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May, 2011:

Using Cell Phones in the Classroom

These days, nearly every college student owns a cell phone. In the classroom, cell phones are generally seen by the instructor as nothing more than a distraction. Step into any college classroom during a long lecture or in-class film, and chances are you’ll see a handful of students typing away and sending text messages to their friends. With this behavior becoming all too common, it is no doubt why professors despise the devices and are asking students to turn their cell phones off completely during class.

However, what students and instructors aren’t always realizing is the potential of cell phones in education. Students have access to very powerful devices, especially with the rising ownership of smartphones. An article published recently by Edudemic questions the next step of cell phones in education and offers the following interesting ways to harness the device’s power for effective use in education:

Text Reminders: Since students generally check their cell phone more frequently than their email, the website Remind101 has come up with a way to reach students when they are away from their computer, but not their phone. The site allows instructors to create assignment reminders that are sent to students via text message. All the students have to do is register with the site and subscribe to the class’ reminders.

Using the cell phone as a study tool: For students who want to study on-the-go, but don’t want to drag their heavy computer around there’s sites like StudyBoost. Once the student registers, they can create their own series of study questions. Then, using their phone, they can have the questions sent to them via text message. From there, the student answers the questions by replying to the StudyBoost number, and will instantly receive their results.

Voting: Using Poll Everywhere, instructors can gather opinions and votes in their classroom. This tool also provides real time data, which is especially appealing to professors looking to save time.

Accessing Twitter: Interestingly enough, Twitter is becoming increasingly present in the classroom. Obviously, smartphones have the ability to instantly access Twitter via apps or an internet browser. However, there are also easy ways to access Twitter with a basic phone! Users can tweet by registering their phone and sending a text message to their country’s short code. If the user isn’t able to send text messages, TweetCall is also an option. TweetCall is a free service that lets the user call a phone number, speak their tweets, and have them transcribed into text.

Scavenger Hunt: Educational scavenger hunts are already a popular activity with cell phones in the classroom. There are many different programs and apps to run your scavenger hunt on, but the recommended program is SCVNGR. The program is compatible with both basic cell phones and smartphones, as many scavenger hunt apps are designed for smartphones with a GPS function.

UW Bothell Hybrid Course Development Institute (HCDI)

At the first annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Symposium on Thursday, April 28, 2011, the HCDI team (Carol Leppa, Andreas Brockhaus, Rebecca Bliquez, David Goldstein, Ian Porter) presented a poster on the Hybrid Course Development Institute that was run during fall, 2011. Eleven faculty participated and created hybrid courses that impacted 364 students. Take a look at the video and poster to see how we used a Community of Inquiry framework to create the HCDI.

View HCDI Poster (PDF File)

UW Grad Students Test Out the Kindle DX

Photo courtesy of Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis (Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Washington was one of seven schools who participated in pilot studies of the Kindle DX eReader in higher education. The study was carried out by UW technology researchers in order to determine how well the eReader fits into academic reading. The results weren’t outstanding, but many remain optimistic.

The study followed 39 graduate students, who were given a Kindle DX at the beginning of autumn quarter 2009. By spring quarter 2010, less than 40 percent of the students were using the device on a regular basis.

But why? “There is no eReader that supports what we found these students doing,” says Alex Thayer, a UW doctoral student, “It remains to be seen how to design one.”

Some of the challenges encountered with the Kindle include difficulty switching between reading techniques such as skimming. Some students kept paper nearby to take notes while others used a separate computer to look up references more easily.

According to Charlotte Lee, a UW Human Centered Design and Engineering professor, “E-readers are not where they need to be in order to support academic reading.” However, she predicts that e-readers will reach that point “sooner than we think.”

Read the full article by Hannah Hickey here.


The Challenges of Distance Learning

Yesterday, Emerging EdTech posted an article titled 7 Challenges to be Aware of When Considering Distance Learning. The article’s author, K. Walsh, gave a great overview of the challenges experienced by many distance learners taking classes partly or fully online. It’s always important to keep in mind that although different forms of online learning may be flexible, they require the same amount of work and preparation (if not more) as a traditional, face-to-face class. Briefly, here are the challenges Walsh points out:

1. The learner needs to have readily available access to a computer and the internet. If the student does not have this, they could miss important announcements from the professor, have problems managing their time for the class, or even fall behind on assignments.

2. Distance learning courses require self-motivation. When taking hybrid or online courses, there is not always a professor pushing the student to do the work for the class or reinforcing the material. It is up to the student to play the role of the professor in these circumstances.

3. It can be difficult, if not impossible to find one-on-one time with your professor. Unless there are communication tools being used (such as Skype or chat), the student may have a hard time finding the help they need when there is limited contact with the professor.

4. Although distance learning is becoming far more mainstream and widely accepted, many people still have mixed feelings about it. It is not uncommon to find people who believe that traditional face-to-face courses are far more beneficial and legitimate than online or hybrid courses. This is not necessarily true.

5. Those who are more social may not enjoy distance learning because real-life social interactions are kept to a minimum. In online courses, most of the interactions a student has with their peers are through online communication tools, such as discussion boards or email.

6. Students enrolled in distance courses are often expected to find their own resources to aid class work. This applies to both academic material and tutorials or help with the online tools the student is using.

7. If the student is taking only online courses and has no opportunity to visit the campus, there is a lack of campus atmosphere. This plays a role in the students’ overall experience with the institution, and also helps with the feelings of support.

Despite these challenges, distance learning has many benefits and is an interesting alternative to the traditional college class experience. If these challenges don’t look like a problem to you, you will likely enjoy and succeed in a distance learning course. This is not to say that if any of these strike you as problematic you should not enroll in a distance learning course. Before completely rejecting the idea of distance learning, it is always important to do your research, talk to people you know who have experience with distance learning, and brush up on your weaker study/technology skills.

LT Studio Open House – 4/19/2011

As some of you may have known, Learning Technologies held its very first open house for the LT Studio on April 19th. We are proud to report that it was a success! For those of you who couldn’t attend, technologies showcased at the open house included the iPad, LiveScribe pens, clickers, Final Cut Pro, VoiceThread, Jing Pro, and Google Docs. We’d like to thank all the faculty and teaching staff who showed up that afternoon. We had a great time and look forward to working with many of you in the future!