Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Share It": The Meme of Academic Technology and the Community College

We are North Shore Community College.  Community is a central part of our identity.  We serve the communities in which we are located.  We are a community ourselves filled with staff, faculty, students, visitors and many others.  All definitions of community include sharing common elements among its participants.  At NSCC, one shared purpose for all of us is improved student outcomes; finding the most effective ways to help our students succeed in our classes, in their work, in their lives, and in their communities.

Individually, we find myriad ways of doing this in our classrooms.  We also find things that don't always work the way we had hoped.  But we often don't get the chance to share our successes and challenges.  This is why in Academic Technology, we're very interested in hearing from you and having you share with us what you are doing and how it's going.  When it comes to technology, we know our community uses all sorts of great tools, programs, and websites, which is why we really want to encourage everyone to share it.  With your department, with your division, with us, and everyone else.

This blog is an attempt to further amplify the potential for sharing for as we come into contact with different faculty across disciplines, we hope to learn and spread the word on what is working with our faculty and our students.  We highly encourage our readers to visit back here often and to continue the conversation with us about the ways learning and technology can be improved at NSCC.

I’m always reminded that unlike many resources in the material world, sharing ideas and knowledge does not work as a zero sum game.  The digital world is one in which sharing is not limited by the amount one has, but rather by the amount one is connected to.  The detriment of this is certainly to be found in realm of copyrighted material and consumer digital content, but in academia, the idea of sharing and providing access is increasingly popular.  The Open Courseware Consortium  illustrates the degree to which colleges of all sorts are sharing their material not just within their colleges and universities, but across the globe.  In this way, I believe that NSCC can enhance the quality of our education by pooling together our resources for the sake of our students.

While on the topic of sharing, I want to take this opportunity to mention three books that I will probably be talking about at further length in another post, but these three are key for thinking about how the new digital landscape facilitates sharing and what sharing can mean in education.  While they don’t directly focus on education, their ideas are useful in exposing us to the ways in which knowledge, learning, and skill might be differently acquired in these new environment.  So please check them out and of course, if you have thoughts about them or about this post, share them!

  1. Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. New York: Hyperion, 2009.
  2. Jarvis, Jeff. Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
  3. Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010.


  • What are some of the ways you facilitate sharing in your profession? 

  • Do you encourage your students to share resources (and not in the plagiarized paper sort of way)? 

  • What would that look like and what perceived benefits would you gain from it?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Often times, we look at people in two categories when it comes to technophobia--either "technophobic" or "not technophobic". It's a label that we attach to others and, yes, even to ourselves. In fact, technophobia is quite common and something that virtually all of us experience at some point in our lives.

Webster's defines technophobia as a fear or a dislike of advanced technologies. Bad or negative experiences with technology helps to increase the degree of technophobia one feels, while good or positive experiences helps to decrease the fear. Makes sense, right? Then, of course, we can be technophobic in some areas while not at all in other areas. One might be perfectly fine using a PC or Smart phone while being totally fearful of using a Mac or operating the DVR on their TV. Taking small "baby steps" toward the fear is a great way to begin to reduce technophobia. An example might be to use a PC and projector together in a classroom before fully delving into using a Smart Board and videoconferencing in that same rooom.

In education, technophobia may be related to our status as "teachers" or "professors". We think we're expected to be "all knowing" or "the sage on the stage". We certainly don't want to look like we don't know what we're doing in front of our students. That's perfectly understandable.

Here at North Shore, we have lots of way to help you be confident using technology. Training is available for Smart Classrooms, Videoconference Rooms, Smart Boards, and other classroom technologies. Phones are in all of the classrooms with technology help numbers posted. For online teaching and learning, there are training sessions available for our learning management system, ANGEL. In addition, there's an ANGEL Helpline to give you support and added confidence.

The Academic Technology staff is a very friendly group of folks. We're always here to help. We want you to be able to use all of the tools needed to make your class successful.  It only makes sense that people feel less technophobic when they know that they are being supported, when they know that they're not in it alone.
Contact us anytime. You might start with the ANGEL Help Desk ( or extension 5400 (Media Help Line) We're all in this together!

  • What strategies have worked for you when dealing with technophobia?

  • What advice would you have for others who have anxiety about using technology?

  • How has teaching and learning been enhanced by using technology with your class?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The 5 Rights of Technology (Part 2 of 2)

Check out the first part of this blog here.

3.  The Right Time
Significant time is also needed with implementing a particular technology into the class.  Besides doing research, you will also need time to develop the right support materials (see the next Right) and also spend time within the class explaining and illustrating the tool.  With certain everyday technology, faculty sometimes assume that students “know” technology, but that’s not always the case.  We assume that anyone under the age of 30 knows what to do with these technologies but there not often any guarantee of that.  Many of them know the technologies they need for their lives but that doesn't mean they easily intuit all technologies equally.  Technology, alas, is just too broad.

It’s also useful to spend time in class going over the technology because even if students are familiar with the technology, you’re goal is to illustrate how it’s being used in your class.  For instance, some people use Twitter for banter with friends or to follow their favorite celebrity, but you might need to explain how Twitter can be used for academic purposes.  So you’ll need to set aside time for prep and research but also within the class to walk students through it.  And it’s probably a good idea to reserve time to meet with students who may have difficulty with the process.

4.  The Right Support
Be sure to provide students with good resources from walk-throughs to videos that they can access on their own and hold onto when class is not in session.  That certainly won’t guarantee mistakes and challenges, but if you provide detailed support materials, the students have something to make use of when you are not there.  Furthermore, in creating these materials, it will help you clarify in your own head what needs to be done.

Another level of support is being patient and responsive to students that are struggling with the technology.  Be prepared to work with students that are challenged by the technology.  That being said, you should also be aware of those who are competent in the technology and look to utilize them in helping other students. Within the classroom itself, it’s probably also useful at times to poll your students about how they are finding the particular technology being employed.  This provides opportunities for students to reflect about the ways it is (or isn’t) useful.

The final support to always consider is contacting and talking with us in Academic Technology.  We are always happy to brainstorm, discuss, and share what we know, what we’ve researched, and of course what we’ve tried.  And don't hesitate to email us either!

5.  The Right Technology
The previous rights should culminate in a well-chosen technology for your course with an experience that reinforces it.  However, that certainly doesn’t guarantee that it will.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, the technology still doesn’t work to the degree that you imagined.  Other times, the technology fails because it ceases existing.  This is particularly the case with Web 2.0 tools.  Certainly, there are great tools out there on the Internet, but there isn’t a guarantee that the service or tool that you’re using will still be there throughout the semester.  Again, in that research phase, this would be something to explore and consider.

But if things don’t go as planned, that’s not a cry to abandon hope, but to reflect and consider what specific problems did you hit that complicated your outcome.  This is were talking with your students and soliciting feedback could be rather useful.

All of this boils down to the fact that you should consider and work with the technology before using it.  That’s not to dissuade faculty from doing so but to help them be aware what they need to do.  Launching a technology in class because you think it’s interesting is on par with the student who does his or her research paper based upon the first 10 hits from Google.  Both represent effort, but not necessarily the sought-after results.
  • What other concerns do you have when implementing a new technology?

  • What successes have you had with implementing technology?

  • What missteps have you had with implementing technology?

  • What have you found to be students’ concerns about the technology that you have (or haven’t) used?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 5 Rights of Technology (Part 1 of 2)

Technology in education is a buzzword that has largely become a cliché, probably even before the Internet came into everyone’s lives.  But technology in education is still an important issue for consideration; it’s the application of technology in education that is most challenging.  It’s an important tool and central for helping students enter into the job market with relevant skills. But it is a tool that needs consideration before using.

What you’ll find herein is a brief consideration of what I consider to be the 5 Rights of Technology.  This is largely adapted from the 5 Rights of Medical Administration (6 years working in residential program apparently left its mark).  These are not perfect; given the changing technology of the last 15 years, perfection seems impossible or maybe just irrelevant.  Instead, this works as a succinct guide for faculty to use when contemplating how to implement technology in the class room.

1.  The Right Alignment
There’s been many times I’ve come across a tool (iPads) or program (blogging) and thought, “This would be great in the classroom.”  Of course, getting excited is a whole lot easier than actually doing it.  Indeed, there have certainly been several partial failures in my teaching with using technology and a large part of that has to do with the idea of alignment.

When considering technology for the classroom, the approach must be one that works with your assessments, goals, and objectives.  The technology should facilitate or explicitly address one or more of these or else you risk losing students.  To be sure, we always risk losing students in a myriad of ways, but the idea is to use the technology to engage them and make the interactions more relevant or expedient within their lives.  If you can’t provide a means of expressing why the technology tool can facilitate specific learning in your specific course, then you’re probably a bit out of alignment.

With any technology, you should research it a bit to see how other educators have used it or just to get a fuller understanding of what kind of tool it can be for the course.

2.  The Right Accessibility
North Shore Community College serves particular populations and it’s important to keep that in mind.  Some schools require laptops while other schools are providing tablets to their students.  However, we can’t expect uniformity in the technological prowess and resources of our students (nor should we).  The technology you use should be relevant to the student’s lives and facilitate learning; not hinder it.

For instance, I go back and forth about using eBooks because I recognize this does hamper the experience of students who don’t have access to computers at home or have internet access in the case of eBooks from online services where downloading isn’t an option.  In this instance, to use the technology (eBook) means complicating and inhibiting learning for some students while those that could access the technology are not negatively impacted by the choice to shy away from the eBook (after all, they are welcome to purchase it on their own in that version).

But before swearing off any technological advances in the face of limited resources or inability to help everyone, I highly suggest you come chat with us at Academic Technology  to see if there is some middle ground or other option.  For instance, there has been interesting work and discussion about useful purposes for cellphones in the classroom.  But again, we can’t expect everyone to have a cellphone or be able to freely use texting or smart-phone apps and such.  But that’s where it might be good to check in with Dave Houle in Instructional Technology and Design to see how you could incorporate cellphones along with Clickers which could supplement the use of cellphones.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Putting On Your Game Face

“Video Games” have been a rising point of serious discussion in education for the last decade.  There’s a growing range of journals focused on the topic and a plethora of other articles in other journals discussing what place they have in education.  While it’s safe to say that we have moved beyond the limited (albeit fun and nostalgic in hindsight) nature of video games such as these, there’s still much skepticism about what video games and simulations have to offer the college classroom and how to be properly integrate them.  

The caliber and sophistication of games has significantly changed. Given the development of video games over the last 40 years and the serious effort that “gamers” invest into games (manifesting in a significant amount of time and energy often self-identified as “work”), this remains an untapped opportunity.  Many people are beginning to take note, including PBS, who recently considered the role that play (and video games) have in education.  

It makes sense.  Modern video games and simulations tap into a many human motivations that include the desire to work hard (that is, concentrate, practice, and systematically negotiate challenges). to be rewarded for success, and to able to work with others to achieve goals.  Most intriguingly, video games do something that we as educators have trouble doing; turning failures into opportunities for learning.  When I fail at a game, I don’t abandon the game, I go back and consider what I did wrong and try to correct it.  We often think the “reset” button on a video game console is part of what makes the game less important and relevant, but in fact, it also means that a gamer has the opportunity to try and try again; to determine where to improve his or her game.  This ability to conquer failures came to me like lightning when reading Kathryn Schulz’s book, Being Wrong.  Below is a Ted Talk that sums up her book.  I think there’s much to be considered about education when considering gaming, failing, and learning. 

For certain, it’s no panacea but there’s a lot that can be done (and is being done) with video games and education.  If we want to improve student learning, we should be considering what is useful and important to take from video games.  Authors and activists like Jane McGonigal have given serious consideration to the role that gaming can have not only in education, but in the everyday world.  For those who want to know more, I’ve assembled a playlist of videos on games and education that that you might find useful.

Stimulated by the ideas herein and want to learn more?  Check out some of the great resources at here and by all means, don’t hesitate to leave a message here or contact us at Academic Technology.
  • What kind of video games do you use and what value do you derive from them?  (Remember, video games here include everything from Angry Birds and Words With Friends to World of War Craft and Grand Theft Auto to Wii Yoga and Rock Band).
  • What have you learned or in what ways have video games improved your real-world experience? 
  • What kind of video games or simulations do you imagine would be useful for the kinds of courses that you teach? 
  • What would be the obstacles of integrating video games and simulations into the course?  To what degree would you think about integrating video games into your classroom?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

For Your (and their) Viewing Pleasure: Video Resources

Adding video content can certainly be a useful tool for any class and can be an important bridge of engagement to make material more dynamic.

Video can be done in a lot of ways.  Tech-savvy faculty most likely have a webcam, digital camera, or even their own cellphone to which they can record material and upload it to their own YouTube Channel or to the course in any manner they propose.  We also welcome faculty to work with us and media services to create video material for the online class.  However, here, I'm going to cover 3 awesome video resources for you to consider for your online course.

1.  Films On Demand
The Good:  FilmsOnDemand "is the leading source of high-quality video and multimedia for academic, vocational and life-skills content."  Here, faculty can find an excellent array of videos that they can use for their course either as required or supplemental material.  They cover topics from Anthropology to World Languages to Archival Material to Biology to Criminal Justice and more.  It's a video database that our library has in its collection and has been a great boon to many faculty in their teaching.

The Bad You'll need to remind students of the following (from the NSCC Library's Website):
"In order to access some library resources off campus you must have a library activated NSCC ID. The fourteen digit number on the bottom of your ID is your library card number. Enter in this number when accessing databases off-campus."

Also, you'll need to make use of the proxy server link in order for this to work right.   For more information on integrating videos directly into ANGEL, check out the Library resource here.

The REALLY GOOD: What's great about this tool is that if you make an account with Films On Demand, you can do some really great things with playlists.  Playlists allow for you to compose a particular selection of videos that you feel go well together.  For instance, you could assemble a playlist of documentaries and archival films from World War II or bring together the different documentaries and dramatic renderings of the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

However, FilmsOnDemand takes it one step further.  Every video on the site has been broken down into smaller snippets and you can also make playlists just using these snippets.  If you think of the full video as a music CD, you can use it entirely, OR you can select specific tracks from each video to make your own mixed tape (remember mixed tapes?).

2.  YouTube
The Good A vast array of material for you to use and bring something into the classroom that students are already familiar with.  Additionally, many schools have been putting up lecturers and presentations on a variety of college-level material.  YouTube EDU is chockfull of great lectures that you can incorporate for better learning and understanding.

The Bad:  Well, it's Youtube; filled with many many many distractions (we've all been there).  That's the obvious challenge.  YouTube now also features much more ads than previously.  Additionally, not all videos are stable and may change or disappear entirely.  The other challenge is that there are complications since YouTube is owned by Google, but doesn't come with the suite of services that NSCC gets by using Google for its email server services.  What this means is that you can't syncrhonize your YouTube account and North Shore Gmail account.  Maintaining two accounts isn't necessarily a problem for you, the instructor, but it can create a barrier (and just be frustrating) for students.  (Though this is largely a problem when you are sending them to YouTube, not when you are incorporating a YouTube video into ANGEL).

The REALLY GOOD:  Like FilmsOnDemand, you can assemble playlists for students to watch and send them one link (instead of a list of links); however, you cannot break the videos down into segments (anymore than they already are on the site) as you can with FilmsOnDemand.  The other great piece about using YouTube videos is that you can encourage and stimulate conversation since each video comes with its own discussion board.  The conversation will not only be with other students but anyone else who happens to come upon the video.
Here's an example of what you can find from YouTube.

The Good: serves as  the internet archive of all things in the public domain.  Books, recordings, videos, etc.  The site has an enormous collection of material and in particular, videos from the 20th and 21st century.  It's a great resource much like the above in that you can find great material to integrate into your course.

The Bad:  Unlike the previous two, you cannot make a playlist.

The REALLY GOOD: Unlike the other two sites, anything on this website is available for download.  YouTube and FilmsOnDemand do not allow you to download the videos; but most videos on can be downloaded in a variety of digital formats.
Here's an example of what you can find at

  • What are some of the ways you use video in your course? 

  • What do you find beneficial about them? 

  • What resources do you rely upon when you look to integrate video into your course?

Let's use hear your thoughts and ideas on the subject!