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Month: January 2013

Waxing UVa about MOOCs

Waxing UVa about MOOCs

EdTech recently penned an article in the latest edition of Technology Services’ TechNews about online learning, one of the more talked about methods for course delivery these days.  Arguably, the biggest topic in higher education with regard to technology seems to be the MOOC (massive open online course).

As with any trend that sweeps through education, it’s important to keep perspective.  While institution after institution clambers to scale Mt. MOOC (or address online learning in general), what are the practical arguments for and against this form of teaching and learning?  Several key questions to consider:

What is the cost versus the benefit of
instituting an online learning initiative?

How does this particular vehicle align itself with
the core mission and values of the institution?

Is there an actual impact on learning efficacy?

Some of my favorite contributions early-on came from Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor and chairman of the department of media studies at the University of Virginia.  If you’ve followed the recent MOOC excitement, you’ll remember that UVa’s foray into MOOCs was fraught with controversy.  His discussion of the ‘obsession’ that developed on-campus seems to reflect the general frenzy that keeps surfacing in headlines about the newest college to embrace MOOCs or the questions over credits, monetization of the prolific ‘free’ MOOC course providers, etc..

Siva’s post “What’s the Matter WIth MOOCs?” strikes a balance of natural curiosity and a healthy dose of practicality while also addressing the tumult that occurred at UVa over their president’s ousting and reinstatement.

It’s important to recognize, anytime technology becomes the central topic of changing the methods in which we teach, whether or not it can help facilitate teaching and learning in ways that meaningfully enhance the current models.

Flipping: an infographic

Flipping: an infographic

I’m a self-proclaimed infographic junky and folks have been curious about practicing flipped classrooms as of late.  Flipping the classroom entails assigning students specific content to engage with prior to meeting face-to-face.  The current trend advocates the use of technology and lecture capture via video recordings posted to a learning management system (e.g., Moodle).

Today’s infographic comes to us from EdTech Magazine via Knewton.  It should be noted that Knewton is a tech company that offers course-related technology and delivery for education [insert inherent bias here…].  Nonetheless, depending on your beliefs or curiosity when it comes to “flipping”, this is an interesting graphic discussing what the flipped classroom looks like, albeit a tad one-sided.

Can “The Flipped Classroom” Model Work in Higher Education?

Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


Featured app: Flipboard

Featured app: Flipboard

If you have a tablet or smartphone (iOS or Android) and you haven’t checked out Flipboard yet, I can safely say, you’re missing out!

Flipboard screenshot featuring three stories: An image of Mulnomah Falls, Oregon (left), "Sweet 'Potatoes'" (top right), "Fake It 'Til You Make It: What Came Before Photoshop" (bottom right).
Flipboard screenshot featuring three stories: An image of Mulnomah Falls, Oregon (left), “Sweet ‘Potatoes'” (top right), “Fake It ‘Til You Make It: What Came Before Photoshop” (bottom right).

Earlier, I posted about my affinity for Twitter.  If you aren’t ready to commit wholeheartedly to Tweeting, but still want to read and share brilliant articles, tweets and other contributions from your favorite sources, try Flipboard.

I’ll admit, this is one of the few apps I jumped onboard with early-on (you could call me a Flipboard hipster, I guess).  When it was first released, few articles had the capability of being “flipped” through as if they were pages in an ebook.  Now, more and more producers are gravitating toward creating articles using the interactive Flipboard format.

Certainly some of the most impressive topics are those with a high degree of visual impact or imagery.  Choosing the category of “Flipboard Picks” will yield articles that tend to take full advantage of the app’s interface and are photo-heavy.

The brilliant part about Flipboard is that you can choose content that appeals to your tastes.  You can choose specific news sources (The New York Times, bon appétit, The Guardian, Oprah, Fastcompany, to name a few) or general categories which will aggregate articles from various areas.  Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of the newspaper because nothing really grabs my attention when it’s buried five pages down and I despise having to work too hard to find articles on their online counterparts.  Flipboard is an addictive means for delving into news with a focus on your passions.  You can flip past titles that are of no interest only to uncover more interesting stories with the swipe of a finger.  Sharing features embedded into the program allow you to send the articles to your Facebook, Twitter or even via email.  You can also add your Twitter/Facebook/Google + accounts to view content within Flipboard.

I find this app to serve as a great replacement for visiting a single news site or only reading the limited kinds of musings I read on Twitter due to the relatively narrow list of individuals I follow.



A video about taking photos with Instagram by Blind Film Critic, Tommy Edison surfaced on my Twitter feed not long ago and got me thinking about accessibility again.  Most folks don’t often acknowledge accessibility when it comes to  things in their daily lives.

Throughout my career in education, accessibility has become a fairly critical component to choosing software, services and technology-related accommodation tools.  When evaluating or deciding on new technology, especially software, it is very important to keep in mind that not all of our users have typical vision, hearing or mobility.

Finding software that is Section 508 compliant has recently become much easier as tech companies scramble to get their share of the market–especially in education.  We strive to take this into consideration as much as possible–when it’s possible.  Closed captioning and compatibility with screen readers are features that you’d think were prolific in today’s tech-centric world, but only until recently have I seen the Section 508 badges proudly displayed as major selling points from vendors.

A typical source of frustration for individuals with low vision are inaccessible course documents.  EdTech is called upon frequently to discuss the importance of OCR (Optical Character Reconition) when it comes to documents.  OCR enables words to be recognized and read aloud by a screen reader.  If you aren’t ensuring that your PDFs for courses are OCR’d, please do so!  This is an important action to meet reasonable accommodations for students, faculty and staff who may require a screenreader.  If you’d like resources on how to accomplish making the PDFs you post to Moodle or online accessible, contact Educational Technology.

Edtech journal from Indiana University

Edtech journal from Indiana University

I stumbled on the latest in useful edtech journals from Indiana University in July of 2012: Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology

The primary goal of JoTLT “…isn’t whether our students – or faculty members – like the technology that matters but whether the addition of these technological tools results in or expands access to quality student learning.”

This is not only a great place to begin sharing content, but is also a new addition to the creative commons 3.0 family.

So far, they’ve only released a single volume, but stay tuned for more contributions to this emerging resource for technology and teaching.