Collaboration, Conferencing, discussion, Mobile, social networking, TLT, Web 2.0

App of the week: Blab

What is Blab?

From Blab’s site “a platform for publicly broadcasting live video conversations or talk shows.” Blab allows for live video conversations. In addition to a host you can have 3 other people talking live at once on a split screen.  All Blabs are public so an unlimited number of people could also just watch.

Use it for debates, discussions, or a podcast which you as the host have the option to record.  The recording can then be accessed via a url, but as host you will also be emailed a copy ( an MP3 & MP4). A Recording  or “Replays”cannot be deleted, but  as the host you can make your “Replay” public or hidden.

There is also a screen share and co-host option .

If you did not want to host a Blab then watch other live video conversations on topics or specific content that you are interested in.  Search by a keyword then choose a Blab that interest you by clicking the “Watch” button.

Things to be aware of:

You need a Twitter account in order to log in

Although you can choose which callers to let into your Blab and they are the ones then that can ask questions and you can screen share with, “Blabs” are always public.  I suggest you review the Privacy policy before you host a Blab:

Price: Free
App –

Desktop –

Platform: Desktop ( using Chrome browser) or iPhone. On Android devices the Chrome browser works

More Information:

Getting started with Blab at  and

Blab tutorial at

Blab Daily Digest at

Best Practices, TLT

Preparing for the Unexpected

On Tuesday, the College of Charleston experienced a safety and communication crisis when a bomb threat was made.  Classes in six buildings were officially cancelled and many faculty, staff, and students were prohibited from accessing their offices, classrooms, and dorms until 5:00PM.  This unexpected disruption caused many professors to lose valuable class time.

As the daughter of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout myself, I try to live by the mantra: be prepared.  As an instructional technologist, I’ve learned ways to use technology to “prepare for the worst” and want to share that knowledge so you will be ready for the next interruption, closure, or disaster.

1.  Think ahead.  Before the semester begins, decide how you will manage if classes are cancelled.  According to instructional technologist, Kaitlin Woodlief, “your best preparation is to learn the tools now before you’re put into a situation where you have to use them.”  This doesn’t mean you must become an expert on Adobe Captivate to make professional-quality video lectures.  Instead, familiarize yourself with one tool so you feel comfortable enough producing something simple that will transmit content.

VoiceThread iconGiven Tuesday’s events, I had to figure out a way to prevent my students from getting too far behind.  I uploaded the Powerpoint I intended to use in class into Voicethread and narrated my slides using already created lecture notes.  I didn’t need to create new content; I just had to put that content into a different format.  And because I had already familiarized myself with Voicethread, the process was simple.  There are numerous tools that will allow you to deliver content online in case of a College closure or class cancellation, including Kaltura, Jing, Screencast-O-Matic, EdPuzzle, and Google Drive.  Of course, TLT has you covered with workshops that focus on online content delivery!  Browse for those sessions.

2.  Include a syllabus policy.  As you prepare your classes, craft a policy that establishes expectations and procedures in case an emergency occurs.  For example, Penn State encourages faculty to include the following language in their syllabi:

In the event of a campus closure, course requirements, classes, deadlines and grading schemes are subject to changes that may include alternative delivery methods, alternative methods of interaction with the instructor, class materials, and/or classmates, a revised attendance policy, and a revised semester calendar and/or grading scheme. Information about course changes will be communicated through [e-mail, etc….]

3.  Determine communication protocols.  If an emergency closes the College or you have to cancel class at the last-minute, how will you communicate with your students?  There are numerous options, including email and posting a notification in the OAKS News tool.  This semester, I’m using both Twitter and Celly to communicate with students.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve found students don’t routinely read their emails, so I decided to meet them where they are and use text messaging and social media.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 4.58.07 PMThe numerous ways I use Twitter in the classroom is a blog post for another day, but on Tuesday, I tweeted numerous times to inform students that the Cougar Alert was not a test, that they needed to pay attention to their email, and that class was cancelled.  I also used Celly to communicate the same information.  Celly provides a way to send SMS text messages without exchanging phone numbers (you can also use the mobile app or website if you don’t text).  I’ve found students to be much more responsive to these text messages than email.

For more serious emergencies, when campus is closed for a longer period of time, you may want to communicate with your students synchronously.  Skype and Google Hangouts provide simple and free options for hosting virtual, synchronous meetings.  The OAKS Discussion tool can also be used for conversation and collaboration.

As my colleague Chris Meshanko says, while we always hope for the best, we must plan for the worst.  Anticipating disruptions and making plans can prevent students and faculty from losing valuable contact hours.  Most importantly, let students know within the first two weeks of classes what your expectations are if classes are cancelled due to an emergency.  And as always, TLT can assist you in choosing the right tools for keeping your class on track.

Make Over
Assessment, Faculty Showcase, Innovative Instruction, social networking, TLT

Activity Makeover – Transforming a Current Events Assignment

Twitter? Tweet? Hash tag?  What does it all mean?  Well to Louise Ackerman, in Health & Human Performance, it means a way to transform a traditional current events assignment into something more fluid and relevant using Twitter *. 

The Old Assignment

So here’s the old assignment:  The goal is for the students to stay abreast of what is happening in global health.  Before each class period students must:
  • Find a health related current event in a reputable publication.
  • Read it.
  • Copy it, print it, or cut it out and bring it to class.
  • At the beginning of each class, if called upon, come to the front of the class and talk about the event or article.
  • Class will discuss the issues from the article.
Sound familiar?  Given that the field of public health is ever changing this method was feeling stale to Professor Ackerman.  In addition, most of the students were going to the same publications (Washington Post, New York Times, etc.) so there wasn’t much breadth in the articles and topics being discussed.  It just wasn’t delivering her desired outcomes.

The New Assignment

When Professor Ackeman decided to revamp the assignment to make it more current she selected Twitter as the vehicle.  Here’s the new assignment:
  • Each student must establish a Twitter account
  • Each student must follow 8-10 people (experts) or organizations in the health field (see Twitter Tips and Getting Started) – those followed can (and should) change over the semester as the student’s interests evolved. (Students were not required to Tweet, only Follow.)
  • Each student must check their Twitter feed daily.  They could set up notifications if they desired to keep them informed when new items were posted.
  • At the beginning of each class, if called upon, the student must speak for 2-3 minutes, from their seat, about what they learned from the their Twitter feed. (3-5 students were randomly selected each class).
Louise was thrilled with the results of the makeover.   The amazing discussions, sparked from these topics, were so engaging that she often had to stop them in order to continue with the class. She states, “(Stopping the discussion) was killing me because it was exactly what I wanted to happen.”  Only one student over the entire semester was not prepared when called upon.  All the rest were ready and waiting to be selected.  As the semester went on, she found that the students branched out from the obvious organizations, such as the World Health Organization, into specialized areas and were really able to expand their knowledge.  They began choosing articles and events that related to the topics currently being discussed in the class and made connections between the two.
She didn’t give a lot of direction on who to follow as she didn’t want to influence their choices.  She instead gave direction on how to search for appropriate people to follow.  This resulted in a much broader collection of articles and topics.  In addition, they were able to follow subjects and organizations that interested them so it made the assignment more relevant to the students.  As the class progressed Professor Ackerman would mention people in her lectures and encourage the students that were interested in the topic to follow them on Twitter.    In addition, as they did research for other assignments in the class they would follow more people based on that research.  The current events assignment became relevant to the students in a way that the old assignment never did.
It’s important to note that Louise had never used Twitter before embarking on this adventure.  She tried it and felt that it was easy to use so she had no qualms about asking her students to do it.  When asked what she thought of her assignment makeover she said, “Twitter made it straightforward and simple.  I loved it, just loved it.”


Original and Made over Assignments:  ASSIGNMENT_MAKEOVER_ACKERMAN
Twitter Tips and Getting Started:
Twitter Basics
Twitter Glossary:
*Twitter is an online, social, microblogging application that allows people to read and “tweet” short 140-character messages.