Day 116 Signing off for Summer!

School is Out

Thank you for reading, liking and commenting on my blog throughout this 16-week semester at College of DuPage.  This blogging project has been challenging, rewarding and intellectually stimulating.  I would highly recommend blogging to archive your ideas and share with others. I’ve learned a lot.

May your summer be filled with sunshine, laughter and relaxation. Who knows, maybe you will create a blog about it.  Signing off for now.

Day 115 Why Blog?

Blog

What a journey it has been to write a blog every day this semester.  I summarized my experience in an article I hope to publish and parlay into conference presentations:

Blogging for Beginners: Recording a Semester of Teaching Online

In creating a daily digital diary, www.teachingwritignonline.wordpress.com , I documented what it was like to teach a fully online teaching load. I blogged for 116 days during the 16-week Spring 2016 semester, recording the challenges, successes and unpredictable events that occur while teaching in a virtual environment.  The blog captures anecdotal evidence regarding a variety of technology related topics including College policy, student access and course design.

This is the first time in our department’s history that a faculty member in English has been assigned a completely online teaching load.  Two of my colleagues, Nicole Matos and Jason Snart are also teaching variations of a fully online load (combining hybrid and online courses) and we have been sharing our semester pilot experiences, but I am the only faculty member in our group teaching all online courses in 16, 12 and 8-week formats this semester. This teaching assignment was supported and approved by our Associate Dean, Sheldon Walcher.

I wasn’t required to produce a blog about my online teaching experience, but choosing to archive each day was a way to explore and extend professional discourse within our discipline. We’re all at different stages in our digital journey. A lot has changed since I first began working with an Apple IIe personal computer in the 1980s. As technology continues to rapidly evolve in our classrooms, it is important to share ideas. I dove head first into blogging and the content flowed.

My blogging framework was informed by Karen Swan’s constructivist approach to online learning (2009), but one particular influence was the essayist and screenwriter Nora Ephron, who used to say to her family and friends, “Everything is copy.” I had a lot to say every day I logged on. I captured some of the nuances of teaching online and began to find patterns as my ideas emerged. In my daily posts I examined student-teacher interaction online, classroom community online, motivation online and frustration online.  How is this behavior different than what we experience in a traditional face-to-face classroom?  Are there notable differences?  How can we identify the differences and create a successful environment for learning and teaching online?

I taught myself how to use WordPress to create and format a self-hosted blog. It is a free service with intuitive customizable features. There are many blogging options available including Weebly,Blogger, Penzu, Wix and more. I previously created an e-portfolio in Weebly and wanted to try a new platform. I had also used the blogging feature with students in our learning management system, Blackboard. I jumped into blogging knowing I could call upon our Learning Technologies Department including Brett Coup, Lara Tompkins and Min Pan, all innovative technology experts, ready and willing to assist in technical trouble shooting questions I posed about the blogging platform.

I chose the blog name “teaching writing online” to expand my audience to faculty, students and staff. Joining the blogosphere, I added my voice to the many blogs now available online. Christina Sabo, Web Content Editor, currently hosts a blog called “The Digital Quad,” www.digitalquad.cod.edu, at College of DuPage. This blog is described as “A place for students to get tips and tools to help them excel at online learning, find out more about online college news and COD Online faculty, and to develop the skills needed to be not only a successful student, but also a successful professional.”

The blog I created can be distinguished as a behind the scenes look at teaching online while carrying out a rigorous daily blog publishing schedule. My mantra is “Every day another line.” Or as Anne Lamott put it in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, “Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

This project grew out of an article I published last year called “Using a Blog Throughout a Research Writing Course” for Online Writing Instruction (OWI) Open Resource www.ncte.org/ccc/owi-open-resource/blog-research-writing where I assigned English 1102 students a course blog to collect research material and reflect on that material as the course progressed. The blog acted in the way a physical research portfolio might, but offered the digital equivalent, ideal for use in an entirely online class setting. But the most remarkable use of a blog is that it opened the lines of communication and reinforced my commitment to encourage group interaction within the class.

After successfully establishing a classroom blog, I developed my own blog to connect a professional writing initiative with personal self-reflection of my teaching philosophy. In Alive in the Writing, Kirin Narayan refers to ethnography in consciously spending time to explore oneself. She does this, she reveals, by producing one handwritten page each morning. “The page could be about anything at all, and is above all a way to be with myself. I find that this solitary, inward-turning writing practice helps me sort through thoughts, images, feelings, stories. Finding words for the fluctuating welter of each day’s inner themes can grant me a more limber and confident voice for writing that faces outward, as a performance for others” (88). A daily blog serves the same function. My blog invites perspective and analysis of how and why we are teaching.

Launching a public web presence was daunting and required a learning curve. I discovered the traditional rules of composition don’t apply when blogging. Blog posts generally include short paragraphs with little regard to grammar or mechanics. Bullet points, graphics and lists are encouraged. Because blogs appear on screen, many readers are likely to skim information, absorbing points of reference in a short amount of time. But many of my blog posts were lengthy.  I had to adapt to a completely different approach to writing, thinking in 700-1000 word chunks. It took awhile to find a rhythm in the blog. In daily blogging I had to be consistent, not sporadic. I committed to writing the blog and embraced the discipline of writing every day. Balancing the pace of blogging in recording online teaching life was a productive, innovative activity that I highly recommend. It is a unique systematic practice of tuning into teaching responsibilities and making it a permanent record online.

Engaging in this digital diary reminded me of the Verizon cell phone company commercials that tout the catch phrase, “Can you hear me now?” When I first published the blog on WordPress I wondered what impact it could make. How could I carve out a special niche for online teaching and learning at College of DuPage? I posted each day, illustrating examples of teaching online. I wanted the blog to be a useful resource for faculty and students. My goal was to create and compile a digital archive – to distill the mass information about technology into a tailored version for our community college.

The results of maintaining a daily blog are clear. This blog provided a forum for the multiplicity of voices discussing how and why we use computer technology to benefit the teaching and learning process. Tracking the number of views and broadening the blog platform to social media like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter invites more voices to participate. A blog provides creative freedom to marinate in the every day activities we undertake in our vocation. Blogging is a way to release what we do on our virtual journey and discover how it resonates with others. For example, Day 43 “Excuses, Excuses” struck a chord with many viewers. I blogged about gathering a list of eclectic excuses for students missing deadlines or not submitting online assignments throughout the semester. The blog was re-posted on our English at COD Facebook group page and I received a positive response in sharing anonymous student excuses. My colleagues stopped me in the hallway after reading my blog and we brainstormed ways to possibly curb excuses in the future by modifying our assignments and revisiting deadlines. We agreed on yielding to students with a combination of guidelines and grace. And Day 71 “Standardized Tests” stirred up dialogue because we have adopted a new online placement test, Accuplacer, at College of DuPage and faculty are in the beginning stages of analyzing new cut scores, finding test practice websites for our students and closely looking at how this test can possibly align with our curriculum. Once again, the blog sparked a virtual roundtable of opinions and actively moved the conversation.

Teaching online effectively is something we can share with one another to help our students succeed.  As Chair of the Teaching with Technology Committee, I am an active participant in exchanging ideas with colleagues regarding best practices in teaching online courses. We meet as a group a few times per month, record meeting minutes and post our agenda items in a Blackboard shell. But a blog is different. It captures a robust amount of material for highlighting our instructional practices. It is a stream of consciousness style of writing that strengthens our motivation to contribute to the conversation. This blog is available 24/7 for teachers to tap into. It is a different way to make meaning as we search for something new and sometimes outside of our comfort zone. In sharing my daily blog, I can provide potential teaching and learning strategies for success and retention in an online class. My posts cover a myriad of topics we encounter everyday at College of DuPage such as advising, transfer and student persistence in a candid and accessible voice. Blog posts can be downloaded, copied and distributed to promote further discussion and dialogue.

One of the biggest challenges I faced when creating the blog was finding my voice. I was inspired by Scot Warnock in his blog “Online Writing Teacher,” where he struggles with the kind of persona he wanted to project as an online teacher. He echoes Peter Elbow who once said that real voice has the power to make you pay attention and understand. Blogging every day creates a raw sense of vulnerability and openness to the public eye. Who would be reading my blog? Why would they be reading my blog? Would we share similar interests in seeking innovation in online instruction? These questions informed my teaching of the writing process. I looked at word choice, crafting sentences and developing paragraphs with new eyes. I told my students about struggling to play with words on the screen. They especially liked that I admitted that we are the same in that way – we all work to gather ideas and put them out into the world.

The blog can be categorized into two areas: my academic voice and my personal voice. During the first 30 days of blogging my academic voice is front and center. I write from a buttoned up tweed suit style, logging class roster information and college online policies. But eventually I developed a unique message to share. In fact on Day 44 in a blog titled “Control, Alt, Delete: Reset is Best,” my following and number of views spiked. I received my first comment on the blog site I created. The comment was about creating a blank slate and starting over, “I well remember when I was battling the Taxpayer’s Ticket folk in the blogs, reading what they had posted, doing my research and formulating a response, only to sometimes find an hour or two in that I wasn’t on the right track. Away it went, and I’d start over. I have always felt that the writing process helped me better understand the issues and formulate a stronger position than just reading about any given issue.” The commenter was right on target as we shared a common experience. Our voices were in sync.

Donald Murray refers to using multiple voices, declaring that we need to find a model of effective personal academic prose, demonstrating how we can combine the two languages of our profession. To identify and distinguish each voice is important not only for us, but for our students.

By creating this blog, I feel more confident in sharing my experience with students about the writing process, the challenges and success in using technology and the educational journey we take together. Each day I wrote the blog my voice was amplified. I broke into the 100th day blog post with a renewed energy in creating a deep and meaningful learning experience.

 

 

 

Day 114 Graduation Time!

graduation

49th Annual Commencement Ceremony

Friday, May 20, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Physical Education Center (PEC)
Watch a live stream of the ceremony here.

All students who earn a degree or certificate in the academic year (fall term through summer term) may participate in the graduation ceremony. In order to have your name listed in the Commencement program, your application must be submitted to the Office of Student Records by March 15, 2016.

Register to Participate in the Commencement Ceremony

Graduates wishing to participate in the Commencement Ceremony must register with the Office of Student Life during Commencement Info Days on April 12, 13, and 16, 2016.

Degree and Certificate Requirements

If you have any questions regarding your degree of certificate credits, please check with the Office of Student Records in the Student Resource Center (SRC), Room 2150, or call (630) 942-2260. It is not necessary to complete your degree requirements by May 2016, but they should be met by the end of the Summer 2016 term. Everyone will receive a diploma cover on the night of the Commencement Ceremony. The actual diploma will be mailed upon completion of your degree requirements. View Graduation Requirements

Name in Commencement Program

If you applied to graduate through the Office of Student Records by March 15, your name will appear in the Commencement Program. This was the deadline for the program to go to print.

Caps, Gowns and Tassels

Commencement materials are available in the College of DuPage Bookstore beginning Monday, April 11. Graduates are encouraged to purchase their materials as soon as possible. If you plan to participate in the Commencement ceremony, you must wear the appropriate hunter green cap and gown. In 2010, we changed to a new shade of green so you will not be able to use previous years’ regalia.

Day 113 Final Exams

Studying

This is it.  Students have started their final exams and will be celebrating (hopefully) by the end of this week.  Although I do not give final exams in my online composition courses, some students will come to see me this week regarding final drafts, missing assignments or to talk about plans for next semester and beyond.  I also write student recommendation letters this week by request, as some students will be transferring to universities or applying for internships.  It’s a “fragile” week for students because they are stressed out and overtired.  I keep a box of Kleenex and bowl of chocolates handy!

2016 Spring Final Exams and other Culminating Activities

Saturday, May 14 to Friday, May 20

• Spring 2016 semester includes 15 instructional weeks and one week of final exams or other culminating activities.

• Final exams or culminating activities will meet in the same classroom unless other arrangements are made.

  • Classes that meet less than 12 weeks will have their final exam or other culminating activities during their last class meeting.
  • Friday, May 20, is set aside as a day for make-up exams.

Day 112 The Struggle is Real

Teachers work on weekends

It’s Sunday and I’m grading assignments, the last round before the semester ends.  Most students have been consistently submitting assignments all semester, but tonight I received this e-mail.  It’s a struggle when we get to the end of the semester and a student pleads to turn in a mountain of assignments in order to “catch up” and more importantly, to pass the course.  I have a late assignments policy outlined on the course syllabus as well as a policy for submitting multiple assignments.  Nevertheless, I cringe when students appear desperate to hand in “everything” before the semester grades are finalized.

From: STUDENT
Sent: Sunday, May 15, 2016 10:31 PM
To: Hubbard, Danica Lee <hubbard@cod.edu>
Subject: 166528 (2016SP Approaches College Writing II (ENGLI-0492-NET05)): Assignments?
 
I know that I sent in the rough draft a day late for unit 11. The only reason I handed it in late is because I spent most of yesterday in the hospital from a poisonous spider bite. It was really bad.  And I just couldn’t do my work because I had this bite that was oozing out yellow stuff.  I’m fine now but that’s why I didn’t hand it in.  I hope it’s okay because I need this course to graduate.  I couldn’t help being bitten. 
From: Hubbard, Danica Lee <hubbard@cod.edu>
Sent: Sunday, May 15, 2016 11:00 PM
To: Hubbard, Danica Lee <hubbard@cod.edu>
Subject: Re: 166528 (2016SP Approaches College Writing II (ENGLI-0492-NET05)): Assignments?
Thank you for letting me know.  I hope you are feeling better.
In looking at your grades in Blackboard, you are also missing:
 
·         Unit 3 Writing Assignment (10 points)
·         Unit 4 Writing Assignment (10 points)
·         Discussion Board 4 (10 points)
·         Unit 6 Cause or Effect Essay Draft (50 points)
·         Unit 6 Writing Assignment (10 points)
·         Unit 8 Writing Assignment (10 points)
·         Unit 9 Essay Draft Evaluation (50 points)
·         Unit 10 Final Essay Evaluation (100 points)
 
I have sent multiple late notices to you throughout the semester, but this is the first time you have responded.  At this point it is too late to submit all 8 assignments.  The semester ends next week.  Unfortunately, you are not passing the course (“F” grade).  
If you have questions, I’m here to help.  I am in the office (630) 942-2101 or e-mail: hubbard@cod.edu or stop by and see me in BIC 2516P.  
 
Danica Hubbard, Ph.D.
Professor, English
College of DuPage
425 Fawell Boulevard
Glen Ellyn, Illinois  60137-6599
(630) 942-2101
 
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.  – Albert Einstein
 

Day 111 Background Knowledge

Phd

In my classroom we discuss the importance of active schema when comprehending text.  The term “schema” was first used in psychology, meaning “an active organization of past reactions or experiences.” It assumes that written text does not carry meaning by itself. Rather, a text only provides directions for readers as to how they should retrieve or construct meaning from their own previously acquired knowledge.

My curiosity with computers began during my first job out of college at IBM Corporation in 1990.  I worked in the GET (Government, Education and Transportation) sales branch in Chicago at One IBM Plaza.  I was a marketing representative and responsible for selling PS/2 units to a number of clients including College of DuPage.  After spending 2 years in sales, I decided to pursue a Masters Degree and carve out a pathway to teaching.  My experience with studying how community college students work with computers informs active schema framework as to why I am still interested in this topic today.

My doctoral dissertation at University of Illinois Chicago was published in 1997, “Computers and the Community College Student:  Sharing Dialogue about Technology.”  My dissertation chair, Bill Ayers and committee members Vicky Chou, Bill Schubert, Caroline Heller and Bob Vogel, were influential scholars in my life. In my thesis introduction I wrote:

Classroom computer equipment has little value if teachers and students are unable to talk about what impact it has on their everyday lives.  Their stories trace and fill in a snapshot of how these students come to know computer technology.  By listening to students’ stories, I am able to consider different teaching strategies in order to recognize problems of computer access, realize differences in gender roles and attempt to pinpoint various computer literacy skills which can extend and condense options for students both in and out of the classroom.

 

Day 110 Flip Flops in the classroom?

flippedflowmodel

This is the last weekend before College of DuPage students end the semester, graduate and start thinking about their next steps.  Some students have already registered for both summer and fall courses, others will go on to graduate school or professional programs and many have secured jobs.  I have received kind hearted thank you notes from students via e-mail.  One student in my English 0492 online course stopped by with a bouquet of flowers — a totally unexpected, but welcome surprise.

I will not be teaching this summer, but have placed my textbook order for the Fall 2016 semester and will be teaching multiple sections of English 0492 Developmental Writing in a face-to-face classroom for the first time. I usually teach English 0482 Developmental Reading for half of my full-time teaching assignment, but this year I’ll be trying something new. Or, maybe it’s not new after all.  According to John Dewey, learning is centered around the student, not the teacher; learning allows students to show their mastery of content the way they prefer. As I started accumulating supplemental materials and planning activities, I thought about the flipped classroom model where the traditional lecture and homework assignments are reversed. According to Educause:

The notion of a flipped classroom draws on such concepts as active learning, student engagement, hybrid course design, and course podcasting. The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and interact with one another in hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or advisors, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.

As the flipped class becomes more popular, new tools may emerge to support the out-of-class portion of the curriculum. In particular, the ongoing development of powerful mobile devices will put a wider range of rich, educational resources into the hands of students, at times and places that are most convenient for them. Greater numbers of courses will likely employ elements of the flipped classroom, supplementing traditional out-of-class work with video presentations and supporting project-based and lab- style efforts during regular class times. At a certain level of adoption, colleges and universities may need to take a hard look at class spaces to ensure they support the kinds of active and collaborative work common in flipped classes.