Monday, April 30, 2012

Freeing The Course Part 3: Course Delivery

We’re back again with Part 3 of Freeing the Course.  Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 and be on the eye for our future pieces. 

By course delivery, we’re talking about what can produce and provide for your students that goes beyond the readings.  This may include videos (externally or internally created), podcasts or lecture recordings, or even the presentation programs that communicate your teaching in the classroom. 

Video Resources
There are a plethora of video resources Video resources out there for you to take advantage of including,, TED (and check out their latest feature on flipping the classroom option), and of course, the Library’s FilmOnDemand.  For more information about these resources, check out this previous post on Video Resources for Your Classroom.

However, here’s one quick reminder about using videos in and outside the classroom.  Always be sure to provide a clear frame for watching the video and a clear sense of what they should be doing with the video—that is, how they should integrate it into the other course material.  Students need to be directed to what to focus on in order for videos to work the best.  Instructing them to watch the video but not making clear what they are watching for can make follow up discussions lackluster and problematic. 

Presenting Unique Content
Rather than use external material, if you want to create your own course material to deliver to students, there are some great resources available for that too. 

We’ve talked about Screen-Cast-O-Matic on this blog before and it’s because it’s a great (and easy!) tool that allow faculty to create narrated screencasts (of powerpoints, websites, etc).  It takes minutes to learn and then, faculty can focus their time and energy on thinking about how they want to present the material for their audience. 

Audacity is a free sound recording program that allows users to make recordings for whatever purpose they might find.  In particular, you can make mini-lecture podcasts for your students that recap the day’s lessons or cover other material. 

Prezi is a fun presentation tool that provides a 3-Dimensional infinite canvass for you to connect your ideas.  The fascinating element about Prezi is that it allows you to visually display relationships in ways that are not as well executed in programs like Powerpoint.  Additionally, you can integrate images and videos into this as well as convert them in PDF for your students if you choose to.  Check out our YouTube playlist that explores Prezi

Finally, there’s Google Presentation.  It has many of the features of Powerpoint, but again, is free.  You can choose to download it as a Powerpoint file if you choose or even PDF.  You’re also able to share it easily with students.  Where this also wins out against Powerpoint is that if you share it with students, you can utilize the “Comment” feature to spur a discussion around the Powerpoint or encourage students to annotate the powerpoint about what they found useful or care to elaborate on. 

For our final post, we’ll be exploring communicate and course extras that you might consider as you move forward. 

What other free resources do you use in order to delivery the course content to your students?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Professional Day Part 3: Wondering and Wisdom

The final entry on 2012 NSCC Profession Day’s workshop on social media and higher education  (Check out Part 1, Part 2, and the Workshop Resources) focuses on a few fun insights and questions that came up in the discussion.  

1. The Type of Social Media Invokes a Particular Culture of Performance
This was an interesting conclusion that I had not full thought about before, but makes absolutely sense with the online environment.  Just as there are places where we can be “ourselves” and places where we must be “professional” and places that blur the lines, social media has its equivalent.  Facebook still remains a place that swivels from personal to professional depending on who is using it (and how they choose to use it).  We may not like what others are posting, but we know that their “Facebook” but it’s their space to do with as they please.  By contrast, invokes a different sense of etiquette and behavior.  As an arena for recruiting and networking, the interactions and connection people make are more professional.  There is less likelihood for chatting in the casual way we find on Facebook.  I’ve witnessed this first hand with former students who contact me via LinkedIn (formal, polite, and articulate) in contrast to those who have contacted me in some capacity on Facebook (informal, emoticons, and slang).  

2.  Move Beyond the Big Ones
Another faculty member emphasized the importance of over-reliance on the big social media sites for person or educational use.  Sure, Facebook and Twitter are good and we can reliably expect large amounts of people to have access to them, but some of the smaller social media sites may help to keep from distracting students or introduce them to new tools they might not have known about otherwise.  

3.  What Would McLuhan Think?
 If the “medium is the message,” then how are we to make sense of social media?  A faculty member made this insightful point that I believe is important to engage with for anyone using social media.  I agree that social media requires substantive study for us to understand the ways in which it mitigates communication and content.  But this is also why I think using it in the classroom, filled with students full emerged in much of it already, might help the students as well to understand the medium/message intersection.  This makes further sense when we look at Twitter and the implication of a “tweet” and the need to shrink and contort our language into shorthand.

4.  80/20 Rule
    Regardless of how you’re going to use social media in that classroom, it seems clear that there is an 80%/20% rule to consider when using it.  That is, you need to spend 80% of your time in the planning and developing phases of prior to the course and then, expect to spend 20% time actually executing what you’re looking to do.  That is, in order to use social media meaningfully in a course, you need to become familiar with it, determine how you want to use it, and provide resources to help students make sense of the way that you want to use it for class (providing guidelines, expectations, etiquette, etc).  

5.  Future Workshops on Social Media
Some faculty suggested that it might be more useful in the future to offer three workshops on the topic of social media.  

  • Workshop 1:  Social Media for the Socially (Media) Isolated.  This workshop would be a very simple introduction to several of the big social media sites and their general uses.
  • Workshop 2:  Social Media Concerns.  This workshop would run more like a discussion about the challenges and concerns that faculty have when considering using social media for professional and educational purposes.
  • Workshop 3:  Using Social Media.  This workshop would focus largely on the research and tools out there that have effectively (and ineffectively, I suppose) used social media for educational and professional uses such as this.  
Overall, the workshop was rewarding for me to run but I also hope that faculty enjoyed them and benefitted from them (or from these posts).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Professional Day Part 2: The Importance of Social Media for the Community College

So the last post discussed some of the concerns for ourselves and our students when contemplating social media.  This post will examine some of the important reasons to consider and engage in social media in the college level.

Social Media = Virtual Community
Social Media is about devleoping and engaging an online community and that virtual community can transcend into the real world.  As North Shore Community College increasingly teaches more students online, we need to foster and engage our students in a similar fashion.  After all, the student that leaves in Western, Massachusetts going to NSCC full time via online classes is also part of our community.  Just as faculty have a physical presence in physical community, a virtual presence is also needed.

Role Models Needed
Students need role models.  This is often true in the phsycial classroom and equally true in the online environment.  They need people to look up to who can show them how to be professional and what it means to be responsible in public in an online environment.  Faculty can and should serve as that those role models, exhibiting profesionalism and etiquette.  There's often criticism and belittling of how students use (or misuse or abuse) social media, but if we don't provide concrete examples for them to emulate, are we helping or perpetuating the problem?

Tangible Social Connections
Because social media is much more clearly quantified (you can clearly delineate how many connections from a particular organization/geographical space that you have as well as easily quantify the amount and types of interactions), students can emerge from their degree with a clearer sense of what kinds of networks their education opened them up to.

Improving Social/Cultural Capital
With those tangible social connections, comes increased social and cultural capital.

First generation and low-income students can lack substantive social or cultural capital compared to middle class and students of college-educated parents.   While college is significantly about the education and work one does, it's also about establishing and expanding one's social network and thereby improving the opportunities afforded in the student's life.  Maintaing connections through social media is important for students as they move on in their lives.  This is because our social connections can often shape our opportunities and this is the case not just with our strong social bonds but our weak social bonds as well.

Crisscrossing Interactions
Engaging in social media also provides later opportunites for interaction and learning on both student and faculty's behalf.  Just as we are likely to keep connected with students in the real world at the end of a course, virtual connections also help to bridge the chasm of time and space.  This can make it much easier if you wish to call upon former students to guest speak in your class (particularly in fields like nursing or business) or for them to engage you for ideas and information.

Informing Students of Class, NSCC, and the world at large.
Social media also serves as a continued conduit with students with regards to the class, the college, and the world at large.  Utilizing social media for education can help students learn how to use social media as a meaningful tool while also keeping them connected to the institution and faculty that have hopefully guided the student to understand the world more.

With regards to these ideas, if you plan to use social media in the classroom in some direct or indirect way, I'd highly encourage you to think broadly ahead of time and develop a clear policy about the nature of how you want to use social media, how you expect students to engage it (with regards to you or the online social space that you construct), and other important considerations that might be helpful for them (and yourself) to better understand while providing clear understanding for how exactly socializing will occurr.

For the final part of this series, I will highlight some of the important points that I took from faculty during these workshops about social media.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Professional Day Part 1: Concerns of Social Media

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 was North Shore Community College's Professional Day. I ran a workshop on using Social Media.  My goal was provide some ideas and approaches to using it.  However, in order to get there, there were issues to address that commonly come up when discussing social media.  I wanted to address and negate some of these concerns and inflated fears.  I also wanted to help colleagues understand why its important to be using social media or how students can benefit from our usage of it.  Finally, I wanted to highlight ways in which it can be used in the classroom.  What follows is a series of posts highlighting some of what I hoped to communicate and also some of what I heard and learned from my colleagues.   

Concerns and Fears around Social Media
It’s making us stoopiderer

This argument was first brought up by Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic Monthly and followed up by his book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.  The book is a thoughtful book, but he can't get around the fact that his argument is based upon his self-admission that he can't think as deeply as he used to but disproves this by writing a deeply and critical book about said issue.  Furthermore, some of the research that he uses is not as clear cut or relevant and this has been strongly addressed by Brian Chen in his book, Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future--and Locked Us In.  Additionally, Carr's argument is focused on the Internet as a whole and not just social media, of which there are some differences.

It’s distracting.
Without a doubt, our social media has the potential to be distracting, BUT we don't make it less by distracting by avoiding it.  Rather we learn to discriminate with social media, just like we do by driving--by doing it and learning what to focus on and what to ignore.  Everyday life is extremely distracting, except we've learned how to make it less so, but immersing ourselves it in and realizing what's important and what's not, how to prioritize, and how to make judgments about the streams of information.  

It’s leaving people vulnerable.
Around issues of privacy, yes--there are concerns about this.  After all, the latest fright running through the media landscape is that employers are asking for passwords to potential employees' Facebook accounts.  Yes, avoiding the online world altogether doesn't work for two reasons.  1.  You're already on the internet.  Particularly those of us working at NSCC, things like our salaries are already out there.  Avoiding engaging in the online environment means that all information that is out there about you is put out there by someone else.  2.  A lack of an online presence will become increasingly questionable or be an indication of a lack of a skillset that is increasingly relevant to all sorts of work.  

It’s not “real.”
There's concern about the substance of social media and claim that it's ephemeral nature leads to no "real" world interaction.  With programs like FourSquare, social media is used to project us into the real world.  However, Clay Shirky  among others would feel that it does have real world influence and in the case of Wael Ghonim, one of the leaders in the Egyptian Revolution, it certainly did constitute something real.  

It’s superficial.
What does pressing "like" even mean?  I have 400+ "friends" and 200+ "followers" but it doesn't really mean anything.  Possibly.  But blaming the tool might be missing the point.  Social media quantifies and reflects how we move through the real world.  If we don't feel "connected" to our 400 "friends"--doesn't that speak to ourselves and the superficiality of our connections?  A better way of thinking about this is that social media shows us all the people we are bonded with in some way.  Some bonds are strong; others are weak.  A social network reminds you of all the people you are connected to, but it's up to you to decide how to engage with them.  

It’s an echo-chamber.
Besides issues of filtering that are occurring according to Eli Pariser, there's also self-filtering that is occurring.  This is inducing a concern of each person's social media being merely an echo-chamber for them to yell but not listen.  Again, this is something we will foster by choosing to not engage and interact.  

My points here aren't to say these aren't important concerns, but avoiding social media in our lives or in our classroom doesn't make these challenges go away and we leave our students less prepared for the world they are entering in. They need to see how we interact through social media as role models but also to understand the ways information and disciplines are changing as a result of social media too.  

In the next post in this series, we'll focus on The Importance of Social Media for the Community College.  The final post will look at what I learned and took from the event.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Professional Day, April 2012

For those who did or didn't attend the the presentation on Social Media for professional and classroom use, we have provided the resources here for you.  A summary of the presentation in blog form will follow, but for now, enjoy!

Effective Uses of Facebook and Twitter in the Classroom
Uses/BenefitsPersonalProfessionalClassroom AnnouncementsClassroom Interaction
Facebook UsageFriending




PollingTracking/Data Collection

Keep connected with family, friends, and interests about important and/or frivolous things.Networking, CFPs, major scholars/professionals in the field, professional opportunities, industry news, and professional organizations.Reminding students about assignments, last minute changes, recommending links/resources for class or the school, and sharing advice.Developing discussions outside the classroom, organizing course information, and soliciting feedback.
Twitter UsageFollowing



#HashtagsLess concerns with anonymity
Same as above, but 140-space  posts.Same as above, but 140-space  posts.Same as above, but 140-space  posts.Same as above, but 140-space  posts.
Backchannel to class for conversation or notes.

Language manipulation skills
Example #1“Hey Joe—check out this video”“Anyone going to conference X and wanna split a room?”“Who has started their paper yet—remember, it’s due tomorrow!”“The first 5 people to find legitimate internet sources on today’s lesson, will get a bonus point.”
Example #2“My cat did the cutest thing.”“According to ‘reliable news source,’ your industry is about to implode.”“Class is cancelled today—keep reading for next class.”“What are the three major things you took from today’s class?”
Example #3“Who wants to go to a movie tonite?”“The National Association of Stuff is hosting a conference in your town.”“Here’s a link related to yesterday’s discussion.”“What do we think of this link in lieu of last week’s class discussion on topic X?”
Example #4“I’m bored…totally.”“Anyone know anyone that works at Company X—I’m trying to get a hold of someone for a contract option.”“Don’t forget to bring the other book to class tomorrow.”“What challenges are you finding with this assignment, reading, or course?”

NSCC Resources:

Further Resources

Recommends Books on the Topic of Social Media, Digital Technology, and Modern Society
  • Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. New York: Hyperion, 2009.
  • Bauerlein, Mark. The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011.
  • Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010.
  • Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.
  • Chatfield, Tom. Fun Inc: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: Pegasus Books, 2010.
  • Chen, Brian X. Always on: How the Iphone Unlocked the Anything - Anytime - Anywhere Future-and Locked Us in. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2011.
  • Jarvis, Jeff. Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
  • Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005
  • Levine, Robert. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back. New York: Doubleday, 2011.
  • McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011.
  • Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 2011
  • Rose, Frank. The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2011.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas. Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. Berkeley, Calif: Soft Skull Press, 2011.
  • Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. New York: Penguin Press, 2010.
  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011