Classroom technology workflow

I could write far more than this short post on the topic of the technology workflow I use in the classroom, but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts tonight while the idea is fresh in my mind.

I prepare all of my lecture slides in Apple’s Keynote. Shortly after class is over, I export the slides to PDF format and upload them to Penn State’s course management system, ANGEL.

The reason I wait until after class is that the slides for almost every class session contain quiz questions which I don’t want students to see beforehand. Sometimes I will make the slides available on ANGEL immediately following the quiz, because a few students have told me that they like to annotate the PDFs during the lecture.

In the classroom, there is a podium containing a PC connected to the classroom projector, and I understand that most instructors use this PC to run their presentations. Of course, I’m a snooty Mac guy so this just won’t do. I power my classroom using a MacBook Pro connected to the projector. On my Mac’s screen I monitor Keynote’s presenter display; the presenter display is great for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one for me is that it has a large, easy-to-read clock. I was shocked, but it’s really hard to keep track of the time when you’re teaching. Fifty minutes sails by really quickly.

The quizzes themselves are administered using the i>clicker classroom response system. Students use remote controls to answer the quiz questions I include in the slides (typically one question per slide, with answer choices A–E for multiple choice questions or A–B for true/false questions). It takes one minute or less for the class to answer each question, and I always include five questions. Immediately after everybody has “voted” during the quiz, I go back over the questions, and show the students the right answer and a distribution of how the class answered. If I see that a large percentage of the class has gotten the question wrong, I make sure to go over that material in greater depth.

During my lectures, I will sometimes use the Doceri interactive whiteboard to allow me to remotely control my Keynote presentation using an iPad. This software also lets me annotate a slide and have those annotations be displayed on the screen, which is very convenient. However, I have found the Doceri software to be finicky and unreliable, and it always feels like a little bit of a chore to get it up and running.

On the other hand, I absolutely love Telestream’s ScreenFlow 4 software. The application records the video on my secondary display (the projector) and the audio from my Mac’s microphone. After class, I trim the before-class and after-class recorded material, export it to a high-quality .mp4 video, and upload to my Vimeo site using Penn State’s wicked-fast Internet connection. After the video is finished uploading and encoding, Vimeo automatically sends a tweet through my Twitter account; I’ll also drop a link to the video in ANGEL.

After class, the i>clicker software generates a CSV file that I can upload directly into ANGEL so that grades can be made immediately available to students. That process has always worked smoothly, but in my experience, approximately 10% of students don’t use their clickers for any given quiz (because the clicker is lost, or has dead batteries, etc.). Those students send me their quiz responses by e-mail immediately following the quiz, and I grade them manually and enter the grades into ANGEL.

So, that’s the technology I use on a run-of-the-mill lecture today. In future posts I’ll cover how I use IST’s Virtual Hands-On Labs and how I use ANGEL to administer assessments.

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