Mobile In The Classroom – Delightful or Disgusting?


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As I watch a student get out of his seat and walk out of my classroom to take a call (during the class), I wonder what the importance is while I appreciate the gesture of politeness (trying not to interrupt the lecture and discussion, even though walking out does disrupt the class). I’ve seen many discussions over IF cell phones should be allowed or not, and lists of suggestions for HOW to incorporate them into my class.

I’m still undecided . . .

I’m still undecided. I’ve tried a few things.  But I heard a very nice summary with some general suggestions at a recent conference.

My reflections on the presentation & topic:

“Student Mobile Devices in the Classroom: Disruptive or Manageable?” was presented by Carol A. Savery at the Ohio Communication Association Annual Conference, 2014. Savery summarized research that shows students do use technology for some class-related work and many find cell phones helpful. But usually more often mobile devices are used for unrelated activities such as surfing web sites, email, Facebook, and others (Jackson, 2013).  When instructors consciously, proactively incorporate mobile use in their classes, they can enhance classroom learning (e.g., Cheung, 2008; Pascopella, 2009; Scomavacca, Huff & Marshall, 2009).

Savery also brought up Atchley & Warden’s (2012) research applying standard definitions of addiction to cell phone use:

  • tolerance – decreased value that then requires more use to get the same effect;
  • withdrawal – if you do not have access to your addiction;
  • increased use
  • inability to cut back on use;
  • reducing competing behaviors; and
  • continuing the behavior despite the risks and consequences.

Are my students addicted? If so, what can I do? Make up rules or a policy?

Some instructors (perhaps most) have specific policies on cell and mobile use – but Savery points out, “Having a written mobile device policy is not enough. Instructors must also enforce the policy to be effective” (citing Tindell & Bohlander, 2012). Just like parenting – the follow-up is probably most important (“Put that away, Billy . . . put it away, please . . . put it away, or . . . “)

As a discipline, Communication Studies could provide leadership

Most inspiring and challenging of all is Savery’s suggestion that “As a discipline, Communication Studies could provide leadership on teaching students how to integrate mobile technologies in the classroom in civil, ethical, and conscious ways for in class- specific purposes.” We should be preparing our graduate to know what to do. We’ll be there instead of our company hiring consultants to tell us how to handle it all (like the cell phone courtesy consulting that became big for a while).  Now, to get that on my list of “things to do.”

I won’t even go to the cheating issue . . .


Atchley, P., & Warden, A. C. (2012). The need of young adults to text now. Using delay discounting to assess informational choice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1(4): 229-234.

Cheung, S. L. (2008). Using mobile phone messaging as a response medium in classroom experiments. Journal of Economic Education, 39:51–67.

Jackson, L. D. (2013). Is mobile technology in the classroom a helpful tool or a distraction?: A report of university students’ attitudes, usage, practices and suggestions for policies. The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge, and Society, 8, 1832-3669.

Pascopella, A. (2009). From cell phone skeptic to evangelist. District Administration, 45(10): 40–41.

Scomavacca, E., Huff, S. and Marshall, S. (2009). Mobile phones in the classroom: If you can’t beat them, join them. Communications of the ACM, 52(4):142–146.

Tindell D. R. & Bohlander, R. W. (2012). The use and abuse of cell phones and texting messages in the classroom: A survey of college students. College Teaching. 60:1-9.


Wasting Time with Technology?


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I know technology is fun (at least for me).

But many people ask, “Is it worth it?”  And this question needs to be answered.  My posts focus on the use of technology in work (education specifically for me) assuming that it is positive.  So I’ll try to answer the question more specifically.

Learn-to-manage-your-time-online-300x300Let me step back in time . . .

After the novelty of some technology wears off, people begin to step back and examine what is really going on – beyond the promised given when it was first introduced.  For example, TV was rather novel at one time. Much later people began to wonder if it was simply a waste of time. We can get a great deal of helpful, valuable information from TV – and we can waste a lot of time (no need for examples here to clarify; I’m sure you can come up with a long list yourself). So it is not the technology itself, but its use.  It is not the thing itself so much as the time we spend with the “thing.”  So is it worth the time?

Let me step back to our present question . . .

Many ask this question concerning social media, “Is it worth it?”

[NOTE: I know social media is more ‘software’ than ‘technology’ but we have to use technology to be involved in social media, and part of technology use in my thinking surrounds the applications that allow us to utilize the technology well.  Anyway, it ties into my overall theme for the blog, so just stick with me here.]

If you want help in how to be more productive with social media you can read several articles (for example: “7 Ways to be More Productive on Social Media;” “7 Ways Social Media can Make you More Productive;” or “How to be More Productive on Social Media” if you don’t want the numbers). More to my point is that when I answer the question I would like to do more than say, “I’m following the guidelines for being productive and not wasting time.”

BozarthI came across an article in Learning Solutions Magazine written by Jane Bozarth  in October 2012 called “Nuts and Bolts: Assessing the Value of Online Interaction.”  In the article, Bozarth gives an example of her use of Twitter specifically that was quite beneficial. It is not novel or unique; this process is being used quite often now in many of the social media – finding out information that you need by asking on social media. To help show the value of this process, or this online interaction, she refers to an report that provides a framework for assessing this value:

Wenger, E., Trayner, B., and de Laat, M. (2011) Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: a conceptual framework. Rapport 18, Ruud de Moor Centrum, Open University of the Netherlands

 But beyond this I recommend reading Bozarth’s article to see Figure 1 showing the model and progression of value:

Immediate Value -> Potential Value -> Applied Value  -> Realized Value  -> Reframing Value

Each phase has steps we may or may not take, but if we do, then the value of the interaction (the value of the social media, the value of the technology) increases and is beneficial to more and more.

My time? My Value? My Answer?

SO . . . I came across this article that spurred my thinking because I use technology – I follow Bozarth on Twitter (@JaneBozarth) and others.  I spend my time using some of the social media to find helpful, valuable information (like we can with TV and with …) that relates to my interests and needs.  Its inspiration built the potential value for me; its reuse here (and elsewhere in my work) will build the applied value for me and my students and my colleagues; and this will continue into realized value as we aim for a reframing of “technology” and its use.

It is not what it IS – it is WHAT YOU DO WITH IT.  That can be a valuable use of time.

Social Media is Stifling?


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If you thought social media helped get the word out, helped spread opinions and ideas, or helped in the democratic process, you would only be partially correct.


How Social Media Silences Debate (reported by The Upshot, NYTimes;


Researchers set out to investigate the effect of the Internet on the so-called spiral of silence theory [remember from Survey of Com Theory class? or get a refresher here:]  It says that people are less likely to express their views if they believe they differ from those of their friends, family and colleagues. They found that this spiral of silence describes activity in social media also.


Findings from the study include:

“Of the 14% of Americans unwilling to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in
person with others, only 0.3% were willing to post about it on social
“86% of Americans were willing to have an in-person conversation about the
surveillance program, but just 42% of Facebook and Twitter users were
willing to post about it on those platforms.”


“Those who use Facebook were more willing to share their views if they
thought their followers agreed with them. If a person felt that people in
their Facebook network agreed with their opinion about the Snowden-NSA
issue, they were about twice as likely to join a discussion on Facebook
about this issue.”

Although the internet and social media help people connect and communicate ideas, it mainly connects us with like-minded people. So the deliberation and debate that is helpful to the democratic process is not any better in the vastness of social media than it is face-to-face according to this research.


So, keep blogging, tweeting, posting, etc. BUT – remember to look at other groups and be “brave” enough to share your ideas, discuss, debate, deliberate.  Add to a conversation, not just echo other voices.


For the report summary and a link to the full report, see:

I’m Going to do That!


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OK! I’ve got a plan for my future. I’ve figured out what I want to do with technology. The inspiration hit me over breakfast the other day.

You can check back with me in January 2015 to make sure I am doing what I say and not just writing up another blog entry.  (“January 2015” – It seems like a long time away, and it is. I’ll explain why it seems so far away later.)

What am I going to do? I am going to augment reality.

“What is wrong with reality that we need to augment it?” you ask?  A good question.  It is not so much that something is wrong with reality, but that at times the augmentation is helpful.

“How are you going to augment it?” you proceed to question.  My initial answer is both, “In many ways,” and “I don’t know!”

“But . . .” – Wait. Let me continue without interruption and your questions will probably be answered. (If not, there is the Comment section below.)

Augmented Reality – AR

There are many apps for AR and they do different types of augmenting.  Basically, they add to or enrich (augment) what we have or what we see.  Many examples already exist, some free others not.  My breakfast inspiration was from Kellogg’s app. I enjoyed my virtual concert while finishing my cereal AND got a pic with the stars!

But I can’t use that app. (I’m not Kellogg.)

Instead, I will use another free app called Aurasma.  I wrote about this before (Finding My Aura) but was undecided then. Now I have a better vision of the future, well, . . . at least MY future.

“And what is that?” you interrupt to ask, again.  Let me tell you briefly.

I want my students to read.  Reading is one of the best ways to learn.  So as I give them things to read, I can add little treasures, little surprises, deeper details for them to find.  With a diagram or image, I can link to a fuller explanation, or an illustration, or an example.  I want to “reward” them for their efforts, to help them as much as I can.  And I think having a video or animation jump out of the page is a pretty fun way to do that.  Besides, more students are using their mobile for studying as well as while they are studying.  Since they are using it so much, I can tap into it and try to keep them on task better.

I’m working on it now, but it will take time.  Like I said, check with me in January 2015 to see how it is going.

[and, as for why “January 2015” seems so far away – that is another blog, but I’ll come back and link to it here]

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 [now called HP Reveal].

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)