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Category: General EdTech Info

Busy, busy bees!

Busy, busy bees!

Image of honey bees in hive

The EdTech hive is currently buzzing at a very high frequency due to the start of term!

Please be patient as we are eagerly helping our many customers as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

We hope everyone had a fantastic summer and we look forward to working with all of you over the course of the 2013/2014 school year!

If you need assistance with digital pedagogy or other technology-related course support, please email in advance with your requests.

Image courtesy of morguefile.

Updated your SPSS prior to summer?

Updated your SPSS prior to summer?

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 9.04.40 AMIf your desktop copy of SPSS no longer works, chances are you haven’t upgraded to the latest version on campus.  We are currently supporting SPSS version 21.

An email was sent out via facultycoms on April 18th, 2013, informing users that an upgrade would be occurring over the summer and that it was necessary to contact the Service Desk to schedule a software update.  This impacts previous versions of SPSS and will prevent them from operating.

Please contact the Service Desk at or call extension 8585 to request your upgrade.  If you had not scheduled this appointment prior to now, please be patient as this is a very busy time.  In your request, please include whether you are using a Mac or PC, laptop or desktop.

If you are needing instant access to SPSS and cannot wait for a software upgrade, you can use SPSS 21 via our virtual desktop installation on vDesk.

NOTE:  Due to licensing agreements, this upgrade is only for faculty.  We are only able to install local copies of SPSS on faculty university machines (not personal computers).

Have you read about EdTech lately?

Have you read about EdTech lately?

Welcome back!

The latest edition of the New Faculty/Staff brochure is out!  This is a great overview of some of the wonderful resources Technology Services provides both inside and outside of the classroom.

Learn about the various ways we can support your teaching and learning in the coming year!  Contact your Educational Technologist if you have questions about digital pedagogy, digital literacy/competencies or come visit us for help tailoring your digital projects and ideas to meet your teaching goals and objectives!

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Attention clicker/TurningPoint users!

Attention clicker/TurningPoint users!

Over the summer, the version of TurningPoint (clicker/personal response system software that integrates with PowerPoint) was upgraded to the latest edition–version 5.2.1.

TurningPoint 5 has been installed on all instructor machines across campus in our labs and classrooms.

Launching TurningPoint 5 from instructor machines will be slightly different than the previous edition.  Follow the directions in our TurningPoint instructions for assistance.

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For any faculty using the Turning Technologies clickers, you will want to update the version of TurningPoint on your computer to the latest (version 5.2.1).

This can be downloaded for free at the TurningPoint website (the website will ask for your contact information in order to download the software).

All presentations created in older versions of TurningPoint will require you to update them once they are opened in TurningPoint 5.  We advise users to do this prior to class as it can take some additional time.  Once the presentation has been updated, it cannot be opened from any older versions of the TurningPoint software.

For questions about best practices when using clickers and how to best incorporate them into your teaching, contact your Educational Technologist for more details!

Also, if you’d like more in-depth instructions on using TurningPoint, please see their excellent support resources:


NEWS: Mahara Upgrade

NEWS: Mahara Upgrade

Mahara has been upgraded to version 1.6!

This version has enhanced capabilities for creating course groups and viewing student content.  It also has improved options for embeddable media.

Read the Mahara 1.6 user manual for more directions for use.  To learn more about how ePortfolios can improve student engagement and ownership of learning, read our previous blog post or better yet, call your Educational Technologist!

Screenshot of Mahara website

Assessing digital projects

Assessing digital projects

GradebookI’ve always been interested in assessment and finding better ways to go about determining student performance.  Some individuals are anti-rubric, but I find that it’s one of the few transparent ways of informing students what your expectations are and conveying their grade on a specific project without having to deploy copious amounts of comments.

While rubrics are somewhat less personal (you can certainly add your own write-in feedback), they tend to make not only the directions for creating digital projects easier, but also ease scoring.  Because digital projects don’t always contain a written component or something more tangible to grade, rubrics assist with ensuring students have the opportunity to meet each requirement.  Granted, rubrics can tend to cause us to unnecessarily inflate or deflate grades due to their prescribed number values, adding an extra category, using some decimal values or even additional explanation of what’s required for each point value can go a long way towards adequately assessing student work.

Creating assignments and rubrics along side one another can also be helpful in the planning process.  Each category and description of grade values causes us to evaluate the kinds of skills, techniques and level of mastery desired from the project itself.  Actively developing these objectives together can help you determine the scope of the project and how much time you allot as well as the kinds of resources or tools to implement.

There are several options for creating rubrics.  I prefer good old fashioned Microsoft Word, but if you want some additional guidance in terms of point values and category creation, try these resources:

Rubistar has been around for awhile and it shows a bit, however, this remains one of the standard rubric creation sites available.  If you aren’t enamored with the overall aesthetics of your final rubric, you can always transfer the content into Word to pretty it up a bit.

This site contains several examples of already created rubrics for various digital assignments.  Not all of them are applicable for higher education as is, but they can certainly be modified to make them more suitable.  Regardless of the grade level, there are plenty of rubrics to get an idea of what you might want to incorporate into your own.

Looking for an added teaching challenge, but one that might have big pay-offs for student interest and ownership of learning?  Try allowing your students to create the rubric for an assignment.  Come up with some guidelines to scaffold the process, like pre-created categories or an example rubric.  You can engage students in a discussion about what makes a quality [insert digital product here].  Perhaps you can have them look at online examples of a project that is similar to the one you are assigning and ask them to look at what makes them good, better and best.  They might need your assistance with the gritty details, but this can have a huge impact on how they might go about their project creation.

Image courtesy of morgueFile:

What’s a TAPoR?

What’s a TAPoR?

Photo of a TapirA TAPoR is a South American pig-like mammal.  No, that’s a Tapir!

TAPoR, recently mentioned in a NITLE-IT webinar offering, is an online resource for text mining tools.

A couple of things first:

What is ‘text mining’?  Text mining is the search for the prevalence of words or phrases to identify patterns and other correlations to assist in a deeper interpretation of written works.  Text mining is done by using a digital copy of a specific text or texts (either scanned and then OCRed so that the document can be searched or an existing searchable text document).  Once the document is searchable, it can be put into various software programs which, depending on the software, will display the text patterns in different ways.  These software programs can pull chunks of words, phrases, etc. from the reading and display it in a visual manner which allows readers to identify how these patterns might contribute to an author’s purpose, message or other more in-depth analyses of written work.

How does text mining help teaching and learning?  Before text mining tools, we used highlighters, pens and pencils to write in the margins and identify concepts and phrases.  Text mining streamlines this process and also allows instructors to expand a discussion or analysis of a reading due to the speed with which words and phrases or concepts can be found.  Students can be broken up into groups and work with specific kinds of searches or tools to share multiple perspectives based on their text mining research.

Key among the reasons individuals use text mining is to be able to see words in a more visual sense.  Seeing the prevalence of various words or concepts based on their size and distribution in relationship to their use and the use of other common words in a text help students to think more critically about word choice and its implications.  It may also be useful for students to make observations that were formerly more difficult to see and can create their own theories to explore and research.

Text mining can even be useful for students to analyze their own writing to search for over-use of words.

TAPoR provides a slew of text mining resources for different purposes.  Text mining activities can range from simple to complex and isn’t for everyone or for every reading of a written work.  If this is your first attempt at text mining, check in with your EdTech for recommendations on tools and best practices.

Tapir image courtesy of

Puget Sound faculty featured in The Chronicle!

Puget Sound faculty featured in The Chronicle!

Just after publishing our last post about tips on flipping, I was sent a fantastic article from The Chronicle of Higher Education written by the University of Puget Sound’s own chemistry professor, Steven Neshyba!

In It’s a Flipping Revolution, Neshyba talks about the journey and observations he’s made throughout his first semester of flipping his chemistry courses and how its made an impact on his teaching and student learning by using technology as a vehicle for content delivery outside of class.

A key takeaway from this article is Neshyba’s point “…about how technology, in tandem with innovations in pedagogy and the evolving nature of our students, is driving changes even at traditional private liberal-arts colleges like [his].”

A big congratulations on this excellent article!Clip from "It's a Flipping Revolution" by Steven Neshyba

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.



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.