Learn More About Universal Design for Learning (in 10 Minutes)

I will confess I didn’t know what Universal Design for Learning meant.  And it sounded a little suspicious to me.

I’m not sure anything can be designed to work universally.  As a creative writing professor, I know that we run into trouble when we try to write something that will please everyone.  Usually we wind up pleasing no one, for a variety of reasons.

So I enjoyed listening to this short episode of the 10 Minute Teacher podcast:  “Throw Out Learning Styles and Replace It With UDL.”  I’m a fan of the Cool Cat Teacher blog which produces this podcast.

The guest speaker, Kathleen McClaskey, says:

 I’d just like to introduce you to Universal Design for Learning, and the terms, AccessEngage, and Express, that really represent the principles of Universal Design for Learning. It’s really based on the neurosciences and how we learn.

Want to learn more?  Check out the podcast.

How might UDL impact your pedagogy, both in the classroom and in digital environments?

I’ll have more resources (and an example) on this topic next week!

Making A Google Slides Presentation Work More Like a Website

As a follow-up to my last post about creating interactive images using Google Drawings, I thought I’d share this video about doing something similar with Google Slides.

Again, my source is Richard Byrne and his wonderful blog Free Technology for Teachers.

When creating such interactivity with Google Slides, you can design a first slide that has interactive links to the other slides in the presentation!  (I did NOT know this!)  This allows a slide presentation to function more like a website, keeping students interacting in more ways than just clicking to the next slide.

This is an easy example of how we can design digital  learning modules that engage students by allowing them some choice in how they approach the subject matter.  Students can easily repeat slides.  They can choose the order in which they access material.

Creating Interactive Images Using Google Drawing

Imagine having a static image–a map, a chart, a graph, an infographic, a poem, almost anything–which you then overlay with clickable points which students can choose in order to access more information about a particular aspect of the image.

Or imagine asking students to create such images for each other as teaching aids, assessments of knowledge, or paper-alternative research projects!

The possibilities for how you might incorporate such ideas are endless.  The project could be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

And the only thing you really need to know is how to add hyperlinks to images using Google Drawing.

This video by Richard Byrne, curator of Free Tech for Teachers (one of my favorite sources for interesting ideas about using technology in the classroom), shows you in under four minutes how you can do this.

It’s remarkably easy.

Plus, it features the world’s largest buffalo!  Who can resist that?

Once you see how it works, the possibilities for how you or your students might use it are really endless.

Have fun!

Know The Redundancy Principle to Improve Online Teaching and Learning

The Redundancy Principle.

What is it and how can it help you become a better instructor in online and blended learning environments?

The redundancy principle basically says this:

Redundant material interferes with rather than facilitates learning.  Redundancy occurs when the same information is presented concurrently in multiple forms.

Check out this source, “The Redundancy Principle in Multimedia Learning” for more.

This means, for instance, that if you put written text on a screen during a presentation and then read that text as part of the talk or narration, redundancy occurs and it actually hurts learning!

Does that surprise you?  It did me, the first time I encountered it.  I believed–as do many other teachers–that putting text on a screen and reading it provides multiple inputs and is better for reaching more students in more ways.

But research shows that is not true!  In fact, this practice results in information overload that inhibits learning.

The best practice:  combine audio narration with visual images!  Use bits of text as visual elements in a slide.

You can learn more about the redundancy principle in this short videos:


Ways to Make Your Presentations RESONATE

Interested in learning more about how you can craft presentations–both online and in the classroom–which move your students to action?

How can we create presentations which help students act to engage more deeply with their learning and the material in our courses?

resonate book cover image











Check out the wonderful book Resonate:  Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, by Nancy Duarte.  She has also authored two other best-selling books, slide: ology  The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, and  Illuminate:  Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols.

This book ignites information by linking it with story and visuals.  Duarte shows us how to combine these three things (information, story, and visuals) to inspire our audience to action.

Resonate is available to Hope College authorized users as an electronic resource through Van Wylen library.

Have Out-of-Class Groups Report Their Work to You via Video

I have my students work in groups fairly frequently.

Some of the most critical skills in my courses involve seeking and giving feedback on works in progress, and functioning in collaborative community.  Sometimes students work in pairs, sometimes in groups as big as five.  They might trade short portions of work for quick review, or spend hours discussing longer works.

In hybrid and online classes, I want this work to continue, so I need ways to assess it that don’t rely on my circling among working groups in a classroom.  After all, my online students are working in places and times of their own choosing, often long after I (a professor of middle age and a fairly boring life), have gone to bed!

How can I know that the groups met?  How can I find out what they did, what difficulties they encountered with the course concepts, what questions they need answered so that we can go forward?

My initial thoughts involved having students fill out a group report sheet, something that would ask the questions I had about their work and required the signatures of all present at the meeting.

That was okay, but they hated filling out the sheets and frankly, I didn’t much enjoy reading them.  They felt lifeless and led me to think the group work was failing.

But when I talked to them about their group work, they were excited and articulate.

Hmmm.  Maybe the group work isn’t the problem.  Maybe the reporting is the problem.

When I design pedagogical experiences, I consider students my “audience.”  So I asked myself, as I always do with anything I create to be read or experience by others, what does my audience value and how can I use that to achieve my purpose?

Eventually, I landed on the notion that students love selfies and video and to watch their peers’ productions of the same.

So I revised my group report assignment, which took very little effort.

Now, instead of writing group reports, my students film their reports on a phone or laptop webcam, at the end of their group meeting.

They have a specific list of questions from me which each person must answer in the course of the video.  They simply set the camera running, and pass the camera around as they answer them.  A group of four might create a video of six minutes or so (I have a maximum limit of 8).  They simply upload the video to one of their Google Drives and share it with me for viewing.

What a hit!  Students tell me they enjoy making the quick video reports, but as important, I love them–for several reasons.

First, students do a more complete job of articulating answers to my questions than they ever did using written forms–even though the questions are the same!

Second, I get to enjoy their personalities, which really come out when they create a video.

Third, because they are talking into a camera and I can observe non-verbal behaviors, I have found that I get a better sense of what they really do and don’t understand as they articulate their answers to my questions.

Fourth, I learn their names much faster if I do these early in the term.

Finally, reviewing the videos is actually fun for me.  The students are more relaxed and often very funny as they talk to me from a coffee shop or a dorm basement.  It takes me less than a half an hour to review an entire class’s worth of reports and it is a delight.

Next time you need groups of students to turn a report about their activities, consider having them create an informal video report, guided by a set of questions you devise.  See what you think of the results.

A Few More Tips for an Effective Online Presentation

Creating an effective presentation which students will encounter online is quite different from creating an effective presentation which students will encounter in your presence.

textbook and phone

Whether you are creating an online presentation based in video, slides, a website, an interactive infographic, or text, asking yourself these few questions can help you create something with which students will engage.

  • Why should your students bother to spend time on this (hot tip:  “because I told them to” is not a good answer)?  Have you articulated this for them?
  • Is the presentation seven minutes or less?
  • Have you organized the information in a clear way?
  • Does the presentation model the information given in some way?
  • Have you balanced the visual with the verbal?
  • Have you thought about visual patterning (colors, headlines, templates, etc) to provide unity?
  • If you have audio, is it loud and clear?
  • Will it work if your students watch it on a phone?
  • Can you name one thing about your presentation that will make your students smile?   Have you balanced purpose with personality?  Does it carry the same vibe as your in-person classes?

Keeping these tips in mind as you create your online presentations will challenge your pedagogical creativity with more positive results for students!

And remember:  if you ask students to create digital presentations, share these tips with them too!

Planning an Effective Online Presentation

Any presentation (whether online or in person) goes better with a little planning!  Such planning becomes even more important when the presentation will occur online in an asynchronous environment.

library cubicle

In other words, you create the presentation, but you have no idea exactly when or where your audience members will watch it.  You can’t gauge their immediate reactions, or see when their attention wanders.  Scary!

Basic organizational planning helps us create a presentation structure that engages readers/listeners from the start.

Think about your presentation in four focused sections:

  1. So what?
  2. Problem.
  3. Solution.
  4. Ramp out.

Here’s a bit more food for thought on each.

  1. The “So what?” is the reason why your audience members should bother spending time on your presentation.  Why will it be useful?  How does it excite curiosity or thought?
  2. The Problem identifies the question or challenge your audience members face, emphasizing what they need to know or be able to do to achieve success.  Forming this as a question can be more involving.
  3. The Solution provides the information needed to solve the problem.  The information should be well-organized and on target.
  4. The Ramp out reminds your audience what they should now know and be able to do, and gives them encouragement to go forth and do it.

And bonus:  I find that using this template helps me focus much better and actually reduces the amount of time it takes me to create a presentation (including this blog post!).

So, next time you are preparing a presentation of any sort for an audience, start with this simple four-part template and see how it helps you succeed.

Use Pixabay to Find Usable Images and Videos

Pixabay provides more efficient image searching that Google Images when I or my students are looking for image licensed for our use.

Snowy trees

The Pixabay website says:

Pixabay is a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright free images and videos. All contents are released under Creative Commons CC0, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.
You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist. However, depicted content may still be protected by trademarks, publicity or privacy rights.

pine cone in snow

As you work with students this semester on digital projects which require images, why not point them to this resource?

Faux-pen Resources for Hope Students: Linking to Library Resources

Faux-pen Resources for Hope Students

Linking to Library Resources

by Jenifer Holman, Electronic Resources Librarian, Hope College

Van Wylen Library

Van Wylen Library has purchased or licensed access to many high-quality, academic journals, ebooks, ereference sources, and streaming videos.  Just having these great resources available through the library web site, however, is not enough to guarantee use. Having an instructor link to a resource through Moodle, electronic syllabi, or even through a class-specific email will increase the odds that students will find and read/view these resources. Librarians do ask that you link to these resources instead of sending a copy of an article or a book chapter. If you send a copy instead of linking, we will not be able to track the item’s use. Use is an important metric that we use in evaluating our collection of electronic resources.

Please remember two things as you link to library resources: 1) always use a persistent/stable link; and 2) remember to add our proxy prefix to enable off-campus access.

Finding a Persistent/Stable Link

This is a session link taken from a browser’s address bar:


While it works for awhile on the same machine on which it was first used, by the time you are reading this on your device, it may no longer work. Most of our information providers provide a “persistent” link that should work in perpetuity. Below are some example of how to find the persistent links for our most popular e-resource providers.





Films on Demand





Off-campus Access: Adding our Proxy Prefix:

Libraries use two main methods to authenticate off-campus users: WAM and EZproxy.  WAM links look like:


While EZproxy links look like:


During summer 2016, our library switched from WAM to EZproxy. If you have any links that start with “http://0-” please update them or ask a librarian for a new link. Librarians are here to help!

We now use EZproxy and our prefix is https://login.ezproxy.hope.edu/login?url=. To keep this prefix at your fingertips (!) you could download a macro program like AutoHotKey and create a macro or simply link to our fantastic off-campus link generator.

Lastly, if you would like a librarian to review your links/resources to make sure they are linked correctly and that we hold the appropriate permissions for use in your course, please let us know by completing this brief form.

Thank you for using library resources!