Google Drive

I have to admit, the name totally reminds me of the Google Street View Car (you know, the car that drives around recording the images for the awesome street view maps. Following the link above, I learned that, apparently, they have Google Street View trikes and snowmobiles, too – who knew?).

So, Google Drive is not about a car – but I still think the name (and the product) is pretty genius. Google drive is a cloud-based synching data storage solution, much like Dropbox and SpiderOak (there’s a great comparison chart of various storage options at the bottom of this page).

With Google Drive, you are provided with secure storage space and the drag-and-drop ability to keep files straight between multiple computers. You also have all the sharing and collaboration features that you’ve come to expect from Google Docs.

How is it different from Google Docs? Well, there’s a pricing structure: you get 5GB free, and the price increases from there (at rates that are quite competitive with other cloud-based data storage sites). Google Drive viewer supports an impressive list of file types, and has  a 10GB upload limit on files or folders. Google Drive comes with Google Image Search, allowing you to search images in your Google Drive based on key words.

Google Drive is linked to Google Docs, and once you add Google Drive to your Google account, it will replace Google Docs. Your Google Docs will appear in your Drive account with icons. If you are connected to the internet, clicking on a Google Doc icon will open a web browser so you can view the document. However, if you’re not connected to the internet, all you’ll have is an icon in your Google Drive folder on your computer’s hard drive.

Right now, the Google Drive mobile options are pretty limited; there’s only an Android app, but an iOS one is reportedly on the way. Additionally, the cautious among us might want to read this article on Google Drive’s terms of service.

Here’s the video intro to Google Drive:

iPads and Education

Thinking about using an iPad as a teaching tool? Here are some great resources:

1. Answering the “Where do I begin?” question, this site provides a general overview of some steps in the iPad introduction process.

2. Edudemic has put together this list of 25 Ways to use iPads in the Classroom. Helpfully, this list provides both apps and snippets of classroom activities to accompany the selected app.

3. The Koehler Center eLearning Mobile and Tablet Apps website has an extensive list of apps, broken down both by specific discipline and by function (managing PDFs, note-taking, file sharing, etc.).

If you’re using an iPad as teaching / learning tool, we’d love to hear about it!

100 Ways to Use Twitter in Education

Just getting started with Twitter? Comfortable with Twitter and ready to try something new? Either way, this list of 100 Ways to Use Twitter in Education will likely have something useful for you – there’s even a whole “classroom” section!


Making a TED Video Your Own

The fine folks at TED-Ed have just released a great new video customization tool. So new it is still in beta, the “Flip This Lesson” feature allows instructors to “use, tweak, or completely redo any video lesson featured on TED-Ed, or create lessons from scratch based on a TEDTalk or any video from YouTube.”

You can add an introduction, insert additional content, or add reflection questions at the end of a video. All you need to do is select and insert the video “and start writing questions, comments, even quizzes — then save the lesson as a private link and share with your students. The site allows you to see who’s completed the lessons and track individual progress.”

Here’s the TED-Ed video about it:

Actually, the tool can be used with any video that allows you to embed it elsewhere on the web – isn’t that great? If you’re looking for videos, you might try reviewing the Koehler Center eLearning website on Internet Streaming Video Resources. Not all of the links there will allow you to embed the video file, but some will.

Pearson LearningStudio Social Course Home

LearningStudio has a new option for your course home page (the page that individuals first see upon entering your specific course shell): Social Course Home. Social Course Home offers a more interactive and networked experience, designed to boost student engagement and build class community. Social Course Home is currently available at TCU for Beta testers, by request only, so for most users, your course home will remain the same for the time being.

Course shells with Social Course Home have all the same functions as other LearningStudio course shells, plus a few additional features. Pearson’s website explains the Social Learning tools as “Pearson LearningStudio integrates the latest features students need to engage peers and instructors: social profiles, avatars, chat, groups, remarks, activity feed, and fully-integrated Skype functionality for real-time discussion.” In the center of the Social Course Home, beneath the Course Introduction, users will see an activity feed. This activity feed identifies course participants by their name and avatar and reports their status updates in real-time; students can also write on the course’s wall to share brief posts with the whole class. The activity feed will also display interaction in Threaded Discussions. Social Course Home also displays which users are currently online, useful information since there is also a chat feature. There is also a sidebar on the right side of the screen that displays announcements and upcoming course events. Faculty view will also include items for review, such as dropbox submissions.

screenshot of sample social course home page

Click on the image above to learn more about Social Course Home.

Here are some Social Course Home best practices developed by our staff, designed to help you and your students make the most of the integrated, networked features:

  • Create Announcements in your Course. You can date-drive these to appear and disappear in a specific time frame.
  • Create content in the left-hand navigation either as Content Items or Units (or both). Then, utilize the Course Scheduler, to create due dates, to appear in the “Upcoming” section of Social Course Home.
  • Select the “People Tab” and Edit your Profile. You can upload a photo of yourself, and add some bio information. Ask your Students to do the same!
  • Create a Course Home Introduction. This will introduce your Course and tell students how to get started!
  • Activity: This has a limit of 140 characters, so it is meant for short updates. The ONLY place to see remarks or activity is in this area of the course. Larger entries are only available IF you use Threaded Discussions in your course.

As of April 2012, Social Course Home is still in beta. As with most software in beta development, there is a possibility you might experience some hiccups, such as slow loading of the content on Course Home. For more information on Social Course Home, and to read about known issues, please view our Social Course home beta page on our website.

If you’re interested in trying out the Social Course Home in one of your course shells, and you are TCU faculty, please contact the eLearning team. We’re recruiting testers, and we are really interested in your feedback.

Teaching with blogs

In the age of Twitter, is the blog obsolete? Well, I hope not – we’re obviously rather partial to blogs around here!

There is something to be said for the longer form of the blog, especially as a teaching tool. Blogs are great spaces for reflection (on the course, an assignment, a site visit), for experimentation (to try writing in the voice of a character, to showcase work in progress), and for collaboration (comments, the ability to easily add and share links). Additionally, blogs can be stand-alone assignments or used as part of the preparatory writing process for other course items, like term papers. Of course, blogs aren’t the only places to do any of these things, but – depending on your course, your objectives, and your learners – they might be a place that makes sense.

This is a nice article about how to get the most out of student blogs and instructional blogging. As the article points out, getting comments on blog posts is what elevates them from web pages to interactive discussions. In order to get discussion going, some professors make commenting a requirement (similar to the discussion board commenting requirements may online courses have). Why use a blog, then? According to the article, students report that “blogs facilitated learning from one another, and helped them learn new electronic media skills that could be applied in other settings.”

Here is a more concrete step-by-step guide to getting started with blogging with students. This list outlines the basic steps, but leaves it up to you to chose the best platform and set the appropriate parameters.

Last, these are some resources for evaluating blogs. We’ve written about rubrics before, but this page has great links to rubrics for blogs and for peer commenting.

Student Technology Use in the Classroom

This is a great article about the promise, pitfalls, and power of laptops, tablets, and smartphones in the college classroom.

The article also links to some great resources concerning digital etiquette in the classroom. Do you have an in-class laptop or technology policy? If so, is it an announcement on your syllabus – or a contract you make students sign? What do you think of a laptop-free zone (of some seats in class)?

Last, I like that the article concludes with a stress on meaningful learning experiences and the ways in which student devices can contribute to a dynamic, engaged class.

What’s your experience with students bringing laptops, tablets, and smartphones to class?