3 Basic Tech Tools for Beginning Online Teachers

Ever feel overwhelmed by all the Web 2.0 learning tools available?  I’m crazy about technology; however, a PowerPoint presentation that covers 20 or 30 tools is just too much for my brain to assimilate.  This blog focuses on the 3 most basic tech tools that I use for online instructional design.  Plus, they’re free!  I have 7 more to share in a follow-up blog.

I.  Ever wish you could take a photo of your computer screen to explain something to a student?  Well, it’s actually quite simple if you want to snap the entire screen.  On a personal computer, the keys to use are Ctrl + Prnt Scrn.  It copies the picture onto an invisible clipboard; then you can paste the image into an email or wiki for discussion.  Is the image too large or not precise enough? Then you’ll have to use a drawing tool to edit the section of the screen that you want to capture with Paint or Gimp.  Paint comes with the purchase of Microsoft software.  Check your computer programs under the Start menu to see if you have it.  Otherwise, download these for free.  Once you teach this to your students, you’ll start getting lots of emails with images of what they’re getting stuck on. Here’s an example of my Ctrl + Prnt Scrn (and Ctrl C+ Ctrl V for cut-and-paste) of the TESOL website below. Don’t forget to add alternative text to images shared online for assistive technologies to read aloud for persons with impaired vision.

Screenshot of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages international association's website

II.  Would you like to record your lecture or create a virtual tour for your class?  This could be used for student presentations, too!  Screenr.com has to be one of the easiest screen capturing tools.  You’ll need a headset with a mic to record clearly.  Headsets costs around $20 at Walmart.  A red recording button will appear along with the border for landscaping your video.  The border is moveable; just click and drag it to the desired area.  Screenr provides the option to save your file as an MP4 or upload to YouTube.  Don’t worry, it’s easy to delete if you don’t like what you create!  The basic free version doesn’t have editing features, and you only get 5 minutes talk time. In the following screencast, I introduce myself to a workshop session.  Students can use it for presentations, too.  Notice how I used some low tech ideas like typing on a blank MS Word document without speaking to add variety to my video.


III. How would you like to embed your PowerPoint into your website or learning management system (LMS)?  Don’t let the tech skill of embedding hypertext markup language (HTML) code scare you off.   Embedding is a simple cut-and-paste task.  With Google Drive, you can upload your PowerPoint or Word document, convert it to Slides or Docs respectively, and then share the content on your website by embedding the HTML code.  That way your students can simply review by clicking through the pages on your LMS  instead of having to download it first.

Instructional Design of an Online Course

“What did YOU do?” is a question regarding course design that haunted me after a job interview.  This question came after I described a successful reading course that I created for a developmental studies program.  I’d taken the regular course and adapted it to the online format.  I knew the course was successful based on student performance and student opinions of the course design.  However, I couldn’t encapsulate during the interview what I had done besides stating that it took me about 34 hours to create.

Now that I’m studying instructional design and development (ID), I’ve been looking at the various research theories on this topic.  I came across the ADDIE process: Analysis + Design+ Develop+ Implement+ Evaluate.  When I read it, I immediately thought, that’s what I did!  Even if you aren’t aware of instructional design processes, it adheres to an intelligent pathway that you’re probably already following intrinsically; however, it isn’t an ID model. Michael Molinda described ADDIE as “…these processes are considered to be sequential but also iterative…” (In Search of the Elusive ADDIE Model, May/June 2003, Performance Improvement).  ID is definitely iterative, in that as you go through the systematic approach, you’re constantly revamping content and concepts in a previous stage or at all the stages of the process depending on your findings.

Acronym: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation

The Wikipedia entry on this topic provides several questions that you would answer at each stage of the process.  However, ADDIE isn’t an instructional design model, just phases in the process. For example, it doesn’t provide what is required of analysis (e.g., job analysis, needs assessment, learner analysis, & instructional analysis of learning content and type of environment).  For course creation, I was given a textbook and a computerized reading remediation program for instruction and eCollege as the learning management system (LMS).  The topics to be covered in the computerized reading program, MyReadingLab.com, were designated by my administrators.  The rest was left up to me to design and implement.  Since I strongly believe in students constructing their knowledge (see my teaching philosophy), I designed the course to maximize student interaction with each other and with myself as the facilitator of their learning.

I used my background as a literacy coach to first attack the exact reading strategies and skills to cover in a semester from the textbook and computer program.  This entailed correlating the textbook chapters with the MyReadingLab (MRL) topics.  Then I analyzed what was missing to form a rounded reading program given the material provided.  I recognized the lack of consistency in vocabulary development, so I incorporated a project on Dictionary.com to enhance students’ learning.  My course design wove the teaching and learning components (textbook, MRL, Dictionary.com, and eCollege) into a multifaceted class.  For instance, I used the threaded discussions on the LMS to spur student reflection on the textbook topics.  Also, I embedded the MRL and Dictionary.com web pages into the LMS; in that way, students didn’t have to stray far from the online course to log in to various components.

Then I used my training from TESOL’s Principles & Practices of Online Learning to analyze how to design the reading course on the LMS so that it was practical, effective, and attractive.  According to the Wikipedia entry on instructional design, “Instructional Design (also called Instructional Systems Design) is the practice of maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences.”  Once again, I intrinsically knew what to do.  I believe that this is what we all do, hopefully, even when designing our F2F courses.  It’d take me several pages to explain the rest of my reading course design to you.  Nevertheless, I hope that I shared enough to help you understand some of the basic concepts of instructional design and development. Read my blog post about my formal and informal definitions of ID, as I continue to learn about it in my doctoral studies.

Sandra Annette Rogers

Note: According to Michael Molinda, the source of ADDIE is unclear (2003).

Please provide feedback on my critical reading course

Dear Teachers,

This summer, I’ll be teaching a group of pre-med students how to speed read and improve their comprehension. The students consist of native English speakers who are part of a summer enhancement program called DREAM. We’ll spend 4 hours a week on the subject, so I have time to integrate technology. I created a wiki with the online content since we don’t have a textbook. We’ll be using the computerized program MyReadingLab.com for covering topics such as reading rate and critical thinking. Here’s a link to the wiki: http://usadream.pbworks.com/w/page/39147717/FrontPage

I’m requiring two projects, one group and one individual. The group project will post to the wiki. The students’ individual project is to create electronic flashcard decks on Dictionary.com. Here’s a sample deck I created: http://flashcards.dictionary.com/deckprofile/view/96394/medical-vocabulary-project-flashcards. Additionally, I made a demonstration video on Camtasia Relay:http://camtasia.usouthal.edu/Camtasia/J00052636/Vocabulary_Project_on_Dictionary.com_-_Flash_(Original_Size)_-_20110527_05.57.20PM.html

I’d love to hear your feedback. I’ve set my personal deadline as June 1st. Send me a tweet or email with your comments, or leave a message below.

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Sandra Rogers

Use Voki to bring someone else’s voice to your grammar lesson

In preparation for an advanced ESL grammar lesson, I wanted to integrate technology in a simple way. Usually the teacher is the one giving the examples. I had used Voki.com before to give a one-liner to visitors to my wiki. It dawned on me that I could use several Vokis to deliver one-liner grammar examples. I believe if you want the Vokis to say a speech, you have to pay for an upgrade. Otherwise, the service is free.

The lesson was on unreal conditionals, the “if I were president, I would…” I decided to make each Voki speak a different example, including some likely conditional statements. Additionally, I found that you can have a Voki speak with different English regional dialects—American, British, Australian, Scottish, et cetera. Since students often study abroad, I think they should learn a variety of English dialects.

Here’s the link to my grammar lesson with the Vokis on my personal learning environment (PLN):

To create your own Voki, visit their Web site: http://www.voki.com/

Sandra Rogers

Assistive Technology Tools

Are you familiar with assistive technology? Do you have students with disabilities? Here’s a list of assistive tech tools and resources for you and your students to use:

1. Section 508 Checklist: http://webaim.org/standards/508/checklist
Standards for Website content to meet the needs of persons with disabilities based on the U.S. Rehabilitation Act.

2. iSpeech: http://www.ispeech.org/
Converts text-to-speech (TTS) or speech-to-text (STT) for free. You can control the speed of the voice delivery. It catalogs the number of recordings in its library.

3. US Government: http://www.disability.gov/technology/accessible_technology
Provides webinars and updates on the latest technology available or the lack thereof in various situations.

4. Boston College & Boston University: www.cameramouse.org
Assists individuals with limited movement to use their head to direct the mouse cursor. FREE!

5. The Principles of Universal Design (UD), North Carolina State University:  Universal Design poster
These principles will help you create activities and an environment accessible for all learners.

6. Internet Explorer (IE): IE is generally the browser that’s widely used by persons with disabilities because it offers special features to meet their needs.

7. Microsoft Windows: See Accessibility Tools

8. YouTube Channel: They offer an auto-caption feature that can benefits not only deaf users, but also people who watch videos in really noisy places, like airport terminals. The tool will be able to translate captions into your choice of 50 languages. For now, however, auto-captioning works only with videos in English.

9. Apple claims to create its products with accessibility in mind as standard features http://www.apple.com/accessibility/

10. Captioning Key is funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program. It provides a PDF document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning.

Additionally, check out the most thought-provoking YouTube video that I’ve ever seen on rethinking the concept and words associated with persons with disabilities called “Opportunity of Adversity” by Aimee Mullins.

Please share your resources for adaptive technology with me, and I’ll post them on this blog and my PLE.

Sandra Rogers