Monday, December 26, 2011

Free Online Learning: MITx

This week the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced an online learning initiative that will make many graded courses available online for free. The program is called “MITx” and consists of a set of specially designed web-based courses that are available to anyone free-of-charge.

Those who take the course and earn a passing grade, may pay a small fee and receive an MITx certificate of completion for their work. The course will be taught by MIT professors although MIT is exploring software developments that will allow homework and exams, even written essays, to be graded via computer




This good-will initiative is intended to change the way we think about the availability and delivery of high quality education. It is likely to appeal to knowledge seekers, retired or unemployed persons, or anyone seeking to shore up their resume via education and training.

For Faculty and Students at the University of the District of Columbia, this initiative also provides access to free resources that may support and extend local learning initiatives. For example, group projects may be organized around learners enrolled in a free version of an MIT course. Faculty may also have the opportunity to interface with colleagues in various fields of interest.




At the end of the day, this innovative model provides a bold and provocative path for distance education. MITx is expected to go live in the Spring of 2012 with an experimental prototype version. They also intend to release an open-source version of their open learning software to support similar developments at other colleges and universities. You can sign up for updates about this initiative by contacting the MIT news office:

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to and How to Share the Knowledge

So you want to leverage technology to know-how to do something…what? Anything! It doesn’t matter!

We wanted to take a moment during this holiday season to share with you some great- How-to sites designed specifically to help faculty and students!


Instructables  is a great web-based platform where people contribute and share what they do and how they do it making it a great DIY website.

I have used the technology portion of the site and found it to be very helpful!


instructables image  teaches you how to do all the things you never considered.

From how to publish a book to how to select learning materials for your course.

The site offers some areas that are more scholarly in nature but there are also more practical how to’s such as how to paint a room or play poker.


blog image-soyouwanna


This next resource is not only a great place for you to learn some great how-to tips but a space to add to the community with your expertise.


WikiHow is the how-to manual that anyone can write or edit. It is a collaborative effort to build and share the world’s largest how-to manual.

Like Wikipedia, wikiHow is a wiki that anyone can write or edit.


wikihow image


Articles on this site verify from arts and entertainment, education and communication to health and philosophy.

Other how-to sites:

How stuff works – Online reference tool powered by the Discovery Channel.


Knol – This website allows you to easily share what you know and write a knoll (a unit of knowledge) to create your own how-to on a topic.

Your topic can be collaborative as you connect with others experts in your interested area or set to hear only your voice. The choice is up to you.

Note – come May, Knol will cease to exist but knolls may be migrated to Annotum 1.0 (a hosted theme on, a free theme on, and a freely available download on GitHub.


eHow is the go-to place to find out how to do just about anything!  Its library has more than 1.5 million articles and 150,000 videos, written and produced by experts, as well as others who share their knowledge and know-how. 

Over 70 million people visit eHow each month.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Get Organized! Two Web 2.0 tools that are worth checking out!

Make your Classroom a community with Edmodo

Edmodo is a microblogging service designed specifically for educational use. Faculty who use Edmodo are able to create a microblogging network for their classes. The latest version of Edmodo updates in real-time so that members of groups may quickly respond to each other. This tool enables a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, or post messages to student groups. To learn more about Edmodo watch the video below.



Get organized in your thinking via is a project management tool that utilizes the concepts of mind mapping and drag and drop sequencing. It is a place to create to-do lists or project management schedules. You can organize your project into groups that refers to as "trains." Your lists can include text notes as well as links. The "trains" you create are basically categories for your to-do lists. You can rearrange the boxes in each of your trains by dragging and dropping them into place. Your can be made public or kept private. See the image below to get a quick view of what looks like.


In the educational arena, could be useful for students to organize all parts of their academic lives (classes, projects, social activities, Greek events, etc…). For example, students could create a "train" of to-do lists for their classes, a "train" for extracurricular activities, and a "train" for community service activities. can also be used to outline writing assignments or research projects. Utilizing the drag and drop feature makes it easy to change the sequence quickly to better organize a project.

Thanks to Richard Bryne - for introducing me to Thought Boxes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Second Life to vAcamedia: The Future of Virtual Worlds for Distance Learning

Beginning around 2005 Colleges and Universities around the country became increasingly interested in the learning opportunities offered by the 3d Virtual World Second Life. Colleges and Universities around the country from Texas State Technical College which developed an online associate’s degree program, to Ivy’s like Harvard, flocked to Second Life to develop virtual campuses and classrooms. At the University of the District of Columbia, the Administration of Justice program created a Second Life Virtual World to simulate investigation scenes.

Educators would say that: “.. Second Life is an effective teaching tool in part because it provides a social laboratory where role-playing, simulations, exploration, and experimentation can be tried out in a relatively risk-free environment. But perhaps the most touted benefit of Second Life is the opportunity it gives students to interact with people around the world (Graves, 2008).”



In spite of this explosion in interest, use of Second Life seems to have peaked in 2007 and has been in declining since. There seems to be much speculation about why this is the case, but a couple of theories discussed in a chronicle article find that:

1. Some found it cumbersome to navigate the landscape.

2. Some found that paying for and designing an immersive 3d landscape was time consuming, complicated and expensive.

3. Lastly, because Second Life is open to anyone, university landscapes were sometimes vulnerable to “griefing,” a cyber-term that refers to vandalism of virtual spaces.

Educators and learners who enjoy virtual environments may now find other alternatives that speak meaningfully to the idea of being able to easily access a user friendly, 3d, virtual, immersive landscape devoted to higher learning. A new platform focused specifically on education and learning has been developed, it is called vAcademia (i.e. Virtual Academia). This new resource allows one to hold ongoing classes, meetings or live lectures or give presentations in a virtual space. Any classes held in vAcademia can be held in real time, or simultaneously recorded and made available to students at a later point.



This concept means that the learning experience for students can be extended and enriched through their engagement with a wide variety of learning modules. vAcademia classrooms are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. vAcademia is also a great collaboration resource. In fact, you can read more here about innovative ways academics have found to use vAcademia for collaborative learning in a 3-d virtual environment.


Will vAcademia replace “Second Life”? That remains to be seen, but as a resource gaining interest among faculty looking for immersive, 3d virtual alternatives for online learning, it may be worth a look. To learn more about vAcademia go to



Graves, Lucia (2008). A Second Life for Higher Ed: A virtual world offers new opportunities for teaching. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Top Ten Tips Or Rules For Engagement With Webinars

Professional Development Comes in Many Forms these Days. With tightening budgets, webinars are a great way to expand your skill set and stay current on topics in your area of professional expertise. Webinars are now offered for many topics but several are offered to improve your skills in teaching online.

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The Center for Academic Technology offers a wide variety of professional development opportunities including webinars. To stay current with what’s being offered, bookmark the following link:

If you accept that training webinars are important to your continued growth as an online instructor, then the next step is to understand how to best make use of training webinars. Here are the top ten tips or rules for engagement with webinars!

1. Be on the lookout for training webinars. Announcements for training webinars come from many sources: your school’s emails, professional organizations to which you belong, online publications to which you subscribe, other organizations doing mass email solicitations, and listings in print publications. A search of the Internet will also bring up various upcoming training webinars. Certainly attend those required by your school, but don’t hesitate to attend others that are not required. While they may cost you a bit, if the subject is important to your professional growth—and helps keep you employed—then go for it. (Note: Your school will usually offer informational seminars as well. These introduce faculty to new course delivery systems or upgrades, new school policies, etc. They may or may not be required but regardless, always attend any offered.)

2. Be sure all software components needed to experience the training webinar are working and know the procedures of the webinar.
Many folks get frustrated when first signing on to the training webinar because they don’t know (or forgot) how to turn on the audio and/or webcam in their computers. Make sure you know how to do this. Adjust your volume as necessary. Also if you will be speaking, be sure there is no noise in your background to annoy the webinar attendees. You may need to place yourself on “mute” if there is excessive mic feedback or other external noise you can’t control. Know the procedures for asking questions, inserting items into chat-like features, etc. Recognize others in the class when they make a good point. Be friendly but always be professional. If you arrive early, be social. And don’t try to take over the presentation—even if you are the presenter. Unless billed as a lecturer, you are a facilitator, so be certain to get others involved.

3. Be an active participant in the webinar. By being actively involved in any training webinar, you embrace what is being taught for the long haul. Merely watching and listening to the presentation is great for attendance stats, and a few pieces of information will stay with you—but most will be forgotten once the webinar ends. Also if the webinar is hosted by your school, then your active participation will help you stand out as an instructor who wants to improve, who is interested in becoming better, and who is truly a professional—always good for evaluations, more sections to teach, and long-term employment.

4. If you miss a webinar, view the archived version; always save archived versions. It is nearly impossible for every webinar you need to attend or want to attend to be offered at a time that neatly fits into your schedule. Work, family, education, and other responsibilities get in the way, and the folks who put on the training webinars know this. Thus, most webinars are available from your school in free archived (recorded) versions. There is usually a fee for webinars from outside organizations. For the ones presented by your school, always view the archived versions and be sure to let your supervisor know you did this. (And if a nonrequired training webinar is available in a recorded version—even for a fee—carefully weigh its benefit to you as an online instructor.) Finally, when possible, save all archived training webinars. You will not remember, in the first look, all of the material included, and/or you might not need the material immediately.

5. Suggest that your school participate in a webinar if you deem it important. Some webinars can be viewed only if your school subscribes to (or obtains a license for) the webinar; usually, your school will receive notice of these training webinars via email (and sometimes snail mail) solicitations. But there are many training webinars available, and it’s quite possible that your school might not know about some that you think would be valuable for online faculty (and others interested in online teaching). When you come across such a subscription-only webinar, don’t hesitate to suggest it to your supervisor. Even if the school is aware of that webinar, it will look great if you take the initiative to suggest it.

6. Take notes on especially helpful material. The training webinars are packaged so all information is neatly, clearly, and logically presented. But as you know from any webinar or course you’ve taken, some of the material will be more salient than the rest. Thus, it’s important for you to be ready to take notes on items you find especially helpful. You can do this with pad and pen (the old-fashioned but always reliable way), or if you have two monitors you can use one to type notes while the webinar is live. Other technical approaches to taking notes are: taking screen shots (holding down the Ctrl key while hitting PrntScr, then either hitting Paste or Ctrl V to paste it to a blank document) or using your cell phone or digital camera to take pictures of the portions you want to save.

7. When attachments and websites are offered, snatch them up. Many webinars will present attachments and/or helpful websites in addition to the prepared information on the screen and that given by the presenter(s). Make it a point to save these. While all of it may not be important or specific to your needs, it’s better to have a complete set so you can later discard what you don’t need. Sometimes, an initial judgment of “I don’t need that!” later turns into “Drat, I wish I had saved that!”

8. Keep an active list of upcoming training webinars. You don’t want to miss any webinars that are important to your growth as a professional, and you especially don’t want to forget about any required by your school! So . . . organize. Keep a list—either on the computer or on paper but one you check regularly—to be sure you know the dates. Use any reminder technology you have to make you aware of them and jot them down in a day planner if you use one. Sure, you might be able to view these in a recorded version if you miss them, but it’s better for your active learning and your status as a really good instructor to attend the training webinar in its live form.

9. Use the webinar as an additional lesson in how to present online training. This is a nice bonus from each training webinar you attend: by viewing the presentation format of the webinar (PowerPoint; black-and-white text; webinar tools such as Whiteboard, Share Computer Screen, and Polls; use of color and sound; etc.) and the style of the presenter (enthusiasm, clarity of material, speaking prowess, ability to get attendees engaged, etc.) you can learn what makes for a really great—or not-so-great—training webinar. You may want to do one, or you may be called on to present one, and the more information you have to help you give a great training webinar, the better!

10. Keep a list of all webinar presenters and their contact information. Somewhere during the webinar the name(s) of the presenter(s) and contact information will be offered. Be sure to keep an ongoing list of this information, including the title of the presentation. You may need more information down the road or have a question that was not covered in the webinar. Being able to contact the person(s) who presented the webinar will allow you immediate access to someone who can give you the information you need (and if the person is associated with your school, it sure gives credence to your reputation as an instructor who is always looking to improve).

Tips can be found at:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Looking for a great tool that will allow you to easily access your files from anywhere? Give Dropbox a try.

Dropbox is a web based cloud storage system that will allow you to save files on one computer and access them from any other personal computer or mobile smartphone. Whenever you create a document or file and upload it to the Dropbox, the file is instantly made available on your other internet accessible Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices. Dropbox eliminates the need for carrying files around on a zip or thumb drive or emailing them to yourself.




Dropbox is likely to appeal to a wide variety of users, becoming one of those resources you quickly begin to wonder how you did without. How can you know if Dropbox is right for you? A few key questions to ask yourself are:

Do you need to collaborate with other faculty or students on a project? Collaboration is one of the best and most exciting features of Dropbox. Team members may collaborate on a project from literally anywhere in the world and ensure that changes made to any project documents or files are instantly available to all team members.




Are you working with large or frequently expanding data or project files and simply need more storage space? It can be frustrating trying to frequently determine how much additional storage space you need for ever expanding files. Do you need 500gbs, 1TB or 100TB? How much is enough?




 Are you tired of trying to keep track of what is on your mobile drives? Keeping track of multiple thumb, zip or jump drives, external hard drives and the like can become cumbersome not to mention expensive if you have to continually buy more of these items. Cloud storage services such as Dropbox eliminate this problem by providing one point of access for all of your storage needs across ALL of your internet accessible computing devices.

Are you concerned about data lost due to computer accidents? Computer accidents do happen. From power surges to lattes spilled on laptops, unexpected accidents can make data retrieval a major headache. While Dropbox won’t keep you from spilling that Latte on your keyboard, it may save you the headache of data retrieval by providing quick and secure access to all files you have stored on its cloud server.

Are you concerned about your tablet, smartphone, or mobile drive being lost or stolen along with all your data? Well today there are numerous resources such as Prey, Lookout Security and others, that will help you to retrieve these items if they are lost. But, with Dropbox, retrieving your valuable files and information is easy – they are right where you put them. Anything you upload to the Dropbox is accessible from the Dropbox server – anytime.

Are you travelling and want to ensure that you have access to your conference paper or presentation? While many people simply email a copy of the item to oneself when travelling - Dropbox eliminates the need for the “email backup” strategy. Using the cloud provides a safe, secure, easily accessible virtual file cabinet for all of your work.

Dropbox is free and comes with 2 GB of space which one may use for an unlimited time. Those requiring more space may purchase up to 100GB of space, or teams and administrative groups may access 1TB or more. To download a free copy of Dropbox or to learn more about this helpful resource, please go to

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Want to connect Your Textbooks right into Blackboard for Your Spring Courses?

Now You Can! There are several large book companies working hard to make the integration seamless between the learning management system and the text book. One Company doing just that is Barnes & Noble.

What’s the Big Deal? What’s included in the Barnes & Noble and Blackboard Integration?

nook logo

The Integration contains tools that enable users to do more in their courses:

Link to NOOK Study Tool - Integrates NOOK Study eTextbooks into a syllabus, course content or assignments quickly and easily by enabling educators to create links to chapters, sections or pages of books for their courses.

Textbooks List Tool - Enables textbook eCommerce by giving educators and learners the ability to purchase and distribute eTextbooks from within the LMS environment (NOOK Study eTextbooks often are priced up to 60% less than print textbooks - using NOOK Study can help students save money). Moreover, there are numerous free books available for download.

How can I get Started Using Nook in My Blackboard Course?

The first time you click on a NOOK Study link, you will see a screen (see screen shot below) prompting you to select whether you have NOOK Study installed or not.

  • If you have NOOK Study installed, this choice will be remembered. The next time you click on any NOOK Study link, it will bypass this screen and automatically attempt to launch NOOK Study on your computer. If you have NOOK Study installed on your computer, the link will open the application and if you have purchased the eTextbook for that title, the book will open automatically to the last page read.
  • If you do NOT have NOOK Study installed, clicking on the "I do NOT have NOOK Study" link will take you to the download page where you can download the application. The next time you click on any NOOK Study link, you will be presented with the same screen so that you have the opportunity to launch NOOK Study directly.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Screencasting Made Easy Five Times

Ever need or want to show something to someone and find that describing it over the phone or in an email simply fails to to convey the message? You might consider screecasting. I highlight below several free applications that make screen capture and sharing easy as 1-2-3. Whatever your preference, each of these tools are easy to use, highly useful, and easy to share.


1. Jing ( An excellent system from TechSmith which allows users to make five-minute screencaptures and either download the videos or post them to Beyond recording video, Jing also allows you to take a picture of any portion of your desktop, draw on it, add a message, then upload your media to a free hosting account. You then receive a small URL that you can share with others who may need to see the image or video. Works with Macs and Windows machines.




2. Screenr ( A tool that allows users to make screencasts without downloading any software. Simply click the record button, capture the screen and then share the recording.  



3. Screencast-O-Matic ( A Java-based screencasting tool that uses only one-click and allows for up to 15 minute screencasts that are hosted on the site or uploaded to YouTube. Watch a quick demo Demo.



4. Wink ( This tool is a can capture screenshots & enables users to add explanation boxes, buttons, titles & more. It supports various output formats like .EXE, .FLV, .HTML, etc.




5. ScreenCastle ( This tool allows users the ability to launch the screencast recorder and record a screencast directly from their browser.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Android 4.0 OS

With all of the excitement about the release of the Android 4.0 OS and our recent posts about mobile computing applications, it may be a good time to consider whether this new operating system dubbed “Ice Cream Sandwich will extend mobile computing options for students and faculty in a meaningful way. Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is the latest version of the android operating system and purportedly combines the best features of predecessors, Gingerbread and Honeycomb.




(ICS) features a new, polished button less interface in which apps are controlled through virtual buttons at the bottom of the screen. The intuitive and adaptive nature of the virtual interface is intended to significantly enhance multi-tasking by allowing one to more easily see, navigate and close applications.




Improvements that may be particularly attractive to students and faculty at include better camera functionality and a “People App” that will combine and centralize access to various social networking feeds. Improvements in copy and paste functions and the ability to more easily create screenshots have also been made. Of particular note is the improved the keyboard and dictionary functionality of ICS. According to Google developers “Error correction and word suggestion are improved through a new set of default dictionaries and more accurate heuristics for handling cases such as double-typed characters, skipped letters, and omitted spaces. Word suggestion is also improved and the suggestion strip is simplified to show only three words at a time. To fix misspelled words more easily, Android 4.0 [also] adds a spell-checker that locates and underlines errors and suggests replacement words. With one tap, users can choose from multiple spelling suggestions, delete a word, or add it to the dictionary."



Faculty or students with low vision will also be able to explore the screen of an ICS ready device by dragging their fingers across the screen. An internal app configured to act as a screen reader will provide voice descriptions of the content.

Several devices that have or are expected to get Android 4.0 include the Samsung galaxy nexus and Motorola devices such as the Droid Razr, Razr, Droid Bionic and Xoom tablet.

To learn more about the exciting and “delicious” options offered by Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich, go to

Friday, October 28, 2011

How To Web Enhance Your Course

You want to Web Enhance Your course without recreating the Wheel? Use Videos to Enrich Your Content with a multimedia approach.

There are several great sites to search for valuable educational content for your course and in this blog we will outline a few.

YouTube is the most popular site to host videos – both from mainstream publishers, like the Royal Family and The Whitehouse – as well as general users.  YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world.  It hosts both informational and instructional videos, including “screencasts”, i.e. video recordings of screen activity that shows you how to use software or work through websites, etc.

YouTube EDU – aggregates all the videos from more than 100 institutions of higher education around the US.


youtube logo


There is also a direct link in Blackboard to Youtube so the integration is easy!


More General video sites

Academic Earth – Thousands of video lectures from the world’s top scholars

Google Video – videos on all topics

TED videos – ideas worth spreading; riveting talks by remarkable people worldwide

Vimeo – a thriving community of people who love to make and share video offers videos related to mathematics, physics, electronics concept videos


Don’t forget the NBC Lean Video archives that are resource tools inside of Blackboard and your textbook course sites such as McGrawHill. Both of these content providers have partnerships and integrations with Blackboard Learn.


How To video sites


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Graspr – The instructional video network

Howcast – How-to videos

5min Life Videopedia – instructional and how-to videos

SuTree – Learn virtually everything by watching how to videos from all over the web

Video Jug – Life explained. On film.


One tip for implementation: When you are adding these components to your Blackboard course make sure that you are linking to the material instead of embedding the video.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mobile Apps Find increasing Popularity on College Campuses

Public Universities are increasingly embracing or are expected to embrace the use of mobile apps by 2012. According to Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, “ 55.3 percent of public universities have already activated mobile apps or will do so in the coming academic year, compared to 32.5 percent in fall 2010 (Raths, 2011).”

Among the most popular mobile apps are those offered through Blackboard, which now account for almost 3 million downloads.

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Pursuing innovation and comprehensive innovation of mobile apps for learning and social media, schools like Cuyahoga Community College are customizing Blackboard Mobile applications to provide “student life-related modules” in addition to traditional learning options. Christina Royal, associate vice president for eLearning and innovation at Cuyahoga Community College emphasizes that she wants to ensure that everything that learners at her school need to be successful are essentially at their fingertips. Providing information in “, easy to access place [may hopefully lead to] an increase in student interaction, engagement [and] achievement (United Business Wire, 2011).”

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Here at UDC the Center for Academic Technology (CAT) maintains mobile learning and related applications to facilitate teaching, research and learning. For example, faculty may search library resources using the WRLC Catalog (Aladin), search other member libraries, access basic info about each member library including phone number(s), map, library hours, and website, check the status of their books, renew books or items checked out, access their Blackboard courses via the Blackboard Mobile App or borrow mobile computing devices such as ipads, iPods, Flip Cameras, Android Tablets or Laptops. Using the Blackboard App, faculty can post class announcements, manage course related tasks, create discussion threads, respond to student discussion posts and more. Students can view announcements, participate in online class discussions, view their grades, manage school related tasks, organize study groups, access course loaded music, videos and images and more. Many of the features of Blackboard Mobile can be accessed through the tablet devices mentioned above as well as iPhones, iPods, and Blackberrys. To learn more about using the LRD/CAT Mobile App and to download, go to:


Raths, D. (2011). Campus Computing Survey: Mobile Apps Grow, Cloud Adoption Slow. Retrieved from

United Business Media (2011). Blackboard Mobile Apps Reach Nearly Three Million Downloads. Retrieved from

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Secure is Your Smartphone or Mobile Device?

The growing popularity of smartphones and mobile devices has made them attractive to purveyors of malicious software. McAffee reports a 46 percent increase in mobile device malware threats since 2010 (International Business Times, 2011). But, according to a report published by the Georgia Tech Information Security Center and the Georgia Tech Research Institute, these threats have been particularly concerning for colleges where attacks on smart phones and related mobile devices have been on the increase (Rice, 2011).

Why Smart phones are vulnerable

There are a number of reasons that smart phones are particularly vulnerable to cyber threats. Dmitri Alperovitch, independent security expert and former vice president of Threat Research at McAfee states, “Mobile phones represent a physical part of your identity. They know and can share your location, can take photos and record videos (Ahamad and Rotoloni 2011:4).” So if an attacker is able to gain access to and remotely control one’s mobile device he or she can use the phone to record private conservations, take photos, retrieve financial information and much more. Reviewing the permissions of many mobile apps for android phones reveals that many popular services request permission to control the phone settings, retrieve information, take photos etc. These types of applications while popular, potentially compromise the security of android mobile devices.

A related concern for smartphone users is the small screen size of these devices which prevents the user from being able to completely view/review website addresses. Specifically, visual cues which are present in web addresses are often missing from small screens where address bars are quickly removed to optimize viewing capacity. Users may thus inadvertently click on a link that exposes their systems to malware (Rice, 2011).

Additionally, according to the Georgia Tech Report, mobile applications are also browser dependent, making them more vulnerable to increasing web based attacks. Malware targeted toward mobile devices, particularly through web browser based attacks, may be used to compile extensive databases of information on users including their name, address, gender, location, financial status, spending habits and so on.

What is being done generally to protect mobile devices

Currently encapsulation and data encryption processes are preferred methods of securing mobile devices. There are also discussions of biometric security measures such as photo recognition and iris recognition applications that take advantage of features commonly present in mobile devices Ahamad and Rotoloni (2011).

The smartphone security software market is also expected to expand by almost $3 billion dollars by 2017 providing additional options to users seeking to secure their devices (Chapman, 2011). In the meantime, proactivity will be the order of the day to ensure the security of your mobile device.

What you can do to protect your Mobile Device?

Some general tips to help you protect the security of your smartphone or mobile device include the following:

1. The first thing to do is to make sure that you have security/anti-virus software installed on your mobile device. Some good options include:

Kaspersky Mobile Security

McAffee Mobile Security

Webroot Secure Anywhere

Trend Micro Mobile Security

2. Check the permissions you must accept to download apps from the android market avoiding those which provide autonomous access to the features of your mobile device. In this regard it is best to remember that a smart phone (and related mobile device) is a personal computer. Treating them as such from a security perspective makes sense if you wish to protect your personal information. If you would not give a stranger access to your home or personal computer then you don’t want to give him or her inappropriate access to your smartphone (tablet, etc.).

3. If you use Wi-Fi only use access encrypted or firewall protected Wi-Fi___33 hotspots.

4. Avoid using your mobile devices for financial transactions, particularly if you are using an unsecured Wi-Fi___33 Hotspot.


Ahamad, M and Rotoloni, B. (2011). Emerging Cyber Threats Report 2010. Georgia Tech. Information Security Center and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Retrieved from

Chapman, P. (2011). Smartphone security software market set to grow to $3 billion: Retrieved from

International Business Times (IBS) (2011). Top Ten Security Software for Smartphones and Mobile Devices. Retrieved from

Rice, A. (2011). Smartphones Present Growing Security Problems on Campus, Report Says. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Friday, October 14, 2011

Want To Share Ideas and Links With Your Colleagues? Social Bookmarking is the Way!

If you want to share web links with others, then social bookmarking services are an easy way to do this.   Today we are going to look at how to use social bookmarking services to store and share your own bookmarks.

Most people are familiar with collecting and storing bookmarks in their browsers, known as “Favorites” or “Bookmarks.” However, social bookmarking is about collecting and storing bookmarks online and then sharing them with others.

An extra aspect of social bookmarking is that the bookmarks can be tagged, this means categorizing or describing them using keywords defined by the user, which means that they then become searchable by others.

For general information about social bookmarking, take a look at 7 things you should know about social bookmarking.

Two popular social bookmarking tools are Delicious and Diigo.

delicious logo – is a very popular free social bookmarking tool.

Earlier we looked at how you could use Delicious to find useful resources, today we are focusing on using Delicious to store and share your own links.

To save links in Delicious you will need to have an account.  When you sign up you can also install two buttons for your browser toolbar, so that you can quickly bookmark items when you are moving around the web.

To add a web resource to your Delicious account, click the “tag” button on the toolbar and enter the details (including the tagging) in the dialogues box that opens. Note, With Delicious you can mark any links you store as “private” so they will not be found by others  publically.

You can share your bookmarks with others by giving people the link to your public bookmarks.

You can also create a library of Delicious links, e.g. a team resource list, by agreeing on a tag that you and others will use, so that all links tagged in the same way can be grouped appear together.  Each of the group can then subscribe to that tag.

For more information about Delicious and how to get started, take a look at the Help section.

Note:Yahoo recently sold Delicious, so expect to see some new functionality shortly.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Text to Speech (TTS) – Revisited

Have you ever used a text-to-speech function either on your computer operating system or via freeware? You might rethink how you have used it in the past or think about using it now after you read this blog. Text to speech (TTS) is a functionality that serves many purposes. The primary purpose of TTS is for accessibility – assisting those with low vision, blindness, or dyslexia; although TTS may serve us all with a multiplicity of outcomes. For example, you might consider selecting a block of text and have the TTS application read it back to you as your personal narrator helping you edit.

You might also use TTS to read blocks of text you have posted to your online course to better understand how students using screen readers will interact and understand your text. You may find that context or meaning is lost as a TTS reader stumbles over technical words. This will assist you in writing cleaner text enabling all students the ability to have a clear understanding of the subject matter.

I have heard others who extol the TTS function as a way to proofread their work when the services of an editor are unaffordable or unavailable. You might also consider asking students to use the TTS tool as a way to proofread their work before submitting it for grade. We often overlook errors – the TTS application may help students catch simple errors that will result in their earning a higher grade. Regardless of how you use TTS, the possibilities are numerous and often overlooked.

Use Microsoft OS TTS


Better yet – Imtranslator <>


Friday, October 7, 2011


Want to add a little variety to your course? Want to Address Different Learning Strategies of the Students You Serve? Well adding podcasts just might be your answer!

In an elemental sense, a podcast is an audio recording that has been compressed into a MP3 file and distributed over the internet to multimedia players. Podcasting and its distribution using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed aggregation can be traced back to 2003 and the work of Adam Curry and Dave Winer. Podcasts can be played on computers (PCs/Macs) or downloaded onto MP3 devices like iPods as well as other MP3 players.  Although they get their name from the contraction of the words “iPod” and “broadcasting,” you don’t have to have an iPod to listen to them!  Podcasts are flexible and portable, as such, students or anyone wanting to tune-in can listen to them not only on a desktop, but also on the move – jogging, working out, on the Metro, or travelling.



There are great podcast created in nearly all fields including: psychology, political science, biology, and music to name a few. Many institutions such as DUKE, Harvard, MIT or University of Maryland have created podcasts for public consumption where anyone may subscribe.

Podcasts allow instructors the ability to address different learning strategies that students may prefer. For example, in a hybrid or online course where most of the material may be visual, a podcast provides an opportunity to connect students to the material in an alternative manner.

Sources of Podcasts

There are many resources available to locate appropriate podcasts to use or subscribe to. Alternatively, instructors may easily create their own podcasts for instructional use. Research some of the following options to see what is available in your discipline. You may like to start with iTunes or iTunesU.


itunes logo2


The iTunes Store provides a one stop shop for listening to a huge range of free audio and video podcasts – over 150,000 from independent creators, as well as big names such as HBO, NPR, C-SPAN, ESPN.  You can listen to podcasts on your computer, any MP3 player, iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, although you will need to download the iTunes application first.   Find out more about finding, subscribing to and managing iTunes podcasts here.

Other podcast sites

BBC Podcasts - podcasts from BBC radio stations

LearnOutLoud - one-stop destination for audio and video learning (many free)

Podictionary – Podictionary is the audio word-a-day from  Charles Hodgson

iTunes U – a powerful distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours

80 excellent podcasts for every kind of classroom, Click the link and find dozens of podcast sources separated by general discipline areas.


Create Your Own Podcast

Blackboard allows you the opportunity to create your own podcasts with the help of Blackboard Collaborate or Wimba. You may also use Audacity or GarageBand (MAC) as alternative external resources to create podcasts; although you will need to know a bit more about compressing and editing them.

Creating podcasts are a great way to add your personal insights on course material for your students or a way to drill-down on specific content that your students may need additional support in understanding. You may also use Podcasts as a recap of your face-to-face instruction or as a way to present guest lecturers. Some faculty find that delivering lecture material by podcasts frees up the classroom or synchronous discussions for more focused deliberations and case studies.

Some of the earliest research on Podcasting in higher education (Harkness 2006) found that initially faculty were more likely to be the producers of podcasts while students the consumers. But the use of podcasting is not limited to faculty use only. In fact, some faculty encourage student collaboration and podcast production and editing. Podcasting is also being used by administrations for a multiplicity of purposes.

If you think you will need a little help getting one of these recorded, professional development workshops are scheduled through the Center for Academic Technology at the University of the District of Columbia to get you up-to-speed!

Click this link to review the schedule for October and November as well as get registered for a session:


Harkness, S.S. J. (2006, August). Podcasting: A pocket full of power and intellectual property issues. (Paper presented at the 102nd American Political Science Association Annual National Conference, Philadelphia).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Introducing the New Kindle Fire

The internet has been a buzz since last week when Amazon unveiled the new Kindle Fire. Adding size and tablet-like functionality to its popular Kindle device, the Kindle Fire is purported to be a potential contender for the mobility device top spot. Amazon has been very careful to market the Kindle Fire as a Kindle device – not as a tablet – consider that it is an ebook reader, a magazine reader, a comic book reader, and a media player (for movies and music purchased through Amazon). There is also a Web browser and you can buy apps (purchased through Amazon's store), but they aren't hyping it.




Measuring only 7-inches, the Kindle Fire is smaller than the ipad, but it is distinguished by a dual core processor; a rich, color drenched display and a quick, intuitive touchscreen. It has a reported 8-hour battery life and supports both public and private Wi-Fi networks. Of particular note is the Kindle Fire’s interface with Amazon content, providing users with access to over 18 million books, songs, TV-shows and movies. Amazon’s app store also provides access to over 10,000 games, tools and resources which will run on the Kindle Fire’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system.

Previously ipad users could point to an advantage over the Kindle because in addition to college textbooks, the ipad stores video lectures, online notes, lab materials and more. This essentially meant that a student could carry his or her entire classroom on an ipad. Kindle Fire users will have access to similar functionality facilitated in part by access to cloud storage, which incidentally, is free for all Amazon content. Therefore, it does not matter much that the Kindle Fire won't have much memory or expandable storage. Additionally, Kindle fire users will be able to access Word, PDF and related documents.

Summary specs for the Kindle Fire are as follows:

7 inch IPS 1024×600 resolution display with 169 PPI

7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″ (190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm) at 14.6 ounces (413 grams)

dual-core processor

8GB of internal storage

Up to 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback (charges in four hours and can be charged using a USB port on your PC)

802.11b/g/n WiFi (no ad-hoc support)

microUSB 2.o

3.5mm headphone jack and top-mounted external speakers

Available for preorder at the Amazon website, the Kindle Fire is competitively priced at $199. “The Kindle Fire will be a tablet for users who know how to take advantage of a tablet, and it will be a Kindle for users who just want a media player and book reader” says Will Greenwald (2011 PCMag).

To learn more about the Kindle Fire, please click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Using Wimba AKA Blackboard Collaborate™ to Create a Voice Announcement in Your Blackboard Course

NOTE: Wimba has merged with Elluminate under a Blackboard purchase. As such the new product, called Blackboard Collaborate™  combines the capabilities of industry leaders, Blackboard,  Wimba and Elluminate, to provide a comprehensive learning platform designed specifically for education. Within the next couple of weeks, we will have full access to this new and improved collaboration tool. The Blackboard Collaborate™ platform is all about helping instructors create virtual classrooms, offices and meeting spaces that open more possibilities to more students.


Have you ever wanted to post a voice message to learners in your online course? Now you can. Blackboard Collaborate™ allows users to use voice integration tools to incorporate voice announcements into your courses.

From the course menu, select Announcement and you will be taken to the announcement page. Next, select Create Announcement. You will be taken to the Announcement Information screen.


WimbaV1                             WimbaV2

Select the Add Mashup icon. You will then see a list of Mashups you may add to your announcement. To add a Voice Announcement select Wimba Voice Authoring.




Next a browser window will pop-up giving you the option of recording your voice announcement. Before doing so, make sure your USB microphone is plugged in. Click the red record button to record your message and click the stop button when you have completed.




Click “Submit” when you have finished your recording. Note, you can record over existing recordings until it meets your satisfaction, and then press submit again. Your voice announcement will be included in the announcement section of your course. Students will be able to click on the “Play” button to hear your recorded message.


To learn more about the Blackboard Collaborate™ solution, click here to watch a short video.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Accessibility and Universal Design: The Google Way

As institutions look to take advantage of more tools and technologies to serve all students, Google gives faculty another couple of tools for their accessibility toolbox. This blog will outline three essential areas where Google has worked hard to increase accessibility for the blind community.

Google+ has been a great tool that many of us have used but the video quality has been poor. Chief Engineer, Chee Chew states that Goolge+ has been working to improve the video quality and sustainability in an effort to increase the ability for the deaf and hard of hearing population to see sign language.

How many people have been victim to the buffering monster? Or the quality of the video does not allow for sudden sharp movements? Well while these may be just a nuisance for some of us, they pose as serious barriers for the blind community where individuals need to be able to observe signing.

google plus image

Google has also been working with specific advocacy organizations for the blind to make other products more accessible such as Google Docs. The new features allow for more efficient keyboard shortcuts and support for the usages of screen readers in Google Docs, as well as Google Sites and Google Calendar. For more information about how to get started using Google Docs with a screen reader visit their website:


google docs image


Calendars are an essential time management tool for most in our current society. Now there is more accessibility for the blind community of the Google Calendar app. The calendar now supports the usage of assistive technology software for JAWS Screen Reader Software, Apple’s VoiceOver software that is built into every single Mac and Chrome’s ChromeVox screen reader application.

For information on all the new accessibility functionality visit Google’s Official Blog:

In addition, for a complete list of all the added keyboard shortcuts and more information about screen reader functionality for Google, you can find more information here:

google calendar image

Monday, September 19, 2011


Do you struggle with organizing and citing your online research sources? Would you like some help collecting and managing bibliographic data from webpages? Then Zotero may be the solution for you!

Part of our job as educators is to help learners differentiate between good and bad sources of information found online. But, once we have done that and our learners understand where to find good sources of web based information, they may nonetheless struggle with how to correctly cite, extract and organize information from those sources. This is where Zotero can help.

Zotero is a free, Firefox add-on that captures, formats and saves bibliographic information from webpages. Created by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, this user friendly tool acts like a personal assistant in your browser. According to developers, Zotero works by automatically sensing content and adding it to one’s personal library. This content can include PDFs, images, audio and video files, snapshots of web pages and more.

Zotero features include:

· Automatic capture of citation information from web pages

· Storage of PDFs, files, images, links, and whole web pages

· Flexible notetaking with autosave and much more…

This resource also integrates with both Microsoft word and OpenOffice and provides servers at where users can create, synchronize and back up a research library. Once a user has created and added content to their personal library, Zotero automatically creates a searchable index of its contents.

To learn more about Zotero or to download this free, easy-to-use tool, check either of the following links:



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Share your Presentations

Whether you are a student or faculty, presentations are a way of life in the academy! Sharing those presentations has taken on a whole new approach with some recent technology advances. In this blog, we will explore some of the latest tools you can use to share your presentations with peers, teachers, or other colleagues across the country.

prezi_logo –  is a new type of presentation tool that supports the online creation and sharing of presentations in a non-linear format. It is often referred to as the “zooming presentation editor.” This cloud-based presentation software opens up a new world between whiteboards and slides. The zoomable canvas makes it fun to explore ideas and the connections between them.

The result: visually captivating presentations that lead your audience down a path of discovery. Great for design and you can also add video to your presentations. Watch this short video to learn all you need to know to get started with your first Prezi!


Slideshare with Zipcast Feature


Slideshare has been around for some time and is another great resource used to share your presentations and word documents. However there is a new feature in Slide share that allows you to offer a more dynamic experience to the viewer of your presentation with the recently, released Zipcast – 1-click. This provides a (private or public) personalized meeting room, where you can use:

- any presentation
- streaming live video
- group chat.

Plus, there is also Facebook and Twitter integration. Here’s a screenshot of what the Zipcast feature looks like from a Guide to Using social media course I am enrolled in:

zipcast picture

Friday, September 9, 2011

Google Alerts

Overloaded with Information on the Web? Google Alerts Could be Your Solution!

In today’s society the internet has a lot of useful information to keep faculty and students up-to-speed on current research and trends in specific disciplines. However, sometimes because of the amount or volume of information readily available at your finger tips, it can be overwhelming. One solution is Google alerts.

Google tracks new content on the web, so you can use Google Alerts – to monitor new content of interest and have it emailed to you with links to the articles or news.

google-alert image 1

The Google Alerts home page explains how this is useful for the following activities:

- monitoring a developing news story
- keeping current on a competitor or industry
- getting the latest on an event

To set up an alert, use the form on the right hand side of the Google alerts home page and enter:

- the search terms you are looking for
- the type of monitoring you want to take place, the default is “Everything”, i.e. news, blogs, web and videos
- how often you want to receive an email and its length
- your email address – where you want to receive the alerts.

image 2-google alert

Once you have set up the alert, you will start receiving emails with links to new content, e.g. here is one email I received based on my Google Alert for “social learning.”

Google Alerts image_3

If you have a Google account, you can sign in to manage your alerts – i.e. amend or delete existing ones and/or add new ones.

Happy Searching!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten tips for Onboarding Students to Blackboard

1. Prepare a trial week – A trial week is like a prequel to the real thing. Have students submit a faux assignment, take a mock quiz, use the journals or participate in a discussion board. You may elect to give a grade (pass/fail) for the assignment.  If you elect to use a quiz, the quiz will usually just have a couple of multiple choice questions.  The goal is for students to feel comfortable with Blackboard before the grades REALLY count.

2. Scaffold the usage of tools: Scaffolding is an educational term that refers to the purposeful sequencing of content and instruction.  Therefore, before using wiki's in the classroom, you might want to first discuss how to write for the Internet (individual writing). Then perhaps move to discussion boards to practice how to comment and critique the ideas and words of others.  Finally, introduce the wiki, which employs the aforementioned skills and adds another level of collaboration.

3. Use Screencasts to model Blackboard functionality: Screencasts are short videos which record you computer screen, mouse movements and voice.  Screencasts are an effective way to model Blackboard functionality to students.  You may also use them to review q quiz or explain an assignment. To learn more about Screencasts, check out Jing as a tool to product screencasts

4. Discuss pedagogy and learning/course objectives: If the students don't know WHY they are doing something, it's likely they won't do it well/correctly. Take the time to explain how the activities align to the expected learning objectives and how you will assess their learning. Make sure you provide adequate descriptions of activities to be performed on Blackboard.

5. Write concise instructions and descriptions: Never post an item without a description.  Cite due dates, cite connections to the course and learning objectives, share what they should try to extract from the activity/reading/movie/PPT.  Oftentimes, students JUMP right into Blackboard, the couple of sentences they spend reading your description before they open a file may be the only academic orientation they experience.  Make it concise and to the point!

6. Use appropriate tools to drive learning:  Use Blackboard tools in the class.  Use podcasts, blogs, screencasts, or voice memos to share information with the class.  The more you use various tools, the greater your personal comfort level and more engaged the student will feel.  The literature tells us that instructor’s who use technology tools as part of their instruction see greater learning outcomes than instructor’s who ask students to interact individually with web-based technology or applications.

7. Share your experiences with technology: Converse about Blackboard before complaining starts.  Be open and honest with the students.  The shared experience will build community.  Also consider creating a discussion board that acts as a town hall or digital cafe.  Allow students to post their comments, concerns, ideas, or simply vent.  Be sure to participate in this discussion; the students will appreciate your presence and engagement.

8. Discuss academic integrity:  It's so easy and tempting for students to plagiarize.  Have an honest discussion about your expectations with the class.  Also introduce SafeAssign, the Blackboard submission tool that checks for plagiarism.

9. Set ground rules for academic versus non-academic writing:  Students should not treat Blackboard like it is Facebook or Instant Messaging.  Be sure to set ground rules for what type of writing is acceptable for your class.  

10. Mention all sources of support: Did you know that all University of the District of Columbia students have access to FREE Online Tutoring through SMARTHINKING?

To access FREE tutoring:

1. Log into your Blackboard account

2. Select a course

3. Select "tools" on the left

4. Scroll down to click “Smarthinking login

If your students have difficulties accessing their course or its content, have them call the Bb helpdesk - 202-274-5665 or toll free- 877-736-2585, or visit the Bb knowledge base for self-help and tutorials

The helpdesk is available 24/7/365

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Do you want to have your students build a portfolio of work from a capstone project or senior thesis? Or are you looking for a learning style inventory to use with your students? If so, Mahara is the right tool for you.

What is Mahara?

Mahara (meaning 'think' or 'thought' in te reo Māori) is a free, open source e-portfolio resource for students and faculty that also features a robust social networking platform. Mahara can be used to create collections of artifacts from one’s personal accomplishments to share with friends, family, potential employers, research funders and more. It can also be used as a means for planning and managing one’s projects and life goals. Mahara also allows you to embed third-party sources from other internet sites and collaborate on groups projects with other users.


What are some ways that students use Mahara?

Students typically use Mahara to create and share resumes and personal blogs.


An example below shows a general use of Mahara by a soccer fan to create an entertaining blog:


 How do Educators use Mahara?

Intended to provide users with a Learning centered – Personal Learning Environment, Mahara also links well with the architectural configuration of learning/course management system. Faculty teaching online, hybrid/blended or technologically enhanced courses may use Mahara to coordinate, monitor and assess group projects. They may also collaborate with colleagues on research projects or create electronic portfolios that are a useful extension of their CV.

Educators wishing to better accommodate the learning styles of their learners can also have their students take a learning style inventory that is available in Mahara. In sum, Mahara is a cool and efficient means to document achievements, collaborate on projects, create blogs, build resumes, share ideas and more.

How can I try it out?

If you want to experiment with the features of Mahara before signing up for a free account, you can visit the Mahara demo site.  You can also see a quick informative introduction to Mahara here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Creating Content in Blackboard

Blackboard has streamlined the process for creating content. Pages which allow content creation will have the following tabs. This post will show the contents of each tab.

Build Content

This tab is used primarily for content YOU will provide. Creating an item or file allows you to create text items (you can also upload attachments) or simply upload a file (using the file option). This is primarily where you would post your syllabus or post other files for general consumption by students.

Be sure to categorize items efficiently, if you are going to be posting weekly readings or course notes, make a folder first, and then put the items into the folder. Try to avoid randomly placing files in Blackboard, it confuses the students and ultimately will confuse you as well.c2.jpg

Create Assessment

c3.jpgIn addition to test and surveys (ungraded tests), the Self and Peer Assessment option is available as well as SafeAssign.

The Assignment utility is where you would set up assignments which require something to be submitted or tracked.

Interactive Tools


These tools allow you to actively engage students online. If you don’t fully understand a tool, it’s probably best not to employ it in class until you do. Keep an eye out for upcoming workshops in these areas.