Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

August 19, 2016
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Interactive presentation using Smithsonian Learning Lab

Interactive presentation using Smithsonian Learning Lab

The Smithsonian Learning Lab is an interesting website where you can create interactive collections using media from the Smithsonian archives (over a million items) along with adding your own images or files (various image file formats as well as word docs, powerpoints and spreadsheets). Intersperse your own quiz -type questions (true/false, multiple choice, short and long answer and upload a file) within the content to give students a chance to reflect on that content.

As a teacher, you could create a learning lab collection as a way to provide learning content for students. Create a roster of student names and share a link with your students. After students create their own account, you’ll be able to monitor their quiz answers.

One of the great features of this product is that you can view collections that have already been created, make a copy of that collection and then edit all of the content to make it your own. You could actually create a collection template and then ask students to make a copy of your template and have them add to it. And in addition to teacher use, this could be a great solution for assigning a creative assessment that students could build themselves and share with the class.

Here’s an example created by one of the Smithsonian curators about the Historic Iditarod Trail.

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 7.58.45 AM

Each of these thumbnails is either an image, file or a text annotation. The thumbnails with the orange icon are slides that have quiz-type questions attached to them. One nice feature is that you can also create hotspots on images so you could highlight specific areas of an image for closer inspection and identification.

May 4, 2016
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Google Apps for Education April and May 2016

Google Apps for Education April and May 2016

New things from Google Apps for Education that are helpful or fun!

Google Sheets

You can now resize the formula bar so that you see complicated formulas or data that you’ve entered in a specific cell and see what you’re doing! If you use this area to add one of the function capabilities available in Google Sheets, you may have found it hard to troubleshoot  your formula when it isn’t working because of the size restrictions of the formula bar.

spreadsheet-formula bar expand (1)

So extend the viewing area!

Update a Chart or Graph automatically from within Docs or Slides with the new Update button. If you have inserted a chart or graph into a Doc or Slide, you can now automatically update that visual right inside the document.

Embedded Charts

Google Slides

There is a new feature added to the presentation side of Google Slides, which accepts questions from the audience through a short URL. The questions appear on the presenter side and the presenter can decide it he or she wants to show these questions to the audience and when to address the questions.

From the presenter side, when you get ready to present your Slides, you have the option to present with Q and A.

Slides - qanda option

When you make this selection, in addition to your presentation window, a separate window will appear. From here you can see your slides, the slide (speaker) notes and a  new tab called “Audience Tools” which is basically all the questions that have been asked. (I know, it would be more convenient if these weren’t on separate tabs. A bit of a cognitive overload when also trying to present.)

Be sure to pay attention to accepting questions – your choices are “anyone at your organization” (in our case, the @alaska domain) or “anyone.”

slides-presenter side

Viewer can vote up or vote down questions to help filter those that are most important or intereting. Check out this video for how this feature was used.

Google Calendar

Have you noticed anything new in the event information in your Google Calendar? The location for your event may now appear in the description when you are in the day or week view mode, as long as there is room. Now you may be able to see where you’re supposed to be without clicking into the details.

Google Calendar room shows in view

And here is another Calendar update…if you have set your options to be notified of upcoming events, you may have been annoyed that the notification actually interrupted you while working in a different browser tab. The calendar notification comes to the surface and you had to click it away to continue your work. You can now elect to have event notifications sent as browser notifications instead of those interrupting alerts.

From the Calendar settings look for the notifications options.

calendar notifications

When you make your selection, you’ll get a confirmation.

calendar notifications confirmation

And you won’t get interrupted again!

Google Apps

Google recently purchased Synergyse who is a leader in providing training videos right inside of Google Apps. Synergyse was a paid service and now, with the new acquition, you can add this service for free. This is a chrome extension so you need to be using chrome with your Google Applications in order to use it. View quick 2-min-or-less videos to help understand application functionality right when and where you need it.  For more information.

From within any of the applications, look for this icon:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 11.30.22 AM



April 7, 2016
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on What’s new with Google Apps for Education March 2016

What’s new with Google Apps for Education March 2016

Google is always moving forward with new tools, techniques and processes. Here are some of the new things that pertain specifically to Google Apps for Education and are of interest to faculty and students.


Google has raised the participant limit from 15 to 25. This means that in most cases, you could use a Google Hangout to support an entire class. It sounds like you’ll only be able to visually see the 10 most prominent speakers at the bottom of the hangout window. I am guessing that those 10 images are those who are speaking the most. Google made this decision so that the video quality would not be compromised.

Hangout Chat

I find the instant chat function of hangouts very useful. I get immediate answers to questions that I might need quickly. I try not to abuse it with my co-workers too often. Google programers have included some silliness to chats by including some easter eggs that appear when you type in a specific word string into the chat box. For example, type in “/bikeshed” (without the quotes) and the background of your chat window changes colors for you and the person you’re chatting with. Type “/bikeshed” again to change colors again. The colors do not stick after you close the chat window. Try “/pitchforks” and this is what you get!



Google Calendar

In addition to creating Events and Appointment slots, you can now create Reminders in your calendar.

  • Reminders carry forward to the next day unless you mark them as done.
  • Reminders are private to your calendar even if you share it with others.
  • You can add Reminders from Calendar or from Inbox.

Google Drive

Getting a sharable link for a file within Google Drive has changed. When you select a document and then click on the Sharable Link icon from Google Drive, you get the option to turn Link sharing on or off directly without having to click into the advanced settings to make this change. Thanks Google, for streamlining this feature!

link sharing

Another new features has to do with expiration dates. You can now set expiration dates on files in Google Drive, Documents, Sheets and Slides. Perhaps you want to set a limited amount of time on accessing a file. You can set a date for when access expires. From the Advanced settings under Sharing, hover over a name until you see a watch icon. Click on the icon to establish an expiration date. The time is set by default to be 1 minute before midnight.

Expiring Access


Google Sheets

Convert text to columns is now available in Google Sheets. Look at Data ->Split text to columns. You select how you want the column information is to be split: comma, semicolons, periods, spaces, and custom indicators. And immediately after pasting data, you’ll see a small clipboard icon by your selection. Use the contextual menu approach to quickly separate the data.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 2.02.12 PM

Google Docs

It can sometimes be hard to manage a long document but Google has added a new tool that provides an outline of the document in a Document outline side panel. From the Tools menu option within your document, select Document outline. The outline is based on headings that you apply, but if you don’t apply them, Google will try to select obvious headings for you.

google doc outline

Another feature added to Google Documents is the capability to export as EPUB publications. EPUBs is a file format that publishes accessible documents and digital books that is responsive to a variety of mobile devices and E-readers.


Looking for some professional looking templates? Five experts have created templates that have been added to the collection of templates for Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Get inspiration to look like the experts! Try out the Annual Business Budget sheet created by Quickbooks or the Lesson Plans and Book Report template from Reading Rainbow.


In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, Google created the Chrome Music Lab. Check in out!

Want more? March 2016 Google Apps Newsletter




September 9, 2015
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Google Drive Permissions and Downloading, printing and copying

Google Drive Permissions and Downloading, printing and copying

Let’s say you want to share a specific Google video that you’ve created, but you don’t want viewers to download a copy. Or maybe you have a file that you don’t want viewers to print or to make a copy for their use. Look at the Advanced Sharing features in Google Drive for the option to make these restrictions.

google drive disable share options


How do I view the Advanced Sharing settings?

From Drive:

  1. “Select” your file
  2. Right-click (control-click) to get the contextual menu and select “Share.”
    Or, click on the “Share” icon in the menu drive share icon
  3. The “Share with others” box appears. Click on “Advanced”
  4. The Advanced settings will appear. At the bottom of the options are the options to disable download, print and copy.

google drive share-disable download

June 2, 2015
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Two helpful video enhancements

Two helpful video enhancements

There are two applications that add functionality to video that could be very helpful in delivering content to students, for both online classes or for flipping your class lectures, as well as having students use the applications for homework assignments or to create artifacts for more formal assessments.

Movenote creates an online experience that allows you to combine video or audio alongside a slide show. Movenote accepts a variety of file types to prepare a slide show, and also allows you to add slides on the fly as you are recording your video.

Movenote can be accessed on any browser through your Google account or with a separate user identity. The advantage of syncing your Google account with Movenote is that it enables access to your Google Drive documents (slides, images, etc.). Movenote can be added as an extension to record directly from Gmail or Google Drive and it is Android and IOS friendly.

Quickly share your final product through social media, embed in Blackboard, a Google Site or a WordPress site or download as an .MP4 and upload to YouTube. You can also just share the link. Artifacts are stored on There is a paid version  – the free version may have advertisements.

The other application is called This application gives you the ability to add notes alongside of a video. As a video plays on one side of the screen, you can add notes at specific points (timestamp) in a separate notes areas on the other side of the screen. As a viewer, you can read the notes and skip around the video by clicking on the timestamps.

This application is integrated with Google Drive to take advantage of Google’s sharing capability. You can share the you have created with your students and allow them to add their own notes or you can give read only access. Peer review? Feedback on presentation style? Video analysis for individual study note taking. There are lots of possibilities.


To see an example, you’ll need to download into your Chrome browser.



April 1, 2015
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Ed Tech Team Vancouver Summit, featuring Google for Education

Ed Tech Team Vancouver Summit, featuring Google for Education

Conference website:

Venue: Mulgrave School (holy cow – what an incredible learning environment!)


As you enter the school, on the left is a large reception desk and on the right is a 5-foot in-wall gas fireplace with couches surrounding an area carpet. A grand staircase is ahead of you that leads to an open cafeteria and a small space where a baby grand sits looking out floor-to-ceiling windows.


As you walk through the halls, there are small rooms with a round table and 4-6 chairs where students can gather. There are huge bean bag couches and work surfaces throughout the hallways. Classrooms have mobile 2-person workstations as well as chairs on wheels, floor to ceiling whiteboards and apple TVs (usually 2).


But it wasn’t all so polished…bzzzzzst



They cancelled the administrator workshop so I attended the Preparing for Google for Education Trainer Certification workshop thinking I would get a refresher on the applications for the required tests and to get a chance to get some hints and tricks from others. I was a little disappointed that the workshop was at a very basic level. I was actually amazed that many of the participants hadn’t used Gmail before and where completely blown away by this video collaboration tool, called Hangout. I guess I assumed that if you were preparing to take the tests to become a certificated trainer that you would have a basic understanding of the most popular google application tools.  This session was very similar to training that we’ve done with Teachers as an introduction to google apps. Granted, there were people with some technical questions so I know that there were some who had a higher skill set and the instructor was very patient and tried to any all questions posed by the group. We did a couple of hands-on activities and did some collaboration. Some school districts were restricted to interacting with participants only within their domain so that was also a hurdle to overcome.

Vendor Highlight

Best Buy for Education – as a perk of the conference, you could check out a chromebook and use it through the session. I checked out a Samsung 11.6″ Chromebook that was pretty slick. It look getting used to not have a chrome main menu at the top of the window (but you could find the menu items under settings) and the return (enter) key was in a weird place, but it booted up quickly and all of the google apps worked great and it seemed to have good battery life. I was able to download a few files to the internal hard drive instead of always relying on uploading files to drive.


Nice bunch of folks, all current or formal K-12 teachers. Seem comfortable with each other and definitely gave off the appearance that they were all on the same mission. There were four folks from EdTech with one posing as MC and the other three doing 1 of 2 keynotes or the closing. They each lead sessions at least twice a day.


Sessions were an hour with at least 15 minutes or 3o minutes between sessions to give participants time to digest and/or mingle. There were usually 4 sessions to choose from as well as “office hours” on a specific google application that was presented as more of a Q&A session but I heard that some of them were actually more formal presentations.


I attended:

First Day Keynote
The Right Question
As Paperless as Possible
Google site design or how to make a google site not look like a google site
Demo Slam
Second Day Keynote
Design Sprint
Build your own Android app
Classroom Management made easy with Google Classroom
Making Thinking Visible through Design Thinking
Closing Keynote

First Day Keynote

Drive, Daniel Pink
  • Autonomy – more freedom in what or how you learn
  • Mastery – show progress in learning
  • Purpose – helping others

“Failure is an option.
Failure to deliver is not”  — Kevin Brookhauser

transforms you speech into a rap
“Its on the syllabus” rap
Limbo  involves problem solving
Based on Daniel Pink’s Drive and industry innovation – 20% project gives students 20% of their classtime to work on a project of their choice that produces some kind of artifact: media, blog, event, etc.

The Right Question

Make Just One Change – Right Question Institute
Teach students to ask their own questions
A More Beautiful Question
Inquiry, baby, this is what we should be teaching

Hapara Teacher Dashboard and Interaction with Google Apps

Hapara – a classroom management program that works underneath the google domain. Allows you to send files to specific students within a class, actively view what they are working on at a given moment, open or close tabs on their browser and more. At $5/student the software seems very useful for a 1:1 class using chromebooks.

As Paperless as Possible

Add questions (open ended, MC) to video; also adds audio notes.
Embed questions, notes and videos directly into text for readings that are stored online or that you upload.

Teacher Overview from Actively Learn on Vimeo.

Google site design or how to make a google site not look like a google site

(The Google site we built still looked like a google site to me)

Demo Slam

a voice activated spelling game that builds towers of words as they are spelled correctly
geography game where you plan pins to answer questions
Explore the world. Identify place based on an image.
  • Hear text read aloud with dual color highlighting
  • Have words explained with text and picture dictionaries and translated into other languages
  • Get suggestions for the current or next word as you type with Word Prediction
  • Turn speech to text in Google Docs
  • Highlight and collect text; build vocabulary lists
  • Simplify and summarize text on web pages
  • Annotations, including typewriter tool
  • Convert printed documents and inaccessible files into classroom files with Snapverter!
  • $100/year

PearDeck – Upload a ppt or keynote (or slides), add interactive questions, display the slides and results of the interaction on the screen. Combination presentation and “polling” software.

schedule an email to send later; email reminders if you don’t hear back from someone; and more gmail feature; browser dependent add-on; 10 per month for free
card deck for real things

Second Day Keynote

Disrupting the norm – get students to create stuff…be open to “Adjacent Possibilities”

Design Sprint: Redesigning the Student Learning Experience

Design thinking – Stanford
positive brainstorming; asking questions, filtering brainstorm ideas, revise, implementation plan

Build your own Android app

Using MIT’s Android App Inventor I created an app that when a picture of cat is tapped, it purrs…whoot!

Classroom Management made easy with Google Classroom

We saw what it looked like from the student side but the accounts the instructor set up on his domain only recognized us as students so we couldn’t create the teacher-student view.

Making Thinking Visible through Design Thinking

Making Thinking Visible 

Show your Work

visible thinking_

Closing Keynote

Say “Yes, and,” instead of “NO” or Yes, but” to empower teachers and students.

Quick thoughts on what we might incorporate

  • Chromebook / iPad loaners
  • Demo slam
  • schedule tech tools sessions along with pedagogy sessions along with active/creative sessions
  • leave time between sessions for reflection/travel time
  • “semi-structured office hours” where experts are available for 1-on-1 or small groups with specific questions
  • set up domain with “fake” users/passwords so people can collaborate without restricted  domain issues (mostly for things like classroom)
  • “photo booth” with props so people take pictures to post to G+ community / twitter, etc.

December 23, 2014
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Extra credit assignments in Blackboard

Extra credit assignments in Blackboard

What’s the best way to handle an extra credit assignment in Blackboard’s Grade Center?

There are a couple of ways you can do this.

These suggestions assume you are not weighting grades:
Option 1: For the extra credit assignment set the points in the Gradebook to “0” so that the additional points don’t count in the total points for the course. If a student doesn’t do the assignment they are aren’t penalized. When you are assign points for the extra credit assignment, the extra points will improve the student’s total points for the course.
bb-extra credit assignment-0 points
Option 2: Include points for the extra credit assignment and if someone chooses  not to submit, then exempt the assignment for that student. (in the Grade Center, exempt is one of the options when using the dropdown arrow.
 bb-exempt grade
Option 3: Edit the total column to include all the columns except for the extra credit. Then create a new total column that includes the extra credit. For those who chose not to do the extra credit, use the original total column to calculate the final grade and for those who chose to do the extra credit use the new column for final grade calculation.
bb-custom total column
bb-new total column
If you use weighted grades (example: grades for all assignments are 10%, Exams, 30%, Participation 20%, Final 40%) instead of each assessment being equal weight with one another, then stay tuned to see how that can be accomplished!

December 12, 2014
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Make it Stick

Make it Stick

I recently completed three short papers based on Make it Stick (2013) by Brown, Roedinger, and McDaniel for a class I’m taking and thought I would share my work. I enjoyed the book and it confirmed many of the techniques that have worked well for me in the past as a student. Many of the activities are ones that UAF eLearning has been encouraging faculty to incorporate into online-asynchronous classes. The book further confirms these practices.

Make it Stick – Self Testing

The authors of Make it Stick (2013) Brown, Roedinger, and McDaniel bring up many techniques that students can adopt to learn material in a more efficient way than many students currently follow. One of those techniques is self-testing, “One of the best habits a learner can instill in herself is regular self-quizzing to recalibrate her understanding of what she does and does not know” (p. 21). Instead of rereading material, the authors suggest you slow down your reading and periodically self-test to commit to memory what you’ve just read (p. 229).

One tool that the authors talk about that can help students with self-testing is a mobile app called, Osmosis. Developed by medical school students, the app contains a database of quiz questions from textbook publishers, a curated and vetted team from Osmosis, along with questions the individual student or team of classmates create (crowd source). As noted on the website, “Osmosis was created to help med students break out of cram-forget cycles and maximize their learning efficiency.“ One of the features of Osmosis, is that you’re able to crowd source questions and add them to the Osmosis database. This is another technique, reflecting and summarizing content in your own words, that the authors of Make it Stick talk about (p. 89). The premise is that you select one of the categories of quizzes and answer multiple choice questions, many of which contain images. Beside keeping track of correct or incorrect answers, Osmosis allows you to judge your own confidence in answering the question. Select: “I’m sure,” “I’m feelng lucky”, or “No clue.”

One aspect of Osmosis that makes it different from other self-test applications, is the ability to push question sets to the user on a user specified schedule. For example, you’re able to select the option to have 5 or 10 quiz questions automatically sent to your mobile device 4 or 5 times a day or once a week. This feature supports the spaced and interleave technique that the Make it Stick authors recommend throughout their book. The questions can also be scheduled around examination dates. Another feature is that on every question there is a chance to see an explanation so if you don’t get a question correct, you can quickly get instructional feedback.

There is also a feature where you can take a quiz with a friend, or a group of friends, in a game-like atmosphere. There is also an individual scoreboard to show how you are doing, both in accuracy and in confidence. You select a category and invite classmates to play with you. You have a set number of questions to answer is a set time. Your correct answers have increased points associated with them as you work through the questions (3 pts for “I’m sure” correct answers, 2 pts of “I’m lucky” correct answers, or 1 pt for “No clue” correct answers. And in reverse, if your answer is incorrect, points are taken away from you.) At the end of the game there is a winner declared and individuals are given a scoreboard with information about their own performance.

The scoreboard is also available on an individual basis. It is also interactive so you can select those areas in which you were incorrect or less confidence. It also tells you how “fresh” your learning is and how many questions you’ve answered with prior time periods.

Another feature makes a connection with your individual medical school and classmates of which I was not able to test or find too much information. It looks like instructors (or group administrators) can view when students are taking quizzes and using the Osmosis application. Osmosis app has also provided an interactive timeline where material for an entire curriculum can be uploaded (slides and documents) and indexed to specific dates so admins, teachers, and students can get a big picture view of content that is being covered and when. I”m not sure if future content is also being uploaded but that would give the learner a good idea of what they might want to brush up on, if the topics hasn’t been studied in the recent past. Another feature for teachers or group administrators is the capability to view analytics about when students are testing and other study habits (Video viewable within Osmosis app on the About page).

Currently, Osmosis is only for use for students studying medicine, but what about other disciplines? How could an instructor create their own “Osmosis”?

A simple and quick strategy would be for an instructor to incorporate a test bank of quiz questions into self-check quizzes that students could take on their own through a Learning Management System like Blackboard. Chapter questions could be added to a “Pool” or collection of questions, and a weekly quiz could pull “x” number of questions from that pool. The self-test could be set up so that students could take it multiple times. As the semester progresses, questions from the current chapter as well as a subset of questions from previous chapters, could be pulled into the self-tests, thus getting practice on previous learned material.

An even better activity might be for a student (or group of students) to be assigned to come up with the test questions for the content. Students could determine what the key points of the content is and come up with questions, with approval of the instructor..

An instructor could also use a tool like Twitter to push questions to students. You’re able to schedule tweets in advance to automatically be dispersed at a certain time. If your students were following your class hashtag, the questions could be pushed out to them. You might ask them to answer the question and include a reason why they chose that answer.

There are many more options that incorporate some of the features of the Osmsis app to help students with creating an atmosphere of self-testing. It would an interesting to work on a project that incorporated the features of Osmosis as an open source application so that more disciplines could take advantage of its architecture.


Brown, P.C., Roedinger, H.l., & McDaniel M.A. (2013). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Belknap Press: Cambridge, MA. (20140). Retrieved



Make it Stick – Reflection

The authors of Make it Stick (2013) Brown, Roedinger, and McDaniel talk a lot about the importance of student reflection while learning new material. ”Reflection can involve several cognitive activities that lead to stronger learning: retrieving knowledge and earlier training from memory, connecting these to new experiences, and visualizing and mentally rehearsing what you might do differently next time” (pg. 27). Too often students are fooled into thinking that they have a better understanding of the material then they actually do. Many student think that if they can repeat what the instructor has said or what the textbook says, that means they understand the material. Being able to do these two things doesn’t mean there is true understanding. When you’re able to use your own words to speak about the concept or to apply it to a similar or a different situation, that is when understanding happens (pg. 16).

Being able to transfer the knowledge and understanding from one instance to another is a true measurement of understanding. When you’re able to leave a situation and think critically about what went right, what went wrong, what could have been improved on, this is how you built your knowledge base and gain experience. When you’re able to apply prior knowledge and experience to a current situation, because you have previously allowed yourself to asked questions about your performance or concepts that you’re learning, this is where the strength of reflection will pay off (pg. 66).

The authors of Make it Stick say, “After a lecture or reading assignment, for example, you might ask yourself: What are the key ideas? What are some examples? How do these relate to what I already know? Following an experience where you are practicing new knowledge or skills, you might ask: What went well? What could have gone better? What might i need to learn for better master, or what strategies might I use the next time to get better results?” (pg. 88). As an instructor you may have to prompt your students with some established questions in order to get them started. According to UAF eLearning’s website,, the unit encourages instructors to incorporate one of three types of contemplation into online courses: Reflection on learning and learning experience, Reflection on the real-world relevance and application of what they are learning or Meta-reflection on the learning materials, strategies, and structure employed in the course itself. Encouraging students to stop and consider what they are reading or studying has proven to be a productive and successful study habit.

Strategies that teachers can implement to help students with their learning is another topic written about by the authors of Make it Stick. Assigning “writing exercises that require students to reflect on past lesson material and relate it to other knowledge or other aspects of their lives; “ is an activity that can easier be incorporated into a class (pg. 227). Taking a few minutes after a class lecture to give students a chance to ruminate over the lecture or discussion can strengthen their understanding or at least point out where the weak spots exist. And taking a few minutes as the class begins to reflect in a retrieval exercise to recall what has happened previously can help students pull from the depths of their brains for what they have previously learned and have committed to memory (pg 222).

The authors mentions an instructor, Mary Pat Wenderoth, who has her students writing “learning paragraphs” to reflect on the prior class’ topics. In an article called, Reflection to Deepen Learning and Self-Awareness”, Wenderoth says, “To maximize their learning, students need factual knowledge, which we give plenty  of, but they also need conceptual frameworks to put the knowledge into.” The basic principles that Wenderoth incorporates into her teaching strategy include:

  • Make reflection part of the class routine.
  • Ask questions that let students discuss what’s important to them while achieving learning goals.
  • Motivate students through class credit, but keep evaluation simple.
  • Give regular feedback.
  • Collect student feedback on the exercise.

(University of Washington, pg. 8)

Writing reflections can be done simply with pen and paper but you could use technology to support reflection in a variety of ways. One advantage of using technology for reflections is the ability to share these reflections with a cohort of learners. Reflections shared with a class through a discussion board not only encourages the writer to be conscientious of his or her wording, but might just help another student make a connection that they didn’t realize was there. Students reflections can also be documented through media by using audio or video to capture students’ thoughts or through illustration or visualising concepts. Using different media can actually help students remember different aspects of their learning through their own creative process.



Brown, P.C., Roedinger, H.l., & McDaniel M.A. (2013). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Belknap Press: Cambridge, MA

Moss, Jennifer. (2011). Reflection Mechanics. Retrieved from

University of Washington. (2014). Reflection to Deepen Learning and Self-Awareness.  Leading Change in Public Higher Education: A provost report series on trends and Issues. Retrieved from:






Make it Stick – The Growth Mindset

There are many factors that can influence a student’s success in learning. Most of these factors can be controlled either by the community, institution, or the individual student.  Access to materials or to experts, language disadvantages, learning disabilities, supportive home situation, these disadvantages and others can or could be controlled with the right resources and access to support. But what about student’s natural ability, talent, or intelligence? The authors of Make it Stick (2013) support the idea that although IQ may be semi-fixed, there are ways “to amp up the performance of the intelligence” to allow students to learn more and obtain a deeper understanding (pg. 178). One way for students to succeed is through having a positive attitude and self-determination to know that they have control over their success, and that it isn’t “fixed”. The authors introduce Carol Dweck’s work on “Fixed Mindset” and Growth Mindset.” “… it’s discipline, grit, and a growth mindset that imbue a person with the sense of possibility and the creativity and persistence needed for higher learning and success…The active ingredient is the simple but nonetheless profound realization that the power to increase your abilities largely within your own control” (pg. 183).

Students who apply themselves and make the extra effort can be very successful learners. The authors of Make it Stick say, “We make the effort because the effort itself extends the boundaries of our abilities” (pg. 199). The choices students make about what they study, how much and to what depth, all these factors play into learning. Some people are naturally curious and passionate about the world and how it works and do not need encouragement to listen to their inner Growth Mindset voice. Some students might need to be encouraged and helped with changing their static Fixed Mindset voice to seeing the results that having a Growth Mindset  attitude creates, until they see the results. I think one of the biggest messages that the authors of Make it Stick make throughout their book, is the idea that learning is hard work and that you need to stick with it to see the results. You may not get immediate gratification, but you have to trust that in the long run, you’ll have a better and deeper understanding.

The elements of a “Growth Mindset” as describe by Carol Dweck on the Mindset website include:

  • flourishing on challenges
  • seeing failure as an opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes and trying again
  • looking for feedback and applying the criticism to do better the next time
  • realizing that blaming someone else won’t benefit your progress (Dweck, 2010).

One strategy for promoting a healthy Growth Mindset might be in applying game mechanics to curriculum. The concepts behind a gaming atmosphere are very closely related to those of a Growth Mindset. According to Rick Raymer in Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning, “game mechanics are the construct of rules that encourage users to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms.” Raymer continues on and considers other elements that include setting goals and objectives so that a learner has an idea of where he or she is heading, providing regular and frequent feedback, creating some kind of scoreboard so a learner can track his or her progress, establishing a way to be recognized and achieving rewards for reaching competencies towards a higher level, being rewarded for effort, not solely on success, and some kind of peer or social motivation (Raymer, 2011).

The mechanics behind badging may also work towards establishing a Growth Mindset. The simple concept of acknowledging when a student achieves competency at a certain level and receiving a badge can help a student work towards becoming more competent at a higher level. This strategy gives affirmation to students for completing a level of understanding while encouraging students to continue to apply themselves to achieve either a higher level of competency or competency in another area. One of the big differences in badging and a growth mindset is that with badging, the creator of the badges is determining the criteria for what the badge means, as well as what the competencies and different levels are, it isn’t self-directed. At some point the student has to learn to take the initiative on his or her own self to achieve those increased levels of competency.

Matt Renwick writes about his student’s experience with playing Minecraft and correlating his observations of the students and a growth mindset. “For now, we are content with observing our students build not only complex worlds within Minecraft, but also develop key critical skills that can foster a growth mindset. The persistence, attitude, and effort observed in our students is all the evidence we need for now.” His observations have found that students aren’t asking for help from the teacher when solving problems, but rather are turning to their peers for support. When you aren’t successful, you aren’t completely locked out of the game, but rather you begin again, armed with all your previous experience. And the feedback you receive isn’t simply a score, but you’re given critical feedback based on your effort (Renwick, 2014).

Using the gaming atmosphere in the challenge of learning seems to be a natural pathway to instilling a Growth Mindset in students and helping them to move from a static Fixed Mindset where the opportunity to explore and be passionate about learning seems to stall out.


Brown, P.C., Roedinger, H.l., & McDaniel M.A. (2013). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Belknap Press: Cambridge, MA.

Dweck, C. (2010). How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset? Retrieved from

Raymer, R. (2011). Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning. Retrieved from:

Renwick, M. (2014). Passion-Based Learning Week 5: Can Minecraft Foster a Growth Mindset.? Retrieved from



November 4, 2014
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on Lessons learned from Hangout on Air Presentation

Lessons learned from Hangout on Air Presentation

Getting ready for a presentation delivered using Google Hangouts and recorded and viewed on Youtube takes some prep time. Presenting with two others on Oct 16 in an eLearning Teaching Tips Live session, was a great experience and I learned several things to do and not to do for the future.

As you enter a Google Hangout, prepare for cognitive overload! Especially if your plan is to screenshare from more then one source. You may be managing a conversation flow, as well as sharing presentation slides, a browser window, a second camera picking up your face, as well as answering questions.


Practice or do a run-through, especially if you are having multiple people sharing their screens. Plan out a logical flow for your presentation, just like you would in a face-to-face presentation. Think about how much time might be involved in each person’s activity and then be sure to build in or have ready additional topics to talk about or show, just in case you breeze through. Most likely though, you’ll run out of time and might have to ditch some of your material.

hangout-schedule and reminder notes

Good Ideas

If you are on a laptop or mobile device, make sure your devices have power – Hangouts sucks energy, so plug-in and don’t depend on your batteries.

If you’re on a laptop, if possible, hardwire into your internet connection for a more robust and stable connection.

Close all applications and browsers windows and tabs that you won’t be using.

Considering hiding your operating systems document bars or task bars if you don’t need them.

Have your Hangout app in a separate browser window separate from your presentation or the screens you are going to be sharing. This may seem cumbersome (thus the practice) but you’ll be happier with the result, especially if you are screensharing.

Be smart about what your environment looks like. Make sure there isn’t any clutter in the background, that you don’t have a bright light coming out of your head or that there is anything that might be distracting behind or beside you. Be sure you are in a quiet space and that there aren’t competing noises. Turn off your phone, your alarm on your watch, or other possible distractions.

Screensharing: when possible, go full screen. Consider increasing your browser resolution (command-+) 125 to 150% for better viewing or increasing your font size by 125-150% if you are sharing a presentation or word-type document.

Have a back-up plan in case one of your other presenters drops out or has technical difficulties. You might need to skip them and come back to them when they are able to join you. If you’re able to have someone else help you moderate that would be a big help!

Remind all the presenters that their small picture will show up at the bottom of the presentation screen. If you aren’t talking then you should have your mute button on, although Google has gotten pretty good about determining if someone else has the floor.

Make yourself reminder sticky notes to share or to stop sharing your screen. Unlike other web conferencing tools, the moderator doesn’t have control over the participants screens.

Smile, have fun, and don’t stress out. If this were meant to be a formal recorded presentation, you probably wouldn’t be choosing to use Hangouts as the final unedited version.



July 17, 2014
by Heidi Olson
Comments Off on The Whale and the Supercomputer

The Whale and the Supercomputer

by Charles Wohlforth

I read this book with a group of friends who have formed a reading group. Together we’ve read a variety of books but to date, the books about Alaska, the Yukon or the Arctic and its people have generated the most discussion. This book appealed to most of the group because it was something of which we could all relate. It also had a direct relationship to some of our professional work.

  • climate change and changing Arctic systems
  • man’s intervention and thus the cause and effect upon nature
  • culture and ways of accepting and/or dealing with climate change
  • language and culture
  • consequences of access to the northwest passage

Following are some of my take-aways through quotes from the book.

Iñupiaq: Important of Language and Culture

“In the absence of physical reference points, the speaker can position objects and events using movement, the relative locations of speaker and listener, and the directional orientation of the ocean and rivers. For example, pigña indicates that the thing you are talking about is above, has a length less than three times it width, is visible and stationary, and stands at equal distance between speaker and listener. Pagña contains all the same information, excecpt that the subject’s length is more than three times its width. English has a few such words, such as hither and yonder, but they are largely obsolete and not nearly as useful. Iñupiaq endings also aid coordination by allowing speakers to pass on oral information without losing nuances about the quality of the knowledge and how it was obtained. They cover a gradient roughly ranging from “I saw it myself and it is certain” to “Someone saw it and it might be true.” (page 10)

Maker’s Space / Observation as a way of Learning

“The Iñupiat Heritage Center, a well-equipped cultural center and living museum in Barrow, had a large workshop called the Traditional Room, where whalers, artists, and others involved in cultural activities came to build or create things.

In reference to building a new boat for the next whaling season, the captain of the whaling crew, worked along with other skilled men his own age, as equals. The next generation (in their 40s) had their own responsibilities, but asked for opinions of the elders. The younger generation (in their 20s) also did skilled work, but under supervision. “Oliver taught them and they listened carefully. At the bottom rung, teenage boys stood around the edges of the room waiting to be told what to do and holding their tongues.” (page 11)

Cultural Differences

“From the perspective of traditional Iñupiaq norms of behavior most whites were rude: they talked too fast and didn’t give others a chance to say anything, they stared, they spoke too directly, contradicted others, and didn’t listen for meaningful nuances, they couldn’t sit still, and they didn’t reciprocate the gifts of knowledge and hospitality they received. Iñupiaq people spoke slowly, used stories to make points, and always avoided conflict; an elder once expressed a strong disagreement to me by saying, “Different people see things different ways.”” (page 16)

“…how to navigate, how to hunt, how to stay alive. A mentor let you try and fail, broke down your price to instill humility before nature’s power, and put you where you could get a feel for the work and how it works. The teacher as a guide; nature was the real teacher.” (page 181)

Facts and Details vs. Experience

“When scientists wanted to know how old a piece of ice was, Warren [Iñupiat Elder] talked about how fresh it had become, not how many years it had been around. It was the problem of complexity. The physical scientists wanted to know irreducible facts, but Native knowledge was tied up with experience. You could try to strip away the experience to get at the facts–parsing out a hunting trip to get times, places, and events, for example–but the complexity seemed never to recede.” (page 90)

“…traditional knowledge existed as an organic part of a person living in the environment, a whole world constructed from experience, and couldn’t be extracted and rationalized into data points.” (page 128) Weather vs. Climate “This is the difference between weather and climate. Choosing shorts or long underwear on a particular day is about weather; the ratio of shorts to long underwear in the drawer is about climate. Weather happens in a particular place and time, climate happens in a place through a smudge of time, or a time through a smudge of space, and usually both.” (page 150)

On Syun Akosofu’s thoughts of science “…”what we call truth is not really truth, its just an idea agreed [upon] by a large number of people.” The job of the scientist, he said, was to listen to nature, not other scientists, and to remember that ultimate understanding will never be possible. “A scientific establishment is highly conservative and will attempt to preserve the power of its ruling group against any rebels,” he wrote, he wrote…” (pages 159-160)

Sense of Community, Publishing and Citation

“Unlike the Iñupiat, climate change scientists lack the ability to share their intuitive insights.They lack even a comprehensible common body of knowledge. The scientific literature exploded to the point that many specialists gave up trying to read everything published even in their own area.” (page 193)

“It also made it difficult to catch up broadly on a line of research.” (pages 193-194)

“Scientists did enjoy mutually sustaining communities that shared knowledge among people who had worked together and formed a personal bond. But these groups were small.” (page 196)

“Science published an article that found seven inconsistent definitions of the important term thermohaline circulation in the scientific literature. The author concluded that in such cases, “What everyone thinks they understand may in fact be a muddle of mutual misunderstanding.” Wohlforth points out the Norbert Untersteiner, in an article in Physics Today, titled “Cite This Letter!” brings up and confirms something that I’ve often wondered. “We must remember that the primary purpose of publishing anything is for the author to be cited, and that the best way to get cited it to cite other people, no matter how trivial their work. …” “…research published a real paper (as opposed to Norbert’s Joke) establishing that many papers cited in scientific literature were never read by the authors who cited them but merely copied from one list of references and pasted into another. Consequently, computer-calculated impact factors, the objective measure of a paper’s worth based on how frequently it was cited, sometimes conferred fame on unimportant work that few had actually read.” (page 194)

Grant Funding Competition

“Competitiveness drives science forward, and science has come a long way sine the United States adopted the proposal system after World War II. But competitiveness has also  left important things by the wayside. Science failed to make the long-term observations that would greatly simplify the search for a climate change fingerprint today.” This isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions. The author points out several examples who continue(d) to do smaller research projects in the same place with the same processes for years. (page 196)

“But heroism and foresight are rare, so the system got what it paid for: a glut of papers on short-term projects and a lack of coherent community knowledge about the whole Arctic system. (page 196)