Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Growth in eLearning within UM System causes change, raises concerns

Graduate teaching assistant Sarah Zurhellen talks with Kelly Bohan after her class, Introduction to American Literature, on Nov. 17 at Middlebush Hall. Zurhellen has been teaching the class for four years.

In her ideal class, Sarah Zurhellen would have the students in her American literature course meet in person just once a week. Everything else would be done online.

This can't be a reality because of the current structure of MU, Zurhellen said. Still, the doctoral student comes as close as she can; her students often have time out of the classroom to research or write and, meanwhile, do the rest of their coursework and discussion online.


Related Media

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    MU has greatly increased the breadth and variety of its online education

    offerings over the past few years. However, the number of courses offered

    varies significantly by school.

"I think that there is value always to having the conversation, but there’s also value to having a week off from class to work on writing," said Zurhellen, who plans a career in college teaching. "I mean, that’s a different form of articulating your ideas, and it’s more complex than classroom discussion."

Her students are required to share their writing online through a class Wiki, a website that allows multiple users to contribute content. There, students can see and comment on each others' work. To safeguard student privacy, they use pseudonyms for all online work. To follow up, students often meet in small groups to discuss their writing.

Integrating digital technology into the learning process is increasingly common. More than 75 percent of MU courses are on Blackboard. Last year, the number of hours students watched recordings on Tegrity, a program some professors use to capture their lectures, doubled.

In the past five years, the number of MU students enrolling in distance online courses has almost doubled. The number of fully online offerings has gone from about 300 to more than 550 courses. Ten years ago, MU had 11 online degrees or certificates. Today, there are more than 50.

As online courses and degree offerings increase, the traditional roles of student and teacher are changing. They continue to change as administrators and faculty support the proliferation of eLearning across the University of Missouri System. However, there is some concern among faculty that the integrity of academic institutions might be at stake.

Communication between student and teacher

MU doctoral student Peter Ramey sees a difference between how students and teachers interact online.

In his online British literature class, he required students to write a weekly reading journal using a blog. Here, they were to reflect on what they had learned and pose questions. Ramey then commented on the posts, answering students' questions and helping them understand the content better.

He said he appreciated this consistent, individualized give-and-take with the students that would be impossible in a traditional classroom.

Ramey said another advantage is that interacting online helps some students feel more comfortable participating in discussion than they would in person. Further, he said, there is a value in learning to communicate online — a skill important in many modern work environments.

Use of class time

In her American literature class, Zurhellen covers a range of writings stretching from the time of Columbus until now, so she said it is important for students to take time to think about and articulate their ideas.

She has taught one class entirely online but prefers a hybrid approach. She thinks the face-to-face time in her class is best used for discussion and analysis.

"I'm really trying to get students to see that so much of the stuff that they rely on a lecture to give is available free online," Zurhellen said. "What you should be getting out of this (classroom) experience is talking about the material and the ideas that come out of it."

Kellie Grasman of Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla teaches "Economic Analysis of Engineering Projects," a class that teaches students how to assess engineering projects from a financial perspective. About 600 students take the class each year, including students in a cooperative degree program in Springfield.

Grasman received funding from the UM System to develop an online version of the course to serve students at a distance. In creating material for them, she realized that her on-campus students could benefit from those resources.

Now, she offers the online elements as part of the on-campus version of the course. Throughout the semester, the students may choose to participate in the traditional classroom environment or learn independently or with groups of friends using the resources online.

Grasman expects that the students who come to class have gone over the material for the week and are there to ask questions and work collectively to reinforce what they've learned. She said that because the information is all online for students to revisit as they need to, she spends much less time repeating concepts.
Grasman estimated that on any given day, fewer than half of the registered students show up to the class.

“I'm not offended that they don’t come to my class, because I know they can access any of the content on their own time,” Grasman said. “If they are comfortable with learning independently, it gives me more time to focus on the students who need more input and personal instruction."

Use of technology to aid teaching

Teachers increasingly make use of online communication tools to enhance their teaching. Zurhellen uses Diigo, an online bookmarking tool that allows students to bookmark a link to a webpage and share it with the rest of the class. Students can also highlight and comment on those bookmarked pages.

Zurhellen makes herself available to students via Skype, to answer questions via the Internet outside of class hours.

At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Lisa Dorner said that to create a successful online classroom environment, it is important not to rely just on writing for communication with her students.

"It is key to constantly research the new free tools that appear almost daily online," she said.

Dorner likes VoiceThread, an online interactive multimedia slideshow that allows students to respond to pieces of media and leave comments for each other using a recording of their voice, text or a video of themselves.

Convenience factor

For students and teachers alike, the convenience of online classes is a major pro.

The earliest distance learning came in the form of correspondence courses, in which course materials were mailed to people who couldn't take traditional on-campus courses. In recent years, though, distance learning has expanded, mostly due to the Internet. Students choose the online format for different reasons to best accommodate their particular constraints.

"One of the main drivers for us is to create opportunities for the students and for faculty," said Zachary March, director of eLearning for the UM System.

"For the students, it's to give them more options on being able to register for courses in an online format that may fit their schedule better," March said. "Maybe they work during the day or have family commitments, and maybe the course isn’t offered on a local campus and they can take it from another campus, so they can get their degree on a quicker timeline. So for the students, it’s all about the convenience factor."

Nicole Bierman, a registered veterinary technician in St. Louis, is enrolled in biomedical pathophysiology, an online class offered through MU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Working full time and being a parent and everything else I have in my life, it appealed to me because I could do it on my own time," Bierman said.

She said it can be hard to find the time she needs to do the work for her class, but she uses it to teach her 8-year-old daughter the importance of scholarship.

"We talked about the importance in studying," Bierman said. "I try to incorporate our studying together so she can see how important it is, not just for her but for me as well."

In the same class is Giulia Lino, a sophomore at MU majoring in animal sciences. Lino, who is enrolled in 16 credit hours and has a part-time job, found the flexible hours of the class worked well with her schedule.

"I figured it would be good, because it wouldn’t be an extra class to go to, but I could still learn a lot," Lino said.

The time flexibility potentially extends to teachers. Faculty in the English Department offered Ramey the opportunity to teach his eight-week online course after he learned he and his wife were expecting a baby. Over the summer, he was able to travel, attend conferences and spend time with his new baby, all while teaching.

Concerns among faculty

Despite the opportunities that online learning can provide, there are drawbacks. Ramey suggests there is something missing in how the class communicates online.

"What it won’t develop in students is real-time reaction and thinking collaboratively in the space of an hour," Ramey said. "And that translates into real experience if you have a job. In a meeting you have to be able to think and respond, so it’s not able to develop those skills."

Russell Zguta, chairman of the MU Department of History, said one of his worries is a loss of faculty control over the curriculum.

Zguta’s concern was heightened when he got two phone calls from people outside of MU saying they had Ph.D.s in history and offered to design courses for him. When he shared this information with the history department faculty, it led them to pass a resolution voicing their concerns, which they shared with administrators.

Concerns outlined in the resolution included the potential for online offerings to take away resources from the department itself. Faculty were also worried about maintaining the integrity of courses, particularly ensuring that testing was done fairly.

Ramey struggled with fair testing when teaching his online course. Despite his efforts to make his tests qualitative — requiring students to create their own answers rather than being able to copy things they could find on the Internet — he worried that cheating was still possible.

"I would write exams and quizzes that would purposefully avoid students being able to Google the answer really quickly," he said. "But I feel like students could still find the answers if they were savvy enough — and they are. They can probably find all of that information on the web."

Zurhellen said she never wants to teach only online. She wants to keep face-to-face teaching because it allows her to get to know her students.

"I don’t like teaching fully online because I don't like never getting to see my students," Zurhellen said. "I had good students, but it's the first class I ever taught where I can't remember their names."

Ramey agrees, saying that being with people will always be important. "Whether it's through the mail or it's electronic, face-to-face relationships will always have to supplement that — because we're social creatures, and real social is real bodies and real people talking.

eLearning advances in the UM System

Next fall, MU will unveil a masters’ degree in business administration that will be offered completely online. This offering is part of a trend on the campus toward increasing online options.

Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies, said demand has driven a lot of the growth. Faculty, especially within the College of Education and the Sinclair School of Nursing, observed a need to provide a way for professionals to advance their education while maintaining full-time jobs. This has pushed development of online offerings within the individual schools.

More broadly, Spain said he thinks the expansion of online-based options helps advance the goal of the university to serve as many students across the state as possible.

At the UM System level, March said his biggest project is a system-wide portal for online options. Students will be able to search online offerings in schools throughout the system rather than one campus at a time. This portal also will provide access to financial aid and billing information, as well as to Blackboard.

March hoped to have the portal up and running this fall, but progress fell behind. He thinks it will be done by January.

In addition, the system provides funding for campuses to boost their online presence. Last year, the UM System distributed just less than $500,000 across the four UM campuses to develop online courses, March said. Mostly, that facilitated the conversion of existing face-to-face classes to online.

The money is typically used for faculty release time, hiring graduate students to help build the courses, development of programming, providing opportunities for faculty to go to conferences about eLearning or buying software intended to help illustrate concepts in an online format.

This year, the system will provide $300,000 to $400,000 across campuses to be used for program development. This means that instead of the money going toward individual classes, it will go toward developing clusters of courses that will form certificate programs or full degree programs.

March said he hopes to give out another round of funding in the next year or two to focus again on programs such as these, or maybe one that would cover collaborative online programs across the four campuses.

The UM System has set up additional support within each campus to allow instructors to explore online options. There are instructional designers on each campus to help faculty develop materials that are understandable for online students. Also available are what March called "e-mentors," which are groups of four to five faculty members on each campus who are available to help online development from a faculty perspective.

Committees formed to address concerns

In December 2010, a group called the MU E-learning Task Force was created to make recommendations for how to best oversee a combination of The Center for Distance and Independent Study and MU Direct: Continuing and Distance Education into one body, called Mizzou Online.

Last spring, those recommendations were compiled by the task force and are being used to guide Mizzou Online as it continues to learn how to best operate as a cohesive department.

Academic concerns about teaching online will be addressed in a new faculty committee, called the Online Academic Program Task Force. Leona Rubin, associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and former chairwoman of MU's Faculty Council, co-chairs the task force with John David, associate professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.

"I think Jim Spain described this very well," Rubin said. "The first committee created the roads for how courses would be delivered, and now we have to create the regulations for the road."

This year, the committee has met weekly and has taken on a new topic surrounding online learning at each meeting. The main issues discussed have been:

  • Intellectual property. When teachers create an online course with help and technology provided by MU, it is uncertain who owns that course. Rubin explained that most faculty think online course material can be sold, and if that were to happen, it is unclear who would get the money.

  • Online course approval: Rubin said the council basically agrees that the process for approving a face-to-face course on campus should be the same for online courses.

  • Money: The task force will need to address the issue of incentives, or how departments and faculty will be paid for their online work, Rubin said. She said that in the past, MU Direct returned money earned from online courses to the individual departments that offered them. Sometimes, depending on the arrangement, money was awarded to the faculty who taught those courses. However, she said, departments and faculty don’t get any extra money for teaching additional face-to-face courses. The task force will examine how this discrepancy should be addressed by MU administrators.

Rubin said she hopes the task force will be finished with its discussions by the end of the fall semester.
After that, members of the task force will share their thoughts in a series of faculty forums, which will include members of the task force as well as representatives of the general faculty. Then the task force will reconvene and formulate recommended policies to go to faculty council for discussion and approval. Council recommendations will then go to the provost for final approval.

'Wave of the future'

Guided by the principles that will be set forth by this committee, Spain said he expects to see MU's online presence continue to grow based on the steady increases in the past.

Despite his hesitations, Zguta said he sees the inevitability of this growth.

"This is obviously the wave of the future," he said. "Most universities are heavily involved. Even some of the finest offer courses online. So, I think we don’t want to be left behind, but at the same time we want to do it in a responsible way."

Ramey agrees that changes such as these within MU should be made carefully.

"All media shifts make everybody nervous," Ramey said. "And they should make us nervous because they threaten older paradigms. How this changes our social interactions, how thinking changes — there’s a lot to be concerned about."

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/qe2M4

Maria Andersen: Where's the "Learn This" Button?

Learning needs to be more personalized. We all know this. But rarely does anyone describe a practical way actually to accomplish that goal. This presentation will delineate not only how we can (and will) do it, but will up the stakes, arguing that learning could be measured (gasp!) outside of educational institutions, with learners free to gobble up knowledge as they roam the Internet following their changing interests.

Maria Andersen is the learning futurist for The LIFT Institute at Muskegon Community College, as well as a professor of math. She has degrees in biology, chemistry, math, business, and is hoping to defend her Ph.D. in Higher Educational Leadership in March. Andersen's research interests lie in active learning, the study of higher education faculty, interdisciplinary studies, math education, and speculation about the future of education. She writes regularly about education, technology, eLearning, the scholarship of teaching and learning, play, and the future of higher education.

Virtual Training: Are You Engaging or Boring?

“It tends to be very foggy when you are training in the cloud, but remember, if you know your content, and design your training with user engagement and frequent interactivity, you will be sure to attain great results with virtual training from the cloud.”

Cloud-based virtual training allows instructors to deliver content without being present in a classroom with the students. In virtual training, when you can’t see the participants, how do you compensate for the environment?

The answer is to engage learners through the pace of your presentation, skillful use of your voice, and thoughtful employment of the features of your conferencing platform. Here are a few tips for clearing away the fog and holding a successful virtual training session from the clouds.

Use pace to engage the learner

Engaging the learner is the single most important design criterion for successful distance learning via virtual classrooms.

As you are well aware, the reality is that people in the corporate world are busier than ever today. Because of downsizing, many individuals are doing the work that two or even three people formerly did. When people decide to attend a virtual training session, they are likely to encounter many distractions: e-mail, talking on a cell phone, working on a project, or multitasking on other activities that their duties force upon them.

Most learners will feel motivated to attend training if the topic is one in which they are interested, but in the case of "required" training … not so much. The content had better be great in either case, or else they will be off multitasking at the first sign of boredom. How do we keep the learner engaged in our live Webcast or virtual training session?

Keep it moving

Everyone loves to hate slide-based presentations, whether done with PowerPoint or some other presentation software, but a presentation will inevitably be part of most virtual training sessions. Depending on what you have available to support your session you may not have any other options – not all Web conferencing software provides a whiteboard, video, interactive features, or other capabilities.

The brain reacts to colors and images, and goes to great lengths not to miss anything once the eyes focus on a screen. If you were watching television, and the screen only changed every two or three minutes, it would not take you long to figure out that you could multitask and not miss anything at all. When you watch the news, notice the flow … the director starts with the anchor reading a teleprompter to begin the story, and then quickly switches off the headshot and rolls in field footage to help tell the story with images. By keeping things interesting, with compelling visuals that move and update quickly, viewers become more engaged because they don't want to miss anything.

The lesson is that in a virtual classroom, you must keep the content constantly moving. This means that, when presenting content, you will need more slides, with more pictures and less text per slide, than you may be accustomed to using for physical classroom training. Design the presentation to move along smoothly with pictures telling a story.

Do not build your content with a few slides that only contain text. Slow-moving, text-heavy slides are a recipe for disaster. Participants refer to text-heavy slides as “Death by PowerPoint” … meaning, no one wants to read slides or (even worse) have a person read the slides to them. Learners leave these presentations, and the chances of their returning are slim.

So, when do you know that the change of imagery is fast enough and not too fast or too slow? One way to test this theory is to ask yourself another question: If you posted the slide file as a stand-alone asset, could the students get the same benefit from it alone as they would get with an instructor? If the answer is “yes,” then you haven’t designed your content for a virtual training session with a live instructor.
Use your skills as a speaker

Many facilitators who are excellent face-to-face trainers approach virtual training with the attitude of “how hard can it be?” However, delivery in the virtual classroom is completely different from face-to-face training, and requires simultaneously mastering the technology and the content. It’s like asking a news anchor to direct the news and deliver the news at the same time ... not an easy thing to do!

Bring it to life, don’t flatline it

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Figure 1. Listen to radio hosts and commercials to get ideas on creating voice inflections."][/caption]

You must become the master of visual stimulation, and the master of show direction, and the master of focusing your learners’ attention at the right time. While all this is going on, you are unable to see them to know if you are delivering an impactful training session or if you put them to sleep. So what can you do?

Your voice has a tremendous impact on the quality of your virtual sessions. You must focus on inflections, speed, the tone that you use with the learners, and how you pace your delivery of the content. Learners will evaluate you not only on the quality of your content, but on how pleasant, natural, confident, and interesting you sound. Reading slides is not training. Maximum impact and higher retention levels require dynamic delivery – coupled with your visuals.

To build vitality in your voice, pay attention to radio commercials and listen to how the narrator changes pitch, rate, and volume to get your attention. (Figure 1) Just like a radio personality, you can’t see the audience, and, in many cases, they cannot see you. A dynamic voice and changing visuals must stimulate the learner to pay attention. You are not “reading the material,” you are delivering ideas, facts, concepts, and examples in a way that brings them to life for the learner.

Team up for variety

Another great tip for longer training sessions is to deliver content with a co-presenter whenever possible. This immediately adds vocal variety to your virtual sessions. Think about the news or any sporting event … there is always more than one broadcaster so personalities can interact with each other and keep the delivery more interesting.

We call this vocal variety. This style of training is less predictable, so people will be more inclined to pay attention. Have the co-presenter start off the presentation by giving the introduction and explaining the proper etiquette and ground rules of the training session, and then taking on a moderator role. Your co-presenter can also help to answer questions, prompt you for questions, reiterate points for clarification, provide time checks, and keep the conversation focused. With this type of co-presenter coordination, the meeting will come across as professionally organized and VERY engaging.

Use the conferencing features

Although platforms differ, all conferencing software provides some set of features that will help you keep your learners engaged. Here are some tips for using the more commonly available features.

Annotate, don’t just dictate

Use of annotation tools in your conferencing software, such as pointers, arrows, or highlighters, will command and direct the learner’s attention to specific points on complex graphics. These tools allow you to drive the learner to the exact item that you are referring to. (See Figure 2.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Figure 2. The green arrow allows the participants to focus on a specific spot in complex graphics"][/caption]

Tailor the training space to the task

Always customize the virtual training room to reproduce the format that learners would experience in a live face-to-face classroom. Leveraging room layouts (such as those available in Adobe Connect – a Flash-based rich-media platform) is a great way to build a portion of the training with PowerPoint, a portion with pre-produced digital video, and a portion that uses video capabilities to broadcast several subject matter experts at the same time during a Q&A session. In an advanced platform like Adobe Connect that permits “multi-camera broadcasting,” each person can broadcast simultaneously so the learner can see the person answering their question.

Customization is a great way to make the training session dynamic and engaging to maximize the learner’s attention. This is especially important for well-known speakers or high-level executives. Put them on stage, let the learners interact with them, and they become part of the learning exercises.

Learners should not be listeners only

Polling is a great way to help you acquire instant and quantifiable input from your learners, and engage their minds. Even if you can’t see the learners, you can use polls to gain insight on their thoughts and emotions about the training content. A good polling question can get learners thinking in depth about the implications or applications of key points in the presentation. You can also use polling questions to determine the level of interest in a topic, and then make adjustments on the fly based upon real-time feedback to make the session more dynamic and fresh for each group of learners.

There are different types of polling questions, each with its own special characteristics. (See Figures 3 and 4) Don’t overuse polling questions, use them when necessary, and make them useful so the feature does not become redundant to the learner.

Figure 3. Multiple-answer polls allow more than one selection.

 Figure 4. Multiple-choice polls allow only one selection.

Check their status to maintain engagement – and stimulate thinking

Another method to engage the learner is by using “status tools,” or emoticons. Leverage student engagement by using whatever emoticons or response icons are available from your conferencing platform. (See Figure 5)

Figure 5. Emoticons

Status tools or emoticons compensate for lack of visibility between the instructor and the student. These icons can help you replace the visual cues you would normally get in a physical environment where you see people. Encourage all participants to use them throughout the presentation.

This type of classroom structure lets the participants know that you will accept interruptions and that you are paying attention to their opinions. It makes the delivery dynamic – not just some “cookie cutter” or canned presentation. A great example of use of status tools is to ask if they “agree” or “disagree” with a question or statement you deliver. As a trainer you would say, “Give me a thumbs up if you agree that this solution fits well within your company,” and you would see the feedback in real-time. This also allows a trainer to “see” the type of audience they are working with and make adjustments on the fly if necessary.

Are you ready for your close-up?

If supported by the conferencing software, use the Webcam feature so you can employ your presentation skills and gestures; this brings learners into the content and helps them take the journey with you.

Your Webcam is the direct link to your audience. Use it wisely, and look into the lens when speaking to your audience to give the illusion of eye contact with each of them. (Figure 6) Even though you cannot see your audience, they can see you. When using the Webcam, you must use facial expressions, inflections on words, and gestures to build a connection with your learners. You may even want to place a sticky note next to your Webcam, to remind you to stay focused on keeping the connection with your learners.

Figure 6: Webcams allow you to have a direct, emotional link with your audience.

Key advice: rehearse it, don’t wing it

The more you rehearse the content in real time, the easier it is to keep eye contact with the Webcam. Rehearsal gives you mastery of the content.

More key advice: use the Webcam wisely

New virtual trainers often ask, “When should I turn the Webcam on and when should I turn it off?”

Remember this guideline: content that includes data, statistics, and facts that require reasoning and analysis can be included in a PowerPoint format without a Webcam. When you have any complex graphics or content, you don’t want the Webcam competing with it so turn it off. The Webcam image will command the learner’s attention and focus – in other words, if they see you on the Webcam, that’s where they will look. Movement in the Webcam will distract them from the graphics, and learners will not be sure which area of the screen to focus on.

Content that appeals to participants’ emotions is better expressed through the full-motion Webcam, because gestures and facial expression can sell the emotional side of your message. I like to use the Webcam when conducting polls and getting feedback so learners can see and hear my inflections along with the specifics I’m asking about.

Always be aware of your learners’ environments

Figure 8. Design your presentation
with smaller screen resolution in mind.

Finally, you must be cognizant of the devices used by your audience. Many people are now participating via tablet devices with smaller screens. (Figures 7 and 8) You should design your content so that the images are legible on smaller screens, including on smartphones. Learn about the mobile applications for these devices with the virtual training platform you use. If learners can tab around on window options, you must include narration that will guide them to the proper window when discussing graphics or charts. If it’s hard to read on your screen, it’s probably more difficult to read on a participant’s computer or tablet device. Make the effort to keep screens simple, and include less text and more visuals to help tell your story.

Figure 7. Mobile devices, like this tablet, are becoming
more popular

Melt the fog away with engagement and interactivity

It tends to be very foggy when you are training in the cloud, but remember, if you know your content, and design your training with user engagement and frequent interactivity, you will be sure to attain great results with virtual training from the cloud.

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/50L8h

Friday, November 25, 2011

100+ iPad Apps Perfect For High School

If you’re a student, teacher, or administrator at a high school looking into adopting iPads for educational purposes, it’s important to know that the iPad is more than just an easy way to browse the web or visit the app store.
There are actually thousands of educational apps hiding in the bowels of the app store.But how do you find them? Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, it is usually pretty tough to find the best apps. Heck, once you may come across an app it may prove to not be worth the time it took to download!
The Palm Beach School System has an incredible wiki where members of the community share their favorite apps for specific disciplines. Below I’ve embedded their list for the top high school apps but they also have a curated list of apps for middle school and elementary school.
I wanted to give a mention to the people behind the project. Be sure to reach out to them if you have any questions or just want to let them know that you are benefiting from their hard work:

(H/T to @rmbyrne for introducing me to this wiki! Be sure to follow him at the always wonderful Free Tech 4 Teachers site.) Most of the links below are to the iTunes store. It may open up iTunes on your computer.

Language Arts/Reading:

  1. iBooks – a ereader book store.

  2. Book Creator – Create your own iBooks right on the iPad. (Allows everything except video)

  3. Reading Trainer – This app teaches you how to train your eyes and brain to read and comprehend text faster. Think of it as exercise for your reading skills.

  4. Free Books – 23,469 Classics to Go

  5. Dictionary.com – Dictionary & Thesaurus – A dictionary and a Thesaurus.

  6. Literary Analysis Guide – Elements of literature are arranged graphically around three wheels (poetry, prose, and rhetoric).

  7. Kindle – Kindle is an eReader from Amazon.com

  8. Shakespeare Pro – Complete works of Shakespeare. 41 plays, 154 sonnets, and 6 poems. All works can be cross searched for anything.

  9. Jules Verne Collection – Sixteen of Jules Verne’s books

  10. MaxJournal – A simple and elegant journal.

  11. meStudying: Reading For College Success – A practice reading placement test from the Florida Virtual School.

  12. LitCharts – Link to LitCharts website. Each of the LitCharts are available on the iPad


  1. Math Formulas – Reference Guide – This app contains over 100 math forumlas at a high school level. Most formulas have examples for ease of understanding. A great app for higher level math.

  2. The Ruler – measure things in inches or centimeters

  3. Math Quizzer – Math Quizzer is an interactive and fun way to, not only learn, but also to boost your skills in; Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division. It offers an easy to understand chalkboard visual, which keeps track of your “score” as you progress.

  4. Bloomberg – Bring the power of the most trusted source for financial information to your iPad, along with tools to help you analyze the world’s markets.

  5. Fractals – Move and pinch fractals in real time.

  6. Geometry Stash – Access the most commonly used theorems, postulates, and corollaries.


  1. SpaceTime – Powerful graphing calculator. 2D and 3D graphing

  2. PocketCAS pro – Advanced Graphic and Symbolic Scientific Calculator. Handles every mathematical problem you might encounter in school or university.

  3. PocketCAS lite – Free Graphic calculator. Not as many features as the pro version above.

  4. Quick Graph – 2D and 3D graphing calculator.

Social Studies:

  1. U.S. Geography by Discovery Education – Become an expert in U.S. Geography with this app. Dozens of videos and interactive gameplay.

  2. Civil War America’s Epic Struggle-Civil War: America’s Epic Struggle Features over 1,000 high-res photos, more than an hour of multimedia presentations, in excess of 100 authentic maps, dozens of first hand accounts, and numerous text articles and biographies, it provides instantaneous access to information on every aspect of the war.

  3. Beautiful Planet HD – Beautiful Planet is a groundbreaking app that captures the breathtaking beauty of our world and its cultures. Featuring a collection of galleries three decades in the making by travel photographer, author and explorer, Peter Guttman, Beautiful Planet spans seven continents and 160 countries.

  4. World Atlas HD – The best maps available from National Geographic

  5. History:Maps of World – Collection of High-Resolution historical Maps.

  6. USA Thematic Atlas & Facts – High quality maps filled with facts and information.

  7. USA Puzzle – A USA puzzle that needs to be put together. Double tap on the state for information about that state.

  8. Motionx GPS HD – Maps and navigation instruments. Maps from all over the world. Can include waypoints. Can be good for Geocaching.

  9. The History Clock – An app that converts the current time to a year and gives a fast fact about that year.

  10. The World Factbook for iPad – Extensive information of over 250 countries around the world.

  11. WORLD BOOK – This Day in History – Interactive multimedia calendar that features historical events for the day.

  12. The Presidency – Historical information on every President of the United States.

  13. Presidents HD- Historical information on every President of the United States.

  14. Declaration for iPad – A copy of the Declaration of Independence.

  15. Constitution for iPad – A copy of the Constitution of the United States.

  16. MyCongress – A portal to detailed information about elected congress officials. Please note: This is not an official government resource

  17. GeogXPert – A reference app – containing maps which allow you to look up countries and find country information – as well as a quiz app.


  1. 3D Cell Simulation and Stain Tool – Learn about the cell and its structures in a 3D tool.

  2. EMD PTE – A highly interactive periodic table of elements.

  3. AP Biology Vocabulary Review – All of the vocabulary included in the College Board AP Biology Course.

  4. VideoScience – Science experiments with video.

  5. Chem 11 Prep – Grade 11 Chemistry exam prep.

  6. The Elements: A Visual Exploration – If you think you’ve seen the periodic table, think again. The Elements: A Visual Exploration lets you experience the beauty and fascination of the building blocks of our universe in a way you’ve never seen before. And as the first really new ebook developed from the ground up for iPad, The Elements beautifully shows off the capabilities of this lovely device.

  7. A Life Among Whales – Video documentary featuring the exploration into the life and work of whale biologist Roger Payne

  8. Newtons Laws – Explains Newton’s first two laws of motion and his law of universal gravitation.

  9. Periodic Table of the Elements – Standard periodic table of elements. Free as of May 16, 2010

  10. Molecules – View and manipulate 3D renderings of molecules.

  11. 3D Brain – Rotate and zoom around 29 interactive structures in the brain.

  12. Science Glossary – an extensive glossary of scientific terms and biographies.

  13. PhysicsXL: Mechanics – An app that contains a series of exercises based on physics.

  14. HD Birds Encyclopedia – Highly graphic encyclopedia that has detailed and comprehensive information about a variety of birds.

  15. myArm Muscles – Visually rich and stimulating way to learn about our complex arm muscles.

  16. PLoS Reader – Read the most recent articles from the seven journals published by the Public Library of Science.

  17. HD Marine Life – An encyclopedia of marine life.

  18. Frog Dissection – A virtual frog dissection app.


  1. HD Solar System – Highly graphic encyclopedia that has detailed and comprehensive information about the solar system.

  2. GoSkyWatch Planetarium – Easily and quickly identify and locate stars, planets, constellations and more with a touch or by simply pointing to the sky. Have fun with family and friends discovering the images in the night sky. Go outside and explore the night sky.

  3. Star Walk – An interactive astronomy guide.

  4. Solar Walk – A 3D Solar System Model.

  5. Distant Suns – A database of over 130,000 stars, nebula, and galaxies.

  6. DrakeEQ HD – 3D simulation of the Milky Way Galaxy

  7. GoSkyWatch Planetarium – Locate stars, planets, and constellations.


  1. Magic Piano – Play timeless pieces on spiral and circular keyboards, or follow beams of light – mastery requires only imagination. Play alone, or travel through a warp hole and play Piano Roulette with other performers across the world.

  2. Fashion Sketchbook: The Stylish Dress Up Game – A fashion design application that allows the users to design outfits.


  1. Adobe Ideas – a digital sketchbook

  2. SketchBook Pro – A professional-grade paint and drawing application.

  3. Brushes – Brushes is a painting application designed from scratch for the iPad. Featuring an advanced color picker, several realistic brushes, multiple layers, extreme zooming, and a simple yet deep interface, it is a powerful tool for creating original artwork on your mobile device. The June 1, 2009 cover of The New Yorker was created in Brushes.

  4. Picasso HD – A virtual gallery of Pablo Picasso’s work featuring hundreds of high definition paintings of his greatest works.

  5. Van Gogh HD – A virtual gallery of Vincent Van Gogh’s work featuring hundreds of high definition paintings of his greatest works.

  6. Klimt HD – A virtual gallery of Austrian Painter Gustav Klimt work featuring hundreds of high definition paintings of his greatest works.

  7. Smudge – Finger painting app

  8. Skrambler X – Assemble famous masterpieces like a jigsaw puzzle. Learn interesting facts about the artists and their artwork while putting each piece in place.

  9. Gravilux – an app that lets you draw with stars

  10. The Hot Rod Art Book: Masters of Chicken Scratch – Over 100 pages of hot rod artwork. Over one and a half hours of instructional videos that show the complete process from sketch to rendering.

Foreign Language

  1. TAO – TranslateIt! Online – one click translation of text into numerous languages using Google translate.

  2. AIUEO-HIRAGANA – Touch, Listen, and Learn Japanese.

  3. Japanese Phrases & Lessons – 2,700 Japanese phrases with sound

  4. French English Dictionary & Translator – French – English Dictionary

  5. TouchLanguage French – Learn over 2,000 French words and phrases

  6. BidBox Vocabulary Trainer: English – Spanish – Learn Spanish vocabulary

  7. 简明英汉词典 – English – Chinese Dictionary

  8. German English Dictionary & Translator – German – English Dictionary

  9. Italian English Dictionary & Translator – Italian – English Dictionary


  1. Key Wiz – Learn how to play the piano.

  2. Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD – Learn the basics of music and how to play the piano.

  3. Magic Piano – Play the piano freestyle or on a spiral keyboard.

  4. Air Harp – Strum and pluck the strings for a harp sound.

ESE Modifications/Accomodations

  1. Proloquo2Go – full featured alternative communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking

  2. Speak it! Text to Speech – A high quality text to speech app.

  3. Pocket Picture Planner HD – Use pictures or graphics to create a visual calendar.

All Subjects/General/Productivity:

  1. Keynote – A slideshow presentation program

  2. Pages- A word processing program

  3. Numbers – A spreadsheet application

  4. iBooks – a ereader book store.

  5. BrainPOP Featured Movie – Tim and Mobi on the iPad! All access to BrainPOP’s 750+ Movie library and Quizzes if your district subscribes.

  6. Notability – text to speech or just a note taking app

  7. Puppet Pals – Create your own unique shows with animation and audio in real time!

  8. Bento – Manage things with 25 ready to use databases.

  9. GoodReader – Within moments of downloading GoodReader, you’ll be transferring files from the computer to the iPad. Supports a wide range of files.

  10. Note Taker HD – An app for writing handwritten notes, diagrams, etc.

  11. Sundry Notes Pro – Sundry Notes is the first social note taking application. Write, draw, record and research right within the app – and then share your notes with others.Take notes right within your application, including: Write text (and change font color, size, etc.), draw anywhere in your notes, search Wikipedia, Google, and Google Books – and grab images from them for your notes using two fingers, Import PDFs from the internet, Import images from your photo library, record sound/voice, Change page background to graph paper, lined paper, legal paper, etc.

  12. MindNode – Mind mapping, brainstorming, organization.

  13. iThoughtsHD – A mind map tool for the iPad

  14. Evernote – Evernote turns the iPad into an extension of your brain, helping you remember anything and everything that happens in your life.

  15. Stick It – Sticky Notes with Bump™ – Sticky notes you can share with other iPad Users

  16. Educate – The ultimate teacher’s companion providing mobile access to your student’s data, teaching strategies, eLearning tools, and timetable.

  17. Cramberry – Create flash cards to study from.

  18. Professor Garfield Cyberbullying – Garfield and Friends share information about Cyberbullying

  19. Professor Garfield Online Safety – Garfield and Friends share information about Online Safety

  20. eClicker and eClicker Host- A personal response system that allows teachers to poll their classes in real time.

  21. PDF Reader Pro Edition – PDF reader.

  22. Discovery Education – Educational videos (Subscription Required)

Virtual Ed. Advocates Respond to Wave of Criticism

It’s been a rough year for the public image of K-12 virtual education.

Studies in Colorado and Minnesota have suggested that full-time online students in those states were struggling to match the achievement levels of their peers in brick-and-mortar schools. Articles in The New York Times have questioned not only the academic results for students in virtual schools, but also the propriety of business practices surrounding the use of public dollars for such programs.

Meanwhile, two left-leaning magazines, The Nation and Mother Jones, contended this month that education policy reforms pushed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the name of digital opportunities for students have the ulterior motive of funneling money to big technology companies. And the move into education by the right-leaning media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, with his News Corp. conglomerate’s purchase of the educational technology company Wireless Generation, has drawn protests from some teacher advocates at public appearances by Mr. Murdoch.

Against this backdrop, educators who gathered at the Virtual School Symposium held early this month in Indianapolis appeared eager to strike a balance between working to address what they see as valid criticisms of their field and rebutting others they see as misconceptions. They also seemed largely to agree the burden is on them to tell their own story and prove their effectiveness.

“A lot of the publicity has been negative,” conceded Andy Scantland, the vice president of sales and marketing for Advanced Academics Inc., an Oklahoma City-based provider of public and private online learning programs. The company is a sponsor of the annual “Keeping Pace” virtual learning report, which was released by the Evergreen Education Group, a Durango, Colo.-based research and consulting firm, just before the symposium.

“It’s really critical that we don’t allow others to tell the story for us,” Mr. Scantland added. “Accountability and measurability is good for all of us.”

He and others associated with this year’s “Keeping Pace” survey of the virtual learning landscape insisted that its most important element may be its 10-page section on “emerging quality and accountability issues,” as the report terms it.

Addressing Criticisms

Susan Patrick, the president and chief executive officer of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, the Vienna, Va.-based group that hosted the forum, said she sees a combination of factors contributing to recent criticisms of full-time virtual schools, with some issues having more merit than others.

For example, Ms. Patrick said the studies that raise questions about the achievement of fully online students may suffer in part because of the methods of measuring such achievement. Virtual school programs designed to help facilitate learning at a nonconventional pace and on a nonconventional schedule may struggle when molded to the confines of seat-time requirements virtual school advocates would like to see abandoned. But she accepted that getting some districts to view virtual education as a method that still needs quality instructors is a problem.

Ms. Patrick also acknowledges that some advocates of virtual schooling have politicized it, even at the symposium.

State Rep. Brian Bosma, the Indiana House speaker and a Republican from Marion County, in his remarks at the Nov. 9-11 gathering, painted support for virtual schools as a conservative issue aligned with debates over school choice. Ms. Patrick said the education reforms sought by former Gov. Bush and his Tallahassee, Fla.-based Foundation for Excellence in Education could be viewed as politically motivated, including ideas advanced through the Digital Learning Now initiative led by Mr. Bush, a Republican, and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, a Democrat.

“People are people, and start to paint it one way or another, and that’s unfortunate,” said Ms. Patrick, who added that such Democrats as U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state and U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey have been vocal supporters of online learning.

“We had 1,900 people [at the Virtual School Symposium], and 47 percent of them were first-timers there from districts wanting to launch programs,” she said in a telephone interview after the event. “That’s not political at all.”

Ms. Patrick says she’s unsure whether it’s possible to depoliticize virtual schooling, but says her bigger concern is the impression that it’s an effective method to cut manpower from a district’s teaching force. And she concedes some districts aren’t doing much to combat that impression.

“Teachers and people are the heart of online learning programs, and we need to, as a community, let the teacher voice be heard,” Ms. Patrick said.

“There are some valid criticisms, too, especially with districts facing budget crunches,” she said. “We want them to make a decision about good-quality programs. Sometimes they’re doing that, and sometimes they’re not.”

Examining Blended Learning

Some practices caught in the dispute may actually align more with blended learning, which retains in-person instructors but reshapes the teacher’s job description with technology integration.

For example, a report from the University of Colorado at Boulder that suggests K-12 virtual education is growing at a rate that is unsafe, considering the lack of knowledge about its effectiveness, also makes clear that the breadth of research on the benefits of blended learning is far greater.

Some businesses and philanthropies—such as the Microsoft Corp. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, built upon the fortune of the company’s co-founder—that are taking heat from critics of online education are actually looking to channel dollars to blended-learning projects. The third wave of competitive grants—worth up to $12 million in total—in the Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges program will be awarded to applicants that design new blended-learning models, in part because of a belief that they are more reliable than purely online models for students who are at risk academically. (The Gates Foundation also provides grant support to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Education Week.)

Microsoft, meanwhile, announced this fall a new service to offer discounted hardware and software to teachers, as well as its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s “Connect to Compete” broadband infrastructure project that would theoretically provide more blended-learning opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds.

“The hypothesis is that population needs the brick-and-mortar setting and all-around wraparound support that comes with that setting to succeed,” said Elina Alayeva, a program officer for the Next Generation Learning Challenges with Educause, the Boulder, Colo.-based postsecondary-technology advocacy group that is managing the competition.

Meanwhile, even as critics of online learning have called for proof that fully virtual schools can be effective enough to justify public investment, they have shown awareness that quality in such programs can vary greatly.

For instance, at a Virtual School Symposium presentation from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, audience members disputed the notion that a student who failed a course should have to demonstrate a set amount of time needed to retake the course online instead of just demonstrating competency in the subject. But NCAA officials reasoned that their experience with athletes who may attach themselves to digital “diploma mills” is far different from the experience of other cyber educators.

“Some athletes are short of qualifying and need quick fixes,” Nick Sproull, the NCAA’s assistant director of high school review, said to his audience. “Our majority might be your minority, which is a difficult reality.”

‘Hollow Experience’?

That’s not to say all who know the breadth of online options available are convinced that any such offering can be equivalent to a live classroom.

Gene V. Glass, a senior researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s National Education Policy Center and a co-author of its recent report calling for more state regulation for online learning, said he staunchly opposes the use of public funding for any virtual programs.

“This is a hollow experience for kids, and for many of the kids it’s hardly an experience at all,” Mr. Glass said in an interview. “I haven’t seen a good experience in this whole area. I haven’t seen anything but greedy companies paying off politicians.”

But the report’s other co-author, Kevin G. Welner, a professor of education at the university and the director of the education policy center, said the evidence on the effectiveness of fully online virtual schools shows only that more evidence is needed.

“It’s not that there aren’t good things to be had or good things going on,” Mr. Welner said. “It’s publicly funded education, but without the usual safeguards that we attach to public education.”

This article was originally posted at http://ping.fm/KWu5u

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Want to Really Understand an OSHA Standard? Read the Preamble!

When OSHA Compliance issues a new or revised health or safety standard, inevitably questions will arise. Perhaps OSHA did not define a key term used in the standard, or maybe they used some subjective language that could be open to interpretation. Issues such as these can make it difficult for employers to implement the new regulation. However, questions can often be answered by simply taking the time to read the Preamble to the Final Rule printed in the Federal Register when OSHA publishes a new standard, most specifically the section titled “Summary and Explanation of the Standard.”

So what is this Preamble I am talking about? When OSHA promulgates a new or revised health or safety standard, they go through a long process by where they draft the proposed standard, publish it in the Federal Register as a Proposed Rule, and allow a period of time for stakeholders to comment on the proposed rule. After considering all the input provided by the stakeholders, OSHA will tweak the draft standard and then publish it in the Federal Register as a Final Rule, along with a wealth of other information gathered during the process. As a side note, this process usually takes 10+ years to complete, and in the end OSHA may actually abandon the proposed standard.

In the section of the Federal Register titled “Summary and Explanation of the Standard”, OSHA will break the proposed draft standard down paragraph by paragraph, and include the many comments, questions, and concerns expressed by the stakeholders about each paragraph. This process reveals many ambiguous areas contained within the originally drafted standard, and OSHA’s subsequent explanation or rebuttal provided within this section of the Preamble often provides valuable insight into OSHA’s intent when they created the standard.

Here are a couple of examples of what I am talking about, both originating from OSHA’s permit-required confined space entry standards for general industry:

  • Paragraph 1910.146(b) defines one of the three criteria of a “confined space” as "the space is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work". Many people are confused by the term “bodily enter”; it is not defined in the OSHA standard, and some people think it means that if the space is large enough and configured so an employee could place any part of their body inside the space, it would be a confined space. But in the Preamble to the Final Rule for the Permit-required Confined Space Entry Standard, the section that discusses this particular term explains that the standard is intended to cover only spaces that were large enough for the entire body of an employee to enter. So now we have a clear definition of the term “bodily enter” as it applies to this standard.

  •  Paragraph 1910.146(c)(5)(i) allows the employer to utilize “alternate entry procedures” to enter certain permit-required confined spaces where they are able to demonstrate that the only hazard posed by the permit space is an actual or potential hazardous atmosphere, as long as the employer can demonstrate that continuous forced-air ventilation alone is sufficient to maintain the permit space “safe for entry”. Unfortunately, the OSHA standard does not quantify what OSHA considers to be “safe for entry”. But in the section of the Preamble to the Final Rule that discusses paragraph(c)(5), OSHA explains that employers may use “a guideline of 50 percent of the level of flammable or toxic substances that would constitute a hazardous atmosphere in making the determination”. So now we know that using forced air ventilation to maintain flammable gas at no more than 5% of its LEL (half of the OSHA limit for a “hazardous atmosphere when considering flammable gas) would be considered “safe for entry” when utilizing these alternate entry procedures.

Sure, many issues such as these are later clarified by OSHA in their letters of interpretations or directives, but those typically are created years after the standard has been published. So why wait? Be in the know from the beginning by reading the Preamble to the Final Rule whenever OSHA publishes a new or revised OSHA standard.

Where can you locate Preambles to Final Rules published by OSHA? Sometimes you can simply “Google” the particular Federal Register you are looking for (e.g.: preamble final rule 1910.146) and sort through the results. Or you can go to www.FederalRegister.gov to search for the document or topic you seek (here is the link for the preamble to the permit-required confined space standard).

Remember, however, that none of this applies to OSHA’s original standards that were issued back in the early ‘70’s, as those standards do not have a preamble. This applies only to those standards that were created or revised since then, such as but not limited to, Lockout/Tagout, Hazard Communication, Bloodborne Pathogens, Forklift Operator Training, Respiratory Protections, Personal Protective Equipment, Steel Erection, & Fall Protection and Prevention. One more important thing to keep in mind is that OSHA does occasionally issue technical corrections to standards through the Federal Register as well, so also search for any related preambles that address updates when researching a particular OSHA standard.

Have you ever found a helpful “nugget” of information that was buried inside the Preamble to a particular OSHA standard that you found especially valuable?  If so, or if you have other related comments about this topic, would you please share your experience with others in the comments section below?

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Student to Content Interactivity

Interactivity can refer to a lot of things. In the online learning world, it often refers to collaboration & communication often done in discussions, blogs, chats, webinars, etc. However, the tips that follow are specifically for increasing the interactivity between the student and the content in your course. Although you may not have access to all the tools mentioned, just knowing about the possibilities may help you consider the options for increasing interactivity.

1) Presentation Interactions.

Many presention lessons are locked-down funnelling the student from one topic to the next without allowing them any choice as to the order of topics covered or any interaction beyond read and click next. Consider adding a tabbed menu or navigation buttons in your presentation to allow students to choose how to navigate the lesson.  This tiny bit of freedom can empower students as they take a bit more control of their own learning.

For example, the image below shows how interactivity can allow students to choose which character they want to learn about. The opposit of this is when you have a powerpoint slide locked down slide by slide going through each and every character begining to end. Why not allow students the ability to choose?


 Here are a few examples to give you a better idea from Articulate:

PowerPoint Tip: Do you use Powerpoint for your lessons?  If you want a free tabbed template, there is one available here for free from Articulate. Using this template, you can put your lesson in there with the different topic headings and then students can choose which topic they want to go to. You may also be interested in these tips for spicing up your presentations. On a side note, if you use powerpoint and want to convert your powerpoint slides to flash, you can use this iSpring Free plug-in to convert it to flash which makes it very easy to then upload it into an LMS and students access it without powerpoint. Its pretty simple and free.

2) Video Interactions.  

Thinking back to High School, everyone loved "video" days where the room would be dark and students could just relax and take a nap for an hour or so... probabably not what the teacher had hoped for but often the outcome.  Yes, a huge part of the problem is the quality of videos displayed but that is a seperate topic. Fortunately for online courses, one idea you can do to help students from dozing off is to use either Camtasia Quiz Feature or Raptivity to add questions or callouts to your videos.

During the video, every few minutes, there is a pause and a multiple choice or essay question appears (the student awakes.."oh, I have to actually listen to the video", so he or she restarts the video and begins to pay attention a bit more).  By incorporating these popup questions or callouts during the video, students are more likely to pay attention and teachers can ensure that the key concepts they want to emphasize are pointed out.  In the face to face classroom, a teacher may pause a video to ask a question. This simply allows that same type of interjected interaction for an online course.

Here are a few examples of video interactions from Raptivity.

3) Practice Interactions. 

Practice makes perfect so why not allow students to practice a bit before they have to complete a graded assessment? Interactive practices and simulations help students practice what they have studied and encourages them to self-identify which areas they need to study more. Automatic feedback found in practices can be a powerful learning tool to help students before they have to complete a graded assignment, quiz, or test.


Here are a few practices examples from Raptivity.

4) Learning Games.   

Multiple choice & true false questions are common for learning vocabulary and knowledge so why not put them in a simple learning game and make it fun? Placing learning games prior to quizes or tests can be a great review for the students. Its similar to any other mutiple choice practice but way more fun. After all who wouldn't want to play the Millionaire Challenge!

1 of 2

Here are a few other examples from elearningbrothers.com:

5) Miscellaneous Interactions.

These interactions are important but may not fit in other categories. Learning obejcts such as flashcards, tables, and charts which the students can interact with can be more effective than just a simple image.

A few examples from Articulate:

6) Mobile Interactions.

Students are always on the go and the majority are already using mobile devices. Integrating mobile components can dramatically increase their interactivity with your course by making it accesible to them wherever they may be.

Much of the examples mentioned previously published to Flash which works great on desktop computers and laptops. However, most don't work on mobile devices. If you have questions about why mobile-friendly content should be in your courses, check out this video on Mobile Technology.


I'm going to post more on this topic in a later post but for now, here are just a couple links to some options for creating mobile content for online courses.

What other tools have you used? Any other ways to increase the student-content interactivity?

This article was originally posted at   http://tips4blended.posterous.com/6-tips-to-maximize-learning-through-increased

eLearning: Tips for Better Data Representation

by AJ George

I recently attended an Edward Tufte course on "Presenting Data and Information." If you are unsure of who Edward Tufte is, I would suggest checking out his Wikipedia page.

Here are some of the top tips I took away from the course:

Stop Assuming Your Audience is Dumb

Have you noticed that PowerPoint presentations and eLearning modules will often do the "slow reveal," only showing one bullet point at a time? Why do we do that? Do we think that our audience cannot handle all the information at once? That their poor, feeble brains will explode if the words appear before we say them?

Tufte advised to do away with the slow reveal, citing that using it makes you a bit "authoritarian." Let your audience decide what they need and want to read, and when.

Tufte pointed out that readers of George A. Miller's "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information," who deduced that only seven items belong on lists or slides, must have mis-read the paper. Tufte said that the correct number of items that belong in a list is zero. He felt that the real point of Miller's paper, among other things, was to suggest ways to place unlike data into context so as to make them easier for an audience to remember and understand. Perhaps one way to do away with the slow reveal would be to do away with the bullets you wish to reveal.

Think More Logically About Data Placement

Related to assuming your audience is dumb, do you really need to break up information into five different graphs on different PowerPoint slides? Could the information be compiled into one well-designed chart or graph instead? In Tufte's Beautiful Evidence he presents a clear and concise chart on cancer survival rates and then goes on to show how convoluted the evidence becomes when broken into many charts in PowerPoint, full of what he refers to as "chartjunk." You can see the example for yourself here in Tufte's online forum.

Additionally Tufte pointed out the seemingly obvious (but often overlooked) idea to provide data side by side for comparisons as well as placing important things adjacent in space. Don't make your audience leaf through pages or wait for a new slide to see the information as it relates to other relevant information. Put it all out there--together and at once.

Streamline Design

While Tufte advocated providing more (in fact, as much as possible) information in our data representation, he was clear that he did not mean more stuff, ie "chartjunk."

Things that can be removed:

  • Drop shadows. (I know, this one hurts; I like drop shadows too.)

  • Boxes around information. (He gave the example that tobacco companies are forced to add Surgeon General warnings to their products. They slap them on there in all caps with a big box on it. Do you think it's a coincidence that this doesn't improve the readability at all?)

  • Linking lines without annotation. (Check out this link for more on this). Particularly pay attention to the graphic from Page 14 in his book for a good example of how linking lines can be annotated to give the chart more meaning. There is also a good example of eliminating boxes around information right below that on the page.)

Make the Information Your Interface

According to Tufte, "The best design can do is get out of the way." He suggested making the information the interface and was very happy to see gadgets with touch interfaces take off, eliminating the use of a mouse and the clutter of scroll bars.

For your viewing pleasure, check out this presentation Tufte made to Apple on where the iPhone's interface was strong and where it could use some work. And then, head over to Engadget to check outthis post on a concept phone by Nokia. While still just a concept, the idea that this is the future of design and making the information the interface is pretty exciting.