we’re blogging how we explore technology in the teaching/learning process

OER on Mobile

August 19th, 2014 · Comments Off · students, teaching

We have had several presentations about Open Education Resources during inservice this year (Fall 2014)

Some of the OER resources have mobile apps that help access them on your device. We just learned about one from Open Stax (open, free textbooks)


FUSION 2014: Usng a txt expdr

July 7th, 2014 · Comments Off · D2L, faculty, faculty development, online teaching, students, teaching

Brandon and I will be presenting at the poster session this year at the annual FUSION Desire2Learn Users Conference held this year in exotic and far-off Nashville, Tennessee!

Our session is on using text expanders within D2L and our work supporting D2L users. A text expander is basically a database that uses short abbreviations you create to expand into longer text blocks, snippets, emails, URLs, addresses and so forth. It is a great time-saving device.

Here are the resources and references for our poster session:

Our Top Five Uses for Text Expanders:

  1. Tech Support: sending commonly asked questions for tech support or common troubleshooting techniques for regular questions
  2. Grading: adding commonly used phrases or resources for grading discussions, quiz feedback and other assignments
  3. Common HTML Code: Brandon uses it for adding Easy Proxy links within the D2L HTML Editor to prevent it from messing up the links.
  4. FAQ: Sometimes you just need to send the answer that is in an FAQ
  5. Instructions/Information: Sending links and information about campus resources or instructions to install software, etc.


Text Expanders to Explore






And, if you are really interested in seeing how a text expander works, check this out:



Upgrade to D2L 10.3

January 23rd, 2014 · Comments Off · D2L, faculty, instructional technology, online learning, online teaching, students, teaching

It is obvious that we have been remiss in blogging here at TeachTech over 2013. That will try to be rectified in 2014.

To start out this new year, all of the Tennessee Board of Regents colleges (including Pellissippi State) upgraded our course management system to the latest and greatest version: D2L 10.3.

There are many small changes – some cosmetic and some a bit more extensive that should speed things up for students and teachers alike and we will talk about those in future postings. But, for now, be sure to grab the two page Quick Reference Guide for getting around in the new version.

Screenshot of the Desire2Learn Instructor Quick Reference Guide

D2L Quick Reference Guide


got MOOC?

January 30th, 2013 · Comments Off · online learning, online teaching

I confess…I am a MOOC dropout. In fact, on more than one occasion.

Now, you might be asking: MOOC? What’s a MOOC.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. They typically have open registration and will have several thousand registrations at the outset. However, the dropout rate is very, very high…like above 90% of the registrants don’t complete the course. But, for the 10% that do, it is a great access to education.

A timeline of the history of the MOOC

HIstory of the MOOC

MOOCs have been around for about 4 years and have evolved into several types:

  • Connectivist MOOC (cMOOC) relies on the connectivist education theory which emphasizes the personal learning network for each participant and a collaborative structure to creating the learning experience.
  • Content MOOC (xMOOC) is a bit more “traditional” in its approach and are the types of MOOCs garnering a lot of the press right now. Examples of these include Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence  course or any of the MIT Open Course Ware options from back over 10 years ago.
  • A third type could be called the Task MOOC (tMOOC?) and it involves a set of tasks that the participant completes from prompts within the course. The students also then comment on and/or critique the other’s tasks. An example of this type of MOOC is the Digital Storytelling course from the University of Mary Washington known as ds106.

The overwhelming type of MOOC is the xMOOC approach and you can find courses from many consortia of universities in places like:

  • Coursera:  Courses from schools like Stanford, University of Michigan, Georgia Tech and more….Where I dropped out of the Human-Computer Interaction Course
  • EdX: Courses from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and Georgetown
  • Udacity: Offers courses for high school students and beyond


The challenges, in my mind, for MOOCs include:

  • increasing the completion rate, which will also increase the scalability of the course delivery both infrastructure as well as human resources needed
  • finding a revenue streaming to keep the model viable in today’s increasingly difficulty higher education budget world
  • determining how to keep academic integrity to allow for some form of credential to be awarded for successful completion, whether it is a badget, a certificate, college credit or some other – yet to be invented – type of recognition. The introduction of Signature Track within Coursera is a move in that direction as it will use photo ID and biometrics to identify a student taking the course before a certificate can be offered.


For a very thorough review of the rise of MOOCs, check out Sir John Daniel’s paper: Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility


YouTube Playlists

November 29th, 2012 · Comments Off · tutorial

YouTube playlists are groups of related videos that play after one another in an order you specify. Playlists are a great way to create content for a flipped classroom, since students don’t have to navigate to many different YouTube videos in order to learn about a topic. When creating your own playlists, you can even use YouTube’s built-in video recorder to add your own introduction to videos published by other individuals. When finished, you can embed the entire playlist in your D2L course very easily. Let’s take a look at how it works!

Getting Started

You’re need a Google account to create playlists. If you don’t already have one, go ahead and head over to this site to set one up – https://accounts.google.com. Click on the create an account for free link to get started.

Create a Playlist

  1. Make sure that you’re logged in to your Google/YouTube account. Use the search box to locate a video you’s like to add to a new playlist.
  2. Click on the Add to button under the video. Type a name for the playlist in the text field and click the Create playlist button.
  3. Find another video using the search tool. To add the new video to an existing playlist, click on the Add to button and choose the playlist from the list of available items as shown in the image below:
  4. Repeat the above process to add as many videos to the playlist as you’d like.

Edit a Playlist

You can visit the Edit Playlist page to change the order of videos in a playlist, insert your own introductions, or remove videos all together. To get started, either navigate to https://www.youtube.com/view_all_playlists or click on your name in the navigation area, then choose Video Manager | Playlists. Click the Edit button for the playlist you’d like to edit.

  • Change the order of videos by hovering over the left part of the row and clicking and dragging the video to a new location.
  • Delete videos from the playlist by checking the box for the videos you’d like to remove and choosing the Remove videos from playlist option in the Actions drop-down list.
  • Add your own video or text introduction to videos by hovering over a video thumbnail and clicking the Introduction option. If you plan on recording video in the browser, you’ll need to give Flash permission to access your computer’s camera and microphone. Click the Start Recording button when you’re ready to begin.

Embedding a Playlist

You can embed a playlist in your D2L course as easily as you can embed a single video.

  1. In YouTube, access your Playlists in the Video Manager. Then, click on the title of the playlist you want to add to your D2L course.
  2. Click on the Share button and copy the URL form the text field that appears.
  3. Access your D2L course and navigate to the Content tool.
  4. Click on the New Topic button and select the Create New File option.
  5. Choose a module in which to place the topic and provide a title.
  6. Click on the Insert Stuff icon in the HTML editor.
  7. Click on the Insert Link option in the left column of the dialog box. Then, paste the address you copied from YouTube in the URL text field in the main content area.
  8. Click Next. Then, click Insert.
  9. Save your topic when finished!

Click here to download a PDF version of this tutorial.


iPad Grader App for D2L – now FREE!!!

November 6th, 2012 · Comments Off · D2L, faculty, teaching, web 2.0

If you are both:

  • an iPad owner/user
  • a D2L instructor who uses the Assignment tools

If so, head right over to the iTunes Store and grab the newly released D2L Grader Pro app, version 2.0. It is now FREE!!! This app allows you to grade assignments from your iPad, without being online within D2L and then upload your comments and grades when you are connected to the Desire2Learn server.

From the iTunes description:

Desire2Learn Assignment Grader helps you get your grading done quickly from anywhere.

– Grade assignments right from your iPad
– Draw, markup, highlight, underline, and add inline comments anywhere in the assignment
– Instantly upload your grades and rubrics with your learning management system
– Go offline and synchronize your work later

Desire2Learn Assignment Grader works with Desire2Learn Learning Environment 9.4 and above.

Just in time for the holidays! :)



REPOST: Curation on the Web

September 13th, 2012 · Comments Off · presentations, web 2.0

NOTE: This is a repost of an article written for the Desire2Learn Community site in July 2012.

Everybody collects something and we all organize our collections in our own way. “Growing up” on the web means that most of us collect links to sites and resources we want to keep handy. Organizing those is also a highly personal activity.

Initially, bookmarks of links were stored within your web browser. This worked great in the days when we only had one device that was online. As each of us gains more and more devices online, it became clear that these collections of links had to cross devices easily. Delicious is, of course, the granddaddy of organizing a collection of bookmarks that can be centrally accessed.

As Delicious evolved, the service became more customizable with longer descriptions, tagging, and networks to allow social sharing of bookmarks. The latest addition of stacks, allows the user to build a collection of links around a theme. Stacks are more visually interesting and provide a customizable way to share a collection than just a tag search.

As web tools emerge and the use of the web changes to one more of creation rather than consumption, it is important for instructors and students to understand the art of curation when creating lists of links and resources to use for study or to share with a class. In fact, curating a collection involves many of the higher order thinking skills expressed in the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.


Curating is not just a fancy word for collecting. Curating goes beyond gathering a list of links and into the higher.  The definition from Corrinne Weisgarber’s Teaching Students to Become Curators of Ideas: The Curation Project sums up the skills needed for a successful curator:

 “A curator scours the… world, selects the finest works, gathers them together around a unified theme, provides a frame to understand the … messages and then hosts a conversation around the collection.”

The tools that are emerging allow for successful curation within a web browser that can be shared within a Desire2Learn course, blog or other web site.

Aspects of Curation

Beyond Delicious, new tools are available to make curating a collection easy from within multiple devices and platforms. A curation tool must have mechanisms for collecting, arranging, filtering and describing the items in the collection. Other factors to consider are:

  1. Ease to use
  2. Annotations/Sharing
  3. Data Liberation

Ease of Use

In order to curate a collection, the collection has to be easy to gather. Tools that provide multiple means of gathering the links are the most useful. Bookmarklets and browser bar buttons allow the user to easily add a resource to their collection tool from within the browser of their choice without having to leave the resource, enter the tool and copy/paste a link or other action.  Having a mobile app or tool is also important for curation via a mobile

The local interface for the curation tool also must be intuitive and easy to follow in multiple devices for both the curator and the audience.

Annotations and Sharing

As Weisgarber’s definition state, a curator must provide a frame to understand the collection. A list of links with a few tags can work for a simple resource list but a truly curated collection must provide context, background information or related information to give value to the listings.

Tools that allow for annotation, notes, descriptions and flexible organization allow for the richness of information that curation can provide. Aspects to consider when selecting a tool is when/how the annotation and notes can be created: when the link is added, after a link is added and if users of the curated collection can create discussion or additional annotation.

Sharing the collection is also important. Look for tools that allow for embedding the collection into other sites, such as a Desire2Learn content module. Consider the ease of sharing a collection or single items via other social tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Data Liberation

Web tools appear and disappear on a daily basis. Everyone has had a favorite site or tool that seemed “mission critical” only to discover that it is being discontinued in six months. With the flux of web tools, it is extremely important to determine an “escape plan” for the data you collect within any given tool or site. Before beginning any curation project, determine if the tool you select has a way to migrate or export your data into a form that can be used within other tools. If it doesn’t provide a means, look at tools like Backupify to see if it can pull data from within the tool.

Example of Curation Tools

Bag the Web

Bag the Web (bagtheweb.com) calls the user-generated collection a “bag”. The bag can then be linked to other bags as additional references.  Within Bag the Web, multimedia can be played so it is easy to build a multimedia bag by just adding links to YouTube and Vimeo videos, SlideShare presentations and Flickr photos.

The ease of use for Bag The Web is the “Bag It” bookmarklet you can add to any modern browser. This button allows you to quickly bag a resource from the page itself without having to leave and log into Bag the Web.


Bags can be published or private and also allow for embedding into a web site, sharing via email of Facebook and more.


Bag the Web can be shared multiple ways

Discussion around a collection is also very important. By embedding a bag within a Desire2Learn course, instructors can use the discussion or chat tool to engage students in exploring the usefulness of their curated collections and how to ascertain value from other collections.

In addition to the bag presentation, Bag The Web provides a text version, which allows for easy data migration via copy/paste as well as improving accessibility to the collection for screen readers.


Scoop.it (http://www.scoop.it) is a magazine style tool for presenting collections around a central theme with sharing and design at the forefront of the tool. In the free version, you can build up to 5 themes. Scoop.it does have an education version for about seven dollars at month that allows for up to 20 themes and up to 30 users working together. For a class curation project, this might be a good option to consider.

You can share Scoop.it collections via the usual channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. It also offers easy way to embed into WordPress, Google + and Tumblr.

The customization option allows you to insert HTML, create headers and footers and other aspects of the look of the page. For curating within a visual field such as art history or interior design, this capability might be more desirable than a straight text list as Delicious or Diigo would provide.

The Scoop It bookmarklet works just like the “Bag It” mentioned earlier. A major difference is that you can also share the resource to Facebook pages and WordPress press blogs from the same screen.

As far as data liberation, Scoop.it provides an RSS feed for your topic so you can capture it in a RSS reader and archive the information.  It also provides an embed code for sharing within blogs, Desire2Learn and other web pages.


With Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy using creating, evaluating, and analyzing as the higher order skills, incorporating curating as a skill within a class allows for a fun and useful means to improve and practice these skills.

New tools such as Bag the Web and Scoop.it allow for a easy to use interface, simple collection via bookmarklets, sharing capabilities within a Desire2Learn course and other public web sites and social aspects to network between other curated collections and curators.