Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tech geek at heart...

"My name is Lora and I am an educational technology geek" -- Yes, I have to admit this after spending nearly all day yesterday "working" on my online course with the new 9.1 version of BlackBoard, the geek moniker is fully embraced. I realized my day did not feel as if I had done work, but instead it felt as if I had been playing on the computer all day. Believe me, progress was made and the course is coming along but I was continually sidetracked by exploring the new features available in this course management upgrade. I felt like I was logging into a familiar site with a familiar goal and was then surprised by what was in front of me. It was like going on a walk when you know you need to arrive at, let's say a grocery store as a final destination, but as you walk you decide to take a scenic digression and find yourself in a beautiful farmer's market full of brightly colored seasonal delights. BlackBoard 9 is a more verdant place than BlackBoard 8 and I am glad to make use of it this semester. After my one-day adventure in BB-9 I found it to be user-friendly and similar to 8 in many ways but those of us who are not willing to click and see what happens might find it takes a bit of time to adjust to the new visual layout.

My students can easily embrace the intuitive software and make use of several new features. Though some of my students have used blog and wiki applications in class before, they have been difficult items outside of the BlackBoard program. Now, these items are embedded into their courses and much more accessible. I am pleased by the "journal" feature which allows students access to an ongoing reflective writing process throughout the semester and allows me to avoid the submission of "journals" after each speech. This tool allows the students better ability to reflect since they can see their past submissions right along with my comments and will give richer depth to their reflection.

Of course, this is all in the "I-sure-hope-it-works-like-it-looks-like-it-will" phase so I will report back on the outcome of the new course tools. In the meantime, my true geekiness continued as I clicked my way through resources for embracing all of BB-9 and here are a few resources that might prove useful to others beginning with BB or simply experiencing the upgrade transition as we are: is of course the best place to go for help, tutorials, and webinars. A great place to begin clicking and reading about instructional opportunities with BB-9 for a presentation on the Mashup feature of BB-9

And for any beginning the transition to online instruction remember to keep the communication lines open. Consider reading Betts (2009) article, "Lost in Translation: Importance of effective communication in online education" from the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration:

Facing a course I've taught online for nine semesters and updating the course with a new learning platform wasn't as tedious as I had dreaded--in fact, the course preparation yesterday was fun and has allowed me to breathe new life into some of the course elements which increases my energy and will hopefully help to engage the students. Faculty duties continue in the realm of instruction and for many of us, that means sprucing up our understanding of new technology and getting our geek on as we prepare for a new semester.

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