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Apple TV Benefits by Carl Thelen

Apple TV lets you control your classroom
display wirelessly from your iPad, from
anywhere in the room.

Instead of being chained to the teacher station, you can move among the students, or sit with them if you want.  This changes the power relationship between students and teachers.  Since the professor can now mingle with the class, instead of staying at the front of the class, it puts her in the same power level as the students. It privileges students with equality with the professor, and acknowledges their own expertise.  Instead of being separated by space and tables, students have a literally closer relationship with faculty — which is why they come to SMC in the first place.

You can give the iPad to a student so that they can lead part of the lesson.  Since the student does the activity, both the individual student and all the others pay more attention. This facilitates more meaningful participation in the class.  For example, in Michael Alocca’s class on Fibonacci numbers in nature, he had students trace both the right-hand and left hand on a pine cone.  One student traced the white lines with a finger, and another did the purple ones. It changes the teaching mode from “Sage on the Stage” to “Guests at the same table”.  The students take ownership of the discussion, and the professor guides the discussion, as in Seminar.

When you give an iPad to a student, two things happen. First, that student is very much engaged because she knows all the other students are watching her. Also, the other students know that you might give them the iPad next, so they stay on their toes

You have the option of going around to any student and taking a photo of their work and pushing that up to the board for all to see. This sort of immediate feedback is difficult to replicate in any other way. It has been difficult for student work to generate and indeed be the focus of a lesson until we have already seen it, marked it and photocopied it for the rest of the group. Now, it can become the lesson simply because you’ve seen good learning happening in the moment.  This technique was used in one class so that students could share selections of poems with the class, and then discuss the selections.

Just as the ‘flipped classroom’ model allows less time to be spent on going over the mundane or repetitive aspects of learning and allowing instead for the focus to be ‘deeper learning’, Apple TV allows you to concentrate on soft skills such as collaboration and discussion whilst still being focused on specific learning tasks.

A final characteristic of this technology is the multitude of apps – many of them free or with free versions – available. Mobile apps are generally made to do one thing only, but they do it very well.  TeacherPal is an easy way to keep grades on your iPad.  Sock Puppets allows easy creation of social situations.  Popplet is a mind mapper, useful for sentence structure, among other things.  Skitch is a simple way to draw a diagram, for when a picture is worth a thousand words.  GeoGebra allows you make a graph, add a slider for a variable change, and as you move the slider it changes the graph, making an easy to visualize the effects of changing inputs.

We are just starting to scratch the surface of the ways that this remote control can — and cannot — change the way we teach and learn.  Will using educational technology like the iPad make students more marketable?  Who knows?

KSOE Professor Raina Leon Reports on iPads for Education

In the past few months, Raina Leon has been working with the Faculty Technology Group to create a project proposal for the acquisition of 15 iPads for use with pre-service and in-service Single Subject (secondary) teachers through the Kalmanovitz School of Education.  Here is Raina’s account of her experience using the iPad and Apple TV to facilitate teaching and learning at SMC.

Participants in my classes will be broken up into a few groups.  In the Spring and Fall semesters, I will work primarily with pre-service teachers.  Those teachers, after learning about iPad apps in their classes with me, will be able to check out the iPads for 2 week periods, but there is a catch:  pre-service teachers in their first or second placements have to submit a series of 3-5 lesson plans to me first; 1 of which must include educational technology integration; they must to allow me to observe this lesson; and they must receive pre- and post-consultations on the effectiveness of the lessons.

All of these terms were built in to the curriculum to more actively support the professional development of teachers in the use of educational technology like the iPad, especially considering that the vast majority of secondary schools do not offer consistent training in this area to in-service teachers, let alone student-teachers

In the summer months and Jan Term, I will use the iPads with in-service teachers, particularly those in local Catholic schools, to support their ongoing professional development by doing targeted workshops in the use of apps that would immediately benefit them in the classroom.  In my commitment to professional development, participating schools will also be able to schedule me for departmental and individual support for teachers over an academic year.

This semester I am using the iPads in my two classes:  SSTE 254 Foundations of Literacy and SSTE 356 Teaching and Learning II.  In those classes, we have used Apple TV to wirelessly project group and individual work, apps like Type PDF Free (to make modified texts in class, to write Cornell Notes on collective readings, to read common texts, to conduct Think Alouds), Virtual Dice (for vocabulary games for use in the secondary context), Skitch (to create vocabulary posters that can be emailed to students, printed out and posted in a classroom, or posted on a website), Google Drive (for typing flash fiction, peer review, creation of reading comprehension questions, sharing main ideas from a text) and Prezi (use of zooming presentations).   One student even used Siri to type his essay in Google Drive, which led to a fruitful conversation on review of essays before submission, dictation, and accommodating students with learning challenges through the use of Siri.

The iPads are loaded only with free apps that have an educational purpose.  In my opinion, teachers are too often called upon to spend their personal funds to supplement the educational materials available in the classroom.  While there are many apps out there with incredible applications in the classroom, I am most interested right now in fostering the imagination of teachers of students without the added expense of purchasing the flashy tools.  I am interested in closing the digital divide, not expanding it.

Some challenges:  unfortunately, the main SMC-WiFi, as it is configured now, will not allow Apple TV usage.  “SMC-Classroom” is an additional wifi signal that has been added to accommodate the use of Apple TV and must be activated in classrooms to make use of the Apple TV features.  Philosophically, use of the Apple TV makes sense at Saint Mary’s.  Rather than situate myself and only myself in the position of power at the front of the class, controller of all the knobs and cables, students can share their work with the class merely by mirroring their screens onto the Apple TV, which is connected to the projector as a laptop connection.  I can act more of a facilitator of exchange rather than the owner of all knowledge in the classroom.  The technology can facilitate a visual and dialectic dialogue … when it works.  

What I am learning is that, in addition, to planning on how to tie the iPad in to what I do and imagining and executing even more complex tasks through the use of the technology, I also have to craft alternative activities for those “fried technology” moments.  I am a stickler about time.  My lessons are often planned to the minute, although I can easily do adjustments on the fly dependent on the needs of my students, but technology complicates things.  While my lessons in the last few weeks have used technology throughout the class, I have determined that in the coming weeks I will plan “just in case” scenarios, which may require me to carry some of the handouts, extra pens, and paper to make sure that we continue with purpose.  This is something that I advise in my professional development workshops with in-service teachers; I am learning to take my own advice to heart.

I am also learning that students, even those with fears about technology, will quickly adjust to maneuvering the iPad like a pro.  The iPad is pretty intuitive.  Though, in my two classes, the majority of my students had not used an iPad before the first evening of class, by the end, they had learned some gestures as well as how to operate the apps we were using.  Some of them continue to be hesitant, but they are increasingly daring to discover and sometimes outside of the instructions and limits placed within the classroom.  This model of structuring the professional development of pre-service teachers is very much in line with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development.  It is my hope that the Single Subject Candidates will eventually reach independence with technology and grow into teacher-leaders in this area at their placement sites.

I do have to note how grateful I am for the individual and institutional support that I have received to make this happen.  Across the college and in my home department, most especially with Michael Allocco (who has a similar lab and offered some initial encouragement and support), my SSTE colleagues, program chair David Krapf and Dean Metcalf-Turner, I have received such support and encouragement.

Just one of the many reasons why I am so happy to be a Gael.

Report on Educause West/Southwest Regional Conference, February 2012

The West/Southwest Regional Conference took place this February 22nd through 24th in Portland Oregon and highlighted the importance to higher education of engaging everyone effectively through IT. The keynote speaker was Mr. Cable Green of Creative Commons, who spoke of the need to move toward greater levels of openness within higher education and publishing. As Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons, Mr. Green advocates for the more specific copyright options offered through Creative Commons licensing to protect the intentions of authors, artists and musicians.

You can see the terms of these licensing options here:

Mr. Green mentioned the importance of Open Courseware, Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources as education fees continue to rise and push out those on the edges of access to higher education. Mr. Green also discussed the dichotomy that exists between academics who conduct dissertation research as well research studies sponsored through government funding, versus the publishers who rake in big bucks by charging exorbitant fees for access to the published research via library database and journal subscriptions. Individual document download fees can run into the hundreds of dollars, making it cost prohibitive for even the scholars who’ve labored intensely (for free) in developing the research, to afford accessing the published result. The high fees charged by publishers seem completely out of order given the publishers lack of involvement or financial backing in the creation of the research, and the minimal cost of hosting digital files, but powerful lobbyists in the publishing industry are continuously working to make it even more difficult for individuals and libraries to avoid such fees. Creative Common’s is attempting to change this.

The recent denial of the proposed  PIPA and SOPA bills were a direct result of such efforts. If passed, the U.S. Department of Justice could seek court orders requiring Internet providers such as Comcast to prevent its customers from accessing sites accused of hosting pirated materials.  Both SOPA and PIPA have been dropped due to the ensuing public outrage and censorship protests from sites such as, Wikipedia, Google and Mozilla Firefox; One of the most significantly overt political efforts ever made by the tech industry with regards to copyright law. Generation Y and the tech stars born of this generation’s labor are growing increasingly disaffected in 2012, not to mention those freshly pressed millennial’s, with graduate degrees in tow, facing record unemployment. Where is the tipping point? Perhaps the 99% can teach corporate lobbyists to say, “Mīdān at-Taḥrīr” in English…? Perhaps corporations should be more invested in securing their own financial future by donating a small percentage of their proceeds to benefit education and scholarly research rather than exploiting the fruit of it’s labor for instant gratification.

Green says that if government agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities are paying to support scholarly research, academics and taxpayers should have access to the results for free.

Ya think….?

Click here to listen to the full Educause presentation: “The Obviousness of Open Policy”

Open Educational Resources

OER Commons and ISKME

The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) hosted it’s third annual education and technology conference, Big Ideas Fest this past December in Half Moon Bay. The conference is a unique three-day immersion with workshops in collaboration and design focused on producing solutions to the problems currently facing education. Conference participants included members from K-12, higher education, educational non-profits and start-up companies. The keynote speaker was Sugata Mitra whose research crosses between the fields of cognitive science, information science and educational technology.

Professor Mitra is most known for his research project entitled, “Hole in the Wall” where he dug a hole in the wall of a slum in New Delhi to record the actions of children as they played with a computer connected to the Internet. The children taught themselves to browse the Internet and to learn basic English with no prior training or exposure to the medium. His research has been replicated in England and other areas of Europe with the same result; children will self-organize and teach one another to solve problems without the structure of a classroom or master teacher. This basic instinct to problem-solve and peer-instruct was present within all socio-economic backgrounds tested.

Click here to learn more and check out the highlighted links:

Big Ideas Fest – Open Education Conference in Half Moon Bay
Sugata Mitra on Ted Talks – Child driven education/research
The Khan Academy – A fantastic Math resource
Education Eye – Educational innovations interactive map
Siftables – Siftable multimedia blocks
OER Commons -Open Educational Resources
Big Ideas Fest

Moodle Arrives

Blackboard is Going Away
January  2012

Please remember to download and save Blackboard course files!
Use reports from Blackboard  in 2009 showed that less than 35% of faculty in 2009 were using our on-line Learning Management System. This number has increased for 2010 and is expected to continue rising over the next few years as access to on-line resources become more important for research and productivity.  It is always a good idea to back up your files; if nothing else the process of backing up and moving your course materials will give you a chance to update and reorganize materials for students. Course materials will be available in Blackboard until May 2011 but you will not be able to get a new course site in Blackboard beginning Jan Term 2012. After May 2011, you will still be able to retrieve your course materials from Blackboard upon special request as CaTS will be archiving all existing materials.

To export and save your course got you your coure site in Blackboard > Control Panel > Course Options > Export Course. All materials will be archived and ready to import into GaelLearn Moodle. The caveat is that Blackboard code scrambles the file neames, you may need to use a converter such as bFee or the LSU converter to regain your file structure.

The Instructional Technology Team located in BUG Hall, room 114 are here to help you export and save your course materials. We are also happy to help you learn how to transfer course materials into GaelLearn/Moodle. Please make an appointment by calling x 4266 to set up a specific time so we can get you up and running.
GaelLearn/Moodle is based on constructivist theory. You will see the names of various areas within the course management systems are different from Blackboard for instance instead of discussion boards, GaelLearn has Forums and instead of a control panel, there is an administration block. One of the core differences is the use of folders. GaelLearn flattens materials and does not have a slick way of creating folders. Instead of folders, users are encouraged to use simple web pages or directories. Contact Instructional Technology for more advice on how to organize materials effectively in GaelLearn.

Gaellearn is scheduled to replace Blackboard by January 2012, so remember to export or archive your course materials in Blackboard before we make the final shift.

Heidimarie RamboCongratulations to Heidimarie Rambo!

Heidimarie has been recognized as an outstanding on-line course creator. Specifically she has been awarded for providing an innovative course design with few resources. Heidimarie is currently moving the TESOL certificate program to GaelLearn/Moodle as an on-line certificate. She created an x-Box avatar of herself to create a greater sense of connection with students and has structured materials in a clear, straight-forward way that guides students through their learning process within the on-line format.

Heidimarie Rambo Wins a Prize


Congratulations to Heidimarie Rambo!

Heidimarie has been recognized as an outstanding on-line course creator. Specifically she has been awarded for providing an innovative course design with few resources.
Heidimarie is currently moving the TESOL certificate program to GaelLearn/Moodle as an on-line certificate. She created an x-Box avatar of herself to create a greater sense of connection with students and has structured materials in a clear, straight-forward way that guides students through their learning process within the on-line format.

ePortfolios with WordPress

ePortfolios are a wonderful way for students to reflect on academic performance over time and summarize learning in a personalized, electronic space. Not only are ePortfolios an interesting new media with which students can demonstrate academic, technological and creative skills during their tenure in college, they may also serve as a wonderful marketing tool that may be of benefit to students upon graduation. Students entering the work force or applying to grad school will have acquired a beneficial skill that may carry over into new job responsibilities or booster creative expression in meaningful ways after their time as students. ePortfolios promote a culture of lifetime learning and help students become better problem solvers, critical thinkers who are more attuned with the meta-cognitive factors that will enable them to be lifetime learners.

Faculty may also benefit from the adoption of ePortfolios through the accessibility of data on student learning outcomes necessary for program improvement and WASC, not to mention the importance of staying current and competitive in this ever increasingly digital world that we inhabit. Digital media provide incredibly powerful tools that may be used for promoting innovation and education across the vastness of culture, socio-economic status and belief system. The manner in which these tools have become integrated into our daily life is a significant shift that we must not take for granted.  Faculty should feel comfortable with stepping in, at least momentarily to these electronic spaces that now define the world that our students will soon be asked to manage.

Not to mention the more immediate problem of filling rooms with massive paper binders that waste resources and take up large quantities of space. This current reality is no longer an inevitability as electronic portfolios offer an intelligent solution while also offering students greater creative flexibility as well as a personal learning space that they can continue to build upon as they pursue other ventures in life.

There are many programs at Saint Mary’s College that are already using ePortfolios for assessment and intellectual growth. The Art Department was naturally  the first department  to dive into ePortfolios and started with the Carnegie Foundation’s “Keep” system which has since ceased to offer services after their research on ePortfolios completed.  Next, the SMC Honors Program decided to incorporate ePortfolios with encouragement from Mary Volmer who helped pave the way in finding the best system for their program in Fall 2009. Mary and her students’ pilot tested various electronic portfolio systems during the 2009-10 academic year, and after problems with Campus Pack Fusion a wiki feature available inside Blackboard, found that WordPress was simple to learn, stable and slick. Soon after Mary’s lead, other programs also expressed interest including the Liberal and Civic Studies Program and the Ed.D Program in Educational Leadership. Last Spring, Monica Fitzgerald helped pave the way for her departments decision to move forward with ePortfolios by creating an assignment on environmental awareness using WordPress as the presentation method. You can see examples of this project here:

Sam Alberto
Katelyn LaRussa
Stefanie Garcia

L and CS has been wanting to move toward and electronic version of their portfolios requirement and looked into a number of systems including Taskstream and but had not found a system that worked, until now!  Thank you Monica Fitzgerald and Mary Volmner for leading the way and helping other faculty see how WordPress can be a simple, elegant solution to the need for e-Portfolios.

Transitioning From Blackboard to Moodle

Software is a rapidly transforming beast. No matter which type of software you learn and come to appreciate, inevitably you are going to need to update your skills and adapt even when the upgrades seem difficult at first. We don’t always like it but we know that in order to remain competitive in the academic world this is a reality.

A related truth is that when our learning management system, Blackboard creates a new version, aspects of the system that we come to know and love, change, such as how the discussion boards or the grade center functions. Sometimes the changes are wonderful, they save time and they make life easier for us. Other times they create havoc.

Lo and behold, it’s that time again and the latest version of Blackboard, Blackboard 9 has changed significantly though we have decided not to upgrade. Saint Mary’s College has instead moved forward with a transition to a new open source learning management system called Moodle. For now we are referring to this new system as “GaelLearn” until one of our campus literary types can come up with a better name.

Ironically, the latest version of Blackboard looks and feels more like Moodle. Blackboard feels the burn that open source is making on it’s potential revenue streams as more educational institutions are riding the wave of on-line learning therefore, Blackboard is making a last minute ditch to adapt before open source systems become too popular.

Rather than force our community to learn this new version of Blackboard while also footing a hefty price tag increase, we’ve decided to opt with Moodle, a flexible system that has received many outstanding reports from other campuses. Two case studies that you can refer to for information on the process of transitioning to open source learning management and specifically from Blackboard to Moodle, are San Francisco State University and Louisiana State which have recently made smooth transitions to Moodle.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term open source, in brief, it is free software distributed openly while allowing users to manipulate the underlying source code to suit their individual needs. See a more detailed definition here: Open source has become very important to higher education as many campuses participate in the open education community by contributing code and educational resources that allow for individuals to alter works to their own specific academic needs. Academics are also working together to create options free open source textbooks available on the internet. Some examples include: Open Educational Resources, and Wiki Books, offer free alternatives to expensive textbooks.

We are no longer dependent on proprietary companies to decide what is best for us. Just as the music industry and the publishing world have shifted their reliance on big publishing companies to disseminate work, the creators of software have also followed suit; or rather they have taken it upon themselves to design their own suit … from scratch. We want you to help us design a learning management system that is specific to you and your students needs. Moodle will allow us this possibility. It’s easy to learn and it’s powerful.

Although there are differences between Blackboard and Moodle, you will see that the functionality is the same and even better in many cases. Although the interface may not appear as slick, you can still upload documents, provide links to web sites and video, build assignments to be turned in electronically, produce grades and create wikis, blogs and podcasts.

Our goal is to completely transition to Moodle over the next two years so don’t be left behind. During this transition, the two systems, Blackboard and GaelLearn (Moodle), will run side-by-side allowing plenty of time for migrating course materials and to receive proper training. The Instructional Technology Team is here to support you during this transition. Please feel free to contact us at anytime should you wish to learn more or to receive hands-on training in Moodle. We look forward to working with you and want to assure you that we are here to help you!

Please note – We would like to invite additional faculty members to join the faculty advisory committee on Moodle. Please contact Carmel at 925-631-8003 if you are interested in joining. We will meet twice each semester to help with the process of rolling out the new system and shaping the look and feel of Moodle to meet the specific needs of our campus.