November 18, 2011


Cloud computing rules in new classroom applications

"The cloud" is like a "giant hard drive in space," says Wayne Morse of Emory's Center for Interactive Teaching.

"We're moving a lot of our applications and storage of files to the Internet," instead of having them live on our computers, said Morse in a Nov. 11 workshop on "Cloud Computing," offered by ECIT and the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence.

This shift marks a "huge change in how we do business," he said.  

The workshop explored a few technologies that allow collaboration and offer some unique ways for engagement and interaction for teaching and research. All have a social networking component to them. All are based online — in the cloud.

Poll Everywhere is an instant polling application. Free for audiences of 30 people or less, it's good for use in classrooms to poll students instantly, explains Chris Fearrington, ECIT coordinator. 

"You can utilize it for student engagement by quickly creating a poll on the fly for instant feedback," he says. "Students can Tweet their answer into it.  And it can be embedded into [presentation applications] Powerpoint or Prezzi." It can also be embedded into a blog or web page, he adds.

Fearrington warns against using Poll Everywhere to collect research information, noting it's just a quick way to poll class for immediate response.

Dipity is a digital timeline website. Users can create subject matter-related timelines and insert multimedia.

A Dipity timeline allows for student comment, the ability to make it private, and embed options, Fearrington said

Dipity also offers a flipbook view of timelines for visual learners. And, Fearrington says, "Every time you create an event, it will create a map for you."

Voice Thread is a multimedia discussion board, Morse says.  Using a webcam or phone, you can record either your voice, your face or both, post it, upload videos, text, and audio files at any time you want.

"The ability to have an asynchronous conversation makes this a powerful web-based tool for free," he says. "The drawback is that it uses Flash."

Diigo is a web-based bookmarking tool.  "Put your bookmarks into Diigo and they travel with you," says Morse.  You can bookmark interesting articles online and share them.

He also says Diigo has a highlighting tool and the ability to tag selected material.

Google Docs can be used to create and share documents, presentations and spreadsheets. "There's even a Google form similar to Survey Monkey," says Fearrington.

One of the best aspects of Google Docs is the history feature. "You can go back and see the different revisions (to a document or spreadsheet) through time."

The presentation option within Google Docs has a chat feature, good for collaboration, Fearrington says. You can also upload your created content from other applications into a Google Docs application.

However, whenever you use technology inside the cloud, you're taking a risk.

Morse says, "With all this great ability to share files, wherever and whenever we want, these free services want a little something in return." Google and YouTube, for example, "will keep your content or demographic info about you and use it as they see fit in selling them to advertisers," or using them for other purposes.

If Google Docs are not appropriate for your project, come to ECIT to get "alternate pathways" for sensitive or proprietary information, says Morse.

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