Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Cool Quiz Feature in Google Forms

May 22, 2017

google forms iconRecently I had a request to create a check for understanding quiz at the end of a screencast.  Leveraging my updated Camtasia software with interactive hotspots, I was able to add a link to a Google form.  I chose Google forms to ease the access and share reporting with a group of people who would need to see the data.

This was my first time using the quiz features in Google forms and I found the process to be fairly straightforward and intuitive to setup. After opening a form and creating some questions.  Click on the gear icon (settings) to bring up this menu.  Choose Quizzes and toggle the swtich to “make this a quiz”

quiz settings screenshot

Full instructions are here.

Here are some tips from my experience:

  • Don’t forget, after creating your form/quiz to share it with the “send” button, rather than your editing link.
  • Always let users see if they were correct or not.
  • Add some language to the bottom of the form such as “After submitting, click on ‘view your accuracy/score’ to see how you performed.”
  • Even if tallying points isn’t crucial to your quiz, add points anyway to give people an idea of how well they performed and it adds a dimension of gamification.
  • Consider giving detailed feedback when someone answers incorrectly.

Are you using Google forms for quizzes/checks for understanding?  I’d love to hear your examples too.

Top 5 Takeaways from CBOL 2017

May 12, 2017

CBOL 2017 logoAfter attending any conference I try to share my top takeaways.  Here are my top five from the Conference on Blended and Online Learning (CBOL)  held this year in Colorado.

1.  Personalized Learning in Jefferson County:  Students have control over the pace and path of their learning in the Virtual Academy.  Despite it’s name implying a 100% online experience, there are face-to-face days with tutoring, guidance and enrichment.  This makes me think that the metastudy done years ago by the Department of Education is still valid-Blended (hybrid) course delivery is the best of both worlds.

2.  DIY Personalized PD discoveries: The smartest person in the room is the room (crowdsourcing, leveraging everyone as experts).   The best PD is developed by teachers for teachers.  Take a look at their presentation here.   During this hands-on, group-sourced session, we came up with these ideas.  Besides this being an engaging session and producing group notes and artifacts, I loved the fact that they walked the talk.  I don’t know why more PD sessions don’t leverage google docs for collaborative notes.

3.  From that session, I proposed this metaphor to describe personalized learning:  Drinking from a water fountain as opposed to a firehose:  water fountain personalized learning metaphorI think the metaphor works pretty well.

4.  Becky Nusbaum gave a captivating, interactive presentation where she both showed how Twitter could be used to cultivate PLN (Personal Learning Network)s for teachers, while at the same time we tweeted to each other and added ideas to the session.  I thought that this was a good way to have participants dive right in to the tool being discussed.  Two good resources she shared were  Twitter for Teachers, Chatting and Best Practices  and the Directory of Ed Chats.  It’s on my to-do list to develop a workshop for teachers on developing PLNs.

5.  The keynote speaker, Tom Vander Ark, shared his 18 tips for student-centered learning.  Tom talked about many of these tips as “must do’s” such as: Every student should work on publicly publishing something (as a team) HS level.  Every student should have work-based learning…work-study at Christo Rey for an example.  “High school kids can change the world right here right now.  Let’s give them the skills to live and succeed in this complex world.”   These are powerful ideas and his enthusiasm for them is contagious.   Here is a link to his presentation.  I highly recommend looking at his list.

Powerpoint Karaoke

February 13, 2017

microphone-closeup-by-paulRecently we held a Powerpoint Karaoke event at work to bookend our workshops on creating better presentations.  The purpose was to have fun but at the same time make clear the difference between great and awful slides.

So, what exactly is Powerpoint Karaoke?  It is an event where volunteer presenters come up to the front of the room and narrate slides that they’ve never seen before.  The slides change automatically and the presenter must improvise with every new slide.  The slides may or may not be related.  For the audience it’s usually a laugh-inducing event.  For the presenters, it can be a chance to show off their improv and presenting skills with welcome humor.

How did we do it and how can you do it?  Here is the way it worked:   First, we sent out a flyer advertising the event with a link to more info and a signup form.


Since we only had one hour or less for the event I decided to have only 10 performer/presenter slots.  Each volunteer presenter would get 9 slides that would show for 20 seconds each.  The total running time of 3 minutes seemed reasonable for possible embarrassment or boredom.  I preselected slides with an intentional mix of good and bad examples.  This assortment added flavor and at the same time demonstrated the power of a well-designed slide.

Because I needed to control the breaks between presenters, I advanced the slides manually with a stopwatch app to measure the seconds.  You could do this with automation, but if so, then I would recommend a blank slide or two between presenters.

After the last presenter/improviser was done I brought out my iPad and opened a free app called Decibel 10th and we metered the applause for each presenter, going down the list and recording the number achieved.  The top applause winner chose one of the items I brought-a gift card, the book Slideology by Nancy Duarte, and a copy of Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Second and third place winners chose from the remaining prizes.

This was so much fun that we are definitely doing it again in late Spring.  The next time we are also going to hold it in our public lunch space to draw a larger audience who might just stumble upon the event as well.  There is talk about doing this after-hours at a bar/restaurant to enable presenters full freedom in their speech.  I’ve seen this done at other places…just do a search on Youtube on Powerpoint Karaoke and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, I want to note that this is also a great way to learn more about the talents of members of your team.  Let me know if you try it with your group.  I’d love to know how it went.

2016 ATD Conference Top 5 Sessions

September 16, 2016

yjyxkn7iThrough the fortune of geography and the opportunity to work as a volunteer, I was able to attend the ATD Conference in Denver this past summer.  Usually I like to share my top takeaways, but because of the enormity of this conference I had to go the level of top 5 sessions, not just top 5 ideas.  Here they are, in non-ranked order.

1. Storytelling is the Secret Sauce  Doug Stevenson, author of “Story Theater Method” echoed Chip and Dan Heath when he opened with this idea: facts fade, data gets dumped, but stories stick.  I was already a believer in the power of stories to teach and move people to action but Doug taught me some new things.  First, don’t tell a story just because someone told you stories are good.  It has to be the right story, at the right time, for the right audience.  Context is king.  Secondly, as a presenter, you should pay attention to your role as an actor/performer when you step in front of an audience. Just where you stand on a stage imparts meaning.

2. Effective Virtual Training/Webinars led by David Smith, from Virtual Gurus.  David recommends Adobe Connect as the best webinar tool and I found that reassuring, since I know the strength of that software and use it almost daily.  He gave me some ideas of elements to add to my webinars such as an intro video (to be played as people enter the virtual room) that shows attendees how to use the interactive tools.  Another recommendation was to avoid using yes/no true/false questions in polls, rather just have attendees respond using the agree/disagree buttons to save time.  He strongly advises for using a producer to handle tech issues, and only using the webcam at the very beginning of a webinar to establish presence, then turning it off to avoid distractions.

3. Awesome Powerpoint Tricks by Wendy Gates Corbett & Richard Goring from BrightCarbon. This demo went at breakneck speed leaving we in the audience dazzled, yet yearning for slower paced step by step instructions.  The main concept is to create visual sequences in Powerpoint that look like detailed animations focused on clearly communicating the most important messages.  I could see how most of us could develop creative animations, given the time.

4. Using Social Media and Online Learning Communities by Daniel Jones.  Daniel gave me some new ideas such as using social media before, during and after a course. This aligns well with the concept of ongoing learning that doesn’t just start and stop within course deadlines.  He touched on ingredients to create a successful online community: finding people who want to share, have something of value that makes them want to come back to the community area, and have a community manager who keeps the discussions on point, keeping it positive, and asking questions to spark discussions.  Daniel also gave me a new idea for webinars-seeking out resident subject matter experts to share their knowledge, instead of waiting for people to approach me to host webinars, I approach them first.

5. Biology, Sociology of Learning and Leading, keynote address by Simon Sinek.  If you’d like to see him talk on this topic, check out his TED Talk here.  Simon showed how our biological chemicals-specifically endorphins, dopamines, seratonins and oxytocins-give us powerful motivators to act in certain ways.  We must be aware of these to recognize what drives us and other to action.  Another factor is the influence of others, especially leaders, on our ability to work well and persevere.  Simon believes that leadership is a choice and involves personal sacrifice.  By building trust people will follow you.  Many of these ideas seem self-evident, but he added some more that serve as a personal challenge to me:  Anyone can lead.  It’s a daily practice.  We can lead by exercising selflessness, even when no one sees you.  This sounds like a bold, strong ethical ethos that I’d like to strive toward.  In closing, he said, “I urge you to take care of each other.  If you take care of each other, I guarantee we will change the world.”  Let’s do it!

Thanks for reading.

Let me know what you think.


Getting my COAT on

March 15, 2013

ImageThis week I completed the online course to earn a Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT).  Although it was originally designed for adjunct instructors, I believe that anyone who teaches a fully online or blended course can definitely benefit from taking this course.  Part of the value of this course is experiential.  By taking an online course you experience exactly what it is like to be an online, distance, learner.  I might go as far to say that anyone who intends to teach an online course must first take a course online to gain this invaluable perspective.

Though the COAT course for the most part focuses on facilitation there was time spent looking at pedagogy, andragogy and assessments.  The interaction with fellow students/teachers was engaging and informative.  I found that the timed pace of the course, along with grading of activities kept me focused and motivated.  The instructor/facilitator, Dr. Muse, gave us excellent modeling to follow.

It’s personally invigorating to be taking courses again(after a break of a few years).  My eyes are wide open to seeing examples of good online instructional design and effective tools.  As always, it’s good to fill in any gaps in my knowledge and keep current in the field.  Courses like these also inspire me to improve my own teaching.

If you’d like to check out the course for yourself(it is offered multiple times a year), then follow this link.  The tuition, which I think is affordable, is $300 for Maryland residents.

Creating Effective Online Discussion Boards

November 2, 2012

Earlier this week I gave a presentation to our faculty on how to create effective discussion boards online.  I thought that others could benefit from this knowledge, so I am sharing my thoughts here.  These recommendations come from personal experience as a teacher & learner, and from researching the literature.  Many have never tried discussion boards in their courses, or have tried and found the results to be unsatisfactory.  This post can help you plan and create online boards that are more successful for you and your students.

Creating Effective Discussion Boards- 

Recommendations by Paul Iwancio

Why use online discussion boards?

They keep students engaged with the material after class.

They inspire critical thinking.

It gives shy students or ESL students a chance to participate equally.

They allow for hyperlinking to outside resources.

They create gradable items for the course.

They can be low-risk assessments.

They enable  monitoring of learning/comprehension.

They can be tied to readings and research.


Consider the purpose of the discussion and how it relates to your learning objectives.

Ask yourself-what do I want the students to be able to do?  What do I want them to understand from the material?

Focus on the most controversial, difficult, and important concepts.

Pose questions that may be provocative and spark critical thinking.

Create questions that are open-ended and elicit divergent thinking from students.

Examples of activities-web field trips, brainstorming, problem-solving, writing groups, case analysis, debates, discussion of course readings, discussion of  live or recorded presentations, research.

Examples of questions that stimulate thinking are found on page 5 of this document from the University of Oregon.

Overall, promote engagement with the material, with peers, and with the teacher.


Post rules of netiquette, create a safe learning environment.

Make participation mandatory-graded with points.

Provide clear expectations to students-quality, quantity, what will be in post, length of post, level of formality, show a rubric, due dates, naming expectations.

In respect to dates, have one deadline for first post, another deadline for first response, and a closing date for the overall discussion.

Tell students how often you will be checking the board.

Assessment can be completed by the teacher and/or student peer assessment.

Encourage students to mention personal experiences, but also cite literature.

Allow posting of links and attachments if relevant.

Encourage responders to pose questions-for clarification, questioning assumptions, looking for rationale and evidence, questioning viewpoints and perspectives, what are implications and consequences?  Posing followup questions keeps a discussion moving.

Let discussion flow on its own without much interference from teacher, but maintain a presence-intervene when needed for clarity or re-tracking if they become stuck, you don’t have to reply to every post.

Followup in the classroom afterwards, ask for “muddy” questions/concepts and clear them up.


Assign roles for each discussion-e.g. researcher, responders, critical friends, fact checkers, reporters/summarizers.

Create a casual, open discussion board for personal news and topical discussions.

Use one board for initial introductions-develop an online community.

Collect exam/quiz questions from discussion boards, possibly have students create the questions.

Breaking into groups may be necessary to manage large classes so that the number of posts doesn’t become overwhelming.

To achieve “critical mass” make sure there are at least 4 to 6 students on each board.

Consider creating a short audio or video recording to introduce the topic/discussion, humor(which doesn’t always come across in text) could even be used here.

Consider using an anonymous posting board occasionally for frank discussions and/or a board where students can anonymously pose questions to the teacher.

Consider using a tool such as Voicethread which allows students to respond in text, audio, or video.

Other Uses for Powerpoint (or Keynote)

September 28, 2012

Besides the obvious use of Powerpoint for presentations, there are other creative purposes for this ubiquitous software.  Many folks in the K-12 realm are probably aware that you can set up a Powerpoint presentation to act as an interactive Jeopardy (or other type) game.  Some examples and templates are here.

A few weeks ago a staff member asked me how to make a collage in Photoshop.  I explained that rather than deal with all the layers and their attributes in Photoshop, you can create a photo collage in minutes with Powerpoint. Resizing and setting transparency are a snap.

For training purposes I often include screenshots of programs so that learners will know exactly where they should be navigating.  If I drop the screenshot into Powerpoint, it only takes me a moment or two to add arrows and text boxes.  And with the addition directions in text boxes, it may not even need audio narration or further explanation.  Of course, I often “save as” a pdf or jpg for easy attaching to emails and problem-free viewing by recipients.

When it comes to creating fliers for events, Word has more templates these days, but for quick free-form composing you can’t beat Powerpoint for mixing images and text.  By clicking on Page Setup you can change the orientation to vertical and even choose an 11X17 size. Here is a tutorial that shows some cool tricks for creating fliers or combinations of text and images that you can use elsewhere.