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Software and Tool Reviews

Engaging Students with Active Learning

There are now more ways to get students active and interested in classes.

Professor Perry Samson from the University of Michigan experienced a significant increase of the amount of students in his class after he simply added the word “extreme” to the class name. Now that he had to deal with about 200 students from just 40, he decided to come up with a way to effectively teach his lectures to all of them.

Professor Samson is an entrepreneur as well and is the cofounder of a popular weather site and an active learning platform known as LectureTools. His purpose for LectureTools was to get students participating in class through their technological devices in class. This software allowed real-time feedback from the students and was able to capture notes that students were taking, how they answered questions and questions that they asked.


Co-founders of LectureTools (from left to right): Kiran Jagadeesh, Jason Aubree and Perry Samson.
Credit: AnnArbor.com

According to a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, students enrolled in STEM courses that used active learning techniques had exam scores that were 6 percent higher than the students who did not have active learning. In fact, it was shown that students who did not have active learning were “1.5 more likely to fail course exams”.

Samson concluded that a strong relationship exists between the students’ active learning participation and their outcomes. He says that, although the typical Learning Management System provides grading, assignments and collaboration potential, it does not provide tools that students can use to participate and be active during class time.

Ever since Samson introduced his software into his classes, 68% of his students asked questions in class; there was more of an even distribution among women and men and non-English and English speakers asking questions.

Source: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/04/15/engaging-students-with-active-learning.aspx?admgarea=News

5 Lecture Hacks

Students often get confused and bored during lectures. With the help of technology instructors can hold students’ attention both inside and outside of the classroom with engaging videos. Here are 5 lecture capture devices that can help make instructors videos more engaging:

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.15.16 PM

Dynamic Green Screen:

  • Recording a presentation while the professor is standing in front of a whiteboard or projector can make it difficult for students to see the presentation clearly. Chromatte is a dynamic green screen which is made from a ring of LEDs that go around the camera lens. These lights can shine green or blue on the Chromatte to change the color of the background in the video. The different color helps distinguish the presentation material clearly.

Virtual Green Screen:

  • Personify is a software that inserts a video of the instructor into a PowerPoint or other online material. You will need a 3D camera, similar to an ordinary webcam, mounted on the computer. Next, the instructor will record himself with the 3D camera, and Personify automatically filters out the background so the instructor appears in front of the presentation material in the video similar to filming himself in front of a green screen. This is an easy way to insert an instructor into a learning presentation.

Lightboard:

  • Instructors often have to turn their backs on students while writing on the board, blocking the students’ view of the content on the board. The Lightboard is an illuminated 4-by-8-foot sheet of glass, which allows an instructor to write on the glass from behind using fluorescent markers, so the writing “glows” in front of the person. This helps students see what the instructor is talking about while writing rather than seeing somebody’s back write on the board. On camera the writing appears reverse, but can be digitally flipped or recorded with a mirror. The Lightboard itself costs about $2,000 for the glass frame.

Multi-Perspective Video Capture:

  • Mediasite MultiView is a great multi-perspective video capture tool that records both the instructor and the presentation material. While Chromatte, Personify and Lightboard produce a video where the instructor and presentation materials appear in the same view, Mediasite MultiView captures multiple video streams and allows students to view them side-by-side simultaneously or zoom in on one or the other.
    • This is an excellent tool for people with disabilities. For example, a student with disabilities can see an interpreter using sign language in one screen while watching the instructor’s PowerPoint slides displayed on another screen. With the help of technology students with disabilities can even zoom in to the singing to receive a closer look.

Interactive Video:

  • Instructors often don’t know if students actually understood their video lectures or if the students even watched them. With the help of eduCanon instructors can use this free tool to embed questions into online videos to create interactive lessons. As a student watches a video, it pauses wherever the instructor has embedded a question and students can’t continue watching the video until they answer the question. EduCanon helps teachers comprehend if their students understood the lecture.

For more information on this topic click here.

Simplifying the Design Process- One Canva at a Time

To all designers and creators: have you ever opened Photoshop, PowerPoint, Word, or even social media sites and asked yourself now what? How about those who fear the Adobe Suite or even Microsoft Office?

Canva, a design app, simplifies creating posters, flyers, presentations, business cards, Facebook covers- you name it. With a selection of professional, pre-designed graphics and stock photos to choose from, you can finish a project within minutes. Be aware that most stock photos have Canva watermarks or you can pay $1 to omit it.

Most of the design process is drag-and-drop. Choose what background, layout, and text you want in your project, then fill in the blanks. Customizing their templates is no problem either. Click on an object to move it, change the color, edit the text, or delete it.

Designs and graphics are great to embellish presentations- especially “PowerPoint-esque” ones. They catch audience’s attention and intrigue listeners. Be aware though, too much text and over the top graphics can just as easily detract your audience. Learn your medium before giving a presentation.

Below are examples of posters we made in less than five minutes:

UWB Learning Tech LT Mission

What can you create on Canva?

The ‘Blue Books’ of the Future

An article by the Chronicle for Higher Education looks into a student start-up seeking to create the college blue book of the future.

As a student of the University of Pennsylvania, Alex Rattray struggled to fill his exam blue books with legible responses. It wasn’t long before he realized that he wasn’t the only one suffering, professors and teaching assistants were also struggling with reading illegible answers.

His solution was to create a desktop application that will allow instructors to administer tests and quizzes securely without the need for pencil and paper.

Read More!

Distraction-Free Editing

WordFlow is a great word processing app if you are looking for a distraction-free interface, claimed a review in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is plain and simple and to the point with a live word count and built-in spell check. A big plus is that it works offline and automatically saves your work via Google Chrome. The only down side? It doesn’t automatically save to Google Drive, Dropbox, or SkyDrive. That’s right, you have to manually upload your files to a cloud service.

If you are a fan of the automatic upload, or easy save to a cloud service, other alternatives to WordFlow are Editorially and Draft, though these apps are not necessarily distraction free.