Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Teaching and learning online

I just had a "water cooler conversation" with a colleague who was expressing her fear and hesitancy about participating in her first experience in an online class. She is a graduate student in a teacher education program and has had all of her classes so far in a face to face setting. The class is beginning their first group project and must conduct the entire experience in WebCT. She was particularly worried that the potential pitfalls of group work would be exacerbated by being conducted in an online setting.

I love teaching and learning online so I shared my experiences in online classrooms as both a student and a teacher with her. Particularly, I suggested that she set aside a small amount of time each day (its a four day project) to dedicate to "talking" to her group. The first day she might even want to take some extra time to get a feel for the online classroom and how it would work; how to post a message to her group mates and how to respond to a message. I explained the ways that asynchronous discussion can be different from synchronous discussion in a physical classroom, especially the way individuals' establish their presence or voice in an online environment. And I shared with her my experience that students (and teachers) online often feel much more comfortable participating in an online environment because the little bit of anonymity that online interactions lend that has a way of encouraging participation from students who are uncomfortable with participation in a face to face discussion. Finally, I said that I hoped she would begin to get a sense of what works and what doesn't work, what she likes and doesn't like, about online learning because that can be invaluable in the process of discovering how to teach effectively online.

It was a great conversation that both of us left feeling good about. She because she began to see the potential for enjoying working, learning, and teaching in online environments and me because I was able to share my good experiences and make her feel more comfortable.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writing, blogging, and time

As I work on my dissertation I haven't been able to resist reading a couple of "how-to" books. Several of them insist that one does not necessarily need huge chunks of time in which to write. Instead, most suggest starting to write (or 'pre-write', that is taking notes from reading, creating outlines, etc.) in small chunks of time and then building up to longer periods slowly and as time permits. One reason for this is that rarely do we actually have large chunks of time in which to write (which makes finding them a means of procrastination).

This morning I read a blog from Inside Higher Ed in which the author discussed the relationship between blogging and teaching online and the amount of time he spends writing his blog: roughly 30 minutes per day. As a result of my reading I've been trying to do at least twenty minutes of dissertation writing everyday and, after reading this blog, it occurred to me that I tend to put off blogging because of the time it takes. This reasoning seems as faulty as reasoning that I need big chunks of time to write my dissertation. So although there will be days that I put off blogging for twenty or thirty minutes a day in favor of dissertation writing for twenty or thirty minutes a day (when I only have one twenty or thirty minute chunk of time to spend for instance), I'm going to try to work blogging into my daily writing routine.

These are some of my readings on dissertation writing:

Allen, George Richard. 1973. The Graduate Students' Guide to Theses and Dissertations; a Practical Manual for Writing and Research. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Bolker, Joan. 1998. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. New York: H. Holt.

Dunleavy, Patrick. 2003. Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write, and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation. Palgrave study guides;. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foss, Sonja K. 2007. Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation / Waters, William Joseph Condon. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Glatthorn, Allan A. 1998. Writing the Winning Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Guide. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

Herr, Kathryn. 2005. The action research dissertation : a guide for students and faculty. Thousand Oaks Calif.: Sage.

Martin, Roy. 1980. Writing and Defending a Thesis or Dissertation in Psychology and Education. Springfield, Ill.: Thomas.

Mauch, James E. 1998. Guide to the Successful Thesis and Dissertation a Handbook for Students and Faculty. 4th ed. Vol. 58. Books in Library and Information Science ; V. 58. New York: M. Dekker.

Ogden, Evelyn Ogden. 2007. Complete Your Dissertation or Thesis in Two Semesters or Less. 3rd ed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., April 25.

Single, Peg. Demystifying dissertation writing : a streamlined process from choice of topic to final text. Sterling Va.: Stylus Pub.

Single, Peg Boyle. Career Advice: Demystifying the Dissertation - Inside Higher Ed Mobile.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ALISE conference reflections

ALISE this year has really been an exceptional conference for me this year. I was fortunate enough to be asked to volunteer some time at the registration desk during the conference (as the recipient of the 2010 ALISE Doctoral Student to ALISE Grant). This provided me with the opportunity to meet the exceptional ALISE staff, Kathleen Combs and Tomi Gunn. If you attended ALISE and you haven’t thanked these two ladies you should. They worked long hours tirelessly throughout the conference to make it an exceptional experience. It also provided the opportunity to meet new friends (Lauren Mandel, Richard Urban, and the other folks from Florida State) and old (Ana Cleveland). Just like working the reference desk at work, the most frequently asked question at the registration desk was, where’s the bathroom!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ALISE conference - sessions on teaching

I've attended two excellent sessions at ALISE so far both focused on teaching. The first was a three and a half hour workshop entitled "Launching a Teaching Career" given on Tuesday afternoon by Scott Nicholson of Syracuse University and the second was a ninety minute session this morning entitled "Interviews and Beyond...Negotiating your first Position". This one was sponsored by the ALISE Doctoral Special Interest Group and featured Heather Hill, Leigh Estabrook, and Melanie Kimball as panelists.

The first session focused on teaching and covered learning outcomes, classroom assessment techniques, course design, course design, and course evaluation. Each section of the presentation built on the previous ones and each involved participants responding to a very short assignment, talking with a few other participants about the assignment, and then sharing their discussion with the whole group (a technique Scott called 'think, pair, share' and meant to be a practicing what you preach type of lesson). By the end of the session, participants had a learning outcome, a way to assess students' success on that outcome, a way to integrate it into a course, and a way to evaluate it's effectiveness. It was an exceptional session that could (and actually may be in some places) be expanded to a semester long course for doctoral students.

The second session focused on preparing doctoral students for seeking and achieving success at their first faculty position. Also an immensely useful session. The two most important things I learned in this session were to begin thinking of myself as a scholar/teacher rather than a student and (more pragmatically) some very useful questions to ask at an interview about things that are important to me as well as when to ask them and who to ask them of.

If and when the session handouts, etc. are posted on the web I'll try to share them here.

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