Saturday, December 29, 2007

Give Your Students a Little TV for Homework

Wouldn't they just love that? I don't watch much television anymore, but when I did, I remember saying many times, "I would love to have my students see this." It was usually a program that had a message and could teach my students in a way that could hold their attention. Well, I'm sure there's still some good stuff on the tube that might be useful for students to watch, especially if you're teaching college students. And guess what, we don't have to bring in bootleg VHS tapes anymore. I'm not saying that is what I did or anything.

Today's new revolution is Internet TV. 2007 was a big year for Internet TV. Yes, we all know that YouTube is king, but it has it's limitation. For one, you're not going to to find the latest episodes of your favorite primetime shows. So that gem of a program that you're hoping to show your students is probably not available. And good luck trying to show only a piece of a YouTube video. But lately the Networks have changed their tune about Internet TV. Yes, there's iTunes, but I don't want to go broke buying shows I only want to show pieces of, and there's just something odd about spending money to educate. It should be free for education. That's my motto. Anyway, some of the major networks are bailing on iTunes.

So the networks are experimenting with offering their shows on the web. Read more about that at - Internet TV: 2007 Year in Review. I've personally tried NBC Direct, and I just didn't get it. What I do get is Hulu. They offer network shows in full length with short 15 second commercial that can't be skipped. Yes, I tried :-(. The commercials are so short you can't even get up to go to the bathroom in that amount of time. Anyway, what I like most about Hulu is that you can embed the video anywhere you like, including your course blog or Blackboard. And, I love this part, you can choose only the clip you want to show when you embed, so your viewers (students) don't have to watch all of Jay Leno. See below. I clipped only the part of the Tonight Show where Jay shows what a horrible job teachers in America are doing. How about that for a tease.

The whole show shows up, so viewers can watch the rest, including the commercials, if they want. Hulu is in private beta right now, but I'm sure it will open up soon enough. It will be interesting to see how much content they will be able to get on the site. So far NBC, Fox and Bravo are the big names. Quality is good too.

So the next time you're watching a television program and you think it might be appropriate for your students to watch, check out Hulu and see if it's there. You'll have it posted on your site in no time.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Best Web 2.0 Applications for College Faculty & Students in 2007

It's that time of the year where everyone is making lists, so I'm going to make my own. For inspiration I've read both Larry Ferlazzo's at
and Silvia Tolisano's at
I got the scoop from a discussion started by Steve Hargadon on Classroom 2.0, which is a social network for educators created in Ning. I mention this because Ning is number one on my list, which has a clear theme: Communication and FREE. Have a look at my list:
  1. Ning - Like the idea of a social network like Facebook and MySpace to link students and communicate with them, but hate the lack of control and total distraction that these major networks bring? Try Ning. Ning is an online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network for free in seconds. You choose a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it's public or private, and add your school logo if you have one. People who join your network will automatically have a customizable profile page and will be able to message and friend each other.
  2. Jing - I know. Ning, now Jing. Funny. But they're both awesome. I posted about Jing from TechSmith before. Jing is an app that makes it possible to record screencasts for free on a Mac or PC. After you create your screencast, you're able to upload the file seamlessly to for free. Well, free for 2 months. It's only a trial, but hosting rates aren't too bad. I think it was $69 for a year for 25gb of space and bandwidth. This is the easiest and fastest option for sharing your screencast, but getting back to my theme of free, there are options for exporting directly to a file on your computer or ftp to your own server.
  3. Twitter - People just don't understand Twitter, but it has some great uses for college faculty and students. I don't think I'd want to use Twitter in the traditional way with students, but how about this. Can't afford those expensive clickers or handheld wireless devices that resemble television remote controls? Try Twitter. Students sign up for accounts, you befriend them all, and when you ask a question in class, you can have them all twitter their responses. Display your twitter feed on the overhead projector and discuss the responses. If students don't have texting on their phones, they can use the web and still participate. It's fun.
  4. TextMarks - Create a TextMark to publish information and let people get in touch with you via text message. Select a Keyword that people will use to access your TextMark. Decide whether you want to create a social TextMark for information sharing and chatting, or if you want a dynamic TextMark that interacts with a web application. If you chose a social TextMark, you may enter up to 125 characters of text for a response. Users then text your keyword to 41411 and they get your response in return. If you chose a dynamic TextMark, enter the URL you want to interact with and pull content from. I have mine pull content from the course blog, so students get updates from TextMark when there is new information posted on the blog. In this case, all subscribers to my TextMark get the the update automatically. Subscribers can also communicate with you and other subscribers via text without displaying any real phone numbers.
  5. Zotero - I explored Zotero some time ago, but got interested again after a presentation at Educause this year in Seattle. I'm planning to incorporate it into my freshman composition courses next year. Zotero is a "free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work — in the web browser itself." It works with most databases like Jstor and EbscoHost, books sites like Amazon, and newspaper websites like New York Times, and Wikipedia. The list is unlimited. It allows you to collect the citation information as well as archive the page (for webpages). Read more here.
  6. Firefox - Yep, a browser. It's worth mentioning again because it just keeps getting better. I can't believe my school still doesn't allow us to have it. So my students and I have it installed on our usb thumbdrives, required equipment for my classes. What makes Firefox superior are the extensions. Extensions are small add-ons that add new functionality to Firefox, from a simple toolbar button to a completely new feature. They allow you to customize Firefox to fit your own needs and preferences. A few notable extensions are Zotero, mentioned above, Greasemonkey, Better Gmail, FireFTP, and Answers. There are too many to explain in detail, so here's one example. 1-Click Answers is an extension that will save you even more time with AnswerTips that instantly deliver the information you are looking for. Just point at any word, hold the Alt key (Ctrl in Linux) and click. Upon letting go, an AnswerTip in the form of a pop-up "information bubble" appears on the screen explaining the term. It's great for students.
  7. Gmail - I can't believe some faculty are still trying to manage student email using Outlook. Outlook is good, but it's not Gmail. And to be fair, I use Yahoo! too, and they both have awesome features for helping you manage email. I'm going with Gmail because our district will be adopting Google Apps soon. First, Gmail has superior spam filtering without having to set up a bunch of filters. It has integration with Google Talk and now AIM so you can chat with your contacts right in Gmail. You get a ton of storage space, so you don't really have to delete anything. And with that, Gmail has great search, go figure. You can tag emails with labels that now have color. And with Better Gmail, a Firefox extension, you can add a ton more features. For instance, I have now have my GTD app, Remember the Milk, integrated right in Gmail, and Google Reader is integrated as well. Lastly, although there a quite a bit more I could say about Gmail, the filtering system is easy to set up and use. Oh, one more. There's IMAP, so you can use it on the iPhone or in Thunderbird.
  8. GrandCentral - You get a new phone number that does incredible things. The number can ring to any number you already own or all of them at the same time. You can screen callers, listen in on messages as they leave them, pick up the call during the message, block callers, and access messages online or have them sent to email or text message. You can set up different rings and greetings for individuals or groups, and you can switch phones in the middle of a call. All your regular phone numbers stay private even when you return calls. Voicemail box is a great organizational tool as well. Keep records of all student contact.
  9. Utterz - Utterz mashes together the voice, video, pictures, and text you call or send in and creates an 'Utter' that can immediately update your existing web pages or blogs. Take a picture of a plant with your cell phone and send it to Utterz. Then dial 712-432-Mooo and leave a voice description of the plant. The two are mashed together and automatically posted to your Biology class blog or any web page for that matter. Think of the possibilities.
  10. *jangl - *jangl allows for you to call or text anyone for free without knowing the number. All you need is his/her email address, and your phone number stays private. It helps you turn your list of email addresses into a list of local phone numbers. This is a great way of communicating with students via your cell phone without having to give up your private cell number. You can also block users.
This is for 2007, so that is why there are some notable apps missing. Let's just say they are valuable for college faculty and students, but they are "old school." This lists consists of apps like YouTube, Flickr, Wordpress/Blogger, PBWiki/Wetpaint, Meebo,, Odeo and Feedburner. I still use them all, but 2007 brough a whole new crop of tools that make it easier for faculty to communicate and interact with their students. Are you using any of these tools? Leave a comment and let me know how.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Social Networking in the Classroom

Up until this point I've found very little use in the classroom for the popular social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Orkut, Plaxo Pulse and the many others. I've literally tried them all, and I've lost count with how many profiles I have on the internet. My running joke is after I've signed up for a new social network, I do a search for Alan Levine, and of course he's always there. I usually lose myself in the service for a few hours, playing, tagging, posting, and adding all kinds of fun widgets. Soon I realize that the site is just too distracting to have any use in the classroom. I can't even control myself enough to stay focused on the goal. My students would never make it. There's just too much to do and too many people to play with.

The biggest drawback is the inability to separate your personal profile on any give network from a professional or student profile. Students already networking in MySpace with their friends sharing videos and photos of parties don't want to have to share that with their English teacher or their classmates they barely know. And as a teacher, I don't want to be responsible for policing what students are doing on their social networking sites. There would then be a necessity for more than one account, but I still have no control.

The benefits of using social networking are there if there was a way to limit the distractions. It would be so neat if I could create my own social networking site, I could utilize some of these benefits in the classroom, especially for online courses. Here's my list of benefits:
  • Building community among students
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Centralizing communications (forums, email, direct messages)
  • Sharing
  • Folksonomy
Well, there are "create your own" social networking sites out there, but none that I tried were as easy to use as Ning. It has straight forward set up with a few options to have to deal with initially, and lots of color choices for themes. I was up and running in a matter of minutes. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. I just typed in the name of my new network and my url choice and I was off and running. This is my choice for creating my ENG102 social network for next semester.

TechCrunch took a look at some of the players in this field, including Ning. See their post:
Nine Ways to Build Your Own Social Network
We have taken a sample of nine of these companies - Ning, KickApps, CrowdVine, GoingOn, CollectiveX,, PeopleAggregator, Haystack, and ONEsite - all of which provide free baseline services, and reviewed them individually below. We have also included the chart on the right summarizing all of these companies’ offerings.
I've only tried KickApps, CollectiveX, and in this group. They each have good features, but KickApps was way too complicated for me, and I didn't like the look and feel of it. GoingOn and some of the others will only let this "begging for free stuff educator" have limited users in a network before forcing me to spend $20 a month. That's just not going to happen. I'm a teacher. It should be free for education. Ning is doing a trial offer of removing ads from K-12 networks, so if you're teaching the youngins, that's a great deal for you. As for the college crowd, we're stuck with ads for now. At least they're not too intrusive. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Using USB Thumb Drives in the Classroom

I've been thinking about USB thumb drives and how students can utilize them better in the classroom. As part of my learning grant, I want to look at how faculty can set up these portable drives with open source software to help students obtain and use the software needed to do assignments in a more efficient manner. My idea is to utilize a few Firefox Extensions to help with the online research process in the ENG102 course. More on that later, but first let's talk about what a thumb drive is.

In the old days (I love saying that), we used to transfer files from one computer to another using floppy discs. You can find an interesting history of the floppy disk at Wikipedia. The first disks I remember using were the 5 1/4 disks that had a storage capacity of only 360 KB. Wow! That wasn't much space, and when we got upgraded to the 3 1/2 disk in the late 80's, we thought we had a lot of room with 1.44MB. Of course, we laugh at that now with the invention of CD and DVD drives and now the portable drives. I use my iPod as a portable drive, so I carry around 60GB of space with me.

But today it's all about size, speed, and convenience, and that is what the USB thumb drive gives us. I've seen them as small as a half a stick of gum. Do they sell stick gum anymore? Well, you get the point. They're small.

They are also convenient because they work in most computers without having any special software to install or any special hardware attached, like a special drive. Most computers come with USB drive installed. I can plug my USB drive into my Mac and access/save files, and I can do the same on my PC with the same USB drive.

One of the reasons we need these portable drives is because many colleges don't allow for students to install software on the school computers, so if they want to use something like say, Firefox on our campus, they have to have a portable version installed on their own drive. It's also helpful if they don't have internet access at home, they can carry a portable version of an office program and email program, so they can access their files from home. The glory is in the fact that what happens on your portable drives stays on your portable drive. Your work is always with you and not spread out on every computer you happen to use on a daily basis.

I'm going to focus on two specific portable apps for the USB thumb drive even though there are many out there to explore. Here are a few options:
U3 Pre-loaded on select flash drives
Platform not user installable
Apps in compressed format
Auto-run apps via CD-ROM emulation
Released September 2006
Ceedo Runs on any USB storage
Apps are uncompressed
InstallAnything can move Windows apps to Ceedo
Can't auto-run apps
$34.99; 30-day free trial
Released September 2006
PortableApps Runs on any USB storage
Runs on Windows 98 and up
User installable
Not Proprietary
Free / OpenSource
Released November 2006

I'm using the last one, Portable Apps. My idea is to provide students with OpenOffice and Portable Firefox with several extensions installed. The extensions being Zotero and bookmarks. OpenOffice is a open source office program to replace MS Office. This is an easy one to explain - Free vs. $100. As for Firefox, one of the greatest things about web browsers is the ability to personalize for your needs, and then having access to the things you collect within the browser. Zotero and will do just that. As soon as students load up their portable app on any computer they will be ready to pick up where they've left off. Zotero is an awesome tool that help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. I'll be posting more about Zotero soon.

So get out and grab a USB thumb drive and see what you can put on it. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to carry your computer around everywhere with you. Just don't leave it behind. That could be a disaster.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Educause2007: Managing Online Discussions Through a "Participation Portfolio"

Educause2007: Managing Online Discussions Through a "Participation Portfolio"

John Fritz, Director of Instructional Technology & New Media at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, presented on student use of online discussions and how to avoid initiating every thread or simply counting all their replies.

  • John discussed his alternative delivery program for faculty at his institution. Delivers a hybrid training for faculty and there is a set list of items for what faculty must accomplish in the program.
  • Evolution of Course Management System: user and document management pull students into the website. They use Blackboard. The communications aspect is push where there are announcements, email, discussion and chat. Then there is push and pull with electronic assignment delivery and collection, and there are quizzes, surveys and other course usage.
  • Online discussion problems: too much to read and grade (amen!) or there is not enough. Also students write to the instructor instead to each other. He discuss the major assessment problems. You have either quantity problems = how to avoid rewarding "me too" responses vs. quality + tedious to find, subjective responses.
  • The solution is to have a self-graded portfolio where students propose the grade they feel they deserve based on 3-5 examples of each. He uses a template for students to copy and paste their best examples.
  • There are three discussion interaction types: student to content, student to student, and student to group. These are three narrowed down types by John, and he does a great job of defining each.
  • He provided a great example of a grading rubric that encompasses these three discussion interaction types. Four point scale.
  • He sets fixed durations for his discussions to avoid the piling on at the end of a semester.
  • Developed a MS Word form for students to use for submitting their portfolio (evidence of participation). Students can complete and submit online. He showed us how to created the forms in MS Word. Works in both Mac and PC. He has the template available on the conference website.
  • Showed a video of one of his faculty discussing his use of this "Participation Portfolio." Video was in his iTunes U site - UMBC Teaching & Learning podcast.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Educause2007: Riding the 2.0 Wave (Successfully)

Educause2007: Riding the 2.0 Wave (Successfully): A Strategy for Deploying Web 2.0 Technologies

Joshua D. Baron, Director of Academic Technology and eLearning, and William T. Thirsk, VP of Information Technology/CIO at Marist College, presented on Marist College's award-winning work with Web 2.0 applications. This has led to the development of an e-learning 2.0 strategy for the pedagogically based deployment of these technologies. They present their strategy and lessons learned from recent implementations, including methodologies for controlling costs, enhancing learning, and ensuring alignment with strategic goals.

Today's faculty automate teaching using technology. Automation is easy, yet innovation is hard, so we must rethink what we do. A conceptual framework for learning include interactions with content, subject matter experts and peers. Josh did a run down with how each interactions has changed from the traditional way of doing it, to Web 1.0 to ultimately Web 2.0. Here's the run down:
  • Interactions with content: Traditional - textbooks, Web 1.0 - webpages with hyperlinks, Web 2.0 - podcasting. He showed us an example of a faculty member distributed iPods with Belkin recorders to students so they could record interviews in a language class to create course content.
  • Interactions with subject matter experts: Traditional - I forgot this one, Web 1.0 - forgot, Web 2.0 - video chat with SMEs. Example was students learning a foreign language could chat with native speakers.
  • Interactions with peers: Traditional - group projects, Web 1.0 - discussion boards, Web 2.0 - web conferencing using something like YakPac.
I was a bad notetaker on this one. My Macbook Pro battery died on me.

Educause2007: There Has to Be a Better Way: Zotero and Research 2.0

Educause2007: There Has to Be a Better Way: Zotero and Research 2.0

Trevor Owens, Technology Evangelist from George Mason University, presented a new way to do research on the internet using Zotero. Zotero is a "free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work — in the web browser itself." It works with most databases like Jstor and EbscoHost, books sites like Amazon, and newspaper websites like New York Times, and Wikipedia. The list is unlimited. It allows you to collect the citation information as well as archive the page (for webpages).

You can create collections (folders) within the program and drag and drop sources over to the collection to create your project or paper, what ever the assignment is. The collections can have sub-folders too. The sources collected are stored locally on the computer being used, so students could use portable Firefox on a USB drive and have all the content stored on their portable drives.

You can also using tagging for your collected items and you easily search using a search box built into the viewer. There is also an advanced search option to help you narrow down your searches. Another feature of Zotero is Notes. You can add notes to any source collected. You can take an unlimited amount of notes, and spell check is built into it because it runs in Firefox which has spell check natively.

To export your data, you can set up the preferences to the documentation style you prefer and then just drag and drop the citations into a Word document. Your bibliography page is automatically created in the correct format. This is a sweet feature. You have to use the added plugins for Word or Open Office to use this feature. OpenOffice is another program you can have students load onto their portable thumbdrives to help make this process easier for them.

New version of Zotero will be a server version - Zotero 2.0. New features include:
  • shared collections, notes, and public domain documents so you can work in groups
  • scholarly groups in macro adn micro disciplines and official groups - collaborations
  • ability to make recommendations on sources in the collections
  • bibliographic feeds so people can subscribe to your research collections
  • APIs will open the program up even further
This is an awesome program. I've been playing around with it and have already started looking at possibly writing a learning grant to help me implement it as part of my ENG102 Web2.0 course.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Educause2007: Empowerment by Sharing: Tools for Today's Classroom

Educause2007: Empowerment by Sharing: Tools for Today's Classroom

Stacey Kizer, grad student from Pepperdine University, discusses how both faculty and students can gather knowledge and shape course content that is accessible anywhere, anytime. She demonstrates best practices in developing, sharing, and using course content online through wikis, blogs, podcasting, and social bookmarking. So basically she is using Web 2.0 tools to empower students by sharing. New collaborative computer technologies are changing the skills that students need, and we live in a culture that is becoming more collaborative, so we have to adapt.

Stacey is having technical difficulties trying to play a divx file on a PC that doesn't have a divx player.

She's back up and running now, as she runs down her list of tools, giving us examples. I've listed her links below:

Educause2007: Integrating iTunes U into your Campus Infrastructure

Apple Inc. walks us through the process of setting up our iTunes U site. Public sites have a different template than the private sites. Stanford site uses the public template.
  • Planning site: Looks like you only have two levels - course and then courses are listed in that section.
  • Authenticating users: site admin, instructor, student, public visitors. Authentication controls authorization.
  • Student authentication can allow students to upload content to authorized courses. Create a Drop Box tab, that only each individual students can see their own uploaded content. You can also create a Shared tab where all students can share the uploaded content that they upload.
  • Tips: Edit Track Preferences from the Welcome page. check Enable Course page podcasting at the bottom where it says Turn podcasting on or off for all Coruse pages within your iTunes U site.

Educause2007: Creating Engaging Multimedia Course Content

Educause2007: Creating Engaging Multimedia Course Content Using a Database-Driven Template

Elizabeth Clark, Director of eTeaching Services at Boston College demonstrated how faculty can use database driven, media-rich content for their courses at BC.
  • She used a really cool art class and a class on Rome to show how video, music, photos and text can be blended together to create an interesting tour of the course content. Looks like it was developed using Flash and maybe Ajax.
  • Structure is important: multi-purpose access and dynamic interface. User driven navigation was really cool, and it has the ability to search.
  • Creating such a course was time consuming for one individual instructor. Need to create a template that all faculty could use to create similar content for their courses.
  • Built using PHP, MySql database, Flash and AJAX. Beyond that, I'm not sure how they built this template/application. It Includes timeline, mapping, slideshows, zooming, etc.
  • She gave us a peek at the application they built to create these templates. Very slick. It reminds me of a fancy updated version of Softchalk. I'm assuming Softchalk doesn't use AJAX.
  • All data is loading in on the back end and then added to the template.
  • Taxonomy: Used a tagging feature to allow users to corss reference items in the overall presentation.
  • They use Drupal on campus, so they're looking for ways to wrap this application into Drupal. And they are also looking for integrated user authentication. (Aren't we all?)
  • Lastly, they want to share this with other academic institutions. This would be a fun application to play with.

Educause2007: Presentation on Designing Rich Media Online Courses

Educause2007: Using Video Streaming and Podcasting to Design Rich-Media Online Course

Diane Zorn of York University takes us on a tour of her online course that she designed around ten principles for good practice for innovative online education. She's using Mediasite video streaming to create her content for her online courses. Read more about Zorn on her school website:

Some key points she makes in her presentation, as to what instructors should include when designing their courses:
  • Include a welcome message from instructor (video or audio)
  • Give a website and course orientation quiz as first assignment
  • Include mentoring all over the website (video) - tips on how to succeed for each module or assignment
  • Provide lecture worksheets with podcasts (interactive lectures - pause podcast and go do something). Active learning technique (3).
  • Use time stamp on video to map out on handouts where instructor is in the lecture
  • Encourage reciprocity and cooperation by providing public discussion room, learning team private tutorial rooms, student ombuds-buddies, and online letters from previous students (tips from past students to new students) (2).
  • Communicate high expectations - email coaching and mentoring, code of conduct, calendar
I may add more to this post if I can get my hands on a handout. She keeps mentioning that we can go visit her course, but I don't have a link yet.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

MediaRoll Those Screencasts into One Widget has added a new feature to help users share their screencasts with others. If you remember, I posted previously about Jing, a TechSmith project that allows for you to easily create screencasts on both the Mac and PC. Screencasts created with Jing can be easily uploaded to and shared quickly. Now they've added the MediaRoll:
The new MediaRoll organizes your files into a sleek, presentable Flash widget that can be embedded on a blog or Web site. It's like a blogroll...for media files.
Here's my MediaRoll with a few podcasting screencasts I've created. I'll add the others later, and this roll will automatically update. This is cool.

Podcasting Question

I've been doing the podcasting series this fall in the district, and it has been going well. The sessions have been full, both at SCC and Rio. This Friday we will be at GCC for Session II: Creating Audio for a Podcast. Workshop starts at 2pm in the Library classroom, LMC-138. The session is full, but if you're on campus, poke your head in and share a computer with someone.

I've been getting some good questions, so I decided I would post a few here on the blog. This questions is from Kim at CGCC. She asks:
I made a podcast in Garageband (I'm in your workshop this fall) for the upcoming
Oct session. But I don't know how to save it as a MP3 file in Garageband.
Save as just asks for a "where" not a type of file.
Here's the answer to Kim's question, as well as a screencast to guide her through the steps:
In Garageband, you want to "share" your podcast to iTunes. It will save it in the AAC format, which is good if you have an "enhanced" podcast - slides and chapters. If it is just audio, then you can convert the file in iTunes to mp3. If you don't convert it to mp3, it is still good for a podcast, although listeners can only listen to it in itunes.

To convert: Once the file is in iTunes, all you have to do is choose the file and then click on the Advanced tab at the top. Scroll down and choose Convert to mp3. You have to set your preferences first. Watch this 2 minute screencast to see how it is done:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Still Don't Get Social Bookmarking?

Try watching this short tutorial by called Social Bookmarking in Plain English. It is a very simplistic explanation of bookmarking using written for the non-techie crowd. CommonCraft says:

We made this video because we want others to feel the power of social bookmarking and how it works to make web pages easier to remember, organize and share. This video is focused on, but you could also try social bookmarking sites like Magnolia or Furl.

If you can't see the video, click here:

Friday, August 03, 2007

Grading Papers the Electronic Way

I began teaching a paperless ENG101 course about two years ago. My students when I first tell them that they've enrolled in a paperless class, most are elated by my announcement. Of course, they are thinking paperless means no writing essays. Well, you know I don't mean that. Paperless means we don't exchanges papers printed out on paper in this class. Everything is electronic.

I've been teaching for 17 years, and I've got my share of essay grading stories, but the one that relates best to this post is the time a stack of student essays flew out the back of my truck bed. I used to carry a stack of papers to grade everywhere with me, even to the bar for happy hour. I would use every spare moment I had to grade those papers. And I always had a huge stack. When I was younger I had a Toyota pick-up with a bench seat. I could get three people in there comfortably if there was nothing else in the cab, hence the need to put my "stuff" in the bed of the truck. Well, some things shifted around when I turned a corner, and out flew a stack of essays into the street. I quickly stopped and gathered all the escaped essays, but not before they got a few tire marks.

I'm glad to say those essay toting days are over. Now all my students' essays are either in Blackboard or Google Docs waiting for me to grade them. It was a slow transition to get to the point where I could grade the essays on the computer without printing them out though. And slow for an English teacher can be agonizing for both the teacher and the students, so I had to find a way to simplify the grading process. What I came up with was using macros in MS Word to create a grading toolbar. The following screencast shows you how to create macros and use the grading toolbar in MS Word.

Screencast created using Jing:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

iTunesU is Finally Here!

Our 21st Thing is podcasting. I just signed on with MCLI to do more podcasting workshops throughout the fall and spring semesters. See the schedule below. We added a fourth workshop to share information about iTunesU and copyright issues.

iTunes U, Copyright for Podcasting (1.5 hours) (prerequisite: none)

  1. iTunes U overview
    1. Maricopa college sites
    2. Depositing content
  2. Copyright for podcasting
    1. Overview
    2. Resources
  3. Blackboard Learning Objects: podcasting tool
    1. Overview
I feel like an evangelist for podcasting. But with the addition of iTunesU, I'm hoping everyone will want to jump on the bandwagon. So far Mesa, CGVV, PVCC and SMC have functional sites. Some are live to the public now and others will be in the fall. I'm quite surprised we at South are not the last for a change to jump in on something new in technology. We get to help lead the way for a change. Veronica Diaz is working hard to get all the other colleges on board by creating an iTunes user group. Many of the administrators are having some of the same problems with getting up and running, so she will try to get them all on the same page so they can share resources and knowledge. It will be tough with most everyone at the district buried in New Student System implementation.

So, I'm playing alone now in iTunesU with not a clue in the world. I'll be blogging about my experience on my podcasting blog starting in the fall. If any one out there (in the district) wants to come play with me, let me know. I'll have our guys create an account for you, and we can figure this iTunes thing out together. You can view our site as a guest. There's not much there, and we haven't even skinned it yet. I posted all three types of media that you can use in iTunes, audio (mp3), video (screencast saved in iTunes format) and pdf files. But there's a lot to figure out still. Help!

Podcasting Schedule for Fall 2007

Getting Started with Podcasting

SCC (9/7, 2-3p) & Rio (9/12,2-3)

Creating Audio for Podcasts using Audacity (PC) and GarageBand (Mac)

GCC (9/21, 2-4p) & Rio (9/14, 2-4p)

Making a Podcast

CGCC (10/19, 3-4:30p) & GCC (10/5, 3-4:30p)

iTunes U, Copyright for Podcasting

CGCC (10/30, 3:30-5) & SCC (11/7, 3:30-5)

22nd Thing and Working Backwards

Books on tape? I have to admit that I've never listened to a book on tape. Just seems odd to me, especially since I was a English Lit major in college. Where were these books on tape then? Now that I read for fun, I still like the feel of the book in my hand and the look of the words on the page. I need to see the word to fully understand it sometimes, and I don't want to be rushed through a passage that might need to be paused and thought about to fully absorb the full meaning of the words and action on the page. So no thank you; I'll take my books in print.

A few years ago, however, I bought the Kenwood Music Keg, a mp3 hard drive player, for my SUV. In the package was a coupon for two free books from I thought, what the heck; it's free. I downloaded White Oleander by Janet Fitch and This Much I Know is True by Wally Lamb. Both were listed on the Oprah Reading List, so I figured I couldn't go wrong with an Oprah suggestion. Let me just say that listening to an audio book in your car is NOT a good idea. I never wanted to get out of the car. I'd arrive home, pull into the driveway, and sit. My partner would have to send the kids out to get me. When I'd arrive at school, again I'd sit listening, checking the clock so I wouldn't be late for class. I spent way too much time in my car.

I like the idea of textbooks in audio form though. Audible has my ENG101 Handbook in audible form for sell, but it's not cheap. I would never require students to purchase it. After having a quick look at all the free options posted on the 23 Things blog, I might have to give audio books another try. It would be especially useful for literature teachers. LibriVox is really neat and has all the books I had to read in college. I think Karen should volunteer to read and record chapters of books in the public domain. She has a great podcasting voice.

Bye Bye Microsoft: Word Processor Review

I probably could write a review on all the word processors out there myself since I've used just about all of them at some point, but I'll leave this to Zaine Ridling of He does a very thorough job of reviewing the most popular word processors on the market, including all the free ones. He even covers the online word processors, like Zoho Writer, Google Docs and my favorite ThinkFree Office Write.

This is great information to share with students because they struggle with the high costs of getting an education, and laying down $100 for MS Word is not always an option, especially since Ridling agrees that some of the other options are just as good if not better. He says,
Telling someone which word processor is best is like telling someone which browser is better; I'll leave that up to you. As you've read through the review, there are many good choices, and always more than one that will fit your needs and workflow. And if you reread it, you'll notice that the major word processors are in a gray area right now, still tied to the desktop (naturally), but wondering how to tie themselves to the web.
Give it a read.
(Thing #18)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You Have to Watch This

I was reading my RSS feeds when I came across this video in "Loads of People Are Feeling Web 2.0 Fatigue." on the Digital Inspiration blog by Amit Agarwal. That's not really what the video, titled "Did You Know? 2.0," is about. Just watch, and let me know what you think.

Did You Know? 2.0 - video powered by Metacafe

If you don't see the video, you may have to visit the blog. (Thing #20)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Twit Twit Twitter Useful Uses

I've been using Twitter for 4 months now. There are some interesting blog posts out there about the Twitter cycle, so I won't bore you with my rendition, but I will say I wholeheartedly agree. I just can't convince any of my friends that Twitter is useful, so I'm going to try again. Right here.

I have 11 Friends. Well, a few are really friends, but the others are just people who I follow, like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The latter is not the real Clinton, but Obama was:
"In DC heading to Howard University for the presidential debate @ 9pm EDT on PBS stations. Txt your thoughts on the debate to OBAMA (62262)
I have 9 Followers. When you follow people on Twitter, it means that you get all of their updates when they post. The question you answer on Twitter is: What are you doing? Whenever you feel the urge, just type in the box your response, and all of your followers will get your post. You can only post 140 characters, so you can't really say too much.

So what can be useful about telling people what you're doing all the time? Well, all fun aside, let's talk about organization and getting things done.

I'm in the middle of selling a house and preparing another for new tenants. It's a big project that needs to be organized into my normal already busy life. It doesn't help that the house I'm trying to sell is the one I'm living in. So I use technology (of course) to help me. First is Remember the Milk (RTM). RTM is a GTD (Get Things Done) website that helps you get things done by creating to do lists. I'm a list maker. I can't do anything until I have a list. If it's not on the list, sorry, no can do. :-) And yes, I do have a list of blog posts I want to write. I can check this one off now.

The hardest part of being organized and staying on top of your to do list is being able to quickly add to and check your list. The one thing that I have with me always can help with that - my Blackberry. I can use my Blackberry to quickly add things to my to-do lists using Twitter. I can also have RTM and Twitter send me reminders about things I have to do on my list. And if your friends or significant other is using Twitter, he/she can add things to your list for you to do to. Hmmm... I'm not sure I really want for that to be known.

One other thing I use to help keep me organized is an online calendar. I'm constantly checking my calendar, but I'm not always good about syncing my calendar with my Blackberry. As a result I don't get the reminders I always need to get me going. Plus, sometimes I just don't have the time to add events on my phone when I'm in a hurry. Sending a SMS text to Twittercal is so much easier.
Twittercal is a twitter bot that allows you to send a special coded message via twitter, through any twitter channel (web, sms, mobile, twitter client etc.) that will update your calendar at Google.
All I have to do to add to my to do list or calendar is send a direct message to either RTM or Twittercal through Twitter. It looks something like this:

d rtm pick up the kids after school on Friday or d gcal dinner with Jo @ 5pm on Thursday

Send the text and it shows up in Remember the Milk and/or my Google Calendar. Then they both will bug me to death to get it done or make it on time. It's great.

Here's a quick list of posts about Useful Uses for Twitter
If you think you might want to give Twitter a try, add me, soul4real, as a friend.

Easy Screencast Creation with Jing (aling)

I just want to say Jingaling for some reason. :-) Veronica and I were talking about podcasting, Thing 21, the other day while we were planning our podcasting workshops for the fall. One thing we discussed was that podcasting is starting to be used in more broad terms in education. For some, the line starts to blur between podcasts, straight audio files, video, and screencasts. But if you've read the post on the 23 Things blog, you'll know that it's not a podcast unless you can subscribe to the RSS feed of the audio file. But hey, let's blur the line a little further by blogging about screencasting in a podcasting post.
A screencast is a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration (
I was reading about this new website that makes it possible to record screencasts for free on a Mac or PC. The site is called Jing, and it comes from a company called TechSmith. This company might sound familiar since they are the creators of Camtasia Studio, a screencasting program available for the PC (no Mac). I've posted about Camtasia on my podcasting blog. The program makes it possible to record enhanced podcasts on a PC, as well as the regular screencasts. I really like the program and use it just about everyday, but it's not cheap.

It's a great program and worth every penny, but I wasn't happy about having to pay for it out of my pocket since I primarily use it for school. I paid $179 for version 3, and then shelled out another $90 bucks for the upgrade to version 4 a few months later. I was surprised to see a watered down free version offered online at Jing.
The concept of Jing is the always-ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video…from your computer to anywhere.
Actually Jing is not even close to being as robust as Camasia Studio, but the basic concept of capturing your screen is there. It looks like it might be a marketing ploy to draw users to, since that is the main focus of the site. After you create your screencast, you're able to upload the file seamlessly to for free. Well, free for 2 months. It's only a trial, but hosting rates aren't too bad. I think it was $69 for a year for 25gb of space and bandwidth. Very reasonable if you're not a heavy user. See pricing plans.

I'm not doing the program or website justice. Watch their video below for a better explanation. If you find yourself needing to share screen captures and video of what you're doing on the computer, this might be a great solution for you. Go download the free software and give it trial.

Click here to open the video

Want some tips on how to create better screencasts? Check out: Screencasting 101 - Fundamentals of Screencasting