Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards allow you to control your computer from a touch projection screen that is similar to a normal whiteboard. However, interactive whiteboards also allow you to write on the projected image as well. There are several different types of board, the most prominent in K-12 schools being the SMARTBoard brand. Lately, the Epson Brightlink and similar non-board based systems have become attractive to schools because of a lower price-point (no cost for a projector).

A good comparison of the boards is located at Kelvin Groves’ resource site 

SMART has developed their own software, Notebook, to help you design lessons for use with their product. They also have a suite of other products including response system software, a classroom management product, and the student edition of Notebook. You can download a 30-day free trial  of the newest version out that is even better – check it out at

Here are links to a few resources to help you with your lessons:

Epson Cool Free Tools – site with links alphabetized from Epson

Teacher Love SMARTBoards – a blog that is replete with links, examples, and ideas (has moved to become a pay site called The Notebook Gallery)

SMART Exchange – the SMARTtech official website for teachers

Some useful tutorials for various SMARTBoard features: – Basic post about how the iPad app works, and some links o lessons to download. – some great resources from SMART Exchange with basic SMARTBoard operations already developed in a Notebook file – How to video of the Lesson Activity Toolkit –  a music teacher created this wiki and has a great Notebook file of the basics of SMARTBoards



Flipping the Classroom

I have been hearing the term “flipping the classroom” thrown around more often at my college, so I decided to dig more into it. I am going to start by telling you not to keep reading, but go to the COETAIL Education Journey blog first – a fantastic post by Sanne Bloemarts who also shared the following graphic in a very cogent practical explanation of the term (I’ll wait while you read the blog…)


Welcome back! Flipping is not new – the idea began in the late 1990s based on the Peer Instruction work of Harvard’s Eric Mazur, and the Khan Academy videos which began in 2004 are a famous example. So why the sudden explosion of interest? The key is the ease of screencasting and video recording. Until recently, recording a lecture and adding things like slides,interactive whiteboard writings, notes, or websites you wanted to show as part of your content delivery was prohibitive. It would take:

1) having someone videotape the presentation, then

2) edit in the other materials which would also have to be digitized by scanning them or figuring out how to output them as video and

3) output the whole thing with a file size small enough to be streamed when

4) you finally posted it online

Honestly, who has time for that? Not many professors or teachers I know do – the process simply can’t take so long or entail so many other people with specific expertise if we are going to see the benefits of using it in all but the largest classes.

Luckily, times have changed! Now I am able to use a simple tool such as Google Hangouts (which I wrote about last time), Jing, Camtasia, or and do the whole thing yourself in about an hour or two in front of your computer once you figure it out. This means that in a week you could get 5 or 6 class meetings worth of material recorded and posted easily, more if you really get cooking.

I admit it is a stretch to break out of our comfort zones and embrace this flipping of roles – not because of the technical side, but because it changes what you do in the classroom – it makes the classroom the space where what we used to consider the homework and study groups are done, and relies on the students to spend the out of class time learning their content. It puts a great deal more responsibility on the student to engage with the content before they show up, and what if they don’t come prepared? A legitimate question to ask.

However I’m more inclined to be concerned about students not participating in the discussions, activities and group work that is where they truly learn to apply material – and it makes engaging the content more important. I say that because nothing is more motivating than the grief you get from classmates and teachers when you don’t show up prepared! There is no way to hide that you have not done the  reading (and in this case viewing) as you can when you can sit through class not paying attention or being confused, then outside of class hide from your lack of knowledge and understanding by failing to do the out of class work away from the eyes of your instructor and just avoid your group members.

In the end the thing I like most about the flipped classroom is that if done correctly, it empowers the learner to learn, and that is the ultimate goal is it not?

More examples:





And lastly, this is a video of a short presentation I made on Flipping the Classroom at the TeachMeet NJ summer unconference.


Alternatives for Enhancing Your LMS to be Truly Interactive? Try Google Hangouts!

Learning management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard are in heavy use at the high school and college level, particularly graduate programs. I have had quite a bit of experience with these systems, starting with WebCT back in the late 1990s. Often designed with a hierarchical programming owing to the computing capabilities in place when they were introduced, and maintaining that approach due to legacy and feature creep, these systems are limited in their ability to allow the kinds of rich interactions learners seek.

Recently I taught a graduate course that relied on Blackboard exclusively to deliver content and provide interaction with students. It was by far the worst class I’ve ever taught. This despite the fact that students could call me anytime for help, and could speak with one another through discussions and their own face-to-face meetings (they were all teachers at the same school district). I’m not a bad online instructor – what happened?

I think I know – there was no meaningful way for students to connect with me. This was mostly due to the lack of Blackboard and our video conferencing tool, Wimba, to convey my presence to students. Wimba was a terribly unreliable and clunky tool for us, and students just did not seem willing to figure out all the set-up (Java installs, microphone checks, and the several clicks to make it int0 the room) as well as how slow the system was. Video with Wimba (or Collaborate, the newer Blackboard product for conferencing) has never been a particular strong point of the platform, with the main purpose in mind by the designers appearing to be to have video allow the instructor be a “talking head” while giving a presentation using PowerPoint. To be fair I have seen it used in other ways, but rarely have I seen it work smoothly – the interface simply is not designed to do a good job.

So while the audio connection is nice, there is nothing like seeing one another to make a student feel like I am really there for them even if I can’t be in the room physically.

What are my potential alternatives? Good question – enter Google Hangouts! By now hopefully most people know about Hangouts, but if you don’t check it out right now ( Here are a few blog posts from others describing their experiences with Hangouts as a substitute for Blackboard’s in-house conferencing tools:

Why I think Hangouts could be the answer to my problem is:

1) It is great for video – in fact the whole interface is built around it. That is a big switch from the typical conferencing tool in an LMS, which is far more built around text chatting and audio.

2) Screensharing is easy – it doesn’t require a whole set of dialogue boxes to navigate and gain permissions for, it is just a widget added by the Hangout creator at the global level. To see all of the features check out this blog post at Google:

I have used Hangouts in one-to-one conference calls and those up to three persons, and so far it works great from wherever I connect – my office computer with its fast T-1 connection; my home computer on a cable line; my laptop on a wireless connection (want to try my iPad at the local coffee shop!). I was on for over an hour each time, no drop outs, some rare slowdowns and infrequent pixelating of video when it went full window.

Now for the downsides – right now Hangouts are limited to 10 people maximum (I’ve not yet tried a Hangout with that many people) , so I’m not sure it could work as a substitute for large group or full class connection – but then when would that ever be a good idea in an online course? If my goal is to maximize presence, it behooves me to keep my group sizes small so maybe this isn’t a bad limit to abide by.

The other minus I have found is that obviously it is not inside the LMS – it involves students using a different account on a different site. I can mitigate that some by using the On-Air option to make a YouTube video of the Hangout then post that into Blackboard as a form of archiving or allowing the students to review what we discussed. If it works well, I don’t think students will view having to log in to Google+ as an onerous demand in exchange for better connection with their instructor.

I’m going to give Hangouts a try this semester with some of my courses, and we’ll see how it plays out.

PD Resources – Classroom 2.0 and Symbaloo


One of my resolutions, besides keeping up with this blog, is to make time to be online for the Classroom 2.0 Live  webinar series. Classroom 2.0, if you have not yet visited their site, is an online community for teachers with an interest in technology to get together and share. Created by Steve Hargadon (who does many wonderful things under the auspices of his Web 2.0 Labs initiative), it has been in existence since 2007. The webinars are a treasure trove of great ideas and resource, with guests from around the world sharing their knowledge and provoking discussion. You owe it to yourself to try joining a session – they hold live shows twice a week – once on Tuesday evenings and another on Saturday afternoons. If you don’t make the live show, Steve keeps an archive of past shows online for you to peruse.


So this past Saturday I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down for the Classroom 2.0 Live anniversary show – wow! Some terrific information was shared, and I’ll be going back to the archive to make sure I remember all the tools and names I became aware of in those 60 minutes. One tool I have started using right away is Symbaloo – a free tool that let’s you create an easy visual interface for your bookmarks that you can access from any web-connected device. Symbaloo has both a regular edition and an EDU version that let’s your students use it as a way to pull together sites for research reports or as a way to communicate their interests. You can also share your interface, or what Symbaloo calls a “webmix”, with others by making it public. If you want you can make your Symbaloo page your browser’s home page – very useful! Here is a picture of mine:








I’ll be sure to share more tools I learn from Classroom 2.0 in the future!

New Year – New Plan!

Welcome to the New Year! In the past I have used this blog as a communication tool for my courses, sharing presentations and links as well as communicating with students.

However I have decided to begin using tools like Edmodo for courses, so new year = new plan for this space. I will be using this as my personal blog to share daily my thoughts, resources I think will prove useful for my audience, and highlight the projects of myself and others.

I hope visitors to this site, both old and new, will find something of value – Happy New Year!



Personal Learning Networks (PLN)

Specail PLN Guest: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Author of The Connected Educator:



A PLN is *your* network of connections for new ideas, for support, and for sharing with other professionals in K-12 education. In most cases you already have established a PLN, as your classmates and professors are professional resources, as well as those practicing teachers you know. You also have, by virtue of the websites we have visited and the tools we have used, also expanded your PLN perhaps without realizing.

connected-teacher-eHere are some links to get you started in formalizing your PLN:

The Connected Educator – book by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on how PLNs are professional development tools for today’s teachers.

Your assignment is to create a PLN plan for yourself over the Thanksgiving break period. This plan is nothing major – just a diagram of the places and people you wish to integrate into your PLN – some examples of the diagrams others have made are available at:

As stated in the syllabus, you should seek to answer the following questions:

  • Which web based community site will you join and why? General teacher communities include Classroom 2.0 or the Educator’s PLN; some communities are specific to a discipline, (such as the English Companion Ning or Art Education 2.0). These communities are a wealth of resources and tend to be more formal in their organization.
  • Which tool(s) will you use for a smaller group of colleagues that you can turn to, such as Twitter or Facebook. These tools are more for fast exchanges or answering specific questions that require short answers.
  • Which professional organizations will you join, and which conferences will you target for annual attendance? ISTE or AECT (association for Educational Communications and Technology) are international groups; NJAET or NJECC are statewide organizations;
  • and conferences range from large international conventions (NECC, ISTE’s annual conference, is in Philadelphia this coming June!) to smaller state affairs (such as My Classroom to Yours here at Stockton each spring). Often you will find other educators with a shared interest via this route.
  • Which websites, blogs, wikis, and podcasts will you follow regularly? This may include the use of an RSS reader that tells you when new content is added to a blog or a new podcast is made available.
  • Will you continue your blog/wiki or start a new one as part of your PLN? You could also start a podcast, or create a YouTube channel, or any other sharing site related to your professional interests. Remember that you can’t just take from your PLN – you need to share too.

ITLA – Applications for Spring 2013 Deadline Extended!

 Now Accepting Applications!

The Instructional Technology Leadership Academy (ITLA) is looking for its next cohort of 10-12 students, to begin this coming semester. If selected you will:

  • Be added to the 3-credit course INTC 4650 Advanced Technology Integration. Designed to be taken in conjunction with your Introductory or Intermediate Fieldwork course, the course will allow you the chance to train with and practice teaching with instructional technologies.
  • If you wish, we can attempt to place you for fieldwork with a “tech-savvy” practicing teacher for your fieldwork (provided a suitable match can be found).
  • The use of the newly renovated H-101 computer lab for your ITLA and fieldwork projects.
  • Automatic membership in the ITLA 2.0 online community, which provides ongoing professional development in the form of monthly webinars featuring leaders in the K-12 educational technology field; updated conference and workshop information; and the chance to ask questions and share ideas with an ever-growing network of past, present, and future ITLA members.
  • Upon graduating, receive a certificate that demonstrates they are an ITLA graduate, and ongoing membership in the ITLA 2.0 online community.

If all that sounds like a great way to improve your professional preparation as you go out and seek that first teaching job – JOIN US! Please fill out the form linked below and click the Submit button to apply to the ITLA for next semester – application deadline for the Spring/Summer 2013 semesters is November 19th:

Video and Audio in Education

Video and audio technology can be powerful tools in the hands of teachers and students. With the explosion of digital camera devices, online tools and easy-to-use software for editing, what would have been extremely difficult – to make a video that looks and sounds good – is now commonplace. Here are some examples of how video and audio files can be used in classrooms:

Here are some online tools for making video and audio creations:

Voicethread – allows you to make slideshows that can be commented on using text or voice.

Animoto – easy tool for combining still photos and music to make great videos.

YouTube – the top video sharing site now has tools to help you make videos.

Xtranormal – animated characters say what you type in a movie.

Stupeflix – Another online video tool – now launching educational section.

Some software based tools for those wishing to do more than the online editors can accomplish:

iLife – Apple’s suite of creative tools includes iPhoto (for slideshows), iMovie (for movies – duh!), and Garageband (for music and audio recordings) – available for your desktop, laptop, or as apps for the iPhone, iPod or iPad.

Moviemaker – on the Windows side, a simple to use video editing tool built into the operating system.

PowerPoint – at the most basic level, you can narrate PowerPoint files or add sounds, then run it self-running to make it video-style presentation

PhotoStory – a free download from Microsoft, this is their version of iPhoto – no longer supported but the older version still runs fine – easy to use. Get it from:

Audacity – a free  audio editing tool. Download from

MORE! –  here are some sites that list all kinds of alternative presentation tools (including some of those already mentioned – you can see that there is no dearth of tools:





Global Collaboration

Note: For those looking to get ahead on next assignment:

Assignment for INTC 3610 and 5330 Students

Part I:

One way to use technology is to help students make connections with schools and children from other countries and cultures. There are several wonderful organizations to help you accomplish this:


Global SchoolNet –


ePals –



Explore the links provided and think about ways you might incorporate global connections in your own classroom. Come up with a lesson that uses your ideas and write it up as a lesson plan and post to your portfolio.


Part II:




The 2012 Global Education Conference  runs from Monday, November 12 through Friday, November 16, 2012. This is a free online conference so there is no cost to participate. You are expected to attend at least one session live using the webinar system – you can get schedule information closer to November 12th at:

Note that the times of sessions are Greenwich Mean Time – so you need to understand that you need to take 5 hours off the time to know when a session begins on our Eastern Standard Time. Note that you can also view sessions you could not make at:

Please participate in a live session or view the recorded session then provide a review on your portfolio.








Preview of Global Collaboration Conference this Saturday

Date: Sat., November 3, 2012

Time: 12:00pm EDT
Location: (

Kim Caise, Lorna Costantini and Peggy George will be hosting another Classroom 2.0 LIVE show. As an extension to the Classroom 2.0 Ning community, Classroom 2.0 “LIVE” shows are opportunities to gather with other educators in real-time events, complete with audio, chat and desktop sharing. A Google calendar of upcoming shows is available at

The topic for Saturday will be a “Global Education Conference Preview”with Lucy Gray. As Co-Director of the Conference along with Steve Hargadon, Lucy will give us a preview of the keynote speakers and presenters, how the conference is organized and how you can get involved. It is a free, week-long online event that brings together educators and innovators from around the world, and will be held Mon., November 12 through Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. For more information:

More information and session details are at If you’re new to the Classroom 2.0 LIVE! show you might want to spend a few minutes viewing the screencast on the homepage to learn how we use Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate), and navigate the site. Each show begins at 12pm Eastern (GMT-5) and may be accessed in Blackboard Collaborate directly using the following Classroom 2.0 LIVE! link at