Blackboard Annotate? Yay or Nay?

I have been using the updated version of Blackboard Annotate for over a semester now and I have to say that it has made my grading life a lot easier and faster. For starters it has cut my grading time quite a bit because I don’t need to spend any time downloading and uploading homework assignments to and from Blackboard as well as creating and naming folders that fill up my computer with student homework that I have to go and delete at the end of the school year.

 In the past I used MS Word’s review tool that includes track changes to grade and provide my students with feedback on their writing.  The Blackboard’s Annotate software is a lot easier to use and a lot more intuitive. What I mean by that is that the tools are grouped up better allowing the grader to not keep changing between the different functions. For example, in the pen section where you can underline parts of the paper digitally you can erase a mistake without leaving that area. In the previous version there was no eraser, and it was very difficult to delete a correction. Just that change has made it so much easier and less time consuming for me as I teach writing.

The other function that I am enjoying a lot is the comment tool as I am able to provide in line comments with ease and because it mimics the MS word “new comment” in the review section it is second nature to me and the students. Once you add the comment, a small yellow icon   A picture containing clipart

Description automatically generatedshows up and then the comment appears in a panel next the comment. Although you cannot edit the comment you can easily delete it. Hopefully in a future version of Annotate they will add the edit function in the comments section as well.

Another cool function is the content library, which allows you to create a bank of reusable comments that can be edited or deleted. You can also add a comment to the submission page from the menu. The other thing that I liked is that you can type keywords or phrases to search for comments that I have saved and because I don’t need to keep typing my comments it has become one of my favorite tools.

With almost 80 students a semester and about 7-9 assignments for each student you can imagine how much happier I am with Blackboard Annotate these days. It has turned a long session of grading papers quicker, simpler, and easier. So, yes, I would recommend that anybody who has access to this version of Blackboard Annotate to take the time to learn how it works.

Below you wlll find an overview of Blackboard Annotate from the Blackboard’s YouTube channel:

YouTube Video https://youtu.be/WFaEf_7-KaM

Katherine

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Spring Beginnings. Looking ahead…

I came into the spring semester with a bit of apprehension as to how the students will feel especially since we are one year into the pandemic and we are all feeling tired and frustrated. How the students feel is important to me as it is a deciding factor on how much they will learn or not. Their attitude towards the way they learn affects me. How does it affect me? Well for starters, if I see that students do not want to be in my class, I lose a bit of my own enthusiasm and passion. Obviously, I am adult and a professional educator, so I don’t quit on them like they do to me, but I am not as eager to do a live class or go to campus and teach. It also takes me longer to find something to get excited about when the students are indifferent or even worse, negative. Of course, I try not to let that show, but it does sap my energy. If done right, teaching is emotional and feeds off of students’ emotions and reactions. Therefore, if the students are resistant to whatever I have to say then I have to work a lot harder to get them to put down their phones long enough to pay attention, listen to me, and hopefully learn something by the end of class.

So far, the students have do not seem as negative as they were last semester. So far so good. I hope I won’t jinx myself by telling everyone that my students are pretty awesome this semester. They all seemed engaged and happy, this make me wonder if they have finally accepted the fact that they will spend the semester or if they are trying to be patient because there is light at the end of the tunnel since we have two vaccines on the market and two coming. Nevertheless, their reaction so far is making me hopeful that we will be able to get through the semester without any major issues. A semester without any problems is a productive semester.

If I am being honest, I am looking forward to a better time when we are all vaccinated and so we can get back to some sort of normal life. I am still wondering what that will look like, but it is bound to be better than how we are living and working right now and for the last year.

Katherine

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Reflections and Lessons Learned from the Fall 2020 Semester and the Pandemic

When I took a break in August, I actually thought I would be back in September writing and blogging away, but that didn’t happen. I think that for one thing I was more tired than I realized, and I was experiencing a bit of COVID lockdown fatigue. Then of course we had our presidential elections and everything that ensued from that in conjunction to teaching 78 students for the semester as you can imagine pushed blogging to the bottom of my list.

Now that things have kind of settled down and I had break from work I spent a lot of time think and reflect about the fall semester. I am ready to start writing and blogging. Luckily I am able to take such big breaks from blogging because I make my living as a professor not a blogger, so I treat my blog as a place for me to reflect on what is happening while I teach as well as have a writing outlet.

As I was thinking about what the topic of my first post would be for 2021, I read a few of my previous posts and in one of them I wrote that I believed that I would be back on campus teaching for the fall of 2020 or at the latest by spring 2021 but here we all are still in a pandemic that does not want to go away and stuck working from home. Yes, we have not one but four vaccines, two are on the market and slowly being used and two maybe three that are almost ready to be approved by the FDA, but there is still no sign that anything in our daily lives will improve any time soon. Last week I read an article on Bloomberg.com that said that their “herd immunity calculator shows that at today’s vaccine rate, it could take the world more than 7 years to achieve herd immunity.” Of course, it did say that in the U.S. it would take until the end of 2022 to reach herd immunity, but it also pointed out that if the other two vaccines come on the market that the time estimate would dramatically the amount of time we would have to wait until we got back to normal. Nevertheless, the point here is that in the U.S we have at least one more year before we can go back to where we were in the winter of 2020. That to me is so crazy. By no means am I trying to be pessimistic because I am an extremely optimistic person who always sees the bright side of things no matter how difficult or bad a situation becomes.

So, here I am in the second week of February 2021 and I am feeling continuously tired and depressed partially because of Covid-19 fatigue from the lockdown, and the other part is from seasonal depression. Although I am American born, I did not grow up in the U.S. as my parents moved back to their home country, Greece, when I was young. As a result, I grew up in a country that has at least 300 sunny days a year and despite of the fact that I have lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years I still have not gotten used the gloomy weather which is predominant in New England during the winter months. Over the years one thing that I have learned is how to recognize it and work through seasonal depression so at about March I am usual back to normal, this year I decided to work on it earlier and that is why I starting to feel better so as a result I am more optimistic and have things I want to talk about.

Going into the fall semester I thought that teaching/work would be better because the student would be more adept to remote learning. Boy, was I wrong! Not only was it not better, it was actually worse. Many of the students were extremely negative towards having to take courses online and were coming up with all sorts of creative excuses as to why they had not completed their homework on time.  Most of the excuses involved Covid-19 and yes even if I thought that there was a chance that the student was lying, I took it with a grain of salt because I kept thinking what if they are telling me the truth. Would I want to be that teacher? The one that in the middle of the pandemic were millions of people all over the world have died didn’t give students the benefit of the doubt.

What bothered me the most was when students thought that if they could not submit the homework by the due date, they would email me to tell me that there is a possibility that s/he had contracted Covid-19 and needed to go get a test and was not sure if the assignments would be submitted on time. One student in particular emailed me on four separate occasions using the same excuse, sigh… Finally, after the third email I realized that the student was using it as a buffer. Despite my annoyance to the constant emails with the fake excuses, I decided not say anything to the specific student or the rest of the students. Mainly because I felt that the students must have a reason for this behavior. They must feel overwhelmed, stress out with everything that was going on and perhaps were procrastinating. I think that the procrastination came from the fact that they were home and felt that they had a lot of time to complete everything and well as we all know that have been in their place before, they didn’t. It happens to everyone when they work and study from home. You sit there is your sweats sipping your coffee with nowhere to go so there is no feeling of urgency to complete things and no real schedule. But I will talk more about the importance of creating a schedule and sticking to it in a different post.

Although the semester seamed to last forever, and it felt like I was Bill Murray in the Groundhog Day movie where he keeps reliving the same day over and over again. Thankfully the semester did finally come to end with students trying to pull themselves together long enough to take the final exam so we can all put 2020 behind us with the hope that 2021 might prove to be a better year for all of us.

So, with this post I am back to blogging in 2021. See you next week!

Katherine

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