It’s been a while, and we are now about a month into the semester.  Time to update on how my technology experiments have been going.

One of the biggest efforts this semester has been to reduce the amount of paper involved in my teaching.  That has had some mixed results so far.

Keynote and Projecting off the Ipad

  1. Keynote does NOT seamlessly open Powerpoint files and project them.  If you have animation, custom fonts or other quirky things in your powerpoint keynote chokes.  There are workarounds, the most important one to me so far being that I used a program to split all my animations into separate slides so that keynote can more easily handle them.  This involves some reviewing and modifying of the presentations on my side.
  2. Keynote also screws up some of the size and spacing of text on slides and ends up requiring some massaging to make things look correct.  I kind of expected this, but it still irritated me.
  3. Once I made these modifications I was able to project reasonably well off the Ipad.  The major remaining issue is that sometimes there is a delay between when I swipe to go to the next slide and when the screen actually changes.  So far that has been under 8 seconds, so I can mostly talk over it, but it remains less than perfect.

I recently got a Mac Mini and am in the process of getting it set up and files moved over.  I plan to spend some time this weekend moving things into Keynote on the Mac first, then save and move to the Ipad in the hopes of getting rid of the remaining lag.

Entering most assignments into Blackboard

On the one hand I LOVE not having to carry homework or problems or labs back and forth to class.  On the flip side, whenever you put technology into the picture you start to get random problems.  Blackboard is anything but seamless.

  • Intermittent issues with blackboard assignments, where for whatever reason it seems that a student has already started work on an assignment but can’t access it.  I have to reset the assignment for the student, which while not difficult can still result in delays.
  • Because students are answering the labs but NOT putting in the data, I can’t always tell if a mistake is a misreading or a data entry error.  I suppose it doesn’t matter, but I like to be able to point them in the right direction.
  • Online systems require very specific input specifications, and 7.8% is not the same as 7.8 or .78 or 0.78, etc.  I am noting those as I go for correction for next semester, but for now I have to check every problem to look for those kinds of things being marked incorrect when the student got it right but didn’t match the format that the system expected.
  • The online homework system (separate from the LMS) has had some timezone issues, and students who waited for the last minute to do their homework have found themselves cut off when they thought they had more time.  Something to be aware of when using hard stop times.

I have yet to test using to get in-class answers.  I need to do some planning for that and haven’t yet had the chance.

The first paper isn’t due for a couple more weeks, so it will be a bit longer before I can assess how well grading those online will work.

The biggest advice I can offer on this type of transition is to keep a list of the problems that come up.  Some things (like changing the valid answers to an online question) will have to wait until I set up next semester.  (Blackboard won’t let you change things like that after students have started the assignment.)  My hope is that by next semester I can work out some of the kinks and make teaching with less paper a seamless exercise.