Archive for the 'Resources' Category

The Technological Side of Online Degrees

Aug. 1st 2013

The key behind the success of online learning is flexibility. Gone are the days of commuting long distances to sit in a classroom just to learn. Computers have eliminated the need for fixed schedules and made formal education available for busy professionals and parents. Now, mobile technologies like smartphones, tablets, and wireless internet are taking us even further. You are no longer restricted to where and when you do your studying. For many, the breakneck technological developments that make online education possible are dizzying. In this article we’ll try to sort it all out for you, so you can realize the true benefits of a flexible online education.

The Shift Toward Mobile Learning

Distance learning institutions began to appear during the early 19th Century, as correspondence schools used the postal service to send course materials and textbooks to students in the United States and Europe. Paper materials were used all the way up until the digital era, when computers hit the market during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Many reputable schools then began to shift their curricula online. The New York Institute of Technology was one of the first schools to offer a “virtual campus” in 1984. Digital environments now allow students to take classes all while maintaining hectic work schedules and home duties.

Now that smartphones and tablets have become ubiquitous, online schools are developing proprietary mobile apps and tools so you can take classes virtually anywhere. It’s a big step forward from a decade ago, when online students were limited to studying in front of their desktops at home. Today, these apps give you access to reading materials, discussion boards, and relevant media – all in one place.

Traditional, on-campus schools are also using mobile education apps in the classroom. You no longer have to suffer through chalkboards and dry erase boards. Professors can plug their tablet into a projector or flat screen television, and then share information through digital drawing boards, collaborative apps, and online media.

Technology Requirements for Online Programs

Computer Hardware

  • A PC with Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows 8, or an Apple computer with OS 10.6
  • 2GB RAM or higher
  • Intel Core2Duo processor or better
  • 50 GB or more available hard drive space. This amount will depend on the software and file formats your college uses.
  • 1024 by 768 monitor
  • Optical disc drive
  • Internal / external speakers
  • An internal or external microphone

NOTE: For online discussions through Skype, Google Hangouts, or GoToMeeting, headphones are better than speakers for avoiding audio feedback and echo.


  • Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari
  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Java
  • QuickTime


  • A broadband Internet connection from a service provider like Google Fiber, Comcast, or Centurylink
  • An email address
  • Ethernet cord for faster video streaming


  • Consumer- level printers by HP, Lexmark, Canon, and many other companies. If you have Apple technology, look for a model with the AirPrint feature, so you can print wirelessly from your iOS device or computer.

Mobile Devices

  • iPhone 3GS or newer
  • iPad
  • Android Phone
  • Android Tablet

Mobile Devices as Learning Tools

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that 56% of American adults own a smartphone and 22% of U.S. adults own tablets. Mobile devices are permeating our culture, as technology giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon provide user-friendly technologies at affordable prices. Academic institutions are jumping on the mobile bandwagon, because they recognize that these technologies make education far more accessible than larger desktop and laptops. Colleges like the University of Phoenix are now creating their own apps for popular mobile devices, so that students can enroll in classes, participate in discussion boards, read course materials, and check their grades.

Mobile devices are great for news and information consumption, as the University of Missouri learned during a survey on mobile media exposure. Researchers found 55% of survey respondents consumed mobile news during the first quarter of 2013, and 12% had canceled print subscriptions. Smartphones and tablets make it very easy for people to view content, whether it is a streaming lecture video, required eBook, digital study sheets, or flashcard apps. Interactive eBooks will even allow readers to zoom in on three-dimensional models, view embedded animations, and play audio accompaniments.

However, there are some downsides to mobile education. Creating presentations, writing essays, and even researching can be far more difficult on mobile devices, especially if you are new to mobile platforms. There will be a learning curve as you adjust to touchscreen gestures and on screen typing. It is important to become somewhat familiar with a mobile device before relying on it for school. The booming app industry presents another challenge for mobile users in that there is now an overabundance of choices.

If you are trying to write an essay for a class, you may download several word processors for a tablet, only to be faced with proprietary file formats that aren’t compatible with other devices. This can make it a pain to transfer a file to another device or submit an assignment to your professor. Use your school’s recommended apps, or find software that uses industry standard file formats, such as Word or PDF. For example, even mainstream solutions, such as Microsoft Office for Mobile, come with limitations. Subscribers are unable to create new PowerPoint presentations or create sophisticated animations on their devices; they can only edit and view some basic transitions.

Examine your course load and responsibilities and see if mobile learning techniques are applicable. A smartphone or tablet wouldn’t be practical if your degree program requires lab courses, experiential learning, or internships in person. But some learning experiences simply cannot be replicated on the screen of a mobile device.

Smartphone and Tablet Recommendations

Android and Apple create most of the leading tablet and smartphone software. Many manufacturers create hardware for Android operating systems, including Acer, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba. This means consumers have more options to choose from, but also less product standardization. Many Android tablets, such as the Ainol Nova 9 Spark are well known for their MicroSD card slots, which allow you to expand the storage capacity of your device. This can be great as you accumulate more reading materials, assignment files, and library materials.

Apple’s iOS devices, such as the iPad Mini, Retina Display iPad, and iPhone are a closed market, meaning Apple makes the hardware and the software. This means software and hardware behavior is similar across product lines, which makes the devices more appealing for students new to mobile. The iTunes University provides vast libraries of supplementary learning materials, including free Ivy League lectures, homework assignments, and textbooks. However, iOS devices do not support Flash content, so check your course websites before purchasing an Apple device. If your college relies on Flash content, you may wish to consider a different tablet.

Some App Suggestions

  • Evernote: Do you have snippets of notes, diagrams, quotes, web addresses, and audio files scattered across your computer and mobile devices? The free Evernote desktop and mobile apps can organize these items for you in neat folders and save portions of websites for offline viewing. Tags allow you to quickly search and locate files, text, and bookmarks stored in your collection.
  • StudyBlue: Students in any field can use digital flashcards to memorize important quiz information and prepare for finals. Simply enter text and photos onto both sides of your study cards, test yourself, and view statistics about your study scores.
  • QuickOffice: Before Microsoft began offering a mobile Office app for subscribers, QuickOffice released a powerful suite for the creation of Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel spreadsheets. This app syncs backups with multiple cloud services, so that your important course assignments are safe and sound.
  • Notability: Annotate your PDF documents, sketch diagrams, and write on screen using this great document viewer and editor. If you are having a difficult time dropping pen and paper from your study habits, try writing on documents with Notability.
  • Wolfram Alpha: This app is like your pocket assistant, finding scientific formulas, making calculations, and graphing results on your screen. Just type in a query, like “What are the tide levels like in Pa’ia, Maui?” and Wolfram Alpha will graph the data out for you.

Mobile devices aren’t always necessary for online degree programs, so read over your school’s technology requirements before purchasing a smartphone or tablet. Your current technology may be sufficient for your academic needs. While mobile devices have many great uses, they can also become a distraction during study times if you’re not careful.

Most online colleges will only require a computer, listing mobile devices as optional tools. However, smartphone and tablet use can provide you with greater technological experience, knowledge, and, most importantly, flexibility. Because they are cordless and lightweight, mobile devices give you opportunities to study away from a desk and use time you didn’t even realize you had.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

The New Presentations

May. 14th 2013

PowerPoint is dead. Long live PowerPoint.

The demise of the ubiquitous presentation tool has been predicted for a few years now. Sure, it gets the job done, but there is a whole new generation of presentation tools that do the job while making more engaging, creative, and eye-catching slides that can help you tell your story and connect with even more people. In today’s 21st century workforce, regardless of where you work: Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, South Carolina, your resume will not be complete without them.

Going Online

With each new tablet and social network that launches, more of our interactions are happening online, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google +. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center report, half of all Americans use social media, compared to only 5% just six years prior. Given our increasingly reliance on the online world, it’s only natural that our work shifts online, too.

“As more and more of our interactions become asynchronous and globalized, the need to present information online becomes greater,” says Chiara Ojeda, an educator, blogger and speaker who blogs at Tweak Your Slides.

Enter presentations tools like SlideShare, SlideRocket, and Google Slides, which make it easy to create slides and share them online with your classmates, colleagues, or a global audience of millions. More sophisticated tools like cloud-based presentation app do away with the idea of individual slides altogether to help you make impressive, modern-looking animated presentations on a seemingly endless canvas. Along that line are video scribe tools like Doodle and PowToon, which can truly animate your ideas. Not only can these presentations become more engaging, they can help your audience understand the subject matter better. One of the most popular Prezi presentations can teach you about the theory of relativity by showing it to you in action through a nifty animated elevator.

These presenting tools are prevalent in business, as well as IT, marketing, and education, and are quickly becoming essential. Jennifer Stagner manages SEO and ecommerce sales for office supply website and regularly uses Google Docs and SlideRocket to communicate with coworkers in other parts of the country.

“I use online tools for every presentation, whether it is presenting sales analysis to our executive team, search engine optimization best practices to our content team, training presentations to our technical support team, or product solutions to our customers,” says Stagner. “As a manager of a large department I also believe that students who are familiar with online presentation tools will be more valuable to future employers.”

If you’re an undergraduate student, graduate student, or recent graduate, now is the time to learn how to learn these tools and get these increasingly valuable skills on your resume. You can use them now in your classwork or internship, and have them in your arsenal for when you enter the workforce.

“This is absolutely an important skill,” says Ojeda. “Particularly because those already established in the workforce tend to do things in the old death-by-PowerPoint style, the opportunity for young, 21st century-workers to set themselves apart by taking on the tools of 21st-century presenting is very great.”

The Online Presentations Tools You Need To Know

Because many of these presentation tools are free, you can get started learning how to use them right now and incorporate them into your own assignments. Here’s our primer to understanding the more popular online presentation tools — and how to get the most out of them:

  • Google Slides: For Google’s version of PowerPoint, check out the Google Slides section of its Google Drive cloud storage (previously known as Google Docs). Through this free online presentations app, you can create and edit presentations using pre-made templates and inserting images and videos. For more collaborative projects, you can edit the presentation with fellow students or coworkers. Once it’s ready, you can share with others via Google Drive, download as a PDF, PPT, or .txt file, or even embed onto a website.

  • SlideRocket: Like Google Slides, SlideRocket helps you make presentations online. But the website also has more sophisticated tools so you can add animations and transitions. You can also include data from real-time sources, like Twitter live feeds and Yahoo! Finance stock quotes, for an always up-to-date presentation. When you’re finished, you can publish your presentation as a URL, which you can then embed in a web page or blog or share with others. There is one caveat — this popular tool is at a bit of a crossroads. Following an acquisition by ClearSlide, a sales-based presentation platform, SlideRocket is not currently accepting new registrations for its services. So you’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s next in store.

  • SlideShare: As the name implies, SlideShare is all about sharing your work. If you made a presentation through PowerPoint, OpenOffice, or Keynote, you can upload it to this online community to share with a global audience. The free website supports a variety of documents, including PDFs, MSOffice, OpenOffice, and iWorks docs, which you can add audio to through the site. You can upload presentations publicly or privately and share on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or embed on blogs, wikis, or websites. The site can be valuable for when you’re conducting research, too, thanks to the thousands of uploaded SlideShares covering any number of searchable subjects.

  • Prezi: One of the more advanced tools of them all, this cloud-based presentation app uses Adobe Flash to help you choreograph non-linear, dynamic presentations. Its signature rotate and zoom capability can be useful for conveying complex ideas, so it might not be best for every project. It’s free to sign up, and you start with 100 MB of cloud storage. Working in a group? You can collaborate on a prezi with others in real time. When your presentation is ready, you can share publicly or download to present offline.

  • Skitch: Visuals are key in any presentation, and this free Mac image editor app from Evernote lets you easily manipulate your images and add annotations, shapes, and sketches.

  • Keynote: When working offline, many designers prefer this Apple product to other desktop-based presentation tools like PowerPoint to make their slides. Choose from more than 25 transitions, made 3-D charts, or morph text from one slide into the next for visually stunning slides that can then be uploaded to a site like SlideShare.

The Next Generation

To some presentation gurus, even cutting-edge tools Prezi and SlideShare are already passe, and the future of presentation belongs to video scribing — a new form of visual story telling that uses whiteboard animation, stop-motion photography, or illustrations to explain a concept.

“The days of PowerPoint, Slideshare, even Prezi are not long for the world,” says Duane Siebert, founder of “People are suckers for motion, videos, more engagement, more entertainment.”

Siebert would know. He regularly creates “doodle-art” whiteboard videos using tools like, as well as YouTube videos based on PowerPoint files, effectively for his business. These video presentations can make even the most mundane topics watchable and engaging. Siebert himself will tell you that his YouTube videos have garnered more than 300,000 views on stuff as boring as toner for printers.

Some of the emerging players in this animated arena include PowToon, a free animated presentation online software tool; Sparkol VideoScribe, a subscription-based whiteboard animation tool; and Camtasia Studio, an app that turns screen recordings into video. And as is usually the case with adapting brand new technology, younger people are at an advantage.

“A huge leg up young people have on us ‘old farts’ is that they are so keenly aware of the cutting edge nature of video, what’s appealing, what is eye-catching,” says Siebert. “It is far easier for them to see the power of tools like these and come up to speed on them far faster.”

Tips for a Killer Presentation

Though the tools themselves may have evolved, what makes a great presentation indeed great still relies on three key things: content, delivery, and visual presentation. Jim Endicott, author of The Presentation Survival Skills Guide, calls this a three-legged stool, a concept that Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, expanded on more recently with her presentation ecosystem. It all boils down to this:

“A presentation is strong in three areas: content that is dynamic, real, and resonates; delivery that is natural, engaging, and connected; and slides or visuals that are design-centered and visual in approach,” says Ojeda. “Each one takes unique preparation, self-critique, the critique of others, revision, and practice. An effective presentation is one that leaves the audience wanting to take action and effectiveness doesn’t come without [these] characteristics.”

Here are some tips to help you make effective presentations, whether you’re using online tools like SlideRocket, Google Docs, SlideShare, and Prezi, or, yes, even PowerPoint:

Follow by example: There are thousands of online presentations out there, curated by design and presentation blogs. It’s likely the more popular ones will also be some of the more engage, too, so point around and learn by example to see what works. “Study great presenters, don’t just go it alone,” says Ojeda.

Be succinct: An online presentation isn’t an essay — less text is better. And better than text is an image. “You want to avoid too many words on a slide or too many slides; often you can relay the same concept with an interesting visual or infographic instead,” says Stagner.

Rehearse: If you’re in school, you’re likely not just uploading your work to sites to let it potentially go viral; you’re presenting it before a classroom. And just like any presentation, it’s important to practice and put the time into the actual presenting — not just the presentation itself. “Don’t procrastinate, prepare instead,” says Ojeda.

Getting Started Now

Becoming proficient in any or all of these online presentation tools can be a valuable addition to your resume and portfolio. And the best part is you can start now; many of these tools are free and provide tutorials to help get you on your feet. You’ll be wowing your fellow classmates, professors, and future employers in no time.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Education, Resources | No Comments »

A Practical Guide to Scholarships

Apr. 17th 2013

For prospective college students, there is no doubt a great deal of excitement, expectation, and, of course, trepidation about where they are headed. Scholarships are a major part of the college prep, and while they are often regarded as overwhelming and confusing — something students don’t even want to bother with — they don’t have to be.

We’ve broken down the basics of scholarships for you. Where to find them, how to apply for them and why you (or your student) will definitely want to bother. However, before we get into all that…

What are Scholarships, Exactly?

Scholarships are a form of financial aid awarded to students to further their education based on any number of different criteria; scholarships usually reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.

You will likely have heard scholarships discussed along with other sources of aid such as grants and student loans. Like scholarships, student loans are designed to help students pay for university tuition, books and living expenses. However, the difference is — and it’s a key difference — loans must be paid back, with interest.

Grants for college are similar to scholarships, in that grants are not expected to be paid back. They are often seen as an investment on the part of the organization giving the grant. For that reason, grants often require much more compliance and reporting on the part of the recipient than scholarships. That being said, many scholarships still require a student to maintain a certain level of scholarly conduct and a minimum GPA.

In recent years, a common misperception regarding scholarships has formed: students from specific, non-white ethnic groups have more opportunities for scholarships based on their minority status within the US. However, a 2011 report illustrates that Caucasian students still receive a disproportionate share of private scholarships and merit-based grants. In fact, Caucasian students receive more than three times as much in merit-based grant and private scholarship funding as minority students.

The Different Scholarships Available

Despite inequities, the sheer number of scholarships available to students of every walk of life continues to grow. Virtually every prospective college student is eligible for some type of scholarship, and there is no limit to the number of scholarships available to one person. Here are some of the most common:


When people think of scholarships, academic achievement is probably what springs to mind first. Many high profile scholarships are based on academic merit — especially a student’s GPA. It’s worth noting that extracurriculars and volunteer work also tend to factor into merit-based awards. Some academic scholarships offer a relatively large payout – some even offering a “full ride” scholarship. While students will push themselves to win such giant sums, regardless of what sort of scholarship they actually end up with, simply earning a scholarship at all is an accomplishment that always look very good on a resume.


There are some students whose athletic abilities are so exceptional that universities all over the country vie to award them generous scholarships. Landing a stellar athlete can mean years of success — and money — for prominent universities. It should be noted, however, even for athletic scholarships, students must also be able to demonstrate a solid academic performance; scholastics are still the backbone of the collegiate experience.


Need-based scholarships are offered to students who would otherwise be unable to attend college due to financial constraints. These are offered at nearly every major university, with some schools even promising to offer need-based aid to any eligible student who would not be able to attend the school due to economic hardship.

Minority Groups

Almost every ethnic or minority group has a scholarship dedicated to recognizing and awarding exceptional students from a specific background; this includes women, who, while not a minority, were long considered a minority in the world of advanced degrees. There are also scholarships offered to minority groups in general, usually in the interest of promoting academic diversity. Funding for these scholarships comes from various sources, ranging from government programs to universities and private organizations.


For veterans of the U.S. armed forces, there are a variety of scholarships designed to enhance opportunities and increase the number of vets who go on to college and pursue lucrative careers. Veterans scholarships are offered by the U.S., as well as a variety of veterans groups, nonprofits, and even some private organizations.

Community Service

There are also a number of scholarships available for students who, as upstanding citizens, have made meaningful contributions to their community. These scholarships can be somewhat less common — and somewhat less known — than merit-based awards. This can limit the number of applicants and increase the chances of being a recipient.

How to Apply for Scholarships

When it comes to scholarships, the sooner you start researching what’s out there, the better. You’ll not only get to spend more time crafting your applications, you’ll get to apply to more scholarships, increasing your chances of landing some great financial aid.

Remember, every scholarship has its own distinct requirements. It’s smart to reach out to people in the know who can direct you to the applications worth your while. Both your high school guidance counselor and the financial aid office at universities you are applying to, or hoping to apply to, help students with their financial aid choices for a living. Getting in touch with them as early as possible will help them find what best suits you.

Of course, the 21st century student also has ample opportunity to do research on their own. In fact, public libraries are an excellent place to do some independent sourcing of possible scholarships.

Every scholarship has its own deadline, and it’s up to you to keep track of each on you are going for. You will likely have to fill out an application online, or print the application and turn it in via the post office prior to the deadline.

If and when you are finally awarded a scholarship, it’s worth knowing that you may never have direct access to the funds. In some cases the funds are sent directly to the college to cover your tuition and other academic expenses. However, if there is still something left over, some scholarships will give the remaining money to the recipient in the form of a check.

In Conclusion

It takes time to track down great scholarships, put together a great application and wait to hear back from an organization. However, for motivated students, they can be a fantastic investment. Well before your first day at college, applying for scholarships allows you to get a head start on the independence that makes the college experience such a unique and worthwhile transition into adulthood.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Financial Aid, Resources | No Comments »

Mobile Lives of College Students

Dec. 4th 2012

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Where’s Siri in the Classroom?

Dec. 4th 2012

At the time of its release with the iPhone 4S on Oct. 4, 2011, the personal assistant software known as Siri was touted as AI without compare in consumer electronics. It was going to revolutionize computing just as the Mac had done. Though not specifically an educational program, many in the academic field believed Siri could soon come to play a big part in the classroom … but that hasn’t happened. We’re looking into where Siri has made some inroads and why the smooth-talking lady has had a rough go.

How it’s being used

  • Record-keeping:

    This seems to be the most common way Siri is being employed in classroom settings. Today’s teachers have to maintain copious amounts of documentation on their kids, and many have streamlined the process of note-taking and documenting conferences with students and parents by using Siri.

  • Calling and emailing:

    These are among the top uses of Siri in the general population, and teachers are no exception. With her they don’t have to lose their place in gradebooks and exams when they come across the need to call or email a parent or a colleague about a troubled student or an upcoming meeting.

  • Problem solving:

    Kansas teacher Marsha Ratzel’s students used their iDevices to gather info for an estimation problem involving diapers in a large shipping package. While it couldn’t give them the exact answer, it did help them discover info on the different sizes of diapers that helped them reach a solution.

  • Setting reminders:

    The reminder function of Siri is one of its biggest draws for adult users. With it, school kids are able to keep track of homework, projects, and tests with just a word to their animatronic friend.

  • Note-taking:

    Although better options exist (see below), older students in high school and college can and are putting Siri to work taking notes and transcribing lectures.

  • Opening apps:

    If anyone has their hands full on a typical work day, it’s teachers. Siri now has the ability to open apps by voice command and teachers, who are always looking for ways to save time, are taking them up on it.

  • Cheating:

    Oh dear. As the student in this video discovered, Siri makes cheating a cinch for the right classes. And if it’s that easy, we have to assume other unscrupulous kids are using the software dishonestly.

Why Siri hasn’t caught on

  • Siri kind of sucks:

    Reason numero uno for why Siri is unpopular: a lot of people think it doesn’t work very well. And these people aren’t just Google fanboys; everyone from TechCrunch to Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak have voiced their displeasure with her abilities. Either she’s having trouble connecting, or she’s turning your dictation into gibberish, or she’s bringing you web results you didn’t ask for. Apple has even been sued for overstating its claims of Siri’s abilities.

  • She doesn’t play well with children:

    Today’s kids are not an audience that is going to be patient with technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. They’re too used to products that deliver what they want, quickly and accurately. As The Digital Shift pointed out just a month after Siri’s release, when the software malfunctions in kids’ hands, learning moments are lost and curiosity wanes. In such a case, no tech is better than high tech.

  • Apple doesn’t really stand by her:

    To date, Apple’s website continues to refer to Siri as “beta only” (in fine print at the bottom, of course). As in, beta testing, a stage usually reserved for unfinished, unshipped products. It’s like they’re leaving the designation in place as a way of writing off complaints. Their answer to the functionality lawsuit? If you hated Siri so much, you should have brought the phone back. It’s easy to see why teachers have little motivation to introduce the software into their classes, as Apple’s push to get Siri into classrooms has been nonexistent compared to their efforts to sell iPads as an educational tool.

  • Siri has privacy issues:

    What goes on in a classroom should obviously be above-board and open to inspection by anyone. Still, Siri’s data collecting is vague and advanced enough to reasonably give parents and teachers pause before allowing it to be used in school. Siri gets her amazing ability to learn by collecting info on what is being searched for, where she’s being used, patterns of usage like what time of day and for how long, even the tone of voice of the speaker, all things people have been uncomfortable turning over to Apple.

  • She hasn’t been very available:

    iPads are taking education by storm. One-to-one iPad initiatives, where every student is given a device, are all the rage. However, Siri has not been a part of the equation because neither the original iPad nor the iPad 2 came with Siri compatibility. The iPad 3, released Sept. 19, 2012, was the first to have Siri functionality, meaning Siri’s only appearance in the classroom until very recently has been on the iPhone. To get iPads with Siri now would require schools to replace their current iPads, which are at most barely two years old.

  • There are other simpler and/or better options out there:

    Google Voice Search is Siri’s main competition in the “personal digital assistant” niche and many claim it’s more popular than Siri even with iPhone users. But for dictation, there’s market leader Dragon (for both Android and Apple), plus a new app called Evi by the same company. For other functions like web searching and reminder setting, there are dozens of apps and programs that work just as well as Siri, only they require button-pressing, which it seems has not been burdensome enough for teachers or students to make the switch to voice.

  • Teachers may be wary Siri could inhibit learning:

    Granted, it would be difficult for a student to use voice recognition software to cheat on a test in a small, quiet classroom. But educators have to think beyond the classroom walls, and they probably aren’t wild about the notion of Siri replacing learning. Teachers could hardly be blamed for keeping Siri at arm’s length, seeing as it is specifically designed to take the work out of daily life, and a student’s daily life revolves around learning. The teachers that are using Siri are having to get creative with the software, restricting questions to only ones Siri can’t answer. In other words, Siri seems almost more trouble than it’s worth.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

50 Best Pinterest Boards for Student Vegetarians

Nov. 1st 2012

Although more and more schools offer dining options for students adhering to vegetarian and vegan diets (as in, dining options beyond “salad bar”), navigating a new environment with food restrictions still proves occasionally headache-inducing. But making snacks and meals at home means sticking with the lifestyle and resisting temptations to start noshing on tasty, fatty, salty bacon out of frustration. Pinterest lets that happen.

  1. Quick Vegetarian Recipes by Cooking Light:

    The good folks over at Cooking Light compile a wide range of tasty eats for time-crunched college vegetarians; best of all, most of them are pretty healthy, too!

  2. Raw Food Recipes by Tasha Johnson:

    For students sticking with a raw food diet exclusively or simply enjoying how they supplement more traditional vegetarian meals, this listing of some particularly delectable delights might yield something tantalizing.

  3. Recipes for a Vegetarian College Student by Emily Rose:

    Like the title states, this Pinterest board features vegetarian (and a couple of vegan) recipes especially curated for meat-averse students on a time and money budget.

  4. Everything Vegan by Gabrielle Rekully:

    College kids with an affinity for animal rights and a vegan lifestyle should head here for recipes, products, posters, infographics, quotes, and other media promoting the movement.

  5. For the Vegetarian: Recipes & Inspiration by fitsugar:

    Vegetarians, vegans, and raw foodists alike can browse fitsugar’s enthusiastic pinning featuring recipes, cookbook suggestions, product information, and a shirtless Ryan Gosling, because this is Pinterest.

  6. It’s Easy Being Green by Annie Kimberley:

    With 166 pins so far and counting, this repository for vegetarian and vegan dishes has plenty to offer a wide range of collegiate dietary, time, and fiscal needs.

  7. Raw Food by Veg Writing Momma:

    Moms who want to incorporate raw food snacks and dishes into their kids’ diets might want to browse this collection for stuff to make together.

  8. Quick Recipes (Vegetarian) by Lacy Jaudon:

    Compiled especially for students and student teachers, these recipes (and links to recipe collections!) work great when eating vegetarian with budget and time restraints.

  9. Foodie Fun-For Vegetarians! by Allison Rogers:

    This “college girl approved!” Pinterest board features a diverse array of vegetarian-themed recipes, with the occasional nutritional, serving, and spicing information rounding things out.

  10. Kale University by Suzanne Turner:

    Despite the title, Kale University doesn’t exclusively focus on the eponymous green; rather, the 906-pins-and-counting serves as a veritable library of all things vegan, vegetarian, raw foodism, health, and fitness.

  11. On the Road to Vegetarianism by Jamie Searcy:

    Pinners just now starting their vegetarian journey might find this collection of resources — mostly recipes, natch — exactly what they need to never miss meat again.

  12. Nutritious Vegan Spectacular by Melanie Glissman:

    Head here for both recipes and detailed information about everything the vegan lifestyle entails, particularly when it comes to the philosophies of animal rights.

  13. Quinoa and Bean Recipes by Valerie Tourangeau:

    Both ingredients cost comparatively little, especially when purchased in bulk, definitely making them ideal for cash-strapped college kids. Thankfully, the grain and legume alike are pretty versatile!

  14. Vegetarian by

    With 64 pins and 15,734 hungry followers, this board proves a popular stopping point for vegetarians of different backgrounds.

  15. Vegan food and vegan living! by Violet Williams:

    Most of the content here revolves around recipes, but every once in a while an article slips in about how to keep the vegan lifestyle rather than keep cooking for it.

  16. YUMMY VEGETARIAN by Pirate Mom:

    Admit it. These might be “kid-friendly” vegetarian delights, but you know you want to give them a try, too, you naughty collegiate you.

  17. Easy Vegetarian by Heather Garrison:

    If your cooking skills could use some serious improving, this recipe collection makes for a great start to gaining confidence in the kitchen.

  18. Vegan Recipes & Websites by Julie Blankenship:

    Keep these resources on hand when searching for fabulous vegan-friendly eats when the usual stuff gets too boring and repetitive.

  19. JUICING VIDEOS by Sam Neylan:

    Juicing can be a great option for vegetarians, vegans, and their friendly omnivore roommates to go in on together, and these videos and recipes cover all the basics. The process isn’t inherently healthier than eating fruits and vegetables, of course, but it is tasty and breaks up texture monotony.

  20. That’s it Fruit – Vegan Finds by That’s It:

    Presented by That’s It Fruit Bars, this board features fun, fruity favorites and information about staying healthy and staying vegan.

  21. Vegan Fashion by Official PETA:

    No matter your opinion on PETA’s practices, their resource curating information about vegan-friendly clothing and accessories makes for an essential Pinterest pit stop for animal rights activists and supporters.

  22. Raw Food by Danika Carter @ Your Organic Life:

    Check out 180 (so far) mouth-watering recipes completely suitable for omnivorous, vegetarian, vegan, and raw food diets.

  23. Vegan Notebook by Chef Kathi – Canopy Rose Catering, Tallahassee:

    Chef Kathi pins up fancier fare than some college students might be comfortable attempting, but more adventurous types might want to give her vegan loves a go.

  24. Tasty Things – All Vegan, Always by Jo Kell:

    This pinner has more than 18 years of experience with a vegan diet and 1,641 recipes pinned to the Tasty Things board; if you can’t find something to make and eat here, then we’re afraid there’s not much we can do for you.

  25. vegetarian/vegan snacks by Krista Gene:

    Try some of these tasty vegetarian snacks between classes for a quick, healthy kick to keep you going until your next meal.

  26. vegetarian cooking and baking by taylor fiscus:

    Stop here and sate that sweet tooth (and savory tooth, but that’s not a thing that exists) with some fabulous vegetarian baked goods and casseroles.

  27. Gluten-Free MM Recipes by Meatless Monday:

    All of Meatless Monday’s boards are essential viewing, but for vegetarians who can’t process gluten, this one in particular stands out.

  28. Mindful eating by Lorraine Guptill:

    Rather than recipes, Lorraine Guptill provides inspirational quotes and images for college students giving up meat and other products for animal rights reasons.

  29. Vegetarian Cookbooks by Elizabeth:

    As you can probably guess from that title there, this Pinterest board features some vegetarian cookbooks students might want to pick up from the library for further reading.

  30. Juicing Juicing I LOVE Juicing by Jemma Morris:

    She really loves juicing, you guys, and the recipes here for smoothies and juices to add some variety to a vegetarian, vegan, and raw food diet attest to that fact. Some are not entirely friendly to the latter two lifestyles, but that’s why substitutes exist.

  31. Vegetarian Entrees by Kendra Nordgren:

    Whether hosting a dinner party or freezing for later in the week, the featured culinary centerpieces here will make even the most ardent carnivore start drooling.

  32. Vegan Condiments by Melanie Nettle-Kahl:

    Flavor up vegetarian, vegan, and raw food dishes and snacks with some of these delightful condiments – including mayo!

  33. Food Love: Raw Food Sweet by Stephanie Wills:

    Converting to a raw food, vegan, or vegetarian diet doesn’t have to mean giving up on enjoying rich, delectable desserts and sweet treats!

  34. Vegetarian Breakfast Ideas by Two Peas in a Blog:

    Start the day off decadent and meatless with some of these tasty meals, many of which yield enough food to save for later.

  35. yum * vegetarian sides, salads and snacks by Dawn Benedetto:

    When looking for quick vegetarian bites for home or out on the go, hit up this board for a diverse selection of ideas suitable for different tastes and kitchen acumens.

  36. Working on my veggie skills … by Na Lucia:

    Newcomers to the vegetarian lifestyle should check out this ever-growing collection of great snacks, meals, and more to keep on going.

  37. Not Hippy Vegetarian yummies! by Jamie Whitaker:

    College students living in cities with limited grocery access will especially appreciate this recipe collection highlighting largely easy-to-find ingredients.

  38. vegetarian and healthy choices by Madison Hall:

    A great general recipe board for vegetarians looking for recipes that won’t place them at such a high risk for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

  39. Healthy & Easy Vegetarian Recipes by Jessica Weasner:

    Since the pinner herself requests recipes that are inexpensive, and not above four servings as well, her board focusing on simple, healthy vegetarian food is absolutely perfect for college students!

  40. { Vegetarian } by Ashley Armstrong:

    Every recipe featured here is suitable for vegetarian, vegan, and raw food diets of varying budgets, skill levels, and time frames.

  41. Vegetarian by Jolene Oster:

    The woman behind this board specifically zeroes in on vegetarian dishes her college-aged son would enjoy.

  42. Raw food recipes and smoothies to energize by Lora Lyons:

    If there’s one thing higher ed students need, it’s energy. Whip up these snacks and smoothies for a jolt to stay active and alert throughout the day.

  43. Going Vegetaraian? by Donna Polk:

    Seeing as how Going Vegetarian? sports around 90 pins, chances are any young folks looking to begin their meatless (or animal product-less) journey might stumble across a few that keep them on the right track.

  44. Vegetarian Thanksgiving by Shannon:

    Whether heading home or sticking with the veggo co-op for the holiday, these recipes ensure no vegetarians, vegans, or raw foodists start staring wistfully at images of turkeys and hams.

  45. Freggie (fruit+veg) & gluten-free by Lily Reed:

    Vegetarians seeking a few good fruit and veggie dishes that don’t upset their gluten intolerance or allergy should consider this board an essential bookmark – even if they don’t use Pinterest on the reg.

  46. Fit&Vegetarian by Natalie Sullivan:

    Perfect for college students who converted to full vegetarianism in order to keep their circulatory systems as clean and healthy as possible.

  47. Vegetarian Variety by Sarah Helfgott:

    Critics often chide vegetarian diets as repetitive and bland. Critics are utterly, hopelessly wrong, as this library of gustatory greats proves.

  48. Raw, Vegan and Vegetarian Food by Heather Ballard:

    It’s a smorgasbord of tantalizing treats suitable for vegetarians, vegans, and raw foodists of all tastes and budgets, whether snacking on the go or celebrating a potluck with friends.

  49. Juicing by Rissa Webber:

    More juicing recipes for the on-the-go veggo college kid sharing the cost with a friend or lucky enough to carry around a little extra cash.

  50. Vegan/gluten free by Amanda Leiss:

    Like the title of this pinboard states, these recipes focus on vegan recipes suitable for students with gluten intolerance issues.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources, Technology | No Comments »

41 Tips to Make the Most from Online Openware Courses

Oct. 18th 2012

Once, students had to pay a pretty penny to get access to Ivy League courses and top-tier educational resources. Those days are long gone, as there are now thousands of free online learning opportunities available from some of the biggest names in education and business in the world. As these resources have grown in number and the list of institutions providing them has become ever more prestigious, free online courses are gaining legitimacy with employers as a method of learning valuable job skills. While there’s still a long way to go in terms of acceptance, more and more employers are recognizing the value of cheap, effective educational programs that can keep employees up-to-date and engaged in their field without spending a dime. Whether you’re looking to online education for personal reasons or to get ahead in your career, use these tips to help you get more out of open courses and use what you learn to market yourself, improve your performance, and stand out on the job.

  1. Treat them like real classes.

    If you really want to take away a lot from a free online course, then don’t treat it any differently than you would a course you’ve paid to take. Regarding a free course as a lesser educational experience is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so instead of pushing coursework aside or failing to concentrate on it, give it your full attention. You’ll get much better results and learn some valuable time management skills in the process.

  2. Choose courses that have real-world applications.

    While learning just about anything is a noble pursuit, there are certainly some online courses that have more direct applications to your career and everyday life than others. When choosing courses, carefully select those which will offer you the best chance of learning things you can really use on the job or in your personal life.

  3. Take advantage of badges and certifications.

    To date, the majority of free opencourseware learning opportunities won’t garner students any kind of certification or credit for completing them, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change. A number of free learning sites are beginning to create ways for students to prove that they’ve satisfactorily completed a course, which can be an asset in a job hunt or on a resume.

  4. Pinpoint your learning gaps.

    Before you choose an online course, it’s smart to assess what you don’t know and what you’d like to learn more about, especially with regard to the things you do day in and day out at your job. Once you know where your biggest learning gaps lie, you can make more informed decisions about which online courses would serve you the best.

  5. Ask questions online.

    Open courses offer a lot to students, but they lack the support of faculty and the opportunity to ask questions in real time. While there’s no substitute for one-on-one interactions with professors, there may be others out there who can answer your questions and help you understand key concepts. Seek them out on professional forums or social sites that cater to education to get the support you need to keep making progress in your free courses.

  6. Do the reading.

    Reading assignments for courses, online or off, are rarely ever just suggestions; they’re requirements for the course and can play a big role in how much a student learns and takes away from the experience. Reading assignments can count for even more when you’re taking a course through open courseware, so don’t ignore them. Instead, make them a big part of your study and preparation.

  7. Supplement or prepare for a for-credit course.

    While open courses can be great, sometimes you need a certificate or diploma in order to advance in your career. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up on taking online courses, however. These courses can provide excellent support for traditional coursework, providing alternative perspectives, helping students brush up on concepts, and even offering additional reading material and media.

  8. Work with others.

    You may not get built-in classmates when you decide to take an open course, but that doesn’t mean you can find your own. Working through course materials with a learning buddy can help both of you get more out of the experience, stay motivated, and puzzles through the most difficult parts of the course.

  9. Bolster basic skills.

    While open courses can be useful for learning advanced skills, they’re also really great for helping improve basic skills that you use every day. Consider taking writing courses, basic math, communication, or even courses that teach fundamental computer skills. While they’re not as big-picture as other courses, you may find they get the most use on a daily basis out of these basic courses.

  10. Explore career alternatives.

    Been considering a career change? Open courses are a smart way to get a taste of what working in another field entails so you can decide if you really want to take the leap or if you’re better off staying where you are.

  11. Utilize open course career help.

    If you’re taking online courses as a way to get ahead in your career, then make sure that you take advantage of all of the opportunities afforded by the institutions offering the courses. For example, Udacity offers to hand out student resume to their partner companies at no cost. Depending on the type of work you’re interested in doing, that could be an asset in finding a job.

  12. Put your coursework on your resume.

    While it may not have garnered you a degree, there’s no reason not to include open courses on your resume in a section dedicated to training. It shows that you have a commitment to learning and are willing to put in extra work to get ahead.

  13. Collect examples of your work from the courses.

    Many online courses will help you to hone skills that you can use to produce work for a portfolio. Choose your best writing, apps, business plans, or computer programs to showcase in a portfolio you can show to prospective employers.

  14. Develop management and business skills.

    No matter what type of work you’re in, gaining skills and expertise in business and management are surefire ways to help yourself work up the ladder. It’s even better when you can work on these things for free with the help of open courses, so don’t miss out.

  15. Demonstrate what you’ve learned.

    One way to show your boss or a potential employer the value of open courses is to demonstrate what you’ve learned. Show off your new skills and don’t be afraid to share where you learned them.

  16. Be choosy.

    There are thousands of free courses out there to choose from, so you can afford to be choosy when selecting one (or more) to take. Evaluate the materials, the school that’s offering the course, and what it can teach you before diving in to ensure you get the best educational experience possible.

  17. Choose hot topics.

    Certain skills and knowledge sets are hot with employers right now, and luckily, there are more than a few open courses that tackle these subjects. Taking free courses in app programming, Spanish, social networking, green design, and educational technology can help give a wide range of careers a boost.

  18. Take your time.

    While you don’t want to be lazy when taking an open course, there’s also no reason to rush. The learn-at-your-own-pace model gives you plenty of time to go back and review lectures if you’re feeling lost or need to review key concepts before moving forward.

  19. Create notes you can use on the job.

    If you’re taking courses that apply directly to your current career, then it’s a smart idea to create some notes and resource guides for yourself during your coursework that can be used at work as references as you’re applying new skills. If they work well for you, share them with coworkers to give everyone in the office a boost.

  20. Find a real-world mentor.

    Taking online courses, whether you pay for them or enjoy open courseware, can be a bit of a solitary endeavor. It can be a big help to find someone you can talk to in person who can act as a mentor, guiding you through your lessons, answering questions, and helping you see new ways to apply your skills. Look for mentors through your work, professional associations, or even your alumni network.

  21. Contact the professor who created the materials.

    While you can’t reach out to the professor who created the course materials every time you have a question or concern (online courses aren’t supported in that way), it wouldn’t be out of line to email a professor if you’d like some ideas on how to learn more or would like to share some feedback on the course. These kinds of interactions can be beneficial to you and the professor and can really enrich the open courseware experience.

  22. Understand the pros and cons of free courses.

    When taking advantage of open courseware, it’s important to be honest with yourself about the pros and cons they entail. On one hand, they’re a great way to learn new things without shelling out big bucks. On the other, they won’t give you a degree or certification that other programs will, and for those who need a lot of guidance, they may not be a good match. Once you acknowledge those things, you can adjust your expectations for the course and what you’ll get from it.

  23. Seek out other lectures and resources.

    You can supplement your open courses with other online materials, including talks and online textbooks. Don’t be afraid to seek out additional material if you find something interesting or just need a little extra help.

  24. Find a source of motivation.

    Since you’ll be working on your own without a professor checking in on you or a bad grade looming over you, it can be hard to get motivated to push yourself in open courses. You simply have to find a source of motivation for yourself, whether that’s as simple as learning a new skill or something much bigger like pushing forward your career.

  25. Research the skills you need to get ahead in your field.

    Not sure which open course is right for you? Do a bit of research about trends in your fields, skills that are in demand, and what it takes to get ahead. Once you know where you want to go, you can choose online courses that support that goal.

  26. Take advantage of computer courses.

    There are few fields out there today where knowing about computers, from how to make a spreadsheet to building a website, isn’t a huge asset. If you’re not sure what to take, start with online computer courses and work from there.

  27. Share your experience with others.

    Skills you learn in an online course can make you a resource to others who work in your field, especially those who may be interested in learning the same skills. You can share what you’ve learned, help them find courses to take, and even act as a mentor for coworkers who are taking their own open courseware journeys. If that doesn’t make you look good to your boss, nothing will.

  28. Cater to your learning needs.

    We all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to learning that make things more interesting, boring, easy, or hard for us. Use your own learning preferences to make smart choices about what open courses you take. For instance, if you dislike reading-focused courses, offerings that are centered around lectures, media, and hands on activities might be best.

  29. Survey a class before beginning.

    Online courses may be free, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require a fairly serious investment. Your time is a valuable thing so to ensure that you’re not wasting it, review course materials before starting a class to make sure that the course is the appropriate level and covers material you’ll actually find interesting and useful.

  30. Log your progress.

    It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by course material that’s challenging. Logging your progress can help to motivate and keep you on track, so keep a journal of your experiences as you go.

  31. Go through all of the course content.

    Think you can just skim over course content and rush through an open course? Not if you want to actually learn something. Open courses won’t offer much of anything if you don’t put in the effort to do readings, listen to lectures, and go through all, yes ALL, of the course content.

  32. Do your research.

    Not all free online education programs are created equal. Some are of higher quality and offer better educational experiences and resources than others. Before choosing what to focus your energies on, do a bit of research on which online experiences would offer you the best results.

  33. Identify a skill that will help you to stand out.

    In a sea of applicants, what will make you stand out? Sometimes, something as simple as speaking another language or knowing how to design a website can make you stand out from other potential candidates. Even better, open courses can help you to develop these skills if you choose them wisely.

  34. Emphasize the potential benefit versus the investment.

    Trying to sell the value of your open courseware education to your boss, coworkers, potential employer, or even yourself? The math is pretty simple, actually. Provided you’re learning something useful from the courses, open courseware is an amazing opportunity to quite literally get something for nothing.

  35. Use learning to enrich your own ideas.

    Have an amazing idea for a business? Developing a product that could revolutionize green energy? Open courses can help you to fill in the gaps in your knowledge of just how to do these things, from helping you to understand chemistry to showing you how to build a better business plan.

  36. Embrace anonymity.

    It’s not always bad to be anonymous. Anonymity in an open course can give you the confidence to take risks, ask questions, and review material in ways that you might not do in a traditional course. Since there’s no way to fail, there’s no real wrong way to learn, grow, or explore within the course. That’s incredibly empowering and can help you get a lot out of open courses.

  37. Spend time studying.

    Yes, you actually have to study, even if you’re not getting a grade. If the goal of taking an open course is to learn something new, then you do have to review materials, do readings, and even work on problem sets to make that happen.

  38. Make online learning daily habit.

    One of the easiest ways to ensure that you get the most out of an online courseware experience is to simply make online learning a part of your daily routine. Eventually, taking time out to study, listen to lectures, and do homework will feel like second nature to you.

  39. Refresh your degree.

    Just because you have a degree in a field doesn’t make you an expert in it for life. You have to keep updating your knowledge and learning about new trends, ideas, and opportunities, no matter what your profession. Open courses are pretty much a perfect way to do this, giving you a refresher in what you know and helping you stay abreast of the newest ideas in your field at the same time.

  40. Use online resources.

    There are a lot of online resources out there that can help support you as you take your open courses. They can chart your progress, help you store resources for reading, and even give you answers to questions when you have them. Make use of these supporting tools and you’re likely to stick with your open ed experience and to get more out of it.

  41. Be confident.

    Ultimately, the success of your online openware experience will depend on how confident you are in the open courseware model. If you don’t think you’ll learn much, you probably won’t. If you push yourself, acknowledge the limitations of the method, and use resources at your disposal, there’s no reason you can’t learn as much as you would through any other method.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources, Technology | No Comments »

The Health Hazards of Tablet Use

Oct. 10th 2012


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50 Great Ways Schools Can Use G+ Hangouts

Aug. 28th 2012

At its core, Google+ Hangouts is simply a souped-up version of video chat. But when it comes to education, it’s so much more than that. It becomes a vehicle for learning, sharing, collaboration, and ideas. Whether you’re an educator in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, discussing learning practices, or a first-grade classroom speaking with an astronaut, Hangouts have seemingly endless possibilities. These are our 50 favorite ways for schools to use Google Plus Hangouts. How do you plan to use this cool tool?

Teaching & Administration

Professional learning, meetings, even college recruitment are all possible with Hangouts.

  1. Campus previews: Using Hangouts, admissions counselors can chat with students and discuss what it’s like to attend their college or university.
  2. Professional discussion: Through Google Hangouts, personal learning networks can come together on a regular basis for discussions.
  3. Team meetings: Teachers spend enough time at school. With Hangouts, teachers can conduct team meetings away from the classroom.
  4. Board meetings: University board members may be stretched far and wide. With Hangouts, members can meet virtually while still enjoying face-to-face interaction.
  5. Recruitment chats: Google+ Hangouts can be a virtual college fair table, offering Q&A sessions for the admissions process and even highlighting important people on campus like department chairs.
  6. Policy discussion: Join the debate by taking part in The Power of Ten Hangout, hosted every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST to discuss education’s future.
  7. Peer review: Education professionals can create a Hangout to ask colleagues for a review and brainstorming session for interesting classroom ideas, journal articles, and more.
  8. PR chats: Instead of press conferences, small announcements can be made with Hangouts, as university leadership open up a chat for news outlets, alumni, and other interested parties.
  9. Staff professional development: Instead of traditional professional development days, these sessions can be taken care of through Google Hangouts.

Teacher-Student Communication

Connect with students even when you’re not in the classroom, thanks to Google+ Hangouts.

  1. Virtual office hours: It can be difficult to schedule face to face time on campus, but with Hangouts, teachers can set a time to meet with students wherever they are.
  2. Homework help sessions: Teachers can set up regular homework help sessions to assist students who may need a little support as they complete their assignments in the evening.
  3. Review sessions: Before big exams hit, professors can host Hangouts where they share hints and essential information with students.
  4. Tutorials: For students who want a little extra help, tutorial sessions on G+ Hangouts can be a great way to get small group assistance.
  5. Peer to peer helpline: Classrooms can establish a peer-to-peer helpline co-op, where students can log on to a G+Hangout to help out their fellow students with homework and tutorials.
  6. Mentor groups: Small mentoring groups can get together through Hangouts, updating both mentors and mentees on new developments.

Teaching with Hangouts

Hangouts make it easy to bring students, teachers and classrooms together, with these ideas and more.

  1. Distance learning: There are so many ways that students can enjoy distance learning. One example is cooking schools that are using Hangouts to share lessons and cooking tips.
  2. Extended discussions: After classroom discussions are over, students or teachers can open up a Hangout to facilitate further discussion.
  3. Talks around the world: Zookeepers at Zoo Atlanta use Google Plus Hangouts to host keeper talks, making it easy for students of all ages around the world to learn about animals.
  4. Foreign language Hangouts: Foreign language students can participate in video conversations using Google Translation to better understand each other.
  5. Mobile learning: Hangouts are available not just on computers, but mobile phones as well, making it possible for students and teachers to log into the chat anywhere they are.
  6. Public teaching: Using the Hangouts on Air feature, educators can open their session up to all Google+ users worldwide, allowing for broadcasting, online conferences, and massive study sessions.
  7. Remote participation: Students who are sick or traveling can still attend class virtually even when they can’t physically be there.
  8. Scheduled discussions: Professors, especially those with online courses, can set up scheduled discussion Hangouts to get students together and talking.
  9. Remote lessons: Music teacher Thomas J. West has been using Google Hangouts to share his lessons with students anywhere and everywhere.
  10. Review video lectures: If you post your lectures to YouTube, you can integrate them into a Hangout. Simply rewatch your lecture in the Hangout, pausing for re-teaching and offering a director’s cut with further discussion.
  11. Video archives: All Google+ Hangouts can be saved and archived, making it easy for instructors to share class sessions with students who didn’t make it.
  12. Teaching off-campus: Professors can share their knowledge with the world by teaching off-campus lectures through Hangouts.
  13. Book club: This idea is especially helpful for sister classrooms as they come together to discuss the same book. Using Hangouts, classrooms from around the world can host a book club together.
  14. Show and tell: Video conferences used to be a little hard to follow, with lots of small windows for each participant. But with Hangouts, the person who is speaking takes the big screen, allowing for a virtual show and tell.
  15. Sketching parties: Art students can come together on Google Hangouts to host and participate in sketching parties.
  16. Go behind the scenes: Students can join G+ Hangouts to get behind the scenes access for everything from broadcasting to running a zoo.
  17. Broadcast student performances
    : Open up student presentations and performances beyond your classroom by sharing them in a Hangout.
  18. Creating a story: Together, classmates or classes can take turns building a basic story that they’ve written together, entering and sharing their work in the Hangout’s Google Doc.
  19. Career spotlights: Teachers can poll students to find out what their parents do for a living, then ask parents to host a weekly career spotlight explaining what they do.
  20. Bringing in an expert: It might be cost-prohibitive for small schools to bring in experts for in-person lectures, but just about anyone can ask to connect with an expert over Hangouts, bringing a valuable resource into the classroom.
  21. Panel discussions: Forget hosting just one expert, bring several in at a time to participate in a classroom panel discussion.
  22. Reader’s theater: Several students can take on different parts in a play, acting it all out on a Hangout chat.

Student Connection

School is social, and Hangouts can make it even easier to connect. Try out these ideas at your school.

  1. Get to know you sessions: Through new student Hangouts, colleges can make it easier for new students to meet each other before they even step foot on campus.
  2. Connecting students abroad: Students who are studying abroad may feel a little disconnected from the campus. Setting up Hangouts, where they can talk to potential study abroad students, can help them feel a little more grounded.
  3. Staying in touch: Connections can drop off over the summer, but with Google Hangouts, students can stay connected and keep relationships solid for back to school.
  4. Student-alumni mentoring: Recent grads can connect with current students through Hangouts, offering personal chats on what life is like after graduation.


Group projects, brainstorming sessions, and more are all great ways to use Hangouts for collaboration in schools.

  1. Document editing: Google now allows users to add and create docs in Google Hangouts, making it easy to collaboratively edit documents through the service.
  2. Study groups: Students who want to study together, but can’t actually be together can take advantage of the Hangouts service to get connected virtually.
  3. Project feedback: Through Hangouts, students can get critiques on their work before they ever bring it to the classroom, getting a chance to fine-tune it beforehand.

Education +

Take education to the next level with these Hangout ideas.

  1. Connecting with fans: College athletics programs have begun hosting Hangouts sessions, allowing fans to question coaches and athletic directors for their favorite teams.
  2. Club meetings: Just like study sessions and group projects, Hangouts offer a great option for school club meetings.
  3. Engaging with alumni: Alumni Hangout sessions are a fun way to keep former students connected with the school and each other.
  4. Career connections: Colleges can set up meetings between employers and students simply by creating small Hangout groups.
  5. Remote helpdesk: With a screen-sharing option, Google Hangouts are great for school IT departments, allowing for a higher level of support.
  6. Host a cheap concert: Avoid having to pay for flights, hotels, and insane requests by simply hosting a Hangout concert.
Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources, Technology | No Comments »

50 Creative Ways to Use Skype in Your Classroom

Aug. 22nd 2012

Skype, the free, ubiquitous VOIP downloadable, offers some unique opportunities for tech-savvy teachers to get their students learning in exciting new ways. It might prove a buggy affair depending on the version, but all the same the service still makes for a phenomenal classroom tool. Read on to find out how you can put this cool tool to work in your classroom regardless of where you are – Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, anywhere!


  1. Meet with other classrooms:One of the most common projects educators utilize Skype for is setting up exchanges with classrooms around the world, usually for cultural exchange purposes or working together on a common assignment. The program’s official site provides some great opportunities to meet up with like-minded teachers and students sharing the same goals.
  2. Practice a foreign language:Connect with individual learners or classrooms hailing from a different native tongue can use a Skype collaboration to sharpen grammar and pronunciation skills through conversation.
  3. Peace One Day:Far beyond classroom collaborations, the Peace One Day initiative teamed up with Skype itself and educators across the globe to teach kids about the importance of ending violence, war, and other social ills.
  4. Around the World with 80 Schools:This challenge asks participating schools to hook up with 80 worldwide and report back what all they’ve learned about other cultures and languages.
  5. Talk about the weather:One popular Skype project sees participants from different regions make note of the weather patterns for a specified period of time, with students comparing and contrasting the results.
  6. Collaborative poetry:In this assignment, connected classrooms pen poetic pieces together and share them via video conferencing.
  7. Practice interviews:The education system frequently receives criticism for its failure to prepare students for the real world, but using Skype to help them run through mock-up interviews with each other, teachers, counselors, or professionals will help grant them an advantage.
  8. Gaming:Merge the educational power of gaming with the connectivity of Skype for interactive (maybe even international!) role-playing and other competitive delights that educate and engage in equal measure.
  9. Hold a contest:Challenge other classrooms to a competition circling around any subject or skill imaginable, and work out a suitable prize ahead of time.
  10. Hold a debate:Similarly, Skype can also be used as a great forum for hosting formal and informal debates to help students with their critical thinking and research skills.
  11. Make beautiful music together:Build a band comprised of musicians worldwide, who play and practice together over video — maybe even hold digital performances, too!
  12. Who are the people in your neighborhood?:All the press about classrooms meeting with one another tend to veer towards the international, but some schools like to stay local. These two Tampa Bay-area kindergartens met regularly via Skype, sharing their current assignments with new friends only 10 miles away.
  13. Highlight time differences:But there is something to be said about global exchanges, too, as it provides some insight into the differences between time zones — great for geography classes!
  14. Combine with augmented reality:Both at home and in school, Skype provides a communication tool for collaborative augmented reality projects using the PSP and other devices.
  15. Mystery call:Link up to a classroom in another region and have them offer up hints as to their true location, challenging students to guess where in the world their new friends live.
  16. Each student works a specific job during calls:Divvy up responsibilities during Skype calls so every student feels engaged with the conversation, not just passive participants watching talks pan out. Assign bloggers, recorders, mappers, and any other tasks relevant to the meeting and project.
  17. Play Battleship:The classic board game Battleship offers up lessons in basic X and Y axes; plus it’s also a lot of fun. Compete against other classrooms for an educational good time.


  1. Parent-teacher conferences:Save gas, time, and energy by holding meetings with moms and dads via video chat instead of the usual arrangement.
  2. Meet with librarians:Teachers and students alike who need some assistance with research or ask some questions about a specific book might want to consider hooking up a Skype link with the school library.
  3. Meet with advisors:Similarly, the VOIP program also connects college kids with their advisors whenever they need to ask questions about degree plans or scheduling classes for next semester.
  4. Record a podcast:Download or purchase an add-on that allows for recording audio via Skype and use it in conjunction with GarageBand (or similar program) when looking to set up an educational podcast for or with students.
  5. Record video:Numerous plugins allow Skype users to record video of their chats, lectures, and presentations for later use, and students who miss class might very much appreciate having what they missed available for viewing.
  6. Provide tutoring and office hours:If students need some supplementary help with their assignments — or simply something they can’t get past in the lessons — videoconferencing allows their teachers to offer up tutoring and opportunities for extra help. Special education classrooms might find this strategy particularly valuable.
  7. Teach digital literacy:Because social media (comparatively) recently started creeping into most facets of daily life, it’s exceptionally important to illustrate online safety to the Digital Age kiddos. Skype requires the same sort of care and attention as Facebook and Twitter, and serves as a useful lesson in keeping one’s identity protected.
  8. Make Skype the classroom:The growth in online classes means Skype itself works as a platform to conduct lessons, share presentations, provide tutoring and support, and more.
  9. Reduce absences:Set up Skype streams to help students from falling too far behind in the event of a sickness, suspension, caretaking or similar scenario that causes them to leave the classroom for an extended period of time.
  10. Presentation tool:Rather than sending students off on a virtual field trip, let them present their research and findings to institutions or eager parents wanting to know what their kids are learning about right now.
  11. Meet special education needs:Skype allows the special education classroom to incorporate students of all ages and abilities into the conversation, and it works equally well as both a remote and a local tool.
  12. Study groups:Instead of staking out precious library or coffee shop space, holding study groups via Skype provides a cheaper, more time-manageable alternative.
  13. Meet exchange students early:Before shipping off to live with a host family or bringing in an exchange student, arrange meetings ahead of time and get to know one another’s unique needs, wants, and expectations.


  1. Art crits:Schedule time with professional artists and receive thorough crits about how to improve a piece. Because Skype allows for screen sharing, anyone working in digital media will appreciate the convenience!
  2. Interviews:Rather than a lecture, try hosting a Skype interview with professionals and – if the money’s right — game-changes happy to answer student questions.
  3. Tour a museum:Many distinguished museums around the world, such as the York Archaeological Trust, digitally open up their collections so students browse and learn no matter where their classroom may sit.
  4. Guest lecturers:Many plugged-in professionals these days will gladly offer up special lectures and lessons to classrooms via Skype, and sometimes charge a much lower fee than if they were to travel!
  5. Simulcast performances:Inevitably, some students’ parents, grandparents, and other loved ones can’t attend a play, concert, or other performance. Streaming it over Skype gives them an opportunity to tune in and show some support.
  6. Book club:Whether part of a classroom project or organized as an extracurricular, book clubs meeting over the ubiquitous video conferencing tool make for a great project.
  7. Music lessons:Thanks to Skype, tech-loving music teachers now reach a much broader audience of eager pupils willing to perfect their skills on almost any instrument imaginable.
  8. Professional development:Skype benefits more than just students, as educators themselves can use it to plug in and keep their career skills sharpened and broadened.
  9. Attend or throw a poetry reading:Many poets hold readings via Skype, but some educators might want to take things a step further and organize their own.
  10. Storytime:A perfect idea for plugged-in libraries and pre-K and kindergarten classrooms: offer remote storytime for kids around the world or ones stuck at home sick.
  11. Participate in town hall meetings:Search for town hall meetings the world over and see which ones allow civic-minded classrooms and students to plug in and participate via Skype and other VOIP-enablers.

And here’s the tools to help you do it!

  1. Skype in the Classroom:Run by the video chat client itself, this social network allows teachers and students alike to find collaborative projects meeting their educational goals.
  2. ePals Global Community:Any and all VOIP-enabled classrooms seeking others for shared assignments or a quick meeting might want to turn toward this incredibly popular social media site to discover like-minded students and teachers.
  3. IDroo:This virtual whiteboard makes online presentations a breeze and works especially well during collaborative classroom sessions or with any special guests who pop online.
  4. Skype Office Toolbar:Skype-savvy educators use this plugin to make sharing Microsoft Office files that much quicker and easier.
  5. Google suite:Collaborative classrooms often take advantage of Google Docs, Maps, and Translate for various projects as easy, free resources to keep collaborations organized and understood.
  6. Skyremote:Add on Skyremote for desktop sharing and the ability to control other computers remotely — a great tool in the collaborative classroom!
  7. Vodburner:Make use of this video recorder to tape digital lectures, field trips, special events, streams, simulcasts, and more for later viewing by students, parents, and other teachers who might benefit from the information at hand.
  8. Hot Recorder:When it comes to whipping together podcasts or other audio, Hot Recorder is considered one of the best companion programs to Skype.
  9. telyHD:Wheel in the giant TV and attach a Skype-ready telyHD camera for a much bigger viewing screen, which students in larger classrooms will appreciate!
Posted by Staff Writers | in Education, Resources, Technology | No Comments »