General tips for choosing technology in a classroom

picture1We see new educational technology resources all the time, whether they are websites, hardware, mobile devices or apps. Trying to decide which of these technology resources are best in your own courses can be a challenge. But how can one decide what technology to use? As an instructor, it is important to evaluate technology for educational purposes. Many school districts or universities have technology coordinators or instructional consulting offices with established criteria to identify resources and technologies for your classroom. Seeking the help of others is a great place to start, but here are some general tips for you to consider when selecting technology to be used in your own courses.

How does the technology support teaching and learning?

Think about how technology can be used for teaching and learning in your classroom. For instance, will technology support new ways of students’ learning? How will technology improve instruction? It is important to consider your instructional objectives and then to find technology that will help you achieve those goals.  Technology does not automatically enhance teaching and learning, but when aligned with your overall instructional goals, it can be very beneficial.

What are others doing to meet the instructional goals?

One of the best ways to successfully integrate technology is to ask your peers and become part of a professional learning network.  Social media networks, blogs, and other websites are great ways to learn about new tools and get first-hand accounts of what other teachers are using.  Look around and encourage other teachers to share their own success stories and failures of what worked or didn’t work.  Ask your colleagues what technology tools they have tried in their courses. Sometimes you need to try a couple of different ways to use a technology before you find a good way to use it.

How does the technology enhance interactivity?

Many technologies enhance interactivity between an instructor and students. They, for instance, may offer the ability for feedback reporting and tracking that can be very helpful to an instructor. Other benefits of interactivity include use in group work and across subject areas.

How easy is it for you and your students to use technology?

Think about user-friendliness, speed, user interface, and training and support. Technology tools and software may not always need to be simple, but consider the amount of support that may be available to you and your students if you get stuck.

How accessible is the technology to you and your students?

Consider whether this technology is accessible for all the students in a classroom. For example, if you would like to use apps for handheld devices in a class, then those devices should be accessible for all the students.

Is the technology cost-effective?

While there are many free resources available, it is always important to consider the monetary costs, the time to learn and use, and any support that may be involved.  Although there are many excellent, free resources available, they might offer limited access, or have intrusive advertising that may not be appropriate for your classroom.  Sometimes getting a paid version offers more stability and support than a free version.

Does the technology protect the privacy and security of you and your students?

The issues of privacy and security should be considered in using technology in a classroom. Using technology should not violate students’ privacy and security. For instance, does this tool gather students’ personal data? Does it expose students to people outside of the class? Make sure to check your school’s policy before implementing new technologies.

Is the technology compatible with existing tools?

Think about whether the new technology is compatible with existing technology. You may need to update the technology with the latest version or purchase extra equipment in order to use the technology.

Overall there are many ways that technology can be used in education.  Picking the right technology can be a challenge, but there are many resources available to help out.  Look around, think critically about the technology, and look for options that will best suit you and your classroom.



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Augmented Reality in Education

What is Augmented Reality?

AR_image1The term, augmented reality (AR) is referred to as “a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data”. AR is thought of as a variation of virtual realities or environments. Technically speaking, AR combines the physical reality with the digital world. Virtual reality cannot show the real world, but it creates a completely virtual one, as with video games, or a virtual reality helmet. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, enables users to see the real world with virtual objects, places, and contexts. Thus, AR does not replace the reality, but augment it.

AR_image2Why is AR an interesting topic? Does AR have use in education and in the classroom? AR enhances the perceptions and interactions with the real world so that users can be immersed in a real situation. Enhancing the fidelity of reality, for instance, can make students more immersed in a learning situation by helping better understand the real-world contexts. For example, in medical education, AR can provide a learning activity which is almost identical to the real surgeon for interns by increasing medical visualization.

Use of augmented reality in the classroom

AR_image3Along with the benefits of it, AR has a lot of potentials to promote learning. First, AR can support experiential learning in a classroom by providing contextual clues or information on learning in AR. Second, AR can promote deeper understanding between a real world and a virtual world by associating learning information with the reality. Finally, AR enables students to lead active learning by constructing and manipulating 3-D objects or clues in person. Here are some examples of using AR in a classroom.

1. Providing cues or directions in a classroom

Teachers can produce ‘markers,’ which include information about a topic or content and post them on the board, walls, or anywhere in the classroom. Then, students can scan the markers or QR code (IC Quick Tips) with mobile devices to get additional information. Teachers could engage in classroom discussions about alternative forms of energy with interactive 3D wind turbines or solar panels found at

Imagine students creating a textbook with 3-D, interactive AR. Students can conduct class projects or homework assignments using AR software or applications with a tablet or mobile device. Students actively engage in learning activities with AR and are expected to accomplish them more successfully.  All of this provides more options for different students and different ways to present information.

2. Promoting student collaboration in a classroom

One possibility of AR is to promote collaboration through social interaction among students in the AR environment because multiple students can share virtual objects provided by AR. This kind of virtual objects can be a means to communicate with students. Or remote collaboration is also available in the AR environment.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Augmented Reality

As always, the introduction of new technology has benefits and disadvantages. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of AR. There are four benefits of AR: (a) multi-sensory immersion, (b) transitional interface, (c) tangible user interface, and (d) synergy with mobile devices.

1. Multi-sensory immersion: AR leads sensory immersion about information or knowledge by augmenting human perceptions with 3-D objects or materials.

2. Transitional interface: AR provides a seamless transitional interface between a real world and a virtual world.

3. Tangible user interface: AR offers tangible user interface with which digital objects or information can be touchable in AR.

4. Synergy with mobile devices: As mobile devices and its applications are advancing, mobile users can experience with more gesture and touch.

There are three drawbacks of AR: (a) high level of reliance on digital information, (b) privacy concerns, and (c) a need of extra wearable devices.

1. High level of reliance on digital information: Too much reliance on digital information may cause the decrease of working memory in the brain which in turn hinders the development of brain functions.

2. Privacy concerns: As AR software and applications are developing, it will become easy to gather information on AR stuff from social network services (SNS) and post them and thereby an unwelcome situation such as private information will occur.

3. A need of extra wearable devices: Since users may want to feel more authenticity in AR, wearable devices such as Google Glass (ABC news on Google Glass) and Apple’s iWatch (Wearable Tech And Augmented Reality – NPR OnPoint) may be provided for users in order to offer authentic experiences in more convenient yet expansive way.

AR Apps Links



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  1. Use of AR in Scanning Printed Stuff:
  2. Use of AR in Medical Education:
  3. Use of AR in a classroom:

Clickers in the classroom: A powerful tool for engaging students

ImageInstructors from a wide variety of disciplines are using clickers in the classroom. The proponents of clickers claim that clickers are innovative, interactive, and useful. But before we look at potential benefits, let’s talk about what clicker systems are. Clicker systems, also known as classroom response systems, personal response systems, and electronic response systems, are designed to collect students’ responses to questions during lectures. Each student generally uses a remote device—a clicker—to participate in a range of class activities, such as lecture questions, pop-quizzes, and attendance checks.

Clickers offer several potential benefits. Clickers are an easy-to-adopt technology that can enhance the learning experience. Clickers can help instructors maintain an appropriate pace by collecting immediate feedback from students, which makes it possible to identify learning gaps, difficult concepts, and areas for improvement. Students can actively participate in discussions about controversial topics without disclosing their names. In this way, a passive lecture can turn into a very interactive lecture. This can also prevent a few students from dominating classroom discussion. Many instructors have reported that students find that using clickers is fun and engaging.

ImageHere is a case of an instructor who uses clickers in his classroom. Dr. Smith is an instructor at a higher education institution who is teaching Biology 101, Introduction to Biology. He enters the lecture room and settles down along with 200 students. He begins his lecture with a short review of an important concept that every student needs to be familiar with for the upcoming exam. The projector displays questions on the screen, and students are allowed 30 seconds for each question. After students responded to the questions with their clickers, Dr. Smith shows a bar chart that illustrates student performance. Students are surprised, as their answers to the questions are mostly incorrect. Dr. Smith intentionally asked questions that are often misinterpreted. Now he has students’ attention. A teachable moment comes.

This is an authentic example that shows a way to use clickers. It seems engaging, participatory, and effective. However, clicker systems have their downsides. For example, the cost. A basic system can cost over thousands dollars. Furthermore, given that the systems are often used in the large classrooms, one might need on-site technicians with a high level of knowledge to optimize and maintain a clicker system during classes.  Also, developing well-designed questions is important. Some institutions are frequently understaffed, unable to support this type of technology, and this leads to ineffective clicker use.

Researchers and practitioners are looking for the best ways to use clicker systems. And there is great potential. Clicker technology can provide more effective, more efficient, and more engaging education.

To assist instructors here at Indiana University, the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning has developed several documents to assist with the use of clickers (see resources below). Furthermore, the center also offers individual consulting for instructors who are interested in using this type of instructional technology.  If you would like to know more about clicker systems, please contact us at

Helpful Resources:

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Recording audio and video in the classroom with iPads

In education, there are many times when a preservice teacher, grad student or faculty member wants to make a video recording of something that happens in the classroom. Today, there are an abundant number of devices that are able to record video. From traditional video cameras, digital cameras with video, functions, web cameras on our computers or mobile devices. While each of these devices have their benefits and disadvantages, recently our office has been looking at different ways to get the best audio and video recordings from an iPad. The fact that the iPad has a camera and microphone built in directly makes it an attractive device for use in school video or audio projects. Many teachers now have iPads in the classroom or some access to an iPad cart. Especially when paired with apps such as iMovie for iPad, Pinnacle Studio, or other video editors, you can record, edit and post videos all directly from the iPad.  However, the built-in mic has some limitations.

Built-in mic


  • Picks up a small room well
  • Recordings are loud
  • Easy, no extra cost


  • Sound quality is good, but not great
  • Has lots of background noise
  • Not directional

Tascam iM2 Mic

There are many optional iOS accessories available for audio on iOS devices. We had the chance to evaluate the Tascam iM2 microphone for iOS devices.  It is a stereo condenser microphone that is built with the 30-pin adapter and works specifically for iOS devices including iPad, iPhone and iPod. It does not require any separate cables or batteries and connects directly to the iOS device (unless you have the iPhone 5 or something with the lightning connector). It has volume control on the microphone, and a plug for a micro USB cord for charging the iOS device while in use.

The following is a summary or what we found to be pros and cons of using the Tascam iM2 mic.


  • Sound quality is excellent
  • Background noise is greatly reduced
  • Picks up the whole room fairly well
  • Great for music recording
  • Works with most apps for audio or video recording (doesn’t require separate apps)
  • No batteries or external power required
  • No extra cables required


  • Recordings are very soft, even when volume turned up all the way.
  • On some devices like the iPod Touch (4th generation), it blocks the headphone jack when it is plugged so you need to unplug the mic to listen to recordings

The following are different scenarios that we tested to compare the built-in microphone and video camera to the Tascam iM2 microphone for iOS devices.

Scenario 1: Classroom Instruction

Many preservice teachers (PSTs) need to make a recording of a mini-lesson in a classroom during their student teaching so that it can be evaluated.  Since many classrooms where the PSTs are doing their student teaching have access to iPads, the possibility of just using the iPad to make a recording might be a logical way to capture and record the mini-lesson. For a classroom setting of an instructor interacting with students, the iM2 is just too quiet to be useful.  While the quality of the sound is good, it would require separate audio editing on the recording to make it louder. In this case, the built-in microphone is going to give a louder recording that will pick up the overall room better than the iM2

Recommendation: Use the built-in microphone

Scenario 2: Podcasting or narration

A podcast is an audio or video recording that can be used as an introduction to a class discussion, assigned as part of a homework discussion, or as a conversation between speakers on a specific topic. But don’t think that all of you students have to have iPads either.  There are a variety of ways that you can share audio or video files that can be viewed directly from a computer or a variety of mobile devices. If you are someone that would like to try podcasting or narration and would like to be able to have better sounding audio from an iOS device, the iM2 would be a great solution.

As long as you can be in a quiet room and can speak fairly loudly, the recording will be very good.  The built-in mic will be louder, but will have more background noise and will not be as clear.

Recommendation: Tascam iM2

Scenario 3: Digital Stories or Movie Making

The iPads built-in camera (on iPad 2 or later) is a nice way to have students create a digital story or movie.  While the iPads are a bit tricky to hold steady, especially for little kids, it is really nice to have a single device that can take pictures, take video, record audio narration and then edit and create a final movie.  In order to create a final movie you will need an app such as iMovie for iPad, Pinnacle Studio, or other video editing program.  These video editors allow you combine still photos, videos, background music, narration, effects and title pages into a single video that can be sent to YouTube,, or saved to the device itself.

Recommendation: It depends…
The audio from the Tascam will be better, but softer. In most cases the built-in mic will be easier and a better choice.

Scenario 4: Recording live music

If you are trying to record musical performances, this is where the iM2 really shines.  Whether you are playing a guitar and singing alone, have a small group or if you have a full chorus or band, the iM2 will give you nice high quality audio as long as the music is not too soft.  Especially if you combine it with the GarageBand app or other similar app to add some effects to the recording, you can get a nice quality recording directly with the iPad.

Recommendation: Tascam iM2


The ability to record and edit directly on the iPad is great and there are many ways that it could be very useful in the classroom.  The built-in mic is fairly good at capturing a presentation, and does a decent job at capturing multiple people speaking in a small classroom.  The iM2 gives much higher quality audio, reduces background noise and is easy to use, but is also much softer than the built-in mic and in classroom settings is generally too soft to be very useful.  If you can be very close to a single speaker or are recording something loud, like a music performance, it gives very good sound quality.  However for general classroom use, the reduction in volume make it too soft to be usable and you should stick to the built-in microphone.

If you have any other questions or would like to discuss more possible ways to use the iPad for audio or video in your classroom, please stop by the Office of Instructional Consulting or email us at

Keeping it going! Engaging students throughout the doldrums of the semester!

It’s that time of the year! Temperatures are dropping, leaves are turning, midterms are over, and Thanksgiving break is getting closer. Even the most dedicated instructors and students might not show their usual enthusiasm about teaching and learning … and might just feel a little tired.

While the rhythm of the semester includes many emotional highs (e.g., first day of class, final exams), engaging students through the “doldrums” (Duffy & Jones, 1995, p. 159) can be challenging. In the following paragraphs, we suggest a few strategies for keeping things going and boosting morale through these times.

Understanding what motivates your students (Source: Faculty Focus)

Motivated students are more likely to engage in activities that help them learn. Thus, it’s important to understand who your students are and what motivates them. Brett Jones, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at Virginia Tech, has five simple guidelines for instructors:

  1. Empower students so they have control over some aspects of their learning.
  2. Show students that course content and activities are useful and.
  3. Value students’ efforts and help them succeed.
  4. Give students the opportunity to explore their interests by providing options (e.g., course readings, assignments).
  5. Demonstrate to students that you (and other students) care about their learning and progress.

Varying instructions and assignments

Humans are intrigued by what is new or different. That principle applies particularly well to the classroom when a class has been following a regular format. Changing instructional methods and types of assignments can push students out of established patterns and encourage them to engage with content in new ways.  For example in an online class, one could use a live web-conference instead an online forum for class discussion.  Even something as simple as switching group members can create the desired effect. But an instructor needs to be careful that changes are not too drastic, or else it might confuse students.

Having fun

Having fun and (an appropriate) sense of humor shows that we are human and not machines who walk the halls of the university. Too often we go through the motions of going to class, teaching new concepts, assigning work, grading it, and returning it. How about switching up the routine by injecting some fun? A humorous reading? A funny video clip? Students creating a skit or satire? Humor can be integrated in many aspects of the course, such as course material and assignments.

Since each class is different, it might take some time to find out what works and what doesn’t to engage students during the downtime of the semester. For ideas, feel free to contact the Office of Instructional Consulting. We would also love to hear about your methods for engaging students during the “doldrums.”


Duffy, D., & Jones, J. (1995). Teaching within the Rhythms of the Semester. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kelly, R. (2012). Five factors that affect online student motivation. Retrieved from

Marcinek, A. (2010). Ten simple strategies for re-engaging students. Retrieved from

Setting expectations in the college classroom

There’s a popular saying among K-12 teachers: “Don’t smile until Christmas.” It’s not to be taken literally (although we all have memories of teachers who didn’t even smile after Christmas). It is meant as a comment on the importance of setting expectations in the classroom.

K-12 teachers devote a lot of time and effort to classroom management. As they should. Children, unformed and irrational as they are, need rules to follow. Those of us who teach in institutions of higher learning tend to give less thought to such things. By the time those wild children get to our classrooms, they have been tamed. They are self-directed, self-motivated, self-aware, and self-disciplined. Or are they?

We know that not all children are wild, and not all adults are tame. But that’s beside the point. Students of any age and any level of domesticity need solid structure and clear expectations in the classroom. The system you have developed for your classes might make perfect sense to you, but you can’t assume that it will make sense to your students. What are your expectations for class discussion? Would you like students to turn off their mobile phones in the classroom? What is your attendance policy? How do you want students to address you? How should they structure an email that they write to you? What file formats are acceptable for assignments? If you are teaching online, how do you want students to communicate with you and each other? There is a myriad of possible behaviors in a classroom. You need to tell your students exactly what you want from them. Micromanagement is not the goal. Rather it is to create a clear structure in which students can learn without uncertainty or confusion.

Following are a few simple guidelines for setting expectations in the college classroom, be it face-to-face or online.

First things first. The first day or first week of class, not later, is the time to communicate expectations.

Put it in writing. A syllabus is a contract that establishes roles and responsibilities for teacher and student. If you want students to do or know something, put it in the syllabus.

Don’t smile until … If you start strict, you can be lenient later, but it can be challenging the other way around. Students tend to perceive the imposition of new rules as unfair, and they may not accept them. This also holds true for grading and feedback. If you are tough at the beginning of the semester, you give students room for improvement. Not so if the first assignment is an easy A.

Don’t let it fester. If there is a problem, deal with it as soon as possible. Minor issues can become disastrous if they are allowed to develop.

An example is worth a thousand words. Give students examples of what you want and don’t want, and explain your reasons.

Of course, there is much more to it. This is a brief and simplistic treatment of a complex topic. You’ll find more details if you follow the links below. We also invite you to visit us at the Office of Instructional Consulting if you’d like to discuss strategies for setting expectations in the college classroom.

Things to consider before the first day of class from IU’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning:

Guidelines for dealing with disruptive students from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning:

Practical solutions for specific problem behaviors:

Online teaching presents its own challenges. Tips for online class managment:

Guidelines for establishing standards of etiquette in the classroom and suggestions for syllabus items from UC Davis:

Taking to ‘the cloud’ in education

There has been a lot of talk about using “the cloud” for storing and sharing data. In our previous blog post, we already reviewed cloud storage providers such as, SkyDrive, Dropbox, and Recently, Indiana University and came to an agreement to provide cloud-based storage to its faculty staff, and students at IU. In this blog post, we focus on how the use of cloud-based storage  could be used in education.

What is cloud-based storage?

ImageWhen we trying to understand ‘the cloud’, think about how many people use the bank system today. While one’s money is still located in a centralized place (e.g., in the bank’s vault), it is accessible at many different locations (e.g., ATMs). As one interacts with an ATM, one can see the current amount and money can be added to/withdrawn from the account. Immediately, the amount on one’s account is updated to reflect the changes. Similarly, you can access your files from any device with an internet connection, much as you can access your money from an ATM, a website, or a physical bank. It is common to use online banking instead of offline banking. One does not have to go to the bank in person but one can  deposit, transfer, and even make payments all online. Like banking, cloud-based storage provides an account to upload, download, and share data with multiple of devices. Additionally, it offers to opportunity to do all these things through a website similar to online banking. Many individuals and organizations are now using cloud storage for diverse reasons, for example, data storage, data sharing, and collaboration.

Use of cloud-based storage in education

Educational institutions are taking advantage of the cloud as more and more schools are teaching courses that involve using digital media, such as pictures or videos. Cloud-based storage can help students and teachers easily access and share data anywhere and anytime.

Important features for education

Most cloud-based storage providers have common features like data backup, accessibility, and security features. The following aspects of the cloud are especially relevant for education.

1. Synchronization in real-time

ImageOne of useful features of cloud storage is remote backup. Cloud backup works similar way to traditional backup except the fact data are being moved to a server through the Internet rather than carrying it onto physical hard drive, e.g.,  USB drive. In school, any file one saves to cloud-based storages is automatically synchronized to all enabled devices such as a desktop, laptop, tablet , as well as the  webpage of the cloud-based storages (e.g., To automatically sync all of files to one’s devices, all one need to do is to download and install a program from the storage provider.

For example, if I add audio files to a cloud-based storage from my desktop, it is possible to play the file without having to download it, on my iPad, iPhone, and home laptop as it is already saved on my account in cloud-based storage.

2. Collaboration

Imagine you are collaborating on a project with a number of people in different places, and the project involves a set of Word documents. You might want to have a common place to store those files. With cloud-based storage’s synchronization function, your collaborators can independently open the documents, work on them, and save them to the one centralized place. With many different sub-applications available, much cloud-based storage focuses on collaboration function. For example, Agilewords makes it easy to collect group feedback, make online edits, track changes, and get quick reviewers’ approval. Other collaboration applications that are designed for specific fields are AutoCAD WS, for opening CAD files, AppFusions’ Box in Atlassian JIRA, DICOM Viewer for medical images, and eSurvey Mobile Forms for mobile survey.

3. Editing

Some cloud storage providers such as Google Drive and CloudOn provide users with an editing feature for documents. Google Drive, for example, enables users to create, share, and edit files and collaborate with others. However, they do not have offline support to create, share, and edit.

Some things to consider:

Before jumping on the ‘cloud’ bandwagon, there are several things to consider.



  • Low cost is used for operation compared to electronic data storage devices.
  • It has automatic backup and recovery systems so no one worries about data loss.
  • Data server is safely secured by the provider.
  • Service costs may by rising as the amount of data increases.
  • High internet speed is required to make connections and backup a large scale file.
  • If the provider server is hacked, security for data in cloud storage is not guaranteed.

Additional resources: Cloud storage comparison chart

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