Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cengage Learning: Teaching with Mobile Technology and Social Media



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Topic of the Week :

Teaching with Mobile Technology and Social Media

This week, our posts offer suggestions for using mobile and social tech tools in a way that helps students connect with your course in an engaging and interactive manner – while still meeting your overall teaching objectives. Join us at the Blog.
This Week's Featured Topics :

Social Networking as a Solution, Not a Distraction

We provide tips for determining which social networks fit your needs based on the goals that you have in mind for your interactions.
Read More »

Having an Experimental Attitude Toward Tech for Educational Purposes

Roger Arnold describes the shifts he's observing in instructors' attitudes toward using technology for delivering course content and communicating with students. Read More »

Using Text Messaging in Your Mobile Technology Learning Plan

Sandy Keeter describes how she is using a text-messaging service with the goal of increasing student retention in, and engagement with, her course. Read More »

Social Networking: Think Before Posting—or Deleting

This activity encourages students to think about posting or deleting comments on social networking sites and to reflect on why they'd choose one or the other. Read More »

Being Mindful of Your Social Media History

We provide tips to share about what students should keep in mind and do to ensure their social media history paints them in a positive light as they seek employment. Read More »
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eSchool News: Ten educational technologies you should try this year

Ten educational technologies you should try this year


From code that lets any educator create a MOOC, to online flash cards that help students earn money, these educational technologies could gain steam this year.
It’s always hard to predict what technology will be a game-changer, but here are 10 educational technologies that have sparked our interest in recent months.
From code that lets any educator create a MOOC, to online flash cards that help students earn money, the following educational technologies could gain steam in classrooms this year.
Be sure to leave your suggestions for what we might have missed, or if you’ve tried some of these educational technologies before, let us know in the comments section—we’d love to hear your thoughts!
(Listed in alphabetical order)
1. Banzai
Between calculating the cost of college and the state of our economy, more and more teachers are incorporating financial literacy curriculum into the classroom. Banzai provides content using real-life scenarios—including taxes and auto insurance—for free! Lessons are online and interactive, or they can be printed; lesson preparation and grading are included with the program.
2. Course Builder
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have really taken off in the last year. Now, Google is helping teachers complete their MOOC dreams with this new open-source platform that gives individual educators and universities the ability to create MOOCs of their own. Already, colleges like Indiana University and UC San Diego are using Course Builder.

College Students Go Digital!

EduDemic: The Skills Both Online Students And Teachers Must Have

Decades after the Sloan Consortium funded the first large-scale online learning programs in the U.S., online learning has finally hit its stride. According to the 2012 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6.7 million, an increase of more than 570,000 students over the previous year. Moreover, thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
Yet despite this bullish growth, research shows that course completion and program retention rates are “generally lower” in online courses than in face-to-face courses.
Non-traditional students – students 25 and older who return to school for any reason, including 2- or 4-year degrees, professional certification, workforce training or just continuing education – are most attracted to online learning because of the flexibility and “anytime, anywhere” style of instruction. But these students often have a number of factors that work against their success, including some or all of the following:
  • Varying degrees of mismatch between the difficulty of online courses and students’ academic preparation
  • Family and peer influences
  • The high degree of self-directedness required for most online programs
  • The interaction of course design and cultural issues
  • The need to adapt to computer-mediated communication
  • Economic factors
  • Variability in the level of employer support (for employee training), and
  • Time management and technology issues (Rovai and Downey, 2010).

Characteristics of Successful Online Students

success sign

Students best suited for online learning have special skill sets and certain characteristics that set them up for success. These include:
1. Being highly motivated to learn. Unlike in a brick and mortar classroom, in an online environment no one stands over the student to remind him to do his homework, or is in front of him to ensure he is mastering the curriculum. In on ground classrooms, learning can be passive, while in online programs, learning is active and the learner must be engaged at all times.
2. Having strong time management skills. The normal structure of getting to class on time is gone, requiring each student to set his or her own schedules to get the work done.
3. Being highly communicative. Shrinking violets need not apply! If you aren’t communicating online with your instructor or peers, you become invisible. Communication and collaboration are critical to the student’s success.
4. Having self-discipline. A “good” online instructor will reach out to students if a student does not “show up” online. However, this outreach is not mandatory, often putting the burden of responsibility on the student.
5. Demonstrating strong critical thinking skills. While there is support available, the most successful online students have the ability to solve problems and overcome challenges.
6. Having basic technology skills. While these skills may be ubiquitous for younger students, adults returning to school often need to learn new technology skills that may not be intuitive to them. Schools need to be empathetic toward these learners and ensure the appropriate constructs are in place to help these students learn basic instructional skills prior to moving deeply into their online course of studies.

Easy-to-Implement Student Success Strategies


For those new to the online learning environment, there are a number of simple strategies students can implement to increase their course achievement. (Source: Dr. Dawn Kaiser, Faculty Manager, American Intercontinental University)
1. Create a community and communicate with the instructor in a different way. When the “instructor” doesn’t see you, it becomes even more important to find a way for them to remember you.
2. Collaborate with your peers. Find a way to make your own study group – be it over Skype, within an LMS, or in person. This engagement helps students feel more connected with the class.
3. Be diligent about deadlines and timelines. It’s easy to let things fall to the last minute when there is no one reminding you on a regular basis. Set your own personal deadlines in a calendar, just like you would an appointment.
4. Look for and leverage tools that can help you stay structured and focused (i.e. Evernote, Springpad or Dropbox)
5. Guard against self-destructive behaviors. Procrastination in an online course is your worst enemy.
6. Set attainable goals and track them. This will help you stay motivated as you check off each task you accomplish.
7. Set up a support system. Share your educational goals with those in your circle of close friends and family and how you will accomplish them. Let others know how important this is to you and lean on them when you feel discouraged or ready to give up. Celebrate with them when you reach your goals!
8. Ask questions! This is your education and you will get out of it what you put in.

Faculty Ownership of Students’ Online Achievement

There are many things institutions and/or faculty can do to encourage, inspire and retain students in online educational programs – some which are similar to the steps students must take themselves.
1. Be highly communicative with students – focus on the student, not the content.
2. Move from using the Socratic approach (one to many) to being more of a coach. Online teaching is focused on helping students problem solve more than delivering information.
3. Be very flexible. Online students work outside of normal 9-5 school hours and may need your help in the evenings or on weekends.
4. Provide continuous feedback. If instructors wait three days or more before telling a student if she is on the right track, she will feel disconnected and possibly give up. Constant feedback is a critical success factor for online students.
5. Develop supportive forums and optimize introductions to create a friendly online environment that has a sense of community. This helps students feel supported and encouraged.

Models and Tools to Optimize the Online Learning Experience

Four happy high school students with laptops

Online teaching methods have evolved from fully instructed courses, to facilitated, to the now more popular self-paced and now self-instructed, such as Propero and in Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – opening access to an entirely new audience of students. There is no single model for online learning success. The standards we set today should be tiny benchmarks that we set out to surpass every year. Technology keeps changing, and we are still learning how students learn online and what methods work best.
The more schools experiment with online learning, the closer we will get to taking online learning to scale and moving toward higher student completion and success rates in online programs. With the vast array of synchronous and asynchronous technologies available, students are able to collaborate online just as well as in face-to-face classes, when the right environment and tools are in place.
Wherever one looks, evidence of mobile devices in the higher education landscape is omnipresent: cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, handhelds, tablets, and laptops abound. These devices can increase access and collaboration outside the classroom, making them optimal, but not a prerequisite for online learning success. Students should never be held back due to not having the resources to purchase certain devices. Institutions and instructors must work together to set their students up for success, with a minimum requirement of Internet connectivity and at least one device for every student.

The Benefits and Continued Challenges of Online Learning

technology students

Thanks to the growth of online course offerings by well-established schools, and a growing acceptance on the part of hiring managers to be more open to online degrees, online degrees are gaining credibility. Employers know that if a student succeeds in an online program, then they must have the time management skills and self-discipline to succeed in the labor market.
Students that choose the online learning path realize many benefits. In addition to learning a great deal about self-responsibility, and learning on their own time, online students get the opportunity to balance having a family or career while at the same time, pursuing a degree. The skills and traits acquired during an online course (time management, critical thinking skills, self-discipline and collaboration) have shown to better prepare students for careers.
Over the past decade, online learning has evolved dramatically. What started out as individuals making content ‘available’ via PowerPoint presentations online (in the ‘90’s) graduated to ‘Engagement’ through Flash (the early 2000’s), then moved on to Instructional Sound objectives-based content (the mid 2000’s), to Learner Centered Design (the late 2000’s) has finally evolved into a much more solid experience for students, now focused on Evidence-Based design (the early 2010’s). Engagement is no longer the only goal. Providing rigorous and relevant learning experiences that allow students to attain their educational goals while at the same time increasing access and affordability are the key objectives all online programs need to strive for.
About the Author
Todd A. Hitchcock is Senior Vice President of Online Solutions for Pearson Learning Solutions where he leads Product Management, Product Development and Business Development for Pearson’s Higher Education online products and services.

10 Great Technology Initiatives for Your Library

10 Great Technology Initiatives

By Ellyssa Kroski

Want to incorporate new ideas into your library’s digital strategy? Here are some tips

Posted Wed, 02/27/2013 - 11:57


Today’s hottest web and mobile technologies are offering libraries a new world of opportunities to engage patrons. Ultra-popular social media websites and apps combined with the availability of affordable cloud-based services and the evolution and adoption of mobile devices are enabling librarians to share and build communities, store and analyze large collections of data, create digital collections, and access information and services in ways never thought about before.

Libraries have become technology leaders by integrating cutting-edge tools to enhance users’ experience. It’s not enough to redesign the library website. Best practices mean developing user personas and following usability strategies to produce user-informed designs. New digital collections are stored in the cloud and mobile applications are developed around them. Libraries are claiming their venues on location-based mobile social networks, developing bleeding-edge augmented reality applications, and participating in semantic web efforts.

Forward-thinking librarians are actively experimenting with and incorporating these new technologies into their digital strategies. Here are 10 ideas for you to leverage today’s most innovative tools and techniques. All of these come straight from The Tech Set #11–20 series (ALA TechSource, June 2012).

Host a cloud-based collection

As libraries increasingly deliver digital content, storage requirements may strain their local resources. Multimedia collections demand extraordinary precautions to ensure their integrity and preservation, especially in cases where the objects may be unique. In the absence of a full-fledged trusted digital repository that conforms to digital preservation standards and best practices, libraries will need to provide as much redundancy and security for digital object files as possible. Two options are Amazon’s S3 with Amazon CloudFront and DuraSpace’s DuraCloud service.

For example, you could store content in Amazon S3 and use your library’s ILS to describe and present links to it. DuraCloud, based on open source software, provides an interface that would allow you to easily upload content. That information would then be distributed to one or more cloud-based storage services, including Amazon S3, Rackspace, and Windows Azure. It also includes services related to validating the integrity of each file, synchronizing versions as necessary, and creating any derivative transformations needed, such as converting TIFF master copies to JPEG.

Create a basic mobile website

Mobile sites and app generators offer everyone the opportunity to create a mobile view of their library data. Winksite is an easy-to-use tool that can create a mobile site using an RSS feed from a WordPress or Drupal content management system. The site is free and allows five mobile sites for each user account. Dashboard views and form wizards guide you through the setup of your site. The dashboard features many options for creating different mobile page views and customization. You can add your library logo, adjust the header colors to resemble your desktop library website, or upload a background image to replace the default white page background.

After you have saved your mobile site, Winksite will show you a view of your finished page and the public URL for your patrons. Typically the address will be:

Start a location-based photo stream with Instagram

Featuring a powerful suite of location-aware technologies, Instagram claims more than 80 million registered users who have shared nearly 4 billion photos. Users shoot, manipulate, and share photos with their smartphones, associating them with location information through a mobile application. Following the lead of news outlets and other companies, libraries can expand social media campaigns and create a visual narrative around events, displays, collections, or projects. For a start, library staff can encourage patrons to snap photos of the library building and their friends at the library with Instagram.

Establish hashtags so you can gather a photostream from library staff and users around a theme, such as local history or a campus research project. You can also use QR codes to extend and market your Instagram program. Include a free-text QR code with photos or other image-based displays in your library and invite interaction. Through an RSS feed, you can showcase images, photos shared on library staff and user accounts, or thematic hashtags. By associating your Instagram and Foursquare accounts, you can manage the quality of the location information, enhancing topic resources with visual location elements.

Integrate LibGuides into Drupal

The Views module, developed for Drupal 7, enables access and interaction with library data—the catalog, for example—without having to export the data from its source and import it into Drupal before working with it. Like many data services, LibGuides—the popular web-based subject guide software package developed by Springshare—offers an on-demand XML export of your library’s guide content for a relatively low fee.

You might put this XML to work on your site in a number of ways. The University of Michigan Library adds research guides to its Solr-powered search index so that they appear in search results along with pages on the Drupal site. With a little programming assistance, you could convert the content you want from the LibGuides XML documents into an RSS-style feed, allowing each guide to be imported as, in essence, a blog entry. A third idea is to build a local database, import the XML data from LibGuides, and use it to present citations and links to the LibGuide from your Drupal site.

Balance the library voice with the personal in social media

“I’m a huge advocate for using a personal voice in any social media posts from libraries,” said Sarah Steiner, social work and virtual services librarian at Georgia State University, “but that personality must fall within reasonable parameters.” She suggests a “business-casual tone.” Useful internal guidelines for social media posting provide expectations and guidance to reach a level of consistency across the staff without stifling people. At Georgia State, a core team of social media managers meet regularly for conversations about how to address comments and complaints.

Not sure that a lighter tone is right for you or your library? Librarians in academia seem to struggle the most with informality, so here’s some academic proof. Kirsten A. Johnson, associate professor of communications at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, released a study in 2011 showing that professors who use Twitter for personal information were found more credible and approachable than those who did not (“The Effect of Twitter Posts on Students’ Perceptions of Instructor Credibility,” Learning, Media, and Technology, vol. 36, no. 1).

Home Depot and JetBlue are two compelling examples of businesses that incorporate a personal and human element into their tweets and other social media outreach.

Use crowdsourcing to create a collection

Crowdsourcing can be used as a great tool for archiving. For instance, that is how the New York Public Library has transcribed and categorized all of the menus in its extensive collection of historical restaurant menus. The What’s on the Menu?” site encourages visitors to help transcribe dish descriptions on menus into a database. While some of the descriptions may have been transcribed via optical character recognition methods, the menus varied widely in their layout, presentation, and legibility. Furthermore, the NYPL team wanted to create a searchable database of descriptions of dishes (as distinct from section headings and other descriptive text on the menus’ pages) complete with prices and currencies, so simply pulling all of the text in by automated means would not have been sufficient. After writing custom software for the task, NYPL “soft-launched” a beta version of the site in April 2011; within a month, more than 250,000 menu item descriptions had been transcribed from more than 5,000 menus. To date, more than 1.1 million descriptions have been transcribed from more than 16,000 menus.

Make a quick screencast

As librarians grow accustomed to screencasts, more ideas and possibilities emerge for their use in instruction. A great way to get started with screencasting is to dive in and use some of the software. With so many free recording and hosting options, all you need is a computer with internet access. Creating screencasts will be less daunting if you start by creating one for a small, targeted group. For example, a screencast project may support a group of students who need help with a database.

Screenr, a free program, works well for initial screen creation and experimentation. A brief amount of preplanning will help the screencast go more smoothly. First, go through the steps several times, and outline a click path to use for the recording. Checking the microphone level is as easy as speaking in a normal voice and making sure that the colored lights on the audio scale move and that the scale is not constantly in the red. Publishing the screencast makes it available to everyone via Screenr’s website.

Create personas before you design your website

Personas are fictional depictions of your website’s target audiences. As composite character sketches generated from researching your library users, they represent the cornerstone of your website planning process and have an ongoing role as the site evolves. Personas help to ensure that everyone is on the same page about your main demographic.

To develop a persona, you will need to learn about your users, and interviewing is a good approach. Take a look at typical demographic audience segmentation to decide who to interview. Find distinguishing characteristics about your library’s patrons. Perhaps your community has a significant percentage of senior citizens or distance education students.

Much like reference interviews, user interviews are guided, open-ended conversations. Analysis of interview transcripts or notes, though time-consuming, is an invaluable opportunity to get to the heart of your users’ behaviors, needs, goals, and motivations. The output is a thematically grouped list of behaviors, which is the raw material for your persona.

Use Google Voice to implement text reference

Google Voice gives you a single phone number that rings all your phones, saves your voicemail online, transcribes your voicemail to text, and allows you to send free text messages. You can use Google Voice from your computer, tablet, or cellphone to respond to reference questions from patrons.

Simply enter the recipient’s phone number (which must be able to receive text messages as most all cellphones can), type your message, and click “send.” You can use the service to reply by text message to a voicemail, call, or text. Patrons can respond to your text from their phone, and you can respond from your Google Voice account and browser. Only one librarian can be logged in to the Google Voice account at a time. You can configure LibraryH3lp to route text messages through its interface, where librarians can respond as they would to any other message.

Visualize your Twitter relationships with Mentionmapp

Mentionmapp displays connections among your followers, along with the hashtags they are using. The interface is simple, yet the information it provides can be significant. To get started, sign in with your Twitter account and enter your library’s handle into search. Mentionmapp scans your account’s recent tweets and hashtags, along with those of your followers, and draws a map of connections along with hashtag labels. Lines between two entities indicate a connection, with the line’s thickness proportional to the strength of the connection. Hovering over lines yields data such as the number of interactions or uses of a hashtag.

Once you get the hang of navigating these connections and interpreting the data, you can begin to draw conclusions. For example, if you notice several library followers using a hashtag, you know it’s a topic of interest. You may want to jump into the conversation, whether to participate in the meme or to suggest library resources.

This article is adapted from The Tech Set #11–20. ELLYSA KROSKI, series editor, is manager of information systems at the New York Law Institute as well as a writer, educator, and speaker. Authors for the series are Marshall Breeding, Jason A. Clark, Joe Murphy, Kenneth J. Varnum, Sarah K. Steiner, Michael Lascarides, Greg R. Notess, Aaron Schmidt, Amanda Etches, Amanda Bielskas, Kathleen M. Dreyer, Robin M. Fay, and Michael P. Sauers. The Tech Set is available for purchase in the ALA Store. Click on an individual book cover (above) to purchase titles separately.

Adapting to Online Learning

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

EduDemic: How Teachers Are Using Blended Learning Right Now


Posted: 25 Mar 2013 04:05 PM PDT
A year-long report is out and it details how teachers and students are taking to blended learning - what's working and what's not.
Posted: 25 Mar 2013 10:05 AM PDT
google official logo sign
There are dozens of Google Reader alternatives out there. Everyone is writing about them. So I set out to actually try out the top 5 and weigh in.
Posted: 25 Mar 2013 05:05 AM PDT
school app
Getting the school community excited about your school's app isn't impossible. It takes time, commitment, and a multi-pronged approach.


EduDemic: How Online Education Has Changed In 10 Years

Posted: 26 Mar 2013 04:05 PM PDT
MOOC cow
MOOCs may or may not save higher education, and if they save it they may further widen the gap between elite and lesser-known schools. They may also reinforce existing achievement gaps for students. As massive open online courses continue to evolve, however, educators need to know what they are and how they are changing the education landscape.
Posted: 26 Mar 2013 10:05 AM PDT
We all know that education, specifically online education, has come a long way in the last few years. We've already taken a look back - way back - at online education as we rarely think of it (in the 1960's and 70's), but it is also interesting to see just how much online education has evolved in just the more recent past.
Posted: 26 Mar 2013 05:05 AM PDT
teachers talking
Administrators often ask how to best utilize their staff meeting time to promote best instructional practices and improve professional development. Here are a few handfuls that could help them out.