MyLabs = No Homework (for you)

ImageSome of the classes here are using MyLabs from Pearson. It is an online learning management system that accompanies some of their textbooks. It can be a little tricky to get started (help documents here), but can minimize the amount of homework the teacher has to grade while simultaneously giving students more practice and explanation. Simply put: it seems to be a win-win.

Michelle Scholz and I will be working on a project to more closely review such online components. We will be presenting our findings at the CALICO conference in May. It will be interesting to see exactly what these types of programs have to offer. Computer-graded homework is nice, but we will look at the pedagogical approach, design, and technology more closely. Until then, enjoy the little bit of extra free time MyLabs provides.


QR Code Scavenger Hunt

We talk a little bit in the iBook about QR codes. QR codes are quick response codes, similar to barcodes. Mobile devises can scan the codes and connect users to a webpage or content. This week, I used the QR codes to make a scavenger hunt around INTO OSU. I posted QR codes around the building and groups were set out to find and scan them. When people scanned the QR codes, the groups were connected to a survey with a simple quiz question. (One question per QR code.) At the end, everyone met back in the classroom, hopefully having found all ten QR codes, and we reviewed the answers. It was a blast and is a good review or formative assessment activity.

I first tried to make the scavenger hunt using QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator. It was very user friendly and would be perfect for places that have limited wifi, but it has some disadvantages. Most notably, it only gives students the questions, but doesn’t give them a place to record their answers. That seemed a little tricky.  Instead, I used Fluid Surveys which is similar to Survey Monkey except that it automatically generates a QR code when it publishes the survey. So, each QR code linked to a survey with one quiz question. Using this method was still very easy, and it allowed people to enter their responses into the survey and for the teacher to electronically collect all the responses in real time.

I’ll certainly be doing it again and let me know if you do it too.

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“iPads in ESL Classrooms”

We recently completed a report on INTO Oregon State University’s iPad pilot. Here is a section of the introduction:

“In Fall 2011, INTO OSU invested in a classroom set of thirty iPads. Michelle Scholz and Jim Jamieson made the initial proposal, which was successfully funded by INTO. The project came at a time when according to the PEW Research Center (2011) approximately 11% of Americans were using iPads. People were using iPads to check email, read news, check social networking sites, play games, and to a lesser extent read books and watch videos. The average user was not using the iPad as a learning aide. However, the iPad group at INTO OSU saw numerous features which could be exploited for the purpose of language learning. Mitchell (2012) explained the features as follows:

+ Portability— This allows us to bring class materials and activities into settings that might be more interesting or authentic.
+ Connectivity— This allows us to access materials from around the web, simplifying dictionary searches, research, and so forth. It also allows us to publish on the web more easily.
+ Multimodality—This allows students to escape their black and white books for a world of interactive videos, pictures, and multimedia authorship. These features can help create meaningful learning opportunities, including creating multimodal digital flashcards and analyzing sources found online.”

The book outlines how these features were utilized in a variety of iPad activities and presents over 40 app reviews. If you’re interested in downloading it, it’s available in the iBook store here.

Audioboo and Screencasts

I am giving a workshop tomorrow at Willamette University for pre-service teachers. We are going to talk about giving audio feedback through screencast-o-matic and making audio recordings through audioboo.
The handouts from the presentation are below:

More Blackboard tips and tricks

Using the Test Student

Users and Groups > Users > Down chevron Change User’s Password > type your new password and confirm.

The username for this student is represented by bb_xyy_nnnnn.

  • x is either f(fall), w(winter), s(spring) or u(summer) term.
  • yy is the last two digits of the calendar year.
  • nnnnn is the course CRN.
  • Example: bb_f01_14771 is the test student id for the course MTH_111_010_F2001.

Log in to see the student’s view of your Bb site.

Setting up Weighted Columns in Grade Center

You will first need to create categories that you will select for weighting your total column.  For example, Presentations, reading assignments, tests etc.

Grade Center > Full Grade Center > Manage Categories > Create category > Fill in name and Description and then click Submit.

To make a weighted total column (or running total), use the categories outlined in your syllabus.

Grade Center > Full Grade Center > Create Calculated Column Weighted Column.

Fill in the column details and select the categories that you wish to include on the left and move these to the right hand side by clicking the “>”  in the center.

Add the percentage in the * box on the right hand side.  Click on the blue circle to weight the contents proportionally rather than equally.

You can decide if you want students to view this column or not and whether to include it in the grade calculations (obviously not for a running total column).

Click the blue Submit button.

Get the link to the tutorial here and the video link here.

Making an Attendance Sheet

Grade Center > Full Grade Center > Work Offline  Download > Full Grade Center > Download

This will generate an Excel Spreadsheet that you can use to cut and paste names.

You can also see a list of names by choosing Tools > Roster  Not Blank

The latter is not as easy to manipulate as cutting and pasting results in two very wide columns (you will need to go to Table > Convert > Convert table to text).

There is a huge amount of information and tutorials on making wikis, tests etc. to be found at this site.


TESOL 2014

logoDid you know that the 2014 TESOL Convention is going to be in Portland, Oregon? I couldn’t be more excited. It’s going to be a great convention. Here are some numbers we learned at the preparation meeting this week:

  • 6,500 attendees
  • 700 education sessions
  • 150 exhibitors
  • 300 volunteers

That last number is actually a little frightening. 300 volunteers. Luckily, we live in a great state, and I know so many people will be willing to help. If you’re one of those people, keep your eyes out for emails from ORTESOL about volunteering before and during the convention.

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Five Reasons to Use Interactive Whiteboards

I know, many complain that interactive whiteboards are difficult to use, and they don’t see the added value. Sure, some activities on the boards don’t improve on a basic chalkboard. But, here are five things I like about interactive whiteboards:

  • Dragging and dropping so you can:
    • Do attendance – students drag their name to the “here” space when they arrive
    • Match vocabulary words to pictures or definitions
    • Practice correct word order – similar to refrigerator poetry
    • Complete cloze activities
    • Reorder stories or paragraphs
  • Saving so you can:
    • Finish activities at a later date
    • Reference materials created in a previous class
    • Work on a grammar chart or vocabulary wall over numerous meetings
    • Use in future terms
  • Clear visuals so you can:
    • Appeal to visual learners
    • Use a wide variety of colors (not just blue, green, red and black whiteboard pens)
    • Incorporate more pictures
    • Have clear handwriting (with writing to type features)
  • Going online so you can:
    • Seamlessly bring in images from Google Images
    • Quickly look up words in a dictionary
  • Importing other PowerPoints and PDFs so you can:
    • Improve materials
    • Incorporate student ideas
    • Annotate documents
    • Use graphic organizers
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Plagiarism and Technology

Are you good at spotting plagiarism? I think, I’m pretty good. I can identify material that doesn’t have a student’s typical style or skill level, although I often rely on technology to find plagiarism. Our university doesn’t offer plagiarism software, so I used to google phrases to find their original source. Recently, I started using Plag Tracker, a free site.  You can copy and paste a paper into Plag Tracker, and it highlights parts that may have been plagiarized and links them to the original source.

When I first tried the site, I ran a student’s paper through that I thought was not plagiarized. Well, I was surprised to find that the student had in fact plagiarized a small part of his essay. He had taken a quote, the sentence introducing the quote and a nice summary of the quotes main points. He had cited the source of the quote, but not the other material. It was a relatively small mistake, and he might not have even known that what he did was plagiarism. I started to think that the site might help him reflect on his own writing and to identify and rework any instances of plagiarism.

On the other hand, it might help him learn to beat sites that identify plagiarism, like Plag Tracker. In fact, Quick Student has learned to beat these plagiarism trackers and let’s other students do the same for free. According to the Quick Student, here is how it works:

  • Smart Thesaurus Replacer – Replaces commonly used words with other common words. It uses a large database that is constantly growing and all words have been handpicked and checked for authenticity.
  • Adjective Adder- Adds common and vague adjectives onto specific words; for example “truck” might become “crimson truck” or “shiny truck”.
  • Big Word Replacer – Most students don’t use complex words like “Bombastic” or “Erudition”, this function replaces big words with simpler ones.
  • Common Word Replacer – Switches out common words to more specific ones; for example “orange” might become “clementine”.

I have to admit that sites, like Quick Student, worry me. They introduce little mistakes and throw off the plagiarism trackers. So, here is the question: Do you tell students what/if you use a plagiarism tracker? How do you educate students about plagiarism?

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Hyperlinked Feedback on Writing

I used to feel overwhelmed by writing classes. So when I was at conferences or perusing journals, I would focus on anything about writing instruction. Now, I love teaching writing, but still haven’t stopped searching out information about the latest trends in writing instruction. I posted in July about using track changes in Word and screencast feedback using Jing. Well, my latest pet project also deals with computer mediated writing feedback. I was reading “Technology and Corrective Feedback for L2 Writers: Principles, Practices, and Problems” by Ferris (2012, p. 15) which had an aside about using “macros to provide brief, generic explanations to common errors”. I honestly knew very little about macros and nothing about setting them up, but I was curious. After a little googling, I found out that with Macros you can create shortcuts for tasks you repeat often. They are actually pretty easy to record too (and if you are here at INTO OSU, I can help you make them or give you mine). They were exactly the tool I was looking for to create hyperlinked feedback.

Here are the macros I set:

Mistake Short-cut/Macro Symbol with link
Article CONTROL + A,R art
Capitalize CONTROL + C,A cap
Fragment CONTROL + F,R frag
Number CONTROL + N,U #
Possessive CONTROL + P,O poss
Punctuation CONTROL + P,U punc
Run-on CONTROL + R run-on
Spelling CONTROL + S,P sp
Subject/verb CONTROL + S,V s/v
Verb Tense CONTROL + VT vt
Word Form CONTROL + W,F wf
Word Order CONTROL + W,O wo

Now, I am using macros to link my coded errors corrections, like CAP, S/V, VT, to websites with explanations of the rule(s) and practice. It took some time to set-up, but I graded my first set of student papers today using the Macros and was so excited about it. They were easy to use and students get just-in-time help and practice. I don’t have any student feedback on them yet, but I hope they are as over the moon about it as I am.

Do you have any websites that you like for grammar explanations? What would you link your codes to?

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Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

I have to admit: I’m not an avid Twitter user. In fact, my twitter account will show you that I have posted 57 tweets in the last year. About one per week. However, a recent article on the NYT blog inspired me to rethink Twitter for professional development and increase my involvement. The article featured 33 educators and each presented ways in which they have created their personal learning networks.  Surprisingly,  15 of the educators mentioned twitter as a key component to their professional development. People follow certain hash-tagged conversations, like #engchat #edchat #edtech. They also connect with people from around the world to discuss and share ideas. There certainly is a lot out there. I guess, Twitter really can be helpful. As a little bit of proof here are three interesting tweets from people I follow:

Do you use Twitter for professional development? Who do you follow?

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