Nancy Uber-Kellogg

App Swap Project Report

Background

I teach in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies Saturday B. A. Degree Completion Program. Since the program started in 1997, we have used Moodle and its predecessors to provide the platform where our students connect weekly to participate in online forums. While this approach has proven very effective, we know that our students use other ways to connect with one another, find research, and share their work. We know, too, that educational technologies have expanded beyond Moodle into apps for smart phones and laptops. Therefore, I wanted to participate in this project to learn how other faculty members are using apps in their teaching, to find apps that our students might use, and to consider how we might use apps to enhance our curriculum.

Discuss how the time spent learning the technologies impacted you.

I divided my time between finding apps and learning them. Seeking out suitable apps, I discovered a wide range of educational possibilities, many of which I did not know existed before. These surprises included conducting polls and surveys during a class meeting, writing lecture notes or student ideas on a virtual white board that students could access during and after class, and creating mind maps collectively that also could be saved and shared. These technologies led me to see that interactivity could not only be enhanced but also recorded for future reference.

This was a significant insight for me about ways to further support and record interactions in classes. We use Moodle forums for the online seminars, so we have a record of those exchanges. However, during the monthly face-to-face seminars, we focus on helping students develop their ability to participate in extended discussions effectively and thereby foster a strong learning community. We do a good job; however, no face-to-face seminars are recorded, no notes are taken, no lecture notes are captured. Learning about apps that would help us record some of the highly complex interactions could be a very valuable addition to our curriculum.

Once I chose apps to learn (many of which were brought by other members of the project), I explored their ease of use, their flexibility, and I considered how they might support students. I saw that I could evaluate them based on my experience of student needs for easy access to information balanced against the capacities of Moodle to provide similar supports. This experience confirmed that my skills as a teacher still serve as the basis for decision making about curriculum.

Any pertinent student anecdotal information.

My students in the LIBS 470: Senior Project course used three apps, and I used a fourth. The apps they used were Google Docs, Survey Monkey, and a UTube video app.

They used Google Docs because several of them wanted to share photos and/or videos of their projects, but Moodle’s file size was too small to accommodate their videos and photos. They uploaded their docs and created links to them within their Moodle posts. The three students (out of 10) who used this file sharing approach found it easy to do. The one who tried to upload a manual with many photos into Moodle was not able to do so, and found it very frustrating. In the future, I will encourage other students to use Google docs and encourage my colleagues to do the same. The U-Tube channel was another effective way for a student to share his lengthy videos.

A student created several SurveyMonkey surveys to elicit feedback from the group about her project. It gave her a way to quantify people’s reactions to her project along with more qualitative, reflective comments she received during the online and face-to-face seminars. She found it difficult to teach herself how to create surveys at first, but once she mastered it, creating subsequent surveys was easy. I will encourage the use of these apps in the future.

I used an app called simply Recorder. It’s an audio recorder, and I used it, with student permission, during one of our face-to-face seminars. I didn’t share it with them later, though, because we as a program will have to work out whether we want to make such recordings available and if so, how to protect student privacy. In other words, while having a way to preserve conversations seems like an educational good, we need to think through the implications of doing so. Still, I will ask my colleagues to consider recording future seminars.

Discuss how the project impacted your teaching.

This project led me to think about how else we might develop our technological interface with our students. This was a very energizing experience and one that I hope will help those of us who work in the Hutchins Degree Completion Program keep current with technological shifts, not for their own sake but to avoid resting on our laurels and continue to seek out technological supports that help us provide our students with a meaningful and challenging educational experience. Either recommend, or not, if the project should be offered again, and why. I recommend that the App Swap project be offered again. Faculty members can share their experience with apps effectively and everyone can participate in finding new apps to try in their courses. Further, the group created a climate where enthusiasm for experimenting with apps and considering new possibilities thrived.

  • Nancy Uber-Kellogg, Ph.D.
  • Adjunct Faculty Hutchins School of Liberal Studies
  • Saturday B.A. Degree Completion Program
  • uber@sonoma.edu
  • (707) 664-3977