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Educators are using Twitter in creative ways to engage students inside and outside of class, to stay on top of education news, and to expand their personal learning network (PLN).

Twitter bird with chalk in wing in front of chalk board

Are you looking for information and ideas about teaching with Twitter? If so, check out these resources:

Please leave us a comment and let us know how you are using Twitter in your teaching and learning. Also, follow us (CAT+FD) on Twitter @xulacat.

Thanks to Janice Florent for her annual post on instructional continuity and disaster preparedness.  Since we'll be nearing the height of hurricane season in a couple of weeks, her post is quite timely.  I would also ask that you keep in mind the practice of "transparency" and perhaps consider tweaking some of the instructions for assignments that you may have to post online in case of disaster, especially if you're currently teaching the course face-to-face.

Many Xavier faculty have already been introduced to "transparency" in CAT+ workshops, and several faculty already practice "transparency" as they build their assignments, but perhaps don't associate what they do with this current initiative.  To learn more about TILT (Transparency in Learning and Teaching) please visit the website:  https://www.unlv.edu/provost/teachingandlearning.  For now, I would just like to share the following handout which asks instructors questions about their assignments and the accompanying instructions in order to help make it as clear as possible for the students.  For purposes of transferring your course to an online environment in case of a disaster, this worksheet can help you better explain the assignments to students whose faces you can no longer see in a physical classroom, nor whose questions can be quickly answered for all to hear.  Remember also that students will have additional stress during the disaster, so further clarification of assignments would be most helpful.

DRAFT Checklist for Designing a Transparent Assignment

This checklist as well as examples of transparent assignments may be found at the previously mentioned URL.  Please also feel free to contact CAT+ for additional help and information.

feedback

Providing students with meaningful feedback can greatly enhance learning and improve student achievement. In an Edutopia blog post, Marianne Stenger, provided five research-based tips for providing students with the kind of feedback that will increase their motivation, build on their existing knowledge, and help them reflect on what they've learned. Marianne’s tips are:

Be as specific as possible. Hearing that you did a great job is wonderful. However, the problem with “great job” or “this needs work” is that it is not specific. Provide students with information on what exactly they did well, and what may still need improvement.

The sooner the better. Feedback is most effective when it is given immediately, rather than a few days, weeks, or months down the line.

Address the learner's advancement toward a goal. When giving feedback, it should be clear to students how the information they are receiving will help them progress toward their final goal.

Present feedback carefully. The way feedback is presented can have an impact on how it is received, which means that sometimes even the most well-meaning feedback can come across the wrong way and reduce a student's motivation.

Involve learners in the process. When students have access to information about their performance, they develop an awareness of their learning, and are more easily able to recognize mistakes and eventually develop strategies for tackling weak points themselves.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in this 5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback blog post.

by Karen Nichols

Michael Feldstein's recent blogpost on Carnegie Mellon's Simon Initiative caught my attention. He was a media fellow for this project and shared three short videos on Learning Science and its importance to educators. So I thought I'd share them here as well. Perhaps you have a few minutes in the summer to squeeze these in and hopefully they'll pique your interest enough to learn more.

"What is Learning Science from an Educator's Perspective?"

"How can Learning Science Improve Teaching?"

"What Learning Science Tells Us About How to Use Educational Technology"

girl in front of a computer with her head in her hands

Many students enroll in online courses because they can take online classes at times that are convenient for them and from the comfort of their home. Some students mistakenly think that taking an online class is easier than taking its face-to-face counterpart and they underestimate the amount of time they must invest in taking the online class. When in fact, taking an online class requires students to be self-directed learners.

It is important for the instructor to set the tone for the online course to help students succeed. In a Faculty Focus article, Amy Hankins provided five suggestions to help students succeed in an online course. Those suggestions are,

Provide detailed instructions and anticipate questions – Don’t assume students will be able to read between the lines.

Post Announcements – Show students you are present in the course by providing reminders, clarifications, and overviews to help engage and motive students.

Provide examples and rubrics – This will help to minimize questions and confusion.

Utilize differentiated instructions – Provide students multiple opportunities and formats for learning, including videos, audio lectures, and project choices that help engage and encourage learning for all students and preferences.

Encourage peer support and engagement – Allow students to get to know one another by using an introductory assignment and encourage students to connect throughout the course.

For more information, read Five Ways to Help Students Succeed in the Online Classroom and check out our CAT+FD Online/Hybrid Instructor Resources.

Photo Credit: Girl | CC0

A backchannel communication, in an educational context, is a secondary electronic conversation that takes place at or near the same time as a lecture, instructor-led learning activity, or conference session.

keyboard

Instructors are finding that using a backchannel can increase student engagement because backchannels allow students to engage in a digital conversation alongside the activity. This is beneficial because a backchannel can provide introverted students with a place to ask questions or make comments without speaking up. Additionally, instructors can share supporting resources such as videos, links to websites and photos through a backchannel. Instructors can ask questions and watch the response of students to determine if they really understand the concepts being discussed. Students can search the backchannel for notes and resources without having to scribble personal notes on paper.

Instructors are using web 2.0 tools like Twitter, TodaysMeet, Socrative, and Padlet to facilitate backchannel communications.

If this blog post has piqued your interest, you can find additional information about backchannels at these links:

Photo Credit: Keyboard | CC0

microphone with Value of Voice: Using VoiceThread for Teaching and Learning

Spoken language has been around longer than written language. Humans have been using our voices for so long we are naturally sophisticated vocal communicators. Yet when we go online, our voices tend to disappear. This is especially evident in feedback on student work that is provided in a digital format as well as in discussions that occur outside of the face-to-face classroom and in online classes. Discussions are generally conducted using text-based discussion forums.

VoiceThread is a web tool that allows you to humanize interactions in an online environment. VoiceThread transforms stale, text-based discussions and feedback by infusing your content and conversations with human presence, just as if the instructor and students were all sitting in the classroom together, but without scheduling a specific time to meet. VoiceThread adds a more personal element to the experience when utilizing the features of commenting via voice. By hearing and seeing the instructor and classmates during a VoiceThread, a familiarity develops that feeds deeper participation. Utilizing VoiceThreads can give you and your students a voice.

A number of faculty joined us last fall for a Value of Voice: Using VoiceThread for Teaching and Learning workshop. If you missed the workshop, or if you'd like to review it, you're in luck, because we recorded the workshop with our Swivl robot. Click on this link or the image below to access the workshop slides, recording, and resources.

play button with Value of Voice: Using VoiceThread for Teaching and Learning

In an EdTech Magazine article, Meg Conlan reported that nowadays students are expecting to use technology in college. She referenced a McGraw-Hill Education Workforce Readiness Survey which shows that 52 percent of students surveyed believe that their use of technology during college classes and study sessions will help them secure a job.

Check out the McGraw-Hill Education infographic below for more technology-focused highlights from the Workforce Readiness Survey.

infographic

You can read Meg’s Technology Use Boosts Students’ Confidence in Their Job Prospects article here.

zen stones

The demands of teaching an online course doesn’t have to leave you feeling overwhelmed. In an eLearning Industry article, Dr. Liz Hardy suggested a few easy steps to help replace the feeling of constant pressure with a calmer, zen-like mindset that will make teaching online easier and more enjoyable. Dr. Hardy’s suggestions are:

Define “urgent”. As you look through your To Do list, determine which items need your immediate attention and which items can be taken care of further down on the list.

Explain your standard time frames. Set expectations for your students so they know what your communications and assignment turnaround policies are.

Come out of the tunnel. When you’ve spent a long time on a task, take a moment to step away from the task at hand. This can help to rejuvenate and recharge you.

Create a sense of achievement. Your morale gets a boost when you can check items off your To Do list. These time management strategies may be able to help.

Revisit your positive feedback. Revisit compliments and positive comments that you’ve received to help lift your spirits.

For more information, read Dr. Hardy’s article Zen and the Art of Teaching Online.

Photo Credit: Zen Stones | CC0

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by Karen Nichols

Campus has been quite lonely without the students, but they'll be back next Monday.  You'll see many of them plugged in, texting, posting on SnapChat and participating in various social media.  But do you talk to your students about their digital footprints?

digital footprint

Dawn McGuckin wrote an article for the December 5, 2016 issue of Faculty Focus--"Teaching Students about Their Digital Footprints."  She gives presentations around the country to educators so that they can in turn help their students realize the lasting effects of their social media posts and how their actions can impact their future, especially when they enter the job market or are applying to graduate school.

She gives several suggestions for having this conversation such as showing students examples of people who have been fired for what they posted on such sites as Facebook.  Of course, employers are suspicious of people who have no internet presence, so just staying away from social media may also be detrimental.

Having students Google themselves is another way for them to see that anyone can easily obtain information about them.  Once they see what can be found, they may be more open to your suggestions of setting strict privacy limits, or in some cases, completely deleting certain accounts with questionable photos or tweets.

In addition to talking to your students about the negative impact of their digital footprints, also offer them some positive ways that would make them attractive to future employers or graduate school programs.  For example, have your students set up a LinkedIn account in order to start making good connections now.  Dawn even has her students link to her so that she can be one of their first professional contacts.

Please share with us the results if you do have this conversation with your students.  And, have you Googled yourself lately?  You may just want to make sure nothing negative about you is out there for your students or others to see!