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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

You’re invited to join ETC: Educational Technology Community

CAT is forming a Special Interest Group (SIG) for faculty interested in Educational Technology. The Educational Technology Community (ETC) is an interactive component of CAT’s Online Faculty Resource Center in Blackboard and will provide access to research and discussions on this topic. To join, simply email a request to Karen Nichols (

Once there, you’ll see resources not only for faculty who are designing and teaching online and hybrid courses, but information for adding content to Blackboard for your face to face courses, accessibility resources, etc. In addition, there will be a Discussion section for posting questions and comments as well as an Announcements area where you will receive information on the latest innovations in ed tech, recommendations by your colleagues and other items of interest.

In addition, virtual meetings will be set up using Blackboard Collaborate where we can meet to share and discuss any ideas or perhaps get advice on challenges.

So if you’re interested in Educational Technology, please feel free to join us. The first virtual meeting of ETC will take place on Thursday, February 6 from 2:30pm-3:30pm using Blackboard Collaborate. The link and instructions will be posted in the Announcements section of CAT’s Online Faculty Resource Center. To join ETC, simply email a request to Karen Nichols ( This will be a great opportunity for you to experience how Bb Collaborate works and to start sharing ideas!