Friday, October 06, 2006

Teaching with Technology Overview


Teaching with Technology Overview

Beth Ritter-Guth: Hi my name is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach English full time at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, PA.

This is a screencast overview of the wiki that you're looking at. And I'm breaking this down into littler pieces so that you can pick and choose what you want to listen to. But basically this screencast series is a tutorial on how to use the resources available on this wiki.

Before I start the tutorials though, I need to tell you a little bit about how this site is organized and what the purpose is of the site, and also to give credit where credit is due. So I'll start there.

I am just a simple English professor. I study women's studies and women's literature. So I really have no background in technology. I am not a... I would not consider myself an expert in technology, though I am pretty handy at the computer.

I knew none of this stuff six months ago. I had absolutely no idea that this stuff even existed, though I suspected something was going on out there in the blogosphere. But I didn't really know what was out there until I went to a WebCT conference in March 2006 and met Jean-Claude Bradley from Drexel. He uses podcasts and screencasts to teach organic chemistry at Drexel. And meeting with him and collaborating with him since then, he really has inspired me to change the way I teach English and to make my English courses much more interesting and accessible to students.So I can't even give this presentation without thanking him for inspiring me to do this.

So that is where I started in March. I started in March, and I knew what wiki was but I didn't really trust wikis because you know those of us in English: we don't like things that are not peer reviewed. And so I was a little reluctant, a little skeptical and I can't say that I'm completely sold on everything wiki. But I certainly am sold on the idea that information can be shared for free, through collaborative space.

So I'm actually becoming quite a fan of wikis. I'm a big fan of wikis, actually, but I'm even changing my tune on Wikipedia. Wikipedia was one of those sites, is a site, that I don't allow my students to extract information from for research papers. But I have found that in comparative, just simple comparisons that I've made, that Wikipedia is pretty on target with most things that I've looked up. For example: Mary Shelley. Wikipedia's entry for Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is pretty dead on and the information in there is absolutely accurate. So it's pretty interesting and pretty impressive actually how this technology through collaboration is pretty on target.

So this is a wiki that anybody can edit and you can see: what I'm going to do is, I'm going to show you how easy it is to edit a wiki. I couldn't believe this because I don't know HTML. So I had no idea what I would even need to do, to do something like this. But all you have to do in a wiki is click and edit this page and I'm going to actually put the link for this screencast... right here. I'm a horrible typist, probably should have mentioned that. And I'm going to highlight it, and make it a little bit bigger. OK, so now it's there. And it's going to be ready for me to link to when I'm finished with this screencast presentation. And you're going to see in a minute how it is that I do that.

Basically the way that this wiki is structured, I support the use of free, open access materials. So every single thing on this wiki is going to be free, requiring little or minimal downloads. Sometimes download is required. But for the most part, I look for free with a minimal download because I'm at a community college, and a lot of our students don't have a whole lot of money. So it's important that I try to keep the bottom line cost-wise, as cheap, as close to free as possible.

And also our students don't always have the best computers, so we don't want to be loading up the computers with all kinds of junk. You know. So we try to keep things free, or as free as we can, and without a whole lot of clutter for the computer. So every single resource on this wiki is free, and there are no costs, and you know, some of them do require you to download some software, but most of them don't. And if you have something that you would like to suggest for this site, you'll notice when you log in that, if I sign on here it'll show it a little bit better....OK let me go back in...You'll see that this is a protected site. And one of the criticisms of wikis is that because anybody can edit, since anybody can edit, everything can be changed, and get spammed, somebody can download pornography on your site, whatever. But wiki spaces, and I'm a huge fan of wiki spaces, they actually offer a protection so you can actually close it. But if you would like to add a tool or a resource, you can always click up here on discussion and type in a discussion item or something you'd like to suggest. Or you can ask to join the site. And I really approve anybody who asks to join the site. I just had it protected because I have my college students working in classes under... these are my classes that I'm teaching this summer.

So you can see, for example, that British literature is completely open sourced. It's going to take a little bit of time to think about it. This course just ended today, but you can see that the whole course is here for students: all of the readings, all of the assignments. And they submit their assignments through our course management system, which is WebCT. So everything is here: all my lecture notes. Everything is here.

So I had it protected because I want to make sure that my students can be confident that all the information here is written by me, for them. I also do a little bit in WebCT still anything that is copyrighted goes to WebCT. Any music files that I use go through WebCT.

So I bring you to this wiki to show you what a podcast looks like. This is what a podcast looks like. You know, you're going to see it takes you to a blog. And this is the blog that my students go to. And this is the blog that you come to when you want to access a screencast.

And the reason I use Blogger: one is, it's very easy for me to add in the things I want to add in and also I can run feed off of here. So if I click on this Feedburner button, you can find all of my feed.

So this always confused me and I had no idea what this meant; but pretty much what a cast is -- podcast, vodcast, screencast, whatever you're going to call it -- what that is, that means you can subscribe to it, and you can download it on to a portable listening device, whether that's an iPod, or an MP3 player, or whatever. So you can subscribe to the content. That is what casting means; otherwise it would just be audio or video. So this is the RSS feed for this website.

And you can see I'm able to link, in Blogger, I'm able to link to just the particular audio that I want my students to listen to. And if they click on this link here, they can listen to the lecture notes. I use a transcription service that is lovely. They're wonderful at CastingWords and they actually tape verbatim what I say, excluding the uhms and what-not, and they do an excellent job. I do actually pay for that service but to me, it's worthwhile because it actually, they type exactly what I say in class, and that's really helpful for students with learning disabilities.

So that's an example of a blog. Let me just click back in here. This is a blog, which is really just a diary that entries go on top of each other. Bloglines, we'll talk about in a little bit. And these different icons, we'll talk about it.

I use Odeo for voice. Kids can send me (kids, or students, can send me) voice messages and it's like voice email. They can send me a voice message and it'll come to my email, and that's a free service as well. Very cool stuff.

So this is my syllabus which is a completely open source and what that means is that people can take this class form anywhere in the world. They can... you know... if they live in Africa and they want to learn about British literature, they can take this course. You know, they're not getting college credit. I'm not going to evaluate the work of somebody who's not a student at my college because I sort of use and have adapted the MIT model of open courseware.So you know this stuff is available for free, and for free distribution and modification. It is free and out there, but I don't actually grade the work of non-students. But they can get what they need, and it is an incredible resource because I'm saving my students eighty-six dollars a semester because they don't have to purchase the British Literature Anthology. They can just come here and read the material on line.

So that, this is how to use a wiki; this is what a wiki is...and we wait for it to think.

The possibilities for wikis are endless and so... but in order to use the tools that I've outlined here, it's important to know the difference between a wiki, which is what this is, and a blog, where I podcast from. So what you know about this site is: everything about it is free. I don't do trials, so if you're going to recommend a site, please don't recommend something that somebody will eventually have to pay for because I won't put it on here.

The purpose of this wiki is to provide free and easy to use software to teachers, professors and students so that they can navigate this new technology. If you want to know anything about me or if you want to email me, you can click here and if you want to know my sources, because I use the Creative Commons license which is a share-like, non-commercial license. You can see how Creative Commons license works by this small example.

As I learned from Jean-Claude, I learned how to use things like Audacity and Feedburner, and I learned how to better use iTunes. I had iTunes but I wasn't sure how to use it. But then I started reading different blogs and I started to subscribe to blogs through Bloglines (which we'll be talking about in another screencast).

And so I came across a blog from a Cool Cat: teacher Vicki Davis. She's an amazing woman, she is an amazing humanitarian and she is actually from Camilla, Georgia, which is a wonderful and beautiful town where I actually took a bunch of students from Penn State to build houses through Habitat for Humanity. It's funny how the world connects people. We think she was there on one of the days that my students were there, so that's kind of awesome.

Vicki is an amazing resource when it comes to K-12 education and resources for technology. And really, a lot of what she does at the K-12 level is applicable to the college level, and I was just blown away by her blog. So the article that I read came from her blog, and so because of Creative Commons, I wanted to give her credit for being the person who showed me the post. So on the LCCC faculty blog, which is one of the blogs that I helped to write (I'm not the only writer on that one but I'm one of the writers), I wrote a little post about it, about Cool Cat, which is Vicki Davis. And I put a link to the information that I found there. And she links, because she found this information; she goes back and actually links to PC World. So you see, I could have just linked directly to PC World, but that is not where I really got the information from. I really got the information from the amazing and lovely Vicki Davis.

So that's kind of how Creative Commons work. So people always ask what Creative Commons means. That is what it means. You give credit where credit is due. You send it back through the system so that people can see how the information was shared with others.

So I hope that you've enjoyed this screencast. I hope that you enjoyed the screencasts that help you, navigate you to the pieces of software that are available here. And of course, there'll be new pieces of software added as they come along. So if you have any questions please email me at and I'll be happy to help you. Thanks!

Transcription by CastingWords


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