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Debbie Harry using a rotary telephone.
"I'm in the phone booth; it's the one across the hall"

Thanks to Hurricane Ida, I'm getting to see what it's like for those students who have to, for a variety of reasons, do their schoolwork on a smartphone, and it's making me think about our reliance on education technology and the assumptions we make about our students. We need to think about how our use of technology might make learning even more difficult for some of our students.

We drove to Tallahassee to get away from the storm, returning on Tuesday, August 31, after ensuring that the roads were clear enough to get back to our house. We knew we wouldn't have power (or internet) when we got back, but we wanted to check on our house as soon as we could, since we live out in the country and have lots of pine trees in our yard. Our electricity came back on the following Tuesday, the same day Xavier reopened remotely, but our internet service is still out (the data cable is still lying in my front yard).

I am now on Day 18 without access to reliable high-speed internet service. At our house, we have our cell phones; however, since the storm, we have not been able to get more than one bar of signal.  Meanwhile, I still have work that needs to be done and requires access to the internet. Also thanks to Ida, we have very bad cellular service at our house -- one bar, at best -- and we are using way more data than we're supposed to.

A message from AT&T that we've gone over our data cap.
We went over our 9GB data cap for this cycle in just six days.

What all this means is that my highly connected life, in which I could work any time I needed to, has come to a grinding halt. I've repeatedly told colleagues and students that I will respond when I can, and that short text messages are actually the most reliable means of communication for me. I'm sure for some, I sound like I'm making excuses and trying to avoid work.

Responsive Pedagogy, Not Just Responsive Design

During the two weeks of asynchronous learning means everything is done in Brightspace, our LMS, which is fine, because I do everything in Brightspace anyway. After the past 18 months of remote teaching, I decided everything for my classes, even my face-to-face classes, would take full advantage of Brightspace. I don't even have a document called a syllabus anymore: instead, I have a number of pages in Brightspace that provide all that informatiom. Working in Brightspace when you have a full-sized monitor (or even two monitors) plus a high-speed internet connection is great. Working in Brightspace on a phone with an okay cellular signal is manageable, but barely so. The screens are slow to load, and sometimes they don't load at all. Uploading a PDF takes a very, very long time. Some screens, especially administrative screens with lots of settings, are hard to manage on a phone. And if you forget one little detail, you have to go through the whole laborious process again.

Some will ask why I don't just go somewhere with reliable wifi. I spent one Sunday in Hattiesburg at USM's library to do this -- and got a ton of work done, but that was a four-hour round-trip drive (although we were also able to load up on gas for the generator). The next day, I drove Baton Rouge, a three-hour round trip drive, and again got a ton of work done (that was Labor Day, by the way). Meanwhile, no one was cleaning up my yard or cleaning out my refrigerator or keeping an eye on my dogs who can't go outside because our fence is damaged. No one was talking to my insurance company about my car that got squashed by an oak tree.

Chart comparing digital byte units.
Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 17). Byte. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:55, September 18, 2021, from

I'm privileged to be experiencing this during a major disaster, when compassion is more accessible. AT&T says they won't charge me for going over my data plan (although yesterday they started throttling our data rate to 128 kbps (yes, kilobytes)). Imagine doing this just because it's all you can afford to do. Imagine trying to do your work on your phone while sitting in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant because their wifi is better than your cell service. Imagine trying to look at PowerPoint slides full of small text on a 6-inch screen. Imagine having to cram all your work into one three-hour block of time because that's all you can afford to leave your house for.

All of us in academia try to balance our school work with our non-school responsibilities. It's a tough juggling act, and no one of us does it the same way.

I guess my point is that while I have always said I understood that some students might need to do their schoolwork on their phones. While I've always said I understood that some students are juggling multiple responsibilities that have nothing to do with school along with all their schoolwork, I've never understood just how difficult it is to do.

The advancements we've seen in educational technology over these past two decades have been really amazing. But #EdTech assumes a lot about the students (and the teachers). It assumes we have the personal infrastructure you use the technology, and for some reason, it also assumes that we that infrastructure allows for constant access to the technology. These are really bad assumptions to make. Demanding that students turn on their webcams during Zoom classes (What if they don't have a webcam? What if their internet connection isn't good enough to upload the video stream?) or expecting them to simply be able to do all of their work on a computer -- these are lousy assumptions.

Compassion means we need to make other assumptions, though. Compassion means we need to assume that our students are struggling as much (and probably more) than we are with COVID and Ida and Nicholas and parents and kids and bills and so forth. Before we automatically assume that our students can hop online and do whatever important work we want them to do, let's stop and think about why they might not be able to. Let's try to provide them with an education that is responsive to their needs rather than one responsive to just ours.

by Karen Nichols

Last year at this time, I wrote about using sound files in your courses and shared with you an audio recording of Louis Armstrong reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. This year, I wish to share with you an app called audioBoom. This app offers numerous possibilities and resources for including audio components in your teaching. This is one of the apps featured in the 12 Apps of Christmas that I recently wrote about and I'm thoroughly enjoying all of the information, instructions and tips being provided.

audioBoom is free and offers one the possibility of posting one's own audio files, podcasts, etc., as well as numerous resources. You may just hear the sound file or click on a player which features a photo or some type of graphic.There is an American version of offerings, but you may curate whatever you like from the BBC news to personal channels to lifestyle magazines. is one such lifestyle magazine that I found while browsing and thought it was a good example of the variety of topics and formats you can see and use.

audioBoom interfaces with Facebook, Twitter and Google+. In addition to explaining how to get started with audioBoom, the entry from the 12 Apps of Christmas also gives excellent suggestions for its educational uses, so I recommend that you check it out.

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

by Karen Nichols

Sue Frantz just posted two items in her Technology for Academics blog that you may find useful in a variety of settings The first post offers up a great way to foster student collaboration no matter what modality you're using to deliver your course. Dropbox has a new feature that allows others to deposit files into your Dropbox account via a URL. Sue Franz does a great job explaining the how-to part in the blog, so let's think of ways we can use this feature called File Requests. If you give your students a group project and they are each responsible for a part of the project, they can then deposit their contribution into the Dropbox of their other group members. Once complete, the group can in turn deposit their final project into your designated Dropbox. I can also see applications for this feature when collaborating with colleagues at a distance.


Sue Frantz' second post centers on engagement. In this instance, ParticiPoll works in a face-to-face setting when you want to use polls and embed the polls in your Power Point presentations. How cool is that? Again, the Technology for Academics blog post explains the how-to. In addition to using it in class, wouldn't this be a useful feature to add engagement in a conference presentation? I've just attended two conferences back to back plus a virtual one this week and the polling attempts were not 100% successful. I want to experiment with this polling app myself for an upcoming conference, but also to see if we can adapt it to be used virtually or at least via Blackboard Collaborate.


So if you find you have a little free time on your hands this summer, I recommend checking out Dropbox File Request and Participoll. Let us know if you do and what you think of these two tools.


by Karen Nichols

We have been touting the importance of the presence of the instructor in an online class by using videos, audio files, photos, discussions, etc.  The students should feel the teacher's presence throughout the course.  Many instructors are including videos and while at the Institute for New Faculty Developers last week, one of the presenters shared that they encourage their instructors to post a weekly video of themselves explaining the upcoming week's activities and assignments.  They use their smartphones with the YouTube app to record the video and upload it, then they link to it inside Blackboard.  What a good idea!  But can you hold your phone vertically to record this video?  Well, there are two sides to this argument as I have discovered in my research.  Vertical video syndrome is defined by the Urban Dictionary as "an affliction of those that record video using an upright mobile phone - as if taking a portrait photograph. My left eye is not in the centre of my forehead, my right eye is not on the tip of my nose. " When these vertical videos are posted on such sites as YouTube, they are skewed and appear unattractive.  There are even mock PSAs posted against the dreaded vertical video.

But here's an article from the Washington Post which details apps to help users either avoid vertical videos or make the most use of them with Snapchat or Mindie:

Vertical videos, long scorned, find a niche on smartphones

A recent article published on Litmos, Effective Use of Vertical Video for Training, offers an even more positive view of the vertical video.  Brent Schlenker believes we'll be seeing more and more of vertical videos in the field of mlearning (mobile learning) and sooner rather than later since mobile devices are becoming so prevalently used in distance education.  Here's a discussion from April 2015's International Journalism Festival on vertical vs. horizontal video:

by Karen Nichols

Actually, the above chart is an indirect find while researching, on my own, an item that came up during a few of the conference presentations I've attended virtually from the Online Learning Consortium's Emerging Technologies Conference. I hadn't thought about Personal Learning Networks (PLN's) as such but am now realizing just how much our learning landscape (Personal Learning Environment) has changed due to technology and social media. We're now learning from myriad sources that didn't exist when I was a child.

Just think of all of the interactions users of social media have with each other on a daily basis and all of the information that is shared.  Of course we can classify what we've "learned" into several different categories.  I place what my Facebook friend Marie had for lunch (fried shrimp, complete with photo) on a very low level, but found it very interesting and useful to learn what my Facebook friend who is a horticulturalist had to say about gerber daisies. (They release their oxygen at night unlike most plants so having gerber daisies in your bedroom may help you sleep better.)

In conjunction with creating your own PLN which will probably include various social networks, here are a few key points from conference sessions attended that I would like to share with you.

Bonnie Stewart (University of Prince Edward Island, CA) explained and explored the concept of many-to-many communication.  To visually illustrate the impact of using social media like Twitter to share information, she first asked us to think of our favorite color.  She then had each of us speaking to different people and those people would pass on what we shared.  While doing this, she asked us to imagine our flow of conversation as our favorite color and then to imagine all of the flows of conversation using everyone's favorite color.  She contrasted this form of learning with the old "sage on the stage" model still being used by some professors in academe.

Heutagogy or self-determined learning was the topic presented by Vickie Cook (University of Illinois Springfield, USA).  She discussed the increase in student use of mobile devices for learning and how we as educators can adapt.  In fact, here is a test sponsored by Google to determine if your website is responsive or mobile-friendly.

Much work has been done using Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  Keeping this in mind, Ghania Zgheib (George Mason University, USA) shared with us several social media learning activities as well as the results of the student feedback.  She made extensive use of Facebook and Twitter and actually encouraged students to interact with people outside of their class.  A few audience members expressed concern about using such open social media and said they preferred more closed opportunities for sharing such as discussion boards.

So now I'm more aware of the Personal Learning Environment and the Personal Learning Network I've created for myself.  I'm paying more attention to the original source of a piece of information and the people who passed it on and on until it arrived on my desktop.  Since I'll be teaching online French again this summer, I'm thinking about my students' PLN's and hoping the social media activities I'm planning for their learning will be well-received.  I'm not quite sure if they are aware of the power they have over their own learning.  I believe we should each assess our PLN and see if there's room for improvement!


by Karen Nichols
My iPhone is one of the old 3G versions and serves me just fine so I'm not a person who runs out to buy the latest gadgets. However, I'm intrigued by the possible educational uses of wearable technology and therefore am on the lookout for ways instructors and students may use the Smartwatch.

I've mentioned before that the POD (Professional and Organizational Development Network for Higher Education listserv has much useful information including technology discussions. From a recent posting, I discovered that Chris Clark from Notre Dame created a Youtube video to show what possible educational uses the Smartwatch may have:

I love the idea of using the Smartwatch to conduct polls! For more ideas and discussion, check out Chris' article:

Do you think the Smartwatch will complement or even replace cell phones? Join me in the watch for possible pedagogical uses of the Smarthwatch and other wearable technology.

by Janice Florent

Video is a powerful way to make that essential human connection in online courses.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock created this infographic listing six simple tips for recording video as well as a few video recording tools you can use.

The infographic (produced using Piktochart) was originally posted in Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s 6 Tips for Recording Video blog post at Teaching Without Walls.

You can get more information about how to use videos in teaching and learning in these CAT Food blog posts: How to Effectively Use YouTube in eLearning and Bb Tip #108: Videos.

If you are interested in how infographics are being used in education, read this Educause article, 7 Things you Should Know About Infographics.

by Karen Nichols

When Sue Frantz was here last week, she mentioned during one of her presentations that MOOCs are being used by people who already have degrees but who are interested in lifelong learning opportunities. Well have I got a website for those of us who seek self-improvement! Do you know about

This site is edited by Dan Colman, director of Open Culture at Stanford, and not only has links to MOOCs on myriad topics, he also searches for lectures, audio books, digital books, movies and any other educational media that he believes may be of interest to lifelong learners.

The curation of the multi-media items is well organized, so whether you're looking for a lecture lasting a few minutes or an online course on a literary movement, you can easily find what suits your needs.  If you have young children, there's even a K-12 resource site.  It's good to have a safe area to send the children to for their multi-media needs as well.

In addition, there's an area for learning another language or two. Since languages are my area of specialization, I'm anxious to try some of these sites. Having recently begun tracing my genealogy, I've become interested in Gaelic. Sure enough, there's a site in the list for learning the basics.

I also think this site may be of use to your students. Take a look at your subject area to see what may be available. If you see a film or lecture or even an introductory course for students who may need a refresher on the basics, you can post the links inside your Blackboard course for your students. There's also a section on free textbooks that are available. With the rising costs of textbooks, wouldn't it be useful if there's one that students can use for free?

I'm quite interested in the lectures available.  There's an entire series in French of Roland Barthes, one of the sources from my dissertation that I'm looking forward to listening to.  Here's one from Leonard Bernstein, part of his 1973 lectures on music at Harvard:


Check out the site and let us know what you find interesting and useful.

by Karen Nichols

What are infographs? Despite their shortcomings, I do like the first line of wikipedia's definition of infographic: Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.  I found a particularly appropriate infograph, given CAT's 20th anniversary theme of sustainability on the website which I will present momentarily.

Why would we use infographs? Well, according to an article last fall in the New Yorker, infographics are "trending" right now and are found everywhere--newspapers, websites, blogs, etc. With the onslaught of data from all angles, readers can use a little help deciphering the information bombarding us.

Infographics in the classroom have myriad uses and you probably already use them. But have you ever used an infograph to introduce yourself? Think about it. The infographic format would add a visual dimension to your biographical sketch that you probably include in your syllabus or in Blackboard. If you haven't experimented very much with infographics, here is an easy website to try:

There are other sites where you can create infographs, but I like this one because it's easy and pre-loaded with a variety of templates.
Here's a quick "how-to" video from the site:

I hope you enjoy experimenting. Please share any infographs you use or create!

by Karen Nichols
Hi Everyone and welcome back for the fall 2014 semester! Here is a timely reminder of the various ways CAT can support your online/hybrid courses (and even technology-infused face to face courses).

  • One to one sessions on using technology such as Blackboard, plus one to one sessions on the pedagogy of online teaching--please contact Janice Florent,, for Blackboard help and Karen Nichols,, for pedagogical assistance with your courses
  • Workshops, presentations and panel discussions about online teaching including accessibility, student conduct and providing quality feedback--please see our CAT events
  • CAT's Online Faculty Resource Center, an organization in Blackboard to which you can subscribe by emailing Janice Florent, jflorent@xula.aedu, or Karen Nichols,  (If you use the Bb Mobile app on your mobile device, you'll be notified each time new content is added)
  • ETC (Educational Technology Community), Xavier's special interest group that meets virtually throughout the academic year and which you can join by emailing Karen Nichols,
  • Camtasia Studio--please contact Bart Everson,, for more information
  • Books on best practices of teaching online that can be checked out--please ask Ms. Olivia Crum,, to check them out
  • Resources on this blog page dedicated to Blackboard and other technology used

If you're interested in learning more about any of these items, please contact us:; 504-520-7512  We'll be delighted to assist you--wishing everyone a great fall semester!

CAT's Online Faculty Resource Center

CAT's Online Faculty Resource Center