I own a total of four video cameras, but lately I haven’t used any of them. I’ve fallen victim to the old adage, the best camera is the one you have with you. And that camera just happens to be my cell phone. Clearly my other video cameras are better than my cellphone, so it would seem. I have a Canon Rebel T1i that shoots HD video, a Panasonic HDC-SD5 that shoots 1920×1080 HD, a Flip camera (remember those), and a Contour Roam helmet cam that also shoots in full HD. I have all of these great cameras and I can’t even remember the last time I shot video with any of them. Yet everyday, I shoot video and take pictures. Yep, I use my Samsung Galaxy SIII cellphone. It’s my stand alone camera these days. But it can’t be as good as the full HD I can shoot with the others, right? Wrong. It’s awesome.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 cellphone has a 8 megapixel camera that shoots full 1080p HD video. Many cellphones these days do, so you don’t really need to carry around a “real” camcorder anymore unless you are a “real” movie maker. So as proof of concept, I set out on a mission to create a video advertisement for our upcoming technology conference. My goal was to use only my cellphone and a web app to edit the video. No complicated expensive software allowed. I figured if I could make something useful, why couldn’t our students. They all have cellphones and there’s no cost after that. Here’s what I did… Read more
I can’t remember when I first started using SoftChalk, but it seems like it’s been about 10 years. That’s how long the company has been around (since 2002). I’ve been using the tool to help create interactive lessons for my online and hybrid courses. We’ve had it available to us (Maricopa) for quite a while now, but when our current contract expired, we decided we needed to go out for RFP to make sure we were using the best product and paying the best price. I’d never thought much about it until I realized there might be a possibility of having to use something else. But when I express my concerns to my colleagues, all I ever get in response is: “What is SoftChalk?”
Well, that’s part of the problem, not enough faculty know the answer to that question. So the few of us who do know, may suffer the consequences. There will always be a need for an interactive lesson builder, and I vote that we keep what we already know. However, if there is something else out there that will blow me away without causing me stress learning how to use it, I’d be open to that too. In the mean time, here’s hoping others in the district find this video interesting enough to start using Softchalk while we await the verdict.
I’ve been sharing with my students this semester that they can use apps on their smartphone to help them stay connected with their courses in Canvas. These are the links to the apps:
All you need is your MEID and password to get it set up. The course URL you need to set it up is: maricopa.instructure.com. I’ve tried it both on my iTouch and my Android phone. It works pretty good for checking in on the courses. I also shared with them the apps for Piazza since we’ll be using that too.
Then there are browsers. So what’s the best browser to use with Canvas? I’d say Firefox. I’ve been telling students to download and install Mozilla Firefox. I warn them if they decide to use Google Chrome, they will need to give permission to view some content, like some videos. If you only see a black box or don’t see a video that is supposed to be there, you must be using the Chrome browser. For all flash content you have to give it permission in Chrome. Just click the shield up in the address box and choose Load anyway –>
I end by telling them to please stay away from Internet Explorer, although that’s a hold over warning from when we used Blackboard. I might just have to give IE 8, or whatever number they’re up to, a try.
What is everyone waiting for? Just about every students who walks through your classroom door is carrying a powerful computer in his/her pocket. We need to start using them and stop just talking about mobile learning. And we don’t have to make it all fit in the classroom. Put those phones to use outside the classroom too. I’ve surveyed my students for the last 3 years and look at how many have cell phones. Only 1% (3 students) didn’t have one.
Ninety-one percent of my students have text messaging on their phones and indicated that I may contact them via text with important information. Yet, I didn’t take advantage of that. No, I haven’t sent one important information text message to my students in 3 years. However, they’ve undoubtedly received text messages in regards to my classes. How is that you may ask. Well, let me tell you. Many of the educational tools many of us use today, including our LMS have built in tools that allow for students to set up text alerts. For instance in Canvas, students have the option to add their phone number to receive SMS notifications. And in Canvas there are a ton of notifications that can be set up. We just have to tell them about it and encourage them to use it. Read more
Last week I posted about podcasting in the classroom using your mobile device and a really cool website called Soundcloud. You can read that post here. At the time, I couldn’t figure out where to find the RSS feed for my Soundcloud account, so I couldn’t finish the post by explaining how to make the audio posts a podcast. I just embedded the audio instead. I then took to the internet to find out how to find or get my RSS feed for Soundcloud. Turns out the podcasting feature in Souncloud is in beta, so you have to apply to take part in the program. Read more about applying and podcasting with Souncloud here.
So I applied and then Tweeted that I applied and was waiting to hopefully be able to podcast with my Soundcloud account soon. Within a few minutes I got this tweet from @SCsupport. I replied with the information and was approved right away. When I logged in to my account later that day, I could see the RSS feed icon on my profile page and my account was now ready to be a podcast.
The video below continues where I left off last time and explains how to create the podcast using this new RSS feed and the RSS feed built into Canvas. There were a few hiccups, but all in all it is a workable way to create audio on the fly with your mobile device and then quickly get it posted to your announcements in Canvas via the podcast feed. Have a look, and happy podcasting.
Whether you’re teaching online, hybrid or traditional face to face, there is always a need to communicate with your students. That communication doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. “What kind of mic do I need? What editing program do you recommend? How do I compress the files? Can I upload media to my LMS?” These are all good questions, but it’s really not necessary to worry about these things. If you have a smart phone and a Soundcloud account, you’re ready to go. Below I walk you through the process of recording a podcast on your mobile device, where you can do a minimal amount of editing, and then embed the podcast right into a Canvas announcement.
So many of you might ask, why wouldn’t you just record audio using the built in tools in Canvas? That’s a good question. Sometimes I do, but those files are not high quality and I don’t have control over them. They’re posted where ever I create them in Canvas, but it’s either not possible or difficult to reuse those files. I have control over my Soundcloud files and they are higher quality. Also, there is one step I neglected to share with you – the ability to Add External Feed in Canvas. You can then add your SoundCloud feed directly to your Announcements in Canvas and skip the embed step. That means you can post a podcast using only your mobile phone. I haven’t tested this step yet, but when I do, I’ll let you know how it works.
Creating the Video
What I used to create the video: I used my Samsung Galaxy SIII mounted in the Case Star Octopus Tripod Stand, the Soundcloud app, the iPevo Point to View USB Camera to record the video of my phone, and Jing to record the computer screen.
Workshop: Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the CTLE in HT2-139
Lunch and Learn with Dr. Alisa Cooper: Engage Your Students with Mobile Devices. 11:00 am to Noon.
This workshop discussed mobile apps that can be used to engage students in the classroom, although all three web apps demonstrated can be accessed via web browser on a mobile device. Both Socrative and Piazza have native apps for both Android and Apple devices, but GoSoapBox can only be accessed on mobile devices via web browser. This method can actually be easier and quicker for students as they don’t have to download the app first to get started using the program.
During the demonstration we noticed that Socrative was problematic for some users and was overall very sluggish and slow to load pages on the mobile devices. Socrative is currently free and probably still working to polish its product before they move to a paid model. At this point, despite it’s clear usefulness, it may not be ready for prime time. It is worth giving a look at for use in the class however. Just don’t rely too heavily on it just yet. I’ve had trouble every time I use it.
GoSoapBox, a $90 per year paid for applicatoin, worked flawlessly. I guess it’s true. You get what you pay for. They have an alternate pay model where students can pay $10 per year for use instead of the teacher paying $90. Many institution will not find that model permissible at their institutions. For the most part, the features in both apps are similar, with GoSoapBox adding a “confusion barometer” in their app. “The Confusion Barometer allows students to indicate when they’ve become confused with material, or need the teacher to slow down. The teacher sees a graphical representation of the number of students who are confused at any point during class.”
There are some more subtle differences between Socrative and GoSoapBox, but both will do the job to get students engaged in your in-class lectures. I really like the ability to do “Instant Polling” in both applications. This gives you the ability to randomly ask a question verbally during class and have students answer on the device without you setting up the question in the program. You can write the question on the board or just speak it aloud, then give students an option to choose A, B, C or D or a free response answer on their device. This is great for questions that pop up last minute. My favorite feature out of both products is Socrative’s “Exit Tickets”. “Check in on your students’ understanding as they head out the door.” This pre-designed activity is already set up, so you can just instruct students to do it before they leave.
Lastly, I demo’d Piazza, a Q&A system that integrates nicely with Canvas. If you teach a class that could benefit from a place for students to hangout and ask questions and work together, Piazza is your application. Or if you find yourself saying, “if I have to answer that question one more time, I’m going to scream,” then Piazza if for you. Again this application works on a mobile device via app, but even better in a web browser. The mobile device does make it much easier to keep up with all the interaction happening on the site however. My class is not as active this semester, so once I get more use out of it, I’ll have report back about some of my favorite features. Until then take a look at all three applications below and play around with them for yourself. GoSoapBox offers a 30 day free trial and the other two are free (for now).
GoSoapBox: Instant Student Feedback App
The web-based application GoSoapBox allows teachers to gauge student understanding or confusion levels throughout a lesson, poll students and track the data for future reference. It can be used on laptops, tablets and smart phones, which sets it apart from some other clicker/student response systems. $90 per year or $10 per student per year. 30 day free trial.
Socrative: Student Response System
Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. FREE
- Video: http://vimeo.com/socrative/intro
- Socrative: http://socrative.com/
- Tour: http://www.socrative.com/how-it-works
- No Help
Piazza: Online Q&A Site for Courses
Piazza is a free online gathering place where students can ask, answer, and explore 24/7, under the guidance of their instructors. With Piazza, easily answer questions, manage course materials, and track student participation. FREE
- Video: On main page of site (no link)
- Piazza: https://piazza.com/
- Tour: https://piazza.com/sandbox/warm?close=fancy#
- Help: https://piazza.com/help.html
- PollEverywhere is another similar application to GoSoapBox and Socrative; however, until recently their pricing model was a bit steep for individual instructors, the number of students permitted to participate was too small, and there wasn’t a mobile option for the instructor, only responses. That has since changed a bit, and I look forward to checking it out again in the future. Check out PollEverywhere’s limited comparison of similar products.
I’ve been playing with a few new tech tools as of late, so I thought I might share a few with you today. I should be grading, but I just can’t get myself to read another paper. Each of the tools have great mobile apps as well, which is why I found them interesting.
I’m really liking teaching with Google+ although my students are just using it as a blog. We’re not making them do much else, but I can see the possibilities, and they like commenting on each others posts without any prodding from us. It’s a learning community – team taught with a reading teacher. Good stuff. Anyway, I like that SlideShare has made it possible to share presentations in a hangout. Google+ is really getting good. I have lots of ideas of how I could use this. Speaking of online presentations, check out MyBrainshark. This tool makes it easier to add voice over to your PPT slides and other features for that matter, and it works on iOS and Android devices.
The next one is Piazza. Piazza is a question-and-answer platform designed to get students great answers from classmates and instructors fast. Here is a list of key features. Ask questions on Piazza rather than emailing the teacher so everyone can benefit from a response. Every question has a single Students’ Response that students can edit collectively (and a single Instructors’ Response for instructors). If the Students’ and Instructors’ Responses aren’t clear, ask a Followup below the responses. You can comment on Followups, too, or start a new Followup thread for a different topic. Shy about asking a question? Select an “Anonymous” option before you post. Tag your posts so classmates can easily filter questions of the same topic. Type a “#” before a key word to tag. Surround code with HTML pre-formatting tags and LaTex blocks with “$$”. This is a great tool to handle questions in courses.
The last one is StudyBlue. Make, share and compare online flashcards and notes for free with StudyBlue. Bah, sounds boring, but it’s actually kind of cool. You can add audio and pictures to your cards and you can share them with a class. It integrates well with your mobile device and sends reminders when it’s time to study.
While answering a tech question earlier in the week, I discovered an existing app on my Android phone that allows me to send one text message to a group of people, students in this case. You can read, Tech Question of the Week: Group Texting here. The app was Go SMS Pro. We ran into a slight problem in the testing phase. The new question now is “how do I send a message “from” my Google Voice number in Go SMS. I never considered this because I’m always replying back to students. I never initiate the text, and there is no issue with that. So before I answer that question, first a bit more information about Go SMS and Google Voice. Essentially the way Go SMS works is you use it in place of your stock sms program, and it will handle any and all sms/mms messages coming into your phone. It will take messages from your regular cell phone number and from your Google Voice number and put them in the Go SMS program. When you send a message out from Go SMS, it uses the numbers you have in your existing address book and sends from your regular cell phone number. There is no obvious way to send it from a Google Voice number. However, the way that Google Voice works actually eliminates this problem. Here’s an explanation from Whitson Gordon at Lifehacker.
The number from which you received that text is the number through which Google Voice routes communication with that contact. We’ll call it their “alternate number”. If you text this number back, they’ll receive that text on their phone—and it will have come from your Google Voice number instead of your phone’s number. Add that number to your contacts as “Mobile 2” (or something similar) for that person. That way, when they send a text to your [Google] Voice number, you’ll be able to see that it’s from them, and not from some number you don’t know.
So what that means is that the way Google Voice works is it creates a new 406 or 976 number for everyone who calls or texts you (I’ve actually seen other numbers used as well). This 406 or 976 number replaces their real phone number. So if I text you a message to your GV number. Pretend my cellphone number is 1-(555) 123-4567. When GV forwards the text to your cellphone, it will seem as if it is coming from 1-(406) 123-4567 or 1-(976) 123-4567. This 406 (or) 976 number will be linked to my phone number 1-(555) 123-4567. So each time you call or text that number (from a cellphone attached to your GV), it will show as if the call is coming from your GV number.
Walla! There’s the answer. Okay, it’s not that easy, but what that means is you have to have ALL your students text your first before you can add them to a group and send a group text message to them. That really sucks, but it’s not impossible. It’s actually a good way to allow students to opt into receiving text messages from you. Here’s what you can do. Email or print out a message to all of your students telling them to opt into receiving text messages by sending you a text to (602) XXX-XXXX (Your GV number). Tell them to text something like: “Add Angela Jones to text reminders please” or just their name would work. Then go into Google Voice online and add all of the new text messages to your contacts list, and create a group at the same time. This is very easy to do on the website. Make sure you add the GV number and not their real number, as you will be able to see both. You will be able to tell which is which because the GV number will be a weird combination or the 403 or 976.
So there you go. This would work great in a face to face class because you can have them all text you right there at the same time, and all those messages will be grouped together in your inbox when you go to add them. And I highly recommend adding names to the numbers in your contacts. I didn’t do that this semester it’s hard getting texts from students when you don’t know who it is. I’ll never skip that step again.