Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Teaching with Xtranormal, Poll Everywhere, Wikis, and Skype

It appears that many librarians today believe that technology needs to be used within librarian instruction to catch the attention of the "digital natives," or the current set of college students.  Nicole Eva and Heather Nicholson write: "Library instruction is viewed by many students as being less than enthralling.  Students may not understand how important the library can be for their academic endeavours, or they may think that they know all they need to know.  As a result, librarians often seek new and innovative ways to engage classes" (1-2).  These authors do not promote technology for its own sake, rather they tout technology as a tool for engaging student in collaborative  ways. 

They believe students "are familiar and comfortable" with technology, so it can be utilized as a means to deliver the content.  In their words: "Technology can make library instruction more engaging, more entertaining and more interactive" (2).  Their article, "DO Get Technical!  Using Technology in Library Instruction," highlights four types technology tools library instructors can use to engage students: Xtranormal, Poll Everywhere, wikis, and Skype

Xtranormal allows individuals to create their own little video with pre-fabricated characters, backgrounds, and voices.  If you can type, you can create an Xtranormal video.  Keying or typing words into dialogue boxes creates the audio component; a machine reads the words, though you can choose what kind of accent you prefer.  "You can make one Xtranormal video for free; after that you must buy points.  The more points you buy the less expensive they are, but generally it costs only two to three dollars for a basic movie" (2).  They recommend it as a tool that can share information, or teach students, without costing lots of money, while also being amusing. 

Student in their classes have enjoyed the humor and the entertainment in the process of being introduced to a topic or listening to a summary. They also suggest: "Students could also create their own videos in order to demonstrate their understanding of a topic" (3).  The machine-generated voices and the gestures throughout the videos increase the humor.  They have created a few publicly available Xtranaormal videos:
The next tool they explain is Poll Everywhere.  It lets students answer questions in real time anonymously, and the questions can be inserted to a PowerPoint presentation.  Nicholson and Eva write: "A basic account allows up to 30 responses per question and unlimited questions for free, and upgrades range from $15 to $1,400 per month" (4).  To respond, students need computers or cell phones to reply to the questions.  They explain: "As we have seen with classroom clickers, this is a great way to encourage class participation" (4).  Cell phones can text their answer, but computers with internet access may certainly respond as well.  "The polls are updated instantly, and PowerPOint slide changes dynamically as students enter their answers" (4).  Results offer instructors to correct students and solifify the learning; they can also prompt further discussion.

Nicholson and Eva also promote the use of wikis in library instruction, highlighting its effectives as a collaborative learning tool.  Like Poll Everywhere, wikis "exist in the 'the cloud' with no downloads requires" (5).  Wikis can be purchased, however, that are not available to the public at large, so just the students in a class could access the project.  They explain the essential aspects of a wiki: "The premise behind wikis is that they are collaborative; all users can edit or create new entries.  Student participation in a wiki is an effective way to promote active learning" (6).  Participation in this endeavor turns on the light for many students as they begin to understand how information is created, edited, and shared.  Therefore, they begin to realize how important it is to evaluate the information they find.

Finally, they talk about Skype.  This online videoconferencing tool can be used to teach students in distance settings, though this requires hardware such as microphones, video cameras, and speakers, not to mention high-speed internet access.  Nicholson and Eva have taken advantage of the technology to instruct students at distance sites, so they speak from experience (7).  I appreciated that they mentioned how they anticipated and prepared for technical difficulties.  When the visual feed was lost on the distance site's end, the instructor there was able to display the presentation slides that had been emailed previously while the library instructors continued speaking and teaching.  The instructor could demonstrate along with the librarians as they both walked through the presentation (8). 

Nicole Eva and Heather Nicholson believe that these technologies are "unique, effective, EASY, and low or no-cost.  When used correctly and where warranted, these applications can be usefu in engaging students in sessions in which they might otherwise tune out" (9).  Even their own lack of technological experience did not keep them from succeeding, and they believe others can experience this same kind of fruitful experience in the library instruction room (9). 

Work Cited
Eva, Nicole, and Heather Nicholson.  "DO Get Technical!  Using Technology in Library Instruction."  Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 6.2 (2011): 1-9.
University of Lethbridge logo. Fiat lux is the Latin for "Let there be light."
Nicole Eva and Heather Nicholson work in the University of Lethbridge Library.

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