Archive for the ‘classroom’ Category

What I learned at the Sloan-C Conference

November 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I attended the Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning recently and I would like to share some of the highlights. The general table talk was about MOOCS (massive open online courses) but I am not going to talk about those today. The underlying theme that I was more interested in and I agree with is that in the future higher education will not and should not look like it does now. We need to redesign our courses to take advantage of the rich resources and experiences that students have available to them outside the classroom walls. We also need to make our classrooms relevant and up to date for our students.

Faculty Development

With that being said, faculty are expected to be doing more and more so time is becoming less and less. It is important to provide relevant faculty development in a variety of ways so faculty can access it in way that suits them. I saw a great presentation by the folks at St. Petersburg College. They are choosing a theme each month that highlights some technology or technique. They start the month with a blog post that contains all the information and videos that a faculty member would need to implement that in their classroom. They also include faculty talking about their experience utilizing that technology or technique in their classroom. Next there is a workshop event for hands on instruction for the faculty. This is followed by a webinar, lunch event and open lab times for faculty. I love how the faculty have a choice as to how they receive the information and that there is a consistent schedule of activities that faculty can count on and plan for. We hope to implement a variation on this at our campuses this spring.

Online Student Orientation

The other couple presentations that were very relevant for me was about creating an effective online orientation for students. Our students come to us from so many different preparatory “places” it is important to provide them information that is useful for those that need it and not force students to do work they do not need to do. Again the advice was provide information in a variety of formats. Pdf’s with screenshots as well as screencasts were recommended. Also having students DO things in the LMS is important. Our plan is to assess them to find out where they truly are and then only make them work on the parts of the orientation they truly need.


I did learn about a new web-based technology from YouSeeU that seems useful. It allows students to do presentations online rather than in the classroom. Students video themselves and sync with their PowerPoint slides. I like it because it has some rich feedback and rubric grading options. We are looking forward to their new feature this spring which includes an asynchronous way to ask oral exam questions which will be useful in our online courses.

The reality is that students generally do not stay with the university they start with and they can take courses virtually all over the world. They expect relevant and engaging experiences that prepare them for the 21st century work force. It is time to reinvent and update.

Categories: classroom, software Tags: ,

Upside Down is Becoming Right Side Up

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I was honored to contribute an article in the new book, Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology: Successful Strategies by Award Winning Teachers. My article is about the inverted hybrid science classroom. I have been working on the ideal inverted hybrid classroom for probably four years now. It started with the simple inverted classroom model of having lecture outside the classroom while the homework and other hands on activities happened in the classroom. I’d like to share with you what I learned in the process some of which would not fit in the article.



The “Lecture” Concept

Let’s face it, most of us went to college and were lectured to. The only other way to gain information was from the text or a trip to the library. I guess you could get some information from the TV but not like today. We wrote notes as fast as we could and highlighted and wrote in our texts. (although my mother being a librarian kind of turned me off writing in a book.) So that is how we began our teaching careers, with a lecture. My area is physics so I combined my college notes, some of my own new notes and made some master notes that have been my teaching bible for years. After all, introductory physics doesn’t change at a rapid pace. But as more and more media came available, I realized that a video or animation was worth at least 1000 words. I also had the desire to create my own media. And I kept hearing the same old complaint: “I couldn’t do my homework so I gave up, can you go over it in class?” I always found myself behind. Some students said I lectured too fast and some said I went too slow. I had to find a better way…

The New “Lecture”

I searched and researched to find the best software to create my online “lectures”. It had to be something that was fairly easy and quick and would work with slow internet connections. It also had to be ADA compliant and have interactive capabilities. I settled on Articulate Presenter. It really fit the bill. I could start with the PowerPoints that I already had in many cases and add narration. It allowed for animation and adding web content. I could also put some practice quizzes at the end. PERFECT!

The students responded well to them…if they bothered watching them. I discovered there was no real incentive for them to do that. So I added clicker (Turning Technologies student response system) quizzes in class. Clickers allowed for me to see if they watched the lectures and to test them on the major concepts. They were allowed to use any notes they took while watching the presentations. They started taking voluminous notes! It took 5-10 minutes for the quiz to be sure they watched the presentations. I then had instant results that could then inform a short review.

Now class time is devoted to “homework”. That’s right homework. The students are in groups and work together to solve various problems. I am there if a group gets stuck but they work together first. They click in when their group agrees on an answer. This is anonymous so I can see the group’s answer but no one group looks bad. We then discuss the correct way to do the problem and move on. The students are so much more calm about facing the problems and they have immediate help to get over a tough spot rather than getting too frustrated.

The students don’t need me to be there to talk AT them. The students need me to help them learn problem solving skills and apply what is in the book and in my “lectures”. That allows me to really teach and guide them to be the best they can be.


Summer is over…more tech for the classroom

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment

What a summer! Where did it go? Time for new students, a new year and new technology. One thing I did this summer was try out some of the new tablets that are out there. I am certainly not Consumer Reports but I can tell you my experiences. I tried two different Android tablets. The first was the Acer Iconia A500. Now I have an Android phone so I am fond of the operating system. The new Honeycomb was nice but took a little getting used to as all new things do. Lots of nice applications that are available which are usually free. Overall I liked this tablet but it did lock up every other day or so for two weeks. That was not pleasant to deal with. The other Android tablet I tried was the Asus Transformer. I liked the way this tables was set up right out of the box. It did not crash or lock up once when I had it. You can get a physical keyboard and attach this tablet which is nice but I did not try that feature. The biggest drawback with this device was the speakers, microphone and camera. I used both tablets to do Google Video chat with my brother and this one was unacceptable. My brother could not hear me well and I could barely hear him. It was frustrating.

Now I am working with an Ipad 1. I was holding out going with the Apple but I must say that it is pretty handy. It has not crashed at all. I have found several apps that are useful for teaching. I have found an app to keep attendance, TeacherPal, and I can access my text books with ease. I did not find that very easy with the Android version. E-mail and calendaring has been effortless. My favorite productivity apps, DropBox and Evernote work well on the Ipad. Now I know that the Android version supports these applications as well but it does not seem to work as well.  Granted I cannot do a Google video chat with my brother on the Ipad 1 but if this keeps going well I will upgrade to the Ipad 2 (or 3?) at some point.

Here is a good blog post on applications that fit into Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Ipad. I like how it is laid out. This is assuming some of the students have Ipads though. Another useful site for Ipad in education has a lot of good information. Every day I seem to find more applications that are useful. Notarize is a nice app for taking handwritten notes and writing on top of PDFs. It integrates with lots of other applications such as DropBox. If only it did flash…

So let me know how you use your tablet in the classroom for for productivity. Leave a comment!

Tune Your Classroom Up with Animations!

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Where does the time go?! The holidays sucked it out of me but I am back and ready to go with some more great tips! If you liked creating some great cartoons with your students, now I have some ways to make animations. Animations can bring teaching points to life with some motion. There are a couple of great sites to do this. I will start with GoAnimate! This site allows  you to create some neat animations without a huge learning curve. Check this short one out.

With the free version you are able to use some characters, backgrounds and voices. You can earn “currency” to purchase more. You can add your own voice too. That is kind of fun or you can use text-to-speech. Again you can use this to make a point, or draw attention to a particular topic. Or you can assign this for your students to show what they know. The other one I like is Xtranormal. It is very similar to GoAnimate in that you choose scenes and characters and enter text for text-to-speech. It just depends on the look you want. Unfortunately they have started charging a bit. There is an educational account you can request but this one might be out of reach for the students.

Another interesting web application that would be great for the true cartoonist is DoInk. This is a true frame by frame drawing of  your cartoon. This could be useful to show moving concepts well. I did a quick one here for physics.

Do you have a program that is used for cartoons or animation? Leave a comment.

Toon Up Your Classroom

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I have loved cartoons and comics since I was a child. They are simple and to the point. In my house growing up there was always a copy of the New Yorker laying around. I ,of course,  just looked at the cartoons. I have cartoons hanging all over my office. As I have come to learn a cartoon is generally one panel while a comic is a series of panels. But either way they can convey information in a different entertaining way. Check out this TED talk about the power of cartoons.

Another Mode of Expression
So why not use them in your classroom? I have used them in several ways in my classroom. Are you looking for a different type of assignment that your students can do to express their ideas or that they understand a concept? A comic or cartoon is a great assignment. I teach a class on Energy and Environment. I ask the students to create a comic that would get people to understand the importance of safe guarding the environment. I have them choose from several resources to create their comic. One resource is Pixton. Here is an example of a comic created with Pixton. There is a paid version for education to keep them private as well.

Another resource is ToonDoo. ToonDoo has a lot of options and tools. The learning curve is a bit steeper but there is more flexibility.  You can save the cartoons as pictures to use in other resources such as Word, PowerPoint or a blog post.

In addition TooDoo has a great feature called TraitR that allows you to create your own characters. This is really fun and you can really make your colleagues, friends and family come alive in the cartoon world. I think students would really love this.

A couple of other resources that are not as rich but still useful are Make Beliefs Comix, Read Write Think comic creator and Strip Generator.  All the  resources are basically drag and drop or click and drag. Students seem to learn them fast. Many of them have start up tutorials to assist students and faculty.

Another Presentation Format
I also use cartoons inside PowerPoint or other presentation formats just to mix it up a little. There is a great web site that offers characters that you can reuse however you like as long as you give them credit. Design Comics offers character and backgrounds. I utilized them for a last presentation for my students at the end of a semester. They gave me the idea when they were leaving cartoons on my desk throughout the semester. Here is a screen capture of how to use Design Comics.

I think I will save the animated movies you can create for another post. What are you doing in your classroom with cartoons and comics? Leave a comment and share.