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May, 2012:

Get Organized With Free Web Tools!

I always find it surprising how few students know about and actively use web tools that, quite frankly, make everything much easier. In this post, I’ll point out some web tools that I use on a regular basis. For this quarter, I’ll specifically focus on tools that allow students to get organized with assignments, scheduling and class notes.

For students, balancing work, school and life outside of both can be a difficult task. Sometimes you need a little extra help organizing, collaborating, or studying. Currently, there are more web tools out there than ever before—many of them free and created specifically to give students this kind of help. I always find it surprising how few students know about and actively use web tools that, quite frankly, make everything much easier.

In this post, I’ll point out some web tools that I use on a regular basis. For this quarter, I’ll specifically focus on tools that allow students to get organized with assignments, scheduling and class notes. Keep an eye out in upcoming quarters for more free web tools for students!

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DML Update for Spring 2012

The Digital Media Lab (UW2-121) has all the software to make your dreams come true (well not really, but it has enough to make a dang good visual storytelling project)… Don’t know how to use any of this software? Don’t worry, we have you covered. The DML offers one-on-one student support for anyone of any skill level.

The Digital Media Lab (UW2- 121) is the place to be this spring!

Whether you are looking to expand your graphic design skills or brush up on film-making skills, the DML has you covered. For some inspiration, check out these cool student projects done Winter quarter:

Visual Storytelling: Turning Research into Art.

Do your assignments lack a certain panache? Bars and pie charts not getting your message across? Want to relay information in a dramatic eye-catching way? Visual storytelling is a fantastic way to pass on large amounts of information.

What is visual storytelling? Visual storytelling ranges from the cave art of yesteryears to major graphic design projects much like those pictured above. It uses video, imagery, sound and writing to tell a story or relay a message; often using aesthetics in thought-provoking ways. Here is my favorite definition of visual storytelling from the EICAR International Film and Television School in Paris; “Visual Storytelling: Communicating visually in forms that can be read or looked upon. In cinema a story is most visual when ideas and emotions are expressed through performance and aesthetics as opposed to dialogue.”

Who is the audience? Let’s face it, most Americans don’t have enough time to read the important fine print in the latest Facebook terms of agreement update, let alone a paper on how to save the dwindling tuna population. Visual Storytellers often make use of our limited time and attention spans for the purpose of catching our momentary glance. They only have a few seconds to engage their audiences by making images fun and engaging to look at (admit it, I bet you looked at the tuna charts). They then hope to keep the audience around for a few more seconds by relaying important factoids and information, most of which is incredibly fulfilling to readers.

For students, visual storytelling can be used in conjunction with research and policy papers; think of the surprised look on your professor’s face when you go above and beyond by putting your research into practice! For example, writing a paper on the U.S. deficit? Why not make a poster or pamphlet with stacks of cash representing where the money goes (for a greater effect, use an object like the Empire State Building in comparison to give it greater oomph! “Can you believe we spent two Empire State Buildings on blank last year?!?”)? Next, add some facts on spending and address common misconceptions with a few small sentences. You might just make the rest of the class envious of your awesomeness.

When is it appropriate? Visual storytelling is always appropriate, though it can have a tendency to be really shocking or graphic. This does not mean you should not use it; sometimes the shock factor can lead people to discover the reality of your message. Use your best judgment. If it is for kindergartners, you might not want to use pictures of scary monsters.

The Digital Media Lab (UW2-121) has all the software to make your dreams come true (well not really, but it has enough to make a dang good visual storytelling project). Even if you have limited skills as an artist, the DML, Library and Learning Technologies websites have a number of links to websites that offer free use images, video and audio (also known as Creative Commons-licensed content).

The DML also has software, such as Photoshop (photo editing), ProTools (audio production), Final Cut Pro (video production), InDesign (publishing) and Illustrator (graphic design) for students interested in creating visual representations of their research. Don’t know how to use any of this software? Don’t worry, we have you covered. The DML offers one-on-one student support for anyone of any skill level.

Check out the DML Calendar for open lab hours: http://tinyurl.com/6p76jp4

Have an awesome Spring Quarter!

Forget ‘Lecture,’ Tegrity Transcends The ‘Sage On The Stage’

Technologies are made up of both technical objects and the cultural practices and behaviors that arise around, in and through these technical objects. As you might expect, these cultural practices have a way of shaping our use of the next generation of technology (think: “desktop” interface for computers). So, when we say ‘lecture capture,’ we are identifying a narrow practice, not the specific technical capacity of Tegrity… Student assessment feedback, quick tutorials, student presentations, or, yes, even short lectures tied to active learning activities are all potential ways to use the software.

‘Lecture’ can be a dirty word. For some, it conjures images of ‘the sage on the stage’ in large lecture halls with students passively listening. Perhaps these are unfair characterizations, for listening can be active and lectures can be engaging. Nevertheless, in the last 30 years, higher education has seen a push toward more student-centered, high-impact teaching and learning practices.

Enter ‘lecture capture’ technology. By ‘capture,’ the educational technology industry means ‘recording.’ Tegrity Lecture Capture, the system used by the University of Washington, records the voice of a speaker, the video image of a speaker (if she wants it), and video of a computer screen (i.e., presentation slides, web browsing, etc.). Then, it combines those audio and video recordings into a single interactive video experience for the student. But, isn’t this throwing technology at a broken teaching model?

At the recent Tegrity User Conference, which was held in downtown Seattle April 18th – 20th, I found that the term ‘lecture capture’ hardly describes the kinds of teaching and learning activities for which Tegrity is, and can be, used.

Colene White, a communication instructor at Everett and Cascadia Community Colleges, records student presentations, speeches, role plays and other speech performances. For White, recording these presentations allows her to provide more detailed feedback to her students on their strengths and weaknesses with verbal and non-verbal public speaking skills. In addition, students can return to the recordings to reflect and self-evaluate.

Nadine Lemmons, a Business Technology Instructor at Lower Columbia College in Longview, WA, uses Tegrity for student feedback on computer application assignments. Lemmons teaches Microsoft Excel (spreadsheets) and Microsoft Access (databases) classes, and she has to give students feedback on their spreadsheet and database files. When the student has significant issues with a file, her comments can be extensive. Rather than typing out her comments, she can begin recording using Tegrity, open a file on her computer, and then record her spoken comments. Lemmons doesn’t recommend using Tegrity when the comments are minimal, because it won’t end up saving time. However, for more extensive comments on assignments that were submitted electronically, Tegrity can replace a large amount of typing. What’s more, feedback to students can feel more personal, because they hear their professor’s voice as she talks about their work.

What these examples show is that the term ‘lecture capture’ has conditioned how we think about these technologies. Technologies are made up of both technical objects and the cultural practices and behaviors that arise around, in and through these technical objects. As you might expect, these cultural practices have a way of shaping our use of the next generation of technology (think: “desktop” interface for computers). So, when we say ‘lecture capture,’ we are identifying a narrow practice, not the specific technical capacity of Tegrity.

The examples above show that, instead of a technology that simply records the same old lecture, Tegrity is a better understood as a multimedia recording tool. And, it only requires the ability to click Start and Stop. Student assessment feedback, quick tutorials, student presentations, or, yes, even short lectures tied to active learning activities are all potential ways to use the software. Seen from this perspective, the technology becomes more malleable, allowing the instructor to “hack” it for her own use.

If you are interested in how Tegrity works or how you might use it in your class, contact UW Bothell Learning Technologies at learningtech@uwb.edu.