Oba: Create a “Timeline” Course

This tutorial will demonstrate how to create a “Timeline” course in Oba. I suggest reading this document and following the steps. Pause as you go. If you reach a point where you are extremely frustrated or simply stuck, remember that you can call me for help. Let’s get started.

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O365: Share a direct download link to a file in Office 365

If there’s an easier way, I haven’t found it!

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O365: Sway Introduction

1. Go to sway.com and sign in using your email.

2. Enter your email and click next

3. Enter your password (this landing page may look different depending )

4. Click “Create New” to get started

5. Title your Sway

6. Add content by clicking on the “Plus” or selecting a card

7. Add an image from the web

8. Or upload your own image

9. Add text to your Sway

10. Reveal more options if you can’t see the cards on the left side of your Sway

11. Change the navigation style from horizontal to vertical or “slide” style

12. Change the design (fonts/colors/etc.)

13. Add an author or share your Sway

Just copy and send the appropriate link. Make sure to add “Anyone with link” if your viewer doesn’t go to our school or you’d like the viewer to skip signing in!

Read This: Why smart kids shouldn’t use laptops in class

Yet another article on the adverse impact of multitasking in the classroom. In general I agree that any distraction that increases the likelihood of multitasking (phones, laptops, tablets, etc.)  in the classroom can limit engagement, but I have some questions about this study.

…thanks to a big, new experiment from economists at West Point, who randomly banned computers from some sections of a popular economics course this past year at the military academy. One-third of the sections could use laptops or tablets to take notes during lecture; one-third could use tablets, but only to look at class materials; and one-third were prohibited from using any technology.

Unsurprisingly, the students who were allowed to use laptops — and 80 percent of them did — scored worse on the final exam. What’s interesting is that the smartest students seemed to be harmed the most.

First of all, I’m not sure how reflective students at West Point are of students in general. We’re talking about a very specific set of students in terms of school culture (strict and conservative), intellectual ability (already a high-achieving group), and in terms of diversity (the school is nearly 70% white, and not that diverse).  I’m more than willing to concede that multitasking is bad, or at least has adverse effects on students, but the results of this study aren’t necessarily a good indication of our wider population.

Secondly, the way they define “smart” may indicate other causes of poor performance:

Among students with high ACT scores, those in the laptop-friendly sections performed significantly worse than their counterparts in the no-technology sections. In contrast, there wasn’t much of a difference between students with low ACT scores — those who were allowed to use laptops did just as well as those who couldn’t. (The same pattern held true when researchers looked at students with high and low GPAs.)

These results are a bit strange. We might have expected the smartest students to have used their laptops prudently. Instead, they became technology’s biggest victims. Perhaps hubris played a role. The smarter students may have overestimated their ability to multitask. Or the top students might have had the most to gain by paying attention in class.

Students who perform well on the ACT or other standardized tests may in fact be the most susceptible to distraction, and at the very least are more prone to “superficial thinking.”

Studies of students of different ages have found a statistical association between students with high scores on standardized tests and relatively shallow thinking. (source)

I think what all of this research really highlights is the need to be intentional and thoughtful about when and where technology is used in education. Having a no-laptop policy in a course isn’t going to solve the distraction issue for students, but tying their use to specific activities, which address measurable skills or outcomes, and are limited in scope, will go a long way.

What do you think?

Source: Why smart kids shouldn’t use laptops in class — Original Study 


Cool Tool: Hypothes.is

I feel like everyone should use this amazing plugin for Chrome. It lets you annotate, highlight and discuss everything on the web without leaving your browser. This works with PDFs and every website, so the possible classroom uses are almost limitless. The good folks over at Hypothesis have even put together a few guides to get you started:

Examples of Classroom Use

  • Use a private group to annotate poems, fiction, or articles as a class
  • Spark conversation among students

Teacher Resource Guide

Student Resource Guide

I can also see this being a great tool for PD! I’d like for this to replace Diigo for me… Is anyone else interested in joining an EdTech Hypothesis group?

Cool Tool: URLBunch


This is a really cool tool. It lets you create a simple tabbed list of links for sharing with students. Can you think of any other cool uses?

Digital Pedagogy. Is it a thing? 

Hybrid Pedagogy

#AISMOOC, Final Thoughts

So the MOOC has come to an end. Overall I had a great experience with the course. The readings and discussions – even though I most lurked – were thought-provoking and informative. Although I don’t see myself creating fully virtual classes anytime soon, I think that the lessons I learned will be equally useful in my role supporting flipped and blended learning environments.

The last two weeks of the course covered some interesting topics – at-risk students and creating community. It’s interesting because literally all of the keys to success with “virtual” instruction align with aims of good teaching in a face-to-face environment. The only thing that changes in a virtual environment is the mode of communication. Good teaching is good teaching. You can’t build a great classroom without building a strong sense of community. Similarly, it is imperative that you identify at-risk students to ensure that everyone learns, is challenged, and gets the proper level of support. These general observations are true in any educational environment.

One huge takeaway I had from the course was that I am not a huge fan of the Coursera LMS. I do think that it is okay for the large MOOC environment, but there was still an overall lack of quality interaction that left me wanting more. For one, I would have loved the ability to do live chats from within the site, whenever I was browsing. I also would have liked the threads to be a lot less clunky. As an everyday Reddit lurker I have come to appreciate the smooth flow of conversations and discussion that it provides. Coursera truly fell short in this category in my opinion. Overall it was still a useful platform that did it’s job well. When you consider the cost of the course – free – it makes up for any shortcomings in the software.

Thanks to @clonghb and all of my classmates for making @aismooc a great experience.

#AISMOOC, Weeks 2 & 3 Thoughts

Weeks 2 and 3 were very exciting. There was a ton of lively discussion – including a Twitter chat – and I enjoyed all of the reading, discussion, and videos.

One of my biggest takeaways from the course will be how to build better relationships with students online – a skill which translates quite well to F2F environments! I loved the link to ‘10 Reasons Student Don’t Participate in Online Discussion and How to Remedy Each‘. The forum seems like core of any online community. Without a vibrant place filled with discussion and the exchange of ideas it is very difficult to develop meaningful relationships among students, or between the instructor and students. Some of the most useful tips from the week were:

  • Explain the expectations for participation clearly
  • Give lots of tech support to make sure students don’t get frustrated by using the LMS
  • Clearly outline etiquette expectations and norms – netiquette!
  • Let students develop their voice
  • Play an active role in moderating the forums

“The best teachers want students to develop their own questions…”

I loved the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) introduced in Week 3. In the Google Hangout on this topic (which sadly, I missed), Chris laid down some ground-rules:


He created a live document and shared it with the participants. He gave the “Question Focus” and the members of the hangout then started to brainstorm in real time around the topic. Although there were only 6 live participants, they managed to generate a lengthy list of questions, and agree on 3 to use as discussion topics for the week. This really seemed like a great way to start off the week in an online course because it involves the students and lets them set the course of the discussion.

Some possible question focus prompts are:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Quotes
  • Themes

BUT THE STUDENTS MAKE THE QUESTION! This is a key to the QFT, because although the question may not always be exactly what the teacher had in mind, it should at least start them on the right track. Chris mentioned that he really enjoyed the book “Make Just One Change” by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santanta. The central tenets of that book are:

All students should and can learn to formulate their own questions.
All educators can easily teach the skill as part of their regular practice.

This seems like a great technique for any course, be it online or F2F. I love the way this activity gives the students responsibility for their own learning. I will be working on incorporating this into my courses. I also found this helpful video on QFT in action:

And this PowToon explaining QFT:

Finally, at the end of Week 3 I made an intro to a course I made to teach faculty about Office 2013/365. I really enjoyed using Thinglink (suggested by #AISMOOC), and think it made the video pop. I look forward to getting feedback from my course-mates in the coming weeks. Here it is:



#AISMOOC, Week 1 Thoughts

I’m taking a MOOC. Maybe I should back up a bit. A few weeks ago I was looking over the course offerings at Coursera and one really got my attention. The  title alone, “Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom”, while not something that rolls off the tongue, met a need that I feel I have.

As we explore new LMS’s and I work to support blended learning among my colleagues, I have really been hoping to find something like this. The course description was enough to convince me to sign up:

This course will help you ‘up’ your game and develop the advanced level skills and techniques that eludes even some of the most experienced virtual teachers. We will examine the pitfalls beginning teachers run into and learn how to overcome them by focusing on the fundamentals that have the greatest impact on student learning in a blended or online environment. Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of experienced K-12 teachers and be challenged to assess your own skills and apply what you are learning by creating a guide, assignment or resource that you will be able to use in a class that you teach or hope to teach someday soon. By the end of the course you’ll not only have a better understanding of the basics; you’ll be able to put them together like a pro and empower your future students to be voracious learners who are ready to go out and make the world a better place to live.

There was a great deal of conversation among the participants this week, and the focus was on “Handling Direct Instruction”. Some of my biggest takeaways were the way the instructor used various methods of making the content more engaging and accessible:

  • We completed a cool ZeeMap with a list of all students including who we are, what we hope to learn, etc.
  • Chris (@clonghb) introduced the idea of using a metaphor as a guiding theme for your online course. This is a great idea and the fact that he used basketball won him tons of points in my book!
  • The quality of the video interludes was top-notch! Ireallywas struck by how easy it is to create this kind of video usingasmartphone and some simple software.
    • I loved how he used categories for the video content (these tie in to the metaphor he using for the course) — “Around the Net”, “Catch It”, etc.
  • There were tons of great readings and videos

Overall I’m having a great experience so far.