Podcasting, You’ve Changed… @BreakDrink Meanderings from Episode No. 1

Once upon a time, there was the original BreakDrink podcast. You might know them from the collaborative efforts of this podcast network from 2010 to 2013. Well… we’re back. Sort of. It’s not a comeback or the same @BreakDrink you know (and love?). This BreakDrink podcast will share the real conversation Jeff and I typically have … and perhaps a perspective from any guest who might be willing to join us for a bit of a chat. I have no doubt we will have random conversations. It could touch upon higher ed issues and possibly a bit of technology — but really, this podcast will dig into other relevant topics like tacos, coffee, travel, parenting, the NBA, rescue dogs, and more.  Why are we podcasting again? Apparently, we need a podcast to talk and record this banter on a regular basis — and, if you subscribe, then you can reap the benefits of these meanderings in our chats. 

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In our first episode of BreakDrink in January, Jeff and I reflected on how much podcasting has changed (or not changed) with the infusion of quality content productions and shared what’s in the podcasting realm we listen to these days. We both appreciate the storytelling meets investigation journalism, and love the audio format. For others on the podcasting bandwagon, I blame/thank Serial for the resurgence of this medium. 🙂  Since we’ve been out of the podcasting game, there are a few others podcasters who have emerged and this episode is a deep dive into just a few that sit on our podcast playlist that we enjoy. 

Here are a few recommended podcasts that Jeff & I have listened to … as of late:

    • Reply All hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman (from TDLR)
    • Crimetown
    • Homecoming starring Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer.
    • Wiretap (archived) by Jonathan Goldstein
    • Heavyweight with Jonathan Goldstein
    • We thank Serial for bringing back podcast love.
    • Startup chronicles the Gimlet Media podcast network startup (season 1)

And a  few, of MANY, higher ed podcasts to add to your listening cue:

You can listen directly below, or check out the notes from BreakDrink, Episode No. 1:

To share this podcast with friends, families, or foes, feel free to do so with the following links:

If you have comments, questions, or feedback about this podcast episode OR want to share your own input/resources, please feel free to post a comment below, or follow us on the following “BreakDrink” podcast channels:

The Student Story in Open, Online Learning

In starting a new year and a new term, I am thinking more about student stories and learner experiences in my courses. From my teaching in K-12 and now in higher ed, I continually strive to be a “good teacher.” We know that quality education comes from instructors who are reaching students and by improving learning design, delivery, and engagement. There are multiple intervals during an academic term where I stop to reflect on the lessons learned in online education and to think about my own instructional practice.

Like a number other instructors in higher ed, I review learner comments from the course evaluations at the end of the term. Beyond the evaluative score of these instruments, I think it is critical for instructors, learning designers, researchers, and administrators to listen to the student story in our online (and open) learning environments. Additionally, I solicit student my own student feedback at the beginning and end of the term to learn more about their goals and individual experiences. I also take short notes about each course assignment, project, discussion board prompt, or journal entry reflection to remind myself of how students engaged with/learned from these activities. Much of my instructional reflection involves pedagogical considerations, rather than technological applications. I want to encourage my learners to persist, so I offer opportunities to improve with draft assignments and provide on-going feedback/follow-up. In thinking about my communication practices and technological tools, I want to ensure my online classroom is interactive and offers opportunities to meet both the learning outcomes and student needs.

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What do students really want from their online instructor? Here are a few things I have learned over the past few years of online teaching:

  • Provide a purpose of each course section connected to the learning goals
  • Easy to follow course design and navigation for online learning
  • Transparent expectations for requirements and how they will be evaluated/assessed
  • Clear directions for course assignments, projects, and activities
  • Meaningful online activities and projects that apply beyond the course or connected to their own career/academic goals – relevance!
  • Relatively quick responses to questions and/or communication standards as to when/how the instructor/TA for course support
  • A connection to the instructor via  “presence” or involvement in the course, e.g. video lectures, lecture/screencasting, audio files, course discussion participation, etc. to make it personal and meaningful

As I research online learning strategies to succeed, and continue to teach online each semester, I really want to know more about how my learners persist in online — so I can improve my own practice. In George Veletsianos‘ (2013) book, Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning, ten graduate students immerse themselves in open online learning experiences for two months and share their own narratives. This collection of peer-reviewed, learner essays offer further insight and reflection on the following questions:

  • What are learner experiences with open online courses, MOOCs, and other forms of open online learning?
  • What is it like to participate in open online learning?
  • What are learners’ perspectives of MOOCs?

Although I am not instructing a MOOC, this free e-book offered suggestions to improve learning delivery/design and identify ways to scaffold online environments for my own students.  This book may only a slice of online learning, as it shares learners’ reflections from MOOCs, it does indicate that distance education is a complex thing. Expectations, realities, and execution of this learning is quite varied.  I think these narratives provided by graduate students offer insight into distance education itself, and perhaps, how we even approach research in this arena. These student stories reminded me to involve my learners in the process of understanding their educational experience. When it comes to online learning, we should ensure the student voice is not crowded out by research ABOUT our students, that is, we need to think about research BY our students. I am thinking more about this key point as I contemplate how to best involve my sample population’s “voice” in my research and discover meaning further meaning that is often overlooked in scholarship.

Reference:

Veletsianos, G. (2013). Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning. Madison, WI: Hybrid Pedagogy Press.

#OneWord2016: Focus

With a couple of weeks away from blogging, fewer messages posted in 140-characters or less,  and really unplugging from most things digital over the winter break — I have finally selected my #OneWord2016 to direct my resolution-less new year:

Focus

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Flickr image c/o Mark Hunter

My previous #OneWords the past two years were now and simplify, so word focus seems to be on track. Over the past few weeks, I have taken time off “the grid” for some R n’ R. This practice helped me to turn down the noise, and dedicate my time to particular interests and people in my life. I have formed a steady practice with this developing habit, which includes putting my phone on silence, removing notifications, checking email less, and reading less of ALL.THE.FEEDS!! By designating time to specific digital tasks and directing my attention to specific projects, I am able to participate in a type of deep work and by removing the distractions. Not only has this focused practice improved my productivity and decreased my procrastination tendencies, it has also made feel more balanced and pleased with my personal/professional progress.

habit

Moving forward in 2016, I will continue this focused habit. There will be an increased amount of focus on the important things — and this is not just work/research related. Focus on friends, family, and loved ones. Focus on learning fun things. Focus on being curious with my inquiry. Focus on what is going on the now now now. Focus on new opportunities that are ahead. Focus on health and well-being. Focus on contributing to my community. Focus on the things that matter.

What’s your #OneWord2016? Tell me about it.

2014: My Blog in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Since WP put in the effort, I thought I would review my stats from the year — seems like the annual thing to do and all.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Who Views

No surprise that America is my biggest audience — as that is where I live. I wonder how US-centric WordPress is in general, and how that impacts those who blog, write, share, and produce content here. I’ve been pondering content sharing online since that talk Laura Czerniewicz (@Czernie) gave on visibility and presence in scholarship in #scholar14.

“Some of your most popular posts were written before 2014. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.”

Maybe I was more interesting from 2010-2013? Or at least my post topics or titles were. Based on my click view stats from this year, compared to the last few years, my overall readership has decreased. Then again, it looks like I posted 48 blog posts total, which is down from from 59 post in 2013 and 62 posts in 2012. Perhaps I was a tad busy writing other things in 2014 (*ahem* Dissertation *cough*). It is no wonder why a number of readers decided to look back into the archives of this blog – top 5 hits included:

I am not concerned. I started and continue to blog to share ideas, reflect on learning and put a few things out there with regards to my own teaching, service and research scholarship. I blog for myself, and the community of practice who shares similar sentiments and values. It’s quality not quantity, right? I am honored to have a number of new followers and loyal subscribers from my PLN who read, respond, and engage.

Top Commenters for 2014

I’d much prefer to get comments and thoughts shared on posts then just click views any day. Plus you never know what a blog post might lead to. Often it has been a new connection, collaborative writing, and even research fun – OH MY! {Yes – this even includes random meet ups and spontaneous dance/beach parties. True story.} Beyond my blog reflections, is where the real networked magic happens. These posts are really just a springboard to more learning, fun, and research.

If you care to learn more about the TechKNOW Tools stats from 2014, feel free to click here to see the complete report. Thanks to the many social platform links and even a shout out to Josie for referrals here. Happy blogging to all in 2015! Blog on.

p.s. Why the heck would I want to use the new WP editor? I much prefer the classic wp-admin mode ANY day for my blogging experience. Seriously.

#TBT Blog #2: Happy Christmas and the Holiday Comic Strip

Over the past seven years, Fiachra and I have created an annual holiday comic strip for Christmas cards to recap our year. This year we broke the tradition and did not create one. I know. Sad. Maybe we ran out of James Bond themes, or perhaps far too much has happened in 2014 to contain our year events in just one comic strip.

2014 was a full year of great events. Both Fiachra and I completed the academic leg of our lives, as we graduated over the summer with our MBA in Decision Sciences and PhD in Learning Technologies, respectively. After this accomplishment we decided to take a break by taking an EPIC road trip to explore the US southwest. This 5-week journey showcased a number of gorgeous landscapes, outdoor adventures, eclectic attractions, and, most importantly, time to spend with each other and also a chance to catch up with family and friends. Here is a quick spotlight to highlight our travels and year in review:

On behalf of Fiachra and myself, we want to thank you SO MUCH for all your love and support this year. We are so grateful for everything. We wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Christmas, and all the best for 2015!
xo
L and F

Semester Reflections & What I’ve Learned [Fall 2014]

Wow. My first semester as a Lecturer and teaching ALL online classes is DONE! First and foremost – I am glad to have all my grades posted. {For real! After 2,400 hours of video watching, I can say I learned a lot from my #LTEC4121 class – and I had a talented group of students this term.}

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Along with other projects (e.g. research, writing, editing, OLC Certificate, presenting, conference, and consulting), I am glad to see the semester and 2014 come to an end – or at least a pause over the holiday break. This academic term has been fun and challenging for me as I move all my instructional experiences to the online environment. My own teaching philosophy centers on technology-enhanced pedagogies that foster student–centered learning environments. Over this semester, I put a great deal of thought to how I design learning experiences and support my students online in a more meaningful and authentic manner. This term, I constantly made edits and improvements to the online courses I was teaching to help foster real-world experiences and provide opportunities for engagement. I really wanted my students to take what they are learning in the online classroom and apply these concepts to their own workforce learning and performance. With whatever technological platform and, more importantly the planned pedagogy, my primary role in these classes were to facilitate learning by motivating, instigating and supporting my students as they work through their modules and projects.

From this semester, I shared some of my personal reflections for lecturing with the GSTEP program last month:

To be honest – there are more than just 10 lessons I’ve learned. Not everything has been great this semester. There has been a great deal of stress and frustration in lecturing with someone else’s course materials, and considering how to best support the learners’ needs. I have been constantly improving functions of not only the course delivery, but also the content in the modules to consider how to get students to reach the course learning outcomes. Although it has been a busy semester, I have appreciated the hands-on lessons I have learned and applied to my online instruction and support for my students. Learning about learning, and evaluation of the curriculum supports our students. Stay tuned for deeper reflections in an upcoming blog post after I go through my course evaluations, LTEC feedback forms, and review of my course design from Fall 2014 for the next semester.

For time management and scheduling,  I learned a great deal about the need to develop my own personal workflow. Although I have been “working remotely” and I have a great deal of online work experience, my new role has got me thinking about what it means to be productive when working from home. Work-life balance is key. With a number of involvement and projects, I have had to think about how these are managed and prioritized. I believe my scheduling and task-management has improved over the term (when I am not traveling for business/personal obligations #LessonLearned), and I feel as though I have mastered my grading and instructional flow with online teaching. Thanks to some additional motivational tools for time and fitness, I have improved my time-on-task ability for work projects and increased my running/walking mileage (thanks Todoist.com, Asana, #FitBit & RunKeeper).

Most importantly,  I have learned the value of being an active participant in my networks. My mom was concerned about my social contact with others now that I teach online. I laughed – and told her that I still have just as much (or maybe more) contact with others. Although I am not an 8-5 worker on campus, I have made a point to stay connected to UNT and get involved in various things (e.g. UNT Faculty Writing group, GSTEP support,  Alternative Service Break advisor, and LT department meetings/projects). In my online work, there are a number of virtual teaming projects and collaborations that keep me quite engaged and social (e.g. #ACPAdigital task force, NACADA meetings, OLC conference planning, and other community interactions). Finally, I have sought out new opportunities to grow and learn professionally to focus on research scholarship, instructional design, and strategic organizational planning (e.g. RA position with @veletsianos, CLEAR instructional course design work, and external consulting/training initiatives).

Thanks to a number of you who have been there for me this academic term. Your ear, your advice, and your support have been greatly appreciated during my transition period. Thank you!

Q: Should I Start Blogging? A: Maybe.

A common question I field from teachers, faculty, graduate students, higher education professionals, and researchers these days:

Q: Should I start blogging?

My response:

A: Maybe.

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Image c/o Blogiau

Blogging and maintaining a blog is not for everyone. I often ask a follow up question to this inquiry to learn more about the motivating factors for the blog:

  • Why do you want to start blogging? [purpose, goal, sharing, reflection, etc.]
  • Do you enjoy writing? i.e. beyond 140-characters & comprehensively
  • What format do you want your blog to be? Written or other, i.e. video, photo-sharing, podcasting?
  • Do you want to express and share your ideas in a public, online forum?
  • What focus will your blog take – work, education, learning, research, or all of the above?
  • Who is your audience? Professional group affiliation? Research discipline? Just for yourself?
  • What platform are you thinking about? Blogger, WordPress or other?
  • Do you have an idea about how often you want to post to your blog?
  • Where will you be getting ideas for your writing? [Content IS king.]
  • How will this contribute to your learning, professional development, etc.? [depending on the person]
  • When will you post to you blog? Daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly?

Everyone has different reasons for the WHY they blog, or even how they started blogging. Some use blogging as a forum to connect to a professional or academic community. Others use their blog to share resources and ideas. Bloggers often present concepts and challenge the status quo in their field. Then there are other bloggers who use it for shameless self-promotion and self-marketing. The main point is – you should blog because you WANT TO BLOG.

My blogging tale started back in 2006 when I initially took up blogging to share my travel adventures and general life happenings on, Souvenirs of Canada, for family and friends who wanted to stay in touch. In 2008, I created TechKNOW Tools as a professional development space for an academic advising technology seminar for NACADA, and after that I continued to use this space to discuss my own work experiences, research projects, and share what I have been learning.

blogging requires passion and authority

Image c/o Gaping Void

There are a number of reasons WHY I blog.  Thanks to a researcher reviewing educational bloggers, I audited my own blogging experience, and I have considered what [really] prompts me to blog and continue to blog. For me, blogging and writing about my progress is very reflective and I enjoy documenting, sharing, critiquing, and writing about what is going on in my professional (and sometimes personal) sphere. I appreciate the community of research and educational bloggers who play in this blog sandbox. I like their comments, questions, challenges, and support — and at the end of the day I LIKE BLOGGING — otherwise I would not blog. Really.

If it sounds blogging might be just space for you to share your interests and express your ideas — go get your BLOG ON! Here’s a quick “HOW TO” Set Up a WordPress Blog I created for my learners, with a few helpful resources posted at the bottom to get you fired up for your blog writing. Want some more ideas? Here you go:

Do you have resources for the beginning blogger out there? Any advice or comments for new or potential bloggers? Post it in the comments, and also be sure to say HOW LONG and WHY you blog. Blog on, my friends. Blog on.