Monthly Archives: June 2015

Tech Tuesday: DocHub

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DocHub is an attractive feature in Google. It allows users to login to DocHub using their Google account. Then they can upload PDFs, text documents, or Microsoft Office files from Google Drive, the Web, or computer.  After uploading the document, users can insert text boxes, highlight information, draw on the document, and use sticky notes. Users can also create a signature and insert it to identify who has written the comment.

Once users have completed the comments and notes on a given document, they can send it to Google Drive or share the link with others.  Several people can read and add notes to the document at the same time. However, the changes do not appear until the page is refreshed.

Mixed Monday: Planning a Day-Long Workshop

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Tulsa Community College’s second Sandals Camp was June 20. The workshop went well despite a few snafus. Planning for a day-long workshop for 114 participants is a difficult task—enjoyable, frustrating, and rewarding.  How does one begin?

  1. Identify the audience for the workshop
  2. Choose a theme—a varied offering of topics or variations on a topic
  3. Choose a date and location
  4. Identify facilitators
  5. Create a flyer to advertise the event
  6. Put the program together and include evaluations
  7. Develop a site such as Eventbrite where participants can register
  8. Organize the food, preferably including the lunch and snacks for both morning and afternoon
  9. Plan a follow-up
  10. Enjoy the day and hope for the best!

For Sandals Camp, the audience included full-time and part-time faculty and librarians at TCC. With such a broad audience, the faculty development team leading the workshop (CELTs) decided on four topics offered in the morning and repeated in the afternoon so that participants could attend all four sessions. After much debate, we expanded the sessions from 45 minutes to one hour each. In retrospect, we should have kept the sessions to 45 minutes. The four topics included the following: Sustainability, Active Critical Thinking, Mindset, and Metacognition. During lunch, we also learned about nonverbal communication, a session given only once. The topics were all sound, interesting, and well-presented.

As a matter of consideration, when planning a workshop, aim for as much interactive material as possible while still maintaining the content of the session. That’s a delicate balance for the facilitators, especially when the subject matter may not be familiar to the participants.

Evaluations are an important part of the event because they provide feedback on even those parts that worked smoothly. Participants cannot know all the work that has gone on behind the scenes and often do not realize that some minor problems will occur. Keeping to the program and moving forward will ensure that most of the day goes as planned.

Planning a day-long workshop for 114 people is not an insurmountable task, but it does take dedication to the event and detailed planning. Make the program available to participants when they sign up for the event so they know what to expect from the day. That does not mean putting the entire program together too early, but it does mean giving the participants the quick run-down of topics.

Following the workshop, make materials available in an easy-to-locate place such as a Web site. Ask several facilitators and participants to write brief articles for a follow-up newsletter to send to all participants shortly after the event. The articles need only be 100 – 150 words.

Some things to consider during the event include designating someone to take pictures throughout the day and setting up a Twitter hashtag for the workshop so that those who use Twitter can send out tweets about the sessions.

As you read this blog, you may think that putting together a workshop is a simple task. It is complex and time-consuming. You have to plan for everything to go well, but you must also be realistic and understand that some small problems will occur. The important thing to remember is that you have planned and gone through the details, so you can withstand any problems that occur. Keep in mind the reason for the workshop: an opportunity to learn together and share that learning experience. Enjoy the day!

Field Day Friday: Friends

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After spending a few days with six of my friends from my youth, I am reflecting on friends and friendships. The seven of us grew up in Southeast Arkansas. We lived in Parkdale or Wilmot, towns five miles apart and a few miles from the Arkansas/Louisiana state line. Some might say we are still close all these years later because we came from small communities. I am certain, however, that the reason for our closeness is far more complex than the fact that we grew up in small towns and attended schools with small classes. Our friendship endures and deepens because we genuinely care about one another and have made keeping in touch a priority, not a perfunctory obligation.

We have fun together. We can laugh at our foibles and ourselves as well as rejoice in the good in one another. Together, we have had many experiences of joy and sorrow—losing loved ones and experiencing the joys of births. We are wives, mothers, and grandmothers (most of us anyway, just not me). We teach, we nurture, we encourage, and we rejoice. Above all, we remain good friends.

old_friends

Theater Thursday: Writing Concisely

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Writing concisely consists is an important skill to master. Often, we include too many words or do not choose the most effective words for our writing. We can start becoming more aware of the wordiness in our own writing by simply reading over a recent piece we have written.

When you write a personal essay, you do not need I believe, I think, I feel, and in my opinion. The urge to include these phrases is strong, but we must resist. If you are writing a personal essay, then the writing reflects your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Adding those words is simply not necessary.

Another area of wordiness consists of writing in the passive voice. In the passive voice, the subject is not the doer of the sentence, but is acted upon. Is acted upon is an example of passive voice. Generally, we need to write in the active voice with strong verbs. Writing in p Passive voice requires more words than writing in active voice and always requires the use of some form of “to be” in order to form the passive voice. This blog was written by me (6 words). I wrote this blog (4 words). Not only did I cut out two words, but I also used a strong verb: wrote. Two words may not seem like much to eliminate from a sentence; consider, however, if you consistently write in the passive voice, by changing the sentences to active voice, you will be eliminating a number of extra words. The other benefit is improving the strength of the verb itself. Read the following example of passive and active voice sentences. The work has been completed by the road construction crews in record time (13 words). The road construction crews completed the work in record time (10 words).

Passive voice removes responsibility while active voice tells the readers who did what to whom. Occasionally, the who or doer may not be important, but most of the time the doer or subject is important. Using the active voice emphasizes that fact while passive voice does not.

Often, the passive sentence will contain a prepositional phrase beginning with by: The new policy was rejected by the mayor’s advisors because it was deemed too expensive (15 words). OR The mayor’s advisors rejected the new policy as too expensive (10 words). Not all sentences with a prepositional phrase beginning with by will be passive, but use that guide to help you determine whether the sentence is passive or active. Those passive sentences with the prepositional phrase beginning with by are the easy ones to rewrite. Take the object of the preposition and make it the subject:

The policy was rejected by the board.

The board rejected the policy.

Another area of concern falls under vague words, especially it and this. If the nouns to which it and this refer are not clear and close to it and this, the meaning will often be unclear. Try reading the work aloud and replacing the vague words with nouns to see how the sentence then reads. If it and this are close enough to the noun to which they refer, then the sentence will be clear.

Work on conciseness in your writing!

Web Wednesday: TED-Ed

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TED-Ed, http://ed.ted.com/, bills itself as “lessons worth sharing.” I would agree. TED-Ed is a free site for teachers and students. Users will find a large library of videos that promote TED’s “mission of spreading great ideas.” The lessons include expertly created videos on a wide variety of topics. Users can add their own questions, discussion topics, and other materials.

TED-Ed works well with blended and flipped classes. Teachers can assign the videos prior to the students’ attending class. You start by choosing the appropriate video. Give the lesson a title or use the one provided. Add the objectives you wish your students to learn. Include multiple choice or short answer questions. TED-Ed provides questions or you may write your own. In the “Dig Deeper” section, you can add other resources to add to the study. The next component is adding questions to promote discussion. You can then share the link to the lesson with your students, but you can nominate your creation for inclusion in the TED-Ed library so that others may also use the materials you created.

Sharing your creations also means that others who have created masterful lessons on TED-Ed share their work. It’s a win-win! Create an account and start your own TED-Ed library and share with others. See the video on Oxford commas found in TED-Ed.

Tech Tuesday: LeechBlock to Avoid Wasting Time

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Today’s blog is about a Firefox add-on that may, especially at first, seem counter to a usual Tech Tuesday topic! It is called LeechBlock: “A simple productivity tool designed to block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day.”

Choose up to six sites you wish to block and set the times and days for each. Then you will block your access to those sites for the period which you determined. For example, if you really need to work on the Comp I essay, choose a time you will work on the task and set LeechBlock so that you cannot waste time by going to social media or sports or whatever draws your attention away from your task at hand.

LeechBlock will also keep track of the total amount of time you spend surfing the sites you indicated. You may be surprised to see how much time you spend on these favorite sites. That information can give you insight into changing behaviors to become more productive and still visit the sites during times when you have completed necessary tasks.

Install LeechBlock extension from the Firefox Add-ons site or from leechblock-0.6.7.1.xpi. Restart Firefox after adding LeechBlock. Select LeechBlock>Options from Firefox’s Tools menu. You can also add the LeechBlock button to the toolbar.

When you need to work on a project, LeechBlock could be useful to keep you on task.

Mixed Monday: 5 Quick Study Tips

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5 Quick Tips to More Effective Learning

1. Read the material before attending class!
2. Attend class!
3. Set aside specific time for studying/reading/completing homework for each class
4. For lecture classes, create your own study notes
5. Utilize mind mapping

The five suggestions above represent good ways to begin practicing effective study habits. Obviously, you can find many other ways. Often, trying too many tips at one time becomes detrimental instead of being helpful. Start with a few basics and experience success; then expand to some other ideas.

Reading the material before attending class enables you to start building the connections in your brain so that you retain the information from class lectures or discussions. Read the first time to go through the material. Then read a second time, paying close attention to words and phrases in bold or italics. After you read, identify main points from each section of the reading. Write those points out and take the notes to class with you.

Attending class should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, too many college students enjoying the freedom from high school restrictions do not see the need to attend class. Getting notes from a classmate or talking with a classmate about what occurred in class on a given day will never be the same as attending the class and participating in the discussions and taking your own notes.

Setting aside a specific time to study creates a commitment to the classes you are taking. In many ways, taking college classes is your current job. You need to devote time and energy to the classes for the long-term good they will bring you. If you don’t have homework or a project in a particular week, you should stick to your schedule and do some additional reading on the subject or go back and reread previous material. You can also study the glossary or dictionary of terms to help you build connections to the materials.

Writing your own lecture notes over or typing them up into a set of study notes will help you remember the information and connect the information to other ideas/sources in the course and to other courses and materials. Those study notes will help you remember, but they will help you make the material your own, not just for test-taking, but to use later.

Mind mapping is a concept of using pictures and text to take notes, rewrite notes, or generate ideas. Even if you cannot draw, the pictures you include in the notes will help you remember. In fact, the sillier the drawings, the more likely you will remember them. Adding color to the notes will also enhance your memory. Try putting the hardest points to remember in a color you don’t like and the easy points in colors you do like.

These five tips are simple. You can begin integrating them into your study techniques quickly and easily. The important point is to decide on making positive changes if you are not achieving the grades and goals you set for yourself.

Happy Studying!

One more bit of advice:

Sit in front
Lean forward
Ask questions
Nod your head
Talk with the teacher

Field Day Friday: Blog Topics

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Do you sometimes feel stumped about a topic for your blog? Does that feeling keep you from pursuing your vow of keeping your blog up-to-date? Writing is hard work, but rewarding work once you have completed, polished, and published it.

When I started my blog several years ago, I had every intention of writing regularly and on a wide variety of topics. I was not faithful to my mission, however, and did not keep my enthusiasm. I am determined this time to keep writing. One change has allowed me to do a better job of keeping my blog going: Write as much or as little as I wish for a given blog. When I started, I had the notion that I had to write a long blog for it to be worthwhile. I no longer view a long blog as a successful blog. The successful blog is the one that I post, regardless of its length. I probably should say the topic is still important to me!

Also, for fun, I did some searching on the Internet for possible blog topics. I found a number of sites that suggest topics. My favorite turned out to be Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator. Users enter three nouns and the topic generator spits out a week’s worth of topics. Over the next few blog posts, I will be writing about some of the topics the generator suggested. They all fit the three nouns I entered: teaching, learning, creativity.

http://www.hubspot.com/blog-topic-generatorhttp://

Theater Thursday: Proofreading Tips

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After going through the writing process, proofreading one final time is essential in order to catch those annoying errors that slip into our writing. Over time, writers develop their own style of generating ideas and writing the first drafts. The same is true of proofreading. However, occasionally, writers need to mix things up a bit instead of following the same procedures over and over.

Reading the work aloud is a good start to proofreading because our ear will often notice an awkward phrase or wrong word. The trick is to read every word, so reading aloud is better than reading silently. We tend to skim when we read silently, so we can easily overlook the errors. Reading aloud is particularly useful in spotting the wrong word. For example, my fingers might type then when I really meant than. Spell check is no help in that case, so reading the material aloud would alert me to the typing error.

Try reading the piece of writing from the end to the beginning instead of the way you would expect your readers to read. Often, this disruption in the pattern will help writers identify mistakes and awkward passages.

Write with nouns and strong verbs in the active voice. Often, Microsoft Word will identify passive voice by underlining the verbs. Do not rely on Microsoft Word alone, however. If you are uncertain about passive voice, go to the Purdue OWL and read about how to write in the active voice.

Watch the video for some other tips on proofreading.

Wed Wednesday: Rapid E-Learning Site

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I just discovered Tom Kuhlmann’s The Rapid E-Learning Blog where Kuhlmann shares “practical tips & tricks to help you become a rapid eleraning pro.” At first glance, I saw several interesting blog posts: “How to Create Free Closed Captioning Text for E-Learning,” “create a Pre-Assessment Scenario for E-Learning,” and “How to Move Past Free Clip Art.”

One of the most intriguing posts is titled “How to Create Your Own Hand-Drawn Graphics.” Kuhlmann provides help with hand-drawing one’s own graphics. He says you don’t have to be an artist in order to draw your own graphics. Read his tips and try his suggestions.

Take a look at Kuhlmann’s bogs; you will find something of interest, http://blogs.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/.