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Leigh Graves Wolf

CEP 820: Teaching K12 Students Online
Honorable Mention - Online
“Google Docs as anchor tool”
- Leigh Graves Wolf -

Google Docs, a collaboration and productivity tool, is the “anchor” tool in CEP 820, and the majority of written work is facilitated through Google Docs. In the Google Docs as a Developer Notebook assignment, inspired by O’Reilly’s “Developer Notebook” series, CEP820 students create a document in Google Docs and share it with the instructor and teaching assistants.

Google Docs allows for frequent revisions, feedback and iterations before polishing and publishing to a wider audience. The final product of this particular assignment is a “Notebook” companion to an online course module they develop over the semester. This notebook is meant to be shared with peers in their particular grade level and subject areas.

The crux of the O’Reilly developer notebook series is the following:

  • Example-driven
  • Aimed at developers
  • Actually Enjoyable

Wolf argues this is a fitting framework to co-opt for the developer notebook assignment. The ultimate goal of the developer notebook is to have something “concrete” that the students can publish and share with colleagues who are going through a similar online course development process. The products that the students create are usable (and enjoyable) to a wide audience and fill a niche that does not currently exist at that level of specificity. There are many “how-to” create online courses or use course management software books — but very few specific resources for teachers to reference when developing for their own grade level/subject area and CMS of choice.

CEP820 also uses Google Spreadsheets to create an interactive “assignment tracker” containing all assignments in the class. Students access the spreadsheet to report completion of assignments. Instructors visit the form to inform individual students when feedback on their assignments is available. Grades are not posted to the assignment tracker, it is simply a communication device and also helps put peer pressure on students (and instructors) to stay on top of things.

“Video Voicemails” are a quick way CEP 820 instructors stay in touch with students. Even when instructors are travelling they still post so students know they are still present in the course. The video voicemails help create the connection between student and instructor and are also a nice outlet to reinforce important concepts/theories, address confusion, and create a class culture. Wolf’s primary suggestion for video voicemails: keep them short! Around the 2 minute mark – otherwise you’ll move beyond “voicemail” and it becomes a “regular” lecture. Some CEP 820 students live in countries where YouTube is blocked – so instructors make sure each semester to find alternate ways for these students to stream the video (or at the very least post the full movie file in the CMS.)

CEP 820 also uses podcasting and screencasting as feedback mechanisms. The course integrates non-textual feedback since so much of the online course development process is visual. Time is always in issue when giving students authentic and meaningful assessment and using audio and video (screencasts) has proven to be beneficial for both students and instructors.

Since submission of the AT&T award, the Master of Arts in Educational Technology program has started a Pinterest showcase board highlighting exemplary student work from CEP 820 - http://pinterest.com/maet_msu/cep820-teaching-online-showcase/.


Michelle Schira-Hagerman (lead TA)
Wolf and Schira Hagerman would like to acknowledge the TAs (in alphabetical order) who assisted in the delivery of this version of CEP 820 over the past four years: Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, Mike DeSchryver, Anne Heintz, Laeeq Khan, Sean Leahy, April Nimela, Ammon Wilcken, Alan Wu and Andrea Zellner. We would also like to thank Dr. Robin Dickson who planted the seeds for what has grown into this version of CEP 820 with her special topics course Teaching K-12 Students in Online Environments first offered in the summer of 2007.