Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I settled on how to use Collaborate this Fall in all my classes. I recorded the welcome lecture for online class using it. The upside was that I can have the slideshow captured with the audio and video. Using my old record pad for audio uploaded to required students to run the powerpoint & audio file separately/manually. The downside, the audio quality is not as good as with record pad, so I am undecided whether to record future lectures with it. I'm wondering if using a separate mic would help. I don't want to use my table mic because it will be awkward on video, and I think my headset would also be awkward. I have seen clip on USB mics, perhaps something to consider. Regardless, I am planning to try it for the first optional real time “office hours” chat I offer (9/9), rather than using the built-in blackboard chat tool, which I have never liked.

On campus, I decided that I would show it to them on the first day, and plan to use it to record their group presentations in November. Whether I will use it otherwise is TBD. I think if weather is bad later in the semester or something else crops up that would result in canceling class, I might try holding a collaborate session instead. I’ve also been considering using it to tamp down two behaviors I dislike, excessive absence and non-class related laptop / tablet / smart phone use in class. If students know they are expected to join class via Collaborate when they are absent, and log into it from their laptop (or tablet) when they have devices in class, that would be turning negatives into positives. I’m not sure of the logistics at this point, so it’s still just under consideration. Yesterday few (no?) Students had laptops and while smartphones were almost as common as ever (some students are careful on the first day), I saw few tablets.

In general, the two on campus foundations sections seem to be less familiar with technology than usual. That's not strictly true, I don’t really have a sense in the afternoon class, as much time was wasted (by me) with Collaborate in the beginning. (More on that later.) In the evening section, I asked about their experience with Blackboard, and significantly less than half were familiar with it. I think maybe I have a lot of transfer students, because how can that be? Are a lot of UA faculty not using web-enhanced approaches?

In the afternoon, I headed to my first class really early. I wanted to get the webcam set up and upload my powerpoint into Collaborate. Alas, things did not go exactly as planned. There are only 10 minutes between the prior class and mine. The instructor of that class went the whole time and had not erased the board, gathered up her crap or surrendered the console and exited yet. A couple students had things they immediately wanted to talk to me about such as permission numbers, or routinely leaving early to make the bus because his next class is downtown. The machine demanded a log on and password, and “Guest” didn’t work. I called Classroom Tech Support and it rang at least 20 times before they answered. The connection was not good, but I managed to hear that the machines were upgraded to Windows 7 and now require individual log on by every instructor. Was there an email alerting faculty to this change that I’ve neglected to read? Oh, probably, LOL. The only “change” email I noticed was gushing about all the new eateries in Campus Center. Bye-bye Tim Horton's!

I finally got Collaborate & my powerpoint running, but couldn’t get the webcam to work. It seems I needed administrator rights to accomplish this. Oh well. I muddled through the class, but afterwards was sure I’d confused the students. I didn’t remember to ask them whether they were familiar with blackboard or if they needed me to walk them through it, instead I spent too much time with Collaborate (not really working) and it probably seemed intimidating. Ha ha, they will probably go on Rate My Professor and report that I’m disorganized & “out there.” Is that better or worse than being “weird” (my all-time favorite Rate My Professor slam from one of my students).

I have been thinking about how the task force I was on last spring and various offices try to encourage innovative approaches to teaching, but bureaucratic processes and technical glitches get in the way. Today Classroom Tech Support said they would install the drivers for the webcam on all three classroom machines I’ll be using this semester. Yay.

No comments: