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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Online Course Development

Here's a straight-forward blog on how to develop an online course from the British Columbia Institute of Technology:


Monday, May 23, 2011

What are the right questions

I've read a couple of math blogs (here's one:, look for "The Wembly Problem") on generating student interest through pictures.  Hand students a picture and ask them what mathematical questions come to mind?  What questions do they think about when they see a certain picture?  Then, of course, how do they find the answer to their question(s).  If you are teaching a specific mathematical concept this year the pictures you use might have to be more than pictures -- you want to generate a specific question or set of questions. So the pictures have to be designed to generate the "right" question.

This is math through application though and is really wonderful from that aspect.

And here's interesting support for math and story-telling:
Science News Online just published a fascinating article: Good Stories, Good Math. The article is subtitled: “Preschoolers who can tell good stories develop good mathematical skills by the first grade.” Writer Julie Rehmeyer reports on a new study which reveals that there’s apparently a very strong connection between mathematical ability and the ability to tell stories from different perspectives.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Top 100 Tools for Learning

Tools In The Studio

I'll have to comment on this list eventually -- but at the very least it has a lot of names and links to interesting online tools!


Photo Credit: Vinicius,

Failure Is An Option

We've all had at least one of THOSE students. You know, the ones for whom anything less than an "A" is simply unacceptable. The ones who feel that because they have always been an "A" student, it is just not possible that they are doing "B" or "C" work in a class. It must be the fault of the _________ (book, teacher, course management system, the alignment of the planets, etc.). These students find it difficult to accept what they deem as "failure."

We've also all likely had many students who earned a failing grade on an assignment or in a course. In fact, I imagine we've all had our own turn at failing something!

A recent article in Faculty Focus entitled "Failure Is An Option: Helping Students Learn From Mistakes" made me reflect on what I do to help students learn from mistakes, whether that mistake is failing an assignment, missing a due date, or buying the wrong book.

One of the most successful strategies that I've implemented in my Principles of Accounting classes is to allow students to earn back partial points on missed exam questions. They must carefully and fully demonstrate to me that they do indeed understand missed questions. This not only is a strong incentive for students to learn from the mistakes they made on the exam, but it is also an opportunity to earn that "extra credit" that they often ask for. . .while, unbeknownst to them, they are doing something they should do anyway!

The article noted above provides a great example of an instructor who is considered by students and colleagues to be very "tough" and how that reputation "squares with" the fact that every one of his students receives earns an "A." There are also interesting comments here about gaming in education, and the article closes with this very intriguing suggestion: "Consider how to incorporate failure into your teaching in order to generate success."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mobile Learning

The old phone box
Interesting post from Clark Quinn today on Mobile Learning -

Have to admit I liked the comment on slow learning that comes at the very end of the post:
Question 10:  What do you see as the future for mobile learning? 
I naturally mentioned my interest in slow learning, beginning to move away from the event model and start thinking about a more mentor-like relationship in developing individuals over time, in ways that more naturally mimic the way our brains learn.  Also, of course, I think alternate reality games will combine the best of simulation game learning and mobile learning, making learning closer to the real task, more engaging, more distributed, and consequently more effective.
Online learning in general is a natural fit for a mentoring/tutoring relationship between faculty and learner.  I hadn't heard that called slow learning before and I am not sure I like the terminology, but the concept - yes.

CMC will need a mobile initiative eventually, but right now I think I am defining that initiative as the ability to access the LMS communication tools from a mobile device.  As soon as we figure out how to grow beyond the LMS we will need a true mobile learning initiative.


Photo credit:  Jon Burnell,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Job Applications

I've spent the past week reviewing job applications for a full-time history position at CMC.  This position is split 50-50 between on-campus and online.  The job was open for approximately 2.5 weeks and we received 163 applications.  (An English one posted at the same time received over 100 more than that.)  So how do you distinguish yourself from the crowd?
  1. Fill out the application correctly and send in all of the requested material. Just over 1/2 of the applications were eliminated by human resources because they didn't have all of the requested material or didn't meet the minimum requirements.  Several people uploaded the wrong file - an extra letter of interest instead of a CV for example.
  2. Be timely.  Once the review of applications begins we really aren't going to look at applications that come in after that unless the pool is shallow.  A shallow pool isn't a strong likelihood in these economic times.
  3. Tailor your cover letter to the position.  
    1. Specifically mention both the minimum and preferred requirements and show us how you meet them.  Many applicants for this position didn't mention the words "online" or "technology".  That's a mistake when applying for a position that requires online teaching. It's great that you love teaching in a F2F classroom, but I need to now you are also excited about teaching in the online environment.
    2. Mention something that shows us you looked at the college website and researched the position.
    3. Mention something about the geographic area in which the position is located.  
    4. Tell us why you are excited about the position and why we should be excited about you.  What makes you special?  We know you meet the minimum qualifications, so what sets you apart? 
    5. Think about the buzz words people reading a lot of applications might be looking for:  1st gen college students, working with diversity, languages, technology, online, pedagogy.  (Community colleges, for example, are teaching institutions.  What extra training do you have in F2F and online teaching pedagogies?  How about andragogies?  No one mentioned that word at all.)
  4. If you have a good teaching philosophy (that includes online and technology) include it in the same document as your letter of interest.  That's a good place to ensure it's read. A teaching philosophy is a good place to include more personal information (and pictures) without extending the letter of interest.
  5. The C.V.:  I have to admit I didn't spend as much time on the CV as I did on the letter of interest.  Almost everyone has taught the history courses from the first two years of college. What stood out here was mistakes - people who told us which courses they wanted to teach for us and obviously hadn't looked at the spring or fall schedule first.  I did look through presentations and highlighted those in teaching theory, technology, American history and Western Civ.  I looked for community college teaching experience, although that should have been high-lighted in the letter of interest also.  And I noted when applicants explicitly stated which courses were developed and taught in the online format.  After a few dozen CV's I really appreciated those that grouped and summarized information and tailored the CV to the position.  A 5 or 6 page CV is too long. 
Sound excited, sound friendly, and sound fun to work with.  Consider using multimedia (a picture) or providing a link to a website with more information or some content you have developed or maybe a lesson plan.  This position involves technology, show us you can use it and that you are excited about using it.   No one gave us a website, a twitter ID, a blog URL.  I would have loved to see any of those.

More Advice from Inside Higher Ed:

Good Luck!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Scaffolding Papers

Research Paper on Microsoft
Still thinking of the best way to scaffold a research paper or even critical analysis.  I like the pro/con grid from Angelo and Cross to begin with.  Followed by the Paper Prospectus from their book (CATs).  Then fold in the 5 paragraph essay material from high school (Paul Mole has the best I've seen).  Or maybe ask for a complete outline with the supporting quotes.  By the time I get to the final draft it should be pretty good.  As soon as I get this all drafted, with directions for students, I will post it here.

I do still worry though that research papers aren't particularly useful for students moving into the work world -- I like the analytic memo better.

Also read another paper on future work skills.  Online collaboration is on the list again, so do we all need to figure out how to include that in our classes? (


Sunday, May 1, 2011

CATs from Angela and Cross

Spent part of this weekend reading Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross's classic "Classroom Assessment Techniques".   I want to redesign my course to get rid of the essay/MC Exam every unit rut I am in.  I still like that the focus of the essay assignments is data gathering from the web and application, but they are ultimately boring and only the best students do well on them. 

Students always have trouble reading the economics textbooks, so I am going to try to use the discussions and the idea of punctuated lectures (CAT 38)  and student generated test questions (CAT 25) to get them to stop reading periodically and figure out what they do and do not understand.  For the first couple of units I can ask each student to post one or two questions from each chapter in the text to the discussion board.  They then will be required to answer 1 or two of another student's questions.

That would take care of the majority of the discussions for the first two units, although I still want to include my own questions to help them move through the material.  Unit 1's "Where's the Data" assignment can turn into a scavenger hunt.  That will make it fast to grade and still support the outcome -- ability to locate economic data online.

I like the idea of an analysis and application paper in the form of a policy recommendation letter to a member of Congress (CAT 12)  And I think I can use the pro and con grid (CAT 10) first to make that a scaffolded assignment. (Unit 3 I think).

This gets me to Units 4 and 5.  I like the ideas behind CAT 27, Paper or Presentation Prospectus.  I also like the idea of asking students to do a very short 5 or 6 slide presentation, the Pecha Kucha format to some extent, 5  minute time limit.  In Unit 4 they could turn in the presentation prospectus (includes topic, title, sources, outline, grading rubric, abstract).  Then in Unit 5 they could turn in the presentation via Voice Thread, with the transcript for back up. This is essentially the idea Karen Kaemmerling had for the GEO 105 course, but more detail in the prospectus.

And of course I still have discussions in Units 3-5.  And some sort of quick MC/short answer exam in each unit. (Might skip that in Unit 4 because it's so short.)  If I were inspired I would choose the short answer questions from the discussions, but that requires me to be pretty nimble.  Not sure I can really guarantee that.

Is this adding up to too much work for students?

Also reading "Inspired College Teaching" by Maryellen Weimer, so we'll see what that brings.  I need some choice for students in this course - she is very good at that.