In 2017, consumers were frequently on the receiving end of bad news: Wells Fargo continued to grapple with the fallout from fake accounts. Equifax compromised data. Apple slowed down phones.
And to kick off 2018, there are vulnerabilities in computer chips that will affect “almost all computers, servers, cloud operating systems, and cellphones made in the past two decades.” Disheartening, no?
I’ve been thinking about the nomenclature employed in this case. Calling the two vulnerabilities “Spectre” and “Meltdown” accomplishes a couple things. Taken together, the names seem appropriately technology-adjacent, but I was most interested in Spectre, which evokes something elusive, ghostlike, and therefore understandably difficult to detect—which explains how the vulnerability went undiscovered for more than 20 years.
Last summer, DePaul surveyed all faculty to solicit feedback on our two primary learning management systems (LMSs): D2L and Digication. Faculty told us that, for the most part, D2L is meeting their teaching needs.
The feedback on Digication, our ePortfolio tool, told a different story. Faculty voiced frustration with both the lack of upgrades and the usability challenges of creating well-designed portfolios. So, the Digication Steering Committee reviewed nine other digital portfolio platforms, as well as the planned upgrade to Digication, to determine which platform would best meet our needs moving forward.
During a recent research jaunt to update some FITS resources on online learning, I stumbled across an article about the value of including the instructor’s face in course videos. If you don’t have time for the entire piece, here’s my TL;DR:
Faculty often ask me “if it matters” to include their faces within course videos. My standard response is that they should try it in the introductory video. Start the video with your face on the screen, either in full-frame glory or in a small square in the corner (depending on the software you’re using), and then transition to the other typical intro video elements, like a tour of the course or syllabus. That way, you only have to think about being “on camera” for a minute or two.
But what faculty are really asking is this: does including my face in videos either (1) make students feel more engaged with the course materials, or (2) actually result in better learning?
A new year is a good time to press the reset button on many things, and I like a healthy, rigorous technology and technology-centric practice clean-out. You may already be using some of the tools I’ve listed below, but a new year is a good time to revisit those spaces, tweak your practices, or delete items that you’re no longer using.
But! If you’re new to all of these items and you integrate them in 2017, you’ve just earned yourself 15.65 (approximately) hours. You’re welcome. Continue reading
This year, I missed shopping for school supplies.
(If you’re a parent, you can stop reading here. I get it. The journey to procure the specific list of items denoted by your child’s teacher seems horrific. A colleague was just telling me about how her child’s school decided to go to a color-coding system, where each student needs to have a specifically colored folder for each subject [orange for Social Studies, blue for Math, etc.], along with other color-coded items. This sounds miserable. This is not the experience I was feeling fun heart flutters about.)
When I was a high-school teacher, shopping for school supplies was the exciting part of back-to-school time; you know, before the panic-inducing part where you have to think about an entire year’s worth of curriculum that you need to plan. School supply shopping was also a space to see what new, unblemished organizational items I could use in my classroom.
In an effort to recapture that feeling, I went to one of the traditional office supply chains to see what new “technologies” they’re peddling (because, of course, even the pencil is technically a technology). My findings:
In the training sessions we provide for faculty who are going to teach online or hybrid courses for the first time, our facilitator, Daniel Stanford, often mentions how instructional technology consultants can serve as “course therapists.” We’re there to listen; to assure faculty that the anxiety they might feel around making such a dramatic change to their teaching is normal; and to help them move through the stages of grief they might experience as they negotiate the losses that result from change.
Given my understanding of this framing metaphor, and given the amount of advice I’ve doled out within this context, I thought I was fully prepared to undertake the process myself when I agreed to teach one of my courses online this past Winter. Surely I could coach myself through the process, right?
As the colleagues I turned to when I needed a therapy session will tell you, I was wrong. In two key ways, I didn’t follow the recommendations I usually give to others.
At our recent DOTS Alumni event, a faculty member from the College of Education was going to present on his methodology for efficient and effective grading. He then had a conflict with the event, so I presented in his place – and, as per usual, a colleague’s good idea sparked an interesting research path.
Dr. Philip Gnilka introduced me to the idea of using an Excel spreadsheet with coded comments to give feedback to students. He was inspired by the process detailed in Andrew J. Czaplewski’s article, “Computer-Assisted Grading Rubrics: Automating the Process of Providing Comments and Student Feedback”.
The article details how to grade with an Excel spreadsheet, a self-contained document with an assignment rubric on one page and the codes for pre-drafted comments on a second page. For Philip, this works well. In the spreadsheet, he can fill out the rubric on the first page, type in the codes that refer to the comments he wants to give, and pull those comments into the page with the rubric. He then uses the Save As function to save a copy for the student and either upload (to D2L) or email the graded document for the student.
You probably don’t need to hear me wax poetic about the beauty of lists and the immense satisfaction of checking off list items. We love lists, for reasons documented in several studies: lists are calming because they put things in discrete categories and have a specific, predictable endpoint, both things that make human brains happy.
You may have already read my colleague Kate Daniels’s excellent post about Wunderlist, an app she uses both for personal task organization and to stay on the same page with others on shared projects. I’m also a Wunderlist user, so I concur with her evaluation of this particular tool.
But, I just downloaded another new list app, appropriately named The List App, that adds a social dimension to list making. Created by B.J. Novak (who you likely remember as Ryan from The Office, creator of the WUPHF service) and a team of developers, The List App allows you to create and share lists. You can also follow the lists of celebrities, news organizations, and friends.
“Web design is dead,” declareth Sergio Nouvel of UX Magazine. I’ll admit that this clickbait headline drew me in—if web design is dead, what about instructional design? But, as expected, the “big reveal” of the article wasn’t anything earth shattering: web design may have met its demise, but from its dead cocoon husk emerges a new field, experience design. And in my view, experience design = instructional design for non-teachers, so this is good news to me.
While the grand finale of this article may not seem like much more than a semantic differentiation, I appreciated Nouvel’s thoughtful description of the trajectory web design has taken in the past few years, especially now that we carry computers in our pockets and wear them on our wrists. Users still access websites through their full computer-based browsers, but that’s rapidly shifting, so much so that the venerable New York Times forced its staff to use only their mobile site for a week to emphasize the importance of mobile.
More importantly, Nouvel’s description of the transition from a focus on “the design of individual web pages” to the “design of an ecosystem with a focus on user experience” mirrors what I’ve seen in my job as an instructional designer. Establishing a quality template for content—one that is readable, easy to edit, and designed to look like a high-quality website—takes time. I’ve worked in my college for a few years now, and it’s only in the past 6-8 months that I’ve had a consistent starting point that has worked for most faculty and that’s flexible enough for customization. Continue reading
Sort of? I can’t claim that the information I’ll share will help you make a case for your department chair or dean to pony up money for this (or to allow you to use any educational funds already allotted to you for this purpose). But, when I’m making a decision to divert the Game of Thrones action figure portion of my paycheck to an expensive tech gadget, coming up with a professional reason to buy a toy always helps ease the stress of the decision.
Disclaimer: So, yes, I woke up at 2:00 am April 10 to put in an order for the Apple Watch. I didn’t make an appointment to see the watch in person – I knew I wanted the Apple Watch Sport, since my primary reason for purchasing it is to replace my FitBit, and I also knew I wanted the smaller watch face size, since I have chicken-leg-sized wrists. A colleague of mine made an appointment with her husband and said it was well worth it, since they both ended up choosing different watch options from what they had anticipated purchasing.
There are many, many reviews out there (some of which will be linked below, and Mashable’s is my favorite) from folks who have actually had this thing on their wrists for a week or so. My focus here is on helping you – and me – justify the purchase as “for my job as a teacher”: Continue reading