Google Apps, Research, TLT, Web 2.0

Using blogs as a learning tool

A blog can be used for more than just news and announcements.  Some ways your students might use a blog are:

Here at the College we have a couple of blog options: WordPress (which you are seeing now) and Blogger which is part of the CofCs Google apps for education suite of tools.  The main difference between the two is that students cannot create a blog using WordPress, but they can with Blogger.

TLT has tutorials for both WordPress and Blogger that can be found at:

Accessibility, Checkout Equipment, Google Apps, Productivity

Let Google Do The Typing For You With Voice Typing

I’m not sure how long this tool has been around but I just learned about it today and I’m in love already. Google Voice Typing allows you to open a Google Doc and speak into a microphone and let Google do the typing for you. As a matter of fact I’m writing this blog post in a Google Doc first using the voice typing command.

All you need to do is open a Google Doc, go into Tools and choose Voice Typing. This will then bring up an icon of a microphone on the side of the doc. Whenever you’re ready to start typing just click on the icon and begin speaking into the microphone. As of now, I believe this tool is only available in the Docs part of Google Drive.

Here is an example of what some of the blog post looked like before I did some corrections.Google Voice Example   This was taken at the beginning of writing the post, and as you can see I did make some changes.  But overall, it worked beautifully.


  • For anyone with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, it allows them to type without having to make as many spelling mistakes that can often accompany this type of disability.
  • For those with carpal tunnel, it can also help alleviate some of the symptoms as you will be typing less.
  • It works when outlining, planning, and writing papers.
  • Use it when writing email where you could write the email in Google Docs and copy it into your regular email. This is particularly helpful for long emails or emails where you need to go into a detailed explanation.
  • I think it’s fabulous for brainstorming as you can just speak your ideas and not feel the need to type every single thing that you’re thinking.
  • I’ve tested it as a way to create a transcript for a video lecture that you might be creating for your class. In my test I opened up Screencast-o-matic, which is a tool that will capture your desktop, and then opened a Google Doc and triggered the voice tool. Once I began the recording of my screen and microphone I then just went back and clicked on the microphone icon in my Google Doc, in order for it to transcribe everything I said. Using this, I was able to explain the slide as I normally would when lecturing and as I was recording the lecture, Google Doc was typing what I said. (Tutorial will be coming soon.)
  • Lastly, I’m curious to see how well it would do taking notes, in a meeting for instance.

Can you think of any other uses? If so, share in the comments!



Things To Consider:

I do recommend that if you want to use this tool you try a microphone that can maintain an equal distance from your mouth, such as the one that maybe came with your cell phone or a headset mic (that can be checked out from TLT). The better the microphone quality, the more accurate the typing. When speaking, it does recognize punctuation as well as the “new line” command. However, it didn’t seem to understand a few other words such as “delete” or “backspace”, so it will require that you go back through your document when you’re finished. and do some formatting. However, it’s a great way to type a lot of text quickly and easily without a lot of headaches.

Assessment, Google Apps, instructional technology, Web 2.0

Using Kaizena for Fast & Interactive Student Feedback

Let’s be honest. Grading can be a drag. We may love teaching and mentoring students, but when faced with a stack of 100 essays, some of us consider a career change.  Providing students with frequent and meaningful feedback takes a lot of time and energy, but there are plenty of applications that can help make you a more efficient grader.  One such application is Kaizena.

Kaizena is a web-based platform that is synced with Google Drive.  Students can either upload Microsoft Office files or PDFs to their Google Drive account (which CofC students have free access to) or they can create their assignments within Google Drive.  The instructor will get an alert that a student has submitted and can then leave text or audio feedback as well as insert outside resources called “lessons” and 4-point scale ratings called “skills.”


Kaizena’s “lessons” are a fantastic time-saving feature.  How often do you find yourself writing or typing the same comment over and over on student assignments?  Well, “lessons” allow you to create a library of text, audio, and video resources that can be quickly added to students’ assignments.  For example, if I were teaching composition and noticed multiple students making comma splice errors, I could record a quick audio clip explaining what comma splices are.  Or, I could find a YouTube video about comma splices and use that existing resource.  The next time I come across a comma splice error, I can simply click a button to add that “lesson” and avoid typing yet another explanation of comma splices.


Another aspect of Kaizena that I appreciate is how the feedback is framed as conversations.  An instructor leaves an audio comment, for example, and the student can reply with text or audio.  When we write comments on students’ assignments, we hope they read them and we assume they understand them.  But often this isn’t the case.  Kaizena encourages a dialogue between students and instructors that can improve understanding.




Cost:  Free

Platform: Web


plickers, clickers simplified
Assessment, Collaboration, Google Apps, iPad, Pedagogy, TLT

Paper + Clickers = Plickers: an easy way to add interaction to your classes

Clickers (or audience response systems) are a great way to check for understanding, poll students’ opinions, and even give quizzes.  Normally it requires the students to have a purchased clicker such as iClicker or Turning Point or a phone, tablet or computer for use with software like Poll Everywhere.  Either way, there is an investment of some type and this may make those of you new to polling a bit nervous.  Well now there is an easy and investment-free way to get started with clickers in your class.  It’s called Plickers (Paper Clickers).  Thanks to Tamara Kirshtein in Teacher Education for sharing this with TLT.

Plickers requires only the professor to have a phone or tablet with a camera and the students to have, you guessed it, paper clickers.   Here’s how it works:

example of a picker card


  1. Professor goes to and sets up a class (free).
  2. Professor prints out the free Plicker cards and distributes one to each student (up to 63 students).
  3. Professor asks a question in class.
  4. Students hold up their cards with the right answer at the top.
  5. Professors uses the Plicker app (Android and Apple) to take pictures of the class.
  6. Plicker records all the answers and displays a graph.


With Plicker you can:plicker class view

  • Poll your class
  • Check for understanding
  • Tie a specific card to a student’s name and give quizzes
  • Display results in a live view in real time
  • Save data to review later

With Plicker you can’t:

  • Use it with a class larger than 63
  • Export the data for use in OAKS or other applications
  • Ask open-ended questions


It’s fast and easy to use.  It’s not as robust as some of the other applications like iClickers or Poll Everywhere but it’s a great way to get some of the benefits quickly and easily with very little investment.  Print out your cards and get started today.

Class Using Plicker



Google, Google Apps, Innovative Instruction, Portfolio, TLT

Using Digital Portfolios in the Classroom

When I first began teaching, each class involved a major research paper that was due at the end of the semester.  Much to my chagrin, most students never picked up their graded papers, having already left for home and forgotten the assignment entirely.

About four years ago, I was cleaning out my office, and discovered an entire filing cabinet filled with abandoned graded papers.  Seeing this inspired me to alter my signature assignments.  I began reading about the “write to learn” movement, which emphasizes process over product.  I learned about scaffolding assignments, low-stakes writing, journaling, and free writing.  I then participated in a workshop in which I learned more about writing across the curriculum, including the value of student portfolios.  By the way, if this sounds interesting to you, I highly encourage signing up for the Writing Institute hosted by First Year Experience and English professors Chris Warnick and Amy Mecklenburg-Faenger (for College of Charleston faculty only).

Back to portfolios…

Student portfolios are collections of academic work and can be used for pedagogical, professional, or assessment purposes.  In my writing-intensive classes, I decided longitudinal portfolios would be the most meaningful.  This type of portfolio focuses on documenting the entire writing process, including notes, drafts, feedback, and revisions.

Next, I had to decide how students would curate their work. I could ask students to print hard copies of their papers and keep them in three-ring binders. But I have only so many filing cabinets in my office, and I had nightmares about being buried alive by stacks of papers. So I decided a digital option would be best.

There are a multitude of companies which provide e-portfolio services, but most of them require expensive subscriptions.  Thus, I decided to use an application that College of Charleston students, faculty, and staff have free access to: Google Drive.

Google Drive is part of the Google Apps for Education suite, providing cloud-based storage space.  Students can access their Drive from any device that connects to the Internet and files are automatically saved.  For more information about Google Apps for Education, visit the TLT tutorials blog.

At the beginning of the semester, I ask students to create a folder in their Drive specifically for their class portfolio.

Create New Folder












The students then share that folder with me by adding my email address.  Within their portfolio, they can create sub-folders for each writing assignment or each phase in the writing process.  I ask students to upload everything—every draft and peer review, and all the feedback I have offered.  For speeches (my class also includes a public speaking component), I require students to include their outlines, self-evaluations, and links to their videos (I upload videos of their speeches to Kaltura Media Space or an unlisted You Tube channel).

Share Folder Right Click Menu













At the end of the semester, students compose a letter, addressed to me, reflecting on their evolution as a writer and speaker.  I ask students to go through their portfolio and critically examine the strides they have made and the hurdles they still have to clear.  Because they have access to all their work, they can select examples that provide evidence to support their claims about strengths and weaknesses.

In order for this type of reflection to be truly effective, I have learned to build a culture of reflection in my classes.  Throughout the semester, students engage in peer editing, workshopping, and self-evaluation, giving them the practice necessary to successfully complete the final reflection letter.

Using Google Drive is a simple way for students to curate their academic work, share it with peers and faculty, and engage in critical reflection.  From the longitudinal portfolios created for my class, students could cull their best work and create a separate “showcase portfolio” that may be useful when interviewing for internships and jobs.

If you’re interested in learning more about Google Drive, TLT hosts training sessions throughout the year.  Check out the training schedule at

screenshot of two peoples edits
Collaboration, Distance Ed, Google, Google Apps, instructional technology, Productivity, Share

Google Docs Now Has a “Track Changes” Feature

I love Google Docs for sharing and reviewing documents but I do miss the features of Microsoft Word’s track changes.  Well, Google Docs has recently added that feature.  Now when you open a Doc you will see a new item in the toolbar entitled Editing.  This gives you the choice of “Editing” as you normally would, “Suggesting” which turns on the track changes, and “Viewing” which views the original document or the accepted changes.   This long awaited feature elevates Google Docs into an even better collaborative tool than it was before. If you are interested in using this feature just open a Google Doc and, under the Editing menu choose Suggesting then make your changes.


As of the writing of this post it appears that this feature is only available in Docs and not in Spreadsheets or Presentations.

miriam klous
1-1-1, Assessment, Collaboration, Faculty Technology Institute, Google Apps, Innovative Instruction, Pedagogy, TLT, Video

PollEverywhere and Google Moderator to Increase Student Engagement

This week’s guest blogger is Miriam Klous in Health and Human Performance.

In May 2013 I attended the Faculty Technology Institute (FTI) training. We learned about new technologies that could be useful in a classroom setting, research or service. In my classes, I have been trying to increase the interaction with the students and particularly between students. Through the FTI I learned new iPad applications that could help me increase this interaction. One of the applications that was very helpful is ‘PollEverywhere’ and in another project I have been combining Google Moderator and video creation apps.

Many times in my classes when I ask questions, the same students answer. Of course there are several ways of dealing with this, but I found ’PollEverywhere’ to be an effective tool to influence this. Basically, I create questions online with the app ‘PollEverywhere’ and provide them with multiple answers (true-false and open-ended questions can also be created). The students have to text or email a number representing the answer they pick to a (phone) number. You are able to follow the voting directly on screen, and it can be anonymous.  For me it is a great way to see if students have difficulty with a question/content. If everybody answers the question correctly, I know I can move on with other content. If the answer to a question is very diverse, additional explanation of the topic may be necessary. Besides, the student can see that he/she is on the right track or, if not, that he/she is not the only one choosing that answer (while staying anonymous). When discussing the question and the topic after the vote, I perceive more interaction with the students. It seems like students trust asking follow-up questions now that they know they are not the only one that picked a certain answer. The questions can be created very easily and quickly and could be done in class. I prefer to prepare the questions ahead of time and login to ‘PollEverywhere’ to provide them to the students.

In addition to ‘PollEverywhere’, I also wanted to develop a project that makes students work together outside class time. Previously I had students writing research papers/labs together, but I was looking for a project where I could implement sophisticated technology. Therefore, in my EXSC 433 ‘Research Design and Analysis’ course I had students work together on a video project with the topic ‘How are we all consumers (users) of research?’. Students at an undergraduate level seem to have difficulty understanding why learning about research is important/exciting.  However, research is all around us, it is a part of our daily life. My goal was to make students more aware of research in our daily life by letting them make a video on this topic. Most students really enjoyed the assignment and I believe they received a better understanding of how research is integrated in society and it will be part of their life even if they don’t have a research job. In the FTI I learned about making videos and editing. This experience in FTI made me comfortable enough to implement this in my class, knowing I could help the students when it was necessary.  Students first received feedback on their storyboard before they started creating the video. In this project I also implemented the Google Moderator app. I wanted students to be involved in the development of the rubric. The students could make suggestions on aspects of (creating) the video that they believed were essential for a good video and thereby required for successfully fulfilling the assignment. Therefore, I created a rubric and placed it on Google Moderator. Students could log on to the Google Moderator and vote on the items if they believed were important aspect of (creating) the video. They could also reformulate items or add items and other students could vote again on those items. I assigned class time for students to spend 5-10 to do this, to make sure they knew how to vote or add items/comments. I received great feedback on time restrictions for the video and suggestions to reformulate certain items. Based on the feedback I created the final rubric. This strategy helped to have the students be aware of the aspects they would be assessed on and also to have them agree on the assessment of their assignment.

I see the benefit of the FTI training. The interaction between students in my class and myself definitely improved. Of course there were some issues along the way with students not doing their part, but this would probably also have been the case in more traditional group work. I definitely will keep on using those apps, and hope to implement other applications that I learned during the FTI training.

1-1-1, Collaboration, Faculty Technology Institute, Google, Google Apps, TLT

Faculty Guest Post: Using Google Apps for Collaboration

Our guest blogger is Jessica Smith, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication.  Jessica attended the Summer 2013 FTI.

Think of any movie that features scenes of the college classroom.  Hollywood portrayals typically include the archetypal professor, wearing glasses and chalk on the sleeve, standing before a theatre-style hall, lecturing from a podium.  When I first began teaching, I had visions of Robin Williams, in Dead Poets Society, serenading his students with lessons about love and life.

These Hollywood fantasies were quickly crushed my first semester teaching.  Students slept, read newspapers, worked on homework, and gazed out the window.  Now, they text their friends and surf the Web on their laptops.  Despite my frustration over their lack of engagement, I was determined to craft lectures that would rouse my students to declare “Captain, my captain” while standing on their desks.

I didn’t realize until after that first semester that my steadfast commitment to becoming a “sage on the stage” was actually preventing me from inspiring and motivating my students.  I have since dedicated myself to learning about innovative methods for engaging students, including the latest education technology tools.  One such tool is Google Apps for Education, a suite of web-based applications.

Since the College has a site license, many students and faculty use this free resource for individual academic pursuits.  But I believe Google Apps was especially designed for use in the classroom, allowing students and faculty to collaborate on projects, activities, and assignments.  This semester, I have made a concerted effort to use Google Apps more frequently and creatively in my classes.

In this post, I’ll address how I use Google Apps for various forms of collaboration, including:

  1. Workshopping and peer editing
  2. Collaborative writing and peer instruction
  3. Brainstorming and crowdsourcing

I teach in the Communication Department, so my students complete numerous writing assignments throughout the semester.  One of the most important phases in the writing process is revising and Google Docs is ideal for workshopping and peer editing.  Students compose their writing assignments in Google Docs (or upload their document to their Drive) and share it with their classmates and me.  I ask students to focus on two or three specific tasks (such as reviewing APA format or critiquing thesis statements).  To teach students how to effectively edit, hold them accountable, and assign participation points, I track my students’ comments on their classmates’ documents.  Kaitlin Woodlief, one of our TLT gurus, taught me how to comment in Google Docs: Students select the text they’d like to comment on then go to Insert > Comment > type their feedback.  The comment will be saved with the student’s name and date/time.  This allows me to keep track of students’ comments so I can ensure they are truly doing their best to help each other improve their writing. 

After workshopping with their classmates, I then have students edit and revise their papers independently.  I have them follow the same commenting procedure and ask them to make notes about their revisions (e.g., explaining why they did or did not accept a classmates’ suggestion).  This not only helps students think more critically about the evolution of their writing, but also helps me evaluate their revision skills.

Google Docs is also fantastic for collaborating during class on low-stakes writing assignments, which prepare them for their larger papers.  For example, I have pairs of students compose “summarize and respond” paragraphs together.  I ask them to bring laptops or tablets to class so they can work simultaneously on the same document (TLT Tutorial:  For students who don’t have access to a laptop or forget theirs, I bring my own devices for them to use.  This type of collaboration presents students with a useful challenge—learning to write together.  I’ve also witnessed many instances of “peer instruction” as one student teaches another about a concept or technique.   To read more about collaborative writing, visit:

Finally, Google Moderator provides yet another opportunity for collaborating (TLT Tutorial: This is a crowdsourcing app that allows users to submit questions or ideas, vote on those submissions, and rank them by order of popularity.  When I teach argumentation, students submit resolutions they would like to debate, vote on their favorites, and watch the most popular resolutions rise to the top.  We then choose the resolution that received the most votes as the one we debate in class.  This allows students to brainstorm topics then pick the ones they actually are interested in researching and debating.

Since quashing my delusions of grandeur during my first semester teaching, I realized professors are no longer the center of the higher education universe.  Google allows students to fact-check lectures with just a few keystrokes.  They can crowdsource notes and help each other with projects using social media.  Massive open online courses like Kahn Academy and Coursera allow students to learn from some of the brightest minds in the world.  Therefore, professors must adapt their teaching styles from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.”  One way to accomplish this is to incorporate more collaboration into the classroom and Google Apps provide tools that make it simple and meaningful.

Assessment, Collaboration, Faculty Showcase, Google Apps, Innovative Instruction, iPad, Mobile, Pedagogy, Research, Round Table Discussion, TLT, Web 2.0

Winter Roundtable Discussion Recap

TLT’s latest roundtable session, on December 3, 2013, encouraged participants to explore five stations which focused on tools and best practices relating to research, assessment, and student learning.  TLT would like to recognize and thank Andrea DeMaria, Merissa Ferrara, Michael Hemphill, Mark Hurd, and Jessica Smith for presenting and sharing their experiences.

Below is a summary of the content delivered at each station:

Station 1 – Merissa Ferrara, Ph.D. | Department of Communication

Dr. Ferrara described how she used the app, “Scavenger Hunt With Friends Lite”, on the first day of class to establish a culture of collaboration, creativity, and acceptance.

Presentation Handout: Scavenger Hunt With Friends


Station 2 – Michael Hemphill, Ph.D. | Department of Health and Human Performance

Dr. Hemphill described how he uses the app, “Go Observe”, to evaluate students in both teaching methods and field experience courses. He also explained how his students use the “Observation, Analysis, and Recording System” (OARS) app to provide feedback to peers during student teaching.

Presentation Handout: Go Observe/OARS


Station 3 – Andrea DeMaria, Ph.D. | Department of Health and Human Performance

Dr. DeMaria described how she and her students use the app, “SoundNote”, to record notes that sync with the audio from a qualitative interview or focus group. Her students also use the app when taking notes during lecture.

Presentation Handout: SoundNote


Station 4 – Mark Hurd, Ph.D. | Department of Psychology

Dr. Hurd described how he uses the Web 2.0 tool, “Remind 101”, to alert students of upcoming assignments and exams via free text messages. He also shared how his students use the app, “Splice”, to create video documentaries on the various drug classes for Behavioral Pharmacology.

Presentation Handouts: Remind 101 | Splice | PSYC 386 Group Video Project


Station 5 – Jessica Smith, Ph.D. | Department of Communication 

Dr. Smith described how her students use Google Apps–specifically Google Drive and Google Docs. Students use Google Drive to store and evaluate their work (over time) as a digital portfolio. They use Google Docs to collaborate on group assignments, as well as to provide peer editing. Dr. Smith also uses the commenting feature in Google Docs to provide student feedback.

Google Apps are available to all CofC faculty and students.

Presentation Handout: Google Education Suite

For more information on these tools, please contact your instructional technologist and check the TLT Training Calendar for upcoming professional development opportunities.


Faculty Showcase, Google Apps, iPad, Pedagogy, Research, Round Table Discussion, Web 2.0

Winter Roundtable Discussion

Please join your colleagues in the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance’s Alumni Center (88 Wentworth) on Tuesday, December 3, at 12:00 PM, for short presentations on technology tools for assessment, research and student learning.  Faculty presenters, Andrea DeMaria, Merissa Ferrara, Michael Hemphill, Mark Hurd, and Jessica Smith, will share their experiences and answer your questions.  As always this event is sponsored by Academic Affairs and Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT).  Hope to see you there!