Thursday, December 1, 2016

Highlights from GaETC 2016

This year's GaETC was arguably the best one yet (and I've been to three)! An educational technology conference specifically geared more toward K-12, we always walk away with really cool tools to use in our online, hybrid, and face-to-face classes. This year I attended with Tammy Powell, Stephen Bartlett, and Megan MacDonald, but there was a lot of KSU representation there from all over the university. Here are some highlights!


In our college, we like to encourage ungraded self-assessments because they help foster student success. Probably the three most common methods are through D2L itself, Softchalk, or Hot Potatoes. Well say hello to ClassTools! We Tammy, Megan, and I attended a game design challenge session where we got to play around with some of the games you can create using ClassTools, and they are even more fun than some of the ones we use already because they are games, and even have leaderboards! They are also very easy to use and take very little time commitment to create games. 

Here is my Verifiable Verbs PacMan game that I created during the session:

More than the games, ClassTools also has other cool apps that you can create, like fake Facebook pages for historical figures or characters (might be cool for History or Literature), a Star Wars-style text scroller, and more! Check out ClassTools here.

Best of the Web 2016

Richard Byrne gave us a huge list of some of the best web 2.0 tools of the year:

Creating and Remixing

  • Adobe Spark - social graphics, web stories, and animated videos
  • TouchDevelop - app development
  • Twinery - choose your own adventure!
  • Stoodle - online collaborative whiteboard
  • Stupeflix - make and download videos with no login
  • Canva - infographic creator
  • Sharalike - dump photos into a slideshow
  • StoryCorps - interview app (plan, record, and show questions while recording interviews)
  • Photos for Class - image search engine that auto-cites downloaded images
Workflow and Classroom Management
  • MultCloud - combine multiple cloud drives into one
  • dropittome - securely receive files from anyone into Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive
  • MicNote - voice recorder and notepad
Exploring and Learning New Stuff
  • Choosito! - search engine that distinguishes results based on reading level and more - has evaluation tool for evaluating sources
  • RefMe - free citation generator
  • Open eBooks - free eBooks open and available to students
  • Gojimo - exam study app
  • Flippity - make cool stuff like Mad Libs and Jeopardy from Google Spreadsheets
Checking for Understanding
  • Quick Rubric - easy way to make a rubric
  • Triventy - gamified quizzing tool (like Kahoot, but students can submit questions)
  • Vizia - video quizzing, answers go into a Google Spreadsheet
  • Dotstorming - group brainstorming like voting on Pinterest

More Tools, More Tools!

Here's my picture I drew (traced) of my dog and
cat during the drawing session!
Here are some other tools we got from some other sessions:
  • Venngage - free infographic maker
  • Piktochart - free infographic maker
  • - free infographic maker
  • Thinglink - interactive images, video, 360 degree photos for teaching and learning
  • Flipgrid - students capture short videos to share ideas, experiences, perspectives
  • Adobe Illustrator Draw - draw your own illustrations, clipart, and avatars (from Tony Vincent)
  • Timeline JS - create a timeline entirely from a Google Sheet (from the Knight Lab at Northwestern University)
  • Storymap JS - create a map that tells a story (also from the Knight Lab at Northwestern University)
  • Juxtapose JS - slider between two images (also from the Knight Lab)
  • SoundCite JS - add sound to a web page (also from the Knight Lab)
  • LMGTFY - "Let me Google that for you" - not really a tool, but it's a funny way to respond to someone who asks you stupid, google-able questions (probably shouldn't do it to your supervisor, but might be funny for a friendly colleague who needs a smile)
  • Momentum  Chrome Extension - this one I actually downloaded and am using now. It replaces your "new tab" page in Chrome with a beautiful picture and prompts you to type your "focus" for the day so that you can stay focused. Try it out!

My Wikipedia is Better Than Your Textbook

Okay, no I do not think you should replace your textbook with Wikipedia like the guy in this session. However, he did point out some really cool things about Wikipedia that I never knew, and I think they could make a reasonable case for actually allowing your students to use Wikipedia in your classes, and even teaching them to use it properly.

How Wikipedia works in 3 clicks (from any given Wikipedia page - I used the Harry Potter page during the session):
  • Click 1: Talk (tabs at the top of the page) - first thing you get is a "how-to" guide with info about accuracy of the page, policies, etc.
  • Click 2: find the page rating, click "show" next to it - shows you the rating information for your page.
  • Click 3: find your grade, click "quality scale" - shows you the rubric that the Wikipedia powers-that-be use to rate pages.
The way Jeff Utecht (the presenter) uses Wikipedia in his classes is this: at the beginning of the semester, his students can use any Wikipedia page that is rated a C-class or higher. Then midway he changes it to a B-class or higher. Then at the end, a GA-class or higher (GA or higher passes an official review process). He also sometimes assigns his students to go and "fix" Start or Stub pages.
"You want to teach kids about the importance of citation? Get them to work on Wikipedia articles."
When you have a Wikipedia account and you use it to make edits, all of your edits and rankings show up on your profile, showing how you have contributed to the world's largest body of knowledge.

If you do it anonymously and get blocked, your whole area (based on ip address) gets blocked. But if you do it with a username, only you get blocked. If your area is blocked, you can make a username and be able to edit again (until you get blocked again).

Did you know all that about Wikipedia?

Overall, we had a great time (as always) at GaETC 2016!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

EduCause - Anaheim, CA - October 2016

In October this year, just before Halloween, I got to attend one of the largest technology in higher education conference in the country, EduCause, in Anaheim, CA. It was a really amazing conference, and it's also not far from my family, so I got to spend a little bit of time with them as well. Not to mention Disneyland! So first things first, here are some of the big takeaways I got from the conference:

Keynote 1: Susan Caine, Quiet Revolution

The keynotes at this conference were the main reason I wanted to go because they each sounded so interesting in their own way. This one, however, ended up being a funny coincidence, because one night I went to dinner with a friend who lives out there, and she happened to have just finished reading Caine's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Anyway, Caine presented on introversion vs. extroversion and how important it is to embrace both in work and learning. It was a very eye-opening presentation for me personally because I learned that I am an extrovert, and I learned what that really means - as well as what it means for someone to be an introvert. 

DefinitionExtrovert - your "battery" is "charged" by doing something socially demanding. That is, when you do something socially demanding, you are pumped and ready to keep going.

Introvert - your "battery" is "depleted" by doing something socially demanding, no matter how much you enjoy it. That is, even if you really enjoy doing something socially demanding, like going to a party, you are still ready to go home and curl up with a good book or movie when it is over and relax. 

So what's the difference between introversion and shyness?

Not all introverts are shy, and not all shy people are introverts (see definitions above). Introversion refers to how we react to stimulation, whereas shyness refers to a fear of social judgment. 

Tips for working with introverts and extroverts

  • introverts - speak up early
  • introverts - don't curb your enthusiasm
  • extroverts - you can curb your enthusiasm a little bit - be aware of how much you are talking in meetings
  • extroverts - engage introverts 1-on-1 and give them advance notice to prepare
Finally, Caine left us with a question to ponder:

Is personality the next step in diversity and inclusion?

CSUN's AppJam

I went to a really cool session from CSUN (Cal State University at Northridge) about mobile apps. CSUN has a one-to-one tablet initiative in some programs right now, and for a while, they were using standard productivity apps, but in the last couple of years, they started "AppJam," which is a student app-building competition. Students compete by building an app, and then CSUN hires students from the pool of talented students to develop curriculum apps in teams with faculty and instructional designers. So far, this process has resulted in four STEM apps that are free in the app store. 

Personally, I think AppJam is a really cool way to identify talented students for a project like this, and I wonder if something similar could be useful at KSU. 

Keynote 2: Sugata Mitra, The Future of Learning

Sugata Mitra is actually very famous in the education world (if you haven't heard of him), so it was really cool to see him speak in person about his experiments. I don't want to reinvent the wheel by explaining it all here, but here are his TED Talks on his "Hole in the Wall" experiment in which he discovered that children can teach themselves anything and his "School in the Cloud" experiment that is still on-going which is an expansion on the "Hole in the Wall."

I will point out two things I took from his talk:

Why do we assess with exams? "We are preparing our children for employers who have been dead for 100 years."

The glasses question - why are glasses allowed as assistive technology to assess reading, but phones and the Internet are not allowed as assistive technology for other assessments?

Keynote 3: Alex Sheen, Because I Said I Would

Sheen didn't say much about education specifically, but his general message was about making achievable promises and the power in keeping those promises. I definitely recommend looking at his website.

Cool Tools and Websites

Overall, EduCause was a really great conference with tons of good networking opportunities, and it was an interesting conference to attend on my own because it was so large. It certainly helps that it was located in beautiful Anaheim, CA (close enough for my mom to come see me) and was walking distance from Disneyland!
My mom and I in front of Walt Disney's statue :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Distance Learning Administration Annual Conference - June 19-22

In June, I (Tiffani) attended the DLA conference in Jekyll Island with several coworkers from the DLC. This was a really great conference on a nice island that doesn't get real crowded. I loved it so much that I stayed an extra few days with my family for vacation!

Awards Ceremony

me holding the award
Me with the Pearson Outstanding Instructional Support Award

On Sunday night before the conference, there was an award ceremony and dinner event, where I was honored with the Pearson Outstanding Instructional Support Award for 2016 and then spoke a little bit about some of the projects I've been working on this year for affordable learning. The award is beautiful, and very heavy! I also presented on the textbook I've been working on with Tammy Powell, Jonathan Arnett, Cassie Race, and Monique Logan over the last year and some of the cost and copyright issues to think about when creating or using an OER; you can read my paper published in the conference proceedings starting on page 199.


I went to several really interesting sessions at the conference starting one on virtual communities of practice by Leslie King from Franklin University. He showed us how his institution is attempting to help distance students get the most from their degrees while also giving them an identity within the institution. They have created a "community of practice" that is very similar to a university-run LinkedIn or other professional social media website where students, alumni, and faculty can post, comment, and engage with one another outside the classroom.

Lending Library

Georgianna Laws from Augusta University, who I know through Affordable Learning Georgia, talked at the conference about how she made herself more readily available to her faculty as an instructional designer with limited funds by creating her own website with tools, resources, and scheduling solutions. What I found really interesting about her setup though, was that she actually has a lending library full of hard copy resources that she has collected over the years and continues to collect, and her faculty can check them out from her to use.

Universal Design for Learning

Thomas Tobin from Northeastern Illinois University spoke about Universal Design for Learning. One of the really good tips I got from his presentation was to give 10 minutes of watch/read/listen content, then 2 minutes of doing something (and repeat as necessary). This could help a lot with keeping students focused and engaged with your course content.


Camille Kilbourne from the University of Central Oklahoma's Student Transformative Learning Record program spoke about STLR, which is an e-portfolio solution that UCO has created and is now implementing to help better prepare their students for post-graduation needs using transformative learning methods. 
  • process of becoming a responsible, productive, ethical, functioning adult
  • brought about via perspective shifts
    • having an "aha" moment
    • reflecting on experience critically
    • rational discourse internally or with others
    • leading to (making meaning from process)
    • interative process (wash, rinse, repeat)
Bloom's Taxonomy by Mia McMeekin of
Epigogy, Inc. and anethicalisland
Overall, their approach to e-portfolios is interesting because there are actually many degree programs that require an e-portfolio as a graduation pre-requisite (including my masters program now), but they are centering the process around meaningful experiences in a student's professional life and how they can portray that meaningful experience in a portfolio and get feedback and assessment on it.

P.S. According to Kilbourne, D2L has an e-portfolio feature. That doesn't mean that KSU has it integrated into our D2L, but it might be something to look at in the future.


Sheikh Drammeh from the University of West Georgia gave a step-by-step presentation on being omnipresent in online courses. He gave a lot of good strategies for managing your time in online courses so that you can be very present in your course as well as some strategies for making it seem like you're even more present than you really are to your students. He also had some interesting thoughts on flexibility in both course design and delivery - I found it really interesting how open and flexible Drammeh is on assignment deadlines and formats.

Interesting Bloom's Chart

One group of presenters were talking about StudyMate by Respondus, which they use at Georgia Southern University. They introduced a really nice Bloom's Taxonomy graphic that I wanted to share with you all (image to the right).

Netiquette and Respect in the Classroom

Another presenter, Thomas Schneid from Eastern Kentucky University presented on professionalism in the classroom - specifically from the instructor's side. He covered a lot of the basics, like politics and religion, jokes, and personal issues, but there was also a great discussion after his presentation on professionalism and respect between instructors and learners (specifically millenial students). The session became more of a debate on how teachers should approach difficult student situations and how to keep the classroom professional throughout the semester.

Overall, DLA was a really great conference in a beautiful location!

Jekyll Island sunset by Zhigang Li, Instructional Designer
for the College of Computing and Software Engineering,
KSU Marietta Campus

Friday, April 29, 2016

HEeD ThinkTank - Washington, DC April 7-8

 Welcome to Washington, DC! 

This was me with the Library of Congress; I couldn't resist, being an English major and all :)

Me at the Library of Congress
So, at the beginning of April, I traveled to Washington, DC to attend Higher Education eDesign Association's first ever ThinkTank conference. This conference was more of an unconference style, in that rather than having presentations, the whole thing was based around discussion and collaboration with leaders. For the months leading up to the conference, I had been working with the professional development committee to plan it, so it was really cool to see it roll out. The picture below is of the professional development committee, Tyler Weldon from Auburn University, myself, and Shawndra Bowers from Auburn University.

The Professional Development committee at HEeD ThinkTank 2016
We took tons and tons of notes via Padlet on this site:, where you can go and read comments from universities all over the country, but I'm going to highlight some of it for you.

Interesting Things I Learned About Other Schools

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. But teach a man to fish, and he'll eat his whole life. (or something to that effect)

Probably the most interesting thing I learned about a lot of the other schools at the conference is that most of them build courses for their faculty. As instructional designers, their job is to collect the content from faculty and then put it in their course for them so that they can control how the courses look and the standards they meet. Comparing that to the way we do things at KSU, I have to say that I feel fortunate to work at a school that teaches our faculty to do it themselves because not only does it make you more self-sustaining which allows me to help more faculty at once, but it also keeps the control and creativity of the course in your own hands.

Talking Team Structure and Process

Because I know we all love QM :)

I also found that a lot of the other schools at the conference were struggling with how to motivate faculty to have their course built completely before it is delivered. I know that there are many face-to-face classes that will gather their notes for the next class only a few days before, and that can usually work for them. But it doesn't necessarily work in an asynchronous online environment. Things can get messy real quick like that. It made me really appreciate QM because it ends up being not only a quality standard for us to meet, but it is also an accountability tool. Our faculty have to build their courses out 100% before delivery because it has to first pass QM. 

While several of the schools at the conference were QM-subscribing institutions, I also learned about some of the quality standard systems that other schools use. For example Wilmington has a 5-point review model of which the courses must meet at least four of them.

Cool Tools and Sites that Came Up

Softchalk (of course, since I was there)
VoiceThread (believe it or not, I wasn't the one to bring this one up)

The HEeD Collaborative

At the end of the conference, president Camille Funk announced that HEeD will be joining with UPCEA as their instructional design group, and that HEeD Association will now be known as HEeD Collaborative. She later emailed the following information to explain what that means for our organization:

Membership to the HEeD Collaborative will be extended to all instructional design teams that currently have an UPCEA institutional membership. We will be launching an effort in the coming month to register these new teams and expand our membership.  
For those institutions not currently part of UPCEA, they will be extended a complimentary membership until July 2017 after which they will have the opportunity to continue membership with either 1) an UPCEA institutional membership, or 2) a HEeD Collaborative individual yearly membership. We hope this meets all the needs of our current members. 
One of the great benefits in merging with UPCEA is that they currently serve the administrative leaders for online education and a partnership would serve as a informative gateway between the two parties. It could also foster career progression for our group.  
We will also have a host of new resources, with the ability to customize and build unique instances just for our needs. Many of our goals for networking, professional development, research and publication, and certification will be realized much sooner than we originally had anticipated.

Overall, I was really pleased with the conference, and I look forward to seeing what happens with the new UPCEA merge and I look forward to starting to plan next years conference as well as launching a series of webinars, certification, and research opportunities.

HEeD ThinkTank 2016 Attendees

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sexy Technical Communication Webinars - 3/22 and 3/23

On 3/22 Tammy did a webinar on Sexy Technical Communication with Softchalk Innovators, and on 3/23 I did a webinar on it and another ALG grant project with Dan Farr in Sociology with Affordable Learning Georgia's Design Matters. Check out our webinars below!

3/22 Softchalk Innovators - Tammy Powell

External link:

3/23 ALG Design Matters - Tiffani Reardon

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

KSU Unconference 3/4/2016

On March 4th, 2016, we had a GREAT time at the KSU Unconference in the university rooms on the Kennesaw campus. We learned about all kinds of neat things the faculty on our campus are doing in their classes, handed out great door prizes and awards, saw how Anissa Vega incorporates her personality into her classes, and learned about how to keep our students engaged with Angela Velez-Solic.

Anissa Vega

Anissa won KSUs Online Teaching Award in 2015, and there's no need to guess why after seeing her presentation at the unconference. For lack of a better way to explain it, she has her kids teach for her! Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic. But I will say for myself that she inspired me to incorporate my family and life into my teaching if I ever teach a class. By having her kids participate, mocking Internet icons like Bat-Dad, and using fun things like Minecraft to remind her students of what they should be doing for the week, I imagine that she has some awesome student reviews. I know I'd be more engaged in her class if I was looking forward to those fun videos every week. 

Angela Velez-Solic

Angela is the author of How to Teach Online Without Losing Your Mind, and has spoken at several conferences before. KSU was lucky to have her for her (and our) first keynote speaker! She gives a great presentation, and is totally honest. She told us about her son, and how he wanted to drop out of college almost immediately because he was bored and felt like he was paying thousands of dollars to go to high school again. And he's not the only one! Instructors are losing their students' interest, and it is effecting retention and engagement. Angela told us about cool ways to keep our students engaged and why we should care. 

The KSU Unconference had its first year this year, but it will be back bigger and better next year. So look out for the information!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

KSU Faculty Save Students $899,860 from student debt load each year!

 Kennesaw State University faculty are committed to supporting student success. Thirty-six KSU faculty and staff have stepped up, with support from the KSU Library and the state of Georgia,  to create and/or adapt 13 sets of open educational resources (OERS) sometimes for use in multiple classes or class sequences. This work has saved $899,860 from the student debt load each year.  Each group was awarded an Affordable Learning Georgia Textbook Transformation Grant to support them in their work (

The winners and amount of student savings through OERS are

Camille Payne and Rachel Myers (Nursing) student savings: $30, 468
Seneca Vaught and Griselda Thomas (African and African Diaspora Studies): $20,840
John Isenhour, Ophelia Santos, Charles Marvil (Culinary Studies): $13,875
Lake Ritter, Shangrong Deng (Math): $9,180
Guangzhi Zheng and Zhigang Li (Information Technology Department): $16,833
Lu Kang and Zhigang Li (Chemistry): $184,320
Lei Li, Rebecca Rutherford, Svetlana Peltsverger, Jack Zheng, Zhigang Li, Nancy Colyar (Computer Science/IT): $110,419
Ginny Zhan, May Gao, Yumin Ao (Asian Studies): $11,249
Carlton Usher and Linda Lyons (First Year Studies): $67,250
Daniel Farr and Tiffani Reardon (Sociology): $13,963.80
Tamara Powell, Jonathan Arnett, Monique Logan, Cassandra Race, Tiffani Reardon (DWMA/English): $51,615
Sharon Pearcey, Chris Randall, Jen Willard, Beth Kirsner, Adrienne Williamson, Tricia Mahaffey (Psychology): $345,912
Chi Zhang and Bob Brown (Information Technology): $23,936

According to a study performed by the US Government Accountability Office, the annual average amount students spend on textbooks is 26% of the cost of tuition at a public, four year university. According to a June 2013 report from Lumina Foundation, about “30% of college students” don’t buy the books for their courses. Why don’t they buy the textbooks? Sixty-five percent of students choose not to buy a college textbook because it’s too expensive. 
As faculty, we know it is hard to teach students who come to class unprepared, and 94% of the students who report not buying the textbook say that they know they suffer academically because they do not have the text. Forty-eight percent say they make decisions about which classes to take, and how many classes to take, based on textbook costs. That is, textbook costs not only increase debt load directly but also indirectly as students take fewer courses when faced with high textbook prices. Eighty-two percent of students say they would be more successful academically if they had a free online textbook and if a hard copy were optional. 
Research backs up this idea. A recent study in Journal of Computing in Higher Education of nearly 5,000 college students using OER and over 11,000 college students using commercial textbooks in 10 US institutions yields striking results. Overall, the researchers found that “In three key measures of student success—course completion, final grade of C-or higher, course grade—students whose faculty chose OER generally performed as well or better than students who faculty assigned commercial textbooks” (Fischer, Hilton, Robinson, Wiley, OERS increased course completion. Students in courses using OERs did take more courses.  And students reported being more satisfied in courses where OERs were used.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Speed Geeking Webinar 2/24

On Feb 24, 2016, Tammy and I both virtually attended the Softchalk Innovators session called "Speed Geeking," and we learned about a few cool new tools including the following:
  • Today's Meet - a real-time discussion/response tool
  • ToonDoo - create cartoons!
  • - tons of cool ways to present content
  • Animoto - photo and video tool
  • Storify - collect various feeds into one central place
  • Foter - millions of free photos to use in classrooms
  • Zaption - interactive video tool

Tina Rettler-Pagel and Nancy Woodward were kind enough to create a website for the attendees so that we can see all the tools they presented and more. You can see their site and more tools here:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Affordable Learning Georgia's Reimagining the Textbook 2/19/2016 - Macon, GA

Tammy Powell, Jonathan Arnett, and I attended Affordable Learning Georgia's one-day conference on Reimagining the Textbook in Macon on February 19. We learned all kinds of cool stuff about open educational resources and affordable learning materials at the conference, but here are some highlights!


The four ideal R's of OERs:

  • reuse - OERs should be free to reuse
  • revise - you should be able to revise OERs within the licensing parameters 
  • remix - you should be able to mix OERs with other resources within licensing parameters
  • redistribute - you should be able to redistribute OERs to your students and others
Challenges of OERs:
  • technical
    • internet
    • accessibility
  • economic
    • development costs
    • maintenance costs
  • legal - copyright 
  • social
    • lack of technical skills
    • quality
OER landscape:
  • open textbooks
    • Flat World Knowledge
    • Open College Textbooks
    • OpenStax College
  • OER Commons
    • repository for OERs
    • search for discipline
    • collaborative atmosphere
  • Open Courseware Consortium
    • another repository
    • focused around general ed
  • Galileo
    • research repository
    • free access for members

On Affordable Learning Materials (ALMs)

  • not free, but affordable
  • eBook platforms
  • publisher materials
Challenges of ALMs:
  • limitations - have to use specific textbook to get pub materials
  • sometimes not downloadable
ALM landscape - eReader apps:
  • YUZU - Barnes & Noble (replaced Nook)
  • Brightwave - Follett
  • Smartbook - McGraw Hill

Evaluating OERs and ALMs

  • Does it match the learner's needs?
  • Does it align with curriculum standards?
  • How is the ease of use/accessibility?
  • Are there license restrictions?
  • How is the content quality?
  • Is there a community of users?

Ohio State University's BookLaunch

  • cohort model - 2 cohorts annually with 2-8 projects each
  • focused on iBooks, but support other formats (ePub, PDF)
  • Bootcamps
  • 80 hours of support
  • Macbook Airs
  • $500/$1000 with 2:1 match (half from BookLaunch, half from department)
  • co-produce project plan

A Cool Tool

Ohio State uses a cool tool called to create and incorporate interactive widgets into their iBooks. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Free, Open Textbook for Our Technical Communication and Workplace Writing Students

This post deviate from the blog theme. It's not something we learned at a conference--although open educational resources (OERs) have been all the buzz at conferences lately. Rather, it's a project Tiffani and I have been working on along with Dr. Jonathan Arnett, Dr. Cassandra Race, and Dr. Monique Logan and our closed captioner Lance Linimon and our student assistants James Monroe and Megan MacDonald.
We were awarded a Textbook Transformation Grant from the Affordable Learning Georgia Textbook Transformation Grants. Using material (with permission) from Dr. David McMurrey's Online Technical Writing textbook and J. Steve Miller and Cherie K. Miller's Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense plus material we wrote ourselves and videos from experts in the field, we are creating a free, open textbook for students in our TCOM 2110: Technical Communication and WRIT 3140: Workplace Writing classes. This textbook will be online and interactive. We are creating it using SoftChalk Cloud, and it will be available for anyone, anywhere in the world to use. 
At Kennesaw State University, just by the four faculty involved in the project using the textbook in our classes, we are saving students $55,000 from the student debt load each year. That's reason to celebrate, for sure! But in addition to having a direct impact on our students' wallets now and in the future, when those student loans come due, we also know that OERs impact students in other positive ways by increasing retention, completion, satisfaction, and success. More success means faster graduation, which again, means fewer student loads and less student debt. 
Learn more on Tuesday, March 22 at 2pm at the SoftChalk Webinar entitled "Students Get More For Less with Open Educational Resources." 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Kat's Captivating Exciting Conference! - KSU University Rooms 1/12/2016

I am late on posting this, and I apologize for that! But, on January 12, Dr. Powell and I attended Coles College of Business's mini-conference on teaching techniques.

The Interactive Syllabus

Tammy Powell presented on the interactive syllabus, which she says it more appropriately called the "engaging syllabus." An interactive syllabus is a syllabus that provides course information so that it is more engaging and can be manipulated by the learner. 

So why use the interactive syllabus? Tammy says that they can grab your students' attention so that they are more likely to spend more time looking at the syllabus, which fosters student preparedness and success because they are more likely to remember the information on the syllabus. She also said that your students are more likely to be engaged with the course content because the interactive syllabus caught their attention, and the engagement encourages them to communicate with the instructor. 

In creating and implementing an interactive syllabus, you should use it in addition to, and not as a replacement for the traditional syllabus. You can use Publisher, InDesign, Populr, Smore, and other tools to put the content from your syllabus into the interactive syllabus, adding color, pictures, and interactive content along the way. 

Using Protocols to Structure Discussions

Julie Moore in Bagwell College of Education presented on protocols for structuring discussions in class. This is a technique that is very common in K-12 education because it structures conversation, is done in steps, is time-bounded, is focused on work and not person, and ensures equity of voice.

To better explain protocols, Julie had us participate in the following example:

In groups of three:
  • Number off 1-3
  • Question Posed
  • 1 minute of think time
  • 1 minute -- person #1 responds to question, others just listen
  • 1 minute -- person #2 responds to question, others just listen
  • 1 minute -- person #3 responds to question, others just listen
  • 1 minute -- conversation/discussion
  • Debrief
Silence is okay
Question: How do you use discussions in your teaching (face-to-face and/or online)? For what purposes? How are they different in face-to-face settings vs. online?

As you can see in the protocol above, they are very structured ways of having discussion. Julie's tips for protocols include:
  • start with a simple protocol with few steps
  • start with text-based protocols
  • try it out with others before doing it in class (include debrief)
  • experiment with a face-to-face small-group assignment
  • observe others facilitating 
  • look for protocols that serve your purpose
  • double-check directions: be specific and detailed

Choosing Interaction Tools

Saurabh Gupta from Information Systems presented on choosing the appropriate interaction tools for your classes between wikis, blogs, and discussion boards. He gave us an evaluation of each type of tool:
  • Wikis
    • Communication support: medium
    • Process structuring: low
    • Information processing: high
  • Blogs
    • Communications support: low
    • Process structuring: medium
    • Information processing: low
  • Discussion boards
    • Communications support: medium
    • Process structuring: low
    • Information processing: low


Jim Cope from the Distance Learning Center gave 10 tips for creating accessible course content:
  • Accessibility statements
    • include the accessibility 508 compliance statement
    • include disability accommodations statement
    • include links to vendor accessibility information for all external tools in your courses
  • Semantic structure (or styles)
    • create your structure in Word, Open Office, HTML, etc. using the styles tags and functions for titles and headings
    • use strong and emphasis tags for bold and italicized text
    • if you use a table of contents, it should be based on the heading structure
    • use a table of figures as needed
  • Lists and tables
    • use true list functions for bulleted and numbered lists
    • use true tables and columns for appropriate information
  • Readability
    • divide large blocks of text into smaller and more manageable sections
    • avoid complex sentences
    • use sans-serif font at 12 points
  • Text equivalents
    • include alternative text for images, charts, graphs, or any other non-text element
    • if alt text is not enough, include long description
  • Avoid color coding -- do not use color as a way to convey meaning
  • Sufficient color contrast
    • make sure background and text have enough color contrast to be read easily
    • make sure background colors and patterns do not overpower text
  • Descriptive hyperlinks
    • avoid vague descriptions like "click here" or "email me"
    • avoid using the URL
    • hyperlink text should describe the destination: website name, document name, or other resource
  • Accessibility checkers
    • use the software's built-in accessibility checker (Word, Open Office, Acrobat, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)
    • follow the repair recommendations provided by the accessibility checker to fix errors
  • Multimedia
    • for audio-only, provide a text transcript
    • for video-only, provide a video description
    • for audio and video, provide closed captions, text transcript, and/or a video description -- you can combine the text transcript and the video description into one file

Monday, January 25, 2016

Online Educa Berlin - 12/2-12/4

Guten Tag, Willkommen in Berlin!

At the beginning of this month, Dr. Tammy Powell, Dr. Stephen Bartlett, Dr. Vanessa Slinger-Friedman, and I (Tiffani Reardon) attended Online Educa Berlin in Berlin, Germany. Let me just say, Berlin is absolutely beautiful in December, and I had a fantastic time!

This having been my first time out of the United States, I can confidently say that this is not the end of my world travels. To start, let's talk about the conference. 

Day 1

On the first day of the conference, there were tons of pre-conference workshops that you had to sign up for ahead of time. I signed up for one called Beyond Digital Storytelling: DIY Creation of Interactive Exhibits as Educational Tool, run by Dick van Dijk from the Netherlands, Suzanne Heerschop from the Netherlands, and Thomas Kubitza from Germany. The workshop introduced meSch, an authoring tool that allows the user to create interactive exhibits in a way that requires minimal technical knowledge and coding. 

While meSch is currently mostly used in a few museums throughout Europe, they are trying to break into the formal education world. 

After the digital storytelling workshop, I went to a newcomer's workshop where I met and networked with people from various countries. One other person was from the US, and works in DC. There was another person who is from California, but is now based in Madrid with his company. I also met 2 people from Germany who work together, but one of them is from the US as well, and I met 1 more person who was from Germany and just there to meet potential clients for his freelance company. 

Day 2

On the "official" first day of the conference, we all attended the opening plenary, which was about accelerating the shift to digital learning. The plenary was with 3 panelists, who each had their own take on digital learning. 

David Price, co-founder of We Do Things Differently, talked about people-powered innovation and social learning. Price says that there are four main characteristics of people-powered innovation:
  • Need
  • Jugaad - making the most of what you've got; good enough
  • Hacker Ethic - that peer review restricts research and innovation; i.e. Wikipedia vs. Citizendium
  • Urgency
Price also talked about learner agency and social learning. He believes that learner agency is the next big step in learning, and he outlined the six "do-its" of social learning:
  • do it yourself (agency)
  • do it now (autonomy)
  • do it with friends (collegiality)
  • do it for fun (playfulness)
  • do unto others (generosity)
  • do it for the world to see (high visibility)
So from Price, we learned not to be afraid of the professional amateur, to de-regulate where possible (welcome educational hackers), and not to be in denial about social learning. 

"Those who seek answers need to be part of the solution."

Cory Doctorow, the writer, blogger, and activist owner of, talked about surveillance.

He pointed out some of the famous cases of people facing charges because they used surveillance to spy on people inappropriately, including cases where it was done by teachers.

He talked about how kids are often used as "beta testers" of surveillance when they are issued devices from school because kids are often viewed as criminals before they have even done anything wrong.

Finally, Doctorow also talked about digital locks, which are codes in the surveillance that essentially make it so that just because you own it, doesn't mean it's yours. A good example of this is the law that says that you cannot root your phone, and the limitations that are put on Apple phones that make it so that you can't actually use it to it's full potential, even though you own it.

"We as a society have a hard time progressing in the presence of surveillance."

Ian Goldin from Oxford University re-iterated the notion that technology changes everything. 

The Art of Being You

After the plenary, we broke off into our own sessions, and my first session was one called "The Art of Being You: Online Authenticity in Learning and Life," by Charlotte Web from the University of the Arts London. She essentially talked about how hard it is to be authentic online because it can be seen by anyone, including your boss, your teachers, or your students. She talked about the care you have to take in posting online and the censoring you have to do of yourself to maintain a professional, yet "still you" appearance. 

What was interesting about her presentation was that the presenter wasn't actually Charlotte Web. Throughout the whole presentation I kept thinking to myself, "man, this girl sounds like she is reading me a bedtime story." I mean, she kept her voice so soft the entire time, with no emotion at all, and I felt like I was being read to. We come to the end, and she tells us that she isn't Charlotte Web, and this isn't her presentation. Charlotte Web was in the audience, and came up to answer questions. Explains why I couldn't connect the speaker to the presentation! She wasn't authentic!

Artificial Intelligence in MOOCs

I went to another session on improving MOOCs with artificial intelligence by Luc Steels from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels Artificial Intelligence Lab. This session turned into more of a "quick overview of MOOCs in 20 min."

Key properties of MOOCs:
  • short lectures, exercises, extra materials
  • grading and feedback by other participants or computer programs
  • free of charge
  • no entry barriers
  • social media
Key problems of MOOCs:
  • drop-out rate (about 90%) - how do we keep students motivated?
  • grading and assessment - peer grading and comprehensive assessment quality
  • contextualization - integration of local context (there are students from all over the world)
  • business model - stable organization
How AI can help:
  • Motivation
    • smaller groups of similar interests
    • personalization
    • personal feedback
  • Assessment and grading
    • more sophisticated feedback
    • improve peer grading

Day 3

The second plenary came from Anka Mulder from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Lia Commissar from Wellcome Trust in the UK, and Toby Walsh from the University of New South Wales in Australia, and they talked about how to solve low income performance issues in education.

Education and neuroscience: issues and opportunities
  • what's neuroscience got to do with education?
    • science of the brain
    • bridge between brain and education 
  • neuro-myth: it is true that we have a preference for learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic), but research shows that you do not learn better with your preferred learning style.
Universities must be bold
  • What if students choose courses from all over the world for a degree?
  • What if companies recognize non-accredited degrees?
  • What if Facebook or LinkedIn became the gatekeeper for learning?
The impact of AI on education: will our jobs be gone with robots?
  • learning needs to be lifelong - to keep your job, you need to keep yourself abreast of the latest technology
  • AI's will turn MOOCs into POOCs
    • Personal Open Online Courses
    • Choose your own trajectory

Skills-Oriented e-Learning

After the plenary, I went to a session on skills-oriented e-learning, which reminded me a lot of credentialing and webinar-style learning. 

Dr. Eran Gal from Holon Institute of Technology in Israel talked about the gap between e-learning and what the market needs. 

So what does the market need?
  • experience
  • subject matter
  • degree
  • authoring tools
  • tech skills
He talked about the ATD Competency Model
Qualification Program
  • integrated project with partner
  • e-learning industry
    • literacy (tech)
    • design
    • programming
      • learning and development base
      • academic base
Sandra Bas from Amsterdam RIPE NCC Academy for Professional Learning talked about virtual learning communities. 

RIPE NCC is a regional internet registry - they distribute IP addresses. ARIN is the US version (there are 5 in the world).

RIPE NCC Academy is a virtual learning community - started because some countries were unsafe to send trainers, or people couldn't attend sessions.

Quick, easy way to learn skills
  • main principles
    • open courses 24/7
    • workplace learning
    • learning support
    • certification
  • challenges
    • cross-department project
    • contact production
    • staff training
    • promotion
Arseni Shylan from Softarex Technologies talked about the evolution from eLearning to easyLearning. 

He talked about the migration from the analog era to the digital era and the migration from offline learning to online learning. He then went into how to choose the right tools for the right purposes. 

Selecting the right tool
  • budget
  • open source
  • technology
  • legal
Jane Richardson from Oracle Academy talked about teacher training online. She said that there is a skills gap in IT professionals, and Oracle Academy is trying to teach educators how to use tools inthe classroom. She said that Oracle Academy meets national learning outcomes in their certification program, and that they are recognized by businesses, but not education. They are trying to bridge the gap. 

Overall, we all had a fantastic time presenting and learning in Berlin, Germany!