Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday, April 18 -- Instructional Technology

To put a perspective on the discussion, we started by watching this youtube video about the history of educational technology. Teaching technology has been rapidly evolving, though many core-teaching tools are still recognizable despite all the changes. For instance, interactive smartboards are derived chalkboards, and tablets are modernized notebooks, which in turn replaced individual slates. Although technological options may be ever changing, the goal should always be to use tech that facilitates student learning by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of instruction.

PART II: Discussion-- Examples of technology and what is the purpose/use
What Technology are we currently using in our classrooms/for our courses?
1. SmartSite
2. Piazza (
3. iClicker, Top Hat, Socrative
4. SmartBook
5. MS Office (word, excel, etc)
6. Programming Software (R, SAS, MatLab)
7. phEt  (

What can we do with it?
SmartSite (Pros):
-Send to all students at once:
-Email, announcements, assignments (quizzes), resources such as PowerPoint, pdf, book chapters, etc.
SmartSite (Cons):
-Can be quirky- not send mail to intended/unintended recipients
                             -crash, lose assignments/work entered
-Limitations, not as integrative as other platforms

Piazza (Pros):
-Allows individuals to post questions in one common thread for everyone in the course to see
-Allows any individual in the course (student, TA, professor) to answer the question in one common thread for everyone to see
-Can delete/edit responses at any time, similar to Wikipage

-great way to engage/motivate students
-excellent form of real time assessment of how students are doing

-animated activities without a template of many rules
-can use with any grade level. Can design own activity worksheet to any template

PART III: New platform: Transitioning from SmartSite to CANVAS:

One major group of instructional technologies are Learning Management Systems (LMSs), such as Blackboard and Smartsite. LMSs are flexible online platforms that can manage educational content and facilitate learning outside of class. Some features that LMSs typically accommodate include document sharing, assignment submission, quiz administration, and grade storage. UC Davis is moving to a new LMS in the fall called Canvas, and we spent some time exploring the functionality of Canvas from a student’s perspective and discussing features available for instructors. In addition to stability and adaptability, Canvas has many options for students and instructors to customize their interaction with the site. For instance, instructors can choose from different widgets or modules (quizzes, discussions, wikis, and polls). Instructors also have a number of new tools for grading assignments within Canvas, and are able to mark, underline, and comment directly on documents without having to download submissions to their own machine. The integration of Canvas with other forms of technology is impressive; students and teachers can upload media content such as video comments seamlessly within the LMS, and Canvas has improved mobile compatibility. Students also have the ability to customize how they receive notifications (including by text or tweet) and how often (immediately, a daily digest, etc.).
One tool that can be integrated within Canvas or used separately is Piazza. Piazza is a mixture of an online forum and a wiki where students and instructors can post questions to be answered by the class community. One interesting feature of Piazza is that replies to questions are in wiki format, so that a number of students can work together to edit an answer. The instructor in turn can post their own answer separately or can endorse a student response. As with Canvas, students can choose how they would like to receive notifications from Piazza and how often. Although Piazza can be a great forum for posting things like the “muddiest point” questions, some GTC members with experience using Piazza mentioned that it can break down when students do not have an incentive to answer each other’s questions and instead just wait for the instructor to respond.

For more information about instructional technology at UC Davis and in general, we encourage you to check out these other posts on the GTC blog and the UC Davis ATS blog, The Wheel.  DOLCE (Discuss Online Learning and Collaborative Education) is a campus group that meets once a month and posts livestreams of their meetings online.


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