Radian: Data Education and Advocacy Portal Wins Force2016 PitchIt Innovation Challenge!

posted in: Educational Technology | 0

My colleagues Sara Mannheimer, Scott Young and I just won the Force2016 PitchIt Innovation Challenge for our entry Radian Data Education and Advocacy Portal.

Check out our pitch video that I worked my movie magic on. Looks like my film background continues to payoff.

Now with this seed money we get to make our vision into a reality. Very exciting!



Current Readings on Critical Education and Ed Tech

posted in: Readings | 0

Just wanting to share a few thought-provoking sources that I have been reading lately. I view these sources are related in that they take a critical look at issues and trends in Higher Education. In the more library-centric world, it’s been interesting to watch the #CritLib (Critical Library) discussion on Twitter really gain momentum and mature this past year, tough it seems to me that related critical discussions around education, ed tech and higher ed have yet to gain the same kind of momentum. Maybe we need a good hashtag around this. Or maybe there is one I have just overlooked?

Nonetheless, there are lots of interesting, individual articles, blogs, presentations, tweets, and whatnot that take a critical look at education. These three highlights have caught my attention recently and have led to productive reflection. I’m looking forward to following up with their sources and uncovering more critical thinking on education, higher ed, and ed tech.


The Compulsion for Data

This article is part of Audrey Watters’ Hack Education report on Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015, which includes many other crucial, thought pieces to chew on. These pieces will make you reconsider how and why you and others on your campus are using many popular educational technologies.

This particular article speaks to me because I’m finding myself actively engaged in data on several fronts. I’ve been working on improving our library’s data collection at the research desk, during instruction sessions and for year end reporting. Additionally, I’ve been getting involved in a new MSU collaboration between the Library and IT called Data Infrastructure and Scholarly Communication (DISC). Plus, my colleague Sara Mannheimer and I have recently developed a sequence of data literacy lessons for undergraduates. So data has been on my mind and it’s a refreshing wake-up call to consider Watters’ points that critically investigate and challenge the dominant paradigm of data collection, interpretation and use in education.


The Digital Labor of Digital Learning

In this article Neil Selwyn, Education Faculty at Monash University in Melbourne, identifies five trends in digital education work that we need to critically question. Basically Selwyn proposes judging educational technology in terms of the labor of teachers and students. Selwyn pin-points clear areas where digital technologies make education labor more difficult and complex. Lots of great things to think about here in relation to my personal work practices and managing expectations of myself and my colleagues. Similiar to Watters, this article raises critical questions around personalized learning, plagiarism detection, and early intervention tools. Also raises the important question of who benefits from efficiency in education and risks of exploitation.


Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness

This article published in ScienceOpen Research by Anne Boring, Kellie Ottoboni, Philip Stark takes a critical and thoroughly statistical look at the reliability and bias of student evaluations of teaching. Full disclosure, I’ve mostly just skimmed this at this point, however the main claims it makes are clear and merit attention.

I can still remember filling out these kind of evaluations, and despite my best intentions to provide useful feedback, there were many times when I questioned my ability to do so. From my memory, a significant part of the difficulty is due to the timing at the end of course and the complicated emotions, thoughts and pressures on students at that time.

There are many variables and this is surely a complex thing to study, but for me the big take-aways are that these evaluations are not the end all, be all and should be used with caution when making rulings on teacher effectiveness and that we must be attuned to, and account for gender and race bias in these evaluations. Something that must be kept in mind for anyone involved in reviewing others and themselves. These student evaluations must be viewed as just one part of the puzzle of teaching effectiveness.

ACRL Presentation on H5P

posted in: Tech Tip | 0
Picture of a microphone
Photo by Greenmonster via Flickr CC-BY-NC-SA


This past weekend I had the great pleasure (and privilege) of presenting at the 2015 Association of College and Research Libraries national conference in Portland, Oregon. My presentation sought to introduce academic librarians to H5P and highlight how using open sources tools and platforms for creating online instructional content helps our community deliver on the promise of open educational resources.

Too often I see great online instructional materials that are licensed with Creative Commons licenses, but that were built using closed, proprietary software. These kinds of materials seriously limit the amount of reuse and customization that others can perform. Particularly if you do not have the access or funds for the particular commercial software.


Of course, there are good reasons that eLearning Authoring software has been used. Mainly, up until recently, there really hasn’t been much competition in the form of open source software solutions. I believe that this is all about to change, and I see H5P as a major light towards the future. Also keep an eye on Adapt, which looks beautiful and amazing, but needs some fairly serious technical setup to get running on your own. Content creators will still need to pull the pieces together, but H5P gets you 90% of the way there, and the other 10% is easily accomplished through your content management system. Plus H5P keeps getting better all the time. Just recently they introduced some great updates, including interactive videos that can now link to YouTube, improved embed codes and Tin Can xAPI.

Using H5P to Create HTML5 Open Educational Resources

In honor of Open Access Week (October 20 – 26, 2014), which kicked off a few days ago, I want to write a bit about a great tool H5P that I use to create HTML5 Open Educational Resources (OER).


I have been using H5P throughout the development of the online information literacy tutorial that just launched at Western at the start of fall quarter. This tutorial really couldn’t have come together without H5P. Or at least it would have been much less interactive and much more difficult to update and make variations.

Big Dreams

In developing this online tutorial, I quickly realized that there was a big gap between what I wanted to create – namely interactive online lessons – and what was possible with our library’s Drupal setup. The big vision for this project was creating an online platform for our librarians to easily create attractive, engaging, interactive lessons. Of course we would need to add text, video and photos to lesson pages, but we also would need to create and maintain presentations and questions embedded into the same pages. I had created a list of system requirements for my tutorial system, and held numerous meetings with our IT department, but the gap between what we needed and what was possible just wouldn’t go away. There were lots of good reasons for this, and some not so good reasons.

Screenshot of H5P websiteWe have limited resources and limited technical support available, yet we wanted to create a suite of online lessons  built with openness in mind from the beginning. For this project, open means the lessons will be Creative Commons licensed, use readily available OERs where appropriate, be built on open platforms, and be easily reused and remixed by others in and out of our organization. I’m a big fan of OERs and I am amazed at the willingness of the community to share their hard work, but I have also run into barriers to adopting OERs to alternative platforms. Or worse yet, quasi-OERs created with proprietary software – like tutorials built with Articulate Storyline. You may have CC licensed it, but how is someone else supposed to reuse it without buying that software?

Then I found this tool H5P, and although it doesn’t address every single one of my particular needs, it gets me about nine-tenths of the way there, effectively making the gap something I can leap right over.


I highly recommend checking H5P out and considering what it could do for your tutorials and your online instruction. There are a lot of examples of various content types on the H5P site and you can also see it in action throughout Western Libraries‘ tutorial LIT that I developed. For LIT, I mostly used the presentation content type, question sets and flashcards, but I am excited to figure out great uses of other content types in the future. I really think this is a great tool and it’s future looks really bright. I would love to see this integrated into LibGuides. They would really compliment each other so well.

Let me know if you have questions about this tool or need help giving it a try. I would love to hear how you want to use this. Have you found an innovative use of H5P or a similar tool?

Canva + ThingLink = Awesome

Earlier this week I led a Tech Sandbox on these two tools for everyone in our library. The session went pretty well despite some running into issues with the computers in the labs. Everyone seemed to really latch onto the usefulness of ThingLink in their work. Here is an instructional example I created using both tools to explain what to look for in database results.

Canva was a little more difficult for some to connect to their work, which I’m not totally surprised by. Prticipants seem to think that others are better at taking care of graphic design and they don’t think that they produce much graphic content. In the future I will try to find ways to highlight some of the graphic work that they are already doing. Maybe I can even find examples for each participant from their LibGuides and other materials. If I knew who was going to participate in advance. Then we could focus on revising these works with Canva. My session plan included directions for working on work-related graphics for the activity, but most were playing without much direction. I’d like to harness that playfulness, but find authentic ways to give it some direction.

With that in mind, my emerging thought is to put together post-session activities that require participants to apply their skills to a graphic project that actually could be used in their work. I will also offer digital badges for completion of these activities. There is some rising interest in badges on our campus and in our library, but badges are still a bit mysterious to many. This will let us see them in action. Plus the Tech Sandboxes will be a low stakes way for me to work out the kinks of badging for professional development and workshops. I hope this will lead to build out a badging ecosystem offered through the library and our Learning Commons partners for students, faculty and staff.

1 2 3