Invent an App in a Snap! – For Your Class….Again!

I was a huge fan of the Android App Maker by Google. It was so simple and easy to use. With just a few clicks, one could quickly create a simple app and use it for teaching topics in online or blended learning. However, sadly, Google shut down support for the App Inventor and that was it….. until now!

Mitappinventor

Thanks to MIT, you can once again begin building apps using the MIT App Inventor. It still has the simple drag and drop functions so don’t worry about programming. I’m really excited to check it out!

Have you built an app for your class using the MIT App Inventor? What do you think? How have you used the apps you built for teaching or learning?

Interested in Mobile Learning? Check out a few of my previous posts:

8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning

14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning

A 100% Mobile Course Using Blackboard Mobile: PE

13 Superstar Mobile Apps for Blended Learning

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Motivate Your Students to the Max! – Using ARCS Motivation

I was thinking about the ARCS model of motivation the other day and it reminded me of how important the concepts are for any course. Below are a few thoughts on the ARCS (attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction) model and how to integrate it into course design for online or hybrid courses.  

 

The ARCS Motivational Model:


Get Your Students ATTENTION
:

When a student first logs into the course site or LMS (learning management system), is the banner engaging? Do you have an introductory video or prompt that will get them really excited about starting the course? Do they know who you are and why you’re passionate about this topic or course? As you develop new modules, is there an article, a clip, an interactive, or something that quickly pulls them into the topic? Think about the blockbuster movies, within the first 5 minutes they are trying to pull in their viewers to peak their interest and hold them captive. Is there anything you might do in your course to accomplish similar results?

Make What You’re Teaching RELEVANT:

It’s sometimes difficult to remove ourselves emotionally from the topics we teach. As good teachers we’re passionate about our areas of expertise. We live it and we love it! However, take a moment to consider this… Your student may not share that level of passion about the topic and the ONLY way you may infuse it in them is by making the content relevant to them. Does your course leverage surveys and polls? Are there discussion prompts that are thoughtfully calculated to encourage students to “prove” to eachother why the topic is relevant to them?  Are blogs used to help student’s journal and post on topics that are related to the course content while also being of interest to them? Are current events embedded in the lessons so students see that the course is relevant far beyond the next test or even semester?

Build their CONFIDENCE:

Consider the students that often sit silent in class, too embarrassed to respond to questions for fear of being wrong. When students no longer fear failure, they are empowered to try. Online learning allows unlimited opportunities of practice through auto-check review practices. Do you have self-check activities prior to graded assignments or assessments? Why not help them figure out what they need to review even before they submit their assignment. Does the feedback you offer build their confidence? If they are failing in a particular areas of the course,you may reflect on the lessons and assignments in that module. Which modules have the lowest grades for them? Can there be additional material, an alternative assignment, or a web conferencing study session for those problem areas?

I still remember a Geometry class that I loved! I’ve always struggled with Math but there was one class I remember where I really got it. It’s been over 15 years since then but I still remember how great it was to be confident I knew how to complete the assignments. Are objectives clearly listed to help students know where they are headed in your class? Are they encouraged to call you anytime (most of the time)? Do you create an environment through announcements, text alerts, or email that encourages them to call you when they are struggling? These ideas can help students increase both their confidence in learning the topic as well as inspires them to be confident that you are there to assist them as they need it.

Encourage their SATISFACTION:

What reward will your students have after completing a lesson, topic, or course? Have they achieved some level of satisfaction beyond the grade? What types of praise might they receive for doing well and how may it be delivered? Are there formative assessments that you referred to and used to help you adapt your teaching as needed? Do you respond to emails from students within 24 hours with encouraging feedback? Are there built in rewards for reinforcing positive behavior in the discussion boards, assignments, peer review work, or blogs? What might you do for your particular content area that will help students feel satisfied well after they complete a module?

 

What are some things you have done in your online or hybrid / blended courses that increase student motivation?

3 Steps to Zap Life Into Your Course With Surveys!

Recently, I was blown away by  an onlineRace & Gender Issues” course here at UNLV. Not only was the course well designed and very interesting, but for each module, there were specific surveys that really encouraged the students to get excited about the topics explored. It made me think about what an important tool surveys and polls can be in online and hybrid courses.

If you want to increase the interest level or help students relate what your teaching to their everyday life, then a well designed survey is a simple way to work towards that.

From a students perspective, the most interesting courses are ones that are applicable and relevant to them. Most instructors are passionate about their content area but only some of them are able to convert their passion into something that students relate to. It’s true that we aren’t all passionately interested in the same things. However, when we integrate the student’s perspectives, passions, opinions, and thoughts, not only do they become more connected with the content but everyone enjoys the topic and everyone learns together! That is why surveys are so great! Here are just 3 steps to zap some life into a course.

 

ZapSurveypolldaddy1SurveyeverywhereSurveymonkey

3 Steps to Zap Life into Your Course with Surveys!

1. Explore the free survey tools that are available!  Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a couple minutes and check out the options. Seeing samples and types of surveys out there will be a great start in helping you design high quality, interesting, and successful surveys for students. Here are just three tools that I think are amazing!

  • Polldaddy.com is awesome! In just a few minutes you can create a poll question or survey and embed it right into your LMS (Learning Management System) or presentation. Students can vote and immedietely see results.
  • Polleverywhere.com allows students to use their mobile devices to send a text or respond online to the survey question and it’s immedietly reflected. You can embed these in PowerPoint or other presentations, asking your students to respond using their devices. No clickers needed!
  • Surveymonkey.com allows you to develop a thorough survey asking multiple choice, likert scale questions and much more. It allows up to 100 respondents for free. It’s a great tool to help you find out what your students think about the course and what suggestions they have for you to consider in future revisions which leads me to step 2.

2. Find Out What Your Students Think About Your Course! Feedback like this is crucial when you review and make updates/changes to your course. As we all know, curriculum development is never ending so why not let your students help you! Consider how the following info might influence how you revise your course:

  • Which topic are they most interested in?
  • Which part of the course/module/lesson do they like the most/least and why?
  • Which module could benefit from additional practices or lesson aids
  • Do they have any feedback regarding: course design, instructor interaction, the etextbook, or course materials?

Successful companies always encourage feedback from their clients. Your students are your clients and their feedback can help in many ways. After just a single survey of gathering feedback like this, you can target needed areas of course improvement, plus imagine how empowering it is for them to know that you care enough to revise the course and make it better based on their suggestions. Just because students offer suggestions, doesn’t mean you have to do it all, but at least you will know what they are thinking. Also one other tip, don’t “over survey” your students. For best results consider the length and time restrictions your students may have.

3. Survey/Poll Students on Course Related & Thought Provoking Issues!

If you visit a news website, it’s likely there will be a poll question on the page which relates to a current topic of interest. It’s hard for me to ignore them. I’m always curious to vote and see how my thoughts correlate with the majority. Students are the same way!

Carefully review the topics you are teaching and consider how students might be individually interested in it. Here are a few survey question starters:

  • What do you think about….
  • Which of the following are…
  • How do you feel about….
  • When do you….
  • Where do you….
  • Why do you…

Then list the options. Questions/Polls can be simple yes/no questions or more advanced allowing students to post their individual responses for all to see. The key is to survey them on topics that are related to the objectives of the course while also relevant and interesting to your students.

 

What other ways have you used surveys/polls in your course? Have you seen an increase in student satisfaction, course completion, etc since using surveys?  What tips do you have for design? Please share your thoughts in the comments area!

Online Tools to Integrate Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction!

There are a variety of Instructional Design models and theories but one that I have always been impressed with is Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction.  I think it’s a great process and with the different tools available online, you can really make courses engaging and effective for online or blended learning. Here are just a few ways you can do it with online tools.

Online Tools to Integrate Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction:

1. Gain Attention.

Get the learners attention by presenting something interesting that will help prep the students for what they are about to learn

  • Videos (TED videos are fantastic and intriguing, Youtube, Teachertube, Discovery Streaming, PBS, etc. Find a brief video that grabs their attention and gets them excited to learn more!
  • Articles (CNN or other news sites contain thousands of articles which can be shared. Find a mysterious, strange, intriguing, or otherwise interesting article to start them off on the topic. Remember what is interesting to you may not necessarily be interesting to a student so try and find an article that will really grab their attention and appeal to their interest.
  • Photos (Flikr and other great image sites have pictures of anything and everything. We’ve always heard that a picture can mean a thousand words. Throw a picture out there to get their attention, or even better have them discuss it using discussions or Voicethread. Be sure that it’s not just a regular picture (ex: For Biology, a picture of a body), instead find a picture that will get their attention and keep it. They expect to see a picture of a body for Biology, but what relates to Biology, gets them excited, but is not expected? That is where it gets more captivating. 

2. Inform Learners of Objectives.

It seems obvious but often this critical component is overlooked. Let student’s know what the goal is of the course, unit, or lesson.

  • Voki.com or Xtranormal.com text type to movie tool is great for creating a simple video letting students know what they will learn. Be sure and include why they are learning it!
  • Wordle.net is a good tool to simply create a graphic representation of the important objectives that will be covered in the lesson. You can make the text of the words larger to strengthen its meaning.

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning.

Too often we forget to review what was covered earlier to help students prepare themslves to learn more. I always appreciated the classes that had a review built into the beginning of them because it really inspired confidence in getting ready to learn more.

  • Review Practices.  Hotpotatoes (free), Raptivity, Articulate Quizzmaker, or Engage, really any of these tools work great for creating practices which can review earlier studied material. Since they all give automatic feedback it can quickly help students review and remember what was covered earlier.  A lot of times these review practices are already created so all you have to do is simply link to them and make a note that they are available for review if needed.
  • A Podcast or Video Podcast is a great way to review what was just covered and then get the students excited about what is coming up ahead. Remember the goal of this to help them remember what they already know and then link it correctly to what they will learn. Aviary.com has a great free online music & podcast maker.

4. Present the Content.

Presenting the content should be much more than a link to power point slides or an etext. The best presentations are engaging and require the participant to interact.  In an earlier post I mentioned the different ways that you can get students to interact with the content of the lesson.

  • Presentation Interactions – Content is presented and is interactive, Softchalk is great because it allows students to hover over text or images and additional information appears. Instead of just reading the lessons, students can interact with the lesson.

5. Provide “learning guidance”

Guiding the student to learn the objectives in a way that helps them expand their learning is essential.

  • Video Interactions – Videos are great but using Camtasia Studio you can take a video and add in questions that pop up at key points of the video, effectively “waking up students” and helping them reflect more as they answer the questions while they watch the videos.
  • Provide feedback to students through written, audio, or video explanation (maybe using Jing to create a quick demonstration video or walkthrough of the submitted assignment).

    6. Elicit performance

    • Practice Interactions – Practices are essential in helping students prepare for graded assessments. These practices can help them remember the concepts and apply it when it comes time for an assignment, project, or other graded assessments.
    • Learning Games -Why not throw in simple learning games (Raptivity or Elearningbrothers learning flash games)to help them practice what they have learned.
    • Leverage blogs to allow students to post what they know, what they learned, and even what they are most interested in that relates to the topic. Then offer feedback and comments which brings us to the next event.

    7. Provide feedback

    • Practices provide essential feedback for students. As one blogger mentioned “When students no longer have a fear of failing, they will be empowered to try”.  Automatic feedback practices are great for allowing students to quickly get on target in the areas where they struggle.
    • Feedback can be given using email, text message, or phones, during webinars using web conferencing tools, or face to face. The key is to provide feedback to the students in a timely manner and that the feedback be geared towards helping them learn from their mistakes and get back on track.

    8. Assessment

    • Projects, projects, and more projects (opportunities for students to create)!  A project can be a presentation, a blog post, a group wiki, or even a video demonstration. 
    • Leverage tools like Voicethread, xtranormal.com, voki.com, etc that allow students to create things using tools they already like to use. Have them SHOW you what they have learned by CREATING something.
    • Assessing vocabulary, mere facts, and figures is often done by multiple choice, true false, or short answer questions, but encouraging the students to create presentations, projects, and blog articles helps them use that information to help shape their learning in much more enjoyable ways.

    9. Enhance retention and transfer

    • Blog posts – (WordPress, blogger, Posterous, etc). Encourage the students to transfer what they have learned in the unit to their everyday life and post about it. You will be amazed at all the different ways students can apply the topic and if you encourage them to post and read other students blog posts, it empowers students to be the “salesman” to their classmates, telling them why this topic is so great and applicable to their lives. Never again need students sit in their seats and ask “now why I am learning this”? Blogs one tool to use to help them express what they have learned and apply it to themselves.

    The most important thing to remember is that it isn’t the tool that is going to make or break your course. It’s how you use it!

    What other tools have you found to be effective in helping students learn? Please share with us your thoughts below.

     

    13 Superstar Mobile Apps for Blended Learning!

    This is the last of three posts on 13 Resources, 13 Tools, and 13 Mobile Apps for Blended Learning. If you haven’t checked out Mobile Learning Design or 8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning, you may find some helpful tips there as you begin to explore the exciting world of mobile learning. Here also is an infographic of iPad apps using Bloom’s Taxonomy I found recently.

    First important question: Why is mobile learning so big right now?

    Mobile technology is increasing amazingly fast. Just check out this video on some statistics!

    Thanks to the variety of apps available, there are numerous ways to engage students by leveraging this technology. Below are only 13 of the many apps out there. Have a favorite that is not listed? Share it with us in the comments area below.

    13 Superstar Mobile Apps for Blended Learning!

    1.  GroupMeDiscussion boards can be a great way to have students share ideas and thoughts around a topic. Groupme make this easier by allowing you to set up groups of people by cell phone number. If anyone adds a comment, the rest of the group is notified by text. The cool thing about this is that if some of the students don’t have smartphones, they can still send and receive texts to participate. We used this at a conference recently to keep us all connected. No more being tethered to a non-mobile and less efficient discussion board! Click here for a video app review of GroupMe.

    2. UstreamA few weeks ago, my nephew came to play football at the BSU Bronco stadium. My brothers all wished they could have been there to see him play, but thanks to Ustream, they were able to watch it from home! I used this app and held out the phone and streamed the game to them. It lets you share a URL to email or facebook/twitter. Just hold the phone out like you are filming. My brothers were actually surprised at how clear the audio & video was. No, they couldn’t really identify my nephew but it was a lot of fun. The polling and chat features make it somewhat interactive. This could be great if you want to bring in a visitor to your class or broadcast from somewhere “on location” or outside.

    3. AurasmaAurasma uses augmented reality. Add levels of augmented reality into your classroom for a virtual field trip. I would suggest you download the free Aurasma Lite and go to this site and check out some of the auras. You will see that as you view the images with the app, they come alive with animations, sound, and video.  Imagine your classroom with hidden layers that you created and send students around to view the hidden videos/pics/etc using the app. The possibilities are endless!

    4. Layars Think about how much information is on the Internet about the town where you live. If you were to search the Internet, you would find multiple videos, images, crimes, neighborhood information, news articles, etc. that relate to your area. Now imagine if the GPS in your mobile device could link all this information depending upon where you are located, and then show you location specific relevant information. The Layars app does this remarkably well! It ties in websites and uses GPS to tag them to your location. You turn on the different layers and see different things depending upon where you are. Go to the courthouse and turn on a layar and you will see youtube videos and images about that location.You can turn on the wikipedia layar or any of the hundreds of others. If you want students to explore the history, culture, or city surroundings in their area, this app really makes it easy and enjoyable.You can also read here about why one guy thinks this is the coolest app in the world.

    Here is a video on the Layars app. As you watch it consider how this technology may create exciting and engaging ways for learning in your course.


    5. DropboxYou may have heard about the cloud that allows files to be stored on the Internet and accessed from multiple computers. Dropbox is a great app that allows you to have a folder on your computer at work, laptop at home, and mobile device. Inside that folder you can access images, videos, and other files. Students can easily share work on files and projects as well using dropbox or sharing the folders with their teacher. Here is a video on Dropbox for more information. Now with the iOS 5, there is also the iCloud for iOS which is similar to Dropbox.

    6. Voice ThreadVoicethread allows you to set up groups to collaborate around a video, picture, text, or any type of multimedia. Students can post comments similar to a discussion board, but they can comment by text or audio recording. The voicethread app makes these even easier by allowing you to stay connected and post & view comments from anywhere. If you want to learn more click here to learn more about Voicethread Mobile.

    7.  Join.meHave you ever wanted to share your computer screen with someone? Now you can! This app makes demonstrating how to navigate a website or a software tool a cinch. The nice thing about this app is that you can also share your computer screen to a mobile device (which allows for chatting back and forth). Its free and simple to use. The only con is that you can’t share your mobile device screen (only desktops can share). However, you can view the desktop being shared on your mobile device.

    8. Skype Skype allows free calls and video face to face meetings. Why not bring in professionals that use the topic you are teaching in their everyday life. Help students learn the relevance of any topic by having an outside visitor come and answer their questions virtually. Teaching Zoology? Have a visitor from the zoo skype in. Teaching culture? Have a class from another country skype in and learn from other people. The world is smaller once you start using apps like this.

    9. QR Code Maker & ReaderThere are many ways to use QR codes for blended learning. I posted earlier a video on just a few ways you could use QR codes from McGuffy, PA.  QR readers are free and allow you to scan the code and jump quickly to a website, video, or other file. Instead of remembering long websites, once you scan it, it’s stored on your phone. We use QR codes for practices so students can scan them and then have them on their phone ready to view and practice whenever they like.

    10. Animoto Animoto lets you upload images, pictures, and text, select from their audio library or upload your own, and then quickly make it into an exciting collage video. This is a great way for students to use their creative skills to develop brief presentations on the topics you cover in class. You can do it on a computer as well but this Animoto app is so easy to use I had to include it here.

    11. Algebra Touch Math is one of the areas where you never really have enough practice.  This app allows students to practice Algebra. There is a free version you can try out. It makes a great supplement for students struggling to grasp Algebraic concepts.

     12. Star Walk This is a must have for any Science or Astronomy teacher. It uses GPS to display the stars, constellations, and planets all relative to how you hold the device. Even if no stars are visible, you can still see them with the StarWalk app.

    13. TourWrist Take a tour of far away places or create and share your own 360 degree tour. You likely see this technology when house hunting with 360 virtual tours but this app makes it easy for you to create your own and the view responds to where and how you hold the mobile device. Imagine it being a lens you are looking through to view Egyptian Pyramid, Machu Picchu, or even the White House. Engulf your students in virtual field trips that would never otherwise be possible with this app. Exciting!

     

    What other Superstar Mobile Apps have you found that are great for mobile learning? What concerns do you have with using apps like this for learning? Leave a comment.

    Lucky 13: Excellent Tools for Blended Learning!

    Creating something can be an overwhelmingly rewarding experience. You may have read the Lucky 13: Resources for Blended Learning list I posted last week. This week I wanted to share 13 online tools that educators or students can use that inspire creativity and learning. Tools are great because they can help teachers create original and engaging content for their courses or they can be recommended for student’s use on projects. Creating something related to a topic can achieve one of the highest levels of critical thinking so encouraging students to use these tools for projects is a win/win situation for any educator. If you just want to use them to develop your content, then that’s great too!

    Here are 13 Excellent Tools for Blended Learning:

    #1. Jing Screencapture. I use this tool all the time. It’s made by Techsmith, the same company that makes Captivate, another great tool but this one is free and excellent. Use it to take a screenshot of your desktop. Easily select a portion of your computer screen and select an area you wish to copy. Then use the tools available to draw call-outs, textbooks, shapes, and arrows. When I make tutorials I often use this tool to help guide students through steps. You can also create a video screencast using the tool complete with audio. Imagine how helpful it is to show to demonstrate how to do something with audio walking the student through a process, website, etc. It is a great tool and even makes sharing the information a cinch. If you haven’t tried it check it out. I have the paid version of Snagit on my computer, but instead I use Jing for most of what I do.

    #2. Imagination Cubed Instant Whiteboard. Very simple tool you can use to draw out a process or explain something. It has shape options and a pen/ marker to draw with as well. Simply draw what you like and then save it. The student can quickly watch the entire process of how you drew it. I think this would be a great tool for showing math practice examples. For me at least, I can use all the examples I can get, so something like this would be pretty cool!

    #3. Animoto. An alternative to using PowerPoint for presentations. This nifty tool allows you to upload images, and create text to appear over it, similar to a slideshow but then you select music to go with it, hit publish, and wallah you have an interestingly original presentation. It is much more fun than just slides going by. Students love it because it allows them to be very creative with the text. It also requires that they be concise with the message they are portraying. The 30 second version is free and there are educational licenses available as well. By the way, there is an Animoto app now too!

    #4. Voki. Create an avatar of yourself. It is very addicting and fun. You can select a person to represent you and then either type in the text to make him/her speak or you can record yourself speaking and the mouth moves with you. It’s a fun and personable way to connect with your students through announcements or other communications.

    #5. Xtranormal. Warning! Once you start playing around with this, you may be distracted for the rest of the day. 😉 I love this tool. Use it or even better have your students use it to explain a topic. You select a character and a background. Then by using type or drag and drop options you create a cartoon video. It is so easy to use. I love it for Foreign Languages since the avatars will say whatever you type in there in English, French, German, and Chinese. It is so fun and students will never complain about creating a presentation to share again if they use this tool. Very fun!

    #6. Voicethread. Have you ever posted a comment on a chat board or blog? Well this is much better than that. With Voicethread you can have students interact and collaborate all around a piece of media (video, image, document, etc). They can post comments by text, audio, or video comments. Voicethread also recently released a mobile app that makes it even more accessible to students. There are free versions and pay for versions with more options.

    #7. Audacity. Do you want to create a podcast? This is an excellent open source tool which you can use to record your voice and quickly publish to MP3. It is widely used and works very well. An online alternative that is fantastic is Aviary’s Podcast Maker. On a side note: check out the whole Aviary.com suite. It has several good online tools for image editing and music creation.

    #8. Hotpotatoes. This trusty friend has been used by educators for years to create multiple choice, true false, and fill in the blank practices. It is free and very easy to use. It isn’t the most engaging of sorts, but practices are so important for students to grasp a concept so the more opportunities for them to strategically practice something, the more prepared they’ll be for assessments. In a face to face classroom where you have 25 different students, you might suggest specifically targeted practices for the student.

    #9. Many Eyes Data Visualizations. Sometimes it’s impossible to effectively explain large amounts of data. Data doesn’t have to be boring and “pie chartie”. Just check out a few of the visualization options available and you will not want to go back to boring basic data charts ever again. It’s much easier to get your point across using tools like this and its interactive which engages people much more than a flat image of a chart. Another great tool is the Google Public Data Explorer. Just check out this example here: The World’s Fertility Rate.

    #10. Big Marker Webconferencing. You may use Wimba, Elluminate, Collaborate, or other web conferencing tools, but one free option for webconferencing that is getting a lot of attention and is free is Big Marker. With this tool you can various participants on at the same time, desktop share, draw using the tools available, and have webinars and webconferences with students. Think of all the great guest appearances you can have in your courses using a web conferencing tool like this? Suddenly the world is much smaller when you can bring almost anyone into your class. We also use a tool like this for Math tutoring afterhours as well as teacher office hours.

    #11. Collaborize Education Platform. There are many learning management system options but this one I played around with a bit and I like it. It’s free so it may not have all the bells and whistles but it is pretty cool. It’s a free collaborative education platform for students & teachers. I set up an account and was surprised at how simple it was to use as well as all the different options I had.

    #12. Google Education Apps. This is a suite of software tools like no other. We use this for email, document, spreadsheet, presentation sharing & collaboration, chatting, calendar, etc. It is fantastic! If you are a district or college administrator, I would definitely check this out. I can confidently say these that these educational apps help everyone I work with be more productive and collaborative on our projects, processes, and creations. It is much more than just an email service.

    #13.Realplayer Video Downloader. Okay this one is not something you can use to create something but it is so helpful I’m listing it as a way to create convenience. ;-). Once you install this free tool, whenever you see any video on the web ( in your browser) such as youtube, etc, you can hover your mouse over it and click the “download” button which downloads an .FLV (flash video) version right to your computer. This is so handy! Then if you need to convert it to another format, the realplayer tool does that as well.  You can even convert it to mobile device friendly format (please be sure that you obey copyright and attribute anything you download). Realplayer is not my default media player by any means but it sure is great for downloading videos from the web.

    What other tools are you using for blended learning?

    Lucky 13: 13 Free Resources for Blended Learning

    Halloween is officially over so we need be superstituous no more. A black cat actually ran right in front of my car the other day and yet it survived and I’m still here, so no bad luck yet! 13 is sometimes considered unlucky, but today and for the next few posts its going to be a very lucky number. Today I’ll share 13 of the best online free resources for Blended Learning I’ve found. Later I’ll post 13 of the best web tools for Blended Learning, and then 13 great mobile learning tools for Blended. If you really don’t like the number 13, just leave a comment with one of your favorite resources and then there will be 14. 🙂

    Lucky 13: Free Resources for Blended Learning

    #1. World Digital Library. If you teach culture, history, languages, etc, you will want to know about this site. First you select the time (from 8000BCE to 2011AD) on the time indicator. Then you click anywhere on the world and it zooms in with pics, vidoes, and text (all free primary resources) to learn about the world. 

    #2. SAS Curriculum Pathways. A few years ago this resources was somewhat expensive but of amazing quality. Now still amazing quality but free for educational use. High quality videos, practices, and content that would normally be costly to purchase. Its great! Content areas include English, Math, Science, and Spanish. The objects can be linked right in your LMS too.

    #3. MERLOT. Multimedia Resources for Online Learning. This is a giant repository of peer reviewed educational materials. Everything from presentation slides, videos, lessons, websites, etc for a multitude of content areas.

    #4. LangMedia. This one is a must for World Language Educators. Resources are organized by language and cover 40+ languages. There are videos of native speakers as well as audio clips and great content on culture, life, religion, history, etc of different countries and languages.

    #5. Wikibooks. Similar to the great wikipedia, there are whole books you can download and use for free. Wikibooks are community created and community vetted so you’ll want to consider that when you review them. If you are a K12 educator, you may be also interested also in CK12.org for customizable, free, curriculum-aligned content.

    #6. Hippocampus. Hippocampus provides high quality, multimedia content on general topics for secondary and higher education courses. Its all free and they have some amazing content. Its part of a project with MIT. Some topics are Math, Science, and Social Studies.

    #7. Teachertube. This is similar to youtube except that the content is filtered and is all educationally based. If you have some great videos you’ve made upload them here to share with other educators. If you need some lesson vidoes on a particular topic, its a great place to check.

    #8. TED Videos. This site contains rivetting talks, updated daily with remarkable people talking about amazing things in the world. It has excellent speakers on topics like: Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, and Global Issues.

    #9. MathTV.com Where was MathTV when I took Algebra? Math.TV has video tutorials on a variety of math topics with several examples of how to work through each problem. The best part is that you have multiple teachers teaching the content. You can choose from 3 or 4 different people going through similar problems so you get different perspectives and clear explanations on how to complete the problems.

    #10. KhanAcademy. Another fantastic resource for Math & Science is Khan Academy. There are clear, concise and easy to understand video demonstration tutorials on related topics. Some schools are actually flipping their classroom, having students watch these videos at home and then coming to class to work on the assignments together. If you just need a pool of videos to draw from when referring struggling students, this is a great option.

    #11. National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. Looking for simulation practices for Math? Topics include: Number & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis.

    #12. Biodigital Human. Want to explore the Anatomy or Disease of the Human Body? This 3D site, lets you zoom in and view the whole body and individual organs and the effects of disease. It is amazing and easy to use. You may have to use the Google browser to support the Advanced Graphics for it. Its very cool and much more engaging then pictures of organs or just memorizing handout diagrams of Anatomy.

    #13. We Choose the Moon. This simulation recreates the moon take off and landing along with background history and information. I wasn’t alive when it happened but viewing this simulation really makes me feel like I’m right there. This is why technology can be so amazing and engaging for learning. I can hardly wait for more learning simulations like this to become available. If you are teaching Science, Space, History, or anything to do with the Moon this is a must see.

     

    What other blended learning resources are there? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments area below.

    Why Every Educator Should Be on Twitter

    I used to wonder why someone would want to get on Twitter when there was Facebook. It seemed to be an unnecessary duplication of what I was already doing. But then… It happened!

    At the ISTE2011 Conference I started meeting some amazing people. Now its kind of awkward to ask someone you barely know for their email adress and even if you did, you may not feel comfortable contacting them very often. But after hearing some of the presenters mention they were on Twitter I decided the time had come and I was finally going to try it out. “After all, I’m into Technology, I probably should be on Twitter”, I thought. So with that, I set up my account. Now just a few months later I’m sold!

    Why Every Educator Should Be on Twitter.

    1. You can follow anyone, but particularly the people you are interested in for your career field or interests. I follow people who are into the same tech-learning things I am, Edtech, mobile learning, instructional design, etc. Then I get to see the resources, “nuggets of wisdom”, news, or tips they share all related to what I am interested in. I don’t use Twitter like Facebook, its more of a Professional Learning Community for me. If I followed everyone like I do on Facebook, it would be more difficult to sift through all the tweets to get to the relevant information. One tool you could use to help find people to follow is Wefollow.

    2. You can network with people you would otherwise never be able to.  If I want to know what educators in other places are doing, then I search for them and follow them. Amazing as it is,  there are hundreds of people doing exactly what you are doing and some might be doing it a little bit better! 😉 I may retweet their link or message, or send them a question asking about their tweet. You definitely get to know lots of people and the world seems much smaller. Its great to learn from the top professionals in your region (or the world), not to mention the added bonus of getting your foot in the door if you ever need a job somewhere. Twitter opens it all up.

    3. Learn emerging trends relevant to your field right when it happens. With the Internet blazing forward and more and more educational resources available, why not tap into that knowledge? It’s nice particularly for teachers that are always trying to find the best tools, websites, and resources without having to reinvent the wheel. An added bonus is that almost every author or educator you hear about is posting information, resources, links etc on a daily basis. No need to wait until the next conference to be blown away by emerging trends that are being implemented everywhere else, you can glean some amazing insight just by checking the tweets and start implementing what you learn in your schools now.  Most schools, institutions, & businesses are on twitter too, many of which tweet about sweet deals. 😉

    One suggestion is to simply set aside a few minutes each day to skim the tweets, open the relevant links in seperate windows and as you have time check them out or share what you learned to your followers. Similar to Facebook, Twitter doesn’t need to take over your life, just a few minutes a day checking in on the experts can make a huge difference in your professional learning.

    Those are my thoughts on Twitter. The funny thing is when I’m done with this post I’m going to Tweet it out and everyone that sees it is already on Twitter and recognizes its importance. So just in case, I think I’ll post it on Facebook too. 

    Oh by the way, you can follow me at Twitter.com/kodystimpson

    Here above is a video on “Twitter for Educators” embedded from Youtube. If you are training faculty to use Twitter, it may help them understand what it is and why its such a powerful tool.

    14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design

    When I first started studying mobile learning and how instructional design for mobile differs from regular online courses, I searched the Internet and would have appreciated a list like this to give me a few pointers to start out. My hope is that this list benefits you and that if you have some tips, you’ll leave them for me in the comments area below. 😉 There is still so much to learn about mobile learning design.

    1. Structure

    Unlike regular online courses, mobile device learning should be structured in such a way that a user can easily stop & re-start their learning in episodic patterns. Keep in mind students might be on the bus, at a game, or somewhere where learning may be full of distractions

    Students also appreciate open navigation (ability to move around and choose the topics as they like) more than the traditional locked-down step by step navigation.

    2. Smaller Chunking

    Group your content so that chunks of information can be quickly accessed and completed in short periods of time. This allows students to learn on the go and complete as they multi-task. Extensive reading on a mobile device is only ideal when content is chunked and interesting 😉 

    3. Minimize Typing

    Typing on a mobile device is not as easy as typing on a keyboard. Its that simple. 😉 Keep this in mind as you design your assignments by trying to minimize data entry. Using multiple choice, true false, and matching questions can help with this, but also try and think outside the box. Mobile devices allow for interesting simulation practices and assignments beyond just regular multiple choice type questions. Leverage the new ways of interacting that can be done with mobile devices!

    4. Daily Events

    The more daily events you can have the student correlate with their learning the better. Its all about making the course relevant to their life.

    5. Integrating Location

    Take advantage of where students are located and allow them to integrate where they are and what they are doing there with the learning activities and discussions. Topics can integrate location into different learning activities. What perspectives might they add to the course just by living in a specific region or area?

    6. Communication and Discussions, Polls, Blogs, & Surveys

    Students want to communicate and share just-in-time real world experiences with other students. Polls & surveys also allow students to express opinions and get answers to questions.

    Similar to a blog, students can post pics/videos/audio they take with their phone and share it with classmates. One free mobile blog tool I use is wordpress.com

    7. Podcasts & Vodcasts

    Content for the lesson should be accessible in a variety of formats: readable written text, audio podcast, and a video vodcast of the lesson.  One statistical analysis reported that students believed podcasts to be more effective than their own notes to help them learn.

    8. Non-Graded Practices

    Non-graded practices encourage students to practice without fear of failure. These practices can help prepare them for an assignment, quiz, or test.

    9. Leverage Existing Educational Apps

    No need for an etext! There are some excellent educational apps that can increase the quality of the course (many of which are free). Students can track themselves and play around with the app, then log findings as part of their assignments. The apps must work on all mobile devices allowed for the course.

    10. Consider which devices you will support

    Devices vary and what works on an Android OS may not work on an iOS and vice versa.  Users with the Iphone have higher satisfaction than those with only iTouch or iPad. Constant connectivity increases satisfaction.  One study found that a phone seems to be the best device because of the connectivity but requiring one in order to take a course will definitely deprive some students from participating.

    11. Avoid costs to Students

    Keep in mind the size of files you use for mobile learning. If the student is incurring costs to learn via their mobile devices, that is problematic. Try and keep images, videos, and other files as small as possible for downloading and use.

    12. Find Grades Fast

    Students want to see & understand grades easily. According to a mobile survery we sent to students last year, one of the tasks that they wanted most was the ability to check their grades anytime on their mobile devices.

    13. On Demand Alerts

    Alerts & text reminders sent for office hours, when student’s grades are posted, discussion reply notifications, etc helps increase retention. This also helps students return to the course more often. After all, who can stay away from Hanging with Friends after you receive an alert telling you that its your turn to play! 😉

    14. Testing, Testing, and more Testing

    Test your course on the devices you plan to support. Keep in mind that complete course redesign around mobile technologies is significantly more challenging than including a few mobile tools into an existing course. Some suggest you only incorporate one or two mobile components into your existing course and try them out. If you have done this, please let me know how it went by leaving a comment below.

    Also, always have alternatives in case the app  or mobile tool you chose to use is no longer available or problems arise (which they often do). Having alternative available and testing on multiple devices will help you side-step a lot of the issues that may occur.

    If you are curious about how a completely mobile course would work, here is a post on a Mobile Lifetime Fitness course we designed that runs completely on a mobile device using some free apps and Blackboard Mobile.

     

    So what other mobile learning design tips do you have? Do you agree or disagree with any of these? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments area below. Mobile Learning Design is so new there is definitely a lot of room for discussion.

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    Resources:

    Designing Learning Activities with Mobile Technologies, Designing Learning Activities with Mobile Technologies, Hokyoung Ryu & David Parsons.

    Effectiveness of Mobile Learning in Distance Education. Dr. Muhammad Imran YOUSUF, Lecturer, Division of Continuing Education, University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

    Students Attitudes & Perceptions Towards the Effectiveness of Mobile Learning, Dr. Fahad N. Al-Fahad. King Saudi University

    The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in higher education. Chris Evens. Centre for Educational Multimedia, Brunel Business School, Brumel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UP8 3PH, UK

    2009 Mobile Learning Report: Abilene Chrisian University, Abilene Christian University

    Mobl21. http://www.mobl21.com/blog/21/some-best-practices-for-mobile-learning/

    6 Tips: Maximize Learning with Interactivity in Courses

    Student to Content Interactivity

    Interactivity can refer to a lot of things. In the online learning world, it often refers to collaboration & communication often done in discussions, blogs, chats, webinars, etc. However, the tips that follow are specifically for increasing the interactivity between the student and the content in your course. Although you may not have access to all the tools mentioned, just knowing about the possibilities may help you consider the options for increasing interactivity.

     

    1) Presentation Interactions.

    Many presention lessons are locked-down funnelling the student from one topic to the next without allowing them any choice as to the order of topics covered or any interaction beyond read and click next. Consider adding a tabbed menu or navigation buttons in your presentation to allow students to choose how to navigate the lesson.  This tiny bit of freedom can empower students as they take a bit more control of their own learning.

    For example, the image below shows how interactivity can allow students to choose which character they want to learn about. The opposit of this is when you have a powerpoint slide locked down slide by slide going through each and every character begining to end. Why not allow students the ability to choose?

    Snag-1539

     Here are a few examples to give you a better idea from Articulate:

    PowerPoint Tip: Do you use Powerpoint for your lessons?  If you want a free tabbed template, there is one available here for free from Articulate. Using this template, you can put your lesson in there with the different topic headings and then students can choose which topic they want to go to. You may also be interested in these tips for spicing up your presentations. On a side note, if you use powerpoint and want to convert your powerpoint slides to flash, you can use this iSpring Free plug-in to convert it to flash which makes it very easy to then upload it into an LMS and students access it without powerpoint. Its pretty simple and free.

    2) Video Interactions. 

    Thinking back to High School, everyone loved “video” days where the room would be dark and students could just relax and take a nap for an hour or so… probabably not what the teacher had hoped for but often the outcome.  Yes, a huge part of the problem is the quality of videos displayed but that is a seperate topic. Fortunately for online courses, one idea you can do to help students from dozing off is to use either Camtasia Quiz Feature or Raptivity to add questions or callouts to your videos.

    During the video, every few minutes, there is a pause and a multiple choice or essay question appears (the student awakes..”oh, I have to actually listen to the video”, so he or she restarts the video and begins to pay attention a bit more).  By incorporating these popup questions or callouts during the video, students are more likely to pay attention and teachers can ensure that the key concepts they want to emphasize are pointed out.  In the face to face classroom, a teacher may pause a video to ask a question. This simply allows that same type of interjected interaction for an online course.

    Activvideo

    Here are a few examples of video interactions from Raptivity.

    3) Practice Interactions. 

    Practice makes perfect so why not allow students to practice a bit before they have to complete a graded assessment? Interactive practices and simulations help students practice what they have studied and encourages them to self-identify which areas they need to study more. Automatic feedback found in practices can be a powerful learning tool to help students before they have to complete a graded assignment, quiz, or test.

    Classify

    Here are a few practices examples from Raptivity.

    4) Learning Games.   

    Multiple choice & true false questions are common for learning vocabulary and knowledge so why not put them in a simple learning game and make it fun? Placing learning games prior to quizes or tests can be a great review for the students. Its similar to any other mutiple choice practice but way more fun. After all who wouldn’t want to play the Millionaire Challenge!

    GameshowGolfshort

    Here are a few other examples from elearningbrothers.com:


    5) Miscellaneous Interactions.

    These interactions are important but may not fit in other categories. Learning obejcts such as flashcards, tables, and charts which the students can interact with can be more effective than just a simple image.

    Labelthegraphic

    A few examples from Articulate:

     
    6) Mobile Interactions.

    Students are always on the go and the majority are already using mobile devices. Integrating mobile components can dramatically increase their interactivity with your course by making it accesible to them wherever they may be.

    Much of the examples mentioned previously published to Flash which works great on desktop computers and laptops. However, most don’t work on mobile devices. If you have questions about why mobile-friendly content should be in your courses, check out this video on Mobile Technology.

    969088410_0597019e20_z

    I’m going to post more on this topic in a later post but for now, here are just a couple links to some options for creating mobile content for online courses.

    What other tools have you used? Any other ways to increase the student-content interactivity?