Wednesday, August 20, 2008

For Presentation to New Faculty

This post is for a presentation to new faculty about ways to use Web technology in a fruitful manner to enhance teaching and learning.

Main Theme:

There are lots of new, cool, and quite useful tools that are part of the The Cloud. Each of these can be used as a stand alone or in conjunction with Campus supported tools such as Illinois Compass, the Campus Learning Management System. This presentation is aimed simply to wet the appetite and encourage further exploration when the faculty have the time to do so.

Things To Keep In Mind:

Do you have a sensible teaching and learning reason for using the technology, either pedagogic or logistical? Is there a way for you to evaluate whether the technology delivers on that ex post? Do you walk the walk? If you want your students to use some technology for a class purpose, do you do likewise?

Citation/Web linking

Kwout is a simple tool for referencing a Web page with both a cutout of that page and a back link to the page, both of which can be embedded in some other page like a blog or a discussion board in Illinois Compass. One can add personal commentary to the Kwout content. Since it is easy to use (the back link is done automatically) making posts with Kwout is an easy habit to develop. If Firefox is the preferred browser, there is a Kwout plugin that can be accessed via a right click.
  • Encourage students to cite references with Kwout.
  • Spend some of your teaching time providing "translation" of results published elsewhere, perhaps in the popular press, to the topic of study in your course.
  • Encourage students to chase down the reference because the back link is right there.
Ebsco page for Akerlof Article (This link might require being in the UIUC domain.)
Show Kwout of this Ebsco page displayed in Illinois Compass.

Refworks This is bibliographic software that the Library Licenses for Campus Use. It integrates with many Library databases and it will produce bibliographies in the appropriate style, such as in MLA format. Grad students working on their dissertation love this application. Undergrads might also find it useful, but beware of undergrads citing papers they haven't read.

Building Community/Text, Audio, and Video Discussions

VoiceThread this is a very nice tool to encourage commentary and group discussion. Text, Audio, and Video commentary are possible. The free version allows up to three presentations stored on the site. The pro version has unlimited storage.
  • Multiple ways to participate.
  • It can be a place for groups of students to make and practice online presentations.
  • Or it can be a place where students comment and react to instructor created presentations.
Give demo of VoiceThread and show how students can use it to comment on PowerPoint presentation.

Facebook - should there be a class group in facebook? Since I'm over 50, I'll give the old fogie answer. If your students want it, let them create the group and then invite you to join. Don't force your academic space onto their social lives. They very well may not want it.

Recording Video Conversations is a site of video debates or conversations. Some of these get featured on the New York Times Web site. Students tend to shy away from reasoned argument and instead want "right answers" --- what the professor says. Recording video conversations with peers or "online guest lecturers" is a straightforward way to get multiple points of view into a course. (And if done with peers, they can use the recording in their classes too!)

The same technology can also be used to bring in the student perspective into the class - record "office hours" where the students drive the conversation and the instructor responds to the student queries. See if other students watch these, even if they aren't a required part of the course.
  • The Campus has a particular honors program called James Scholars. Such students must do projects to receive honors credit. A nice project would be for them to "volunteer" to be recorded for these office hours.
ooVoo is a video chat software, a competitor of Skype. The pay version on the PC has a recording capability and the video chats can be recorded in fairly high resolution (big files). A nice place to host those videos is It accepts files that are bigger than what YouTube allows. Further the pay version allows you to keep the files private yet still embed them in other Web pages where you want them to appear. Like all Video hosting services, it tracks the number of times the video has been played.

ooVoo chat with Jim

Screen Capture Movies

Jing This is a freebie good for making short movies with voice over, but no editing after capture.
Camtasia This is commercial software with editing and captioning capability.
Cost Movies
  • Students captures as assignments.
  • Brief captures to add commentary between class sessions.
  • Mini lectures done online so in class time can be devoted to discussion.


Computer ownership among students is quite high, 95% or more. (See ECAR Study on Student Technology Use.) Most of the students nowadays opt for a laptop. Nonetheless, the majority of students don't have that laptop with them when they come to class. The portable device of choice is the cell phone. Virtually all students have one and they do bring those to class (preferably with the ringer off).

Google Calendar Students need help with time management. There are many Web based calendars, including within the Learning Management System. But are these calendars accessible when the students are away from their computers? If you put your class calendar into Google Calendar and make it public students can subscribe to it. They can also receive alerts about class deadlines.

Google Docs
This is a nice collaboration tool where groups of students can share documents and work on them together online. There is a feature to access the document list and to browse each document from a cellphone.

Where do we go from here?

The magic words are "opt in." Use these tools or not at your own discretion. If you see the value and feel comfortable using cloud computing then go for it. If not, don't. There may be a bit of a learning curve with some of there or some initial setup before you can use successfully. Better to use one or two of these well than to embrace them all but use them poorly. You can build up your bag of tricks as you gain teaching experience. In the meantime, good luck with the start of the semester.

1 comment:

tiajones said...

Hi Lanny,

I couldn’t resist commenting. Thanks for all the great info! Have you ever heard of Central Desktop? Central Desktop is a very simple to use collaboration and task management tool that was created for individuals and teams. CD enables you to manage projects, activities and share ideas through a shared online workspace. Again, it's very easy to use too!

…check it out when you have a moment…

Community Manager