Check Out Crash Course on Educational Technology

“We believe in the additive power of educational technology both inside and outside the classroom.”

Check out this fast-paced, information-packed overview of “teaching at a  distance” and educational technology from the makers of the wildly popular Crash Course educational series.


The lesson is aimed at students learning through educational technology and offers tips for effective learning which students can adopt.   It also talks about automated tutoring (and how algorithms can figure out and respond to what a student does or doesn’t know!)

This might be a great video to share with students before beginning an online unit or course.

Finally, it is an interesting example of instructional video!  If you are interested in creating your own instructional videos, watch this and consider what you can learn from it in terms of creating your own videos.  Pace?  Length?  Visual cuts and examples?  Colors?

And what do we need to do to meet the requirements of universal design?

The Courage to Be Yourself as a Teacher

Underneath the “digital” part of “digital teaching and learning”  is… what?

Well, at its core:  a human being.

A human being teaching.  And other human beings learning.

I’m reminded as we enter into the season of spring and renewal to think again about what it means to be a teacher, trying new things like digital technologies, risking failure in front of colleagues and students but still trying again.

If you haven’t read Parker Palmer’s amazing book The Courage to Teach, I recommend it.  The whole premise is this (to quote Palmer):

good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.

This week I also ran across a thought-provoking article in Brain Pickings reviewing e. e. cummings and the courage to be yourself

He wrote:

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.

I find this useful to think about as I consider my work as an educator.

And I think it is valuable for us to model and discuss with our students as well, as they discern their future paths.

Next week is spring break, so no new posts!  The next post will appear March 26.

“So, What About Powerpoint?” and Other FAQs about Online Teaching

As we look to moving our teaching–entire courses or just short units–into the online environment, I believe it is best not to reinvent the wheel.

As teachers, we can learn from other teachers, from their successes and failures, from their favorite tools, from their discoveries.


logo of stanislaus state


I recently found a wonderful resource in the FAQ section of The Instructional Design and Development website of  Stanislaus State.


The FAQ’s look at such topics as how to recreate “lectures” suitable for the online environment, use of videos, copyright, assessment, and the ubiquitous “so, what about Powerpoint?”

I think anyone considering teaching online for the first time, or looking to improve their online teaching, will find something of value at this website.

Regarding Powerpoint, by the way, their advice is clear:

PowerPoint is, at its core, a supplementary tool for live presentation, whether that’s face-to-face or via audio and video talking head presented on the Web.  A live audience uses PowerPoint slides to follow along with the main points of your presentation in real time.  Without some sort of live component, PowerPoint slides can be uninformative and counterproductive in an online environment.

Don’t do it!  Face-to-face lectures need to be transformed to work in the online environment in the same way that a terrific novel needs to be transformed to make a terrific movie. When the medium of delivery changes, so must the shape of the content (at least, that’s what I think).

How Do We Become Great Teachers?

In 2014, Smithsonian Magazine ran an article exploring “How Do You Make A Great Teacher?”

Though the article addresses K-12 teachers and their training, I think that much of what the article points out applies to college and university teachers as well, whether we are teaching on the ground, online or in a blended/hybrid learning environment.

So many of us in higher ed receive little or no teacher training before we begin teaching (and sometimes, not even after).  It is worth considering these ideas as we consider our own career development!

Even if we are not new to teaching, when we are new to some aspect of teaching, we feel like beginners again!  So how can we help ourselves succeed?

Some ideas in the article:

  • Especially in terms of diversity, “developing relationships and trust with students matters as much as content.”
  • Good teachers “learn their craft from current teachers of proven effectiveness. “
  • The best preparation is to spend lots of time “listening, learning, observing, planning, and teaching alongside experienced and passionate educators.”
  • Long term work with mentors is critical.
  • Let’s “provide new teachers with a coach who provides emotional and practical support. “
  • Let’s ask what type of teachers we want our students to have and help each other become that.

If working with technology is new to you and your pedagogy, what can you do to support yourself in some of the ways listed above?





If Apples Had Teeth: Questioning the Way Things Are

What a wonderful entry in Maria Popova’s always-terrific blog, Brain Pickings! “If Apples Had Teeth:  Shirley and Milton Glaser’s Lovely Vintage Children’s Book About Questioning the Way Things Are” inspired me to sit with a cup of tea and think about what I’m doing in the classroom.  Not today.  Not online.  Not grading papers.  But what, and why, I am really there.

a zebra sitting in a chair

In the opening paragraph of her wonderful essay, Popova writes:

The lever by which the human imagination moves the world rests on one little word: if — that linchpin of possibility allowing us to question the way things are and imagine better, truer alternatives for how they might be. “‘What if… ?’ gives us change, a departure from our lives,” Neil Gaiman observed in extolling the power of cautionary questions“What if there is something I do not yet know?” Tolstoy asked himself in contemplating what gives life meaning. Copernicus toppled God through the implied if of a universe in which we were no longer at the center of significance. Democracy began with the experimental if of a world in which every human being is granted equal opportunity at happiness.

Her prowess at internal links like the ones included above is one of the things that make this blog so valuable to me.  Popova invites you, always, to read more, learn more, connect more.

Though this article points to a lovely vintage children’s book, it gives each of us, as educators, time to consider a big question about why we do what we do.  How do we want our students to encounter the world?  What questions do we want them to carry with them as they do the work they are called to do.

I can’t recommend this blog enough, by the way.  You can subscribe and have a digest version delivered to your inbox.