Category Archives: Educational Technology

Why– 3D — oh Why? Using Tech for Tech’s Sake

I love technology. I love how it can make our life easier. I love how it expands our reach by opening communication across the globe and aids in learning no matter where you are.

What I don’t love is using technology just because you can. Why write 10,000 words when 100 will suffice? Why take a zillion photos of the same thing? Over consumption and overuse of technology is not always a good thing.

glasses3D movies are just one example of why technology should be considered before use. I’m all for great cinematography, in fact, that’s my number one criteria for a good movie. But when you have a bunch of stuff flying at me just because 3D is “cool”, I’m not impressed. I think it’s a money-making scheme and a waste of imagination and talent. However, if 3D is used to express emotion- such as in Disney’s “Up” where Carl and Russel trek to Paradise Falls on foot and the 3D adds so much dimension to the path that you feel despair and begin to wonder if they’ll ever reach the Falls- that feeling makes 3D worth it.

So, from the educational technologist’s viewpoint, I urge you this:

Think Before You Tech!

Make sound decisions about the technology’s goal. If it can’t aid in the communication process, add value to the class objectives, or enhance a learner’s experience, take a step back and rethink the use of the technology.


Flipped on a Budget

My article on the Flipped classroom in Legal Education was published by EdTech Magazine and received so many comments that I wanted to talk about the major aspects that prevent people from making Flipped Classes.

Cost and time.

If you’re new to making flipped classroom videos or don’t have the support from your administration, you may find that you have to choose between quality, cost, and time. The old Project Management adage is that each project takes Time, Quality, and Cost, but the paradigm states that you can only truly focus on two of these values.

I recommend focusing on the Quality of Content:

Low Production Value-

Use a Webcam and headset with a lecture capture system to record your lessons. Your school  may already have access to Web conferencing or lecture capture systems such as Panopto, Wimba, ATT Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, or any Web conferencing system that records.

Focus on Content-

Spend your time working through your lectures and creating visual graphs and illustration of the ideas you plan to present during your recording. Remember, if the content is worthwhile, your students will be willing to watch it. Remember to leave all dates and times out of the script so that you can reuse the videos for future classes, doing so will save you valuable time in the future.


Make sure your voice is being recorded clearly. Mute all telephones in your office. Turn off or mute all other applications that may make noise through your computer speakers, and hang a sign on your door stating that recording is in progress.Testing the audio and minimizing interruptions will reduce recording time.

No Post-Production-

Save time and cut costs by eliminating post-production. As long as the content is clear and can be understood by your audience, don’t worry about editing. Your learners will understand that the message is what’s important, not the quality of the video.

Once you find the value in flipped classes and are comfortable with this teaching pedagogy, you can spend more time and money creating professional videos. But I recommend that you take a low-cost approach to create flipped classrooms in order to mitigate the risk. You can also convince your administration to fund future high value video production projects if they see a pilot flipped class has succeeded.

Start somewhere- start with a low budget and great content!

The Mini Flip

A New Approach to the Flipped Classroom

Flipped classroom is a trending pedagogy in classroom instruction. Flipped classroom has two essential components. The first component is pre-recording a class lecture in its entirety for students to listen to before they attend class. The second component, an in-class activity and discussion, takes places during normal class meeting times. The idea is to let students complete their homework during class time so that instructors can address any difficulties and questions in person. It also allows more time for discussion and debate; students contribute to the conversation instead of being passive listeners.

A similar approach was studied at Pepperdine University School of Law (Malibu, CA). The law school recently conducted a study to determine if anxiety felt by first-year law students was reduced if the students knew what to expect before attending each class.

The goal was to provide each first year law student with a pre-recorded video “primer” that briefly outlined the upcoming class meeting, including the class meeting’s learning objectives. The primer highlighted how the student should prepare, what is expected of the student, and what the student can expect to achieve from the class meeting.

The video primers were recorded by a small group of law school faculty members with the lecture capture recording software, Panopto. Faculty recorded the primers in their offices using a webcam and microphone. The software captured the desktop applications, audio, and Webcam. I provided faculty with an Instructional Design Document (view pdf here), a storyboard document, and a scripting document to help create the primers. These documents were used as templates to guide the recording process. No post production was used, so faculty scripted what they wanted to say. If they were not satisfied with the recording, they re-recorded.

An example was also created to show the faculty what they needed to create:

It was important that the primers were short, visual, and specific. The primers were three to fifteen minutes long. The primers included PowerPoint screens with specific keywords transitioning across the video to provide specific information in a visually appealing way. In addition, the primers included a thumbnail image of the faculty as a subset of the main screen. Capturing the faculty provided a personal touch to the primer; students who viewed the primers recognized their professor and started a friendly rapport even before classes began.

The primers were disseminated before each of the first five (5) classes.  Students viewed the short primers before preparing for each class and completed a series of survey questions to provide feedback regarding the usefulness of these primers.

Of surveyed students, 61.5% believed that not knowing what to expect from the course causes anxiety. During the primer video program, 72.3% of students believed that knowing what to expect from the course reduced anxiety and 63.3% thought the primers were useful in preparing for their classes. 55.4% of students would have liked primers for every class meeting, not just the initial five and 64.1% said the primers would be useful for every course.

The study results and video recording process were shared with Pepperdine University’s School of Law Faculty. Since the student survey results were average, the decision to create video primers will be on a case by case basis decided by the faculty member and department.

I applied this approach to the class I personally teach by creating a video syllabus for my online students:

This article was also published by EdTech Magazine.

The Tech Launch

This article, also published by EdTech Magazine and co-written by Vanessa Bravo,  specifically details the launch of the Clickers Program (TurningPoint audience response system); however, the phases described can be used as best practices in initiating almost any technology program:

Phase One: Determine Faculty Technology Use & Interest
Phase Two: Cultivate Faculty Buy-In
Phase Three: Training
Phase Four:  Installation/Dissemination
Phase Five: Implementation
Phase Six: Addressing Challenges

TPPepperdine University School of Law uses Turning Technologies’ audience response system TurningPoint (AKA clickers) to poll its students. Since the clicker program’s inauguration in 2012, over one third of the faculty have adopted clickers.

Faculty create questions within PowerPoint. A USB receiver plugged into the computer receives the answer responses submitted by students when they push the answer on their clicker. Results, including the correct answers and bar graphs showing the audience responses, are displayed.

Pepperdine University School of Law’s Manager of Instructional Technology, Vanessa Bravo, initiated the clicker program and cultivated faculty buy-in of the technology’s use. The SOL Information Services team continues to maintain the clickers and make adjustments to the program to address challenges.

Phase One: Determine Faculty Technology Use & Interest

Gather information about faculty’s current use and gauge the level of interest in learning more about clickers.

Phase Two: Cultivate Faculty Buy-In

Develop an engaging and effective Lunch-N-Learn to show how the clickers can be used, and allow faculty to install and use clickers. Invite champions of technology to share their experiences.

Professor Gregory McNeal showed how clickers act as an extension of the hand raise. McNeal stated, “instead of calling on a few students during class, where there’s only a one in 70 chance of being called on without clickers, all students participate. Using clickers forces students to pay attention to content and their notes in order to participate and receive an assessment grade.” McNeal also described how he asks students why they aren’t getting the correct answer and then walks them through the thought process. In some cases, he adjusts his pedagogy to better improve classes. These examples helped faculty to understand clicker usage is not just another technology, but one that can aid student retention.

Stimulate further interest by demonstrating clickers in applicable settings. Pepperdine used clickers during voting meetings; as a result, faculty saw how easy it was to participate in polls.

Recommend clickers as a resolution to classroom challenges such as attendance, student participation, and content review. Faculty may not know how technology is applicable to instruction; therefore, communicating the benefits can cultivate buy-in.

Phase Three: Clicker Training

One-on-one sessions taught faculty how to use the clickers and set up their PowerPoint slides.

Phase Four: Student Clicker Dissemination

Order clickers and disseminate them to students. Students check out clickers from the library.  In addition, a clicker assigned to each new student was placed in the tote bag they received during Orientation. This reduced library traffic and ensured all new students would have clickers on day one.

Phase Five: Implementation
During the first weeks of classes, Information Services was present to help setup and register students’ clickers, which took about 15 minutes per class. By registering their clickers, the professors were able to associate specific students with their answers and take attendance.

Phase Six: Addressing Challenges

Initially, McNeal had students buy their clickers from the bookstore, which caused pushback since students do not pay a technology fee. To resolve this conflict, the Information Services team procured a grant from the Chief Information Officer to “buyback” the clickers. Currently, students are not charged up front for the clicker, but are assessed a fee for unreturned clickers.

Students also didn’t like the clickers because they were judged on attendance even if they forgot it. Students quickly learned that to succeed in the professional world, they would need to ensure they had working tools. Expressing course participation requirements at the start of term in the syllabus mitigates student concerns about attendance.

Originally, faculty had to bring a receiver to plug into the computer and students needed to change their clicker channel accordingly. If a receiver was forgotten or students didn’t remember the channel, responses went unrecorded. Now, a receiver is permanently installed and a sign posted at the front of each room reminds students to change their clicker channel.

Students frequently delayed class by approaching faculty about broken clickers or questions. To limit these questions, students now receive an FAQ card that addresses major concerns.

A concern of faculty was the amount of time registering student clicker at the start of classes. Information Services decided to pre-register the student clickers by adding the identification number to a roster before students check out clickers. The rosters are then saved to each computer before the semester begins.

The effort of Information Services to make clicker usage smooth for faculty coupled with word of mouth promotion from their faculty colleagues have increased the number of users at Pepperdine University School of Law.

Online Learning– Not just a Degree Mill

ComputerThere is a lot of debate regarding the benefit and motives of online learning programs.

For instance, Campus Technology writes about for-profit education in “Faculty Coalition: It’s Time to Examine MOOC and Online Ed Profit Motives“.

We need to consider that not every online program is built solely for the purpose of making money.

Online programs help working professionals and people hindered by geographical barriers achieve education when life obstacles make it difficult to attend brick & mortar colleges or programs on a regular semester schedule.

Military personal, executive leaders and managers, and stay-at-home parents are just a few examples of those with irregular schedules who may benefit from online studies.

It is the duty of the instructional designer, faculty, and program directors to ensure that online education practices sound curriculum development.

Three key pieces of information anyone considering online education should be aware of when selecting the right online program include:

1.) Will your transcript and diploma state “online” in the verbiage? If so, stay away! Your future employers and colleges (if you go for post-graduate and doctorate work) may see this and be scared off that your education was not “legit”.

2.) Are your professors the same professors you’ll have if you attended the class in person? Yes, great! That means you’ll be learning from the same intelligent people as those students who are on campus.

3.) Is the curriculum and syllabi the same as the curriculum for the on campus version of the class? Yes, fantastic! That means you’ll be learning the same content and completing the same work as those students who are on campus.

You should be able to ask an Admissions Counselor or Program Director these questions. If necessary, ask to see a copy of the syllabi for the different modes of class delivery (online, hybrid, on campus).

I love learning: I read, write, and share knowledge. If your end goal is to better yourself and you don’t need a certified credential, by all means, participate in MOOCs and other non-traditional learning opportunities. Just, don’t shell out a bunch of cash for “tuition”. If you’re paying for education, you should receive legitimate proof of your hard work by means of a diploma and transcript from a established educational institution.

The Buck Stops Here – Providing Excellent IT Service

We’ve all been there… we’re on the phone with IT Support and we keep getting transferred to different people to assist us. We wonder if the company even has a competent technician. We wonder if the company values customer support.

Many large IT Support hotlines have a “script” that their employees follow to help resolve issues over the phone. It is apparent when an inexperienced support employee is helping you. The conversation is slow and the employee keeps putting you on hold or asking you to repeat questions.

For a related article on who exactly is answering your support calls, check out a statistical profile of today’s IT Workers by Michael Totty from the Wall Street Journal.

If you work within IT or manage IT professionals, it’s important to provide excellent IT Service.

Consider the following:

When it comes to providing technical support or customer service, there needs to be a limit on how much research you do to solve a problem.

You can ask your colleagues many questions….

You can do Internet research for hours….

You can pass the problem on to others, hoping it doesn’t stay in email abyss…

…but sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty.

Remember, it’s difficult to permanently break technology. So go ahead and try to fix the issue. If you’re not physically near the device/computer, try to recreate the problem.

Experiment with the issue, keeping note of the control and variable. Only change one thing at a time to make sure that a single variable resolves the issue.

Document your findings. And then share those findings with your IT colleagues.

To Err is Human… to Keep at EdTech is Divine.

One of the challenges I have as an Educational Technologist is encouraging people to use technology during lectures and presentations, despite their fears.

The major fear is looking incompetent in front of an audience. This can occur when technology breaks or the presenter does not know how to work the tool. So instead of learning how to use EdTech properly, they opt out of the tool altogether.

There’s a few points I would like to make to help appease the fear that paralyzes the presenter and limits the use of technology:

Technology has its hiccups for everyone, even the most skilled technologist.

Internet connections are poor, flash drives get lost, files are corrupted, speakers don’t work, the list can go on…  but, it’s Okay! Since we’ve all been there, people in your audience will understand and not judge.

How you handle the hiccup is what defines us. If the EdTech fails or does not work, apologize for the delay and continue on with your presentation sans technology. It’s comparable to a child getting hurt, sometimes, the reaction of others after a fall is what makes a young child cry. Don’t overreact with groans and complaints, don’t panic. Pick yourself up, dust off, and start your presentation. Your audience won’t even remember the technical glitches if you don’t let it affect your overall presentation.

In today’s Internet driven world, current students and audience members expect presentations with audio/visual components. By neglecting this feature, you may lose out on that “star appeal” that attracts people to your audience or classes.

I once had a professor say to me, “if you teach the way you were taught, you will be frozen in time.”

Intrigue your audience, add a “cool” element to your presentation. Remember, technology is great when it enhances a presentation, not detracts from the content.

If you’re still afraid to add EdTech components to your presentation be proactive:

  • Learn! Have your Educational Technologist or Instructional Technologist show you easy ways to enhance your presentation
  • Practice, practice, practice, preferably in the room you will be presenting
  • Early and Often– Setup for your presentations with plenty of time to get through any glitches and know that the more you use EdTech, the more comfortable you will be using the tools
  • Buddy System- Invite someone along to the presentation that can help you setup or troubleshoot problems
  • Be Prepared- Bring back-ups of your digital work. If the tech still fails, be prepared with cue cards and hand-outs to switch to a low-tech presentation

How Students Use Tech Outside of Class

ComputerThis article was published by EdTech Magazine on August 27, 2013.

Technology has made it easy for students to use their computers and mobile devices to continue learning outside of traditional classrooms.

The ability to take notes electronically during class results in the conservation of valuable study time. In addition, many students find they are able to use digital notes more effectively than handwritten notes by conducting keyword searches to locate specific information quickly.

Today’s college students are also able to annotate and share notes with study-group participants by using cloud-based tools such as Evernote and Google Drive. Undergraduates at Ithaca College in New York use Google Drive to create, edit, and share course outlines. These powerful tools enhance collaboration by allowing students to access their notes from any device, add comments and track changes.

Google Drive and Evernote are also ideal for collaboration on group projects. MBA students at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., use Google Drive to collaborate on projects and presentations. The students can contribute to the same document without compiling or emailing different versions back and forth. For students concerned about equal contribution of work on a project, Google Drive shows revision updates made by each contributor.

For research, students are using free tools such as Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook. While Wikipedia is typically not allowed as an official source, it is frequently used to find other resources, since the site tracks footnotes and bibliographies. Students can look up a topic using Wikipedia and then refer to an article’s cited works for additional source material.

Social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, are used to poll communities and connect with experts. Social media is used to share ideas, articles and other resources. These networks are also used to hold relevant and meaningful conversations across time and geography. Ithaca College’s course on professional development uses social media to host guest speakers who are unable to travel to campus. Instead, the guest speakers are asked to check the course’s Facebook and Twitter pages during a given week and then respond to students’ questions. These tools are beneficial because discussion can be continued outside of class, thereby opening up a broader learning environment.

Students are also using web-based conferencing tools, such as Google Hangouts, to interview experts about their work. Students in the Master of Arts in Learning Technologies program at Pepperdine University in California collaborate synchronously, or in real time, using Google Hangouts and Google Documents. The students are able to share their dissertation research and provide valuable feedback to one another in real time. Some students, such as those attending Pepperdine University School of Law, are even using this technology to interview for jobs or to work remotely while in school. Web-based conferencing is also a key tool used by students to hold team meetings for group projects. Stevens Institute of Technology management students also use web-based conferencing to present their final projects online and in real time to their instructor and peers.

Today’s learners are actively seeking content and tutorials on topics of interest.

Students and non-student learners alike access valuable online content from Khan Academy, TED, YouTube and blogs; they watch and read tutorials created by others; and they learn how to complete specific tasks, such as computing mathematical equations, writing computer-programming languages or using a feature in a software application, all without the guidance of an instructor.

Technology enables learning to take place outside of the classroom and the library. Students use technology to meet, collaborate and create content virtually. In many cases, technology helps students research subjects, share ideas and learn specific skills. Technology also helps students make valuable networking connections with others in their field of study.

KISS Keep it Simple (& Meaningful), Stupid! Getting Faculty to Use Tech

As part of my duties as Manager of Instructional Technology at Pepperdine University School of Law, I must encourage the use of Educational Technology by faculty. This is a common task of any Educational Technologist.

One of the challenges is convincing Law Faculty to use technology when their traditional classroom pedagogy is based on the Socratic Method  or “inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.” Logically, you don’t need technology to have a discussion.

Another challenge is that when faced with something new, there is a learning curve to become comfortable in using the tool or technology. As an instructor, I know first-hand that it can be difficult to attempt something new in front of your students, there’s an inherent fear of  seeming incompetent in the face of your students.

However students and learners, are increasingly in want of “innovative and stimulating” classes that utilize digital media and audio-visual learning aids to enhance instruction.

To bridge this gap of overcoming fears of incompetence and providing students with the technological-supported classes they desire, Educational Technologists, must help faculty feel comfortable with using Ed Tech. It’s also important that faculty are semi-autonomous in their use of Ed Tech so that they can proceed with instructing without the need of an IT support person present at the start of class.

Simple and meaningful user interface design is one of the first steps to getting EdTech used effectively in the classroom.

The School of Law recently completed an Educational Technology Update construction project to many of its classrooms. This project included the installation of computers, projection screens, touch screen monitors, and document cameras, among other instructional tools.

Screen3To encourage the use of these instructional tools, the Information Services team set out to create an easy to use control panel. The control panel is a 4″ touch panel that sits on the top of each lectern near the computer monitor and auxiliary ports. It controls the start up and display of all of the instructional tools available in the classroom.

It was important that the User Interface Design of this control panel was simple, easy to understand, and contained all of, but not more than, the features necessary to run a tech-enabled class session.

The approach used to decide on the final design was as follows:

  1. Research
  2. Design
  3. Gather Feedback
  4. Redesign
  5. Implement

Research- I contacted several different professional schools and law schools in the nation and asked if they could share pictures of their control panel user-interface. Several other Ed Tech professionals also gave valuable insight into what they would do differently if they could re-design their control panels.

Design- After some deliberation with my Information Services colleagues, I developed 3 different iterations of the design with a flow-chart of the actions.

Feedback- Two design options were brought to the faculty (the end-users) for feedback and discussion. I made sure that the faculty represented a variety of skill-levels from the minimal-tech user to the experienced-power user. The designs were simple mock-ups on paper, that indicated the flow of the features. I walked each faculty member through the “pushing” of buttons, showing them what each action led to by flipping the paper mock-ups in order of the design flow.

Receiving input from the end-users is a strategic way of getting user buy-in. Many of the faculty I spoke to were very excited and grateful that their input was effectively utilized in the final design.

Redesign- I took the notes, comments, and feedback from the faculty on the initial design and created a final design. Instances in which  faculty opinions conflicted I made a judgement call based on what I thought the majority of the faculty would want.

Implementing- I met with the technology vendor and worked through the final design. I had to be very specific and firm with our needs so that the design on paper was properly translated to the actual control panel.

The result was fantastic! The control panel does exactly what they need it to do with very few “clicks”, therefore, the goal of creating simple and meaningful design was accomplished. Many faculty that used to rely on Information Services to start their class technology have become autonomous. It’s been several weeks since the system was implemented and we’ve seen an increase of faculty using educational technology in their classes.

For any Educational Technologist implementing a new system, don’t forget to KISS. Keep It Simple, (stupid)!

Distraction or Opportunity? Embracing Tech in the Classroom

ComputerAn abridged version of this article was published by EdTech Magazine on July 25, 2013.

It’s common for students to bring laptops, tablets, and smart phones to class. But what happens when they’re turned on? From the viewpoint of the lectern, it’s hard to tell if students are using their mobile electronics for educational goals or browsing the Internet. And are their actions distracting their peers?

As a Manager of Instructional Technology, I’ve had the opportunity to observe several lecture hall courses ranging from 40-100 students. Sitting in the back of the classroom gave me a great view of the students’ computer screens. I was pleasantly surprised to find in a class of 100 students only one student was on a Web page other than the course Learning Management System, the downloaded lecture notes, or a Word Document. Pretty impressive.

These observations support the hypothesis that students are using computers in the classroom to aid in their instruction. How does it aid in their instruction? Professional students use the opportunity to make additions and annotations to downloaded class lecture slides or transcribe the lecture using word processing programs.

Yes, it’s more difficult to call your students’ attention away from the computers in order to get them to participate openly in discussion. Technology is not a distraction in the classroom, but if you want dynamic discussion and interaction with students, do just that, interact with your students and encourage discussion, don’t lecture “at” them. Minimal interaction during lectures results in students’
“hiding” behind their computer screens. They’ll shut the computer screens and contribute worthy discussions if the lesson is dynamic.

Alternatively, technology can be used as a teaching advantage. Students who are introverted may find it easier to participate in class if they can do so via technology. Incorporate tools such as polling technology and back-channel blogs to have students participate with the computers they are already using. These tools can allow for anonymous participation and contribution to the class without students’ feeling cornered or in the spotlight. Ideas can be free flowing with the disinhibition associated with anonymous contributions. Conducting lessons with anonymous participation means we need to rethink traditional participation grades.

In addition, using these online technologies to encourage participation can be beneficial in interacting with all students, not just the select few that raise their hands and speak up in the limited class time. Every student can contribute by answering polling questions and typing their responses into a class website. These tools can also be beneficial because the class discussion can be continued outside of class, thus opening up a broader learning environment.

It’s not just about how students are using computers in the classroom, but how the use of computers during class impact students outside of class. Students prefer to take notes electronically so that they don’t waste valuable study time transcribing hand-written notebooks to a digital notebook. Digital notes results in better use of students’ study time. Students are able to do keyword searches for documents and topics to locate specific information quickly, collaborate and share notes with their study groups, and prepare written work quicker by copy and pasting direct quotes from their pre-typed notes.

Students are going to use laptops and mobile devices in the classroom. Embrace the technology and work with your Educational Technologist or Instructional Designer to determine the best tools and methodologies to enhance your course with technology and support the course objectives.

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