Category Archives: Ed Tech Resources

MyHistro: Interactive Timeline Builder

Ever wanted combine a series of historical events with images, video, description, and map locations? MyHistro is a free timeline builder that allows users to do this quite easily. Entire stories can be captured using this tool putting historical events into context in terms of both time and location.  There are a number of examples that can be viewed here.  To learn more about each event, click to read more and see more pictures and videos.

Creating a timeline is pretty easy.  First you need to set up a free account, but from there you can build your own stories (projects).  Here is an example that I created telling the story of all the places that I have lived. It took about a half hour to build this timeline.

Creating the timeline is pretty easy. All you do is identify the events you want to describe and provide the dates and descriptions.  Images can be uploaded (though I am having difficulty with this right now, it may be something to do with my OS upgrade to Sierra), but extended descriptions and videos from the web are easily added as well.

There is an ability to create collaborative projects as well so students can work together on a larger timeline project.

Overall this appears to be a nice, easy tool to help students engage with the material more both while learning from the timeline and in creating their own timelines. I’d be interested in hearing about different project ideas that faculty might have that this tool could make possible.

Make easy clips from longer videos – Vibby

Most instructors like to use video at some point or another in our courses.  Sometimes we watch the whole video, other times, we are only interested in one or two clips to highlight a point.  Sometimes there can be frustration with locating the right time, waiting for the video to buffer, and then trying to find the next clip.  Even when we plan ahead and get the video up, buffered ,and set to the right time, disaster can occur when we inadvertently close the window (ok disaster is an exaggeration, but this is frustrating, no?).

Additionally, if we would like to make these clips available to students, giving instructions on exactly where to start and stop the video can be cumbersome.  Vibby is a tool that allows users to create clips from longer videos and then you simply save your Vibby video.  No more searching for the right clips, losing the times that you wrote down just yesterday, or students frustrated with wondering if they watched the correct clip.

Vibby is a free service and is easy to use.  Vibby uses videos that are on the internet (you need to use a URL for the video). So if you are using a video that you created yourself, you will likley use your YouTube channel to house this. Next you highlight the selections of the video you wish to clip.  You can start and stop highlighting several times in the same video.  You can adjust the highlighting if you need to move where you started or stopped the clip. When you have selected your clips, you simply click save, select a category for your vib, and then you are given a URL and embed code to share your vib with others.  Once created, you can go back to edit your vib. This will bring up the original video so you can add/delete clips as needed.

The one weakness that I see right now is that for any vib you wish to create the clips can only come from one video.  You cannot create one vibby video from multiple videos on the Internet.  Additionally, the people that you do share the vib with do have the option of watching the full video, so if your intention of using Vibby is to remove violent or other questionable content so your students do not see it, this will not prevent them from being able to.

With this said, this can be just one way of easily creating and sharing video clips for your class.

OpenStax: Free Online Textbooks

The world of Open Educational Resources (OERs) is quite vast and can be difficult to navigate.  In the webinar I listened to a few weeks back, the folks at Inside Higher Education’s annual survey of faculty and administrator attitudes toward technology found that faculty tended to be interested in learning more about OERs, but appeared unsure of how and where to start.  Certainly, there are many free resources available, but like any other resource found on the Internet, the quality can be questionable. Enter in OpenStax for college textbooks.

OpenStax is a site dedicated to the creation, sharing, and adapting of college level textbooks.  Most of these books are for the lower-level introductory courses and have books for topics in physics, mathematics, psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to name just a few.  OpenStax was created by a faculty member of Rice University and the content that is shared on this site are vetted and peer-reviewed and are under the creative commons license. It is supported by grants from several foundations

These books are customizeable for individual courses and instructors are allowed to customize the books using their online platform.  When I attempted to play with the customization, I was not able to because of a registration error as of the time of this blog posting, but it may be worth one’s time if you wish to have a book tailored to your particular course’s needs.

When briefly reviewing the Intro to Pyschology book available, I’d say that the content is pretty comparable to most other books available commercially.  The modules did include a few links to some hands-on activities and videos and there are a few review questions at the end.  Unlike the books available by commercial publishers, the end of module questions are not scored and not exactly interactive (user simply clicks to reveal the answer, they do not select the answer they think in correct).

This difference is likley going to be the major difference between freely available textbooks like those in OpenStax and those developed by the commercial publishers.  The creation of the interactive content and integration with scoring and course management systems requires more developers, programmers, and has a cost associated with it. In my opinion, this is likley what users are actually paying for now with commercial textbooks.  With the availability of free textbooks online, the content is out there and some of it vetted likley as well as a commercially available textbook.  But the inclusion of embedded activities, quizzes, and videos along with scoring and tracking systems is what currently sets the commercially available textbooks apart.

In the end, the decision of whether to use an OER like OpenStax for your electronic textbook (if you choose the electronic book) or to use an online book from a commercial publisher will lie in how you and your students will choose to use the book. If the use of embedded activities and student tracking is important, the commercial book may be more appropriate. If you simply want the content and some activities from the reading available without the tracking then the lower cost (free) option may work.

Research Document/PDF Manager

I’ve been busy writing a research paper during my sabbatical and over the course of these past few weeks I’ve been using a free application called Mendeley quite frequently.  Mendeley is a document organizer that is focused on the organization of research papers.  I first started using Mendeley when I took on a textbook revision project.  I needed a better way of storing and searching the dozens of research papers that I was using and a colleague recommended Mendeley.

Since then I’ve also recommended this application to my students who are writing long research papers (senior thesis) as well.  Mendeley is pretty easy to use and has been quite the time saver for me when I need to find a specific journal article or if I simply need to search all my saved journal articles for a particular topics. I have Mendeley ‘watch’ a folder on my hard drive. What this means is that I save all my research journal PDFs into one folder (which I call ‘Journals’) on my computer. Within this folder I have  subfolders which separate my articles by the research project they first applied to. Mendeley watches my Journals folder and automatically syncs to it.  When I open Mendeley I can view all my files, I can see my most recently added files, or I can create folders within Mendeley as well.  What is important is regardless of which subfolder I place an article, it automatically goes into Mendeley as well.  When syncing, Mendeley also saves a copy of the article to the cloud, which means I can access my articles from any web-enabled device.  I don’t need my computer with the locally saved copy if I am traveling to a conference and need to whip out an article to read.

In addition to this basic organization ability, Mendeley can also automatically create references (usually in APA style but I think there might be others), users can highlight the articles electronically and create notes. You can also create groups and collaborate remotely with others using this application.

In addition to the desktop application (Linux included), there are also apps for iOS and Android devices for mobile connectivity.

Another e-book product: SmartBook

About a month ago I posted a blog about the evolution of e-books. In this post I briefly described  one product by Pearson called Revel.  In this week’s post I want to share the product from another publisher, McGraw-Hill, and their approach to e-books.  MGH’s SmartBook product is an e-book based on the principles of mastery learning.  Mastery learning is the notion of having learners study material and then demonstrate their competence typically through quizzing.  Mastery learning requires a student to master earlier material before moving on to more complex material.  MGH’s SmartBook product uses this basic principle.

In a nutshell, instructors select the learning objectives from the text that they want their students to learn and the depth at which they wish to have students learn the material (from very basic understanding to having a deeper conceptual understanding of the material).  Students then read the text and answer a series of questions.  The question presentation is based on a complex algorithm  which adapts to several things that the student can do while answering questions (if right/wrong, level of confidence, time to answer, clicking on resources, etc) so each student’s question experience is different (which makes cheating and copying off one another difficult).  Based on the question performance and the student’s confidence level, completing an assignment can take a very short amount of time (if the student knows the material and is confident) or a very long amount of time (if simply guessing and clicking through).

In addition to these features, the grades from the assignments can be integrated into a Moodle gradebook (we just need to obtain the plug-in so if you are interested let me know).  Also there are some possibilities for assessment results to be displayed as well.

Comparing the two products, they are very different.  From my viewpoint, Revel focuses more on creating interactivity in the books and segmenting the learning (read a little then do a little) more whereas SmartBook focuses more on using the mastery learning approach to help get students to read and study more before class.  SmartBook is created for both computer and mobile devices.

Pi – A different venue for electronic communication with students

Earlier this summer I was contacted by a gentleman of a new Internet company that is developing a new communication application for the classroom (online or traditional). The product is called Pi (https://piapp.co/) and it basically uses a Twitter/Facebook-type interface and brings it into a course LMS (instructor just links to the Pi course page from the LMS).

The creators of this application voice their frustration with the traditional communication methods used in learning management systems (i.e. e-mail and forums) finding them to be less engaging with students not really interacting with one another as much as they could. So they set out to create an improved method.

The major differences as I see it are two-fold. 1) the interface is more like a social media platform that many students are very familiar with and 2) there are functions that push students to be more actively involved in discussions within this interface.

This is what the computer version of Pi looks like:

Pi Screenshot

As you can see it looks a little like a twitter feed, but has more of the posting ability of Facebook (not limited to 140 characters). This is a familiar interface for students, more so than some forum interfaces.

There are also mobile versions of this for both iOS and Android (not sure about Windows). Students can have the option of having push notifications active for Pi on their phones, which means, when there is a new post or reply they get an alert. Rather than depending on students going to visit a forum site to see if there are new posts or replies, now their device can alert them immediately. There is also the option of subscribing to e-mail alerts which again directs users to the conversations.

If you are interested in learning more about Pi, feel free to contact Brent Burd for a free account (Brent@piapp.co). Just let him know you are an instructor at Morningside College and are interested in testing out the product.

If you want to join my test class in Pi you can use this link (http://piapp.co/join/c439c) to join up and become a member of this ‘course.’ We can use this as something of a sandbox to play around with if you please.

For more information here are the online sites for Pi:

Website: https://piapp.co/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/piappHQ

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/piapphq?fref=nf

 

Educational Technology Resources

An area that I feel Morningside is currently lacking is the availability of help resources for faculty and instructors that are tailored for Morningside faculty and readily available. This is one of the areas I hope to address early in my time in my position as Educational Technologist. It will take time for this library of resources to be built. Here is a list of resources that we currently have available to us as well as a list of resources I hope to create over time.

 

Technology resources currently available:

  • Moodle help for students: eClass4learning is a 24/7 helpdesk.
  • Moodle help for instructors: Moodle Reference Desk.
    • http://www.eclass4learning.com/courses
    • A username and password are needed. An e-mail was sent to all Morningside faculty and instructors with this information. If you need it again, please contact Kim Christopherson. Please save the e-mail for future reference
  • Morningside Moodle Knowledgebase
    • Accessed from Moodle upper left hand of the screen
    • Has some basic information about setting up a Moodle page.
    • I intend to work with IT in getting this knowledgebase more expanded. Right now it is a bit sparse.
  • Tech Help Desk x5544
    • Help desk for general technology issues.

 

Technology resources to be created

  • Expand the Morningside Moodle Knowledgebase
  • Create a series of short videos demonstrating some common issues with Moodle and Taskstream.
  • Lists of free or inexpensive programs with possible uses in the classroom.
  • List of gadgets available for loan and possible uses.
  • Regular social media (Facebook page, Twitter) and blog entries from Morningside Ed Tech
  • Morningside Educational Technology website as a central resource point (in progress and not yet live).