Common Assessment in ENG102 – Evaluating Web Sources

January 26, 2013 in cybersalonaz, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, GCC, ENG102, 30in30, assignment, assessment, evaluate sources, research assignment, rubric by Coop

For two years we’ve been discussing a common assessment tool to use in all of our freshman composition courses at GCC, from ENG071 all the way up to ENG102. I participate in the ENG102 assessment group since I teach that course every semester. The course competency that we decided to focus on was: Find, evaluate, select, and synthesize both online and print sources that examine a topic from multiple perspectives. Our course competencies are so broad, as you can see, so we started by writing several Student Learning Objectives (SLO).

We then choose SLO 3: Locate at least one online source and determine the credibility of it by evaluating the validity of information contained within each source. We came up with a few tools that we could use for this assessment in our individual classes. This semester we have started to collect data from this common assessment, but I think we still have some ironing out to do.

Screen shot 2013-01-26 at 6.20.43 PM

For instance, we’ve agreed on a common tool or a collection of tools to use in this assessment, but we’ve never really discussed a rubric in which to evaluate this assessment. I think coming up with a rubric will help make the assessment valid. That way if won’t matter which tool we use to assess the SLO. How we evaluate our students’ work will be the key to success. With this in mind, I actually give students a choice in which evaluation tool they want to use in this assessment, but no matter which one they choose, I use the same rubric to evaluate their work. I think we should adopt a rubric for everyone to use in this process.

Below is my rubric followed by the assignment (Assignment #4) that I give students.

Screen shot 2013-01-26 at 6.37.33 PM

Assignment #4: Evaluating Online Sources

Student Learning Objectives
In this assignment students will:

  • Locate at least one online source and determine the credibility of it by evaluating the validity of information contained within each source.

 A Little Humor to Show the Importance of Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Online Sources

Read the CARS Checklist handout. Read the online tutorial: Evaluating Online Sources. This tutorial presents a brief overview of the reasons to evaluate information you find on the Internet, offers guidelines to assist you in the process, and helps you assess the information found on sample web pages. Finally, check out the Evaluating Web Sites tutorial from Maryland and their Online Checklist.

Each tool listed above uses its own vocabulary in evaluating sources. You need to be familiar with different evaluation tools. You will need to use this vocabulary in your evaluation for this assignment. Listed below you will find a list of the vocabulary needed for each tool. Remember you will only use one tool for the assignment, but you should be familiar with all three.

Keep in mind that some of the guidelines presented here might not apply to your research needs. You need to think about your own purposes and about how your audience will use the information you provide.

How to Use The Tutorials & Vocabulary

Assignment Steps

Prepare: Read the above online tutorials: Evaluating Online Sources, CARS Checklist handout or Evaluating Web Sites.

Read: Choose a web page from Assn. #3 or do a new web search to locate a website with information related to your research topic. Read through the web page.

Evaluate: Using the Guidelines for one of the three tools above (not all three), write a one page evaluation of the chosen website. Your evaluation should focus on the guidelines and how the chosen website meets or does not meet the desired guidelines. Write your evaluation in paragraph form and use the vocabulary of the chosen tool. Highlight or bold or underline the guideline terms (vocab) in your assignment.

Submit: Save your one page evaluation, minimum 300 words, and post it right here. If it’s not one full page, it is not enough. Feel free to write more if you evaluation warrants it.

Example Assignment

Send Students on an Odyssey When Doing Research

January 25, 2013 in cybersalonaz, research, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, Odyssey, GCC, ENG102, 30in30, assignments, research paper by Coop

Screen shot 2013-01-26 at 5.31.41 PMIn my ENG102 Freshman Composition course I have 10 assignments and four papers that students do before they submit their final research projects. Five of the assignments are research assignments and are required in order to submit a final paper. I named the research assignments Odysseys, something I borrowed from a colleague years ago when I first started teaching at CAC. The whole idea of the Odyssey assignments is to get students practicing several research skills in one assignment that are directly related to their final projects. This is how I introduce these assignments to students.

What is an Odyssey?

An odyssey, famous for a Greek epic poem (attributed to Homer) describing the journey of Odysseus after the fall of Troy, is a long wandering and eventful journey. This is a perfect description for writing a research paper. It’s not something that we put together in a day. Writing a research paper is a long wandering and eventful journey, so some of the key journeys in this process have been labeled odysseys to indicate their importance. All Odyssey assignments are required and must be submitted in order for your final paper to be accepted. No skipping Odysseys. They are mandatory.

The Odyssey assignments include:

  • Locating Sources on the Internet
  • Locating Books on the Online Library Catalog
  • Locating Periodicals in Databases
  • Scholarly Journal Search
  • Locating References Sources (in the Library/not online)

All five assignments have similar elements. For one, at least one of the sources they discover during each of the research assignments must be used in the final paper. This helps eliminate students turning in some random paper at the end. It’s more difficult if they have to integrate these sources into a paper that is already written. Or if they are doing it correctly, it makes it easier to integrate sources into a final paper by doing it a little at a time.

Each assignments also calls for students to either summarize, paraphrase or quote from the sources found. Each assignment focuses on just one note taking skill in each assignment. Each assignment asks for students to think critically about the usefulness of the chosen source, both specifically on the topic and on the source type in general. For instance, when searching for reference sources, they must choose four different types of references sources and discuss how each is useful for the given project. In addition, they contemplate how the specific information discover can be used in their final paper.

Lastly, each assignment requires that students practice documentation style by adding all the new sources to a working bibliography. The first half of the class they learn MLA, and then we switch to APA in the second half. So students are required to take a MLA working bibliography and transfer it over to APA format. They have several lessons on the major differences between the two and in what situations they would choose one or the other.

Each assignment, including the other five non-odyssey assignments, build on the final project. When students have worked their way through all the assignments in the class, it’s just a matter of revision, editing, and expanding their final paper. They have plenty of sources and plenty of notes that they’ve already spent time evaluating, citing and synthesizing into smaller assignments. It’s teaches students that writing a research paper is process, and if done right, it’s not that difficult to do.

What Do Students Learn by Using Social Bookmarking Site Diigo?

January 22, 2013 in cybersalonaz, Diigo, research, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, social media, GCC, ENG102, 30in30, assignment by Coop

Initially students don’t care too much for Diigo when I introduce it in an assignment in Week 2 of the semester. They’re still trying to get used to all the other new technology in the online course, and Diigo is almost the stone that breaks the camel’s back. But not quite. They warm up to it as the course moves on. I’ve questioned whether having students use yet another technology tool is too much for them to deal with, but the advantages of what they learn and experience by using it out weighs any reservations I may have had.

So, what exactly are the advantages of having students use this social bookmarking tool? First, they are in the exploratory phase of their research projects. They’re still trying to figure out what good topics are, so in order to not have them wondering alone in this process, I have them sharing ideas. Diigo allows for students to share bookmarks with each other in a group area. All of the sites saved in the group show up for all to see. Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 10.59.01 PM

As shown in the image above, I teach students about taxonomy. Taxonomy is a way to group things together using tags. It makes it easier for students to find common topics within the group posts. Students are supposed to use the class theme tag: “personal+freedoms” along with 5 of their own tags based on the subject of the site bookmarked. Diigo then creates a tag list (right below) for the group so students can look at the most popular topics that emerge during the search process. Rights, laws, health and the constitution are all popular with students.

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 10.48.19 PMStudents also practice their summarization skills, as they are to write 2-3 sentence summaries for each website they save. This way other students looking at the list will see a brief summary before clicking through to the link. If a student likes the saved site, he/she can “Like” it or they can comment on the saved bookmark. Many impromptu discussions come from this.

The Diigo group becomes another place for students to discuss topics with built in discussion forums. Diigo gives you the option to post a bookmark or a topic. The topic is set up just like a discussion forum. You can set up one with a specific question you want for students to discuss. These discussion “topics” are not threaded however.

Of course students figure out quickly that Diigo is a good place to store some of their online research so it’s easily accessible, but I think the greatest skill students learn by doing this assignment is that they can continue to help each other out during the research process. I’ve seen students continue to share different websites in the Diigo group because they know what other students are interested in and this is a place where those interested will see them.

You can read more about the Diigo assignment here: Social Bookmarking in the Freshman Composition Research Class.

Social Bookmarking in the Freshman Composition Research Class

January 22, 2013 in cybersalonaz, Diigo, research, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, social media, GCC, ENG102, 30in30, assignments by Coop

I can still remember when Delicious was all the rage. Remember when you had to remember where all the periods went – I’m not sure I got it right, but those were the days. Then Delicious got bought by Yahoo! and was shelved. Then Yahoo! sold it to the current owners who have, to their credit, tried to regain the hold on the social bookmarking space. But that is all for not, as Diigo took the opportunity to step in when Delicious struggled and created a more education centric service that still thrives today.

I’ve used Diigo in my Freshman Composition ENG102 courses now for about 5-6 years. It’s a research class, so I like to get students started in the research process with something easy – Googling and sharing what they find with each other. I set up the assignment to get students to explore the course theme: personal freedoms to help narrow the focus of their individual research topics. I’ve posted the meat of the assignment below.

Setting Up & Using Diigo

We will use Diigo throughout the semester to keep track of the websites we find during the research process. When you save a webpage, it’s called bookmarking. Diigo is a social bookmarking site. It’s social because it allows for all of us to share our bookmarks with each other. It’s like a big researching party!

Watch this screencast: Setting Up & Using Diigo to learn how to set-up and use Diigo.

Assignment Steps


  • Read the online handbook chapter and watch the lesson video above. Also read the information about Diigo, watch the Diigo videos and register for an account.
  • Join the ENG102 Diigo group.


  • Start with Google. Open a browser and type:
  • Type in different search terms relating to our discussion on personal freedoms. Remember the sky is the limit. We are only exploring, so try many different search terms.
  • Use the tips you learned in the Searching the Internet video.


  • Using the Diigo site, bookmark 10 websites about personal freedoms that you find interesting. Choose a variety of topics that fall under personal freedoms.
  • Give each site you save a Title or edit the current title to make it clear (1 point each).
  • Tag the sites with terms that relate to the site, including the tag: personal+freedoms (don’t forget the plus sign +) You need at least 3 tags for each bookmarked website (1 point each).
  • Write a short summary of the website in the Comment box, so that others will have a good idea what the site offers before clicking the links. Summaries should be 2-3 sentences (1 point each).


  • To submit your 10 links for grading, all you have to do is make sure you are a member of the ENG102 Diigo Group. I decided not to send invites. Just join the group below after you set up your account and I’ll approve you.
  • ENG102 Diigo Group <– Click to Join

Example Assn #2

This is a screen capture of a student’s Diigo page. Make sure you have 10 entries that look like this.Diigo Example

Read more about Diigo: What Do Students Learn by Using Social Bookmarking Site Diigo?

They’re Here! They’re Here! Finally

January 14, 2013 in cybersalonaz, technology, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, GCC, 30in30, digital natives by Coop

We’ve been talking about the so called Digital Natives and the Millennials being the tech generation for years. But I just haven’t seen them in my classes. My students have not only not shown an interest in technology, but often struggled with the technology I used in my classes. But not this semester. In the first class of the Spring 2013 semester, the Digital Natives showed up! Yippee!

First, while Cindy (Co-Teacher) was talking about critical thinking with the class, she asked what a word meant. I wasn’t paying attention (Ha!), so I missed the word, but the student sitting in front of me grabbed her phone and started “messing around” with it. I didn’t pay her any mind either until Cindy called on her. She took one last look at the phone and then apologetically said “I was looking it up,” and then recited her answer to the class. She thought she was doing something wrong, but I was secretly praising her. It wasn’t like it was a vocab word she was supposed to have learned before coming to class. It was a spur of the moment, what does that mean type of question, and she gave the answer. Nice work young lady.


Our Learning Community Circle on Google+

During my part of the learning community class, I was teaching students how to get their Google+ accounts set up, and a student asked if she could get G+ on her phone, and if I knew how to get her school email to forward to her regular Gmail account on her phone. I think if I’d let her, she would have asked me how to do a bunch of other stuff too. We didn’t have time, but I was thrilled that she wanted to know, and thrilled that she is already thinking about managing her tech life.

Several students whipped out their phones to pull up their class schedules after we took roll and they were not on it. “Aren’t you Nielson?” one asks while reading her phone. I grabbed it to see that she was indeed not in the right place. I then overheard one student telling the student next to him that she should use the Firefox browser instead that one (IE) because it works better. He didn’t elaborate further, but enough was said to impress me. I hope she listened to him.

But it gets better. Later I announced to students to be sure to check their emails daily, as I would be sending the weekly podcast out tomorrow. After class a nice young man approached me and asked if he would be able to get those podcasts on his iPhone. Why certainly! Let me show you how. So I showed him how to grab the RSS feed from the announcements in Canvas and add it to his iTunes. Later I plan to find a podcatcher app for the iPhone to share with him as well.

All in all it was a great technology day in the classroom. I’ve been so beat down, I was expecting to have more push back about having to use Canvas and Google+, but they all loved it. It’s going to be a great semester (fingers crossed).

How Do You Check for Website Validity and Plagiarism?

January 10, 2013 in cybersalonaz, Teaching, ENG102, 30in30, plagiarism by Coop

I got a question yesterday from a colleague about checking website validity. I wasn’t sure I understood the question that was asked, so I’m not sure I answered it correctly. She asked: Is it possible that we could learn more ways to “clear” websites as to content validity. I took this to mean that they wanted to be able to run website content through a plagiarism detector to see if the site was using content without properly citing it. I had heard of a few tools, so I shared the following.

We used to be able to run text through the plagiarism detector in Bb, but not any longer now that we’ve moved to Canvas. We should have a new district wide plagiarism detection tool by the end of this semester or summer, so there could be a way to have students check text using this tool once we get it. There are also a few online plagiarism detectors. I haven’t used them yet, but I may this semester.

I think the last two get at what the questioner was asking, at least I hope. If you’ve used any of these plagiarism tools, leave me a comment to let me know how it worked out for you.

Making Online Lit Classes Work – The Secret Sauce

January 9, 2013 in cybersalonaz, technology, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, Teaching Online, GCC, blogging, 30in30, Literature, banned books, enh295 by Coop

I’ve been teaching online literature courses for four years now. My lit of choice is ENH295: Banned Books and Censorship. I’m still scarred from traditional American and British lit from college, and those courses were already in the capable hands of my colleagues who also teach literature online at GCC. So I went for Banned Books. Makes me feel like a rebel or something, but I like it and the students seem to as well.

Many often wonder how we make online literature courses work when the core element in the face to face class is discussion. We read, analyze and discuss. Well, we also have to write, so moving a course like this online is quite simple actually. We use discussion forums and blogs. This was problematic in the past with our LMS, so I moved the course over to a WordPress blog years ago. I’ve since moved the core content back to our new LMS Canvas, but the blog still remains a central part of the online course. I only moved the core content back for a secure gradebook. I was always nervous about having my grades in the cloud of a non-approved web service in past.

So let’s talk about this blog and how it works for the online lit class.

enh295webFirst off, for this blog to work, it needed to be more of a community than a blog. So I installed WordPress MU and BuddyPress to create this community. WordPress has since updated to 3.x and the multi-user part is just built in. So there is a main blog site that I post to, shown above, and then all the students have their own blogs to post to. All the students, blogs, forums and groups are tied together by the BuddyPress plugin. This plugin creates separate pages for each. For instance, clicking on the Blogs page will list all the blogs for the class with a link to their latest post. It also keeps track of all the activity on the site (logins, posts,etc.) as well as provides a Facebook like space to post “check ins.” This is called the Activities page. And just like on Facebook, students can comment on each others’ activity posts.

Basically the students are maintaining their individual blogs by writing literary analysis posts on the texts we are reading. The best part about this format is that all of their writing is shared with everyone in the class. They can read each others’ posts and comment on it, thus extending the discussion about the text. In a traditional class, much of the student writing is private and only shared between the student and the teacher. In this setup, I can build impromptu discussions around any individual student blog. My options are endless. And students are comfortable with each other because of the social network feel of the course network, so they’re not shy about commenting on each others’ work.

This setup has worked well for my class for four years now, so I’ll be sticking with it even now that we have Canvas.

Playing with Google+ in my Hybrid Class

January 4, 2013 in cybersalonaz, google, technology, Teaching, social media, blogging, ENG102, 30in30, learning community, Blended Learning by Coop

gplusLast year I taught two semesters in a hybrid learning community with my colleague and friend Cindy Ortega. We met one day a week for 2 1/2 hours. The other 2 1/2 hours was spent online. I taught ENG102 Freshman Composition and she taught CRE101 Critical Reading. Both classes when you look at the competencies are very similar, focusing on critical reading, writing and thinking. And of course we both teach research because we have to have something to read, write and think about. Our theme for the course was Food Waste and Sustainability, so we had students read the book American Wasteland and watch several movies about sustainability. This semester we watch Lester Brown’s Plan B movie and in the fall we watched No Impact Man. All of our content revolved around the ideas from the book and movie.

So with such an important topic, we thought it would be great to encourage students to be transparent in their work in the course, as what they were discussing and writing about would be relevant to all. With that in mind, I suggested we use Google+ as a blogging platform for students not just share their journals posts with us, but with the world. We did it for two semesters and students loved it. I’ll try to explain how it all worked out.

First, we have Google Apps for Education, but we didn’t have G+ turned on for students. Because of this students had to use a personal Gmail account to participate, which really can be confusing for students to have more than one Gmail account. We’d get students in class that would be logged into one account and then be locked out of an activity that was shared to the other Gmail account. An example of this is when a student logged into her personal Gmail to post her journal for the class and then went into Canvas to participate in a shared document assignment that was shared to her school Gmail account, she was denied access to the document. She didn’t realize she needed to switch accounts. This happened often, but after awhile they all figured it out.

On the first day of class we got all the students signed up for their Google accounts and opened up their G+ profiles. Then they all were instructed to add me (the instructor) to a circle – any circle. It didn’t matter what circle. I provided a link for them to click to take them directly to my G+ profile. Once they added me to a circle, they showed up in my G+ account as someone who added me to a circle. I then added them all into a circle named after the class: ENG102/CRE101. Once I had everyone in the circle, I shared the circle with the class and instructed them to save the circle with the same circle name. We were all connected now.

Throughout the semester students were given journal assignments to post in G+. Most were text posts, but some involved creating posters or videos or photos. The posts were to be shared with the class circle, thus making it private to only the class. However, we encouraged students to share with others and I often re-shared some really good posts. It wasn’t part of the grade, but students often commented on each others’ posts. But what really surprised me was students started using G+ to ask questions, and before I even realized the questions were there, other students started to answer.

We often work in groups, so students used G+ to communicate with group members outside of class. I held a few office hour sessions on G+ using Google Hangouts. And Cindy and I started using Hangouts for our weekly class planning sessions even though most of the time we were one hallway away.

Overall I think the G+ project was a good experience, and I look forward to expanding the use of it. This semester, if our class makes, I plan to do more discussions in G+ and more re-sharing of content from others outside of the course. I could maybe have students search to find other like minded individuals to learn from and share with. It could be fun.

Online Course Redesign for Better Engagement

December 19, 2012 in cybersalonaz, Teaching, Teaching Online, ENG102, instructional design, Canvas by Coop

I like to tell people that I’ve been designing an online course that I’ve been teaching for over 10 years. I say this because I feel that there is always room for improvement, and with the ever changing landscape of technology tools and LMS tools available, a good online course should never really be “finished.” It’s just ready for the next go round. Well, this next go round, Spring 2013, the ENG102 online course is due for a major upgrade. It seems only appropriate since so many others in Maricopa are going through their own redesigns as they move courses over from Blackboard to Instructure Canvas. I made the move a year ago, but now that I’m there or here, I’m ready for some major upgrades.

So like any good instructional designer would do, I did an analysis and came up with a list. The focus of the redesign is to make the course a little more engaging. I want for students to have more video and interactive lessons and less reading of handouts and texts. And when students do read the textbook, I want to give them more guidance for reading and remembering the concepts in those chapters. Here’s a quick preview of part of my list:


ENG102 Redesign list made in Evernote

I’m using Softchalk and video creation tools (iMovie, Pinnacle Studio 12 and Camtasia Studio 8) to make my lessons. I want for students to feel more like they are going to class instead of just doing assignments. Learn first, then practice by doing the assignments. So when they click on the weekly folder, there will be a clear pattern of read, watch, engage, practice, produce. I’m looking for engagement with the content, student to student, and with me each week. Students will engage with the content by having lessons with short auto-graded check questions embedded within and assigned readings with auto graded mini chapter quizzes in Connect Composition. They will engage with each other with the assignments that asked for students to share content with each other in discussion forums, VoiceThread discussions, peer review assignments, and an ongoing social bookmarking assignment in Diigo. Lastly students will engage in discussion with me with their assignments and prospectuses. Assignments are graded with lots of feedback and an opportunity to rewrite for a better grade, so we have engagement there once a week, as well as the feedback I give them on their audio/video prospectus assignments submitted every three weeks.

Most of the lessons are existing lessons, but many were not very engaging for students. They could read them or not, and probably still do okay on the assignments. By making them more interactive and more visual or auditory to cut down on the monotonous reading that many online students have to deal with, is what I was looking for. The new lessons are designed to encourage students to engage with the course content throughout the week and not just on the due date of the weekly assignment. So on the weekly page, I will give them suggested days to work and time estimates for completing the work for the week. Each week will require the minimum 2.5 hours of “class time” plus the recommended 6-9 hours of study/work time required for outside of class.

Hopefully seeing the recommended time requirements up front will encourage students to spend the time doing the work necessary to be successful in the course. And if they do, I hope these new lessons will be engaging and help them learn more.

New Tech to Try!

November 1, 2012 in iPad, technology, online, video, education, Algebra, eInstruction Interwrite Workspace, Helping students, Livescribe, Mathcast, Mobi, Student participation, Teaching, Teaching Online, TechFriends(Geeks), eInstruction, mathcasts, pencasts, interactive, math, Evernote, iPad applications, recording, arithmetic, AssistiveTech, smartpen, livescribe smartpen, animation, participation, Insight360, insight360 clickers, Clickers, taking notes, handwriting math, wi-fi by Sue Glascoe

I apologize for not writing more posts this semester, but I have been swamped with work and play :)

I just received the new wi-fi Livescribe smartpen called SKY today and I promise to write a blog post soon about the features and how I plan on using it.  Wi-fi opens the potential of the smartpen to be even smarter!! I can’t wait!

I have been using Doceri 2.0 along with the Mobi 360 w/ clickers in my math classes and plan on updating all of you on how well that is going (it is going REALLY well, by the way)  and how I have used them with my students.

Stay tuned….


The post New Tech to Try! appeared first on Teaching Math with Technology.

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