Much of my work in academic technology has centered on free or cheep online tools for creating and distributing web-based content. I believe that learning to leverage freely available tools and architectures to connect with an audience is essential our growing world interconnected devices and networks. I believe that knowing how to use online resources in order to communicate with an audience that is distributed but linked by beliefs and passions is the skill that will represent and separate generations of people.
Given that, it has been important to me that I use and teach tools that are free and whose purpose is defined not by the tool itself, but by the project that it’s being used to enhance. Below you will find a selection of projects and wikis that have been created using Google Sites as the container for a wide variety of purposes: each project has a link to the website(s), and a short description. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Projects and Initiatives
Keene State, like many college campuses has seen a rising number of faculty using mobile devices, specifically Apple devices, being used by faculty, staff and students. While the Keene State Help Desk doesn’t officially support these devices, we believe that it’s important to provide faculty some initial guidance on how to best take advantage of a highly mobile means of connected to content online. In the past two months, this site has transitioned from being only an idea to being a frequently accessed gateway for professional development.
In working with a growing number of faculty, I found that I was often recreating the same help documentation, or copying it from one site to another. With an increasing number of projects, it made sense to centralize our specific help guides into a single location. This also meant that we could watch the analytics for this site for a deeper sense of insight into how we might better serve our faculty as they continued to use building wikis as a collaborative project in their courses.
One of my first projects at CELT was to advise a faculty member about the construction and use of a web-site that would document her trip across the country collecting soil samples. I provided initial training and organizational consultation centered around which tools to use, and how to integrate the process of documentation into this trip in a manner that was as resource neutral as possible. The resulting website dramatically uses a Google map to illustrate all of the stops on trip across the country to collect data.
In the 2010-2011 academic year I met Dr. Marjory Droppa. Dr. Droppa came to Keene State with a vision for changing the health behaviors of young people, and a hunger to learn what the data on this had to say. Dr. Droppa was also on a very tight budget. Collaborating together we used Google Spreadsheets to collect and analyze survey data. Additionally, we visited a variety of college classrooms to talk about data analysis, and undergraduate research. As a result of our work together, I created the Using Data site as a tool for helping undergraduates get started on collecting and measuring data with Google Spreadsheets.
While this page now little resembles the one that I helped to build, I’ve included it because of the significance of our transition to using a Google site over a traditionally hosted web presence. Prior to my work with the Keene State Upward Bound program, changes to the web-site were required to be line-item specific and were submitted to as a work order. While the Keene State hosted web-site was a prefect tool for those inquiring about the program, I was eager to build something that the entire staff had access to edit and to build something that could be as current as possible. I was fortunate enough to work with another educational counselor, Laure Mielke, was was equally as passonate as I was about using web tools as a means of communicating with our colleagues and with our students.
Course Related Wikis
My first large project working with the Center for Engagement, Learning, and Teaching was centered around advising Dr. Candice Bosse in her transition away from traditional paper-based assignments in her Women’s Studies course offerings. Dr. Bosse had worked on the Media Fluency rubric for Keene State, and was eager to see what kinds of changes she could implement in her own course. Her students would use a Google Site as the hub for communicating and collaborating, but their media would be stored and pulled from various parts of the web. Candice’s assignments broke into four main categories: Video Diaries, initially these were more reflective, but as the semester progressed Dr. Bosse changed the format of this component to more closely resemble an oral examination; Narrative Commentary, this assignment takes advantage of a free tool for creating screen-casts, students would find a series of digital artifacts that related to the course content and then use the screen-cast to discuss how these items connected with the course content; current events submission, every week students would find a web-based artifact that related to the course content, and post it for discussion; the final was an assignment to create a video for distribution on YouTube, students were given a considerable degree in freedom in deciding what issue from class to address in a short video that would be created in teams. All of these separate pieces of media were posted and shared through the Google Site.
I worked with Dr. Susan Whittemore on incorporating media as a meaningful portion of the class experience in both Biology 490, and Biology 379. Dr. Whittemore was eager to incorporate the use of wikis in her classroom, and to look for ways to allow students to have a greater degree of ownership over their class contributions. In the 490 course, we started by having students manage their course notes, presentations, and paper’s online. Dr. Whittemore used this as a way of making students accountable not only to her as the instructor, but also to one another as much of their work was collaborative. Dr. Whittemore experience so much success in this course, that she was eager to look for ways to use more of the same techniques in a course the following semester.
Biology 379, Comparative Animal Physiology, was interesting in it’s use of photography for documenting the dissection and identification process. The couse again relied on a Google Site as a backbone, students were then given a borad overview of several different photo-sharing services (I did this as an in-class presentation and were subsequently allowed to select the service that aligned with their workflow and desired outcomes. While the finished web pages were never polished or pristine, students were actively grappling with the challenge of content production, distribution, and curation – a task where the process is often more informative than creating a perfect product.
Dr. Whittemore’s story was featured in the Keene State College Alumni magazine, in an article, CELT: It’s More Than Technology, co-written by me and Michael Caulfield.