Focus on Teaching and Technology Conference — UMSL

Just this past week, EdTech took a road trip to St. Louis to attend the Focus on Teaching and Technology Conference at UMSL, sponsored by their Center for Teaching and Learning (analogous to our CERTI, I believe).

This conference is very similar in nature and scope to the Teaching and Learning Technology Conference that we held on this campus this past spring. We will be holding the next TLT Conference on April 9-10, 2009.

I did not get the opportunity to attend every session I might have liked to, but I did get to see both plenary speakers and also attend a couple of interesting sessions. I will be posting on each of those sessions/speakers in future posts so stay tuned.

We (EdTech) also had the opportunity to meet with our counterparts at UMSL and also have a meeting of the BbIC, which is the intercampus collaboration of Blackboard support folks from all four campuses. Although we routinely interact with each other via email and other communication tools, it is always nice to actually sit down face-to-face and spend time with them. It is also an opportunity to get outside of our campus and see what other folks are doing on their campuses.

Teaching Journal: After Teaching English 160 (2nd attempt)

Today, I taught a section of English 160 on behalf of Dr. Northcut, the regular instructor. The topic of the day was progress reports, which all of the students have to create for their semester-long project. Dr. Northcut supplied some sample progress reports and a grading rubric.

My original goal was to have the students access the sample progress reports through Blackboard, then, in groups, write a memo analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of one of the reports. I had hoped that I could somehow get them to articulate their thoughts more effectively by forcing them to write collaborative. A noble goal, to be sure. I created a folder in Blackboard to house the sample progress reports and included an extra bonus of an online conversation I recently had with a computer science professor. It was another example of an informal progress report.

This all sounds like a good plan, right? Well, like any good plan, it fell apart as soon as I had to actually rely on the technology. We have had an extensive outage of the network file storage system on campus. The end result is that students can’t properly login to campus machines (mostly CLC systems–which is what CSF 114 is equipped with). I called in the EdTech technical support guru for assistance. He logged me into the instructor station as an Admin. From there, I could access Blackboard and access the files I needed for class.

I printed out enough copies of each of the files so every student had 1 copy of each file. They also had a copy of Dr. Northcut’s grading rubric. Since the students were having extreme difficulty accessing the machines, I decided to simply have them collaborate together to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the different progress reports. They could then present to the class their findings, using the copy I had on Blackboard as a visual aid, if necessary.

Overall, that seemed to work. The students had a good understanding of what the “best” progress report looked like (it’s pretty easy to tell, really). I just wish the network had been available so they could actually write a memo summarizing their findings and sending it as an attachment via email. This would more accurately reflect the transactional writing they will encounter in the work place. I added the email exchange between myself and a faculty member specifically to demonstrate a real-world example of an informal progress report.

All in all, it didn’t go too badly, but not as well as I might have hoped.

Moral of the story: Technology will ALWAYS be unavailable when you need it most.

Teaching Journal: Using Wimba

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Today
I helped Angie Hammons teach Dr. Bih-Ru Lea’s class enter the Wimba
Live Classroom
virtual environment on Blackboard. Dr. Lea teaches a
course about strategic enterprise management configurations. As part of
the course, students are required to use a variety of different remote
conferencing tools that allow them to collaborate in real time with
people half-way around the world. Dr. Lea herself uses WebEx to include
distance students in her on-campus course. WebEx is officially
supported by the VCC here on campus, but EdTech has some exposure to it
as well.

As it turns out, WebEx and
Wimba don’t play nicely with each other. Apparently they compete for
Java Runtime Environment (JRE) resources if they are both being used. However, it is possible to
get them to cooperate once Wimba is finally opened.

Now that I have seen how Dr.
Lea uses Wimba for her class, I hope I can get it to work properly for
Dr. Jacqueline Bechsel of the Psychology department. She will be using
Wimba for the first time on Wednesday of this week. I have agreed to be
on hand to facilitate the use of Wimba in her classroom. She will be
using Wimba in UC 105 (now Centennial Hall 105), also known as the
Technology Classroom. I will have to find a time to go in there
(perhaps early in the morning since I am usually on campus a little
after 7 a.m.) and make sure Wimba works properly. 

I think I will also take the
opportunity to ask Dr. Bichsel if I can observe one of her courses. She
teaches Psych 140 (Experimental Psychology) and Psych 50 (General
Psychology). She probably wouldn’t want me to observe the class on
Wednesday, but maybe a later class.

Internet Explorer and Blackboard Grade Center

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An incompatibility has been identified between Internet
Explorer (IE) web browser and Blackboard Grade Center. Specifically,
several people have reported being unable to save their changes in the Grade
Center when using IE or have reported other strange Grade Center behavior when
using IE as their web browser.

Click HERE for information on how to to set up IE so
that Blackboard Grade Center works properly in IE.

Reminder: Blackboard Seminar Series on Wednesday, September 10

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EdTech and CERTI are hosting our first Blackboard Seminar Series for the semester on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 in the Carver / Turner Room of the Havener Center from noon to 1 p.m.
We will be discussing the new Grade Center features of Blackboard along with any other issues that anyone wants to bring up regarding Blackboard 8.
There have been quite a few changes in Blackboard, with the introduction of a host of new features (and, unfortunately, a host of new problems).
If you are unable to attend this one, we will be hosting another Blackboard Seminar Series in October. Stay tuned to IT Press, EdTech Connect, and the eConnection for more information!

Teaching Journal: Blackboard 101

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Dr. Northcut has asked me to
teach Blackboard to the Tech Com 404 students (and herself) today. I
think I have a decent outline of topics to cover, such as adding
assignments and managing groups. Unfortunately, I don’t have finished
documentation for some of what I will be covering. I will need to work
quickly to flesh out the documentation that Angie Hammons has put
together so that it is consistent with our other Blackboard
documentation.

I will also need to cover some
Blackboard-related issues such as browser compatibility. It turns out
that both IE and Firefox 3 have some issues with Blackboard. The
Firefox 3 issue seems to be resolved for now, but the IE issue is a bit
more problematic.

The only real task I have for the students is having them create an assignment for their course.

Firefox 3-Blackboard Incompatibility

Students and instructors have reported problems uploading files into Blackboard using the Firefox 3 web browser. Specifically, when attempting to upload an attachment to an assignment, a javascript error message pops up: "Please enter a valid file", even when the file is valid. This issue only appears to occur in Firefox 3 on a Windows machine. Firefox 3 on a Mac or Linux system seems to work fine.
IT is working with Blackboard to develop a solution for this issue.
In the meantime, IT strongly recommends students and instructors use Internet Explorer (IE) or Firefox 2 to upload attachments to assignments in Blackboard.
IT will send out a follow-up announcement when this issue has been resolved.

Blackboard 8: Grade Center Training

Blackboard_Logo.jpgEducational Technology and Blackboard will be providing training on Blackboard 8 Grade Center. Grade Center is a new and improved version of the previous Blackboard grade book. It supports an interface similar to a spreadsheet, directed email to students, and the ability for instructors to generate progress reports. Other features include Smart Views, Grading Schemas, Grade Histories, and Hide/Freeze Columns. See a short video clip about Blackboard 8 Grade Center below.
Date:
   Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Times:
   10 a.m. – Noon
   12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Location:
   105 University Center (Technology Classroom)
To sign up for one of the Blackboard 8 Grade Center Training Sessions, follow the steps below:
1. Go to http://edtech.mst.edu
2. Click Register for Training.
3. Type in your Missouri S&T userid and password and click OK.
4. Click on the training session you want to sign up for.
5. Click Register.

Archiving Your Blackboard Course

Blackboard_Logo.jpg It’s the end of the semester and while we are looking forward to summer, there are a few things you can do to help prepare for next year. One of those is to archive your Blackboard course to be ready to use the material in coming semesters.
Why would you archive? Archiving is great for providing you with all the information in your Blackboard course for use in another course. This can be particularly important if you are not teaching the course for a few years due to scheduling or a sabbatical.
Archiving is easy. Just follow these simple steps.
* From your Blackboard course, click Control Panel.
* Click Archive.
* You can choose to archive the different portions of your account.
* Click Submit.
     Note: It doesn’t immediately prepare the file for download. Blackboard will send
     you an email letting you know when the package is ready.
* Click on the zip file to download. Remember where you saved the file!
     Note: This is a zip file that only works inside Blackboard.
* Once you have downloaded the file, remove it from your Blackboard course.
Now you have your course information ready for when you next need it.

Blackboard Upgrades over Summer

logo-blackboard-full.gifBlackboard will be upgraded to version 8.0 over the summer of 2008. This includes vast improvements in functionality and features. Here are just a few of the features that will become available:
Grade Center – A new and much improved way of keeping track of students’ grades. This feature supports an interface similar to a spreadsheet, directed e-mail to students and the ability to generate progress reports.
Blogs – Gives instructors and students the ability to create blogs and journals within a course, providing a structured and engaging forum for writing about course-related topics, projects and ideas, reinforcing critical thinking and reflective learning strategies.
Wikis – Enables students and instructors to collaboratively create interactive, multimedia websites within a Blackboard course. In a collaborative online workspace, individuals and teams author, organize, and present their work.
Blackboard Scholar – A social bookmarking web site that allows students and instructors to collect and tag links to online resources and share those resources with other interested individuals.
Educational Technology will provide more information about using these new and improved Blackboard tools as the summer progresses. Watch the EdTech web site for self-help materials and the schedule for a Blackboard seminar series in the fall semester. If you don’t find what you need here, or have specific questions, please contact EdTech for more information at edtech@mst.edu. Stay tuned for more information!