The one change I will definitely make this year (2018 edition).

I know we are deep into January. Resolutions should have been made and broken by now! I try to avoid the resolution trap. We can make small changes at any time. Here’s one.

Technology is a part of my life. I’ve adapted my smartphone so that I can access
my work, read the news, listen to music, and track my exercise. By working on healthy digital literacy skills, I hope to continue harnessing this tool to enhance my life. The same goes for social media. I read a lot of blog posts about the scourge of Twitter or the life-suck of Facebook. I have concerns about the use of these media platforms, but digital literacy is required to make sure these products don’t overtake my life. Perhaps it’s optimistic, but platforms like these require harnessing. The responsibility of digital literacy rests with me, the user.

That said, I experienced a vacation from these technologies. Literally. I traveled out of the country and left the phone in the suitcase. This was instructive. I used my phone as a camera.

What did I enjoy not having? Notifications. I don’t need them. I turned them off. Just like 2006, I can at least decide when I access information via these platforms.

I did miss chatting with friends via Twitter. I think the ability to text friends has a lot of relevance in an adult’s life. I felt a little cut-off from work, where I do derive satisfaction and identity. I missed accessing music streaming.

So, that’s the little thing I’m changing: I will create a boundary between myself and my digital, automated life.

 

Where I really hear my student’s voices? The online discussion board.

I started using discussion boards out of complete practicality. I had to be away for a conference, and I needed a solution for my evening class. I’ve come to use the discussion board in almost all my classes now because I find the use of discussion boards very helpful in engaging students in a different way. When I read student posts, I often realize that I may have been underestimating their interest or willingness to go into depth on a topic or theme.

A colleague asked me for some design tips. Here’s what I typically use.

 Planning:

  1. If you know you will be absent for the week, it’s good to give as much lead time as you can so students know what’s going on. At the very least, let students know at the beginning of your class this could be coming if you need to have a backup plan for an inclement weather week.
  2. Decide how you will grade or record the results of participation. In my case, I usually just count it towards attendance, but you can make planned online discussions part of a graded assignment.

Structure:

  1. For online discussions, I will usually create 4 questions, and let the students select 2 to answer.
  2. Students are directed to provide an answer that is 75 to 100 words.
    1. I set a deadline for this. If the class meets Monday, I will set a deadline that the first question/s be answered with a post by Wednesday evening at 11:59 p.m.
  3. Students are directed to provide two answers, one answer to two students.
    1. These answers should be 50 to 100 words and should be more than a “ditto” answer. They should provide positive support, challenging follow-up, or something that resembles a “yes, and…”.
  4. The answers should also have a deadline. If questions are answered by Wednesday, follow-ups should be completed by Sunday evening.

This is just a quick review of how I set discussion boards up.

#SWDE2017, Day 3: That’s a wrap!

One more hat tip to Sean Erreger (@StuckonSW) for putting together Day 3 of the #SWDE2017 in Storify. Check it out, as always, as well as Sean’s blog, and follow him on Twitter

Well, that was short and amazing several days. I just got back and now I can write this wrap-up post. (Seriously, American Airlines, no wifi on the plane from Dallas to Des Moines?)

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I suppose I could just look out the window…

Today was a half-day with four sessions. (As you may have gathered, I advise you click on Sean Erreger’s Storify link above.) I was able to take in presentations on helping distance education students become part of the school identity. For many online programs, particularly programs where online/hybrid programming is just starting, this is key theme. Students participating in fully-online programs are at risk of feeling isolated. “On ground” residential programs can’t take any part of what the on-ground experience provides; so, how can we transfer that? Programs have been doing short, intensive “institutes” that last over the weekend or through the week, usually at the start of the academic year, where students in hybrid or fully-online programs travel to the mother campus. The feedback discussed in these sessions suggest this is a highly positive experience for students in online and hybrid programs; I’ll always seek out these presentations to learn how this kind of student orientation and enculturation evolves.

All the sessions I attended throughout the week were engaging and thorough; a couple could have been for any conference, if not specifically one tailored for distance education. At this point, I would support argument that “distance education” may soon require less emphasis as a model for social work students, as the delivery becomes more ubiquitous. I suspect this is the case; at the core of all these presentations and discussions is the passion and focus people have for the social work profession. Another post for another time. Speaking of which…

…while on the wi-fi-free plane ride back (again, c’mon, seriously?) I wrote up a list of things I’ve learned to adapt my conference attendance capabilities. Rather than post that here, I’ll save it for a future post.

A big thanks to the people who made #SWDE2017 happen, especially the hosts, OLLU!  Here’s to #SWDE2018!

 

 

 

 

Day Two (after hours).

I’ll post thoughts on day two shortly, in the meantime…

I did get to see a little of the area tonight. While I do get work done while at conferences, the benefit of getting to know your colleagues is that you can go out together to see the area. I was advised to run along the riverwalk. Later, we had dinner at Mi Tierra.

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