Feb 10, 2016

Are there Free (Open) Textbooks Available? YES!

In the recent article "Students, librarians urge professors to use open-source textbooks", the U. S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) found that the "cost of textbooks has gone up 73 percent in the last decade".  According to PIRG, textbook costs have hit community college students the hardest--50% have had to use their financial aid to pay for textbooks. 

Open Educational Resources by opensource.com (CC BY-SA)
So what can be done when textbook and credit hour costs are sky-rocketing? Over 100 colleges and universities have banded together and formed the Open Textbook Network, to provide free peer-reviewed textbooks that can be "used, adapted, and distributed" to faculty and students. 

But what textbooks are available? The Open Textbook Network library contains textbooks in the following categories: Accounting & Finance, Business & Marketing, Computer Science, Economics, Foreign Languages, Humanities, Law, Mathematics & Statistics, Natural and Physical Sciences and Social Sciences. 

What if you didn't find a textbook that met your needs? Washington State Community Colleges have created Open Washington, which provides links to popular open textbook providers, such as OpenStax College, Boundless and WikiBooks. 


Jan 7, 2016

What's "Hot" in Education? The Growth Mindset and Teaching without Grades

Why is the Growth Mindset and Teaching without Grades "Hot" trends in Education? Many instructors, including myself, have changed how we teach and how we learn as a result. I hope it's made me a better instructor and learner, too. Here is info and resources about the two educational trends:

Growth Mindset I saw the beautiful image below by Sylvia Duckworth with the "10 Growth Mindset Statements" plus I read an article by Jackie Gerstein about The Educator and the Growth Mindset that seriously made me reevaluate how I thought about myself and my students. The Growth Mindset ideas are based on the research of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck.
10 Growth Mindset Statements. What can I say to myself? Instead of "I'm not good at this, try thinking "What am I missing?". Instead of "I'm awesome at this" try thinking "I'm on the right track." Instead of "I give up", try thinking "I'll use some of the strategies we've learned".
10 Growth Mindset Statements by Sylvia Duckworth (CC BY 2.0) 
  • In her research, Carol Dweck found that that those concerned with failure and success (fixed-mindset) can hold themselves back, from learning and growing (growth-mindset). We have a choice as instructors and students how we'll handle opportunities and mistakes. We can play it safe, or take chances, and learn a great deal more. But first you need to "adjust" your mindset..before you can help your students change theirs.
Teaching without Grades:  I stumbled onto this teacher-led movement on my personal Facebook page. It tends to make more sense once you learn a bit about the growth mindset. I haven't stopped giving grades, but it's made me rethink how and what I'm grading.
  • Here's an example of the frustration a teacher had after spending hours grading and giving feedback to his students: If Grades don't Advance Learning, Why Do We Give Them?  His students only cared about their grade, not his feedback, nor were they particularly interested in learning and improving.

Yes but how do you KNOW your kids are learning anything? Answering those who wonder how we teach without textbooks and measure proficiency without exams.
Image linked from pinterest.com
  • So what are these teachers doing instead? Here's 12 Alternatives to Letter Grades that instructors are using to evaluate their students. Some use games, feedback only (no grades), continuous assessment, peer-grading, non-points rubrics and more. It's not easy to do, and still is a work-in-process for many instructors, but they say it's making a huge differences not only for their students, but for them as instructors as well.

Growth Mindset video/infographics/article 

Teaching without Grades articles/video

Nov 16, 2015

Starting Nov/Dec and Jan/Feb: Free MOOC's (Courses) for Educators and Teachers

I've found a few excellent MOOC's (Massive Online Open Classes) starting this November/December and January/February that are free and easy to register for. Most courses are a few weeks, others are longer. You decide how much time you want to invest in your course, too.
From: www.cultura-digitale.it CC (BY-NC-ND 4.0)

I've taken MOOC's with Canvas.net, Coursera, and Open2Study, but also listed courses below from organizations I've heard good reviews of: EdX and FutureLearn. I took an earlier version of the Humanizing Online Instruction MOOC in 2013 (listed below) and it was excellent. I may take it again to see what they've come up with since then.  I don't work for any of these companies, I just enjoy learning new things, and the price is right:


Nov 9, 2015

Favorite Fall Interactive Tool: Office Mix

We were big fans of myBrainshark and were very disappointed when they decided to stop supporting their free version of the product. Why was it loved? PowerPoint users could easily add audio narrations to their slides and upload the finished product to the web. Instructors put a link to their narrated PowerPoints in their online/hybrid classes on our LMS. Now what?
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Since we had dozens of instructors who had created myBrainsharks, Karen went into hyperdrive and researched a number of tools. Since we have Office 2013 available for all of our faculty and staff, she looked into Office Mix, an Add-In for PowerPoint 2013 or Office 365 (sorry, doesn't work with earlier versions or with Macs). 

What can you do with PowerPoint's Office-Mix Add-In? 
  • Narrate slides and if needed, update audio for any slide
  • Add picture-in-picture video
  • Add "test" questions, and get analytics of student answers and performance
  • Record slide animations
  • Record digital ink on your slides (write on slides) 
  • Use a Google account or a Microsoft acccount (both instructors and students)
What did our faculty think of it? Loved it and thought it was easier to use than myBrainshark.

What are the "gotchas"? 
  • If you use test questions, you can't save it so mobile devices can access it; it can only be accessed from a desktop or notepad 
  • Closed captioning is not generated
  • Doesn't work with Macs or earlier versions of Office
Tools for Teaching: Office Mix Handout and more
Office Mix for Teachers: http://www.mixforteachers.com/
Office Mix Help Guide For Educators (pdf, 22 pp)

Sep 8, 2015

Web Conferencing 101 with Sakai TLC Workshop Recap!

Tara MacDonald and Charmaine Akiwenzie, of Blindside Networks "met" with us in the Durham Tech Teaching Learning Center on September 2 via a BigBlueButton online web conference session. Tara and Charmaine were actually in their offices in Canada.
BigBlueButton is the open-source web conferencing software we call the Meetings tool, which can be added to Sakai courses or project sites. Blindside Networks founded the BigBlueButton open source project and is also our vendor who supports our Meetings tool. Some of our colleagues joined the web conference remotely as well!
Tara MacDonald shared with us a bit of the history of BigBlueButton and showed us the web conferencing features available for students and instructors in Sakai. She also demonstrated a new feature we now have available to us, Polling. Charmaine Akiwenzie pointed out some of the troubleshooting tips we can use to help our students, if they lose their connection or have audio issues.
If you'd like to learn more about Meetings, our first Fall workshop is full, but a new Meetings workshop has been added that you can now register for that is being held:
Thursday, September 17, from 2-4 pm.