Tech tools for teaching

I’m trying to be a little more systematic about the tools I use for teaching this time around. Here are the major candidates that occur to me without much thinking:

Fargo

  • Outliner and web publisher extraordinaire, Fargo excels at organizing and displaying structured information.
  • How I might use it: display topic outlines in a traditional hierarchy, re-build my entire course site around it instead of its current home, make each class or unit into its own outline and share through the Reader

Canvas

  • My LMS of choice these days, students find it easy to get around, and I find it far more useable than our official LMS, Blackboard.
  • How I might use it: maintain grade book, create interactive self-grading quizzes, collect student work electronically
  • Down side: students have to create an account

Blackboard

WordPress P2

  • This is a WordPress theme that reduces the overhead for posting updates and holding impromptu conversations. I’m intrigued by the stories I’ve read about how teams have used it to collaborate on projects. Apparently Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and other web publishing projects, relies heavily on P2 for communication and project management.
  • What I like about this idea is that it’s out in the open, so when a student posts a question and I respond, everyone else can benefit from that as well. Sure, I could use the discussion feature of Canvas or Blackboard, but those have a high overhead for posting.
  • How I might use it: pose a question or comment during class, ask students to register and interact there, ask students to microblog the class?
  • Down side: probably would require students to create an account to take full advantage

plain web site

  • A good ol’ web site with all the content, but not so well designed for students to use. I went heavy on designing around each class meeting, so it feels like the objectives are all locked away in their own little silos. I’m starting to think about moving much more toward a unit-based approach toward the class, and would need to update this site anyway to support that better.
  • How I use it: send the students there to receive reading assignments, prompts, outlines for class

I built the plain web site last year as part of my reboot of the class using the new Principles of Biology web-based textbook. Each class meeting has an entry, complete with a link to the day’s readings, objectives, an abridged outline, and some application questions and problems.

Part of me doesn’t want to re-invent this again in another form, but I also want to change some things up. For instance, I learned midway through the semester that many students had no idea the outline and questions were even on the page. Apparently it didn’t show up without scrolling down, and they just didn’t realize it.

So I’m going to think out loud hear about each of the tools listed above and try to formulate a plan. I believe some call this “narrating your work.”

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