Mane (CRIN 604)

         Digital tools in education

May 11, 2010

Google Docs and Collaboration

Filed under: Google Docs — mepada @ 8:34 am

In May of this year Gene Roche, Evan Cordulack and I plan to offer a May Seminar on Collaborative Writing. We decided that most people at W&M have already been exposed to wikis in some shape or form so we want to introduce an app that may not be that familiar to m ost: Googel Docs.

May 8, 2010

Course Reflections

Filed under: Course reflections — mepada @ 4:02 pm

The course description states: “Students will be provided with a variety of opportunities to examine, apply, and critique the instructional affordances and constraints of a variety of digital learning tools, focusing upon how they can be utilized to support teaching and learning, professional development, communication and collaboration, and educational media production.”..and we did just that (and more!).

I really enjoyed learning about new technologies being implemented in the K-12 environment. Tools such as:

  • Lego Robotics (better work on my math skills)
  • Scratch (I have shown it to all my kids)
  • Diigo (which I have totally adopted and plan to always “carry” with me)
  • Digital microscopes (where was this technology when I was a kid?)
  • Food Force (talk about making kids aware of real world-related issues!)
  • Elluminate and Learn Central (wish I could hold most of my meetings via this technology)
  • Digital Storytelling (great way to integrate multimedia with content. Great items to add to one’s e-portfolio)
  • Google Earth (could spend a whole day “going” places!)
  • Inspiration (amazing project management/presentation organization tool)
  • Second Life (close to my heart!)
  • Quest Atlantis (Second Life with a purpose!)
  • and more!

Larry Cuban’s book opened my eyes to the more serious challenges and issues that come along with trying to implement technology (cost, teacher training, large-scale implementation, technology acceptance (or lack-of) attitudes, etc.). He offers a realistic (sometimes in my opinion, almost pessimistic) description of what really goes on (at least in some school districts). His books make you think twice before adopting and/or trying to push technology into the classroom!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the NMC decided to publish a K-12 Horizon Report edition. I find it very helpful to learn about technologies being used and the technologies we need to “watch” at the K-12 levels. It helps determine which technologies should/need to carry over the Higher-Ed environment. Many of the technologies being considered at the lower levels are the same technologies being discussed and tested at the Higher -Ed level (collaborative environments, online communication tools, mobiles, cloud computing, etc.)

Discovering different ways to connect and network with our colleagues and field professionals was not just interesting but extremely valuable!:

  • Learn central and Elluminate allowed me not only to be involved as a participant, but also as a coordinator and facilitator of our own webinar!
  • The VSTE webinars/meetings in Second Life helped increased my level of involvement and engagement in SL.
  • VSTE Ning let me connect with other educators through discussion groups and forums.

The video project was a great way to look at the technology we chose for our project (in my case, Second Life) “up close and personal”. To watch/help an instructor actually go through the whole process (pre-planning, implementation, lessons learned) gave me the whole perspective. I was able to witness the complexities involved in trying to introduce a resource heavy technology and the amount of work it takes to integrate a new concept into one’s curriculum. It gave me a very clear idea of this tool’s constraints and affordances.

This was a great class! I love the hands-on/learn by doing approach to learning so in that sense,  this course was right up my alley!

Thanks Karen! Learned a lot!

April 30, 2010

(Webinar) Second Life: My own experience

Filed under: Second Life — mepada @ 9:02 am

Webinar: Learn Central May 5, 2010


The phone call:

Two years ago now, a professor in the Law School, Stacey Rae Simcox, who teaches a course called Crime and the Internet contacted me about the possibility of supporting and helping her with a technology tool she wanted to use in her classroom: Second Life. At the time, not being a gamer (yet), I had not been exposed to virtual worlds, multi-users games, avatars, and the like.

I decided this sounded like a very interesting project so I embarked myself in this new adventure.

Let’s do it:

After downloading  the game and creating an avatar (I made sure my virtual self is taller and had a smaller nose!), I attended the tutorial offered in the Help and Orientation Islands and once I “graduated” took off flying into new lands.

I learned very quickly as mentioned in Risk and Responsibility: A Self-Study of Teaching with Second Life (SULLIVAN, 2009) that one “must be willing to leave their comfort zone, to tolerate a certain level of chaos and ambiguity, be willing to take risks and willing to be wrong”.

Oh my, how true this statement is! Second Life is in many ways, just like our first life. It is a society with its own set of rules and guidelines. I had to learn to walk, run and fly! I had to understand the way avatars communicate (via mic, and/or chat).

I had to learn which places to go and which to avoid.

I realized I had to get money (via a job or buying lindens with a credit card) in order to purchase and own things.

I discovered that there is an appropriate dress code in some venues and that I can’t just change clothes (which implies I get naked) everywhere.

I also found out I can attend wonderful music events, visit replicas of real-life museums, teleport myself to cities and countries I have never visited in my first life, speak a foreign language with other avatars, discuss professional topics with others in the field, and much more!

The class:

After my initial experience with Second Life I called Stacey Rae and told her I was on board!

We conducted several meetings to plan and organize the virtual sessions.

We checked with IT to ensure a room and enough headsets.

We also requested availability of enough broadband to avoid clogging our network.

I asked one of our IT tech support staff members to be there for additional support.

Most of her students have never heard of SL(or virtual worlds for that matter) so this was a new experience for them.

  • First meeting: 9/22/08
    • We took her students to a lab and asked them to bring their laptops (they downloaded SL before that class period)
    • We met for class and opened SL. They were asked to create their avatars.
    • Then we all m et in the Orientation Island to learn some basic SL skills.
    • Following that activity Stacey Rae teleported the whole class to a “freebies” store to buy clothes.
    • Once they chose what they wanted to wear, she assigned several activities:
      • To go to London and take a ride on a double-decker bus.
      • To go somewhere they always wanted to visit.
      • The second half of the class was spent in San Miguel at their police department.
      • The chief of Police and some of the force’s officers greeted us and took us to a conference room where we all took our seats.
      • The chief of Police introduced the class to SL’s Terms of Service, griefing, stealing, banning of avatars, and other related topics..
      • His presentation was followed by a Q&A session.
  • Second meeting: 10/10/08
    • The second time we met we met at the East Carolina University campus (ECU)
    • They lent us their space in order to conduct class.
    • Their sat on floating chairs and Stacey Rae had access to a classroom podium.
    • Students discussed the assigned articles for that day and shared their feelings about holding class in SL.
    • One of the students, who was not in VA at the time, joined from Spain.
    • Students got a chance to raise their hands and ask questions during class.
  • Third meeting: 2/9/10
    • This time we met at the Law School.
    • We experienced connection issues so the group was split into two groups and one of the groups was taken to another class.
    • Stacey Rae assigned someone to be their coordinator and she communicated with him via a headset.
    • The students spent some time buying things, going places and dancing!
    • Afterwards we met at a different police department.
    • The chief of police introduced some new topics such as virtual rape, child pornography, how to report abuse, etc.
    • Here again, students had an opportunity to ask questions (via mic and/or chat)

Lessons learned:

  • Benefits:
    • Engagement: The level of participation and engagement was very high. Students became very curious about this new environment.
    • Most students learned the basics fairly quick. They were able to navigate the land and communicate with other avatars without incident.
    • A new way to deliver information: Stacey Rae was able to recruit help from experts in the field of crime in a virtual world, bringing validity and confirmation to the curriculum content.
    • Experiential: Students not only learned by doing but they were also able to transfer that knowledge within SL and apply it towards new experiences.
    • Constraints:
      • Headphones: Not all students had headsets and we had to find a way to either borrow and/or purchase headsets to distribute to all her students.
      • Chatting function: Some of the students used the chatting feature within SL to talk about non-related topics. Students oftentimes do this in other classes. The difference in SL is that we can actually see these social interactions (via local chat feature)
      • Broadband issues: Connections became very slow when  all the students try to login into SL at the same time.
      • Interface: Not all the students were thrilled to be attending class in SL. This medium does not fit everyone’s learning style.
      • Goofing off: Some students had a difficult time staying on track. They wondered into other lands and established connections with avatars not participating in class.


The face to face interaction seems to generate an intuitive experience with the other people involved, to a degree unmatched by email, instant messaging, or telephone.

The professor can illustrate points visually as well as verbally with minimum effort.

For example, a chemistry professor’s animation of an excited electron, or a simulated discussion with a fictional or historical personage are two examples of the advantages of teaching inworld.

Distance learning becomes much more feasible when students from around the world can log in and interact as if they were sitting next to each other.


Despite an excellent support team, the grid is periodically down because of attacks, server failures, or bugs.

Sometimes, the time it takes for users even with high-bandwidth connections and powerful graphics cards to render a scene can be slow enough that conversation lags or objects fail to be drawn properly.

Users with older machines, or those who can only access Second Life with slow connections, can find Second Life nearly unusable.

Followup conversations:

I approached several of Stacey Rae’s students after class to ask them to share their own thoughts. Most seemed to have enjoyed the experience and were facinated with Second Life (and virtual worlds). These students expressed to actually have learned something new about crime and law in the Internet. They also stated that they were unaware of the complexity of SL’s terms of service and the serious consequences that occur when breaking these terms. They would welcome additional class meetings in SL.

A few told me that SL just was not their “cup of tea” and had a difficult time relating to a virtual environment. They found SL difficult to learn and were not sure of its relationship to the course.

Overall, I believe Stacey Rae is on the right track and I hope she  continues to introduce and expose her students to SL as a way to understand Internet Law.

(Webinar) Second Life: Overview

Filed under: Second Life — mepada @ 8:38 am

Webinar: Learn Central May 5, 2010

My session description:

Ready for a Second Life? Learn more about this 3-D interactive virtual world and find out how K-16 academic institutions are discovering innovative and creative ways of integrating this technology in their classrooms. Mane “Sideways” plans to share with you her own experience and will also talk about lessons learned!


  1. Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that launched on June 23, 2003, and is accessible on the Internet.
  2. A free client program called the Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars.
  3. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world (which residents refer to as “the grid”).
  4. Second Life is for people aged 18 and over, while Teen Second Life is for people aged 13 to 17.
  5. As of January 2010, 18 million accounts were registered.
  6. Built into the software is a three-dimensional modeling tool based around simple geometric shapes that allows a resident to build virtual objects.
  7. There is no charge to create a Second Life account.
  8. A Premium membership (US$9.95/month extends access to an increased level of technical support, and also pays an automatic stipend of L$300/week into the member’s avatar account. Premium membership allows the Resident to own land.
  9. Avatars may take any form users choose (human, animal, vegetable, or mineral) .
  10. An avatar can walk, run, jump, fly, and teleport from one place to another!
  11. To find places to visit an avatar can use the search feature and/or use exact coordinates.
  12. Residents may choose to resemble themselves as they are in real life, or they may choose even more abstract forms.
  13. Avatars can communicate via local chat used for localized public conversations between two or more avatars, and is visible to any avatar within a given distance or global instant messaging (known as IM) for private conversations, either between two avatars, or among the members of a group.
  14. Second Life has an internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$). Lindens can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land or goods and services with other users. Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art.
  15. L$ can be purchased using US Dollars and other currencies on the LindeX exchange provided by Linden Lab, independent brokers or other resident users. The ratio of USD to L$ fluctuates daily (over the last few years they have remained fairly stable at approximately 250 Linden Dollars (L$) to the US Dollar)

Second Life states that Virtual worlds solve many of the challenges faced by educational institutions. Some of those challenges include:

  • Economic pressures from budget cuts.
  • The rising cost of education, and
  • The fact that educators are obligated to creatively “do more with less”.



What are some academic institutions doing in SL?

  • Distance Education
  • Presentations and Discussions
  • Historical Recreations
  • Simulations and Role-Playing
  • Multimedia and Games Design
  • Language Learning Practice

In SL instructors can deliver/offer:

  • Information
  • Immersive environments
  • Data visualization
  • Simulations
  • Building tools
  • Collaboration
  • Social interaction
  • Discussions/ conferences

Some common academic uses are teaching classes and building libraries.

To teach a class in the virtual Second Life world, referred to as inworld, teachers/faculty rent or buy space.

They can also buy or build models of the subject they intend to teach, and invite the class to meet partially or entirely in Second Life.

Some teachers/professors encourage their students to explore Second Life and interview other residents about their experiences.

A few students are developing thesis material from specific aspects of the environment.

If you are familiar with Moodle: A class that is being taught through Moodle, an online course management system, can have its own presence in Second Life, with Sloodle. The Sloodle system provides inworld classroom space, resources, and tools that connect directly to Moodle, adding a new dimension to the power of online education.


At the College of William & Mary Second Life is not a widely adopted (or encouraged) tool.

However, Second Life is used by many other colleges, universities, and libraries. Harvard University, Texas State University, and Stanford University for example, have set up virtual campuses where students can meet, attend classes, and create content together.

Language Education

Language learning is the most widespread type of education in virtual worlds, with many universities, mainstream language institutes and private language schools using 3D virtual environments to support language learning.


Second Life residents express themselves creatively through virtual world adaptations of art exhibits, live music, live theater.


Live theater is presented in Second Life.

In 2009 the company is producing scenes from Twelfth Night.

In 2009, the TLE theater company began producing full-length plays in Second Life, starting with The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in February, and followed by Candida by George Bernard Shaw in April.

In December 2008, The Learning Experience, a not-for-profit virtual education campus in Second Life, staged its first live theater events with the production of two short plays, A Matter of Husbands by Ferenc Molnár and Porcelain and Pink by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The SL Shakespeare Company performed an act from Hamlet live in February 2008.


Second Life is used for scientific research, collaboration, and data visualization.

Examples include SciLands, American Chemical Society’s ACS Island, Genome, Nature Publishing Group’s Elucian Islands Village.


The goals of Literature Alive! are to help faculty create ethical and immersive learning environments that provide “added value” to students in composition, professional writing, and literature courses: to help students use the resources of a 3D world to add to the depth and breadth of understanding literature; to foster a community of open access educators dedicated to the sharing of teaching content; and, finally, to promote a lifelong love of learning through a lifelong passion for reading. Literature Alive! in Second Life was born in December 2006 as a voluntary effort and continues to exist on a voluntary basis. By working collaborative with others, modeling virtual citizenship, and securing land grant and linden sponsors, Literature Alive! has produced over 30 literary projects in Second Life.

Innovative teaching:

Harvard’s ground-breaking class, Cyber One: Law in the Court of Public Opinion. This course is an attempt to create a class that includes Harvard law students, extension students, and the general public, all with different expectations and degrees of involvement.

The New Media Consortium. This is the largest education project in Second Life.


  • Global Kids (Global Kids became the first nonprofit to develop a dedicated space for conducting programming in the virtual world of Teen Second Life (TSL). Within TSL, the organization has established Global Kids Island, which hosts interactive, experiential programs for teens from around the world. Specifically, Global Kids is conducting intensive leadership programming for youth, bringing youth from its New York-based programs into the space, and streaming the audio and video of major events into the world. Global Kids’ work in TSL is conducted in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, UNICEF, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the International Criminal Court, among others.)


  • California State University, Chico (This Second Life location is used as a hub for students of California State University, Chico. Located next to the CSUC School of Social Work, this parcel is dedicated to creating a community of learners engaged in the direct instruction of topics ranging from teacher education to calculus)

  • Georgia State University (Five Points, the public sim for Georgia State University, is designed for instructors who are involved in teaching and learning in Second Life. Highlights include areas for meetings or small clases, a sandbox for building, and a bookstore with self-help on SL topics and organized landmarks for finding educational spots.)

  • Loyola Marymount (Loyola Marymount Virtual University is an effort to construct a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary university in the 3D Internet. Currently it consists of a central arrival area and 4 sims reflecting different disciplines involved in immersive education activities: LMU Psychology Island, LMU Language Island, LMU Engineering Island, and LMU Computer Science Island. Future plans cal for the expansion of the virtual campus to incorporate additional colleges and departments within the university)

  • The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State World Campus is the online campus of The Pennsylvania State University. All World Campus students earn their Penn State degree or certificate completely online. We are using Second Life to give our online and distance learners a way to connect with each other and experience campus traditions in an online environment)

  • The Ohio State University (Minerva is the teaching and research space for the Department of Women’s Studies at The Ohio State University. This island may be inaccessible when classes are in session)

  • The University of Akron – my Alma Matter! (Here you will find excellence in the breadth and quality of our 300 academic degree programs, and in the highly talented faculty who will help mold you into a critical thinker. Here you will find a metropolitan setting that places you in the heart of a dynamic, regional economy, and in sync with the pulse of business, government and the community. Most important, here you will discover energy, in the high-tech classrooms of our new academic buildings, in our new Student Union and Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and among the 200 student organizations on campus)


  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
  • International Spaceflight Museum (NASA):
    • Starward hosts exhibits and events about real-world spacecraft, rockets, and space travel.
  • NMC Campus:
    • This is an experimental effort developed to inform the New Media Consortium’s work in educational gaming
    • This July (2010), thirty stellar K-12 schoolteachers from around the United States will participate in a four-week, National Endowment for the Humanities-funded, summer institute in Oaxaca, Mexico, offered by the Wired Humanities Projects, University of Oregon. The Center for Learning in Virtual Environments will collaborate in the creation of a simulated “Virtual Oaxaca” that will enhance these experiences. The participants will anticipate their experience together by building a virtual environment between April and June. Once in the field, in July, they will use the space to capture and display the journey as it unfolds, engage students from around the world to participate, chronicle what they are learning, and represent and remix their findings with the public.
  • Life Sciences Building:
    • The Center has several exhibits including a large caffeine molecule and an X-ray view box among others.
  • Middletown:
    • Ball State University Libraries obtained funds from the Institute of Museum of Library Services to construct the Middletown Studies Collection Library and Archives, a virtual reference library and exhibition space in Second Life.
  • Cyber One (Harvard Law, 2007): A class entitled ‘Law in the Court of  Public Opinion’, portions of which are being taught in Second Life. The main part of the class is only available to Harvard Law students, but students of the Extension School will be able to experience videos, discussions, and lectures in-world at Berkman Island. You don’t have to be a current student of Harvard Law to attend the Extension class, however, as enrollment is open to the public.
  • Rhetorica (Center for Distance Education University of Alaska):
    • Rhetorica links work blogs, events, and other resources shared by the Design Team at the Center for Distance Education, University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Second Life has twice, in 2007 and 2010, banned a California educational institution, Woodbury University, from having a representation within Second Life.

On 20 April 2010 four simulators belonging to the university were deleted and the accounts of several students and professors terminated, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Professor Edward Clift of Woodbury University stated that their campus “was a living, breathing campus in Second Life”, that included educational spaces designed mostly by students, including a mock representation of the former Soviet Union and a replica of the Berlin Wall.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, the virtual campus did not “conform to what Linden Lab wanted a campus to be”

Tizzers Foxchase, an administrator of the virtual land group for Woodbury University, provided the Herald with a copy of the virtual eviction notice:

Linden Lab has continued to find inappropriate uses of the Second Life region “Woodbury University” under your control. On the 16th of April, you were informed of problems with the activities taking place in the region. Many members of the Woodbury University group (which controls the region) have been detected before and after that date causing severe problems in Second Life, in violation of the terms of service. These problems include incidents of grid attacks, racism and intolerance, persistent harassment of other residents, and crashing the Woodbury University region itself while testing their abusive scripts. Due to the ongoing problems, Linden Lab has no option but to immediately close the Woodbury University region. If you believe that this notice has been sent in error, or that the details of this incident have not been adequately examined, please address your concerns in an e-mail to Sincerely yours, Customer Support Linden Lab 945 Battery Street San Francisco, CA

April 20, 2010

Please answer the phone! Is texting replacing “real” voice conversations?

Filed under: Texting — mepada @ 7:56 pm

I am a mom to two young adults (26 and 24), one teen-ager (16) and a grand-mother to two grand-children (6 and 4).

What do they all have in common? TEXTING!

I basically do not use the phone to call them to talk to them any longer since they do not pick up. If I want to communicate with them I have to text them! … and then, they will text back!

The BBC News has published an article titled “’Texting eclipses talking’ among US teens” where they explained that texting is indeed the most popular form of communication among young people in the US and I dare guess in other parts of the world as well. One factor that has helped this phenomena is phone companies who offer plans with unlimited texting.

Some of the findings in the study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project show the following:

  • More than 30% of teens send more than 100 texts a day.
  • Two-thirds of teenagers are now more likely to text their friends than call them on the phone.
  • 87 percent of those who text said that they sleep with, or next to, their phone.
  • Teens with cell phones who sent at least one text message a day increased from 38 percent in 2008 to 54 percent in September 2009, according to the study.
  • On the other hand, contrary to my own experience with my own young ones, the study shows that phone calls are still teenagers’ preferred method for contacting their parents.

The Washington Post quotes Amanda Lenhart (Pew researcher) who adds that “”Texting is now the central hub of communication in the lives of teens today, and it has really skyrocketed in the last 18 months”

However, what I found most interesting about this study is the differences between girls and boys. Scott Campbell, one of the study’s authors clarifies:

  • Boys don’t typically use punctuation.
  • If a girl puts a period at the end of a text message (to another girl) then it comes across as she’s mad, which explains the prevalence of smiley emoticons.

Business Week mentions the fact that this trend is not very popular with schools. “Schools, the survey found, often ban cell phones from classrooms, and some from school grounds entirely, seeing them as a “disruptive force.””

Many parents on the other hand, even though they are not happy with this new trend as well, have found some benefits to allowing their teens to use text-friendly phones and they not only  “limit cell phone” but  48 percent said they use it to “monitor their kids’ whereabouts — either by using GPS technology or calling the child to check in”

I wonder if we could find a way of integrating the technologies and applications embraced by young people today (which have become part of their everyday lives) into effective educational tools. I have a feeling my grand-children will expect and demand it! (Tamara, 6 has already asked for an iPod for her Birthday!)

BBC News:

Business Week:

The Washington Post:

April 14, 2010

Collaboration and Google Apps for Education

Filed under: Google — mepada @ 6:57 pm

In May of this year Gene Roche, Evan Cordulack and I plan to offer a May Seminar on Collaborative Writing. We decided that most people at W&M have already been exposed to and familiar with wikis in some way or another we decided to introduce an app that may not be that known by most: Google Docs.

Our decision to introduce this tool is timely since W&M started now a contract with Google that offers students a new email system at no cost to the college: WM Apps.

Most students use GMail so it seemed like a natural transition for them. Our first challenge was to learn more about Google Docs and to find out what other collaboration tools does Google offer?

We found the answer through a Google initiative called Google for Educators ( It provides several tools that “bring communication and collaboration tools to the entire academic community for free.”

These are the tools included in this service:

Gmail – Offer email to your faculty, students and staff with 2 gigabytes of storage per account (we actually have 7Gb per account).
Google Talk – Teachers and students can call or send instant messages to their contacts for free — anytime, anywhere in the world. Imagine the possibilities for people collaborating on projects from different locations.
Google Calendar – Everyone can organize their schedules and share events, meetings and entire calendars with others. You can even publish the school calendar on your website to let families know about events like back-to-school nights, homecoming and vacation days.
Google Docs – Students and teachers can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations and then collaborate with each other in real-time right inside a web browser window.
Google Sites – Create a class site and edit it the same way you’d edit a document — no technical expertise required. Your site can bring together all the information you want to share with your colleagues and students, including docs, calendars, photos, videos and attachments.

We want to concentrate mainly on collaboration and discovered additional tools offered by Google as part of this initiative that would go together nicely with the above mentioned apps:

Google Video – Securely share videos that anyone can comment on, tag and rate.

Google Groups – Students and faculty can create their own moderated forums and mailing lists featuring strong sharing and management controls.

The idea of working together virtually and in real-time in addition to the benefit of being able to collaborate globally along with the ease of sharing, editing and publishing, seems worth exploring with a group of interested and motivated faculty. We plan to conduct this seminar in -mainly- Google Docs in order to provide the participants with the full effect of this app and hoping to encourage/ prompt them to initiate self-paced learning.

We also intend to design some collaborative-type activities the participants can use when they return to the classroom.

To this effect, Google’s website offers several resources:

Classroom Activities by grade levels (K-5, 6-12 and All grade levels)

Classroom Posters

Google Teacher Academy: A FREE professional development experience designed to help K-12 educators, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues and more!

Teacher Community: Discussion group

We’ll have to customize or re-design some of these activities to make them appropriate for Higher-Ed level, but these can give us ideas and could be used as starting-points!

I believe it will be an exciting May Seminar where hopefully we will have the opportunity to really understand in depth the concept of collaboration, not just cooperation and where we will -ourselves- learn the real meaning of teamwork!

Additional Resources:

Google For Educators describes some of its clients implementation strategies: Utah State University, University of Southern California, Boise State University (and others)

It also provides Customer Stories (Case Studies) where –mostly- administrators (I would like to see comments and reactions from faculty and students as well) tell their stories:

April 5, 2010

Pandora Radio

Filed under: Music — mepada @ 4:28 pm

Pandora: Internet Radio for Education?

A while back I discovered Pandora Radio, a personalized internet radio service that helps you find music based on your favorite singers/groups.

This effort is part of the Genome Project, “a crazy project started over ten years ago to capture the complex musical DNA of songs using a large team of highly-trained musicians”.

Here is a description:

  • Pandora is free and advertising supported (40hrs of music for free per month). After that you pay .99 for unlimited listening hours for the rest of that calendar month or you can come back again on the first day of the next calendar month (another free 40 hours)
  • You can also upgrade to Pandora One subscription account: unlimited listening hours each month, with no advertisements. The cost is $36 for a one-year subscription.
  • A Pandora Station is a personalized stream of music. Pandora compares the music you’ve chosen to each song in Pandora’s collection, using the musical analysis in the Music Genome Project. Then your Pandora station starts playing songs that are similar in genre to the one you initially inputted.
  • You can have up to 100 stations in your account.
  • You can give a song a thumbs up (will play often) or a thumbs down (will never play again).
  • Currently, you can listen to your Pandora account:

I wanted to find out if anyone had thought of using this app for educational purposes.

I found a couple of initiatives/fans:

  1. Emiliano De Laurentiis, in Williamstown, Massachusetts – who has developed and published interactive educational content since 1981 and who’s training is in cognitive sciences and educational technology – states:  “Educators can use Pandora Radio by having students listen to different music and try to determine what characteristics certain songs have in common.”
  2. This article: Philanthropy for Music Education describes a new partnership between Pandora and Global Giving to support students and classrooms that are using music to make a difference. It is the “beginning of what will become a continual effort to weave music-based philanthropy into Pandora”. For more info:

Hopefully this application will find more enthusiasts who will uncover innovative instructional implementations!

You can access Pandora here:

For more information go here:


March 28, 2010

Online Education

Filed under: Online education — mepada @ 6:00 pm

Online Education

Our experience in Second Life, and some of the other online activities we have encountered in class prompted me to start thinking about online education.

  • My son Chris, who works full-time is a fan! He takes courses online in the evenings and/or week-ends to try to complete his college education.
  • A friend of mine who lives in Ohio, works full-time and is a mother of two, attends a 4-year online college  to study business.
  • Another friend, who lives in Richmond only enrolls in online courses because he claims they fit his learning style better.
  • I myself, have been tempted to take some classes (however my busy schedule has prevented me from doing it yet)

I found it difficult to try to evaluate the institutions that offer online alternatives, since they vary so much in nature:

  • Certificate programs (Strayer University, Brian & Startton College, etc.)
  • 2-year Associate’s programs (Ashford University, Colorado Technical University, Walden University, etc.)
  • 4-year programs (University of Phoenix Online, American Intercontinental University, Kaplan University, South University, etc.)
  • Graduate Master’s degrees (University of Phoenix, Capella University, etc.)
  • Juris Doctor programs (Concord Law School)
  • Hybrid -a combination of face-to-face and online- (DeVry University and others)
  • Synchronous (live) sessions or asynchronous (non-live) institutions (ITT Technical Institute and others)
  • Non-accredited (and /or fake) schools. This website states: “Don’t Buy Fake Online Degrees From Degree mill – Get accredited Online Degrees Here” They call their degrees: “life experiences degrees”
  • Some do not offer degrees per se (Canadian Virtual University – CVU)
  • Others form an international association of sorts (Global University Alliance that is a consortium of 10 schools from the United States, England, Australia, Switzerland, Singapore, China, Japan and Denmark)

Here are some benefits and constraints I discovered:


  • Great for busy people. It can fit your schedule.
  • One does not have to drive/park to get to class.
  • You can do it from anywhere as long as you have access computer with the correct system requirements.
  • Notes and class documents can be easily archived (for future reference/access)
  • With latest software technology, instructors can add an audio comment to complement written messages to homework, assignments, quizzes and exams.
  • As more and more people obtain online degrees more potential employers may start to recognize them as valid and may be prone to accept them.
  • Many ways of presenting the material (text, hyperlinks, audio, video, slide presentations, video conferencing, etc.)
  • No dress code!
  • Shy students: The online environment can be less intimidating.


  • You need to develop good self-discipline and time management skills.
  • Lack of social interaction. Isolation from other students.
  • No real-time teacher/student exchange.
  • Some online institutions claim to be accredited when in fact they are not (Degrees-R-US)
  • Credits may not be transferable.
  • Access and knowledge of technology is required.

These institutions offer self-evaluation forms and other resources to help students determine if online-learning is their best alternative/option:


March 20, 2010

Larry Cuban: Oversold and Underused

Filed under: Larry Cuban,Technology integration — mepada @ 7:46 pm

In Larry Cuban’s Oversold and Underused, I found his viewpoints realistic yet a bit discouraging. He points out that that teachers who use computers for instruction do so infrequently and unimaginatively and also argues that Computers can be useful when teachers sufficiently understand the technology themselves, believe it will enhance learning, and have the power to shape their own curricula and that these conditions can’t be met without a broader and deeper commitment to public education.

To that effect I wanted to find out if we had in our area (and beyond) any such local commitment and teachers who actually have stepped out of the box to integrate effectively technology in their classroom.

These two reports, The Geddy Award Nomination for Berkeley Middle School, and 2008 Excellence in Technology Winners are proof that good things are happening in James City County and beyond in regards to creative and successful instructional technology approaches.

Berkeley Middle School:  “Two years ago, the school began purchasing additional laptop and desktop computers and document cameras at the request of its faculty members to allow the faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to integrate this technology into the classrooms in the hopes of expanding our efforts at differentiation and curriculum access.”

–          The teachers shared their innovative lessons with one another

–          They held monthly faculty meetings where faculty discussed how technology integration made instruction more authentic, vivid, and relevant, and how it brought students closer together in partnership with their teachers and one another in the classroom…

–          Innovations were seen in Civics and Economic (election campaign, stock market), English (poem project), Music (self-critique), German (proper pronunciation), After School tutoring programs, etc.

–          Community engagement was enhanced (V-Brick system)

–          They have become a greener and paperless facility (Starportal, electronic classroom materials, etc)

–          Training was provided to initially introduce the new technology and to share in ways in which they could integrate the technology into their classrooms.

–          Additional training was offered for  the wireless keyboards, the Interwrite pads, and the V-Brick system.

–          More:


WHRO 2008 Excellence in technology Winners:

Nicole Sneddon (Riverside Elementary) for example, facilitates (reading and writing) progress through student blogs, and bubble-map graphic organizers in Kidspiration.

Glenn VanHouten (Shelton Park Elementary School) “As a pioneer user of clay animation, he combines his love for history with digital multi-media.”

Mary Ann Hutchinson, Principal, (McIntosh Elementary School) introduces her students and teachers to distance learning, elementary computer labs, virtual field trips, teleconferencing, interactive whiteboards, and more.

Ron Trainum (Toano Middle School) uses PowerPoint and a WebQuest application to guide students through the process of designing their own fitness program with an evaluation rubric and approximately 60 hyperlinks in the presentation.

Anthony Vladu (Heritage High School) brought into the classroom podcasts, wikis, and blogs to increase student participation with greater attention to writing skills. “He uses TeenBiz to improve reading skills, and a web site to inform students and parents, to deliver quizzes, and PowerPoint reviews. He incorporates the Classroom Response System for immediate student feedback, and SmartBoards for creating maps and interactive lesson plans.”

Connie Pritchard (Independence Middle School) for example “worked with the 7th grade science team where students made a storyboard, created 3-5 minute movies, added text, titles, and credits, recorded narration and added background music. They used the movies in the presentation process to teach one another about biomes.”

Janet Kreider (First Colonial High School) “ …worked collaboratively with the Computer Information Systems and English 11 classes to create a unique connection of poetry that linked to designing a section of a quilt, initially electronically involving scanned images, digital photography, video images, streaming and downloadable images from the internet. Once converted to the final actual quilt, it will be donated to the St. Jude’s Research hospital.”

Stephanie Bourgeois, Principal (Crittenden Middle School) has promoted “math use of TI-Navigators, Movie Maker in Science and Social Studies, Band compositions in Finale Notepad, wiki and blog applications, magnet photography, multimedia product generation and establishment of a gaming club and curriculum.”


Terry Lyle, Principal (SECEP REACH Program) “Initiatives during her tenure include acquiring touch screen monitors, special switches and other AT hardware and software, use of data projectors and unitedstreaming™ content, use of video conferencing, bedside computers, and using the internet for residents to reach parents outside of the area.”



Larry Cuban would be pleasantly surprised and proud of these educators!

March 8, 2010

A Comedy of Errors

Filed under: Academic Technology,Opinio — mepada @ 1:59 pm

If I have learned anything at all during my almost 27 years in Academic Technology (used to be called Instructional Technology) is this:

You may have found and would like to use the coolest and most innovative of technology tools in your classroom, meeting, etc., but unless you carefully plan its implementation, consider its affordances and constraints, and test it to make sure it works the way you want it to work…you could be inviting disaster!

This is what happened a couple of weeks ago with the implementation of a technology tool gone terribly wrong!

Even though this particular incident did not take place in the classroom, I have witnessed similar situations take place inside learning environments.

The culprit?  Opinio, William & Mary’s supported survey/research tool.

This is how this event developed:

I was contacted by a faculty member who wanted me to develop a survey which was going to be sent to the whole faculty body.

Guided by the text I was given I designed the survey and sent it back to the faculty member with some instructions:

  • Check the questions for typos and grammar structure.
  • Check the survey for clarity to make sure that the questions were clear and concise.
  • Check the features I selected for the survey to make sure it is exactly the way they want it to “behave” (attributes such as “save and return”, authentication, anonymity, “look and feel”, etc.)
  • Make sure the invitations have been sent properly (emails, number of respondents, etc.)
  • Test it! Test it! And test it again!
  • Send a message to the faculty letting them know that this survey is coming their way.

I then received a message that indicated everything “looked fine” and to go ahead and launch the survey.

I launched the survey.

Another survey successfully launched! …or so I thought!

  1. That same day I started to receive emails from faculty who did not know what this survey was about and why were they receiving it at all? They asked me if it was “legit and should even open the link”.

No leading email had been sent to the faculty. They were not aware this survey was coming their way!

I immediately contacted the committee and asked them why they had not sent a “heads up” email to the faculty? Answer: They had forgotten.

They promised they would send them a message ASAP explaining what this survey was and why they needed to complete it (I am sure this came a bit too late for some –who know did not want to “waste their time”)

 I re-sent the survey after the faculty email was sent to the whole group.

  1. The next day –when I was in the middle of my radio show- I got a voicemail with an urgent message to stop the survey.

I rushed to a computer and stopped it.

The survey was not supposed to launch yet. It had been launched two days earlier than planned by the committee. They had sent me the wrong sent date!

I proceeded to re-send the survey on the scheduled date, which implied that I had to delete responses already stored and send a message to those respondents to tell them that they needed to re-take the survey! (Not an effective way of delivering a product at all! I am sure some did not bother to respond a second time)

  1. A couple of hours later, I got another phone call. I needed to stop the survey again! This time, a member of the committee told me that the survey text was not the correct text! They had missed a couple of important items. Difficult to believe right?

I was now having a difficult time believing this comedy of errors unfolding in front of me!

I stopped the survey again.

They sent me the text with the missing items.

I re-wrote it.

I re-sent the survey.

At this time, the committee had no choice but to send a message to the whole faculty body explaining what had happened and to please re-take the survey one more time! The plan was to delete all stored responses (140 by then) and to start fresh!

No “glitches” occurred after that!

Once the survey closed and I generated the reports (less than half the faculty ended participating). We usually get a much higher response rate.

Lessons learned? You bet this committee plans to do things differently in the future.

When discussing the whole experience with them I found out the obvious. They had not followed my pre-launch instructions at all! They apologized profusely and promised me a cup of coffee (or glass of beer) for all my troubles!

On my part I will have to become more of a bay-sitter and micro-manager (which I hate to do!).  We all need to understand the importance of good planning, testing, assessment and follow-up to implement any academic technology successfully and effectively!

Some places recognize planning is essential and offer a robust support system:


University of Minnesota:

 Link to Opinio:

Next Page »