Sunday, January 1, 2017

Using Power Point to Create Short Videos

I've been seeing a lot of short videos on Twitter lately, so I decided to try for myself. I ended up making quite a few videos for my academic department using Power Point. It's easy to use and only requires some basic skills.

More Complicated Video:
It took some time to create the one below, but it's more elaborate and includes multiple slides. The video playing in the background was shot by Jajhira Herbert who was a Electronic Media major at Mansfield University. The music is by BenSound.

Basic Video:
This one is fairly basic. I added a video that I created using screencasting software. I wanted to capture the GIF from a tweet.

To help you out, I wrote about how to do this and included six videos. You can find it over on LinkedIn.

Enjoy creating your own videos!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Surviving Your First Day of Class

Originally Published on August 2015

If tweets are any indication, most students are really excited to get to campus. For those new to Mansfield, this is a little more daunting because there are a lot of unknowns. You'll quickly find out that college is a lot different from high school and that you need to be ready for it. Don't know what to expect? Well, your first day in each class will vary; some faculty will lecture while others will simply review the syllabus and the course. So here are some guidelines to help you get through it:

  • PRINT a copy of your schedule (WebAdvisor). If you get lost, it will be easier for someone to help you. Looking at your schedule on your phone isn't easy. While you are at it, (1) make sure you are enrolled in the courses that you think you are enrolled in and (2) verify class location and time. There are multiple sections of the same class... taught at the same time... by different faculty. You and your friend may have the same class at the same time taught by DIFFERENT faculty.
  • PRINT a campus map and know where the buildings are. FYI: Belknap and Retan are connected.
  • Check your email and D2L to see if your professors sent/posted anything.

  • Go to class and arrive a bit early. The faculty take attendance to verify that you are enrolled. When you don't show up, you run the risk of being dropped from the class. And...arrive early so if you are in the wrong location, you'll still have time to get where you need to be!
  • If you are trying to add a class that is CLOSED, watch WebAdvisor. When a student drops a class, a spot will open up. If you'd like, you can attend the class that you'd like to add, but that won't guarantee that the faculty will let you add it. Some faculty will overload courses while others won't. Keep in mind that we don't get any sort of notification that tells us that a spot opened.
  • Be prepared to write things down. Some faculty will lecture. Many faculty review upcoming deadlines, what you'll need for upcoming classes, particular policies, etc. You'll want to write them down.
  • Be organized. You'll probably want to keep materials from each class in different folders or binders or whatever you use. Every class is different; policies differ. Faculty differ.
  • Talk to your classmates and, if possible, the faculty. The first question you might want to ask your classmates is, "Is this X class?" That's a good way to make sure you are in the right place at the right time! The rest is just small-talk - that means that you shouldn't be texting. Class is a lot more fun when you know people!
  • Don't overwhelm the faculty. We have a lot going on during the first week. Students are adding and dropping class. Advisees have questions. We have meetings, etc. Avoid asking us to keep track of things (like don't ask, "Can you let me know when someone drops this class?" - FYI: we don't get any notification when someone drops).
  • If you have questions that are particular to you (like, "I won't be in class on Friday."), talk to the faculty after class or during office hours rather than take up class time. If you have questions that are general (like, "Are your tests going to be online?"), ask when you get an opportunity. Raise your hand rather than blurting it out.
  • Stay awake and alert. Put your phones away. And by away, I mean in your backpack. Unless you are taking notes on your phone, you'll be tempted to text and post on social media. We see you and are forming an impression. Plus, you'll miss something, and faculty aren't obligated to repeat it.
  • Pay particular attention to attendance policies. They differ among faculty. If you don't like the attendance policy, seek clarification and/or drop the class and take a different one. Keep in mind that faculty have policies for a reason. Most faculty take attendance very seriously because we know that students who show up for class are more likely to get more out of the class and perform better on assignments.
  • Decide if you want to be in the class. If the course is not what you thought it would be, talk to your advisor about dropping it and taking a different course. Make sure the new course counts for something (in your major or General Education). So, for example, if you don't want COM 1103, you can drop it and take COM 1101. Both count for General Education: Oral Communication. BUT...make sure you can get into the new course. It might be closed! AND make your decision quickly so you can start attending that new class.

  • If you email faculty, include the (1) course name/number and time and (2) your name. We teach a variety of classes and we don't know who you are.
  • If you need help, be specific. There are dozens of classes being held at the same time all over campus. If you are lost and ask for help, state the course and the building/room. And...make sure it's the correct time. I've helped panicked students look for a class only to realize that their class actually starts in an hour! You'll find that most faculty, staff, and students are friendly and willing to help!

Good luck and have a great first day of class!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My "To-Don't" List

A while back, I wrote about having a to-don't list, which is a list of things you don't do. I have one that helps me stay consistent and focused. Consequently, I have a life outside of work.

Years ago, I read HBR's classic article on Monkey Management. It changed my approach to how I manage my time in relation to other people. Typically, I teach 250 students a year and advise an additional 20 or so. Most are fantastic, but there are those few who attempt to manipulate me into do things for them. It's easy to fall into the trap of "I'm being helpful" or "It's just easier" - but really, you aren't helping (you are enabling) and it isn't easier (you've just taken on another responsibility). Maybe it's my age (50+) and maybe I'm just tired, but it's gotten easier and easier for me to tell my students to read the email I sent, figure it out, look it up, and read the directions

Before I get into my list, I want to be clear about two things: 

1.  The difficulty with this is knowing when you are offering to help a student who typically has things figured out and when you are offering to help a student who will then keep asking for exceptions, breaks, and assistance. That's up to you. I do make exceptions for certain students. Is that fair? Yes. They earned it and it probably won't happen again.
2.  This isn't about me being too busy to do something. I might have a lot of grading to do or maybe I'm working on a new assignment. But getting THAT work done benefits me, all of my students, and my employer. When you do your student's work, you have added to your work load so they can play video games, Snapchat, or hang out with their friends. And yes, they appreciate it (who wouldn't?), but at what cost to you, your other students, and everyone else? Suddenly, YOUR work is not the priority.

It's time to adopt the oxygen mask principle: Take care of yourself.

In an effort to own my own life, I developed a list of to-don'ts:

  • No extra credit
  • No discussing grades in class
  • No discussing assignments right after I return them - wait 24-hours but discuss within a week.
  • No discussing test questions as a class
  • No calculating student grades
  • No talking/emailing parents (unless emergency)
  • No getting involved in other faculty-student issues (at the request of the student)
  • No student FB friends
  • No giving cell phone # to students
  • No responding to email over the weekend or after work hours (unless emergency)
  • No rearranging my schedule for a student (they don't show up)
  • No changing grades unless I made an obvious error
  • No writing letters of recommendation to students who haven't earned my respect 
  • No printing for students (in my office)
  • No fretting over small online assignments - due at 11 pm - but I check it at 8 am - who cares if it's a little late?
  • No looking up classes for unprepared students
  • No printing program evaluations
  • No telling students what related electives they should take (give them a bunch of options)
  • No tolerance for cluelessness/drama
And no making excuses or feeling like you have to explain yourself. I've learned that when I don't take breaks to escape work, I burn out, I'm resentful, and I'm a grump. This helps no one.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Responding to a Grade Change Request

Repost from LinkedIn

It's the end of the semester. A time for joy and anticipation. And by "anticipation", I don't mean that I'm anticipating what the summer has to hold. I mean that I'm anticipating a complaint about a final grade.

OK, I rarely get a request to review a final grade, but when I do, it's seldom about a mistake on my part; typically it's a student who needs to get a higher grade to keep a scholarship, stay in a program, or remain in college. So really, it's not a complaint. It's a request.

Here's how I respond: (1) I keep my email short and professional (2) I give a deadline, and (3) I don't get roped into an emotional exchange. I simply write,
"Dear So-in-so, I recently received your grade change request. Please refer to the grading criteria/assignments on the syllabus. If you believe that I have made an error in calculating your final grade, please provide the grade you earned for each assignment by Friday, May 13, 2016 and I'll be happy to review my calculations. Thank you..."
And end it.

When I reply to the email like this, I've sent a message to my students: give me evidence and I'll be more than happy to work with you. When you write long, drawn-out emails, you are experiencing an emotional reaction to a student's emotional reaction. Yes, you are reacting. And when you react, you lose your authority as the professor. And remember, you created assignments with a purpose in mind: so students will learn something. When students start begging for a do-over, it's not about learning. It's about getting a particular grade.
When students start begging for a do-over, it's not about learning. It's about getting a particular grade.
And it will never end. You've opened yourself up to requests for extra credit, reviewing assigments that were returned months ago, and more criticism. And then you'll start second-guessing yourself. Was I fair? Maybe I missed something? Did I write down the wrong grade? Soon you've completely redesigned the course so one student, who didn't do the work in the first place, can pass.

When I get one of these requests, I do look over the student's grade to see if there is something suspicious. And you know what I always find? The student bombed a test (or two) or didn't complete an assignment. So by asking students to review and submit grades, they are forced to examine their assignments and calculate their own grade. And as the professor, all I have to do is wait until the deadline.

I put a lot of time and effort into creating meaningful assignments and writing useful feedback. I also return graded work within a few days (papers take longer, but usually no more than two weeks). I have a deadline for discussing grades - one week from the time the assignment was returned in class. The in class criterion is there for a reason: I have students who miss class and collect their assignments at the end of the semester...then want to argue with me on the last day of finals.
It might seem harsh, but grades aren't up for debate; calculations are.
College is about learning and developing life skills. It's work. And it might seem harsh, but grades aren't up for debate; calculations are. If a student needs a higher grade, s/he will have to retake the course, meet a particular standard... and earn the desired grade.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When a Group Shines...

When I got to work this morning, I found this email in my inbox. 

Professor Bernum,
(Student Name) has told us that he is officially withdrawing from the university. Our group has already taken care of his part, we just wanted to inform you of the situation. Thank you.

I was bummed to find out that this student was withdrawing. We have one week left. But what stood out was the fact that he worked with the group and that they got the project finished. You see, this particular class (an intro to small groups class) is the bane of my existence. I taught if for the first time in spring 2014 and teach one to two sections every semester. And every semester I tell myself, "This is the last time." And the sad thing is that it's a great class. If they do their work, students really do learn a lot about working in a group!

The class attracts a real mix of students - some quiet, some outgoing, some lazy, some indifferent, and most... remedial. Which would be fine if they didn't rely on each other for a grade. My first semester was a disaster. I had 70 students (in two classes) and 18 of them skipped their first assignment: an 4-6 minute informative speech. I decided that I would assign their groups for their primary assignment - a group project where they use the reflective thinking process to solve a problem. I really emphasized the importance of their group contract. And I talked to them a lot. Amazingly, many of them got their act together and did quite well. And most said that it was their best group experience. The second semester I taught it, I wised up and put stricter policies in place and required a group meeting with me. It was better, but not quite there. The third semester I taught it, I got even tougher. The first day of speeches...I had nine students scheduled in one class. Two showed up. The no-shows sent me emails with random excuses, but none did what I required: send me a copy of their outline prior to class. They all earned a zero. The next week one of the no-shows stood in front of the class and yelled at me. I mean yelled. I stood my ground. Later that afternoon, he yelled at my department chair. I didn't back down. He ended up dropping my class. 

This is my fourth semester teaching the course. I looked at my roster back in August and noticed a big difference. There were a lot of juniors and seniors. What a difference. They show up. They gave their speeches. They do their work. And ... I get emails letting me know that they took care of the assignment. No whining. No one requesting an extension. No one asking me what they should do. 

When I teach a class for the first time, I struggle a bit. It's inevitable. I try different assignments and activities. Some work. Some don't. But every semester, I reflect. And I end up with a notebook full of teaching ideas, policy changes, and scheduling updates. But for the first time, I'll be saving the email. In fact, I'm going to print it and share it with my students on the first day of class.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Using "To-Don't" Lists to Streamline Grading

As we move into the final weeks of the semester, I find myself thinking of all the things that I have to cram into a short amount of time. I wouldn't describe myself as overwhelmed, though. I'm fairly efficient - mainly because I don't allow myself to get distracted by inconsequential things. I'm a planner who lives in the future. Yes, I'm a Virgo. I create assignments and rubrics that are designed to promote learning ... and that allow me to efficiently grade with a quick turn-around.

But it's not just that. I came across this article on HubSpot - that seems to capture how I operate. I liked what the title tells to focus on what matters. As faculty, we often allow ourselves to get hung up and distracted by student behavior. I refer to these as "student red herrings." You know what I mean: what's my grade? can I do extra-credit? can you look over that assignment you graded back in September? etc... Suddenly you are regrading old assignments, listening to sob stories, and finding a way to raise someone's GPA.

When you no longer drive the bus and your students are running your life, it's time to develop a to-don't list. Over the years, my set of principles keeps me centered.

Here's how...

Thank you to

Productivity Trick To-Don

What's on your to don't list?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

ThingLink Interactive Image Assignment

I'm in the process of revising my ThingLink Interactive Image assignment that includes an image and a presentation. I learned about ThingLink at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp a few years ago - and immediately began to see it's potential.

I started playing around - and the first image I created was this sewing machine for a beginning sewing class I taught (yes, I teach addition to college communication courses!). This machine is commonly used in school classrooms.

Once I figured it out, I thought about the assignment. 

The first year, I kept it simple by using ThingLink as a get-to-know-you activity. I put my students into groups and they took a picture of themselves. Then they interviewed one another and added hotspots (text, links, and video) that reflected their interests and some facts about them. I invited the team leader to my Pinterest board; s/he pinned the finished image a few days later.

Some of the pictures were hilarious!


Others were full of great content...

The following year, I created the Thinglink Assignment - with an image and a presentation. It was great to see what my students came up with, especially the picture they selected. I think my biggest shock was that I had an avid bow hunter and champion archer in my class!

Here's a campus map of Mansfield University:

My only problem with the assignment was that some of my students gave a speech as if the image was a visual aid for the topic - so in my case, I'd give a speech on the parts of a sewing machine. In truth, the presentation is about the strategy that the student used in selecting the image and placing the hotspots - why is the image needed? why a link? why a video? etc. 

Other than that, this assignment is a great way to learn about students, in particular, their hobbies and their interests. So it's a great way to start the semester.

Learn more about the ThingLink Interactive Image Assignment in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.