QR codes look like jumbled checkerboards. You’ve seen them on posters, billboards, magazine ads, clothing, food packaging – maybe even on a city bus!. Launch an app on your phone and point it at the code to access a website or receive other information.
QR codes got loads of attention in the USA a few years ago as smartphones with cameras reached a critical mass. Now that the hype has died down some pundits allege that they’re passé, but I think not. QR codes have lots of applications and the technology is not hard to use.
Do you want to explore how to effectively use tools like blogs, podcasts, and social bookmarking? Do you want to know more about the effects of copyright, Creative Commons, digital citizenship, and digital literacy? From January 12 to March 23, 2015, the University of Saskatchewan is offering a free online course titled “Introduction to Learning Technologies.” Aimed at post-secondary and K-12 educators, the course includes videos, readings, practical activities, online discussion, and weekly Google Hangouts with guest experts. The material carries a creative commons license and is meant to be truly open to anyone interested in learning. For more info, explore the previous edition of the course: access the 2014 website or read the evaluation report.
Images can be useful to teachers and learners in lots of ways. They can illuminate writing, clarify presentations, illustrate posters, and much more. Most of us lack either the time or talent to take new photos or draw new pictures whenever a need arises. We rely on “the cloud.”
A Google image search is the quick-but-lazy way out. It gives no indication of who created the picture and leaves us with fair use dilemmas. As an alternative, I routinely find great material in (1) Flickr’s massive collection of Creative-Commons-released photographs … but Flickr doesn’t always have what I need.
Learn about more sources
In a blog post last week, the 900-pound gorilla announced several improvements to Google Forms. For one thing, you can now “shuffle” the order of questions on a survey. There is also a new option to limit users to one response. They have to log into Google, but their account info is not saved with the survey. Finally, a short URL is offered when you’re ready to share the survey.
I must have missed this in early September, but Google now also lets you customize the look of your forms. You can change fonts, colors, backgrounds, and more. Look for the “change theme” button on the toolbar.
Canva 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.
The 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.
Drexel 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:
- Google Docs – real-time editing of a text, spreadsheet, drawing, or presentation
- Box.com - file storage space
- Sakai forums – online discussion
- Skype or Google Hangouts -
desktop video conferencing
These collaboration tools have more specific applications:
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.