Personal Views

Flipping On A Digital Dime – Why this Pandemic Offers a Silver Lining For Ed. Tech

Let me preface this post by saying, my heart hurts for those who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. This post is in no way meant to trivialize very serious ways in which people have been impacted by this pandemic, instead, it is meant to  brighten some of the darkness – at least in terms of education.

When someone asks me what I am going to school for and my response is, “Educational Technology,” I am often met with raised brows and a polite smile of vague understanding – particularly for those outside of the educational sphere. I consider myself fairly skilled in reading the confusion and quickly follow up with, “I am going to school to learn how to teach instructors how to teach by using technology in a meaningful way.” This statement usually yields a more favorable response and nod, but I do not believe most see this as an important or valuable field of study.

Until now.

The past week and a half I have heard the following statement over and over again from various faculty and administration regarding moving face-to-face classes to an online format: “We’re in crisis mode.”

But are we? Is changing the mode in which course content is delivered really a crisis? It doesn’t have to be. For me, instead of a crisis, I see this as a learning opportunity for the entire education community.

Why do people shun or approach online education? Here are some common complaints I have seen floating around my social media and the internet as a whole for the last several years and my responses:

  • Online classes are lower quality than face-to-face 
    • How does one determine or measure ‘quality’ of teaching and learning in various modalities? Can you use the same measurement for all modalities? Or, is this just an opinion based on fear of change and general distrust of technology?
    • Faculty who were hard to connect with in face-to-face classes are difficult to connect with in online courses. Students who submitted work late and have overall issues in interacting with course content in face-to-face classes have the same issues in online classes. There are some foundational and core aspects of people that we just can’t change regardless of modality, and we need to come to terms with that and stop blaming technology and educational environments.
  • Discussion is not as rich / very disjointed in online classes
    • What makes in-class discussion more enriching and engaging? Can those aspects not be implemented through synchronous chat sessions? What are faculty doing as facilitators to encourage engagement?
  • All the work of face-to-face without any of the “fun”
    • What aspects of teaching face-to-face do you enjoy? Are there any tools you can find that can help in creating similar aspects in your online class? Technology is not magic – it is only as good as the person using it – how are you using the available technology? Keep in mind that students will feed off of your attitude towards technology and if you are pessimistic and uninspired – the students are more likely to disengage.
  • This class/program can’t be moved online.
    • Why not? Technology is constantly evolving and new applications and software are being created and adapted everyday. Have you done research in terms of digital tools that can be used in your area of expertise? As we are finding with this pandemic, yes, in fact all programs can be moved online if it needs to be. Never say never!

And yet, here we are, as everyone is forced to flip on a dime and move their face-to-face courses to an online format with very limited time and resources. As this has been happening, I have found more and more faculty and administrators reaching out to me on social media, asking for advice or assistance with tools such as Zoom, Teams, WebEx, etc. I find this to be an exciting time despite the overwhelming feelings of dread and anxiety related to the pandemic in general.

I, and I know many others, have finally been able to offer a helping hand to a plethora of individuals (faculty, students, administration) and guide them in adopting new educational technology to keep their classes afloat. Has it been easy? No. Have there been issues along the way? Absolutely. However, despite any technological issues, we are managing to stay afloat through brainstorming and finding innovative ways to provide students with quality education.

Let's See Who's Really Behind Covid 19 - Zoom Meme - Shut Up And ...

What I am seeing on social media has been so wonderful in terms of response to this situation within education. I am seeing educators come together to work creatively to respond to needs (using educational technology) in a way I had never seen before. I have instructors using Facebook Live to read children stories to comfort and bring joy to their students. Teachers are using Zoom to see their students, regardless of age, so that they still maintain those very important relationships with one another. I see Facebook groups (specifically Pandemic Pedagogy) sprouting up as a safe-space for educators and instructional designers to confide in one another through laughter and camaraderie. I am now seeing memes and funny tweets and tiktoks about Zoom and other tools, that until recently, had rarely been mentioned on a wide-scale.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rodgers

I am sure we are all familiar with the Fred Rodgers quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” In this situation, I look at advocates of educational technology who have long been adopting and researching educational technology as the helpers – at least in education.

I think when this is all over, we will have a ‘new normal’ in education. I think the general population, and more specifically, the education community will have a very different view of educational technology and online learning as a whole – and I am hoping that it is a shift for the better.

I don’t think I will need to justify my career or education again, once this is all over – and I must admit that is a good feeling. Despite all of the horribleness related to this pandemic, I have managed to find a bright spot that has proven to me that educational technology does matter and that my career field does add value – as an instructional designer, educator, and general IT nerd, I have value in this time of need.

 

EDU 807, Tech Review

Tech Review – “Screencast-o-matic”: Screen-capturing @ It’s Simplest

Regardless of learning environments (online or face-to-face) there will always be times where both students and faculty may need to use a screen-capturing tool to create some form of video. These videos can consist of class presentations by students, tutorials on how to navigate course materials, or faculty lectures. In Van Anh Nguyen (2017) article “Benefits of Screencasting for Teachers and Students” he argues that students benefit greatly from the use of screen-casts because it..

  • allows students to have access to information 24/7
  • allows student to learn by watching examples (for tutorials)
  • allows students to learn at their own pace
  • improves students’ attention and retention by using more than text-based instruction

Screencast-o-matic is a free screen recording software that allows users to create recordings of their computer screens while also incorporating audio and video of the presenter using a webcam (optional). Users can launch the free recorder directly from the website OR download the recorder to use on their desktop offline. Users can select to record a specific open window on a desk top of an entire screen/monitor. Recorded videos can be uploaded to the Screencast-o-matic website, YouTube, or any form of online storage. For users that chose to pay for the premium service ($20.00 a year), they can also include closed captioning, edit the video to remove sections of the recording, and have unlimited storage on the website.

As an instructor of both online and face-to-face classrooms, I have utilized this program in multiple ways. Teach an on-campus course and there is a snow-day? No fear! You can simply record your lecture at home and post it in your school’s LMS for students to access so that your class does not fall behind on content coverage (example). Teaching an online class and want to ensure students understand your course structure and expectations (or avoid repetitive questions about basic course mechanics)? Record a walk-through tutorial of your course shell in your LMS and go over your syllabus and how to navigate the class and submit materials (example). Want students in your online class to give a presentation but don’t want to force students to meet in a synchronous chat session? Have your students record their presentation through this tool and post a link in the LMS discussion board (example). Screencast-o-matic is an easy to use and efficient way of presenting information in a quick and free way that is accessible to both students and faculty.

EDU 807, Tech Review

Tech Review: “Voxer” – Using Gifs to Build Community

“Rather than see these forms of visual media as leisure-time pleasures, we believe they hold potential to engage students in class and provide another vehicle by which to demonstrate concepts and communicate with each other.” (Reyes, Kaeppl & Bjorngard-Basayne, 2018, para. 1)

In 2018, Faculty Focus published an article titled “Memes and Gifs as Powerful Classroom Tools” where the authors argues that these types of media allowed students to interact with their peers and faculty in a non-threatening (and less awkward) way. Instead of students fumbling for words to express their feelings about specific classroom content they may choose to post a gif or a meme that more succinctly communicates their message (with a dash of humor). This is even more crucial when teaching an online class where engagement and community building are often a struggle. That’s where Voxer comes in!

Voxer is a free mobile application (but can be used on desktops) that allows for team communication in a forma very similar to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The application allows for users to send messages in a variety of formats such as text, text-to-speech, audio clips, videos, photos, and you guessed it  – gifs! While Voxer is primarily marketed to businesses who have project teams, it also works well for small groups and classroom discussions in an online environment. Initial setup is quick and the user-interface is straight-forward and user-friendly that it does not take long to begin using it. Once an individual has downloaded the app and signed-up for an account that are able to search for other users and create chat-groups to begin communicating with one another.

So why should educators care about Voxer and using gifs in their online classroom discussions? In 2015, Rebecca Glazier conducted a study to understand how student rapport can be increased in online classes to increase retention rates. Glazier’s (2016) results strongly suggest that faculty who build rapport with their students have greater success in terms of their students performing well in the online classroom. Glazier comments “students notice a difference when a course is taught with rapport-building measures,” such as implementing a tool like Voxer (Glazier, 2016, pg. 13). By utilizing Voxer, faculty and students are able to engage in a much richer format than just emails and standard discussion boards housed within an LMS. Voxer provides the tools for a more ‘human’ feeling connection that includes real-time responses and expressions of emotions and reactions through the use of emojis, images and gifs. Do you have to utilize the gif and image feature to enjoy and benefit from Voxer? No – but you will be missing out on a really engaging feature that sets the tool a part from traditional LMS discussion boards.

I have experienced Voxer first-hand in my doctoral class and found it to be far more engaging (and dare I say fun!) than other discussion based applications that have been used in my program thus far. While it may cause some initial push-back from students who already use a variety of messaging apps, once they start to use it to discuss course content and engage with their peers – I strongly believe they will forget that they were ever resistant. As an instructor, I believe that I will utilize this in my online classes moving forward, rather than the standard discussion board posting as it seemed to create more meaningful and natural conversation about the topics at hand, rather than students simply mirroring what they read in their articles/textbooks. I can not recommend this tool enough for online discussion with adult learners!

giphy

 

References

Glazier, R. A. (2016). Building rapport to improve retention and success in online classes. Journal of Political Science Education12(4), 437-456.

Reyes, M., Kaeppel, K., & Bjorngard-Basayne, E. (2018, November 26). Memes and GIFs as Powerful Classroom Tools: Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/memes-and-gifs-as-powerful-classroom-tools/

EDU 800 Annotated Bib

Native American Representation in Mass Media

Leavitt, P. A., Covarrubias, R., Perez, Y. A., & Fryberg, S. A. (2015). “Frozen in time”: The impact of Native American media representations on identity and self‐understanding. Journal of Social Issues71(1), 39-53.

Summarize.  This article takes an exploratory approach to understanding how Native American representation in mass media effects members within the community in terms of individualization, self-stereotyping, and how it impacts their experiences within professional and education environments. The authors spend time reviewing the current representation within mass media and the negative impacts that it has within the Native American community. The authors also suggest that more research be done on this topic, and that those who create media be mindful of how they are representing cultures to ensure avoidance of negative outcomes.

Evaluate. The article itself serves as an informative, yet broad literature review on the topic of Native American representation within mass media. The authors take great care in ensuring the reader is informed and has a basic understanding of this type of representation, what the situation is currently as well as areas of concern. The authors utilize appropriate source materials, which is commendable given the small amount of research that has actually been done on this topic. The authors are also good at explaining bias within their research and being candid about the lack of first-hand research that has been done.

Application. So far in my research I had not considered mass media as an area of study but after reading this article, it does give some foundation information on why Native American students may face difficulty with motivation and self-efficacy within education settings. While this was not a research study, it did get me thinking about how educational technology is a form of mass media, and that it too must create space for representation and consideration of all cultures alike. I would like to continue to find and read articles that are similar in nature to this one to better understand the effects media plays in Native American student motivation.

 

Additional Resources

Covarrubias, R., & Fryberg, S. A. (2015). The impact of self-relevant representations on school belonging for Native American students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology21(1), 10.

Guillory, R. M., & Wolverton, M. (2008). It’s about family: Native American student persistence in higher education. The Journal of Higher Education79(1), 58-87.

Reyhner, J., & Dodd, J. (1995, January). Factors affecting the retention of American Indian and Alaska Native students in higher education. In first annual Expanding Minority Opportunities national conference, Tempe, AZ.

Rhodes, R. W. (1988). Holistic teaching/learning for Native American students. Journal of American Indian Education, 21-29.

 

EDU 800 Annotated Bib

Video Games, Storytelling, and Education – Oh, My!

Padilla-Zea, N., Gutiérrez, F. L., López-Arcos, J. R., Abad-Arranz, A., & Paderewski, P. (2014). Modeling storytelling to be used in educational video games. Computers in Human Behavior31, 461-474.

Summarize. This article explores the relationship that storytelling within educational games and student motivation. The authors created a model for educators on how to implement storytelling effectively within educational games as refer to their model as VGSCL (a reference model for educational game development incorporating collaborative activities). The authors were very mindful about trying to find balance between fun and education in terms of the games they were implementing in their study. The authors took an interesting approach to the storytelling aspect of the games, and used it as a reward in that the more students participated and completed, the more story they were exposed to which is fairly common in popular video games.

Evaluate. I felt that this was a well-rounded study in that the authors clearly defined the problem and ideas that they were going to be exploring throughout their article. The authors also created a clear framework with which their study and results were framed. The article itself was broken up into logical pieces that provided the reader with easy navigation. The authors were aware and candid about their small sample size and the age of their participants not necessarily being applicable to broader types of education. However, the authors still worked to give suggestions for broader groups of students even while admitting limited data.

Application. Storytelling plays a crucial role within Native American culture and is primarily how information was passed on throughout the generations. Considering my topic of research for my doctoral program is how to implement technology and culturally responsive pedagogy within online courses, this article was of great interest. While not all courses are appropriate for educational games, I do want to look at all options for implementing storytelling while using technology in a meaningful way. This article provided me some information on what practices are already in place and the impact they are having on student motivation.

EDU 800 Annotated Bib

MMORPGS & Higher Education – Could it be a ‘thing’?

Anagnostopoulou, E. (2017). Educational Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games as a future technology enhanced learning for adult mathematics. Numeracy: A Critical Skill in Adult Education, 34.

Summary. This article is a literature review on the possible ability of MMORPGS to increase motivation in adult learners within higher education, more specifically when it comes to mathematics. The MMORPG market has already been fairly popular since their creation in the 1990’s but have been steadily growing in popularity more and more with games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV (Anagnostopoulou, 2017). The author of the article argues, that in addition to being fun, these types of games can also be used in educational settings because “players are constantly and willingly expanding their knowledge and skills in many sectors in order to advance, be competent and therefore contribute to more fun” (Anagnostopoulou, 2017, pg. 37). The author then goes on to describe how different aspects of these types of games can be used in education in areas such as history, languages, geography, fashion, management, team-work, leadership skills, problem solving skills, social skills, and mathematics. The mathematics portion, based on the literature review done by the author, is very prevalent as each character has sets of attributes and stats that effect their abilities to be successful within the game, players must have an understanding of calculations to know hot to improve their stats.

Evaluation. This article was written in such a way that not only would academics be able to glean some useful information, but non-academics as well. It was refreshing to see an academic article related to this style of gaming and not lean so heavily on outdated games such as Second Life, which makes it more credible in the eyes of current gamers. The article was brief and did not go in-depth on any particular concept and calling it a literature review may be too kind of a classification as it was so broad. However, despite being more of a magazine article in terms of tone and style, it does provide an interesting jumping off point for someone who may be interested in this area of research.

Application. While I may not use this particular article directly, it did get me thinking about how games such as an MMORPG could be utilized in higher education to enhance culturally responsive pedagogy. The Native American community prefers to teach through oral communication and storytelling, which are major components of these games. I also, believe this area needs to be researched more, in general, how MMORPGS are related to student motivations to learn as well as build communities in an online environment. Is creating an educational MMORPG just an example of “edu-tainment” or just a current niche, or is it something that will continue to grow in the future and become a very real means of education?