SLOAN-C: Social Networking: Distraction or a Teacher’s Best Weapon?

sloan-c.png Presenters: Carolyn Kraut with Michael Edwards

How can social networking tools be used with students to enhance learning?  The presentation can be found at (The presenters are using for the presentation and it is a really cool way of mixing up presentations.)

Do you ban social media in your school or classroom?  For several attendees there is a fear on their campuses instead of a ban. Yet social networking is exploding right now. It can be surprising that currently only about 50% of tweets aren’t useful. The average person spends about an hour a day on Facebook.

There are three main types of communication that is needed to build and sustain elearning communities: content, planning and social.  It can be both asynchronous or real-time.

Students can feel isolated if all communication is only asynchronous.  Social networking can build a bridge with students to help them build connections between faculty-student, student-student, and student-to-institution.

One activity is to have students begin following a professional in their field and summarizing for the class in order to utilize the social network to extend the boundaries. is a way to do online polling in a course.

Twitter and Facebook is a great way to get task schedules or activities out to students.  The ability to connect with students in a way that gives them information outside the LMS when they need it.

Screenr allows you to take a video of your course to show a process, do an introduction or give a tour of Blackboard.  As soon as you are done capturing your screen you can send the link through Twitter or post in a discussion board.  It is not Flash based so it can be viewed on a phone.

How do we keep personal and professional separate?  Edmodo is one option for this.  It is like Facebook but more closed because it doesn’t worry about the friend thing.  It is incredibly easy to make a group that students can be part of with out the worry of adds or “friend” bothering.

“Why does the universe look the way it does?”

I found the following video online and it made me think a little bit on how content can be delivered to support online learning.

(hat tip: American Digest)

Sean Carroll is a theoretical research physicist at Caltech. The format he uses here could easily be adapted to different courses on our campus. I am not sure in what context he is delivering his “lecture” (I don’t know that it is actually a lecture, but it definitely encapsulates some great information that could be delivered to a course on cosmology, quantum mechanics, or even basic astronomy).

One way in which this video-style of presenting information could be used would be for an instructor to record some content (10-30 minutes worth). The students would be required to watch the video and then answer questions about it online through some sort of assessment mechanism.

Additionally, the instructor could pose questions to the students in an online discussion forum. Dr. Carroll refers to a number of other prominent scientists who are researching competing/complementary theories about the origins of the universe. Students could be tasked with researching one of those names and then posting their findings in the online discussion forum.

Finally, the instructor could simply include a link to the video within a supplementary materials section of their online course. The downside to this is that there is no real incentive for students to visit the link (unless there are points involved).

Anyway, it’s definitely a good video for a general audience. A course-specific video would be more in-depth.

EdTech Joins YouTube

EdTech is a little late to the game, but we finally set up a YouTube account for our group. Although we have access to other ways of posting videos, I figured YouTube has some versatility that our other methods don’t have.

However, the quality of our videos has diminished somewhat. Compare the video below to the one that is found on our own web space: How to Login to Blackboard.

Sample Technology Supported by EdTech

I recently had the opportunity to demonstrate a variety of technologies that EdTech supports to several members of the faculty on campus. I put together a few presentations and gave them a brief overview of what we had to offer, based on a request from the department chair. EdTech would be more than happy to give other departments the same information through a technology demonstration or other forum.

Here is the sample technology that I demonstrated. Note that there are other technologies that we also support.

SynchronEyes — Allows instructor to control/observe/share machines in a computer lab with the students.


TurningPoint/Clickers — Personal response devices (clickers) give students and instructors immediate feedback during lecture.


Respondus — Test creation software that interfaces with Word and Blackboard to facilitate getting tests and other assessment tools online inside a Blackboard course.


Blogs and Wikis — Students can continue to learn and collaborate in an asynchronous learning environment, moderated by the instructor. Blogs and wikis are available in Blackboard.


TLT Conference 2009: Dr. Matt Insall

Wimba, Windows, MathCAD, etc., in Disparate Courses

[Evaluate this presentation]


We will describe how one may use Wimba (in Blackboard) to help in
teaching very different types of courses. For example, in a Linear
Algebra course, one can use MathCAD in a computer lab; in a Foundations
of Mathematics course, one may use Notepad and Wimba, also in a
computer lab; and in a Global Research course, one may use Wimba and
(of course) Blackboard in a computer lab.

TLT Conference 2009: Dr. Eli Collins-Brown and Jill Pegg

Integrating Wikis into Courses and Collaborations

[Evaluate this presentation]


Methodist College of Nursing is integrating the use of wikis in courses
and cross-campus collaborations using the free collaboration tool from
Google called Google Docs. One of our undergraduate courses, Senior
Seminar, will be highlighted with examples of how Google Docs is being
used and why it is so effective. Instructor and student perceptions
will be shared, as will as other used of Google Docs.

TLT Conference 2009: James West

Incorporating Rich Multimedia Content into Web Courses: Video and Audio on a Budget

[Evaluate this presentation]


How can we keep Web courses from being mere reading courses, and offer
the same multimedia Web resources to our Web students that we do in the
classroom? Moreover, how can we do it with little or no money? This
presentation explores how rich multimedia, including Web videos can be
easily and inexpensively incorporated into Web classes in a format that
even dial-up users can, for the most part, access. The inclusion of
audio in PowerPoint lectures is also explored.

TLT Conference 2009: Dr. Irina Ivliyeva

In-class Methods meet Online Tools: A Hybrid Class

[Evaluate this presentation]


This presentation explores class participation, learning outcomes, and
the role of communication technologies in language learning and
teaching. Driven by sound pedagogical strategies, traditional in-class
activities are examined through the prism of Internet-based,
multi-user, interactive learning tools. New instructional options
(blogs, wikis, Audacity on Blackboard) illustrate how improved
technology helps to produce highly interactive collaborative learning
environments and provides effective support for learning assessment,
class management, content organization, and course design.

TLT Conference 2009: Dr. Jeff Thomas

Flexible Learning, 100 Seats at a Time

[Evaluate this presentation]

A combination of instructor-produced videos and web sites,
one-on-one tutoring, and automated (partial credit) grading allows
students to tailor their own learning experience in an engineering
course with 300 students.


View demonstration pages at and view sample videos at

Does academic writing matter like it used to?

Do blogging and other Web 2.0 tools have a negative impact on academic writing? One professor in England has noticed a substantial decrease in the output of his academic publications even as his blogging has increased over the past couple of years.

I think he makes a couple of extremely valid points:

  1. The motivation to write papers has decreased – apart from getting
    an RAE ranking, the main reason to publish is to share ideas and
    fulfill a creative urge to write. Blogging meets these needs better
    than formal publications.

  2. There is more than one way to
    network. I’m not a big fan of attending conferences (I’ve got enough
    bags, thanks), but I used to go to quite a few as this was the only way
    of getting to know those in your field. So, I used to write conference
    papers to achieve this aim. Now, I have a much wider and richer network
    through blogging and twitter, so that motivation is also reduced. I
    still think it’s valid, and meeting people face to face adds to that
    network, but it doesn’t have the monopoly it once did.

I suspect the first point may be impacted by your particular discipline. Some disciplines seem to be more “academically rigorous” than others, requiring practitioners of that discipline to produce quite a few academic publications over the course of a year (depending on the nature and complexity of the research question, of course). He is actually a professor of Educational Technology, which is a fairly new discipline, I think.

My own discipline, technical communication, is also a fairly new discipline, though its practitioners come from a long line of proto-technical communicators dating back thousands of years. However, the modern incarnation of technical communication is still trying to gain traction as an actual discipline like engineering and science. Fortunately for us, we (technical communicators) are wonderfully poised to take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogging and wikis to share our knowledge and practices with each other. Which leads to his second point.

In olden times (before Web 2.0), going to conferences was one of the only ways in which to meet fellow practitioners. Indeed, in my own field, we were sometimes surprised to meet up with fellow technical communicators at various scientific and engineering conferences because we somehow thought we were all alone. Technical writing conferences eventually sprang up simply so fellow technical writers could meet up with each other. I’ve attended several educational technology conferences in the past year (Helix, MITC, and our own Teaching and Learning Technology Conference, for instance). This has given me the opportunity to see others using technology and sharing ideas. At a conference at UMSL this past fall, one of the keynote speakers actually used a blog as his presentation (instead of using PowerPoint, which is the “traditional” technology).

The comments to Professor Weller’s posts are as interesting as the post itself. A couple of commenters (including the Professor) strongly recommend that PhD candidates use a blog during their research activities. This is an excellent way to capture ideas and thoughts as you are conducting your research. Although your blog postings won’t have the same academic writing rigor as a more traditional publication, they can help you not only organize your thoughts into something coherent, you can use them as a foundation for your actual academic publications like your thesis or dissertation. Furthermore, since the blog posts are all timestamped, you can see how your thoughts have evolved over time. Blogs also allow you to categorize each of your posts (like this one, for instance), which means your research blog posts can be indexed according to different aspects of your research.

Hat tip: Angie Hammons for pointing me at this article and asking some questions.