I’ve rounded up some helpful grading links. These should come in handy just in case you find yourself with a pile of grading to do now. Or next week. Or both.

Enjoy a better grading experience. I like the author’s optimism! The link has basic information about how to use your TAs and how to respond to complaints, points worth thinking about if you haven’t yet developed a strategy for either situation. The author also discusses rubrics; note that rubrics have been the topic of several earlier posts here on our blog.

From Profhacker, how to grade with voice on an iPad. This method relies upon the iAnnotate PDF app ($9.99) and having your students submit their papers and receive your comments as PDFs. The blog post has a detailed how-to video. Additionally, several commenters share alternative methods for adding audio comments to student work. Other Profhacker posts detail providing voice feedback using Jing and audio comments using Audacity.

If you find yourself grading something other than traditional papers or exams, this very thoughtful piece on evaluating multi-modal work may help to crystallize your approach.

In closing, a reminder that we have Teacher-Scholar labs on May 7th and 10th. We can help you wrap up this semester or get ready for next semester.

Cool Tools (On the TCU Campus)

If you’re here at TCU, I recommend checking out the monthly brown bag sessions offered by the TCU New Media Writing Studio on free digital tools. I attended the first one of these last week; you can find upcoming dates listed on the New Media Writing Studio workshop schedule.

In the hour-long session, three presenters shared how they each use a different tool to improve their teaching and research. Discussion was informal, with plenty of time for questions, clarification, and examples.

The tools covered were: A simple, quick screen-sharing tool. The individual sharing his/her screen downloads some basic free software, while viewers need only navigate to the webpage and enter a designated nine-digit code to see the shared screen. Clearly useful when viewers are not in the same physical location, this tool also has broad applicability for face-to-face classes. For example, the instructor or student presenter can bypass plugging a personal machine or thumb drive into the projector by navigating to on the classroom computer’s web browser, entering the code, and then projecting the shared screen – progression through the presentation or other content is actually controlled from a personal laptop or tablet elsewhere in the classroom. The ability to manipulate content on the classroom projector while not standing at the podium allows for greater flexibility regarding how classroom space can be used: students and the instructor can sit together in a circle or around a seminar table. Likewise, students who bring their own devices to class can enter the designated screen sharing code and then view the speaker’s content on their own screens – no need to face the front of the classroom at all! Last, screen sharing, instead of directly attempting to load files on the classroom computer, can also help to avoid version or software compatibility issues that might arise from attempting to open content created on a different machine.

Diigo: A link aggregating and organizing tool, complete with sharing and social networking features.  In order to use Diigo, you place a small toolbar on your browser, and then save and tag websites that catch your eye. You also have the ability to share your links with groups you create or preexisting Diigo groups you can join. Likewise, you can see other links saved by individuals who also saved your initial link, allowing you to perhaps discover relevant, related content. The ability to search your links by tag (or keyword) is what makes Diigo so versatile; a saved bookmark can generally exist in only one folder, but a given Diigo link can have multiple tags. You can then search your all your links for a specific tag or search all user-saved Diigo links for a specific tag. Additionally, since your Diigo bookmarks live in the cloud, they are available to you no matter your location or device. Basic Diigo membership is free and comes with unlimited bookmarking and some advertising; upgraded plans with no advertising and increased highlighting, note-taking, and searching powers cost $20-$40 per year (note that there are also educator upgrades available).

PBworks: We’ve written about wikis on this blog already, but a good tool bears repeating! PbWorks is a wiki hosting service that allows you to create a free, basic wiki for educational / non-commercial use. Wikis are great tools for organizing your teaching and professional materials. Instead of collecting items in folders or sub-folders by class or year, you can put up a wiki page with your notes or upload and link to relevant files. A wiki organized topically like this means that if you cover the same topic in multiple courses over a period of years, there’s no need to go hunting for content – it’s all linked together, based on relationships you establish among the files and wiki pages. Likewise, as you gather materials for research or professional projects of your own, a wiki can help you store and organize files, web links, and your own typed notes. While the wiki grows over time, you never need to worry about losing your notes or files, as these are no longer stored on your local machine; you can access your files from home, work, or using your mobile / tablet device. Complete with tagging features, the ability to search the contents of the entire wiki, and privacy controls (including allowing comments and sharing editing rights), wikis have some real advantages over simply storing files or taking notes on your local machine.

If cool tools like this have piqued your interest, you might be interested in the multimedia and teaching tools collected by the Koehler Center team. We’ve broken these tools down into audio, video, collaboration, digital storytelling, graphics, presentations and slidecasts, social networking, mobile and tablet apps, and an exciting grab bag of other web 2.0 tools (maps, calculators, study aids, etc.) that defy neat classification. You’re sure to find something interesting!

Podcasts as Assignments

Do you have assignments where students create their own podcasts?

If you’re thinking about having students create their own podcasts, this is a very insightful and honest piece about the mistakes one professor made with a podcast assignment. The follow-up to that article is this blog post about getting student feedback on podcasting assignments (note that you could adapt this survey for any type of instructional technology used in your course).

The Koehler center has podcast-related info on our audio resources page.

On  a related note, I think podcasts made by others (either radio professionals, scholars, or community members) make wonderful “reading” assignments. Have you used podcasts in this way in your classes? Are there certain topics or podcast producers that worked well for you? Are there lessons you’ve learned the hard way? Please share in the comments.

Last, if you’ve had to adapt a podcast assignment (either a production- or listening-based one) for accessibility concerns, we’d love to know the accommodations you made.

Tips for Recording Audio

We’ve written about adding audio and video to your course shell, but this is one of the most comprehensive and useful list of audio recording tips I’ve seen in a while. These suggestions will definitely save you some frustration if you’re considering using audio in an instructor introduction, in unit or content introductions, or elsewhere in your course.

Note that if you follow their tip and use a script, not only will you sound more poised, but you’ll have your transcript (a must for disability accommodations) ready to upload. No need to take the time to transcribe after you make your recording!

As a reminder, the Koehler Center has information about recording and uploading audio clips.

Audio, Video, and Your Course Shell

We’re big fans of using multimedia to vary the way in which quality content is presented in your course shell.

If you’ve never added audio or video content (or maybe your skills in this area are a bit rusty), your instructor bio is a great place to start. We’ve built a lovely template that you can use to convey the basic info. You can embellish that using our information about recording and uploading audio or video clips. Giving students the ability to hear your voice or even see a video of you can really help to build connections, especially in fully online courses.

If you’re ready to move beyond the bio and add audio and video to course content, here are some great tips from TechSmith (the makers screen capture and recording software) for when your video will contain important – but not necessarily super-exciting – information.

But what about audio? Audio files place less strain on the network and are easier and quicker to download and play. Additionally, this is a nice and practical summary of what cognitive psychologists have to say about the preferential processing of audio input. As the blog post points out, voices matter.

In fact, I can still vivdly remember the day in my high school English class when we listened to a recording of William Butler Yeats reading “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” The quality of the recording was somewhat lacking, but there was beauty and power and transformation in hearing those words. I wasn’t an English major in college, and I didn’t, obviously, go on to become a poet. But the power of those words – of hearing the poet speak them in his lilting, wavering voice has stuck with me all these years.  (If you’d like to try listening to the poem yourself, here is a recording; the poem itself begins around 2:00)

I’d urge you to try adding some multimedia to your course shell. After all, you never know the memories your students will retain years down the road!

LibriVox: Free Audiobooks

Are you familiar with LibriVox? This is a website with public domain audiobooks available for downloading. For free. Can’t beat that!

LibriVox represents the work of an army of volunteers: According to their website, “LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.” I’ve heard that the audio / reader quality can vary, but most people seem quite satisfied. The catch is, of course, that LibriVox only has materials that are in the public domain in the United States, generally meaning items published prior to 1923.

If there aren’t worries about particular versions or translations, LibriVox could also be a wonderful alternative for your students, whether they are looking to save money or whether an audio format is simply easier for them to use.