The Toolbox Collection | Vol. 4: Digital Learning

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Editor Brad Garner



CONTENTS Introduction............................................................................................ 2 Part 1: A Context for Digital Learning ........................................................ 4 Web 2.0 Tools: Choose Carefully, Use Wisely....................................... 4 Aggregated Content Approach to Course Development............ 7 Separating Fact From Fiction in the Digital Information Age....... 9 Part 2: Connecting and Communicating...................................................... 11 Digital Media in the Classroom: A Movie is Worth 10,000 Words................................................................11 Capture the Power, Get to the Point......................................................... 14 Leverage Social Media for Better Learning............................................ 16 Opening a Backchannel to Classroom Engagement......................... 19 Part 3: Digital Assignments and Assessments .......................................... 22

Published by: National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition University of South Carolina 1728 College Street, Columbia, SC 29208 The First-Year Experience® is a service mark of the University of South Carolina. A license may be granted upon written request to use the term “The First-Year Experience.” This license is not transferable without written approval of the University of South Carolina. Production Staff for the National Resource Center Brad Garner, Founding Editor

Overcome Uncertainty, Embrace the Technology.............................. 22

Todd Money, Editor

Make a Movie ... and Be the Star.................................................................. 23

Stephanie L. McFerrin, Graphic Artist

Help Students Share their Stories, One Second at a Time........... 25

Tracy L. Skipper, Assistant Director for Publications

Go Virtual to Achieve Learning Outcomes............................................ 27 Pecha Kucha: Every Second Counts........................................................... 29 References ..................................................................................................................... 32

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The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning



ake a mental picture. You are walking through the student center on your campus. What do you see your students doing? Some are studying, a few are chatting with their friends … and an overwhelming majority are tethered to a digital device—texting, listening to music, watching a video, surfing the web, or connecting through social media. Observing this kind of behavior is not unique to college campuses. Everywhere we go, all the time, technology is pervasive. This raises the question, How might faculty capitalize on their students’ digital proclivities as a way to enhance learning? In 2001, Marc Prensky divided the world’s population into two distinct groups: digital natives and digital immigrants (Prensky, 2001). Digital natives, which include the vast majority of today’s college students, grew up surrounded by computers, video games, the Internet, cellphones, and digital music players. Digital immigrants remember a world in which these technologies were nonexistent or emerging and, perhaps, less intertwined with almost every aspect of life. But, as Cowan (2011) argued, digital natives, although technologically savvy, are not necessarily digital learners, those with the skills necessary to choose and use digital resources and tools for learning effectively. For example, digital natives can download a song from iTunes, create a Facebook page, or post pictures online easily, but they may lack the skills to use the note-taking and highlighting tools in an e-book, critically analyze web-based content resources, or work with varied presentation and publishing tools, all of which enhance the academic experience.To become digital learners, digital natives must not only know the technology but know how to work with it. When this conversation moves into the context of higher education, the interaction between a rapidly changing technological landscape and the highly diverse skill levels among students and faculty creates many pedagogical challenges (e.g., choosing and integrating technology effectively, ensuring faculty and students have the necessary skills to correctly deploy identified technological tools, developing ways to assess the value-added nature of technology in the instructional process). As technology evolves, these challenges will continue, requiring specific attention and an intentional focus on enhancing skills of students and faculty. The following strategies can help students (who are mostly digital natives) engage in digital


The principal goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. -Jean Piaget, psychologist and philosopher

The Toolbox Collection • December 2018 learning effectively and help faculty members (many of whom are digital immigrants) implement and become comfortable with ever-changing technology.

STUDENT LEARNING PATTERNS Instructors can integrate basic strategies into any course or discipline to help digital natives become digital learners. A good starting point is to fully use the learning management system available on your particular campus (e.g., Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard). These platforms contain tools that easily can be deployed to engage students in critical thinking and accountability for their learning (e.g., discussion forums, online quizzes, journals), allowing them to work directly with the technology. Including these requirements in first-year seminars and courses will pay long-term benefits as students proceed through their academic programs. Other examples include »» providing opportunities to critically analyze the content and claims on various course-related websites. For example, a faculty member might give students a topic to explore on the Internet, asking them to find web resources presenting contrasting positions on the assigned topic; »» creating assignments that require students to use unique tools to present their work, such as Glogster (, Pecha Kucha (, or Pinterest (; and »» having students submit and revise their assignments electronically (e.g., research projects, essays).

FACULTY APPROACHES TO TEACHING Although many instructors continually break new ground applying technology to engage with students inside and outside the classroom, faculty’s record with technology in teaching is rather bleak in general (Allen, Seaman, Lederman, & Jaschik, 2012). For reluctant faculty, adopting and integrating technology in three phases—decide, deploy, and discern—is one way to begin learning and implementing new skills and tools, helping this group of largely digital immigrants become digital learners themselves. First, instructors must decide what technological tools are available based on what students need to learn, demonstrate, and accomplish. The second phase is to deploy the technology, but faculty must first learn it themselves and ensure that students can use the tools involved effectively. The third phase is discerning strategies to determine the level that the technology helps students accomplish identified learning outcomes. To assess these levels and their success, faculty might compare student performance results with and without the added feature of digital resources or ask students to reflect on their digital learning experience and how it enhanced learning outcomes. Other strategies include: »» recapturing the feeling of being a student again and learning something new; »» exploring, learning, and using one new technology tool every year (or every semester); »» considering ways to assess the impact of new technologies on students’ learning; »» incorporating technology so that faculty become comfortable with these resources and help students learn how to use them. Resource examples include online rather than in-class quizzes, wikis rather than in-class presentations, podcasts to share information on a particular topic, virtual field trips, or Skype conversations with authors and experts in the discipline (Toledo, 2007); and »» taking advantage of the wealth of video resources available (e.g., to enrich course quality (both inside and outside the classroom). Proliferating technology opens new pathways to knowledge for students while challenging instructors to venture outside their comfort zones, expand their horizons, and create new, enriching learning opportunities. In this edition of The Toolbox Collection, we will examine some strategies to consider in your courses.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning



he availability of Web 2.0 tools is one of the hottest things going in higher education. These amazing online applications allow users to create and present content digitally and interact and collaborate with others (as opposed to Web 1.0 locations, which offer only passive content as sources of information). Web 2.0 tools include:

»» blogs; »» social networking sites; »» mashups, which combine resources from multiple sources such as a digital map with interactive links to pictures or addresses; »» screencasts; »» interactive storage repositories; and »» wikis, which allow users to add, modify, or delete content collaboratively with others. Literally hundreds of these tools are available (see box on page 6 for a list of the most popular), and new and exciting options appear regularly. Incorporating these tools into the classroom can dramatically impact any higher education course and give instructors the potential to revolutionize the way they think about teaching and learning. Given the great number of choices, faculty who wish to use Web 2.0 applications actively in the classroom must assess them carefully.

CATEGORIZING AND ASSESSING WEB 2.0 TOOLS One way instructors can make sense of all the Web 2.0 tools available is to think of how they might use them in a college course. Kitsantas and Dabbagh (2011) suggested three possibilities: (a) communication (e.g., Adobe Connect, Skype), (b) experience and resource sharing (e.g., Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube), and (c) social networking (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). Using these categories, faculty can decide what they hope to accomplish during the class term using Web 2.0 tools and how their use might facilitate learning outcomes. For example, if the goal is resource sharing, faculty need to specify the learning outcomes for that experience, the ways that students should use the identified tools (e.g., Instagram, Pinterest), and the expectations for student performance as expressed in a rubric. These preliminary steps will help create high-quality learning opportunities. Secondly, Hew and Cheung (2013) suggested faculty think about prospective Web 2.0 tools in relation to synchronicity. Will students be required to cooperate with other students at a set time (i.e., synchronous) or at times convenient to their schedules (i.e., asynchronous)? A variety of synchronous Web 2.0 tools can be used in the classroom, including polling tools (e.g.,; course-related gaming strategies; or virtual environments, such as Second Life. In contrast, asynchronous tools allow students to work on their own schedule to develop course-related products, post them online, share links to them, then observe and respond to one another using web-


The Toolbox Collection • December 2018 based strategies. Blogging applications (e.g., Blogger, Voicethread, WordPress) are especially well-suited for this type of interaction. Asynchronous tools can be particularly effective with groups of students who, for example, attend school part-time because of employment or family-related responsibilities. EDUCAUSE, an organization devoted to promoting excellence through technology in higher education, has created a thorough research-based rubric for evaluating e-learning tools. The features of this rubric include »» Functionality: scalability for any size class, userfriendly interface, campus-based support readily available, participants can communicate using varying modalities (i.e., audio, visual, textual); »» Accessibility: meets accessibility guidelines, designed to meet the needs of diverse learners, does not require equipment beyond what is typical for student learning, free of charge; »» Technical: can be embedded into a learning management system, compatible with operating systems, usable with any up-to-date browser, no additional downloads required; »» Mobile design: accessible for use or download on a variety of mobile devices, no functional difference between desktop version and mobile versions, offers an offline mode; »» Privacy/data protection rights: does not require an external account, users maintain ownership of intellectual property, content can be saved or archived; »» Social presence: tool supports a community of learning, instructors control user anonymity, customizable to suit classroom context, instructor can monitor learner performance, tool is widely known and popular; »» Teaching presence: easy-to-use features, adaptable and customizable, learning analytics available; and »» Cognitive presence: enhances engagement on targeted cognitive tasks, facilitates higher order thinking, participants can receive formative feedback. These criteria can help faculty think about what might be most important and valuable as they choose Web 2.0 tools to use with their students.

Thinking differently about information is going to be crucial as Web 2.0 takes off, for both teacher and learners. ... A whole new range of skills is necessary in our academic culture: the skills required to create online frameworks for collaborative, learner-led work. -Iposos MORI (2008, p. 42)


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning

GUIDING QUESTIONS After assessing Web 2.0 tools and determining their categories of use (e.g., communication, information sharing, social networking), instructors should consider these guiding questions before introducing the applications in the classroom: »» Will using a particular tool help students master identified learning outcomes? »» What resources will it take (e.g., time, energy) to learn to use the tool effectively? »» Will this tool seamlessly connect with other learning experiences that are part of the course? »» Is the necessary technological support available and accessible to introduce this tool, help students learn how to use it, and assist in its implementation? Is the tool intended to help students learn new skills or to assess their learning? »» What assessments are available to determine whether the tool benefited students and their learning?

CONCLUSION Wise decisions about Web 2.0 tool selection and implementation can dramatically impact the overall success of a course and the level of student learning. By employing these interactive digital tools, instructors not only help students learn and apply new instructional content related to the course or discipline, they also allow them to visualize other ways these tools will be integral to their lives in the future.

This article was originally published in September 2013 as “Assessing Web 2.0 Tools: Choose Carefully, Use Wisely.”

TEN OF THE MOST POPULAR WEB 2.0 SITES »» YouTube, an interactive video repository; »» Wikipedia, an open-source document creation platform; »» Twitter, an interactive social networking application; »» Pinterest, a visual, web-based bulletin board; »» WordPress, a content management system and open-source blog publishing application; »» Craigslist, a centralized network of online communities; »» Tumblr, a blogging platform that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes, and audio; »» IMDB, an interactive database focused on movies and television programs; »» Yelp, a social networking site that lets users post reviews and rate businesses; and »» Instagram, a photo- and video- sharing social networking service.


Courtesy of

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e live in a rapidly changing world where information and knowledge are being created and shared at everincreasing rates. Futurist Ray Kurzweil has actually predicted that, in the near future, the quantity of available knowledge will double every 12 hours (Wolf, 2008)! One reason for this phenomenal rate of growth is the corresponding and pervasive development of digital technologies (e.g., digital learning tools, search engines, open source documents, apps, MOOCs). It is this factor that will greatly impact the way higher education defines and manages the parameters of knowledge. How individual instructors define knowledge is central to effective course design (e.g., the types and quantity of information selectively included or excluded from the content, the sources of information that are modeled and students are exposed to, methodologies used for determining the veracity of information). In the past, faculty may have focused their course design efforts on a textbook, a set of PowerPoint slides, and a collection of articles from the professional literature. Now they must broaden their perspectives and consider the expansive and seemingly boundless world of the Internet, where vast storehouses of knowledge and information are quite literally at their students’ fingertips. Given a set of learning outcomes for a designated course, instructors often first turn their attention to selecting a textbook. This decision is generally based on a number of factors, including readability, scope, chapter organization, and supplementary resources (Durwin & Sherman, 2008). The expectation in this process is that a chosen textbook provides adequate coverage for the identified topics, concepts, skills, and knowledge that faculty wish their students to master. Textbook publishers recently have become inventive in designing a variety of digital tools (e.g., test question banks, videos, interactive digital tools, PowerPoint slides, web-based resources) that can be used to supplement a basic textbook. A well-written textbook provides a basic framework for conversations and exploration on the topic of choice. That said, it is highly unlikely that a single textbook in the 21st century, even with all of the bundled bells and whistles, can single-handedly capture an entire topic with all of the best available information. Textbooks, when published, have been in development for two years or more and therefore may already have diminishing currency. Given the inherent limitations of a textbook, another factor to consider in the selection process is how the text can be used as a starting point for a collection of resources to assist students in their learning.

AN AGGREGATED APPROACH Aggregation involves bringing together a diverse collection of content and resources to create a unified whole. Although the textbook will probably continue as a central feature in course design, faculty should also give thought to aggregating that book with other digital assets that will supplement and enrich the basic content. For example, instructors might consider the following tools to help with aggregation: »» Textbook evaluation—The degree that the chosen textbook emphasizes the course topics and content articulated in the learning outcomes needs to be assessed. This initial examination provides guidance in identifying topics and content that may need additional coverage or that might be better examined by using alternative resources.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning »» Video supplements—A variety of free, online, searchable databases provide rich, vibrant resources that can be used inside (i.e., as part of presentations) or outside (i.e., as assigned content students can watch on their own) the classroom. Examples include »» TED (, »» YouTube (, »» (, and »» Khan Academy ( »» Electronic database articles—University libraries are rapidly transitioning to emphasize digital resources that supplement traditional, hard-copy documentation. Part of this transition comes from the availability of searchable online databases, which provide access to digital versions of current academic publications. Links to selected articles can be easily assembled into a collection of assigned readings for students. This process assures that students are being exposed to the best and most current thinking in the discipline. »» Open educational resources (OER)—Defined as “high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge”(The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, n.d., para. 1), these include documents, videos, simulations, activities and labs, case studies, lecture notes, and assessment strategies. Most of the web-based repositories provide searchable databases that make the process of locating resources more efficient. Examples include »» Open Educational Resources (, »» Merlot II (, and

How absurd that our students tuck their cell phones, BlackBerrys, iPads, and iPods into their backpacks when they enter a classroom and pull out a tattered textbook. -Eli L. Broad, American philanthropist and entrepreneur

»» The Open University on iTunesU ( By thoughtfully assembling a variety of instructional resources, instructors can deepen their students’ engagement with chosen content and widen the breadth of learning experiences in their courses. Consider the advantages in learning that can be realized through intentional aggregation! 8

This article was originally published in November 2014.

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he emergence of digital technology has resulted in the instantaneous and ever-growing availability of vast amounts of information. To put this in perspective, below are some mind-boggling statistics on information in digital contexts:

»» As of 2018, there are more than 440 million active blogs (How Many Blogs Are There in the World? 2018). »» Since its inception at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 1989, the worldwide web has grown exponentially. In 2018, there were more than 1.8 billion websites working on the Internet (Fowler, 2018). »» Wikipedia, the most prolific of the wiki sites, began in July 2001 and estimates the number of wikis in 2018 at 5.7 million (Wikipedia:Statistics, n.d.). As faculty and students increase their levels of engagement with digital information, it is critically important that they develop the skills necessary to discern the level of accuracy and significance of online material. However, the need to separate fact from fiction existed long before the digital age. In a 1969 lecture to the National Council of Teachers of English, Neil Postman, an American author, media theorist, and cultural critic, proposed that “the art of crapdetection” (p. 1)—a term coined by Ernest Hemingway (see Manning, 1965)—was vital to a reader’s ability to identify useful content from that which is worthless, inaccurate, or vacuous. Postman posited that one of five qualities can alert a reader to possible areas of inaccuracy or exaggeration: »» pomposity—using fancy words and phrases to reduce readers’ awareness of a lack of content; »» fanaticism—failing to accept any data or positions counter to those of the writer; »» inanity—exaggerating explanations on topics that have little value or relevance;

Technology is a bit of a doubleedged sword. Used right, it’s a wonderful tool, but unfortunately, it makes it easier for a lot of mediocre people to get really crappy ideas out. -Martin Gore, English singer, songwriter, and musician

»» superstition—without any supporting data, authoritatively stating fantasies and false notions as if they are true; and »» earthiness—using off-color language to emphasize a point or position.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning The fact that students have established themselves as voracious consumers of the information found on the Internet has been widely documented (Jones, Johnson-Yale, Millermaier, & Perez, 2009; Smith, Rainie, & Zickuhr, 2011). As such, faculty should not only facilitate student learning in relation to identified course content but also help students develop the skills necessary to be vigilant critics of the content they encounter in digital venues. The next sections offer several ways to accomplish this in the classroom. A list of additional online resources is presented in the box at the bottom of the page.

WALK THE TALK First and foremost, faculty should model the patterns of behavior they hope to pass on to their students. For example, during lectures and discussions, instructors should avoid trying to impress students with stilted, technical, and flowery language when plain, everyday terms would easily accomplish the same outcome. Paying attention to the manner and delivery of course content can help faculty steer clear of the five qualities Postman (1969) identified above and prevent students from “red flagging” or dismissing classroom material as not worth listening to. Further, the classroom environment should encourage an inquisitive and analytical mindset for students, one where they feel comfortable discussing and sharing—as well as challenging—ideas from peers and instructors. Creating this type of backdrop for learning, modeled and supported by faculty, helps students try out new ideas, propose different ways of looking at content, and build better understanding through dialogue.

LET ME COUNT THE WAYS It is helpful to give students guided practice in identifying and naming the various forms of hype that writers often use to convince readers of their assertions. With this goal in mind, faculty could locate articles or websites that strongly espouse a position on particular topics related to their academic discipline. Then, as an assignment or a classroom learning experience, instructors can walk through the selected resource with students, identifying how the authors may be working deceptively to convince the reader of their thesis.

DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW In every academic discipline, any number of topics invite controversy and strong differences of opinion. One strategy for helping students confront these hot-button issues and assess the ways that different positions are communicated is to assign the task of finding two or more opposing viewpoints (e.g., websites, blogs, articles) on a topic of concern. Students could then draw up a list of points and counterpoints made by each author and deduce which was the most truthful and forthright in presenting his or her position. Students may even find that the most convincing writer takes a position counter to their own perspective on the issue, which can lead to deeper and richer classroom discussion and learning. As F. Scott Fitzgerald (1936) observed, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function” (para. 2). Faculty can help students accomplish this task by developing the skills of analysis, discernment, and dialogue, as well as becoming wise and discriminating consumers of information. Help your students learn and practice the art of crap detection! This article was originally published in September 2015.

MORE RESOURCES »» The Baloney Detection Kit »» Crap Detection and Other Essential Network Skills


»» Crap Detection Mini-Course (check out the Crap Detection Resources tab) »» Critically Processing What You Read

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e live and teach in a media-rich culture. If you have conversations with your students or listen in on their exchanges, you undoubtedly will hear references to the latest films, recent events, or quotes and phrases from their favorite TV and movie characters. Although visual and electronic media are integral to the 21st century experience, their influence has intensified, in part, because technology permits increasing flexibility in deciding when, where, and how to watch films and TV shows (e.g., DVR, DVD, streaming, podcasts). For faculty, the sheer breadth of digital media offers a rich opportunity to make it an integral, relevant, and meaningful part of students’ learning. Bluestone (2000) articulates the powerful influence of film in the instructional process: Selected feature films integrated carefully into the curriculum can foster a variety of important skills for lifelong learning. … Feature films often make a wide range of issues relevant to a diverse student body. The more realistic, intimate quality of films further enhances students’ ability to understand and apply concepts. Film analysis, when linked with key themes and issues covered in class, not only increase(s) students’ engagement in the course but also can help develop connected learning experiences and critical thinking skills. (p. 144) We will now explore a variety of strategies for integrating digital media into teaching and learning.

FINDING AND USING ELECTRONIC MEDIA In recent years, the advent of YouTube, iTunes, and a variety of other electronic media providers has made it remarkably simple to access a multitude of video resources that can be integrated into classroom instruction. Despite the quick and easy availability of digital media, however, faculty need to be aware of federal regulations pursuant to the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act (2004), which focuses on copyright in a variety of areas, including digital audio recording devices; media; and playing copied, rented, or purchased media resources in the classroom without a license. These regulations require that such performances occur »» during one-on-one instruction between a teacher and student, »» in a classroom or other setting devoted to instruction, or »» under the auspices of a nonprofit organization (creating potential challenges in for-profit settings and online teaching). Although not addressed directly by the regulations, as an added protection and a way to document the connection between selected media and course learning outcomes, faculty should consider including media information, the date and time of the performance, and any related assignments within the course syllabus. Another standard that protects copyrights and allows for restricted use of copyrighted material without permission is the Fair Use Doctrine (1976),


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning which is more stringent on the recording of TV programs to use in the classroom. For example, material used in a course »» should be recorded by the institution rather than the faculty member, »» may not be altered in any way, »» has a 10-day limitation on use, and »» must be destroyed within 45 days. This provision of the law allows a window of opportunity for faculty to use educationally relevant and current materials appearing on television. What remains somewhat nebulous is the legality of using video from other sources (e.g., YouTube) or specialized software that lets users download formatted versions of material for direct insertion into PowerPoint or Keynote presentations (e.g., TubeSock, YTD Downloader, It could be argued that these resources also fall under the Fair Use Doctrine. It would be prudent, however, to follow the procedural guidelines outlined above when using these media.

USING MEDIA IN THE CLASSROOM Faculty can effectively employ digital media as a teaching resource in a number of creative ways. Pairing any of the following strategies with learning outcomes can enliven and enhance the pedagogical structure of a class.

POWERPOINT AND KEYNOTE PRESENTATIONS One of the more common ways of accessing and using digital media is to insert video or audio clips into PowerPoint or Keynote software presentations. This strategy provides a seamless way of using news programs, excerpts from TV shows, songs, interviews, archival clips, and portions of commercially produced films to emphasize a teaching point or provide a touchpoint for dialogue and critical thinking.

Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music. -Frank Capra

THEMATIC FILM FESTIVALS A sense of community can emerge from sharing the experience of watching a film together. Creating a film festival based on a theme and having students watch one or more movies in class can encourage deeper engagement with course content and with one another. Although students will always request to rent and watch the movies on their own, part of this strategy’s power is the chance to watch a movie in community and then talk about the plot, the choices made by the characters, and the consequences of those choices. Possible themes and relevant films include


The Toolbox Collection • December 2018 »» Terrorism/peacemaking—Patriots Day (2016), The 15:17 to Paris (2018) »» Choices—Gravity (2013), The Founder (2016), The Post (2017) »» Diversity issues—Milk (2008), 12 Years a Slave (2013), Carol (2015), Fences (2016), Hidden Figures (2016), Marshall (2017)

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS The use of classroom management systems (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, CNet) is approaching standard practice in higher education. Although these resources often serve as a repository for syllabi, written resources and study guides, and online evaluations, they can also contain links to video and audio clips. Students can then access these supplementary resources 24/7 from either onsite or remote locations.

STUDENT RESPONSE ASSIGNMENTS The power and impact of viewing a movie can be enhanced by follow-up assignments requiring students to speak or write about their thoughts on the film. Strategies to accomplish this task include asking students to »» write a movie review of a class film(s); »» compare and contrast the varying biases and perspectives depicted in multiple movies that focus on the same topic; or »» read the book the movie was adapted from, then discuss similarities and differences in the two versions of the story. Find lists of books that have been made into movies at Roll that video! Use digital media in your classroom this semester! This article was originally published in January 2011.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning

CAPTURE THE POWER, GET TO THE POINT P owerPoint is a commonly used teaching tool in higher education. Think back to your last professional conference, for example. You probably chose a session based on the topic and had high expectations for learning something new. As the presentation began, you quickly realized the speaker would be using PowerPoint slides as an integral part of the session. Though the content of the presentation may have been innovative, the speaker insisted on reading from a series of slides full of bulletpointed text. You likely lost interest and spent the rest of the time checking your email. We should reflect on whether this reaction to PowerPoint is common to your students, as well. A presentation program developed by Microsoft in the 1990s, PowerPoint faces ongoing questions about its value as a teaching tool as suggested by the titles of articles appearing in scholarly journals and popular magazines: “PowerPoint is Evil” (Tufte, 2003), “Powerful or Pointless?” (James, Burke, & Hutchins, 2006), “Life After Death by PowerPoint” (McMillan, 2012), and “Escaping the PowerPoint Prison” (McFedries, 2017). Additionally, emerging research on its use in presentations should sound an alarm for those who may find using the software in the classroom addictive. Hertz, Kerkhof, and van Woerkum (2016) reported that PowerPoint presenters, on average, included 55 words on each slide and looked at the screen 73 times during a 20-minute presentation. Further, they observed a direct relationship between speaker anxiety and enhanced use of text on PowerPoint slides, concluding that feelings of anxiety and the availability of the text raised speakers’ temptation to read the slides. Further, Hertz et al. (2016) suggested the slides could distract from the speaking part of a presentation.

PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play— very loud, very slow, and very simple. -Edward Tufte, emeritus professor of political science, statistics, and computer science, Yale University

Pros, Tarrida, Del Mar Badia Martin, and Del Carmen Cirera Amores (2013) took these concerns a step further by examining the impact of PowerPoint presentations on student learning. Students were exposed to course content supplemented by either a PowerPoint presentation or the use of a blackboard. The groups who got their content from the blackboard scored 19% higher than the groups using PowerPoint on a content-related quiz (p < 0.000). In a similar study by Meoi et al. (2013), students were taught a collection of content either with PowerPoint, a blackboard, or both. Results indicated the groups taught using both 14

The Toolbox Collection • December 2018 PowerPoint and the blackboard performed significantly higher than the other two groups (p < .05). These studies and the negative language applied to PowerPoint raise the question: Can the software rise above these caveats and be a learning resource that supplements and magnifies a presenter’s words? As a basic principle, any tool or resource that can be used for learning can also be misused, inviting boredom, apathy, and a lack of engagement with presented content. With that in mind, researchers and practitioners have examined how PowerPoint, when used effectively and judiciously, can promote learning. Below are a few of their recommendations. Consider how they align with your use of PowerPoint: »» Guy Kawasaki’s (2005) “10/20/30 Principle”—Kawasaki has created some simple rules of thumb: Use no more than 10 slides in your presentation (which forces thoughtful decisions about slide content); make sure these 10 slides can supplement 20 minutes’ worth of speaking; and use a 30-point font— or find the age of the oldest person in the room, divide by two, and make that your font size. »» Seth Godin’s (Seth’s Blog, 2007) rules to remember—Godin has proposed five key principles for PowerPoint presentations: 1. No more than six words to a slide; 2. Make sure your images are of the highest quality; 3. Resist the temptation to use fancy slide transitions; 4. Use sound effects on a strategic and limited basis; and 5. Don’t hand out copies of your slides. »» Bullet points kill interest—One of the greatest crimes of PowerPoint is relying on bullet points to emphasize the organization and sequence of presented text. Above all, resist this temptation. »» An agenda, not a script—Many presenters tend to treat PowerPoint slides as the focus of a presentation as the speaker turns away from the audience to look at the screen or, heaven forbid, reads the slides to the audience. PowerPoint slides should be considered as the agenda, not the focus, of the presentation. That way, the image or (limited number of) words on the screen will help the speaker and the audience transition to the next topic of discussion. »» The power of imagery—Richard Mayer (2009) has extensively researched multimedia learning (i.e., which combination of words and imagery best promotes student learning). He suggested that one way that people learn better is with words and pictures rather than words alone. Just as we must be careful about the words we choose, it is equally important to choose images that amplify and connect with the chosen words. »» Seamless transitions to videos—One way to enhance a presentation and maintain your audience’s attention is to include short video clips (i.e., under three minutes long). This can be done seamlessly by downloading the video to your desktop. »» “What was the question?”—When classroom discussions are part of the plan, it is always helpful to post the discussion prompt on a PowerPoint slide to help keep students focused on the task. It is also possible to download timers and embed them into PowerPoint slides. As it makes students aware of the time available for a discussion or assigned task, the timer is a helpful resource. »» Intentionally blank slides—For a change of pace, occasionally inserting a blank, black slide can signal that you are about to share something critically important. Based on these suggested strategies, consider reevaluating your use of PowerPoint in teaching. Focus your energy on harnessing the power of your message, and think of any PowerPoint resources you use as a way to supplement and strengthen what you have to share. This article was originally published in July 2017.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning


ome of the most pervasive and active forms of digital content are found on social media platforms. For college students, the most popular social media tools, in order of popularity, are Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (Watts, 2017). These platforms provide students a quick and ready resource for sharing the events of their lives and engaging with friends near and far. However, instructors can also use them as a powerful learning tool, engaging students with course content and opportunities for critical thinking outside the classroom. Manca and Ranieri (2016) reported that faculty remain somewhat reluctant to include social media in their courses primarily because of pedagogical concerns and logistical challenges (e.g., connecting course content with social media activities, making students aware of social media tools, ongoing platform-related issues). While social media platforms may challenge faculty as they learn to use them effectively, this effort can pay long-term benefits as students deepen their learning on familiar digital ground. Interested in connecting your courses and students with social media tools? Here are some tips for beginning the process.

CHOOSE A PLATFORM, ESTABLISH RULES OF ENGAGEMENT When choosing a social media platform for your courses, consider several factors: »» What social media tools are your students using most often? When thinking about integrating social media into your courses, using a platform commonly known by a majority of participating students (and one you are familiar with as a faculty member) will be most efficient. Ask around to find out which platforms your students are using regularly, then spend some time getting familiar with the bells and whistles of the platform you choose. When problems arise, you may need to become the first responder. »» What types of assistance might your students need to access and use the chosen social media platform? Not all students will be completely familiar with social media and the process for posting comments and other resources. YouTube and the various social media tools provide tutorials on the basics of use, but faculty should also give students specific guidelines on course-related social media engagement. Providing links to these tutorials and resources within your learning management system will make for a more seamless process. »» How important is it to keep the activities of the group private from others who are not part of the class? Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat (with a 16-member limit), and Instagram all let users create private groups for sharing and discussions. Faculty should consider students’ need to maintain privacy in social media engagements. If a decision is made not to maintain privacy, students should be advised (in the syllabus) that their conversations will be available to the general public. »» Will the social media forum be moderated? Although setting parameters for course-related social media use is important (e.g., no profanity; restrictions on personal criticism and attacks; truthful posting), also consider moderating content that remains posted as part of this learning experience. The faculty member could take on the moderating role, or this task could be rotated among students over the span of the semester, with casual oversight by faculty.


The Toolbox Collection • December 2018 »» Is participation optional? This is probably the first question your students will ask (i.e., “Will this be on the test?”). Two recommendations: (a) require students to participate, and (b) stipulate what participation looks like (e.g., number of posts, number of responses, links to other resources) by providing a rubric. A link to a sample rubric is included in a link in the Social Media and Teaching Resources textbox on page 18.

CAPTURE TEACHABLE MOMENTS Great things can happen in a classroom. It is also possible, however, to extend that learning to times and places beyond scheduled class meetings. For example, create a private Facebook group for the students in your class and then »» post videos of world events that relate to topical conversations you had in class recently, »» engage students in promoting a cause (e.g., social justice through the use of informed posts on human rights violations), »» post student-created videos on topics related to course content for public review and response, »» investigate and post links to web-based resources pertinent to topics being discussed in class, and »» post a reflection on what happened in class this week.

KEEP AN APPROPRIATE DISTANCE One of the dilemmas faculty face regarding social media is whether to “friend” current students and provide access to personal information (e.g., family, relationships). Each faculty member must make their own choices about this. Laliberte (2013) suggested faculty maintain professional boundaries when creating social media connections with students. Following this suggestion, the courserelated social media experience would be different and separate from your personal social media sites and content postings. This is a topic best considered before beginning a social media adventure with your students.

The thing that’s wonderful about social media is that we are able to give a voice to the voiceless and to help educate each other. I benefit from it as much as I provide those lessons. -Olivia Wilde, Actress/producer/director

SHOW YOUR PASSION, BOOST REFLECTION One of the best ways to motivate your students is to let them see firsthand your absolute enthusiasm about the subject you


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning are teaching. Bowen and Watson (2017) suggested online communication has the power to show this while also promoting slow thinking: Students think that because you are smart and know lots of things, you must always know the answer. They will be shocked and surprised when instead of answering a question in class, you want to “think about that question” or “first do more research” and then respond … to the entire class. Time for reflection and interaction is a casualty of the digital age, but you can help reclaim this time. (p. xxx) Think about ways to engage with your students on social media that demonstrate what you clearly care about and your ongoing interest in them as learners. Post, tweet, snap, and share with your students on social media and expand the boundaries of your teaching and their learning!

This article was originally published in January 2018.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND TEACHING RESOURCES »» Is Your Use of Social Media FERPA Compliant? »» Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas »» Social Media for Teaching and Learning

»» Social Media in the College Classroom »» Faculty: 7 Ways to Avoid Social Media Mistakes »» Sample Rubric for Twitter-Based Assignments

»» 25 Ways Teachers Can Integrate Social Media Into Education


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n higher education classrooms, faculty are the primary communicators of information. As they teach, we can assume that students in those classrooms are simultaneously having thoughts and side conversations about the content being shared (e.g., agreement, disagreement, confusion). One way to capitalize on these conversations and insights, while giving students a way to share their thoughts and questions with the larger group, is through backchanneling. This refers to the reality … that there are two channels of communication operating simultaneously during a conversation. The predominant channel is that of the speaker who directs primary speech flow. The secondary channel of communication (or backchannel) is that of the listener which functions to provide continuers or assessments, defining a listener’s comprehension and/or interest. (Backchannel, n.d.) The originator of this term, linguist Victor Yngve (1970), shared an everyday example of backchanneling. Imagine talking with a friend who enthusiastically describes a topic of interest, while you periodically chime in with a subtle “yes” or “uh-huh.” These backchannel comments indicate you are engaged but do not intend to take over the conversation. As affirmations, they encourage the speaker to continue their pronouncements. Ward (2017) suggested the most common backchannel terms in face-to-face conversations are “yeah,” “uh-huh,” “hm,” “right,” and “OK.”

Digital backchanneling moves beyond one-on-one conversations to include a larger identified group of participants. Using this approach in the classroom requires students to share their thoughts, questions, and ideas by texting or other web-based means; this content is then projected on a screen simultaneously for others to see. Note that this text-based approach is slightly different from “clicker” technology (e.g., Polleverywhere, Kahoot) in that students can interact with one another during the class session. Li and Greenhow (2015) suggested that digital backchanneling is already common at professional conferences, where sponsors create Twitter channels so participants can give immediate feedback on presentations and what they are learning. Another example is a format commonly applied to webinars, or web conferences. In these meetings, presenters typically

Different people, in good faith, can look at the same fact and interpret it differently. But that is where an interesting conversation begins.

-Eric Schlosser, American journalist and author


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning narrate information on the screen (e.g., PowerPoints, graphics) while participants use a text channel to comment or ask questions. Cronin (2011) suggested these practices create a strong connection between presenters and their audience by providing a means for commentary and engagement. Neustifter, Kukkonen, Coulter, and Landry (2016) described a process for using backchanneling in the classroom. During classes, faculty created slides in PowerPoint containing discussion prompts related to course content. As the questions were posted, students could see their classmates’ comments in real time and respond using chat-based backchannel software (see the box on page 21 for examples). In a backchanneled classroom, you might see the following sequence: 1. A faculty member poses a question related to the topic of the day. 2. Students respond via text, offering ideas and presuppositions about the topic. 3. The instructor reviews the responses (posted on a screen) and synthesizes in a “fact vs. fiction” way the actual content the class will cover. 4. The presentation proceeds, covering topics the instructor has identified. 5. At various points in the class, students use their phones to share their thoughts on scenarios related to the topic. Student responses are used as prompts for further conversations with the large group or in smaller groups (i.e., moving from text-based exchanges to small-group conversations).

WAYS TO USE BACKCHANNELS Faculty can use backchanneling in a variety of ways in the classroom to help enhance student engagement. Examples include: »» brainstorming possible solutions to a discipline-based scenario, »» teaching a new skill and providing a pathway for students to ask questions and seek solutions, »» creating participation options for students who may be reluctant to share their thoughts verbally, and »» creating notes and articulating key points in a classroom presentation. Cronin (2011) suggested that as faculty plan to include backchanneling in their classes, they also consider specific rules for students’ appropriate participation: »» Students must be clearly told what they may and may not use backchanneling for (e.g., tweets should be confined to the course material). »» Instructors may want to make clear to students that they cannot respond to students’ comments all the time. »» Instructors should be prepared for occasional comments critical of them and the course, and to reply when appropriate in a professional, constructive way. »» Students’ comments should be continually monitored to deter any lack of civility, (e.g., coarse language or personal attacks on other students; p. 57).

MAXIMIZE BACKCHANNELING’S BENEFITS Creating backchannels may not work for every classroom situation. Consider these factors first: »» Ultimately, decisions on using backchannels must be based on how much the technology will help students accomplish their designated learning outcomes.


The Toolbox Collection • December 2018 »» Faculty should predetermine where and when backchanneling will be inserted into the flow of the semester (i.e., assuming it will be used strategically at various times). »» Each faculty member should decide for themselves how comfortable they will be using this technology in a classroom setting. This article was originally published in September 2017.


A variety of tools can be used to facilitate backchanneling in your classes and are conducive to students using text to communicate. Here are some examples:


»» Backchannel Chat is available to educators for $15 per year. This tool lets faculty moderate comments, archive conversations, and have students vote inside the chat feature. »» Hoot Course lets teachers and students sign in using either Facebook or Twitter and then engage in synchronous, text-based conversation as a supplement to classroom instruction. »» Mentimeter provides real-time engagement between speakers and audiences … no downloads required.


»» Why Use a Backchannel in Your Classroom? »» Episode 10: The “Why” and “How” of Backchannel in the Classroom »» Today’s Meet for Classroom Backchannels »» Nine Classroom Backchannel Tools You Can Start Using Today


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OVERCOME UNCERTAINTY, EMBRACE THE TECHNOLOGY T echnology pervades our culture, but many educators—maybe because they either do not have the latest gadgets or they dread new advances—lag behind in effectively integrating technology into their teaching. Dew (2010) described the future of higher education as “global, mobile, virtual, and social.” In some ways, students’ early learning experiences may be driving these trends.

As increasing numbers of students become acquainted with blended learning during their K-12 experience (Bushweller, 2012), they likely bring expectations for similar learning experiences in college. In fact, studies produced by Chronicle Research Services (2009) and the U.S. Department of Commerce (2010) suggest students will demand increasing access to technology and to flexible learning experiences made possible by technology, such as the ability to access classes from cellphones and other portable devices; the choice to alternate between face-to-face and online participation within a single course; and online access to classroom discussions, office hours with a professor, lectures, study groups, and papers. To meet these expectations, instructors must overcome their uncertainty about teaching with technology and look for painless ways to acquire the necessary skills to offer blended learning opportunities for students. For example, familiar technologies can be used to design assignments in clever and engaging ways. With minimal effort or training, faculty can incorporate creative and energizing venues for students to develop and submit assignments. The technology chosen should always be appropriate to a course’s learning outcomes. The value of using creative technological venues during the instructional process is to help students think, learn, and demonstrate their accomplishments in a variety of technological formats.

The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. ... It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before. -Steve Ballmer, American businessman, investor

This article was originally published in October 2012 as “Creative Venues for Students to Display Their Learning.”


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he increasing availability of digital technology has led to new and exciting possibilities for teaching. One of the most functional and accessible forms of media is the screencast, “a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration” (Screencast, n.d.). Using this technology, instructors can create videos of themselves that include PowerPoint slides or images and sound. Screencasts promote student learning by »» offering supplementary materials that reinforce content included in other aspects of a course (e.g., assigned readings, classroom learning experiences, videos related to a lesson); »» assisting students in learning complex, multistep skills that require practice and repetition (e.g., steps in a lab experiment); »» maintaining course continuity when faculty are unable to conduct a scheduled class (e.g., while attending an off-campus conference); »» creating opportunities for new teaching strategies (e.g., assigning a screencast lecture as homework and having students discuss it at the next class); and »» providing a weekly preview of content, assignments, or events to connect with students outside the classroom. With some simple equipment and a few steps, instructors can create screencasts to enhance the environment of teaching and learning.

ACQUIRING THE EQUIPMENT Moving into the wonderful world of screencasting requires some basic tools: »» Internal cameras and microphones that come with most computers or tablets usually will work fine, but instructors who plan to create screencasts regularly may want to invest in an inexpensive (often $15 or less) external microphone. However, if instructors want to share their faces and voices, they probably should buy an external camera, which usually is also very inexpensive, to attach to their computers. »» To create a video capture of the image on a computer screen, instructors will not need a camera but will need to connect with an online screencast provider. Many campuses have institutional subscriptions to a video capture/storage service. Instructors should check with the technology offices at their institutions to determine whether their campuses offer this service and, if so, how to access it. If the service is not available, a number of free websites allow users to create a five-minute announcement (with the option of subscribing to produce a series of screencasts or longer productions). Free screencast websites include Screenr ( and Screencastomatic (http://www. Wikipedia (Comparison of Screencasting Software, n.d.) includes an excellent comparison of various screencasting tools and their capabilities to help users select a service provider.


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CREATING SCREENCASTS Instructors can follow these six key steps to produce screencasts: 1. Create a plan and direction.This first step is not necessarily creating a script but rather an agenda or content template to help instructors keep focused before stepping in front of the microphone or camera. 2. Examine the equipment. Instructors should make sure the microphone and camera (if needed) are operational by checking the control panel settings on their computer. 3. Do a background check. If using a camera, instructors need to be aware of the background that will be captured on video. A setting with minimal distractions is best. 4. Bring on lights, camera, action. Before beginning production of a screencast, faculty should remember this advice, which the author learned the hard way: You will not be perfect, so do not expect to be. Although producing a high-quality screencast is the goal, instructors should not obsess over a mispronounced word or a missed PowerPoint slide. Little mistakes will happen, and most screencasts are disposable (i.e., created and used one time and then discarded). To create screencasts that will be used repeatedly, instructors might consider a more polished (and perhaps script-driven) production. 5. Share the screencast. Instructors can email students a link to the final product or post it to the campus learning management system. 6. Evaluate the process. After posting a screencast, instructors should critically and thoughtfully assess the product to determine what worked well and what might be improved next time, paying particular attention to students’ comments, especially how frequently they mention the effort and how it contributes to the overall quality of the class and their learning.

TURNING THE CAMERA To engage and introduce students to this 21st century technology, instructors can have them produce a screencast as an individual or small-group assignment. Faculty can provide a topic or have students choose one related to course objectives. A rubric to help students assess their final product (e.g., some categories might include use of technology to present topic, visual and audio quality, professionalism) and links to online tutorials that explain how to use varied screencasting tools can jumpstart the creative process.To add excitement, instructors might schedule a screencast premiere during class for students to unveil their original work and learn from each other’s research. 24

Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. -James Cameron, film director and producer

This article was originally published in July 2014.

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he importance of reflection to promoting engagement and deep learning is well-established.Yet, the ever-present influence of technology in the lives of our students may be at odds with this. The constant flow of texting, browsing, Googling, posting, bookmarking, and networking have become digital preoccupations for our students (and many faculty members, if they are completely honest). One offshoot of this constant onslaught of digital content is that faculty and students alike may neglect the process of reflecting on and curating newly acquired assumptions, beliefs, and insights. In spite of perceived challenges, the current digital climate also creates pathways that allow students to acquire and share discipline-specific content knowledge, take full advantage of digital technology, and reflect on what they are learning. A 21st century win-win! One strategy for making use of students’ seeming obsession with digitally documenting their lives while aiding them in reflection is the 1 Second Everyday (1SE) video montage. This video genre first gained popularity following a TED Talk by Cesar Kuriyama in which he discussed his ongoing practice of making a one-second video each day as a way to document and celebrate the routine events of his life. In line with his commitment to this strategy, he also developed an app for the purpose of creating a “video diary that stitches together videos and photos to document your life’s journey.” The 1 SE app allows users to select a one-second video for each day, store them in a calendar format, and combine them into a longer video covering a specific time period. There are several ways instructors could use this video concept to support student reflection in their courses, including: »» documenting the first semester on a college campus; »» recording evidence of out-of-class learning, including student teaching, practica and internships, semester abroad programs, and community service projects; »» creating thematic videos focused on a principle or concept related to course content (e.g., passion, excellence, commitment, success/failure, inspiration, friendship); or »» developing a storyboard and then shooting a series of one-second videos to teach a lesson, demonstrate a process, or delineate step-by-step directions (e.g., lab procedures).

What matters is to live in the present, live now, for every moment is now. It is your thoughts and acts of the moment that create your future. The outline of your future path already exists, for you created its pattern by your past. -Sai Baba of Shirdi, Indian spiritual master


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning

DOCUMENTING LEARNING THROUGH VIDEO Here are steps for creating a one-second-every-day video montage using the app (adapted from Chavanu, 2013): 1. Download the 1SE app at the Apple Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android). The app currently costs $4.99. There are also similar apps available for free or at a lower cost that accomplish the same outcome (e.g., Video 365, Life in Shorts). 2. After launching the app, click on the camera in the upper left-hand corner of the screen and start shooting. 3. Review your video or video(s) and select the one that best captures what you want to communicate. Use the scissors tool in the app to select a single second of video. The one-second video snippets will be stored in the app-based calendar; from there they can be compiled into a single video. 4. To create a mashed video, tap the arrow icon on the calendar page, then select start and end dates for the snippets you wish to compile. Tap the film reel to view the video compilation. 5. Upload the compiled video directly to YouTube or Facebook, or download it to a movie application (e.g., iMovie, Movie Maker) for editing and add a music or audio track. Created videos are automatically stored on their phone/tablet’s camera roll. It may also help students to know they have the option to use or retake videos in addition to recording longer video clips or making multiple videos each day. This means they can keep working with the video until they capture exactly what they are looking for. However, users have to identify a single one-second segment to represent that day on the 1SE calendar. If students miss a day of recording, the app simply skips over that day in compiling the video. Alternately, students can include some text or an image from the camera roll in place of the missing video.

SOME FINAL CONSIDERATIONS As a starting point for using 1SE or similar apps for a course assignment, instructors may consider providing a list of video guidelines related to acceptable content (e.g., no nudity, nothing illegal, nothing that would be harmful/ hurtful to another person). Stating these types of guidelines in advance of the assignment will prevent (or reduce the likelihood) of later problems after the videos have been submitted and shared. The directions for the assignment should specify a minimum and maximum number of one-second clips that will go into the final product (e.g., over a 15-week semester, students can produce 60 to 75 one-second video clips, resulting in a one-minute video). As a culminating activity, students can share a link to their completed video on your LMS-based discussion forum, creating a video gallery and allowing them to interact around the activities or learning experiences they documented. Other strategies for embedding 1SE videos into assignments include: »» posting videos along with brief essays in which students reflect on their learning, »» presenting the videos in class and asking students to comment on their choice of topic and rationale for the selected clips, or »» inviting students to submit their final products to a campus- or program-wide video contest. Help your students capture the seconds of their lives! This article was originally published in September 2016 as “Help Students Tell the Story of Their Experiences, One Second at a Time.”

RESOURCES FOR GETTING STARTED »» 1 Second Everyday Website »» One Second Everyday TED Talk by Cesar Kuriyama 26

»» A Second a Day from Birth (for one year) »» Life in Shorts app

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ne of the most amazing benefits of teaching in the 21st century is the availability of digital tools that allow us to develop creative and engaging learning experiences for our students. Yet, the collection of available tools is not the most important consideration when thinking about digital technology; rather, it is how the technology’s design can be used to accomplish course learning outcomes (Kuhlenschmidt & Kacer, 2010). As faculty members then, our first thoughts should be: What am I trying to accomplish or communicate? What do I want my students to learn or be able to do? After answering these questions, we can move toward finding the best possible tool to match the identified learning outcomes. A first step in helping students achieve these outcomes is to make sure they are engaging with course content and that the messages they receive from instructors are high quality. Technological tools offer new and interesting ways to engage with digitally savvy students in a manner that captures their attention and provides some variety in course delivery. Some faculty, however, may find the idea of standing in front of a camera a bit disconcerting. For the camerashy, there is another option: creating video presentations featuring an avatar along with the sound of their own voice. Tellagami is a free mobile app (available for iOS and Android) that can be easily learned and used to deliver course content, reminders, or recaps of key points in a more engaging manner.

USING TELLAGAMI Tellagami allows users to create 30- or 90-second video messages that can be shared via email, social media platforms (e.g., Facebook,Twitter), or text message. Developing a gami is relatively easy, as the following steps suggest. »» Download the app. The Tellagami app can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet at no cost.The edu version ($4.99) provides access to a number of features available as in-app purchases in the free version (e.g., text-to-speech function, character customization, a variety of event-related resources). »» Create a background scene. Upon opening the app, you will see a plain white screen that can be altered by copying in a background of your choice (or choosing from one of those provided by the app). »» Create your avatar. You can build an avatar from the collection of available tools (e.g., gender, skin tone, eyes, head size, hair, top, pants, shoes).You can choose to create an avatar that mimics your own appearance or one that springs from your imagination. »» Add dialogue. Click on the “Message” button and record 30 seconds of dialogue. You can record a 90-second video message for an additional cost. »» Share your video. Create a link to distribute to students through a platform of your choosing.

USING TELLAGAMI IN YOUR TEACHING There are a variety of ways to use Tellagami to engage your students in active learning: »» Send your students a gami every week (either by email, text message, or post on your discussion forum) to remind them of the week’s activities and upcoming assignments. Create a quirky character, with a voice to match, who performs this task for you. »» As a way of prompting students to engage with reading assignments, have your avatar do a brief commercial for what lies ahead in the pages of your textbook.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning »» Create an avatar that will serve to introduce discussion questions in the classroom or in your LMSbased discussion forum. »» A common goal of first-year seminars is to orient new students to a campus and its resources. Scavenger hunts are a fairly typical strategy for doing this. Gamis with actual backgrounds from various locations or services on campus can be used to create virtual scavenger hunts. While gamis can provide an innovative way to deliver course content, instructors can also use them as a tool to help students process what they are learning. »» Ask students to reflect on what they have learned in a particular class session by summarizing the most important takeaway in a gami or by creating a video response to a prompt you provide. »» Assign your students the task of creating a gami during the first week of the semester as a way of introducing themselves to the class. Use your discussion forum as a gallery for the gamis, and provide students the chance to connect with one another online. This will help build a sense of community with your students. »» Have students create a brief poem (e.g., limerick, haiku, cinquain) about their experience as a firstyear student. Then ask them to create a gami where they share their poetic genius. »» At the end of the semester, have students create a brief testimonial about the most memorable thing they learned or experienced (with guidelines). Embed the videos into a movie program (e.g., iMovie, Windows Movie Maker) and share it during the final class. It is important to note that learning to use any new digital tool will take some time and effort. Additionally, as you use the tool, you will become more proficient and efficient. Consider this an investment in your students’ learning. Go virtual today! This article was originally published in November 2016 as “Going Virtual.”

MORE RESOURCES »» Tellagami site

»» Tellagami app »» Link to a sample Tellagami


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he ability to plan and deliver a concise and attention-getting presentation on a topic about which you are passionate and well-informed is an important, yet challenging skill set. Commenting on this difficulty, Johnson (2012) noted: How many times have you witnessed a presentation in which the speaker lulled the audience to sleep with slide after slide of nothing but boring bullet points, or slides so crammed with information you go away suffering from eyestrain and fatigue? What is most ironic is that most people can spot a boring presentation from a mile off, but then turn around and do some of the very things in their own presentations that people find so irritating. (p. 8)

Most faculty (and students) can relate to this experience as both a speaker and audience member. Helping students avoid this situation and become proficient at making effective, engaging presentations is a valuable contribution to their future in virtually any academic discipline or profession. One strategy for enhancing students’ skills is the presentation style of Pecha Kucha (pronounced “peh-cha-k’cha”). This unique approach to sharing information, originally created in Japan, consists of a format that allows for only 20 PowerPoint slides and exactly 20 seconds of narration per slide, resulting in a presentation that lasts precisely 6 minutes, 40 seconds—leaving little time for boredom! In a typical PowerPoint scenario, presenters may be limited by the time available for speaking, but they often have no restrictions on the number of slides they employ or the quantity of information contained on each slide (e.g., excessive bullet points). The constraints imposed by the Pecha Kucha format require speakers to continually focus on selecting the most salient points they wish to communicate and the best way of expressing that information. The planning and rehearsal required to prepare and deliver an effective Pecha Kucha presentation can help students develop discipline in selecting, refining, and delivering their message in a concise and engaging manner. Naish (2010) highlighted several elements to consider when creating an effective Pecha Kucha: »» Storytelling: One of the best ways to capture and maintain the attention of an audience and make a message memorable is to wrap it in a story. When all is said and done, stories are what people remember. Students can be reminded to take advantage of this technique to better connect with their audiences. »» Ice breaking: Great presentations begin by capturing the attention of the audience. Finding bold ways to engage listeners from the start requires the speaker to physically demonstrate his or her energy and passion for the topic at hand. Because of the short and tight format of Pecha Kucha, speakers must move quickly and intentionally to make connections with the audience and clarify the exact nature of the topic that will be discussed. »» Content development: What are the salient points that absolutely must be shared with the audience? What should remain in the presentation and what can be omitted? By asking and answering these questions, Pecha Kucha forces speakers to make difficult, but necessary, decisions as they craft their message into 6 minutes and 40 seconds.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning

INCORPORATING PECHA KUCHA INTO CLASS Below are some steps to consider for integrating a Pecha Kucha assignment into the syllabus. »» Introduce students to the topic by showing them video clips of successful Pecha Kucha presentations. YouTube has several effective tutorials: »» “How Pecha Kucha Changed My Life” by Eddie Selover at TEDxOrlando, https://www. »» “Creating a Pecha Kucha Presentation Using PowerPoint” by the College of Charleston, watch?v=l9zxNTpNMLo »» Familiarize students with Pecha Kucha Night. This is a common event around the globe where people share any number of interesting (and perhaps less than interesting) topics. A quick Internet or YouTube search can produce excellent examples of well-constructed and effective Pecha Kucha— one is “When No Means Maybe and Maybe Means Yes” by Carey Loch, at watch?v=SVYLs0cdsGo »» For the brave of heart, take the risk of developing and delivering your own Pecha Kucha for your students. The classroom should be a learning experience for everyone present, and this act of courage will not only intimately introduce you to the challenges of Pecha Kucha, but it can be a great inspiration for your students. »» Create and share a rubric that identifies exactly what is expected of students and how their work will be evaluated. »» Make this a special event by providing refreshments, giving awards for exemplary presentations, or making videos of the performances.

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. -Robert Frost

»» After a topic has been presented in class, have students create a Pecha Kucha to demonstrate what they have learned and reinforce key concepts. Actively involving students in the learning and teaching process can deepen their engagement with a body of content. As Benjamin Franklin noted, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” (Goodreads, n.d.).


The Toolbox Collection • December 2018 A Pecha Kucha assignment can be an effective way of helping students synthesize course content knowledge. By remaining alert to the time requirements, students learn to be concise and well organized in selecting the most salient information and creating presentations. An added bonus is that a Pecha Kucha is great fun!

This article was originally published in March 2015.


The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning

VOLUME FOUR: DIGITAL LEARNING REFERENCES Allen, E., Seaman, J., Lederman, S., & Jaschik, S. (2012). Digital faculty: Professors, teaching, and technology, 2012. Washington, DC: Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from DigitalFaculty.htm Backchannel (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 25, 2018, from Bluestone, C. (2000). Feature films as a teaching tool. College Teaching, 48(4), 141-146. Bowen, J. A., & Watson, C. E. (2017). Teaching naked techniques: A practical guide to designing better classes. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley. Bushweller, K. C. (2012, March). The pace of educational change quickens. Education Week, 31(23), S1. Chavanu, B. (2013). How to create a video of your life one second a day. Retrieved July 20, 2016, from http://www. Chronicle Research Services. (2009). The college of 2020: Students. Washington, DC: Author. Comparison of Screencasting Software. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from wiki/Comparison_of_screencasting_software Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act. 17 U.S.C. § 110(1). (2004). Cowan, B. (2011, November 6). “Digital natives” aren’t necessarily digital learners. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(10), A39. Cronin, J. J. (2011). The classroom as a virtual community: An experience with student backchannel discourse. Business Education Innovation Journal, 3(2), 55-65. Dew, J. (2010, March-April). Global, mobile, virtual, and social: The college campus of tomorrow. The Futurist. Retrieved from Durwin, C., & Sherman, W. M. (2008). Does choice of college textbook make a difference in student comprehension? College Teaching, 56(1), 28-34. Fair Use Doctrine of 1976. 17 U.S.C. § 107 (1976). Fitzgerald, F. S. (1936, February, March/April). The crack-up. Esquire. Retrieved from Fowler, D. S. (2018, February 20). Tek Eye. Retrieved from Goodreads. (n.d.). Learning quotes: Benjamin Franklin. Retrieved February 5, 2015, from


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The Toolbox Collection • Volume 4: Digital Learning Meoi, S. A., Shahabuddini, S., Al Masrii, A. A., Ahmedi, S. M., Aqil, M., Anwer, M. A., & Al-Drees, A. M. (2013, January). Comparison of the impact of PowerPoint and chalkboard in undergraduate medical teaching: An evidence based study. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, 23(1), 47-50. Naish, R. (2010, February). Building on Pecha Kucha. E-learning Age. Retrieved from Neustifter, R., Kukkonen, T., Coulter, C., & Landry, S. (2016, Spring). Introducing backchannel technology into a large undergraduate course. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 42(1),1-22. Postman, N. (1969, November 28). Bullshit and the art of crap detection. Lecture conducted at the National Council of Teachers of English, Washington, DC. Retrieved from Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. Pros, R. C., Tarrida, A. C., Del Mar Badia Martin, M., & Del Carmen Cirera Amores, M. (2013, January). Effects of the PowerPoint methodology on content learning. Intangible Capital, 9(1), 184-198. pdf/78535315.pdf Screencast. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from Seth’s Blog. (2007, January 29). Really bad PowerPoint [Web log post]. Retrieved from seths_blog/2007/01/really_bad_powe.html Smith, A., Rainie, L., & Zickuhr, K. (2011). College students and technology. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet. org/2011/07/19/college-students-and-technology/ Toledo, C. A. (2007). Digital culture: Immigrants and tourists responding to the natives’ drumbeats. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19(1), 84-92. Tufte, E. R. (2003, September). PowerPoint is evil. Wired. Retrieved from ppt2.html U.S. Department of Commerce. (2010). Visions 2020.2: Student views on transforming education and training through advanced technologies. Washington, DC: Author. Ward, N. (2017). Backchannel facts. Retrieved from Nigel Ward’s home page, Watts, A. (2017, January 7). A 21-year-old college student breaks down which social networks are hot and which are not. Retrieved November 22, 2017, from Wikipedia:Statistics. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 25, 2018. William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (n.d.). Open educational resources. Retrieved October 8, 2014, from http:// Wolf, J. (2008, March 24). Futurist Ray Kurzweil pulls out all the stops (and pills) to live to witness the singularity. Wired, 16(4), 160-167. Yngve, V. (1970). On getting a word in edgewise. In R. I. Binnick (Ed.), Papers from the sixth regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 567-577.