This Fall’s Digital Storytelling Hybrid class

Each year OSU faculty and Alum accompany hundreds of student intern / ambassadors on international travel expeditions to engage in community service learning opportunities. Last year Professors Carmel Finley & David Bernell and I helped ‘returnees’ learn and fairly well master digital storytelling techniques. By the end of a ten-week 2 credit course 9 students created and published and impressive interactive publication of their learning experiences. Once again, this summer a group of Beavers Without Borders (BWOB) students will travel for a week-long community service project in the Dominican Republic.

This spring, during weeks 9 & 10 we will conduct a two hour pre-trip in-class workshop to plan, storyboard and train students to effectively photograph & video, conduct oral-history interviews, and write and keep daily accounts of their activities while in nation.

In the fall, those students, teachers and advisors will collaborate to plan, design, construct and publish an iBook on their BWOB Dominican Republic Service Trip.

This class will take advantage of the opportunities offered by a hybrid designation and format. Students will learn and practice all facets of digital publication including, research, planning, design, composition, publication and marketing. 
Early in the quarter (and in the final weeks) students will come together in class to pool their curated media, talents, skills and media specialties. They will engage in materials reviews and design and content discussions, plus engage in routinely scheduled peer review and assessment. During weeks 3-5 & 7-9 students will learn and practice entirely outside of class times and locations. They will use the Canvas LMS, a self-teaching manual for the Ibooks Author software application and a series of supplemental assignments and course materials. Where the learning curve is steep embedded audio and video mini-lectures will assist students as they move through their course work. Regularly scheduled F2F and on-line ‘office hours’ will provide support and feedback where needed.

Learning objectives include:

To explore, examine, reflect & discuss the culture, history and present day status of the Dominican Republic.

To learn and practice the tools of digital storytelling and publishing.

To practice effective techniques in research & writing for digital media.

To examine, practice and defend ethical choices for media usage while respecting copyright, shareware and Creative Commons standards as they relate 
to digital publishing.

To engage in critical assessment of design and layout, plus content and interactive elements selections.

To conduct and practice effective analysis of primary and secondary documents.

And, to collaborate generously to share media, tools, skills and expertise with students,

co-workers and off-campus (sponsor) agencies.

This will be our first attempt at ‘flipping’ course content, assignments and learning objectives onto a distance ed platform. We have created a series of stand alone instruction and practice modules that should ensure student learning, sharing and achievement in both face-to-face and on-line learning environments.

If you are interested in seeing the result of last year’s class effort the Beavers Without Borders Dominican Republic Trip 2014 iBook can be downloaded from the iTunes Store.

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Understanding Grammar as a Hybrid Course

WR 330, Understanding Grammar, is a course that leads students through the advanced concepts of grammar. Basically, the course strives to answer: What is it we do as writers, and what are some of the effects of those choices? The course moves quickly through complicated and often new concepts, and students build an impressive bank of terminology. The student population is varied as the course satisfies Bac Core for Writing II. As such, the course frequently sees students in majors as varied as engineering and fashion design. In any given class, a small number of students are likely to be English majors, but even among these students the levels of grammar preparedness can vary greatly. This diversity among student understanding when they first enter the course is always something I have to work hard to manage–and I actually think that a hybridized version will make some of this a lot easier.

For example, allowing students to simply take quizzes online on their own time will be such a help! As the course is right now, all the students take six different quizzes throughout the term. Quizzes are given at the start of designated classes, usually as a way of concluding a major unit within the course. (So, for example, students will have a quiz testing them on the four major verb types and another on the various adverbial and adjectival modifiers.) Sometimes, you can see a student just fly through the quiz, complete it with perfect accuracy, and then sit there… and sit there… while the students around him or her are sweating through the answers. I always feel badly for both students in this situation–the one who is bored and ready to move on, and the one who is panicked and stressed and fully aware that his or her neighbor has already completed the quiz… fearing, perhaps, that he or she is holding the class up. By taking all of the quizzes online, students will be able to truly work at their own pace, move on to new material when they are ready, or struggle through questions slowly if that’s what they need to do. They won’t have to worry about the judgment from other students–and they won’t have to worry about any perceived judgment from me.

So… moving all quizzes to the online presentation seems like a no-brainer to me. This feels like the most immediately tangible way the hybridized version will be superior to the strictly on campus version.

But I also teach this course online, regularly. And I know from my past experiences that there are certain things that are very difficult to do online, concepts that need a little more hand-holding. Sentences with nominal clauses that truly need to be diagrammed and explained on the chalkboard. And so I can see how the hybridized version will be superior to the fully online version as well. Class time will be used as a sort of place to trouble-shoot. I’ll present lectures online (I’m thinking in both video and written format), and then I’ll use the time in class as a place for “strategic intervention” (I love that phrasing!), as a place where questions can be asked and answered. I’ll also use class time to set up and assign the major projects the students complete in the course: the discourse analysis projects. These projects ask students to read critically, to write effectively for specific rhetorical goals, to recognize and identify by name advanced grammatical concepts, to interpret information they gather, and to compare—with a level of objectivity—their own writing to another’s writing. They also allow students to choose what they want to write about as long as they meet similar rhetorical goals—useful considering the wide variety of majors and student interests.

…But they’re difficult. And having the opportunity to explain and demonstrate aspects of them in person seems very valuable. The students will then be able to work independently and to use online resources such as the discussion board and links to online writing labs to work through the projects. I think that overall these projects will straddle the online and campus presentations of the course pretty evenly, and that the two presentations will complement one another to truly help students advance in their understandings.

So that’s kind of where I am right now: I’m excited, and I really see the potential for this  to pay off. I came into this hoping that I’d be able to figure out what’s best about both versions of the course–online and on-campus–and to come to some understanding of how to balance the benefits and limitations of each presentation. I know there are probably a lot of things I still haven’t thought of, but so far, it really seems like it’s going to work! Thanks for reading!


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Visions of a hybridized grammar (and reading…and writing) course

IEPA (Intensive English Program: Academic) Grammar 3 is a course offered to students of low-intermediate English proficiency. It is part of the Academic English Program, one of three language programs offered at INTO OSU. The program’s purpose, and thus the course’s, is to “create opportunities for international students to develop the academic, critical thinking, and linguistic skills necessary to succeed in a US university.” In a given term, there are usually 4 to 5 sections of this course, each with around 18 students. Our student population at this particular level in this particular program is primarily Saudi and Chinese, but also contains students from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Russia, Turkey, Oman, Kuwait, and the U.A.E.

In terms of curriculum, students are introduced to or continue their study of the forms and applications of the simple present and past, present and past progressive, future, and present perfect verb tenses. Similarly, students develop their proficiency in these grammar structures through a variety of reading, writing, and speaking activities. Currently, they are formally assessed using paper-based quizzes and exams (midterm and final).

The plan for this hybrid course is where it gets a little murky… and exciting. The Academic English Program is in the process of merging the 3 credit hour Grammar course with its corresponding 6 hour Reading and Writing course. Doing so will create a 9 hour Reading, Writing, and Grammar course, but much remains to be solidified as these two courses have been functioning independently since INTO OSU’s beginning. Essentially, how grammar, reading and writing will be holistically integrated has yet to be determined. This was a major push for me to develop this hybrid course.

In creating a hybrid/blended learning grammar course, I am able to provide a platform for integrating the grammar components of level three with reading and writing. What I would like to do is develop a course that provides the basic, skill-focused elements of level 3 grammar (accessible on Canvas as modules). That is, I would like to try to develop materials that are as removed from theme driven delivery as possible. By creating minimally themed grammar material, we will be able to apply it to whatever themes are present in the reading and writing material.

Of recent, I feel our international students are overloaded and confused by the myriad of themes in their reading and writing, grammar, listening and speaking, and elective classes. Unlike domestic students, they are learning language and content on a much larger scale. True, domestic students must learn jargon and content specific vocabulary in new fields of study, but this in no way compares to the amount of language learning required of international students. Furthermore, students in the Academic English program are not here to learn content yet; they are here to learn language, and in this case academic language. So, what I want to do is create a more focused attention across the students’ level of study, and make it easier for them to grasp and retain key components of not just grammar, but language as well.

How this translates into online activities is again, murky… but exciting. I see the discussion forum as a major tool for students to present and discuss particular grammar points, provide authentic examples, and peer review one another’s work. I am also excited about the ability to use Google Drive within Canvas, through collaborations, because I see this as an opportunity for students to build grammar guides/resources for future students. It also prepares them for software/computer/LMS literacy that they will be expected to have when they are university students.

In class, I envision students presenting the grammar resources they’ve created online, along with developing and deploying activities in the classroom. The classroom is also an ideal place for students to produce dialogue using specific grammar structures. They will also be able to collaborate on analysis of course text, and present their findings to other students.

Essentially, I see the Canvas and the online hemisphere of learning as a way to house information about the grammar structures, and a place for the more wrote aspects of grammar learning and understanding to occur. Flipping the grammar components will then open up F2F time for active application of the grammar structures, as well as allow for a deeper analysis of reading and writing material through the lens of grammar.

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Let the course management system drive your thinking

Now this is an area dear to my heart. I am intensely curious about how faculty go about the course planning process. Do they start with the course description that is published in the catalog? This description for courses in a major, is in fact, the legal description of the course “accepted” by the faculty as the key descriptor of what content and skills will be included in that particular course. Some university curriculum committee’s do examine other aspects of the course when proposed, but what guarantee does that committee have that the course will in fact be implemented as initially designed? This is particularly problematic when the course is “handed off” to others to teach.

Consider for a moment, a course that has several sections and several instructors. How does a university ensure the integrity of the course is maintained with such variance (in design and implementation?)

Just yesterday I created a new way of designing courses that allows faculty to draw direct lines of alignment from outcomes to activities; monitor the placement of formative assessments, and identify a grading model most likely to be fair and equitable for that particular course design. The template was designed for U-Engage instructors who teach their classes F2F. I am curious whether it will also work with hybrid course design.

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Mike Jager on Pitfalls

It was thoughtful for the author to limit the number of pitfalls of teaching to just 5. More might have been scary. The class I am moving toward a hybrid profile (with Carmel) is entitled Digital Storytelling and involves instruction and practice in creating iBook digital textbooks. The class process challenges many of the tried and true teaching and learning mechanisms we grew up with and intuitively deployed as classroom instructors. The class fervently embraces the power of digital media, tools and processes to move beyond the dominant binary / lateral teaching and learning model to one of layered and communal sharing of expertise.

We are trying to use innovation to return to the basics of teaching and learning. Instead of being (exclusively) sages on the stage we become coaches, conductors and facilitators for authentic and active research, inquiry, assessment and collaboration. Where we were once a singular source for knowledge, authority, and assessment our emphasis has shifted to an environment where students emerge as rotating resident experts generously contributing skills and competencies to a collective pool of talent and productivity. We become enthusiastic ‘old dogs learning new tricks” – models of teachers striving with confidence and competence to shift tactics, priorities and tools for more effective teaching and learning.

We incorporate a digital learning and teaching style that takes advantage of universal and ubiquitous access to knowledge, information and communication.  Students move from passive recipients and witness of media to active, engaged content producers and contributors to the stream of knowledge, cultural and social consciousness. It moves their hand held devices from possible elements of distraction to tools for gathering, curation and processing of content into media rich, engaging and compelling storytelling mechanisms. It anchors their place firmly in the unfolding stream of history.

Allowing students to use digital tools expands the expressive capacity to those who might not participate more actively in class – or on-line discussions. Further it better matches the tools and abilities for those with limited proficiency in language, writing or expression, or differently abled learners. Lastly, the process has created a sliding scale menu of credit and options for students ranging from limited engagement and commitments (1 credit) to those who wish to fully engage in an immersive Capstone leadership position (6 credits).

Moving what has thus been a F2F workshop experience into a hybrid model will allow students to process and practice skills and learning in a supportive but amorphous setting away from campus. Bi-weekly in-class workshops will afford students face to face connections for up-close reflection, peer review and shared decision making about design, content selection and task delegation. Students learn about content, learn about each other and learn and gain marketable skills in digital fluency and workplace collaboration.

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Avoiding the pitfall of ignoring the ways students learn from each other

Not too long ago I had a conversation with an older instructor about technology in the classroom (iPads and smartphones specifically). Defying certain stereotypes of age and technology use, he supported the use of technology in class, while I opposed it. At the time, I thought the use of technology distracted from the learning experience and impeded students’ language acquisition. For these reasons, I avoided the use of technology in my classes. But something the older instructor said resonated with me, and still does. He posited that the students were going to use these technologies regardless of our classroom policy. So, was I going to hold tight to my rules in the class, and choose to ignore the blatant relevance of these technologies in students’ lives? Or, was I going to figure out meaningful and authentic ways to these for students to develop their language proficiency using such tools?

While I still believe technology can distract students from achieving certain learning goals, I have toned down my absolutist mentality. My colleague was right, ignoring the relevance and importance of technology in my students’ life would be to project my own beliefs and values on them, rather than acknowledge, embrace and utilize theirs. I would be ignoring the fact that most of my students communicate through social networks such Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And that it represents an important part of their lives.

While certain aspects of educational theory remain relatively static, like Bloom’s taxonomy, I think it is important to remember that a learner’s cultural, generational, and technological distinctions create an ever-changing learning environment, and that it is part of the educator’s responsibility to be aware of these distinctions. Awareness of such distinctions allows us to strengthen our connections with students, broaden our teaching and learning skills, and provide students with the most effective learning experience.

Since our chat a couple of years ago, I have watched students share wonderful pictures, stories, and opinions through familiar technological devices and applications I would have otherwise dismissed as irrelevant to their learning experience. I have also watched them learn using these tools–and teach. I had remember that true learning occurs when the learner is motivated and feels what they’re learning is personally relevant. I had to remember too that education is not separate from life.

Lastly, when reflecting on my changing thoughts about how students learn, especially from each other, I also think about humbling my desire to be the sage on stage is also critical. When I quiet my sage on stage qualities, albeit difficult, the stage light broadens to encompass everyone. Again, the vast and varying personalities and experience of the students are able to flourish, becoming the details of our ongoing learning story.

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On Being a Sage on the Stage, and Not Being One, and Poetry

How can I avoid being the “sage on the stage,” Pitfall #3? As I think about this question, I can’t help but think about the poetry class I taught—on campus—yesterday afternoon. We were talking about imagery, and how a poet’s job is to make the abstract concrete, and I have to be honest: This is a topic that I absolutely love. I had a twenty minute stretch, walking up and down the aisles of the class, where I definitely felt like the sage on the stage. And I won’t lie: It felt great. There are nearly seventy students in that classroom, and I know this is probably delusional, but I felt like I had them all. So, that’s the background for this topic in my mind: Being a sage on the stage actually does feel really good—when it’s working, and when you can convince yourself that the students are benefiting from your presentation.

But I’m comparing that lecture, and that feeling, to what’s happening in my online poetry class this term. It’s the same class, ENG 106, and I teach it both online and on campus regularly. Online, I am not the sage on the stage. Not by a long shot. And I think part of that is that I’m hyper-aware of the fact that my “students may be Googling [my] lecture topic… finding sources that update or improve [my] presentation” (St. Germain, “Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design”). I know the online class has a lot about it that’s good, but I also am keenly aware of the fact that my passion for poetry has a harder time coming through. And this might be a bit simplistic, but I think passion can go a long way in the classroom, to inspire and to encourage learning.

So, here in this post from St. Germain, I’m realizing that avoiding this sage on the stage is actually advised—hooray! I suppose I’m coming at this assignment from a different angle, but this realization leads me to this: How can I utilize my role as a “content curator” (I love that terminology) to do what I think teacher-centered teaching (for all its faults) is good for, to inspire and to convey passion for the material? Is it as simple as collecting and presenting the best of the material available online? Is it a heightened awareness to what’s being advocated for in Pitfall #4, to ask and enable students to create rather than consume? To encourage more student-student learning, as encouraged in Pitfall #5? To allow students themselves to function as sages on stages at least in certain guided lessons?

So interesting. I’m here in this community to work on my grammar course as a hybrid, but I’m actually ending this assignment thinking more about both my online and on campus sections of my poetry class. Wow! Thanks for reading! Any thoughts appreciated!

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Sustaining momentum, building resilience

The five pitfalls of all classes can be summed up with the question of how to sustain momentum. Usually we do this by having students in class; now we have to do by not having them in class. One thing that always troubles me is the midterm slump, which can last from the third to the eighth or ninth week, when students arrive exhausted from all-nighters, and sit, glassy-eyed, present physically, mentally absent.

With fewer class periods and more structured activities, I’m hoping students will arrive with definite objectives, ready to engage and move forward on the project we’re all working on.

One of the things we’re tinkering with this class is having a mid-week check in, when homework is due, rather than having it be due the day of class. A week is a long time between classes, homework that isn’t due for a week can get pushed to the end of the to do list.

Another way to sum up the pitfalls is to recognize that multiple contacts and assignments that link and connect can build a resilient online community. Resilient communities are able to withstand disturbance. A class needs to be a web of connections, with multiple points where students can interact, with me, and with each other. The stronger the web, the more opportunities for learning. That’s chaotic, so I’m going to have to be aware that I need to sustain my own momentum, as I build a class that that I hope will be a learning experience for everybody.

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Geo350: Population and Environment – in a nutshell…

Geo350 examines the impact of human population dynamics on individuals, societies and the earth’s physical and biological environment. Beginning with an analysis of some of the general issues associated with human population change over time, we will move toward a deeper analysis of the associated environmental consequences, and the social, economic and philosophical dimensions of a growing, and often more consumptive, human population.

This is a “Hybrid” version of Geo350, meaning it will be balanced between on-campus, traditional class sessions and intensive online activity and interaction. The hybrid model provides an opportunity to borrow the best from both traditional and more recent online learning strategies: classroom lectures and active-learning exercises will benefit from face-to-face discussions and interactions, while the online component provides flexibility and promotes the use of web-based tools for learning.

After the introductory classroom meeting, students will be responsible for reading and watching online lectures and videos, taking quizzes and conducting mini-research assignments, and bringing their research to our in-class sessions.

The nine classroom sessions will be built around an active-learning exercise associated with a specific weekly topic. Topics will be purposefully broad and abstract—things like “Culture,” “Health,” “Agriculture,” “Consumption,” “Environmental Change,” as examples. Classroom sessions will focused on three primary goals: 1) to assess the state of knowledge on a topic through student research, 2) to examine the spatial aspects (patterns, processes, changes, etc.) of the topic, and 3) to help students gain a sense of their individual values or ethics related to the topic. As a result, classroom and online learning will be linked through preparation for, participation in, and reflection about face-to-face exercises and activities.

This class is often a very diverse group: majors include chemists, physicists, engineers, public health, forestry, agricultural science, earth science, and nearly every other possible discipline at OSU. My framework is deliberately aimed at giving students from a wide variety of backgrounds and majors a chance to not only understand the trajectories of human population change and its impacts, but to gain research and critical thinking experience applied to basic but fundamental parts of life and society.

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Design of SED540 as a hybrid class

When people think about science they commonly conjure images of chemistry and physics. White-coated, white males, white lab walls. White. At least that was my imagery as a lad. Studies show that these impressions still persist today. Of course, it has changed and at least there are edges that now have some color. It is the space part, the white lab walls that I will attempt to break through with my hybrid class. And provide a great learning experience as well.

I have always loved being outdoors and, along with the strong sense of community that geology afforded me, was what drew me to the science of geology. And I think there is a huge deficit and advantage of getting kids outdoors and participating in more inductive scientific adventures. It is not all about hypothesis-ladened processes; sometimes there is observation, intuition, struggle before that most excellent hypothesis is determined. This non-linear scientific process lies at the core of field-based worked and is an experience that few K-12 students and teachers engage.

In my course I aim to provide a combination of distance-delivered learning experiences with a multi-day field project to build content and field-based scientific skills. My course will be aimed at teachers-to-be and classroom teachers. It will hover around the next science standards (called the Next Generation Science Standards), it will provide an authentic doing science opportunity and it will be fun. I hope to attract at least 12 teachers each summer although the more the merrier.

The content and field-work focus will be on earthquakes. Specifically earthquakes of the Pacific Northwest. Online learning experiences will include learning about: basics of earthquakes; geologic setting of the PNW, EQ mitigation and EQ preparation. There will be an abundance of hands-on experiences that can be modified for the K-12 (but probably more like the 6-12) classroom use but are also excellent learning experiences for adults. Learning will be assessed through discussion boards, small projects and a culminating group field-based project. Participants will also practice field skills such as data collection, organization, and presentation.

Fieldwork will be the face-to-face component of the hybrid and will be a combination of show-and-tell and data collection. What data will collect? In short, evidence for ancient earthquakes in the PNW shows itself by the presence of sunken and dead forests (called ghost forests) and layers of tsunami generated sands that cover organic-rich layers of former marshes. We will be investigating areas that are inland from estuaries that contain these features in order to evaluate the extent of tsunami run-up within the different river and estuary systems.

The link back to the online learning experience will be realized during the second half of the class where participants will further examine the data and produce a report on findings. This work may be publishable in regional and perhaps national journals! Additional learning experiences outside of analyzing and organizing data may be part of the second half of the online learning.

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