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Social Media Strategy for Your Class

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By , , and in Course Redesign, IMPACT, Mobile, Tools on .

Today’s students bring to class more than just a notebook and pencil. Many wield an assortment of electronic gadgets, such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, and notebooks. Each type of device enables them to connect to powerful social media. According to Purdue University Policy (Effective Feb 1st, 2013), Social media refers to “any online medium that allows a user to create and publish content (e.g., text, photos, video)”.

There are several ways to think through how social media can be used for the purposes of teaching and learning.

Define your goals and objectives
Seven categories have been applied to social media tools:

  • Communication  – used for both managerial and instructional purposes
  • Presentation  – allow students and teachers to create and show presentations offline
  • Collection  – allow both teachers and students to house a collection of links to important websites, primary sources, and music and art collections in one place
  • Organization  – scaffolded, guided practice, graphic organizers, timelines
  • Collaboration  – student group work
  • Interaction – allow students to grapple with content through tools that require critical-thinking or application of knowledge
  • Research – allow students to deeply explore content through tools by collecting resources, gathering evidence, assembling images, music, or videos

Content source

  • Content: Identify the content you have to share. Is it primarily news updates, research developments, or networking information? Photographs? Video? List the content you will be sharing via social media. Who is generating content? Where is the content hosted? How will people access content shared via these sources?
  • People: Identify the roles of each person communicating and what settings/functions are appropriate to use based on the given assignment.  Who can originate conversations? Aldo identify the audience for each content producer or communicator. How does this frame the structure of the communications or interactions? Who has access? Is it restricted to the course participants?  Is there a plan for including outside participants? For example, Survey the social media landscape for the “thought leaders” in your field. What are people already saying? What are people saying about you? Who is saying it? List the topics, people and sites that are leading the conversations that are relevant to you. Is it appropriate to include them in the conversation in the class?

Monitor, moderate, comment

  • How you conduct yourself
  • How you interact with your students
    • How do you write or submit information in this format?
  • How do your students interact with you
    • What policies, protocols or norms have you established for them?
  • How your students interact with each other?
  • How you class interact with audience outside of your class?
  • Content management
    • How do you capture data generated via social media tools?
    • What type of data can you ask students to share via social media tools?

Reflect and improve
Assessment and Evaluation: Determine how you will measure the success, or lack of success, of communications or interactions between participants.  Set a timeline for when you will conduct an evaluation of participant content, using predetermined goals and objectives.  At that time, be prepared to realign your site’s content. Ongoing evaluation should also be part of your strategy. Define a timeline.

When you use social media in your class, please consider relevant issues such as FERPA, HIPAA, Copyright, Violations of Academic Integrity and etc. In addition, please be aware that your department or college may have additional guidelines that may need to be included in your syllabus.

More information will be available soon on our website through “How do I select… Series”.  ITaP already developed Studio applications, such as Mixable and Hotseat, which enable instructor-students, student-student interactions. Please let us know if you would like some help considering social media for your class- tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Ed Tech Forecasts for 2013

By in IT Administration, Musings on Technology on .

2013 Graphic

Time for my annual crystal ball gazing into the future of ed tech for the coming year.  Technology is notoriously difficult to forecast, and prognosticators are often forced to eat their words in the end (See Top Ten Bad Tech Predictions).  Nevertheless, I’ll try to sweep aside the veil and peer into the new year of educational technology.

There will be a ferment of development and adoption.

Ambient Insight Research points out that the Great Recession was actually good for educational technology companies.  “There was a dramatic spike in private investments made to learning technology companies in 2007 and 2008. Venture capital is flowing at the highest rate since the last recession. Over 160 learning technology companies were funded in 2008, compared to 50 in 1999.” Since it takes 3-5 years to see return on investment, we are about to see a rush of new technologies in education as these companies mature.  As the economic recovery gains strength next year (cross fingers here), state and local governments will be able to afford more ed tech products.

More speed is on the way.

In its 2013 Annual Technology Forecast, Lightwave says that “…100 Gbps will become more ubiquitous” in metro and regional areas.  To compete with optical fiber providers, cable providers will have to try to keep up, and they are working on new standards to do just that – “DOCSIS 3.1 will support 10 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream on hybrid fiber/coax (HFC). SCTE expects the specification to be more or less in place by the middle of next year, which means technology development will be well underway by the year’s end.”  Educational institutions will not have to implement this capability next year, but they will have to start planning for it.  Of concern is the ability of internally housed applications to keep up with the increased speed demands people are going to have in distance education contexts as faster pipelines become increasingly available.

Security will be an urgent theme (what else is new?)

The Georgia Tech Cyber Threats Forecast for 2013 points out two danger areas for the coming year that will be applicable to education: cloud-based botnets and smartphone vulnerability.  As universities switch many of their services to cloud providers and smartphones become a preferred way for students to access content, higher ed will have to find ways to cope with an ever-changing threat platform.  “In 2013, we expect the continued movement of business and consumer data onto mobile devices and into the cloud will lure cyber criminals into attacking these relatively secure, but extremely tempting, technology platforms. Along with growing security vulnerabilities within our national supply chain and healthcare industry, the security community must remain proactive, and users must maintain vigilance, over the year ahead.”

A trend toward credentialing along with “The Degree”

The Futurist magazine recently released its Top 10 Forecasts for 2013 and Beyond.  One prediction is that “The economy may become increasingly jobless, but there will be plenty of work.”  “Many recently lost jobs may never come back. Rather than worry about unemployment, however, tomorrow’s workers will focus on developing a variety of skills that could keep them working productively and continuously, whether they have jobs or not. It’ll be about finding out what other people need done, and doing it, suggests financial advisor James H. Lee.”  The degree isn’t going away, but in an age when employers want instant results and aren’t willing to do any training, certifications on specific skills will be required of most workers, especially entry-level ones of the type universities produce.  Purdue’s Digital Badges program is a step in this direction.

Attempts to produce individualized automated instruction

No, it won’t be a reality in the coming year, but research will continue.  With advances in Artificial Intelligence and a “Smart” cloud (see the Futurist link above) automated instruction that personalizes itself to the student will be less of a fantasy.  This fits in with one of Andy Blumenthal ‘s points in Technology Forecast: 2013 – “Overall, I see us moving from mass produced, point-to-point solutions to more integrated end-to-end solutions that fit individual needs–whether through continued combinations of hardware, software, and services, man-machine interfaces/integration, and building blocks that can be shaped and reused again and again.”


Should be an exciting year!  Provided it arrives, that is.  As I write this, it is December 21st, 2012, the date of the Mayan Apocalypse.  As I look out the window the world seems to still be here – BUT – the day ain’t over yet!

Get Ready for Windows 8


By in Content Development, IT Administration, Mobile, Software on .

Windows 8 Interface

David Goldman reports that the new Windows 8, due out later this year is a game changer.  It is essentially an attempt to combine the capabilities of a PC with the intuitive look and feel of a tablet.  It has touch screen input but can work with a mouse and keyboard as well.  The opening screen is in the Metro Interface (tile-based), from which you can access apps or a traditional Windows user interface.  It has its own app store, and these look and feel very much like those of the iPad.  At heart, though it is still a PC.

Goldman says:

“The iPad is the simplest entry point to what Apple calls the “post-PC” world, but PCs haven’t outlived their usefulness just yet. Most people still go to their PCs for tools like Microsoft Office and more complex content creation tasks

“That’s where Microsoft sees uncharted territory. It wants Windows 8 to power each user’s primary device, which can be as portable and intuitive as the iPad but also be able to perform all the intricate tasks that today’s tablet users flock to their PCs for.

“Microsoft does that by making the desktop itself into an app. The PC boots to the Metro interface, which serves as the “start screen” and main backdrop for Windows 8.

“Metro is ideal for everyday tasks like Web browsing, e-mail, photo sharing, social networking, and casual gaming. But when you need to manage files, edit a document, or do anything else you wouldn’t typically try on an iPad, a tap or click on the desktop app launches what looks and feels like the Windows 7 interface.”

Not everyone is so taken with Windows 8.  Preston Gralla writes that a backlash against it is building.  The main complaints seem to be that although those who have tried it on a tablet generally like it, on a PC it is difficult to use with a keyboard and mouse.  Another complaint is that trying to meld desktop and tablet OSs produces an unholy and tenuous alliance.  “Metro and the Desktop are essentially two different operating systems incompletely bolted together.”  He points out this humorous YouTube video of a writer filming his father trying out Windows 8 for the first time.  He gets out of Metro to the desktop but can’t get back!  The gentleman says “Who puts this out?”  On being told, “Microsoft,” he retorts “They trying to drive me to Mac?”!

Well, this is a preview version, so hopefully they will fix some of the problems.  It is easy to see why Microsoft is trying to put out a universal OS.  They only have to maintain one product rather than separate ones for tablets and PCs.  It would be easier for organizations (including universities) to maintain a mixed platform of desktop PCs and tablets if they all run the same OS.  App development would be simplified because the same apps would run on both.

We recently had a rather lively debate in my department on the merits of tablets vs. PCs.  On one side are the iPad supporters, who see its intuitive features as the future of computing, and the desktop/laptop people who point out that, try as you might, you still have to come back to a traditional workstation to do work requiring high-performance resources.  As for me, I’ll stick with my laptop for now.  True, it is a lot heavier and bulkier than an iPad, and the battery life is much less.  But I have a larger screen that doesn’t get mussed with fingerprints and I have office on it and plenty of power to do the things I need.  It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to live with.

To my mind, if Microsoft can come up with an operating system that can work on all types of devices, it would be great, provide that it works.  Goldman points out “Windows 8 meets Microsoft’s goal of producing a ‘fast and fluid’ operating system. It’s so lightweight, in fact, that even on a five-year-old, battered Dell laptop with a puny Intel Centrino processor, Windows 8 booted up in 16 seconds. By contrast, my iPhone 4S takes 27 seconds to start up.”  Windows 8 seems to have a very small footprint that would enable it to run on tablets and make PCs blazing fast.  Seems like they learned some lessons from Vista after all.

Anyway, we’d better get used to the idea, because it looks like Microsoft is redesigning the rest of its product line to take advantage of Windows 8 duality.  Matthew Shaer reports that the latest version of MS Office, officially titled Office 15, is now out in limited preview mode.  It has the Metro style interface and has touch editing features.  So it looks like Microsoft’s foray into the mixed-mode world is more than just some toe dipping.  It seems to be a major shift for the company.  You can’t blame them for wanting to stay relevant.

Mashups in Blackboard Learn 9.1

By in Uncategorized on .

Example of a YouTube Mashup embedded in a Blackboard Learn content page

Mashups allow instructors to display content from external websites inside Blackboard Learn.  The content is displayed in Blackboard Learn but resides in the external web site, thus allowing students to do everything in the same browser window without having to switch to a different browser tab or window or otherwise leave Blackboard.  This also saves server space and allows Blackboard to run faster and be more responsive than if the content was loaded directly into the Blackboard server.  Mashups allow instructors to add multimedia to their course without having to create it themselves, and allows them to combine multiple learning sources into a single unified presentation area within Blackboard Learn.

Mashups can be used in course content pages, included in test questions, discussion boards, blogs, or be included as part of an assignment.  Adding mashups as a content item makes the mashup a part of the information flow that you want your students to experience.  You can include text before and after the mashup, include links to other material, etc., in order to keep all learning materials for a topic together in the same place.

Mashups can be embedded on the Blackboard page, they can be inserted as thumbnail viewers (a small picture of the mashup appears on the page along with the controls to launch it), or they can be inserted as text links that students click to launch a player.

Three mashup types are included by default with Blackboard Learn:

  • Flickr – a site for viewing and sharing images
  • SlideShare – a site for viewing and sharing PowerPoint presentations (including those with narration) as well as Word and PDF documents
  • YouTube – a site for viewing and sharing video.  YouTube videos must be made public in order to serve as a Blackboard Learn mashup.  There is a search function within the Blackboard Learn YouTube mashup that will allow you to search YouTube videos directly in Blackboard when creating the mashup.  You can also preview the video in Blackboard without having to open another browser tab or window and visiting the YouTube site.

Matt Bethune, educational technologist at Purdue University, notes that mashup areas in Blackboard Learn exist in Flash format.  There is an option in Blackboard Learn to include the URL of the external site when creating the mashup.  Matt says that instructors should use this option so that viewers of the content using iPhones or iPads will be able to click the URL to view the content, since Apple iDevices do not support Flash.

You can see an example of mashup creation in Blackboard Learn here:  http://ondemand.blackboard.com/r91/movies/bb91_course_content_creating_a_mashup.htm.