April 21, 2010

Camtasia Relay - Recorded Mini Lectures for Online Learning

When I started teaching Research Methods in the Master of Education cohort, senior colleagues convinced me that constructivist teaching was the ONLY way to conduct online classes for adults. In fact, attempts to conduct direct instruction online were seen to be nearly the work of the devils - U of Phoenix and Capella. It wasn't respectful of adults as self directed learners who had expertise of their own.

And I bought that argument for a while, but it made me uneasy. After all, there are many technical aspects of research theory and practice that are not easy to discover on your own ... just look at seasoned researchers who make mistakes and end up in the news! "Guidance" via more words and redirection to students' own experiences and the textbook (none of which really meet our needs for this class fully anyway) did not work very well for two semesters.

Then, I discovered Camtasia Relay.

This little program allows me to record mini-lectures over PowerPoint presentations. In 15 to 30 minutes, I can give direct information and guidance to my online students ... every week. This keeps them on track, reassures them that I'm still really "there" as their instructor, and has significantly raised the comfort and satisfaction my students have for the course.

It also allows me to use my computer display, with voice over, to show students many of the tools and techniques that I use in research and analysis. Using dummy information (gathered from the class on non-personal questions), I can demonstrate how to calculate statistics or used thematic content analysis to answer a research question. In theory, you could use this capture technology to show and talk about any subject matter you could show on your computer - with or without Power Point.

One of the best things about the software is that it works for both Mac and PC ... a rarity in the ed tech world. And with Camtasia Relay 2 coming out, many of my concerns may be addressed.

Up to this release, I'd been concerned about what I would do when I had a hearing impaired student in my class (which has happened in prior terms). But Relay 2 promises voice to text - something I need to verify.

I'd also been bothered by the fact that I have to unplug my second monitor whenever I did a recording. The new version manages multiple monitors and multiple microphones!

It also promises better integration into Moodle, which is currently my CMS of choice. Heaven!!

So, if you teach online and feel that your voice and expertise is missing from your classes, check out Camtasia Relay!

Posted by bjohnson at 8:43 AM

April 20, 2010


I hate to start out blogs with this .... but this blog is about a concept that is NOT ready for education ..... yet. Before I could require students to use a social networking application for class, I would HAVE to ensure their privacy and allow students to control who sees different types of information. And, I'd also have to include some sort of statement on my syllabus about the fact that harassing another student using the tool would be grounds for disciplinary action. *Sigh* You can teach students content, but you'd think their parents or kindergarten teacher would have taught them to be human beings ... but onto the tool ....

The tool, as it says in the title is Foursquare. This social networking app for the iPhone, Droid, and the Blackberry makes use of the ability of smart phones to know where they (and presumably you, the owner) are located (called "location awareness"). By combining your location with information (created by others) about where other things (businesses and other people) are located, you can record where you are over time and broadcast that information to others nearby. In the social world, that lets you find your friends on a night out. It also lets you see where your friends have been, giving you some indication of places that you might find fun and interesting too. That's assuming that you enjoy the same things that your friends do ... or are extremely open to new experiences.

As an educator, I get excited by this because of the "tip" and "to do" feature built into some apps, like Foursquare. This could allow me to map out an experiential tour of a city or a building or ecosystem for my students, using the "to do" feature. For each location, I could have them look for something specific or do something ... like take a water sample or a picture of a building. And they could also make notes of their own at each location, uploading the results of a water sample, for instance.

Once done with the tour, I and the class could access the notes each student put up. By combining observations over time, we could show how research teams actually DO analyze samples, show the variations in data and how we use statistics to assess them, map results, etc. This is not a new idea - researchers such as John Martin and Kurt Squire have been working on augmented reality games for science inquiry for several years. The stunningly wonderful thing is that these simple apps made for social networking could be re-purposed for education. And given the number of students who already have these "phones", we rapidly loose the need for specialized, expensive single-purpose devices ... needing only to address how to provide access for students without the means to own a smart phone.

And while I cannot argue that smart phones are inexpensive, they are still often much cheaper than the laptops we have been requiring them to purchase through various laptop initiatives. Plus, the phones are significantly more resilient as well as able to access data much more effectively in the field.

Something to think about ... and for some bright developer to create for Foursquare. If you want to see an educational use of this program, check out and follow the History Channel's excellent list of tips in Foursquare. They even have a tip to see the Minnehaha Falls!

Posted by bjohnson at 9:05 AM

August 5, 2009

Welcome : PBS TeacherLine


An online professional development program for K-12 teachers is receiving kudos from ISTE (http://www.cblohm.com/news/pbstl/PBSTL_090630/). What does this mean for the education of pre-service teachers? How old - or how experienced - do you need to be to be capable of learning how to teach online?

Posted by bjohnson at 12:08 PM

July 31, 2009

No Significant Difference Phenomenon Website


Back when Bruce Reeves and I did our Masters of Education thesis together, we found study after study showed that there was no significant difference in the performance of students who were studying a class at a distance and those who were studying on campus.

This website (and the corresponding book) pulls together hundreds of studies comparing online versus on-campus student performance ... which point generally to either no significant difference between them ... or that online students actually outperform their campus-based counterparts. And this result is during the infancy of online teaching, in which we are still trying to teach the old way using new tools, "´╗┐blind to the possibilities of doing new and different things" (McDonald, J. (2002). Is "as good as face-to-face" as good as it gets?).

Posted by bjohnson at 1:41 PM

Dr. BlackBerry: Eight Apps Making Medicine More Mobile - CIO.com - Business Technology Leadership


As a group, physicians almost define the need for accurate, up-to-date information at your fingertips combined with an understanding of multiple, complex systems.

But if they are moving away from the old school model of "memorize everything you'll need for the future while in school", what does that tell us about our current, banking model of school?

Posted by bjohnson at 9:06 AM

July 30, 2009

Educational Technology Bridge Wiki

To foster more give and take, I started a Wiki page associated with the bridge between education and technology. See the experiment at: Educational Technology Bridge Wiki and contribute freely.

I think it is helpful for many faculty -- and students too -- to practice these new tools in low-stakes environments.

Posted by bjohnson at 1:12 PM

June 23, 2009


Seems like we keep trying to get this idea up off the ground - a repository of learning objects that is freely available to educators but is still vetted and peer reviewed by .... well, our fellow teachers.

The latest offering in my email box is Curriki, developed and maintained by a nonprofit organization (Curriki.org) which includes staff to maintain and evaluate shared materials.

Read all about it at the MMISchools website.

Posted by bjohnson at 10:59 AM

September 24, 2008

Learning Games Network and Reading Group

There's a new blog on the block, run by a number of the leading lights in educational gaming, so I recommend checking out .... the Learning Games Network. It's new - in fact, it is in beta - so bear with people as they ramp up.

Meanwhile, here is a chance to experience for yourself the advantages of distance/online learning: the reading group, which is entirely virtual. So distance can't be your excuse not to attend! The first book they are reading is even available for free online. And it is a good one - The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, edited by Katie Salen, game designer and educator (high school level). Not only is the book excellent (I've read some chapters already), but each chapter stands on its own, so you can jump into the discussion group as your weekly schedule allows.

Posted by bjohnson at 5:13 PM

November 27, 2007

The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology

One thing I love about the web, even if you're avoiding work or killing time, you can't avoid running across useful web sites! Makes you want to find a quiet cabin off the grid .... but, never mind that! Here is what I found:

The Encyclopedia of Education Technology is a searchable and categorized list of topics pertaining to the intersection of technology and education. It is multimedia enhanced, written for educators, and contains references, suggested uses for technology and links for more information.

Frankly, it is awesome and looks like a wonderfully useful tool!

Posted by bjohnson at 5:06 PM

November 25, 2007


The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (commonly known simply as MERLOT) has been a well-kept secret for 10 years.

In essence, it is a collection of educational materials, contributed and rated by author educators. The peer review ensures some degree of quality, which is lacking in many other online content sites. Much of the collection is freely available - without charge - to the general public, although some content is restricted to access by members or partners only.

Materials are grouped by category, and the site is searchable.

Discipline communities have also grown up within MERLOT as a whole, to help educators with instructional and professional development applicable to their unique needs.

While the idea of freely contributed and distributed learning modules is enticing, several difficulties exist with MERLOT. While materials are categorized and searchable, the process still can be cumbersome and time consuming if you are looking for a module on a specific concept. Even if you find one, you need to look through the whole thing to see if it will fit into your particular curriculum without raising issues or topics you are not ready to address.

The materials are also not sorted or categorized by appropriate age group. Many modules can be used for K-12 classes, although the site generally seems written to cater to the needs of higher education faculty.

Finally, many of the materials are web sites without any specific guidance for an instructor regarding what type of objectives the module was intended to meet or where it would fit into a curriculum.

All these problems aside, MERLOT is an excellent place to start looking for online support materials if your text book company does not already have a web site for that particular book. And, it may be a good place to connect with other educators or even an outlet for your own materials, if you think they would be helpful to other teachers or faculty members.

Posted by bjohnson at 9:16 PM