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***This post has been written for the HASTAC Scholar’s Pedagogy Project but is equally useful for my “Tinkerers”***
Last spring (2013) I taught a course entitled Writing for Cyberspace, a required course for undergraduate students on the English Writing track at Kean University in Union, NJ.
Based on these students alone, I can attest to the fact that they are NOT technologically savvy simply because they’ve grown up with the internet, cell phones, the list goes on…
Many of my students (most between the ages of 20-30) had created a blog with accompanying posts for previous courses (required, not of their own volition), and some had experience with collaborative writing through the use of a wiki, but many were far from advanced with their skill sets. They were more than willing to admit to me that they didn’t know a lot about technology, and didn’t feel that they were missing out in any way. They weren’t fans of Twitter and they HATED Facebook. The one app that most of them did utilize was Instagram, which I personally don’t use (figures, it’s one of the few that I haven’t really gotten into!)
Anyway, I developed this class to be a hybrid course, meaning that most of the time we would meet in person in a computer lab, with a few classes dedicated to working from home. On one of these occasions, I required my students to create their own app. Now, I fully realize how ridiculous this sounds, seeing as I just listed how my students weren’t really feeling the technology vibe, didn’t use it for much other than personal communication, and as a result, weren’t fully comfortable with using certain programs and websites on their own — the handholding was a necessity to some extent with my students (which I was fine with). In this case, however, they were unable to receive guidance from me because they were completing it on their own time at home.
The task required that they simply download the MIT App Inventor Manual, the MIT App Inventor Program, and follow the directions as provided. I do NOT have my students complete assignments that I haven’t done for myself first, so I had already completed this exercise months earlier. I first learned about MIT’s App Inventor while attending Boise State’s 3DGameLab online teacher bootcamp back in August of 2012. It was a fantastic 3-week experience. One of the first “quests” I had to complete for learning how to design a more advanced app was to use this guide to create a VERY basic application that involved clicking and having a cat “meow.” The tasks became more complicated from there on in, but I was only having my students complete the initial basic app to get a sense of coding basics.
In order to ensure that my students completed the task, I required that they created a screencast of the application — to demonstrate that they coded it correctly so that the app would “work.” The app developer includes a pseudo phone that you can use to program in lieu of an Android device (phone, tablet, whatever runs Android-based apps!) We iPhone and iPad users like myself are more than happy to have the pseudo phone at hand to test our coding skills. My fiance had an Android phone at the time so I was able to test it both ways, and I’m happy to report it worked on a REAL phone as well That said, I thought my students would be excited at the prospect of learning how to make their own app, even if it was a simple one. I know I was when I first learned about the possibility — and for FREE — awesome!
Well, not so in the case of my students. They hesitantly approached the topic, asking questions in the classroom while I was explaining where to download the guide from our course website, etc. There was a flurry of emails just before the screencast was due, asking me if they’d completed the screencast correctly. If anything, the screencast (which I’d modeled how to use multiple times in the classroom) was more disconcerting to them than the app assignment itself!
I am happy to report though that they ALL managed to complete the first task AND create a screencast demonstrating that it worked properly. I was very proud of them as they explained their hours of hard work (I think it depends on your level of tech savvy here, because it took me a bit of time to get used to, but it didn’t take me hours to complete the first app task). They were quite proud of themselves as well, but asked me to promise them that they wouldn’t have any more app-development tasks between that assignment and the end of the semester.
I love giving my students assignments that force them to “take the time to tinker” on their own with the technology. Further, whenever possible, I assign tasks that require the use of multiple Web 2.0 tools, like screencasting and app development.
Feel free to ask me any questions if I’ve left any information out here. I just wanted to give a general overview of assigning the task and what to expect upon doing so!
So, it recently dawned on me that I’m encouraging tinkering via a BLOG, but I didn’t even take the time to discuss how great having a BLOG can be!
I apologize for being a slow turtle
Now, just like I tell my students. blogging can be done for a variety of reasons, and posts will be extremely different depending on your topic, audience, purpose, etc.
I have created blogs for courses that I’ve taken at university, blogs that I’ve created for sharing information about my life (I had a Xanga account in my undergraduate years that was dedicated to venting about the daily drama that occurred in my life during that time), and blogs like this, that I’ve created to share my thoughts or provide examples on various things that strike my fancy.
I am in the process of creating another blog with an entirely separate purpose — one that explicitly focuses on my love of interior design. I plan to update it with pictures of my fabulous apartment that changes with each holiday/season. Since I also have an interior design business-ish-thing in the works, I think it’s important to use a blog to showcase my abilities and talents. That’s yet another reason to have a blog!
Finally, I know a LOT of professors and academic professionals who utilize blogging software for the purpose of housing their academic portfolios. In this way, the blog acts almost like a website, but can be much easier to manipulate than going the “old-school” code route, especially if coding isn’t your thing.
These same professors also use blogs to discuss their latest research. thoughts on academia, etc.
Depending on what you want to create a blog FOR/ABOUT, WHERE you house your blog is another animal entirely.
For beginners, I highly recommend Blogger. It’s incredibly intuitive and user-friendly. There are a variety of templates that you can use to make your blog look “pretty” and it’s FREE! What’s not to love about all of that?!
If you’re a bit more daring, you can journey into the world of WordPress. Free, WordPress.com templates are terrific, easy to use, versatile, etc. I think in many ways the free WordPress.com is on par with the user-friendly Blogger, BUT, WordPress can get significantly more complicated. You can buy themes to make your WordPress blog look super awesome (obviously, at a cost) and you can also explore the world of WordPress.org which is based on coding, FTP, and all that other fun stuff.
If you’re familiar with programs like Dreamweaver, then you’ll probably feel at home with using WordPress.org. I can honestly say that I’ve only just begun to explore code, and while it’s difficult, it certainly isn’t impossible. It takes a LOT of tinker-time, that’s for sure!!!
Tumblr is another user-friendly blog interface, BUT, I highly recommend Tumblr for photo-enthusiasts. Those who prefer to blog through imagery will LOVE Tumblr. While it does allow you to post text, links, etc., it isn’t very friendly in terms of allowing others to comment on your posts. Now, if you’re someone who doesn’t want to hear what others have to say about your posts, then perhaps Tumblr is just what you’re looking for!
If you are interested in learning how to code on a very user-friendly interface, I suggest exploring Peer 2 Peer University’s (P2PU) School of Webcraft or Codecademy to get started. I’ve utilized both programs myself, and will be dedicating Tinker type to discuss my experiences with each in upcoming posts!
P.S./BTW – I used Tumblr for the first time when exploring P2PU’s School of Webcraft, and was very impressed with how user-friendly it was, but again, the ability to have others comment on my work was somewhat of an issue… Just something to keep in mind for future use
Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that I’m behind with this one. I realize that the Raspberry Pi came out some time ago, and it’s reprehensible that I didn’t jump on the bandwagon sooner, but I’m trailblazing now! Better late than never, right?
let’s get to business.
I was so excited to hear more specifics about the Raspberry Pi. I didn’t realize that the RP’s developers created this wonderful credit-card sized wonder (with a $35 price tag for the most recent upgraded version; the original RP is a mere $25!) with students in mind. The RP came about specifically for the purposes of teaching students the basics of computer programming — code at it’s most basic. What’s not to love about that?!
the starter pack.
In order to feel FULLY prepared for using the Pi, I felt the best course of action for me was to get the official “starter pack” from Adafruit. It’s a bit pricey at $108, BUT, that includes the Pi and a whole bunch of other stuff I anticipated needing to begin this journey.
tinkering with friends.
I’ve decided I’m not going to venture into this uncharted territory alone… I’m bringing my boyfriend along for the ride. He’s as nerdy as I am so I figure it will be a good time had by all.
I’ll be posting progress with the Pi to this blog each time I discover something worth blogging about. I pretty much downloaded every tutorial in existence… Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit… I downloaded the Pi for Educators manual and purchased a magazine specifically dedicated to the Pi (which came with a CD inside, like anyone uses those anymore…) so I’m looking forward to seeing what this little baby can do, and sharing about it with all of you!
Though I’ve developed blogs in the past (and didn’t really stick with daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly posting to any of them), I am set on making this one work. I’ve had ideas for this baby brewing in my head for months now. I’m also planning to develop at least one other blog to work on more creative, non-academic oriented musings. I can’t promise that I’ll post every day, or even every week, but I do anticipate making a concerted effort to have a true blog developed with multiple posts before the end of summer 2013.
That said, welcome to my inaugural post on this academic-themed blog dedicated to my foray into the world of gaming, technology, teaching, and research!
The whole reason why I wanted to develop this blog in the first place was to share my thoughts and feelings on some of the trending topics in educational research associated with technology and pedagogy (see “About” for more info).
This first post is focused on MOOCs (as you can gather from the title above).
If you’ve been living under that wifi-less rock lately, feast your eyes on this:
I joined the Connected Learning MOOC (#clmooc) sponsored by the folks from the National Writing Project about a month ago now, and one of the first “assignments” mentioned within the weekly guiding activities listing was to create a blog (or write within your previously created blog) sharing your perspectives on the idea of “makes,” “being a maker,” and “being a part of the maker movement.” All of these notions intrigued me, and I was dedicated to and a follower of the ConnectEd movement long before this opportunity came along, so focusing my attention on this initiative didn’t sound at all difficult to do at the time.
Then it occurred to me that I really needed to stop procrastinating with those pesky qualifying exam questions that I’d been putting off for the purposes of officially starting my dissertation proposal write-up. Oh yeah, and I had to write my dissertation proposal, too. I also began teaching a graduate level online course at the end of June, just ten short days after the MOOC kicked into full gear. In addition, I was just recently made the official Technology Liaison of the Kean University Writing Project, so I had a more significant role in this year’s ISI than in years prior. Furthermore, I’m the Assistant Director of the KUWP, and while the Director was on work-cation for a few weeks, I filled in, in addition to my present responsibilities as Asst. Dir. Did I mention that I was in the midst of writing two IRA proposals that were due on July 8th, and another two AERA proposals that are due this upcoming Monday, July 22nd? While all that was going on, I developed three different websites from scratch, along with this blog, and another blog is in the works. I’ve been meaning to get multiple side business ventures off the ground for the past several months, and (if you can believe it) NOW was the time I had to do it! So, I made business cards and labels and all this other fun stuff to match the theme of one of the new websites. Somewhere in there I’d wanted to have some semblance of a life outside the realm of academia this summer but my multitasking lifestyle/nature left me in a lurch in terms of fully participating in the MOOC as I’d originally planned. I’m not complaining about all of this busyness – I rather like having a full plate — I get bored really easily… I just wanted to make the point that MOOCs are super awesome, but life tends to complicate things in the meantime…
I think it’s safe to say that this is probably a recurring theme with most who sign up/join/enroll in MOOCs… We’re all into it at the start of things, but slowly, full well knowing we aren’t going to “get in trouble” for not completing our work, with no fiscal stake in this course, nor any sort of CEUs, PD certificate, or college credit to be seen, MOOC participation can very easily become a back-burner task as we run through the daily realities of our existence. We want to play with our children; we have to make dinner for our in-laws who are coming in from out of town; we’re forced to complete our real world dissertation work before we can do the fun stuff like invest time in the crowd sourced learning platforms that MOOCs provide. (Okay, so maybe that last one doesn’t apply to all of us, but it’s been a real thorn in my side lately so I felt inclined to add it to my list!)
Ever since the idea of charging a fee for college credits earned from participation in MOOCs was introduced just a short time ago, the “open” aspect of these learning platforms has been heavily under fire. The truth of the matter is that no one cares one way or the other about credit-bearing courses provided through MOOC participation. Now, I have a feeling I’m not the only one who wants to engage in MOOCs simply for the wonderful ability to learn from colleagues who are equally vested in the same quest that I am: a pursuit for life-long learning! Unfortunately, in my opinion, this leads to another major issue with MOOCs…those who are participants in MOOCs tend to be those who are already (at the very least) college graduates, with the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, and more likely, a Master’s+. This is nothing to scoff at – I love being able to affirm my dedication to the academe by engaging with colleagues from around the nation, regardless of their educational level/background/content area, etc. I love learning, and I love teaching, and I love engaging with educators who feel the same.
intelligent poultry & other personal motivations.
On a completely selfish note, I also enjoy being aware of all the newest, latest, and greatest trends in technology, education, and the intersection of/interplay between the two. Additionally, as an online educator, MOOCs embody many of the characteristics that look for when pursuing new lines of research inquiry.
I also have a habit of lurking in online communities. Now I know I’m not alone on this one! There’s a reason the term exists in the first place. Being a lurker is comparably more favorable to being labeled a troll in this context! I hate trolls, though I have to admit, the drama they cause on some online forums is just too good to pass up. I have been known to, on more than one occasion, get wrapped up in reading all out comment wars on various public forums for hours at a stretch… Sometimes it makes me angry, sometimes it makes me laugh. I enjoy the anonymity of being able to “+1” a comment in a forum when someone says something that I agree with entirely (not Google+ folks), but would never admit to any of my RL (real life) friends/colleagues/co-workers… Maybe that makes me a chicken, but I don’t care. I’m a very well-informed chicken I’ll have you know.
Okay enough of my tangent… The point is, though I haven’t been as zealously dedicated to posting weekly responses on the Making Learning Connected (#clmooc) Google+ and Twitter communities, nor have I begun a blog up until today (better late than never, right?!), I have been lurking, I have been mulling over the theories that have been discussed in the hundreds of posts that have been shared in these forums, and I have been analyzing my own “maker” behavior. Honest!
I was having a conversation with a colleague just a couple of weeks back about the notion of what it means to “make” and be a maker. This conversation would never have come up had we not been enrolled in this MOOC together. Part of the reason why I love/d participation (albeit, my own version of) in this course was because I was able to gain new perspectives and further insight into my own practice.
I think a huge part of this MOOC/Maker movement was founded on the premise of “simply” starting a conversation…to share ideas…to piggyback on one another’s collective thoughts, in a venue that allows worldwide collaboration and participation. Whether or not we religiously posted weekly makes, blogged reflections daily, or tweeted on the hour about how this experience has impacted our own self-reflection and praxis, I’m quite certain it’s happening regardless. The lurkers are making, my friends, this is my ultimate take-away.
As a result of this MOOC, I know I have a Make Bank chock full of examples I can share with my students when I teach Literacy Studies to my undergrads come September. In addition, I’ve seen a massively open online course modeled from some of the nation’s top educational technology gurus FOR FREE, does it get any better than that?! Participation in this collaborative has also affected my perception of what it means to “make” and to be a maker. I’ve never been so self-aware in my life as to how much making I do on a daily basis.
overall impact/final thought.
It’s amazing the overall impact this MOOC has had on me — just my thought process alone! I’ve begun to reflect on how to share this form of “literate practice” with my students in the fall, and the conversations it will spawn long after the official #clmooc ends. Additionally, I’ve initiated discussion with our ISI Director in regards to how we’ll incorporate this MOOC into our institute activities for next summer (if the NWP doesn’t sponsor another online learning event of this magnitude – fingers crossed that they do! Hint, hint ;).
This is the fifth MOOC that I’ve registered for to date…and the first one that has truly impacted my personal learning and pedagogy. I thank you, #clmooc leaders, for a most rewarding massively open online educational course experience to date!
Feeling inspired? Here’s a great resource from Educause all about mooc-ing.