January 5, 2013

Yammer Time! Or is it?

Posted by Dr. Laura Guertin

Wouldn’t you know that as soon as my wrist heals, I sustain a double knee injury.  I’ve been in physical therapy every semester since Fall 2010, but now that I’m just about healed from everything, I can find some time to start blogging again!  I’ll have more to post in the future about some projects from previous semesters (such as using iPads in Puerto Rico), but I’ll start now with the same topic all my colleagues are stressing about – the start of the Spring 2013 semester!

Last semester, I attended an on campus and online session to learn more about Yammer.  Not familiar with Yammer?  Think of it as a Facebook site for a private group of people.  It is used in the corporate world a fair amount, it seems, and Penn State has set up its own Penn State Yammer network.  I learned I could set up a private group for my class even in the Penn State-only network, where students could post, comments, upload files and images, etc.

The pluses = students are familiar with the Facebook format, so creating/replying to posts would not have much of a learning curve (if any), students would not have to worry about “the world” seeing what they put online, and if I created the correct prompts, I could have some great asynchronous conversations going on.

The minuses = this tool does not get me closer to my course goals and objectives.

Yes, it always comes back to that question, “what do I want my students to come out of my courses with?”  I’m teaching a new course this semester, Environmental Factors and Their Effect on Your Food Supply.  When I started thinking about what to cover in this course and how to do it, I went back to the online tutorial for Designing Effective and Innovative Courses by SERC/On The Cutting Edge.  And although I think Yammer would be “fun” and “cool” to try out with students, I have to give it a pass – at least this time around.  I’m going to be focusing on geographic literacy and Google Maps right away, which I know will take some time and where I want students to keep their focus as well.

My classes start Monday, January 7 – wish me luck!