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Making Lectures More Interactive

Bruce Hay, a biology teacher at the California Institute of Technology, has recently come up with a way to integrate more participation into his classroom and, as a result, seen an increase in the average grades of his students.

He started using an app called SKIES (Su-Kam Intelligent Education Systems) that allows students to create an interconnected web of knowledge about a topic that a professor is teaching. Hay states that “if you don’t have participation, then you’re not getting any feedback on what students are learning…It’s just a half an hour monologue without really knowing that you’re getting through to anyone.” He also explains that it is important that the students become more interactive instead of a passive audience.


Instructors and students are able to post class materials that are linked together, becoming a “class tree” (Credit: Campus Technology)


Anyone can use the app – university students and professors, or K-12 students and teachers. The material that students can post on SKIES can range from text, pictures, drawings, audio clips, links or videos. This also lets students learn from each other rather than just the teacher being the sole source of knowledge in the class.

While Hay is lecturing in his classroom, you will be able to see yellow bubbles pop up on the powerpoint he is presenting behind him. Those bubbles are the questions and comments that students are leaving on the app. Students are also able to thumbs up or thumbs down slides; green slides will have a thumbs up, while red slides have a thumbs down. Hay will be able to see which slides students were able to grasp versus which might have been confusing. Some instructors worry, however, that students who post things onto the app during a live lecture will become distracted. Some professors then ask that the students post only after the lecture, as students already seem to be multitasking enough during class.

More information on this topic can be found on the main article here.

The Future of Flashcards

Read, understand, memorize, and repeat. This is a phrase that college students know all too well. For those courses riddled with vocabulary, scientific terms and of course foreign languages the memorizing can be daunting. Flashcards have been a widely used solution for years now and with the age of apps it has now become a tool that can cut down on stacks of index cards and keeping them all organized.


Quizlet is both a web-based and phone-based application that gives the user the power to create flash cards and organize them in any way they please. What sets Quizlet apart is that it actually functions mostly as an online learning tool, and it was created by high school sophomore Andrew Sutherland in Albany, California. As a memorization tool, Quizlet lets registered users create “sets” of terms customized for their own needs. These sets of terms can then be studied under several study modes. Quizlet recently added the ability to listen to content using text-to-speech. This is handy for those foreign language classes as well as those words you just can’t pronounce. Quizlet has over 60 million user-generated flashcard sets and more than 20 million registered users. Registered users also have access to flashcards created and shared by other users in case there subject of study is more common. It is a great online study tool that is virtually accessible anywhere. The tool is free to use and registration is free as well, but there is an optional $14.99 yearly membership you can pay for that adds additional features such as the ability to add images to your flashcards, and removes advertisements.

This tool is available on the web at Quizlet.com and on both the Apple store and Play store as a free application. It is highly recommended by students and is definitely a tool worth checking out.

5 Lessons Worth Learning About E-Portfolios


The University of Alaska discusses their recommendations to effectively implement electronic portfolios to gain success from students and faculty through 5 main steps:

1) Promote from the Bottom Up

The university’s faculty senate decided to take a more “grassroots approach” and slowly introduce the portfolios to the campus instead of making it mandatory. They worked on gathering appropriate resources for two years to support the eportfolio. Furthermore, they discussed this idea with the provost office and student government.

2) Dedicate a Team

There needs to be a proper team to manage the work of the eportfolios, and it needs to not be seen as just an IT or faculty development project. The team would need to both do the mundane activities, such as fitting the portfolio to an IT architecture, as well as the essential tasks such as creating a focal point where conversations can begin, be fostered, and then matured. Paul Wasko, an eportfolio initiative coordinator, and Heather Caldwell, an eportfolio strategist, worked with students and faculty to integrate them to the curriculum, courses, and created workshops for them. There would also need to be a team of student coaches to help out professors and students.

3) Master the art of the RFP

The university had to go through a request for proposal (RFP) process that required them to propose to several vendors. They chose the company Digication because they responded in the best terms by addressing every one of the requirements. They were also the cheapest option for them.

4) Hire vendor as the team player

Digication CEO Jeffrey Yan and President Kelly Driscoll participate in advisory committee meetings to “bring examples and understanding of how their tool worked in other universities”. The university was looking for a partnership with the vendor, not a relationship.

5) Identify new uses in unexpected areas

The university is experimenting with the functionality of the portfolio in order to further expand it. One example is Caldwell asking some faculty to use Digication to submit their PMT files. They are also trying to eliminate paper forms as much as they can by digitizing forms like peer reviews. The university is trying to fully integrate eportfolios into the school system, and one way they are advertising it is through student orientations.

For more information on this topic, visit the article here


WolframAlpha is a website that assists people with solving math problems that range from simple addition to calculus and beyond. Not only is this website programmed to solve almost any question, it also does it fast. If you subscribe to WolframAlpha Pro, you can get step-by-step solutions to any problem that you want computed. However, this comes with a fee of $6.00 a month, but if you are a student it is only $4.75 per month. Although WolframAlpha is a wonderful solver and can help student’s double check answers, it won’t help students learn what mistakes they had done without the step-by-step solutions.

However, WolframAlpha also has a mobile app for users of Apple, Android, Kindle and Windows devices. This app costs a one-time payment of $2.99. It also has the step-by-step solutions options integrated into the app already. This is a wonderful and quick resource that students can use to make sure their answers are correct and to see how to solve the problem as well. It is also a much cheaper option for students then the web WolframAlpha Pro subscription.

This app has a wide array of features. When typing in your math problem, there are double keyboards on top of each other to allow users to easily choose different symbols in addition to normal letter characters. It also has an option for people to input images to be analyzed for an additional price of $0.99.

WolframAlpha is not only used for math but also a wide arrange of other topics as well. On the app, there is a side bar option that takes you to the different types of solvers they provide. Examples such as: people & history, culture & media, art & design, Physics, chemistry and many others.

It also has a feature that remembers all your different inquiries that you typed in the solver. This is a perfect for students that want to go back and understand how to do a problem that they needed to be solved before.

Overall, WolframAlpha is not only an app that should be utilized by people in math or science based courses but also history and many other topics as well. It is a well-rounded app that can be utilized by anyone.


Visit the link above for more information about WolframAlpha.

Open Source Resources on Demand

The Campus Computing Survey began in 1990, and it is the largest study that analyzes information technology in American higher education. This year’s survey results were released during the Educause Annual Conference, where top ed-tech officials gather to discuss what’s changed in higher education IT. This year’s survey includes responses from IT leaders at 417 two and four year institutions.

It’s no secret expensive textbooks are not so popular, especially with college students. Kenneth C. Green, the founder of the survey shared that there is a lot of anger surrounding expensive textbooks. Now Open Educational Resources (OER) are starting to look like a viable alternative to expensive textbooks. In 2014, 30.8% of faculty members from public universities responded that they were encouraged by their institutions to use open-source content in their courses. In this year’s survey 42.1% of faculty members from public universities reported that their institutions encouraged faculty members to use open educational resources in their courses.

Although the OER movement is still young, the survey found that IT leaders’ number 1 priority is to help faculty members integrate information technology into their teaching. From the survey 81% of top technology officers at colleges believe that open educational resources will be an important source for instructional material in the next five years.


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