Archives for October 2010

CLC Software Request Process for Spring 2011 Now Open!

CLC.png EdTech and IT are opening up the CLC software request process for instructors who need specific software packages installed in computer learning centers across campus.

A brand new CLC software request web-based application is available at:

This link will be available until close of business on Friday, November 5, 2010. Please enter all software requests before this date.

Software currently available in each of the CLCs on campus can be found at: (This page also has a link to the CLC Software Request tool)

It is very important to submit requests in a timely manner to ensure the best possible support from IT and EdTech. We appreciate your cooperation!

Questions, comments, or concerns about this new CLC Request process can be sent to

Search function added to Blackboard 9 Resources web page

We recently had the opportunity to speak to some faculty about some of their concerns, specifically with respect to Blackboard.

They commented that they sometimes had difficulty finding information on our Blackboard 9 Resources pages because there was no search function.

Well, I am here to say that we have solved that problem!

It turns out that it was a relatively simple solution, but I wasn’t aware of it until one of my co-workers pointed it out to me. In any case, the Blackboard 9 Resources web page now has a a search function that will only search that part of the EdTech web site.

In addition, a similar search function has been added to the main EdTech web site that will search all of our web site for information related to educational technology issues we support.

We really appreciate faculty comments about our services and support. We are continually working to improve the level and quality of the support we offer.

Blackboard Seminar Series — Using Rubrics with Blackboard (Presentation)

Barb Wilkins, Instructional Technologist for EdTech and a math teacher in her own right, presented on using rubrics for courses. One of the points Barb made was that students are already quite familiar with the use of rubrics for evaluating performance. For the past 10 years or so, teachers in K-12 have been trained to use rubrics, especially when evaluating subjective content (e.g. essays, papers, and group projects). Using a rubric gives students a good idea of the criteria that will be used in their evaluation. Assuming they meet all of the highest criteria, then they should be able to demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

Barb showed how rubrics can be used inside of Blackboard to grade students’ performance in wikis, blogs, and discussion boards, which are often very subjective. By providing students with a guideline on what constitutes the “best” contribution in each of these areas, you can often see quite an improvement in student learning outcomes–they are motivated to do better when they can more clearly see your expectations.

Several references to periodicals are made within the presentation for anyone interested in finding out more about using rubrics.

Barb’s presentation was made using Prezi, and is publicly available at:

.prezi-player { width: 550px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; }

Blackboard Seminar Series – Using Rubrics with Blackboard

EdTech and CERTI are co-sponsoring the October Blackboard Seminar Series, which will focus on using rubrics both inside and outside of a Blackboard course. Barb Wilkins, Instructional Technologist for EdTech, will be presenting.

This event will take place in Centennial Hall Room 104 at Noon on Friday, October 8, 2010.

  • What are rubrics?
  • Why should I use one?
  • How can they help me in assessing student work inside and outside of Blackboard?

Blackboard Seminar Series events are “brown bag” lunches. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch. Dessert and beverages are provided courtesy of CERTI.

Please RSVP to if you plan on attending.

MITC 2010: Technology Wrecking Ball

Presenter: Bob Deneau

Bob presented on three technologies that he is using in his district: Adobe Connect Pro, Skype, and Microsoft SharePoint. EdTech has some familiarity with all three of these technologies, though I am only personally familiar with Adobe Connect and SharePoint. I’ve never used Skype, though several other members of our group have used it extensively.

Adobe Connect Pro is a web-based video-conferencing solution. All it really requires is a web-camera and a microphone (or a telephone as there is a call-in number you can use). It is very easy to use and can support several different points. There is a free version that can support up to three different participants, while the Pro version cab support considerable more participants. It also allows you to share your desktop or use an electronic whiteboard to collaborate with the participants. Similar products include WebEx (used by our Video Communications Center to support distance learning), Wimba Live Classroom (available inside of Blackboard), and Elluminate.

Skype is a web-based phone program that allows you to make Skype-to-Skype calls for free (it just takes up some of your available bandwidth). Bob gave some examples of how Skype is being used in the classroom, at least for K-12 schools. One option that may be useful on our campus is to bring in virtual experts in the field into the classroom. In other words, people in industry may not have the time to visit the campus to tell the students what engineering is like, but it should be relatively trivial to use Skype to connect them to the classroom.

Finally, Bob’s school district is using SharePoint as their web portal platform of choice. The teachers in his district have quite a variety of tools as their disposal (blogs, wikis, documents, and more) and can restrict access to content in a wide variety of ways. They are somewhat limited in their templates (most likely a policy issue rather than a technical issue–K-12 schools tend to limit what teachers are able to do, as far as I can tell).

S&T currently uses Documentum for official campus web sites, but we are exploring other options. Individual instructors and students alike can also use the campus Google Sites to create their own web sites for projects and courses. However, Google Sites does NOT have any sort of Assignment/Grade Center functions, so evaluating student projects in Google Sites will still most likely need to integrate some sort of Blackboard functionality. EdTech can certainly help instructors decide how best to use the available resources on our campus.

Bob’s web site can be found at:

MITC 2010: Adobe Fireworks — What is it? What can it do?

Presenter: Mark Pennycuick

I already use Fireworks CS4 for a number of projects for EdTech, but I thought I’d stop by this presentation just to see what is possible. I certainly don’t use Fireworks to its maximum potential (few people do as it is a fairly complex piece of software).

I prefer Fireworks over Adobe Photoshop because it is much more intuitive for me to use. Photoshop, like most Adobe products, seems completely backwards to me.

Mark gave us a CD with the sample images, but I don’t have Fireworks installed on my tablet PC so I won’t really be able to follow along in a “hands-on” way. I suppose I could try to remote into my work machine, but that would be very slow over the network here–not recommended! Yep. It’s slow to do a remote desktop with MOREnet’s wireless network here.

It was so slow I eventually had to shut down my machine. Oh well.

Most of the information I already knew about, though there were definitely a couple of minor tips that may come in handy.

Mark did provide a useful description of Fireworks as a “hybrid” application that is part photo-editor (a la Photoshop) and part web-page creator (a la Dreamweaver). There are a number of things you can do with Fireworks to help simplify the web page creation process, such as creating mockups of web pages. A long time ago, I used a much older version to create a pretty slick mockup of a web site Mark Bookout and I were trying to create for our BrainTrax Project. As long as I clicked the Fireworks mockup in just the right place, it functioned very similar to our vision. It even had a version of the Algebra Brain in the web page.

Nowadays, I mostly use Fireworks as a simple image editor program for signs and other images that I create to support documentation. For instance, all of our Blackboard documentation was originally created in Word. The images were screenshots enhanced with Word’s own image functions (arrows and boxes). I then copied the combined screenshots, arrows, and boxes into Fireworks and saved them as GIFs so that they could then be uploaded into Documentum for final publication on the web. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.

MITC 2010: Creating and Distributing Audio/Video Podcasts

Presenter: Joe Dimino

This is a bit unusual because instead of the usual tablet PC that I normally use for liveblogging, I am using a netbook provided by the presenter. This is really my first experience with a netbook. The keyboard is definitely smaller, but not too bad, though I am tending to hit keys I normally wouldn’t (mostly I type “/” when trying to type a period).

We’ll see how it goes.

From what I can tell from the handout, this will be a “hands-on” exercise using Audacity and Windows MovieMaker. However, even though everyone has been provided with a netbook to use for the session, it does require each of us to install Audacity and MovieMaker–the machines have NOT been set up with all the required software. I anticipate this to take some time during the intro part of the session. It’s a 2-hour session, but needless time will undoubtedly be spent getting everyone’s machine ready. Naturally, having worked in IT, my own netbook looks like it is good to go. Except for Windows Live Movie Maker which doesn’t appear to be downloading. Most likely the local wireless network is not going to handle everyone in the session (about 2 dozen people) downloading the Movie Maker software at once. Joe is going to go through the Movie Maker process on his machine.

The sample web site for the session ( has numerous examples of podcasts used at Joe’s school as well as links to Audacity and the LAME encoder used to convert files into MP3.

For videos, Joe uses Flip video cameras (EdTech recently bought one to experiment with). He loves it. Everyone who’s tried ours likes it. They are available in HD and are quite affordable (both standard and HD are available for less than $200).

Joe uses Movie Maker or iMovie to add features to his podcasts such as textual layers and so on. Camtasia, which EdTech often uses, also allows for a number of additional features that can enhance a video podcast.

As I expected, a number of folks are having difficulty installing Audacity on their netbooks. Whenever doing a “hands-on” exercise, it helps to have all of the machines ready to go. I’m glad that when we do our conference in March 2011, we will be able to use a high-speed network with powerful machines in Civil 115–we will also coordinate with “hands-on” presenters to get the machines ready.

Recommended tool — Plantraonics Audio 655 USB headset/microphone, available from Amazon for around $30.

Joe’s web site has a number of links to some downloadable sounds and music. Most is available for free, but some will require coordinating with the IP holder (e.g. the artist Moby allows non-profits to use some of his music for free, but you will still need permission).

A good question from the audience–how do you record a phone conversation for a podcast? Joe has several good answers. One is to use Skype, if possible, because you can easily record the conversation. If you don’t have Skype, then you can use a standard microphone held close to the receiver. Although the quality of the audio will still be pretty poor even for a high-quality phone service (e.g. S&T VoIP is pretty high quality compared to cell phone or standard land line), Audacity does have some tools to tweak the audio files for quality.