the district uses a platform called Powerschool. On this platform the district provides access to materials such as Online Curriculum, Mobile Teaching, Technology Training and Integration, as well as, digital tools.
Evaluating and Selecting Digital Tools
Not all digital tools are created equally and therefore they need to be evaluated before staff and students can access them. My district has four things they look at when evaluating a digital tool and a simple flow chart to see if the tool meets the district standards.
The district job in evaluating digital tools allows for them to make sure they meet the requires for student privacy and safety, to make sure it aligns with current district curriculum, any potential cost, and any issues with district wide technology/Security. If a digital tools meets all of these requirements then that digital tool is uploaded on to the platform for all staff members to access. A great thing about this process is that any staff member can submit a digital tool for approval. This allows for teachers to have a voice in the digital tools they think would be a good fit for their teaching and their students learning.
Technology changes by the minute, and as educators we need to keep up with the times in order to best prepare our students for this ever-changing world that we live in. With a system in place to evaluate, select, and manage digital tools districts can keep up with the demand and provide its staff and students with safe, effective digital tools in the classroom. Coaches can take the model above to help teachers select what is best for their students learning, while making sure the technology fulfills laws around safety.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting 10-20% of children and adults. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulty with language skills, specifically reading (IDA website). It is a disability that affects an individual throughout their life, although with interventions and supports people with dyslexia can become highly successful (Redford, 2014). The following paragraph comes from the Yale Institute for Dyslexia and Creativity, which borrows their definition from the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.
Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.
Source: IDA website- https://dyslexiaida.org/infographics/
The Impact of Technology
Advances in (and increased access to) technology have had a significant and positive impact for students with dyslexia. Technology has the ability to provide students with supports such as more time, the ability to use assistive technology to read and write, and ways to provide interventions without drawing attention to the disability. Many of the digital resources that have and will continue to provide support to students with language-based learning disabilities are free. Technology also allows increased access to information about dyslexia and the ability to connect online with others who share a common interest, such as dyslexia.
Through my research and my experience working with dyslexic students, I have come up with some recommendations as listed below. I have grouped these recommendations into three categories: reading and learning, note-taking, and writing. These are the three areas of school where students with dyslexia typically experience the most difficulty and where technology supports and resources can be very valuable and dramatically transform the learning environment and opportunities for success for students with dyslexia.
Reading and Learning
- Provide shorter and less dense reading assignments, but still at same reading and information level
- Allow students to listen to audio books (either human read or computer-generated)
- Assign graphic novels for reading (Redford, 2014)
- Make sure to increase font size and use font that is simple
- Provide students with text to speech technologies
An example of using Assistive Technology (browsealoud) to read a website.
Source: IDA website- https://dyslexiaida.org/frequently-asked-questions-2/
- Provide typed notes when appropriate
- Allow students to record lectures/instruction/ assignment directions
- Allow students to take pictures of the board or any other visuals in the classroom
Spelling and Writing
- Allow student to type their writing whenever possible and ensure they have instruction in efficient keyboard practices (Redford, 2014)
- When students are generating ideas or mapping out their writing, allow them to dictate their thinking so that their ideas are able to be captured as their thoughts and creativity flow (Redford, 2014)
- Provide access to programs that can translate speech to text
- Encourage use of spell-check, spelling predictors, and grammar programs
- Allow extra time for students with language-based learning disabilities for reading, writing, test-taking, etc.
- When appropriate provide the whole class with the accommodations options listed above for two reasons. 1) Accommodations for students with a learning disability are often beneficial to all students and 2) It allows the student(s) with dyslexia to access these supports without drawing attention to their disability
Chernek, V (2015). “Will Accessible Books Improve Reading for Students with Dyslexia?” EdSurge. (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from:
Common Sense Media for Educators website. “Best Assistive Technology for Reading in the Classroom”. (Retrieved on 2018, August 3) from: https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-assistive-technology-for-reading-in-the-classroom
Eide, F (2015) “3 Technology Must-Dos for Dyslexia at School” Dyslexic Advantage (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from: https://www.dyslexicadvantage.org/3-technology-must-dos-for-dyslexia-at-school/
International Dyslexia Association website: https://dyslexiaida.org/
ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, June 21) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
Hamman, J (2018). “Accommodating Students with Dyslexia”. Edutopia.org Website (Retrieved on 2018, August 1) from: https://www.edutopia.org/article/accommodating-students-dyslexia?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4a3F16zA3AIVRIF-Ch0cMwcmEAAYAyAAEgLFVvD_BwE
Redford, K (2014). “Kids Can’t Wait: Strategies to Help Struggling Readers” Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/educators/instruction/kids-cant-wait-strategies-to-support-struggling-readers/
Shapiro, L (2018). “How Technology Helped me Cheat Dyslexia” (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from: https://www.wired.com/story/end-of-dyslexia/
Meeting the needs of all learners in our classrooms can be a challenge. Students bring a wide variety of needs from learning disabilities, physical impairments, to attention issues. Fortunately, there are many assistive technology options available that can help teachers to meet these needs.
For this week’s post, I want to focus on ISTE Coaching Standard 3 which emphasizes creating digital learning environments that support the needs of all learners. Specifically, I consider substandard C: “Select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning” (Iste.org, 2017). My mission was to find and test out assistive technology tools available online to support students in reading and writing.
Assistive Technology, as defined by the 2004 IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) is as follows: “Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities.” When considering the use of the word ‘device’ in the definition, “…it is important to recognize that assistive technology devices required by students with disabilities include hardware and software as well as stand-alone devices” (“Definition of Assistive Technology”, 2014). All of the software I tested for this post is available online and all but one tool are completely free.
The reason I chose to focus on software is that it is an adaptation that can be made with relatively little cost and time investment. I wanted to explore options that teachers could implement on their own. Many teachers incorrectly view assistive technology as “an isolated, specialized factor understood and implemented by only a few specifically trained individuals” (Clifford & Reed, as cited in Connor & Beard, 2015). In other words, ‘not my problem.’ However, I hope to show that there are tools that are easy to use and that can benefit all students, not just those with barriers to learning.
Assistance with Reading
- For: Students with reading difficulties
- What: Rewordify has two important features. The first is that students or teachers can paste in text and have the software simplify the wording. The second feature is that many popular pieces of classic literature are already in the system. Students can access these translated versions for free. In both uses of the system, the replaced words are shown in yellow so that students can examine the original word and grow their vocabulary. While the simplifications aren’t always flawless, it’s a great starting point for students who aren’t reading at grade level.
- Read&Write Chrome Extension
- For: Students with visual impairments, students learning English
- What: This extension has many features. In addition to reading either an entire webpage or just selected text, you can access both traditional and visual dictionaries and translations, making this an ideal tool for struggling readers or readers new to the English language. Another feature is the ability to simplify a webpage to remove ads and sidebars as well as change the contrast colors. Students can also use the masking feature to gray out all of the webpage except for a thin bar. The extension also allows readers to highlight any portion of the article and then generate a Google Doc with those highlighted notes. Unfortunately, all but the most basic reader features are only available at the premium level once the free trial ends. The cost for a single annual license is $145, so this may not be a great option unless you have special funds or a parent who is in a position to purchase this resource.
- Read Aloud, A Text to Speech Voice Reader Chrome Extension
- For: Students with visual impairments, students with hearing impairments
- What: Of all the screen readers I tested, Read Aloud stood apart. This screen reader allows you to choose from multiple voices. The volume, pitch, and speed can also be manipulated as needed. You can choose to have the text highlighted as it is read. What set this extension apart from the others was its ability to read Google Doc files and PDFs (after uploading your file). The one downside is that it will read the captions of advertisements.
- Google Translate
- For: Students learning English
- What: Anyone can use www.translate.google.com to convert text between any two languages. Students can copy and paste text into the translation box. However, an easier way to accommodate students who are new to English is by adding the Chrome Extension. This will allow students to translate an entire webpage into their primary language. The extension will also enable students to highlight any text, right click, select translate, and see a translation in any language they choose.
- Mercury Reader Chrome Extension
- For: Students with visual impairments; students who have trouble focusing
- What: Mercury Reader removes all clutter from a webpage when you select the extension. This includes sidebar content, advertisements, comments, and more. Essentially you will have a clean article with only the images posted in the article and links shared within the article. Students have the option to change the contrast in case it is easier for them to read light text on a dark background. Students can also choose between a Serif and Non-Serif font and enlarge the text as needed.
Assistance with Writing
- Speech to Text with Google or Voice In Chrome Extension
- For: Students who struggle with fine motor skills, students with attention disorders
- What: Within a Google Doc, there is a built-in function to convert speech to text. You can access this function under the Tools menu or by using the shortcut, Ctl+Shift+S. Students simply speak into their device’s built-in microphone and their words appear on the screen. In addition to students who have trouble typing due to motor skill problems, I have had success when allowing students with ADHD to complete work in this manner. They seem better able to focus on speaking than on typing. Just like when using the speech to text feature on a phone, editing for grammar and the occasional mistaken words is necessary.
- What: Voice In is a Chrome Extension that will allow for dictation on any typable area of the web. This includes search boxes and forms. Anywhere you can type, you can right-click and select the option to Start Recording.
- For: Students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia
- What: Grammarly is a Chrome Extension that can also be downloaded to a PC and used with Microsoft Office. Grammarly is a grammar and spell-checker that not only points out the mistake but explains why their suggestion is correct. Because of this, it is a more effective tool than a traditional spell-checker which simply makes the correction for you. This is a great tool for all students–not just those with learning disabilities!
One thing to consider when implementing any form of assistive technology is that the student’s needs should come first, not the device (Connor & Beard, 2015). In other words, consider what elements a student needs to be successful with a given assignment and then find a tool that offers those elements instead of changing the assignment to fit within a particular tool.
Connor, C., & Beard, L. (2015). Increasing Meaningful Assistive Technology Use in the Classrooms. Universal Journal Of Educational Research, 3(9), 640-642. doi: 10.13189/ujer.2015.030908
Definition of Assistive Technology. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.gpat.org/georgia-project-for-assistive-technology/pages/assistive-technology-definition.aspx
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2004)
Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 19 Jul. 2018].
Check out this dyslexic font. I’m not dyslexic, but I love using this font because I do have a bit of hyperopia. Fortunately, thanks to the accessibility features in the course LMS I use, both my dyslexic students and I can opt to have our course information display in this font.
College instructors are often not aware that there are students with disabilities in their classrooms or digital learning spaces. Dyslexia, a range of specific reading disorders and the most prevalent learning disability in the country, affects as much as 20% of the population (Korbey, 2015). Yet like many disabilities, dyslexia is invisible. As a composition instructor, I ask students in my first-semester classes to begin our journey forward into writing by looking backward and authoring a literacy narrative. I have never given this assignment to a class in which at least one student did not use it to reveal and explore their experience with dyslexia. I have found the literacy narrative a powerful genre for initiating a first-semester writing experience that so many students approach with trepidation in such a way that those students find the course to be more inclusive, empowering, and transformative than they had expected as they gain the critical, literacy and writing technology skills they need to be successful in college and career. But that topic is for another post.
My point here is that many disabilities are unseen, and that even educators, who know that every individual has relative strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning, may not be aware of either the presence of disability among their students or of what barriers exist for those students. The need for faculty to be supported in developing inclusive, accessible learning experiences is amplified with the advent of ubiquitous digital learning tools such as LMS course shells. In fully digital learning environments, it can be harder to get to know students and their needs, and digital content may be inaccessible to students with, for example, visual, hearing, or movement impairments.
Web accessibility, a term sometimes shortened to accessibility, is an aspect of teaching in digital-age environments that “means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them” (Introduction, 2018). In an accessible digital learning experience, students can access all content and complete all activities without meeting barriers.
I believe that faculty want all of their students to succeed, but because they often receive limited “training” or simply receive requirements for accessibility compliance, they are not always equipped with the big-picture view of the issues and approaches that make inclusive educational design a joy rather than a burden. As a teacher and leader within the worlds of public higher education and public K-12 education, it is my role not only to know about adaptive and assistive technologies (ISTE Standard for Coaches 3d), and comply with accessibility laws (ISTE Standard for Coaches 5) that govern use of my institution’s existing educational infrastructure (ISTE Standard for Coaches 3f), but to make doing so a matter of mindset (ISTE Standard for Coaches 1) rather than just of compliance. This includes advocating for the time, training, and institutional approaches or processes that are needed for inclusive digital education and it includes creating vision for accessibility measures as tools that belong to the realm of teaching.
This post provides an overview of the laws governing web accessibility, two primary approaches to accessibility within higher education, and the different roles that faculty, staff/departments, and administrators can do to make digital college education accessible.
Higher education has become more inclusive in terms of access over time with the passing of legislation and social movements that have increased college enrollment among veterans, women, minorities, and those who experience disabilities. In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. also saw increased access through the development of the community college model, which seeks to bridge around half of today’s American undergraduate students to credentials, careers, and further education (Bailey, Smith Jaggars, & Jenkins, 2015). The work involved in designing educational options and programs that are effective for all types of students has moved more slowly.
Two approaches that are frequently used for re-envisioning education as inclusive of those with disabilities are Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and web accessibility. UDL, which won’t be discussed here but that I’ve blogged about elsewhere, replaces the idea of accommodation and adaptation with the idea of design based on multiple neurological and physical access points, a design intended to make a learning experience universally engaging and effective for all learners. In turn, this principle overlaps with educational approaches such as Guided Pathways and High Impact Practices that seek to provide program completion, deep learning, and equity for socioeconomically and culturally diverse students. I mention this overlap to reinforce the idea of equitable access as a matter of mindset that reflects the way educators today are approaching instructional design in terms of inclusion for deep learning in a 21st century context.
The second approach typically used in addressing issues of equity for students with disabilities is web accessibility.
Accessibility at a glance
There are essentially two realms of accessibility: content accessibility and platform accessibility. Platform accessibility involves addressing problems with accessibility in the code base underlying the LMS system or other software that may prevent the software from integrating with students’ assistive devices. Platform accessibility also addresses the way an LMS system or software device is coded to provide, for example, appropriate color contrast that will allow visually impaired as well as other students to read with relative ease. While faculty usually cannot resolve platform accessibility problems themselves, they can report those problems.
The second area of accessibility, content accessibility involves, barriers for those with disabilities that occur in the materials that faculty produce or use within an LMS. Examples of such barriers could include:
- Uncaptioned videos that cannot be experienced by the hearing impaired
- PDF files that cannot be read by a screen reader for the visually impaired
- Content that is not structured for a screen reader (for example, with content without frequent headings, with repeated blank spaces, or without alternative text for images and headings in tables)
- Inconsistent navigation patterns and naming conventions for files
The challenges for faculty as they seek to provide accessible course content is the sheer number of barriers that can be created in digital learning environments, the average technology user’s (i.e. faculty member’s) lack of specific knowledge of all of the possible barriers, and sometimes a lack of tools, training and time for eliminating barriers. But content accessibility is the realm in which faculty can have agency, for example by using accessibility checklists and protocols as they create courses that are more thoughtfully universal in design. Some resources for these types of checklists are provided at the conclusion of this post.
It is also important to realize that because of the number of possible accessibility errors and the potential of technological tools for glitches, accessibility checking should be approached as an inter-institutional partnership in which different individuals and departments help provide multiple perspectives and means of review. Accessible digital education is a team endeavor.
The legal landscape
In the United States, web accessibility is governed by procurement laws, accessibility laws, and non-discrimination laws that variously govern public, private, and government sectors. The beginning points for developing an institutional policy for accessibility are
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended in 2009
- Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1990
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative provides links to helpful explanations and to the guides and standards that have been developed for each law on its policies page.
W3C has also developed a series of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which are the standards or technical guidelines for accessible web content and web coding that many countries, including the U.S. and its higher education institutions, use to comply with their governments’ laws. The WCAG 2.0 standards were published in 2008, and WCAG 2.1 was just published in June 2018.
Many colleges and universities have developed their own shortened checklists for the WCAG standards. Two good places for faculty or departments to get an overview of WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 are
What faculty can do, departments, and institutions can do
Web accessibility requires such a breadth of specialized knowledge of specific disabilities and the available assistive technologies (AT) for them, of coding, and of the issues that may not be revealed through an automated checker, that it truly requires an ongoing collaborative institutional vision. However,
Faculty members can…
- Consider and modify course structures with UDL principles and potential accessibility issues in mind. For example, teach using assistive technologies such as screen readers as a de-stigmatized, useful tool for all students (Seale, Georgeson, Mamas, & Swain, 2015). A screen reader can allow a student to review reading while working out at the gym as well as provide a visually impaired student access to the text.
- Investigate the accessibility of software integrations before adopting them (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
- Consider putting content directly into LMS pages rather than as linked files (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
- Use accessibility check tools that are built into some content-creation software such as Microsoft’s Office tools and into some LMS systems. Third-party accessibility checkers also exist. LMS systems also have accessibility guidelines and community pages such as Canvas’ Accessibility with Canvas page
- Include on syllabi a list of software integrations that will be used in the course (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
- Gather student feedback and bring that information to the attention of the institution (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
Departments and instructional technologists can…
- Screen vendor software for accessibility (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
- Educate faculty about the basic laws involved
- Educate faculty about the basic principles of Universal Design
- Determine the top few accessibility issues with the institution’s LMS or curricula and support faculty in addressing those issues(Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
- Develop lists of best practices, and checklists and tools (such as OCR conversion tools and Adobe Acrobat Pro) for faculty to do their own accessibility building and checking
- Provide support such as screening syllabi and course shells, as well as providing consulting and partnership with compliance or educational technology officers
What institutions can do
If goals such as universal accessibility require collaboration across an institution, such collaboration tends to exist only when it is supported by an administration that has a vision for an institutional pathway for achieving such a goal.
Cifuentes, Janney, Guerra, & Weir, (2016) provide a process model that their institution, a state higher education institution with a 6-person Office of Distance Education and Learning Technologies for its 12,000 student, 600 faculty member campus. The model involves three basic stages: it moves from, first, exploring needs, requirements and principles; to second, building infrastructure and related issues such as choosing software and training faculty; to third, evaluation and refinement. I think the visual display of this process is helpful not only for conceptualizing how to approach accessibility (or any other curricular goal) in a holistic way, but also for seeing which personnel might work on which stages of the process and for gaining a sense of the time involved.
A difficulty in developing accessible courses is the time involved, and this visualization helps place some of that time burden on the institutional planning and review processes rather than solely on the faculty or designers who design courses. Therefore, I think this model could be scaled to a smaller college with a smaller staff because it focuses on essential phases and the time, tasks, and types of personnel involved.
Bailey, T.R., Smith Jaggars, S. & Jenkins, D. (2015). Redesigning America’s community colleges: A clearer path to student success. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Cifuentes, L., Janney, A., Guerra, L. & Weir, J. (2016). A working model for complying with accessibility guidelines for online learning. TechTrends, 60(6): 557-564.
Hamrick, L., & Grabham, B. (2018, August). It takes a campus: Creating accessible learning experiences for students in an LMS. Conference session presented at Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology (COLTT) 2018 Conference, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO.
Introduction to web accessibility. (2018, March 24). Retrieved from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Access Initiative website: https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-intro/#context
Korbey, H. (2015, October 8). Why recognizing dyslexia in children at school can be difficult. Retrieved from KQED News website: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/41908/why-recognizing-dyslexia-in-children-at-school-can-be-difficult
Seale, J., Georgeson, J., Mamas, C., & Swain, J. (2015). Not the right kind of ‘digital capital? An examination of the complex relationship between disabled students, their technologies, and higher education institutions. Computers & Education, 82, 118-128. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131514002541?via%3Dihub
Well-designed digital learning environments combine effective management strategies with collaborative learning processes (ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Digital Learning Environments). Open Educational Resources (OERs) are instructional materials (such as textbooks, multimedia learning tools, and lesson plans) that can be used free of charge by instructors and students to customize, reduce costs, and increase the connectivity (timeliness, authenticity of audience, access to real-world learning communities, etc.) of learning, but that also call for effective instructional use and management.
Hilton (2016) surveyed a number of studies of the impact of OERs on college student learning outcomes, and of student and faculty perceptions of OERs, concluding that OERs provide similar outcomes to textbooks and address the problem of textbook costs, which can deter students from purchasing books. In my own experience I have found that OERs may be a good choice for student learning not only because they make course content more financially accessible but because they can be tailored to student needs, learning styles, and interests with much more flexibility than a textbook.
Choosing to use OERs in course design does involve the instructor and the institution in the responsibility to mitigate some of the potential barriers or difficulties they pose. For example, while OERs can enhance the content of a course, they can play a role in reducing engagement between peers and between students and instructor. For this reason, they may not be ideal for diverse and nontraditional learners who would benefit from more instructional interaction. Similarly, I have consistently heard from my students that while they appreciate the convenience and some of the affordances of digitized text, many students believe that they understand and remember what they read best when they read from a book that they can touch, write on, and experience in three-dimensional space. A third consideration of how OERs may actually compromise learning has to do with access; their use may disenfranchise students who do not have a reliable internet connection or who have limited technology skills or software or hardware.
In addition, three important contextual concerns that should inform instructors’ and designers’ thinking as we implement OERs are quality control, intellectual copyright issues, and sustainability. The open nature of OERs leads to a need for users (whether programs and institutions or individual instructors or designers) to establish and use criteria for evaluating the accuracy and academic credentials of these materials. Allowing individual faculty to use OERs may compromise the consistency across sections that use of a required textbook ensures and that is a goal in standards-based education. Second, though OERs are created in order to be shared, U.S. copyright and “fair use” laws still apply, and OERs need to be “re-mixed” in ways that give attribution to both licensed and public domain sources (Moore, 2017). States such as Oregon have created higher education OER guidelines that address matters of access and quality (Freed, Friedman, Lawlis, & Stapleton, 2018).
A final ethical consideration that is easy to bypass in the rush to create a strategic institutional plan or a new coursepack is that of sustainability. This issue involves considering how our short term choices in instructional modes and materials impact the education in the long term. For example, movement away from the use of textbooks has driven up the cost of textbooks and also encouraged textbook companies to transform themselves into digital content providers. And while the prefabricated digital learning materials now being marketed by what formerly were textbook companies may have many attractive functionalities such as “intelligent” tutoring software, the ease with which these new materials can in turn be adopted by instructors to replace teaching can further distance students from learning as a carefully thought out and human-mediated process.
For these and other reasons, I’ve used OERs sparingly, aiming to make and test one innovation at a time. I began with using OERs from my field, writing instruction, using peer-reviewed resources provided by disciplinary associations and networks such as the WAC Clearinghouse or internationally recognized writing labs such as the Purdue OWL. I also try to find valid and reliable ways to assess and document the impact of my use of digital resources, at minimum by frequently collecting student feedback and giving students opportunity to choose the digital resources that work best for them. In the case of OER textbooks, I first used OERs as supplements or as options, an approach that works best in courses, such as many writing courses, that are not textbook-driven, and that helps me maintain alignment with textbook requirements across sections in my institution while still taking advantage of the way OERs can be tailored to student interests, learning styles, and learning levels.
Instructional Design with OERs
When designing instruction, the basic steps I follow involve:
- Identify the concepts to be learned
- Identify barriers to learning
- Identifying research-tested “best” pedagogical and disciplinary practices to be used
- Decide how the unit fits into the overall scope of the course or create the comprehensive syllabus and structure for the course
- Develop the tools and instruction
Designing an online or a technology-enhanced course involves more consideration, throughout the steps of this process, of factors such as accessibility, universality of design to support various types of learners, considering and supporting digital skill sets, and promoting cognitive, social, and instructor presence (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).
Lehman and Conceição (2013), in their book-length survey of models of student persistence and presentation of online courses design strategies based on their model for supporting supporting student persistence, also identify a number of institutional and instructional supports and tasks (for example, creating forums for both content-related and non-content-related interactions such as technical support and office hours; providing “Netiquette” guidelines; and considering how to help students prioritize tasks) that instructors like me should consider throughout the design process.
At the community college where I work, I have taught an the first of a three-course humanities sequence several times. This 100 level course provides a transfer credit and is often taken by students with little previous college experience. By requirement, HUM 121 is a textbook-oriented course that involves a survey of worldwide cultures from pre-civilization through the Western medieval era, also packing the disciplinary perspectives of cultural studies, art history, philosophy, and religious studies into a 15-week, 3 credit hour timeframe. Because of these constraints and the needs of my student population, my challenges in teaching this course include getting students interested, motivating them to read the required textbook, motivating them to learn vocabulary and disciplinary content that requires memorization, and supporting them in making the deeper connections that drive exploration, discovery, and authentic, personal learning.
This coming semester, the learning environment my students and I share will have some technological conditions that may act as further constraints or as opportunities. This course will be offered in a hybrid format, such that one of the three weekly contact hours involved in face-to-face instruction will be replaced by equivalent, asynchronous virtual instruction. The section will also be offered in what my institution terms a “global” format, meaning that some students will be present in a classroom for the two hours of weekly contact, while others will join on an individual computer from a remote site, while still others may be dual enrollment students who join as a group through a single computer. While I think that such a diversity of access formats inevitably leads to a privileging of one of the forms of attendance (for instance, on-site students may receive more teacher attention because of their physical proximity, or remote students in group settings may receive more instructor attention because of the problems associated with the relative number of layers of technology between them and the instructor), an equalizing factor is the fact that all students have access to the LMS course shell and associated student accounts (email, any software I embed, etc.), though not all students may have access at home. And while students and I are required to connect with content and one another using one or more other technologies (such as web-conferencing tools and the college website), one of my priorities for course design is to deliver as much content as possible in one place, using the shell as a hub. An opportunity that I have this semester is to use a slightly redesigned version of our LMS system, D2L/Brightspace. All these affordances and constraints make this a perfect time to re-examine the use of OERs to support these specific learning needs.
These, along with the considerations I listed above, mean that the three areas of most important consideration for me in the selection of OERs for this course will be the (1) nature and quality of any open educational materials, (2) copyright and licensing issues, and (3) how the tools and resources are used.
While the instructional and infrastructure challenges discussed above pose possible barriers, what makes designing this course fun is prioritizing the focus on designing effective learning experiences. The other pieces are all means to that end. Through the design process steps sketched above, I’ll be building:
- Learning experiences aligned with institutional curriculum outcomes and/or state guaranteed transfer standards, disciplinary and pedagogical best practices
- Integration of educational technologies
- Student technology training and support
- Learner experiences that according with Universal Design and WCAG accessibility principles
- Connections to means of social and cognitive engagement
- Connections to institutional supports through the learning environment
The shift to a hybrid format has caused me to conceive of the course’s basic unit in terms of a series of one-week learning experiences or modules. While this may not sound like a big change for the organization of a survey course, this shift includes: a sense of how students’ learning process should unfold over a week, how technology will enable me to help students organize their time and learning tasks more effectively, and how the tasks assigned might need to change. The basic learning task sequence for a week will involve the following steps: Read, quiz, vocab, discuss, mini-lecture, connect and create.
Our synchronous class meetings will be on Monday. The week’s learning activities will begin with turning in annotations of readings the evening before class. Rather than requiring students to turn in reading notes or summaries or relying on reading quizzes for accountability, I would like to provide an accountable reading assignment that is also motivating. One way to achieve this is to begin collaborative discussion during the reading process through the use of collaborative annotation tools. This will transform reading from an independent and unsupported task which students often avoid to a collaborative one in which readings can be approached more critically, multiple readings can be documented, students can ask and answer questions and make connections to other texts, reading discussion can begin before class and continue after class, and documented group interaction around readings can be used by small groups to support collaborative research projects.
I’m exploring using Stanford university’s Lacuna software for collaborative annotation or Hypothes.is. Both tools are free but may present barriers in terms of institutional willingness to partner or access to digitized content. In this first iteration of this hybrid format, the institution issued student textbook requisitions in print form prior to assigning the course in a hybrid format, so I’m seeking some retro-fitted funding to possibly create access to a digitized version of the textbook. In the absence of this funding, I can still have students access many of the primary source readings (which because of their antiquity can be located in the public domain) included in the textbook. OER resources for such primary source readings include the public domain primary source collection at Project Gutenberg and primary source archives curated by university humanities and digital humanities departments, such as Fordham University’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook.
Two important considerations for facilitating collaborative engagement will be 1. making it easy for students to engage with each other and the content; and 2. fostering participation. While I hope that Lacuna can foster the first, with some thought I should be able to use another easy-to-access software format or the “groups” or other features of my LMS shell to help students see and comment on one another’s work. To foster participation, one approach I’d like to try is to provide a work style survey that can help students self-select groups in a judgment-free way based on a knowledge of shared work styles. For instance, they could self-select into groups for those who prefer to plan ahead or who prefer to get work done at the last minute.
The next step in the learning activity chain will involve quizzes. Online quizzes that students take before class can reinforce reading content and help students monitor what they have and have not learned. In the past, I’ve given students unlimited opportunities to take and re-take 10-15 question, selected response and short essay quizzes at the conclusion of each reading and before a deadline. The intent was that in addition to providing accountability for reading, students would use quizzes to reinforce learning. I found in this context that few students used these quizzes more than twice and many took them only once, with poor outcomes indicating incomplete reading of course materials, and concluded that they were not very effective with this student population either in providing accountability or concept and vocabulary practice. Rather than scrapping the quizzes, I’d like to retain them and see if students will use them for practice more after doing group annotations.
Next, to continue to address the difficulty I’ve encountered with students learning the vocabulary terms of the many disciplines they encounter in HUM 121, I plan to begin each synchronous session with vocabulary study. The first 10 or 15 minutes of class will use vocabulary learning tasks such as Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)-oriented short writing tasks that move students from contextual mastery of terms to the ability to apply terms as part of their personal vocabularies, to having students develop their own tools for learning, say, architectural vocabulary terms. Finally, I hope to embed vocabulary learning in the course by the use of OER texts and resources, as I’ll discuss below.
Once students have read and begun to learn basic organizing concepts, they need to learn to work with primary sources, to process those sources and make connections between those sources, and to display their knowledge. Skill in these three areas will build a foundation for the more in-depth projects students may be able to undertake in higher level humanities or in digital humanities courses. (I’m blown away by what Miriam Posner’s students at UCLA can achieve in a 100 level Digital Humanities course focused not on survey content but on research approaches and technologies: http://miriamposner.com/classes/dh101f17/assignments/final-project/ .) These three levels of work with sources will be supported by classroom discussions, which I plan to have students lead by adapting the fishbowl discussion technique, by mini-lectures, and by a short written analysis that students will submit near the conclusion of the week’s learning, the topics for which will emerge not only from the primary source readings and visual objects, but from the week’s collaborations.
Finally, the capstone project for the course will be a presentation in which students explore issues that provide cultural and sociological background for understanding one or more of the significant primary sources engaged in the class. For example, if a primary source is the Roman satirist Juvenal’s “Against the City of Rome,” students could explore a cultural or sociological contextual topic such as Roman Religion and Cultic Practice or the Roman Welfare State. This project will be supported throughout the class by a series of milestones. Equally important, the project will be supported as well as by a series of short tutorial-style assignments that will support students in working with sources (for example, by approaching attribution not merely as a matter of avoiding plagiarism but of participating in and facilitating a conversation), in processing sources (for example, students will use TimeMapper to create spatial, chronological, and conceptual organization of a topic), and in displaying sources and showcasing knowledge (both in written and visual form). OERs will form a key part of this project, serving not simply as primary or secondary resources but as contexts in which students re-process information and see approaches to inquiry.
In a previous digital archives project for students in a 100 level literature class, I found that providing students with access to instructor-curated digital archives of primary sources boosted student inquiry. For this class, I’ve also decided to provide students with a limited body of high-quality suggested resources (which they may opt to add to). I took these resources from university librarian-curated or university department-curated research guides. One source, Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR), is written for instructors rather than students, but provides good models of inquiry topics, provides overviews of critical central ideas or sources that students won’t necessarily know about, displays the use of the same sorts of vocabulary terms students engaged with in their textbook but in a different context, and suggests “activities” that students may find useful for their own learning as well as for using in a presentation. The project design will prevent students from over-reliance upon any one source or type of source. I hope that the presence of OERs on the syllabus, as support materials for the projects, as sources I will model use of in my participation in class discussion, but not necessarily as assigned reading will encourage and make it easier for students to engage in exploration throughout the course.
They will need to be reviewed for accessibility features before the syllabus is finalized.
Supporting motivation and collaboration
An important principle in supporting motivation is to provide both consistency and variability in course structure. In this course design, the consistency of weekly course tasks with variable facilitators and activities and a progressive sequence of benchmarks and supporting assignments will help achieve this.
Another aspect of the consistency of a course is the degree to which collaboration is fostered consistently across the course. I believe that one reason group participation in asynchronous activities (such as the collaborative reading annotation activities I plan for this course) can be notoriously difficult to achieve in online courses is that students perceive many collaborative activities (such as threaded discussions) as poorly integrated into the learning of the course, and this perception may be correct. Fostering collaboration includes teaching students how to provide meaningful feedback, making it safe for students to do so, being highly present as an instructor, providing means for self- and peer-assessment that holds students accountable, and integrating collaboration into the culture of the course rather than just into discrete activities. My goal for my use of OERs is that, with appropriate modeling and use, these will also will foster collaboration, serving as go-to rather than required resources that can foster exploration in whole- and small-group discussions, so that, as students will be supported in knowing how to handle primary resources by the time they get to their projects, they’ll also be supported in knowing how to use open educational resources, and what it feels like to look work with well-curated academic OERs.
Freed, B., Friedman, A., Lawlis, S., & Stapleton, A. (2018, June). Evaluating Oregon’s open educational resources designation requirement: A report for the higher education coordinating commission. Retrieved from: https://www.oregon.gov/highered/research/Documents/Reports/HECC-Final-OER-Report_2018.pdf
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. Retrieved from the Athabasca University website: http://cde.athabascau.ca/coi_site/documents/Garrison_Anderson_Archer_Critical_Inquiry_model.pdf
Hilton, J. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Education Tech Research and Development, 64(4), 573-590.
Lehman, R.M. & Conceição, S. (2013) Motivating and retaining online students: Research-based strategies that work, Jossey-Bass / Wiley. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/spu/detail.action?docID=1376946
Moore, K. (2017, March 22). Attribution statements for remixed OER content [Website post]. Retrieved from: http://openoregon.org/attribution-statements-for-remixed-oer-content/
Redmond, P., Abawi, L., Brown, A., Henderson, R., & Heffernan, A. (2018). An online engagement framework for higher education. Online learning, 22(1), 183-204. doi:10.24059/olj.v22i1.1175
Even before the availability of technology in the classroom, group projects have gotten a bad rap. Students worry that the work will not be shared equally or that other’s actions (or inaction) will impact their grade. Teachers likewise want to ensure that collaboration results in all students accessing the content.
The benefit of using technology to facilitate collaboration is that students’ actions can be easily quantified and qualified. Features like the Revision History within Google Apps will reveal each student’s contribution to an assignment in color-coded format. Posts on a discussion board or LMS platform also make a student’s level of participation apparent. However, what can teachers do to eliminate the need for this “got you” approach and instead be proactive about ensuring the success of digital collaboration?
Carefully and intentionally structuring courses and projects is one way that teachers can ensure students have meaningful digital collaborations, thereby satisfying ISTE Coaching Standard 3a, “Model effective…collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments” (Iste.org, 2017).
The Argument for Collaboration
Though it may seem like planning for collaboration is more involved than traditional assignments, the benefits are overwhelming. Dr. Patty Shank makes the following argument for collaboration in the higher education classroom: “[S]ocial interaction can positively influence learning, motivation, and problem-solving, and can help learners gain needed support and overcome frustration” (n.d.). I put together the following infographic to highlight Shank’s rationale for incorporating collaborative learning.
Planning for Collaboration
One of my favorite sayings is ‘failing to plan results in planning to fail.’ The element of planning is vital to the success of collaboration. According to Shank, “It takes preparation and practice to design and implement good collaborative activities, and learners need preparation and practice to get the most from them” (n.d.). For guidance in what this planning might look like, I turned to an article written by Jan Engle, a coordinator of instruction development at Governors State University.
Build Collaboration into the Course
Engle suggests making your expectations regarding collaboration clear from the beginning. In order to ensure that the responsibility for learning is shared by all students in a group, Engle makes participation in group work a grade requirement. Not adequately participating in group work results in an automatic single grade-level reduction (ie- A to B). Engle does this “because really bad group experiences and failure to participate in the online environment just decimate the sense of community we’ve worked so hard to develop up to that point” (n.d.).
Initially Focus on Process over Product
Even adult learners may enter the classroom unprepared for successful collaboration. Instead of making assumptions about what students can or can’t accomplish as a group, Engle suggests explicitly teaching collaboration. Depending on the age group, this might involve giving students the language to disagree. When I taught English Language Learners, we used the Kate Kinsella framework to provide students with sentence frames. More advanced learners might just need guidance in developing group norms.
Engle (n.d.) asks her groups to collaboratively discuss and then respond to the following questions:
- How are you going to divide the project so that each team member has a part?
- Who is going to be responsible for each part?
- How are you going to communicate during the project?
- How will members submit their work to the group?
- What is the deadline for the submissions of individual pieces?
- Who is going to be responsible for putting the pieces together into one paper [or presentation]?
- How are you going to handle final proofing?
- What will you do it somebody does not do his or her part or does not meet deadlines?
- How are you going to go about answering questions that group members might have about the project?
Scaffold Up to Larger Projects
Beginning the collaboration process with a low-stakes project is a great way to test out the group dynamics and work through conflict. Early in a course, Engle assigns a group project that is “relatively easy and fun in order to emphasize group processes” (n.d.). Once students have the concept down, Engle then moves on to larger collaborative projects. One example of an introductory collaborative activity is an information scavenger hunt designed to introduce students to the basic concepts of research. Engle chose this task because it was easy for students to divide the tasks, was not worth many points, and wouldn’t create much room for conflict since the answers were all either right or wrong.
Engle also suggests introducing smaller collaborative components ahead of time in order to scaffold up to the larger assessment. This might include sharing responses with a partner who is then required to report them out to the class. Or you might include Jigsaw learning where each group is responsible for reporting on a particular text or concept.
Multiple Modes of Monitoring
Peer Evaluation: While students are welcome to contact Engle at any point in time with concerns, they also have a say in their fellow teammates’ final grade. Collaborative project grades are based partly on end result and partly on peer evaluation. That peer evaluation is based on a rubric that all students review. I really appreciate the addition of a rubric component into the peer feedback process because it helps students to make quantitative evaluations and not judge based on personal chemistry or connection. An additional step that I would take is having students justify each line item response on the rubric.
Teacher Observation: Whether students are collaborating on a Google Slide, discussion board, or Wiki page, Engle requires students to give her access throughout the process. One mistake that many teachers make is being involved in the initial explanation of the assignment and then checking out until the final product is returned. By being involved every step of the way, you can head off potential inequities and disagreements. Even with this oversight, it is important to encourage a productive struggle before stepping in. Instead of simply solving the problem for students, consider how you might facilitate a resolution.
Self-Assessment: Though not mentioned by Engle as a monitoring strategy, I believe self-assessment to be a valuable tool in helping students ensure they are collaborating successfully. I have found that students are typically harder on themselves than peers (and sometimes even the teacher). Like peer evaluation, self-assessments can be based on a given rubric. In addition to the rubric reflection, I have also had success with asking students to explicitly share the contribution they made to their group on a particular day.
Just as it is essential to teach students rules and routines at the beginning of the school year, it is also essential to explicitly plan for and teach collaboration. The time investment made up front will pay off when learners are able to fairly and successfully participate in the online learning environment.
Engle, J. How to Promote Collaborative Active Online Learning . Student Collaboration In The Online Classroom, 11-12. Retrieved from http://www.hartnell.edu/sites/default/files/u285/student-collaboration-in-the-online-classroom.pdf
Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 19 Jul. 2018].
Shank, P. Considering Collaboration. Student Collaboration In The Online Classroom, 12-13. Retrieved from http://www.hartnell.edu/sites/default/files/u285/student-collaboration-in-the-online-classroom.pdf
For my last week of exploring ISTE Coaching Standard (CS) 3: Digital age learning environments, I focused on indicator 3e – “troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.” I initially started off with different questions, but they led me to these questions:
What frameworks or models are there for troubleshooting? What counts as troubleshooting? And if it doesn’t count as troubleshooting, then what is it?
What is troubleshooting?
Troubleshooting is one of those things that we often talk about without defining. And even more, specific language might be used when defining troubleshooting in a specific context. So based on the definitions or descriptions of troubleshooting from the resources I found, I feel like this general definition summarizes the idea well:
Troubleshooting: “Effective troubleshooting is a multifaceted exercise in diagnosis and deliberation, analysis and action” (Krieger, 2010) for the purpose of attempting to fix a failing or otherwise misbehaving system (Kuphaldt, n.d.).
What is troubleshooting not?
Debugging. This word came up when I asked my friend what general troubleshooting techniques are used in his discipline, computer science. The techniques he told me about didn’t quite match what I was expecting to hear. To me, he was telling me more about debugging techniques rather than troubleshooting, which led us to this forum response on the difference between debugging and troubleshooting:
The difference to a professional software developer is:
“Debugging” usually refers to the act of finding out what is causing a bug in a computer program, done by a person with the ability and authorization to change the computer program to fix the bug once the problem is found and pinned down.
“Troubleshooting” usually refers to the act of finding out how to fix or work around a problem in a computer program one is trying to get to run. Usually it is done by a person who does not have the option to alter the code, but has a program that is supposed to already be debugged. It involves finding conflicts in configuration or the like.
There are definitely overlaps, but they have different main usages. I would suggest that in your context of classroom work, that you use “troubleshooting” most of the time. “Debugging” would apply mostly when attempting to figure out how to alter the lesson plan so the problem does not reoccur on subsequent attempts to teach the same lesson. (Truffula in Debugging vs. troubleshooting, 2014)
The distinction ends up being important due to its implications for a solution. For example, Krieger (2010) says, “It’s common and understandable for users to blame the software or hardware when something frustrating happens that they don’t understand. For a troubleshooter to do the same, however, is an almost certain setup for failure.” I believe Krieger says this because when we believe a problem is caused by a bug, we give up on finding a solution, and the belief that a solution can be found is arguably a prerequisite for persistence in troubleshooting. See Kayne’s (2017) article What is the Difference Between Troubleshooting, Testing, and Debugging? for more elaboration on the differences between these terms.
Problem solving. When you are troubleshooting you are trying to solve problems, but does that mean you’re problem solving? If you are problem solving, does that mean you are troubleshooting? In academia, I don’t think these two words are interchangeable, though, like troubleshooting and debugging, I think they probably have some overlap. The main idea about troubleshooting that seems distinct from problem solving is that troubleshooting happens when a system is failing, misbehaving, or not working as expected; problem solving seems to encompass more than that. Perhaps troubleshooting is a subcategory of problem solving.
The Weyerhaeuser Company has a nice troubleshooting website which outlines the troubleshooting process at their company (it appears that they manufacture things). On their website they distinguish between problem solving and troubleshooting in the following way:
Problem solving is used for longer-term, more complex problems that require more data analysis and a team approach. Working through a problem may take several weeks but will often lead to major improvements in processes, products, or services.
The Weyerhaeuser Troubleshooting Process is designed for “on the floor” situations where time is of the essence. These problems usually take only a few minutes, hours, or shifts to solve. If it takes much longer than that you might consider using a longer-term problem solving process. (source)
Their definition of problem solving doesn’t seem to strictly match the academic use of the term, but I found it helpful nonetheless.
Troubleshooting: The Process
The resources that I found seem to agree on at least three basic steps for troubleshooting:
- Know the problem
- Narrow down the cause
- Verify the solution
But together the resources create a better picture of what troubleshooting entails. This outline strongly resembles *Steve Litt’s Universal Troubleshooting Process (UTP) because his process has the most steps and all the resources I found align with at least one item from the UTP. But this list combines information from Johnson, Flesher, and Chung (1995), Krieger (2010), Davies (2006), Weyerhaeuser Company (2004), Litt (2014), and Kuphaldt (n.d.).
*See the heading titled “The 10 step Universal Troubleshooting Process” for Litt’s elaboration on each numbered step below. I recommend checking it out. There’s a lot he talks about that I don’t mention.
But before getting to the steps of troubleshooting, I think there’s one prerequisite worth listing, which often seems to be assumed.
Prerequisite: In order to troubleshoot, you need at least some content knowledge. Particularly I’m thinking of conceptual understanding of the system and its components (Johnson et al., 1995) and relevant terminology. You don’t need to know all the content, but you need to know enough of something, and obviously, the more the better. It is incredibly difficult to Google something if you don’t know what key terms to use. And beyond that, if you don’t have a conceptual understanding of the system, it can be very hard to use the information you find to answer your own question or to even know to ask a question.
For example, when I was first trying to get my computer to read text to me (see my previous blog post here), I didn’t know the term “screen reader” so I didn’t find that software right away. Then once I found the software, I didn’t have a conceptual understanding of how it worked, so I didn’t know that I should be looking for the “button” command key which will cycle through clickable buttons on a webpage.
1. Prepare: This might require certain tools, software, or setting up your work space. Litt emphasizes having the right attitude and describes that here; I think persistence is one of the things he describes. Krieger emphasizes the importance of always assuming you could be wrong.
I have definitely experienced something like “putting on” a troubleshooting-attitude. I recall a night when my printer wasn’t working. After some halfhearted attempts to get it to work and deliberation over whether or not I really needed to print the thing, there was a distinct moment where I went, “Fine, I am going to commit to attempting to fix this.” After something like 5 hours I finally got it working. I think I cried in celebration.
2. Damage control plan: Litt was the only person I found who mentioned this, but it’s incredibly important! If you’re going to mess with things, make sure you backup whatever content you might affect.
3. Know the problem: You need to be able to clearly state the problem and fully understand the problem. Here are some questions that will help you get a complete picture of the problem:
- What works?
- What doesn’t work?
- How are the working and non-working things related?
- Have the non-working things worked in the past? Has the problem happened before (prior occurrence)?
- Have there been recent changes to the system?
I think using the process of Rubber Duck Debugging during this step (and the next) could be beneficial. I say this because the act of trying to email someone about a problem often causes me to refine my answers to these questions.
4. Reproduce the problem: I think being able to reproduce the problem is really a sub-point of knowing the problem because you have to be able to answer the question: Under what conditions does the problem happen? I think sometimes this step might get skipped, particularly if the problem and solution are well documented. But sometimes being able to reproduce the problem is super important.
I can think of a handful of examples off the top of my head when I needed to be able to recreate the problem. Two of my examples involve reaching out to tech support and it’s probably safe to assume that in order to get help from tech support, they will need to be able to recreate the problem themselves (especially if it’s not a known problem).
5. Corrective maintenance: Looking at Litt’s description of this, I think it’d be fair to summarize this as “restart and update” but it includes other things like cleaning terminals. Corrective maintenance includes the things you would typically do for general “system health.”
6. Narrow down the problem: Easier said than done. “Your success or failure lies in what you choose to eliminate, and more importantly, why. It’s a game of Pick Up Sticks where you evaluate, reason, then remove any obstacles that get you closer to resolving the problem without breaking anything else. How you make those choices depends entirely on the questions you ask and how you interpret the answers” (Krieger, 2010). And to pull out some of Litt’s comments from Step 1 Prepare: “Don’t try to fix it, just try to narrow it down. Don’t panic. Don’t get mad. Be patient and don’t skip steps. Practice teamwork. When you get in a bind, just ask yourself ‘how can I narrow it down one more time?'”
7. Solve the problem: Once you think you’ve narrowed down the problem, solve it. Solutions can be broken up into at least two categories: fixes and workarounds. Illig (2010) describes the difference between these two things here. In short, a fix is a solution that will eliminate the problem and a workaround is a solution that will avoid the problem. For example, OwossoBob posted this workaround for the problem of the new Google Sites not (yet?) having a “site comments” feature.
Once you’ve solved your problem, don’t stop here!
8. Verify the solution: You want to make sure the problem is fixed and that the solution didn’t cause another problem. Additionally, Krieger says, “If you don’t know why it works, it isn’t fixed. … If the fix doesn’t work consistently, it most likely doesn’t work at all.”
9. Take pride in your solution! I’m glad Litt included this step because it is certainly a clear stage in the process!
10. Prevent future occurrence: Document your problem and solution and then share the information with your community to help them quickly resolve the problem should they encounter the same issue. This could be a great focus for student blogging on a class blog or website.
Is it Troubleshooting? And does it matter?
Two of my questions at the start of this post were:
What counts as troubleshooting? And if it doesn’t count as troubleshooting, then what is it?
But does it really matter whether your troubleshooting, debugging, problem solving, or doing something else? I think it does because learners will need different kinds of support depending on the activity they are engaged in.
With that in mind, here are three examples of activities I engaged in during my recent “text-to-speech adventure,” which I blogged about here. During that adventure, I did a lot of things, but was any of it troubleshooting? After thinking about troubleshooting more, I decided that a lot of what I did was not troubleshooting.
Not troubleshooting: I’m thinking about everything I went through to learn enough about screen readers so that I could use one to turn on accessibility mode on Ebook Central. And since I didn’t know enough about screen readers in order to have any expectations about how mine should be behaving, I can’t say that at any point my screen reader wasn’t behaving as expected. Therefore, I wasn’t troubleshooting…right? So what was I doing? I think I was engaging in the prerequisite that I listed above: acquiring content knowledge. I was learning the basics of using a specific program, and based on the definitions I’ve read, technically that is not considered troubleshooting. Perhaps this is the kind of activity which would well supported by a “click this button” type of tutorial.
Not sure: I’m having a harder time deciding whether or not I was troubleshooting during a different activity. My favorite text-to-speech reader for Chrome and Safari, ttsreader.com, has a Chrome app (here) for their website. It wasn’t immediately clear to me what the app does because the website works without installing it. So I got on two computers at once, one with the app installed and one without, and explored how the features differed based on which computer I was using. Once I realized that the website “remembers” a setting when the app is installed, I started confirming that it remembers other settings too.
Going through this process helped me prevent “a misbehaving website” down the road, and I can see how I might have needed to troubleshoot in the future had I not realized that you need the app for the website to perform as described by the developers. So was I troubleshooting? I’m not sure. I might say I was preemptively troubleshooting because I assumed that not understanding the differences between with-app and without-app would impede my ability to help others troubleshoot in the future. Thinking of myself as part of a community and wanting to support that community was really what encouraged me dig in and find an answer to my question.
Definitely troubleshooting: However, I was definitely troubleshooting when I was trying to add new voices for MS Speak and I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work. The answer to this problem is that there is no known solution to this well documented problem in Windows 7. (It seems to be a bug!) And I suspect that Microsoft’s workaround to this problem is to continue to allow users who utilize assistive technologies to upgrade to Windows 10 for free (see this), rather than fixing the bug on Windows 7.
Troubleshooting and ISTE-CS 3e
Troubleshooting is one of those terms that gets used so much and so loosely that it can seem to become a catchall word for “figuring things out.” In that respect it reminds me of the word “identity.” And for me to be able to engage in CS 3e, it was important for me to go through this process of thinking about what troubleshooting is and what it isn’t. The next step for me would be to think about what it looks like to teach troubleshooting. I know that modeling the troubleshooting process is one way to teach it, but what other ways can we teach and learn it? In the future I think it would also be nice to make an infographic based on the information I found.
Davies, J. (2006). Chapter 16 – Troubleshooting TCP/IP. Retrieved from https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb727023.aspx#EFAA
Debugging vs. troubleshooting [Online forum comment]. (2014, October 14). Retrieved from WordReference Language Forums website: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/debugging-vs-troubleshooting.2909914/
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Johnson, S. D., Flesher, J. W., Chung, S-P. (1995). Understanding troubleshooting styles to improve training methods. Paper presented at the American Vocational Association Convention, Denver, 1995. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED389948
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Kayne, R. (2017). What is the difference between troubleshooting, testing, and debugging? Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-troubleshooting-testing-and-debugging.htm
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Rubber duck debugging. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging
Weyerhaeuser Company. (2004). Troubleshooting [website]. Retrieved from http://www.pushmultimedia.com/sites/trbleshoot/default.asp?stra=default.xml&strb=default.xsl
Growing your PLN through Twitter
This summer I made a huge life choice by leaving teaching and entering the educational technology industry to continue my work with SPU School of Ed and the Digital Educational Leadership program. I moved from Seattle to San Francisco and started working for Edmodo as the Community Growth Manager. I believe that a piece of that is due to my time on social media and growing my professional learning network. The way I used social media made me thrive and build my support base to believe in what I was doing in the classroom and for my career. As George Siemens states “a central tenet of most learning theories is that learning occurs inside a person. Even social constructivist views, which hold that learning is a socially enacted process, promotes the principality of the individual (and her/his physical presence – i.e. brain-based) in learning” (2005). Educators need to figure out how to utilize the tools that we have available in place on the world wide web and by doing so we can harness the global collaborative power of teachers around the world. Teachers can use Twitter to connect with new educators, communicate what really happens on the job, create a public professional persona to help students know what it means to have self-awareness and positive online self-management. During April, 2017 I created and ran a Global Collaborative Project that used Twitter in the classroom. I appreciated this video to help spur my students inspiration by Ted Ed – What makes a poem … a poem? – Melissa Kovacs
Workshop Title and Description
Presentation Session “Growing your PLN with Twitter” – Educators are using Twitter to grow their professional learning network, sharing resources, and building the global educational community. I am one of the PSESD Washington Teacher Leaders for Twitter this year, and I want to share how this program and the use of
Twitter has made me a better more informed teacher. Twitter can be a way to create a strong professional social media platform for yourself to help promote what you are doing in your classroom every day. I think this topic is important because teachers spend so much of their time alone. We have our classrooms and our students but when it comes to honest peer-to-peer contact it takes so much time and investment. Some teachers don’t ever make those important connections with their colleagues in their building and Twitter or other Social Learning Networks are crucial for creating new conversations with people outside of your building.
In 2015, Denise Scavitto wrote an article Teachers: Embrace Twitter for Professional Development and I appreciate the way she explains the reason behind using Twitter to grow a PLN. “For me, Twitter is a way of consuming information targeted to my interests. Using a hashtag like #sschat connects me to topics that will interest and intrigue Social Studies teachers – from all walks of life – and all because I know what to look for. Twitter isn’t overwhelming anymore – it’s incredible. I’ve connected myself to an extensive personal learning network of educators, entrepreneurs, and innovators through a little bird – and found it the best professional development I’ve never paid for” (Edudemic).
Learning Objective Event
My objective is to create a presentation for my session on teachers using Twitter to grow their PLN. There are 600 educators are registered for the conference total. I am not sure if anyone has signed up for my session yet, but I am hoping to talk to around 30 teachers specifically about my topic. The conference I am CCS Powerful Learning Conference in Issaquah, WA on August 16th, 2017. I already submitted a small proposal and got it accepted in November. I have a handout but may need to complete a couple more. The venue is the CCS Powerful Learning Conference at Issaquah High School in my old district. I was inspired to submit a request because I went to the conference last year and I wanted to show growth by speaking at the next year’s conference.
My presentation should be one hour and fifteen minutes long. That is the required length. I think it would be essential to provide blended content. I could probably make it a lot longer but this will help me limit and edit my work. I also submitted a proposal to NCCE for their 50-minute session. I think I can cut a lot of my material out if I could accomplish a true flipped or blended learning environment.
- Active and engaged learning
Twitter in Plain English
Common Misconceptions & FAQ
- The first one is that 140 characters are not enough to have a productive conversations. But my counter to that one is imagine you are in a meeting with 20 of your closest friends in your department or staff. How much content do you add in that 45 to 60 minute meeting? With the addition of pictures it opens a whole other place for content. The 140 characters also limits people from venting, blabbing, and allows for constraint when we know sometimes educational meetings can run long.
- If you don’t have a lot of followers then there isn’t any point. But I disagree because it is more important about how you use the platform. To gain followers you must use the platform on a consistent basis.
- Hashtags are just trendy things for young people and are not professional enough to take serious. I think that if it is for “young people” then that in itself is a reason to give it a try. It keeps you current and it also allows you to connect with your students. If teachers are not constantly learning then they are taking steps backwards.
- Twitter for communication and collaboration come with the the idea that it is only for some politicians and weird bots who spam up your feed. But I think that is another way to show to students, parents, and admin that it does not always have to be ran that way. It can be “boring” as my students said when they found and read my twitter feed. I said it isn’t boring to me it is what I am interested in and what I like to talk about.
Gates Foundation (Ed.). (2014). Teachers Know Best What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from http://www.teachersknowbest.org/survey-results/1
Morris, K. (2017, May 11). Step 2: Using Twitter to Build Your PLN. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/pln-challenge-3-using-twitter-to-build-your-pln/
Scavitto, D. (2015, April 17). Teachers: Embrace Twitter for Professional Development. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from http://www.edudemic.com/teachers-embrace-twitter-professional-development/
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm
This week in my exploration of ISTE Coaching Standards with my graduate program in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am continuing to examine ISTE Coaching Standard 3 and specifically point G, in an effort to understand how teachers can create…
This standard immediately made me think of my final assignment and Global Collaborative Project from EDTC 6103 in the Spring of 2017. In this project, I worked together with my administrator, advanced eighth-grade language arts students, and parents to create a global collaborative environment. If you scroll down you can see the whole breakdown of the project from planning to execution to feedback and reflections. One unexpected outcome of the project was the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) that took place. And now that the state of Washington’s educational legislative body (OSPI) and similarly in other states have hooked onto the fact that social emotional learning is essential to a student’s health and future my project is even more relevant. The unexpected part came as many students do not get to experiment with new digital tools in their classrooms very often especially not real world social media platforms due to unpredictability and fear. I decided to push the envelope a bit so that my students got to use Twitter during national poetry month. I got the okay from my principal and the parents were notified. This gave my students an authentic audience and an external megaphone to share their work. The flip side and surprising part were that students felt exposed and vulnerable with their writing out in the public sphere.
Now, taking a step back I first want to use Washington States OSPI’s definition of SEL “social emotional learning is broadly understood as a process through which people build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships and making responsible decisions, leading to success in school and in life. Research shows SEL on a large scale supports better performing and more positive school communities” (2016, pg. 3). I think in our current 21st-century digital revolution that digital citizenship fits directly into that “awareness”. Being able to build a positive self-rewarding social media presence that adds to your life instead of distracts or detracts is something that now needs to be taught in classes.
Therefore, to implement SEL “effectively and equitably schools will need to (1) start by evaluating and building school and classroom environments that are conducive to SEL; (2) incorporate principles of universal design for learning when adapting SEL curricula to their unique climate; (3) emphasize equity in the selection and implementation of curriculum; and (4) take a holistic approach, understanding that each person (child and adult) will start at different places and progress in different ways along an SEL continuum” (2016, pg. 7). As I began my project with my students I did not know realize how serious posting on the internet can be for some of them. Online personas are extremely personal and some of my students struggled with posting and sharing their poetry. Not only but some just could not handle the wide range of communication that Twitter allows for. As the social benchmark, standard five states students should have the ability to “demonstrate a range of communication and social skills to interact effectively with others” (2016, pg. 4). Although many teachers and adults do not want to admit it being able to communicate on social media is essential to these effective interactions with their peers. At the end of the process, I believe that some students understood through my examples that a social media platform like Twitter does not have to be for ranting or spamming people. It can be used for good and for a specific purpose, to make friends and connections and build a network of people for your own community.
Click to view slideshow.
Global Collaborative Project
Poetry & Twitter
National “Poem in Your Pocket Day” in person shared on Twitter
#pocketpoem, #poetryhw, #poetryisd #npm17
April – May 2017
ISTE Teaching Standards
In order to clearly reflect on the alignment of the ISTE Teaching Standards in the project that follows, I have used the standard number and letter to identify them accordingly.
- ISTE Student 2 Communication & Collaboration Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
- a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
- b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
- ISTE Student Standard 5 – Digital Citizenship Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
- a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
- b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
Communication with Collaborating Partner
For this global collaborative project, I have chosen to utilize a vast amount of teacher professionals on Twitter during the National Poetry Month of April. Most of us teach English for middle or high school classes; there are also teachers that tweet posts for their elementary school students. Although I did reach out to a couple of other teachers specifically, it was more about working on a larger platform. Our shared intent of expanding our students’ reach regarding sharing their work is increased via Twitter (2. a. & b.).
My colleagues and I did communicate over direct messaging on Twitter. I also reached out to other Humanities teachers in the ISD via email to inform my local colleagues and interested district employees. Given the collective subject area expertise and subjects taught, we will focus our attention on language arts content and skills. Specifically sharing and writing our poetry. Since I started working with PSESD and Corelaborate as a Washington Teacher Leader my ability to monitor and use Twitter has expanded. It became apparent that this vast social media platform could be an opportunity for a wider community might provide a rich opportunity for a technology-supported collaboration project between our students (2. a. & b.).
The goal of this endeavor is to expose my students to a global collaboration project, which allows students to work with peers across the Twitterverse and see how far their posts/tweets can go. It can also teach valuable skills like digital citizenship, communication and collaboration, and information fluency (5. a. & b.). I decided to work with my two-morning Advanced 8th-grade Language Arts classes; I have roughly 26 students in each class. I chose those two sections because I thought they could handle the responsibilities that come with using Twitter and making the required deadlines of posting a lot better than my other classes (5. a. & b.). In those two classes, I have 24 boys and 26 girls which I think will play a part in participation. Each student will be asked to create and use a Twitter account during the month of April and early May. April is the National Poetry Month (#npm17) and April, 27th we would participate in International Poetry in your Pocket Day. The project will be a sharing of creative writing to a wider more authentic audience while sustaining a professional demeanor on a social media platform. My students will “like”– communicate and collaborate with other students via Twitter (2. a. & b.).
Technology & Communication
I have already stated the use of technology will be predominately the Twitter application on their smartphones. I created a new account for this project and to keep the students safe from trolls and spammers. Twitter is a free social media tool used for communicating. You are allowed to use 140 characters to message other people; certain hashtags will allow others to connect and collaborate easily (2. a. & b.). Students were told to either tweet their poetry as written or take or make a photo of their poetry. Some students used Canva or iPhone image editing apps; others just took a picture right from their interactive notebooks.
Instead of National Poetry Month and my students and I beginning our two to three weeks poetry unit. Students will receive four different poetry writing assignments that they will need to post to Twitter. All will use the hashtags #poetryisd, and #poetryhw for collaboration with their peers and they will Tweet at me (@ottenadpoetry), so I am notified that they have done their assignments (2. a. & b.). Students will also participate in International Poetry in your Pocket Day.
This project will require multiple check-ins with Twitter but will be primarily asynchronous in nature. Students will be posting at different times and will have certain requirements to hit at various times. They are required to interact with their fellow students’ tweets regarding “likes,” replies or retweets. I will also keep up on the people following the account and block any trolls or spammers. I have consulted the district’s AUP and the fact that the students are at least 14 years old and Twitter is open on all classroom computers we are not violating anything. I have notified parents of what is going on in the classroom and opened the window to allow them to follow our classroom interactions.
Common Core English Language Arts Standards
Comprehension and Collaboration:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.5 – Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.6 – Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.10 – By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3.D – Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6 – Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
Global Collaborative Project Outline
Six A’s of Project-Based Learning
|6 A’s of Project Design||Guiding Questions|
|Authenticity||What is the point of writing when the audience is only my teacher? How can I get my students’ creative writing heard by a larger audience? What could push them to create better more thought out poetry?
By placing the poetry on Twitter students have a true authentic audience that feels larger and more important than just our classroom and their classmates.
How will your project require students to produce something that has personal and/or social value beyond the school setting?
Students will start to see what happens when their poetry is shared and found. Specifically on the National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 27th. Students will have their poem they want to share with them and also share it on the web. It can be one of their own making or one that inspires them in some way.
|Academic Rigor||What disciplines, content areas, and standards will your project address?
This project hits an array of standards that only pertain to poetry and figurative language in language arts. Specifically, it is for my 8th-grade advanced language arts classes at IMS. It also requires the students to share their writing with people who may or may not like it. Their bubble becomes much larger than it used to be once we put things out there on the world wide web. It also connects securely with the following speaking and listening standards. I have taught several different units for poetry and at the high school level, we used to have a poetry night that was hosted by the language arts department. Teachers, parents, admin and of course students would attend. This event was great but I always thought that the poetry could be sent to an even wider audience.
What higher order thinking skills will students be using?Learning Targets: Students can analyze how the structure of the text can contribute to its meaning. Students can use their Twitter accounts to correctly post and tag their poems in a multimedia setting. They will use the social media tool to connect with the outside world.
|Adult Connection||How will the adults collaborate to design the project and/or assess student work?
I have reached out to my whole language arts department at my school and my TOSA for the whole district is also sharing the Poem in Your Pocket in the next newsletter. Teachers are sending me their favorite poetry and poems they have written so I can share it on Twitter for them or they can share themselves and use the same hashtags.
I am also collaborating with the national cohort of teachers who are participating in the same National Poetry Month. I saw how other teachers were conducting their programs and I got ideas of how to entice students to post their tweets.
What opportunities will students have to observe, interact, and work closely with adults?My students are posting their poetry alongside adults for National Poetry Month. They can see using the same hashtags what it looks like to publicly disperse your materials. We also perused Twitter together to like, retweet, or reply to certain poets and their work.
|Active Exploration||How will students engage in real investigations and field-based work?
What technology tools and media sources will students use?My students are predominantly using their phones or school provided laptops to post their Tweets on to Twitter.
How will students be expected to communicate their new knowledge and skills?They are expected to post their tweets within specific calendar dates using certain hashtags and tagging my poetry Twitter account @ottenadpoetry. Hashtags include #Poetryhw, #poetryISD, #Pocketpoem, #NPM17
|Applied Learning||How is your project grounded in real-world learning?
Students have to create a piece of creative writing which is not always set in the real world, but then presenting it and sharing it on Twitter a social media platform is more connected to real-world. They will have to learn as it has taken me quite some time that self-promotion is crucial for success. It also is clear that presentation matters, students who are taking their time to make a graphic that goes along with their poems are getting more traction than those who simply take a photo of their notebooks and post it.
How will your students work in teams and problem solve with each other?
Students worked together to find poems for Poem in Your Pocket day and which ones they would post and why.
How will your project help students develop organizational and self-management skills?
Beyond the other two questions, I think students will develop organizational self-management skills. This project counts on them remembering to write their poems, create some graphic, and post the poems in the time allotted for their due dates.
|Assessment Practice||What project criteria will students use, and how will they reflect on their learning? During the week following most of the posting, I will have students reflect on the process of writing the poetry and then having to share it on Twitter.
How will standards be assessed? See rubric below.
Steinberg, A. (1997) Real Learning, Real Work. New York: Routledge. adapted from National Academy Foundation’s Project-Based Learning: A Resource for Instructors and Program Coordinators
CCSS Poetry Rubric
Timeframe: April 16th – May 5th
Activity details: Students will participate in our Poetry Unit by also posting on Twitter and being involved in the International Poetry Month. We will use different hashtags to get in the correct threads of communication so they can spread their poems to larger audiences.
Execution of Project
Parent Guardian Email/Letter
Our classroom is getting connected! Please follow us on Twitter as we use this social media tool as a class to share, connect, and collaborate with the world around us during Poetry Month. We are in the beginning stages of a poetry unit and April in Poetry Month. For the rest of April and beginning of May, we will use our classroom Twitter account (@ottenadpoetry) to share snippets of our work, learning, and life at school.
Our goal will be to tweet several times per weeks about poetry. At first, I will model how to tweet about our work or exciting poetry opportunities. As the students grow in their understandings of how to use Twitter to share ideas, they will begin to tweet independently or with a partner.
Students’ safety is of utmost concern. Last names should not be used in tweets and accounts. We will avoid using images of students in our Tweets. Responsible use of social media and Internet safety will be explicitly taught in our classroom to ensure all students know how to stay safe while online. Here are our classroom norms for using Twitter:
- Approve your tweets with an adult before publishing especially if you feel it may be deemed inappropriate.
- We only connect to classes and people who add value to our learning.
- We use first names only on Twitter
- Twitter is a tool for learning.
Finally, if you do not have a Twitter account, and need assistance on creating one please come by and ask me or ask your student. We would be more than willing to help you create a Twitter account so you can start following our class. We will probably not follow you back because it is our policy that we only follow other classrooms or educational Twitter feeds. Using these social media tools will give you a glimpse into our classroom and your child’s learning in a new and exciting format. I think you will love being “connected”!
“Tweet” fully yours,
Mrs. Autumn Ottenad
Email to Staff & Colleagues:
I am working on a class for SPU that requires a Global Community Project and I have decided to combine our poetry unit, national poetry month and Twitter with my students. I was also hoping that if you have Twitter you could potentially tweet some poetry using the #poetryhw and #poetryisd. If you even could email me a poem I can put them on Twitter for you. I know my students would love to see teacher input on this topic.
The other event I am trying to work into our schedule is Poem in your Pocket Day #pocketpoem (https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/poem-your-pocket-day). It is on April 27th and students should carry around a poem in their pocket and share it with people throughout the day.
Here is some of the information I shared with students and parents. “Our classroom is getting connected! Please follow us on Twitter as we use this social media tool as a class to share, connect, and collaborate with the world around us during Poetry Month. We are in the beginning stages of a poetry unit and April in Poetry Month. For the rest of April and beginning of May, we will use our classroom Twitter account (@ottenadpoetry) to share snippets of our work, learning, and life at school.”
Thank you so much,
Mrs. Autumn Ottenad
8th Grade Humanities
Collection of Student Artifacts from Twitter
Feedback from Students
|Positive Feedback for both Twitter & Poetry||Positive for Twitter/Negative for Poetry||Positive for Poetry/ Negative for Twitter||Negative Feedback for both Poetry & Twitter|
|Risa W. – The poetry unit was not as bad as I thought it would be, I liked tweeting the poems instead of turning them in. I don’t like the reflections though.||Trevor C. – Before we just turned it in. Poetry is bad but I like that we just post it on Twitter.||Ruth S. – I liked the unit, but I feel like I was not used to posting my poetry on twitter. I would write the poetry, but sometimes forget to post it. The poetry was fun to write.||Tommy B – It was terrible, horrible, no good we could have just turned it in during class no one even reads the poems on Twitter.|
|Mason B. – Tweeting the poems was really fun! Poetry was a chance to express true feelings hidden within other words, using rhymes, and making everyone more fun to read!||Matthew K. – This unit was as interesting unit to do. It was an interesting way to share poems. It was pretty boring but it was fine.||Makena L. – It was good to try to involve social media but it may be hard for students without a smartphone but it was annoying to make a twitter.||Alec B. – Twitter was a mess and is not an educational platform. Poetry is fine, just boring as ever. Technology should be used in other, more educational ways. Whatever.|
|Breana L. – I like tweeting them so everyone can see, but it is kind of confusing.||Cody C. – Tweeting our poems instead of reading them out loud was way better. More convenient and faster. The writing of the poems was the bad part. Poetry is very boring.||Madison N. – The actual unit was okay…but the Twitter part was unnecessary.||C.J. G. – Last year we had more instruction, this year we were just told to write poems.|
|Leila R. – Tweeting my poems wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I liked tweeting my poems out rather than having to read them out loud.||Daniel A. – I didn’t think it was terrible, but it was not the most fun. Personally, I don’t enjoy poetry, but I am grateful we didn’t need to present them. Overall, I think the unit was okay.||Shoki I. – Just turning in poems would have made more sense. Making a Twitter was completely pointless||Noreen A. – This unit was not the worst and it went better than I thought. Poetry is not my favorite, but it was fairly easy. The twitter part was different, but it seemed pointless in my opinion because most people just made the account so they didn’t have a large following.|
|Medha V. – I like tweeting our poems because more people are able to see it and I don’t feel embarrassed like I would if I was reading it to the class.||Benny P. – I did not enjoy the poetry unit, but mainly because I don’t like poetry in general, but I did learn a lot about poetry.||Camille P. – Compared to past poetry units using Twitter was definitely different. I think it’s difficult to use and some people don’t take it seriously and post random stuff. I don’t know whether it would be beneficial to use again.||Chris A. – My experience was mehh…it was less boring than other poetry units. It was kinda bad and corny.|
|Anonymous – I love this unit and I enjoyed the prompts we wrote about and posted. I also liked the way we shared the poems on twitter allowing me to share my poems and get used to technology. My only question is why we are the other units so much longer? I honestly wish I got to explore more mentor texts.||Gavin B. – I don’t like the poetry. The Song lyrics were okay. I liked using Twitter in class.||Aiden L. – Tweeting poems made me self-conscience about what I write so it made me think so it was fine.||Braden H. – Ever since the Twitter verification did not work I lost my LA book problems have stirred though I had to re-do some of my poems.|
|Mary – Poetry on Twitter is a really good tool for poetry, we get to post our poems.||William W. – I do not like poetry but I kind of like writing it. Tweeting the poems is good and an easy way to turn it in from home.||Aoife B. – The poetry unit was the best all year. I enjoyed it, but Twitter sucks. My poems don’t fit 140 characters other than that , good.||Lizzy J. – I was eh with the Twitter thing because it was a little extra and no one reads other people’s poems (at least I didn’t) and my mom got mad that i got an account without letting her know.|
|Katie Jo – I like how interactive it was, also I liked how I got to see other people’s poetry. I really enjoyed it!||Jeremy D. – Tweeting has been really easy to do, but poems aren’t fun. Tweeting was fun and a good use for poems.||Emme F. – Tweeting poems – it is embarrassing to show school work in a public social media place. Where I usually don’t talk about it. It was also a little extra work that seemed not helpful.||Jack W. – This was a pain it was nearly impossible to get photos to load and my poems were too long for a Tweet.|
|Katie – I liked using Twitter because I felt like it was a “safe environment” to share my poetic product. I also liked that I could explore poetry unlike I did in other units.||Isaiah J. – Tweeting my poems has been okay. I liked the poetry unit last year more, although it was interesting to share my poems with a larger audience.||Lindsey C. – Posting poetry for a grade is uncomfortable. Poetry is very personal and I don’t feel okay with sharing my feelings with everyone. Additionally, it’s hard to find all my posts even with the hashtags which is extra work for me and you to find them. I could be a good idea but not for middle schoolers.|
|Abi C. – My experience with Twitter was okay. It gave me some examples if I was stuck on what to do. It was okay compared to other units.||Ethan V – My experience with Twitter was fine and I was able to post without any problems. I just had small problems with the pictures. I thought it was a creative way to share, but not private.||Eva A. – Technology is a bit problematic, but I like this better than having to stand up and share.|
|Eli L. – This poetry unit was shorter than the one we did last year and also we didn’t have a final project this year which was nice.||Sophia C. – I didn’t like tweeting my poems because I don’t like sharing my writing I think it was a good concept, but I personally didn’t like it.|
|Kathryn M. – Tweeting poems went well. I thought it went better than most units, and it was fun. It was not terrible horrible no good.||Eden C – Tweeting poems was easy, but it seemed odd to force us to make an account. The comparison was okay.|
|Preston J. – I think that tweeting the poems were a good idea, and I am glad that we do not have to present them to a class. Also, this poetry unit was more unique than others I have taken before.|
|Ansh P. – Tweeting out poem was a pretty good experience and was relatively easy to do and better than other tests.|
It is interesting to note from the qualitative and quantitative data about the male to a female breakdown of their take on the project. Twelve of the fifteen students who liked both the poetry unit and the use of Twitter were young ladies and on the opposite end of feedback for those students who hated both parts six of the eight were male students. When I think back on it, the students who wrote negative feedback about both elements of this unit are pretty cynical students in general and usually criticize what I put in front of them. It is this fascinating new cultural trend of apathy, that “nothing is cool” and I know that is not a new trend for teens to think nothing is a fresh idea but I can’t imagine being negative about a teacher letting me use Twitter in a class assignment even if it was for poetry. The last piece of data that gave me hope for this overall project was the ten boy students who do not like poetry but liked the Twitter part of the project. Analysis of their interest is important because these are all students who I struggle with engagement and enticing them to do their best on their assignments. In this instance, their motivator was the ability to use their phones and use Twitter, but that had to come with some poetry. So either way, I did one of those fun teacher tricks where I got them writing what I wanted them to all under the guise of “fun.”
This project was more successful and easier than I had expected it to be. I am very lucky to have an administration team that allows for experimentation and trial and error. He and the rest of my staff allowed for me to try something new and use an online tool that is not usually utilized at the middle school level. But because Twitter is such a notorious application, due in part to our current political situation, I thought practicing in a more academic setting could help students learn about how to act on an expansive social media platform.
Access to technology was the initial challenge as standardized testing ate into our planned timeline. And standardized testing uses all the laptop computers in the building. But most students have a smartphone with the Twitter app-enabled, therefore I just had to bend the school rules a bit to allow students to access the app from their mobile devices. Those few students who did not have their Smartphones or did not have their own devices (tablet, or laptop) at their disposal I allowed to use one of the seven desktops I have setup in my room. While Twitter proved to be a useful tool for arranging the open and moderated communication between students, I failed to consider how some students would handle the requirement of creating an account on their own. It again made me take stock of the fact that we call this generation “digital natives” because they were born with a tablet in their hands, but when it comes to tasks like opening a new account or application they struggle. Establishing the hashtags in Twitter required students to sign-up, log-in and post a tweet and ensure they tagged the correct people and hashtags. Then, I had to individually check that each student had posted and labeled their tweets appropriately. Once students joined, I had to individually like and/comment on all 55+ students to their specific tweets. And, all of this was done asynchronously between classes or from home. I also had to monitor my new account like a hawk to ensure I did not have any trolls following me or someone who had posted within our hashtags which were gross or offensive. In the end, I had to delete one to two items per day.
As students began the formative stage of writing their poetry they needed time to make their poems before posting them. So some time in class was spent just generating ideas and creating versions of the poems they would eventually post. Students decided on their own how they would post their poems to Twitter. Because they have a 140 character limit, most students took pictures of their poems and posted them that way. While others created word art and graphics that helped desirably present the poems.
I anticipate trying this project again and potentially having a classroom Twitter account all year long. I had parents immediately begin to follow me and it was a great way for them to have more insight into what we do in my classroom. I have not spoken with my administration about doing it again, but because he did not deal with any actual backlash or parents being upset, I figure I would have the ability to try it again. I think I would also add in some more analytics about best times to tweet and when will students get the most views. I would also use the work I did in Module four of this class to push the digital citizenship piece about netiquette and the real feelings that come out of putting things out into the World Wide Web.
Colorful Poetry: 22 Diverse Poetry Picture Books for Kids:
KUOW Local Recorded Poetry Collection: http://kuow.org/post/treat-yourself-washington-grown-poems-national-poetry-month
Washington State. (2016, October 1). Addressing Social Emotional Learning in Washington’s K-12 Public Schools. Retrieved August 2, 2017, from http://www.k12.wa.us/Workgroups/SELB-Meetings/SELBWorkgroup2016Report.pdf
The Poet Tree Project: