8 Vital Tips for Teaching Faculty Using Webinars!

There are many articles on webconferencing and a lot of schools & institutions of Higher Ed have already jumped in and started using webinars to provide training to faculty. If you haven’t yet made the jump here are a few considerations that may encourage you.

Webinar

 

8 Vital Tips for Teaching Faculty Using Webinars:
A Strategy for Professional Development Sucess!

1. The Strategic Advantage of Webinars. Webinars can build relationships with faculty/customers/clients, increase your name recognition, establish your expertise, communicate important changes, and can attract (or keep) your customers (in this case faculty and students).

2. Consider the Costs. A few cost considerations include staff time, presentation development time, marketing time and presentation materials as well as the cost for the webconferencing tool if applicable.

3. Choose a Tool. There are a variety of tools. Be sure and choose a tool that will serve your purposes and work well for your situation. If you have an LMS, I’d suggest using a tool that easily works within it. We use Blackboard Collaborate. However, there are also a variety of free options. Here is a list of 10 Free Webconferencing tools.

4. What to Present. This is one of the most important keys to consider. You have to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Why would they want to spend an hour of their time (yes it should only be an hour) sitting at their computer watching your webinar? I would make a list (and ask those around you to help) that includes a variety of different topic options. Then most importantly, send a survey out to your faculty and ask them what topics THEY feel are needed.

Also consider checking out what other similar institutions are doing for their webinar series. This information is often on their website. This will help you to get some ideas of what types of topics you should present. Make a good list of webinar topics.

Here are just a few topic examples: What’s New in Blackboard 9.1?, How to Use the Gradebook Tool, How to Present Engaging Webinars, Innovative Topics with Faculty, Mobile Learning, Best practice for Teaching Online, Best Practice for Developing Online Courses, Webtools, etc. The key is to make the topics relevant to what your faculty need or want to learn. Remember your trying to convince them that they shoudl give up their hour for your webinar. Make it worth their while!

5. Survey Your Faculty.  Before you put in stone what you will present, create a simple survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey. List all of the webinar options you and your team have brainstormed and be sure to have an “other” category so faculty can type in their suggestions as well. This will help ensure that webinars presented are in step with faculty needs.

4. When to Present. Consider the semester timeframe. One of the great advantages of webinars is that you can present them at key points when faculty need them with just-in-time training. At the begining of the semester, faculty may benefit from a refresher on best practices for teaching or a review on how to use the grade book. At the end of the semester, a good review on how to develop study guides for students or final exam procedures may be helpful. Consider holidays, busy times, etc when planning your calendar. You will want a calendar on your website complete with all the webinars clearly marked and a simple registration system (or email if you have no other option) so that you have an idea of which and how many faculty plan to attend.

5. The Process. After you know what and when you will present there are three steps to the basic process a) Invitations – client list, prospect list, newsletter link, link on your website, etc b) Deliver the content – Webinar on relevant topic w/ knowledgeable speakers c) Follow up with a survey and a link to the archive or handouts (whitepapers, docs, etc).

6. Creating an Audience. Email is a great tool to contact your participants. Create a marketing email promoting your webinar and send it to existing or potential clients/faculty. Encourage invitees to forward the invitation onto other colleagues. Place a link on your website and put it in your newsletter along with links to the registration page, previously archived (recorded) webinars, and to the master webinar calendar. If you have a marketing team, leverage other marketing options that you have available. Remember, if faculty don’t know about your webinar they will not attend. 😉

7. Best Practice for Presenting a Webinar. Always be sure and practice a run through of your presentation prior to going live. Make it engaging and interactive (not just a one way presentation). Have participants ask questions and encourage interaction through the use of poll questions, annotative tools, etc. Its also good to have one person be a moderator who welcomes the participants, checks their audio, answers questions, and introduces the speaker. Here is a link to some tips and best practices for presenting in a webinar.

8. Don’t Forget to Archive! Whenever you do a presentation, be sure and save an archive of the presentation. Its likely that some of the registered participants will be unable to attend and its nice to forward them a message containing a link to the archive after the webinar.  This also begins to establish a library of presentations that your faculty can refer to in the future (if you place a link to them on your site). Archiving is also good because as a presenter you can watch yourself and think about what went well and what didn’t for future improvement.

 

What other tips do you have for using webconferencing to teach faculty? Do you use a web conferencing tool for professional development at your institution? What have you found to be most effective?

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Why Gamification? Quests & Badges to Engage Students


“Badges, I don’t Need No Stinkin Badges”

Actually Yes I Do and Students Do Too!

If the caption above confuses you, this youtube video is where it came from. You can rest assured the video has nothing to do with online learning. 😉 But badges on the other hand, yes, they certainly do!

When I was in Boy Scouts years ago, they had a merit badge system. Complete the projects and learn what you needed to learn (competency based) and then you would earn a badge to show everyone that you accomplished something. This article talks more about badges for competency.

Now consider video games. One of the motivating components of a video game is the fact that you can earn points, acrue tokens, weapons, or other advancements as you proceed through the game.

Both of these concepts can be applied to online learning. There are a variety of articles on gamification in learning. Boise State University developed a 3D Gamelab Professional Development course, which I took last summer. It was a learning management system developed to implement gaming principles. There were options and rewards with a totally different setup compared to what you often see in traditional learning management systems.

So I’m left to wonder, If I’m using Blackboard, what principles of gaming could I still do? Here are a couple ideas but I’m hoping those of you reading this will provide some additional insight in the comments area below.

1)  Develop Modules So They Are Quests With Options. Give students the choice of selecting a number of the options (or quests as 3DGamelab calls them) to complete. You can even make the diffrent quests worth different point values (which is similar to how the 3DGamelab works).

Imagine you have 10 quests (modules/topics). Students are asked to choose however many topics they like, but they have to earn 100 points by the time they complete the course. Some modules may be worth 10 points, others 20 points or more, but this gives students a choice as to what they want to learn (which quest to complete). It also makes it clear of what is needed in order to “win the A” (earn 100 points). Finally students are free to choose what they like while still learning the key concepts the instructor wants them to learn).

2) Implement Badges as Proof of Concepts Mastered. Imagine being able to have simple proof that you’ve mastered something. Yes, a degree is that in a sense, but how much learning goes on that isn’t attached do a degree? How much learning is going on inside just one class or maybe even inside one unit? You still learned a skill. Why not have a badge that you can show for it?

There are several articles that talk about the use of badges in learning. What I take away from it is that students want to be able to say “Look, I learned this”. If a course is vague or not relevant to students, its less likely they will be able to finish the course and say to themselves (or better yet a future employer) “I have learned this skill, and this skill, and I know how to do this….,etc”. 

Badges are a great way to movitate students and let them know just how much they have learned. I think the motivation is similar to that of being “certified” in something. I’d sure like to add an “Social Networking” or “Adobe Photoshop” badge to my digital portfolio that shows mastery of these concepts. When relevance is often forgotten or overlooked in courses, these badges can really make a lasting impression on students.

3) Even better, do both! One of the cool things about the 3D Gamelab was that it had the best of both of these. It had quests (topics) open so I could pick topics that most interested me as I earned the points.  It also had badges, awards, and achievements to motivate me.

Here below is a video introduction of the 3DGamelab.

This all sounds great and I get really excited until… I remember that I’m not using the 3DGamelab system, I’m using Blackboard…But wait! There has got to be some way to implement these ideas (at least partially) using a standard LMS. Right? Now, I’m bound to figure out some way to implement these principles in a regular online class using Blackboard. I think its going to be a little tricky but its definitely worth considering!

Have any tips for me? Do you do quests or badges in your online courses (or using a standard LMS)? Please leave  comments in the area below.

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

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.

    8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses!

    I’ve been counting down the posts for the time when I get to share these tools and tricks on mobile learning options since starting this blog. Previously I’ve posted on Mobile Learning Design and our 100% Mobile Blackboard course. Today I’ll share several different ways to jump right in and start implementing mobile learning in courses.

    8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses

    1.  Learn Mobile Design. I would start by reviewing principles of mobile learning design. Just knowing basic principles of instructional design for mobile devices can go a long way as you decide how you want to approach mobile learning. It also helps you to consider what things you may already be doing that can be slightly tweaked to leverage this technology. Here is a post I did recently on 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design.

    2.  Use Surveys. Before you start mobile learning, consider your students. Do they have access to mobile devices? What would they like to do with them? Think of questions to put on the survey that will give your institution a good insight into the mobile device usage of your students. This will help later on when you decide which types of mobile devices to support, how many you extra devices you might need to have accessible, and overall help you understand your student’s perspective. We sent out a survey to our students and they gave us great feedback. A couple tools that I think that are good for surveys are surveymonkey and polleverywhere.

    Surveymonkey – Is a free survey tool (free version and a pay version available). Check out this tool. You’d be surprised how helpful surveys can be to help you gain insight into what your students are thinking. It is very easy to create them and then you just either email or embed the survey link in your website. Be sure and include a “respond by” date and incentives are always great too (extra credit points, etc)! Surveymonkey works on mobile devices as well.

    Polleverywhere – This tool embeds right into your Power Point presentation or site so as you present to the class, you can ask them questions. They simply whip out their mobile devices and text the response which shows up automatically on your slide.  This is a lot like the really expensive clickers but it leverages the mobile devices students already have. There is a free version (I think up to 30 students) and then there are cost versions. I’ve been able to use the free version so far but there are some great reasons to upgrade to the pay version if you can.

    3.  Podcasts & Vodcasts. Why not make a podcast of your lesson? There are some great tools that allow you to easily record an audio message and then share it with students. Then they can listen to it on the bus, as they wait, or wherever they go. Podcasts don’t take much time and students appreciate the option to rewind and review topics you are presenting. You can put them on a website and send the students a link, or just put them on CD or a jumpdrive.

    Audacity is a great free open source tool for making podcasts. Once installed you simply click the record button and export the podcast to your computer.

    Aviary.com is a free online tool for creating podcasts! It’s part of the fantastic suite of online tools they provide. You can also add intro music to your podcasts to make them sound even more professional. Once you are done, just publish your masterpieces to your computer as MP3.

    For video podcasts (where it shows you on a webcam in addition the audio, you can use  Garageband (free with Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (free with Windows).  Just be sure and publish the video to a format the works on mobile devices (and test it to be sure it works).

    Don’t want to reinvent the wheel? No problem! There are an ever-growing library of podcasts on almost any topic. Simply perform a search like “Spanish podcasts” and you may be surprised that you find just what you are looking for. You can also use itunes U to locate educational podcasts.

    4.  QR Codes. QR Codes are similar to barcodes but you take a picture with your mobile device (that has the QR code app reader on it) and it will pull up videos, websites, or other links. We actually put a QR code in Blackboard so students can take a picture of their computer screen while working on a unit and have the practice stored on their mobile device for easy reference later on when they want to practice. This keeps them from having to log into BB or remembering long URL codes.  Here is a link to a great QR code maker (Kayway) that is free. QR code readers for mobile devices and regular computers using webcams are also available. Still not convinced? Check out this video McGuffey SD in PA made on how their school uses QR Codes. Pretty neat stuff!

    5.  Mobile Practices & Learning Games. I’m a big fan of practices for students so they can grasp the particular concepts that they struggle with. If every topic has some non-graded practices or learning games for them, they can self-select the practices that will help most. This individualized learning can impact their assignment and test scores dramatically.

    Softchalk – Softchalk is a simple tool to create multiple choice, matching, true false, etc practices. It isn’t free but they have a SCORM tool and it works with learning management systems quite well. We developed mobile practices for each unit of some of our courses and placed the practices prior to the unit quiz. This way, students can practice and prepare for the quizzes on the go.

    Raptivity – Raptivity has a huge selection of learning game & practice interactives which we use in our courses. Most are flash-based, but there are several that work with HTML5 so they work on mobile devices. The tool is somewhat intuitive and you type in the questions and answers and publish the games to your computer. Similar to Softchalk, the files can then be placed on a server or a CD/jumpdrive, and shared with students.

    Hotpotatoes – This trusty tool has been free for awhile and a lot of educators use it to create simple practices for their courses. It’s great for that! While not specifically developed for mobile devices, I found that if I create a hotpotato practice, it creates an HTML file. Then, if I open that HTML in notepad and add the following metadata, the practice will snap to fit the mobile device that views the practice (making it look nice on mobile devices). Its a bit of a “duct-tape” way to do it, but its free, pretty simple and works! Students are just thrilled to have the practices mobile! 😉

    If you do use Hotpoatoes, here is the HTML to make it snap to fit a mobile device:
    <meta name = “viewport” content = “width = device-width”> <meta name = “viewport” content = “initial-scale = 1.0”>

    The metatag HTML above actually works for a lot of different HTML pages. Try it out with your HTML page and see how it looks.

    MobileStudy – This is a free tool which lets you easily create practice questions for students and then publish them to their mobile devices.

    AppInventor for Android – This tool lets you create apps for your courses. It’s free to use and very intuitive. However, it only works for Android mobile devices. iOS also has an app inventor but I heard that is it not quite as easy as this one for Android. You pretty much just build your little site using their tool and publish it. Pretty cool!

    6.  Mobile Blogs & Communication Tools. Students want to be in contact with their peers. Thankfully, there are some great ways you can incorporate collaboration and communication using mobile devices.

    Mobile VoiceThread – Voice thread is an online tool you can use to create conversation among students around a graphic, video, website, or any topic. Students can use their mobile devices and post verbal or text comments on a particular picture, video, etc.

    Posterous & Blogger – Both of these blog sites have the ability to create a private blogs and can share only with your students if you choose. They both also have an app so students can post comments or posts to the blog using mobile devices. I have two blogs, one on posterous and one on Blogger. Both tools have advantages and weaknesses.

    7.  Educational Apps. It’s really important that you check out what mobile apps are available in the content area you are teaching. Because of the touch screen of a mobile device, apps are creating new ways to interact with content for learning. The Star Walk app, Algebra Touch app, and Fooducate apps are just a few examples.

    If you decide to incorporate educational apps into your courses, keep in mind what devices students have access to. If you don’t want to restrict them to a certain device, you can find an alternative app for each of the main mobile devices (can be time-consuming). You will also need to decide if you’ll only use the free apps or paid apps as well. There are many educational apps to choose from.

    8.  Use a Mobile LMS. If you are already using a Learning Management System, you are likely familiar with some of the benefits of an LMS. However, now there are some mobile options for accessing content with them as well. I posted earlier about our course using Blackboard Mobile, but there are actually several different options.

    Thanks to Idaho Digital Learning, here is an archived webinar of this presentation that was given to faculty this summer (2011).

    These are just a few ways to incorporate learning devices in courses. I’m sure there are many more ways that I didn’t include, so please let me know what you think in the comments area below. Also, if you are on Twitter, do a search for #mlearning #mobilelearning #mobile or #edtech and you will find an enormous amount of great tools and apps that are available for educators using mobile devices.

    A 100% Mobile Course Using Blackboard Mobile: PE

    About a year ago, we sent our students a survey to ask them how they would like to interact with their courses using mobile devices. Not surprisingly, they overwelmingly responded that they wanted to do it all!

    55% of our students (Idaho HS students) responded that they had access to a mobile device with Internet access. An additional 5% said that they plan to have access within the next year.

    Survey: What do students want to do with mobile devices?

    • #1 – Check my grades – 84%
    • #2 – Discussion boards – 65%
    • #3 – Complete Assignments – 50%
    • #4 – Review with Practices, Podcasts, & Mobile activities – 45%

    Here are just a few of the suggestions we received from students:

    • Make all the assignments compatible with mobile devices 😉
    • Make class work compatible with mobile devices. We’re entering a world of which includes many new innovative tools that are taking us into a new technological period… Modern educational innovation is what I crave as a student. 😉
    • Continue to offer different things using mobile devices.
    • Being able to study for test on mobile devices.

    Because of this feedback, we began implementing mobile learning options for our students. I will write more about the different ways to jumpstart mobile learning in your courses in a future post but this one is specifically on our completely mobile course we developed using Blackboard Mobile.

    Why Blackboard Mobile?

    The majority of the online courses we offer are developed using Blackboard. It made sense for us to leverage the knowledge we already had when developing a mobile course. We also liked some of the tools available in Blackboard Mobile. We decided that for our first mobile course we would offer Mobile PE (Lifetime Fitness).  Note: This course is 100% mobile for students only. Currently, teachers still need to do the grading, etc using a desktop or laptop computer.

    Why Lifetime Fitness?

    We’ve offered online Lifetime Fitness for several years. Kids love it! Mobile devices allow us to leverage new and exciting ways to learn the content in the course. Also, lifetime fitness, by name logically relates to movement and exercise, which is done away from a standard computer.

    How is the course designed?

    This was our first attempt at designing an online course to run completely on mobile devices. However, we referred to Basic Principles of Mobile Learning Design to help us get started.

    • Modules are small to allow students to easily start & stop.
    • The discussion boards and blogs tools work great in Blackboard mobile so we designed the assignments around these tools. Currently, neither the assignment tool nor the test tool are mobile friendly so we did not use them for this course.
    • The Check Grades tool also works well so students can check their grades at their convenience.
    • Types of Assessments Include:
      • Discussion Board.  The discussion board tool works pretty well in BB Mobile. We did have to create a thread inside each discussion board with the prompt in it to ensure that the students can see the prompt. 
      • Public Blogs.  Similar to the the discussion boards, these look great in BB Mobile. Students are able to post pictures to the blogs in collaborative assignments. 
      • Private Blogs – I presume that in the future Blackboard will make the assignment tool and/or the test tool mobile friendly, but currently they are not (meaning you have to click “view in browser” and then zoom in and out in order to complete the assignment or test).  Because of this, we used the private blog so students could submit their responses to their teacher privately. It’s a good alternative if you keep in mind two things: 1) Students don’t want to type long essays using their keypad so you will want to minimize the data entry and 2) For teachers, grading a blog may be more time consuming than the regular “assignment tool” assignments.
      • Free iOS apps (there is no textbook) but the students download the apps to practice and learn from as they progress through the units. Its much more than just reading the content thanks to these cool apps. The teacher also developed a list of extra websites and “additional apps” just in case an app dissappears from the appstore, is no longer free, or if an app doesn’t install correctly for whatever reason on the student’s device. Then once a student learns the topic using the app, they post the answers to questions related to the app using the “private blog” assignment tool. Some of the apps we use include the Nike Training App, Target Weight, Heart Rate, Calorie Counter, Daily Burn, and GoLearn Cycling.
    • Navigating Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

    • Module View of Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

     

    • Snapshots from Course. Additionally here are some views of the course.
      1coursemap3module12discussionboard2-5discussionboards

    We also built in mobile surveys using Surveymonkey throughout the course to get feedback from students on what they like and what they think could be better about the course. This data will be crucial as we integrate mobile learning components in future courses.

    By the way, in case you missed the earlier post, here are 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design. Blackboard also has some Best Practices for Mobile Learning with BB Mobile.

    What do you think about Mobile Learning? Do you have any suggestions on design tips for an effective mobile course?

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    This information was shared thanks to Idaho Digital 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?