Category Archives: Weekly Writing

Final Lesson Plan and Defense Paper

This lesson has been through an extensive process this quarter. It started out with an outline of a face-to-face course I teach. This course has never been taught through distance education and distance ed was never in our thought process while designing this course. So at the beginning of the quarter I had a course outline. Many of the assignments and discussions are done in class so they aren’t articulated in the same way as they would in distance education. Also, this course has been taught in the traditional lecture and written assignment format. Going through this process with the course and learning about pedagogy and meaningful assessment this quarter, I will no longer teach this course in that format.

Defense Paper:

The lesson I designed for this course engages students in Lummi history. The overall goal of the lesson is to familiarize students with inherent knowledge that has been passed down through the generations in our community. This knowledge is thousands of years old. And our students have a right to learn this knowledge today. At the time of creation the Creator, X’als gifted these knowledges to our people with the understanding that our people would protect this knowledge. This teaching creates an inherent responsibility to this knowledge and that changes methodology in teaching. Most history courses provide large amounts of information throughout a period in time. This particular course has that same goal but it also comes with this responsibility. Students attending Northwest Indian College are predominantly non-traditional tribal students. But over the recent years, we’ve seen more and more younger students coming straight out of high school. After conducting a visioning process in our community from multiple groups of people and talking with our elders, it was apparent there was something missing in the way our leaders conduct business and make decisions. They were missing that key foundational knowledge about their history and homeland. The history and connection to homeland is essential to understanding why we protect these things. This class will give students that background knowledge and hopefully instill a sense of responsibility to their community.

The lesson described provides students with building blocks that will assist them in their final research project. Throughout this lesson, students will be introduced to inherent rights and how inherent rights are present in all aspects of Coast Salish culture. All of these lessons will contribute to the final research project that will be described in the critical inquiry stage of the assessment process. The course is designed to ensure students begin to see how inherent rights are present throughout the culture and see specific examples. The first unit of this lesson is about Creation. The students will be introduced to inherent rights with a video from a Coast Salish elder. And once they are introduced to inherent rights, they will read a creation story and try to identify inherent rights in the oral history. Each of these units asks the students similar questions. Once they begin their research at the end of the lesson, they will be required to talk with family members about their family history. Through this process students will have the ability to identify inherent rights in their own family history.

This lesson takes a formative assessment approach. This is process includes three stages that follow a circular process. The first stage is domain knowledge, this stage is built into the curriculum through the PowerPoint, Prezi, videos, and readings presented to students. All of these resources will provide students with the knowledge they need to move to the next stage. The next stage is critical inquiry and this is predominantly student-led. In this stage it is expected that students will take what they’ve learned in these units and apply them to their life. The final product of this unit is a research project that students will present at a community event. The instructor will give the students a description of the research project. And the instructor will give guidance as needed throughout the unit. But this research project is student-led. Students will be expected to research their family history by conducting interviews with family members. The students will also be required to describe inherent rights from their perspective giving examples from the Coast Salish culture. Then students will make a connection to inherent rights and their own family lineage. At the end of the critical inquiry stage students will have a product. And students will be expected to present their research at a community event. But the instructor will not just send them out to the community without working with them on their presentations. The students will first present their research in class to the instructor. The instructor will give them feedback and ask questions prompting further exploration into their research. The students will revise and present again. Once this process is complete the students will present to the community. This presentation cycle is the third stage of the formative assessment process. The faculty will assess student learning by asking if the feedback and questions influenced the student’s behavior. Did the student show a deeper understanding or growth from their first presentation to their second? The instructor will provide narrative feedback to the students with their feedback and the instructor’s observations for both presentations. That way the student can also see his or her own growth and understanding.

Lesson Plan:


ED655 Unit Lesson Plan

Thank you for the feedback everyone. I’ll try to figure out what is going on with my WordPress site. I don’t remember how to get in there to edit. I would like to add this lesson to that site as soon as I’m able to access it.


Emerging Tools

I chose to examine the emerging tools Moodle, Prezi, and VoiceThread. These tools are a great resource for students and instructors.

I started by examining Moodle. I was unsuccessful in downloading the software needed to create a course. So that link will not be in this post.

The first page I reviewed on the webpage was the Course Homepage:

This page gave step-by-step instructions on how to create a course on Moodle. It also had YouTube videos for How to lay out a course, and What is considered a course.

The links are here:

These videos were helpful and started the learning process from the very beginning. As I stated above, in order to create anything on Moodle I needed to download the program and all the necessary software. This process did not work and I ended up at a dead end. But from prior experience with using Moodle I can say it is fairly easy to use. But instructors have to pay attention to the organization of the course. Each heading that describes where to find Assignments, Resources, Discussions, ect. all have to be inserted into the course. I’ve enrolled in courses as a student in Moodle where instructors just dump all the course resources into weeks but there is no instruction or organization to the course.

The next tool I reviewed was Prezi. Creating a prezi presentation only requires the user to have an account. There are options for different types of accounts. There is a free account but there is no security to these accounts. So all work that is created under a free account can be searched and viewed by the public. I created a Prezi presentation from one of my course powerpoints about traditional villages. The PowerPoint was already created and all I had to do was download the slides from powerpoint to Prezi. From there I was able to drag and drop the slides to the Prezi slides. There are presentations that are already created and all the user needs to do is upload their information to these designs. I chose to create my own design. So I found a picture online and uploaded that as the background to my presentation. This process took a few hours. I think it would have taken longer if the Original Territory presentation wasn’t already created. One interesting and user friendly tool that Prezi has the snapping tool. This tool aligns all of the slides to ensure they are all the same size and aligned with each other. It just makes the presentation look nicer. Another user friendly tool is the autosave tool. Once a change is made to the presentation, Prezi autosaves the changes. That way there is no issues with a student’s presentation disappearing. Here is the link to my presentation:

I also reviewed VoiceThread. VoiceThread is another presentation tool that can be used by students or instructors. Again, I used the Original Territory presentation and created a VoiceThread. This program required the user to have an account. This account can be a student account or instructor account. The instructor account is $99/year and will allow for the instructor to have up to 50 students licensed under this account. If the instructor needs additional licenses, they can purchase them. My account is through another course at UAF and I don’t know if I was technically allowed to create a VoiceThread for another course beside that one. So I may delete this presentation after a few days. There are layers to the process of creating a VoiceThread. These layers were not described to me when I created my first VoiceThread for my other class. I had to figure all of this out on my own. So if VoiceThread is used for lower-division students, these layers should be described at some point to the class. The first step is preparing a PowerPoint. This step is pretty self-explanatory and most students already know how to use PowerPoint. The second step is to figure out to some extend what you are going to say about that slide. I usually script my VoiceThreads. Then you upload the PowerPoint to VoiceThread and record a description for each slide. Overall it is fairly easy to use, but I think students need some direction if they are going to be required to use this software. Here is the link to my VoiceThread:

Unit (Completed!)

Here is my unit.

I tried to incorporate feedback as best I could so it’s changed quite a bit! You can navigate through it from the start or through drop-down menus like we do here. I wasn’t able to incorporate everyone’s feedback 100% – especially on that multimedia thing, because that’s really a very large part of the future of the course outside of this unit, but I did try to get everyone’s feedback and was very appreciative of the in-depth comments! There is some multimedia at the end but it’s not a huge part…at the end of the class students will be doing that in big projects.

Defense Paper

This unit, consisting of 4 lessons, is the first of a 3 part student leadership series.   Students are primarily non-traditional college students with a wide variety of college readiness skills ranging from multiple high-risk factors to being sophisticated learners.   Participation is voluntary with no credit or grade associated with completion.   The unit is intended to be open-entry with 1 – 10 students entering and proceeding at their own pace over the course of a 15 week semester. Both the voluntary and open-entry aspects of this unit present pedagogical challenges.

Motivation generally created by earning credit and grades was absent due to the voluntary nature of the course, requiring alternate motivational strategy. The need was met by incorporating aspects from the motivational theories of flow and self-determination.

Consistent with flow theory, as described by Gutierrez (2014), I made a particular effort to state clear objectives with each lesson and ensure presentation of instruction, task, and deliverables are consistent between lessons and free of extraneous ‘noise’ so students can quickly identify the tasks and assignments for each lesson.   With a heavy reliance on triggering intrinsic motivation, the unit begins with having the student identify things they are good at. This strategy meets Deci and Ryan’s self determination theory (SDT) component of competence.   The unit concludes by giving students the autonomy to choose their own project.

Assessment for this unit is based on student self-reflection on the learning process as evidenced in journal entries and concept maps. Students are asked to interact with the content and then reflect on the learning process and their personal values in relation to the content.   Journal entry prompts ask students to think critically about social issues as interpreted through the lens of their own values.

As an open entry opportunity, there will be no student cohort to interact with.   Students are asked to converse with friends and family in this unit and will need to begin interviews with social service agencies in the next unit.   Feedback at this point is instructor based and conversational in tone, provided in written form.   Feedback can come at the end of each lesson, but I predict more opportunities for questions and feedback to arise during the unit.   Because of the individualized and very personal nature of the feedback, I am counting on it to be relationship building, providing relatedness, the third leg of SDT.

The unit also draws on both cognitive and constructivist learning theory.   Students are asked to participate directly in a guided self assessment and make meaning (cognitive theory) of the results by seeking the impressions of people that know them well. They are introduced to the topic of social change first by definition, then by real life example and then once competence is built, by analyzing current services and creating plans for new programs that they will execute in the next lesson.   As they develop the knowledge and skills they interact on deeper and more individual levels with the content (constructivist).

Ultimately, I hope the combination of early success, supportive and relationship building feedback and autonomy in project choice will keep students engaged and moving forward in the process.


Gutierrez, K. (2014). Designing for motivation: Three theories eCampus designers can use. Retrieved from

Tool Reviews (All Three)

Figured I’d put these in one place since it can sometimes be difficult to find things if there’s lots of recent posts. Gets pretty long that way but it’s easier to find.

First up is Mango Languages. I don’t have a product that I made with this service because it doesn’t really produce visible products.

First and foremost, Mango Languages is free, but it’s not an online tool in the sense that I thought it was. I’m really used to DuoLingo and YoyoChinese and ChineseSkill being totally isolated digital tools, but Mango Languages surprisingly directed me to my local library’s website. Instead of being offered exclusively through the Mango website, it took me to the FNSB public library site’s home page with no indication of how to even find what I was looking for! Unable to find anything relating to  this service on the library site, I found out that Mango Languages has a mobile app so I’ll be reviewing that, but I think Mango is losing out here on “ease of availability.” Consider that a major barrier to entry – even the mobile app seems to want you to go through your local library. If your local library doesn’t have a subscription, you’re boned. What an archaic business model.

I worked through some of Mango’s Mandarin Chinese lessons since that’s what I’m most familiar with. Languages are divided up into really broad “topics” – here it’s Conversation, Chinese Zodiac, and Feng Shui, which is weird, but I went through all of Feng Shui. I also looked through the start of Conversational Chinese and followed it for a while just to make sure I was giving the app a fair and thorough testing of a single language.

The verdict: if you’re new to a language, this probably isn’t the app for you. I think at higher levels in education it would be a good tool for intermediate or advanced learners. Nowhere that I could find does the app go over the importance of tones – it’s mentioned, but not taught. If you can’t distinguish the basic tones in Mandarin you’ll never have a conversation, no matter how good your vocab is. There’s also nothing about grammar and syntax. There are little “grammar notes” here and there which are useless without an understanding of how a language is ordered.  The app is all about mimicking sentences and breaking them down word by word without any explanation as to what the order means, why it’s in that order, or why similar words mean different things in Chinese. If you don’t know, similar words in Chinese may sound exactly the same to an outside speaker, but with different tones in the vowels, so if you can’t distinguish between the four tones you can have some embarrassing or funny slip ups (草泥马 is everybody’s favorite but there are a LOT of weird ones). Every decent language learning tool I’ve ever seen has started its Mandarin or Cantonese lessons with an overview of the tones and how context determines meaning more than literal word choices, and this does not. Chinese is all contextual so these things are important.The pinyin writing system, which the app uses, indicates tones, but the app never describes what pinyin is or what the marks above the vowels mean.  If the grammar is this lacking here, in a language with similar syntax order as English (SVO), then I imagine it’s really a pain for other languages with major order differences (Romance languages).

That said, there’s an option to record yourself saying a word, which is actually really awesome, and you can listen to it and play it at the same time as a recording of a (native?) speaker saying the same word so you can compare your pronunciation. That doesn’t do much if you don’t understand the tones, but it’s still really cool. I wish all languages apps gave you recording tools. It’s still just asking you to parrot sentences, but it’s the most effective way to parrot sentences, I guess. The layout of the app is actually quite nice, even if it’s kind of unresponsive. It’s simple and sparse but that’s what you want in a language app – the ability to navigate unhindered.

I think I will probably keep the app on my phone. You have to download lessons and they are pretty big, but I imagine since I already have an understanding of the building blocks of  Mandarin, this app will be good to pick up on a lot of little things I might miss otherwise. Mostly it looks like small talk. Were I teaching a language I would recommend this to students who had already been studying for, say, at least a year in school. It’d be useful for picking up and mimicking new sentences, but not for learning a language from scratch. It’d be useless for that – in a tonal language where context matters, or a Romance language where conjugation matters, you might do more damage than good.


Next up is Quick Rubric. Making Rubrics can sometimes be a real pain because tables in Microsoft Word / Pages / Google Docs aren’t always easy to work with.

I really like this. It offers up an incredibly easy to use interface. I used it to recreate a rubric I’ve taught with in the past and managed to get the entire rubric made very quickly, not counting typing type. The interface is incredibly simple and lets you create rubrics in sort of a drag and drop / add your own template. There’s not really much to say because the website is very easy to use and very attractive. It works well on mobile, also. I was using and Android and was able to login and make a rubric just as easy as on a computer, typing obviously notwithstanding. I always think of rubrics as being one of the biggest pains in the butt in the world of practical education. Re sizing tables in MS Word and trying to make sure everything fits without a table breaking weirdly is infuriating, but this tool really fixes all of that. Be able to scale the score how you like is awesome too. Sometimes rubrics are weird when you have a scale (out of 30 here) but REALLY it’s worth 100 points in the gradebook. This scales automatically for you, you just click it up or down.

There’s no way to swap the x and y axes though, which is weird, because in larger rubrics like the Six Traits one I made, it’s sometimes easier to have the rubric horizontal with the scores going from top to bottom instead of from left to right. Having it start at the highest score instead of the lowest is a little weird too, but not disorienting. There are also no text editing options, which I would like. No way to bold or italicize or use bullets, as far as I can tell.

You can see my rubric here:


It comes out easy to read / formatted nicely and can be shared with just a URL. Far as I can tell you don’t need an account to view other people’s rubrics so there’s some cool potential there for being able to swap advanced rubrics back and forth with other teachers. That’s always nice. Much as I love Google Drive, it’s not always as fast and easy and flawless as it needs to be.

The biggest drawback is with the printing. I don’t own a printer but I did try to print it to see what it looks like, and there’s a huge logo at the top of the screen. Because it’s in portrait orientation instead of landscape, it doesn’t all fit on one page. The URL being listed is distracting and gives your username away to your students, if you care about that. I suppose you could clip it and print it as picture if you want but that sort of defeats the point. It’d be nice if there was a “export to PDF” option.

Despite its shortcomings, the tool is simple and plain enough that I’d use it in the future. That’s what I really want out of a rubric creator. No fancy flash based programs, no weird breakable tables, no obtuse formatting issues, no pre-made garbage rubrics, just a simple tool that takes my text and arranges it in a functional rubric with a point scale. That’s all it needs to be and that’s what it is.

Last up is Screencast-O-Matic.

I figure I’ll let this one mostly speak for itself. The video is part of the review.

Sorry for the audio quality. It turns out Screencast-O-Matic doesn’t work with on-board microphones in laptops. BIG strike against it, I think. I had to re-record over the video’s audio using my phone as an external microphone. That’s not a glitch, either. I replicated this error on my old Macbook as well. How weird, right? I also made three screencasts (1, 2, 3) just LAST WEEK using Camtasia and Camtasia recorded that audio (which, as you can tell, is high quality) using my Windows laptop’s on-board microphone. Most people nowadays do the overwhelming majority of their work on laptops or tablets and have no need to own desktop computers. Most people I know who do are either tech junkies / work with computers or are gamers. Certainly most teachers don’t seem to need them. How strange.

Something I didn’t mention in the video is the online features. It is very easy to navigate your saved videos and if you pay the $15 a year you get more storage space plus a bunch of other cool but probably mostly useless features. Having it stored online is great, but I’m not sure why you’d bother when they’re just going to end up on YouTube anyway? I also didn’t think about how launching the screen recording tool from the website might make it useless if you ever want to record without internet! Mostly I would never do that, but it’s something to think of.

Screencasting in general is one of the greatest educational tools we have, I think. I love screencasts and have used them in my classroom before. I’m currently being paid to make some for the UAF library. Google Drive, your gradebook, checking grades, navigating district websites, how to use class tools, etc. – there are a lot of options for screencasts.

This tool is just as good as any other, really. There are some weird quirks that I go over in the video but for the most part I think any teacher could find cool ways to use this. It does have a few drawbacks – the weird web-based thing, the lack of editing, and the audio issue I ran into, but it’s also fast and easy and has that cool pointer feature which Camtasia doesn’t have. All in all it’s a good tool for teachers to try out and it requires a FAR lower level of tech literacy than Camtasia does, for example. If you’re thinking about ever doing screencasts (and you should), I would say start here. For most teachers, Screencast-O-Matic delivers the tools you’ll need for your classroom (record and export easily) in a simple package. It doesn’t do much else (like Camtasia) and it doesn’t ruin its functionality with stupid design (like Jing) so, if I didn’t already have a Camtasia license, I’d probably use this for most of my screen recordings for my classrooms.

In short, Camtasia > Screencast-O-Matic > Jing, but this is free. You choose.


PS – Unit incoming tomorrow! Doing some last-minute editing and clean up.

Defense of Unit Activities and Assessments

The desired outcome of my unit is social change. The underlying objective is for students to recognize that every one of us is part of the water shortage/pollution problem and every one of us has the ability (and responsibility) to initiate positive change for the benefit of the environment and the survival of mankind. The intended audience for my unit is 4-6 grade, and the lessons are scaffolded for students to construct knowledge.

The first step in change is recognizing there is a problem. My first lesson focusses on the limited availability of fresh water on our planet. The visual simulation format was created to capture attention and physically demonstrate how precious fresh water is as a resource. The assessment for activity one is designed to solidify the understanding that, although it seems that water is everywhere on our planet, the freshwater we use daily is in very limited supply.

The assessment for lesson one is also designed to spark conversation and stimulate critical thinking regarding how each of us waste water and contribute to pollution. This concept is explored further by the Home Environment Checklist in Activity two. At this age, students have limited exposure to environmental issues, and daily routines are filled with reading, writing, and math. Self reflection and meaningful dialogue can be a powerful tool in constructing knowledge. It is important to note the characteristic of the learners for this unit is somewhat unique. My unit is designed as a field trip where students from a variety of classrooms would come to me for a portion of the learning. Some sections of the unit are designed to be facilitated by the teacher in the classroom while others will be hands-on with me during the field trip. I hope this unit would be related and connected to a curricular topic of study in the classrooms, but it is possible that it will be somewhat artificially inserted into a rigid schedule. The discussion and follow-up activities are where much of the real potential for learning lies. All are designed with collaboration and social interaction in mind. Discussing new ideas and understandings with classmates, as they brainstorm lists and define vocabulary terms, helps make meaning of the new information.

Activity two involves the whole class in a role play scenario. Students are assigned an occupation and a container of contaminants. As the Catchment Story unfolds students physically dump their pollution into a clear tank of water. Because water waste/pollution is a real-world, collective problem, I chose to incorporate a Project Based Learning model. The use of storytelling and role playing in this activity aims to immerse students in the problem, and collectively generate possible solutions. Differentiation is incorporated through multiple methods of communication and delivery, thereby catering to various learning modalities. The Home Environment Checklist bridges the gap between home and school. It is designed to critically examine habits and behaviors that add to pollution with the assistance of a parent (who will be paramount in initiating any lasting change). The Checklist offers real-world examples to begin solving real-world problems.

Activity 3 involves students in another role-playing situation. Students learn about, and conduct various indicator tests to measure levels of pollution in different water sources. The activity and discussion, based on The Water Quality Interpretation Chart, is designed to help students understand how human behavior leads to the diminished water quality from samples they just tested. This is a very busy, active-learning experience with characteristics of the learners in mind. Because this is not my class of students and therefore I don’t know individual learning styles, preferences, or disabilities, this activity incorporates a variety of learning modalities. The assessment is largely built into the activity. The predicting, comparing and contrasting, and measuring water quality with indicator tests are all objectives and activities in which the students will participate.

The final activity brings the unit together with a deliverable. Students take their newly gained information and create a product that shares a message with the greater community. This fits into the model of Project Based Learning as well, by engaging student voice as well as collaboration with peers, teachers, professionals, and community. This activity is designed to be completed with the guidance of the classroom teacher, and the provided prompts, resource videos, and student created projects will assist in idea generation. I would like to facilitate publicly posting brochures and posters at the store to create incentive and add perceived value to the final product.

Throughout this course, and specifically through the study of learning theories, I have discovered that my philosophy for teaching and learning is deeply rooted in constructivism.
The lessons and activities in my unit are developed so that students are active participants in constructing knowledge through social interactions and hands-on learning.
In general, assessments are designed to reflect the knowledge that students have constructed through learning activities and discussions. Assessments are measurable and speak directly to the learning objectives outlined.

Review of Tools

The first tool I chose to review was Socrative. I picked this tool because it was relatively new to me and because feedback on my unit suggests the assessments need work. I’m planning to present my unit online for other teachers to utilize. It seemed that Socrative could be an alternative and possibly engaging way to assess knowledge acquisition.

When I first navigated to, the first thing that jumped out at me was “Get a FREE account. I’m all about free things, especially at the exploration stage when you don’t know if it’s going to be a value-adding tool or not. The main page is attractive and uncluttered, offering a brief product description and demo video. The website states: “Socrative empowers you to engage and assess your students as learning happens. Through the use of real-time questioning, result aggregation, and visualization, you have instant insight into levels of understanding so you can use class time to better collaborate and grow as a community of learners.” Essentially, the teacher has a digital device that collects and organizes data submitted from student devices. The demo was really helpful in giving an overview of the software capabilities. New users are then given an option of looking at the user manual. Maybe it defines my generation, but I’m still one to look over a manual before jumping in and “mucking around” with something new. One of the potential barriers to effective use that I found was that the user manual is very cluttered and confusing. There are arrows from text boxes to screencast images everywhere and in no particular sequence or structure. The lack of continuity with this makes it hard to know where to start reading a page and what description is related to what graphic.

After briefly reviewing the manual, I dove in, starting with a quiz for my first unit activity. When creating a quiz, you have the option of selecting a multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions. The format of Socrative makes this process a breeze. It’s simple to add, delete, or re-order questions to fine-tune your assessments. One of the best features of this program is the “explanation” box following each question. Teachers can choose to include an explanation that will appear after students select or articulate their answer. I love the immediate feedback this provides students. If they answer correctly, the explanation is a confirmation of their understanding. If they answer incorrectly, the explanation immediately addresses the shortcoming. The feedback happens instantaneously, allowing students to reflect on their answers while the new ideas are still fresh in working memory. The “explanation” box would also be an asset to a teacher who finds the unit online and wants to teach it, but has a limited knowledge of the subject matter. There was one problem I encountered while creating quizzes in Socrative. I couldn’t find a way to add graphics, shapes, or text boxes to the quiz. One of my original quiz questions focused on the proportion of freshwater available relative to the total amount of water on Earth. I used text boxes in Pages to graphically represent volumes. I wasn’t able to replicate anything close to this in Socrative.

Beyond simple quiz generation, there are other features of Socrative that I think would be advantageous in education.
Teacher Collaboration – Teachers can share quizzes based on the code assigned. Importing/exporting quizzes is efficient for sharing course design and delivery.
Real-Time Questioning – The Quick Question feature allows teachers to stop instruction at any point, ask a question of the class, and gauge understanding based on instantaneous results they receive. This “snapshot in time” seems like it would provide the basis for real data-driven instruction. If results show most of the class “gets it,” the teacher can move on. If results show one particular concept is proving difficult, they can re-teach that day. Teachers have the ability to see exactly who is giving each answer, providing opportunities for differentiation. The live results provide an option for customized teaching difficult to match with paper.
Exit Ticket – This is another assessment option, which the teacher would have students complete digitally at the end of the lesson. Teachers can customize questions for the Exit Ticket that tell them whether students understood and can achieve objectives. The Exit Ticket could be used to solicit personalized and confidential feedback from students about delivery, effectiveness, gaps in understanding, etc. Based on this, teachers could work individually with students or choose to cover a lesson again on a subsequent day.
Space Race – A fun and engaging way to introduce a little competition into assessment. Students can compete individually or in teams against others. Students are “competing” to correctly answer quiz questions. Results are displayed as rockets moving along a racetrack and show competitors progress as well.

Overall, I thought this tool was easy to use with a fast learning curve. If one can get past the equipment resources necessary to implement, the advantages of real-time feedback are constrained only by imagination. Once I got over my initial (predictable) hurdle of diving in and messing around to learn how to use the tool, I began to see many educational advantages. With about 3 hours invested, I learned the software, revamped, and re-producing all my lesson assessments on Socrative.

To view the quizzes created for my unit of instruction, first sign up for a Socrative account. Then, log into Socrative as a teacher, and select manage quizzes. From here, choose import quiz. On the next screen you will have the option of importing a quiz from another teacher using the SOC share code (there is also the option to upload quizzes an from Excel file). The SOC code for my quizzes are:

Water Availability: SOC-19023441
Water Quality Testing: SOC-19025827
A Day in The Life of Campbell Creek: SOC-19025308

The second tool I chose to review was Camtasia. I picked this one because a classmate suggested I might use it for creating and sharing videos during our Peer Review session. I had no experience with it, so this was an ideal opportunity. The Camtasia website describes the software as follows: “A powerful, yet easy-to-use screen recorder, Camtasia helps you create more professional videos without having to be a video pro. Easily record your screen movements and actions, or import HD video from a camera or other source. Customize and edit content both on Mac and Windows platforms, and share your videos with viewers on nearly any device.”

Although they tout a “30-day free trial” it seemed to me they tried hard to make the free-trial process confusing enough to encourage frustrated people to just sign up for a paid subscription. In attempting to download the free trial version, I kept getting prompted for the activation key. I ended up downloading it 6 times trying to figure out where the activation key was displayed. Finally I called their support center for help and was told the activation key was only for customers buying a paid subscription. I was told how to skip this step and proceed with the free version. I find this type of thing very manipulative. I understand that companies are in business to make a profit. But if you offer trial product to stimulate interest in your for-profit product, you have a responsibility to cater to that user as well.

I wish I could say things got better when I finally got my free version downloaded. After looking over the new platform and exploring the menu bar, I found a “start a new project” tutorial. I watched this and the process for capturing a screenshot video seemed pretty straight forward. I set the same controls they recommended and tried to create my own. The video worked fine, but there was no audio. I tinkered with the internal input and output on my computer, changed settings, and tried every combination of built-in microphone, built-in input, built-in speaker possible. I made a dozen test screenshots and simply couldn’t get the audio to work. I’ve taken classes with Collaborate that require use of a headset, so I tried this next. Plug in the headset, change audio settings in system preferences, and try again. This yielded the same results. I spent another hour messing with connections, verifying that the headphones worked on another computer, changing settings, and trying to make a simple test video. Same results. The screen capture function worked fine in two dozen test videos, the audio never picked up sound.

Now I will be the first to admit that I’m not terribly tech savvy. I think it somewhat likely that operator error was to blame in this scenario and not necessarily a problem with the software. But if I’m having this problem, isn’t it likely that someone else has experienced it? I searched their in-house help service extensively trying to find answers to my questions, but there was nothing on the topic. I ran out of time and finally walked away. With 24 hours to reflect on the process though, I don’t know exactly what I would do differently. I had already spent 20 minutes on hold and conversing with tech support to just get the free version. I felt stupid calling back with another simple issue. I would argue that a service is hardly free when it takes 2-3 hours to figure out how to access the point where you start learning the tool.

I spent enough time scratching around the software to realize it isn’t what I thought it was anyway. I had a vision of a movie making software, this wasn’t it. Camtasia is great if you want to teach how to navigate somewhere online or demonstrate some technical skill that requires multiple steps. It basically records your cursor actions, what’s on your screen, and your voice (apparently). It would be very beneficial for teaching someone the process of getting to a desired location or the steps necessary to set something up. The editing capability appeared to be efficient and the sample screencast I watched look very polished. I see plenty of value in the software for educational purposes, sorry I can’t give a better review.

The third tool I chose to review was TeacherTube. I selected this one because I thought supplemental videos may help hook interest and engage students in the activities I’m putting together. The TeacherTube website states: “Stop wasting hours looking for learning tools and relevant content. TeacherTube is your one stop shop for user generated educational videos from around the world. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find exactly what you’re looking for within a quick search.” It was love at first read. They had me at “stop wasting hours looking for learning tools,” after my Camtasia experience.

I started exploring this tool with the intention of eventually creating a short video introducing topic(s) covered in my unit. After searching the site for a half hour, however, I realized there were already a plethora of videos hosted there that were relevant to my project and probably better than I could produce with time constraints in place. However, the creation of a video was a part of my unit, so I further explored TeacherTube by creating and uploading a video. (The tool I used to create the movie is an iPad app called Doodlecast Pro Video Whiteboard This awesome resource is available for $4.99)

Learning curve – I was quick to pick up the basics. Within 20 minutes I was searching for content related to my unit. I was pleasantly surprised to find a pool of videos related to catchment.
Ease of use -The site was relatively easy to navigate. The help section needs some improvement. All tutorials are screen recordings without audio. It is difficult to watch a tutorial video without audio because I am wasn’t really sure what skill I was learning in the help video. Constant pop-ups and advertisements are distractions that take away from the instructional value of the resource. In my search, I did not find enough videos that would warrant a paid subscription.

Time required to create – TeachTube is not a tool for content creation. It is a resource to host instructional videos. I choose to use Doodlecast Pro as the tool to create videos. In order to upload content to TeacherTube, you will have to have software to create content. According to TeacherTube, the following file formats can be uploaded: wmv, avi, mov, flv, mp4, jpg, png, gif, mp3, doc, docx, .ppt, .pdf, .txt, .csv, .xls, .mp3, and .wav. Having used Doodlecast Pro in the past, it took a total of about an hour to create the script, graphics and compile the content to upload it to TeacherTube.

Problems encountered – Constant splash ads. Every time a user selects a video to view, a splash ad appears in the video window. This is confusing, annoying and distracting from content. While I watched many good videos, there were a lot of movies that were poor in quality. For example, some movies had pixelated images and very poor audio.
Barriers to use – A paid subscription is required for many of the features. This also does away with all the advertising pop-ups. When videos are uploaded they are not available immediately, so teachers will need to plan ahead if videos are included in lesson plans. Also, when I uploaded, I received notification my movie needed to be reviewed before publishing. I imagine content is vetted for copyright etc; however, in order for me to endorse and recommend this resource, the review process needs to cover video quality.
Educational Uses – There is a lot of value in using movies as instructional resources. I support video use (creation of instructional content, telling stories, PSAs….) in the classroom. As a parent, my children’s privacy is a concern. I think schools should consider internal servers and software services for video use, especially if the videos include students. To me, resources such as TeacherTube should be local (site based) to assist in student privacy and quality control.

View the short video I produced with Doodlecast and posted to TeacherTube here:

Initial thoughts on emerging tools

We have quite a few tools on our list and I don’t think we have even scratched the surface of what is out there.   It is daunting how much stuff is available and how long you can spend looking for the one that suits your needs best.   Knowing that you could do it all over again in a year with completely different results is kind of exhausting.

Of the ones we’ve chosen, I would say that most of the presentation tools could be used for either instructor presentation or turned around to be used as an active learning tool for students.
It is pretty easy to envision creative student projects involving any of the video creation or screen casting tools too, though I think Camtasia’s high sticker price and steep learning curve make it less useful for many classrooms. What is also interesting here is what is missing. I didn’t notice until just now that none of us had included a blog/website tool.

I wonder why?   Have website building tools for the non-coder been around so long we don’t think of them as tools anymore?   It seems especially interesting in that there are so many ways to incorporate them into an active learning scenario and for building that community of learners that aren’t necessarily old hat.   We are using blogs and ePortfolios or personal websites to display our work for this class even. And now that I am thinking along those lines, what happened to the wiki?   Has it been replaced?   The google sheet of emerging tools is pretty wiki-like in nature. I don’t have the answer here, I just thought it was interesting!

Back to the review. Remind, Evernote, Edmoto, and slack are all team communication tools that would aide collaboration, and community building in online venues: the modern day (and less dreaded) discussion board.   I’ve been assigned a project using Google Forms in another class this semester, so that leaves just a few course management tools and maybe Responseware that wouldn’t easily be used by students to demonstrate learning.   In fact, so many of the tools are useable it is a wonder anyone uses discussions boards with mandatory word count and number of responses at all these days.