Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Laura Bardroff Zieger
Laura Zieger is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology at New Jersey City University. She earned her doctorate in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University. Both her M.A. and B.A. are in English Education. She presents and publishes on the subject of educational technology and distance learning. She recently co-authored a book entitled, Teachers as Technology Leaders. She is currently a judge for the Software Information Industry Association's CODIE Awards. In addition, her research and involvement in online parenting communities has been published in Family PC magazine, Sesame Street Parents and the Morris Record newspaper.
I was first introduced to Tapped In while I attended courses at Pepperdine University for my Ed.D. in Educational Technology. The professors utilized the program for synchronous communication, supplemented by other forms of asynchronous discussions (newsgroups). Professionals in the field were brought in as guest lecturers, supplementing the knowledge we gained and shared with our professors and other cadre members. We collaborated in groups, gathered in all-class lectures, and cultivated our community of learners through both public and private discussions. I was impressed with the technology and how it was utilized.
In the six years since I was first introduced to Tapped In, I have taught over one hundred courses online. My students are primarily New Jersey classroom teachers who want to become Technology Facilitators or School Media Specialists while earning a Master's degree. I teach in-person, completely online and a hybrid of both, with more than 80 percent of my teaching primarily online. Specifically, I teach a course, Distance Learning for Educators, which focuses on best practices in teaching and learning online. It is in this course that I introduce Tapped In to my students as a resource for online teaching and learning.
As part of my students' exploration of online learning environments and MUVEs (multi-user virtual environments), I ask that they visit Tapped In at a time of their choosing. The first assignment is to read the Interface Guide and the Help page. Second, I ask that students find my office and leave a message on my White Board. This offers a bit of a challenge and motivates them with a specific goal. Following, their next assignment is to attend the Tips and Tricks session (checking the calendar with the correct time zone for the schedule). They then are to create their own office and add me as a buddy. Lastly, they are to post a time to meet on our class discussion forum and then email the transcript of the discussion (about synchronous communication and the TI environment) to me.
Frequently, the students' initial reaction to TappedIn is that the interface is confusing. It is unlike anything they have experienced and have little frame of reference to which it can be compared. Some of the comments posted include: "Yay I found you! This is so cool! I can't wait for my Tips & Tricks session so I can learn more" and "I am a little apprehensive right now. I don't know what to expect. But I am very curious about exploring" and "It took me awhile, but I finally figured out how to get here!"
Once students actually log in and are approached by a help desk person, such as BJB or JeffC, or attend an online event, all of these fears are allayed and students begin to see the value and simplicity of the technology. The help desk people are so helpful that I usually warn my students not to be afraid if they are approached by a stranger! Ultimately, students find Tapped In to be a remarkable technology that can be utilized for professional development, collaboration, networking and teaching. Several of my students have created groups for specific learning goals and others have utilized the technology for teaching hybrid K-12 classes and conducting research. The only complaint in the end is that time flies by too quickly when you are "tapped in."