The LectureTools Blog

How Tech Changed My University Classroom

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Thu, September 06, 2012



As a (now contentedly former) English professor at a large public university in the American South, and, obviously, a longtime student myself before that, I have seen firsthand how technology transformed the classroom...and then transformed it again. This is a big mistake we make when thinking about technological change: thinking that the world can be divided into “before” and “after” a given technology, and that once the latest thing is ubiquitous, we’ll get to stay still. Unfortunately this is not the case, for it’s not one shift that makes the difference but multiple simultaneous, overlapping, and qualitatively different revolutions that may soon be made obsolete themselves.

When I was a child, we still watched filmstrips in class. Yes, actual strips of actual film. I remember watching the first President Bush’s inauguration on TV in a classroom, though I can’t remember if it was cable yet or simply broadcast. Then video infiltrated classrooms, with the beloved clunky TV cart that heralded a day off from book-based study (Marshall McLuhan once warned that introducing television into education would blow the classroom apart -- I’m not so sure he wasn’t right).

Thanks to the famed visionary forward-looking genius of Apple (and/or their self-serving canniness), green screen and then full-color Macs proliferated in my schools. I was in college when cell phones became popular, but few people had laptops.

By the time I started teaching, nearly every student had a laptop, though as those years went on, fewer and fewer bothered to bring it to class. Why? I wish I could say it was because of their desire to put away anything that might distract from my words of wisdom.

In truth, the cellphone and laptop had merged, and their iPhones were now a one-stop shop for research, socializing, and pure time-wasting. We now have the iPad and, interestingly, tablets seem to be trending smaller and iPhones bigger. Will the two products merge? Where does our future lie, and what does it mean for education?

My most recent classrooms featured computer podiums hooked up to a projector. This was moderately useful in my Introduction to Fiction class, where I mainly used it to call up YouTube videos so that authors like James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, and Vladimir Nabokov could explain their work in person. I also found biographical documentaries of writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and James Joyce, who did not live to see the television era, let alone get grandfathered into YouTube.

But it was the other literature class I was teaching, Introduction to Drama, where technology really brought the subject alive. Unlike prose fiction, after all, drama is not in its essential form a “text,” but is meant as a blueprint to be interpreted and brought to life. So after reading, say, Euripides in our anthology of plays, I could show my students a slideshow on the development of tragedy, a documentary clip demonstrating the spatial quality and remarkable acoustics of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens, and four or five different interpretations of the same scene from Medea taken from live and cinematic versions in English, Greek, and Japanese. This truly showcased the mind-blowing potential of the wired classroom, and all that was missing was an interactive element to make it more hands-on for my students.


Stephanie Brooks is a freelance writer and blogger who mostly enjoys covering all things education, including at, but also regarding traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. When she's not writing, she can be found at the gym working out to Zumba and cooking healthy recipes at home. She welcomes your feedback.


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Topics: Apple, classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, instructor communication, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Flipped Instruction, Guest Blogger

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Flipped Classroom

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Wed, August 29, 2012



The "flipped classroom" has been making waves in the educational world for some time now. With the introduction of the Khan Academy, the concept of the flipped classroom has become one of the hottest debates in the academic world among primary educators, professors, and administrators alike. As education-based technology and online platforms continue to grow and improve, more and more devices, programs, and concepts are entering the educational world and shaking things up. Where at one time the concept of online learning, computer-based assignments, and the virtual classroom were scoffed at, today online education and technology in the classroom are top priorities for schools, teachers, and researchers.


Within our increasingly digital world, most of us agree that education and academia must respond to the changing atmosphere of society. By and large, we accept that online learning and certain academic technologies are worthwhile. However, with all the hoopla over the Khan Academy and the flipped classroom, there remain both positives and negatives to the approach.


The Advantages

Many of the advantages of the flipped classroom have been covered throughout the blogosphere and elsewhere. There are many things to praise about the concept of the flipped classroom. With positive results from many teachers and school districts throughout the country, there's no denying that the approach can (and has been) successful in certain cases. Students are able to approach material and take it in at their own speed. By covering lecture material at home and from a video-based platform, students can privately view the material. This allows them to approach things at their own pace without worry of peers noticing them moving slower or faster. Students can stop, pause, rewind, and fast forward material so that they can examine things in their own way.


By taking the lecture portion of the classroom home with them, students are able to utilize their teachers' one-on-one attention more successfully in the classroom. Students sit through lecture, gather questions, and prepare themselves for the day with the teacher to tackle "homework". Because the actual exercises are done in the classroom rather than at home with this model, students have their teacher available for questions with problems when they occur.


The flipped classroom also allows teaching to adapt more easily to the different teaching styles that individual students may be most successful with. By putting lectures in a video format, students can listen to the lesson and watch the video illustrate the lesson. Of course, this largely depends on how successful the actual video lecture is. You want a lecture (like the Khan videos) that explains concepts verbally, but also draws them out in images and pictures. This provides adequate learning opportunities for verbal learners and for visual learners. With in-classroom lecturing, the visual aspect of lecturing can be significantly more difficult to accomplish.


The Disadvantages

Of course, as with anything, there are going to be some disadvantages to the flipped structure of learning as well. Just as classroom lecturing works better for some and doesn't work for others, the flipped classroom method is not going to accommodate every individual perfectly. The biggest set back today to the flipped classroom method is that not all students and schools have access to technologies that can really work for this method.


Students from lower income areas and lower income families may not have access to the computers and internet technologies that the flipped classroom requires. The structure really hinges on every student having personal access to his or her own personal device. This simply is not the case for every student and every school district. Students who do not have personal home computers or access to the internet would be forced to use public computers at a library or at the school. This, to some degree, eliminates the personal and private experience of taking in the lecture. What makes having lectures as homework so powerful is that students can do it on their own time and in their own way. At a library computer or school computer time limits typically exist and access can be limited if it is busy. This is problematic.


Another downside to the idea of the flipped classroom that many people bring up is the fact that students would be spending all of their "homework time" plugged-in in front of a computer screen. Not only do not all students do well with learning from a screen, but this also adds to a student's time in front of a screen and sitting sedentary. While this concern isn't singular to the flipped classroom, the teaching concept doesn't help our young students to get up and get away from their computers, televisions, and iPods.

Flip your classroom with LectureTools! Check out one of our flipped classrooms by signing in as a student:


PW: 2012

Mariana Ashley is a blogger and freelance writer who often writes for about online college life. Mariana is passionate about all things education and loves writing about the latest trends in the world of academia. She welcomes comments via email at

Topics: Learning Styles, classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, student engagement, student engagement strategies, student response, Flipped Instruction, Guest Blogger, Learning Outcomes, The Flipped Classroom

Rethinking the Value of Learning Styles in the Classroom

Posted by Erin Klein on Fri, December 23, 2011

learning styles

Recent research has revealed that, despite each person having unique thinking patterns, our brains are much more similar than we originally believed. Still, the concept of distinct learning styles persists: many educators subscribe to the idea that each student has a distinct learning style that should be approached in an equally distinct way.

An alternative to learning-style-based teaching

Scientists are still debating the existence of learning styles, but combining both audio and visual learning tools in the classroom has proven to increase student engagement because it adds variety to the learning environment. Using a variety of technological teaching and learning tools like videos, message boards and learning games can keep students engaged and offer them a way to have fun with their lessons.

In addition to variety, interaction is also an important learning tool because it allows students to look at the concepts they are learning from multiple angles. For example: a student may think he understands the Pythagorean Theorem, but another student may approach it with a question that he had not thought of before. By bringing distinct minds together and allowing them to work through a problem together from different approaches, learning can become more engaging and effective.

The role of technology in teaching and learning

Technology has made it much easier for students and teachers to reach goals, regardless of location or distance. Many online degree programs are able to keep students engaged while allowing them to interact with one another through digital platforms. In many cases, students can choose from several teaching mediums, such as images, graphs, audio recordings, and interactive reading materials. By stimulating the mind through each of these approaches, students are more likely to comprehend and retain the information more effectively than they would if they were sitting in a full lecture hall with little or no interaction with the material, the instructor, or their classmates.

Although learning tools like these can be used to engage students enrolled in online learning programs, they can also be used effectively in physical settings. Large lecture halls and classrooms can benefit dramatically from the use of digital learning tools, which can allow students to submit questions to the instructor and their classmates, while also using hands-on software to put their knowledge to the test.

For example: a group of 300 students is taking a statistics class with one instructor. It would be impossible for an instructor to accommodate the learning preferences of each individual student without the help of digital tools. However, with interactive graphing tools on their laptops, access to lecture notes, and a comprehensive messaging system that enhances communication with their peers and the instructor, students can effectively engage themselves in the lessons get a firm mental grasp on the new information.

Students may have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to academics, and some students may have to work harder at learning a mathematical concept than a language concept—or vice-versa. However, these strengths do not necessarily indicate that a student with exceptional skills in language would benefit best from strictly reviewing word math problems without a focus on numerical or graphic alternatives. Instead, learning should be achieved by utilizing a variety of different teaching methods to slowly piece the concept together in the brain.

Photo: jisc_infonet

About the Author

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media. He also writes for

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Topics: traditional teaching methods, Learning Styles, classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Educational Technology, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Guest Blogger

Guest Post: 4 Technologies That Will Make You Wanna Go Back To School

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, September 23, 2011

walking through blizzard

Do you remember that time you had to walk 3 miles uphill to your college finals during a blizzard with tennis rackets strapped to your feet? OK, that may have been a tiny exaggeration, but you probably remember squinting to read chalk writing on a greyish blackboard, carrying heavy textbooks, writing in your books faintly in pencil so you could still sell them back, and having to get up early for morning classes.

Well, with all the new inventions sweeping the world of higher education, you might be tempted to enroll in some college classes next year! Keep reading to find out about new types of technology that will make you wanna go back to school.


  1. Interactive whiteboards.

Unlike the greenish-grey bog of a chalkboard you strained your eyes staring at, the whiteboards many colleges use today work like big computer screens you can easily read and write on. These flat screen wonders are known as interactive whiteboards. One popular type of interactive whiteboard is the Smart Board, made by the company Smart Technologies.

Professors can work on their interactive whiteboards using a stylus, their fingers, or a keyboard. They can also run software from a connected computer, save notes to a connected computer or graphics tablet, control a connected computer from the whiteboard to drag images or text around, and much more. 

If you’re lucky, you just might get called up to write on the board!


  1. E-readers.

Loading up your backpack with heavy books was a real pain in the neck—and back. Today, a gadget you can buy for a little over $100 can hold thousands of books, even though it’s smaller than a paperback book itself.

We’re talking, of course, about e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. Unlike computers and laptops, most e-readers use E Ink technology, which is optimized for reading and long battery life. Amazon says the Kindle 3 can hold a charge for two months if you keep the wireless off and read for half an hour a day. Plus, text doesn’t look washed out in direct sunlight, either.

And don’t worry, you can still highlight and take notes with e-readers. It’s all done electronically.

You no longer have to wait in line at the campus bookstore. Downloading textbooks from or is easy. Just make an account, enter your credit card information, and the textbook you bought will be delivered to you in seconds.

Now you have space in your backpack for more important things—like snacks.


  1. Tablet computers.

You knew we couldn’t talk about consumer technology without mentioning the iPad and its fellow tablet computers, right? In case you’ve been living with a remote tribe for the past few years, these handheld gadgets are like laptops you interact with using your fingers. 

Yes, iPads are great for surfing the web, but they are also great for downloading textbooks. While iPads don’t have the E Ink technology that makes text look like ink on paper, they make up for it by letting you interact with your textbook in plenty of new ways.

Textbooks for the iPad, such as those made by the Inkling company, include interactive quizzes, 3D illustrations, links, and much more. According to a recent article by The Chronicle of Higher Education, schools such as Brown University are actually requiring all new students to buy iPads and Inkling medical textbooks.


  1. Online classes.

Yes, you can now go to class without even getting dressed! Well, you could have done it before, but it would have been pretty awkward.

With online classes, you can get a college education that works with your schedule and lifestyle. Online classes use message boards, chat rooms, online tests, PowerPoint presentations, and course management systems to mimic the classroom experience. Some even use streaming video for lectures.

Now, online classes still have a little ways to go in terms of mass adoption. According to a survey of 2,142 adults published by the Pew Research Center earlier this year, only 23% of college graduates reported having taken a web-based course for college credit. But, 46% of graduates who finished school in or after 2000 said they had taken a web-based class, so online classes are catching on. 

So, if you’ve wanted to go to class at 1:00 a.m. while sitting on your couch, your dream just came true.

Ready for school?

See, we weren’t kidding when we said this is the kind of technology that will make you wanna go back to school. If you’re starting to feel jealous of your kids, consider signing up for a few classes at your local community college or registering for web-based courses online. You’ll learn college-level material while learning about new technology, too.

Photo Credit: Ryan-Michael

Daniela Baker is a mother of two. Like all guest posts, views expressed in this article belong to the author.

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Topics: emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Educational Technology, Guest Blogger

Guest Post: Dream Big - You Can Be Whatever YOU Want to Be When You Grow-Up!

Posted by Erin Klein on Fri, August 12, 2011

matt damon sosAfter viewing Matt Damon's speech (and follow up interview), I was so thankful about the positive press surrounding the support of teachers... especially considering the amount of chatter that isn't always so positive regarding our pay and dedication. Sitting here on Sunday afternoon, my husband, Jason, and I engaged in some rather interesting conversation surrounding today's current economic state. Like most, we were concerned when our nation's credit rating was lowered. We've been wanting to watch Inside Job - so we did.  Interesting enough, Matt Damon narrated this documentary.

This film got me thinking... who is to blame for our nation's financial crisis?

Then I began to think... who is to blame for our nation's educational crisis?

Is it the Teachers?

It only seems right that if students aren't performing well, it must be the ones directly teaching them, right?

If a bridge collapses, who is at fault?  

  • The ones that drive on it
  • The ones that constructed it
  • The ones who supplied/manufactured the faulty materials in which the bridge was constructed

What if you were given the assignment of teaching piano lessons... However, you are governed by the following:

  • You have to use certain sheet music (not the materials in which you prefer)
  • You have too many students to get to on a personal level
  • Some of your students have handicaps yet you don't have tools to accommodate
  • And most importantly... your success isn't going to be measured on how beautiful the students play the instrument nor how much growth they've made from the time they've entered the class but rather how well they perform on the standard sheet music exam

Honestly, ask yourself, how many hours will you:

  • Spend on teaching how to read sheet music
  • Spend on actually playing the piano 

Some people (myself included) will argue that if you teach in an authentic fashion, the students will naturally perform well on whatever test is given to them. True.  So, we don't have to teach test preparation and drill and kill methods 180 days a year - and we shouldn't test this way either!

So, how do we reach students when classes are overcrowded and students are at so many different levels?  I believe technology is a tool that can help in this situation. Many have discussed new methodologies such as The Flipped Classroom where student's homework consists of viewing lectures at home so that the 'homework' becomes classwork where the teachers can facilitate a more hands-on model of instruction. Certain software companies have created Learning Management Systems that help to make this an easy transition.  

I certainly do not believe that teachers are to blame. In fact, I believe teachers are the thread holding the system together. I do think that the system needs to change, though. Times have changed; however, much in our practice has not. In my opinion, teaching is evolving - and the field of education needs to catch up.  Teachers are ready; they simply need the tools and the training to incorporate these new methods into their classrooms. 

In closing, I pose a question: are we going to continue to prepare our students to become proficient at shading in bubbles, or are we going to prepare them to be able to use their resources, analyze information, think critically, and connect globally?

Erin Klein is a mother of two, a wife, and a teacher in Michigan. You can find her on Twitter @Mimadisonklein or read more of her writing on her blog, Kleinspiration. Like all guest posts, views expressed in this article belong to the author.

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Topics: Teaching with Technology, Large Class, Educational Technology, Guest Blogger, The Flipped Classroom