OER Roundtable Recap at #aha17

Picture of panelists
Panelists (right to left): Sarah Randow, Christy Jo Snider, Ann Marie Davis, Jessica McCullough

Over the break I participated in a roundtable, “Free for All: A Discussion of Open Educational Resources (OER) in U.S. and World History Survey Courses,” at the the American Historical Association conference in Denver, Colorado. Members of our roundtable included Sarah Randow from LeTourneau University (Chair), Christy Jo Snider from Berry College, Ann Marie Davis from Ohio State University (formerly Conn!), and me. If you are interested in the topic of open and affordable teaching materials and textbooks resources, read on for my takeaways!

  • Two panelists, Sarah and Christy, adopted The American Yawp, a free online textbook collaboratively developed by historians (who very kindly attended the roundtable). This particular textbook is published under a Creative Commons license allowing others to adapt and share the material, so long as they allow others to do the same and attribute the original creators (Attribution-Share Alike). Both panelists not only adopted the book, but adapted it to suit their own specific needs. For example, Christy used a free online publishing tool, Blub, to create a new textbook to which she added images and selected primary source material.
  • The best outcomes come from a focus on pedagogy. For example, Sarah found that the while rigorous, the readability/accessible and focus on the essentials of U.S. History allowed her students to make connections and draw their own conclusions from the material presented.
  • Ann Marie conducted a survey among historians and found that many faculty use OER in their courses, but don’t often realize that these materials are considered OER. This finding resonates with me, as faculty I know have made the switch to OER for pedagogical reasons without realizing they were a part of a larger movement. One surprising finding was faculty who have been teaching longer were equally receptive and have adapted OERs at similar rates as more junior instructors.
  • In our discussion, it was clear that there is a real need for a World History textbook, similar to American Yawp. However, such a project comes with additional challenges surrounding content selection. There seemed to be real excitement surrounding this project.
  • Additional themes from the discussion included recognition (for tenure and promotion) for creating open resources. Institutions are uneven in their recognition of this work, and while students are grateful for free or low-cost course materials, they do not realize the effort required to create the resources.  There was also a lively discussion of access to technology and the continued need for printed materials.
  • My presentation focused on how to implement OER in courses, from the perspective of an instructional designer. I also included plenty of examples of OER initiatives, helpful repositories and interesting resources.
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Swivl toward Lecture Recording

This semester Joe Schroeder is using a Swivl, a robotic mount that holds an iPad or smartphone, to record lectures in Behavioral Neuroscience. With the use of a remote that the presenter wears, the Swivl tracks a moving person and uses the camera on the iPad or smartphone to record. Lectures or presentation are stored and saved in the cloud using Swivl’s cloud service, and shared with students through a link.

Swivl robot
Swivl robot

Why Lecture Record

Last year Joe had a problem: several students were going to miss class but he needed to cover important material. He asked about ways to record his lecture, and we suggested he try the Swivl. He gave it a try, and found the technology easy and convenient to use. This year, due to scheduling difficulties in Behavioral Neuroscience (PSY/BIO 314), he has one student who needs the class but is unable to attend one day a week. Recording the class on this day was the only way that this student could enroll. Remembering the Swivl, he decided to record the Friday lectures.

How it Works – Technology

Joe assigned one student as the class videographer, and this student is responsible for ensuring that the device it turned on, recording, and working throughout the class period. After class, Joe initially downloaded the video, saved it as an .mp4 file, then uploaded that to Moodle (through Kaltura). This process, while simple, was time consuming. More recently, with the introduction of Swivl’s cloud service, which automatically processes the video after recording and provides a link to the video, he simply copies that link and shares it with all students through Moodle. While Swivl provides tools for editing, the integration of slides and video, and other features, Joe does not spend time editing.

Excerpt of Joe's Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.
Excerpt of Joe’s Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.

How it Works – Pedagogy

After a few weeks of recording one day a week, Joe decided to record every class. Initially he had concerns about attendance – would students attend a class they knew would be recorded and could be watched later? He found that this practice did not affect attendance. Students value class time for the interaction with Joe and fellow students, as well as the ability to ask questions and check for understanding – this is a challenging class and expectations are high. In addition, the course does not use a textbook (see When Risks Pay Off in the Classroom), but a collection of resources – an online animated textbook from University of Toronto, simulation software, videos, articles, and more. Students use the recordings as another resource to understand course material.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

While the full impact of providing class recordings is not yet known, mid-semester feedback from students is positive. Using Swivl is low-effort, but may potentially have a high impact for all students in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Beyond lecture capture, I can imagine additional uses for the Swivl. Students or faculty could use it to practice presentations and review the recording, students could rehearse a performance, then send the video to faculty or peers for feedback.

If you have questions or are interested in exploring ways to record your classes, contact your Instructional Technology liaison.

New Accessibility Features in iOS 10

Our Instructional Technology Student Assistant, Kristen Szuman, did some research into new accessibility features available in iOS10 (if you missed her first post on iOS accessibility, find it here). She turned up some interesting features, including a camera magnifier, color display adjustments, voicemail transcripts, and more. Read on!


Apple has long been an innovator in the field of accessible technology. As one of the world’s foremost and most popular brands, Apple has been continuously raising the bar for technological accessibility; their release of iOS 10 was no different. Advertised as their “biggest release yet,” Apple’s iOS 10 featured many new and innovative accessibility features that work directly with the operating system, eliminating the need for additional app or tech support. Here are some of the new accessibility features available in iOS 10.

iOS 10 Camera Magnifier

With iOS 10 you can now use your built-in iSight camera as a Magnifier with a customizable user interface. The Magnifier allows you to access the camera flash, gives you the ability to lock focus and take a screencap, and adjust color filters to increase contrast or color settings for easier viewing. This new feature not only has practical everyday applications for everyone, but also is especially helpful for anyone who may be visually impaired in some way.

  • To enable the Magnifier: Settings>General>Accessibility>Magnifier
  • To access the Magnifier: Triple-click the home button

Color Display Adjustments

With Apple’s fall launches, they have expanded their iOS, macOS, and tvOS, to include color adjustments to assist with color blindness by adding the ability to tint the entire display a certain color. Apple has included new color options such as Grayscale, Red/Green Filter (for people with protanopia), Green/Red Filter (for people with Deuteranopia), Blue/Yellow Filter (for people with tritanopia), and a more general Color Tint.

  • To enable Color Display Adjustments: Settings>General>Accessibility>Display Accommodations>Color Filters
  • To access Color Display Adjustments: Automatic once enabled

Voicemail Transcripts

iOS 10 now supports Voicemail Transcriptions as do many of the major US cell phone carriers. Voicemail Transcriptions transcribe the words that are spoken on voicemail messages and display the text right in the voicemail section of the built-in Phone app on your iPhone. Voicemail transcripts are useful for everyone but offer new communication opportunities for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

  • Carriers that Support Voicemail Transcription
  • To enable Voicemail Transcription: If you have upgraded to iOS 10 and your cellphone carrier supports Voicemail Transcription, it should be automatically enabled on your iOS device
  • To use Voicemail Transcription: When you select a voicemail message the first time, the audio will playback automatically when you tap it to see the transcript. If you’ve already listened to a message, it will not playback the next time you read it.

Wheelchair Fitness

With the launch of watchOS 3, the Apple Watch has become capable of tracking the activity and fitness of wheelchair users. The device will track pushes, rather than steps, and encourages users to meet daily goals, burn more calories and provide notifications to keep moving throughout the day. While this feature is only available built into the new Apple Watch series, this is a new and innovative way to track fitness that will assist many wheelchair users.

Siri Updates

iOS 10 has opened up a whole new world for app developers as Apple has now begun to allow third-party apps access to Siri. Using apps such as Square Cash, Venmo, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and The Roll, an iOS 10 user can now access Siri to perform simple tasks, such as sending money to a friend via Venmo or searching for pet photos in The Roll. You are also now able to send messages in third-party messaging apps, such as Skype, WhatsApp, and WeChat, using Siri. Additionally, ride-sharing apps are now partnered with Siri, so calling an Uber is now as simple as asking Siri to do so. As an easily accessible app, the addition of Siri in third-party apps have made those apps increasingly user-friendly and accessibility-friendly. While the motor control needed to swipe through pages of apps and repeatedly click and type may have been difficult for some individuals, the new addition of Siri in third-party apps now removes some potentially difficult physical barriers.

Help Students Out: Syllabi as PDF or Google Drive Link

word-to-pdf-freenetworktips-800x445Do you upload your syllabus to Moodle? Is it a Word document? A Pages document? You may not realize it, but there are students who do not have these programs on their computers. Already I have spoken with two students who do not have Microsoft Word (or PowerPoint, or Excel…), but they must access syllabi that are Word documents. While I recommended they download OpenOffice or use a library computer to view the syllabus, you can help your students by using one of two simple solutions.

  1. Save your documents as PDF files and upload those to Moodle. Not only can any computer read PDF files, they are much easier to view in Moodle. Word documents are downloaded onto your students’ computers every time they click on the syllabus title. Not only is this annoying, but increases the chances that students are looking at older or outdated versions. PDF documents simply open in the browser whenever a student wants to view it.
  2. Do you change your syllabus a lot over the course of the semester? If so, consider using a Google Doc and add the shareable link to Moodle. Anthony Graesch wrote about why he made this change and explains how to do it in his post, Dish Up Your Syllabi with Google Docs.

If you have questions about posting your syllabus to Moodle, please contact us!

Camp Teach & Learn Workshops and Discussions

As always, the sessions at Camp Teach & Learn look to be exciting and inspiring. We (Instructional Technology) are helping to organize the following workshops and discussions. When not facilitating one of these, we will be attending other sessions. We look forward to seeing you there!

Improving Quality and Saving Time: Scaffolding Techniques for Digital Assignments from the Technology Fellows
Wednesday 25th May: 10:45 AM to 12:30 PM

Scaffolding is a pedagogical strategy in which instructional supports are provided to students as needed early in learning, then gradually removed as students develop proficiency. Over the past three years, Technology Fellows have learned that creating scaffolded assignments is critical for technology-enhanced assignments. In this session we share examples of scaffolded assignments, discuss how we have used this strategy in our own courses, and help you discover practical ways to apply this technique.

Discussants include Virginia Anderson, Anthony Graesch, Suzuko Knott, Hisae Kobayashi, Laura Little, Jessica McCullough, & Emily Morash

Social Media for Teaching & Learning: Case Studies
Thursday 26 May, from 8:30 AM to 10:15 AM

What can social media do to improve your students’ learning and help you better meet the goals of your course? Faculty at the College have been experimenting with incorporating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms into their pedagogy. At this session we will hear from several faculty members who used social media for a variety of goals: engaging with content outside of class, connecting with experts, practicing new languages, continuing classroom discussion, and connecting course content with current events, among others. We will hear about the challenges and successes in using social media to accomplish specific pedagogical goals.

Discussants include Luis Gonzalez, Anthony Graesch, Hisae Kobayashi, Laura Little, Karolin Machtans, & Marc Zimmer

Accessibility for All: Simple Technology Tools & Strategies to Help Every Student
Thursday 26 May, from 10:30 AM to Noon

Just because students aren’t registered with the Office of Accessibility doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from some of the tools and techniques that are used to make course materials more accessible. In this hands-on session we will look at simple tools and strategies you and your students can use to improve learning. Specific topics include making lengthy digital documents (like a syllabus) navigable, using closed-captioning with audio and video materials, creating machine-readable materials, utilizing screen readers for PDF documents, and activating accessibility features in Moodle, Google Drive, and iOS devices.

Interactive workshop facilitated by Diane Creede, Lillian Liebenthal, Jessica McCullough, & Melissa Shafner.

 

Beyond Pencil and Paper: Audio Assignments Via Moodle

Image of microphone

My choir students expressed that they wanted to be assessed more often so that they would be more motivated to practice. At that time, I was having students sign up in small groups for “check in” meetings. While this was valuable, it was difficult to give individual feedback to all 40 students and could not logistically happen very week.

With the help of Jessica McCullough, we devised a way for my students to record short audio assignments and upload them to Moodle. One such assignment was an assessment of the pronunciation of Zulu song text. Jessica came into my class and demonstrated how to record and upload the files with their smartphones. (iPads are available to check out in the library if students do not have a phone or computer with audio recording capabilities.) The students could record the audio as many times as they liked before submitting their assignment, which encouraged deeper engagement in class and individual practicing. To help those who were struggling, choir tutors through the Academic Resource Center could help them prepare for the assignments.

With the Moodle interface, I was able to monitor which students turned in their assignments (as opposed to scrolling through emails with attachments), listen to the files without opening another audio application, and respond with typed comments (see Karen Gonzalez Rice’s post for making audio comments).

As a result of this “new” method, I could assess more often, get a clearer picture of how individual students were faring in my class,  and further refine my teaching to meet the diverse needs of the students. A variation of this assignment is having the students digitally videotape themselves individually or in groups. A video assignment provides a more complete picture of how my students are performing and it also gives visual confirmation of who is taking the test when it is a group assignment. While this post is regard to an assignment that I give in my choral classroom, it has potential applications in other academic settings in which students need to demonstrate their knowledge in ways beyond  traditional “paper and pencil” assignments.

Image credit: flickr photo by lincolnblues https://flickr.com/photos/lincolnblues/6262298600 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

How to Make the Most of iOS: Speak Screen & Selection

Recently the Instructional Technology team hired a student assistant, Kristen Szuman. Kristen is a sophomore interested in art, politics, and loves animals. We asked Kristen to use and document the many accessibility features available on iOS devices. This is her first, of, we hope, several, blog post about useful technology tools.

Screenshot of Speak Selection on iPhone

Accessibility seldom gets the attention it deserves. Most of us go about our day without wondering how accessible an iPhone or iPad  is to the blind or the deaf, to those with autism or motor dysfunction, or how accessible the apps these devices run are. Yet, there are people who care deeply about accessibility; those who need iPhones and iPads to be ever-more accessible, of course, and those working to make these devices more accessible. Among technology companies, Apple not only implements accessibility features, but promotes and prioritizes them, and this starts in a very top-down fashion. Apple has built in many accessibility services, some intended strictly for accessibility and some seemingly everyday functions that can be used for accessibility needs as well. In addition, several app developers have also developed additional software in order to bolster Apple’s accessibility capabilities.

Speech Menu on iOS

Speak Selection and Speak Screen are two of those features which Apple has built in and which can be used both by people with accessibility needs or by those who just wish to utilize features that make screen reading easier. Speak Selection and Speak Screen are both able to read on-screen text. With Speak Selection enabled, the user must highlight the text first whereas Speak Selection will read the entire screen’s contents. Typically, an individual with low vision would use one of these accessibility features. Individuals who experience fatigue while reading, or those who would rather have text read to them than have to zoom into text to read, benefit from Speak Selection and Speak Screen. In general, the two accessibility features are very similar in function. Speak Selection and Speak Screen can be activated on any page that displays selectable text- so any webpage in Safari or other browsers, iBooks, Kindle, and some other apps.

To use either feature, you can find documentation available in Google Drive or watch one of the many videos available on YouTube.

Workshop Recap: Free Textbooks?!

Logos from different OER resources

Thank you to everyone who attended yesterday’s workshop, “Free Textbooks?! Using Open Educational Resources (OER).” A special thank you to Karen Gonzalez Rice and Joe Schroeder who shared their experiences replacing textbooks with OER. We learned a lot hearing about your experiences – positive and negative! I wrote about their presentations in a previous post – available here.

I heard from several faculty who are interested in the topic but were unable to attend. If this describes you, click on the image above to view our full presentation.

What the presentation doesn’t include, however, is our great discussion about creating courses that are accessible to all students. While many students here can afford course materials, we need to keep in mind that this is not every student’s experience. We should be mindful, when designing our courses, to consider questions of equity and access to course materials. Here are a few points from our discussion:

  • For faculty in the sciences and social sciences, we highly recommend reviewing the open textbooks created for OpenStax. These books are widely used across the world!
  • Finding open resources can be time consuming. If you wish to explore the possibilities of open resources – including textbooks, interactive online modules, quiz banks, syllabi, etc – set up a meeting with your liaison. There is an amazing amount of resources available, but sorting through and integrating them effectively into your course takes time. An instructional technologist can help. This is a great project for Tempel Summer Institute!
  • Some faculty have collected enough materials – articles, websites, etc – that they are able to forego the textbook. We discussed the difference between reading on a screen and in print. There are several ways to deal with this: teach students how to effectively read on a screen and employ tools that allow students to annotate and highlight texts and/or require students to print materials. If you choose the latter, explain to students that the cost of printing is much less than the cost of your previously required textbook.
  • One drawback to using a collection of different materials is that a textbook provides cohesion and important supplemental materials, such as a glossary. You can often find useful glossaries and timelines online and in reference books. In addition, there are tools (iBooks Author, for example) that allow you to create your own book that combines these resources and provide connections and context.
  • If you’re excited and ready to dive in to OER, take a look at the slideshow above. In addition to many linked repositories and organizations, the section on pedagogy and carefully selecting and integrating OER is important.

There is a lot of interest in this topic so I am hoping to offer this again next semester. If you would like to be involved, have questions, or want to meet with an instructional technologist or librarian, contact your liaison. If you find a great resource or try something new, share it with us!

Zooming into Language Acquisition

My current Japanese 400C provides students multiple opportunities to study collaboratively with the upper-level Japanese students at Mount Holyoke College (MHC), MA by using technologies. This course employs content and language integrated learning (CLIL) approach, and students are expected to gain the new knowledge about the Japanese language through the reading materials, which my friend at MHC has been developing.

The current upper-level Japanese courses at Connecticut College (CC) are facing some administrative as well as pedagogical issues: 1) recent years there are chronically small enrollments; 2) the level of individual student’s language skills varies widely; 3) it is difficult for each student to find a peer who obtains the same Japanese proficiency level in class; 4) there is lack of peer pressure due to familiarization among themselves as well as with instructors, which creates an ineffective atmosphere to motivate the students to improve their language skills.

These issues are not unique at Connecticut College (CC); rather I found that the Japanese programs at small liberal arts colleges faced similar issues. New technologies have enabled us to supply students at both campuses with peer-reading sessions through Zoom, email communication among the students as well as between the students and both instructors, Zoom presentation sessions, and survey after presentation practice as well as final presentation in Google forms. We are also recording peer-reading sessions and Zoom presentations, and uploading them in the shared folder in Google Drive, which we hope helps each student to evaluate her/his own performance for their assignments.

techfellow_blog_hk2 (1)

We have unintended positive outcomes by using technologies. This winter we had more snow than usual, and there were multiple times the college was closed. One cancellation happened on the day presentation was scheduled. In the morning I hoped that there would be no cancellation despite the fact that powder snow started covering the ground. My friend at MHC emailed me, “we don’t have snow here.” I had a bad feeling. An email came telling us the college would be closed at noon. I decided to stay on campus for the sake of presentation. Then another email came telling that there would be a parking ban. “Oh, NO!!!!!” Now I had to leave the campus.

I told my students to stay in the room and to wait for an invitation for Zoom session from me through email. I went back home to send out invitations for Zoom session. Thanks to Zoom we were successfully able to have student’s presentations by connecting five locations; a classroom in MHC; a student’s room at Smith College; two student’s rooms at CC; and my place, and we recorded the session as well!!!

We found another interesting effect of using Zoom. Time to time we asked our students if they would prefer not doing certain assignments or not. The students on both campuses always answer, “I can do this.” They never say to us, “NO.” It seems that they are motivated to show their best to the students on the other campus. We are pleased with our student’s attitude. Probably I will be able to report to you after this course whether they maintain this attitude throughout the semester.

Lastly I would like to share with you what happened last year when we offered the same course. I had one male student in the course at CC. He spent two semesters in Korea when he was a junior. One of the female students at MHC came from Korea. Apparently they had many things to talk about. One day my friend’s teaching assistants said to her, “Today you will have a session with Connecticut College.” My friend asked how they figured it out. Then they told her that they knew because the student wore make-up. Hmm…. It IS indeed interesting!!

Digital Literacy: Talking Teaching Recap (Part 2)

Following up on yesterday’s post, here are three more exciting topics of discussion raised at the Talking Teaching event this Tuesday, April 7, co-sponsored by the Technology Fellows Program and Information Services.

Perkins Library Reference Interaction, 1970s, Duke University Archives
Perkins Library Reference Interaction, 1970s, Duke University Archives, Flickr

Digital Technology and Collaboration/Communication Skills: How are we using technology to replace certain interpersonal interactions, and at what cost? A common assumption is that working with digital technology means working alone. Some professors observe that students interact with each other less when they can complete a group assignment online, which may decrease accountability for some group members.

Recommendations:

  • Require group work and face-to-face interaction when using digital technologies—Joe Schroeder’s students worked extremely well together on a collaborative Google Doc while sitting together in person, which begs the question: would they have communicated as well together if they had not been sitting in the same physical space?
  • Require students to meet with relevant people on campus (Information Services, Writing Center, etc.) to ensure that students are aware of the resources available to them.
  • Have students grade each others’ contributions to group work—Joyce Bennett requires students to keep an individual work log throughout a group project, in addition to grading their classmates at the end.
  • The new collaboration rooms on the first three floors of Shain Library and the white boards available in the lower level are very popular among students working in groups.

    Shain Collaboration Room, March 2015
    Shain Collaboration Room, March 2015

Digital Accessibility and Inequality: Not only does immediate access to digital technologies shape a student’s ability to complete assignments and learn new technological skills in college, but inequalities in access to technology before arriving at Connecticut College contribute to variations in digital fluency among the student body. Sometimes students are simply unaware of what is available to them through various campus resources, including the library. Kathy Gehring pointed out that even the use of electronic resources dropped significantly during the Shain renovation when the library was not physically accessible.

Recommendations:

  • If you are planning to use an app that relies on smartphone or tablet technology, consider that not all students have access to these mobile devices. Web-based avenues of communication (i.e. Moodle forums, email, social media, Google Drive) may be necessary to ensure that all students are able to participate in the conversation. Luis Gonzalez’s recent post about the Digital Divide sheds light on this issue.
  • Many courses since 2006 have been supported by the Instructional Technology team’s Digitally-Enhanced Learning Initiative (DELI). Participation in the program ensures that all students in a proposed course will have access to the same digital device.
  • Again, requiring that students meet with librarians and instructional technologists, whether in a class session or outside of class, will broaden awareness of the library’s technological resources and assistance, including many workstations with a wide range of software, the Advanced Technology Lab’s digitization equipment, electronic scholarly resources, iPad Minis that can be checked out at the circulation desk, one-on-one training, and more.

Digital Editing Tools and Methods: How can we leverage digital technologies in the editing process for written student assignments? Some professors noted that students have ignored marginal notes in Word documents in the past and resubmitted their work without accepting all the editing suggestions. Is this a case of students not knowing how to use the review features in Word? Many students have expressed that they prefer handwritten comments, and faculty often prefer this tried-and-true method, as well. But do some digital editing tools serve to enhance the learning process for students?

Recommendations:

  • Karen Gonzalez Rice has garnered universally positive feedback from students regarding her recorded audio responses to assignments. Using screencapture video recordings might be a great option for evaluations of students’ visual or written works, if digital files were submitted for the assignment. Jing is a free, easy-to-use tool for creating screencapture videos of up to five minutes (encouraging concise feedback!).
  • Joyce Bennett loved using Blackboard at another institution to receive, edit, and return her students’ assignments without any exchange of paper, all within the course website. Moodle offers this option too! Contact your Instructional Technology liaison for assistance, if you would like to experiment with this capability.
  • If you make marginal edits and comments in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, use the suggested edit function, which does not replace the students’ original content. You might also require students to reply to your comments to ensure that they address each one.

Thank you to all who attended Talking Teaching this past Tuesday!