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Virtual Classroom

Teachers are now receiving more support to prepare them for an actual classroom. The University of Central Florida gives educators-in-training the option of practicing their teaching skills in a virtual classroom.

The program is called TeachLive, the first of its kind. The course challenges educators to navigate social, pedagogical and professional hurdles all at once. Educators are challenged to manage the classroom when the avatars misbehave, act in strange patterns, or ask difficult questions. Each avatar comes with their own personality. One avatar will interrupt class with their opinions on the lesson or teach, another avatar is the class chatterbox. Educators will also work with an avatar that is particularly anxious and may curl up on the floor of the classroom. With each session, the program allows users to change classroom events and avatar characteristics. Educators can practice responding to a targeted behavior or even to student disabilities.

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The program can also be set to specific teacher needs. TeachLive uses Skype conference call and a Microsoft Kinect motion sensor power. TeachLive is being used at more than 80 campuses across the U.S to train some of the next generation of educators. The team at TeachLive is exploring in which technology can be used to help people.

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Quizlet

One of the most old-fashioned ways of studying is the use of flashcards. On one side there is usually a word or description and on the back is the answer. This is a great way for students to test their memorization depending on the subject. However, making flashcards and storing them can be tedious. Some cards could get lost and having a huge stack of cards doesn’t make traveling and studying on the go easy.

Quizlet is an app that takes all of your flashcard problems and stores it into an app on your phone. This app is available in the Google Play and Apple App Store. The point of this app is to help alleviate the stress of storing and making flashcards. You can simply type into your phone what goes on each side and when you’re done, you have yourself your very own digital stack of flashcards. This makes studying on the go easier and faster to create.

You also have the ability of adding images and audio to each card as well. This might make memorizing certain pieces of art or pictures that are associated with the description. Because of the capability of adding audio, you can record yourself speaking key details to remember and it’s a great way for you to memorize the words you spoke.

Another feature on the app is that you can make your flashcards public for anyone to view and use. In turn, there are thousands of other flashcard decks that might help you study for your next test as well.

Besides studying for current classes, you can also study and learn a new language. They have a customized deck that provide learners a way to memorize words in a multitude of languages. There is also audio for each word and the speaker is native to their language. This making learning a new language not only easier but it also helps with your pronunciation and recognition of real native speakers.

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How to Go Textbook Free

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Don’t want to deal with spending enormous amounts of money on textbooks? You should probably head to the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). As of fall 2015, they no longer expect any undergraduate to spend money on textbooks. By the next fall, the same will be true for graduate students. All together, the savings for the 84,000 student would be more than $10 million per year. But that’s not the only upside – the students’ learning will improve as well.  Figuring out how to develop a curriculum was hard though, as there was no prior model for the university to follow. They had to create a process on their own.

They first started with revising the programs to be more “outcome-based”. Other approaches were used as well, but were all met with challenges. Needless to say, the process to switch to a non-textbook campus was harder than expected.

The next part of the process was the “discovery” phase. During this phase, librarians helped identify materials that could be possibly used for the each learning objective. After gathering materials, an expert on the subject would work with the material and make appropriate decisions for the course.

Of course, there would be times when the available resources did not completely cover the learning objects of the given course. When this happened, UMUC turned to different resources. One was that the university used a proprietary database that the library subscribes to. In other cases, repurposed material was used.  At other times, there was no choice but to license content, like a novel, for certain classes.

Once the content was collected, it was put through an approval process that addressed copyright and accessibility issues. In the simplest case, the librarians would establish whether the material could be downloaded and used in the course. The last phase of this process was to “package” the content so that it would be a smooth learning experience for the students. While textbooks do a great job of providing just the right amount of information for each lesson or unit, that isn’t the case for resources coming form multiple places. In the end, the fix was placing all the information in a database for a week-to-week lesson plan.

The greatest reward of the switch was that the student’s learning improved. As the courses were taught with the new resources, feedback came in, and the content would be changed. And when new material came in for a course, they could be changed quickly and could be incorporated into the next lesson of a class.

The rewards of switching to this “no-textbook-on-campus” way of teaching was that the students were able to link with the content more and be in a more dynamic learning environment. Even if this way of education requires more work, it opens up new opportunities and helps students achieve more in their studies.

For more information, please visit the article here

Smartphones and Mobile Payment To Be Top Malware Targets in 2016

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Students and smartphones come hand-in-hand. Usually, some level of computer literacy also comes along. But what is frequently absent is security skills- the ability to tell what downloads are safe, what sources can be trusted, and the knowledge of how to use the tools that are developed to provide a second line of defense against security intrusions. Malware developers know this, and a recent report says that they’ll target smartphones and related technologies more than ever in 2016. On compromised phones, criminals may even be able to get access to mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.

On Android phones, these threats are becoming more sophisticated (new malware may gain root access to the device, making them immune to virus removal software), but the way they get onto the system remains the same. Users should make sure to keep the “Install Software from Unknown Sources” setting unchecked except for when specifically installing software from outside the Google Play Store. Additionally, users should make sure that these outside sources are trustworthy before installing anything from those sources.

In addition, students should be aware that extra devices that they use carry extra security risks. Internet-connected devices of all kinds confer ways that personal information can be stolen, or methods for hackers to gain access to other devices. And as the Internet of Things develops, these methods of intrusion will only become more prominent.

For more information on this topic visit the article here.

Sharing a New Way to Collaborate and Communicate

Wayne State University has developed a social networking platform, Academia, for users to better collaborate and communicate. It is designed from the ground up to work on any mobile device.

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Academia operates through “streams” which act like Facebook walls or Twitter hashtags. These streams can be created and followed by anyone, according to their permission levels. As an example, users could create a stream for a specific club and invite people to subscribe to it. Due to its successful launch, Wayne State is looking to expand Academia to other campuses.

Over the summer of 2015, Wayne State transitioned over from the old portal Academia. As they expected, there were growing pains, however there was great user acceptance and good performance. They initially created a feedback stream where users could post any problems they ran into, and had to a team to fix and respond to those users’ problems.

The director of academic and core applications, Rob Thompson, mentioned that the platform showed its significant impact when it was used for new student orientation. It allowed students who haven’t even started classes yet to connect with each other and share their interests or thoughts.

The Merit Network plans on expanding this across many other campuses. Some universities they have visited have already shown their interested in the platform.

For more info, visit the article here.