Guest Post: How Technology Shape Academic Learning

Guest Post Written By: Ethan Harvell

In the past, students have to do a lot of things in order to write their writing assignments or study for an exam. They have to go to libraries, check dictionaries, read the encyclopedia or type on a type writer. Thanks to technological development, students now experience a fast and convenient life as a student.

Other Side of Technology

Some say that technology (e.g computers, Internet or tabs) affects the concentration of students. BBC News even report that Internet usage made the attention span of people, much shorter. They even compare it to that of a goldfish. The focus of people becomes very weak because of the millions of data they consume on-line. These also promoted multitasking, with multiple tabs when people are searching on-line, which lessen the efficiency of people.

However technological inventions are not made to distract people. Its purpose is to help people have better lives. Internet is now used in learning. Since most students today were born in an era when computers are already used in every field of life, they have a sense of dependency towards computers. They rely on it for intellectual learning and even skills development. Even professors note the importance of technology in reaching Millennial students.

Let us take a closer look on how technology shapes academic learning:

Tablets For Learning

Recently Google introduced the benefits of the use of tablet applications in teaching. They note the importance of making students actively participate in class discussions and activities, which focus on Google Play applications downloaded on tablets.

Among the activities they do, are: quizzes, puzzles, reading books and spelling tests. Visual and auditory learners get to learn through visual aids while, haptic learners benefits from games and hands-on application. Class discussion also follows to access the learning of students.

E-books also became popular. It makes studying easier because students can bring their tablets anywhere. They can easily highlight and bookmark important parts of the book. Although only 21% of K-12 schools today uses digital textbooks, a huge increase of digital textbook users is expected, with 36.5% of schools, planning to move into digital books in the next few years.

Social Media Incorporated in Learning

Social media  used to be a distraction to intellectual growth and learning. But modern educators now incorporate it to class projects.

How Educators Are Using Pinterest for Showcasing, Curation,” written by A. Adam Glenn notes that Andrew Lih University of Southern California, uses Pinterest as source of generating idea for business and entrepreneur students. The “mood boards” that these students create are easily done through the sites clip board function. The site also promotes data curation, beneficial to journalism, digital media aggregation assignment, and content writing.

Google+ Hangouts are used by students for academic group discussions. Students from Boise State University incorporates YouTube videos in this groups and teach themselves with mathematical equations.

College blogs are also becoming very popular, not only for social sharing but also for social learning. Students can write their own contents and engage in commenting on other people’s work too. This leads to healthy discussions. Aside from that, reasoning, creativity and critical thinking skills are developed through blogging

Popularity of On-line Schools and Blended Learning

The increasing cost of attending a classroom facility encouraged people to enroll in on-line classes. Aside from monetary reasons, online classes  became popular because of these few reasons:

Flexibility– Students can take courses according to a schedule convenient to them. They can easily balance their personal life and school classes, without getting stressed.

Save Time– No need to waste time in going from one class to another; or driving from home to school, and vise-versa. You can efficiently use this time in studying instead.

Several Courses at Once– If you have a particular course that you want to take, but not in your program, you cannot take it on a typical class. But on-line programs allow you to expand your interest and enroll classes beyond the given course list.

Accessibility– Internet is easily available and students can attend classes at any convenient time they want.

Same Job Opportunity– You get the same job opportunity as students attending classroom lessons. Is an on-line program different from their usual classes? If the school is reputable, their method of teaching is basically the same, no matter how they deliver it.

Clayton Christensen on his theory of disruptive innovation tells that “by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered on-line.” Most classes today are already leaning towards technology-based teaching methods because of its effectiveness.

Flipped classroom is one of these blended learning strategies. Students are given lesson materials at home and they study it with an instructional video. In class, they join class activities related to that topic.
Although technology has its negative effect on students learning, it is undoubtedly, a very important tool in making academic learning much effective and efficient.

Author’s Bio

Ethan Harvell is resident of Fremont, California and is a journalist, philanthropist, and a volunteer teacher. He is currently a freelance writer for an essay writing service.

Guest Post: Audio Technology in the Flipped Classroom

Guest Post Written By: Katherine Verhoeven

Flipping classrooms is a trend that is sweeping through schools all over the world. As our technology advances and becomes easier to use, so teachers are getting the chance to introduce it as a helpful teaching aid. These advancements can especially be seen in classroom audio technology, which can play a large role in successfully flipping a classroom.

Flipping it

A flipped concept introduces students to course content before they even enter the class. This can be done through anything from textbooks to YouTube videos and even audio bites recorded on a classroom microphone.

Children then grapple with the content in class where they have access to a teacher’s help before going home and interacting with the content once again. Experts believe that these types of inclusion strategies help children engage with the content better.

Class audio technology can play a big role in making sure your flipped classroom works in the way you want it to. Teachers wanting to provide their students with quality presentations to take home with them can make use of lesson capture technology. This technology allows you to save and share your lessons. The wireless microphone records the teacher’s voice along with smartboard visuals to create video files to be uploaded later for learners to go over in their own time.

Nowadays, many teachers also visually record classes or lectures for their students to take home with them. For the majority of teachers, straining your voice to be heard on a video recording can be difficult, not to mention useless. It often results in a low quality video that does not help the student.

Again, making sure that you use proper audio technology will get rid of this problem. Advancements in technology now mean that you can simply wear a small wireless microphone to amplify your voice while presenting a class. Sound for Schools says “Recording class content means schools and academies can stop wasting precious lesson time, improve results and really include everyone!”

In the Classroom

Microphones not only help with recordings, but can also help inside the classroom environment. Classroom audio systems let teachers save their voices when giving a presentation and helps children concentrate. The wireless microphone is attached to a classroom sound system that makes sure that the teacher’s voice is heard above any classroom interference such as passing cars or chatting children.

Research has shown that high quality audio environments help children concentrate better, improve participation in class, and encourage good behaviour. This is because students are less distracted by their surroundings and are more focused on what the teacher is saying.

Flipped classrooms can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are interactive, while others can take the form of online lectures or sound clips. With anything you do in embracing technology, remember that a teacher’s voice is a crucial part of learning for any student. If they cannot hear properly, they cannot learn properly. This is why investing in proper audio technology should be one of your first steps on the road to a digitised classroom.

Submitted by Sound for Schools, leaders in classroom audio solutions.


One assignment for my research methods graduate class required me to use the technology/website VoiceThread to reflect upon a well-remembered event prior to our current teaching practice.  I reflected upon my experience of a lockdown drill.

VoiceThread is a great technology that allows a user to upload a video, PowerPoint, or most media files and add audio to it, then other users can comment on the video using audio, video, or text.  Audio comments can be uploaded using a phone or a computer microphone.  Additionally, a commenter can pause the video while still continuing to speak and use a pencil tool with multiple colors to draw attention to an element in the video.

From their website:

Voice Threading:

  1. to communicate ideas using more than one of the senses
  2. to connect with an audience in an authentic and simple manner
  3. a discussion that simulates a live presence

It has great applications for K-12, higher education, and business.  VoiceThread would be a great tool to use for a Flipped Classroom or an online class.  There even an app for the iPad that will allow you to create and edit your VoiceThreads.  VoiceThreads can be embedded using an object code (see below) to websites, linked to on VoiceThread’s servers, and sent in an email.  VoiceThread will even post directly to your Facebook or Twitter account if you give it permission to do so.

However there is a major drawback.  It’s a bit costly.  The single K-12 educator license is $79/year.  Have more than one teacher using it at one school?  You can purchase a school license, which starts at $450/year.  Some features cost more while there are discounts for number of users.  However, if you are not affiliated with a school, individual plans start at $20/month.  There are discounts for teams and companies.

So why is price such a big drawback?  There is a free account, but it is so limiting that it essentially allows you to try it out once or twice and then you have to make a decision to purchase a license or not.  Commenting is always free, but uploading your videos will cost you.  Also, the free account limits you to 25MB per upload, which can be a bit difficult if you have a longer video.  While using my free account, the iPad app seemed a bit restricting as well.  I could not use the microphone on my iPad to record audio over a video that I uploaded using my laptop.  Lastly, the free account restricts a user to only 5 video uploads and does not allow you to delete any video.  Thus, you really need to record video using another program and then upload it once it is completely done, if you want to capitalize on the restricted 5 uploads.

Overall: I really like VoiceThread.  I think it would be excellent with a paid account, but the price point is a bit difficult for me as this is a technology that can only be used with itself (you can’t really use it to add an audio comment to a YouTube video; you can only use VoiceThread commenting on VoiceThread videos).

Below I have embedded the VoiceThread I made for my assignment (direct link here).  This specific video was created by first making a PowerPoint presentation, which I then published to video in order to preserve fonts, transitions, and set slide advancement times.  Then, I uploaded the video to VoiceThread.  While I could upload the .ppx file, VoiceThread could not read the fonts, even after I embedded them into the file.  Thus, this video is actually number 3 of my 5 allotted VoiceThreads.  Once uploaded, I then had to use an external microphone to record my voice because I could not get my laptop microphone to work nor could I use my iPad.

Feel free to comment on the video using VoiceThread or in the comments section on this blog entry.

Flipped Learning: How Does It Work? Where Did It Originate?

I really like the idea of a flipped classroom.  I think it promotes the “teacher is a coach, not a preacher” idea and enables students to learn at their own rate. Recent technological advances in screencasting, and videos in general, allow teachers to create material and students to do their learning in a comfortable location and as often as necessary in order to fully understand the concept.

I cannot count the number of times when I was in school when the teacher moved on to the next section of the lecture because “we were running out of time” but I was not finished writing my notes.  Forget even trying to color code using different pens or highlighters, I could barely keep up with scribbling what was written on the board (eventually, the PowerPoint) in a legible manner.  If I didn’t finish the section?  Too bad, the sentence was left incomplete.  The majority of the class had and we needed to move along or else students would get bored and chaos would ensue.  I’ve tried using my laptop to keep notes, but most teachers actually banned the use of laptops in class because students weren’t really taking notes–they were playing games or chatting on AIM (different devices, same issues nowadays!).  The most frustrating thing was if the teacher “jumped back a minute” because he forgot to say something, but there was no room to insert into my notebook without writing tiny in the margins and not really doing me any good.

Flipped learning solves all of these problems. A student can pause a video to finish writing notes, to go use the restroom, to grab a snack, to take a nap, or whatever life throws in our way.  A student can replay any part of the lecture if he/she didn’t understand something (or missed it).  Some students who already know the information can skip segments that they do not need, or play the video with their parent sitting next to them so a parent can see what the student is learning and perhaps be able to help with homework.

So how does the flipped learning system really work?  How does the student benefit?

Check out this graphic:

Flipped Learning CycleSource: via

A flipped classroom still has students and educators responsible for education; however, the cycle begins and ends with the educator with the student’s responsibilities sandwiched in between.  The cycle begins in the lower right quadrant.  It begins with the “what” and educator-suggested content.  Then the cycle moves clockwise to learner-generated, the “so what” content.  Once the student has made the connections, the cycle moves to “now what” and the demonstration of the content.  Learning does not end with simply demonstrating content, learning continues on to experience what you have learned by engaging with others who are currently utilizing the content in their professional lives.  These experiences should be educator suggested, or perhaps even educator orchestrated, to give students the chance to have experiences that students may not even know exist at the moment.

Where does the term “flipped classroom” come from?

The concept is not that new.  The coined term is recent; many people attribute it to high school chemistry teachers, Bergmann and Sams (2012).  Interestingly, the two do not claim to have invented the idea of a flipped classroom.  So if not them…then who?

Julie Schell traces the use of the term and the idea itself in her blog entry, “Use of the term Flipped Classroom” on her blog Turn to Your Neighbor: The Official Peer Instruction Blog.  She mentions that though it is a stretch, the idea of a “flipped” classroom can be traced all the way back to Socrates because he, “emphasized the necessity of active dialogue.”  The possibility of the idea of a flipped classroom relating all the way back to Socrates has been mentioned on a few sites that I’ve read while doing my own informal research.

Of course, Socrates didn’t use screencasting and videos to teach his students, but he emphasized to his students that they are partially responsible for their own learning.  They must go out and attend lectures, attend festivals, and talk to everyone they could about anything.  Socrates did not tell his students that they need to come every day ONLY to listen to him talk about the wealth of knowledge that he has accumulated over a lifetime.  He told them to go and experience life, then come back and we will talk.   Again, it’s a bit of a stretch, but the principles of a flipped classroom and of Socrates are one in the same.


Doceri is a “professional iPad interactive whiteboard and screencast recorder with sophisticated tools for hand-drawn graphics and remote desktop control,” according to its website.  Honestly, that is the best, most succinct definition of the software.  I really can’t say it better myself.  The only thing I can add is that it is available FREE on the App Store.image

There are two main ways to use to Doceri on the iPad: through the iPad alone (via AirPlay) or through a computer running Doceri Desktop. Doceri Desktop is simply the program on the computer that the iPad talks to in order to take control of the computer remotely. I’ve used both formats in the classroom; however, I prefer using Doceri with Doceri Desktop.

Despite the short lag time between doing something on the iPad and it showing up on the screen/computer, there are significant advantages to using the computer. Most notably, I was able to move around the classroom.

When I used my iPad alone, I was still tied to needing to be at the front of the room because the projector connected directly to my iPad.  I have the dongle that can do this; however, Doceri implies that you can present with just the iPad (via AirPlay), but I’m not sure how to get the image on the iPad to the projector without the dongle.  Upon further perusing the Doceri website, I found that AirPlay mirroring requires an Apple TV.

When I was able to use Doceri Desktop, I was able to move around the classroom because the connection to the projector was through the computer and I was utilizing the already in place school WiFi. The other significant benefit was the ability to access any data that my computer could access. This means I could access my hard drives, my cloud storage, and any network drives. If I used the iPad alone, all the content would have to already be on the iPad in the form of a presentation.

Doceri wasn’t created after the iPad; in fact, the company that created it began developing the software about 15 years ago. SP Controls began developing software for a “one remote” to control all devices in the classroom (and lectures, conferences, etc.). However, it wasn’t until the launch of Apple’s iPad that the software and the idea really came into fruition.

There are a number of good screencasting apps available on the App Store and a number available for Mac/PC. So what’s so special about Doceri? Why should you pay any attention to it? The answer is simple: it combines the strengths of screencasting apps with the strengths of interactive whiteboard apps.

Interactive whiteboards took whiteboards a step further by not only connecting them to the computer, but allowed/encouraged two-way communication between the board and the computer. It helped students “interact” with the material rather than just sit and receive the material. However, we know all students are not “created equal” and interacting with the whiteboard presents challenges, for example extreme anxiety or physical limitations. So why not take interactive whiteboards one step further? Let those who need to get up go to the whiteboard, but for those that it is an issue, bring the interactive whiteboard to them.

Doceri require iOS 5 or later, and I recommend a newer iPad. In theory, Doceri could run on on the original iPad; however, I think it may have some difficulty with the processing speed. Additionally, the Doceri website adds that the first generation iPad does not support AirPlay.  I have recently acquired an iPad with Retina Display (aka iPad 4) and I previously had a first generation iPad, thus my recommendation.

I have not tried out the screencasting aspect of the program yet; I have only used the two forms of creating, presenting, sharing. They have worked out well for me thus far.  I am very interested in the Flipped Classroom model and Doceri fits in well with that model.

When I used the iPad alone, I put images together on presentation slides and then presented using those images. I liked it better than PowerPoint or Prezi with respect I could draw on the iPad to draw the class’ attention to a particular place. However, it did have some drawbacks, the image I had on my iPad was a big larger than what was projected so occasionally my written notations would get cut off.

There was one big drawback to using Doceri Desktop that I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong of if the program isn’t developed enough to handle live notations. In other words, when I wanted to write something on my iPad when my laptop screen was live, Doceri created a snapshot of the desktop and then I could draw on the “desktop”. It was frustrating that I had to continuously exit out of of the snapshot in order to scroll down the page or to click anything on the page. Plus, it saved each snapshot as a separate image! After two classes, I had quite a few snapshots (I think 15) that I had to delete.  Upon further poking around the Doceri website, I found it was not me; Doceri takes a screen capture for annotating.  You cannot annotate live.

Another issue I had was attempting to enlarge a document to students in the back could see the text. It was possible to do, but it took a minute or two to switch the controls and enlarge the text. It was just enough time to derail the class and lose their attention.  Perhaps the projector needed to be further away as well; however, the room setup did not allow for it.

I liked using Doceri; however, I think there needs to be a few more tweaks to the software before I will be able to utilize it without it being cumbersome. Using a traditional whiteboard can be quick or cumbersome, and I do not want to use a technology that simply substitutes one problem for another. Technology in the classroom needs to “just work” as often as possible and be as fluid as me speaking. If not, students are focused on the technology and not on the knowledge/skills being taught.  There were many options available by using the iPad alone and subsequently, AirPlay; however, an Apple TV is required for AirPlay mirroring.  I’m not sure how many Apple TVs are in classrooms, but I’m assuming it’s not many.

I definitely will not delete this app, and I’ll keep an eye out for updates.

Article Review: “Education and Technology: Now Is the Time”

During my last round of Professional Development sessions, I attended one about a Flipped Classroom.  Of course I had heard of a Flipped Classroom, read many articles, and considered the possibilities of flipping lessons, but I was more interested to hear someone’s take on it who had actually done it and been successful in the school environment where I was student teaching.

The take-away from that session was this:  a Flipped Classroom can work.  There is nothing wrong with the model.  You can make adjustments for technology limitations at home and you can re-teach in class if the video wasn’t understood by most students.  In a Flipped Classroom, you have more time to conference with students one-on-one; differentiated learning is actually much more feasible, and accommodating for interruptions such as snow days, assemblies, drills, and student absences does not alter pacing or learning.

It can work for any teacher.  However, there are subjects that are more adaptable to a Flipped Classroom than others.  The teacher at my Professional Development session was a math teacher.  A Flipped Classroom is an excellent model for a math classroom.  The basics of the lesson can be taught via video in which the student can review over and over, and then the time in class is spent working on practicing towards mastering the skills.  An English classroom may not work all the time as a Flipped Classroom, but certainly there are lessons that are excellent for the Flipped Classroom model.  And now is the time to try it.

Education and Technology: Now Is the Time

Education and Technology: Now Is the TimeIt’s no secret that education reform has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds of late. With the virtually universal acceptance of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), it seems that some education reform ideas are moving forward. Hopefully, they’ll finally give us a chance to catch up with the best education systems in the world. But are big movements such as CCSS actually a new idea?

Back in the early 70’s, Individually Prescribed Instruction (or IPI) was the hot new ticket in over 300 progressive schools across the nation – it was a “systematic approach to learning” that centered on a set of 5 objectives:

  1. To permit student mastery of instructional content at individual learning rates
  2. To ensure active student involvement in the learning process
  3. To encourage student involvement in learning through self-directed and self-initiated activities
  4. To encourage student evaluation of progress toward mastery
  5. To provide instructional materials and techniques based on individual needs and styles.

If you read that list and thought it sounded eerily familiar, you’d be right. In some way, shape and form, we’ve been spinning these same wheels for the better part of 30 years – penning ambitious goals for educational reform only to see its implementation (and funding) be stifled. Kind of depressing? I’d argue against that.

You see, unlike most previous efforts, educational reform has recently seen some steady growth. Like I said before, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been all but universally adopted nationwide. Although the CCSS are sometimes criticized for a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning, even these guidelines emphasize a priority for individualized instruction in their benchmarking systems:

“The standards clearly communicate what is expected of students at each grade level. This will allow our teachers to be better equipped to know exactly what they need to help students learn and establish individualized benchmarks for them. The Common Core State Standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well—and to give students the opportunity to master them.” (

So what’s the difference? I believe the answer lies in technology. I would argue that because life has increasingly centered on tech, its adoption into education has become more fluid, more natural, and in a lot of ways, more necessary.

Now, before I get ahead of myself, I have to admit that computers have been around in education since the mid-1940s – much like school reform itself, it’s not exactly a new thing. What is new, however, is the way that these computers are enabling the world to interact with one another in an increasingly comfortable (and affordable) manner, which counts for a lot. The famous example of Moore’s Law – the exponential growth in computer processing power – shows how far computer power and affordability have come in recent decades.

Figure 1: Moore's Law

What are some examples of Ed Tech at work?

1. The Flipped Classroom

a. What Is It?  Instead of receiving lecture during their class period, students learn the material via video instruction at their own pace and interact with their classmates and teacher(s) online. As a result, class time is spent troubleshooting and honing student comprehension – helping the teacher assume the role of a facilitator or coach.

b. How Does Ed Tech Help Make This Possible?  Advancements in technology have allowed the flipped classroom to become interactive. Although it is technically possible to “flip” a classroom in an analog sense, it’s the collaborative student community and multimedia-rich experience that have made this technique successful. It also puts the tools students are accustomed to right in their hands (and minds) as vehicles for learning, not just leisure.

2. Classroom Management Systems (CMS)

a. What Is It? Think of it as an online portal for all of your classroom tools – gradebooks, reporting, assignments and more. But beyond saving paper (and your sanity), a well-executed CMS allows a teacher to monitor student activities and performance in real-time to help students across all learning levels.

b. How Does Ed Tech Help Make This Possible?  Real-time reporting is extremely valuable, and this feature alone relies on technology. With this data, teachers, administrators and even parents can take responsive action to get their children where they need to be by differentiating instruction where necessary.

As technology has gotten cheaper, the hurdles that have prevented its implementation have also shrunk, making it easier for tools that help classrooms meet the Common Core Standards and other goals to be a big part of the classroom experience on both ends:

“Using technology can change the way teachers teach…some teachers use technology to support more student-centered approaches to instruction, so that students can conduct their own scientific inquiries and engage in collaborative activities while the teacher assumes the role of facilitator or coach.”

Sound anything like a flipped classroom to you? It might surprise you that this excerpt was pulled from an article written in 1995 (Teachers & Technology: Making the Connection, OTA, 1995 pg. 1-2), but it all comes together to prove the point – modern technology has made necessary educational change not only possible, but also feasible. It seems then, that after all these years of spinning, those wheels have finally gained a bit of traction. Now is the time.

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