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A free tool for creating visuals

September 19, 2014

canva-logoCanva is a free, easy-to-use tool for producing visuals. You start by choosing one of twenty formats – from presentation to poster to business card to Twitter header. Then select a layout: either a preset with colors and fonts and sample images, or a space divided into regions. Finally, drag-and-drop items and change the text to make it yours. When you’re done, download the image as a low-res PNG file or high-res PDF. Social media users can share on Facebook or Twitter.

Personalize  your visual by adding images. The site provides a limited number of free ones, but they make their money by renting very nice images for the reasonable fee of $1 each. The for-pay photos are clearly branded with a watermark and chain-link fence pattern so you won’t use them by mistake. Users are also welcome to upload their own images at no charge.

Business card created with CanvaThe poster and presentation formats are two likely ones for students to use in a college course. To get them started, Canva offers several interactive Design Tutorials.

Make no mistake; this is neither PhotoShop nor QuarkXPress. There are no drop shadows and limited bells and whistles, but that’s okay. Fewer choices can often be a good thing. At right is a business card I was able to create in a matter of minutes. PC World gave the site 4.5/5 stars and I concur that Canva is worth a look.

Online group tips: 1 infographic + 8 tools

September 4, 2014

Group work infographicDrexel University Online has created an infographic titled Tips for Online Students to Work Successfully in Virtual Groups. While it may be aimed at students in an online course, nearly all of the advice applies to face-to-face groups.

At Notre Dame, faculty and students have access to a variety of tools that can facilitate group collaboration online, including:

  1. Google Docs – real-time editing of a text, spreadsheet, drawing, or presentation
  2. - file storage space
  3. Sakai forums – online discussion
  4. Skype or Google Hangouts -
    desktop video conferencing

These collaboration tools have more specific applications:

  1. Pixton – comic strip or comic book
  2. Coggle – concept map
  3. TimelineJS – time line
  4. Prezi – presentation

Turn your syllabus into an infographic

August 26, 2014

Erin D syllabus infographic Erin McLaughlin teaches “Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric” at Notre Dame — some readers may remember an earlier article about Doctor E’s audio narrative. Erin is usually at the head of the pack when it comes to effectively integrating technology and this fall she has done it again, producing a beautiful infographic of her course syllabus (excerpt at right).

While I don’t suggest everyone should drop the idea of a traditional syllabus, nearly any course can benefit from a simplified visual overview that quickly gives students a sense of what will happen during the semester. If necessary, you can follow up with a more detailed document or a set of web pages.

Read more…

Successful use of Facebook in a course

August 21, 2014

thumUpFor several years Baylor sociology professor Kevin Dougherty has used a Facebook group in his introductory course. He finds that participants enjoy the course more and get better grades. Dougherty believes it helps “turn 250 strangers that happen to sit in a class together into a community.”

Prof. Dougherty’s teaching assistant acts as “social-media director,” moderating online conversations and renewing content that includes pictures, videos, and questions-of-the-day. Students can even win small prizes if their posts are “liked” enough.

Learn more

Three sets of tips for screencasting

August 12, 2014

laptop with microphoneScreencasting is making a video of the output from your computer screen, usually with narration. Screencasting is popular as a way to provide first exposure to new material for the purpose of “flipping” a class, but it has lots of applications:

  • Review or clarify a challenging concept,
  • Provide students with feedback,
  • Produce a skill tutorial,
  • Answer a frequently asked question, or
  • Demonstrate a website or procedure.

Relative few college instructors have experience with screencasting, so I thought it would be helpful to gather some tips and basic info. The the first two items are courtesy of ProfHacker.

Read on!

Use a tablet for paperless feedback in Sakai

August 11, 2014

My colleague, Kevin Abbott, has been experimenting with ways to use a tablet to mark up student work submitted in Sakai. Here’s a specific scenario we worked out for marking up PDF files in the Sakai drop box tool using iAnnotate PDF on an iPad.

Assigning students a TED-style talk

August 6, 2014

TEDTED is a group devoted to spreading ideas. Their national conferences and regional TEDx events are famous for offering short, powerful talks and posting them online. Several “TED Talks” have become presentation legends, including Jill Bolte Taylor’s “My stroke of insight.”

College faculty members are now assigning TED-style talks as student projects. Many folks understand that these are more than “really good presentations,” but not everyone knows the details. This article explains what makes a TED Talk special and provides advice on developing an assignment.

Read more…


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