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!

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ASCUE Conference Ideas

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I just got back from  attending the Association of Small Computer Users in Education (ASCUE). (Ok so it has been a couple of weeks.) This year I happen to be the President of the association. The keynote was Tom Kuhlmann from Articulate. He writes the Rapid Elearning Blog and is my elearning hero. He has a knack for breaking down the process of course design down to some simple steps. He also did a session on PowerPoint and showed how we probably use PowerPoint to about 20% of its abilities. And it is not the tool, it is the user that produces “bad” PowerPoint.

Cool Tools

My presentation was about the “cool” tools I found in the last year. I have featured some of them in previous posts. If you are looking for a different kind of blog posting tool, try Posterous. You can e-mail your pictures, videos and words and Posterous will arrange your blog for you. Perhaps you are looking for a way for your students to brainstorm or organize a project. This online stickie note application might do the trick. Lino allows you to do this, and what I like is students don’t have to have an account. This is handy for workshops and meetings too.

I have a lot of flash card creation links but StudyBlue seems to be a nice one that is flexible and has notes and cards out there that others have created. Ok, so you have been trying to do that important work in your life and e-mail and Twitter just keeps interrupting. Download this app and you can schedule time when those applications can’t bother you.

I think the biggest hit was RedKid. It is a website that allows you to customize signs and images. We created an ASCUE vodka as  you see below.

So I will finish with a free webinar tool (AnyMeeting) that so far seems to be a great substitute for some of the pricier webinar tools. Some of the features include sending surveys to the attendees after the webinar as well as the standard screen sharing, webcam and audio features. It also gives you the option of voice over IP or telephone conferencing.

I hope you find something useful with these new tools. Leave and comment and let me know how you use them.

Categories: e-learning, software Tags: , , ,

Faculty and Student Support Using Screenr

May 18, 2011 1 comment

I have been doing more support in the last few weeks than usual so this is on my mind. I often get e-mails from faculty asking how to do something in our learning management system. (which we are in the process of changing) Sometimes the faculty are forwarding questions their students had that they could not answer. Rather than just answer in words to that one person, I create a quick screen-cast in Screenr. This allows me to better answer their question as well as create an archived answer if I should get the question again.

screenr logo

If you are not familiar with Screenr, I encourage you to try it out. Yes, it is another screen-casting tool like so many out there but I believe Screenr is better. There is no figuring out screen size or all that. You just drag the handles to the screen area you want to cover. It gives a nice count-down to prepare you for your big debut. Just recently added is the ability to sign into Screenr with Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Yahoo. The web based application is platform independent.

When you have finished your masterpiece, you can copy the URL, or two different types of embed codes. You can also download the mp4 file which could then be edited with another product. It also makes it easy to tweet your screen-cast or upload it to Youtube with simple clicks. I have used many of these types of products and this is by far the easiest and most mistake proof. Oh and did I mention that it is FREE.

It has really come in handy lately. And don’t worry if your screen-casts are not perfect. People just want the answer. For the last faculty member who had a student “how to” question, I created a quick screen-cast and sent her the link. She then posted the link in the learning management system so that other students would benefit too. So maybe it took me 5 minutes to do but it answered what was sure to be a lot of similar questions. I have also used Screenr in conjunction with my Eno (smart) board. I am able to capture my work on the white board to post for students later. (https://janethurn.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/some-of-my-favorite-things-part-1/)

Here is a link to my Screenr page. Give Screenr a try!

What is a QR code and why do I care?

April 14, 2011 1 comment

I just got back from the Ohio Learning Network’s spring Colloquium. I saw some old friends and colleagues and made some new ones. It was only a day and a half but it got my creative juices flowing. Ohio has some folks doing some great work with technology in education. The keynote was also interesting. It was Silke Fleischer from Ativ software. She started the company which makes conference apps for all the smart phone platforms. She did a great talk about the future being now and it is so true. You will be hearing about some of the ideas I got from this conference over the next few posts.

qr code for video

QR Codes

I had heard of them and seen them on some ads etc. but had not thought of them as useful in education. Well why not! Let me back up a bit and explain a QR code. If you have a smart phone which more and more of us do,( According to Gartner, smart phone sales have grown 96% from 3rd quarter 2009 to 3rd quarter 2010) you can download an app that will scan QR codes such as the one above. This can then take you to a link, text, contact information, e-mail address, global position, calendar event, etc. If you have a smart phone, scan the code above and see what happens. The apps I have used are free.

So I started thinking of some possible uses. I will list some here but I want to hear from some of you as well. My first simple thought is to put them outside our office doors  with our contact information, office hours etc. If a student needs us and we are not there, scan the code and get our information into their phone for use later. Then I thought about putting an informational video on YouTube that might have the information they need about us. Or maybe your roll is something that includes frequently ask questions. Your code might take them to an FAQ web page to get started. Or maybe there is a form that is hanging outside your door. Quit killing trees and put a pdf online and a code that links to it. The financial aid window is closed. Why not hang up a code that links to their web page. So you see the sky is the limit here! I also thought about putting them in my lms next to a presentation link. If they can scan it in their phone, they can watch the presentation with fewer clicks on their phone.

How do I make one for myself?

So far my favorite is qrdroid.com.  It does not just apply to just android, you can use it to universally create a QR code. It is nice because it has lots of options for what type of information you want to link to. It also allows for colors other than black. This process takes no time at all. There are other computer apps out there for creating the codes so list them in the comments if you have a favorite.

Share your ideas for using QR codes!

Categories: tech gadgets Tags: ,

Khan Academy Revolution

April 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The Khan Academy is receiving more and more attention, especially since Bill Gates has taken notice. This idea of free education for all who wish to take advantage is catching on. This tool that Salman Khan has created is simple yet so powerful. He started by creating videos to tutor some relatives and now he is educating the masses. Grade school kids to college students to those just wanting to learn something new can take advantage of this resource. Hundreds of videos covering simple addition to differential equations with biology and chemistry in between is covered. AND to make it even more useful, there are exercises created to practice what you learn! Check out this video to see what I mean.



One way this could be useful is in an inverted classroom. They are piloting such a classroom. Students watch the videos at home but then work on exercises in class. The instructor can personally work with students who are struggling. Instructors can detect this from the dashboard. Students can assist their peers as well if they have already successfully navigated a particular topic. Students can earn virtual trinkets and stars as they work their way through the topics. They can process as their own rate.

Best of all this is all freely accessible to everyone who can get to a computer on the Internet. Teachers or tutors can be coaches for any student they want. What a valuable and useful treasure chest of information open to all.

Put it on your MUST check out list.

Categories: e-learning, software Tags: ,

Virtual Tutoring Tools for Math and Science

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

I ran out of time in class the other day and needed to review a problem for my students as it is going to be on the next quiz. I have had this issue before, running out of time and needing to share just a little more information. So I have several ways in which I deal with this issue so I thought I would share. These also come in handy when you are asked a question via e-mail and a returned e-mail just won’t do.

Most often my solution involved Screenr in some fashion. Screenr is a free web based tool by Articulate that allows you to screen capture any portion of your screen you would like. It has a 5 minute time limit which I think is a great thing. Who wants to listen to me go on for longer than that! So that is the first tool you need.

Now you can use a variety of tools to actually do the writing. One is called SimpleDiagrams. This is a neat little program that lets you have a whiteboard or chalkboard background to write on. It also has some built in diagrams and pictures you can use. Very nice in concert with Screenr. See an example here.


Another way I have used Screenr for doing problems  etc. is with an Eno board. This is a type of smart board. I can start Screenr and then the electronic white board and with a microphone plugged in, I have a great way to do tutorials. Here is an example. The advantage is my handwriting is much better. The other method uses a Wacom tablet which takes some practice. But the disadvantage of this method is I tie up a classroom while I am working on one. I can use the Wacom (or tablet) at home or at my desk.

If you don’t want to use Screenr with other applications, you can use a free download called Lecturescribe. This tool allows you to do flash annotations with a tablet or Wacom. You can insert pictures such as graphs that you want to annotate as well. The limit is more like 26 minutes for this method. I have used this a lot too but Screenr is faster on the fly for me.

Of course if you have a tablet you can us Screenr and the journal tool or anything with a nice background. And this isn’t really limited to math and science because you can use Sceenr with a Word document if you want to show students on the fly editing or just about anything! What tools do you use to show your students math or science calculations? Leave a comment!

The Future of Reference?

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a guest post by my good friend and colleague Andrea Han who is currently the Instructional Technologies Analyst, Faculty of Science, University of British Columbia. Thanks, Andrea!

Do you want a Qwiki? It seems many people do, as late this January the start-up company rose to number #1 on Google trends “Hot Searches” list. A recent $8M in funding from Eduardo Saverin (Facebook’s reclusive co-founder), Jawed Karim (YouTube co-founder) and Pradeep Sindhu (Juniper Networks co-founder) buoyed attention for the small start-up company that only just released their public alpha.

What does this mean for us as educators? Many of us have watched with excitement as the Internet transitioned from a primarily text-based tool to a truly interactive experience capable of supporting rich media applications. Even in its early stages, educators were excited by the prospects of the Internet to dramatically transform information access. Over time, we’ve observed how the increased capabilities of the Internet have excited and engaged students, turning them from media consumers into media creators.  We’ve been hearing for years that the future of reference will be interactive and will include integrated images, audio, and video. Yet the 3.5 million content pages on Wikipedia, the 6th most trafficked web site in the US, remain predominantly text.

Enter Qwiki , a highly multimedia reference tool with over 3 million reference items. Each item includes an audio description with transcript and an impressive, interactive display of images. Some topics also include interactive maps and custom graphics. These “qwikis” (so named for their short duration) are created on the fly with no human interaction – even the audio track is computer generated. Qwikis can easily be shared with social networks or embedded and links are provided to Wikipedia, Google, fotobucket and YouTube for more detailed information on the topic.

However, once you get beyond the slick appearance of Qwiki, the  lack of depth and personal significance make some Qwiki topics feel like a dictionary for children. For example, the entry for food begins with “Food is any substance or materials eaten or drunk to provide nutritional support for the body and/or for pleasure.” And ends a few sentences later with “There are many different types of equipment used for cooking.” Qwiki sacrifices useful detail for brevity.

Maybe you noticed a similarity between the number of content pages on Wikipedia and the number of reference items in Qwiki? That’s because the public alpha of Qwiki uses Wikipedia  content pages to form reference item audio tracks. You know that brief abstract you see at the top of each Wikipedia entry? That, with a few edits, is what you’ll hear in Qwiki. The detailed information contained in the actual Wikipedia entry is rarely integrated. Wonder where the images come from? The maps? The videos? Remember the sites Qwiki directs you to for more information? You’ll find those resources there.

Qwiki is getting a lot of attention lately, and rightly so. The company has developed a tool that can locate information, compile various media formats and present the product in an new and innovative way. Beyond this, Qwiki leaves a lot to be desired.

Perhaps Qwiki can learn a lesson from Wikipedia (rather than just extracting data its data). Educators have only just begun to view Wikipedia as an acceptable pedagogical tool. Thanks to the work of innovative educators like Michael Wesch, we are beginning to understand the power of the creative aspects of Wikipedia encouraging students to create or update entries instead of just referencing them. This allows students the opportunity to engage in the world outside the classroom, adding their voices to the ongoing dialogue within our disciplines. As more subject matter experts became engaged with Wikipedia, the community grew to over 143,000 active users with an eye for detail and accuracy. Many entries are extensive and regularly updated, making them (in some cases) one of the best resource for information despite their lack of multimedia elements.

In its current state, I see Qwiki as a tool behind it’s time – one designed to focus on multimedia and not user created content. That said, I find the format of Qwiki one of the most interesting developments I’ve seen in quite a while. Other than Prezi there are few presentation tools that allow students to effectively and easily create multimedia enhanced projects. I’d like to see Qwiki give us an interface to create our own qwikis and to improve the existing content.  If Qwiki will do this, they can fill the need for a tool to aggregate and share multimedia in meaningful way. Who knows, with their novel interface, they maybe even be able to overtake Wikipedia.

In honor of Valentines, here is the Qwiki for LOVE.

Categories: general tip, reference