Teaching and Learning Resources by Peter Pappas

Teachers: Find the Courage to Be Less Helpful

I just finished teaching my undergraduate edtech methods class at University of Portland. I had a dozen students  – sophomores through seniors. Most had limited tech backgrounds.

Rather than teaching apps, I taught adaptability. That began with having the courage to be less helpful. At our first class I gave them a simple assignment – create “Tech-Savvy Teacher’s Meme” using Adobe Spark Post and then write a blog post elaborating on your meme in our WordPress site. No one in the class had used either Adobe Spark nor WordPress. No direct instruction from me – I had a created some YouTube video explainers. They had to figure it out themselves. The result – everyone was able to make a cool meme and write their first post on WordPress. They didn’t simply learn a few apps – they learned “I can do this!”

Over the next 14 weeks, we progressed PBL-style through a variety of skills and perspectives. Each class added new tools and perspectives to prior experience – curating public domain content, screencasting, digital storytelling, video production. By the time we got to the end of the course, I had them testing and critiquing apps with no support from me. I would give them three apps designed to perform similar tasks, ask them to work in teams to figure out how to use them, report back to class the pros and cons. And then everyone in the class would choose one app for completing the next assignment – For example – turn a video into a lesson using EdPuzzle, Video Ant, or TEDed.

As a final assignment I asked them to create a demonstration of their favorite app as a chapter in our collaborative iBook – Tech Tips for Teachers. Available free at iTunes or as a static pdf download. (14 mb)

So how did it go – here’s some comments from their final reflections

Laura: I learned that I really need to push myself when it comes to trying new things, because I am capable of much more than I give myself credit for. …  a lot of these new tools intimidated me and I was afraid to try them, but once I did, I found it pretty easy to use.

Margaret: I’ve really enjoyed my time in this class this semester. It was definitely one to look forward to in the week, a break from the typical lecture style of other classes. Something I learned about myself during this class is that despite not liking the amount of freedom given to me, I have found ways to create guidelines for myself. … I think with all the things that I have learned during this short amount of time, and the simple pride I got from figuring out how a piece of tech works on my own – I think I will be able to “keep up with the times” with relative ease.

Kiana: Prior to this class I was, admittedly,  worried and mildly fearful about utilizing technology so frequently in the classroom. I had very limited knowledge and experience with these types of tools and felt that I would be unable to create products worth sharing with the online world. Although my posts this semester may not be TPT (Teacher Pay Teacher) ready, I was pleasantly surprised with how much content I have created in such a short period of time…. I have already begun to share my knowledge of these “tech tools” with family and friends who are also impressed with how many accessible (free), resources there are.

Dylan: Unlike most classes that follow a specific rubric or have step-by-step instructions, this class and Prof. Pappas, gave us an incredible opportunity to explore new technology, but figure out all the tips and tricks on our own. .. one of the most exciting parts of this class were all the ideas I generated when thinking about what tech tools I now have in my toolbox and ones which I can easily use in lesson and unit plans, as well as on a daily basis with my students. I hope to encourage my students to use technology wisely and to most importantly…be creative with it!v

Nick: Our instructor gave us students just enough background information so that we could wrestle with discovering the technology ourselves. ..He pushed us students to learn for ourselves as he gently guided us alongside. I felt this was a perfect approach to teaching this class as I now feel more prepared to be adaptable and curious to continue learning.

Jordyn: There were also times where I would be using a new app and I just had to figure it out through trial and error. Once I had worked through it for a little while I felt very comfortable using it. Being willing to fail is one of the only ways that we truly learn anything in my opinion.

Melissa: Looking back on that first day of ed tech methods, I felt I was afraid to take that risk and get outside of my comfort zone. I  was an advocate for technology, but only ones that were safe,  such as SmartBoards or Elmos which are simply advanced versions of projectors and white boards. … While there were many programs I was nervous to use,  I was also able to learn new tools which I found my new strengths in.

Bri: I never particularly saw myself as a “tech person” and was a little fearful of whether I would be able to navigate my way around all this new technology. … I am proud of the amount of work I have produced in the short amount of time we have had together and I am proud to say I am not so fearful of exploring new technology that comes my way and I could also potentially see myself implementing these technology tools into my own classroom in the future.

Madison: I learned that stretching myself to learn different things is important in order to become more confident. I learned that although technology is a difficult subject for me, it is good for me to learn new things in order to grow as a person. I am definitely on my way to becoming a “tech-savvy” teacher!

Michael: Overall, it is my opinion that this course was a great success. One of the foundations listed on the class’s website states that the course “leverages a project/problem-based approach,” while another one says that it “…develops critical evaluation skills for assessing what works.” These were both met spectacularly: the course ran using an effective weekly project-based approach that promoted individual critical thinking concerning a wide variety of useful – and sometimes not useful – educational technologies for classroom use.

Lauren: I also learned a few things about myself as a learner too. I learned that I about how much fun teaching can be. All these tech tools take a lot of creativity and flexibility and these were both aspects of myself I needed to work on. Using the Apps we learned about caused me to challenge myself as a more hands on student and future teacher.

Hanna: I saw myself doing things with technology that I had never done before and pushing myself to try new things. I learned that technology is a lot more fun to include in every aspect of the classroom when you are comfortable with it!

Did Pages Replace iBooks Author?

Quick answer – no.

Here’s more – Apple’s March 27th education event announced that Pages could now create ebooks using a variety of templates for fixed-format and free-flowing ebooks. (See templates below). The updated Pages can be used on Mac desktop, iPad and iPhone to create ebooks that combine text, images galleries, video, audio and sketches.

This week, some blogs announced that the Pages upgrade [from ePub 2 to ePub 3] replaced iBooks Author – iBooks Author is Gone, And it’s Been Folded into Pages.” 

Wrong.  Apple hasn’t dropped iBooks Author (iBA) –  it’s still a free download in the MacOS App Store.  iBA continues to be the best app for designing eBooks that are truly multi-touch.

Pages ePub book templates

Here’s the best features of creating an eBook in Pages

  • Use the familiar iWorks toolbar and format commands
  • Work on both MacOS and iOS (both iPad and iPhone)
  • Support team collaboration on the same file.
  • Use the Apple Pencil (or your finger) to draw right in the app.
  • Produce a ePub3 file that can be viewed most any device / platform except a Kindle – including Macs, iOS, Windows, Android, ChromeOS.
  • Create eBooks that can be offered on Apple iBookstore

Here’s the iBooks Author-only features that Pages can’t match

  • Create eBooks with chapters and sections. (Pages’ ePub 3 book are one continuous document).
  • Include intro media, enhanced table of contents, thumbnail page view, glossary, study cards and note taking.
  • Add interactive iBA widgets – Keynote presentations, pop-overs, scrolling sidebars, 3D, interactive images and review questions.
  • Choose from multiple view / play options for audio and video imports.
  • Use 3rd party HTML 5 widgets (for example from Bookry)
  • Choose from more templates, layouts and page options.
  • Directly upload to iBook Store

Serenity Caldwell tweeted after speaking to Apple:

Social Media Promised a Voice For All, Instead We Got Troll Farms

This is a remix of UP Tech Talk S06E02: Trolls, Tales, Twitter, and Thoughts - my conversation with cohosts Ben Kahn and Maria Erb of UP's Academic Technology Services

My preface: I grew up in a different media environment in the fifties and sixties. My information flow was controlled by big corporate media gatekeepers - network TV, record industry, newspapers, magazines, Hollywood.  I taught a media studies class in the seventies and eighties. It was all very McLuhan - how TV was shaping our thought.

When the digital revolution (and later social media) came along, my first reaction: "This is great. The barriers to entry are down and the media gatekeepers are dying off." I was publishing print on demand paperbacks and later multi-touch eBooks with my students. I was blogging, posting "how-to" videos on my own YouTube playlists and excited to network on Twitter chats with colleagues. I was advocating for my students to do the same - be content creators, not just consumers. 

I thought that social media would emerge as a low-barrier way for people to share information and that the "best content" would rise in a "marketplace of ideas." But now I realize that because of the algorithms, we're not in a common media space. We say we're on Facebook, but the Facebook that I see is different than the Facebook that somebody else sees. The social media business models hype "engagement" and the most outrageous content rises to the top. Trolls and bots further game the algorithms and we end up awash in "junk" news.

Maria, Ben and I discussed the current state of social media, where we've been and where we're heading.

Peter, Maria and Ben

“WW III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” ~ Marshall McLuhan, “Culture Is Our Business”, 1970, p. 66

Here's a collection of essential reading on the subject

Made with Padlet

Image credit:  Adobe Spark  - UnSplash / ian dooley @nativemello

Digital Storytelling with TimelineJS

My University of Portland students recently completed a PBL project, designing curriculum for the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. More here.

Students designed resources to enhance the visitor experience to the Memorial. Here we showcase the work of James Bayless and Kelly Sutton. They used KnightLab’s TimelineJS to support lessons plans to contextualize events surrounding the Holocaust. All events were placed into two categories: the rise and fall of Hitler and the escalation of Nazi repression and murder. See the timeline in context here.

TimelineJS is an open-source tool that enables anyone to build visually rich, interactive timelines. Beginners can create a timeline using nothing more than a Google spreadsheet. This opens up the opportunity for groups of students collaborating on a single Google spreadsheet the produces a common timeline.

Here’s more on how to use Timeline JS. 

How to Use TimelineJS from Northwestern U. Knight Lab on Vimeo.


Image credit: pixel2013 / pixabay

Storytelling with Maps: StoryMapJS and ArcGIS

My University of Portland students recently completed a PBL project, designing curriculum for the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. More here.

We designed resources to enhance the visitor experience to the Memorial. Two of my students used different online StoryMap tools that invite a comparison. Both are easy to use and do a good job of pairing content with location. The added feature of KnightLab’s StoryMapJS is that it has a built in timeline.

KnightLabs StoryMapJS

David Grabin used KnightLab’s StoryMapJS to tell the story of Menachem “Manny” Taiblum a Holocaust survivor who escaped the Warsaw ghetto, fought alongside the Polish resistance, resettled to Palestine, moved to Brazil, then to New York City and eventually settled in Portland, Oregon.

David writesI downloaded pictures from websites like Wikicommons and Flickr. These sites have photos that are within the public domain and have usage rights that permit them being re-published. Even though they are public domain, I made sure to cite them if the author requested it. I picked points on a world map that approximated stops on Manny’s journey, and in each location I added an image and blurb containing excerpts and paraphrased info from his interview. After editing the final product, the project was ready to be added to the website. Direct link to map

ArcGIS StoryMap

Nancy Guidry choose ArcGIS Story Map. It’s built into ArcGIS, a leading mapping and GIS platform. It’s available to anyone with a ArcGIS account, but you can also sign up for a free non-commercial ArcGIS public account or sign in with your Facebook or Google credentials. The site provides a variety of templates to showcase different types of stories. Once you have an account, you will get a “My Stories” page to manage your maps.

Nancy writes:  I used ArcGIS Story Maps to create this map of concentration camps throughout Europe. I used data provided by the Oregon Jewish Museum to input location and death data for each camp, and found photos from each camp online. The embedded version does not look as nice as the original; click here for a direct link.


Image source: Couleur / Pixabay

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