Technology Enhancements for my next class

Date: 12 Jan 2017 Comments: 0

Hello Friends,

It’s hard to believe that I have not been able to post anything here in over a year. I guess that is just a testament to how chaotic life is. For the most part, things stay the same in my family and home life and sometimes they are different. One constant, at least for the past year or so has been my teaching at Liberty.

I am officially about to start my second year of being an instructor at Liberty and it has been both rewarding and challenging. Because the school runs in A, B, C, and D terms, I stay busy. I almost always teach in B and D terms and since these are split in two, I actually teach about two classes a semester. If you add the fact that over the last summer, there was a wealth of students that wanted to take the class I teach and only one teacher, during the B term I actually taught two classes (13 students each) at the same time. I have rarely had such a stressful time in my adult life and I won’t do that again. It’s simply impossible to juggle my full time career, my full time (and then some) family, and more than one block of 20 students at a time. Thank God that I am blessed with an amazing wife who is willing to go to great lengths to keep our children out of the house on some days when I was simply buried.

That’s all behind me now. However, it’s a new year and I wanted to make some changes. Over the several terms I have taught, one of the most common comments I have seen is that the class did not feel like it was interactive enough. I admit that I enjoyed simply having to post the materials each week and grade with little else required of me outside of answering emails but that was not very rewarding for the students and, in fact, cheapened their experience for my own personal comfort. That being said, I am using some new tools this term to help me reach my students in a much more interactive way.

First of all, I have recorded a welcome video for the first time in my teaching life. It’s really a simple 15 minute video but since I am not a video editor, I had to do it all in one take. Well… it took me about 30 tries (before I lost count) but I finally got one. It still omitted things and the stark white dry erase board behind me may be somewhat colder than I’d like but it’s a good first shot. I will try to do a better version next term. It is quite interesting to remind myself to look at the camera and not the computer screen as I recorded and I still let my eyes wander about while I was thinking on certain topics. At any rate, it was actually a fun experience and I think it will be nice to make one each term.

The next, and probably one of the most powerful changes (based off early use), is my decision to open a account. Unbeknownst to me, actually offers educators a free and fully functional account to interact with their class. Thanks to the CTE folks at Liberty, I figured out how to get it activated. It’s nothing fancy outside of an app-based text message tool that allows me to communicate with students without having to know their personal phone numbers but I already see it’s power. Most of my students are pretty technical (given the discipline of IT Security, this makes sense) and most of them are highly mobile. Email is just too slow and stodgy for most of them. They forget to check their Liberty email or maybe my stuff gets lots in their mail, etc. With Remind, they get a text from me any time I have an announcement and if they are subscribed, they will get an app notification that I sent out an announcement right on their phone. What’s more, they can respond directly to my text and I will get it instantly. This has already helped me solve one student’s question and there are only three students subscribing currently. But wait.. class is not even fully started until this coming Monday so that’s a pretty good response in pre-class time. Don’t even get me started on how easily I can set timed reminders about certain assignments being due. This will revolutionize the way I communicate with my students.

Lastly, I have pondered the idea of using which is a CMS/microblog site that is also free to educators. It would allow me to take the “Wall of Text” announcements that my students get each week and turn them into a web portfolio that is easier to navigate and consume than Blackboard. I could do this with WordPress just as well but the modules prebuilt into Poplur are geared more towards education. I am still not sure if I will use it but it’s nice to know that I can.

This year is shaping up to be a very unique and different teaching experience and I am excited to see what God will do with it!

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