by Julie Trachman
In AY 2016-2017, the Hostos CTL and EdTech areas combined forces to offer workshop series devoted to helping us faculty learn more about how Blackboard and other educational technologies can enhance our interactions with students. I attended two of these series conveniently set for Friday mornings. One series was organized by George Rosa and the second by David Dos Santos, both of the EdTech area. One of the series’ goals was to show us some of the “bells and whistles” of Blackboard (Bb) that are hiding in plain sight. Most faculty are aware that we can post announcements as well as syllabi and other documents on Bb and many use Bb for its grade center. Faculty, however, may not be aware of Bb’s ability to serve as a platform for discussion boards or blogs and likely not aware of the relatively new add-on feature, Panopto, which can be used for lecture capture but also provide audio explanations in conjunction with Power Point slides as an auxiliary to classroom instruction. Presentations, some given by faculty, demonstrating these Bb features and other tech-based strategies, were incorporated. I had an opportunity to describe how I incorporated a Bb-based blog in my writing intensive microbiology course. Among the other faculty presentations were: the use of iPADs in the lab setting, the use of discussion boards and two different ways e-portfolios can be used.
Obviously, one intent of these workshops was to instill in us the sense of being a community of learners. However, many of these tools that were displayed to us in the workshops I attended were designed to foster a sense of community among the students themselves and depending on the tool and the nature of the prompt used, facilitate the ability of the students to communicate in a meaningful way and/or collaborate with one another inside and outside of the classroom. None of these tools necessitate being utilized in hybrid or fully online classes; however, with our students being commuters and often having work and home life constraints, their interactions with fellow classmates is often limited to class time. Therefore, having tools like these, it can make it easier for the students to share ideas with each other and depending on the tool even allow for collaborative group projects (I hope next year one of the tools discussed will be wikis!). By having venues such as these, it might also give faculty some ideas as to how we can set up collaborative projects ourselves to potentially do pedagogical research.
As a “caveat,” these sessions did ask us to do a certain amount of Blackboard-based homework. However, in reality, most of us did not actually do the homework until we got to the next session. The tone of these sessions were convivial and the structure was adequately “loose” to be able to allow for us to backtrack to do this minimal homework and then continue on building on what we did the previous session(s). I look forward to attending what I can of next year’s offerings.