Educational podcasts from elite universities

Open Education Database has a great list of 100 podcasts on various subjects from big universities such as MIT, Yale, and Harvard. The formats vary – audio-only vs video, recorded lectures vs. specially produced podcasts – but all offer free educational content to anyone who wants to listen. I can see these being used in flipped classrooms, as supplementary material for students who might want to see/hear the information another way, or for online learning. I’m going to check out some of the MIT introductory biology lectures just to see how the professor handles topics that I, um, don’t love lecturing on (*cough* biochemistry).


25 RSS Feeds for educators

Twitter can be a great tool for those of us who would like to keep up on what’s happening in educational technology, but the amount of information (including lots of fun and distracting stuff) can get a little overwhelming. RSS feeds are a great way to get tailored articles, and Fractus Learning has a great list of 25 RSS feeds for Educators. Some are focused more on K-12 learning than adult education, but many of them are focused on educational technology that can be used at any level. Check it out!

Lessons worth sharing

Many of us use TED talks to supplement our lessons, but did you know that there’s a TED site just for teachers? allows users to build lessons around educational videos from TED and other sources, and add discussion topics or questions. TED ed content comes from educators who submit videos of under-10-minute lessons for consideration; those that are chosen get made into animations and shared on the site.

How cool would it be to have one of your lessons made into a professional animation and shared with students around the world? Anyone else tempted to polish up your best work and submit it?

What we can learn from MOOCs

Daphne Koller’s TED talk describes the free, huge online courses offered by elite universities, and what educators can learn from the successes and shortcomings of these courses. The best elements of these courses include their customizable nature, the active learning that comes from in-lecture quizzes, and the ability to break material up into short segments of 8-12 minutes that are better matched to attention spans than the traditional 50-minute lecture. These are all elements that face-to-face educators can incorporate to make our classes more effective.  She also presents data suggesting that self-grading and peer-grading of assignments may be an effective solution to the problem of instructor workload in large (or huge!) classes as well as being assessment for learning- something to consider for face-to-face instructors too.

Salman Khan’s TED talk

Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, gave an inspiring TED talk about how the Khan Academy came to be, and the role he sees it playing in education. PIDP 3240 has given me the push I needed to start exploring ways to make my course more customizable for students’ individual needs and learning preferences, and I think that offering the option of watching videos as an alternative to reading the textbook for class preparation is a great start. Khan Academy videos are of a consistently high quality and are my first stop for finding useful tutorials for my students. Watch Sal Khan here:

Posting slides online

I recently started a discussion on the PIDP 3240 forum about posting slides online. I post my lecture slides on Moodle the week before – sometimes a slightly condensed version if I’m doing multiple-slides-animations, and always with my quiz slides deleted – but otherwise complete. I post them as a PDF so that the file will be smaller and accessible from most devices.

I haven’t had any student complaints about having my slides online, and I would say that about 80% of my students come to class with either a printout or an electronic version of the slides. I use a pre-reading quiz at the beginning of each class to encourage students to read the textbook (ideally) or at least look at the slides before they come to class.

Some of my colleagues are against the posting of slides online. The types of comments I’ve heard (with my responses in italics):

  • “if students don’t have to take notes in class, they’re not actively learning” – but is copying off of your slides really “active learning”? Some colleagues post just an outline of their slides, with some words omitted so that they’re fill-in-the-blank style instead of having all the words, but I prefer to give students all the information. I’m not sure which approach is actually best here.
  • “if you post everything online, where’s the incentive for students to come to class?” – ouch! I like to think my explanations and examples (and answers to students’ questions) illuminate the subject matter beyond what I have on my slides… Also, our department has required attendance (students get dropped from the course if they miss 3 days in a row without telling us what’s up) so technically this isn’t an issue for me. I also really like that my students learn not to ask “Did I miss anything?” when they do miss a class, because my answer is ALWAYS, “Yes – go look on Moodle.”
  • “if students are following along on their phones/iPads they’re not paying attention to what you’re saying anyhow” – some students use their devices to take notes right on the slides, which is a great and paperless way to take notes… on the other hand some students seem to just flip through the slides along with me and I’m not totally sure what the point of that is!
  • “it’s too much work to post everything online” – it does force me to have my lectures organized a little earlier than if I didn’t post them in advance, but either way I’d still have to put my lectures together. Converting the files to PDF and posting to Moodle only takes me an extra few minutes. 

One additional concern I have is that having all the slides posted lets me go through the material a little too quickly. I have to watch myself on this because sometimes I get excited and just start speed-talking… what can I say, I really love biology and sometimes I just get too into it! I’ve subbed for an instructor who doesn’t post slides online, and I found the pace really, really slow as I had to wait a long time for students to copy down every word from the slides before moving on. I couldn’t really fill that time with additional examples or stories that I would normally get to use in my own class, either, because students were focused on writing and not listening. So I think on the balance, I’m happier posting slides.

Here’s an article from Psychology Today that discusses the subject and suggests an alternative – using a notes Wiki: To Post or Not To Post – although the author has a teaching assistant (sigh) to develop the Wiki. Oh to have a teaching assistant!