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Archive for the ‘Teaching Technologies’ Category

Online Teaching Tools for Discovery, Discussion and Demonstration

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Richard Byrne posted a slideshow on the Free Technology for Teachers blog called, “Discovery, Discussion and Demonstration.” If you page through the slideshow you’ll find references to a number of online tools for teaching, including a few that you may not have heard of before: Wevideo, a collaborative online video editor; and Socrative, a free student response system.

Phoning it In

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

A recent blog post by Dr. Ramsey Musallam about the flipped classroom and the digital divide provides a creative answer for students who don’t have Internet access at home.  First, for students who need it, he sends them home with content on a DVD or a flash drive which they can use at the public library for example. Second, and this is the creative part, he has these same students phone in their answers. Dr. Musallam uses Google Voice, which is free. He created a form [] which provides a general format for the students to follow when they call in their assignment. Google Voice translates their voice to text and then Dr. Musallam catalogs their responses along with all the other student responses.  Digital divide or not, Google Voice offers another way for students to interact and respond to class materials. To learn about Google Voice go to:

The Whole World in your Hands

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Smartphones can be transformative; transforming the way you do your work. Recently, I was practicing a PowerPoint presentation that I was scheduled to give. While working on it, I found some changes I wanted to make, so I opened up the voice memo app that came with my phone and recorded a short note to make such and such a change on slide number 12. I then touched the Share button within the voice memo app and emailed the recording to myself (I only had to type the first letter of my email address, auto-complete did the rest). Later, I listened to the message that arrived in my email and I made the changes to my presentation. I am in love.

Getting Started with Prezi: Import PowerPoints

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

You’ve probably heard of Prezi, an online presentation tool that lets you create a “zoomable canvas” to describe connections between ideas. Good Prezi presentations are visually engaging and allow audiences to see both the “big picture” and the details of each idea. (However, if you overdo the zooming effects, some in your audience may find the presentation “dizzying”!) Prezi offers a free version as well as various paid subscriptions with varying features.

I’ve tried Prezi at various times and found it to be a difficult learning curve. Recently I found an easier way to get started with Prezi: try importing an existing PowerPoint presentation into Prezi and then build your the Prezi from your existing content. This tutorial gives the details (scroll half way down the page to view the tutorial “Prezify Your PowerPoint or KeyNote slides”).

If you’ve developed or viewed a Prezi presentation you think is a particularly stellar example, e-mail us at We’ll publish a list in a future blog entry.

100 Top Tools for Learning in 2011

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) has published a list of 100 top tools for learning in 2011. While many of these tools look familiar and are used everyday by trainers, there are others that may be new to you. Use this list to try out a few new tools.

LaDonna Coy from the Learning Chi blog analyzes the tool list in an interesting post: she discusses how the tools focus not just on learning but also on relationships and connections.

Create Interactive YouTube Videos

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Using YouTube’s “Spotlight” tool, you can create interactive videos that are useful for quizzes or flow charts. A Knewton Blog post entitled “How to Make an Interactive Lesson Using Youtube” gives detailed instructions for setting up a quiz using Spotlight.

PowerPoint Sidebar

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

What is a sidebar? You’ve seen them in magazines. A small box that juts out with additional information about the article you’re reading. Well, a PowerPoint slide can have a sidebar as well. A sidebar is meant to support and reinforce the main content of the slide. Laura Bergells is, among other things, a presentation coach. Laura points out that the presenter (the human) is the main content of the slide, and that the entire slide is actually a sidebar. However, sometimes content can be very dense and using the sidebar approach can help people break down the information into smaller, more easily digested pieces.

PowerPoint Sidebar Example

You can download a free sidebar template at Laura Bergells’s site:

Mind Mapping Tools

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I like a good mind-mapping tool. A mind-mapping tool is one that you can use to create a visually and content-rich map of any topic. Instead of the traditional linear outline (I, IA, IB, 2, 2A, 2B, etc), mind-mapping tools allow you to be a little more stream of consciousness. They allow you to bring all your ideas together, as they come to you.

Three mind-mapping tools that I have tried:

  1. Inspiration: 30-day free trial; $69 thereafter []
  2. Personal Brain: Lite version 100% free []
  3. Popplet: Free []

I have used Inspiration quite a bit. The price has gone up over the years, but it is a good investment. It is relatively easy to learn and will turn your flow charts into outlines, which can be exported to Word. You can easily toggle between flow chart and outline view.
I was very excited about PersonalBrain and attended a training webinar, however, it didn’t do what I wanted it to do (I wanted it to be Inspiration, which it isn’t). PersonalBrain has a web-based brain option (WebBrain) that will sync with your personal brain that lives on your computer. It takes a brain to follow what I just said. The one feature that I really want from a mapping tool is the ability to make an outline from my far-flung thoughts. PersonalBrain doesn’t do that…so I moved on. It has been a number of months since I tried it, and it was in beta, so things may have changed.

Popplet is fun, and I want to have fun when creating a presentation or course content. It kind of behaves as a bulletin board where you can hang your ideas. You can include an image or a video in your Popplet, but it doesn’t pass my litmus test of exporting as an outline. You can however, export the Popplet as an image or PDF file. Popplet video

This link to a Wikipedia page has a list of free and cost-based mind mapping tools:

Our Experience with Poll Everywhere

Friday, October 7th, 2011

During recent in-person classes, the NTC trainers tried out a free online polling tool called Poll Everywhere. We polled the class participants with multiple choice questions to check understanding of concepts during class, as well as presenting an open ended text question to gather comments from the class. Participants can respond to the poll through a text message on their cell phone or through a web browser. Most of the NTC class participants used the web browser method since they were already sitting at a computer.

Overall we found Poll Everywhere easy to use; question set up was simple. The presenter can control whether the participants see the poll results immediately or wait until the voting is completed. During our recent classes, Poll Everywhere generally worked without problems; we had one glitch with the results of an open-ended question appearing immediately, but that may have been due to a network issue in the teaching facility. If you plan to have participants send a text message response, you may need to explain the procedure; we found the text message instructions for the open-ended question to be confusing.

We received good feedback from participants in the classes; told us they liked using the polling program and asked us for information about the program we were using.

Poll Everywhere is free for up to 30 responses per poll (you can have as many polls as you like). Larger classes would require purchasing a monthly plan. In summary, we have had good results with Poll Everywhere and think it’s worth a look for use with in-person classes.