I’ve always loved Rube Goldberg’s drawings. They lent a certain sense of the absurd to everyday tasks, creating a ridiculously complicated machine to handle something most of us could do without even thinking about it. Like many young people, I also delighted in building machines similar to Goldberg’s, using every toy at my disposal to produce something that, let’s be honest, may have been more satisfying to design and build than to actually deploy most of the time. A few hours’ work for ten seconds of payoff? Not a big deal, when you’re a kid.
Some folks out there would say that a tablet can do what a computer used to, and others argue that while they are always improving in capabilities, tablets are still not occupying the same space in terms of computing power. Desktop computer sales in general have been on the decline for several years now, and tablets keep trying to further bridge the gap. As someone who spends many days testing, evaluating and re-evaluating software and hardware, this situation begs me to answer the question: can I really ditch the laptop?
Now that you have a good recording setup in place, the next steps are getting something recorded and making it sound good. There’s a huge variety of options for recording audio, but I’ll discuss using Audacity in particular here. To be sure, there are much more powerful programs than Audacity, but they tend to be costly and very complicated to use—which won’t help people who aren’t interested in professional audio and just want to record something for people to listen to.
Here’s why I recommend Audacity to most people, especially beginners:
The more we create and share resources with others online, the more important it is to make sure that our voices are heard…literally. Choosing the right microphones, recording room setup and techniques, and audio file formats can make a startling amount of difference. This article is the first in a series that will help you know what to look for, what to avoid, and how to get the best sound wherever you are. This time around, we’ll focus on microphones.
The first step in recording good audio is choosing the microphone that will be listening to you. Every microphone has a particular pattern in which it receives sound waves from an audio source, called a pickup pattern. The most commonly used types of microphones are omnidirectional, bidirectional, cardioid, and shotgun. Continue reading
When I began my classes for my M.S.Ed. in Instructional Technology (IT), I was often looked upon as an odd duck. Most of my classes were full of classroom teachers, school librarians, and administrators looking to be in charge of a different area. So here I was, a musician in their midst (and a jazz musician, no less), and when I would invariably be asked about what brought me to IT, I always answered, “I’m going to change the way we teach music.” I’ve widened the scope of my approach, and my research, to include everyone I serve at the University, but I still haven’t lost sight of that goal. But the problem isn’t in the discipline itself; rather, it’s in the materials and methodology.
In a previous life, I was a music professor, and tried as much as possible to leverage technology to improve my course materials and course delivery, and to facilitate better learning experiences for my students. However, these improvements tended to be hybrid instruction methods, such as online testing, audio or video lectures, online paper submission or discussion boards. They did make my course more efficient and created more hands-on class time for me, but did little to truly transform the learning experience in the classroom or outside of it. The students thought taking tests online, watching short video lectures, and doing lots of stuff online was “cool,” but as we all know, “cool” doesn’t really equate to a sea change in their learning. (This was over a decade ago, when doing anything online had way more sparkle than it does today.) Looking back on it after studying and practicing Instructional Design for several years, I see most of my former “innovations” are not really that groundbreaking, just repackaging of old lessons to take advantage of some tools I had available.
I don’t often write directly to my instructional designer colleagues; usually I try to impart some of the occasional nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained from teaching, research or just plain trial and error to faculty, so they can avoid making the same mistakes I have. This time I’ve found a new way to stay inspired and reduce the burnout that can happen in this line of work, and I’m excited about how it has affected my approach to Instructional Design (ID) that it bears repeating.
Over the past decade or so, we have all witnessed a major change in health care. The medical profession has shifted focus from just treating the symptoms to preventative care—the idea that by changing life and health habits earlier on, it will reduce the amount of symptomatic care required for patients later in life. It does seem to be having a positive effect so far, as hospitals have more time to deal with emergencies, and their doctors and nurses spend less time in consultation over health conditions that are ultimately preventable. Continue reading
You may not know what an instructional designer is, but there are lots of us out there. You may have worked with one before, or you might even be one. We are known for being a sort of technology multi-tool; most of the people we work with come to assume that we have a magical solution for many problems just waiting on our utility belts that can be handed out to anyone in need. Some of the time, this is indeed true. They are called “Best practices” for a reason. They become that way because they have repeatedly worked to solve common instructional problems effectively. However, just as often, we are given problems that might not have an immediately obvious solution, or might have several possibilities that need to be evaluated for their efficacy in a given situation.
In situations like these, we must move beyond the technology at play and focus on what is really important: designing activities and assessments that are functional, that are useful to and tailored to the learner, and that accomplish the goal set out beforehand. In these times, we turn to instructional design models to provide a framework for our thought process as we design something new.
Online and hybrid learning are so commonplace nowadays that many students have experience with them even before they leave K-12. However, with the increasing ubiquity of this mode of instruction, there are certain challenges that we encounter along the road to “teaching a good class.” Looking back to the beginnings of online teaching and learning, the greatest fear many faculty had, and some still do, was that it would be flat, not engaging for students, and that students would lose all sense of a faculty member even teaching the course. Since that time, we have come a long way in trying to allay faculty and student fears that an online course will have less quality and be a “gimme” course and will be much easier than a face-to-face course would be. (Well, that last one is an idea we are still trying to discourage.) A brief look at the distance education/online courses of years past will show how we’ve attempted to alleviate the concerns of student engagement and reveal that it’s still a hidden issue that could use some work.
The earliest kind of distance education courses were correspondence courses. Students would get a book to read and a series of tests to take at a testing location. Tests were mailed in and scored, and afterwards a certificate was supplied to the school for the academic credential. I took one of these courses in high school, and I was the teacher and the student, and because I only read the book to prepare for the tests, I can honestly say I learned little or nothing. Continue reading
Teaching online is always a moving target. If a particular technique or tool worked well in one class, it doesn’t mean it will work well in the next. Technology, student needs, and course materials change often, sometimes incrementally and other times in leaps and bounds. Also, it seems that the more technology evolves, the expectations of students grow as well. Oftentimes, we can get swept up in the magic of a new tech toy and forget to determine if and how it will actually benefit students.
Dr. Ruben Puentedura, former faculty at Harvard and Bennington College, and the founder of Hippasus, an educational consulting firm, introduced a model called SAMR to describe the path technology adopters often take as they develop their strategies in teaching and learning with technology over time. SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. The model looks like this:
Recently, I attended a workshop on assessing student readiness for online learning with some colleagues from other local colleges and universities. That morning, we spent two hours discussing how to assess student readiness for taking online and hybrid courses. This lively workshop included discussions about: face-to-face vs. online, self-paced tutorials; whether or not preparations should also be assessing students’ academic abilities; transfer and nontraditional students who don’t have the same support networks that traditional freshmen have; and which factors we should be assessing to determine “readiness.” Many of the workshop participants lamented about the amount of time they’ve had to spend on technology training because it has cut into the time they need to teach traditional analog skills like proper writing, citation, computation, etc. It seemed like a hard issue to solve, as student learning varies a great deal, and it’s very difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all solution for situations like this (and that, unfortunately, is what colleges and universities want from a management perspective).
Many of my colleagues felt they were not able to provide students with same sense of presence and engagement they had in a face-to-face class. Then it occurred to me that this conversation may need to be looked at from the a different perspective. I derailed the conversation for a few minutes by asking, “So, whose readiness are we really assessing?” In most developed countries, students expect that they will need a computer for college. The majority have cell phones as well as other electronic devices that permit them to be online all of the time. I’ve seen young people type with their thumbs faster than I can type with both hands. They are always connected to an online environment and always conversing with someone (or several people), even as they are in the classroom (unfortunately). Since they’re already so good at technology, the real question is: are we ready to meet them where they are? Continue reading