Monthly Archives: April 2012

From CHE: New TED-Ed Site Turns YouTube Videos Into ?Flipped? Lessons


New TED-Ed Site Turns YouTube Videos Into ‘Flipped’ Lessons

April 25, 2012, 12:01 am

By Nick DeSantis

YouTube holds a rich trove of videos that could be used in the classroom, but it’s challenging to transform videos into a truly interactive part of a lesson. So the nonprofit group TED has unveiled a new Web site that it hopes will solve this problem—by organizing educational videos and letting professors “flip” them to enhance their lectures.

The new Web site, unveiled today, lets professors turn TED’s educational videos—as well as any video on YouTube—into interactive lessons inspired by the “flipped” classroom model. The site’s introduction is the second phase of an education-focused effort called TED-Ed, which began last month when the group released a series of highly produced, animated videos on a new YouTube channel.

The TED-Ed site is both a portal for finding education videos and a tool for flipping them. On one page, videos are organized by themes, such as the pursuit of happiness and inventions that shaped history. Instructors who want to use videos that are directly related to the subjects they teach can visit another page, where videos are organized in more traditional categories such as the arts and health.

TED’s videos are displayed on lesson pages that include multiple-choice quizzes, open-ended questions, and links to more information about the material. Professors who don’t want to rely on the premade content can press a button to flip the videos and customize some of the questions. With each flipped video, professors receive a unique Web link that they can use to distribute the lesson to students and track their answers.

And instructors don’t have to rely only on TED’s educational videos to make their lessons. A special tool can flip any video on YouTube, adding sections to a lesson page where professors can write free-form questions and create links to other resources.

Logan Smalley, TED-Ed’s director, noted that this feature is truly open—instructors could flip viral videos of cats if they wanted to, he said. He said his group wanted to leave the possibilities of flipped videos up to the people building the lessons.

“We didn’t want to limit what people might want to use to teach,” he said. He added that designers provide a way for users to flag any published lesson that they feel is inappropriate.

Michael S. Garver, a professor of marketing at Central Michigan University, has been testing the site and called it a tool to improve teaching that will bring more voices into the classroom. For the last seven years, Mr. Garver has been making his own videos, and he said the site will allow professors to turn videos created by experts into fresh lessons for class discussions.

“It’s kind of a way to showcase the talent around the country,” he said.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by ceasedesist]

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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized


Eight ways to create screencasts and slideshares

Reposted from Tech & Learning
by:Joyce Valenza

And, as more schools and more individual teachers adopt the Flipped Classroom model, we will be looking for options to present content, lecture, and video as homework, so we can devote class time to more interactive and engaging collaborative learning strategies.

So, I’ve been investigation a growing array of mostly free web-based tools for projecting and archiving instruction, screenshots, storytelling, and personality.

And because I am not there yet, I thought I share some more professionally produced specimens.  The web-based programs seem to fit into two large buckets–slide narration tools and screen capture tools.


1. SlideRocket:  Michelle Luhtala has been urging me to try this one for months now. SlideRocket EDU is part of her Google Apps package, but sadly, not ours.  I’ve been playing around with Lite.  Watching her tutorial/pitch for the application, I am sold on the free EDU version.  The presentation platform offers the ability to import presentations from PowerPoint or Google Docs, embed media, publish easily, access Flickr’s Creative Commons search, collaborate, analyize metrics, update presentations without replacing them, and store assets.


2. MyBrainshark: This promising tool allows you to add voice to PowerPoint, documents, images, speadsheets, or videos.  (MyBrainshark supports nearly 100 video formats.)  Polls may be inserted. Users may add narration with their phones or computer microphones or by uploading a pre-recorded MP3.  Speaker notes may be displayed as a support.  And visual dashboards allow creators to track viewing results.


3. Upload slides and images, in either ppt or pdf formats.  The program converts your files and allows you to  record and present into your webcam as if you were presenting to an audience.

A simple self editing function for missteps. Presentations may be shared or embedded.  Your initial registration offer a month of premium service.  After that a basic account is free and will allow you to record presentations up to 15-minutes long.  Check out Shelly Terrell’s example.

4. Movenote: offers a similar arrangement of recorded side content accompanied with photos, PowerPoint slides, text documents or even videos. Movenote synchronizes the video and the side content for you when recording the presentation.

5. HelloSlide is a pdf-only tool that allows you to add computer-generated voice to your documents.  Upload your presentation, type the speech for each slide, and the programs automatically generates audio.  Presentations are searchable, editable, and available in 20 different languages.  An edit feature allows you to tweak the speech without re-recording the audio. Translations are available as a paid feature.  This may be useful for ESL learners.  The English voice reminds me very much of the one used on Xtranormal.  (Note: it is super easy to export PowerPoint and Keynote files as pdfs.)


1. Screenr:  This screencaster allows you to capture images from your desktop, select the location and size of the capture, and record your voice over the action on your screen.  A pause button allows you to take a break.  Login through Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, Google, Linkedin, or Windows Live ID, and you are ready to record and instantly publish on your platform of choice. Of course, you can also embed elsewhere. You are limited to 5 minutes of recording.

2. Screencast-o-Matic: records screen actions within the chosen dotted border.  After the count-down, you may record and then publish to the Screencast-o-matic site, to YouTube, or to a video file.  The free application limits you to a 15-minute presentation. Here is Andrew Steinman’s Flipped Classroom tutorial description of the the tool for the Kent ISD.  Registration is not essential unless you choose to save to the Screencast-o-matic site.  If you are registered you can add notes and captions–a lovely feature for distant or flipped instruction!  A Pro-account offers sophisticated editing functions.

3. Jing:  The free version of Jing requires a download (for Windows or Mac).  Using the docked sun tool, users may record up to 5 minutes of onscreen video and instantly share using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or (Jing’s storage area which allows 2 gigs of space).  You can mark up screenshots with text boxes, arrows, highlighting, or captions.  Jing is also a handy tool for capturing screen images.


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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


Flipped learning: Professor tested, student approved

The flipped learning model is still experimental on college campuses, but students have supported flipped experimentation


Seven in 10 students say they watch online lectures more than once.

Marcio Oliveira could see the benefits of his kinesiology course’s flipped learning approach with every new hand that popped up in the first minute of every class, as students peppered him with questions. But he needed more than anecdotal evidence, so he conducted a survey, and the results proved that the hands didn’t lie.

Oliveira, a professor and assistant chair in theUniversity of Maryland’s Department of Kinesiology, began his flipped learning experimentation during the spring 2009 semester in his 200-student class, turning the traditional learning model on its head: students learn content outside of class—through podcasts and recorded lectures, mostly—and do what was once known as homework during class, with the help of professors.

Students seemed to appreciate the flexibility of watching lectures online, outside of class, and having Oliveira and his teaching assistants (TAs) answer questions during class and in smaller sections headed by the TAs. It wasn’t until Oliveira asked students about the flipped model that he knew how popular the approach had become.

It turns out college students—or at the very least, Oliveira’s students—are all for the usurping of the traditional educational model.

Read more about flipped learning in higher education…

Ending the tyranny of the lecture

Six in 10 UMD students who responded to the survey said the flipp
ed learning approach has been “effective” for “overall learning,” with one-fourth of respondents saying they were neutral about the learning model. More than two-thirds of Oliveira’s students said they would take another class that used the flipped approach after positive experiences in the kinesiology course.

“It’s so pretentious for an instructor to think their students can only learn when the instructor is present,” said Oliveira, who earned a grant from UMD’s provost after arguing the benefits of flipped learning. “One of the biggest mistakes that educators make is thinking that every student can learn the same with the same approach. Learning doesn’t happen in my head, it happens in my students’ heads.”

To read the entrie article on Flipped Learning click here

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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Uncategorized


Visualized: a zettabytee to set a title.


Visualized: a zettabyte

By Vlad Savov   posted Jun 29th 2011 3:39PM

Remember the good old days when a gigabyte was considered a lot of space? Improvements in hard disk technology have allowed the humble magnetic drive to reach the dizzying heights of multiple terabytes of storage, but Cisco foresees a future that’s a few orders of magnitude more impressive. Pinpointing 2015 as the commencement of what it calls the zettabyte era, the company has put together a handy infographic to show us just how much data can be fit into one: you can alternatively think of it as the equivalent of 250 billion DVDs, 36 million years of HD video, or the volume of the Great Wall of China if you allow an 11oz cup of coffee to represent a gigabyte of data. So “zetta” must be Greek for one …. of a lot, but what Cisco expects is that we’ll be pushing that much information around the web each year by 2015. Any bets on how many exabytes of it will be to stream videos of cats diving into cardboard boxes?


Trusted Reviews

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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


More about Piazza – Using Piazza to Encourage Interaction – from The Chronicle of Higher Education..


[This is a guest post by Abir Qasem, who teaches intro to programming, AI, cloud, and device programming courses for the Computer Science Department at Bridgewater College. You can find him online or follow him on Twitter at @abirqasem.–@JBJ] 

In my introductory programming courses, my pedagogy relies heavily on collaborative problem solving during class time. A big challenge for me, until recently, had been getting the “quiet” students in my class to participate in class discussions. (Judging by the ProfHacker archives, I am not alone!) In my introductory programming courses, my pedagogy relies heavily on collaborative problem solving during class time. It took a lot of time, effort and creativity for me to get the whole class “talking. Often by the time everyone felt comfortable enough to contribute, the semester was almost over. I always felt somewhat guilty that my pedagogy penalized the students’ introversion. Then I discovered Piazza.

Piazza is a Web 2.0 tool that allows students to ask questions and engage in dialogue on the Internet with the professor and with each other. One of the most interesting aspects of Piazza is that the students can be anonymous in their participation. I found the interface to be a great deal “flatter” (less hierarchical) and more interactive than the forum facilities of traditional Content Management Systems like Moodle and Blackboard.


Piazza has a chatroom feel to it, while offering enough structure to be used effectively in a classroom environment. Students and teachers (see screenshot above) have pretty much the same access levels, and most interactions are peer to peer. The non-hierarchical, interactive nature of the systems inspires a collaborative atmosphere where students are emboldened to ask questions. Since Piazza is in the cloud, I did not have to worry about jumping through IT hoops for setup and support.

My initial goal was quite modest – I wanted to use it as an extension to the classroom discussion. I was hoping that the quiet students would be sufficiently emboldened to voice their thoughts. However something interesting and surprising happened. Not only did the quiet students participate more in online discussions, they started to speak up in class! The other surprise was that the students took over the class. They started to create their own learning environment, organized their own learning sessions and maintained and kept order in this virtual environment.

Piazza captures class statistics, which can be interesting (see screenshot for “posts” vs. “responses”):

Total number of contributions (all activities on Piazza): 958
Total original posts (total number of “questions” and “notes”, not including responses): 184
Instructors’ responses 47
Students’ responses 95
Avg. response time 12 min

When I compare these numbers with the level of engagement and participation I typically see in my traditional lectures, using Piazza seems to have significantly increased classroom participation.

What I specifically did

Initially I started the class with challenge questions on Piazza. I only got a couple of responses. Then I took the questions back to the face-to-face classroom sessions and discussed them with students. This strategy was successful. As the class progressed, the challenge questions became completely an online affair as students found it more interesting to review and answer them online, even competing to see who could answer first.

I also conducted an online help session where I answered student questions online. Even here, students took over the help session and started offering helpful guidance to their fellow students, often even before I could. They also formed their own study groups, and a Facebook group. They policed themselves. If someone was being too attacking or impolite, the reactions from others soon quieted them down. Finally, also unplanned, students started to provide a much higher degree of feedback. For example they found the second assignment to be too difficult, in comparison with the others. Thus Piazza became a venting forum and I learned to adjust my pedagogy accordingly.

The bottom line

Recent studies have found that face to face group work often work fails the innovative thinking test, while electronic group work can be very productive. (See, for example, “The Rise of the New Groupthink” in The New York Times). I concur. From my experience I found that using an electronic group work tool like Piazza, done right, can require quite a bit more work (initially) but it is a phenomenal way to get students engaged 24/7 and in the process, create a collaborative, participative and self evolving learning ecosystem.

Have you tried Piazza, or a similar system? How did
it work for you?

Photo Piazza del Campo, Siena by Flickr user PhillipC / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized


Flipped Learning: A Response to Five Common Criticisms

Flipped learning: A response to five common criticisms 

By Alan November and Brian Mull
March 12, 2012  



One of the reasons this debate exists is because there is no true definition of what “flipped learning” is. Over the past two years, the Flipped Learning method has created quite a stir. Some argue that this teaching method will completely transform education, while others say it is simply an opportunity for boring lectures to be viewed in new locations.

While the debate goes on, the concept of Flipped Learning is not entirely new. Dr. Eric Mazur of Harvard University has been researching this type of learning since the early ’90s, and other educators have been applying pieces of the Flipped Learning method for even longer.

It’s our opinion that one of the reasons this debate exists is because there is no true definition of what Flipped Learning is. The method is often simplified to videos being watched at home and homework being done at school. If this is the definition, then we should all be skeptical. Instead, we should look closer at Dr. Mazur’s work. The components he includes in his implementation make for a thoughtful, rigorous experience.

Mazur will be one of several education innovators presenting at the 2012 Building Learning Communities conference in Boston, July 15-20.

Hosted by November Learning, this premier event is designed to have an immediate and long-term impact on improving teaching and learning. This year’s conference will feature a keynote speech from Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conference and TED Talks that share wisdom from thought leaders worldwide.

Dr. Mazur has a video describing his integrated Flipped Learning and Peer Instruction methods, but the major points are: Students prepare for class by watching video, listening to podcasts, reading articles, or contemplating questions that access their prior knowledge.

After accessing this content, students are asked to reflect upon what they have learned and organize questions and areas of confusion. Students then log in to a Facebook-like social tool, where they post their questions. The instructor sorts through these questions prior to class, organizes them, and develops class material and scenarios that address the various areas of confusion.

The instructor does not prepare to teach material that the class already understands. In class, the instructor uses a Socratic method of teaching, where questions and problems are posed and students work together to answer the questions or solve the problems. The role of the instructor is to listen to conversations and engage with individuals and groups as needed.

Go to to read the reponse to five common criticisms.

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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized


Students Endlessly E-Mail Professors for Help. A New Service Hopes to Organize the Answers.

April 1, 2012


Photo by Matt McLoone

Pooja Sankar contacts professors individually to talk to them about Piazza, her Web site that hosts course-related question-and-answer sessions 

Meet the Ed-Tech Start-Ups

By Jeffrey R. Young


It’s a golden age for educational-technology start-ups. The past three years have seen a spike in venture-capital investment in upstart companies, many founded by entrepreneurs just out of college. Last month The Chronicle outlined the trend (“A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups”), but we wanted to dig deeper.

Below are short features on three such companies, focusing on the problems they hope to solve and the challenges they face in selling their unusual ideas. To get a sense of the emerging field, we’ve included a list of a dozen other start-ups competing for a piece of the action.


Pooja Sankar may eliminate the need for professors to hold office hours, or to endlessly respond to student questions by e-mail.

Ms. Sankar, a recent graduate of Stanford University’s M.B.A. program, leads a start-up focused on finding a better way for college students to ask questions about course materials and assignments online. Her company, Piazza, has built an online study hall where professors and teaching assistants can easily monitor questions and encourage students who understand the material to help their peers.

At first blush, the service seems unnecessary. Students can already e-mail questions to professors or fellow students, and most colleges already own course-management systems like Blackboard that include discussion features. But Ms. Sankar feels that such options are clunky. She says professors are finding that Piazza can save them hours each week by allowing them to post answers to a single online forum rather than handle a scattershot of student e-mails.

Piazza is a Web site that refreshes with updates as new questions or answers come in. Professors simply set up a free discussion area for their course on the service at the beginning of the term and invite their students to set up free accounts to participate. Ms. Sankar says that students typically keep Piazza open on their screens as they work on homework, often staying on the site for hours at a time.

Ms. Sankar, who is 31, was inspired to create the service based on her own experience as an undergraduate in India, where she studied at the highly selective Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. She says she was a shy student, and one of only three women majoring in computer science, so she often found herself watching from the wings as more social students collaborated on homework assignments. She felt there had to be a way to recreate a study hall online, in a way that made it easy for shy students to ask questions anonymously.

After graduating, she got a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Maryland at College Park, and then worked as an engineer for Facebook and other companies for a few years. When she decided to head to Stanford to study business, she was sure she would not try to start a company of her own, since she found the prospect “too scary.” But a course on entrepreneurship made her realize that the path to a company was simply a series of “baby steps,” and that she wanted to bring her vision of a better “question-and-answer platform” to life.

She wrote the original version of Piazza herself, after teaching herself the programming language Ruby on Rails from a book. By the time she first sought investors, she already had hundreds of students using the service. She raised an initial round of $1.5-million last year from the venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital, and raised an additional $6-million from investors in November.

As of yet, the site has no plans to generate revenue—the service is free and does not carry advertisements. Ms. Sankar said that she didn’t write a business plan for the site, because she doesn’t believe in them, and that she believes that once a critical mass of students and professors are signed up, revenue models can emerge. When p
ressed, she says that in the future the company may charge for advanced analytics for professors or other extra features.

She spends much of her time seeking feedback from users and obsessively tinkering with the service in hopes of improving it. “I am an engineer at heart,” she explains.

To spread the word about the site, she has taken an unusually personal approach. She sends e-mail messages to professors telling her story and the goal of the site, and asking them to try it.

Greg Morrisett, a computer-science professor at Harvard University, got one of those e-mails. He said he was curious, but he was concerned that the site’s policy noted that it claimed ownership over comments posted on the site, which Mr. Morrisett felt violated Harvard’s policies. So he wrote back to Ms. Sankar and said he wasn’t able to use it. “Ten minutes later she wrote back and said, ‘We fixed the policy,'” the professor recalls. (Users now own their own posts.) So he gave it a shot.

Mr. Morrisett largely praises the service, which he is using in a freshman programming class of about 200 students. He gets an e-mail every time a student asks a question in Piazza, as do his teaching assistants. “I get a sense of what students don’t understand and what is causing them problems,” he adds. He also uses the site to identify talented students he could employ in the future—”I looked at the students answering the most questions, and those are the students I asked to be teaching fellows this year.”

But he notes one drawback of Piazza that he is now wrestling with. The service is so easy for students to use that he worries people are using it as a crutch. “I got the feeling that students were asking the questions because that was easier than thinking,” Mr. Morrisett said. He is considering instituting a policy of intentionally leaving questions unanswered for the first 24 hours, to encourage students to work things out on their own.

Ms. Sankar said her biggest challenge is convincing professors that they can use a technology tool that is not officially endorsed by their colleges. She intentionally does not seek out deals with campus technology offices because she feels that what type of tool to use should be left up to individual faculty members.

That’s a shift that could change the way technology is supported on campuses.

Sampling of Start-Ups

Aristotle Circle: Admissions advice network

Boundless Learning: Free open textbooks

Edmodo: Social networks for education

EverFi: Life-skills education

Desmos: Interactive educational software

Fidelis: Career-transition education for military veterans

GoodSemester: Open online course platform

Grockit: Social test preparation

iversity: Online course and research organizer

MindSnacks: Language learning

MyEdu: Personalized degree planning

ScholarPRO: Scholarship matching service

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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Uncategorized