Christopher Bergeron

Technology, Literacy, and Creativity

Another Newsletter Example

I’ve decided to share another newsletter example, this is last week’s newsletter that went out. While I won’t be sharing each newsletter on the website I wanted to share a few examples so you can get a feel for what they look like these days.


Hi Everyone,


So this bit of news is only going out to my list and to my family.  I have been a bit daring this week and have applied for a position as a Learning Technologies Librarian at Harvard University in Cambridge Mass.  Needless to say was a bit nervous and intimidated by the prospect.  After talking it over with my wife, since it is an hour and a half away, we decided I should give it a go!  So we’ll see what happens, I’d be happy with an interview but if we collectively know anyone at Harvard any help would be appreciated.


Fiction wise I have decided not to finish the Arthurian Series by Mary Stewart.  They are great but I wanted something lighter.  And I’ve been dreaming of Paris, so it’s “A Movable Feast” http://amzn.to/2jvsH6e for the non-fiction side and I’m going to kick off a Hemmingway short story month with “Old Man and The Sea” http://amzn.to/2igaSqQ


Twitter.jpg


Tech Tips:


  1. Identifying Twitter Chats – https://sites.google.com/site/twittereducationchats/education-chat-calendar

  2. Signing up for a Twitter Account if you haven’t already ! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5VqbmOsB1M


“Video Tip” of the Week:


  1. Setting up HootSuite for Twitter Chats and How to Twitter Chat


Articles:


Mangan, K. (2016). 5 Ways to Shake Up the Lecture. Chronicle of Higher Education, 63(16), A14–A14.


This article discussed several strategies for spicing up things in the classroom.  


The first was to Flip the Classroom.  The idea for flipping a classroom is to essentially do what English teachers have been doing for decades.  The students review the material at home and then come to class to go deeper.  While no one really thinks of it this way sending the students home to read a chapter in a novel then come to class for discussion and to have their questions answered this can now be applied to other content areas often through the use of videos that are either teacher prepared or teacher collected.


Scale-Up (which is similar and stands for Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies) where “Nine students sit at a round table in three groups of three, each with a laptop and whiteboard. The instructor gives them something interesting to investigate, and while they tackle the challenge, the instructor and assistant roam around the classroom, asking questions and sending teams to help one another. Depending on the enrollment, a classroom might have a dozen of these tables.”


Small Group Exercises within a longer period, the lecture may be a series of 15 minute talks.


Undergraduate Assistance, while this was aimed at university teachers who may have a limited access to graduate teaching assistants it is a concept that can be useful in the K12 environment as well.  Brining in student helpers from higher grades can both teach service and help the teacher free up time to focus on tasks of higher value.


The Personal Touch – simply using names.  Again while this was aimed at university professors with exceptionally large classes it is useful for teachers with classes of all sizes.  Make that personal connection and remind the students that you care.

Ross, Maninger, LaPrairie, & Sullivan. (2015). The Use of Twitter in the Creation of Educational Professional Learning Opportunities. Administrative Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research, 5(1), 55–76. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1062476


This was an interesting study on the use of Twitter for professional learning.  A survey was done over twitter and uncovered some interesting findings.


“Just as education is pushing students to be accountable for their education by navigating and evaluating an ever-expanding network of information, highly effective teachers must model this process by collaborating, engaging in ongoing professional development, reflecting through communication and feedback, and using instructional technology tools to enhance instruction” (p. 56).


“Our research is in response to the question concerning whether educators are turning to Twitter to create, use, and manage professional learning networks for professional development, and if online professional development facilitated by Twitter is more fulfilling than traditional professional development” (p. 56).


“Echoing connectivist learning theory, the concept behind PLNs and professional growth through Twitter allows educators to transform the paradigm of the isolated teacher into that of a lifelong, connected learner” (p. 58).


With 71% of those interviewed feeling more fulfilled receiving professional development via Twitter over the traditional professional development there is certainly an opportunity.


The authors recommended trying a school or district specific hashtag to bring the online professional learning close to home.


Homework:


If you haven’t signed up for twitter yet, please do so.  Use the above links to identify and participate in at least one Twitter chat this week.


Talk with you soon

-Chris

January Has Found Us

Below is a sample of the type of newsletters you can expect if you sign up.  http://eepurl.com/cwy3AT

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to 2017 !  The first week has come and gone.  For most it means back to school and for many it means students with secret candy stashes. This week has been an attempt to catch up on what slipped through the cracks over the holidays, especially the things when the boys were home.  It is surprising how much energy they take.  I’ve been on a grading blitz thanks to students who’ve done significant work of the holiday and a handful of surprise meetings.

As part of my goal setting I’ve been reading books related to habits, specifically “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg http://amzn.to/2i2BRWE and I’ve wrapped up a few books from the Mary Stewart Arthurian Saga http://amzn.to/2iUfs2i it is time to find what to read next.  I’m thinking with winter some things set in warmer climates.

Teacher and learner group using tablets ©tamuc via Flickr CCBY

Tech Tips:

  1. Twitter List Harvesting.  Have you been taking advantage of this key power of twitter.  Instead of trying to identify who to follow by looking at individuals identify some key twitter lists to jumpstart the process and find lists of twitter accounts to follow that have been pre-vetted by others.  Here is a link to my own EdTech twitter list.  Who should I add ? My list is kinda small https://twitter.com/eLearningChris/lists/edtech
  2. Google Hangouts for Masterminding. I’ve recently started a weekly video call with a group as part of my personal learning.  Together we help each other out with whatever is going on.  When reaching out to people online don’t forget that they are indeed people.  Sometimes getting on a call, or even better a video call, can make all the difference, especially if you want to bring experts into the classroom.  No software needed ! http://hangouts.google.com
  3. Fully Leverage Feedly (Make sure You’re Signed UP!).  One tool that I recommend to everyone is Feedly.  They offer both a web based tool and my favorite they offer a mobile app.  The service is essentially an RSS reader, which allows you to place a list of websites that are checked for you and their new articles placed in tool that is essentially a personalized newspaper.  No more feeling like you’re going to miss anything.  It’s all there checked for you and waiting for you to read on your own time.  http://feedly.com

“Video Tip of the Week”

  1. Signing up for Feedly and Using Feedly Mobile to Keep Up To Date. I realized that there are many more people NOT using Feedly than I had thought.  So I’ve put together a quick tutorial of how to sign up for Feedly, how to populate it with useful content, and how you can use it to stay up to date and to contribute to your own Personal Learning Network.

Articles:

There were two articles that I took special note of this week.

Wookjoon, S. (2016). A study of the digital divide in the current phase of the information age: The moderating effect of smartphones. Information Polity: The International Journal Of Government & Democracy In The Information Age, 21(3), 291-306. doi:10.3233/IP-160398

The research study focused on the proliferation of smartphones in South Korea.  Why South Korea? Because South Korea has the highest level of smartphone proliferation.  The end result is that the smartphone has become a device that can indeed reduce the digital divide.  The study looked at the understanding of technology use and the ability to access and use the technology’s functionality.

“Results of our analysis showed that the use of smartphones did influence the digital divide for individuals of differing ages, education levels, occupations, and incomes. More specifically, smartphone use reduced the digital divide between the middle-aged and the young, those with higher and lower levels of education, white-collar and blue-collar employees, and high- and low-income earners” (p. 301).

We continually hear about a “mobile first world” but how can we help our students learn to leverage the tools they have without falling prey to their addictive and distracting natures.

The second article was from the Portland Press Herald in my home state of Maine.

(2017, January 1). EDITORIAL: Media literacy is key to helping Maine students become responsible citizens. Portland Press Herald (ME).

The article was a reminder of the importance of media literacy.  

“Adults often assume that digital natives know how to interpret digital messages when, in fact, very few can tell if an online source is reliable.”

How many assumptions are we making about our students?  I’ve certainly been caught in a hard place by making assumptions about my students before.

Homework:

Homework?  Yes Homework, your homework is to sign up for a feedly account if you haven’t already.  Populate it with some feeds that you will find useful or entertaining and then to stay informed.  Also I’ve been thinking about putting together a 45 minute or so workshop on how to set up and leverage a PLN (Personal Learning Network) and why you’d like to.  Let me know if you think that would be a worthwhile thing for me to put together.

Talk with you soon

Chris

Easy online office hours

IMG_0384Oh my gosh.

I feel horrible for neglecting the blog.  Each week Asana pops up a reminder that I should be writing on the site and sharing what I have been learning.  Yet each week I have been ignoring the call.

It isn’t that I haven’t had time.  It is simply that I have been spending my time on other projects.  The key project being the methodology section of my dissertation.  Who knew writing a dissertation would be so hard?  Oh yeah everyone.

In my efforts to save time while servicing my students I have made two changes over the past few months.  The first is adding the use of ScheduleOnce.com to allow students to schedule appointments with me instead of just calling and hoping I was available.  The most recent has been the addition of Online Office Hours.

Many who teach online enjoy the “almost” complete lack of a predetermined schedule.  I am one of those.  Yes I have a few meetings but for the most part I can work when I want and when I am at my best.  For me that is in the mornings, the earlier the better.

I have decided to offer online office hours from 8pm to 9:15pm on Thursdays since that is the one evening each week that I am guaranteed to be home due to my own life circumstances.  Since I live a time zone away from most of my students many of them have me from 7pm to 8:15pm.

So what is the method for setting up Easy Online Office Hours.

  1. Choose your URL, for me I registered a new one, but if you have something like pretty links on WordPress you will need to choose the URL you are going to use.
  2. Set up a scheduled Google Hangout about a year or so in the future.  I’m not sure why but this makes the link more stable.
  3. Copy the link to your scheduled google hangout
  4. Forward your convenient URL to your google hangout URL
  5. Show Up.

That’s it, the method is so stable I added a line to my email signature.  And just like real office hours there is no obligation for students to show up.  The ones that want to will, sometimes those who need to will, but it is a self selecting bunch so I always have a great group of students.

Doing the most important tasks first.

IMG_3710My dissertation is off again.  I’m catching up at work. And most things in the world are going well for me.  Teaching online is a fantastic way to make a living.  What I love most is that I am able to give more individualized attention to each student.  Being able to do so from pleasant locations is an extra bonus.

Building my routine, organizing each day using Asana, masking distractions with Pandora and headphones have been the most effective way for me to stay productive while enjoying where I am.

Today though I’m being productive not to the sound of my favorite Pandora station, but instead to the sound of sprinkles and birdsong.

With my dissertation draft (still only in chapter three of five) sent off for revision and comments I had some extra time this morning to get some extra things done.  These mornings are great.  I do my best to organize my days with the most important tasks first.  The most important tasks have the longest terms.

The first thing I do in the morning is to go to the gym with my teenaged son.  Simply the most important longest term goal I can think of is to have a good relationship with him and to improve my health. (On days when I wake too early to get him up I write here first while I wait)

I drop him off at school and then move onto another highly important task.  Breakfast with my two younger sons for the same reason.

Most mornings I also try and deliver a breakfast in bed to my wife.

Then I get down to writing.  The moment the boys are all out the door heading to school I work on the next most important task.  The dissertation.  I have an hour blocked off for it.  30 Minutes of mandatory writing, then I have permission to cry about my lack of progress in the 2nd half hour if I hit a wall, but most times I fill the whole hour.  I do look forward to when the dissertation is done and I can use this time to start writing a few books I have begun to outline.

Then I start on my day job.  Student questions, student grading, student feedback, and student outreach.  I try to keep my mornings completely student focused.  The days that I’m lucky I can convince my wife that we should roam to a random coffee shop.  I love the mornings when I can get ahead of everything and end up with an hour or two of “free time” I tend to use that time to go down my list of students and ask the question what does this student need from me today or this week.

I break early for lunch, clean the house as I go and if I’m lucky I can convince my wife that we should treat ourselves to lunch out.

After lunch and until the boys get home from school I try to focus on whatever project of the day is here.  When I’m caught up I use that time to look for opportunities for efficiency or automation in my day.

Self Control

IMG_3686I have fallen in love with a simple app called “SelfControl” the app is free and simple.  You place a list of websites in the “blacklist” and then when you need some help with self control you open the app, choose a time, and hit start.  Not it doesn’t stop all distractions, Facebook on the phone still works fine, as do many other distractions.  Still I find it helps.  My list is short, Facebook and a few others, and for those times when I need to get work done quickly so that I can be ready to play and have fun later.  It is very helpful.  The only thing that is more helpful is moving to an outdoor location that has no wifi, which is getting more difficult to do as wifi where we are is becoming more ubiquitous.

Speaking of needing to get work done quickly so that I can be ready to play and have fun later, yesterday morning I spent with my youngest son on a school field trip to an agricultural research center at a local university.  I’m a bit behind so, time to catch up and get ahead.

Mobility vs Portability

Over the past month and a half I have come to truly appreciate the difference between Mobility and Portability.

This difference has had a significant impact on my productivity, and my volume of work.  The basic difference is mobile phone, always on and always connected in your pocket where you can work while in motion and your portable laptop which you can bring with you to any location and set yourself up to work.  It seems like a small difference but it is a significant one.

Recently my son found himself in desperate need of his own cell phone due to a new development with the iPhone 6 release date set I tossed him my iPhone 5 and gave him three rules.  1.) No Games. 2.) No Bragging. 3.) To Remember He’s on the Unlimited Plan.

We ported my number to an ancient phone I had in a drawer knowing that the iPhone 6 would be shipping in just a few weeks.  Just a few weeks.  I am now in my 5th week of my 4-6 week estimated backorder.  I still do my work on my laptop and am very portable.  Meaning I can get up and move to anywhere I need to be, but I am no longer mobile.

There are several things I have noticed through this time and several areas where the flow of my day has been altered.  I had known that I was a heavy mobile user, but I hadn’t realized just how much I had shifted onto my iPhone and how much time that was saving me in the course of the average day.

Planning & Organization:

I’ve mentioned that I use ASANA to plan and organize my days.  It is a system that works very well.  One of the things that works well with the system I have is the ability to have tasks repeat and their fantastic mobile app.  There is a significantly different feeling to planning your day on the laptop with all of the tabs and apps and distractions.  Previously I would sit out on the deck in an adirondack chair, my feet up, and a hot cup of tea.  I’d add in the tasks that were my personal priorities, adjust them and the automatically scheduled tasks in priority order, and then move my locations (Section Headings in Asana) to break the work up.  Doing the same task at my desk doesn’t have the same feel, and without the phone always with me.. I have a new apprehension that I’m going to forget to put something into ASANA.

Email:

Luckily the Exchange Server at work is configured to send text messages.  Without this I would be completely distracted and checking my email constantly.  I don’t receive a ton of email, but enough.  Faculty to faculty emails usually only require a sentence or two as a reply.  Even emails to students are rarely over a paragraph or two.  The perfect length for Siri to dictate.  One of the things that I love to be able to do is to offer quick response times.  Being mobile meant that I could go to the grocery store and if there was an issue I could deal with it immediately and let it go.  I think that is the biggest difference between being mobile and being portable is that although being mobile meant I was carrying my email with me, and could respond at a moments notice. Emotionally I was able to “let go” if there was a need my phone would buzz, I would deal with the need, and I would be finished.  Having this reassurance meant that if I was walking the dog with the boys I was walking the dog with the boys.  Now my mind wonders.  And if there is an issue that comes up.  I need to drop what I’m doing and find a place where I can be portable open the laptop and deal with it.  The delay is frustrating, and I can’t help but think that the length of the delay is simply time lost.

Research:

I’ve shared before that I’m working on my dissertation, and many who follow me on social media know that I keep up with research and articles related to Distance Education, Instructional Technology, Digital Marketing, and Media Communications.  Those are my four big areas of interest.  For my dissertation work I spend quite a bit of time on ERIC and EbscoHost.  EbscoHost has a great iOS app that I use to email myself articles all of the time.  And I have quite a few feeds in my RSS Reader, the iOS app “Reader” which sync’s with Feedly.  For articles of interest I send to Quick Read through a fun IFTTT.com script.  Much of my reading is done in those stolen moments when waiting in line, standing at the printer while it prints, and other moments like that.  Needless to say without a mobile phone my research and reading this past month have been frustratingly less than is typical.

Social Media:

I do my best to stay connected and share via social media.  Again in those “stolen moments” where otherwise I would get frustrated that I’m standing in line, or wonder why I walked to the printer so soon.  When I’m sitting at my desk I am completely focused at the task at hand.  Not much time for social media outreach there.  As a result my social media outreach and sharing of useful articles via social media have both taken a significant hit this past month or so as my “Buffer.com” buffer ran out of things to share and I wasn’t filling it back up and not taking the time to interact.

Writing:

The overall hit on my productivity has taken a hit on my writing schedule.  I have made less progress on my dissertation, and have had virtually no time for any blogging.  Although I didn’t do much actual writing on my mobile phone I did use it to free up time that I would use my laptop for more writing.

Overall I have discovered just how much more productive I have been with my iPhone.  Once the new one comes in I’m going to try and use this awareness to intentionally streamline my workflow in the effort of both getting more done while simultaneously adding more freedom of movement back into my day to day.  After hearing me talk about the difference in my workflow and knowing that it is the iPhone 6 plus on it’s way my son has challenged me to try and work exclusively on the iPhone for the first month I have it, to make note of any time I need to use my laptop, and to try and find an iPhone way to make those tasks happen as well.

The Magic of Google Voice

One of the items I hear about quite often when talking to others who teach online, at least those who teach at the University level is the need to balance availability.  Especially with students who may live in less than compatible time zones.  My answer has been simple Google Voice with Google Voice you are assigned a phone number that you can set to forward to your cell phone (or any phone even a Skype number) and set up custom strait to voicemail rules and do not disturb times quite easily.

By using Google Voice I have my number confidently displayed in the signature file of every email and course announcement.  When students call during my “available” hours my laptop rings as does my cell phone.  I can take the call wherever I am.  If I am unavailable or they call in the middle of the night they go strait to voicemail.  Where the voicemail message is transcribed (not 100% but usually good enough to get the message) as well as recorded.

There are added benefits as well.  My in-laws live in a great location, without any cell phone reception.  Having a number that also rings to my laptop over wifi allows me to visit without needing to inform students my cell number won’t work.  The same number just works everywhere.  Also since the number is only used with students when a call comes in on that number I know how I should answer the phone unlike odd numbers ringing on my personal cell number which usually go unanswered as a matter of course.

In addition to forwarding calls, transcribing voicemails, and adding a layer of privacy Google Voice also allows for texting.  If students want to text, well you’ll get the message although I usually reply via email to their school email address it is still another method of being accessible without being completely at the mercy of calls and texts at times that just don’t work for you.

Best of all.. Google Voice is completely FREE!