Saturday, February 27, 2010

Share your world

One of the increasingly popular ways to share your PowerPoint slides and handouts with your students and colleagues is the web service SlideShare.

You can use SlideShare to upload your slides and share them publicly or privately.  Private sharing, where you give you students a secret URL, may be useful when using copyright images that you shouldn't be broadcasting widely or when sharing presentations that you don't necessarily want the whole world viewing.  Such private sharing is not a particularly strong wall against misuse of your material . . . but is pretty effective most of the time.

Presentations that you've uploaded to SlideShare can later be narrated, which is a great feature.  That means that you could use SlideShare to host virtual lectures or introductory previews.  You can even embed them in your online syllabus or course management system.

Your students and colleagues can either view your presentation on the SlideShare website in a viewer (or full screen), or they can download the file and play it in PowerPoint directly.  Colleagues could perhaps edit and add to your presentation, then upload their version for sharing.

One of the best features of  SlideShare is that it's FREE!

Here's a sample of a narrated presentation from SlideShare that you might want to share with your colleagues.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why I'm skipping the iPad

As a professor on the lookout for new tools to help me effectively teach my students, I couldn't wait to see the new iPad.

I currently use an iPhone to check for emails from my students and respond to them.  I can also check in on my course management system (CMS) but, wow, is that clunky on an iPhone.  And I can't really make changes easily, either.  And keeping my Facebook pages for my blogs for students and professors up to date from my iPhone isn't ideal either.

When I first heard about the iPad, I thought it may be the solution I need for some of these functions I need:
  • An easy way to navigate through and use my CMS while away from campus (and away from hotspots), as when I'm at a conference or taking a weekend hike.

  • Use full-color e-books.  I absolutely love my Kindle . . . but being an anatomy and physiology professor (and author), the monochrome Kindle just won't cut it for my discipline.

  • Print the occasional document using a printer connected to my wireless network.

  • Multitask among my email client, my CMS, and other programs.

  • Allow me to use slide presentations, video, and other media on a large enough screen to share with students.  That includes my Flash-based lecture Previews.
But I'm realizing that the iPad won't help me much, if at all, with these needs.

Did you know that . . .
  • You can't print a document from an iPad
    • Huh?  That's a pretty basic function for a hand-held computer, I think.
  • You can't connect to a monitor or projector
    • So I can't show media to more than a couple of students at time during a help session away from my "smart" classroom.
  • You can't use Flash. 
    • WHAT?!  You read that correctly . . . iPad cannot access Flash-based websites, cannot display certain functions at other websites (the Flash-based features), cannot use the new Flash-based e-book readers . . . . the list is virtually endless.
  • The display isn't designed for reading.
    • Because it doesn't use e-ink (like the Kindle) or even OLED (organic light emitting diode) in the screen,  you're not going to have the same "easy on the eyes" experience of a dedicated e-book reader. I like to sometimes read for an hour more . . . but with the iPad, I think that may be difficult.
  • There is no optical drive and no USB connectivity
    • So if you want to watch or rip video or music media, you'll need a "real" computer.
    • Want to view or edit and save the slides on your thumb drive?  Forget it.
  • You cannot multitask.
    • No switching between open programs like you can on a "real" computer.
    • Oh, my.
Starting at $500, I can't see how the iPad is a solution for me . . . or for a lot of folks.

 I'd love to love an iPad.  I simply cannot.

Anybody out there have a different opinion to offer? 

{NOTE:  You may want to check out 10 Things Apple Doesn't Want You to Know About the iPad }

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ustream for professors

Have you been to Ustream yet?

It might be the biggest thing for providing videos to your students since YouTube (or the education-oriented knock-off TeacherTube)--both of which I recently told you about.

Ustream  is a website where you can use your webcam to broadcast live from your computer.  For FREE!

Because Ustream allows unlimited internet broadcasts, you can broadcast to an unlimited number of students or colleagues.  Here are just a few ideas:
  • Broadcast your class to students who are ill, or are at a distant location.
  • Broadcast help sessions or tutorials to students.
  • Hold online orientations to your courses (especially useful for distance education courses).
  • Broadcast demonstrations that would be difficult in the classroom.
  • Visit remote locations to which you cannot bring the entire class (virtual field trips).
  • You know that already-answered question you still keep getting? Broadcast it and forget it!
  • Broadcast "preview" introductions to lectures or demos before class time, so students are better prepared.
  • Host live webinars with students or colleagues . . . anywhere in the world
  • On a field trip or research trip . . . or stuck in your lab?  Broadcast back to the classroom live from your location.  Bring your scholarly activity to the classroom, without having to take the whole class along.
  • At a conference?  An out-of-town funeral?  Hold class anyway by broadcasting from your location back to the classroom.
  • Hold a virtual meeting with colleagues on other campuses.
  • Your entire class can watch live or recorded broadcasts of current events such as political debates, rocket launches, disaster sites, sporting events, wildlife activity, etc.

Because you can record your live broadcasts on Ustream , or upload previously recorded video from YouTube or your computer, viewers can access your content asynchronously.  So you have to put your head into the lion's mouth only one time for that dramatic demonstration . . . and never again after that.

If  you teach at a school where cutting-edge teaching technology is frowned upon as too risky for the network, you'll be glad to hear that neither the sender nor the receiver of a Ustream broadcast has to have any special software installed.  Well, you do need a browser . . . but all you need is a browser. OK, a webcam helps if you are the one broadcasting.

However, you can opt to download a FREE desktop application called Ustream Producer, which helps you import movies, audio, screen captures, and more, into your broadcasts more easily.  They also have iPhone and Android apps you can use to broadcast from your smartphone.

Hmmm, wouldn't that be great when you have a chance to meet a hero in your discipline, such as a famous scientist or historian, to be able to broadcast a quick chat with them and share this with your students?

You can embed live or recorded broadcasts in your webpage or a PowerPoint slide, or simply link to them.

Check it out for yourself at

And here's an example of a live feed of a hummingbird nest.