Category Archives: Tausend Talks Shop

Confidence in EdTech!

Where do your instructors fall in the EdTech adoption?

As an Educational Technologist and an instructor, I’ve seen many faculty members excel in the use of classroom technology and others whom let their fear get in the way of their technical growth.

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist, posted a chart that graphically illustrated the Teacher Confidence in Use of Technology. The graph was adopted from the work of Mandinach and Cline and described the stages of confidence related to technology.

teacher confidence use in tech

As confidence and competence grows, instructors are keener to apply the technology they’ve mastered to the classroom. In doing so, the technology can effectively impact the way students learn.

The final step of the Confidence graph is Innovation. Instructors have the confidence to use technology seamlessly in the classroom, as well as innovate and share their ideas. It is at this point that I believe instructors demonstrate independence and enthusiasm for utilizing technology.

In my experience, I’ve mostly worked with faculty that were between the Survival and Mastery levels. The challenge of an Educational Technologist is to provide enough support and training to help encourage the technological exploration, yet, not be too helpful in that it enables the instructors to lean on you as a crutch when they use technology. Balancing support with autonomy is important.


Say What?! Improving Online Class Discussion

This semester I’ve decided to use discussion forums for only half of my online class participation. I mixed it up to add some intrigue and interaction to the other weeks– my students are using NowComment.


NowComment is a Web site that displays articles and text content for students to read. The unique thing about NowComment is students can comment in-line to the text. Students can also reply to one another. NowComment nests the comments for a clean user interface experience. Students can also mark up the document with highlights and annotations.

This mode of communication has proven successful. Students enjoy the variety NowComment adds to the online class, in addition to the traditional online learning tools such as email and forums.

It also allows the students to interact directly with the content.

Most online classes have students read an article or book, then contribute to a different web page to discuss their findings. I’m guilty of this, like I said, I use discussion forums for half of the class participation. The problem with this traditional online discussion structure is that a student may not understand what their classmate is referring to in the text, unless it is directly cited. Nowcomment minimizes this confusion and lets students tag the statement in the text to comment directly to the material.

This tagging feature makes it better for everyone to draw connections to the reading and contribute to a dynamic online class discussion.

To use NowComment, you must have an account. However, the accounts are free for educators and students. Instructors can create a group for each class roster to easily invite a group of students to one document. The Web site uses email to inform students of a new document to discuss.

A negative impact of NowComment is that students must check their school administrated email accounts or provide the instructor with an alternative email. In addition, their may be technical difficulties such as the invitation being filtered to the Spam, Junk, or Trash folders.  For example, I have a student that has had technical difficulties all semester. She does not receive the initial NowComment invitation. I’ve had to delete her invite, then send her an updated invited for her to access the documents. We have no idea why these issues occur and why she is the only student with problems.

In general, the students are enjoying the conversation and are able to contribute successfully. I recommend this educational technology tool for anyone with flexibility to choose a means of communication and for those with text heavy class materials.

*Update* I was impressed how quickly the NowComment President reached out to me regarding this blog. He was very helpful in troubleshooting the invitation errors my student had. Kudos to a company that follows social media and proactively reaches out to it’s audience!

Tech and Sports: No Longer a Spectator Sport

NCAA basketballAhh! March Madness is in the air. Basketball talk is flying around the water cooler and many people are re-doing their busted brackets. I, for one, am still nursing my bruised ego from Syracuse’s 2-point defeat from Dayton.

Why are we so connected to sports? Technology has made sports more than a spectator sport.

Online brackets make choosing teams simple and easy. Not only are you choosing your teams, but you can compare your bracket to others’. President Obama chose his bracket on live television, Warren Buffet put in his two cents, and millions comment about live games simultaneously on Twitter and Facebook.

Fantasy leagues make it so we can play along with the pro teams, beating out our friends for league champion titles. Fantasy leagues also give the hardcore sports fan an excuse to watch every game, with or without the support of their spouse. Let’s hope it’s with the support, because let’s face it, being a fantasy leaguer is a life choice.

Technology helps sports fans to further connect with the teams they love. They can catch the games from their mobile devices, follow and interact with players on social media and record games for instant replays.

This sports fan is grateful for the increased interaction with sports that technology allows.



Disconnecting to Reconnect

noInternetI recently decided to change my Internet settings on my smart phone so that I could only access my email and social media apps when connected to WiFi.

I originally decided to do this to determine if I could cut the cost of my telephone bill by reducing my data plan. But the benefits aside from the cost savings have proven valuable.

Since I have WiFi at home, work, and many of my favorite places to work, I found I could access my favorite apps almost as easily as before. With a few notable exceptions:

I have a limited connection while driving, and at places that do not have public WiFi, such as at restaurants and movies, among other locations. But this was an unseen benefit!

Benefit #1: (Fairly) Undistracted Driving. I’m not tempted as much to use my phone when I’m driving, which is a dangerous habit and one I’m willing to break.

Benefit #2:  Enjoying Socializing. Shutting off my Internet connection when out on the town makes for a more enjoyable time. While socializing and enjoying dinner or a movie, it’s best to focus on the people you are with or the great food and entertainment you’re spending your money on. So why waste your time by looking at what other people are doing on social media? Enjoy what you are doing! 

Benefit #3: Noticing IRL (in real life). When I’m unable to connect to the Internet from any location at a drop of a hat, I find myself  reconnecting with my thoughts and enjoying the IRL scenery. Why look at a youtube puppy video when you can watch a puppy run in the park?

I still have a ways to go: I still distinctively reach for my phone when I am waiting in traffic or in line, but I’m finding the right Internet / No Internet balance.

Women, STEM, and the Breaking of Stereotypes

In the last several weeks there has been a lot of media coverage regarding women in technology and girls’ dissatisfaction with gender stereotyping in consumer products.

stem1As a female Information Technology Manager, I’ve had several years experience working within Information Technology and online departments. My colleagues have been mostly men (very supportive men). At times, my “customers” don’t believe what I say about their computers. Only after they sought additional help, would they come back and say, “Julie, you were right after all!” My response is typically to smile and say, “I’m glad it has been resolved for you.” When in reality I’d love to thank them for wasting both their time and my time. I’m not right all the time, and I’ll be the first to admit when I need to confer with another colleague to resolve an issue. However, I was hired for my specific skills, knowledge, and expertise. Just because you don’t like what I’m saying, doesn’t mean I’m incorrect.

Too frequent are women in technology judged not by their actual skills but by their gender.

Some recent examples include Goldman Sach’s swag at a Harvard hackathon event for women. The biggest sponsor of the WEcode (Women Engineers Code) event handed out cosmetic mirrors and nail files to the attendees. They’ve since apologized, but what does this message send to young females? “You can code and make cool things, as long as you are pretty when you do it”?  Would Goldman Sach’s have provided deodorant and razors to a men’s hackathon?

When women are brave enough to display their STEM skills, they are often “thanked” with comments about their looks or sexuality. Emily Graslie discusses natural history, science, and the artifacts found at the Field Museum (Chicago) on her YouTube channel, “The Brain Scoop“. In her November 27, 2013 post, Where My Ladies At?”, she discusses how her comment feed is flooded with inappropriate innuendos and statements about her physical appearance. She also states that there are very few women on YouTube who discuss STEM. Women fear being judged on ridiculous irrelevant topics (ie their looks), instead of their expertise. Therefore, many women opt out of making their knowledge public. The problem with this is that it shows the younger generation of females to hide their skills and to be ashamed of their abilities. 

nintendoGender stereotypes are also played out in consumer products. The Nintendo Girls Channel on YouTube was recently launched and was very much a disappointment to female gamers. The channel is clad in pink and contain gaming mods that take girls on shopping sprees and spa makeover adventures. Pink is definitely for girls, and I have purchased quite a few pink items in my day. But that’ a strategic move– if I had a pink travel coffee mug or a pink baseball mitt, it was guaranteed it would remain mine and not confiscated by my brothers.

Girls are seeing beyond the pink and asking to break the stereotypes. A young girl recently wrote to Lego asking why there are not more Lego Girls with cool jobs. She was very aware that Lego boy characters had many more adventurous careers and wanted the company to rectify this inequality. A teenager also wrote to Disney, petitioning that they design their Princesses with more diverse body shapes. It’s uplifting to see the younger generation speaking out about gender stereotypes and their discontent for the world as designed by adults.

And there’s still more hope. “Hello Ruby” by Linda Liukas succeeded in funding her children’s book on kickstarter. Her goal is to teach children about programming. The use of a female main character, Ruby, positively encourages girls to pursue an interest in technology and programming. Another company, GoldieBlox, encourages girls to build and pursue an interest in inventing and engineering. The company has turned “construction toys” from boys toys to a gender neutral toy. In the process GoldieBlox has introduced the fun of engineering and problem solving to girls. If I could, I would work for GoldieBlox.

 GoldieBlox  Hello-Ruby-tech-book

Another uplifting story is the recent report by TechCrunch that Berkeley’s Intro to Computer Science course now has more women than men enrolled. Granted, there are only two more women than men, but it’s still progress. This progress was attributed to a change in the curriculum that included team projects, open-source resources, and opportunities to become teaching assistants.

It’s important to continue to encourage young girls and women to pursue STEM classes. To continue to question a company’s idea for girls’ toys. And for those of us who are currently pursuing STEM careers, to be forthright in our skills and to publicize the benefits of pursuing challenging careers. In doing so, we can encourage youth to pursue their interests in STEM without fear of judgement. 

Music, Lights, and Tech! Imagine Dragons

The Imagine Dragons performed at The Forum in Los Angeles this Valentine’s Day. I loved the concert. Of course, I loved the concert because Imagine Dragons is one of my current favorite bands. But I loved the concert even more so because of the light and technology show that came with it.

Their “Into the Night” tour has an amazing audio visual component. A big “moon” behind the band displays the lead singer, the audience, and lyrics for the “sing-a-long”. During the song “Monster”, the display transformed frontman Dan Reynolds into a monster. Great animation! The technicolor lights flash across the floor audience, making them a part of the show for those sitting in the arena seats.

A show like this takes a lot of technical design and coordination. If I wasn’t already pumped up for the music, I was definitely enthralled with the overall atmosphere created by the technology. I was seated at the side of the stage, and I had a perfect angle to see the Audio Visual Technician’s computer screen. If only I was close enough to see what they were doing on the computer- it made me wonder what it takes to be an AV Technical Director for concerts.

Kudos to the Technical Director and AV team… oh and Imagine Dragons rocked, too!

How Rude! Talk Over the Presenter

With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games underway, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people “live tweeting” and “live blogging” about the activities and events.

backchanelWhat is live tweeting and live blogging? It’s a synchronous broadcast of events in written word (and pictures/video) via Social Media Internet sites such as Twitter and Blogs. It’s a way for anyone with a computer, smart phone, or tablet to create their own “news”.

Live tweeting and live blogging is also applicable in the learning environment. At the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, students participate in “backchannel” dialogue. Backchannel is when computers are used to have a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or lecture. The graduate students in the Interactive Media & Games major contribute to the live lecture discussion at the same time by commenting on a WordPress blog page.  The constant stream of comments assures that all opinions are documented.

The use of backchannel in the classroom encourages student participation when the class is too large for everyone to speak (100-200 student lecture hall). If the comments are made anonymously, it also allows students to freely speak their mind and contribute without the fear of “getting it wrong”. I particularly like the use of backchannel during live lectures because it promotes community building. Not only are students learning from their instructor, but they are able to share their opinions with others and continue the discussion even after the lecture concludes. In some instances, instructors are unaware of backchannel discussions taking place, opening up the possibly of uncensored opinions and thoughts of the subject matter.

hashtagIn the professional environment, people live blog conference events. This gives attendees a chance to get an inside look of conference sessions and workshops they are unable to attend. Using tagging features, such as hashtags (#), guarantees that similar topics are grouped together and easier to find on the Internet. Anyone can run a Twitter or Internet search for a hashtag to review all backchannel communications on a given topic, thus opening conference proceedings up to the entire Internet community.

It’s not a test! Assessing Learning.

"The Melting Clock" by Salvador Dali

“The Melting Clock” by Salvador Dali

Previously, I’ve discussed the importance of evaluating training in the context of Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model. Many people neglect the evaluation process because they are either  on a very strict schedule (analysis is usually neglected, too) or they just don’t see how administering tests can work in the training.

The latter is a major misconception. Assessment is not about giving graded tests.

Tools: Assessment can be accomplished in several different ways. Some examples include:

Exams Non-graded quizzes
Rubrics Course Evaluation
Classroom Dialogue Polling/Clickers
Poster Presentations Oral Presentations
Portfolios Peer Review
Case Studies Written Reports
Fill In The Blanks State Examinations or Certifications
Publication  Observing Student Reactions

Simple Process: If creating assessment methods is daunting, I recommend starting simple.

  1. Select a training objective.
  2. Pair the objective with an activity.
  3. Create a rubric for evaluation.
  4. Review each student’s completed activity compared to the rubric to see if it aligns with the objective.
  5. Create a snapshot of your overall

Grading: Assessing your learners does not mean you need to change your grading structure or even give a grade at all. However, if learners believe that they are receiving something in return, they may give more effort when completing the assessment. Case in point: if you’ve been asked to complete a survey, you may have given up half way through if you didn’t see a personal benefit in completing it.

Cost: Evaluating learning does not have to be costly endeavor. Although there are many different software and hardware options to aid in assessing learning outcomes (such as PollEverywhere, TurningPoint, ExamSoft, and PearsonVue), assessment can be accomplished without purchasing third-party products. If assessment is a new goal for your organization, I recommend working through some of the simpler assessment strategies and tools before deciding on an external assessment product.

Step Away From the Podium!

Step away from the podium…the lectern… the computer! Back away slowly and engage your audience.

lectureEngaging instructors and trainers are typically those that break the leash that binds them to the podium. Many presenters remain in the 2-foot radius that surrounds the podium as if an electric fence traps them. But how do you break this poor habit and still control your content?

A simple solution is to use a presentation clicker to advance your PowerPoint and Keynote slides. A USB dongle (yes, that awesome, non-made-up tech word that makes us giggle) plugs into the computer and receives information from the remote to advance the slides.

But what if, you’re like me, and need the visual cues to help guide your oral presentation? There are many tools out there to help! Many work with a mobile device such as smart phone or tablet and connect to your computer via a Wireless Internet connection. The result is that you can walk around the room with your presentation on your mobile device, and as you make changes or advance the slides, the application signals your computer to do so as well.

Voila, like magic, you get your freedom of movement back and can fully engage your audience!

There are many products out there that “remotely” connects computers to mobile devices. Doing a search on “wireless presentation systems” yields a plethora of results.

I personally prefer Doceri, which is an application that can be installed on both your computer and mobile device and then a code is inputted to verify that you are connecting to the correct computer. Doceri also has a white board feature that makes for on-the-fly notes. If you want a hardware solution, both Apple and Crestron have solutions; check out Apple AirPlay and Crestron AirMedia.

Captivate: Software Demo

Tool: Adobe Captivate

Category: eLearning, Presentation

Description: Adobe Captivate creates interactive presentations for learning purposes. It’s commonly used to create eLearning modules.

This is a video portfolio that demonstrates my work and experience. I recorded my projects with narration in Adobe Captivate, edited the audio, and added fades, text captions, and text animation.

Another project I created with Captivate is this software demonstration that shows users how to log on to a learning management system. I created an instructional design document to determine the learning objectives and then made a storyboard of the scenes to prepare for recording the presentation. I recorded and edited the demo in Adobe Captivate, adding zooming, highlights, text captions and mouse clicks.

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