Category Archives: Technology programs or sites

Videos in the Classroom

I wrote a post a couple months ago about creating videos for your class using well-known programs such as Camtasia or Jing. An even easier idea though is using videos already created by others to enhance your lesson, content, or classroom. One of the most frequent video sites I use in my classroom is YouTube. Just in the last four to five years, YouTube has progressed from being a site where people upload funny videos of their kids or pets to a valuable resource where one can find videos with tutorials and lessons (as well as funny clips of course). Honestly, almost every topic I have ever covered in class, I have been able to search YouTube and find a video relevant to my lesson or discussion.

Since we are teaching in the Digital Age, it is relevant to incorporate multimedia presentations in our lessons, which is what most educational YouTube videos provide. In addition, today’s students relate to videos, and if students can relate and connect to the information, then they are more likely to remember it. Furthermore, in the last two to three years, I have discovered many textbook authors or publishers are uploading videos to YouTube to offer additional resources related to their textbook. If you want more ideas of how to incorporate YouTube into your classroom, check out this blog post by Edudemic.

I will leave you with this YouTube video offering ideas for using YouTube in the classroom:


Social Bookmarking

Have you heard of Delicious or Diigo? If so, then you are probably familiar with social bookmarking. If not, then this video should help you understand the concept better:

I first learned about social bookmarking in a library class I took in 2012. Here is the review I wrote back then comparing these two social bookmarking sites:

I love that both sites provide a way to bookmark your favorite sites that you can access from anywhere. Also, I like that you can follow other people’s bookmarkings, which can make easier to find new great websites and information. Each bookmarking site had some pros and cons in my opinion. For Delicious, I enjoyed that the layout was clean and simple, especially if you used the stacks. I also liked that it seemed to be free of ads. However, it seemed to be missing many features that I really enjoyed in Diigo. I was impressed how Diigo had a toolbar that allowed you easy access to bookmark, highlight, and even capture part of the webpage. Perhaps, Delicious had this and I missed it. Another feature of Diigo that I enjoyed was the “groups” feature. I noticed Delicious had a “feeds” feature, but I had trouble figuring out how to use it. The Diigo group feature was easy to use and the one group I selected “teacher-librarians” had many amazing sites already bookmarked. Also, it seemed Diigo was more school and education focused when I did general searches for library and technology related things. As a whole, both of these sites are great, but I do prefer Diigo for now.

Now, I must confess I have not used either of these sites since that class; however, the classes I am presently taking, I am reminded again how useful these social bookmarking sites can be. During this semester, I did research online for both classes. Many times I emailed myself links, when in fact, I should have been using my Delicious or Diigo account. Now that I have rediscovered my accounts I plan on using myself in future courses. In addition, I want to explore the idea of teaching my students to use these sites when doing research. Hopefully after doing that they will see how beneficial these sites can be and use them for other reasons as well.

If you have never used a social bookmarking site before, I suggest trying it out. It will give you access to your favorites no matter what computer or device you are using. If you have used these before, I would love to hear what you like or dislike about them, as well as ideas of how to use them with students.

Google Sites to present projects or portfolios


Using Google Sites is a fairly easy way to create a website, without really needing to know HTML or other code. It is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) format, which makes its use accessible to the average person. I was introduced to Google Sites in a graduate class I took a few years ago. Our instructor had us create a Google site page to “house” the various projects we created during the course. In the end, it provided each of us ultimately with a portfolio that displayed all of our work, given us easy access to it, as well as visually pleasing way to present to others (should we choose to share it for professional purposes).

Now, for another graduate course I am enrolled in, I have utilized this platform again to showcase my research on Twitter in a more digital format that can be accessed by many. This research project is still a work in progress, but for those who are interested in viewing it, you can check it out here. I find it easier to make Google Sites look like a website as opposed to a Word Press blog. However, I have heard you can make the blog look like a website, so perhaps, I need to investigate that more to make a fair comparison. 

 For those who would like to know more about how to begin creating their own Google Site, I would recommend reading these directions to help you get started. In addition, there are several videos out there to help you create the site. I suggest starting with this video. You can find additional videos by that same person, or similar videos created by others, on YouTube.



Google Forms and Auto-graded Assessments

A few weeks I was faced with a challenge: how to create something online that would grade students work for a placement test for a new modularized course plan we are trying. I knew there had to be programs out there would that allow students to input answers and grade it for me. And there were–plenty actually. Since I love Google docs already, one idea I really liked was using a Google Form and then using a Flubaroo script to have it auto-graded. Here is a written explanation of how to do this, as well as this video demonstration I stumbled upon on YouTube.

Unfortunately, that did not quite fulfill my needs, as I needed three separate scores dependent upon the answers to certain questions; however, I saw the immense value this Google Form self-graded tool could provide to a teacher. It allows you to type explanations in the comments, so it can provide a chance for students to learn and self-remediate while taking the assessment. It allows those who have access to computers (such as a portable or regular computer lab) an easy way to assess students and provide them feedback a quick manner, as well as make the job of the teacher easier because it is graded automatically.

For those curious, I did find a workable (not perfect but doable) solution for my situation. I used the Google Form I created to take the test with the correct answers. That then become the first line of my spreadsheet. After I created color-coded conditions upon each answer column related to the correct answers. So if students answered question 1 correctly that column turned blue, if they answered question 2 correctly it turned green, and so on. I did that for all 18 questions varying the color-coding based on the type of questions. 

The World of Video Making

So a couple of years ago I learned how to use Jing. I was quite fascinated with it when I first learned how to use it; however, my teaching assignment at the time did not really need me to create many videos. Having taught online before though, I recognized the immense usefulness in being able to take a screen shot of something you were working on and add labels, arrows, and the like to it. One great feature of Jing is that you can create videos of whatever is on your computer screen (or a portion of your screen) and record your voice while your screen is showing. Later you can edit aspects of the video and easily share it in multiple platforms. The free version (who doesn’t love free?) allows you to create videos up to five minutes in length and then stores them on a screencast account for you. It then gives you a web link you can share for people to view it. If want to learn more about how to use Jing, I suggest watching some of these videos

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Another video creator I discovered the past few weeks is Camtasia. This program appears to be created by the same makers of Jing, but it has many additional features Jing does not. For instance it allows you to put yourself into the video as a “talking head” in a small screen in the corner of your video, if you so desire. (I know many people do not like to do this, but if you are creating videos for an online class and you wanted them to “connect” with and see you while viewing the lesson, this option is there. Personally, I will not be utilizing that feature much myself, but it’s there.) One of the advantages to Camtasia is the editing options. They are more complex, allowing for multiple audio and video tracks of information which allows the creative users almost limitless possibilities in the quest of producing a captivating video. It also allows you to place a hyperlink into the video itself. I have not actually tried that feature myself, but it sounds quite useful. Since I was introduced to the program two weeks ago, I have dabbled with some of its features and created my first video this past week. I will be teaching my first online class at the college level this coming fall, so I anticipate producing numerous videos over the next few months. If you would like to read a more thorough review of this program, click here. Of course, there is a catch with this program, and that’s the price tag. It’s a whooping $299, but if you are fortunate, your school maybe already purchased it.

In another week’s post, I will discuss YouTube videos–both as ones you can watch and ones you can make. That’s another viable option as well, but if you want the best video possible, then I suggest Camtasia.


Twitter in the classroom

This idea–using Twitter in the classroom, especially in the writing and reading classroom–is the focus of my research for my seminar paper for my Computers and Composition class. As I have begun to delve into the articles I have found, I have discovered its use in the classroom is definitely NOT a common practice. Not.Even.Close. Of course, there are some instructors that are utilizing in various capacities in their courses, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. In addition, it seems from my general Google searches to be used more in the K-12 setting rather than the Higher Education setting. Perhaps, that is because college teachers would write a more scholarly or academic article rather than a blog post or YouTube video, or perhaps, college teachers just are not using it as much. Too early for me to say with any certainty. One of the most prevalent examples of a college instructor using Twitter in the classroom is Dr. Monica Rankin, a history professor at the University of Texas–Dallas; however, in fairness, it appears she began incorporating Twitter in her classroom for research purposes. Here is a video clip explaining her experiment and usage of Twitter in her classroom:

Given the social and collaborative nature of Twitter, I am somewhat surprised that college professors have not embraced this social media tool more. As an instructor myself, I admit I have wanted to incorporate Twitter into classroom, but I have not yet done so. I am hoping to experiment with it in the summer class I am teaching, as it will be a smaller group and I will have more time to focus on implementing it. I wonder if instructors do not use because they are unaware of the how they could use it to promote literacy, writing, and collaboration, or if the lack of use stems more from the idea that it is just “one more thing to do” on top an already long, and sometimes overwhelming, list. The lack of use is an idea I hope to research more in-depth at some point, but for my present paper, I will focus more on how it is and can be used in the classroom to promote collaboration, writing, and literacy. At least that is what I think after reading a few articles. Given the inchoate stage of my research, my ideas are still malleable.

If you have used Twitter as an instructor or as a student in the classroom, I would love for you to leave your thoughts about its use in the classroom in the comments below. 

A new alternative to presentations…Prezi

Have you heard of Prezi? If not, here is a video to introduce you to the idea:

I discovered Prezi through a class I took a couple years ago, and I quickly fell in love. While I know there are even more elaborate presentation sites/programs out there, most cost money or are quite complex to learn. Prezi is free and simple to use. If you are still using boring, old PowerPoint, I would challenge you to give Prezi a try. You can set up a free account quite easily, and watch one of many tutorial videos to get you started. In using Prezi, I discovered that many students love the “big picture” it provides, as well as the movement (which many older faculty complain about) and the visual representation of how ideas are connected.

If you have used Prezi before, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions of it. Feel free to comment.

A Look at Clickers in the Classroom

Classroom clickers are not a new idea; however, they are not utilized at my community college as much as some other colleges. Personally, I appreciate the immediate feedback clickers provide, especially with checking how well students understand a particular concept. Since my class is predominantly a skills-based class, there is a lot of practice of skills during class time. It is critical students understand the basic skills being taught and with the fast-paced college schedule, it is not always beneficial to wait until a formal test to see if students understand it.  Clickers provide monitor understanding along the way and reteach or adjust my teaching based on the instant results provided on my computer screen by the clicker program. These are just my reasons for using clickers, but they are a multitude of reasons to use them, as enumerated by Derek Bruff of Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.

In my quest to use clickers in my college classroom, I have experimented with a few different kinds to use. I wish I could say I have found a sure winner, but so far, I have not. Below I outline below the three types of clickers I have used thus far in my college classroom and the pros and cons I have discovered for each (at least as it applies to my classroom).

1)      Turning Point Clickers —There are many versions of clickers created by Turning Point; however, I am confined to the basic Response Card IR as that is what my school has purchased. First, the pros of these clickers are that when using them, I have a class set thus ensuring all my students have a clicker. Also, students find it easy to use them. In addition, with the new software it is easier to use them “on the fly.” Granted your answers are limited to a letter or number of which you will not have a preprogrammed answer guide key, but if you are using a textbook with a lot of multiple choice questions, which I do since I teach a skills-based reading course, then that is fine.  A final pro is that you can program students names into a file so you can keep clear records of participation and responses.

The main con this clicker has is that it does not have the capability to text, thus response are limited to multiple choice or true/false responses. (Of course, if you bought an upgraded version of the clicker you would have the capability to text, but to purchase a class set of those is almost a couple thousand dollars.) The other main disadvantage is that the software has to be installed to use it, so if you switch classrooms frequently and have limited ability to download software onto school computers, then this could be a problem.

2)      Socrative app or website—This clicker really is an app students can download or a website they can access. The pros of this app or website is that students only need to type in one number, which is your room number, and that always stays the same. Another positive feature of this type of student response system is that it allows students to type text, which allows for more thought provoking questions. Of course, it also allows for traditional multiple choice and true/false questions. Moreover, it allows you to create questions on the fly or use preprogrammed ones, as well as allow students to complete a self-paced quiz.

The biggest con to this type of “clicker” is that not all my students have smartphones, so students without a smartphone are forced to just watch or “pair up” with another student who has one, but that someone defeats the purpose of clickers, which is engagement and input of all students at once. Another con is that for the results to show up well on the projected screen, the teacher should be logged into the computer, which makes it reliant upon a strong Internet connection. At my college, I always find our Internet connection is slow the first week of class, thus making use of this “clicker” almost impossible at that time. The final problem is that keeping real records of student participation is not as easy as it is with traditional clickers.

3)      Poll Everywhere—This clicker really is a texting feature. This means students who can text can use their phone to text in their response, whether it is a multiple choice (or t/f) question or open ended question.  As Mark Sample mentions, one pro to this clicker is that students just need a phone–which most students have–instead of a smartphone. Another pro is similar to Socrative, in that students can text in longer answers thus allowing instructors more freedom in the type of questions they ask. Again, as with both other clickers mentioned, questions can be created on the fly. Watching the video I embedded I learned some things about this program that I did not know before, so I will need to try those features (like the ability to vote through Twitter) before I can comment on them.

The cons of this “clicker” are that it is not as user-friendly. You have to type in two numbers to answer any question, and furthermore, how the two numbers appear on the question screen (on the computer) is often confusing for students as to which number is which. Also, if students do not have unlimited texting, their participation could be costly for them. Lastly, these questions cannot easily be programmed ahead for a self-paced quiz.

As you can see, each clicker has it strengths as well as its weaknesses. For my particular courses, I am finding that it is often beneficial to use the Turning Point clickers for checking students answers to vocabulary and practice out of their books. For discussion questions, surveying background knowledge, and reviewing material, Socrative and Poll Everywhere are better for they allow students to type in longer responses. Personally, I prefer Socrative over Poll Everywhere; however, I survey my class, and if the majority (like 80-85% or more) of the students do not have smartphones, then I use Poll Everywhere instead.

Feel free to share any experiences, thoughts, or suggestions you have about clickers. I always looking to expand my knowledge and improve the learning for my students.



Quizlet is an excellent technological tool that can help students with learning new information, especially information that needs to be recalled, such as vocabulary. Since I teach many first-time college students, I frequently look for ways to help them succeed in their educational pursuits. Many of my students lack an understanding of the amount of at-home studying required of them at the college level, as well as lacking an understanding of how to study. I love the “new face” that Quizlet gives to flashcards, as well as the convenience of having it available on your phone, which most college students have with them all the time.

In my Prep Reading and Study Skills courses, I start by creating some lists related to our textbooks and showing them how to use access these flashcards sets on the Quizlet website and app. I show them the many options they have in studying these terms, beyond just the basic flashcard. In addition, I promote the easiness of use and convenience of it and suggest they study these words for 5-10 minutes multiple times throughout the day, such as when they wake up, while waiting for a ride or their next class, before they go to sleep, or really any time they find themselves with a few minutes to spare. I explain them that repeated exposure and practice will help them to remember the information on a more long-term basis, which in turn will help them as they take their tests. Later in the semester, I show them how to create their own flashcard sets for any subject and how to search for and copy already created sets related to their topic. Edshelf provides a great overview of these functions as well as the basic functions of Quizlet if you want to learn how this technological tool yourself. Many of students comment at the end of the semester how much this piece of technology helped them and how to plan on using it for all their future classes.