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ePortfolio is for everyone.

Posted Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 Tagged:

ePortfolio is a tool in Desire2Learn that simply means Electronic Portfolio. Students, Faculty, and Staff all have their own ePortfolio. This tool is a great way for the users to showcase the work they have done in digital form.  The way the presentation is presented is in the form of a standard website. For faculty review, it eliminates the waste of paper and troubles with the mobility and storage of those bulky binders. ePortfolio is much easier to store and submit to the VPAA Office. It can be shared with others across the institution for feedback and even collaborative work.

For students, they are able to save and upload their best works and showcase them for graduation. Students are even able to save their presentation and use it for their future in Grad School or job seeking opportunities.

Users are able to place many forms of media including: documents, images, videos, audio, and text. It is up to them to be creative and make it look nice.  There are some limitations in the themes, but the portfolios can look professional.

After doing many training sessions for students, I have seen a lot of good presentations and a few not so good ones. The students seem to enjoy making the presentation after they get adjusted with using the tools. I see using the ePortfolio engages students with using new technology. Students are so used to the standard papers and tests that they could easily not get excited. The presentation can show the students’ skills in a different way than tests and papers, and ePortfolio is something they can be proud of creating themselves. It allows the instructors to have a window looking into the students learning and seeing their progress and achievements. Instructors can see in this window and are able to give feedback on their learning to help them with future work. The students have the opportunity to be creative, think critically, and reflect upon the work they have done.

I think using ePortfolio just for a single class can be a great aspect. The ability for sharing and collaborating work would make it ideal for group presentations. My idea is using it as a final presentation for the whole semester experience. It could be filled with reflections, summaries, and pictures (for art classes and COR 103 classes.)

Some people may not know that ePortfoilio has the capability to make multiple presentations.

If you want to use ePortfolio for a class or are already using it for a major requirement, here is some advice to have more success and have high quality presentations from your students:

◦ Let the students know early on in their career or class about ePorfolio. They will want to make sure they are saving their works to add it later.

◦ Let them know your full expectation with the final result. I have seen some students lost and unaware of what they need to have in their presentation.

◦ Create assignments that will go well in an ePortfolio.

◦ Let them know that the ePortfolio is a professional tool and the text should be used in that manner. I have seen text used identical to a social media site. This would not be good if they were using it for a job search.

◦ Encourage them to be creative when they show their work off.

◦ Show them examples of other presentations to inspire them and see that it can be done.

◦ The last piece of advice is to get them trained. Schedule a demonstration time for ePortfolio. I am free to come to your class to show the students how to use the tools properly.

Here is a video that D2L made about ePortfolio:
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If you personally want to learn more about ePortfolio or have training, feel free to schedule an appointment or stop by my office.

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Meeting students where they are: Assessing for learning

Posted Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 Tagged:

A special guest blog by
Hannah R. Fishburn, Visiting Professor of Spanish

We have all heard that the best teachers “meet the students where they are” and cater well to individual needs and learning styles. This can be a daunting task, and raises the question, “Well, how do I know where they are and what their learning style is?” This article will attempt to give a very brief answer to these questions, as well as a few tips and examples.

Pre-learning assessment

We all struggle with knowing where students are coming from and what they already know. This can make designing units and lesson plans very challenging, as we feel like we are taking a shot in the dark. Since college classrooms contain students of varied abilities and backgrounds, instructors are tasked with collecting student learning data that will guide them toward good instructional decisions. This, as with everything, can be as simple or as complex as the curriculum demands.

In some classes, I’ve used pre-tests with unit-specific sections to help students identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. Students were taught how to interpret the data from their pretest, and given extra help on areas of weakness. When assessment precedes the teaching of a concept, the instructor can design a more effective unit for the class as a whole and for each individual. While this is a little more complicated, it’s one of those strategies in education that I see as an investment. Students who enter a course with misconceptions or gaps in their learning will eventually require more help – the earlier, the better for everyone.

exit ticketA much simpler method that I like to use is an “exit ticket.” Simply save a few minutes at the end of class to preview the following class meeting with a few simple questions. Students can write their responses on a slip of paper and have to hand it to you before exiting the room. For example, a professor can ask questions about students’ prior understanding of a topic, their exposure to it, and any questions they may already have about it. This helps you to design an engaging lecture that addresses misconceptions, answers questions (many of which students are too shy to ask in a classroom settings), and does not waste time repeating concepts that students have already mastered. Most importantly, it gives us a reality check of where students stand, helping us to avoid skipping ahead and subsequently leaving harmful gaps in student learning. It also gets students excited about the next class meeting, which I believe really helps with student attendance.

Formative assessment

Typically when we think of assessment, we are thinking of the traditional assessment of student learning (known as summative assessment). Since these assessments are usually done at the end of the unit, the results do not have a lot of impact on the teaching of the tested concepts. They do typically have a heavy impact on students’ individual grades.

In contrast, formative assessment is assessment for learning. These assessments usually carry little to no grade weight, and may even be anonymous or not recorded. The methods can range from in-class discussions to pop quizzes to students writing the main points of the lecture on a slip of paper. The purpose is to give feedback to both students and teachers on what needs improvement before the higher-stakes testing takes place. Students will learn areas of weakness and be able to step up the study habits or seek extra help. Professors will know where the class stands and be able to adjust instruction, assignments, test dates, and even test content accordingly.

You can be as high-tech or as simple as you want with formative assessment. Our instructional technology staff can get you set up with the Turning Point software, where students can answer questions in class and the data appears instantaneously on your computer and / or the projection screen. If instantaneous survey results are not conducive to the lesson or your teaching style, you can collect quizzes, surveys, or short writings to mull over in your office before the next class. Regardless of the method, the purpose is to get (and give) feedback that allows students and professors to adjust study habits and instruction before the summative assessment takes place.

Differentiated instruction

This term intimidates some, because it sounds like having to do our job multiple times. The simplest way I can describe it is to first acknowledge that the student body is diverse, and then find ways to vary instruction to best reach them. This applies to assignments, activities and assessments. You can offer multiple options for a project, all of which accomplish the targeted learning objective. When repetition fits in a presentation or lecture, try to present the material in ways that apply to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.

One thing I have used in the past is a learning styles inventory, which students can take to determine which learning style best describes them. Teachers can use the data from their classes to steer their classroom time and assignment design, and students can learn a lot about how to be efficient and effective with their study time.

Faculty Collaboration

While this entry was pretty specific to a few teaching strategies, I have one very general piece of advice to share with my friends and colleagues: collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! We all have unique gifts and talents, and unique struggles. We all have days when we feel like our classroom time went well, and some when the blank stares and chaotic activities (that had seemed so clear in our head) haunt us. This institution is blessed with so many gifted individuals, and there is absolutely to shame in turning to a colleague and saying, “How do you make sure students are learning before giving a test?”, “Could you come watch my lecture and give me tips on how to make it more engaging?” or “What technology have you found effective for group projects?”

The best teachers are great thieves, really – they seek out people who have more experience, creativity, or time on their hands and take their ideas to use in their classroom. And since imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I have never met an educator who objected to this sort of thievery. We owe it to the students to be the best we can, and we can certainly learn infinitely more when we combine our decades of experience and our unique talents.

Special note

I’d like to thank Hannah for taking time from her busy schedule to share these valuable tips and suggestions. I’d also love to hear from more of you, our faculty at Greenville College, about your favorite methods for instruction and assessment. Post a comment to share with your colleagues.

~Rhonda

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Presentations Tools: Prezi vs. Powerpoint

Posted Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 Tagged:

Prezi is a newer presentation tool that has people talking.  There are both negative and positive reviews on this web-based application, and I want to shine some light on it. The over use of this product’s features has a lot of presenters being completely against it and going back to the cornerstone of presentation tools, Microsoft’s Power Point.

Power Point has been around for a long time and is well known as a reliable go-to presentation tool. Power Point is not always that reliable, as Microsoft updates the application every couple of years. This has been an ongoing issue for users for the past few years. Prezi is a web based application and only requires an Internet connection to access it. Requiring Internet can be bad for a situation where it is unavailable or broken. Users are able to download their presentation as a back up before just in case that happens.  As having the presentation backed up on a cloud and being easily shared seems like it would be the best option, it may not be. Since Prezi is web based, it limits the users options on design and usability. There are a limited number of templates and fonts that one is able to use.  The designs are fresh and modern but had the ability to be more simplified.

One of the most common and know problems people have with Prezi is the movement between slides. When Prezi first came out, people were excited about this new and exiting way to show their information. Some took it a bit too far and made the movements excessive to where viewers would get dizzy. If someone is using Prezi, they should take note of their audience and make their movements light and complement the presentation. This brings me back to Power Point. Power Point is simple and easy to use. The data is stored on a hard drive and may be harder for college students to work on as a group, but Power point has a professional quality about it. The slide-to-slide features may not be as interesting and may seem old and outdated, but it is fully customizable with colors and font because of the space on a computer’s drive.

It is hard to tell someone which tool is the best because they both have great features and have features that are not so great. Prezi’s, Jim Harvey says it well, “Their such different animals, and choosing one over the other doesn’t really do either of them justice”.

Which tool helps communicate your message more powerfully?

You can watch Jim Harvey’s presentation here:

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