Thanks to those of you who attended last week's workshop on how to be effective and inclusive in mixed-mode teaching. For those who were unable to attend, we hope this video recording of the workshop will be helpful.
Thanks to Hurricane Ida, I'm getting to see what it's like for those students who have to, for a variety of reasons, do their schoolwork on a smartphone, and it's making me think about our reliance on education technology and the assumptions we make about our students. We need to think about how our use of technology might make learning even more difficult for some of our students.
We drove to Tallahassee to get away from the storm, returning on Tuesday, August 31, after ensuring that the roads were clear enough to get back to our house. We knew we wouldn't have power (or internet) when we got back, but we wanted to check on our house as soon as we could, since we live out in the country and have lots of pine trees in our yard. Our electricity came back on the following Tuesday, the same day Xavier reopened remotely, but our internet service is still out (the data cable is still lying in my front yard).
I am now on Day 18 without access to reliable high-speed internet service. At our house, we have our cell phones; however, since the storm, we have not been able to get more than one bar of signal. Meanwhile, I still have work that needs to be done and requires access to the internet. Also thanks to Ida, we have very bad cellular service at our house -- one bar, at best -- and we are using way more data than we're supposed to.
What all this means is that my highly connected life, in which I could work any time I needed to, has come to a grinding halt. I've repeatedly told colleagues and students that I will respond when I can, and that short text messages are actually the most reliable means of communication for me. I'm sure for some, I sound like I'm making excuses and trying to avoid work.
Responsive Pedagogy, Not Just Responsive Design
During the two weeks of asynchronous learning means everything is done in Brightspace, our LMS, which is fine, because I do everything in Brightspace anyway. After the past 18 months of remote teaching, I decided everything for my classes, even my face-to-face classes, would take full advantage of Brightspace. I don't even have a document called a syllabus anymore: instead, I have a number of pages in Brightspace that provide all that informatiom. Working in Brightspace when you have a full-sized monitor (or even two monitors) plus a high-speed internet connection is great. Working in Brightspace on a phone with an okay cellular signal is manageable, but barely so. The screens are slow to load, and sometimes they don't load at all. Uploading a PDF takes a very, very long time. Some screens, especially administrative screens with lots of settings, are hard to manage on a phone. And if you forget one little detail, you have to go through the whole laborious process again.
Some will ask why I don't just go somewhere with reliable wifi. I spent one Sunday in Hattiesburg at USM's library to do this -- and got a ton of work done, but that was a four-hour round-trip drive (although we were also able to load up on gas for the generator). The next day, I drove Baton Rouge, a three-hour round trip drive, and again got a ton of work done (that was Labor Day, by the way). Meanwhile, no one was cleaning up my yard or cleaning out my refrigerator or keeping an eye on my dogs who can't go outside because our fence is damaged. No one was talking to my insurance company about my car that got squashed by an oak tree.
I'm privileged to be experiencing this during a major disaster, when compassion is more accessible. AT&T says they won't charge me for going over my data plan (although yesterday they started throttling our data rate to 128 kbps (yes, kilobytes)). Imagine doing this just because it's all you can afford to do. Imagine trying to do your work on your phone while sitting in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant because their wifi is better than your cell service. Imagine trying to look at PowerPoint slides full of small text on a 6-inch screen. Imagine having to cram all your work into one three-hour block of time because that's all you can afford to leave your house for.
All of us in academia try to balance our school work with our non-school responsibilities. It's a tough juggling act, and no one of us does it the same way.
I guess my point is that while I have always said I understood that some students might need to do their schoolwork on their phones. While I've always said I understood that some students are juggling multiple responsibilities that have nothing to do with school along with all their schoolwork, I've never understood just how difficult it is to do.
The advancements we've seen in educational technology over these past two decades have been really amazing. But #EdTech assumes a lot about the students (and the teachers). It assumes we have the personal infrastructure you use the technology, and for some reason, it also assumes that we that infrastructure allows for constant access to the technology. These are really bad assumptions to make. Demanding that students turn on their webcams during Zoom classes (What if they don't have a webcam? What if their internet connection isn't good enough to upload the video stream?) or expecting them to simply be able to do all of their work on a computer -- these are lousy assumptions.
Compassion means we need to make other assumptions, though. Compassion means we need to assume that our students are struggling as much (and probably more) than we are with COVID and Ida and Nicholas and parents and kids and bills and so forth. Before we automatically assume that our students can hop online and do whatever important work we want them to do, let's stop and think about why they might not be able to. Let's try to provide them with an education that is responsive to their needs rather than one responsive to just ours.
You can easily insert images, videos, and other media into your Brightspace course using the "Insert Stuff" option within the Brightspace Editor. Insert Stuff allows you to embed or link to content items and place them within your Brightspace course. Insert Stuff is available anywhere in the course where the Brightspace Editor is available. This includes content item descriptions, announcements, discussions, assignments, quizzes, surveys.
Depending upon your needs, Insert Stuff allows you to upload and insert media in the following ways:
Upload a file from your computer
Insert a file from within your Course Offering Files
Insert a file from within your Brightspace ePortfolio
D2L rolled out a new modern, upgraded, responsive, accessible, and pretty Brightspace Editor! The new Brightspace Editor became the default editor with our August Continuous Delivery Updates. The Brightspace Editor replaces the old HTML Editor and is the primary method of creating content in Brightspace. The Brightspace Editor allows users to enter text, pictures, or embed audio/video. Advanced users can even embed HTML code.
You can create course content using the Brightspace Editor. For example, the Brightspace Editor is available when you edit discussion topics, create custom instructions for assignment submission folders, create quizzes, create announcements, and create content topics.
The Brightspace Editor has many icons that match those of common word processing software: bold, left justify, bullets, tables, and so on. It’s important to remember the Brightspace Editor is not a word processor. When you add pictures, links or embed videos, you are creating references to items that are stored internally (in Brightspace) or externally (another web site). If those items are changed or deleted, the reference will not display properly.
Redesigning the editor provided opportunities for D2L to provide a better experience. Some new features were added to the Editor, but there was also a focus on improvements in accessibility, responsiveness, and ease of use:
Improved accessibility – D2L ensured that toolbars met the new WCAG 3.0 standards for button spacing and that the keyboard navigation makes sense to users, especially those using screen reader technology. They also recreated their great color picker that highlights WCAG AA compliance to end users.
Enhanced responsiveness – The toolbar collapses intelligently based on the size of your screen, with different breakpoints. This means that formatting options collapse together, alignment options, and 'insert' options - creating a great experience on any device.
Ease of use – The editor now looks more like a standard web text editor - with all formatting options at the top. Contextual menus are inside the editing experience for quick access while typing. They included the advanced code editor that makes editing html code easier. They upgraded the tables feature and added: format painter, word count, and @mentions in Discussions. All areas clients suggested for improvement in the Product Idea Exchange (PIE).
Enhancements to the Editor
More and different formatting options.
An improved color picker with WCAG compliance checking.
A full set of emojis and special symbols
The move of footer options like 'preview' ' source' 'accessibility checking' and 'expand' to the main toolbar.
Updates to the font size menu
Removal of Spellchecker*
Removal of Cut/Copy buttons (which no longer worked on most browsers anymore in any case)
A refreshed Accessibility checker
The Brightspace Editor now remembers the open or closed state of the More Actions button, per user, in order to reduce clicks for users that frequently use options in the expanded editor.
*NOTE: The Brightspace Editor does not have a built in spell checker. Your web browser’s built-in spell check functionality is available in the new Brightspace Editor and D2L recommends using it.
Additions to the Editor
Format painter that enables you to copy and apply text formatting.
New Advanced Tables that includes sorting options.
Contextual menus for editing text, links, and images (image editing is not available in all areas)
Word Count including character and selection word count
Advanced Source Code Editor that includes code suggestions and color coding for tags.
@mentions support in Discussions
An 'Other Insert Options' menu for overflow items to improve responsiveness.
Limited text pattern support: * * for italics, ** ** for bold, ## for H2, ### for H3, etc until H6.
Our VoiceThread integration was updated to move away from LTI 1.1 and move to LTI 1.3 with Deep Linking. What does this mean for us? We have some new features with the update to LTI 1.3 that should make using VoiceThread easier. The new features include:
No longer need to manually enter a URL to create a VoiceThread assignment.
Automatic copying of VoiceThread assignments and content between courses.
Complete roster sync, which supports adds and drops seamlessly.
Increased security and support for future VoiceThread features.
There was no VoiceThread down time at all for this update. All existing activities continue to work as they always have without any interruption or loss of content. Here are some things that resulted from the update:
Changes in workflow: The process for adding VoiceThread activities to a course is very similar. The only difference is that now you will select “VoiceThread” from your “Existing Activities” menu without needing to enter a URL manually.
Content retention: No work or assignment links were lost as part of this transition. Old links will continue to work even as you build new links going forward using the updated integration.
VoiceThread’s plan is that LTI 1.1 will be deprecated in the next year or two. You should begin to use the updated process of creating VoiceThreads by selecting “VoiceThread” from the “Existing Activities” menu.
Follow these steps to do it.
To create a VoiceThread:
Get into the course you want to create the VoiceThread.
In the NavBar, Click on Content.
Go to the Module where you want to add VoiceThread, click on Existing Activities and then select VoiceThread from the shortcut menu.
Choose the type of VoiceThread you want to create in the VoiceThread Setup window.
Follow the prompts to select/setup the VoiceThread for your assignment.
Twitter has proven itself to be a valuable tool for educators. ICYMI, read my Teaching with Twitter blog post for more information about the creative ways educators are using Twitter.
Twitter for education? It's actually a good idea.
Instructors have the option to customize the look of their Brightspace Course Homepages to suit their needs. Some instructors who use Twitter in conjunction with their courses find it useful to embed Twitter feeds into their Brightspace Course Homepage.
Twitter made a change to the way you generate an embed code for a Twitter feed. To generate a Twitter embed code you should use publish.twitter.com. Additionally, with this change you can no longer get an embed code for a Twitter hashtag timeline. You can only generate a button for the Twitter hashtag.
Once you generate your Twitter embed code you would place it in a custom widget and then put the custom widget on your course homepage.
Please note the above is not intended as an example of a video lecture, excellent or otherwise. It is merely a recording of yesterday's workshop, a Zoom meeting. Nevertheless we hope it will be helpful for those who were unable to attend.
You'll find this video and other resources in support of yesterday's workshop on the CAT+FD wiki.
Between hurricanes and pandemics, video lectures may be more important than ever to your teaching. Fortunately we have a workshop and also some software for you.
Bart Everson is conducting a timely workshop on "How to Make Excellent Video Lectures." With today’s technology tools, anyone can make a video lecture. This workshop will provide you with step-by-step instructions to make your video lectures excellent.
Furthermore, Xavier has secured a site license for all faculty to have immediate access to Camtasia.
For those just tuning in, Camtasia is a tool for making videos by recording from your screen and camera. A common use for teachers is to record short lectures. Many Xavier faculty will be familiar with this software already. In recent years, you may even have come to the fifth floor of the Library to use the CAT+FD Camtasia Studio.
Under the current pandemic conditions, we all have limited access to facilities, and our Camtasia Studio is not open for general use. CAT+FD advocated for a site license so that faculty can use Camtasia on their laptops, desktops, and other devices, wherever they may be. Many thanks to the office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs for approving this purchase!
So what are you waiting for? Yes, you can download and install Camtasia now. Here's the link.
Please note: You will need to our freshly-minted Camtasia License key to unlock the software beyond the free trial period. To get the key, please contact me, Bart Everson. You can send me an email or use this form.
The disruption due to hurricane Ida may be forcing you to rethink how you will collect and grade assignments in your courses during the disruption. When classes resume this week, many faculty will move to meeting with their classes remotely at the regularly assigned class time or perhaps move to asynchronous class meetings.
One question we have been asked is about collecting and grading assignments in Brightspace. You can use the Assignments tool to help you set and manage deadlines, unclutter your inbox, and save trees!
The Assignments tool is an efficient way to manage and collect your student's individual and group assignments digitally. Brightspace's Assignments Tool allows instructors to create a secure location for students to submit class assignments.
The Assignments tool allows instructors to set up a place for students to submit their assignments digitally, with the ability to:
Control the window for submission
Facilitate individual submissions or group submissions (provided the groups have been set up using the Groups tool first)
Collect and assess submissions (with a connection to the Grades tool, if needed)
Enable plagiarism detection through Turnitin
Additionally, you can use Brightspace's Interactive Rubrics to increase efficiency. The interactive rubrics allow instructors to establish set criteria for grading assignments. Instructors can attach rubrics to assignment submission folders so that the criteria are visible to students at any time, only after grading has been completed, or not shown to the students at all. The rubrics click-and-score simplicity saves time when grading because rubrics are built into the grading workflow. For more information about rubrics refer to Brightspace Tip #204: Interactive Rubrics.
Follow these steps to do it.
To create an assignment submission folder using the old assignment creation experience:
On the NavBar (of the course you want to create a submission folder), click Activities and then choose Assignments from the drop-down menu.
Click New Submission Folder.
Enter a Name for your submission folder.
Select a Folder Type.
Do any of the following:
Select a Category or click New Category to organize your assignment submission folders.
Select a Grade Item, or click New Grade Item.
To assign a score, enter a value in the Out Of field.
To associate a rubric to the folder, click Add Rubric, or Create Rubric in New Window.
Enter instructions in the Instructions field.
Add attachments in the Attached Files area.
Expand Show Submission Options and select the appropriate settings.
Enter your email address in the Notification Email field to receive an email message when a new submission is uploaded to this folder.
Choose the option to hide student names during assessment, if appropriate.
Note: You can add the Turnitin plagiarism detection feature to the assignment submission folder using the options in the Turnitin tab. Follow these instructions to enable Turnitin for the assignment submission folder.