The LectureTools Blog

3 Modern Trends in Education and the Web

Posted by Jason Aubrey on Mon, July 23, 2012

For the past several years now, our digital worlds and our physical worlds have collided in many ways. As technology and the internet become ever more prevalent in our everyday lives, we continue to blur the line between the digital and the "real". With our dating lives, our friendships, and our professional lives taking place largely in the online realm, it's no surprise that our education and academic lives are also turning to the web. Online education has been around for some time now. Where at one time the online classroom and the online degree carried some form of negative stigma, today they are more widely accepted among academics, employers, and the general public. It was the first online educational realms that have paved the way for so many other online educational innovations and resources that we have today.


On Modern Trends in Education and the Web Image resized 600 


While the online world is often discredited in one way or another—social media is seen as frivolous and social networking a distraction–there's no denying the relevance and significance of many modern online tools and techniques that have cropped up in recent years. The online world has so much to offer for its sheer accessibility and reach. With educational tools available at the simple click of a button the possibilities are endless. These three modern trends in web and education tools are major movements for the online learning community and wonderful insights into the future of education and academia.


TED Talks

The TED establishment has been around for some time now. Launched initially in 1984, TED, standing for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, originated as a global conference for "ideas worth spreading". While the TED slogan hasn't changed, the program has evolved significantly throughout the years. Today, TED provides thousands of videos online on subjects ranging from the United States healthcare system to lessons from death row inmates and mineral mining in seawater. Students, teachers, parents, business people, artists, and everyone alike have something to gain from TED talks and the TED agenda. What TED communicates overall is that innovative and inspiring things are happening every day and we should explore them. By creating a platform where people can explore and openly discuss their thoughts and ideas, we create the potential for a better world and a stronger human community.


Khan Academy

The Khan Academy has received a lot of buzz in recent months in the both the education and technology fields. Created in 2006 by MIT and Harvard Business school graduate Salman Khan, the Khan Academy seeks "to accelerate learning for students of all ages". The flipped classroom was covered by LectureTools recently and is a concept spearheaded in many ways by the Khan Academy. Khan provides over 3000 video tutorials on academic topics from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history. The videos teach hundreds of skills to practice to help students learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, and at their own pace. Khan communicates a complicated and exciting transition in the world of education—free world-class education for whomever wants it.


Open Courseware

As an evolution of the online learning world, many of the best and most renowned colleges and universities throughout the country are offering open courseware opportunities online. Schools like MIT (linked to above), Stanford, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, and many more offer access to actual classes taught by their professors. These courses vary in how much they offer, but most provide a real class syllabus, assignment list, readings, lecture notes, and more for free online. The open courseware initiative put in place by these institutions for higher learning display a new and exciting concept in the world of higher education. While at one time college was in many ways the world of the privileged, these open courseware initiatives invite anyone and everyone to access collegiate level learning. Something that technology and academia have come to agree on and work toward is that a solid education should be available to any who seek it.


The Author 

Melissa Miller spent many years working odd jobs like street pantomime and burro grooming before finally admitting it was time to get her associate degree. Now she has sworn her life to helping others do the same by explaining the often tricky world of online education. Direct any questions or comments to


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Topics: classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, Flipped Instruction, The Flipped Classroom, Cloud Computing

How the Apple iCloud Will Help Higher Education

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Tue, June 07, 2011

icloud logoAfter weeks of speculation, Apple unveiled its newest service yesterday: the iCloud. We have already discussed how cloud computing creates benefits for instructors in higher education, but Apple’s offering could represent a big boost in cloud proliferation because of its integration with OSX and iOS devices.

In the higher education, Apple’s MacBook line dominates in market share for student laptop purchases. Overall, iPhone sales represent a huge volume for Apple: the company sold over 18 million of them in the first quarter of 2011. The popular iPod Touch also runs iOS.

With all of these devices floating about college campuses, integration with the iCloud represents the possibility for a huge increase in cloud computing for education. Read below to see which features of the technology will quickly emerge as favorites of campus users.


Work from any synchronized device

Students and instructors are already carrying MacBooks, iPhones, iPods, and iPads around campus. The iCloud backs documents created using iWork into the cloud automatically. Importantly, all emails sent and received with the included account are delivered to each of your synced devices. The same is true of calendar events and the contacts directory.

The integration of iCloud with email, calendar, contacts, and iWork apps mean that regardless of which device a student or instructor happens to be carrying around, their work is available. If there is a short downtime between classes or meetings, iCloud users will be able to catch up on emails and edit previous documents from any device without having to remember to upload the file or to save it on a flash drive.


Get started for free

One large factor behind the potential cloud computing boom resulting from the iCloud is the 5 GB of storage that comes free of charge. Apple does not count purchased apps, music, iBooks, or Photo Streams (photos taken with devices’ built-in cameras) against this storage limit. This means 5 GB will go a long way for educational users: word processing documents, contacts, and email generally take up very little space.


Mobilize your eBook library

Using the iBooks app, users who purchase eBooks from Apple’s bookstore will now see the titles appear on all of their devices without having to sync with a PC-based installation of iTunes. Downloading a book that was already purchased on an iPod Touch onto an iPad is as simple as a single click finger tap.

While the iBook format is still tethered to Apple-branded devices, effectively locking buyers into using Apple hardware, the iCloud makes it easy to enjoy purchases on any "iDevice." This feature matches the functionality of Amazon’s Kindle Store, which syncs books and where users left off across Android and iOS devices, Kindles, and PCs.


Bonus Points

icloud musicThe iCloud also syncs iTunes Music Store Purchases. New purchases can be automatically downloaded onto up to 10 devices for no extra charge. For $24.99 annually, users can sync up to 25,000 songs of their entire preexisting music library to the cloud for access from any device.

Together the synchronization of the iCloud provides a kind of backup that manages user purchases (music, apps, and eBooks), photos, settings, text messages, and other files. Since theft is usually a problem on larger college campuses, it is also worth noting that in the event a user acquires a new device, recovering this data is as simple as logging in and letting the device download everything from the cloud.

Photos: Apple Inc.


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Topics: emerging technologies in education, Educational Technology, Cloud Computing

5 Benefits of Using Cloud Computing to Prepare Your Lectures

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Thu, June 02, 2011

Cloud computing is becoming an educational technology buzzword as new web applications like LectureTools allow users to get work done in their web browser and campus cloud usage is on the rise. These applications store data and run on web servers, i.e. "the cloud," rather than your hard drive.

There are distinct benefits for instructors who utilize cloud computing to prepare for lecture, whether they are adding interactivity to their presentations with LectureTools, sharing slide decks on Slideshare, or storing files using Dropbox.

perfect cloudsThese clouds contribute to the scenery, but they would contribute to your classroom if they instead stored your lectures and launched web-based applications.


5 Benefits of Using Cloud Computing to Prepare Your Lectures

1. Access your files from anywhere

College instructors frequently edit and access content for their lectures from many different locations. Instructors often have different computers in their home, office, and classroom. The cloud makes it possible to access files from any device with an Internet connection. Saving files on your hard drive in "My Documents" or "Home" folders means that you are out of luck if you need to access your files from a different computer.

Dropbox allows you to access your files from any web browser or synchronized computer by storing them in the cloud, while applications like Google Docs allow you to edit your documents and spreadsheets through the cloud. LectureTools allows you to prepare and present interactive presentations from any web-enabled device. The cloud allows you to be productive from any computer at any time without having to remember flash drives or other storage mediums.


2. Create a de facto backup for your data

Hard drive failure is not a question of if, but instead a question of when. Eventually, even the most well taken care of computers will experience hard drive or other hardware failures. Without backing up your files on another device, you could lose all of your slide decks, presentation notes, and student assessment data.

Using a cloud computing service keeps your files on a server. Fortunately, credible companies who maintain these servers keep rigorous backups of your data. This gives instructors the added benefit of an "automatic backup." Even if the your laptop experiences a hardware failure minutes before lecture, you can still access, share, and present your files from the cloud. For example, if your presentation rests on the LectureTools servers, you will be able to present on another machine without missing a beat. Dedicated cloud-based backup services like Mozy also offer an alternative to physical media backups.


3. Stop worrying about additional software licenses

Software licenses can be tricky at times, particularly if you typically use several devices. For example, a single-user license of Microsoft Office legally can only be installed on one primary and one portable machine. Instructors who want to use the same local applications on several computers may need to purchase multiple software licenses.

Cloud computing ends this problem through licensing on a per-user, rather than a per-machine, basis. You could own 100 PCs, but because cloud applications are accessible through any web browser, a single subscription allows you to use the application on as many Internet-enabled devices as you like.


4. Share content more easily

Most cloud-based applications make it very easy to share or change file permissions of what you've been working on. Generally you decide whether to keep a file private or whether to share. Since the data is already online, spreading your work to other users is incredibly simple.

Google Docs allows you to share documents with specific people or make them public so anyone can read or edit. With Dropbox, you can share folders, making it easy to collaborate on projects that require each group member to access multiple files. For presentations, LectureTools keeps the instructor's slide deck hidden from students. To share the slides, the instructor simply clicks "Publish Lecture," and all non-hidden slides are available to every student instantly through the cloud.


5. Get things done without software hassles

Instructors who use cloud applications to prepare lectures can add these tools to their existing workflow without much fuss. Unlike software used locally, applications that run from the cloud require no installation and update automatically. Instructors need not waste time or slow down their machines by installing new software. Everything is accessible from the comfort of a web browser.


Have you integrated cloud-based technology into your workflow? If so, let us know in the comments.


Photo credit: MorBCN


interactive presentation dashboardLearn How to Create Interactive Lectures With the Cloud

Request a live demo of LectureTools to learn how our web-based alternative to clickers can improve student engagement and attentiveness. Add interactive activities to your presentation, track comprehension in real-time, and answer student questions.

Topics: emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Educational Technology, Web Applications, Cloud Computing

7 Ways to Use Technology for Collaborative Learning in Your Classroom

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, May 27, 2011

The benefits of collaborative learning are already well-documented. Here are 7 easy ways to use free Web 2.0 applications for collaborative learning in your classroom:


1. Use Google Docs for collaborative writing

collaborative writing googl

Google's Chromebook could greatly impact education, but the online giant already has a great cloud computing resource for collaborative writing: Google Docs. No longer must one student be burdened as the “recorder” for group assignments.

In Google Docs, everyone can see and make changes to the document in real-time in a web browser. A provided chat room and the ability to comment either on the document as a whole or on specific passages facilitate collaboration. Discussions and comments can be marked “resolved” to indicate group consensus. Google Docs is ideal for most collaborative writing and editing assignments.


2. Use YouTube as a platform for group video projects

youtube logoMany colleges let students check out equipment like microphones and video cameras. Take advantage of these resources and the easy upload process to assign an engaging group YouTube video project.

Without professional training, don’t expect a Ken Burns style documentary, but your students will be able to express creativity and collaborate as a group.


3. Compile course information with a wiki

why wiki for educationWikis are available from a variety of sources. Each student can create new and edit existing pages on the wiki. You can verify the editors on each page and what changes they have made using the page history.

Wikis require quality strategy, but are great for cross-linking relevant concepts. An English class that creates a wiki with pages for each book it reads, can grow with pages for main characters, key locations, and key dates to provide students with an immense understanding and knowledge of class texts.


4. Facilitate collaborative reading with eBooks

kindle annotationsAmazon now sells more eBooks for Kindle than it does hardcopies. Growing popularity of tablets and e-readers allow for a new collaborative learning activity: reading.

The Kindle allows users to share notable passages from books on Twitter and Facebook, leave public notes at specific points in the book, and can display what other readers have commonly highlighted in your book. Similarly, the Inkling application for iPad is designed to make interactive textbooks. Students can create a social “learning” network by following their peers’ notes to ask them questions or highlight important passages.


5. Live blog a major event with CoverItLive

liveblogLarge events become social and interactive with CoveritLive, a moderated chat and live blog application. Moderators can publish comments submitted by users, upload multimedia, embed photos, pose poll questions, and create newsflashes or scoreboards.

Comprehensive coverage of an event encourages viewers to participate and contribute ideas. For example, students from a public policy or education class could log onto a live blog during an educational reform speech by President Obama. Users could highlight key points, strengths, or weaknesses in the speech, but only “approved” comments are published. Moderators also pose anonymous poll questions about key points of the speech or embed relevant multimedia, dramatically engaging students in the event.


6. Center discussion around photos in Flickr

flickr yahoo logoFlickr allows users to upload their photos and share them with the world. Photos can be geo-tagged, added to specific groups, and tagged by keyword. Each photo has a unique comment stream to facilitate discussion.

An architecture class, for example, could have students upload photos of buildings on campus. The photographer could add location data and a short history of the building in the description. Other students could then add tags (like “Gothic,” “Neo-classical,” or “Doric columns”) and discuss the photos in the comments. The same idea applies to any class that analyzes visual elements.


7. Supplement classroom discussion or connect to the
“real world” on Twitter

logo twitterA US News article this week shed some light on innovative uses of Twitter in the classroom.

Students can use Twitter to learn from each other’s tweets, as well as interact in dynamic literary character roles. Business classes can connect with outside professionals through the social network. Regardless of how students are using Twitter, the site forces them to present their ideas in a concise manner and has the power to connect them with a network that stretches worldwide.

Have you used technology to foster collaborative learning in your classes? Tell us how in the comments.


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Topics: social media tools in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Educational Technology, Web Applications, Cloud Computing

Laptops in the Classroom: Google Will Lease Chromebooks for Education

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Wed, May 11, 2011

Google Introduces the Chromebook

google io 2011

During Day 2 of Google I/O 2011, Google announced that it will lease laptops running the company's Chrome OS to students for $20 per month. Google is calling the systems "Chromebooks", and has made a short, humorous video to introduce its new product.

The Chromebook differs from other laptops and netbooks because unlike its counterparts, which typically run either Windows or Mac OSX operating systems, it runs Google’s Chrome OS. Chrome OS is an operating system that is designed to run web applications: users do not install and run programs on their hardware.

Any web application that runs in a browser window on another system can run on Chrome OS. This notably includes the Google Apps productivity suite, which among other features, bundles word processing, spreadsheet editing, email, and calendar applications.

Relying on cloud computing rather than locally-stored programs means Google expects netbooks and laptops running its operating system to boot up in a brisk 8 seconds. Since data is stored in the cloud, it can simply be accessed from another machine in the event of hardware failure or theft.

For now, however, this cloud-based approach presents a limitation for the Chromebooks. Without a 3G-enabled device, moving away from Wi-Fi connections means users cannot work on their documents in Google Docs. By contrast, a user with a Mac or PC can edit documents offline using Microsoft Office or iWork at any time, independent of an Internet connection. Google plans to remedy this limitation by releasing offline versions of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs to its users later this summer.


Google enters the education market with lease program

Google has been working with hardware manufacturers like Acer and Samsung to develop netbooks and laptops that run the Chrome OS for some time. But today’s announcement of equipment leasing effectively positions Google as a leader in the educational technology industry. 

Educational users who lease a Chromebook will get a laptop they can use in class, at home, or anywhere in between for $20 per month. Business users can also lease the service, but will be charged a slightly higher rate of $28 per month. 

Subscribing to applications is nothing new. Microsoft Enterprise allows users to subscribe to the Microsoft Office productivity suite. “Software as a service” (SaaS) is a technology trend that is just getting started.

Google, however, is offering the Chromebook leases to education and business users for no up-front cost. Additionally, users do not need to purchase their laptop, and upgrades to newer systems are considered “regular hardware refreshes” that are included in the monthly subscription fee.


Implications of the Chromebook subscription program on education

No doubt that students at schools that are “early adopters” will begin to sport Google’s new hardware offerings on college campuses by next fall. Users who spend most of their time on campus are likely able to access free Wi-Fi almost everywhere they go, meaning that the lack of offline support for many web applications would not pose as much of a challenge to students.

Without the need to pay up-front for using the Chromebook, many IT departments may also find financial merits to the subscription program.

Buying and maintaining a new laptop with similar processing power to Google’s offering would cost several hundred dollars from day one just for the hardware, excluding the additional cost of software like Microsoft Office and the cost of support. Traditional users who purchase and own their hardware must pay for any hardware upgrades, unlike Google’s “regular refreshes.”

For the price of roughly a single new textbook or less per semester, some are sure to take up Google on its offer. Interactive classroom technology is becoming ever more accessible to students. 

Chrome App Store eBooksAs Google gains share in the higher education market, the applications that most Chromebook users are likely to turn to, such as Google Docs, will frequently be used in the classroom. The Chrome App Store will also offer students a Google Books application designed to download and read ebooks.

While encouraging students to utilize such web-based systems in class may lead to the temptation of pointing browsers at distracting social media websites, these kinds of emerging technologies in education have the potential to revolutionize student learning.

The collaborative learning and editing that is possible through Google Docs, for example, provides an opportunity to facilitate peer instruction and increase student engagement, even in large lectures.

How do you think Google's Chromebook subscriptions will change education?

Topics: Hardware, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Educational Technology, Laptops in Education, Cloud Computing