Moodle (and More!) Drop-In

Return by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator

To help ease your return to the classroom, we are offering instructional technology drop-in hours. Stop by to get some last-minute class prep done with colleagues! Bring your questions on Moodle, WordPress, Computer Labs, Google Apps, or whatever else is on your mind. Bring your own computer or use one of ours in the Advanced Technology Lab and get last-minute class preparation done. See you there!

Moodle (and More!) Drop-In
Monday, August 27, 2018 | 9:00-11:00am
Advanced Technology Lab, Lower Level, Shain Library

Definitely coming? Let us know!

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It’s Spring Cleaning Time! A checklist for the end of the semester

Broom

As the semester wraps up, we’ve created a list of a few things that you’ll want to remember to do before you head off for the summer.

  • Back up your Moodle sites. As a reminder, Information Services keeps five years of course sites active and available to you. This means that as Academic Year 2018-19 becomes active, AY 2013-14 will go offline. Before July 1, make sure that you create a backup of any course sites that contain material that you might want to use in the future. You can create a backup of the entire Moodle site, to be used for a future Moodle course site, or you can download individual file resources.
  • Download and save your Moodle Gradebook(s). As a matter of best practice, IS suggests that you save the grades that you’ve entered into Moodle. A course’s Moodle gradebook can be downloaded in Excel format and saved for long-term recordkeeping.
  • Check out your Moodle courses for next year. Moodle for Academic Year 2018-19 is up and running. Minor changes to the system may happen over the summer, but all currently scheduled courses have been loaded. If you’re teaching a course that doesn’t appear on your course list in Moodle, first confirm that it’s on the course schedule and you are listed as the instructor. If not, contact the Office of the Registrar. If it is on the course schedule, but doesn’t appear for you in Moodle, submit a WebHelpDesk ticket.
  • Return your library books. Books and other library materials that were checked out this year have a due date of May 18. Return all your loans to either Shain or Greer by that date. Don’t forget any equipment you might have borrowed from Media Services or the Digital Scholarship and Curriculum Center.
  • Submit your list of course reserves. Please help library staff avoid the crunch at the end of August by submitting your list of Fall course reserves to your library liaison or directly to Bridget Pupillo, Reserve and Circulation Assistant.

 

Faculty Development

As we all push through the end of the spring semester, I want to share information about an institutional resource that offers faculty multiple ways to navigate the multiple demands of our work. Connecticut College joined the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) as an institutional member in November 2016. The NCFDD is “an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community.” Drawing upon founder Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure – Without Losing Your Soul (2008), the Center provides faculty with resources aimed at supporting our careers, and importantly, how to balance our work responsibilities with broader life priorities.

While the NCFDD is perhaps best known for its Faculty Success Program and the more recent Post-Tenure Pathfinders Program, it offers a suite of content and a writing platform online that I have found beneficial.** I highly recommend applying to the full programs for coaching and community building, as well as the short 14 day writing challenges that are open to everyone. There is a lot more available that can be taken advantage of year round.

In this post, I discuss a few aspects that I have found particularly helpful. I  encourage you to explore the set of resources as some may have more use for you based on your area, challenges, and place you are in your career.

Getting Started

All faculty can set up an account through our membership to access the general site. To take advantage of these opportunities, activate your confidential, personal membership by completing the following steps:

  1. Go to https://www.facultydiversity.org/
  2. Click on Join NCFDD   
  3. Select your institution from the drop down menu and complete the registration process.

You will receive a welcome email within 1-2 business days confirming that the account is approved and active. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Jeff Cole, Associate Dean of Faculty. If you have any technical questions, please email NCFDD at Membership@FacultyDiversity.org.

Got to Start Somewhere

As we move into the summer, I want to encourage folks to check out the NCFDD’s Every Summer Needs a Plan webinar. A basic principle of NCFDD is that it is critical to set clear goals for each semester and the summer. Through identifying what projects need to be prioritized, the basic pieces that will get you from A to B to C, and mapping both time and resources out, you can go in with a sense of what needs to happen and why. And when ish inevitably hits the fan, you are set up to more easily triage your work priorities as you have already have a plan that you can adjust. While I admittedly am not a fan of webinars (I may be overly conditioned to watch Shondaland and cooking television on my computer), it is worth meeting up with a colleague and going through the steps to make your plan.

14 Day Writing Challenges and the WriteNow Platform

My favorite part of the NCFDD is the WriteNow platform. It has a timer that you can use to track your writing time, an important point as the NCFDD message is that we all need to write 30 minutes a day during the week (they also believe that we can have weekends!). The tracker auto populates your check in page that allows you to dig in more fully into what your goals were for the day, how work went, and how you are going to reward yourself, among other things. The platform gives you a gold star for each day you complete thirty minutes and a check in, and this aspect provides some sense of confirmation that you are on the right track with your work.

You can also look at your data across time if you want to figure out some patterns in your work and how you want to support or adjust your style. While this feature is a core component of the full-fledged faculty programs, it is also available when you take part in a 14 Day Writing Challenge. This shorter opportunity is perfect for jumpstarting your work if you find yourself getting stalled out from grading, service, or existence. In addition to the individual tracking elements, you also are part of an online community and so you can get into chatting with folks to support each other in getting into writing (I’m too awkward for that typically and this option can be muted). You also may get comments from Rockquemore and other participants on your check in page, encouraging you to keep it going or congratulating you on your productivity. You can sign up for the next challenge here – https://www.facultydiversity.org/14-day-challenge.

In sum, I encourage everyone to at least try out a few features of NCFDD as I have found it transformational in my ability to seek better balance work-life balance and be consistent in my writing practice.


**Here is a quick rundown of NCFDD’s offerings:

Moodle OR Google?

In this post I would like to build on Ariella Rotramel’s and Anthony Graesh’s posts on course management systems and describe how I use Google Sites to deliver content and manage students’ assignments.

What is Google Sites?

Google Sites is the website building application in the G Suite productivity suite. The application allows you to easily build a webpage from scratch or customize a template. Although intended for webpages, Google Sites is a versatile and useful tool that can be used for many purposes. Two features make it especially useful in the classroom: collaboration and privacy.

Why do I use Google Sites?

Collaboration and privacy are the main reasons why I chose Google Sites as my course management system for my upper level Italian courses. In these courses I mostly use open-ended written responses to readings and other course material on a weekly basis. I require students to submit their writing assignments as Google Docs and share them with me so we can edit collaboratively.  Google Sites allows me to manage all these Google Docs files, which, depending on the size of the class, could be close to 200 per semester, effortlessly and efficiently. Moreover, it allows me to consolidate both students’ assignments and content delivery in the same place. In these courses I tend not to use many of the features available in Moodle, such as gradebook, rubrics, and quizzes, therefore Moodle was never my first choice.

How do I use Google Sites?

For each course, I build a simple webpage using the “Classic Sites”. I use this mode because it is the simpler but more flexible builder and allows me to design my site the way that best suits my purposes. I restrict access to only the students in the class, who also have permission to edit.

This is a snapshot of the course I am teaching this semester where I use Sites.

I use the main page of the website to post the body of the schedule of topics organized by class meetings with links to either PDFs or online resources. I find linking and posting course material much easier and faster in Google Sites than in Moodle. Any changes in schedule or announcements can easily be incorporated in the body of the page. In dedicated areas of the main page, I add other resources that students might need for the course. I then create subpages for each student enrolled in the course. Students have complete control over their subpages and over their own Google Docs files, which they can share either just with me or with anybody else in the site. 

On the first day of class I show students how to edit their webpages and divide them into sections, each one devoted to a certain group of assignments.  I ask them to adhere to a naming convention (so that I can easily track what was submitted or not submitted.

Students’ subpages look like the one here

Submitting their work on this customized platform is very easy for the students. They work on their Google Docs and, when they are ready to submit, they follow these simple steps:

  • select Edit mode on subpage
  • write the title of paper and due date under the appropriate category
  • highlight title
  • click on Link icon
  • add shareable link of the Google Docs file into the Web Address Box
  • hit Save

What are the advantages of using Google Sites?

For me there are a number of advantages, in courses of this nature, to use Google Sites over either Moodle or My Drive with separate folders and subfolders for each course.

  1. It prevents My Drive to be flooded with files from students.
  2. It prevents My Drive from having too many folders and subfolders.
  3. Content and students’ work is consolidated into a single separate space, that is saved in My Sites (NOT in My Drive).
  4. All the students’ Google Docs files are easily accessible for revisions and neatly organized.
  5. It is quicker to link content than in Moodle.

If you would like to explore this approach,  G Suite Learning Center provides detailed instructions on how to work with Sites or Lynda.com has a tutorial entitled Google Sites Essential Training by Jess Stratton.

First Cohort of Faculty Join the Digital Scholarship Fellows Program

This January, Professors Phillip Barnes (Biology), Catherine Benoît (Anthropology), and Sufia Uddin (Religious Studies) became the first Digital Scholarship Fellows in a new program generously funded by the Office of the Dean of Faculty and led by staff members in Information Services.

Building on the success of the Technology Fellows Program (2014-2018), the Digital Scholarship Fellows program supports faculty engaged in digital scholarship projects to scope and design their projects, integrate aspects of the projects into their courses, collaborate with student researchers, acquire new technological skills, and build platforms for sharing their scholarship in innovative ways online. The program works toward the College’s strategic plan objectives to offer new opportunities for student/faculty research and to build a community of practice in digital scholarship.

Catherine Benoît’s project will be a multilingual digital companion to her book, Au coeur des ténèbres de la friendly island: sida, migration et culture à Saint Martin [In the Heart of Darkness of the Friendly Island: Migrations, Culture and AIDS in St. Martin] (2015). Students in Benoît’s Anthropology of the Caribbean course are currently engaged in digitizing a portion of her primary research materials gathered in St. Martin in the 1990s. Across the semester, each student will conduct research on one of the thematic threads of the project—tourism, hurricane Luis (1995), St. Martin as an international tax haven, immigration and undocumented migrants, and the AIDS epidemic—and curate a related collection of images, as well as publish an introductory text for inclusion on the public project website. A project team of faculty, students, and staff from Connecticut College has been accepted to attend the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship (ILiADS) in June, hosted at Occidental College, to work on the next iteration of the project. At ILiADS, Benoît hopes to build a crowdsourcing feature that allows site visitors to submit documents and oral histories for inclusion on the website. She will also implement assignments in future courses that will add oral histories, maps, multimedia, and new research to this multi-year project.

St Martin Omeka Screenshot
Students in Benoit’s Anthropology of the Caribbean course (ANT260) are building a collection of digitized photographs in Omeka, a web publishing platform for image collection management.

As part of the program, Sufia Uddin will create a multimodal website about the Sundarbans Mangroves to present the forest and its inhabitants in ways that foster broader awareness of deforestation and its effects on indigenous communities and the environment. Uddin translated the Bengali epic poem that tells the story of Bonbibi (Lady of the Forest), which she will publish online as a component of this project. Digital methods of working with the poem, including textual analysis, digital annotations, the addition of images, maps, and related scholarship, will provide the means by which different ways of knowing this forest will emerge. Uddin plans to work with students this summer to build an interactive map of the mangroves using ArcGIS software.

Through digital scholarship, Phil Barnes hopes to discover other colleagues around the world working on experiments similar to his own and potentially develop collaborations by sharing his data online. He plans to digitize drawings of insect wings created by his students over the years and develop a new workflow to capture more visual data through digital imaging of the wings. This digital process will yield richer information that Barnes and his students can use in future studies, expanding the original intent of the experiment and making data available that other researchers may be able to use.

In summer 2018, students working with the faculty fellows will conduct some or all of their work in the library’s Technology Commons, developing aspects of the individual projects in conversation with each other. Students will have access to advanced software, and library staff will be available for advising on project development.

Stay tuned for blog posts from the DS Fellows, as well as information about a digital scholarship symposium on campus in the fall!

A call for proposals to participate in the 2019 cohort of Digital Scholarship Fellows will go out in fall 2018.

Why I Allow Technology in My Classroom

This January, the Center for Teaching & Learning teamed up with the Instructional Technology team here at Connecticut College to put on a Talking Teaching event called “Digital Devices in the Classroom.” I was fortunate to attend the event; I had admittedly been thinking a lot about devices in the classroom this semester. Traditionally, I do not like students to have devices in my classroom unless it is for a particular activity. I often go technology free myself, often writing on the chalkboard when I lecture. It helps slow me down so students have time to take notes, and I feel like I am engaging more with the class. This is especially true for my introductory course: in a large room with many students, I did not want devices to distract students.  

This semester, things have changed. I have several students with learning accommodations allowing them to have technology in the classroom for note-taking and to be able to increase the font size on materials I pass out in class so they can see it better. This alone got me thinking about accessibility issues and pushed me to make my teaching more accessible via technology. Now anytime I lecture, I make sure to have slides. I create them in Google Docs and link them to the course Moodle page. Students are welcome to bring up the slides in class on their computers as we go through them. I do not put “all the answers” on the slides; students still have to take notes. Students who need the visual accommodation are not alone in having their devices out, and since most students do, it becomes normalized behavior. No one is squinting at the board, moving to get out of the glare from the overhead lights, or trying to decipher what can be poor handwriting on my part.

The other reason I started encouraging the use of devices in my classroom is because of the limitations of one of my teaching rooms. The room I am in is a common room for a dorm; it has its upsides, including mobile furniture that is great for discussion. The problem is that we have one large board-room like table, and the “projector” (a large screen TV) is behind half of the students at this table. It turns out that posting the slides on Moodle solved the problem with the location of the TV: students whose backs are to the slides I am projecting just pull them up on their laptops and follow along that way.

Discussing all of this at the Talking Teaching event, several colleagues noted that the key to success when using digital devices in the classroom is having a technology policy. Even better is to include it on the syllabus and actively talk about it in the classroom. Other key ideas were reminding students of the technology policy periodically, and being willing to experiment and adjust as the semester progresses. This semester’s policy is a big experiment for me, but it is certainly helping me create a more inclusive learning environment.

Appointment Slots in the New Google Calendar

With advising week fast approaching we’ve been getting questions about using appointment slots in the new Google Calendar. It still works in the same way that we outlined in our original post, but finding the link to share with your students is different. Here are instructions.

1. Begin to create an event on your calendar, but select “Appointment Slot” instead of “Event.” You can then edit the duration of the appointment slots. Save (or if you want to add location and other details, edit that in “More Options”).

2. Share the link to your appointments. To find the link, open the event on your calendar and copy/paste the link for “This calendar’s appointment page” by right-clicking on the link and copying it, or opening it in another tab and copying the URL from the address bar.

A Handy Trick for Duplicating Google Docs

Faculty often create assignments in which students are asked to complete a worksheet or template. When using Google Docs for this, a common practice is to either make multiple copies of the template and share the copies with individual students , or to give students access to the original document so the students can make the copy themselves. The former option is time consuming while the latter option is risky, as students may make inadvertent edits to the original document.

At a recent NERCOMP event, I picked up a great Google Drive tip from a colleague (credit to Carol Damm of Brandeis University). There is a quick and easy way to make copies of a Google Doc (or Sheet or Slide): by changing the word “edit” to the word “copy” at the end of the URL for a Google Doc, the URL becomes a command to create a duplicate of the original Doc. The modified URL can be pasted into an email to students, or posted on the course Moodle page. A student clicking on the link will be prompted to create a copy of the original Google Doc, which will then be stored in the student’s own Google Drive. That resulting file can be edited by the student, and subsequently printed, saved as a PDF, or shared.

Watch this video to see how it’s done!