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FW: ON COURSE NEWSLETTER: Adding High-Tech Tools to Learning-Team Activities

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  • Lewine, Mark
    I am amazed at the following high-tech adaptations that are suddenly becoming a major part of our teaching/learning strategies as webcourses and hybrid web
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 28, 2006
      I am amazed at the following high-tech adaptations that are suddenly
      becoming a major part of our teaching/learning strategies as webcourses
      and hybrid web courses are surging in enrollment at our community
      colleges. Do any of you have experiences with these tools and students'


      Subject: ON COURSE NEWSLETTER: Adding High-Tech Tools to Learning-Team


      Innovative Learner-Centered Strategies for

      Promoting Student Success and Retention Across the Curriculum


      * * * * *

      1. FEATURE ARTICLE: High-Tech Tools & Learning-Team Activities by Ryan
      Watkins Faculty, Educational Technology Leadership George Washington
      University rwatkins@...

      Learning activities that engage students in small group or team projects
      have become a component in many college and university courses. From
      science and engineering to economics and art history, many instructors
      value the dynamic role that group activities can add to student
      learning. At this time, however, few instructors are capitalizing on
      the communication technologies that students are using in their everyday
      lives (e.g., cell phones, instant messages, the Internet, and Blackberry
      devices) to enhance the learning and effectiveness of student teams.

      While these, and other, technologies have dramatically changed how
      students communicate with one another outside the classroom, most
      college courses continue to rely only on conventional class sessions and
      small group meetings for promoting interactions among members of
      learning teams. By integrating technologies into group activities and
      assignments, instructors can effectively guide students in the
      appropriate use of technology for enhancing team learning. Even with
      limited guidance, student teams can apply technologies that improve
      interpersonal communications, add flexibility to student schedules,
      increase student involvement in the development of team products, make
      team processes more efficient, and/or document group interactions. In
      addition, the introduction of technologies into team projects assists
      students in developing valuable skills they can use in work environments
      where collaborative projects are often the norm.

      Here are eight examples of how technologies can facilitate any course's
      small group or team activities:

      meetings (either online or in person) and managing the development of
      group products can be challenging for college students who have
      conflicting schedules. Shared online calendars offer a solution by
      helping student teams stay organized and overcome the challenges of
      trying to find times when everyone in a group is available to work on
      the team assignments. Students can find free online calendars from such
      services as Calendars.net, YahooGroups, Visto, or SuperCalendar. These
      calendars will give students the tools to post a timeline of deliverable
      products for the project (e.g., draft one of the introduction to be
      complete by Ron on March 26th), or to share their weekly schedules in
      order to more efficiently set team meetings (e.g., Landon and Jae Hoon
      are busy on Wednesday afternoons so we shouldn't schedule team
      activities on those days). Shared online calendars can also be useful
      for the entire class. If you do not have a calendar feature already
      available through the college you may want to sign up for one of these
      free services to share information (e.g., due dates for class
      assignments, your office hours, times for student presentations) with
      students throughout the semester.

      (IM) programs offer students a valuable tool for communicating with
      other project team members. Instant messenger programs typically run on
      student computers and offer real-time text-based discussion tools.
      Unlike email, instant messenger programs keep a list of people and
      report which ones are presently online and available to chat. When
      people from a project team are online, they can send messages to each
      other that will be delivered instantaneously. From quick questions to
      sharing files, IM programs can add real-time communications options to a
      project team. In addition, with newer IM programs (e.g., Trillian,
      Vista, Odigo, Easy

      Message) students can now communicate with other group members no matter
      which IM software they use (i.e., students who use ICQ instant messenger
      software can communicate with other students who use AIM or Yahoo). The
      advantages of instant messages - over email, chat rooms, or discussion
      boards - are the privacy, real-time interaction, and ease of

      easily share draft documents and other files with group members by
      attaching files to emails. From Word files to PowerPoint presentations,
      nearly any files that students create for their team assignments can be
      exchanged with other team members using email.

      When sharing draft documents via email, students often find it useful to
      create a sequence (or chain) of editors. For instance, after creating
      the initial draft document, Rebecca may email it to Julie for her
      comments and edits. In her email, Rebecca would then indicate that upon
      completing her review, Julie should send the next draft of the document
      to Sandy, and then Sandy's draft would go on to Troy who will submit the
      final paper to the instructor. Much like a chain letter, in this manner
      email can be used to effectively and systematically to organize the work
      of student teams.


      Microsoft Word has many tools for assisting teams in developing their
      assignments. By using the "track changes" feature of Word (under
      Tools), students can share draft documents and the software will trace
      the changes (i.e., additions, deletions, edits) made by each group
      member, illustrating the individual changes to the document with
      different colors for each reviewer. This tool can be quite valuable to
      students as they work on collaborative class assignments. In addition,
      instructors can benefit from the color-coded changes when evaluating the
      individual contributions of group members.

      In addition, the "merge documents" tools of Microsoft Word can be of
      value when student teams are working on group assignments. The "merge
      documents" feature allows for multiple versions of the same file (e.g.,
      Roger's comments and edits on the draft paper, along with Jan's and
      Jac's comments) to be combined together into a new document. This
      feature can be of great value when several group members each offer
      additions, subtractions, or edits to a project document and then want
      all of those edits to be merged into a final document for the
      instructor. For more information on how to use these and other tools in
      Microsoft Word you can visit http://office.microsoft.com

      provide student teams with the ability to have "real time"

      discussions regarding team projects in a completely online format.

      >From discussing the requirements of an assignment to debating the best
      presentation format, the conversations students have in a chat room with
      other group members can be of value and extend the learning beyond the
      boundaries of the classroom or campus. As a benefit, most chat rooms
      will also provide transcripts of the team discussions that group members
      may later use in the development of project documents. At colleges and
      universities using course management systems (e.g., BlackBoard, WebCT,
      eCollege) students will have access to chat rooms through the course
      area. Other free chat rooms are available to students through services
      such as ICQ, YahooGroups, TalkCity, and MSN.


      A variety of group communication tools (such as file sharing, discussion
      boards, chat rooms, and shared calendars) are available to students
      through the YahooGroups website at no cost. As a result, it is often
      useful to encourage student teams to use these resources in both
      managing their group processes as well as developing team assignments.
      Tools like YahooGroups can also provide teams with a storage place for
      draft documents and other project files so students with Internet access
      can effectively share resources with group members at any time and from
      any place. If your college or university doesn't currently offer an
      online course management system (e.g., BlackBoard, WebCT, eCollege) then
      the development of YahooGroups area for your courses can be a valuable
      tool as well. For more information on YahooGroups you can visit
      http://groups.yahoo.com or learn more about similar resources at
      http://clubs.wanadoo.co.uk and http://groups.msn.com

      STUDENTS. When group members can't meet face-to-face on campus, desktop
      video-conferences can offer a convenient tool for helping student teams
      hold meetings and share information. Although most desktop
      video-conferencing systems require broadband Internet access (e.g., DSL,
      Cable modem), the cost and technology skills required to have online
      video-conferences has been reduced significantly in recent years. Many
      desktop video systems are now available for less than $50. For an
      excellent article with more information on effective strategies for
      using video-conferences in your courses you can visit

      technology that most students use everyday in their personal lives, and
      with conveniences such as 3-way calling and text messages the modern
      cell phones can offer student teams valuable tools for communicating
      with one another. Group conference calls, for example, can offer
      student teams the flexibility and conveniences often necessary to ensure
      that all group members can adequately participate in the development of
      team products. Using the 3-way calling features built into many modern
      cell phones (or even more sophisticated conference calling plans for
      additional participants in the conference call), student teams can
      effectively hold meetings and make import team decisions at almost any

      A second useful tool available with many cell phones is text messaging.
      Similar to the real-time communication tools of instant messenger
      programs on the computer, text messages are a popular tool for students
      to communicate using text with a cell phone. These typically short text
      messages often do not cost as much as telephone calls and can be sent to
      either one or multiple cell phone users.

      For student teams these tools can provide another technique for
      communicating with one another outside of the traditional classroom, and
      for instructors many cell phone providers will offer Internet based
      tools for sending text messages to cell phones if you do not feel
      comfortable writing the message using your cell phone.

      As you can see, today's technologies offer student groups the
      flexibility that is often necessary to work effectively as a team.

      In creating team assignments it can therefore be helpful to integrate
      the technologies that many students commonly use outside of the
      classroom into their group projects. For example, when assigning teams
      for a course project you may want to require that each team start a
      YahooGroups area where they can share their calendars, distribute files,
      and have online discussions. You may even want each group to provide
      you with access to the YahooGroups area so you can monitor their
      progress. As another option, you may want to hold office hours once a
      week in an online chat room in order to encourage students in the class
      to utilize similar technologies in their studies. Not only will online
      office hours add flexibility to your schedule, but it may give students
      who have to work off-campus additional opportunities to interact with
      you throughout the semester.

      The valuable tools included in Microsoft Word can also become part of
      your everyday teaching routine. From providing feedback on papers using
      the "track changes" feature to requesting that small groups "merge"
      their draft documents together before submitting them, you can promote
      the use of technology among your students.

      Many students will value the opportunity to apply technology to their
      efforts in college courses. The integration of technologies into small
      group activities can help students stay organized, share files, manage
      time, communicate with group members, document group processes, submit
      team products, and/or create comprehensive online portfolios. These are
      great skills for succeeding in college and for excelling in the
      technology-oriented work world our students will soon be entering.

      Author Bio

      Ryan Watkins is an associate professor at the George Washington
      University in Washington DC. He is an author of the books *75
      E-learning Activities: Making online courses interactive and E-learning
      Companion: A learner's guide to online success*, as well as several
      other books and articles on distance education, needs assessment,
      strategic planning, and performance improvement. In addition, Ryan was
      recently a visiting scholar (IPA) with the National Science Foundation.
      For more information please visit http://www.ryanrwatkins.com

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • deborah_j_shepherd
      I teach online using D2L (aka Desire2Learn ). We are supposed to have a shared online calendar function. It is extremely useful. However, our IT people had to
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 3, 2006
        I teach online using D2L (aka "Desire2Learn"). We are supposed to have
        a shared online calendar function. It is extremely useful. However, our
        IT people had to disable it because the ever-expanding number of
        Minnesota online courses (this is a statewide system) perpetually
        overloads the D2L servers!


        --- In SACC-L@yahoogroups.com, "Lewine, Mark" <mark.lewine@...> wrote:
        > I am amazed at the following high-tech adaptations that are suddenly
        > becoming a major part of our teaching/learning strategies as
        > and hybrid web courses are surging in enrollment at our community
        > colleges. Do any of you have experiences with these tools and
        > uses?
        > ________________________________
        > Subject: ON COURSE NEWSLETTER: Adding High-Tech Tools to Learning-Team
        > Activities
      • bdlqvcc
        Mark et al. At our small CC in rural NE Connecticut, we made a commitment back in the early days of the WWW (starting with the first graphical web-browsers
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 5, 2006
          Mark et al.

          At our small CC in rural NE Connecticut, we made a commitment back
          in the "early days" of the WWW (starting with the first graphical
          web-browsers in 1994-95) to make sure that we kept at least some of
          the emerging technologies always available to "students first..."
          We had a strong sense that these were going to be key resources for
          higher education--- especially because we could already see what the
          K-12 kids "down the road" were already doing!!

          When upgrades are called for (hardware, software etc.) they are in
          our public labs usually before they are on most faculty's desks...
          Many of our students would otherwise not be able to access such
          things at home, in our relatively economcially depressed region of
          the state.
          We now use a course-management system for every class (whether on-
          ground or online) at the very least to make syllabi, internal
          email,and hreaded discussions available to all students. We are
          grappling with network security issues so that we can also make
          wireless available throughout the school; students with cell phones
          can already access our webpages etc.; I and a few others teach
          courses via 2way video conferencing between our two campuses. It
          won't take much to make everything that is now online routinely
          available through pda's etc.
          This is not just to have the latest "toys"; we are very careful to
          discriminate between what we perceive to be 'fads' vs. signifcant
          emerging technologies, though this is always a matter of discernment
          and judgment.

          And the most challenging thought in all this is that already the
          kids in K12 have more skill (and higher expectations) with any of
          this than many of the most advanced planners in higher ed!

          It is FUN, besides, and opens up so many new possibilities for
          learning and connecting. I often makes me wonder why, especially in
          anthropology, there haven't been more efforts like the Mayaquest
          project back in the late 1990's, or the online international
          associations like the WAOE (of which I was a founding member back in
          1998 or so).

          --- In SACC-L@yahoogroups.com, "Lewine, Mark" <mark.lewine@...>
          > I am amazed at the following high-tech adaptations that are
          > becoming a major part of our teaching/learning strategies as
          > and hybrid web courses are surging in enrollment at our community
          > colleges. Do any of you have experiences with these tools and
          > uses?
          > ________________________________
          > Subject: ON COURSE NEWSLETTER: Adding High-Tech Tools to Learning-
          > Activities

          (Previous messages deleted: refer to origial post for remainder of
          earlier messages in this thread)
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