D. Wild Card Options

Those of you who’ve signed up for this option have a fair bit of room to explore.  The starting points set out in the assignment are these three:

  • A resource you already know that’s not listed in A, B, or C quadrants of the assignment sheet – and we noted Google Suite as an example.
  • A resource you’ve heard about, haven’t tried and now want to explore (in comparison to one you already know, ideally).
  • A mix of resources from A, B or C (as in my example of using Moodle and have a portal set up in MyU Space and am now weighing whether to migrate from these to WordPress or to blend the portal with wordpress for a course platform that’s “mostly open access”).

Email me if you have questions as you select and/or set out a beginning plan to learn more about this wild card option.

Your Task

For this task, name what you want to learn more about, what you’ve decided to look at comparatively, or what you want to learn more about because you’re not entirely happy with a platform you already use, or maybe need to know something about because you’re moving toward a new teaching post where the school offers only platforms that are all new to you.

Post Your 3-5 Ideas

In all, spend about 15 minutes getting a general sense of whatever it is you’ve chosen to investigate, 30 minutes digging deeper to learn its features for learners and teachers, and another 15 minutes sharing 3-5 ideas as a reply to this post.

Questions to guide you as you’re doing the digging in – and that could launch the 3-5 ideas you share:

As you explore, think as a teacher and as a learner, as much as possible:

  • What does this tool do, in general?
  • What are a couple of its strengths?
  • What are some of its weaknesses?
  • What are some red flags about use (privacy, support, logins)?
  • What other interesting ideas / questions cross your mind while exploring?

Group Image Created During Session #2

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 22.06.38



  1. I begin my exploration of technology tools for learning with the question “How can I tell a story?”. As a learner, I find myself learning better when the subject is positioned within a context, or story — from it I begin to understand the importance and relevance of what I am learning, and how to apply it (be it in a similar context or in new, novel situations).

    I’m currently in the midst of creating a ‘mock’ Moodle course site for a ‘pretend’ orchestra management course (no such course is offered at UMN, yet), and I want the tools I explore to complement what’s already on Moodle.

    I explored two tools in response to that answer:- Storify (www.storify.com) and Prezi (www.prezi.com). Both helps with the construction of a ‘story’, and has pros/cons associated with how the technologies are each set up, and depending on the story one wishes to tell, one may be better suited.

    Storify is a social media network that allows users to come up with a ‘timeline’ to depict an event or a topic of interest, usually done in a linear fashion.

    Its strengths include an intuitive interface for users (to ‘construct’ their stories), a clear linear flow, and the ability to integrate various sources into the story (eg. other social media pages, web pages, images, videos, texts, etc). Users can also add their own narration. Weaknesses include aforementioned linear flow (not useful if the ‘story’ or ‘content’ requires higher levels of interactivity or going-back-and-forth with the content), and emphasis on text (not useful if visuals are crucial to conveying subject matter).

    Red flags for Storify include the need for one’s own unique login ID on Storify, and lack of privacy (I don’t think you can make your stories ‘semi-public’ to limit it to only classmates if there are IP issues concerning the materials referenced in the Storify ‘story’).

    I had used Storify once in one of my other classes (URL: http://storify.com/sookjin/heyyy-social-media-adventures-in-pa5920), and it was an interesting process to come up with that ‘story’ — this leads me to envision Storify as a great platform to allow students to ‘write’ a case study.

    With my current experimentation (the aforementioned ‘pretend’ orchestra management Moodle site), Storify can be used as an ongoing assignment based on a more relevant, concurrent case study development — eg. an assignment for students to follow the development of the strike/lockout faced by the Minnesota Orchestra/St Paul Chamber Orchestra. As class goes on and students pick up new theories/frameworks around orchestra management, they can add to their Storify timeline on how these theories relate to what’s happening currently with the negotiations between the orchestra unions and the management. The ‘linear’ aspect of a chronologically-unfolding event taps into Storify’s strength.

    The other tool, Prezi, is a presentation platform that allows for storytelling in less conventional ways – eg. utilizing a zoom-enabled interface and 3D space. Its strengths include being visually compelling and allows for a more dynamic flow of content matter. Viewers of the presentation have the power/choice to look at any section of the presentation without necessarily following a linear flow. Weaknesses include its not-so-user-friendly platform (first-time Prezi makers may be daunted), the need for the Prezi maker to rethink their preconceived notions of ‘presentation/storytelling’ to optimize the strengths of Prezi, and that certain features only come with paid accounts. (Educational users get some of these features for free, but they must be registered with a .edu account.)

    Red flags for Prezi include the need for one’s own unique login ID, and loss of control over the flow (especially if your subject matter requires strict adherence to a ‘timeline’ to make sense of it). Privacy is not a big issue with Prezi – you get to have ‘semi-private’ presentations, so as to adhere to IP restrictions on course materials.

    A way to use Prezi is also for case study development, but in a more non-linear fashion. For example, ‘students’ of the orchestra management class can explore the different programs within an orchestra for a given season, and have sections of the Prezi divided into areas such as “Classical Concerts”, “Community Outreach”, “Education Outreach” and “Fundraising Events”, with more details on each section branching off these main themes.

    I would then integrate all these case studies (be it Storify or Prezi) into a database on Moodle to let other students view the work of their peers and past students of the course. If this is done over time, this will allow for a huge database of cases that students can refer back to.

  2. Since I am at a conference and unable to attend class in person, I will be using Google Hangouts to attend virtually. This gave me to opportunity to explore this tool a little. I’m still not familiar with all of its features, but I can anticipate several ways this could be useful in the classroom.
    1. Google hangouts facilitates communication between large numbers of people, making it a more useful tool for student-to-student communication than other programs like Skype. For more theory heavy classes, in the future I would like to set up student study groups so that students can express their frustration, excitement, confusion to each other. Google Hangouts can facilitate this type of group work, allowing students to answer each other’s queries.

    2. As I’ve found through my own experience, Google Hangouts is helpful if a student is unable to physically attend a class, whether they are out of town, ill, or injured. With the right technology (ie. Ipad or laptop) I could have the absent student join group work, as well as participate in lectures.

    3. This program might also be a useful tool for me to communicate with students about their writing exercises, though I hesitate to open myself up to endless hours of providing feedback. Perhaps, I could agree to be available on Google Hangouts during office hours, and any student wanting to discuss something, could join me for a chat.

    4. I am also curious if this might be used to facilitate greater communication between guest speakers and students. I once had a documentary film maker living in Columbia Skype in to class so that the students could ask her questions about her film. It was awkward anddifficult for her to see the students. I wonder if this might allow the students to interact with speakers more directly.

    As with any technology, there are a couple of considerations:
    1. Do the students have access to this technology? Google hangouts is free. I found it tricky to get running, but I suspect students wouldn’t have a problem. The major challenge is that students would require their own accounts.
    2. Do the learning goals drive the use of this technology? Obviously, this depends.

    • Melanie,
      I like your post and the ideas you bring up in it. Last week I had to Skype into the class that I teach from a hotel in Denver where I got stuck because of the blizzard on my way back from a conference in San Francisco. I myself have taken classes where the guest speakers Skyped in on several occasions. However, I’ve never used Skype in my own teaching before. The situation last week was definitely an emergency, I was not planning on it 🙂 But I also knew that I couldn’t cancel the class. So I emailed my colleagues asking one of them to help me set everything up in the classroom, and also one of our department’s tech specialists. We actually tried to set up Google Hangouts first for this but for some reason the video didn’t work. So we decided to go with Skype instead. And by the way, all these preparations took place a few hours before class, not right before it. One interesting technical insight that I’ve learned: apparently, the new overhead projectors can be used as cameras if hooked up to a computer with the appropriate cable! And luckily the classroom in which I teach has microphones (I didn’t know this before) so I could hear my students too. The class went really well, my students loved it. One of them told me later during the week, when I was back, “this was so cool, it was like taking a class in the future where the instructor is a hologram!” So there you go 🙂

      Also, one comment about having the students who are unable to physically attend class Skype in or join a Google hangout. This is something that is practiced by a couple of professors in my department but only for graduate seminars. As much as I love my undergraduate students, I can also see how they would totally abuse this opportunity and stop coming to class regularly. Unless we set a limit by saying that, for example, they have two opportunities to join the class via Google hangout during the semester, and they should try to save these opportunities for real emergencies like bad weather or illness.

  3. I have been thinking for a while about the potential of Twitter as a tool that can enhance communication among the students (especially outside of the class environment), facilitate sharing of and reflecting upon different types of information and also prepare the students for the jobs they would take in the industry after graduation.

    In my field – journalism and mass communication – the breadth of students’ knowledge is as important as the depth. For students who are preparing to be journalists, advertising and public relations specialists, media producers, etc. the ability to analyze and synthesize diverse information is key. Students must be able to respond to different types of information, share it and see the links among these pieces of information while also connecting them to larger ideas/concepts or communication strategies.

    I think that Twitter – a social media outlet that allows sharing the information quickly and in a succinct format of 140 characters – can help the students develop these skills while also learning the course material.
    Two main strengths of Twitter are 1) its instantaneity; 2) the ability of users to see many different ideas/examples/reactions within one space.
    Two weaknesses are actually connected to the strengths: 1) instantaneity might have a distracting effect and impede rather than enhance learning; 2) too many different ideas/examples/reactions can take the students/Twitter discussion away from the main learning points.

    Some of the red flags:
    1)Not all students are Twitter users and I feel a bit uneasy forcing them to start using it; 2) if I ask the students to use Twitter during class (for example, tweeting their comments while we are watching a documentary, or tweeting questions/comments about the lecture material during the lecture), will all of them have the technology at hand necessary for doing this? 3) with Twitter, the line between productive interactivity and unproductive distraction is very blurry.

    If built into the course design wisely, Twitter can be a productive learning tool. My students often come up to me after class and share ideas that crossed their minds during class and I often think that they could have Twitted them as well. This might help me as a teacher too to learn a bit more about how they think, which parts of the material draw their attention most, what they understand well and what causes confusion or misunderstanding. For example, I wonder if instead of having the students write down “the clearest point” and “the muddiest point” of the lecture (or a lecture’s segment) on the cards, they could tweet them? Then I could address “the muddiest points” “in real time.” Or maybe we could set up some peer teaching-learning activities around these tweets?

  4. I have been thinking about a tool that will allow me to video tape classroom interactions for observation, discussion, and reflection purposes. Flipgrid was one option, but it only allows a limited time so will not work for my purposes. I chose to explore Vimeo, as I think this tool may better fit the purposes of my class.

    Vimeo is a website that uploads videos. The site is set up as a social media site, with features connecting people through a newsfeed that “follows” your “friends.” The website is easy to learn and includes tutorials. The basic plan is free, having enough storage space for small projects. For larger classes I would need to upgrade to the next package. How this tool might be used is a platform for preservice teachers to share activities and lessons that could then be used as cases for discussion purposes. There is a “comments” feature that would allow asynchonistic discussion.

    Strengths of Vimeo are its ease of use and ability to connect with multiple platforms. Tutorials are accessible if needed. Videos can be embedded into power point/prezi presentations as well.

    Weaknesses are that Vimeo may be too public for educational use. Vimeo has privacy controls that are fairly simple, if they are used.
    I am not sure about how to filter the main page. A couple of ads that would be inappropriate in an educational setting appeared unexpectedly.

    As I explored Vimeo I wondered if it would be possible to connect a class of 20 to the same page. I think it would if all participants joined Vimeo, but I wonder if that is an ethical expectation.

  5. I am looking to explore alternatives on how to tell a story. I’m currently working in compiling all of the information gathered by me in the last two semesters for my Action Learning Project. I like to use my ALP as my guinea pig for this workshop. I could certainly take an easy way out and use PowerPoint to present the stories of my characters from personal interviews. However, I am interested in engaging the audience in a creative/interactive presentation, in which I can build up momentum for each individual story. I have a total of 6 stories, coming from two different cultures. I am protecting their identity, therefore I cannot add video but I am very interested in exploring the idea of sharing parts of the interview through voice-sound.

    I have been using Prezi (www.prezi.com) for the last couple of months; however I am not an expert. With what I know so far, I can see that Prezi may provide the creative tools need it to tell the story. As I mentioned above, I like to add sound to the Prezi, and through this research I just found out that in January of this year Prezi added sound to its capabilities. Apparently, “the feature was created with voiceovers in mind — for material that is to be displayed online”. Additionally “Prezi makes sharing ideas more fun and engaging”, which is definitely what I am looking for to present the project. Prezi is interactive, innovative and presents content in education a bit more fun and interesting. I think this tool could combine creativity with inspiration transforming the way I can present the content of my project. Also after this experiment, I can perhaps master Prezi and use it directly in the classroom with my students.

    Some of the weakness from Prezi includes that it’s not as user friendly as expected. Users need to have a sign up account (which may be paid), login, and password. Presentations may be public or semi-public; through privacy setting you are able to choose your settings as a user. This feature may be handy at the time of sharing presentations between students. One thing that I have learned from using Prezi is that the flow of the information can be at times too interactive in motion and if you over work the presentation it can become distracting to the audience. I think that keeping the presentation as simple as possible is the way to go.

  6. We’ve been exploring the various options for communicating and sharing information using technology. There are many options available – Skype, Google Hangout, webinars, Vimeo, etc. There are pros and cons to the various options – tech troubleshooting, privacy issues, costs, audio/video, bandwidth requirements, etc. We’ve put together a concept map of the various options and it is posted at this URL: http://z.umn.edu/wildcard, and the image itself has been added to the main body of this post.

  7. Is there a way to upload files on this site? I am trying to paste in a screen shot of our concept map but it won’t take.

    • In a “full-blown” student and teacher use of the blog, I set up author access for students, which then allows individuals/groups to create a post, then edit the post as well as follow up comments. In this case, as a short duration workshop, I opted for the route of sending updates to me as site administrator – and then editing your comment, Kathryn, to include the link as well as flag where I’d put a screen shot of the image.

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