Tools & Technology in my Courses
At the end of last trimester, a student sent me the following question:
One of the things I noticed about this course is that you seem to have a great grasp of different apps and sites for creating content. Somewhere in the back of my head I seem to remember you talking about certain sites in a video -- maybe? At any rate, I would love to know what apps and sites you use.
I don't recall making a video, but it's entirely possible that I did. My memory is shot these days! (Those darn kids.I guess I don't get to use the postpartum excuse anymore since my youngest is 3. But still...) Since I can't locate any previous iterations, here's a new list of my favorite tools & technologies. I tend to do a lot of experimentation, so my list changes quite a bit. For now, here are the tools that I'm using:
- Screencastomatic: I use the pro version to record screen-capture videos with voice over, talking head videos, and a combination of the two. It's quick, it's easy, it's intuitive. I have access to Camtasia and never use it because this is so much easier. At $30 for 3 years, it's a steal. The free version isn't bad, either, if you don't mind the branding on your videos.
- Office Mix: The one downside to Screencastomatic is the need to redo or heavily edit slideshows if you need to change one slide. For this reason, I've been experimenting with the free Office Mix app for important videos that often need updating. With the Mix add-on for PowerPoint, I can record video or audio directly onto each individual slide and convert the whole thing to an mp4 when I'm done. For example, in one of my courses we do a project. I'm constantly tweaking the project, which means the project introductory slides change slightly almost every trimester. Instead of re-recording the whole thing each time, with Office Mix I can re-record a single slide, convert the whole thing to an mp4 and be on my merry way.
- HaikuDeck: I love the HaikuDeck aesthetic. Their slides are difficult - not impossible, but difficult - to ruin, and the interface makes it easy and fast to create a very professional-looking slideshow. Although they used to offer a free account that was perfect, I don't think that's available anymore and I'm not sure I can justify the cost of a membership long-term. Boo.
- Google Slides: Google Slides is a great alternative to PPT and HaikuDeck if you don't want to spend the money. Slides Carnival has some lovely and quite professional free templates that work with Google Slides.
- DropThought: Last trimester I started using this free LTI as a way of gathering student feedback. DropThought integrates directly with Canvas and provides an informal place for students to provide anonymous feedback using a smiley-face scale about course activities, along with a note to explain their rating. One of my favorite things about the DropThought form is that students can check a box to request a response. As an instructor it's helpful to know who would like to hear back from me and who's just writing to inform me of an issue. DropThought forms can also be integrated into the Gradebook if, for example, you'd like to award points for students who complete the feedback each week.
- PeerWise: PeerWise is a free platform where students can anonymously create and answer multiple choice questions. As part of the question creation process, they come up with appropriate distractors and provide an explanation for the correct answer. A commenting feature allows for conversation about the questions, which often leads to edits and clarifications. I love PeerWise because students actively engage with the material and because it scales up for larger class sizes. In one course this trimester, we wound up with over 1000 (!) questions related to course content.
- Vocaroo: This is a free, web-based voice recording tool. Although Canvas has native voice recording options, they don't work particularly smoothly. I like to give audio feedback to students, as I find it faster and more personal than writing out comments. With Vocaroo, I can record my comments quickly and paste a link to the recording in Canvas if I don't feel like waiting out the Canvas glitches.
- EdPuzzle: This service offers the ability to add your own comments, questions and cuts to YouTube videos. I've been using it more and more frequently to preface YouTube videos I use in online classes, or to add notes when there's a small error in the video or clarification is needed. EdPuzzle seems to be marketed mainly to K12 audiences, but I find it quite useful. After you add your edits, the videos can still be embedded into the LMS and play without requiring student log-in.
- Typeform: A prettier SurveyMonkey :). I use Typeform to conduct informal mid-term surveys in my courses.
- Zotero: I could live without Zotero, but I'd rather not! It's magic. Zotero is a free referencing and citation tool that makes it super easy to grab references from PubMed or any website. It creates reference lists, switches between citation styles, and generally makes my life much, much easier.
- LastPass: Another life-saver. LastPass remembers all of my passwords. (And yes, I have looked into the security issues. I feel comfortable with it.) I have so many accounts in various places that I would spend an unreasonable amount of my working time recovering passwords if I didn't have a way to access them. Love it.
I think that's about it. Just those :). If you have any recommendations or questions, send them my way. I'd love to hear from you.