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?

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

Social Networking: Educators Jumping Out of the Silos!

Growing up in Idaho, you see a lot of these silos. They work great for storing materials and keeping them separate and isolated from other materials. Isolation is good in this sense because you don’t want to mix the “outside” with what’s “inside”.

Silos

Unfortunately, in education, too often we live and work in silos, trying to solve problems, innovate, and advance education with only a limited view of what we are doing, unable to see “how others are doing it” or being able to ask questions to those doing the same thing we are doing simply because we don’t know them. Conferences are great but sometimes you want more!

When was the last time you searched out someone doing your similar role at a different institution and started collaborating? I realize that some are not interested in sharing ideas or collaborating and that is okay, but there many educators that would love to ask  questions and receive feedback, suggestions, and responses. With all the growth of Professional Learning Communities, I think now is the time to start asking questions and really collaborating, building upon ideas to advance education. What works for one situation may help in another. Why reinvent the wheel again and again?

Follow me on Twitter at @Kodystimpson, if you are interested in online learning, Edtech, Instructional Design or Technology.

I also just created a new Twitter account specifically for educators interested in Online Learning in Higher Education @HigherEdOnlineL  It doesn’t matter what college, university, or school you work in. If you’re interested in collaborating, asking questions about online learning in Higher Ed (policies, processes, best practice, instructional design, tools, etc), please follow and ask your questions, I’ll tweet them out and let’s get some answers. Also be sure and reply to other’s questions. You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be willing to SHARE your perspective.

So let’s begin collaborating & break out of these silos once and for all!

If your still wondering about whether to create a Twitter account, check out this post on Why Every Educator Should be On Twitter.

See you there!

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!

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.

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.

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?

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 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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

Activities that can be supported through mobile learning tools.

The Internet is a funny thing. Sometimes you can find some really great stuff and yet are not sure who actually was the first one to come up with it. Well let me start out by saying, I didn’t make this list. 😉 I found it out on the great world wide web and liked it. In fact I used my trusty Jing tool and did a screen shot of it, printed it and have it on my wall along the slew of other tips, tricks, and insights that surround my desk. 

I think its a good list and all I can say about it is that it came from a workshop somewhere titled  “Inquiry Learning and Mobile Learning” back in 2006. Yikes! 2006, so long ago how could it possibly be helpful? Well, I thought it was still relevant, so here it is:

Learning activities that could be supported through mobile digital tools and enviornments: 

  • Exploring – real physical enviornments linked to digital media.
  • Investigating – real physical enviornments linked to digital guides.
  • discussing – with peers, synchronously or asynchornously, audio or text.
  • recording, capturing data – sounds, images, videos, text, locations.
  • building, making modeling – using captured data and digital tools
  • Sharing – captured data, digital products of building and modelling
  • Testing – the products built, against other’s products, other’s comments or real physical environments
  • Adapting – the products developed in light of feedback from tests or comments; and
  • Reflecting – guided by digital collaborative software, using shared products, test reults, and comments 

Back in 2006, this is way before the iTouch and iPhone, so obviously a lot has changed. Much of what people refered to as “mobile” back then was just meaning “laptops”. However, now that we have these small, much more convenient mobile devices, it really makes a good list of ways to think outside the box, and start putting some of these mobile devices to good use. 

 What do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment.