I am an English Instructor at NOVA’s Annandale campus, and I also teach online courses for NOVA’s Extended Learning Institute (ELI). This website is a place for you to find out information about me and the courses I teach. Scroll down to read my blog below, or choose from the above links to see what I am teaching and/or working on this semester.
Today I did a couple of things for the first time. Anyone who says teaching online is not fun does not enjoy playing with technology like I do. For starters, I declared recently that I was going to embrace Evernote this semester, and I have already begun to do just that.
Yesterday I spent the morning reading a textbook chapter for an online instructional design course I am enrolled in this semester… (Yes, folks, the online teacher is also an online student!) I sat at my dining room table with the book and my iPad with the bluetooth keyboard from my desktop, and I used the Evernote app to type my thoughts, comments, and questions as I read. Then I got to a point in the chapter where I really wanted to capture a bulleted list. Instead of retyping the whole thing, I used Evernote’s camera feature to photograph it. I was so excited to see that it inserted the pictures right into my document, and then I was able to keep on typing under the photos. If anyone wants to see what that looks like, click here.
Today, as I lounged in bed taking a break from work–since that is one of the benefits of working from home–I found an article on my iPhone that I wanted to keep for one of my online courses. Instead of bookmarking it, I opened the Evernote app and copied the URL into a new note. That’s when I saw the audio icon. Instead of typing a note to myself to explain why I was saving the link to the article, I recorded one! Now that is interactive technology. Here’s a link to that file, in case you are curious.
Overall, I’m very excited about the potential for this multiplatform service. Evernote seems to be a great app on the mobile devices, and also nice to use when I’m on my desktop, which is an iMac, (of course).
You were just waiting for me to say that, weren’t you?
Note: this blog is not in any way supported by Apple.
Later this afternoon I’ll be presenting at NOVA’s PUP (Power up your pedagogy) conference. My session is called “Mobile Apps that Support Learning: How and Why Faculty Should Use Them.” I came up with the idea for this session last August, and immediately ran to my NOVA colleague, Nikkia Anderson, who is an Instructional Technologist for Hybrid Instruction. She and I collaborated on the development of the session, and today is our third time presenting it. You’d think I’d feel ready, like today would be a piece of cake.
But no, I awoke at 5am with new ideas and questions to ponder that would make my session even better. Here’s some last-minute reading I drummed up this morning along with my first cup of coffee:
Now, not only do I feel amped about presenting, but I’ve come up with an experiment for this semester: I’m going to embrace Evernote on my desktop (using the “Web Clipper” add on for Firefox) and also on my iPhone (using the mobile app) and encourage my students to use it (with delightful incentives, of course) to see how much it really enhances higher order learning in the online, mobile classroom.
I had no idea this project has already become a free-standing org! Another step forward in the promotion of creative nonfiction writing as an everyday, normal thing we all do. My MFA feels a little more valid.
The top headline on FARK.com this morning (see link above) was categorized as “interesting,” and it caught my attention because I have a 3 year old and a 7 month old who are both very interested in books (for various purposes, including but not limited to hearing stories from them).
But more enticing were the first two words of the FARK reader’s headline, “Not News.” I never thought two words could sound more reasonable. In today’s 24 hour news cycle world, there is so much fluff pushed upon us that is really just not news, that for undiscerning readers, it’s hard to tell what to pay attention to. And when I ask my students to do a beginning research activity, like choosing a topic, and then finding an article about it from a reliable academic resource, and one of them posts this ad that looks like an article, it makes me sigh.
This student does not notice the tiny word at the top of the page because she is not an avid magazine reader like I am, and she doesn’t know that sometimes, ads are intentionally created so that they look like news articles, to get readers to pay attention to them. That is not what is happening in the babies-can-read story linked above, but I wish that that student had said, upon encountering the fake article–”This is not news!” and continued to search for something that was.
Maybe in my next foray into course design, I will build FARK into my introduction unit as a way of teaching important evaluation and critical thinking skills (with a humorous twist).
Here’s some angry writing about ownership of data. I need to spend more time digging into this source as an example of something that may or may not be appropriate for academic research a freshman Comp setting. I am oddly attracted to this writing because the author is so blatantly annoyed and even includes details of his own bias in the text of his article. So when teaching students about evaluating source material for author bias, this might be a good sample for the beginning of the lesson, falling into the not-so-subtle category.
First task today: reading a student essay called “The Evolution of Social Sites.” I’m glad I waited until morning to assess this one. If I had tried to do it at the end of the day yesterday, I don’t know how I would have reacted to all of the inconsistencies in voice and style that often come when students are learning to integrate source material and accidentally plagiarizing all over the place.
I used to give papers with plagiarism an F on principle, even when it clearly wasn’t intentional, like in this case. I also worked with them to revise the F into a passing grade paper. I wanted them to see that a paper with plagiarism should never earn a passing grade. (Sometimes I still give the F, if I don’t see enough effort in the work overall.) But now, my revised belief is that I don’t think students have the same principles as I do, so it probably doesn’t make sense to them when I give them a failing grade on principle.
This student is in first semester Composition, and this is her first formal essay in the class using MLA for source documentation. Her work meets the word length requirement for the assignment, and although the sentence level writing struggles with inconsistent voice and awkward phrasing where she is attempting to integrate source material with less-than-stellar signal phrases, I can see she put in a lot of good work overall. The writing has a unified main idea from start to finish, the paragraphs are well-focused, and the writing fairly clearly organized. Most importantly, this essay has a strong sense of purpose that responds appropriately to the assignment. This student paid attention to the assignment instructions and fulfilled its requirements. Giving her an F on principle for accidental plagiarism would be like punishing my 3 year old for not keeping all the pancake batter in the bowl when she helps to mix it.
So the essay earns a C, for “okay.” The ducks are all in a row, although the row forms a sort of wobbly line. My goal now is to figure out how to motivate the student to learn from today’s C, as opposed to pigeonholing herself from now on as a “C” writer. It’s all in the feedback. Back to the grind.
I just had my first student phone conference using my new Google Voice number on the iPhone. Why didn’t I set this up ages ago? It’s so liberating being able to call from my phone without giving up my private number. In a word, it’s professional.
“Post grades for all assignments within one week of the due date, sooner if the feedback from one assignment might affect performance on a subsequent assignment. In the event that there is no due date, grades should be assigned within one week of submission.
Provide specific and descriptive feedback with all graded assignments. Specific and descriptive feedback gives information about what the student did well, what the student needs to improve, and how to improve performance on future assignments.”
While teaching Composition online is a perfectly reasonable endeavor, the turnaround standard of one week for posting grades and feedback to assignments is not a reasonable expectation once essays start coming in from 4-5 sections at the same time. This semester, teaching 4 sections of Composition, I kept up with the one week turnaround until midterms. Then, everything snowballed. I have been several weeks behind in my grading since about week 8, and now it’s week 14. It seems like every Composition instructor I talk to is always at least a little “behind” because that’s the nature of the kind of grading we have to do. If we taught Chemistry and a scantron machine could grade exams, I don’t think we’d struggle with deadlines… So my question is, is it fair to ask for different standards for the English faculty re: how we “monitor student progress,” since our grading process is different from that of many other disciplines?
This would make for a fascinating face-to-face class discussion topic!
I think this is something a lot of my students and fellow faculty members should read. Although I did spend a good deal of time configuring my privacy settings a couple of years ago, I’ve been pretty lazy ever since. We all need a reminder to reconfirm that we are only sharing what we want to share with the vast Internet universe.