Using Zoho Projects as an educator


Penrith mature 1I’m a professor and for the past 10 months, I’ve used Zoho Projects for team projects in my classrooms and for collaborations amongst academics at a distance.

I’d just like to share my thoughts on how I use this tool, the things I absolutely love about this online collaboration application, and things I wish could be worked on.  I’m also sharing this with the Zoho support team on their support forum.

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Teaching a web-design service-learning course


Create Refine Show

Image: T. Smith, 2009. With subject's consent.

Nearing the end of an adventure

In a few days my students in Communications Studies 463 will be completing their final websites and collected experiences and reflections.

Their thoughts will be presented publicly on campus on April 14th to an audience of approximately 30 people in addition to their class of 27 students and 4 instructional team members.

My post today responds to several of the common themes of their reflections:

  • transformed expectations about what the course should/would be like
  • the unexpected workload that comes with increased accountability to stakeholders in addition to the usual fear/respect for the grade
  • the technology challenges and learning
  • the teamwork challenges and learning
  • the unusual roles of the instructional team members as collaborators
  • the unfamiliar assignments that are a “hybrid” of academic, public, and organizational genres suiting our hybrid partnership and bridge-building aims.
  • the joys and fears of producing a real website for a real public while being evaluated by one another and supporting one another.

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The Rhetoric of Research Ethics


As I begin teaching another new service-learning course (Coms 463: Advanced Professional and Technical Communication) at the University of Calgary, Canada, in which my students will conduct interviews, I must once again apply for course-based research ethics approval from my faculty’s ethics subcommittee.

ResearchEthics clip Frame1

Click the image to see all 3 frames. Created via Cartoon Playground.

Within this application I am required to describe such factors as

  • the context in which the students will be researching
  • how I educate them about research ethics,
  • whom they are recruiting and how they avoid coercion
  • methods of research (survey, interview, etc.)
  • and the means of obtaining proof of informed consent, secure data retention, and ethical data dissemination as agreed between researchers and participants.

This post describes the rhetorical audiences, purposes, skills, and impacts of the research ethics application process.  Continue reading

Accommodating Student Time for Service-Learning


Students working on a project

Students working on a service-learning group project (Photo by T. Smith, 2009, with student consent and release)

The time students spend inside and outside of class on service-learning preparation and service is an important issue in Community Service-Learning course design.

UPDATE:  Here is the Power Point (PPT) file of the Helping Students Find Time for Service-Learning presentation for the talk given on this topic at the 2009 EngageNOW conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Why does it matter?

Structuring time and credit for service-learning is increasingly an issue for administrators and teachers, students and community partners :

  1. The desire of administrators to make service-learning more accessible to more students due to the community service question (and related questions) on the NSSE survey .  (The NSSE is increasingly used in public ratings of universities and internal measures of effective programming, as in the Canadian magazine Maclean’s, as seen in this 2009 Maclean’s article with a chart of university rankings.  Service-learning is categorized as a type of “Enriching educational experience”)
  2. The desire of students to integrate community-based learning and community problem-solving with academic credit-based learning,  especially when co-op and co-curricular service-learning are not convenient time commitments for most students.  Also, the simultaneous involvement of peers’ and instructors’ time makes service-learning more effective and satisfying.  Quality mutual engagement in a partnership requires the alignment of everyone’s schedules.
  3. Students’ complicated schedules and lifestyles, especially students who commute to campus and employment. This affects how many service projects they can take on, how many courses they can enroll in, time to graduation, full/part time student registration, and student anxiety/stress
  4. The necessity of making community service-learning truly beneficial to the community. It is difficult enough for community partners to schedule their staff members’ time to plan and guide service-learning. If the service project is too small and insignificant, the effort of hosting and orienting students will be too great for a busy partner.  If a project is performed very poorly because students can’t devote enough time, it will lead to disappointment for the community partner and less interest in hosting a student service project in the future.

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2 Linked CSL Courses on Sustainability


This fall I will be linking two of my courses together with a shared theme of Sustainability and a shared project to create a website and/or blog.

The project will be to research and/or communicate about how our own Faculty of Communication and Culture teachers and students learn about, research and serve communities to enhance environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

The two courses are COMS 451: Research in Communication and COMS 463: Advanced Professional and Technical Communication. The links in the previous sentence lead to the course websites that were still under construction at the time of writing this blog. In the upper left-hand corner of each website is a link to its course outline.

In this blog, I describe how I plan to do this. I invite questions, comments, and good advice!

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Top 10 reasons to avoid CSL


10 cent Euro coin, 2007.  from Wikimedia.

10 cent Euro coin, 2007. from Wikimedia.

[ added August 10th:  What is CSL? Community Service Learning.  It’s a partnership between a teacher, the students in his/her course, and a community organization.  They combine a course’s learning goals with specific goals and activities that enhance communities.  For example, students may create a new brochure for a local health organization.  For more information please see the website of the Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning (CACSL). ]

Okay, so I admit I’m a real supporter of Community Service-Learning. But you also know I’m a rhetorician from the context of this blog, so you will likely be resistant to my direct persuasion!

So I take a negative psychology approach to persuasion in this post. By reflecting on these 10 reasons NOT to do CSL and the social conditions under which it might NOT be wise to try it, you might actually find yourself considering the very good reasons for going ahead and doing it.

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Peer Mentors in Courses


Telemachus and Mentor (public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

Telemachus and Mentor (public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

I wrote the message below in response to a Summer 2008 listserv request for information on courses for peer tutors of writing who are assigned to particular courses.

Here, I briefly explain the model of “curricular peer mentoring” and how it is practiced in the program that I developed at the university of Calgary.

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