Leveling the Playing Field with DELI

Three years ago in my Costume History class, I noticed that students with access to color printouts and Photoshop were producing higher quality work on their assignments. Committed to creating a more equitable learning environment, I made an appointment with Digital Scholarship and Visual Resources Librarian, Lyndsay Bratton, to discuss ways that the College’s DELI program might help level the playing field in my class. After some collective brainstorming, Lyndsay suggested that I integrate DELI iPad loaners into the course and recommended the Skitch, Paper, and Morpholio applications as potential digital tools. After some testing, I decided to go with Skitch, because its intuitive interface allows users to label, caption, and markup imported images on both the iPad and Mac.

Fast forward to fall 2015 and the introduction of iPads into my Costume History course. After giving students guidelines on how to successfully complete their weekly “costume research dossiers,” an assignment in which they must accurately locate, cite and label images of historical western dress, Lyndsay stopped by to distribute iPads, chargers, and styluses. She took time to walk students through the iPad’s various functions and together we familiarized them with Skitch, Google Drive, Pinterest, Vogue Runway, and the many other applications she generously installed onto everyone’s tablets. After solving some minor tech issues, the class quickly acclimated to the new technology. The ultimate test finally revealed itself when the first round of annotated images were due. Not surprisingly, the clarity/quality of work executed with the aid of Skitch showed a vast, across-the-board improvement compared to assignments submitted the previous year.

To conclude, I recently completed my third round of teaching with iPads and I find that the majority of students appreciate the opportunity to borrow the devices. Some said they thought the Skitch app worked better on their personal laptops and a small minority found borrowing an iPad burdensome. Since my goal is to create equal access and not to add more stress, I make borrowing completely optional. This policy has the added benefit of freeing up limited resources for the DELI program to accommodate more classes.

Note: To participate in the DELI program, proposals for Spring 2018 are due Wednesday, November 15!


Swivl toward Lecture Recording

This semester Joe Schroeder is using a Swivl, a robotic mount that holds an iPad or smartphone, to record lectures in Behavioral Neuroscience. With the use of a remote that the presenter wears, the Swivl tracks a moving person and uses the camera on the iPad or smartphone to record. Lectures or presentation are stored and saved in the cloud using Swivl’s cloud service, and shared with students through a link.

Swivl robot
Swivl robot

Why Lecture Record

Last year Joe had a problem: several students were going to miss class but he needed to cover important material. He asked about ways to record his lecture, and we suggested he try the Swivl. He gave it a try, and found the technology easy and convenient to use. This year, due to scheduling difficulties in Behavioral Neuroscience (PSY/BIO 314), he has one student who needs the class but is unable to attend one day a week. Recording the class on this day was the only way that this student could enroll. Remembering the Swivl, he decided to record the Friday lectures.

How it Works – Technology

Joe assigned one student as the class videographer, and this student is responsible for ensuring that the device it turned on, recording, and working throughout the class period. After class, Joe initially downloaded the video, saved it as an .mp4 file, then uploaded that to Moodle (through Kaltura). This process, while simple, was time consuming. More recently, with the introduction of Swivl’s cloud service, which automatically processes the video after recording and provides a link to the video, he simply copies that link and shares it with all students through Moodle. While Swivl provides tools for editing, the integration of slides and video, and other features, Joe does not spend time editing.

Excerpt of Joe's Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.
Excerpt of Joe’s Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.

How it Works – Pedagogy

After a few weeks of recording one day a week, Joe decided to record every class. Initially he had concerns about attendance – would students attend a class they knew would be recorded and could be watched later? He found that this practice did not affect attendance. Students value class time for the interaction with Joe and fellow students, as well as the ability to ask questions and check for understanding – this is a challenging class and expectations are high. In addition, the course does not use a textbook (see When Risks Pay Off in the Classroom), but a collection of resources – an online animated textbook from University of Toronto, simulation software, videos, articles, and more. Students use the recordings as another resource to understand course material.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

While the full impact of providing class recordings is not yet known, mid-semester feedback from students is positive. Using Swivl is low-effort, but may potentially have a high impact for all students in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Beyond lecture capture, I can imagine additional uses for the Swivl. Students or faculty could use it to practice presentations and review the recording, students could rehearse a performance, then send the video to faculty or peers for feedback.

If you have questions or are interested in exploring ways to record your classes, contact your Instructional Technology liaison.

New Accessibility Features in iOS 10

Our Instructional Technology Student Assistant, Kristen Szuman, did some research into new accessibility features available in iOS10 (if you missed her first post on iOS accessibility, find it here). She turned up some interesting features, including a camera magnifier, color display adjustments, voicemail transcripts, and more. Read on!

Apple has long been an innovator in the field of accessible technology. As one of the world’s foremost and most popular brands, Apple has been continuously raising the bar for technological accessibility; their release of iOS 10 was no different. Advertised as their “biggest release yet,” Apple’s iOS 10 featured many new and innovative accessibility features that work directly with the operating system, eliminating the need for additional app or tech support. Here are some of the new accessibility features available in iOS 10.

iOS 10 Camera Magnifier

With iOS 10 you can now use your built-in iSight camera as a Magnifier with a customizable user interface. The Magnifier allows you to access the camera flash, gives you the ability to lock focus and take a screencap, and adjust color filters to increase contrast or color settings for easier viewing. This new feature not only has practical everyday applications for everyone, but also is especially helpful for anyone who may be visually impaired in some way.

  • To enable the Magnifier: Settings>General>Accessibility>Magnifier
  • To access the Magnifier: Triple-click the home button

Color Display Adjustments

With Apple’s fall launches, they have expanded their iOS, macOS, and tvOS, to include color adjustments to assist with color blindness by adding the ability to tint the entire display a certain color. Apple has included new color options such as Grayscale, Red/Green Filter (for people with protanopia), Green/Red Filter (for people with Deuteranopia), Blue/Yellow Filter (for people with tritanopia), and a more general Color Tint.

  • To enable Color Display Adjustments: Settings>General>Accessibility>Display Accommodations>Color Filters
  • To access Color Display Adjustments: Automatic once enabled

Voicemail Transcripts

iOS 10 now supports Voicemail Transcriptions as do many of the major US cell phone carriers. Voicemail Transcriptions transcribe the words that are spoken on voicemail messages and display the text right in the voicemail section of the built-in Phone app on your iPhone. Voicemail transcripts are useful for everyone but offer new communication opportunities for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

  • Carriers that Support Voicemail Transcription
  • To enable Voicemail Transcription: If you have upgraded to iOS 10 and your cellphone carrier supports Voicemail Transcription, it should be automatically enabled on your iOS device
  • To use Voicemail Transcription: When you select a voicemail message the first time, the audio will playback automatically when you tap it to see the transcript. If you’ve already listened to a message, it will not playback the next time you read it.

Wheelchair Fitness

With the launch of watchOS 3, the Apple Watch has become capable of tracking the activity and fitness of wheelchair users. The device will track pushes, rather than steps, and encourages users to meet daily goals, burn more calories and provide notifications to keep moving throughout the day. While this feature is only available built into the new Apple Watch series, this is a new and innovative way to track fitness that will assist many wheelchair users.

Siri Updates

iOS 10 has opened up a whole new world for app developers as Apple has now begun to allow third-party apps access to Siri. Using apps such as Square Cash, Venmo, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and The Roll, an iOS 10 user can now access Siri to perform simple tasks, such as sending money to a friend via Venmo or searching for pet photos in The Roll. You are also now able to send messages in third-party messaging apps, such as Skype, WhatsApp, and WeChat, using Siri. Additionally, ride-sharing apps are now partnered with Siri, so calling an Uber is now as simple as asking Siri to do so. As an easily accessible app, the addition of Siri in third-party apps have made those apps increasingly user-friendly and accessibility-friendly. While the motor control needed to swipe through pages of apps and repeatedly click and type may have been difficult for some individuals, the new addition of Siri in third-party apps now removes some potentially difficult physical barriers.

Design A Better Assignment – Workshop It!

Chopping onions

Where do I position the camera? Why do I have to do a voiceover? What is line 2 of the instructions asking me to do? Is time lapse video really the best choice here? These were a few of the practical and didactic questions I received from colleagues as they worked through the activity that I designed as part of Technology Fellows Program. The workshop experience is one of the invaluable opportunities that this program offers. Colleagues encouraged me to push my thinking about this specific assignment and my approach to course design more generally. The Technology Fellows Program focuses on the use of technology for teaching, but it is also a place to hone one’s teaching skills.

For my workshop, I proposed to try out an assignment that I am calling mise en place, after the culinary practice of preparing ingredients before cooking. This assignment will be part of my Food and the Senses course in the Spring semester. The objectives of the assignment are to have students explore concepts of embodied knowledge and apprenticeship through the activity of mise en place. The first step is to teach students to chop onions in a variety of ways (live demonstration, video and no instruction). Next, students chop onions in teams. They take turns chopping and recording. Initially, I believed that time lapse video would be the best technology for this job.  Outside of class time, students have time to view their videos and reflect on the experience through a voice over. Finally, students share their video documents in class or online.

Leading up to the big day of the workshop, I had a small group meeting with other Tech fellows and instructional designers. They read over the assignment, we discussed the objectives of the activity, they suggested a variety of technology options, and made concrete suggestions for how I could continue to develop the assignment to sharpen the connections between the activity and the learning objectives. Using these suggestions, I prepared the materials for the workshop, where the other Tech Fellows would have a chance to try out and critique my assignment.

The big day came, and, to my surprise, no one balked at the idea of using large knives and the possibility of crying over onions. My colleagues started setting up a variety of recording devices on all sorts of tripods. They immediately began asking important questions, “What part of the body should the recording capture? Just the hands?” This got me thinking about a series of theoretical issues connected with the disembodiment of knowledge and objectification of culinary skill. This is just one example of the sorts of feedback that led me sharpen my assignment and consider the utility of the data that my students would be collecting. Thanks to my colleagues, I began to see connections to visual anthropology and how I could use this assignment to engage with an additional set of methodological questions.

Although I had initially been concerned about finding the right technology for my assignment. The workshop experience helped me to think more deeply about learning objectives and how to bring more intention to the methods and technology I want to use. I like to try new techniques and activities in the classroom and, for the most part, I usually have to wing it. Being able to workshop an assignment that pushes into new pedagogical territory will certainly lead to a better thought out assignment and hopefully a better learning experience for my students.

Image credit: Cutting onions, https://www.flickr.com/photos/61508583@N02/13561876493

Active Engagement and Group Work at the Visualization Wall

The Visualization Wall can instantly and wirelessly display up to five smartphones, tablets, and laptops at once, or one device full-screen. Pictured above: dual display of a MacBook Air and an iPhone.

The Diane Y. Williams ’59 Visualization Wall in the Technology Commons of Shain Library offers new possibilities for group work and classroom engagement. With just a few clicks on one’s own smartphone, tablet, or laptop, the wall wirelessly displays up to five devices at once.

Biology Professor Martha Grossel used the Visualization Wall weekly for her Accelerated Cell Biology class, asking students to work on problems in groups. One member of each group then displayed their work simultaneously for discussion and comparison of all the groups’ results as a class. Theater Professor Sabrina Notarfrancisco takes part in the Instructional Technology team’s DELI program to provide her students in Costume History with iPads each semester and meets regularly at the wall with her class. Whenever relevant to the discussion, students can easily display and compare examples from the visual portfolios that they build on their iPads, encouraging active engagement in discussion.

The furniture in the Technology Commons is all flexible and can be arranged to be most conducive to your class activities.

Interested in how this feature can be used in your own class? Email Lyndsay Bratton to discuss ideas or to schedule class meetings at the wall!

Beyond Pencil and Paper: Audio Assignments Via Moodle

Image of microphone

My choir students expressed that they wanted to be assessed more often so that they would be more motivated to practice. At that time, I was having students sign up in small groups for “check in” meetings. While this was valuable, it was difficult to give individual feedback to all 40 students and could not logistically happen very week.

With the help of Jessica McCullough, we devised a way for my students to record short audio assignments and upload them to Moodle. One such assignment was an assessment of the pronunciation of Zulu song text. Jessica came into my class and demonstrated how to record and upload the files with their smartphones. (iPads are available to check out in the library if students do not have a phone or computer with audio recording capabilities.) The students could record the audio as many times as they liked before submitting their assignment, which encouraged deeper engagement in class and individual practicing. To help those who were struggling, choir tutors through the Academic Resource Center could help them prepare for the assignments.

With the Moodle interface, I was able to monitor which students turned in their assignments (as opposed to scrolling through emails with attachments), listen to the files without opening another audio application, and respond with typed comments (see Karen Gonzalez Rice’s post for making audio comments).

As a result of this “new” method, I could assess more often, get a clearer picture of how individual students were faring in my class,  and further refine my teaching to meet the diverse needs of the students. A variation of this assignment is having the students digitally videotape themselves individually or in groups. A video assignment provides a more complete picture of how my students are performing and it also gives visual confirmation of who is taking the test when it is a group assignment. While this post is regard to an assignment that I give in my choral classroom, it has potential applications in other academic settings in which students need to demonstrate their knowledge in ways beyond  traditional “paper and pencil” assignments.

Image credit: flickr photo by lincolnblues https://flickr.com/photos/lincolnblues/6262298600 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

How to Make the Most of iOS: Speak Screen & Selection

Recently the Instructional Technology team hired a student assistant, Kristen Szuman. Kristen is a sophomore interested in art, politics, and loves animals. We asked Kristen to use and document the many accessibility features available on iOS devices. This is her first, of, we hope, several, blog post about useful technology tools.

Screenshot of Speak Selection on iPhone

Accessibility seldom gets the attention it deserves. Most of us go about our day without wondering how accessible an iPhone or iPad  is to the blind or the deaf, to those with autism or motor dysfunction, or how accessible the apps these devices run are. Yet, there are people who care deeply about accessibility; those who need iPhones and iPads to be ever-more accessible, of course, and those working to make these devices more accessible. Among technology companies, Apple not only implements accessibility features, but promotes and prioritizes them, and this starts in a very top-down fashion. Apple has built in many accessibility services, some intended strictly for accessibility and some seemingly everyday functions that can be used for accessibility needs as well. In addition, several app developers have also developed additional software in order to bolster Apple’s accessibility capabilities.

Speech Menu on iOS

Speak Selection and Speak Screen are two of those features which Apple has built in and which can be used both by people with accessibility needs or by those who just wish to utilize features that make screen reading easier. Speak Selection and Speak Screen are both able to read on-screen text. With Speak Selection enabled, the user must highlight the text first whereas Speak Selection will read the entire screen’s contents. Typically, an individual with low vision would use one of these accessibility features. Individuals who experience fatigue while reading, or those who would rather have text read to them than have to zoom into text to read, benefit from Speak Selection and Speak Screen. In general, the two accessibility features are very similar in function. Speak Selection and Speak Screen can be activated on any page that displays selectable text- so any webpage in Safari or other browsers, iBooks, Kindle, and some other apps.

To use either feature, you can find documentation available in Google Drive or watch one of the many videos available on YouTube.

“Eye Want Change”: Video for learning, immersion and transformation

Recently faculty have been clamoring to effectively incorporate video and other multimedia assignments into their courses. This, in addition to the huge number of classes that require video for content delivery, has made video a hot topic on campus. Ariella Rotramel, Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, sent me this NPR story about a group of students in Zanzibar who created a video reflecting on the use of Swahili and English in their educational system. The video (see above) was eventually submitted to the Eye Want Change video competition for students. For consideration, videos must be shot on a smartphone or tablet, be under 10 minutes long, and relate to a social matter.

Why am I including this story on a blog about instructional technology?

  • The video was created by the students living the tension between native and colonial languages and could be very powerful to use in your classroom for topics like colonialism, globalization, educational policy, language death or assimilation, economics of tourism, and so many others. Wondering what other topics students in the competition have covered? See all the 2014 finalists here.
  • One goal of the video was to improve student fluency in English (as a second language). If you are teaching a foreign language you can probably see the benefits of immersing students in the foreign language through video creation: writing a script, correcting it for grammar and vocabulary, and speaking in the target language.
  • The students used smartphones or tablets to record and edit the video – tools that all our students have access to either through the DELI program or by checking out an iPad mini at the library’s circulation desk. Instructional technologists are also available to help students use the devices.

If you are interested in exploring video projects, contact your Instructional Technology liaison, read our blog posts on the topic, or feel free to explore the handout we used at Tempel Summer Institute.

Facing the Digital Divide

1024px-The_break_water_divide_in_Freshwater_BayI was recently surprised when watching television at home I saw a commercial that uses the idea of “digital divide” as a means to attract new costumers. As I recall, a student, clearly from an underprivileged environment, walks back home talking about the concept of “digital divide”. He mentions that hiring a particular company will bridge this gap since it offers a really good deal that makes the internet affordable for everybody. It is very interesting to see how capitalism is able to use the problems that it created and revert them in a way to gain more money. Anyway, I am not here to talk about capitalism but how we, as an educational community, should consider avoid the digital divide at our institution.

Maybe we think that here at Connecticut College we are alien to this situation and that in our community we won’t find anybody feeling left behind as the protagonist of the commercial, but this is not true. Recently, in one of my classes, a student suggested that we created a group account through WhatsApp. More popular overseas than here, this app allows you to send WhatsApp_logo-color-vertical.svgmessages by phone in a similar way as instant message. The idea was to use this system to get in touch with each other and, from the very beginning; it worked very, very well. I was thinking that we could use this resource not just to socialize but for the students to talk about the class and for me to answer questions promptly outside of class time. I was very pleased with the results, and the students seemed to be happy as well. However, in the second week of classes, another student signed up for the class and, when I suggested that s/he signed up for WhatsApp, s/he told me that s/he didn´t have a smartphone. At that moment, I realized that we need to be very careful with the use of technology and not assume that all students have access to the same gadgets. From that day on, I limited my participation in that group and I conducted all the formal communications with the students by regular email to include all the students in the conversation. I immediately realized that, without that resource, my ability to deal with issues on the spur of the moment was undermined. Even today, when we don’t meet as a class anymore, the WhatsApp group is very active and I sporadically participate sending invitations to have lunch together or participate in cultural activities. But each time I see a message from this group on my iPhone, I can’t help thinking that not all my students are there, and that one of them is always missing from the conversation.

From my point of view, there are some lessons we must learn from these two stories. First, as a community, we shouldn’t assume that every student has the same access to technology, and we need to make sure that, as an institution, we provide everybody with the same tools to succeed in a world that is more and more dependent on technology each day. If we fail in this task, as I mentioned above, we will always have somebody missing from the conversation.

— Luis Gonzalez, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies

A Note from Instructional Technology:

If you are considering using apps in the classroom, contact your Instructional Technology Liaison. We can discuss possible alternatives that will allow you to achieve the same pedagogical goals, share information about technologies available to students through the library (iPad minis can be checked out, for example), or encourage you to participate in the DELI program which provides devices to all your students. We can also teach students to use the devices so they can fully participate in all course activities.

Image credit: By BihnX (The break water divide in Freshwater Bay) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

DELI for Lunch – Reading Day Event Next Week!


Did you know that over 39 faculty and 1,900 students in 181 courses have participated in Instructional Technology’s Digitally Enhanced Learning Initiative (DELI)? The DELI program provides digital devices to all students enrolled in an academic course when the devices will be used to enhance learning outcomes and/or increase student engagement. Our reading day Teaching with Technology luncheon this semester will be devoted to learning about this program and discussing use of digital devices in classes more broadly.

We will hear from veteran faculty participants that represent a variety of disciplines: Art, Chinese, Dance, Education, German Studies, History, and Slavic Studies. The Technology Fellows and Instructional Technology staff will facilitate small group discussions about incorporating digital devices in your classes and will answer questions about the DELI program in particular. Here are the details; feel free to come for all or part of the lunch as your schedule allows.

DELI for Lunch
Hood Dining Room, Blaustein
Thursday, December 11 (reading day)
11:30am – 1:00pm

If you don’t like sandwiches not to worry; we will also have soup, salad, and cupcakes. If you plan on attending, please register using the online form or email Jessica McCullough so we order enough food. We look forward to seeing you there!

Image credit: Carnegie Deli. https://www.flickr.com/photos/carlmikoy/4960831154/in/photostream/