Blackboard Annotate is Updated!!!

Hooray!  Blackboard Annotate has finally been updated! You have no idea how long I have been waiting for this.

So, here is what are the changes:

Now in the assignment submission page Blackboard supports the following files:

  • Microsoft®Word (DOC, DOCX)
  • Microsoft®PowerPoint®(PPT, PPTX)
  • Microsoft®Excel®(XLS, XLSX)
  • OpenOffice®Documents (ODS, ODT, ODP)
  • Digital Images (JPEG, JPG, PNG, TIF, TIFF, TGA, BMP, HEIC)
  • Source code (Java, PY, C, CPP, etc)
  • Medical Images (DICOM, DICM, DCM)
  • PDF
  • PSD
  • RTF
  • TXT
  • WPD

Blackboard Annotate also supports the current versions of the following browsers:

  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Edge
  • Safari

The other interesting change is that the annotation session expires after an hour. Apparently, the user will receive a pop window with a warning message that the session is expiring. The cool thing about this is that whatever work that you had done on the assignment is saved so if you ran out of time and did not manage to finish reading the assignment your work is not lost and when you come back you continue where you left off.

Here is what the Annotations Tool Icon looks like:

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Document View Settings

  1. Sidebar: View Thumbnail, Outline, Annotation, or Bookmark views of the submission.
  2. Pages: Use the arrows to jump to different pages in the submission.
  3. Pan: Move the submission on the page.
  4. Zoom and Fit: Zoom in and out of the submission or adjust the view to fit the page, fit the width, or select the best fit.

Annotations Tools:

  • DrawingBrush, and Eraser: Draw freehand on the submission with various colors, thickness, and opacity. Select the eraser to remove annotations. You can erase parts of a freehand drawing with the eraser or select the Delete icon to delete the whole drawing.
  • Image or Stamp: Choose a preloaded stamp or create your own customized stamp or image to add to the submission.
  • Text: Add text directly on the submission. You can move, edit, and change the text and select the font, size, alignment, and color of the text.
  • Shapes: Choose Line, Arrow, Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, and Polyline. Each shape has its own settings to change the color, width, opacity, and more.
  1. Comment: Provide feedback in comments. Your comments appear in a panel next to the submission.
  2. Print or Download: Print or download the submission with the annotations.
  3. Search: Search the submission for specific text.
  4. Content Library: Create a bank of reusable comments. You can add, edit, delete, and search comments in the library. You can also add a comment directly to the submission page from the menu.

Note: The Content Library is only available in SaaS environments.

Highlighter: Select specific portions of the submission to highlight. As you highlight text on the submission, an additional menu opens. You can highlight, strikethrough, underline, squiggle, or comment on the highlighted section.

Click below to see a video created by Blackboard which guides you through the new updates:

Bb Annotate Overview in Blackboard Learn

I can wait to use these new features in the fall. Unfortunately, I am done with teaching for the year so I cannot try them out, but in the fall I will use Blackboard Annotate to grade student papers so I will let you know what I think of them and if it makes grading easier. If you had the opportunity to use these new features let me know what you think.

All of the information came from:  https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Assignments/Grade_Assignments/Bb_Annotate

Katherine

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Thinking, Reflecting…

This week has been super busy as I was trying to finish grading final exams, final papers on my summer courses, as well as posting grades. So, besides the actual reading and grading, I spent a couple of days just thinking and looking at students’ grades. When I am doing it, it makes sense, but I when tell someone that I actually take a couple of days to spend time just thinking about the students and their grades they look at me surprised. I guess in other professions this type of process does not occur.

It is also an activity that most in the education field don’t talk about. I am not sure why, but we don’t. During this time, for starters, I want to make sure that all of the grades are entered, and I have not missed anything. The other reason is that I look at how much a student has progressed in a few months or weeks and if that is reflected in his or her final grade. As I am looking at their grades I am wondering if what I set out to do during the semester or summer session, occurred. What I mean is, I always have a set of goals as I begin designing and then teaching a course. It becomes evident if those objectives were met when I look at my students’ grades.

This is the time that I take a lot of notes for myself so I can remind myself if what I used for the semester worked or not. By “worked” I mean, did online tools like VoiceThread, or a homework assignment fulfill its objective?  How did the students react? Did they do well? Did they have the knowledge I was hoping for? If not, why not? What can I change to make this so I can make their learning experience better? Or they can absorb the material better?

So, thinking about grades and performance objectives at the end of a course is extremely important in order to begin the process of redesigning an upcoming course. I see it as a way to measure if what I am doing in the classroom virtual or face-to-face is important. Of course, there are those students that register for my course that they are not ready for it or those that are taking, but have no interest in learning because they believe that the course is a waste of their time and they need to take it to graduate. I don’t usually take most of those into account because how can look at a student that doesn’t have the prerequisite knowledge in order to do well in my course. It is those students that I have a hard time failing because the majority of them work extremely hard to pass and even though they have progressed a lot it still isn’t enough. On the other hand, the students that think have nothing to learn are the ones I that I cannot be concerned about because there is always something to learn, and instead of approaching that way, they close themselves up to all sorts of opportunities.

These and many more thoughts go through my mind during this period of reflection. Of course, there is a lot more to it than just thinking and re-evaluating for a couple of days, but this is how I begin the process of working and thinking for the upcoming courses I will be teaching in the fall or spring semesters.

Do you think about how your students did while taking your course? How do you go about designing and then teaching a course?

 

Katherine

 

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Giving Grace…

Last week I was talking to one of my grad students on zoom because she had missed the deadline to submit a homework assignment. As I was listening without speaking the student proceeded to tell me everything that happened to her and the reasons behind this. I hadn’t had the opportunity to turn the video on and as I listened to the student I decided not to. The student was super nervous, and I did not want to add to it by showing up on her computer screen, but I could hear her voice. She was upset and worried. Not adding the video actually made me listen to the student more carefully because there was no video to distract me.

As I am sitting there, I am thinking why is the student so upset? I haven’t even spoken yet. Once the student finished explaining I asked so, “What can I do for you?” The student was so anxious she couldn’t bring herself to actually ask for permission to complete the work she had missed. So, I had to nudge her along. Finally, I decided to put her out of her misery and give her permission to submit the late homework. Now, this is not an undergrad that just forgot or procrastinated to do her work. This is a graduate student in the MBA program. The majority of these students are working professionals, type A with extremely driven and determined personalities.

While we are talking the stunned student kept thanking me for understanding and being flexible because her other professor had said no even though the student had a good reason for being late. I cannot of course the particulars of the student’s reasons because of FERPA laws and protecting my student’s privacy nor are they important.

Once the zoom call was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Not because this is my first time talking to a student who is asking for an extension for a homework assignment.  After 16 years of teaching at UMB, I have had numerous encounters with students, especially because I teach the dreaded business communications courses that all undergrads need to take in the College of Management in order to graduate.

I was thinking about how as educators we have a lot of power over our students. We teach them all of these courses and try to transfer our excitement and love for the topic we spent years learning about. I have spent about 8 years in higher ed just learning with multiple professors. They were all great and brought their experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm to the classroom, but the majority were distant and unapproachable. Of course, you don’t realize it until you meet the one professor that will change everything for you. For me it was, Pepi Leistyna he was everything a true educator should be passionate, kind-hearted, and welcoming. As a student, I never felt worried about going to his office. It always felt like chatting to a friend, not my professor.

So, as I kept thinking about my student and I was wondering about how we can positively and negatively impact a person’s life with one yes or one no. Then I was reflecting on all of the work we as educators put into a course. If we spend all this time envisioning, researching, designing, and teaching courses, why can’t we include compassion, kindness, and grace as part of our teaching practice as well? Who says we need to be distant, cold, and closed up in order to teach? Why do people need to be scared to ask for an extension to a homework assignment? That’s not how education should work. Students should not be scared to talk to me or any other professor. I am not saying that I am going to not have deadlines or have students follow them, but why is it so wrong to bend the rules once in a while? Why is frowned upon to give students grace?

At the end of the day, my course is going to be one of many that a student will take in their lifetime. I would consider myself blessed if they leave my class having learned the material that the course was designed for and think of me as a nice person, they got to spend some time with during a semester in their second or third year of college.

How would you like to be remembered by your students?

Katherine

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Weekly Reflections

To be honest not much was going on last week. It is mostly spent between homeschooling, teaching summer courses, and starting to prep for the fall semester. As the fourth week of summer courses comes to a close, I feel that things are going much better than I expected. In the beginning, I felt a bit overwhelmed especially since I only had a week between finishing grading final exams and the starting to teach for the summer. I have settled into the courses and so have the students. Things are humming along, and we are all doing our work, which in many ways is comforting especially since we are still up in the air as far as COVID-19 goes.

All of the students are submitting their work on time, which I hope I don’t jinx myself, hahaha. No, one is complaining about anything. It’s too quiet. What gives? Should I start to worry or consider this part of the new normal? Are students are appreciating the effort I am making and are happy that they are able to continue to take courses from the comfort of their homes? Who knows? But I am running with that assumption for now, as my graduate course has 30 students when the last two summers it was canceled because of low enrollment.  A pandemic can do a lot to a person’s perspective and appreciation of things they did not pay attention to before like going to the supermarket and not having to wait 30 minutes in a line outside the store and to find the good paper towels or toilet paper as well.

Speaking of new and old, I am curious to see how things will work themselves out this fall as we are gearing up for another difficult year full of uncertainty. Many of my colleagues are not taking the summer off to rest and rejuvenate from a long and difficult year they are opting to work all summer, so they don’t have a repeat of the spring 2020 semester. Personally, I am about halfway done with my fall course prep. How are you preparing for the fall?

Katherine

 

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Things I like and don’t like about Blackboard?

Let me start by saying that when I first started teaching online for the university, the only LMS they offered was Blackboard, I hated it because it wasn’t as intuitive or user-friendly as Moodle. I was exposed to Moodle when I was taking courses online for the Tesol Certificate on teaching online. That was in in 2005 fast forward 15 years later I have come to appreciate Blackboard as it has evolved as much as I have. The thing I like the most is the structure it offers because I have found that while teaching online, students need structure and predictability. They also don’t like spending too much time looking for things in different spots and in all sorts of different folders. If you send students on a treasure hunt looking for the homework, readings, and videos for the whole semester they because extremely frustrated and angry. It that was very stressful for me and my students, so I began experimenting with all sorts of different tool that were in Blackboard and outside of Blackboard. Today I will talk about the tools that I like and don’t like on Blackboard.

 

Tools I like:

  1. The “Lesson Plan” tool, as it helps create a structured course because I can keep all of the information the students need for the week in one folder. In this tool I am able to include links, assignment dropboxes, connect to a specific blog and/or discussion thread, etc.
  2. The “My Messages” is another good tool because it keeps all of the students’ messages in one place and nothing ever gets lost.
  3. The “Announcement” tool allows me to send one message to all of my students at once straight to their email which so convenient when I need to quickly respond to everyone or let them know about something that is going on without having to log out and log into another website.
  4. The “Blog”, this tool is great since it allows students to reflect on what is going on and they can also read and respond to each other.
  5. The Sign-up sheet, I use this tool to have students’ sign-up for their group assignment. The feature I like the most is that it allows students to choose the group they want to be in.
  6. The reports tool is amazing because it allows me to see where my students have gone in the course and if they did the work, they say they did. I know it sounds like big brother, but it comes in handy when you have a dispute with a student.
  7. “SafeAssign” is another great tool that Blackboard created to detect if a student has plagiarized or not. It takes out the guesswork. The other thing that is nice about this tool is that it so easy to add it to an assignment and it does the work for me.
  8. The “Survey” tool is one that I had not used a lot in the last, but it came handy this semester because my students were so used to seeing me in class and we were able to come to a decision quickly, but once we met remotely it was easier to use the survey to make decisions since it allowed students to think and vote. In many, they felt better because it gave them power in the decisions I made, and it helped them feel included like when we were in class.
  9. “Blackboard Collaborate Ultra” allows me to connect live with my students without making the student learn new anything new or login to anything to a new website. I especially like this tool because I can use it for my virtual office hours and my students can pop in and out to ask me questions.
  10. The “assignment dropbox” is another great tool because it allows me to see the student’s paper and even correct it without having to download it on my computer. I also get to see when the paper was submitted which also helps a lot when there is a dispute with a student.

 

Tools I don’t like:

  1. I don’t like the inline corrections of the written assignment. I love the idea of it, but it is very difficult to use. I tried it on my computer with my mouse and there is no way you can draw with it. So, then I tried using my iPad with an apple pencil and it worked but not as well as other software. It is very difficult to do inline correction on a paper with multiple errors like the writing of an ESL student.
  2. “Data Management” is a cool tool if you know how to use, but If you make a mistake with the dates, it will throw the whole course off as far as the dates go and then I will have to enter all of the dates and time manually.
  3. “Rubrics”, that tool is difficult to use well at least the way I want to use it. Personally, I like to use it so my students can peer review each other’s writing. From what my students told me they can’t access the rubric before I post their grade so I cannot use it the I want to.
  4. The “Test” tool that imports and exports a test is also a good tool but difficult and cumbersome to use.

So, there you have it. As you can see there are more things to love in Blackboard than not. What has your experience has been with Blackboard?

 

Katherine

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Time Management and Final Exams

I have to say that I missed writing a post last week. It was a long week full of grading final exams, making sure all of the grades were posted, and several zoom meetings. The end of semesters are a busy time of the year. So, as a result, my post got pushed back to this week. This time I also had a hard time thinking about what I wanted to talk about because of having to grade 80 final exams and committee work.

While I was grading, I was thinking about time management, and of all the years I have been teaching I have always had a hard time finish by the due date and getting ready for summer courses. It was either getting ready for my courses or grading the reason that keeps happening because the university usually gives us a week to grade final exams, post grades, and get ready for the summer session 1 but because of the quarantine I decided this semester to manage my time better and start prepping for my summer courses early.

For the first time in 14 years, I finished early and didn’t have to work during Memorial Day weekend, so I have time to write. It is amazing what can happen when you manage your time effectively. This is certainly a lesson that I am going to remember from now on. What have you learned this semester?

 

Katherine

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Thoughts on Teaching, Taking Stock…

Since my last post I have been thinking a lot about my students that are finishing up the semester and if how I taught them, or should I say facilitated their learning because I really don’t think of myself as a teacher in a traditional way. You know, the kind that sits in front of a classroom and lectures. I actually abhor that kind of teaching because it makes students lazy and comatose. Most of the time they are so bored that they end up looking at more interesting things on their laptops, tablets, or phones. The way I like to teach is when I am off-center i.e. when I make the students take center stage. As a dear friend and colleague used to say when I was a new professor, the lazier the instructor the more active the students. At the time I didn’t understand what she meant, but almost 20 years later I do because with teaching and experience comes understanding.

Of course, she didn’t mean that I should work, what she meant is that I shouldn’t lecture so much and let them do active work. When I say I don’t lecture I mean I don’t sit in front of a group of students and explain how prepositions work in a sentence (although in some instances I have been known to do that as well). Because part of teaching business communications includes quite a bit of grammar instruction since many of my students are ESL and International students that many have a hard time writing a cohesive sentence.

When I teach on campus I begin the week by laying out what the week is going to be about as well as the type of work they are required to do, but I don’t lecture in the traditional sense and that is why I like hybrid courses because they allow me and my students the flexibility to expand the number of activities and learning because there is so much information that you can squeeze into a 50 minute class period. So, a lot of my lecturing happens online via e-lectures for it allows them to view it as many times as they like or practice with the interactive grammar exercises that I have created.

The other thing that I do during this time of the semester especially after I have posted final grades is trying to see if my students have been able to meet the goals, I set out for them. To that end, I use the backward design model by Wiggins & McTighe which believes that learning experiences should be planned with the final assessment in mind. One starts with the end i.e. the desired results or goals and then designs the curriculum from the evidence of learning called for by the standard and the teaching as well as the material needed to equip students to perform’ (Wiggins and McTighe, 2000, page 8)

So finally, as the semester winds down I take time to think about everything that happened and look at my notes and see what worked and didn’t work this time around. How do you end the semester or year?

Katherine

 

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New Normal? What has my life become?

I know that you might think that my title sounds a little dramatic, but our lives have changed to such a degree that I am not sure if we could ever go back to where we were before the quarantine. So, everyone is talking about a new normal without actually defining what that means for us.

Workwise for educators especially those teaching at the university level our working hours have increased dramatically. For one thing, we were asked to transfer our courses online within 10 days. The other issue that came up was that the majority of instructors and professors besides transferring their courses online had to learn all these new tools while teaching in a new environment. In addition to trying to calm down their students who are having an ever-harder time going online to finish up the semester.

The other issue is the endless zoom meetings. Studies and many news articles claim that it is good for us to meet online with colleagues as it makes us feel more connected. At this point, I am so zoomed out that I would like to disconnect, and the majority of my students feel the same way.

To add insult to injury many of us have to homeschool our children while working. You would think that as college professors we would know how to do that, but we don’t, not because we can’t teach but because the curricula and tools, we use in our courses are different from what K-12 teachers use in their classrooms with our children. Which in my book means more work for me because now I need to figure out what and how to teach my child ELA and Math while he would rather be online talking and playing Fortnite with his friends.

Is that our new normal? For me yes, because even if the state reopens for business, my child will be home until September since schools in Massachusetts closed for the rest of the year. Our district says that the buildings are closed not the school and this is a great motto, but the reality is that 1 hour a day for a morning meeting does not keep schools open. This means that if I want the school to be open, I need to do the work.

How do I adapt to this new normal?

For one thing, I rearranged my study to allow my child room to work with me. So, while I am grading student papers, responding to questions, emails, and so on, he has to log into his iPad and work on his homework. This set up helps with me being able to keep track of what he is doing as well as being available to answer any questions he might have.

The other thing I am trying to negotiate is time for myself and away from work, so I don’t burn out. This has happened to me in the past because as a professor I work a lot from home, and I have a hard time separating work and home life. So, I am making a conscious effort to do that. Which for me means that I need to wake up at 6 am to work out. Take time to make and have lunch with my child. Go for a walk or a bike ride with my child, whenever the weather permits, because he is also going stir crazy from being home all the time.  Writing my blog every week. Which I am currently doing wearing my headphones and listening to ocean sounds on my Alexa device to block out the noise my family is making so I can be able to concentrate. I also take breaks throughout the day to talk to my friends and family on the phone or to do a quick chat on facetime.

What is your new normal?

Katherine

 

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Going Back to Campus!

So last spring the unexpected happened I was asked by my director to come back and teach one of my courses on campus. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that because after all I had been teaching online for last 7 years and my schedule, as well as the commute, were perfect. I started thinking and I realized that I hadn’t actually been in a classroom for 7 years and felt a bit overwhelmed as if I had never taught before. Strange right? Especially since I had been teaching in a classroom for almost 20 years before transitioning to online.

So, I got to thinking how did I teach 7 years ago? I decided that in order to redesign an on-campus course I would have to look at my material from the last semester I taught on campus Once I read through the materials i.e. syllabi, classroom notes, assignments, in-class activities etc. Then I thought the old material would not fit as my courses had evolved, but could the online material be used/transitioned into an on-campus course? Maybe.

Finally, to get my feet wet I decided to meet myself halfway and create a hybrid course for the Fall semester. The other thing I did to help me get comfortable with going back to campus and reconnect was to apply to the TEAL fellowship and the CIT forum for NTT faculty. Interesting enough I got accepted to both which made me happy and worried at the same time because it is now not only did I have to rework my syllabus, curriculum, activities, and assignments I also had to get to campus for meetings all year long! And just like that my perfect schedule and commute went out the window. What was I thinking?

However as the school year winds down I am so glad and grateful for the opportunities that I have been given to me this year from teaching on campus to learning new ways of thinking about teaching, and meeting as well as connecting to faculty from all of the university.

Katherine

Before the Semester Begins…

Most people think that educators sit around and enjoy the last few weeks before the school year begins, but we don’t…

A few weeks before the semester begins and I like most of my colleagues sit in front of my computer working on my courses and getting ready to teach. Reading student evaluations, student blogs from the last two semesters and looking at notes I made throughout the year of what worked and what didn’t, to help me revise my courses. If it sounds like a quick process it isn’t really because I plan my courses for the whole semester, which is 14 weeks times 3 courses and that translates to a lot of prep work. Besides updating my syllabus I plan each week to include an overview, which discusses everything that the students will be required to do for the week. Along with redesigning the overviews I also take a look at the assignments, discussion threads, blogs, video lectures and tests and decide if I need to update them or not.

For some teacchers might prefer to design, create videos, upload files, and teach simultaneously, but I like to have everything planned, created and uploaded to the course before I login on the first day of the semester. Doing this allows me to spend the semester teaching and guiding my students instead of designing and developing different aspects of the course. It also gives me the time I need to provide students with feedback a lot faster that I wouldn’t have if I was simultaneously building and teaching my courses.

To get ready I also like to read textbooks and make sure that I am using the best ones for the students that register for my courses. Which means that I spend a lot of time in one of my favorite stores, the BOOKSTORE!!!! This time around I found a really cool grammar book called the Ultimate Writing Guide for Students by Mignon Fogarty. You are probably wondering what is so special about this book? Grammar is grammar. Well, that is not true. All grammar books are not the same. What I liked about this specific book is the way it was written. The language she uses to explain really “boring” concepts interesting and dare I say it “FUN.” I can really see me using this book in my lower level writing course as it can give international and ESL students a hand in figuring out how to become better writers which is the object of my courses.

The other thing I like to do since I teach online is to update my video lectures so I look at different screen capture software like Adobe Captivate, Camtasia, or Screen-o-matic because they are updated yearly and their developers like to add new features that might work better for me and what I use them for.

I am sure that at this point you are wondering if I spent all of August inside. Granted I do work a lot especially when I have to get ready for the beginning of the semester, but the answer is no. I still got to enjoy the beautiful weather, because one of the benefits of being an educator is having a lot of flexibility, especially as an online instructor I have learned to work from anywhere so I spent a lot of time preparing my courses outside of my office during the summer.

 

 

Katherine