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Guest Post: Improving Exam Scores with Practice Poll Everywhere Questions

Our guest blogger this week is Dr. Kristin Krantzman from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dr. Krantzman attended the Faculty Technology Institute in 2014. In this post, Dr. Krantzman recounts her experiences using Poll Everywhere to provide students with opportunities to work on practice problems during class.


Poll Everywhere is a program that allows an instructor to give interactive polls over the internet without requiring students to spend additional money on special equipment. I decided to try using Poll Everywhere as a supplement to my traditional lecture in two sections of the general chemistry course, CHEM 112. CHEM 112 is the second in a two semester introductory course that is taken by students in the sciences, and my enrollment in Spring 2015 was about 45 students per section. This course has an introduction to chemical equilibria, reaction kinetics, entropy and free energy. Fundamental concepts are applied to acid-base reaction, precipitation reactions and oxidation-reduction reactions.

A primary challenge in my course is that many of the concepts in the class are abstract and mathematical. As a result, many students do not immediately understand the material when it is presented. Students are focused at the beginning of class, but their attention decreases when they cannot follow what I am talking about in class. Students need to work out problems in order to learn the material. But, there are many topics to cover over the semester, and there is not much time in class for students to practice problems. Another problem is that the final exam is all multiple choice questions, but the practice problems that students do as homework in the textbook are short answer. I decided to give students multiple choice questions with Poll Everywhere as a way to engage students and allow for practice. I chose to do this because I thought that students would learn more if they were required to think about questions and respond in class. Students showed a greater understanding of the material and improved their ability to answer multiple choice questions.

Prior to class, I wrote the multiple choice questions in Poll Everywhere. One strategy I used was to post a Poll Everywhere question for students to work on as they entered into the classroom. Previously, this time was unused because I could not start class early and we had to wait for all of the students to get settled. This question was on a topic that we had covered in the previous class. This review reinforced student learning. In addition, I often gave students another question to answer, either halfway through class or at the end of class. After the students had answered the question, I displayed the response results. If the majority of students did not respond with the correct answer, I asked the students to discuss the question with each other and then respond a second time. After reviewing the responses, I went over the correct answer and explained why the other answers were incorrect. I chose to put some of the Poll Everywhere questions on the in-class tests, which motivated students to study them.

The students showed a dramatic improvement on the final exam, with average scores increasing by 7% from the fall semester. The students responded on the course evaluations that they liked the Poll Everywhere questions because doing them in class helped them understand the material. They also enjoyed the class more when I broke up the class lecture by having them work on questions that they had to actively work through.

My advice to other faculty is to have the answers to the Poll Everywhere questions count towards their grade and write this into the syllabus. Students could be given credit for answering questions even if they are not correct, which would reward students for attending class and actively participating.

3D image of triceratops
1-1-1, Faculty Technology Institute, Innovative Instruction

Guest Post: Adapting lectures for a visually-impaired student and planning for new technologies

Our guest blogger is Robin Humphreys from the Department of Geology. Robin attended the Faculty Technology Institute in 2014. In this report, she details her experiences modifying lecture materials to meet the needs of a visually-impaired student.


Teaching introductory courses has many challenges, such as how to keep student attention in a large lecture hall, engage in meaningful dialogue with more than just the students in the front row, create assignments that are insightful and challenging but can be graded in a timely manner, etc.  During the FTI workshop of Summer 2014 we were introduced to many different ways to use technology, such as Poll Everywhere, Kahoot!, and PowToon, in our classrooms to help overcome many of these types of challenges and create stimulating, engaging learning environments.  After our week-long workshop, I left the course very inspired and excited to incorporate these new ideas into my introductory Geology lecture courses for Fall 2014.

What I did NOT anticipate was having a visually-impaired student – totally, 100% blind – in my class. So…how do I incorporate technology we learned from the FTI that requires being able to see, such as PollEverywhere, Kahoot, and Powtoon, into a format that is accessible to everyone, including someone who cannot see? Not only did I have to rethink how I presented the material (I primarily use PowerPoint and the Whiteboard for my lecture discussions), but now I had to design lectures and in-class activities for someone who cannot see me, the PowerPoint presentation, or the whiteboard.  I quickly had to rethink my approach of using cutting-edge technology in the classroom and went for more of an ‘old-school’, low-tech, hands-on approach.

So, how do you describe the Grand Canyon to someone who has no depth perception or concept of scale?  To help our student understand the basic concepts and principles of geology, I sought the expertise of Dr. Cassandra Runyon, who has been developing materials for visually-impaired people through her educational NASA workshops for over twenty years. Dr. Runyon created tactile models of the images from my lecture presentations, using an incredible variety of different types of materials (e.g. corrugated paper, beads, foam, felt, etc.).  Below is an example using various beads to indicate different fossils within sediment layers in stratigraphic columns. While extremely time-consuming to make, these low-cost and most definitely low-tech models were very instrumental in helping the visually-impaired understand and ‘see’ how Earth works.

Materials for visually-impaired students
Materials for visually-impaired students

Additionally, I recruited several senior geology majors to help me both during class and outside of the classroom.  During class, the geology seniors quietly explained the images or graphs on the PowerPoint slides as I was discussing the concepts.  To help the visually-impaired student ‘see’ the slides, the geology majors would make simple sketches of the images, using a special type of drawing pad that would transfer the sketches into a raised format that makes it possible to ‘see’ via touch.  Generating these simple tactile sketches in real-time was a very effective method of helping the blind student ‘visualize’ the concepts being taught.  Outside of class, I provided the geology seniors with copies of my lecture PowerPoint presentations. The geology majors provided verbal descriptions of each and every image, graph, or video in every one of the PowerPoint slides, using the ‘ALT TEXT’ option provided in PowerPoint –an incredibly time-consuming task (see example below). I quickly realized by week two of the fall semester that I did not have the 6-10 hours it was taking for each of the Powerpoint lectures! Fortunately, I have a very supportive department chair, Dr. Mitchell Colgan, who allowed me to hire students to provide the PowerPoint slide alternate text accessible by screen readers. I was very grateful, as the ‘ALT-TEXT’ option in PowerPoint was very instrumental in helping our visually-impaired student understand the images and concepts.

Adding alternative text to PowerPoint slide
Adding alternative text to PowerPoint slide

In all of my courses, I have the students take daily quizzes on the upcoming lecture material prior to each class period, in addition to in-class quizzes and/or activities on prior lecture material. These daily quizzes, both in and outside of class, have proven to be quite helpful in both student understanding and retention of the lecture material as I have noted increased exam scores and positive student feedback.  I use the College of Charleston’s online learning management system, OAKS, as a tool for providing the lecture materials, readings, and online quizzes (see OAKS quiz list below).  My visually-impaired student rarely had difficulty using OAKS and was successfully able to navigate the quizzes and course materials.

Screenshot of OAKS Quizzes, a tool that works with screen readers
Screenshot of OAKS Quizzes, a tool that works with screen readers

I had planned on integrating the new technology learned during the FTI, such as Poll Everywhere and Kahoot!, for the in-class quizzes, but quickly realized these programs would prove to be difficult for someone who cannot see. I resorted to the old-fashioned paper-and-pencil method for my in-class activities instead. I hope to try the new programs, such as PowToon and Kahoot!, along with Poll Everywhere, in the Fall.

One of the other ways of helping our blind student ‘visualize’ was to provide models of the fossils we were discussing.  However, many of our fossil samples and models are too fragile to be handled.  Kaitlin Woodlief and I tried to make a 3D print of one of our dinosaur models (Triceratops), using the new 3D printer.  This process had several issues, primarily with having to generate the 3D scan file, rather than using a file already made (see image below).  We are going to continue trying to find ways to make 3D copies of these fragile models for the upcoming year.

3D image of triceratops
A screenshot of the program used to create a 3D triceratops

In summary, while I was eagerly anticipating incorporating new learning technologies and strategies learned in the FTI workshop of 2014 into my Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 courses, I was not able to do so due to the presence of a visually-impaired student in my classes.  I relied heavily on low-tech models and pen/paper for helping teach the visually-impaired student.  I hope to incorporate the new technologies in my courses this fall (2015), even if I have a course with another visually-impaired student as some models and groundwork are already prepared.

Lastly, I want to point out how much I learned, and benefited, from the experience of teaching such a visual subject as Environmental Geology and Earth History to someone who cannot see.   It was an eye-opening (pun intended!) experience and a challenge I found enormously rewarding!

1-1-1, Faculty Technology Institute, TLT

Guest Post: Playing games to engage students in a non-majors biology course

Our guest blogger is Kathleen Janech from the Department of Biology. In 2014, Kathleen attended the Faculty Technology Institute. This blog post is a report and reflection on implementing strategies and technologies from that workshop. Kathleen describes her endeavors to make her lectures more interactive through gamification, and she discusses moving some lecture content online to create time for activities during class.


I decided that I wanted to update one particular section of my Biology 102 course. This is a course for non-majors, and I chose to update the section of the course where I teach about animal diversity and evolutionary connections. This is always a section that students report that they enjoy, but as much as I love all of the diversity seen with animals, I have found that teaching it has become boring. I also used to have a 5 question section at the beginning of the exam on animal diversity, where they would see a picture of an animal for 30 seconds and then have to pick the correct identification in a multiple choice question. Although I like to think that this made them use the knowledge they had acquired, it seemed to just stress them out more about the exam, and being a summative assessment, came too late for them to correct their perceptions.

Therefore, I decided to try a few new things with my class of 35 students in the Spring of 2015. There were so many great ideas that we were exposed to during the FTI, but I had to focus on one area that I could really change in one semester. Overall, I tried to “chunk” my lectures more, and alternate the presentation of material with short videos or a discussion of a handout that they could take home. I would also post more lecture material on OAKS, resulting in a partially flipped classroom.  A great advantage of this was that it freed up great amounts of time so that I could fit more activities into the class. The students could access my lecture material at any time, and go over it as much as they needed to, which is great for those who cannot write as fast as others.

In practice, I posted more of the background information on animals (characteristics that were in lists, which had made lecturing on them very boring) on OAKS, where students could access it on their own any time. With the available class time, I planned to try two ways of in-class formative assessment in the form of games.  The first game that I tried was “Who Am I?” as a hook at the beginning of class. The students had a lot of material in their notes from class and from slides that they were supposed to have looked at on OAKS.  I asked for 3 volunteers, one at a time.  When each came to the front of the room, I taped the name of a classification category to their back (such as Phylum Mollusca, or Class Polychaete). They showed it to the class, and then had to turn back around and ask questions of the class to try and guess what category was on their back.  Some advantages were that only volunteers were really “on the spot” at the front of the classroom, and the rest of the class could look at their notes to help them out.  And it gave them some in-class time to actually try to use the information from their notes and work with it to apply it to something, instead of just waiting to be tested on it.  Also, there was not a lot of prep required on my end, aside from writing up and taping the signs on their backs.  The disadvantage was that I realized that I had to be very specific about the way they could ask questions of the audience, since I was trying to get them to use the categories that I had presented in class.

The second game that I tried was Kahoot! I used this at the beginning of the class as a hook or “kindling” to get them engaged in the topic. This was by far the biggest success of this section.  One advantage of it was that the students really enjoy getting to use their devices in class (and it is a special treat since I do not usually allow devices to be in use during class time).  Another advantage was that students were engaged because it was a competition, which they enjoyed, but also something that they could do anonymously so if they made a mistake they could learn from it without having to be embarrassed.  Disadvantages include the fact that everyone needs a device on which to play, and not everyone will always have one (they were not penalized if they could not participate), and this took a lot more preparation time for me to get questions ready and make sure that they were good questions. Since Kahoot! was a formative assessment, it let the students know where they were with the material.

Students commented that they really liked my “chunking” strategy – they appreciated seeing short video clips of the different animals and examples of behavior, since it really brings the colors and movement alive, and it helped to break up the lecture.  They also noted that they liked having the links to watch later. The “Who Am I” game was not as popular, maybe because I did it earlier in the unit and none of them knew the material yet, and they felt like they were on the spot. The Kahoot! game was really popular.  They liked the anonymity, and it was suggested that we play it more often to keep up with all of the material.  They liked the competitive aspect and the fact that it was interactive for everyone. Many students commented that they thought they knew the material, but after playing they could see where they needed to do a lot more studying.

In the future, I am going to try to incorporate Kahoot! from the start in all my classes. And, if I prep it far enough in advance, I can include images as part of a question, which will be great and especially applicable for this animal section. I hope to use VoiceThread to free up more time in class for activities and games. I would like to try to work on a “lecture organizer” structure that could be a handout or drawn on the board on the first day of class, in order to help students categorize and prepare for unfamiliar material. In addition, I might try to using Poll Everywhere at the beginning of the class as “kindling” to see how much background information they already know about a particular group, or with a video when I want them to guess what animal I have shown. This would be great to see how much they already may or may not know about many of our local animals. I am going to continue to try and rethink sections of my courses, and incorporate more new ideas.  I know of one place in my Biology 111 course where a flipped classroom model would work really well, so that is what I will work on next in the fall.

Thank you, FTI and TLT, for lots of great new ideas!

1-1-1, iPad, Mobile

Guest Post: How a Calendar Service Saved and an App Nearly Destroyed My Sanity

Our guest blogger is Gretchen McLaine, Associate Professor of Dance. Gretchen was a participant in the 2014 Summer FTI, and this post is a review of Gretchen’s experience integrating two new tools into her courses.


If you are like most faculty here at the college, you embrace any opportunity to make more efficient use of your time and simplify your work life. Being the lone full-time faculty member and director of a vibrant, new program, I appreciate any chance to make my job a bit more manageable. However, with so many options from which to choose, I turned to our Faculty Technology Institute last summer for finding ways to make my life easier.

One of my favorite time savers is YouCanBookMe. If you do not currently use this website, you should. YouCanBookMe is a free service where anyone with your URL can schedule an appointment with you. Not only does the site sync with your Google calendar, it only shows your availability, not any personal information about your appointments. You can also decide specific times of each day to make yourself available/unavailable. My URL is included on my syllabi as well as on my office door. All of my advising appointments are scheduled through this amazing, free service, which has stopped the endless hours of emailing back and forth with students as we try to coordinate schedules.

My experiences with the Grader application has almost cost me my sanity, and has certainly cost me a lot of wasted time. Available for iPad, this app is supposed to integrate with the College’s learning management system, otherwise known as OAKS. One of the advantages of its use is the ability to grade files submitted to OAKS dropbox folders without requiring Internet access. However, before you can grade offline, you must go through the app while online and download the contents of these folders, remembering to hit the download buttons on each folder and then hitting the sync icon. If you are unable to do this, then the app isn’t useful. And even if you grade while off-line, you must sync again whenever you regain Internet connectivity for those files to be returned to the students. For some reason and on multiple occasions, I have graded papers only to have lost them when I synced the folders. And while there have been some improvements in the stability of this app over the past year, I have also experienced this app freezing while grading (losing graded papers in the process) on multiple occasions. Maybe it is user error, but my experiences with this app have proven more frustrating than fruitful.

1-1-1, Faculty Technology Institute, Innovative Instruction

Guest Post: Haiku Deck + Air Sketch = Sweet

Our guest blogger is Jeremy Clement, instructor and internship coordinator for Hospitality and Tourism Management.  Jeremy was a participant in the 2014 Summer FTI and this post reports on his experience integrating new technology tools into his courses.

FTI Tools in Action: Classroom Engagement & Instructor Versatility Made Simple

I could write a book about all the tools and ideas I walked away with from the Summer, 2014 FTI. As many will attest, it was almost overwhelming. The trick seemed to be to approach the experience with some expectation of how you can utilize the tools and technology you’ll find. I had some notion at the time…but have found since that the skills and abilities I gained from TLT have far more applications than I could’ve ever imagined. So rather than try to report on them all, I’ll simply report on the combination that I’ve utilized, quite successfully, since.

Prior to the FTI, TLT had turned me on to AirSketch for classroom presentations. AirSketch is a free app that simply converts your static presentations – you actually convert your PowerPoint or other materials to PDF first – into an interactive whiteboard in the classroom. In addition to that (and my favorite part) is that it is linked to the classroom projection system via a URL address you call up in the Internet browser on the classroom computer, not via some physical media or content saved directly to the computer itself. Once you enter the URL, the students are exposed to a live version of your presentation.AirSketch

Your presentation on your tablet or mobile device…not your presentation on the in-room system, wow. That means you can walk throughout the classroom, face whatever direction you’d like and still have access to advance your content or mark up the slide being displayed…all while using your own tablet from the palm of your hand. The freedom is incredible.

For someone who is a bit fidgety, like myself, this allows you to move freely about the class without being tethered to a console or station at the front of the room. I still generally stay in the front for most of my class…but I can’t say enough about the freedom and flexibility inherent in being able to move about and see where I’m at in a lecture, all without having to look back at the screen behind me or staying behind a podium. I find it is more engaging for the students and more natural to my presentation style.HaikuDeck App Black

AirSketch is an effective and impressive tool in and of itself. Outside the classroom, I’ve used this technology numerous times to give reports or lead discussions and meetings. Without exception, someone always asks ‘how did you do that?’ I honestly think I might’ve won over some of those audiences simply due to my practiced use of this simple, yet powerful tool.

Event Management
Haiku Deck title slide

Now here’s where the FTI really amped that up to another level. Haiku Deck was introduced during the FTI as an alternative to PowerPoint for creating engaging and dynamic presentations. I have to say, I was instantly hooked. The program or app (Haiku Deck is accessible via a website or can be downloaded as an app) essentially pairs your presentation content with an expansive database of beautiful, vibrant photographs via the use of its unique correlative categorization feature.

Essentially, you type in the main theme of the slide and they find a plethora of engaging and interesting photos and images that follow the same theme or concept. I don’t claim to know exactly how it works, only that it is both effective and fun to use. My only issue is I tend to get lost looking at all the cool images and trying to pick the one that is most appropriate and also the most engaging. It allows me to mix up a little left- and right-brain activity and really bring more of my personal style and creativity into what can sometimes be dull and emotionless presentation material.

Adding user’s own images to Haiku Deck

Not only does Haiku Deck offer their own photo library, you can also include your own images. This feature allows you to integrate photos, diagrams, or other materials as the backdrop for the slide and details surrounding the subject. I’ve provided some examples to give you an idea of how this might be integrated.

The unique design function of Haiku Deck does have some limitations, but I developed a workaround that I think everyone can benefit from. Essentially, I usually need to include more data on a slide than what Haiku Deck’s presentation builder will allow. I found this frustrating at first and thought that would limit its usefulness for my particular course given the volume of information I need to display as a part of my presentation.

Haiku Deck slide edited inside Powerpoint

So, my solution was to use Haiku Deck to build the base slide – typically including a graphic and a slide title or subject line. Then I would download the presentation into PowerPoint, one of the various options they provide for exporting your content. I would then use the tools available in PowerPoint to add content over top of the Haiku Deck slide. The result was what I consider a beautiful balance of engaging graphics and pictures supplemented by the course materials I need to deliver in a more comprehensive format than what Haiku Deck had to offer.

Poll Everywhere
Poll Everywhere results added to Haiku Deck slide

Now, once I had the PowerPoint deck fully developed, I convert that presentation to a PDF. From there, it’s a simple matter of pulling it up via AirSketch and calling up the URL in the classroom. My course evaluations were the best in my department, certainly in part due to the use of this unique blend of tools and technology. Of course, I didn’t stop there – I also integrated other FTI-introduced tools like Poll Everywhere which can be seen in my examples here as well.

The versatility and level of engagement I was able to accomplish as a result of information I gathered in the FTI have surely improved my teaching style as well as my personal appetite for trying and implementing new tools and technology in the classroom. Honestly, even the fails are learning opportunities as the class has to work together to find a better way to tackle the challenge. My evaluations are one indicator but certainly not the only one I’ve received.Scavenger Hunt

If you’ve gotten this far and still find this interesting, I would encourage you to check out Haiku Deck’s pending software launch – Haiku Deck Zuru. This new offering, not yet released but eligible for subscription as a charter member, promises to utilize artificial intelligence to essentially read and convert a preexisting presentation into a Haiku Deck in one fell swoop. I find that both fascinating and exciting.

1-1-1, Faculty Technology Institute, TLT

Incorporating student interaction and peer instruction in math courses

Our guest blogger is Stephane Lafortune, a professor in the Department of Mathematics. Dr. Lafortune attended the 2014 Summer FTI. This post is a report and reflection on incorporating a new learning strategy in his math courses.

I participated in the 2014 Summer FTI. My goal was to become more familiar and comfortable with the technology that can be incorporated in my work as a teacher. Below, I will first talk about my general experience as a participant and then focus on one aspect of the workshop that I used in class.

The commitment of participating in an FTI involves being there eight hours a day for a week. This is quite a commitment from both you and the organizers who have to come up with activities and material to entertain all these professors (we were about 25 people). Well, let me tell you that the staff of TLT filled this week with so many workshops, activities, and games where we could win stuff (I did win a TLT umbrella) that really there were no dull moments. In addition to that, the people at TLT truly were enthusiastic about the FTI and really cared about the participants. As a direct consequence of that, there was really a good spirit of camaraderie among the participants. As a human experience, I have a fond memory of the week I spent with the TLT people.

My primary goal was to learn about technology. However, I had not noticed that there was going to be a section of the FTI devoted to the topic of “interactive teaching.” For that section, we were using the guide entitled “The Interactive Lecture” written by Silver and Perini. As part of our activities, we had a block of time (about 2 hours) when we had to come up with a specific way to implement the strategies outlined in the guide. To do so, we were guided in a very specific way as the steps we had to follow were written in a Google document. Our “job” was to write our plan by following each step carefully. Admittedly, I was not initially very enthusiastic about the idea but, given that I was sitting there with nothing else to do, I went to work and decided to apply this technique to my Math 103 course.

One of the topics that most of the students have difficulty to grasp in Math 103 concerns the analysis of arguments (this is part of the mathematical theory of logic). During that session, I created activities where the students would be forced to collaborate with a neighbor to come up with their own arguments and then share their ideas as to how the argument can be analyzed.  I did use those ideas in my summer Math103 course right after the FTI. To do so, I shortened the time spent on lecturing by going over less examples on the board. The idea was to have the students make their own examples and have them explain to each other how to apply the concepts to their cases.  It went magnificently as the students enthusiastically exchanged ideas once I had told them to start. As a direct consequence of that, the students had a better understanding of the topic and their exam scores on that particular topic were much higher than usual. In addition, being “forced” to work on interactive lectures gave me other ideas of activities, which I also incorporated in that summer Math 103 course.

To conclude, this FTI was a wonderful experience on a personal level as it was very pleasant and enabled me to get to know some of my colleagues. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised by the impact what I learned had on my teaching style.

Faculty Showcase, Information Session, Innovative Instruction, Round Table Discussion, TLT

Giving Thanks for Technology: November Faculty Showcase

At our November Faculty Showcase, we gave thanks for the many ways technology makes us more efficient, productive, and engaging instructors.  Special thanks to Kate Pfile, Mary Ann Hartshorn, and Gayle Goudy for sharing their experiences using instructional technologies.  In addition to learning about innovative teaching strategies, we also collected over 34 pounds of canned goods to be donated in time for Thanksgiving.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Amy thanks you for your donations!
Amy thanks you for your donations!

During the Showcase, Kate Pfile (HHP) showed us how her students use Popplet (Free; iOS and Web) for a postural assessment assignment.  Popplet is a digital mind-mapping application that allows users to visually capture ideas and make connections between them.  Kate asks her students to take pictures of a friend’s posture, then use Popplet to analyze musculature by identifying the relationships among various body parts.  Popplet can also be used to enhance brainstorming, tease out ideas, plan projects, and organize one’s thoughts, such as when writing a research paper.  Even better, Popplet allows multiple users to collaborate synchronously or asynchronously, so small groups or an entire class could work together.

Example Popplet with Kate's Annotations, made in Goodnotes
Example Popplet with Kate’s annotations, made in Goodnotes

Gayle Goudy (SOTA) shared her experiences with flipping her art history courses.  Flipping has become a hot topic in education, as instructors move lectures outside the classroom while reserving class time for discussion, problem-solving, activities, and group work.  This allows students to accomplish the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy on their own while they work through higher levels of cognitive work with their classmates and instructor.  There are a variety of approaches to flipping your course, whether you want to flip the entire semester or just a handful of classes.  TLT can point you to numerous technology tools that will facilitate this change, including Voicethread and Kaltura Mediaspace.

Kate Pfile and Guoli Liu
Kate Pfile and Guoli Liu

Mary Ann Hartshorn (TEDU) is a TLT Superstar: she presented at both of our Faculty Showcases this semester!  Mary Ann shared how she uses Google Docs for a collaborative annotated bibliography assignment and the OAKS Discussion tool to encourage community-formation.  To read more, check out our recap of the October Faculty Showcase.

TLT’s instructional technologists also had tech tools to share.  Laura Plotts, instructional technologist for LCWA, showed faculty how Haiku Deck (Free; iOS and Web) provides a fantastic alternative to “death by Powerpoint.”  With Haiku Deck, there’s no chance of presenting slides crammed with bullet points.  Instead, the application forces users to keep text to a minimum and use images to tell their story.  If you want students to learn to speak extemporaneously, Haiku Deck can help wean them off of reading directly from their slides.  Because of its eye-catching designs and graphics, it’s also perfect for video lectures, conference presentations, sales pitches, and keynote addresses.

Kaitlin Woodlief, instructional technologist for SSM, shared a tool that allows instructors to collect real-time feedback without the need for student devices.  Plickers (Free; Android and iOS) makes formative assessment and live polling simple.

Students don’t need iPads or smartphones; instead, each student responds by holding up a card that’s printed with a special image that has letters around the sides.  If, for example, the answer to the question is A, the student will turn the card so that the letter A is on top.

The instructor then uses their smartphone or iPad camera to scan the room and capture the cards.  The app registers the student answers which then can be displayed to the room.  For those who worry about their entire class having devices, or those who simply don’t want to bother with students having to log in or register, Plickers may be just what you’re looking for.

Trying out Plickers!
Trying out Plickers!







If you’d like to learn more about any of these tools and strategies, please contact your instructional technologist.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by!  Be on the look-out for our Spring Faculty Showcases, including a few new, exciting events!

1-1-1, Faculty Showcase, Innovative Instruction, Round Table Discussion, TLT

Student Zombies No More: Faculty Showcase Recap

Your students will be zombies no more!
Your students will be zombies no more!

A “spooktacular” time was had by all at the TLT Faculty Showcase!  A hearty thank you to the faculty who shared their innovative teaching strategies:  Gustavo Urdaneta Velasquez, Mary Ann Hartshorn, Laura Penny, Sherry Wallace, and Lancie Affonso.  Not only did we learn how to more effectively engage our students and manage our classes, we also played Plinko and enjoyed trick-or-treating!




For those who couldn’t attend, the following applications were discussed:

Google Docs (Free; Web, iOS, Android) is a cloud-based word processor that allows users to create and share work from any device that connects to the Internet.  Users can work on the same document both synchronously and asynchronously, making it ideal for collaborative projects.  Mary Ann Hartshorn’s students use Google Docs to crowd-source references for research papers.  The students each contribute to the annotated bibliography then collectively edit the document for proper APA formatting.

To establish community and encourage communication, Mary Ann asks her students compose a “Where I’m From” poem at the beginning of the semester, which they share in the OAKS Discussion boards.  In addition, throughout the semester, students take turns as discussion leaders charged with facilitating the boards. Mary Ann has found this continuous interaction throughout the semester encourages students to complete the assigned readings, engage in peer teaching, and establish relationships with one another.

Using Google Docs and the OAKS Discussion tool
Using Google Docs and the OAKS Discussion tool

What student wouldn’t love to play games in class?  Kahoot (Free; Web) is a student response system founded on game-based digital pedagogy.  Gustavo Urdaneta Velasquez tests his students’ understanding of Spanish vocabulary and grammar by creating quizzes that incorporate text, images, and video.  Using any device with a Web browser, students play against each other hoping to top the leader board.  Gustavo is able to see how well his students understand course content and use the students’ answers to provide “just in time” feedback.

Lancie Affonso starts his “flipped” classes by checking his students’ pulse.  LinkedIn Pulse (Free; Web, iOS, Android) is an RSS aggregator that exposes students to industry-specific resources and professional networking.  Students get up-to-the-minute news from industry professionals, business publications, and news media, which inspire lively class discussions.

If you’ve ever wished you could scribble all over PDFs or Powerpoint slides while lecturing, Laura Penny has found the app for you.  Goodnotes ($5.99; iOS) is a note-taking, annotation, and digital whiteboard app.  Using the external display feature, Laura projects her iPad screen to the class and annotates while she lectures.  She can then export those annotated slides and share them with her students.

Socrative (Free; Web, iOS, Android) is a student response system that helps instructors assess student understanding through quizzes, polls, and games — no clickers or subscriptions required!  Sherry Wallace uses Socrative in her art history classes to evaluate students’ knowledge based on their exploration of websites such as the Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.  Socrative captures students’ responses in real-time, which encourages discussion and allows Sherry to clarify confusion.

Looking for a way to deliver content while encouraging discussion, especially in an online class?  Instructional Technologist, Chris Meshanko, shared the perfect tool to accomplish these goals — Voicethread (Free; Web, iOS, Android) is a cloud-based application that allows users to upload, share, and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos.  Chris has devised twelve fantastic ways to integrate Voicethread into your classes including icebreaker introductions at the beginning of the semester, guest lectures, syllabus question & answer, peer evaluation, and a variety of formative assessments. Making Voicethread even better are the College’s site license and its integration with OAKS.

If any of these tools sound promising to you, contact your Instructional Technologist to learn more.

We hope you’ll join us for the November Faculty Showcase on 11/20/14 from 11:00-12:00 in Tate Center 202.

Your fun-loving Instructional Technologists: Mendi, Chris, and Kaitlin
Your fun-loving Instructional Technologists: Mendi, Chris, and Kaitlin
Faculty Showcase, Innovative Instruction, Round Table Discussion, TLT

Are Your Students Like Zombies in Class?

While teaching, do you ever find yourself staring at a group of students who resemble the class in John Hughes’ classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?  Slouched in their chairs, glazed expressions, texting under their desks or staring out the window. . .  It’s frustrating to say the least.

bored students









Well, TLT has gathered a group of faculty who have discovered strategies to improve student engagement and they want to share this knowledge with you!

Our faculty showcase will feature a variety of applications that incorporate game-based learning, digital mind mapping, live polling, and collaborative projects.  At each table you will receive a “trick” (a tip or technique) as well as a sweet treat! Please join us.

What:  TLT’s Faculty Showcase on Student Engagement
When: Thursday, October 30th 2:00-4:00 PM (Drop in any time)
Where: Tate 202
Why: Learn something new from your colleagues and have fun trick or treating!







1-1-1, instructional technology

Faculty Guest Post: Learning Catalytics

Our guest blogger is Wendy Sheppard from the Department of Mathematics. Wendy was a participant in the 2013 Spring FTI. This post is a report on her experience using Learning Catalytics in her course.

In Spring 2014, I used Learning Catalytics (try this link to find out more: Learning Catalytics), which is a web based platform similar to Poll Everywhere.  We learned about Poll Everywhere in the Faculty Technology Institute at the College of Charleston in 2013. Learning Catalytics is provided through Pearson for the text and online homework.

I first pilot tested the Learning Catalytics in a face-to-face classroom environment. On the first day of class, I asked students to sign in and asked if they had a smartphone.  Everyone in the class had a smartphone except for one student, who had a tablet.  Next, I had students login to Learning Catalytics to set up their account outside of class, and then bring their own mobile devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) to class for a quiz.  The first quiz consisted of two questions. One question was a graphing question where students were asked to shade on a graph. Using Learning Catalytics, students could use their fingers on their smartphones or tablets to shade on the graph.  Students with laptops could use the mouse to shade.

I could set a time limit if I wanted, but chose not to in this case. The best part was that I could instantly review the students’ responses in class, to see how many people were correct.  Since the first question was a graph and thus a visual question, this was easy to assess.  About half of the class gave correct responses. I immediately knew we needed a little more work on this topic.

The second question was a feedback question. I asked the students “Did you like this? Why or why not?”.  The students knew their responses would not be anonymous for me, the instructor, but they appear anonymously below:

Yes because It is hands on and I feel more engaged in the class

Don’t like it at all if it’s for quizzes.

Yes, because it was easy to use and fun.

Yes, more hands on & helps me understand the material better.

It’s a little weird, but I think once I got used to using it, quizzes like this would be fine.

No I dont like using my phone to do this. I would rather do it on paper.

Yes. I think it is an effective way to apply what we have learned in class to a real problem on our own. It gives us a chance to try out what we have learned.

It is a good concept because most (if not all students) have smart phones or tablets.

It’s just hard to shade, the concept is cool though

No it was hard to use and confusing. The concept is a good one, but in reality it’s easier to use paper and a pencil

I would but it takes college students way to long to figure this technology out for some reason. I think it’s very simplified and it would be good- maybe once we get used to it, everything would be smoother.

No. I prefer to do math problems and shading by hand. I understand it better when I write it out for myself.

Yes, I like this. I don’t think the entire class period should be centered around it, but it is very helpful.

Not really, it’s kind of difficult to use my phone and I’m not that technologically inclined, I prefer pencil and paper so I can write my steps out and see how I got the answer.

Incorporating technology in the classroom is important; however, with any new classroom additions there are bugs to work out.

I was able to copy and paste these responses quite easily from Learning Catalytics.  Overall, once students got used to it, I think everyone liked it, except for probably 2 or 3 students who had technical difficulties.  The backup was for them to complete the quiz on a sheet of paper.

The grading was easy as well!  I could go through and assign the point values and then mark each graph correct or incorrect, as well as type in verbal feedback for each individual student.

There are many options that I have not yet experimented with as far as presenting the information back to the students, but these options are chosen at the beginning when writing the questions.

Since I was preparing to teach an online course, I also made some video lectures of review questions for the class.  I then used Learning Catalytics to get immediate feedback about the videos, so that I could use it that semester.  It was not anonymous. I asked them, “What did you think of the video lectures that you watched online?  If you did not view them, please state that you have not viewed them yet.”  This also gave me a chance to find out if anyone had any technical difficulties.  If any students are afraid to speak out in class, this gives them a chance to communicate without that fear.

The third time I used Learning Catalytics in class, I asked the students for feedback on one of their tests.  “Were you pleased with your test grade?  If not, why do you think that you did not do well?”  This helped me to assess any classroom wide issues with the test, or if they were just not prepared for the test.  This was extremely valuable feedback for me because I knew that overall, they just did not study enough, versus thinking that the test was too difficult or too long.

The fourth time I used Learning Catalytics in this course, I asked the students to vote in a ranking order question.  Then I used that data to compile project questions for them to work on in groups later.  This time, students did not have to complete the question in class, they could do this outside of class, but then I had it on the screen at the beginning of class for students to go ahead and complete either before class started or right at the beginning of class if they had not already done so.  I gave class participation grades for these assignments where there was no right or wrong answer.

The final time I used Learning Catalytics in this class was to have students complete a matching quiz with application problems and formulas.  Students were allowed to use their mobile devices.  I did set a time limit on this one, which meant that there were about 3 people who had difficulty submitting their answers on time.  The good thing is that you can see immediately who has submitted responses and who has not.  Then you can address the problem.

Overall, I think Learning Catalytics is a useful technology platform for promoting student engagement and instructor assessment.  I plan to continue to use this technology in both my online and face-to-face courses to help assess individual student progress as well.