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September, 2011:

YouTube Launches New Site for Teachers

Last week, YouTube introduced a new site specifically designed for teachers. The site’s purpose is to help educators incorporate educational YouTube videos into their lessons, maximizing student engagement. The site can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/teachers.

If you are an educator, the site is definitely worth a look. Whether you’d like to publish your own videos on YouTube or create a playlist of additional course content for your students to view, YouTube Teachers can help with that. The site even has a resource list for both free and paid screencasting software, hardware, and video editing tools.

Many instructors are already using video–largely from YouTube–in the classroom. It’s great that YouTube is (at least aiming to) creating a community surrounding and supporting this. Stop by and check out their tips, resources and playlists!

Tips for Effectively Teaching with Your Multimedia Presentation

In a recent post on the SlideShare blog, Olivia Mitchell gave some helpful tips on giving an effective, informative presentation with slideshow tools. These days, there are may different tools available to create and present a slideshow– SlideShare, PowerPoint, and Prezi, to name a few big ones. However, some still struggle with creating an engaging, effective presentation that really gets across to their audience. Mitchell explains that a presentation works best if it combines g00d graphic design as well as good instructional design. In other words, the right combination of information and visual appeal presented in the correct way. Below are four specific tips she offers, to get you started with making any slideshow presentation better:

  1. “Use words and graphics” – it’s very important to use a good mix of text and graphics. The fact is, humans enjoy visuals. Don’t give a presentation full of text that you will at some point review orally anyways. Use a picture or graph to show information whenever you can. Of course, you shouldn’t just use graphics either. Give your audience a little text to guide them through points or present hard facts to them.
  2. “Don’t use pictures which aren’t 100% conceptually relevant” – when you use graphics that aren’t relevant to the presentation, you are sending your audience an invitation to get off track. Rather than paying attention to the information you are currently presenting, they’ll probably be more focused on figuring out what the image has to do with your slide’s content. Mitchell explains that “this tends to happen when you know you should add a picture but can’t find quite the right one – so you settle for something less”. Make sure the picture you choose is both relevant and visually interesting to help your audience digest information more smoothly.
  3. “Present words as audio rather than onscreen text” – depending on which slideshow tool you are using, you may have the option to add audio to your slides. According to the post, 64 percent of students found presentations that used graphics with audio more effective than presentations that used graphics with text. This is a great chance to add personality to your presentation, but it’s important you also cut down on the amount of text you put onscreen–you don’t want to give the audience too much information at once. Try using SlideCasts with SlideShare, or adding narration to your PowerPoint.
  4. “Use a ‘virtual coach’” – create a “host” for your presentation that the audience can be guided by. Keep your guide consistent, and check back with them after every group of slides or big points. Mitchell suggests that the presentation may feel more like a conversation to audience members this way.

Here is a great example of an effective text-and-visual presentation:

Bryn Mawr College Explores Online Learning

Bryn Mawr College recently won a $250,000 grant to experiment with online courseware developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative. The software will be used first in math and science classes and is what Wired Campus calls “a sophisticated form of ‘computer tutor’”.

Seeing a liberal arts college begin to explore online learning is interesting, as these schools are the ones that typically pride themselves on small class sizes and close student-professor relationships. Online learning is often used for independent learning and involves decreased face-to-face interaction with the professor…which is why many students and faculty members are concerned with the idea. After all, students are paying about $40,000 per year for that kind of access. However, the project’s goal is not to replace the instructor with courseware, but to make instructors’ class times more efficient. This will be achieved by using the courseware for the review of basic skills, allowing the instructor to move forward during in-class sessions. Candice Thille, the project director at OLI, explains that they “are creating a way for [instructors] to spend time in class teaching different things, freed from the burden of teaching basic skills”.

The hope now is that the project will strengthen student-instructor relationships in the long run. If all goes well, perhaps other liberal arts college will begin experimenting with ways to fit online learning into their schools.