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Did you ever hear a student say, “I wish I understood what the professor wanted with this assignment?” Have your students ever asked how you came to a specific grade? Have you felt the need to create more clarity around an assignment, both for your students and/or your TAs who handle grading?
The solution may be to create a rubric for your students—or even with your students—for the assessment of the paper or project.
What is a rubric? A rubric is a tool for assessment that is created by the instructor to articulate clear expectations for an assignment and how it is to be graded. In some cases, it can even be helpful to elicit help from students in creating the rubric because, when students are involved in planning how they will be graded, they take ownership of the assignment and their understanding of what is expected is improved.
The Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence states about rubrics:
Rubrics help instructors:
- Assess assignments consistently from student-to-student.
- Save time in grading, both short-term and long-term.
- Give timely, effective feedback and promote student learning in a sustainable way.
- Clarify expectations and components of an assignment for both students and course TAs.
- Refine teaching skills by evaluating rubric results.
Rubrics help students:
- Understand expectations and components of an assignment.
- Become more aware of their learning process and progress.
- Improve work through timely and detailed feedback.
So how do you go about making a rubric?
- You can attend the upcoming workshop, “Designing Rubrics” (February 21, 2013) offered at the CTL by the UVM Writing in the Disciplines Program.
- You can go through this helpful tutorial by University of Colorado – Denver.
- You could also email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for an appointment with one of the Center for Teaching & Learning instructional design specialists who can meet with you individually to assist you in creating a rubric for your class.
The recency and primacy effects—long documented phenomena related to the importance of sequence on information recall—evidence that, in short, “Following a single exposure to learning, recall is better for items at the beginning (primacy) and end (recency) [...] than for middle items.” 
This is relevant to teaching and learning because it’s in that middle period, when many faculty have come to the heart of their lesson, that students may be least likely to be actively learning.
In the book, Student Engagement Techniques,  Elizabeth F. Barkley poses the suggestion that lectures could be shaped around this retention curve by segmenting a class into three parts:
1) Begin the class by diving directly into teaching important content.
2) After 20 minutes or so, have students take a brief break, stand up and stretch, and then conduct the administrative business, i.e., attendance, collection of homework, distribution of graded homework, etc.
3) Finally, transition back into important content for the last part of class. Consider incorporating a “JiTT” activity (Just in Time Teaching Techniques, October 10, 2012) and close the class with a recap of the most important points.
- Primacy Versus Recency in a Quantitative Model: Activity Is the Critical Distinction Anthony J. Greene, Colin Prepscius, and William B. Levy
- A CTL favorite book: Student Engagement Techniques (p.103)
MOOCs are courses that are:
- Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
- Open: freely available with free access to all course materials.
- Online: available through any web browser on any mobile device or computer.
As the MOOC model has gained acceptance it continues to be redefined and changed to suit the needs of learners, teachers, and institutions.
Currently, MOOCs combine the practice of online education with the ideals of open education and open courseware initiatives. They have gathered increasing attention in the past year as the model has been adopted by such well-known universities as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley . They have even been blamed for the recent controversy surrounding the departure and subsequent return of the President of the University of Virginia. 
Where did MOOCs Come From?
The advent of the web provided new opportunities for proponents of distance education. In addition to the ability to provide course materials and communication opportunities online, the web has allowed for experimentation with new pedagogical approaches. In 1999 the University of Tübingen in Germany made videos of its lectures freely available online. MIT followed suit in 2002 with its publication of course materials through its OpenCourseware initiative . Alongside these initiatives, discussions about Personal Learning Environments, or the more colorfully named Edupunk, combined a reaction against the commercialization of learning with a focus on individually crafting one’s own learning and curriculum. 
Giving away course materials for self-learners was one thing. Giving away access to actual taught courses was another, yet that is exactly what David Wiley of Utah State University did in 2007 when he opened his graduate course on, appropriately enough, open education, to anyone who wished to participate. The term MOOC itself, however, came as a result of a course taught by longtime open education advocates George Siemens , of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and Stephen Downes , Senior Researcher at The National Research Council (Canada). The course was titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” and was offered both to the students at the University of Manitoba who took it for credit and to the over 2,000 students who participated for free. The course content and discussion were made available through a variety of tools such as blogs, threaded discussions using Moodle, virtual encounters in Second Life, and synchronous online meetings. As a result of that course, and with a nod to an older interactive and collaborative technology, the MOO, Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communication and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island, coined the term MOOC in 2008 and created the video that defined it.
Cormier, Downes, and Siemans have continued their experiments with MOOCs, offering a number of courses. In 2011 they brought together over 30 facilitators to offer a 35 week MOOC focused on innovations and directions in online education.  As of the writing of this post they are offering a MOOC titled Current/Future State of Higher Education (#CFHE12) to explore the impact of the MOOC model. 
Who is teaching them? Where are they taught?
There are multiple online courses calling themselves MOOCs. These are currently taking one of two forms, recently labelled by Downes as cMOOCs and xMOOCs. The original MOOC concept envisioned that an instructor would provide information and encourage participants to share their knowledge and experience, connecting with each other in groups and sub-groups based on their particular interests and expertise. They would take the opportunity to peer instruct and even expand upon areas where the instructor may not have extensive knowledge. In other words, much if not most of the learning experience is derived through meaningful interaction with others in the course. This connectivist approach, or cMOOC, makes use of many of the social networking tools now available: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, etc.
xMOOCs, or those served by new start-ups such as EdX, Coursera, Udacity and Udemy  are an effort to formalize the MOOC model. Their service provides the managerial functions necessary for institutions offering MOOCs: account administration, server infrastructure, marketing, etc.
What are the potential benefits of the MOOC model?
- can encourage communication among participants who bring a variety of viewpoints, knowledge, and skills to the course. This serves to create communities of interest along with broadening the scope of the MOOC.
- could inspire people to “try on” subjects that they wouldn’t otherwise pursue or even try on education itself.
- can provide multiple ways to engage with course material, encouraging multimodal learning that can address the needs of learners with a variety of learning styles (i.e. Universal Design for Learning or UDL).
- by developing for multimodal learners, could inspire better teaching and use of technologies in general for face to face courses.
Yet MOOCs are viewed with trepidation and skepticism by some who see them as reinforcing the worst aspects of teaching. Those that are designed to simply provide droning lectures followed by auto-graded multiple choice tests are, in the words of Said Vaidhyanathan “taking the worst aspects of college learning as the favored methods of college learning.”
And then there are the financial questions. While MOOCs have been and might continue to be used for marketing purposes or to claim cultural capital for those institutions that are the early adopters, there is no doubt they can be expensive to run. They are not yet direct revenue generators. Among many educators that lack of commercial viability is seen as a positive trait, especially for public institutions that, ideally, promote the extension of knowledge as a core value. Those who see commercialism as corrupter are understandably leery of institutions that view MOOCs solely in terms of revenue generation through commercial transactions with students.
Administering several large MOOCs simultaneously has infrastructure implications. Alternatively, outsourcing MOOC administration to any of the several MOOC providers that have sprung up must take into account FERPA policies and the privacy of students.
Among the many questions revolving around the formalization of MOOCs are how faculty will be compensated for teaching them and how universities will credential students taking them. Currently, xMOOCs generally make a point of offering some form of assessment but we are a long way for any kind of standardization that would allow for MOOC credit to travel easily from institution to institution. Then again, “long” is a relative term. When speaking of the evolution of MOOCs that day may come much sooner than expected. Indeed, in the past few weeks the University of Texas has negotiated with Coursera to offer courses that may carry college credit. Meanwhile the State of Minnesota Office of Higher Education has declared that Coursera cannot offer any courses to citizens of Minnesota without that government’s consent, an odd proposition given that the courses are free and offer no credit. 
How can you learn more about them?
A quick look through the notes below, or a search through The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wikipedia, or even generally via Google or YouTube will net you more than a little information on MOOCs. A more experiential way to learn about MOOCs is to take one. Visit the xMOOC providers or follow Siemans’ or Downes’ offerings.
1. The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a timeline of their articles related to MOOCs at “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.”
2. In the May 2012 article “Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses” the New York Times reported that several other universities had jumped on the MOOC bandwagon.
3. While the ouster of President Sullivan was more complex than a simple argument over the adoption of MOOCs, it is interesting to note that almost immediately upon her return to that Office the university signed a deal with Coursera to begin developing MOOCs.
4. Since that time the MIT OpenCourseWare site has continued to be enlarged, reporting 100 million visits by 2010.
5. Educators also see a role for EduPunk and Open Education practices as a counter to the more restrictive and, some would argue, limiting environment of Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Moodle, etc.
6. This video continues to be the definition of MOOCs as originally conceived, though the term itself is applied to two diverging definitions. In an all too common instance of web irony, and as an example of how quickly the MOOC concept is evolving, this video has been accused of being “inaccurate” by a commenter who apparently did not know Cormier’s role in creating the term.
7. While more formal talks by both George Siemens and David Cormier have been recorded, for a more casual discussion about MOOCs by these founders, see the interview with Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University at http://youtu.be/l1G4SUblnbo.
8. Stephen Downes has been writing and speaking about issues in education for many years. For example, in this 2009 video he describes Open Education. You can also see his brief introduction to the 2011 “Change 2011 MOOC” which provides his take on how that MOOC will work.
11. In an interview with Downes for her July 2012 article (“Massively Open Online Courses Are ‘Here to Stay’“), Tanya Roscorla picked up on his use of the terms xMOOC and cMOOC, so they have now entered the MOOC lexicon. See also the report by Sir John Daniels “Making Sense of MOOCs.”
12. EdX is a joint venture created by MIT and Harvard. Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford. Three roboticists, Sebastian Thrun, Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens founded Udacity. Udemy was founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar.
14. As reported in the Washington Post on October 19, 2012 (“Is Minnesota Cracking Down on MOOCs?”). For a recent recap of other general issues surrounding MOOCs, see Katherine Mangan’s “MOOC Mania” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 1, 2012. In addition, feel free to visit my growing collection of MOOC references at http://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/mooc+MOOC?link_view=expanded
What is JiTT?
Just in Time Teaching, or JiTT, is a model first proposed by Novak, Patterson, Gavrin and Christian (1999) that combines web-based resources that help students prepare outside of class with active learning techniques in the classroom. JiTT has recently drawn attention as a part of a “flipped classroom” strategy, in which students do much of the work of absorbing new information outside of the classroom so that faculty can focus their time in the classroom on those content areas and concepts that students need more help understanding. Flipped classroom strategies also use principles of active learning, asking students to apply knowledge or work problems during class time with the professor and with other students.
JiTT Exercises: Student Prep Helps Faculty Prep Too
JiTT exercises are one way to help students prepare appropriately for these in-class activities. Most JiTT exercises are short, web-based assignments students turn in before class that require them to complete the assigned reading or other coursework. While preparing for class, the instructor quickly reviews the student responses to the JiTT exercise and tailors the class to correct misconceptions, practice applying concepts or explore in areas where student work fell short. At least part of class time is spent reviewing a sampling of student JiTT exercises and/or going over pre-class quiz results. When student responses are on target, in-class exercises can offer students opportunities to further demonstrate and deepen their understanding through exercises that link course materials to real world applications or to other material within the course.
Is JiTT really new?
JiTT has been around since the late 1990’s, and a number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. My reaction, on first hearing about JiTT, is that the idea itself is quite a bit older than the web-based medium on which it relies. Faculty in many disciplines have used techniques ranging from reading questions to reaction papers or submission of discussion questions to accomplish the same outcomes: encourage and support students’ preparation for in-class activities, and provide information about their level of preparation and understanding to the instructor prior to the start of class. While JiTT may not be, in fact, “something completely different,” what is different is that JiTT initiatives, particularly in the STEM disciplines, have focused on larger, content-heavy introductory courses which have traditionally emphasized lecture as the main in-class activity. In addition, the submission of the JiTT exercises through a Learning Management System like Blackboard allows students more flexibility in when they prepare and turn in the JiTT exercises, and faculty more flexibility in how they organize and view the responses. For example, faculty at UVM can use the Test, Assignment or even the Survey tool to collect JiTT responses before class.
What do JiTT exercises look like?
JiTT exercises vary depending on the course level, structure, and staffing. Some JiTT techniques require students to produce lengthy responses on which they receive feedback before or after class. These are appropriate for small to medium-sized classes or classes where the instructor has grading assistance. Other techniques require little or no grading on the part of the instructor, such as automatically graded tests, or a brief sentence or two submitted by each student indicating which parts of the material they would like to review further.
This Carleton College website offers a comprehensive explanation of JiTT methods and has a library of exercises developed for the geosciences.
www.jitt.org is run by Gavrin and Novak, two of the original authors of the JiTT model. It has more information on JiTT as well as guidelines for crafting JiTT exercises.
JiTT across Disciplines
While JiTT is widely associated with STEM disciplines, some recent studies have highlighted its value for social science and humanities courses. For example, Pace and Middendorf (2010) discuss the use of JiTT techniques to develop critical thinking and writing skills in an introductory history course. They found that JiTT exercises promoted a feedback loop that improved student writing for the course, and also felt that it improved the quality of class discussion, as students had an opportunity to develop arguments and opinions in the JiTT exercise, and came to class prepared to debate and discuss the points raised in their classmates’ assignments.
Simkins and Maier (2004) tested a JiTT model in an introductory Economics course. While their results show some difference in exam performance between JiTT and non-JiTT courses, they, like many faculty who have tested JiTT techniques, emphasize that students in JiTT courses came to class better prepared and took on more responsibility for their own learning. These factors, as well as the value to faculty of having a better sense of students’ understanding of the material and tailoring their teaching accordingly, are difficult to measure. Ideally, they contribute to long term retention of and engagement with course ideas and materials, and in the near term, can also increase faculty satisfaction with their teaching experience.
JiTT: Key Lessons
For some of you, the strict definition of JiTT sets parameters that are too constraining. Perhaps you do not want to use web-based exercises, or you would like to incorporate the exercises into the face to face class time. Maybe you have considered using a student response system like iClickers in your classroom and expect to use responses to iClicker questions to guide how much time you spend reviewing different parts of the material. These activities may not fit exactly with the JiTT models that have been so rigorously tested, but they do retain the “spirit” of JiTT, which is designed to:
- motivate students to prepare material before class so that they can benefit more from active learning techniques
- gather information on their understanding of the material
- utilize that information to improve student understanding, and where possible, apply that knowledge during face to face class time
If these goals coincide with where you would like to head with your teaching, JiTT exercises may give you a jumping off point for redesigning your course to focus less on lecture, and more on active learning experiences for students.
Want to know more?
CTL is offering a three-part workshop on October 16th from 2:30-5:15. You can sign up for one, two or three of the parts.
All of the events are in 303 Bailey-Howe, starting at 2:30:
- A workshop with Laura Bermingham, a Plant Biology faculty member at UVM, highlighting flipped classroom techniques she uses, including Just in Time Teaching and the Peer Instruction model (2:30-3:30)
- A 1/2 hour video featuring Eric Mazur, a Harvard physicist who is a leader in the flipped classroom movement (3:35-4:15)
- A one-hour workshop with CTL’s Hope Greenberg on using different technologies to enhance flipped classroom design or to just bring in some techniques without flipping your classroom completely. (4:20-5:15)
Faculty are welcome to sign up for one, two or all three of these workshops to find out more about what “flipped classroom” “peer instruction” and “just in time teaching” can do for them. These workshops will be of particular interest to faculty teaching large classes or introductory classes that they would like to redesign to have less lecture, and more active learning by students.
Pace, D. and Middendorf, J. (2010) “Using Just in Time Teaching in History.” In Simkins and Maier, eds Just in Time Teaching: Across the Disciplines, and Across the Academy. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Pp. 153-162
Novak, G., Patterson, E., Gavrin, A., & Christian,W. (1999). Just-in-time teaching: Blending active learning with web technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Simkins, S. and Maier, M. (2004) Using Just-in-Time Teaching Techniques in the Principles of Economics Course , Social Science Computer Review, 22 (4). Pp. 444-456.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework, based in cognitive neuroscience, that encourages the design of flexible learning environments to accommodate a variety of learning styles and differences. This post focuses on one of the three core principles in UDL: multiple means of representation.
This means moving beyond textual representation by presenting information and conceptual knowledge to students in a variety of formats, e.g., images, video, and audio. Not only does research indicate that this practice can enhance student understanding and retention of course content, it can also be used to engage students and prime discussion. Students responding to an image, song or movie clip can spark reflection and debate.
Effective use of multimedia in your teaching is non-trivial. It takes time to find the right image or clip and prepare it so that is accessible and available to all students. Fortunately, UVM has some resources to help you every step of the way.
Step 1: Finding Multimedia
There are so many sources of multimedia, and so little time. To help you get started, CTL has collected a list of websites where you can find images and videos applicable to many disciplines. Check out this link for information about copyright, fair use, and using multimedia in your courses, as well.
Additionally, Bailey/Howe Library has several new, searchable databases for streaming media that provides access to licensed documentaries with relevance across the curriculum. Features for some of these databases include synchronized, searchable transcripts, editing capabilities to make video clips, and an embeddable video player that can be used in Blackboard courses.
Step 2: Making Multimedia Accessible
Multimedia used in class or on the web needs to be ADA compliant. Video/audio content needs to be captioned. Captioning not only benefits the deaf or hard of hearing student, but can also benefit students for whom English is a second language, and individuals with learning disabilities (hearing and reading at the same time can improve comprehension). For information regarding captioning services on campus, please see the ACCESS offices captioning website.
Images on the web also need to be accessible and take into consideration not only people with blindness, but also those low vision, color-blindness, or cognitive disabilities. For a comprehensive discussion on effective and appropriate use of images to facilitate comprehension, see Creating Accessible Images on the WebAIM website.
Step 3: Making Multimedia Available on the Web
If you want students to access your own audio/video content on the web, or if the content falls within Fair Use copyright guidelines, use the UVM Media Manager tool to upload the files to your UVM server space, also known as your “zoo space.” The Media Manager makes it simple to share your media by broadcasting it, linking to it, or embedding it on a webpage such as a Blackboard course page. See Media Manager directions here.
Another way to add media to your Blackboard (Bb) course is to use the Bb “MashUp” tool. This tool allows you to search YouTube, Flickr, and SlideShare (a site for viewing and sharing PowerPoint-like presentations), select content, and then embed this content directly into your Bb course. While the media content resides on their respective websites, students view the media content without ever leaving the Bb course. View this tutorial on the Bb MashUp tool
Interested in Learning More?
For more information about the Filmmakers Library Online, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite on “Teaching with Streaming Media” facilitated by Daisy Benson of the B/H Library, on October 9, 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.
For more information about the Media Manager, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite, “From DVD to Blackboard” on October 3, 12:00- 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.
In short, one of the principles of Universal Design for Learning is that if you offer students multiple options for exploring content and expressing what they’ve learned, their experience is richer and more meaningful—and this gives their learning “sticking power.”
Google Earth is a free, easy to learn tool and absorbingly fun! It’s an exciting option for immersive learning because students can delve into a topic and show their knowledge (and comprehension and analysis) through writing and/or other means while simultaneously building geospatial and technical fluency.
What can students do in Google Earth? They can explore a 3D model of the earth, turn numerous data layers on and off, and zoom in close—in many places to an on-the-street, photographic, 360° view of a place. Most importantly, they can create their own map views in which they placemark physical locations and into each placemark they can:
- add their own written work
- include excerpts from texts
- embed imagery, video, and audio from a website
- include links to sources
If desired, the placemarks can be gathered into an animated tour. Finally, they can save their maps and upload them to Blackboard for assessment or to share with the class.
The project possibilities are nearly limitless, but here are just a few ideas:
- In English or foreign language classes, students can explore a literary work, an author’s life or journey, or create a place-based, illustrated, poetry anthology. Example assignments might be to map 10 places from John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, or trace Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway’s walk through London, include analysis or reflection of text excerpts and historical photos in each placemark. Include web-sourced audio files where possible, such as the sound of a passing train or Big Ben chiming in London.
- In history classes, students can map events or parts of events, such as wars, diasporas, revolutions, or a single person’s lifetime. An example would be to map one Civil War regiment’s movements and battles. Embed both historic and contemporary photos of the battlegrounds and include excerpts of accounts from properly cited sources.
- In fine art classes, students can search for compelling views of the planet on which to base works of art. They can capture and print their chosen sources from Google Earth and then submit these with the finished project. Examples might be to create a study of abandoned cities or densely populated areas, or the dynamism of a river, e.g., meanders or alluvial fans, or environmental contrasts or perils.
Interested in learning more?
Attend the CTL workshop on September 25th co-taught by Walter Poleman (RSENR) and Inés Berrizbeitia (CTL).
Contact email@example.com for questions about how the CTL may be able to help you develop an assignment, teach Google Earth to your students, and work with you to develop a rubric for assessing the assignment.
For a variety of resources and a link to download Google Earth, see this page in the CTL Website’s “Teaching Resources” area.
Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even in classes with over 150 students! What’s his strategy? On the class roster page he displays the students’ photos and, while studying each face, he speaks their names aloud. Over and over. And over. Occasionally he shifts the page arrangement—by changing the row settings to, for instance, three across instead of five—and he keeps testing himself. He admits that it takes several practice sessions, but he claims the effort is well worth it. Students are astonished when he greets them by first name! A large class it may be, but an indistinct mass of anonymous faces it is not. Individuals are being recognized and this, he says, changes the whole game.
(By the way, Jonathan isn’t the only one to stress the value of learning names. Every year when the CTL holds a panel discussion with the latest winners of the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, at least one of the panelists mentions that this practice is vital to their teaching style.)
Tip #2: Get students talking. Sheila Boland-Chira (English) recommends the turn and talk method in any class, but particularly on the first day when anxiety may be running a little high. She asks an evocative question related to the course topic and invites students to turn to their neighbors and talk about it. After a few minutes, she invites volunteers to share their thoughts with the whole group. Not only does the lively buzz change the atmosphere in the room, doing this on the first day lets students know that the class is participatory and that they are going to be challenged to think.
Tip #3 Make personal connections. Char Merhtens (Geology) asks students to come to her office and meet with her individually during the first week or two of the semester, just to say hi and chat for a few minutes. However, because there are 200+ students in one of her classes, visiting with everyone isn’t practicable, so she invites only the first-years and seniors, the two groups she feels would most benefit from this (although, for completely different reasons). Char says that this simple social gesture has paid off in countless ways and many students go out of their way to thank her.
Tip #4: It’s standard practice to review the syllabus on the first day of class, but a few faculty offered tips to make this ritual more meaningful:
- Before the first class meets, contemplate your schedule again and identify the overarching themes. When you review the syllabus on the first day, share this 10,000-foot view with your students and talk about how the key themes are woven throughout the schedule. This overview provides not only a conceptual map of the course, but a rationale for the work you are going to be asking them to do.
- Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or a humorous cartoon. Consider playing music.
- Use Blackboard’s test tool to create a short quiz about the syllabus with multiple-choice type questions (so Blackboard will do the grading for you) and make it a mandatory assignment by the second day of class. Doing this gets them to delve deeper into the syllabus and you can review the stats in Blackboard before the next class, so you can touch upon any murky areas.
Tip #5: Finally, convey enthusiasm! J. Dickinson (Anthropology) offered what might be the most important tip for the first class and every class: that it’s crucial to communicate your excitement about what you teach. Even if you’re not teaching your dream course, you should be able to muster enthusiasm for it. Foundational or introductory-level courses are exciting when you consider the potential for learning and that you just may spark an interest that has a formative effect on someone’s life. Genuine enthusiasm can be infectious.
How do you use your iPad with a projector? For example, how do you project a slide show, make annotations, and display what you type on a screen? Are there other apps that allow for other interesting classroom activities?
You have an iPad, a vga cable, and a projector. Plug it all in and what happens? Not much. You will not be able to see your iPad screen on a projector. That is, you can’t just plug it into a projector and have it display, or mirror, whatever you are seeing or doing on the iPad. Instead of building into the iPad the ability to mirror its display, the projection function is available only at the application level. What does that mean for you? You will need to look for apps that include “vga” support, and those apps will display only certain screens in the app. Fortunately, the number of apps that support vga is growing.
Let’s start with some simple ones. If you want to display a web page on a projector, Safari won’t do it. The options are to use a different browser or another app that includes web browsing capabilities. Both Atomic Web ($.99) and Perfect Web ($2.99) are web browsers like Safari. Perfect Web has several additional features that make it well worth the $2.99. Tabs, hand gestures, and the ability to act like different kinds of browsers so you can display a web page to its best advantage are a few. Try it and you may never go back to Safari again.
Several apps include the ability to browse the web among their other functions. For example, GoodReader and iAnnotate are primarily designed for you to download, read and annotate PDF files but include the ability to display web pages as well. More on those below.
For displaying slide shows? Keynote is Apple’s slide show creator, and it does what it does elegantly and simply. However, while you can create and display your slides with Keynote (or import your PowerPoint or PDF files to edit and display) you cannot annotate your slides while projecting a slideshow. There are other apps that can. After trying out several I find myself returning most often to 2Screens ($4.99). This app allows you to call up ppt, pdf, rtf, even docx files and draw or write annotations on them. You can open several documents, then tab back and forth between these documents and a blank whiteboard to write additional notes. Notice I say write and draw, not type. The annotations that you can create with 2Screens are those which you do with a stylus or finger. There is a note feature built in so you can type and store notes in your slideshow. However, these notes are only visible to you–they are not displayed.
Any drawbacks? The annotations made in 2Screens are not saved with the presentation, but you can save a screenshot of each slide with its annotations. Another thing that might take some practise to get used to is the way 2Screens displays your ppt slides. You can choose to have it automatically create thumbnails of all slides. These are displayed to you but not projected, making it fairly easy to skip from slide to slide. Or, you can move from slide to slide by vertically scrolling. The practise part is necessary because you are ‘finger scrolling’ and so need to line the slides up to the screen as you go. It’s not hard, just something to be aware of. So, by all means, create in Keynote, but display and annotate in 2Screens.
If you want to do typed annotations on a slide show the choices are more limited. Infonet Presenter ($9.99) is similar to 2Screens in that you can open ppt pdf files and annotate them. It also lets you open a variety of image and video files, even xls files. You can annotate with finger/stylus drawing but it adds the ability to type in a text box that you draw on the screen. You can collect a variety of files and images, place them in a folder that you then use for a presentation. This is particularly nice if the slideshow is composed of many images; no more having to mess about with PowerPoint, dragging dropping and resizing, when you simply want to display lots of images. Just drag them all into a Librry in Infonet Presenter and away you go. This is a somewhat different approach to presenting material and the app as a whole has some quirks. So, worth a look but may not be precisely what you need.
So how can you project text as you type it? Surprisingly, presentation apps are not the best choice. Instead, take a look at some of the note-taking apps that are available. Some now come with vga support. My favorite at the moment is Noterize ($3.99), but PaperDeskLT ($1.99) is also worth a look.
Like the other annotation apps, Noterize let’s you open a variety of file types (ppt, pdf, txt, images or even snapshots of web pages) and then draw or write on them. If you insert a new blank page you can type on that page, or you can annotate a page with a text box into which you can type. There are several fonts and font sizes available as well as a handful of colors. You can even turn on audio recording and attach that recording to your notes. These notes can be exported to Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Box.net, Dropbox, Email, or opened in any iPad apps that support “Open In” for these file types. To save a copy of the note with the audio intact, you save it as a pdf+audio file that will be transferred and accessible through iTunes.
PaperDeskLT is a similar product, simpler and less fully-featured than Noterize but contains the basics: text, drawing, audio that can be stored on the iPad or stored and synced with an account at paperdesk. It takes a slightly different approach to vga display: you need to create the notes as a “vga whiteboard” to display them, that is, when creating a new note you can choose the standard notebook or a vga whiteboard. You cannot simply display any notebook that you have created.
Other notable vga apps? Penultimate ($1.99), the handwriting and annotating app is a delight. No typing, but everything else works simply and smoothly. As mentioned above, iAnnotate ($9.99) and GoodReader ($2.99) both have vga display capabilities. Both are wonderful at storing and organizing your files. GoodReader annotations are particularly good because you can send the annotated files to yourself or others by email, with the annotations stored directly on them. Another plus is the way you get files into GoodReader. I find the apps that have to talk to iTunes are just annoying. GoodReader can access files by webdav, through a web browser, by email, etc. And, once the files are in GoodReader you can project them or a simple “Open in” command lets you open the files right in 2Screens for projecting and annotating. Fast. Easy.
And then there is AirSketch ($7.99). All of the apps mentioned above work with your projector by plugging your iPad into the projector itself. AirSketch takes a different approach. You connect a laptop to the projector, fire up a browser on the laptop (must be HTML5 compatible, like Firefox, Safari, Chrome), direct the browser to the address AirSketch tells you, then walk away from the laptop. You carry the iPad around the room and write on the iPad screen from wherever you are. What you write will be appear on the laptop screen and be projected from there. You can open pdf files, open ppt files that have been saved as pdf, or open images and annotate all those as well. Since the display is your laptop, you can even start a screencasting program on that laptop and capture what you are drawing or writing on your iPad as it is being displayed on the projector. The educational possibilities are obvious: project a piece of code, a formula, some grammatical errors or piece of writing, pass the iPad around and have students annotate what’s on the screen up front. Have students draw graphs on the iPad and project those. This one definitely deserves a look.
So, there’s a quick round up of some of the current vga enabled apps. If you are a UVMer and would like to see any of these in action just let me know. I’d be happy to show them to you (firstname.lastname@example.org). And for a little screencast of AirSketch in action, here you go: AirSketch