Monday, April 7, 2014

Useful Features in Google Drive that Everyone Should be Using

Google Drive is a powerful productivity suite with huge potential in education. Google Drive empowers users with the necessary tools to do everything from store documents to create presentations. Besides the basic features of Google Drive, there are lots of tips and tricks you can introduce to your students to make their Google Drive experience even more productive. This article will introduce you to just a few of the useful features in Google Drive that you and your students should be using.

Research feature

While composing a paper in Google Docs, students can conduct research on any highlighted word or phrase without having to change tabs or open a new window. To use the research feature, highlight the word or phrase that you want to research and right click on it then select "research". A window pane will open on the right-hand sidebar with the search results of your query.

Search for scholarly articles and images:

In addition to doing a web search for a query, you can also search for images, scholarly articles, and quotes related to the word or phrase that you highlighted.


Instead of emailing documents back and forth, they can be shared by typing in the email addresses of the people you wish to collaborate with and giving them editing permission. A link to the shared document will be emailed to them by Google. All collaborators can also see the shared document listed in their Google Drive. Collaborating on a shared document ensures that everyone is working on the same document since it allows multiple people to be in the same document at the same time to make edits.

Brainstorming and Mind-mapping:

The drawing tools featured in Google Docs are perfect for drawing shapes, arrows, text, and importing images to build a visual map for any task. By sharing the document with others, it can also become a team collaboration tool for brainstorming and idea development sessions. The revision history uses colors to highlight and track changes to the Google Doc which makes it easy to see what each person has contributed to the big picture.


Using the comment feature provided by Google Docs, students and instructors can leave feedback on other people's documents. They can also include audio feedback. The student first must share their document with their collaborators and give them permission to edit. To add a comment, right click on the line where you want your comment to appear and click on "comment".

Spell Checker:

Students can correct their spelling and check for errors in Google Docs by clicking on "Tools" on the menu list and then select "spelling" and a pop-up window will display the correct spelling of that word. Google Docs also underlines misspelled words in red as they are typed. To correct the spelling, right click on the word and a pop-up menu will appear with a list of correct spelling options. Click on any word from the menu and the misspelled word will be replaced with the correct word.


There is an embedded dictionary within Google Docs which makes it easy for students to check the definition of a word by highlighting the word and after right-clicking, choose "define". Or you can click on the "Tools" menu and choose "Define".

Equation Editor:

Math and science teachers and students can now use Google Docs to add equations to a document with having to go through an overly complicated process. To access the equation editor, select the "Insert" drop-down menu, and click on "Equations". A pop-up entry box appears where you can enter your formula and/or equation. All the mathematical symbols are grouped in five separate drop-down boxes. A preview box below the data entry field displays what the equation will look like on the page. Once the equation is inserted onto the page, the text editor treats it as one whole unit which can be dragged anywhere within your document. Note: the equation editor is for note-taking only - it does not perform computations.


In addition to text, a wide variety of multimedia materials can be inserted into documents such as web links, images, tables, footnotes, videos, bookmarks, a table of contents, headers and more. To insert, click on the "Insert" menu and then choose the type of media.

Saving in Other Formats:

Google Docs can be downloaded and saved in other formats including: PDF, Microsoft Word, Plain Text, or Rich Text Format. To choose other formats, click on the File menu and hover your mouse over "Download as" and the list of options will appear. Click on the option you wish to use and a new document will be created in that format and saved to your Google Drive.


You can invite others to view a presentation you have made at the same time that you are presenting it by sharing the link to the presentation with them. Students can embed a link to their presentation in their portfolio or resume' by sharing their presentation with anyone who has the link and then embedding the shared link.

Create Surveys Using Google Forms:

Students and Instructors can use Google Forms to create surveys to be used for research, project evaluation, self assessment, instant response during a lecture or presentation, anonymous surveys, story creation and collaboration, and much more. For more ideas on using Google Forms view the slideshow at 80 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom.

For More Information:

9 Things Every Student Should Be Able to Do With Google Drive. (March 8, 2014). Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

6 Steps to Add Voice Comments to Google Docs. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

100 Ways to Use Google Drive in the Classroom. (Feb. 7, 2014). TeachThought.

80 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom. (April 30, 2013). TeachTought.

52 Tips and Tricks for Google Docs in the Classroom. (Nov. 16, 2012). TeachThought.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Creating Better Research Posters

Poster sessions provide opportunities for one-on-one interactions with individuals in your field and can facilitate high-quality networking that will benefit you and your future career (Shives, 2014). Avoid some of the common mistakes people make when putting together research posters by following the tips below:

  • Focus your information: Poster size is limited so you need to focus in on the main information you want to convey. Determine what specific data you need to include in order to get your message across to an audience that may be unfamiliar with your research topic. Determine the minimum amount of information that is needed to create a convincing narrative of the research. If you keep having to reduce the font size to under 18 points to fit in all the information, you need to start cutting back. "Great information is often trapped in dense documents. Rechunking and turning words into pictures helps make them understood" (Duarte).
  • Keep it simple: Do not overwhelm your audience with tiny, dense text and a dozen hard to decipher images and graphs. Use only the data and text that you need in order to support your conclusions. The Cornell Center for Materials Research suggests limiting posters to 250 words that describe only a few major points.
  • Employ good design:
      • Don't use too many bright colors or fancy fonts.
      • Use elements that enhance the information you are presenting such as text boxes and bolt print.
      • Don't underestimate the value of white space on your poster - every inch of the poster does not need to be filled with text and/or data.
      • The design should fade into the background so that your research can be clearly interpreted.
  • Arrange information for maximum impact: Viewers expect the most important part of the poster to be right in the middle. Fill the middle of your poster with the experimental figures and other pertinent information and in the other sections place the introduction, conclusion, methods, acknowledgements, references, etc.
  • Know your audience: Posters are the compressed version of your work that will be presented to an audience so it is important to know who that audience is. Know what the audience expects from your poster and whether it is a general session or a specific subsection of your discipline in which every knows the same jargon. Duarte suggests that you take a mental walk in your audiences' shoes and try to anticipate their concerns and questions and keep those thoughts in mind as you construct your poster.
  • Look at examples: Most graduate departments should have some examples of previous posters on hand that you can look at for a template of how to arrange the content. You may also be able to find examples from your specific discipline by doing a Google image search. The Cornell Center for Materials Research has put together a 68 page step-by-step guide for poster design that covers everything from the size of the title to the size of the graphics.
  • Hone your poster talk: If you have the opportunity to present your poster during a session, take some time to plan your talk. Use this opportunity to talk about the highlights of your research and convey any additional information that you were not able to include on the poster. Now your information well and be ready to answer questions.
For more information:
Cornell University. Scientific poster design: How to keep your poster from resembling an abstract painting. Cornell Center for Materials Research.

Duarte, N. Slidedocs: Spread ideas with effective visual documents.

Shives, K. (March 9, 2014). 5 Pointers for a Better Poster. Gradhacker.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Innovative Methods for Giving Students Feedback

This article will focus on innovative methods of providing formative and summative feedback to online and face-to-face students that go beyond the usual text email or marked-up Word file. Through the use of free, easy-to-use tech tools, instructors can make a more meaningful connection with their students and provide the type of feedback that will engage the students with the content and the assessment. By using these feedback tools instructors "can now provide more personal, more meaningful and more effective instruction in an acoustically and/or visually supported manner" with voice tone and intonation helping to convey feelings and to build rapport with the students (Veronica's Teaching Online Blog).

Audio Feedback:

Audio Feedback provides formative feedback to students in real-time in order to encourage them to dig deeper and think more critically to expand or clarify their argument or position.  Formative feedback is often more valuable to students than the final assessment because it fosters depth of learning during the course and/or activity. Audio feedback is useful because:
  1. This type of feedback allows students to choose when, where, and how often they will listen/watch the feedback
  2. It is especially relevant in an online class because it adds an element of instructor presence.
  3. Audio feedback is not only useful for commenting on tasks, reflections, and papers that students submit, but also to provide pronunciation feedback on spoken tasks done during online phases and to record the instructor's reflections on end-of-course evaluations.

 Tools to Use for Audio Feedback:

  • Built-in VoiceTools within Moodle. Voice Authoring embeds an audio announcement recorded by the instructor directly into the course. Voice Email allows instructors to send audio recordings from Moodle to a student's University email account. The only drawback to using the Moodle VoiceTools is that Java is required in order to play the recordings so students using mobile devices that do not run Java will not be able to play the recordings. For more information on using Moodle VoiceTools attend one of our workshops or contact the ITRC.
  • Apps that are available for Mac and Android systems that facilitate audio feedback such as:
      • Vocaroo - the most highly-rated audio app because of its simplicity. For more information visit the article: Using Vocaroo for Student Feedback.
      • Evernote - use the audio record feature and then email the voice recording in a note format to the student. For more information visit the Evernote knowledge base page: How to Record Audio in Evernote.
      • - a free, online video messaging platform that allows you to create and send video messages in a self-contained, spam-free environment. There are several videos available on YouTube that demonstrate how Eyejot works:


Screencasting allows an instructor to talk through a student's work by recording audio comments on the student's actual assignment which is displayed on the instructor's screen. This type of feedback is formative and summative because the focus is on the student's work. Veronica's Teaching Online Blog lists 3 reasons to provide feedback through screencasting:
  1. The feedback can be viewed during an online phase which frees up valuable face-to-face time for other activities.
  2. Explaining while visually highlighting and correcting errors on-screen helps student to understand the feedback more easily than just posting a copy of the answers in the form of a document with comments and/or corrections.
  3. It allows students to watch the feedback as often as they need to, when it is convenient.

Tools to use for Screencasting:

  • Jing and (both by the TechSmith company) are free programs that enable you to capture basic video, animation, and still images and share them on the web. This type of program allows the instructor to open the student's file on their computer, and while it is open, annotate the document and give audio feedback. Using this type of tool allows the instructor to speak naturally just as they would while giving face-to-face feedback to a student.
  • Screencastomatic is another free online application with one-click screen capture recording on Windows or Mac computers. The free version allows up to 15 minutes of recording per upload and can be published to an MP4 movie. The pro version has editing tools and unlimited recording time for only $15/year.

Google Drive:

Google Drive/Google Docs is available to all students and faculty through their University email account. Google Drive allows instructors to provide feedback directly on a student's document. Here is how it works:
  1. The student creates his/her document in Google Drive, and enables the instructor to view and edit the document through the sharing feature. 
  2. Through the share feature the student enters the instructor's email address which sends the link to the document to the instructor.
  3. The instructor makes comments and notes directly on the student's document. Google Drive provides excellent tools for providing comments in the side bar and/or making comments within the document itself.
  4. The student is automatically notified of the comments made.
For more information on how to use Google Drive for giving student feedback view the informative article provided by Powerful Learning Practice, Google Drive: A Better Method for Giving Students Feedback.


By using tech tools such as voice recordings, screencasting, and Google Drive, instructors now have the ability to provide more personal, meaningful, and effective instruction to their students. This type of feedback also addresses the different styles of learning with information presented in multiple formats.


Giving Feedback on Student Writing. University of Michigan Center for Writing. A pdf document that offers an overview of some widely shared ideas about giving good feedback, followed by descriptions of a variety of possible ways to put these ideas into practice.

Audio Feedback and Human Touch? Veronica's Teaching Online Blog

Best Methods and Tools for Online Educators to Give Students Helpful and Meaningful Feedback, Online Learning Insights blog

Monday, February 3, 2014

Using Twitter for Education

Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read "tweets", which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Social media technology such as Twitter offers many opportunities for learning in the classroom, brings together the ability to collaborate and access worldwide resources, and creates new and interesting ways to communicate in one easily accessible place.

The Basics

  • There are no age restrictions for having a Twitter account
  • Privacy - can be set up so that only those you allow to follow you can see your "tweets". This is useful when using Twitter for class projects.
  • Style - short commentary, link sharing, simple questions and thoughts, informal
  • Pace - quick, great for synchronous activities


  • Opportunity to explore the world
  • Allows for quick, yet poignant reflections and observations
  • Can bring in the opinions and research of guest speakers and experts
  • Provides live commentary on people and events


  • Ideas can get lost if not tagged properly
  • Limited characters which may limit thoughts and expressions

 Sample Lesson Ideas

  • Synchronous:

    • Group project or presentation feedback
    • Questions on an assignment
    • Brainstorming
    • Exam preparation
    • Progressive collaborative writing. Students agree to take turns contributing to an account or story over a period of time 
  • Asynchronous:

    • Engagement outside of class
    • Preparing for next day
    • Just-in-time "quizzing" - post questions about the lesson as they are studying
    • Follow an event as it unfolds
    • Learning and practicing foreign languages - post questions and ask students to respond in the same language or to translate the tweet into their native language 

Examples of Uses

  • Communication:

    • Bulletin board to notify students of changes in the schedule and/or assignments
    • Student engagement in large lectures - In large lecture classes where student participation can be intimidating and logistically problematic, Twitter can make it easy for students to engage and discuss during class time.
    • Classroom notepad - Using a Twitter hashtag, it’s easy to organize inspiration, reading, ideas, and more for the classroom to share.
    • Pop quiz - Send out quick quizzes on Twitter, and have them count for bonus points in the classroom.
    • Link sharing - With Twitter, students can share websites with class, making relevant link finding and sharing a classroom assignment.
  • Organization:

    • Recaps - At the end of a lecture, the instructor can summarize what has been learned in the classroom, encouraging reflection and discussion between students.
    • Gathering class comments - Use class hashtags to organize comments, questions and feedback that students have used in class, while also projecting live tweets in class for discussion.
  • Resources:

    • Search tool to find information about famous people and events
    • Communicate with experts- Find authors, scientists, or historians on Twitter and get connected
    • Source evaluation - Students can share resources and discuss whether it’s a good or bad source of information, encouraging comments
    • Gather real-world data as it happens
    • Following the government - Often, local and national political figures have Twitter feeds, and students in the classroom can track their progress.
  • Writing Skills:

    • As long as students are held accountable for their grammar, using Twitter offers a great opportunity for improving writing and punctuation.
    • Reading assignment summaries - Students can build 140-character summaries based on reading assignments, forcing a focus on quality.

More Information:

60 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

Top Ten Uses of Twitter for Education by Steve Wheeler

How to Find Exactly What You Want in Twitter - Amazing Twitter Secrets for Educators - Part One and Part Two

How Twitter changed the world, hashtag-by-hashtag - An interesting history about how Twitter is about to become the most expensive watercooler in history.

Twitter - its history, features, and technology

Twitter Handbook for Teachers

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quality Matters - Year in Review and Friday "Jam" Sessions

QM Year in Review 2013

QM logo
Quality Matters recently shared their QM Year in Review and letter from Executive Director, Ron Legon. A few of the highlights from the letter:
  • The number of courses officially reviewed using one of the QM rubrics is nearing 6,000, with many more courses informally reviewed or self-reviewed using the standards and tools.
  • QM now has more than 800 institutional subscribers and nearly 150 individual members.
  • About 4,500 faculty members, instructional designers, program administrators, and others have achieved and maintained their certifications as QM Peer Reviewers.
  • The QM Higher Education Rubric is undergoing and update with the goal of producing a new version of the Rubric by summer 2014. Developments that will impact the new Rubric are:
    • The recent surge of interest in competency-based education;
    • Increased concern about student authentication; and,
    • The challenge of designing for devices with different screen sizes and navigational methods.
  • QM's first Rubric for K-12 elementary school courses will be developed in 2014.
  • During the first quarter for 2014, QM will be launching their web-based eLearning Marketplace Directory which will be a free, searchable database with information on products from vendors who serve the online and blended learning community
  • The 6th Annual QM Conference will be held in Baltimore September 29 - October 1, 2014.
Click here for the complete letter: A Message from QM Executive Director, Ron Legon, PhD

Get Into the Groove with QM LIVE!'s Friday "Jam" Sessions!

Michael Crampton illustration
Image courtesy Michael Crampton

The term is in full swing. The usual questions have been answered and your students have settled into their class routines. During the first few weeks of a new term, faculty are often able to see ways they might further improve their courses for the next term, but finding time can be difficult. Now in just two hours each Friday during February and March, you can learn how to make your courses even better! QM LIVE!'s Friday "Jam" sessions are" jam-packed" with tools and strategies you can apply to your courses right away. 

These are not traditional "sit back and listen" webinars! In each "Jam" session you will work collaboratively, often in breakout rooms, to create tools you can apply to your courses immediately. 

Each session is individually beneficial, but packaged together they can have a more powerful impact for your students. Register for one session at $75 per person ($125 for non-subscribers) or all 8 sessions for $450 per person ($850 for non-subscribers), a savings of $150! To take advantage of the discounted rate for all 8, you must register by February 6. Register for all 8 sessions.
View descriptions and register for individual sessions at the following links: 
 Sessions are held at the same time every week:  
  • 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. AST
  • 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST
  • 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. CST
  • 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. MST
  • 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. PST
  • 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. AKST
  • 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. HAST
  • 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 
  • 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. Singapore
Have a professional development party on Fridays in February and March with QM LIVE!'s Friday "Jam" sessions!  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Introduction to Social Technology

Students use social technology such as Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter every day for their personal use. These technologies can be used in education as a method for promoting student engagement and interaction if used effectively. This blog looks at things to be considered before using social technology in education. This material is taken from the Emerging Trends and Technologies MOOC offered through Coursera.

According to Eric Sheninger, there is no guidebook out there that educators must abide by when it comes to using social media and there are no overbearing rules - which is why it is so useful and adaptable. The only firm rule he encourages educators to follow is to use common sense when posting to the Internet and always remember your role as an educator in the community you serve.

Types of Social Technologies being used in education:

  1. Social Networking and Sharing of Information - these technologies allow the user to post ideas and personal work for the community to view and give feedback. Examples: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, and Pinterest
  2. Blogs and Wikis - these technologies allow users to create collective works or to blog information for the community to comment on. Examples: Tumblr, Blogger, Wordpress, and Wikispaces

Suggested ways social technology can be useful to educators:

  • Acquire, share, and curate resources
  • Discussion forum and engagement in conversations of professional interest
  • Elicit feedback on ideas and initiatives
  • Ask questions and receive answers from experts
  • Track conferences
  • Digital newspaper
  • Share the great things you and your students are doing
  • Public relations
  • Enhance communications

Before you use a social technology in the classroom:

  • Set-up a profile in the technology you want to try and use it personally so that you are familiar with its use before introducing it to students
  • Investigate and understand the privacy controls
  • Determine a learning objective and make sure it is measurable, centered on social sharing and/or collaboration, and that it will work with the technology you have selected
  • Gather clear examples of effective use for students to reference
  • Design activities with a duration over a finite time with explicit activities to be achieved

Tips for using social media tools efficiently for instruction:

  • Don't comment on every post...unless you want to
  • Use the technology to crowd source student support (let students help each other)
  • Be visible for frequent, short durations to maintain momentum and your sanity
  • Subscribe and filter as a way to monitor student posts 

 More information:

Coming soon: Using Twitter for Education

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dropbox - Why You Shouldn't Need Your USB Again

If you are still toting around and trying to keep track of your USB thumb-drives and moving files from your home and work computers that way, read this article about the cloud storage solution that is free for the everyday user. Best of all...Dropbox syncs with Moodle as a file repository!

Dropbox is a cloud storage solution that is free for the everyday user. Dropbox will start you out with 2GB of storage space when you first sign up. You can increase your free space by sending referrals for Dropbox to your friends and colleagues. You can also purchase additional storage with prices starting at $9.99 per month.

Getting Started with Dropbox:
  1. Go to and create a user account. (Don't forget the user name and password you used as you will need these when you log into Dropbox from other computers and/or devices.)
  2. Install the Dropbox desktop client onto all computers that your regularly work on. This will add Dropbox as a file storage location within your computer.
  3. Download the Dropbox app onto any mobile devices you use such as your Smartphone or iPad.
Basic Features of Dropbox:
  • When saving a file - choose Dropbox as the location. Your file will automatically be synced with all of your other devices. Drag an existing file into your Dropbox to save it in the Cloud.
  • Create folders within Dropbox to keep your files organized. 
  • Share folders or single files with others for collaboration. Changes that are made to the file will automatically sync for all the users. 
    • Eliminates the need to send large attachments over email.
    • Reduces confusion on which file version is the latest.
    • Shares family photo albums - as you add new photos to the album everyone you have shared the album with automatically has access to the photos.
    • No limit to the number of people who can share a folder.
  • If you are using a computer that you normally don't use such as in a campus computer lab, log into and download your file from there. You have access to your files from ANY computer or device with Internet access.
  • Camera Uploads: This is an optional automatic feature that will upload all the photos you take with your Apple devices and/or Smartphone to your Dropbox account.
  • Drag and drop files from your Dropbox folder into your Moodle course.
  • Store any type of file in Dropbox.
More information: