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

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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.

Getting my feet wet

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Being a “big picture” person, I am struggling with my lack of a big picture for this blog. I wish I had the clarity of focus many blogs possess, but those are usually people with a particular expertise they wish to share, like cooking, building furniture, photography, or with a difficult life event they wish to share, such as battling cancer or dealing with the loss of a loved one. This blog does not serve either of those purpose. Instead, I have freedom to explore, especially in relation to the topics of my class, which is entitled Computers and Composition. The pressure unfolds though with an immediate audience, my classmates and professor, who will read these posts and whether they want to or not, whether consciously or unconsciously, they will form opinions about me based on what I write. Ideally, we are community of educators or writers sharing ideas, but in the age of technology, every post I write becomes another part of my digital footprint. My greatest concern is not really knowing what to say or not really having anything significant to say. I hope those fears subside a little more with each post. So here’s to getting my feet wet. As I often have to do at the beach, I am going to get wet slowly, in hopes of avoiding the shock of the cold, unknown waters.