Thursday, February 27, 2014

How I learned to stop worrying and (sort of) love the iPad

By Katy M. Walker

Technology in the classroom has been written about and researched extensively.  We can no longer imagine a classroom in higher education without a Wi-Fi connection any more than we can imagine a CMC classroom without a smart board or computer cart.  At least I can’t.  But that doesn’t mean that every single new shiny thing that comes along should be used. I confess iPads were sort of a question mark for me.  How would students use them? How would faculty use them given CMC’s current IT infrastructure? Are they just glorified netbooks? I frequently stopped and asked students and faculty about their tablet use and connectivity issues, trying to get a sense of it.   
iPad screen

So when Suzanne Thompson of the Office of Innovation loaned me an iPad for a couple of months I was excited! Her only request was that I write this blog.  I expected I would love the iPad, and after test driving it around, I would rush out and buy one.  But, in fact, I was disappointed.
I didn’t see the point of them.  I believed laptops were far more useful and versatile to both students and faculty. I worried about the interface between the Smart board and iPad and concluded that until the Smart board could connect easily, using Bluetooth technologies, what was the point? Additionally, I was troubled that cash-strapped students were wasting their money on shiny new gadgets that, in the long run, might not meet all their needs.  Finally, I was dismayed that Ebsco Host (CMC’s largest academic database vendor), didn’t have an app for the iPad.  Needless to say, I didn’t rush out and buy one. 
Then, I read an article written by Texas Tech University librarians who explored the practical uses of the iPad. I should disclose, as a librarian, I take notice of research done by other librarians especially with regards to tech gadgets. So, when the librarians at Texas Tech looked at the practical uses of the iPad, for both students and faculty, and concluded the iPad was useful, I thought maybe I should reconsider my disdain for the iPad.  Fortunately, Suzanne Thompson graciously allowed me to reexamine the iPad. 
This time, I looked at three specific areas: eBooks, articles and note taking.   


At this point, CMC libraries have over 130,000 eBooks. This represents a large portion of our academic collection, so accessing academic eBooks is important.  The majority of our eBook collection comes from Ebsco Host.  Students and faculty have the option to check out (download) an eBook or read it online. They can also email or print up to 60 pages of the eBook. With the iPad, I was specifically looking at the download options and how they worked on an iPad. 
Bluefire reader interface
In order to download an eBook, you must have a content manager.  A content manager displays the eBook correctly and it manages the embedded digital rights in the eBook.  The vast majority of the eBooks in our collection will work just fine in Adobe Digital Editions. (You can download it here)  But on an iPad, you must install an app called Bluefire Reader to manage your eBook content.  Fortunately, it’s free and can be easily found in the app store by name.  Once you get that installed, you can now download an eBook from Ebsco Host eBook collection.   

The second biggest part of our eBook collection comes from Overdrive and is part of our collaboration efforts with many other public and academic libraries.  (The eBooks from Overdrive are primarily popular fiction and non-fiction.) Thankfully, eBooks from Overdrive will open up in Bluefire Reader, provided you choose the right format.  But that is another blog entirely; let’s not go there today.
After I successfully downloaded and installed the Bluefire reader app, I checked out an eBook from Ebsco Host and from Overdrive with no problems and read them for the allotted amount of time. After the check-out period expired, the digital rights in the eBooks made the items inaccessible on the iPad. 
So, iPad gets a check plus in the eBook column from me as they download and open easily. 
Reading a page in Bluefire


It goes without saying that articles are a big part of a student’s life, and most students use them for academic research.  Downloading articles out of our database wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped, but eventually it worked.  First, I tried to save the article using the save feature on Ebsco Host interface.   I did not get the full-text PDF I was expecting. Next, I opened up the full-text PDF in the database interface and discovered the floating PDF tool bar would not manifest itself on the iPad.  That was very disappointing. Then I realized that I could only see the first page of my article and could not access the subsequent 21 pages of my article using the database interface on the iPad.  That was almost a deal breaker for me. I am not sure if this is a database issue or an iPad issue.  

iBooks interface

The solution to getting an article out of the Ebsco Host database is to email the full-text PDF article to yourself from the database (Ebsco Host allows you to do that), and then retrieve it from your email.  Once you’ve done that, the article will open up in a Safari tab or in iBooks.  I prefer reading the PDF in iBooks. You can bookmark it in iBooks and do simple keyword searching in the document, using the search feature in iBooks.  Additionally, iBooks will store your PDF whereas reading the PDF in the browser will work only as long as the tab is open.   
So, iPad gets only a check in the article column from me.  You can read them, but it takes some work to get them. 

Note taking  

Note taking is a frequent activity of both students and faculty.  I wondered how that might work on a device that has no external USB port or external method to deliver documents to another device.  Apple designed this to be a cloud computing device; they have no plans to add external ports.  The only way you can move your notes from the iPad to another device is to push them up to Apple’s cloud and then pull them down on another device like a computer.  Of course, this requires you to have an Apple account, but if you have an iTunes account, chances are you have access to Apple’s cloud.  

For note taking, Apple has developed an app version of Pages, so you can create documents using the iPad.  The app is fairly robust and has several templates built in; however it’s still an app.  It can’t do everything Pages can do on an Apple computer. Plus, there are still significant compatibility issues between Pages and Word that make using Pages almost more trouble than it’s worth.  A better solution might be to take notes in Google Docs. 
Also, I wondered how functional the captive keyboard would be in a note taking situation.  I’m a touch typist and having to look at the keyboard actually slows me down.  I quickly realized the captive keyboard wasn’t going to work for me in a note taking setting and connected the Zagg keyboard.  The Zagg keyboard is an expensive add-on to the already pricy iPad, and honestly, I’ve never seen student-owned devices that had that add-on.  But, without the Zagg keyboard, I would have quickly given up. 
So, I’m giving the iPad a check minus in the note taking department. Without an expensive add-on, the captive keyboard is not very practical when you are trying to keep up with a meeting or a lecture. Additionally, with Pages compatibility issues, using it can be troublesome if you want to move your notes to a PC platform. 

Some other things I like about the iPad are the ability to start up quickly, the touch screen and some of the non-academic features like Facetime and games. I think the quick start up time appeals to students, as well.  In my library, I often see students using their iPads (or a PC tablets), in conjunction with the desktop computers. They refer to the iPad, read something, and then write something using the desktop computers. Most of the students I see in the library pop for the pricy iPad but there are a few who use a PC tablet.  
So, after the second look at iPads, I can say that they are useful to students and faculty. I think they are most useful when there is a keyboard attached.  Here is my best advice: contact Suzanne Thompson in Office of Innovations and ask to borrow CMC’s iPad.  Take a close look at  some of the practical functions you need—like reading on an iPad, cloud computing and note taking—and  then decide if this is right for you.  As for me, I’m going to save my money for a nice new Apple laptop.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Teaching Tips from CMC Adjunct Faculty

Teaching Tips from CMC Adjunct Faculty 

Carbondale Campus & Online Learning

Spring 2014

Hey, CMC faculty & staff- if you have a account, add your voice to the conversation by posting a comment on the VoiceThread slideshow above! Your responses and feedback are welcome.

And to share your teaching tips with us and have them added to this slideshow, please contact your current Adjunct Professional Development Representative at your CMC campus. Find a list of the Spring 2014 representatives inside the MyCMC portal here. Log-in is required.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Life with an iPad in the Possibles Bag

By Chuck House

CMC’s Office of Innovations in Teaching and Learning was the greatest in getting an iPad to me for use and evaluation as an instructor for CMC’s Fire Science Program.  We have been developing many of the courses we offer in a hybrid format, something that I was excited to try out in the iPad environment.  I am reasonably tech-savy and having used Apple products before, I was hoping to find that this tool would be a great addition to the tool box.

At this point of my blog, I would direct you to Thomas Kainz’s blog post about the iPad.  He writes incredibly well.  That will keep my fingers a bit longer by not having to type much of what his response is, because after about three for four weeks with the iPad, I concur.

Apple makes a quality product.  No doubt.  If that is a primary factor, then by all means, go Apple or go home as their stuff seems to be the best made in my experience.  However, while using the iPad, I found a great deal on a Samsung Note 8, and much to my wife’s disgust, bought one.  To be honest, I don’t like to type.  I much prefer to write by hand and the Note 8 has a great program to do so.  So does the iPad.  But there is no comparison.  Samsung wins that one hands down.  Do you want a 1994 Jeep Wrangler that is a little tinny or one of the new models that is shiny and spiffy when you head out to do some serious, get stuck and walk out, heavy-duty 4-wheeling?  The Jeep – read Samsung, is my choice for what I do with tablets in my classes in this regards.

The apps are there for iPads… lots of them.  Make no mistake, you most likely will find what you need in the Apple environment.  But I found the greatest drawback in printing.  The tablets (all of them) don’t match up to laptops for this function.  Each semester I am trying to be more and more “paper conscious” and keep things as digital as possible (T,  are you listening?  You got to me…) but I do live with a lot of paper still.  Tablets, read iPad, don’t do well in this aspect.  Of course, I didn’t spend hours trying to get to easy printing, but Ming and I reached a point of diminishing returns quickly.  It can be done, but laptops do it better.  (Hmmm, make a marketing slogan idea…)
Credits: rifle image from; iPad image from

iPads and tablets are useful.  They are portable, easy to use, and the students like them.  They are, in my opinion, much more useful for students than in my realm as an instructor.  Many times I found it much more direct to grab the laptop and go than to futz with the tablet.  But, of course, I shoot flintlocks, carry possible bags, make my clothing out of deer skins, and wear handmade moccasins in the snow.  I don’t think I will add an iPad to my teaching bag right now.  Take it for what it is worth.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

LiveScribe Pens and Contextualized Math

By Laura Van Deusen

As an adjunct developmental math instructor, I was approached to help contextualize developmental math with the Integrated Energy program in an online format.  This request was to help satisfy part of the TAA Grant.  Now, I’m not the most tech savvy person, but I felt comfortable with Canvas and figured some technology out there would be easy to use to video math problems being solved and then uploaded into Canvas.  (Videos, that is, where I didn’t have to stand in front of a camera.)  After testing an iPad application and the LiveScribe pen, I decided the best choice would be the LiveScribe pen.

Being a visual learner, I know I learn best (esp. with technology) by being shown how to use the item, and then I’ll get it down.  So I have to say my biggest complaint about the LiveScribe is that I found their online technical support (including video support) to be weak.   I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the best way to use the pen, store and upload the information and then be able to upload it into Canvas.  And even there I just scratched the surface.   However, once I got the basics, I started flying through the videos.  In the video you can hear my voice, and when I start writing, the writing becomes highlighted on the page.  Students can see my “write” as I talk.  They can rewind, fast forward or pause the video as they take the information in.  
brought to you by Livescribe

Now that I’ve completed these videos for the project, I’ve realized that I could easily make sample videos to put on Canvas for my developmental math classes.  These videos could highlight problems already covered in class, so that students could remind themselves of the process used to solve the problem.  I haven’t done it yet because I handed the pen on to our math faculty so she could test it out for that same reason.   It is a great tool that could have many great uses in a class.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Study Abroad Journals for Modern Times

By Lauren DeAre

Adjunct Professor of Spanish, Colorado Mountain College

This summer our CMC Spanish Immersion trip set out for four weeks of study in Cuzco, Peru. Students are very busy during these four weeks with four hours of Spanish classes each day, cultural visits in the afternoons and on weekends, relaxing with host families and volunteering in the community. Making time for reflection is an important part of study abroad, allowing students to go deeper into their experience and giving them a chance to process living in another culture. 

A handwritten journal is the traditional assignment for study abroad students, but I've found that this has become an empty exercise for almost any student and especially for students under the age of 30. My students are not used to writing anything by hand and it's tedious to require a certain number of journal entries that will only be read by me and are usually written all in the last few days before being submitted. Instead, the students were asked to create a video that would allow them to reflect on culture, provide unique insight about their learning during the program and, unlike personal journals, their learning and work could be shared with the other students.

This summer, the Peru students followed four steps to create a video journal reflection using CMC's flip cameras, YouTube and Facebook. 

Step 1: Choose a site in Cuzco that has taught you something about Peru and Peruvian culture
Step 2: Write a draft of your video script and submit to your professor for editing: why is this site important? What did it teach you about Peru? What should other students know about this site?
Step 3: Film your video at the site, using your script (be creative!)
Step 4: After your video is posted to our Facebook site, go on and view the videos that your classmates created, post one comment (in Spanish) about each video.

The following video was created by Everett Gardner, a student in the program and who is also a CMC staff member at the Rifle library.

The results from our project were excellent and provided a meaningful way for students to reflect on their own experience and share their learning.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thoughts on the iPad

By Thomas Kainz

Courtesy of the CMC’s Office of Innovations, I’ve had the privilege of giving the Apple iPad a test spin for a couple of months.  The intent of this “test drive” was to gander my opinion of the applicability and usefulness of this tablet in our classroom environment.   Before we get to my comments I just thought I’d remind those of you whom might not know me too well (or at all for that matter) of my background as it relates to information technology.

I started “playing” with computers just after they hit the shelves as readily available over the counter purchases.  This was back in the late '70s and an entry level PC was a little over $1,000.  As a college student, I had to take a loan out to buy one.  Not having any college courses available for anything PC, I had to buy books and I taught myself how to program.  For the next 35(ish) years I bought, built, sold, programmed and did virtually everything else PC’s.  I currently have a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology, a Masters in Information Sciences.  My full time position is as a Software Engineer and I operate a PC Service business in Howard.  Oh….. I also teach Information Technology courses for CMC as well as give private lessons. So, on to the review…

It seems that there is a big push as of late to promote the use of tablets in our day to day lives to the point of an ever-growing segment seemingly indicating that this is the death of the typical desktop computer and even the typical laptop.  While that may be the end result in the somewhat distant future, I don’t see getting anywhere close to that point in the near future.  Not that Apple isn’t working very hard to achieving that goal, mind you.  Apple has a long history of leveraging themselves into the educational sector through "juicy" programs for institutions and instructors with the ultimate goal of selling boat loads of systems to the students based off the recommendations and in some cases (God forbid) requirements of their instructors or institutions. Get the educational “system” hooked and that tends to funnel down through the student level. 

The “kit” I was handed consisted of the iPad, a protective case with an attached keyboard to make typing easier, and some accessories.  Handling the iPad when it was out of the protective case / keyboard, I found it to be difficult to hold on to.  Apple did a very good job of making the iPad very sleek looking with the aluminum back plate and the very beveled edges but in my hands it always felt like it was going to squirt out and onto the floor and in fact, that did happen a number of times.  After the first time it happened – luckily I was sitting on the couch at the time so it had a very cushioned landing – I was ever afraid of using it while walking around on anything except soft surfaces.  In actually using the tablet, I found it to be unacceptably slow with more than a decent lag time when starting a new program.

While there are an overabundance of available apps for the iPad, in searching around specifically for apps related to education and even more specifically to an instructors use, I didn’t really come across any particular app that had functionality which couldn’t be found in a program meant for the typical Windows-based desktop or laptop computer and which, in most cases, outperform the iPad app as well.

I realize that iPads and other tablets are the latest "thing" but I as well as other IT professionals feel that for what they have to offer to the typical student, they are too limited in their functionality and they are overpriced for what they do.  If you follow the industry, you'd find that there's about to be an explosion with various tablet like devices which, based upon their functionality alone, put the iPad to shame.  I would hold out that for the student who can afford an iPad, they would be best to hold off for a few more months and put their investment into something more practical and better performing.  

I watched a video recently where a number of IT professionals and a few higher education administrators had a round-table discussion about this very topic.  The colleges first tried the iPad in their respective environments believing the hype that it would be a great tool with assisting their student’s day to day academic lives.  After the first test period, they found while the students were able to make "some" use of the tablets, many found the tablets to be very restrictive in the functionality they offered.  During the second round of tests, they tried a less expensive Android based tablet but once again found the students complaining that when they needed to do "real" work, they found it couldn't be done on the tablets.  The end result of the college’s experimentation was that the students preferred to have a less expensive yet better performing laptop than the tablets.  While they felt the tablets ended up being great for social networking and internet surfing, etc. they were not so good for actually doing the work they needed to do... spreadsheets, presentations, data base functionality and so on.

So, the bottom line on my take of the iPad in education:  As long as Windows-based programs dominate the business sector (for better or worse), we as instructors need to be teaching using the tools which are reflective of that domination.  Additionally we should, as much as possible, work diligently towards assisting students in keeping their educational costs to a minimum.  When a student can spend less than $300 on a laptop which would functionally be leaps and bounds ahead of what the iPad would allow them to do, we should consider that to be the more logical choice, especially given the ever-growing segment of laptop/tablet convertible units not only available now but those coming in the very near future.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Turn Images into Interactive Lessons with ThingLink

By Loretta Driskel

Images of educational resources' logos

ThingLink is a website tool I came across during my Game Elements 4 Learning class that I took during the summer of 2013. It was an excellent class because I could set my own learning goals and move at my own pace over the course of a month. I did not delve too deeply into the course but I did read much of the handouts provided and picked up a few ideas and tools for my students and for faculty.

This website is a great resource for a flipped classroom. You will notice that as you point to each video related resource logo in my creation, you can click on the URL to the resource and it will take you to the website where you can learn about the tool. I plan to add a short audio blurb about each resource so faculty will know which tool might fit their needs. Then the Office of Innovations can use this Thinglink to inform our faculty about some of the resources supported by Innovations in Teaching & Learning.

So take any picture, any picture at all, and you can make it interactive just by adding what they call "tags"-try it OR have your students try it as an assignment. You can browse for many more examples to get some ideas. Also here are some that could be used by elementary students, these were created by my classmate-she is very clever, huh?

Clara’s Thinglinks

Loretta Driskel
Instructional Designer
Colorado Mountain College