10 More Technologies To Help Build Classroom Content

Technology use in the classroom, whether for K-12 or Higher Education, should not be the exception but the rule. I should point out technology should never replace good, solid teaching or the promotion of good, solid skills, such as working math problems using pencil and paper, or writing using pen and ink. Certain fundamental skills should never be replace by a digital crutch.

For work, teaching, or hobby, I use technology every day. I find myself moving among different technologies fluidly and often wonder why others appear to stumble among technologies. I then realize, oh wait, these people have lives away from computers; you don’t. I get exposed to numerous bits of software, hardware, and tech, increasing my comfort incrementally each day.

Hording knowledge does no one any favors, therefore I thought I should share some tech suggestions to those interested parties.

After my previous post, I received some good suggestions for technologies educators are currently using. In accordance with my previous comment about not “hording knowledge,” I am passing along more technology suggestions.

CAMTASIA (TechSmith) $179 >> I hesitate to suggest software that costs money. With academic funds not flowing as freely as in the 1990s, I try to use low-cost or free software. That being said, CAMTASIA from TechSmith is simply a brilliant bit of software. I bought CAMTASIA using my own money and consider the videos I have created to support my online courses a fantastic return on my investment. Creating video content can be accomplished with various free apps but none I have used allow for the creation of near-perfect content. I appreciate the  detailed ability to alter audio, video, music, voice-overs, plus the use of transitions, titles, etc. An educational license is about $179, but you get a lot for what you pay for.

Edmodo free >> How best to describe “Edmodo?” Edmodo resembles Facebook in that if Facebook was given a complete face-lift, with areas designated for friends and groups and status updates given over to academic related content. As an educator, you control Content Areas, membership, assignments, updates, and alerts. As a regular user of Blackboard, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of setting up a course, and, perhaps more importantly, the smoothness of operation. Blackboard with each release, seems to become slower and more cumbersome. When managing courses with 60-100 students, Blackboard can seem to create more problems than it solves. Edmodo looks to be a nice convenient way of providing content, and even manage grades. The one flaw could be the creation of online exams; perhaps I merely missed this function. If Edmodo could manage to add a Content Area for secure exam creation, I might be tempted to move away from Blackboard. Edmodo also offers a grade book. The Gradebook startles me, merely out of concerns for security. However, Blackboard has its own issues with security.

EYEJOT free >> Eyejot allows users to create very short video messages suitable for uploading. These short videos can be embedded in emails, uploaded to MySpace, sent via Twitter, among other social networks. Eyejot could be useful for creating a short introduction for yourself to email students, or to create short notices for your educational web site. And, its free.

SnagIt (TechSmith) $49>> No, I am not a TechSmith vendor, and I do not get compensated by TechSmith. They have some great products for creating content, though. Products that are great due to their ease of use coupled with the high production quality of the results. TechSmith software products translate well for education as these products are designed to give people the power to help educate others. SnagIt is a screen capture utility. SnagIt will capture any portion of your computer screen, allowing you to embed graphics in other software products, such as PowerPoint, or Windows Moviemaker.

Jing (TechSmith) free>> Keeping videos to 5 minutes or less are very likely to keep students more engaged than forcing them to sit through 30 minutes of you droning on about the importance of potatoes in early America life. Create a script, emphasize the important bullet points. Use TechSmith’s free Jing app to record your video. Use a microphone to provide a voice-over. Then, when you’re ready, upload to Facebook or YouTube, and notify your Twitter followers.

Screencast.com (TechSmith) free* >> While YouTube is the most popular video-sharing site, Screencast.com can also be used. With Screencast.com, a free account will grant you 2GB of storage with 2GB of monthly bandwidth. Educators can control who sees the videos, via password protection. My only concern is that with a few users, 2GB of bandwidth could easy become consumed. *The $9.95/month Pro version offers more bandwidth and storage.

R Statistics Software >> Math educators, or any educator wanting to promote the use of statistics should know about R. R is a free, statistical computing language and environment, produced within the GNU project. High school educators wanting to push superior students might consider moving those students towards handling real statistical packages. A good high school student could pick up R pretty quickly, and begin looking at information, data, and proceed on an investigative path that could yield great results in college.

World Wind (NASA) >> Everyone has either seen or used, or at least has heard of Google Earth. And, other than the weather layer, those satellite images are static – not real time. World Wind is a free, NASA developed, virtual globe. World Wind can be embedded within other technologies, or used on its own. A community of World Wind users provides assistance for using World Wind. Again, I often run across comments from educators who have superior students, and these educators struggle to find challenges for these students. With waning STEM interest in the U.S., programs like R and World Wind could provide the impetus for smart kids.

Marble (KDEdu) >> Marble is another virtual globe effort, with a supportive user community. Marble is a stand-alone globe and atlas that can operate on computers without an Internet connection. Marble comes with a 12,000 location database; obviously not complete, the database does allow students to move about the world. Routing and measuring tools are provided. If an Internet connection is available, more detailed maps are available. Marble is distributed via the GNU LGPL.

Dropbox >> Dropbox is a simple, online file storage and sharing web site. If educators, particularly those who handle online students, need a way of uploading and downloading files, homework assignments, notes, etc. Dropbox is free for the first 2GB. Another file sharing site, SkyDrive, is available through Microsoft Live.

I’m sure many more apps exist; perhaps you know of some that are only found on Android, or iPhones. I might explore smartphones apps in a future article. I know some companies have developed quiz-clicker apps for use in classes. This is an interesting development. Many educators forbid the use and even the presence of “smart” devices, yet other educators welcome them as ways of augmenting the course content.

Like technology or not, the Realm of Technology should be embraced to secure your own academic position, and more importantly, to ensure our students are able to function and understand the implications of technology and its use.

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