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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.
Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge, the show that helps you teach online with confidence and impact while living a healthy, balanced life. I’m Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge. My background is in K-12 education and also in higher education, and both live, face-to-face classes and online.
Something I really enjoy about online teaching is being able to integrate different varieties of multimedia into courses to make them more engaging. For example, we can use audio, video, interactive media, and animations. There are more programs and apps to consider than it might be possible to use effectively and more are created every year. It’s easy to struggle with the overload we can all face when we look at this huge variety.
If you’re sometimes tempted by what I call bright and shiny object syndrome when teaching online, this is the temptation to try out new and fresh apps or interfaces, you’re not alone. Finding a new tool can bring fun and interest in your own work as an educator. However, this same set of possibilities we find in the latest and greatest media apps or platforms can quickly cause us to spend a lot of time upfront learning and not enough time actually developing the course or teaching the class.
My focus now is on teaching excellence at an entirely online university. And I believe media and related tools can help us reach our students in new and better ways. At the same time, I suggest using a strategic approach to innovating that allows you to regularly try and use new methods while also reducing the tendency to get overwhelmed by bright and shiny object syndrome. This way, you don’t spend too much time learning and exploring possibilities and not enough time actually using them.
In today’s podcast, we’ll explore several engaging media options and ways that you can approach them strategically so that you and your students are most likely to benefit. After all, through this podcast, I help online educators become more effective in their work while also living healthy and balanced lives by using intentional approaches so that they can love what they do and impact their students positively.
We will first take a look at several audio, video, and multimedia apps or programs you might try. Then we’ll talk about a strategy to intentionally explore and use these special pieces of technology in your teaching. And lastly, we will also reflect on reflecting. How will you decide if it’s working and if your plan is what you’d like it to be? I hope you’ll enjoy these strategies this week. And so we’ll just get started.
Audio Tools to Create Engaging Classroom Content
Beginning with audio, there are four particular audio interfaces I’d like to share with you today.
The first one is called audioboom.com. Now, there are many different hosting services for creating podcasts and creating hosted audio. This is just one of the many. AudioBoom is a web-based service that lets users create and share podcasts. They’re available at audioboom.com and through the service, you could create a podcast audio recording or entire networks of audio shows. This content can easily be shared with a player that embeds onto a webpage or into a learning management system.
This service can easily be used in your online education if you’d like to create little episodes of things you’re talking about in your teaching. It can also be used for students to create their own episodes as they’re putting together some kind of project or assignment to report back on their learning.
A second app is SpeakPipe. Now, SpeakPipe is a very interesting thing and it’s available at speakpipe.com/voice-recorder. When you get to this page, you’ll notice it’s a free online voice recorder. It could be used as a widget, it can be used on your mobile device through an app, or browser extension add-on, or right through the website. And of course, you can use this for audio, as I’m sharing with you now.
You can receive voice messages from your students directly using this recording tool, as it’s embedded easily in the classroom. You can also use it to receive voicemail through the webpage link. It has that free online voice recorder that I mentioned, and you can share sound files of up to five minutes in length instantly through links as well as through the embedded feature.
Now, if you go to the speakpipe.com voice recorder page, you’ll notice that it really is that simple. It just has a green button right in the middle of the page that says “Start Recording.” So you can record your audio, listen to it, and then send it. It works on iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices. You can send it through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus. You can also embed it and share links through the web. It’s incredibly versatile and very easy to use.
A third audio service is called Talk&Comment. Talk&Comment also has a browser extension so you can add it to Google Chrome, you can use it as a widget, you can use it on the mobile device app and so forth. You can also access it at talkandcomment.com through the web, so the direct web page there.
Talk&Comment lets you create voice notes inside any service on the web, including Google Classroom, Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Reddit, Slack, and a lot of other things too.
When you add this to your Chrome browser, it literally allows you to create notes that you’re going to record with your voice anywhere. And you can send those in all of these different ways that I mentioned. You simply record your voice from the widget in your browser and paste the generated voice link anywhere you want.
It’s a really interesting way to share voice notes and also capture your thoughts. It’s pretty much as easy as sitting face-to-face with your students and having a conversation with them where you’re sharing your ideas. Because people talk faster than they write, you can evaluate your students’ work with voice grading using half the time if you try this tool.
It’s not only useful in presenting content, but also in grading students’ work and helping them create interesting projects. I highly recommend taking a look at Talk&Comment for its versatility and also ease of use.
A fourth and final audio tool that I’d like to share with you today is called Vocaroo. It’s a free online voice recorder provided as a widget and available at vocaroo.com. Through this app, you can make audio recordings directly on the page, and you can also share the recorded content with web links or embed codes. And you can download the sound file as an MP3, OGG, FLAC, or WAV file. You can also delete the sound recording from Vocaroo’s hosting site when needed.
There’s nothing personally identifiable that is recorded with your information, so you’re going to create these sound files that really don’t tie to you, yourself, your students. So there’s a little bit of anonymity with that that protects you to some degree. But also, it’s easy to use and free. Who doesn’t like free, right? So embedding the widget makes it fun. And also, sharing little voice recordings people really seem to enjoy.
So I recommend trying it with students, especially in things like world language classes or where they’re going to need to do some kind of recorded speaking. They can make narrations or other recordings for things like projects. They can submit assignments using Vocaroo. They could record their voice using Vocaroo and post it in a discussion forum. So instructors and students alike can both use Vocaroo very easily.
And one idea you might have is to generate a short podcast to have students try this as a project. So it’s a really great tool. Basically, you’re going to go to vocaroo.com and simply use their easy online recorder. It’s just got a big red button with a microphone in the middle, and then it gives you some options when you’re all finished recording. Easy to use. And again, it’s free.
Adding Video Content to the Classroom
Now, just as audio content can be simple to create and share and also really bring your presence and your students’ knowledge to the forefront, video content can even more enhance your presence, and also what students are bringing to the situation.
If you’d like to add video elements, there are so many tools out there now, and a lot of learning management systems provide integration that’s very automatic and simple to use. For example, you might have something like Kaltura embedded in your learning management system, or even just the built-in video system that the learning management comes with.
Whatever it is, I don’t need to give you a whole lot of video capturing tools because so many already exist within whatever you might be using. I would like to highlight two here today. Simple videos can be created using Screencast-O-Matic, and you can also try Screencastify.
Screencast-O-Matic is a free subscription-based site that enables you to make screen recordings, and you can find it at screencast-o-matic.com. This tool is really easy to make video guides, like if you want to explain assignment details or walk students through areas of your online classroom, or maybe you want to illustrate and explain a concept with some visuals.
This site could easily be used to record over short clips of sound quality. Like if you’re a music appreciation instructor, maybe you want to play a musical performance video clip and talk over it and give some direction to your students, allowing some narration to occur and maybe explaining elements of the music as it’s happening.
It gives you screen, camera, and screen-sharing possibilities, and finished products can easily be saved as video files. You can upload them to the Screencast-O-Matic website or to YouTube. And there are just a lot of options there with which you can store your content.
The second option is Screencastify, and just like Screencast-O-Matic, Screencastify is a free web-based video recording tool. This tool is advertised as an add-on screen recorder for Chrome browsers because it just puts an icon into the browser to allow you easy access.
Screencastify offers both free and subscription-based and premium-level products. And I highly recommend checking out both of these options and deciding which one simply works best for you, which interface you prefer, and what you’d like to use.
Tips for Making Great Video Content
Now, I’d like to say just a little bit more here about video content because I’m only mentioning a couple of interfaces. So here are a few tips about adding video. Video can, of course, enhance your course. It can also create some challenges because you’re going to spend a little bit more time. You’re not just editing audio, you’re also looking at how it’s coming across at the same time.
However, it can be really a huge asset for welcoming your students, introducing yourself, lecturing about your content, narrating the content, explaining ideas, and otherwise guiding your students. So it takes some time, but it adds way more personalization than audio alone can do.
Consider asking your students to create videos as part of a forum discussion or an assignment. This can also help with originality checking, if you’re wondering who’s really creating that assignment. If it’s a video assignment, you’ll start to see the same person each time and not have a concern so much about that originality of who’s really submitting the work.
Having a lot of methods to capture your video can be helpful. And again, we’re trying to reduce the overwhelm so start with one and then explore others in the future.
You don’t need a lot of equipment to record video. You can make even more complex videos with captions, transitions, and other elements with purchased software. A lot of things like Camtasia will bring that feature suite to help you add a lot of bells and whistles to your video presentations. And of course, you can spend a lot of time really making them better and better and more engaging.
And sound quality is dramatically improved when you use a headset microphone and not just the microphone on your computer. You can clean up the audio noise, bring the speaking voice in more directly. You can balance the sound with maybe background music or something else, if you really want to get crazy about your videos.
You can use a smartphone to capture the video and upload the video to another app or a program, or just upload the different files into your LMS. You could also branch out and get a separate digital video camera or digital video recorder that’s more high quality than what comes on a smartphone or a computer. But I don’t recommend investing really heavily until you’ve explored the software and the possibilities for why and when you might personally choose to use the video in your class or in your teaching. If you do decide to invest in high-quality video tools, microphones, and lighting, those things can improve the quality of your instructor-created videos. So think about the content, the background, the lighting, the appearance, and the length.
Content should be concise. You might want to chunk up ideas into separate videos so students can look at them one at a time and see the topics broken down, or segment your topics into the smallest component so you have these shorter videos.
And also, think about how you might produce the captions or the written component for students who need that alternative approach. We always want to supply those things in the classroom so students don’t have to ask us if they need some kind of accommodation to see what you’re saying. Be sure to always include it so it’s accessible automatically for everyone.
Interactive and Multimedia Tools for the Classroom
Now, in terms of interactive or multimedia types of tools, I’m going to speak only about two of these today. Again, I’m a real big fan of not overwhelming you. I want to give you some options to help you get started without giving you far too much.
The first one I want to talk about is Prezi. Prezi is a web-based program. You can access it online. It also had, in the past, a classic version that was downloadable so you could create it on your desktop. But also, you can use it in the mobile app as well, so it’s very versatile. You can create dynamic presentations through Prezi. You can either get the free or paid membership and you can create multimedia presentations that move, that zoom in and out. You can embed videos, PowerPoint slides, and other things in a Prezi to make it even more interesting and engaging. It’s a more interactive alternative to PowerPoint. Basically, you can share it through links or downloaded files.
Prezis can easily be used for students to create presentations as well, such as how to put facts and information together and how to present what they have learned. It can be also used effectively by groups of students to produce some group projects. All of the members can contribute to one final presentation. There is a whole bunch of information out there with tutorials, learning materials, and support for using Prezis.
The second option I’d like to share today is Powtoon for education. Powtoon is a website that provides templates, graphics, motion, and other features to build short and engaging videos. And you can check it out at powtoon.com/edu-home. These cartoon-like images are included, but you can also use photographs and videos of your own if you’d like to.
It’s an alternative to traditional instructor-made videos, and really, it’s an engaging way to convey information that’s fun too. One common use of Powtoon in online education is to present an introduction to the instructor. You might also consider using it to put together short lesson presentations, or even to enable your students to create projects.
Strategy for Using New Tools and Technology
Now, let’s talk a little bit about how you might intentionally explore and utilize your new technology, whether it’s audio, video, or media related. The first part is to decide your why. Why would you use these tools or why do you want to explore particular tools?
Why Do You Want to Use New Tools?
Well, the first reason I can think of that is probably the best one is that it’s going to promote student engagement and student learning. When you provide any kind of recorded content like a podcast or a video in your lessons, this can also minimize learning anxiety and increase motivation for all of your students.
If you were to think about your own reason for being an educator and what you’re trying to accomplish through your online teaching, think about particular tools that are going to enhance that mission that you’re on. What really are you trying to do with your students?
Some things you might think about when you’re trying to decide why you might integrate something are what you’re going to do with it. For example, are you trying to help students use the app or tool to collaborate? Are you helping bring the content to light for them? Are you giving them interactive ways to engage with the content and further their learning? As you think about those things, you’ll better be able to decide when and why you would be using it.
When is a Good Time to Add New Technology?
The second half of the when question is, when is it really a good time for you to integrate this kind of content in a course or in your teaching?
It’s my personal stance that each piece of media content, whether it’s audio, video, or interactive, included in your online course should serve a purpose and not just be a bright shiny object; and you want to thoughtfully integrate this.
As you bring course materials and topics to life through these interactive means, audio, video, media, bringing it to life and helping students really see it more clearly is a justifiable purpose. You can also help them gain meaning from tools and content in the way that you use the content. How the students are expected to work with it while viewing or engaging with the content, and the way they’re going to recap or review the whole experience. Maybe they’re going to reflect on their learning or the experience of creating using these tools.
8 Tips to Consider When Using New Tools
Think about the following eight tips as you create your media content or explore different tools.
- The first step is to choose the resources wisely for both the content you’re going to include and the quality it’s going to put out there.
- And second, how can you comply with copyright restrictions and properly attribute the sources you might use in this type of content?
- Third, how will you introduce your students to topics and key points to be presented before they use or engage in the content? Or is the content itself the way to introduce students to the topic and key points?
- Fourth, if it’s a video clip, I suggest keeping it between seven and 15 minutes long total to maintain focus. And if possible, break it down to even smaller pieces.
- Fifth, give your students engagement tasks to complete while they’re viewing the video, listening to the audio, or engaging with the interactive element, like answering specific questions about the points, things to note, and so forth.
- Sixth, promote some kind of reflection or thoughtful integration after they’ve viewed, listened to, or engaged with the content. It might be answering questions or going to the discussion forum to talk about it.
- Seventh, verify that the things you’re going to use, whether it’s audio, video, or a multimedia interactive, you want to verify that these things are accessible and free from technical issues. Basically, students of all types and of all platforms need to be able to reliably see, hear, or engage with it in a variety of systems and formats.
- And lastly, number eight, if you’re using external video content in any of these things that you didn’t create as an instructor, be sure to use it to extend the lecture or add to what’s happening, rather replacing your instructor role.
All of the multimedia tools and strategies that you use, they can be instructor-created or they can be student-created, or someone outside of you can develop them. If students are going to use these tools to create their own assignments and projects, you want to also give them a tip sheet, how-to guides, and really helpful examples so they’re not lost in trying new media themselves, and they can actually enjoy the process and engage with things appropriately.
Reflect on Your Plan to Use New Tools
Now, the last piece in this entire process would be at regular intervals to reflect on your plan. As you reflect upon your plan and how you’re trying new tools or using them in your online teaching or in your course design, you might consider asking yourself, is your plan working? Have you devoted enough time each day/week/month, or year to exploring potential options? Or are you spending too much time and exploring too many options? Are you able to use what you’d like to try without getting overwhelmed? And how would you like to adjust your approach to ensure that you can continue to try these new things for the benefit of yourself and your students without that overwhelm of just getting stuck in the learning curve without actually using the tools the best way possible?
As we close out the podcast this week, I encourage you to consider the various interactive elements you might try in your online teaching, including audio, video, multimedia, and artistic assets that you create. As you decide how you might use various methods and strategies, always, more importantly, consider why you might use them. And then create an intentional plan to regularly explore and learn about these ideas and a strategic approach to selecting and using them.
Working through your plan to keep yourself growing and learning while reducing the possibility of getting overwhelmed will help you to always be learning and actually use the tools. Then at regular intervals, as you look back on your learning and your implementation of these kinds of tools and approaches, you can feel like you’ve actually brought new things to the classroom and new things to your teaching over time.
Is your time and strategy manageable? Do the tools you’re using have a positive impact on your teaching? And do they help students learn? And what might you change in your approach over time? As you think about these things, think about the best possible way to implement it in small, strategic approaches to keep it manageable.
Thank you for joining me today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We took a look at how we might approach the wide variety of media and interactive elements that can be incorporated into online teaching using this intentional strategic approach that also includes continuous learning by reflecting back on your own process so the approach works best for you.
I hope you will think about the possibilities and consider one new thing you might try this week in this area to keep your teaching fresh and help your students become more engaged as well. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this coming week.
This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.
Note: Materials consulted for this episode come from Teaching Music Appreciation Online, published by Oxford University Press.