Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Could've Been: #et4Online68425 2015 Presentation Notes

Hello to all who are / may / might be thinking of attending session #et4online68425, I'm sorry I couldn't be there to present in person due to personal reasons.

Title of Presentation:

When Graduate Students Become Online Instructors:
A First-Time Online Instructor's Teaching Toolbox

The proposal can be retrieved at


The website for our presentation is at: http://rampages.us/gradtoonlineteach/

This presentation started when my colleague and I met a group of students from PSYC 795 Practicum in the Teaching of College Psychology (Fall 2014). The provocation to create a resource arose when I observed that graduate students who had not taught or had limited teaching experience were concerned about teaching in a different learning environment.

How does one teach online? Especially when one is just learning to teach in person? Also, when asked about specific questions they might have about teaching online, what might they be? I observed that they found it challenging to articulate their concerns. They expressed very broad concerns about challenges they might face and wanted to know more about teaching strategies.

I took their concerns and my observations of their behavior to heart and wrote the proposal. Stan and I both created the website as documentation. As a Visible Thinking/Visible Learning/Reggio-inspired learning proponent, I believe in documentation for retrospective but also prospective reasons. I hope this website will provoke different interpretations and sharing of ideas.

If you feel at times like the students we encountered, I hope that you would feel free to enter a question or more, into the web form at: http://rampages.us/gradtoonlineteach/chime-in/ 

Metamorfosi website: Screenshot of Chime In page
Metamorfosi website: Screenshot of Chime In page

I had intended to raise 3 questions with participants at the session and I hope readers will comment on this as they feel led:

  • How do you conduct needs assessment about something learners know little about?
  • What are novice instructors' first thoughts about online teaching? How do you begin to extend their knowledge and practice?
  • How do we integrate technology seamlessly into our teaching sessions?

I am attaching our proposal for anyone who might wish to download it.  Proposal PDF

I miss being there in person, but life unfolds, and we deal with it. Wishing all a great conference! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Designing a Course Worth Learning Part 2

I learned about assistive technology when I was on a graduate teaching assistantship and tasked with shadowing a senior graduate assistant before she graduated. I was to then take over her Assistive Technology course for pre-service teachers.

Over the years, I've gained a greater awareness and understanding of disability and accessibility. But I still have a lot to learn. I believe every instructional designer (and instructor) must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to design accessible courses.

As I plan to teach a summer online course, I want to make my course worth learning to students. In order to do so, all students enrolled in the course must be able to access course information. If any of them has a disability and would be using some form of assistive technology to access course information, I want to plan with that in mind. Mostly, I strongly desire to make my online course materials universally accessible to all learners, with or without disabilities. Last Friday, I was fortunate to have a JAWS user check out some pages on my course site. I've seen JAWS on YouTube and read of what it can do. To actually see a blind/low-vision user use JAWS is an eye-opener. (JAWS is a screen reader. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screen_reader ). This post outlines three important things to bear in mind when designing online courses.

I tried to video-record the session at the important parts, but the videos didn't turn out so well. My colleague who arranged the session for me, Debbie Roberts, from the Division of Academic Success (MCV campus), videotaped a few clips with her iPhone. Below is one of her clips I edited.

1. JAWS provides a summary of the layout of the page. [30 sec video]

My Welcome page contained 1 frame, 13 regions, 13 headings and 162 links (really?). The summary by JAWS points to the importance of course content organization and the use of appropriate headings.

2. Use Style Options on the HTML Editor 

If you are using WordPress, make sure you use Headings offered by the Editor.

Image capture of a section of the WordPress HTML Editor on a page
WordPress HTML Page Editor

3. Add ALT TEXT Descriptions to ALL Images

When we asked our blind friend what were the top 10 issues faced by blind web users, he listed this as the top challenge. I heard this illustrated myself as JAWS scanned the course site and attempted to read the images on the Twitter stream and on my course pages. JAWS kept saying:

Link to image... Link to image... Link to image...

There were links but there were no descriptions to images on my Twitter stream. No one thinks about it when they tweet. Fortunately, there is Easy Chirp, an alternative web option to Twitter. You can sign in on Twitter through EasyChirp [http://www.easychirp.com/]

When JAWS read the alt text to the image on my Welcome screen, Mr. MF, the JAWS user, turned to me and said, "Thank you for including the alt text."

Such a simple thing to do and he was so grateful. Could we all just make that little effort?

Monday, April 6, 2015

3 More Myths about Instructional Designers

[Draft 1: April 6, 12:38am; Updated: April 6, 9:45am]

In the past, I've written about the myths and mischaracterization of instructional designers (ID). I realize that such perceptions (or misperceptions) exist across many fields and disciplines, but I think I found more to add to my growing list of misperceptions about IDs as I work in the field. This post seeks to increase understanding about IDs and filter more silt from the muddy waters.

[FYI, I'm not going to tread on contentious turf about learning designer vs. instructional designer. Joshua Kim has written about this and a few others. This post is about IDs working in higher education.]

1. Instructional designers don't understand the challenges of faculty members. 

"Edufolks versus Non-Edufolks." (Terms coined by a professor).

  • Faculty members who have ed psych or learning science backgrounds versus faculty with no learning science backgrounds. 
  • IDs who work with faculty members who have learning science backgrounds and IDs who work with faculty with no learning science backgrounds (Non-Edufolks). 

Some Non-Edufolks think IDs apparently don't "get" faculty or "understand" them. IDs are too full of theory and don't teach (can't teach? no chance to teach?). "What do they know about our challenges?"

I happen to have many of these attributes: I'm an Edufolk with a PhD in IDD&E, (Yes, I can teach, design, develop, evaluate, do research. I'm a social scientist. Quant or qual, I can do both, and write a mean IRB), who has real-world teaching experience in Singapore and in America, in higher education. I'm also trained in a Teaching College in Singapore and certified to teach in the schools there.

I do get you. And I believe a majority of IDs do get you, in the best and worst of circumstances.

2. Instructional design and teaching are two separate responsibilities.

Are we creating a false dichotomy between IDs and those who were hired primarily as Professors?
I'm an Administrative and Professional faculty, not an Assistant Prof. But I've spent more than 10 years in Syracuse University working with faculty as an instructional technology consultant/Blackboard LMS administrator, working on e-portfolios, implementation of new software, working in a faculty development center, teaching workshops to faculty and graduate teaching assistants, teaching higher education courses, etc. Does this indicate somewhat (plenty?) that I understand faculty?  We seem to see ID as being separate from teaching. IDs are teachers too, and vice versa. They may not teach fulltime but I believe many of them teach and have significant experience working with faculty before attaining ID credentials. (P.S. I also think it is important for them to be affiliated as faculty with the School of Education in the institution they work in. This continues to give them opportunities to teach and enriches them professionally.)

3. Instructional designers are too full of learning theories, mostly stuff that the "average" faculty member doesn't need to know. 

By way of training, IDs are learning scientists. It is essential that we studied and continue to study how people learn so we can offer the best service to our clients. But, have you heard me spout learning theories in front of faculty members? Does any ID do that? Maybe in my blog, I may use a bit of jargon, because I'm writing to and for IDs. If you have written a dissertation before, you do understand that we were trained not to write in jargon because some defense committee readers will come from other disciplines. One of the reasons why I chose to do a qualitative research study is so that I will write and sound more like a human being, and not write in a formulaic way. Also, one interesting tidbit: the first thing we learned in ID grad school is to talk about ID to an audience such as our grandparents. If they don't get me, I've failed abysmally.

Dear Professor, with yes/no learning science background or teaching certification, it doesn't matter any one way to me if you are Edufolk or Non-Edufolk. I get you. Please let me help you.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

For Marj DeVault

Marj DeVault, Professor, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University
Marj DeVault, Professor (Just Retired),
Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University

I meant to post this for you, Marj, on the Day of your party. I'm sorry I missed your BIG DAY.

Remember the Acknowledgments page in my dissertation?

"I am indebted to many people for the completion of this dissertation, not all of whom I
am able to list in a detailed fashion. To the following I owe my utmost gratitude:

Marjorie DeVault, my advisor, for taking me "from crayons to perfume" (To Sir with Love). You continually teach and model for me, in exquisite ways, the knowledge and practice of research, scholarly writing, mentoring, teaching, service and so much more. The thrill and pleasure I derived in crafting this study and writing it up are entirely due to your astute and gentle guidance.

Other members of my dissertation committee ... etc. etc." Someday I will post the full Acknowledgments. Now, I'd like the spotlight to be entirely on you.

When no one had time for me, you were always there.

Success in achieving a PhD depends upon a close and effective working relationship with one’s advisor and mentor. And yet, while virtually every doctoral student has a research advisor, survey data from the PhD Completion Project and other studies show that not every student has access in their doctoral program to someone they consider a mentor. (Council of Graduate Schools)

I am very blessed to have you as my advisor-mentor. Even when I was miles away from Syracuse, I knew I would complete my dissertation, because I had every trust in your support.

Happy retirement Marj! Much love!

Love sign, Lewis Ginter Park, Richmond, VA
Much Love

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Time to Mourn: Farewell Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Side profile of Mr Lee Kuan Yew within a black ribbon.
Side profile of Mr Lee Kuan Yew within a black ribbon.
Image Source: Alex Yam, 2015

There are commentaries expressing surprise at why many Singaporeans are grieving so visibly and in several instances, unselfishly, at the passing of our former Prime Minister, and founding father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Is human identity ever a simple concept, let alone national identity? Singaporeans are a highly hybridized and still hybridizing people. We grieve the loss of the past, the pain of the present, the perplexity of the future, and more that we don't understand or can't even articulate.

Mr Lee connects me to my entire life, one that I negotiate every waking minute at the intersection of cultures. He reminds me of what my parents went through during the Japanese Occupation, starved, frightened children, their education disrupted and how they forged a life for our family despite their lack of resources; what life was like for me and my generation, including walking to schools in nearby kampong areas; not having many toys and art/dance/sports classes that wealthy families could provide for their children. We worked hard and learned to be adaptable, resourceful and not have a sense of entitlement. Many of my peers had the opportunities to excel and become who we are today (right, Mr Steven Cher? Meileng Koh Margaret Tay Lina Wee Eng Lin Koh ). In America, many Chinese people approach me and don't understand why I don't speak Mandarin first, but choose to speak English, and with ease. "汉人不讲普通话?" [FYI, who is Han Chinese? The term has no meaning for me.] "So you can speak English, AND Mandarin, AND Cantonese, AND...?" I thank Mr Lee for his foresight in crafting the bilingualism policy and the education system. It is competitive and far from perfect. But multi-lingualism has empowered me to access resources mono-lingual speakers are unable to access. Yes, there were a few years when we had to also learn Malay, and our national anthem is in Malay too. I look back on those days with fondness, not resentment. It wasn't difficult to learn languages when we were younger.

Before I came to America, I had not paid attention to racial disharmony, and had not thought of race as a big issue, because I had friends of every race in Singapore. We spoke English as the bridge language and public signs were posted in 4 languages. (Did I live in a bubble? I don't think so.) Still, some who have heard of Singapore don't think of our racial harmony, instead of the "anti-chewing gum" nation. Like Joyce Hooi, I will say, "Enough. Go find out more before you pass judgment on us and our value system. Don't impose your standards for your country on ours, which is another place, another country, another circumstance."
After Lee Kuan Yew died, The Guardian newspaper devoted an entire article to his policy on chewing gum. Decades of phenomenal GDP growth, the lowest crime rate in the region and top-notch healthcare, and Westerners are still talking about the friggin' chewing gum. This is like being complimented on your English. - Joyce Hooi, Business Times, Singapore.
Seven days is not enough to mourn a lifetime of dedication to Singapore. I am grateful for what you have done for us, Mr Lee. The Confucian ethics (儒家思想)you instilled in many of us remain through the years ( Lina Wee, remember how we would 起立,行礼,坐下 in every Chinese class?)  My parents modeled them in their lives. A reward system based on merit and effort, and not on brown-nosing or the status of my relationship with my employer/advisor/[insert name of anyone you report to]. Discipline, respect and being uncomplaining about what we are asked to do. As you lay to rest tonight, Singapore time, March 29, I bid farewell to you. And I can say to you in another language, 我会饮水思源,不回忘记你这么辛苦艰难地培养的新加坡。Go gentle into the good night, Mr. Lee. We will not let anyone knock us down. 谢谢你,一路好走。Kami tidak akan biarkan orang mengetuk kita ke bawah. Majulah, Singapura!

[Remembering Mr. Lee Kuan Yew - In his own words: The mandate to rule. Note: I'm sorry I don't have the transcript for this yet. I'll work on it.] Source: ChannelNewsAsia

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Online Teaching is like Learning a New Language

Online Teaching is Like Learning a New Language
Online Teaching is Like Learning a New Language
Is online teaching like learning a new language?
Do bilingual (or multilingual) teachers find it easier to switch from face-to-face to online teaching? 
For several weeks, I pondered these questions as I tarried at the intersection of two/three facets of my life -- online teaching, online course design and learning French (Français or Française?). The second question is a hypothesis I intend to investigate!

Le magazine de l'Alliance de Singapour
Le magazine de l'Alliance
 de Singapour 1993
[Back Story: When I was twelve or thirteen, I wanted to learn French, but was dissuaded by my then Form Teacher, who felt all of us should focus on our core subjects. I dutifully listened to her and live to regret this decision. When I started working, I went to the Alliance Français de Singapour and began learning French with a colleague. We stopped because work got in the way. I'm starting all over again -- to learn the language I'd long wanted to learn.]

Learning a new language involves embracing a new lexicon, new pronunciation, new way of writing, a new culture ... New is the word. Everything is strange and très difficile. But I won't give up because I'm motivated to attain some proficiency in it. It's a childhood dream; my heart is involved, not just my mind.The French language is beautiful. I may not understand French songs but I love listening to its sounds. I will persist despite the challenges. It just goes to show how in learning, we must appeal to students' hearts too -- emotions must be engaged, not just the mind.

Listening to my French teacher takes a lot of concentration from me. Although I'm less overwhelmed than I was in Day 1, I feel like an outsider and am the slowest student in the class. I speak French with diffidence; I don't know quite often how to conjugate verbs or articulate the 's' or 'e' sounds. When I grasp some of the words she is speaking, I feel relieved that I can nod my head and say "Oui!" If not, it's an "Encore, s'il vous plait?" most of the time. One day, it dawned on me that this must feel a bit like how first-time instructors of online teaching feel. Anxiety. Trepidation?

Akin to foreign language (FL) learning, there is much to deal with and more is at stake in online teaching than in FL learning. My musings -- Question 1:
How do we make it less challenging for new online instructors to negotiate a new culture with a new vocabulary? 
For me, I know I must immerse myself in a French speaking and writing environment more often.
Question 2:
How do we support new online instructors so that they have opportunities to be immersed more frequently in online learning environments? [What does this look like? E-mentoring?]

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hypothes.is for Shared Annotation

A week ago, Laura (my colleague) tweet-alerted me to someone who had annotated my extended comment to her Twitter Journal Club blogpost.
It was Greg McVerry, a supergeek. (He knows all these cool tools I've been playing with.) He had responded to my blogpost by annotating and replying to the ideas. Impressive!

Intrigued, I had to check out Hypothes.is before the second Twitter Journal Club happening. I fiddled with it and used it to annotate #tjc15's second journal article

For inquiring minds, Hypothes.is is a Google Chrome extension. You can collaboratively tag, annotate, and comment on other users' public notes and annotations. 

Hypothes.is features
Hypothes.is features

This is something Diigo already allows me to do, but Hypothes.is allows me to show a stream of annotations based on a tag. One thing that I found annoying though, was that I had to keep changing the setting from private/only me to public for every annotation. Is it me, who hasn't found the key to unlock this default private setting? 

Check out the tag stream of #tjc15

The affordances of this Google Chrome extension are pretty slick. I can think of how it might be used in my teaching. Thanks very much, Greg McVerry!

And by the way, what a name!!!