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.