Webinar with ENG 315

ENG 315 Logo

Earlier this evening, I spent my ENG 315 class time for the night teaching via webinar rather than in a F2F session.

Using CMU’s access to Wimba, I invited my students to post three slides related to their experience attending a conference or otherwise engaging in personalized professional development this semester. Also, we back-channeled in a public Google Doc.

The assignment was straightforward enough, asking them to attend six hours of PD and then to write a professional response that describes their experience at a professional conference or workshop, integrating what you learned from a presenter who talked about teaching writing with principles from ENG 315.

The results, I felt, turned out to be pretty good. Minus some technical hurdles and the fact that our class time stretch to about two and a half hours (which is what we normally meet F2F, although I had promised an early finish tonight), the results from a final survey were good. Here are the overall results:

Survey Results

There were some negative responses to this activity, including the amount of time it took and the fact that many of my students admitted to falling into the temptation of being online and got distracted. That said, there were some positives, too. I asked “What is one positive aspect of participating in the webinar, in terms of the content, working with your peers online, or your experience presenting?”

  • Cool to work online, never done this before
  • I really enjoyed the way we could share powerpoints and so much information in the webinar.I liked seeing the slides of everyone’s professional development.
  • I think it made sharing documents and direct information much easier. It was also nice to hear about the experiences of everyone because it is nice to compare and contrast experiences we have had throughout the semester
  • I think this was a great experience.  I have never done anything like this before.
  • Although I enjoyed it, it was hard for me to sit here this whole time without getting fidgety.
  • The content is all digital. I like that i can go back and look at everything if i need to or want to.
  • It wasnt a presentation that you do and then is gone forever.
  • it takes the stress and nerves off of presenting in front of the class
  • I think a positive aspect to the webinar was just the practice of having an online experience such as this. It is nice to be able to see the links while we are taking turns talking and be able to return to the information later
  • i really like the presentation aspect, i wasn’t nervous to present opposed to in the classroom where i normally experience anxiety.
  • One positive aspect was that everybody got a chance to talk about their experience. Learning a new technology tool was a positive aspect and it was a nice alternative to having class so close to a break. It relieved some of the pressure of presenting in front of the class and I  liked that.
  • I enjoyed being able to have a side conversation or make comments in the conversation box during the presentation for educational purposes. I also liked sharing slides this way.
  • You can do it from anywhere so great idea with Thanksgiving coming up!
  • I think it was an interesting way to incorporate technology and it was cool to use wimba.
So, in general, they found it to be a positive experience. I did too, and I have shared the video (all 2.5 hours of it!) here on Vimeo if you are curious to see how some of it progressed.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=32550515&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00adef&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

ENG 315 Professional Development Reflection Webinar from Chippewa River Writing Project on Vimeo.

Wow… two blog posts in one day. I think I have reached my quota for the month.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Wikispaces announces free wikis for higher ed

http://www.wikispaces.com

For those of you who know my teaching and writing, you know that I am a fan of wikis, in particular of Wikispaces.

From my ENG 315 course to the Chippewa River Writing Project, from my own wiki full of digital writing resources to the wiki for my book, I use their wikis all the times for presentations, workshops, and teaching.

Along with having created a user-friendly and robust product with their wikis, the team at Wikispaces has always been responsive to the needs of teachers, including their free K-12 wikis that now number over 400K. This is not meant to be a straight up product endorsement. Instead, I honestly believe that the team at Wikispaces is working to support K-12 educators in all the ways that they can not just by offering free space, but by offering the time (through email support) and resources to make their wikis pedagogically useful, too.

So, when Sarah from Wikispaces asked me to share a new plan that they will announce next week — free Wikispaces for higher education — I was honored to post the announcement here.  Details of the plan, described by her, include:

  • Our wikis for education are completely private, have no advertising on them, are fully featured, and never expire. And teachers are welcome to sign up for as many of them as they like.
  • The features included in our education wikis usually cost $50 per year — but are completely free when used for K-12 or higher education.
  • We have given away over 980,000 free wikis for education so far, and are committed to giving away at least 2,000,000 in total.
Want more details? Check out this press release (Wikispaces Higher Ed Blog Announcement 2011-02) and watch next week on the Wikispaces blog. Thank you, Wikispaces, for your continued support of K-12 and higher education.

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End of Semester Thoughts: Digital Storytelling, Wikis, and the Changing Conversation

Another semester has zoomed past and, before these thoughts escape me, and I begin a series of summer workshops and our CRWP summer institute, I am going to try to capture a few of the lessons learned in relation to digital writing and digital teaching. Good lessons seem to come in threes, so here goes:

1. Digital storytelling takes time, and a story to tell (larger lesson: any digital writing takes time, and a distinct audience, purpose, and sensibility to craft and design)

I enjoy digital storytelling, both as a digital writer and as a teacher. I appreciate the ways in which a combination of images, sounds, music, and video — coupled with one’s own voice — can create a multimedia work that is truly more than the sum of its parts. Moreover, I continue to be intrigued by new understandings related to fair use of digital media, and the implications that this has for creating digital stories. So, when I introduce digital storytelling to any group, especially my pre-service teachers, I get excited about the possibilities of what can come.

That said, I also get worried, because sometimes what comes when their stories finally premier are not really digital stories in the sense that they have crafted a narrative and supported it with multimedia. Instead, they are slideshows set to music. While one could argue that I am being snooty in this distinction, I don’t think that I am. Let me elaborate a bit.

If we want writers to compose stories, then we have to expect them to begin with the story. I am not sure where I went wrong with this over the past semester, but as I watched the numerous digital stories that my students produced for their final portfolio, I was amazed by the fact that so few included their own voice (literally, by recording it) even after they asked me if they needed to do that. Also, even after we looked at a few digital stories and talked about the ways the authors used transitions and effects, as well as supporting their tale with music rather than letting the music tell it, I still saw many, many slideshows with music.

So, I am not sure what else to say about this right now except to say that I need to reiterate the idea that digital stories need to, well, tell a story. In your voice. With your voice. More to think about with that in the summer institute.

2. Wikis are the most functional space for digital writing to live

After talking with my friend Steve before the semester about how and why to keep using wikis (after almost making an ill-fated decision to switch to Ning), I am more pleased than ever that I use a wiki for the hub of activity in both ENG 315 and in CRWP.

This semester, I asked my ENG 315 students to post almost all their work to the wiki, as well as to respond to the work of their peers. This really extended the conversations that we were having in class and made having a writer’s profile that much more important because they could link all their work back to it to form a makeshift portfolio. As many of them have continued with their work over the semester, the wiki grew and grew. Now, most have very robust writing profiles that also include their multigenre projects.

I like the idea of calling these writers profiles, as that implies something that will continue to grow and change over time whereas, somehow, “portfolio” seems to be more fixed. Given the ways in which the profiles worked this spring, I hope to use the same strategy in CRWP this summer, the WRITE NOW grant workshop in August, and in my ENG 618 research methods class in the fall.

3. Something is changing in the conversations about literacy and technology

I am really not sure when and how this happened, but Sara and I were talking about the fact that, in the past year or two, the ways in which people talk about technology and education seems to have changed. Even as recently as the workshops I was doing for PROJECT WRITE in 2007-8, it seemed as though participants kept asking “why?” when a new technology was introduced to them (and these were people that volunteered to be a part of the grant). That said, it really seems to me that in the past two years, the question has shifted from “why?” to “how?”

In other words, there really isn’t a lot of time spent on arguing for technology use in education anymore, at least not when I go to a school or conference. Maybe it is because many people have laptops and internet-ready mobile phones. Maybe it is because of a backlash to NCLB. Maybe it is because of the many curriculum documents and reports about 21st century literacies. Probably some combination of all of this, plus a shift in the skills and attitudes that children now bring to school.

All the same, I have begun to find it refreshing that I can start the conversation with a group of pre-service or in-service teachers now and not have to justify technology use so much as I need to talk about the literacy practices enabled by technology. I get my first chance of the summer to have that talk tomorrow with teachers in Littleton, CO, as they work to integrate laptops into their writing courses.

So, considering my approach to digital storytelling, the use of wikis, and the ways in which we talk about technology will continue to be on my mind this summer. I look forward to the continued learning as I participate in the many upcoming PD events I have scheduled for the summer and hope to share more of my thinking here.


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