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Examining Classroom Dynamics: Responding to Students

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Written by: Lindsay Murphy

On Tuesday September 21, CTRL hosted the first of this academic year’s noontime conversations., “Examining Classroom Dynamics: Responding to Students.” Discussing student classroom behaviors that may be disruptive or indicative of a problem, panelists shared productive ways to de-escalate tense moments and how to access additional campus support for students who may be in crisis. The full presentation was recorded and can be viewed below. The panel’s PowerPoint presentation provides suggestions and key contacts as well.

 

Lindsay Murphy is the Coordinator of Faculty Technology Initiatives in CTRL.

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Tool Review: Kaltura

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Kaltura

Kaltura is a web-based application used for uploading and managing video content, creating multimedia presentations, and interacting with students.

Cost

Free.

Platform

Kaltura is built into AU’s Blackboard.

What does it do?

You can use Kaltura to create course videos, conduct video discussion boards, record lectures, and create video presentations. The Kaltura tools integrated into Blackboard can be used by both faculty and students.

Which class can you use it in?

Kaltura can be used in any class where students or professors will be presenting. Kaltura’s web-cam feature can be used in an online or hybrid course to supplement face-to-face interactions. The easy-to-use screen recorder feature can be used to show students your computer screen.

Advantages

  • Interface for webcam recording and uploading videos is very easy to use.
  • Allows media captioning.
  • Existing videos can be carried over from Panopto.
  • Integrates well with Blackboard which extends the capabilities of Blackboard and allows the videos to stay organized in a central location.
  • Since Kaltura is web-based, users can create, edit, and collaborate on multimedia projects from any computer with Internet access; there is no software to download.

Disadvantages

  • Uploaded clips may take longer than expected to become available for editing.

Overall Grade

A

Additional Information

Desk with Coffee and Laptop

Snow Day? Stay Connected.

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Spring is finally around the corner along with its promise of blue skies and jacket-free days, but the threats of icy conditions still loom well into March (remember when white was the new green on St. Patrick’s Day 2014?). Below are a few tips that will help you keep your students engaged when the weather is too critical to hold classes at the university.

Communicate

Send emails and use the Announcements feature in Blackboard to keep your students updated on class activities.

Record your class

Panopto allows you to pre-record a lecture that you can upload to Blackboard for easy access by your students.

Meet virtually

Use Blackboard Collaborate to meet in real-time with your students (available in Blackboard under Tools). Collaborate will let you upload a PowerPoint or OpenOffice presentation and even record your webinars.

Start a Discussion

Post questions in Blackboard’s Discussion Board over a variety of topics that students can respond to. Make sure your students know how to comment on a discussion board, and remind them of “netiquette” principles.

The American University Be Prepared site offers more preparatory advice on keeping classes going while campus is closed.

What strategies do you use to keep class going when campus is closed? Comment with your ideas!

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Video is Worth A Whole Bunch of Words

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“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten thousand.”
That’s the theory, anyway, when it comes to online content. Video is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of the digital realm. As advertisements, educational technology, and entertainment all train us in the visual and auditory vocabulary of this content style, it becomes incumbent upon us as educators to incorporate this skillset into the classroom. It’s a powerful tool in the toolbox of the educator.

To that end, the Teaching and Learning Resource Group has unveiled a new project that will put this theory into practice. We looked around our office and saw not only a wealth of information on a variety of instructional technologies and methodologies, but a group of engaging and creative teachers. Why not (we asked ourselves) create a video repository to leverage our collective knowledge? And so we have begun to do just that, figuring that if video is the language of the Internet, then it can also serve our purpose to supplement our workshops, events, and trainings.

Beginning this month, we plan on releasing a series of videos illuminating some of our favorite instructional technologies. From Google Drive, to Prezi, to RSS feeds–we want to develop a range of content that will be accessible and useful to AU faculty and staff. The videos will function as both promotions for various instructional aids, and as primers for their specific functions.

Take, for example, our Google Drive promo. We created this video specifically for educators, focusing on how Docs can be used to comment on students’ work, how Google Presentation can be used in lieu of PowerPoint to develop classroom lessons, and how Forms can be used to administer tests and quizzes. These videos are selected and designed for you.

If you have any suggestions for future video topics, or questions about the process, please feel free to contact us at CTRLtlr@american.edu. And stay tuned for our first video on Google Drive, to be released later next week!

Mobile Tool Review: Facebook Groups

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Courtney Greenley, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Facebook Groups

Facebook groups allow instructors to facilitate a collaborative forum on a site that’s already familiar to many students.

Cost

Free

Platform

Online through all modern Internet browsers as well as free Facebook for iPhone and Facebook for Android apps.

What does it do?

Facebook groups provide a way for instructors and students to interact through the social network without having to “friend” each other. Professors and their students can use Facebook to share thoughts, news articles, YouTube videos, and other media with each other.

Which class can you use it in?

Facebook groups provide a collaborative forum that can be used in any class interested in engagement or even specific groups within a course. One professor even utilized Facebook chat to hold class online when class was cancelled due to weather. Each student had the opportunity able to contribute to discussion.

Advantages

  • Most students already have a Facebook and are familiar with using the site
  • Sharing information through Facebook groups allow students to streamline their information
  • Links, videos, and images are easily shared and discussed
  • Page administrators can see who has viewed posts
  • Students may already be using Facebook for group work or study groups within your course

Disadvantages

  • Not everyone already has a Facebook account, and some students are hesitant about creating a new social media presence
  • Some students view Facebook as a personal space

Overall Grade

A-

Additional Information

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Mobile Tool Review: Twitter

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Courtney Greenley, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Twitter

New Twitter users will be pleasantly surprised by how the tool can be seamlessly integrated into classroom lectures and other coursework.

Cost

Free

Platform

Online through all modern Internet browsers as well as a free Twitter for iPhone app and Twitter for Android app.

What does it do?

Twitter allows students to contribute and collaborate in real-time discussions inside and outside of the classroom. Unlike face-to-face discussions, Twitter allows conversation to flow through specific classroom hashtags anytime, anywhere, and with no limits to the number or kind of contributors. For more information on hashtags and using them correctly, visit Using Hastags on Twitter.

Which class can you use it in?

Instructors can use a projection screen at the front of the class to keep a running stream of questions and thoughts organized via hashtags during lectures (also called a “backchannel”). Students can also follow information that is associated with a specific course (or with specific Twitter accounts) outside of class.

Advantages

  • Students can collaborate on projects and keep track of changes by using a specific hashtag
  • Twitter can make engagement and discussion easier for students in large lecture classes
  • Introverts or quiet students may be more likely to contribute to text-based conversations
  • Twitter is a concise medium that operates in real-time

Disadvantages

  • Not everyone already has a Twitter account, and some students are hesitant about creating a new social media presence

Overall Grade

A-

Additional Information

 

Mobile Tool Review: Google Drive

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Kate Burns, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Google Drive

Google Drive is flexible, easy to use, and excellent for collaboration.

Cost

Free, although upgraded storage space can be purchased.

Platform

Online through all modern Internet browsers as well as free iPhone and Android apps.

What does it do?

Google Drive is a cloud storage system and document-editing tool that provides 15 gigabytes of free space for over 30 different file types. With Google Drive, you can create text documents, surveys, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings—and then share and/or collaborate on these documents with colleagues or classmates. This means that students can work on one document simultaneously. Additionally, users can view, comment-upon, and/or update a file depending upon the document’s settings. Instructors can collect and respond to homework electronically and without the need to attach files through email (and worry about opening attachments).

Which class can you use it in?

I use Google Drive during lectures and in writing intensive courses. I use it as a tool to take notes, share drafts of essays with peers, and give/receive comments on written work. I find Google Drive to be an excellent tool for peer review.

Advantages

Google Drive offers 15 gigabytes of free storage space, compared to Dropbox’s 2 gigabytes. If you need more space, Google Drive also has the advantage, as its about half the price for 100GB extra space. Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive offers multiple-user editing—meaning that more than one person can view and edit a document synchronously. In addition, Google Drive is integrated into students’ American University Webmail, which is hosted by Google. Unlike Blackboard, Google Drive can sync with your desktop files so that they are always accessible and documents are always saved automatically by Drive. Also, with Google Drive, you do not need to upload and/or use email or share files.

Disadvantages

AU Gmail and Google Drive is currently only available to AU students, so staff and instructors will need to set up a (free) private account. In addition, functions like grade book and email are already available through Blackboard and are integrated with each other.

Overall Grade

A-

Additional Information

Prezi Example

Mobile Tool Review: Prezi

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Deni Koenhemsi, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Prezi

Prezi is a virtual whiteboard that turns linear presentations into interactive, collaborative, and multi-linear narratives.

Cost

Free

Platform

Online through Internet browsers as well as a free iPhone app. Prezi has not released an official Android app yet.

What does it do?

The tool offers a three-dimensional canvas to convey ideas through text and multimedia. Users have the ability to zoom-in for details and pan-out to view broader themes.

Which class can you use it in?

Prezi can be used in any class where students or instructors professors craft presentations. It offers more options that traditional slides and can be very visually stimulating.

Advantages

  • Non-linear – content is not limited to a “flat box”
  • Ability to add and showcase content through zooming in and out
  • Entire presentations can be created, edited, and saved entirely online
  • PowerPoint presentations can be imported
  • Direct multimedia embedding capability (e.g. images, YouTube videos, and audio)
  • Presentations can be saved as PDF documents for printing
  • Presentations can be downloaded to computer for offline use

Disadvantages

  • Internet connection needed for embedded online material
  • Audio voice-over needs to be recorded in advance for each frame
  • Some uses experience motion sickness

Overall Grade

A-

Additional Information

 

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Mobile Tool Review: Piazza

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Courtney Greenley, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Piazza

Piazza is more engaging, consistent, and provides more options to facilitate learning (both inside and outside the classroom) than the default Blackboard discussion board.

Cost

Free

Platform

Compatible with all modern Internet browsers as well as free iPhone and Android apps.

What does it do?

Piazza engages students through a wiki-style Q&A with anonymity options. It eliminates redundant student e-mails and is accessible through AU’s Blackboard course pages.

Which class can you use it in?

Piazza encourages questions, discussion and student collaboration in large courses through easy-to-navigate comment threads. Anonymity options may make students more confortable sharing personal thoughts or asking questions.

Advantages

  • Handouts and homework can be posted to Course Page
  • Participation statistics give instructors the ability to track student participation
  • Mathematical and scientific equations/formulas can be posted correctly through LaTeX editor
  • Diagrams, images, videos, and other multimedia can be directly embedded within forums (as opposed to linking out to another site)
  • Instructors can allow students to post anonymously to their peers. (Instructors can view identities even when peer anonymization is selected)

Disadvantages

Piazza does not have direct access to AU Library Course Reserves.

Overall Grade

A

Additional Information

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Mobile Tool Review: WordPress.com

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Cathryn Panganiban, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

WordPress.com

With a wide array of features and capabilities, WordPress is a great platform to use whether you are interested in starting a course blog or promoting your research (or both). Those who have limited experience in blogging platforms or website management may find the platform confusing at first, but the tool is easy to learn. With these advantages and more, it is no wonder WordPress is used by many popular websites today.

Cost

$0-$30 (depending upon upgrades)

Platform

Compatible with any Internet browser as well as iPhone and Android smartphones through the (free) WordPress app.

What does it do?

WordPress allows you to create your own website within minutes. Users can manage and update content with a single click. Furthermore, its accessible features enable the user to customize the look and feel of their site—HTML/CSS/web-design experience NOT necessary. Building your online presence has never been this easy!

Which class can you use it in?

While Blackboard allows instructors to facilitate online discussions through its own blogging feature, accessibility to this content is strictly limited to those with AU Blackboard access. WordPress offers the ability to create a public website, one that can garner an audience from around the world and extend a course outside the confines of the physical classroom. With that said, I could imagine a WordPress-operated blog to be a useful tool for students to learn how to participate in online discourse through commenting and tagged posts. The added ability to share multimedia posts may also be helpful for courses interested in ePortfolios, especially ones that focus on the arts, current events, and/or social issues.

Advantages

One of the many strengths of WordPress, when compared to other blogging platforms, is the myriad of features offered to users. Each individual user can craft a website that satisfies a particular goal (e.g. communal discourse, ePortfolio). I personally like WordPress for its many themes (templates)—many of which are completely free. Themes can be changed to update the overall look of a website. Its clean interface and the ease of creating new posts are major pluses as well. It’s also worth noting that AU marketing and communication blogs run exclusively on WordPress.org. BONUS: The mobile app is handy for those who are always on the go.

Disadvantages

The “myriad of features” also come at a cost—the seemingly endless number of options can get overwhelming and confusing for those who are new to any blogging or website design platform. In addition, editing capabilities for existing templates through the free version WordPress.com is limited. Users can change the color or background image of the template, but that’s about it. Purchasing CSS editing packages or templates costs money.

Overall Grade

A

Additional Information