Cengage Learning Computing Conference 2015

I’m proud to be presenting at the Cengage Learning Computing Conference in Phoenix, AZ, this week.  I have culled together a number of resources, recommendations, and best practices for designing and teaching blended, synchronous, and synchronous online courses, and so I’ve included those links below for the participants and my followers to have those all in one place.  I hope these are helpful, and I would really like to know if and how you use them. So please drop me a comment below or feel free to contact me on one of my social media streams.

Supporting Webpages & Resources Mentioned in the Slides

  1. Planning an Online Course
  2. Introductory Email to Online Students
  3. Introductory Pages for an Online Course
  4. Online Course Content Page Template
  5. Online Course Project Page Template
  6. Tips for Online Course Management
  7. Tips for Asynchronous Communications
  8. Tips for Synchronous Communications
  9. Assessment in Online Courses
  10. Building a Course Site with PBWorks

Presentation Slidedeck on Slideshare.net


Synchronous Class Meetings, In-Classroom & Flipped Classroom Slide Templates

It is no secret that I am a fan of iSpring’s tools (particularly the free one!).  I regularly use them in my online courses to produce narrated Powerpoints that convert to Flash for embed into my course web pages. I’m hoping to find the funds to upgrade to the iSpring version that will also let me output to HTML5 for mobile devices, too.  I was able to beta test this version, and I found it pretty useful and successful.

On iSpring’s blog, they have a quick post about QR codes, which you guys also know I’m a fan of, so I thought I would share.  Here’s a quick snippet from the post, but I encourage you to follow the link to see their ideas for using QR codes.

QR codes have been around for a while. What seems clearly interesting is that process of consolidation of complex QR code initiatives seems to be occurring. Clear call to action QR codes, linking to edge to edge formatted information on your cell phone is gaining traction.

via Is the QR code on point or just a phase? | iSpring Blog.

To follow up on iSpring’s question, I do think QR codes are a phase.  The US is kind of late to the game on QR codes, and I believe they will be replaced soon with technologies like RFID and near-field communication (NFC).  However, the ease in which QR codes can be created and scanned is pretty unparalleled right now, and I don’t know the RFID or NFC can be produced quite so easily by teachers and university faculty members.

What’s your thoughts? Please share them in the comments. I would love to hear what you have to say.
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: katiemarinascott via Compfight

weighting rubric

PBL Rubric
I use project-based and problem-based learning a lot in my own teaching, as well as research it, recommend it, and present workshops on it.  Consequently, I am often asked about assessments and grading that come along with using PBLs and inquiry.  In conversations that I have with teachers and faculty members about using rubrics for grading student products, or learning artifacts, I consistently find there are two challenges that make rubrics not as effective as they could be.


The first challenge that I often observe or hear about is a misalignment between what the teacher or faculty member actually cares about and what is listed as criteria on a rubric.  For teachers, I usually see this as a mismatch between what they have listed on their lesson plans for the objectives or goals of the lesson and then what criteria they have listed in the rubric.

I try to remind teachers and faculty members that the objectives and goals of your lesson should be directly reflected (read as “obvious”) in the rubric.  That is, using the language from Bloom’s Taxonomy, such as “compare and contrast” or “analyze” or “explain,” that is embedded in your objectives or goals should be embedded overtly in the criteria for your rubric.

Often, I find that teachers and faculty members list criteria that are part of the requirements for the artifact, such as number of slides, number of pages/words, or spelling, but they fail to adequately list the very criteria for which they designed the lesson.  So, don’t forget to include criteria that delineate to students the quality you expect in their comparisons, analyses, or explanations.


The second challenge I observe when teachers and faculty members use rubrics is inadequate weighting of criteria.  This is evident in a rubric when a student can do average or better (so maybe a “C” or better) with your rubric and still fail to understand the primary course content.

In my research, students told me it was easier to get a good grade with a project than it was on a test.  This calls into question the rigor of our rubrics.

Where I see this most prevalent is when teachers and faculty members use rubric maker tools.  I am a huge fan of tools such as iRubric, Rubric Maker and Rubistar.  I frequently recommend these tools to teachers as a beginning to building their own rubrics (see an overview at Edudemic).  I also always recommend that rubric designers (that’s teachers and faculty members) handle weighting in one of two ways inside of these tools.

Add a Column

The first way to handle weighting in a rubric is to add a column for weighting, such as a percentage or with points.  (I know this seems a little obvious.)  Many rubric tools, however, do not include this in their settings.  So, you have to go in and add this column.  I also encourage you to make sure that you weight most heavily what you care about most.  If the “scientific knowledge” or “analysis” or “articulation of symbolism” is what you care about most, make sure it is weighted appropriately.  Again, I believe that a student shouldn’t be able to do average or better on a performance-based assessment without demonstrating the knowledge and skills of the assignment. There is a great post by Pamela Flash that walks you through step-by-step of building a rubric and weighting is the second step.

Add Criteria

The second way to handle weighting is to add more criteria for the knowledge, skills, or requirements that you care most about.  For example, if you are emphasizing “compare and contrast,” then you may be able to break this down into more criteria, such as “identified…” and “supported…” and then “compared…”  If there is scientific knowledge that you are expecting students to “explain,” then you may be able to break this down into specific criteria.  Again, you’re adding criteria in order to increase the weight for the set of knowledge or skills that you care about.

Bonus Tip!

While I encourage teachers and faculty members to share their rubrics with students ahead of time (as well as consider having students collaborate in the creation of the rubric!), I also think it’s a great idea to turn the rubric into a self-check checklist for the students prior to submissions.

Following Up!

  1. Here’s a great article by Madeline Marcotte about rubrics and the pros and cons of using them.
  2. There’s another great post by John Larmer and the folks at BIE on how to use their rubrics for 21st Century Skills and PBL, so you may want to take a look at that one.
  3. Finally, Grant Wiggins offers up a thoughtful post on how rubrics can be created and how they should be used.  It’s thoughtful in that it offers some philosophical viewpoints about when and how rubrics should be used and what their purposes can be.

I would love to hear your thoughts on rubrics and how they work for you and what you struggle with when using them.  Please share your thoughts and any additional resources in the comments below. Good ideas are always welcome!

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Kathy Cassidy via Compfight

I am super excited to be working with the Baptist College of Health Sciences here in Memphis.  I’ve been asked to present to their faculty as part of a faculty professional development day, so this is a great opportunity to share about problem-based learning, project-based learning, and some strategies to help with teaching online and hybrid courses.  This certainly overlaps with my work with the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, as well as some of the teacher professional development I’ve been doing recently, too. Below are the two slidedecks that I will be using.

[slideshare id=25621707&doc=pbl-recovered-130826222508-phpapp02]

[slideshare id=25621802&doc=engaging-backup-130826223037-phpapp02]

If you happen to have questions about any of these, please let me know.

Tips for teaching effectively screenshot

This morning I will be presenting to the UofM graduate teaching assistant (GTAs). I’ve had the pleasure of being asked to present to these folks for a number of years now, and it is an opportunity that I sincerely look forward to each fall. I really enjoy sharing my passions for teaching and learning with graduate students who will be working as TAs in higher ed — many of which will go on to become university faculty members. It’s a fun gig for sure, and I’m proud to be part of it.

Here’s a copy of the slidedeck that I will be using:
[slideshare id=5041303&doc=gta-workshop-2010-grant-100823155600-phpapp01]

And here is a link to my Resource Wiki, where more information can be found:

Although you're far...As we approach the beginning of the semester and many schools in the south are beginning the school year, I was reminded of this blog post I found a few years ago.  Dr. Bill Taylor, a Professor of Political Science at Oakton Community College, wrote a letter to his students regarding academic integrity.  I, again, think this is an excellent direction.  I am considering crafting a letter like this for my online course I am teaching this semester.  In fact, I may create a video or audio narrated version of this, so that I can convey my personality with this letter and expectations for high quality, professionalism, and integrity with every learning activity we do.

What do you think?

Add you thoughts here or on the original post with the slew of other comments!

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Aphrodite via Compfight

google conference on air

While it has been publicized pretty widely, I wanted to make sure you remembered that May 2nd (next week) is when Google’s Education On Air conference is happening.  This is completely online and free professional development for inservice and preservice teachers.  So, I highly encourage you to attend what you can.

Another bonus is that the sessions are being offered by everyday folks, like you and me.  You can see in the presenters list that there are folks from around the world who will be presenting on a wide variety of topics all day long. There are very tech-y things, like setting up Google Apps for your domain to very concrete pedagogical things with Google Apps, such as Google Docs for writing instructors (this is one I think I’m going to try and make).

Google even has the sessions set up to add directly into your Gcal, so you won’t miss a thing!  If you attend a session next week, let me know.  If you take notes or you’re tweeting, let me know, too.  I’d like to add your thoughts in here.

via EducationOnAir.


U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, half-length portrait, standing, facing left, tipping his hat.This weekend on NPR’s On the Media, I heard an interesting segment about how to begin codifying the method by which we recognize and attribute sources of our information on the web.  Now, I’m an academic, so I tend to live and breathe American Psychological Association (APA) referencing.  However, with the advent of Twitter and Facebook, these media’s constraints don’t really reconcile easily with the notion of a two or three line APA reference.

Many bloggers and tweeters agree that it’s good netiquette to acknowledge where sources of information were retrieved.  In research, we consider referencing essential. Hat tips, sometimes abbreviated “h/t” in Twitter posts are pretty common. As common is “via …” with a URL or source website filled in.  At the Curator’s Code, they have attempted to standardize and operationalize “hat tip” and “via.”

How it works

Via is used to denote a link of direct discovery. The folks at the Curator’s Code have even gone so far to suggest there is a symbol that should be used instead of the word via.  It’s this sideways S symbol.

The unicode for this symbol to use on a webpage is ᔥ

Similarly, hat tip indicates a link of indirect discovery, story lead, or inspiration.  This is different than simply repeating or reposting something you found elsewhere.  Instead, hat tip is used as a source for your own original content that may in fact be remixed from multiple sources.  The symbol for hat tip is this curly arrow. It looks like this:

The unicode for this symbols to use on a webpage is ↬

Connecting to APA & Twitter

For me, my students, and the preservice and inservice teachers that I work with, I have to figure out how we can connect with this system with the systems we are currently using, like APA. I’m going to watch the Curator’s Code system closely. I find these symbols to be helpful, particularly in Twitter posts and possibly with SMS texting.

I liken via () to a direct quote, that is I am not making a change to the original source. I find that it most often used when retweeting or reposting a URL or a piece of another’s post. Hat tip  () then for me is similar to a paraphrase or in-text citation, where I am using others’ works to support or inspire my own. Hat tip may be used with summary or with synthesis.

Will it function?

Unfortunately, I just tried using the unicode versions and the symbols themselves in TweetDeck (my tool for Twitter), and neither worked.  I also tried using the bookmarklet that Curator’s Code has released (see it below).

The bookmarklet pulled in the HTML code for the link to Curator’s Code and the unicode for the symbol, but I didn’t see where it actually attributed the link to the current page I was on at all.  Also, it didn’t work for a pop-up window, like I’m typing in right now.

I also tried using the bookmarklet directly into Twitter and that didn’t work either. Twitter didn’t translate the HTML.

I am attempting to see if I can tweet this post with the hat tip symbol and a link to the original On the Media article and podcast.  (I’ll let you know how it goes. Update: The hat tip symbol worked going from WordPress to Twitter, but it did not show up in TweetDeck. See below.)

From Twitter:

From TweetDeck:

Will it function?

Like I said earlier, I’m going to have to watch this. Conceptually, I like the idea of standardizing, or at least operationalizing, how to acknowledge our sources. It’s critical in academic work and it’s a good method for teaching students to acknowledge their inspirations. But the system isn’t completely functional right now outside of webpages and HTML. It’s got to be easier to implement across all of the social media we use, like Twitter and Facebook, and possibly texting, where each character counts.

Your thoughts? What do you think about this idea of using the symbols and agreeing when they should be used.

Oh and by the way,

Brook Gladstone, On the Media



The folks at Open Site created an infographic that take a look at how Wikipedia is influencing the ways in which we and our students are conducting information research and information problem solving.This is in the wake of Encyclopedia Brittanica shutting doors on its print edition.

I always like to remind teachers and students that citing Wikipedia isn’t necessarily bad thing. In fact, Wikipedia maintains a section of their site to Citing Wikipedia. What I like about this page is that it encourages students to independently verify their facts found at Wikipedia. Here’s what they have to say:

As with any source, especially one of unknown authorship, you should be wary and independently verify the accuracy of Wikipedia information if possible. For many purposes, but particularly in academia, Wikipedia may not be an acceptable source; indeed, some professors and teachers may reject Wikipedia-sourced material completely. This is especially true when it is used without corroboration. However, much of the content on Wikipedia is itself referenced, so an alternative is to cite the reliable source rather than the article itself.

We advise special caution when using Wikipedia as a source for research projects. Normal academic usage of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias is for getting the general facts of a problem and to gather keywords, references and bibliographical pointers, but not as a source in itself. Remember that Wikipedia is a wiki, which means that anyone in the world can edit an article, deleting accurate information or adding false information, which the reader may not recognize.

Great advice from a professor or teacher.  Here’s the infographic that depicts Wikipedia’s influence. Thanks Jen Rhee for the tip.

Via: Open-Site.org

Google Voice examples

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I started a series of posts on strategies I have been using for mobile learning (#mlearning) and teaching in one of my graduate instructional technology courses.  In the first post, I described the use of Remind101.com and how I had used it with my students as both a messaging service for reminders, as well as a method to send “activities” to students where I wanted them to think and capture ideas during the course of their day.

Google Voice

Image representing Google Voice as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

Another technology and strategy that I used in my course was Google Voice.  Google Voice is a free telephone service and also includes voice recording and messaging. Google reports that it will continue be free through 2012.

I used Mr. Lobdell’s VoCall Youtube video as a model integrating Google Voice for mobile learning.  You can see his video commercial below.  (I use this video as a great example in many of my workshops with mobile learning and teaching.)


Because my course’s topic was mobile learning, I asked to students to call into my Google Voice number and define “mobile learning” in their own words for me.  Because we had been working on this topic over the course of the entire unit, I wanted to capture their ideas and explanations about mobile learning, and I believed Google Voice was a great — and extremely easy — way to accomplish this.  In the examples below, you can see Google Voice’s transcriptions of the students’ audio files.

(I find that iPadio does a much better job at the transcription than Google Voice, but I find Google Voice very easy to use without a passcode for students to enter. Don’t get me wrong. I really, really like the utility of iPadio, and it is a great, easy option for capturing podcasts and vodcasts.  See this post for using iPadio.)

One of the features in Google Voice that I find extremely useful is the option to embed the Google Voice recording.  Under the more menu at the bottom of each Google Voice recording, you can choose to Embed (or download if you wish) the audio file.

I used the embed code I received here in Google Voice to repost the audio files into our course management system’s discussion board, so other students could listen to the definitions of their classmates. Google Voice provides a nice, little audio player for students to click on and listen.

While I don’t think I used this technique was used to its fullest potential, I like the notion here of the sharing and allowing students to hear other students’ ideas.  This was the first time I had done this, and next time I think I will do a much better job of coordinating this and leveraging it for learning.  Because this entire unit was new, I was trying not to make activities as complex as possible.  So, I took on the burden of posting the audio files.  Next time I may ask students to use iPadio and embed the files themselves into the discussion board.

And You?

Have you been using Google Voice either for your professional productivity or in your classes?  I would definitely like to hear how you’re using it with students if you have those examples.  I would really like to share these in my classes and with other teachers and faculty members when they ask for examples.

4 Strategies for Mobile Learning & Teaching Series

  1. Part 1: Remind101.com
  2. Part 2: Google Voice
  3. Part 3: Posterous (coming up)
  4. Part 4: eBook (coming up)