Category Archives: Technology Tools

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?

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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.

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