Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vimeo by Kate Parker

I use Vimeo to host video response lectures that I create for all my online classes as a means of responding, directly and personally, to their discussions for the week. By uploading a video of myself talking through the interesting questions and problems raised by their online discussions, I am able to recreate--to a limited extent--the way I might respond to student work in a face-to-face setting. Because the video responses are not too structured, and are not really scripted or edited, the students see me in my true form. I have found this to be a more effective way to respond to student work, as it models synthesizing salient points for the students and enables me to draw broad and meaningful connections across discussions. I also find that students are more likely to access and engage with a video summary than they are to read a series of follow-up posts, even if those posts are assigned by the instructor. Recording these lectures also saves me time, allowing me to channel more of my energies into communicating with students about projects or creating other meaningful and fun content.

I chose Vimeo over YouTube and other free video hosting sites because it has a great quality of video. After creating my account with Vimeo, I record videos (usually of me sitting at my office desk) with my webcam, saving the movies as files on my computer and then uploading the files to Vimeo. I make the videos public and share them with students. After the semester is over, I make the videos private, but I love being able to access past videos to get ideas and inspiration for my current classes. Collectively, this video archive has helped me to see the kinds of questions and ideas that students tend to generate semester after semester. I've also assigned these videos in face-to-face classes, if I feel that they cover important material in a concise way. Because I respond differently to specific students each semester, I do recreate the videos every time I teach an online course. However, I find the process is easier each semester, as I use the previous semesters' video to help outline my thoughts and prepare my comments.

The videos are short--ten, fifteen minutes--and students report enjoying the chance to see me in my element and get to know me as an instructor. In my evaluations, students regularly commented on the videos as one of the activities they found most engaging and helpful in the online course. It also helps to humanize the process of online teaching--and connecting with students personally is extremely
important to me, whether I am in the classroom or on D2L.

For more information about Vimeo visit:

Submitted by Kate Parker, English 

Google Earth by Laurie Harmon

Google Earth allows for viewing of maps and roads (similar to GoogleMaps), but it has many more advanced features that allow for planning and staging the development of buildings, roads, trees, bodies of water, as well as integrated satellite imagery enabling relative heights, weather information, building information, and more.

I use Google Earth in my REC 400/500: Planning for Park & Recreation Facilities course when students work as a team of recreation professionals on a planning project for the Director of Recreation at La Crosse Parks and Recreation. There are multiple steps in the project, the first of which is Site Inventory & Analysis. Google Earth is one of the first tools used at this stage since students can get both a broad overview of their site in the context of the region and the national, state, local, or neighborhood level to determine what other recreation related services and facilities are currently provided. They can then begin to examine their site, usually a park facility, and explore the various layers of information provided through Google Earth, e.g. roads, buildings, but also weather information. The plotting ability results in a better understanding of historical weather conditions which greatly influence the site development, i.e. we need to consider protection from the predominant harsh weather patterns while taking advantage of the predominant pleasant weather conditions.

Once moving past the information gathering stages, the students then use Google Earth to develop a base map which adds to in terms of proposals to their sites. Using these maps, for which basic information can be downloaded, students are able to propose multiple recreation uses to scale and are able to observe and share accurate spatial relationships in order to design effective, usable, and safe recreation spaces. Students are able to turn layers of information on and off, can move through spaces either from a bird’s eye view or as if they were walking through the space (e.g. Google’s “streetview”) which has added yet another dimension of data.

Much of this information would typically be available through more sophisticated GIS-based software such as ARC-GIS, but Google Earth’s advantage is that it’s free, it’s accessible, and it’s relatively easy for students to use effectively without spending our limited semester time on learning to use the software. In this way, we are able to address the course learning outcomes specific to learning best recreation facility planning practices without spending valuable time on just learning to use the tools available for planning.

The addition of Google Earth to this assignment does not substitute for the site visit, but rather greatly enhances the site visit. Students come to the site visit more prepared and inquisitive than in the past.

For those interested in integrating Google Earth into an assignment, I highly recommend becoming aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the tool and running the project/assignment through a pilot test of your own. Also, be a little flexible with facets of the project that may have a relative relationship, not an absolute relationship.

For more information about Google Earth: And the Google Earth for Educators site with more ideas for classroom uses:

Submitted by Laurie Harmon, Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation

Haiku Deck by Jude Harrington

Haiku Deck is a presentation-creating iPad app that uses images and just a few carefully chosen words to make more impactful presentations with "decks" of slides. Users can choose from pre-loaded themes, many free stock photographs, personal images, charts, graphs, and colors, and then add text to present information slide by slide.

I use Haiku Deck to find images of concepts for my social studies class presentations. I like that the images fill the screen and that there is a copyright notice on the bottom (very unobtrusive). The photos are of excellent clarity and free images are easy to find. Text can be added but the app limits what can be on any one page. Haiku Deck makes it easy to follow the best practices recommended by experts: simplify your message, use images to amplify emotional impact, and keep formatting clean and consistent.

Haiku Deck presentations can be created online or downloaded as PowerPoint presentations and edited as needed. The image actually sits on the slide so it can be clicked on and resized. You also can add a text box to put more details. Usually, if more space is needed for additional information, I just add a new slide in between. Most students like the images and limited text but, of course, some wish there was more content so I combine Haiku Deck layouts with my own.

Haiku Deck for iPads and now the web (this is in a Beta version) are free to use. Certain images can be purchased separately.

For more information, visit

Submitted by Jude Harrington, Educational Studies