Still Learning – but with help!


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As you know along this blog, I am trying to learn about technology, the virtual, and how all that can help learning.

This weekend I am sharing one of my trials (experiment, pilot study, teaching approach, or other similar title) at the Teaching Professor Technology Conference.  It is the first technology conference the Teaching Professor is trying, and it seems to be a success even before we get started: registration is over 600 and full.  The program looks as if there are many good presentations to glean from – including mine, of course, even if for no other reason than to know what I tried and decide for yourself if it is something you may be able to use.

What IS my presentation (experiment, trial, …)?

I tried to use technology to help my students learn.  Novel idea, right?  Working with my learning management system (LMS) and its tools, I was able to provide my students with multiple attempts to show their learning.

More than one try for achieving a better grade is another way of putting it.  Yet this, for some reason, sounds rather negative.  More like what teachers and others would say when they gave a student a “do over” (maybe “extra credit” or “another try because I wasn’t ready…”).   That was not my goal nor my attitude.

I developed the idea after several points came together in my mind:

  • students in this course traditionally do not do well (not all, but many);
  • students in the major needed at least a ‘C’ grade or better in this course;
  • game approaches try to infuse motivation in various ways; and
  • I like using as many tools as I can to help my students and myself.

So, I used what my LMS had in two ways:

  1. repeated attempts for quizzes; and
  2. rubrics for grading.

When students need to know some background information, we typically test them on that content.  But, one test as an “all or nothing” approach is not encouraging to students.  I wanted to encourage them to find out what they knew and then be able to learn more and show me they did.  I let them take the quiz over.  Now, not the exact same quiz – questions came from a test bank and were randomized, so subsequent quizzes were different even though covering the same topic.

When students need to show they can apply information, we often have them write a paper showing examples of this or that (theory, in my case) in “real life.”  Using the rubric tool, my grading was simplified AND the students received feedback on aspects of their papers to help them in subsequent attempts (if needed).

It was successful in my mind, but I will continue to revise aspects.  Successful here means that several students were encouraged to do it over, do better, and overall scores/grades were better.  They learned the background information and they learned how to apply the theory better in their examples.

And, I’ll give details in later, more detailed write-ups or publications – and let you know where to find the information (if not right here!) as I keep exploring technology or the virtual world of learning.


Technology for Fun in Teaching!


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OK, I admit it (as if you didn’t know it by now from my blog here), I love playing with technology.  I have to struggle to maintain a balance between useful and fun for fun’s sake – or, playing with technology because it is new and interesting and playing with technology to see how it can actually be helpful.

There is always a worthwhile application, but probably not for every class.

Here I am going to show you a little fun with technology that is useful to my class, too.  I provided some feedback to my online class using GoAnimate instead of simple text.  Here’s what I came up with:

[go see it here:]

It did not take long. I used the text to voice part of it, so the voices are not extremely realistic.  If I wanted to be more ‘real’ I could have recorded voice and uploaded the audio clips.  It was not worth it for this particular use.

The fun will continue, so I’ll keep showing you the other fun ways to share information or provide feedback using fun technology.

Cool Tech for Presentations


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OK – you may have heard of it, but I just found out.  Like a lot of what I have been blogging about here – it is mostly “old news” to the informed tech masses, but for me and several others learning along with me, it is “new.”

Haiku Deck is a free app for iPad (and iPhone, smart phone, and the like).  Find it easily in the AppStore.

Simple to learn; simple to use; very good quality; and flexible.  Flexible in this case means that once you create it you can email it, export to PowerPoint or Keynote, send to Facebook or Twitter, copy the URL or post to a blog.  Speaking of which: here’s my first one (completed in less than 15 minutes).

The app takes the words you type onto the slide and then you can search for an image.  It looks all over the web for free (open, creative commons, type) photos you can use.  You CAN also pay for really nice photos, too, if you want.  You have the choice of using any word for a tag to find images.  I simply went with the main idea/term for the slide for the ones you see here.

Just thought you may want to know another option besides PowerPoint.

I’ll keep trying it, along with Prezi and others, and use the one that best fits the occasion. And I’ll let you know of other cool, interesting, or helpful tech things as I go along.


finding my Aura – and wondering what I can do with it


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I am finding my aura.

That is the phrase I choose to use, at least.  It goes along with the free app Aurasma.

As I build my quest-based learning activities for my students, previewed at iGBL (and referred to in previous blog posts), I wonder if I have found my aura or if I am simply having fun with technology (again).

There are a lot of details to work out.  The quests themselves are detailed – getting the goal (assignment) and the explanation for the student and the grading points/levels, and the cooperation of other instructors to allow their students to participate, and . . . and . . . and . . .  Then adding the auras around campus tend to be less simple than I’d want (but what use of technology IS as simple as you want?).

Yet – I love it.  I see the engaging side of it all.  I hope it is not simply MY engagement but my students’ engagement as well.

So, doing all this, playing with technology for a specific goal – THAT is my aura!

Teaching, Quests . . . and a Badge!


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I am trying to put the finishing touches on my plans for fall teaching.  No, I’m not one to have the whole semester planned out in detail. (But I’ve dreamed of such a goal!)  I’m simply trying to make sure I am ready for the fall semester to begin.

One major change is developing a pilot study – trying a quest-based approach for first-year students.  I presented the idea earlier at iGBL in June – just the idea. I got some good feedback and encouragement and continued on the idea throughout the summer.  Now I’m to the details.

Help Comes

To refresh my memory and get other ideas, I went back to 3-D GameLab where I did my “training” on quest-based learning.  It is like looking back at your old textbooks or notes (if you still have them).

3D GameLab Teacher BadgeAs I looked through my information and quests there, I realized that I had a badge for completing my work on the basic teacher quests.  I wanted to show off, so I put it here. (Sure, I get more ‘points’ if I have it posted and let them know the URL, but, really, that isn’t important to me.) (No, really, it isn’t!)


And so I share this with you – accomplishments deserve encouragement . . . even if it is something as “silly” as a “Badge.”

As I continue finalizing the details of my fall, I will be sure to plan various “encouragements” for my students (grades, badges, or whatever) to brighten their day sometime when they need it.

Not a Slave to Technology – a Parner


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OK – “Live and Learn” they say.  And I did.

In an earlier post I was considering the value of PechaKucha – where you have 20 PowerPoint slides automatically advancing each 20 seconds for your presentation.  I didn’t like the idea, thinking that technology was driving us instead of us using technology.

After my PechaKucha presentation at iGBL (the Irish Symposium on Game Based iGBLLearning), and after reflecting on the many, many presentations at conferences that I have survived, I think I have changed my mind – not entirely, but somewhat.  I used PechaKucha for my presentation and heard others as they used this format – all of us in the same room following one another with questions from the listeners after all of us were done.

When done well, the format gets people through the information at a nice pace and provides a complete presentation in a very reasonable amount of time.  Of course, “when done well” is a caveat for nearly all presentations or use of technology.  But, still, it is a format that should be considered for more conference presentations to keep them moving and on time.  And when providing time for questions afterwards, then the details can be filled in and the time spent on things the audience is interested in and wants to know about.

So, my change is from not being a slave to technology, to what it really always was: being a partner with technology to the best possible outcome.

Oh, and my presentation went well! (of course)

“Gamifying” Education – One successful approach


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I got a chance to read Chris Haskell’s PhD dissertation, and here he is on a podcast about flipping the classroom using the 3D GameLab that he helped develop.

3D Game LabListen in here (they start talking with Chris at about 6 minutes in):

You can also see a lot more about 3D GameLab in YouTube and at 3D GameLab, too.

I joined them in one of the 3D GameLab boot camps to learn it first-hand, and this is much of the basis for my current pilot study for college students that I will be presenting at iGBL (June 6-7, 2013).

Earlier I tried another approach using Second Life – presented at the 28th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning (2012 conference proceedings can be downloaded, and my article is on pp. 391-395).

Most of what they do is K-12 based, but there are many of us also adapting some of the concepts to university-level education.  It is hard work, but the challenge is interesting and gives me a chance to use my “creative” side.

Let the games begin!

A Slave to Technology? I say, “NO!”


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I came across this presentation technique using PowerPoint.  I thought it was interesting at first, but now that I am thinking about it I am not so sure.

It is PechaKucha, which is 20 PowerPoint slides automatically advancing every 20 seconds.

I tried it.  Fun. Challenging. Demanding.

It takes practice to do it well – a lot of practice.  Now, not that I am one to avoid hard work, but I’m not so sure I like this approach.

Once I started thinking about it, I wondered if it was simply technology using us. have we decided that we should follow technology’s lead? . . . let technology make us do something we really don’t want to do?

The advantage to PechaKucha?  It does keep the speaker on time!  It does NOT necessarily make a better presentation – that is still very much up to the presenter, the choice of visuals to show, and how they communicate.

I’ll try to not be a technophobe about this (and why would I be writing this blog if I were a technophobe – technology is the main point of this blog for me).  It can be a fun challenge making yourself stick to a timed presentation (and many listeners will appreciate this!), and searching even harder for worthwhile visuals to go along with your presentation.

But I’ll also try to use technology instead of letting it use (control) me. [You kinda see this as you look over my blog here: I only post when I want to; I’m not a slave to the blog!]

Life Long Learning is Tiring!


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So, here I am home from another conference/workshop – on technology in education, specifically blended courses this time.

Why?  Haven’t I learned this already?  It involves blogs, wikis, video, asynchronous discussions, and all the stuff I’ve used before.

Used, yes.  Always used well? No.  We all get lazy (I use the global “we” instead of just taking the bullet myself alone).  I do my job, but have to be reminded of fine-tuning my work.

But it is more than that, much more.  There are so many changes coming along all the time.  These are not new technology, new products.  Sometimes it is, but most the time not new stuff.  It is the new used, the new applications, the new assessment of what we have already and how people use the technology we already have.  And by people, I usually mean the students – kids, teens, young adults, business people, money makers.

As educators, we can’t get too tired doing our job.  Instead, we need to see the exciting possibilities of each new development.

Life long learning is not work – it is life.  Let’s help our students along their way!


Another Group about to Start the Adventure


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Yes, I see that DIT is getting another group of students together in the virtual world to learn if they have a life – or if they need more than one.

Sitearm gave the announcement in his blog.  I saw this on the SLED listserv, also.  The course: “Is One Life Enough?”

The first time I saw this announcement was last summer, and I joined in.  You can see some of the results and my reaction to it all in this blog’s earlier posts.  The course is just a beginning.  It starts you thinking, planning and doing.  But there is so much more to it that no one course can contain it.  And they know this, so they don’t try.

I enjoyed the material that was covered, but most of all appreciated the people I met along the way – both in the course and others in the virtual world.  I had a start before this, but it did boost me well.

I am better because of this – both virtually and really.  I highly recommend the time and effort to take this course.