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Archive for the ‘Teaching Technologies’ Category

Things I learned at SXSWedu

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
SXSWedu 2017 photo collage

SXSWedu 2017 photo collage

Last week I attended SXSWedu, an education-centric pre-conference to South by Southwest Interactive. I came home with 13 pages of handwritten notes and an information hangover.  South by Southwest Interactive is the now seemingly ubiquitous conference of music, culture, tech and hipsterdom held annually in Austin, Texas. SXSWedu is a smaller gathering which occurs the week before the big event, attracting thousands of teachers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and students. It packs a hyperbolic amount of content about teaching and learning into three days, but many sessions are available now to watch for free.

Here’s a list of items of interest to me, a long time librarian in higher education:

Ed tech


  • Future ready librarians: K-12 education uses the term “future ready” to describe goal of bringing districts, schools, and libraries into the 21st century and give kids the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in a fast-changing world. What does it mean to be a ‘future ready librarian’? This infographic explains.  This panel had great online handouts.
  • Library & out of time meet up – This session gathered librarians from higher ed, K-12 and public libraries, as well as vendors, museum curators, and random library fans together for informal conversations & shared brainstorming. It was an introvert’s nightmare, though I did meet the folks behind Mobile Citizen, a mobile hotspot vendor aiming to make wireless access affordable to everyone. They want to work with library systems  to provide mobile hot spots for checkout.
  • Open Educational Resources: At the “Ed Surge Lightening Talks” I heard a university provost describe how librarians and instructional designers at her school located & tagged open educational resources with learning outcomes to develop an OER Commons for their faculty. Here’s their LibGuide.



  • Enterprise embracing the MOOC – Salesforce Trailhead embodies the classic features of a MOOC (badges, online, asynchronous, massive & free) to train up skills for their sales software
  • “Digital Education is the oil of the knowledge economy” – just a neat quote
  • Ed Tech moving into the East & South markets (China & Africa)
  • New tools: DigiExam (digital exam platform), Zzish (mobile learning apps), Open Campus (“campus” (as opposed to course) management system), Practice (video platform designed to empower interactive, individualized learning for mobile, active learners, anywhere, anytime, and on any device – prototyped with surgery residents at UCSF)

Would I attend SXSWedu again? Maybe. It is close to where I live and professional development funding is available. But for the average health sciences librarian, SXSWedu might be one of those ‘bucket list’ conferences. Good for a one time visit, likely not a return customer.

Need More?

The SXSWedu YouTube account includes keynote speakers and spotlights, while the SXSWedu Twitter feed aggregates content from everywhere.

2 Backchannel Discussion Tools for Librarians

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Backchannels have been around for awhile. A 2010 Educause 7 Things You Should Know About Backchannel Communication called them “a secondary electronic conversation that takes place at the same time as a conference session, lecture, or instructor-led learning activity.” Backchannels provide a space for real time conversation, alongside the primary activity. Twitter is an example of a backchannel. Here’s two more backchannel tools you might find useful.

Today’s Meet

Todays meet

Screenshot of Today’s meet website

Today’s Meet is a freemium backchannel chat service for educators. Create a login, name your chat room and open it for a duration from one hour to one year. Responses are anonymous- users only need identify with a name they make up on the spot. You can also limit who joins a room, keep tabs on users, and download chat transcripts. There is a 140 character limit, so not the best place to record one-minute reflection papers, (as someone from our recent Teaching Topics observed), but maybe just right for a question from a timid student.

How would a librarian use this? 2 ideas from Matt Miller’s 20 Useful Ways to Use Today’s Meet in Schools are online office hours or hosting a contest (first person who correctly posts in the TodaysMeet room wins!). I’m sure you can think of more. Post your ideas on our very own NNLM NTO Blog backchat:



NTO Flipgrid

Screenshot of NTO Flipgrid website

One tool that I would not necessarily label just a backchannel is Flipgrid, a social learning tool developed by the University of Minnesota. Their slogan is use video the way your students use video, and the idea is participants can view and post video responses to discussion topics. Essentially, it’s a video-based discussion board. You get one grid with a free account – a grid is where students go to view topics, record responses, and reply to classmates. Each grid can contain multiple discussion threads. Grids can be private or open, and can be integrated into learning management systems. Admin tools allow comment moderation, while assessment tracking is available in the subscription version.  But the real power are in the Flipgrid apps. Download the free app to your phone and start a conversation.

How would a librarian use this? Flipgrid could be useful for a video journal club, for discussions in a distance learning program, or even a library scavenger hunt (first person to find the printer & post to Flipgrid wins!). We’re looking for ideas, so why not play around? Check out the NTO Flipgrid Sandbox: (Enter code 8kamw76 to see this in the Flipgrid app.)

Backchannels are a way to facilitate side discussion during a learning activity as well as enhance learning, conversation and networking after your class is over. What do you think? Tell us on the backchat:

NTO Blog on Today’s Meet:

NTO Flipgrid Sandbox:

3 Free EdTech tools Useful for Library-Instructors

Monday, December 19th, 2016

As a librarian-instructor, I’m always looking for new tools to use in my classes. My rule of three is: they must be free, they must be easy to use, they must encourage learning. Here’s three free tools that fit the bill.


Create online videos & post to YouTube or other places online.

Screencast-o-matic is similar to Camtasia and other video editing software. To use it you must download a little software package. Webcam recording is integrated into the software, which is nice. You can see an example of how the webcam and video capture work on this demo video I just made. The tool is easy to use, and fast. The demo I made took about fifteen minutes from downloading the software to processing and uploading the video.  The free version limits recordings to 15 minutes, and you can export an MP4 video file. The free version does not include video editing. Overall the free version of Screencast-o-matic looks useful for quick one-off recordings that do not require much editing.


Create animated  videos and presentations.

Powtoon uses storyboards to conceptualize your video or presentation, which is useful from a instructional design standpoint. The free version includes ability to export to PDF or PPT, or share the video on a number of sites including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. However to get an MP4 video file, you must upgrade to Premium. Powtoon is easy to set up and use, with several templates targeted towards instructors. Here’s a demo I made. Again, the whole thing took about 15 minutes from start to finish.


Kahoot is a  free game-based learning platform. You can create ‘kahoots’ (games) on any subject, in any language, on any device, for all ages.

Kahoot is by far my favorite free resource on this list. Here’s a goofy quiz I made about the NTO.  Players can join on their phone, laptop or tablet. It favors multiplayer games or teams, but you can configure Kahoot for single game play with some caveats (you will need 2 devices or browsers to play). I can imagine using a Kahoot quiz in group learning settings in both face to face and online situations. Perhaps we’ll see some Kahoots in NTO courses in 2017!


Word Clouds as Discussion Starters

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

I like word clouds. They help us see what’s important or most prevalent in a block of text. When the NTO was the NTC, we used word clouds to help facilitate a discussion in our PubMed for Trainers class about the core competencies of PubMed.

We asked students: Is there a set of core competencies that all users need to search PubMed effectively? Students posted their answers in a Discussion Board and then we took the text (after we cleaned it up a bit) and put it into the word cloud generator. During class, we displayed the word cloud and used it as a tool to stimulate a class discussion.

We liked this technique because we (the instructors) already knew what the students thought (as displayed by the word cloud), the rest of the class could see if their set of core competencies matched what others thought and we could ask people to elaborate or ask if there were any surprises.

Word Cloud

Three word cloud generator tools:

  3. Google Docs has a word cloud Add-in.

Here’s a short video by Richard Byrne about using the Google Doc Word Cloud add-in. Note, the add-in mentioned in the video has been renamed Tag Cloud.


Monday, May 9th, 2016

Anyone who has done teaching or taken classes in teaching methods has likely heard the term “pedagogy.” This term is most widely used currently to mean “the art and science … of teaching,” although the original meaning was actually more specific to teaching children. As librarians, we strive to create instructional materials that are appropriate for the learning needs of our students. For this reason, andragogy may be a better alternative and approach, especially for adult and online learners.

Andragogy as a methodology has its roots as far back as 1833 with a German teacher named Alexander Kapp, although its current usage is attributed to Malcolm Knowles, who adopted the word to describe the differences in the ways individuals – especially adults – learn.

Pedagogy and andragogy are very different teaching models. For example, pedagogy is considered a content model, whereas andragogy is a process model. The process model aims to provide the skills and resources needed to acquire information, rather than simply presenting information. Andragogy encourages the teacher as facilitator, where the emphasis in on enabling the student to learn. For adult learners and online students, andragogy may provide a more suitable teaching model. And, with the increasing tendency toward online classes, students are increasingly self-directed.

This table illustrates key differences between pedagogical and andragogical design.

Pedagogy vs Andragogy
It should be noted that these two methods are not mutually exclusive. It is always up to the the teacher or facilitator to determine the best approach for his or her students.

For more information, please see the full article, “Keeping Up With … Andragogy”