Technologies for Making Appointments and Learning Student Names

As a Technology Fellow, I have been working to find ways to incorporate new technologies into my classes and assignments. With the semester about to begin, I wanted to share two simple technologies that have consistently been saving me a lot of time and frustration. While the first simply limits the number of emails in my inbox (using Google Appointment Slots), the second can have a major impact in the classroom and the relationships you form with your students early in the semester (learning their names quickly).

Google Calendar Appointment Slots

I use Appointment Slots in my Google Calendar to have students sign up for office hours and appointments with me. Instead of students emailing me to sign up for an appointment when they can’t come to my office hours, they click on a link that I post on Moodle and in my email signature (thanks Anthony Graesch for this great tip!), and can see my availability and sign up for an appointment that works for their schedule. Last year, Jessica McCullough, wrote this Engage Blog Post with two videos that walk you through how to use Google Appointment Slots.

Learning Student Names by Taking Attendance with Roll Call

Learning the names of my students has often been a challenge for me. With the beginning of each semester and endless to do list, I often felt that it was taking me far too long to learn my students’ names. I had tried numerous approaches to learning names and faces, including using name tags in class and downloading their pictures from Moodle, but often found these strategies lacking. In particular, using the Moodle photos was challenging since their photographs were often a few years old and never seemed to look like the students sitting in front of me.

About a year ago, I began looking into a way to tackle this issue. In searching for an easy to use application, I came across Roll Call, an App for iPad that has made both learning my students’ names and taking attendance much easier. The App costs $1.99, and is very intuitive and simple. It now takes me no more than a few class meetings to learn everyone’s names, just by taking attendance using their photos.

When you open the App, you simple click on the “+” at the top right corner to create a new class. After entering the name of the class, a new class appears on the App’s main screen. (Click on images to see a larger version)

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If you tap on the class, a new page opens:

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Here, click on the “+” on the bottom right corner to add new students to the class. I only use the “first name” and “last name” fields.

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I enter all of my students’ names before the first class meeting, so that on the first day of class, the students can take pictures of themselves and add them to the App. I ask the students to pass around my iPad and take their own photos. To do this, they simply click on their name, which opens a new page. Then they click on the “Edit” icon at the top right. Finally, they click on “Tap to Edit” on the blank photo and select “Take Photo” from the menu.

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This opens the iPads’ camera and the students can take their photo, and save it by choosing “Use Photo” (they usually have their neighbor take their photo for them).

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Once all the students have entered the photos, you can begin using the App to learn their names as you take attendance. On the screen for the class, the students are by default listed as “Absent” and their photos will appear in black and white. By choosing “Today” at the bottom of the screen, you can set the correct date.

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After setting the date, choose “Roll Call” at the bottom of the screen. This will open the “Roll Call” screen, and as you click on each student’s photo, they will be moved to “Present” and will now appear in color. Once you have taken attendance, choose “Done.”

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You can keep track of your attendance by clicking on the “Reports” icon at the bottom of the screen, setting the dates you want to review, and clicking on “Preview”.

Fall 2015 Workshops & Special Events

Planning your semester? Add these dates to your calendar! This is a list of instructional technology events open to faculty and staff. Find more information, including registration forms, by clicking on the workshop titles.

Thursday, September 10, 10:30-11:30 Workshop Your Technology Assignments Haines Room, Second Floor, Shain Library
Friday, September 18, 1:15-2:30 Twitter for Teaching Haines Room, Second Floor, Shain Library
Monday, September 21, 12:00-1:00 Teaching with Technology Reading Group: Minds Online, I [preregistration required] New London Hall 200
Wednesday,September 30, 12-1pm Looking for Data? Davis Classroom, Main Floor, Shain Library
Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 10:30am – 4:00pm A Workshop on the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement [details forthcoming] Fairfield University, Fairfield CT
Tuesday, October 13, 3-4pm Intro to Data Visualization Tools PC Classroom, Lower Level, Shain Library
Monday, October 26, 12:00-1:00 Teaching with Technology Reading Group: Minds Online, II  [preregistration required] New London Hall 200
Wednesday, November 11, 10:30-11:30 Free Textbooks?! Using Open Educational Resources Haines Room, Second Floor, Shain Library
Monday, November 16, 12:00-1:00 Teaching with Technology Reading Group: Minds Online, III  [preregistration required] New London Hall 200

The Return of the “Digital Natives” – r u ready? ;)

Children with TechnologyThe relative quiet of summer gives faculty time to think deeply and ambitiously about course structure and assignments. Whether you’re developing a new course or tweaking a familiar one, the syllabus likely includes technology-dependent activities – maybe the familiar Moodle discussion board or a novel hashtag project. As you put on the finishing touches and plan your “Welcome to this course” talk, it may be worth pausing to consider what assumptions you’ve made about your students’ experience with and access to technology. What digital tools will they need to be successful in your course?

We often assume that our students  are “digital natives” – that they intuitively navigate websites and apps, readily adopt and easily adapt to new platforms, and possess an enviable, seemingly inborn ability to solve nonchalantly the kinds of technology challenges that inspire fear and loathing in their pre-millennial “digital immigrant” forbears.

For technology-rich courses and assignments, this would be a most convenient state of affairs. Students would dive into Google Drive, iMovie, WordPress, Skritter, and all the other resources we offer at Conn with little need of guidance or the waste of precious class time. Unfortunately, our experience working with students on technology assignments does not support this version of reality. Fortunately, we have some research to support our anecdotal data.

The notion that technology competence is a function of one’s year of birth was the subject of an excellent study in the British Educational Research Journal in 2009. Authors E. Helsper and R. Enyon ask, simply, in their title: “Digital Natives: where is the evidence?” By distinguishing the “being” from the “doing,” as they put it, they are able to conclude that while young people do use the internet more, differences in experience, education, and self-efficacy make for a wide range of digital literacy among them. Their call for a research-based approach to the matter is echoed and amplified in Deconstructing Digital Natives (2011), the authors of which analyze the products, processes, and perceptions of young people in various digital contexts around the world. They urge us to adopt a more pluralistic view of the term itself and demonstrate how discipline-specific investigations can enhance our understanding of what and how students are learning online.

While it’s indisputable that students are surrounded by technology, they may be adept at using it in ways that have little to do with the kind of work they need to do for your class. Or they may not be adept, having had limited access to mobile devices, scholarly databases, and other resources. We know from the 2014 MISO survey that not all Conn students own smartphones, for example, so if you were to require an app for your course, you’d want to think about options for those without.

In any case, Information Services offers resources that can help! You can invite an instructional technologist to your class to show students how Moodle or Google Drive works, or propose a DELI course that will provide all students in a course with the particular technology they need. Finally, if you would like to run your technology-infused assignments by a colleague, plan to join us on September 10 at the “Workshop your Technology Assignments” event or contact your Instructional Technology liaison.

Image credit: “digial natives” Juan Cristóbal Cobo on Flickr, used under CC BY 2.0 license

Fall 2015: What’s New with Moodle? (Part 3)

Library Resources Block

We are excited to introduce the new Library Resources Block for Moodle (pictured above). The block connects your students to a librarian and to library resources right within the Moodle environment. Our goal for creating the block is to provide research support at a student’s point of need.

If you wish to include the block on your site, follow these steps in each course:

  1. Turn editing on
  2. Scroll down, under “Administration” block you will see “Add a Block.”Add a block
  3. Click on the drop-down menu.
  4. Select “Library Resources” under the drop-down menu.
    Select Library Block

The block is added to the bottom on the left-hand column by default. If you wish to move it to a more visible location, grab the cross-hairs with your mouse and drag/drop it to the desired location.

A special thanks goes out to Tom Palazzo who did all the behind-the-scenes work to get this working. We hope you and your students appreciate having the library’s resources and services located within the Moodle environment. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Fall 2015: What’s New with Moodle? (Part 2)

When you log into Moodle to set up your Fall courses, if you look closely, you’ll notice a new text editor appearing. This new text editor is called Atto, and replaces the previous text editor, TinyMCE. If you find that Atto isn’t working well for you, you can always change your preferred editor back to TinyMCE in your Moodle user profile.

The Atto text editor has a pared-down toolbar with fewer of the lesser-used buttons, but now includes two new buttons to enhance your ability to provide content that is fully accessible. One button, the Accessibility Checker, will check the content of your text box to make sure that it is accessible – by checking for text colors that are not easy to read, or for missing description tags for images. The screenreader helper button will provide a list of links and images included in your textbox, making it easier to determine whether you’ve provided adequate descriptive text for those using screen readers.

Accessibility options

As, always, if you’re handy with HTML, you can use the HTML button to get behind the scenes and edit the code. And if you need any specific help, contact your Instructional Technology Liaison.

Fall 2015: What’s New with Moodle? (Part 1)

As usual, Information Services has used the Summer break to make upgrades to Moodle. The upgrade to version 2.8 brings several new features that can be of use in your courses. The biggest changes that you’ll notice are in the gradebook. Moodle has a new default aggregation method called “Natural”. Natural aggregation is a replacement for the previously existing, but now discontinued, “Sum of Grades” aggregation method, and has additional features that can be enabled to allow for weighting and extra credit. For a more complete description of the Natural Aggregation method, see the documentation available on Moodle.org.

Another handy feature of the gradebook debuting this Fall is the new Single View. By clicking on the one of the Single View buttons in the gradebook, you can view one one screen (and edit!) all the grades for one single student or all the grades for one single grade item.

Grading

 

If you’ve used the gradebook for your course in the past, in most cases, the gradebook setup will transfer when you backup and restore your course for this semester, but as always, if you need help, contact your Instructional Technology Liaison.

Keep an eye out for announcements of more new Moodle features and changes!

We’re Back!

Actually, we’ve been here all summer long but we’re back posting on the blog. Here’s a preview of exciting things to come this semester. Stay tuned for more detailed blog posts over the coming weeks!

  • Some changes to Moodle 
  • Expanded, updated and instructionally robust online library research subject guides
  • Connecticut College’s first ever online library guide created for first-year students using Whistling Vivaldi to guide students through the research process and connect them to library resources
  • View our upcoming Teaching with Technology workshops scheduled throughout the semester
  • Our first instructional technology reading group – we’ll be reading Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology
  • Efforts to decrease student textbook costs, give you full control over course content, and offer new modes of content delivery through the use of Open Educational Resources
  • Updates from the current group of Technology Fellows
  • … and more!!

We’ll start with Moodle updates next week!

Blogging Vacation!

Eugène Boudin (French, 1824 - 1898 ), On the Beach, 1894, oil on wood, Chester Dale Collection
Eugène Boudin (French, 1824 – 1898 ), On the Beach, 1894, oil on wood, Chester Dale Collection, Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

We are taking the month of July off! While we will still be in the office, our time will be focused on projects and planning for the upcoming academic year.

We had a great year, thank you for keeping up with us. Since we started the blog in July 2013, we’ve published 129 posts in 35 categories which were viewed over 4,400 times. This past year we began to reach a global audience – including multiple visits from India, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Ukraine, Philippines, Spain, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Argentina and more.

We will be back at it in August. Best wishes for a wonderful summer!

“Eye Want Change”: Video for learning, immersion and transformation

Recently faculty have been clamoring to effectively incorporate video and other multimedia assignments into their courses. This, in addition to the huge number of classes that require video for content delivery, has made video a hot topic on campus. Ariella Rotramel, Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, sent me this NPR story about a group of students in Zanzibar who created a video reflecting on the use of Swahili and English in their educational system. The video (see above) was eventually submitted to the Eye Want Change video competition for students. For consideration, videos must be shot on a smartphone or tablet, be under 10 minutes long, and relate to a social matter.

Why am I including this story on a blog about instructional technology?

  • The video was created by the students living the tension between native and colonial languages and could be very powerful to use in your classroom for topics like colonialism, globalization, educational policy, language death or assimilation, economics of tourism, and so many others. Wondering what other topics students in the competition have covered? See all the 2014 finalists here.
  • One goal of the video was to improve student fluency in English (as a second language). If you are teaching a foreign language you can probably see the benefits of immersing students in the foreign language through video creation: writing a script, correcting it for grammar and vocabulary, and speaking in the target language.
  • The students used smartphones or tablets to record and edit the video – tools that all our students have access to either through the DELI program or by checking out an iPad mini at the library’s circulation desk. Instructional technologists are also available to help students use the devices.

If you are interested in exploring video projects, contact your Instructional Technology liaison, read our blog posts on the topic, or feel free to explore the handout we used at Tempel Summer Institute.

How to Best Access and Work with Documentary Footage & Testimonials

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts college is that you enjoy more freedom to offer a wide range of courses on topics outside your area of research expertise. Over the years, I have been able to develop and offer courses on Mexico and Cuba, environmental history and social movements, the Cuban Revolution, and race and ethnicity in the US and beyond.

As a specialist in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of my research is with documents, [now rare] books and religious tracts, and occasionally maps, paintings, and examples of material culture. How to bring those items into the classroom and feature them in undergraduate learning has been one of the major challenges that I strive to meet in my teaching at the College and in my publications. I am always searching for websites, museum collections, feature films and documentaries that deal with this early period in colonial Latin America.

Teaching classes that cover the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries offer many more opportunities to aid student learning with access to photographic collections, sound recordings, film, video, and recorded testimonials. Over the years, my classes have benefited tremendously from the Latin American collection assembled by my predecessor—Jeffrey Lesser—and the careful building of our holdings by Lorraine McKinney. As the physical items in the collection age, many of the videos and a few of the DVDs do not work, and staff have made great efforts to track down new copies, or, more often than not with materials no longer available, have made copies or digitized the materials. It is an ongoing job to make sure that what’s in the teaching collection actually works and can be used in the ways I planned when carefully embedding it in class and sending students to use it to extend or complement an assignment. With my cassette tape collection and slides, I also face the same challenges, compounded by the fact that I often need to find and carry around something to play them on. The digitization process is slow, and advances sporadically when staff are able to carve out a few hours here or there for student workers to process some part of the materials that I have collected to teach with.

My dilemmas:

  • As we increasing turn to using streaming video through products like Kanopy video collections, for example, and the in-house replacements of older material is offered in digitized form, I worry how stable and enduring are those platforms and formats? Once great material is found and incorporated, students and teachers want to keep using it and accessing it. So the question of access and how best to ensure it is key for me this year as a Technology Fellow.
  • Increasingly some of this old material as well as lots of testimonials, testimonial collections databases, and activist work is being posted or released online (with or without permission). How to navigate and access on a more permanent basis that online material is part of this broader question.
  • What to make of this material is an important issue for my students, too, because they try to access and interpret material of widely varying quality. Too often they not only do not know how to cite these sources, but also fail to be able to find who made the material, when, where, and for what audience.

Interpretation:

  • On my Moodle site for FYS on Cuba I not only placed video materials and links to materials, but I also included links on how to evaluate media sources.

An example:

  • I particularly like what Anthropologist Lynne Stephens has done with both publishing selections from and archiving online all of the testimonies she was given access to by activists, artists, and protestors in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • This is a part of Mexico that the College sends SATA and TRIPS to, and maintains other exchanges with. And even this summer, we are sending a delegation to Chiapas just to the south to build on the partnership there. Among them are connections with the folks involved in community and indigenous radio (similar to what is featured in this video available through Kanopy.
  • Over the years, we have hosted at the College representatives of the Chiapas Media Project who came to talk about their work (and the College library owns copies of two of the videos produced in this Project).