Use WordPress.com to create a teaching portfolio

Jeff Neely developed his website when he took Mass Communication Teaching in 2007.

Creating a teaching portfolio can be helpful as you prepare to enter the job market for a faculty position. Some job postings will ask you to submit a teaching portfolio or materials that would be in a teaching portfolio, such as a syllabus you’ve developed or a teaching philosophy.

A great way to have those materials available for others to review and to demonstrate your own technology skills is to have your teaching portfolio posted online.

As your final project for the course, you are to create an online teaching portfolio, using materials that you have been developing this semester, including your vitae and your undergraduate course materials.

You will be creating the portfolio as a WordPress blog. Advances in WordPress have made it a great choice for developing what used to be termed a website. More organizations are converting from coded websites to WordPress blogs. Our college’s “website” is, in fact, a WordPress blog — http://www.jou.ufl.edu

In Monday’s class, we’ll have workshop to work on your WordPress site. Here’s what you need to do.

Start mapping out what you’d like your online portfolio to include. Make a list and have your materials as digital files. Photos should be optimized for the Web. Slide presentations should be saved as PDF handouts. If you aren’t familiar with how to do that, we’ll review in our workshop.

Set up your WordPress account. Be sure to set up a free WordPress.com account and not a WordPress.org account. Start exploring the site. If you’ve selected a theme, that can help you be better prepared. A theme I think would work well for a portfolio is Twenty Eleven, which is the theme I used for this blog.

Watch Lynda.com videos to help you learn about using WordPress.com. As a UF student, you have access to hundreds of free Lynda.com videos. This is a great resource. To learn about WordPress, I’d suggest that you watch tutorials in WordPress.com Essential Training by Morten Rand-Hendriksen. (When you go to Lynda.com, click on the B for blogging and then select this training package.) You’ll see that the training is divided into dozens of short videos — similar to the Khan Academy approach to training. You can watch some of these tutorials prior to our Monday workshop and then watch others as you continue to work on your online portfolio. Most are just a few minutes.

Bring with you to class: Your laptop (be sure it’s charged) and digital files. Those files can include your bio, a headshot (and I’ll bring my camera to take headshots), your vitae, your course syllabus, your slides from your teaching presentation, etc. And I know you’ll bring your I’m-ready-to-learn outlook.

Here are two sample online portfolios from former students in Mass Communication Teaching:

Katie Abrams was a doctoral student in UF’s Ag Communications program. Visit her website to see how she organized materials.

Jeff Neely (website at top of post) developed his website in 2007 when he was a student in Mass Communication Teaching. At that time, we created online portfolios in Dreamweaver. Using WordPress.com makes the whole process much easier!

If you’re interested in learning more about blogging, which could become an asset for your future teaching, you should consider taking Multimedia Blogging (MMC 6930) next semester with Dr. Judy Robinson.

Students in the course develop their own blogs and learn to self-host and incorporate multimedia — including audio and video —  into their blogs.

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Fred Stephenson’s ‘Extraordinary Teachers’ can help you develop your own teaching philosophy

In Monday’s class, we’ll talk about Fred Stephenson’s “Extraordinary Teachers: The Essence of Excellent Teaching” as a way of exploring teaching philosophies.

As part of your written preparation for our discussion, please read Stephenson’s opening section where he discusses qualities that make teachers extraordinary. Then read 10 of the teachers’ essays.

In writing three to four pages reacting to these materials, include a listing of three qualities that you would like students to use in describing you as a teacher.

For this written assignment, bring your reaction paper as a printed copy.

How to motivate students to complete out-of-class assignments

by Amal Bakry
Ph.D. Student, University of Florida

This is a summary of our discussion from my teaching presentation on how to motivate students to complete out-of-classroom assignments.

Research indicates that very few college students get to reach their full potential by graduation. The major difference between students who reach their full potential and those who don’t is motivation. Some students are intrinsically motivated and care mainly about learning for its own sake.  Other students are extrinsically motivated and are interested in grades and recognition. It is important to foster both types of motivation in order to encourage students to do their out of classroom assignments.

The findings of an MIT study on rewarding performance of college students indicate that the higher the reward the lower the performance. A reward is considered to be an “extrinsic motivator.” While education researchers initially believed that teachers should foster only intrinsic motivation, they have come to believe that extrinsic motivation is of equal importance and that it needs to be fostered as well.

Highly successful assignments have the following characteristics:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Clarity of directions for students to know what is expected of them
  • Clarity of evaluation criteria
  • Clarity of skills that students need to have in order to complete assignment
  • Clarity of timing needed for students in order to complete assignment
  • Teachers need to provide regular feedback
  • Teachers need to provide guidance to students
  • Assignment needs to be introduced through an assignment packet
  • Teachers need to indicate the available resources needed in order to complete assignment

To structure highly effective assignments, teachers need to avoid the following:

  • Expecting an ideal response from all students
  • Providing confusing commands
  • Providing insufficient resources
  • Giving too many questions to be answered in any one assignment
  • Setting an impossible time restraint

Here are some resources that I have found to be particularly helpful on this topic:

  1. Svinicki, M. and McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
  2. MIT study “the effect of rewards on college students’ motivation” video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM9p4o050EY&feature=related
  3. The in-depth interviews I have conducted to better understand students’ attitudes towards assignments http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGLYx1gXQGw&feature=plcp
  4. “Structuring Assignments for Success,” Deborah DeZure, Michigan State University http://fod.msu.edu/oir/course-design-assignment-design
  5. “Motivating students” http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/motivation.html
  6. “Motivation in college students” http://lac.smccme.edu/motivation.htm
  7. “Some ideas for motivating students” http://www.virtualsalt.com/motivate.htm

Amal Bakry is a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).

5 favorite tools for using Sakai as a course management system (CMS)

by Annelie Schmittel, PhD Student Mass Communication,  University of Florida

Course management systems (CMS) have undergone steady transitions ever since the birth of the World Wide Web. These transitions certainly impacted (and still impact) many college campuses in the country. The progression towards online teaching and even the expectations of use of technology in regular classrooms only fuels the need for professors, instructors or teaching assistants to become familiar with course management systems and the tools within.

Here at the University of Florida we recently switched from Blackboard to Sakai. While Sakai may not be the most intuitive or user-friendly CMS out there, it does offer a variety of tools that can be of great benefit to instructors.

My TOP 5 Sakai tools are:

1. Site Info

When your course site is first set up, a few features are automatically included on your left-hand navigation. Site Info allows you to customize your left-hand navigation bar, both as far as content and order of navigation links. You can include tools that you will implement in your course, while at the same time eliminating tools that you will not use. This will help students and instructors in terms of organization and clarity.

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Developing undergraduate course materials lets you demonstrate strategies for your teaching and for student learning

The major project for Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930) is developing materials for an undergraduate communications course. We’ve been working on that project since the second week of class when you met with me to discuss the course you were considering and how developing that course would fit with your teaching goals.

You’ll be turning in your syllabus – paper version – in class on Oct. 29. By the end of class, you will be posting at least a portion of your syllabus on your online portfolio.

Here are the parts of the syllabus that you will be turning in:

Proposal for course – You turned in your proposal on Sept. 17. Revise that proposal to reflect any changes you’ve made to the course, such as including prerequisites, and to add references to the syllabi you used for developing the course.

Syllabus – Your syllabus should comply with the expectations of a course syllabus set out by the University of Florida — www.aa.ufl.edu/Data/Sites/18/media/policies/syllabi_policy.pdf

You also want your syllabus to reflect best practices as discuss in McKeachie’s Teaching Tips and What the Best College Teachers Do. That means having student learning outcomes that are connected with student assessment, an explanation of grading, and a variety of teaching and learning strategies. You want your syllabus to convey your organization and your interest in the course and the students. See the UF Resources page for links to other resources on campus that you will want to include in your syllabus.

Your syllabus should be based on UF’s schedule for Spring Semester 2013. Include a listing of each class meeting and what the reading assignment or other homework would be for the class. Also include due dates for major assignments and test dates. My personal preference is to speak directly to the students in the syllabus. Here’s an example from my syllabus for Multimedia Writing: “The lab instructors and I want to help you be successful in this course. If you need individual assistance beyond the help you receive in lab, it is your responsibility to meet with your lab instructor or me during office hours or set up an appointment for another time.”

Timeline – The timeline is a planning tool for you and would provide a foundation for developing a lesson plan for each class meeting. You wouldn’t give the timeline to your students. For each class meeting, include the student learning objectives and a brief explanation of what activities you’d include in class, such as presentation, working in teams, a minute paper, watching a video or listening to an audio file, or class discussion. Your overall course should reflect a variety of instructional strategies. I distributed a sample timeline in class.

Assessment activity – Develop an assessment activity that would be a significant portion of the students’ grade for the semester. This may be either an exam and answer key OR a major project with a grading rubric. The assignment should reflect best practices from the presentations made by Antionette Rollins and Chris Wilson.

Two lesson plans – Select two days (or one three-hour class) and develop lesson plans. The lesson plans should include student learning objectives, how you would begin the class and the class content. Your lesson plan can incorporate bullet points or phrases. The lesson plan should be complete enough that you could teach from it. For examples, if you are going to have a class discussion, you need to list the questions that you would use to guide the discussion. If you are going to have a slide presentation, include a handout of the slides. Select two days where you would have a major role in the class. So do not select a day when you are giving a test, having a guest speaker, or having group presentations. I distributed a sample lesson plan in class.

When you bring your materials to class, please organize them in this order and have a large clip, binder or envelope for them.

We’ll spent part of class on Monday reviewing classmates’ course packets and discussing the process of curriculum development.

How do students become well-rounded in media skills while abiding by accreditation restrictions?

by Alexa Lopez
English Education graduate student, University of Florida

Before this year, the curriculum at the University of Miami’s School of Communication had been set in a way that restricted the content and number of courses that students, including myself, could take as they pursued their degrees.

For instance, according to the school’s bulletin for 2010-2011, which I fell under, I could only take up to 42 credits in the school as part of the journalism program; the remaining 78 credits for my degree had to come from non-communication courses taken for a required second major plus electives.

Also, if you took more than the capped amount of credits allotted for your program in the School of Communication, you had to take that same number of credits outside of the School of Communication. That is, if I wanted to take an extra three-credit course in the School of Communication (resulting in a total of 45 communication credits), I had to balance it with another three-credit course in an outside school.

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6 advantages of rubrics for students and teachers and how to create rubrics

by Chris Wilson
Ph.D. Student, University of Florida

In this post, I’m sharing a summary of our discussion from my teaching presentation on evaluating student assignments using rubrics.

A rubric is an assessment tool that breaks an assignment into its component parts and defines specific criteria to evaluate a student’s level of performance.

A rubric consists of three basic elements:

  1. The traits or dimensions that identify the skills and knowledge required to complete the assignment.
  2. A scale that indicates the different levels of performance for the assignment.
  3. Descriptions of each trait at each level of performance. However, in some rubrics only a description of the highest level of achievement is included.

Rubrics offer a number of advantages to teachers and students:

  1. Rubrics allow busy professors to provide timely feedback to students.
  2. Rubrics prepare students to use teacher feedback to improve on future assignments by allowing them to compare their level of performance with the ideal.
  3. Rubrics encourage students to think critically about the quality of their own work.
  4. Rubrics facilitate communication with other graders and teachers, as well as student service personnel who may be helping students to complete their assignments.
  5. Rubrics allow teachers to evaluate their own teaching by revealing areas of strength and weakness in student assignments.
  6. Rubrics can level the playing field for students of all races, languages, etc., by fostering a dialogue about expectations between teachers and their students.

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