I attended the Creating Futures Through Technology at the beginning of March in Biloxi, Mississippi. This a local conference that is geared towards the use of technology in higher education in Mississippi. This year, I presented along with my colleague Dr. Cindy Handley on our use of ConnectYard at USM.
Archive for Web 2.0
Engagement, Persistence, and Retention: How USM use ConnectYard to Successfully Enhance these Key Factors
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 2012 Blackboard World Conference in New Orleans, LA. Blackboard World is always a huge conference with a lot of information. Like years past, there were a lot of useful sessions and time well spent collaborating and meeting new folks from other schools learning about their experiences and key take aways. There were several things I thought they could have done better, but the big negatives were the food and location. Considering we were in a city known for their great food, what they provided at the conference was a disappointment. And, although I love New Orleans, having to shuttle back and forth to the convention center from my hotel was a pain and the few times I had to walk the 2 miles to get to the other end of the convention center wasn’t pleasant, although admittedly the exercise was good for me Overall, though I’m glad I was able to attend.
On the first day of the conference, along with my colleagues Sheri Rawls and Cindy Handley, we presented with ConnectYard. We have been using ConnectYard for about a year to enhance the communication within our online courses. ConnectYard provides the ability to set up alternate communication channels within Blackboard so students and faculty can self-select how they would like to receive discussion postings and announcements from their courses. They can select channels such as Facebook, Twitter, cell phone text messaging, or e-mail. Feedback from our students and faculty has been overwhelmingly positive. They like the customization of the service and that it allows them to access their messages from anywhere on their mobile devices. We are currently pursuing other use cases for ConnectYard, such as for marketing and recruitment for our online programs and university wide communications among departments and online students. To view our presentation, see below.
HandBrake is a multi-platform, open-source, multi-threaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter. It can be used with Mac OS, Windows, and Linux. It is very user-friendly. I have been using this software to convert the videos that we make in our Interactive Video Network (IVN) rooms to make them accessible online for instructors and students. Using this software in no way releases the user of being liable for copyright infringement. Before using this software to convert a DVD, the user should make sure that doing so will not violate any copyright laws.
I found a new Web 2.0 tool that is pretty cool. It is a free virtual classroom called WizIQ. You must create an account to be able to use the virtual classroom, but it is free. You can create meeting times and invite other members to attend. It allows you hold live meetings with audio and video. It also has a text chat area. It allows you upload content that will show up in the content area for everyone in the room to see. It has a great eBoard toolbar with all kinds of visual tools to use to make annotations on top of your content (very impressed by the amount of options on the toolbar). It has a tabbed content interface to allow you to have multiple content open at the same time. It has a large set of math symbols to use as well. When I tested it with a colleague the audio and video worked very well.
The meetings are archived, but I couldn’t figure out how long the archives would be available for me to view. There are some other things that would be nice to have, such as application sharing, breakout rooms, and a call-in phone number for users that might not have a microphone. With that said, for a free application, this is a very nice. There is a premium membership that you can pay $49.95/year for additional features.
I have been using RSS feeds for a while now so that information comes to me and I don’t have to always go out looking for it. I have found that it is a great way to fulfill my quest for learning without having to go out and search all the time. I subscribe to blogs, news feeds, and podcasts. When I happen upon a new RSS feed that looks interesting I will add it to my growing list of feeds. My problem, now, is trying to keep up with all of these sources of information. I try to read at least a lit bit everday as well as listen to a podcast or two, but my feeds bring in more information daily than I can get to. I would love to be able to read, listen, and watch everything that comes into my inbox, but I can’t seem to find the time. I am struggling with where to draw the line because there is so much good information out there I want to learn from.
On the other hand, how amazing it is that we live in a time where there is such a wealth of information available on any subject available right at our fingertips 24/7.
We are getting ready to roll-out podcasting here at our university. It has been over a year in the making. We began with a pilot last summer, but it has taken this long to work out all of the kinks of technical and policy. We had intended on using iTunes U but that has been put on hold for reasons I won’t go in to. We ended up developing our own internal solution. We got the idea from Mississippi State University but ended up developing are own from scratch. We use LDAP authentication so that only our faculty, staff, and students will have access to the application. Only faculty and staff have access to create podcasts and students have access to view podcasts.
We hope to be able to implement iTunes U at a later date, but we have run into road blocks with that so we are not sure when that will come about.
Many discussions of policy about use, accessibility, and best practices went into this before we are arriving at this point. We are set to release our solution university wide July 1st and so now I am feeling the pressure to finish all of the documentation as we will be offering our first training in just a few weeks.
In training, I plan to not only talk about the technical side of podcasting, but also include information about the pedagogy as well. I think it is is important to emphasize certain best practices and using the technology appropriately for their courses.
As we get materials up on our Web site, I will post links to those.
I am currently in the process of writing my first grant. I am working with my husband who is the Director of Scoutreach for the Boy Scouts of America in our local region and we are trying to open a Technology Resource Center for at-risk youth in our area. Many of the youth we work with have never had a computer in their home and have limited computer skills. We would like to use this center to teach them skills that will allow them to be more competitive applicants when applying for jobs. We would also like to use the center to help them improve their skills in other subjects, such as math, english, etc. We plan to have games on the computers that emphasize skills in each of these subjects to allow them to have fun and enhance their skills in these areas. We would also like to use the center to hold after-school camps and summer camps to give another place for students to get off the street and come and have fun while learning something new. I am very excited about this project and hope that we are able to find funding.
SlideShare is a great resource to find presentations on different subject areas. This site is so easy to use. The only thing you have to be careful with is if you download a presentation to make sure and give credit to the person who created it. I do like that you can embed the presentations inside of your Web site as well. It makes it so easy to share with others.
SlideShare allows you to create a free account. You can share your presentations publicly or keep them private and share them with those you choose to. The site also allows you to upload audio to synchronize with your presentation.
I’ve uploaded 2 of my presentations to SlideShare so far and I linked to them below: