MODULE IV - Learning Technology



Technology can be the bane of a teacher's existence or it can be used in a productive manner to create a robust learning environment.  It is difficult to keep up with technology, so don't exhaust yourself - but do try!


A good online teacher may identify a need or gap in the learning process and want to address it through the use of technology.   There is an abundance of tools at your disposal, so it is important to make  informed decision based on your own technical expertise, the requirements of your academic institution and the fit for the course.



Learning Outcomes

At the end of this module faculty will be able to:

  • Develop an understanding of the evolution of the web.
  • Identify the learning tools available with an LMS.
  • Build an effective discussion activity.
  • Analyze various tools, including, but not limited to  wikis, blogs,  and social bookmarking to determine a fit for the learning environment.
  • Create effective PowerPoint presentations.
  • Use various technologies to create meaningful learning activities or to present content.
  • Apply the "7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" in relation to ideas for using technology, when making technology choices for your course.







Keeping up with the technology

Clearly in an online course, technology choices will have an impact on the delivery and potential success of the learning experience. One of the biggest things to keep in mind when integrating technology into your teaching practice is to make sure it is relevant and has a purpose. Don't add technology for the sake of it - make sure the purpose of its use is clear to your students.


Remember that keeping up with technology and adding the latest tools and trends can sometimes complicate the learning process and frustrate the student. Here are some additional tips:


  1. Don't make the assumption that all your students have access to all the latest technologies; even if they do, don't assume they know how to use it.
  2. Take time to explore the technology before adding it to your course.
  3. Start simply and add features as you become more comfortable with the tool.
  4. Know what tools are readily available within the LMS you are teaching in. There's no need to go out and look for other tools when there is a functioning one that meets your need in your LMS and can be supported by Tech Support.
  5. Consider using tools that allow the students to be self-directed in their learning. 






Web 2.0 to 3.0 and beyond

The Evolution of the Web

The internet has evolved dramatically in the last 25 years.  With the advent of social networks, blogging, etc., the web has shifted  from a static feeder of information to an environment that encourages interaction amongst users (Web 2.0). Currently there is another shift occurring and  the web is becoming more open and more intelligent. Examples of this are seen in the latest advancements in web searching, where content and resources are more readily available based on the preferences established by your own use of the web (Web 3.0).


Watch the following video for further clarification on this evolution of the web.


Evolution Web 1.0, Web 2.0 to Web 3.0



As educators, Web 2.0 tools are especially helpful in building more collaborative learning environments.







Educational tools

Educational Tools: Wiki, Blogs and Google Docs

When making your technology choices it is important to consider the applications that are readily available within the LMS you are using. Rather than having students create additional accounts for use of tools outside the LMS, use the LMS features to minimize confusion and technical challenges. In addition, most college help desks can assist students with LMS features; however, they may not be as familiar with the external web-based tools.


If you do decide to use Web-based tools, be sure to verify your college's policies around its use.  Also, be mindful of the level of support your students may need if you add these to your course.  These tools should not be limiting or present barriers to student learning. If you are comfortable with the technology and feel you can adequately support your students in its use, then you are in a good position to add them to your course.


Information about the following tools is presented below:  Blogs, Wikis and Google Docs


Blogs are very similar to discussion boards; however, they tend to be more personal in nature. Blogs primarily consist of one's personal reflection.  That being said, some blog tools allow for viewers to make comment on posts, by adjusting blog settings.


Watch this quick video to learn more about Blogs.  Blogs in Plain English



Most LMSs have Blogs as one of the options in the Discussion or Collaborate tool. In such cases, the option includes settings that that allow students to post privately. This is an excellent tool to give students an opportunity to reflect on their learning and improve their writing and critical thinking skills. Free Blog tools to consider are Tumblr, Blogger, and eduBlogs.


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Before adding blogs to your courses, read the Educause article - 7 Things You Should Know About Blogs.


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Good Resource:

Australia's Curriculum Materials Information Services (CMIS) has a wealth of resources on its site that you may find helpful.  For example, CMIS has prepared a detailed and practical list of valuable resources to provide insight into the use of Blogs in Education.




Wikis are collaborative web-pages that allow users to edit and update content.  The most common wiki on the web is Wikipedia.  Wikis are only as good as the contributions made and while there are some academic reservations with Wikipedia, you cannot dispute the positive impact this type of collaboration has on the learning process. 


Wikis can be as private or open as a user would like them to be. Some LMSs have built in wiki tools, but there are also a number of good free ones; Wikispaces, PB Wiki, and WetPaint are just a few.


On this site, we are using Wikispaces to build our learning community.


Watch the following video for a straight forward explanation of Wikis.


One of the ways you can incorporate wikis into your teaching is by creating a content site where both you and your students can make contributions. Wikis can be setup with a variety of pages where you can have students complete group work. Depending how complicated you want to make the wiki, you can set contributors’ permissions to the wiki or specific pages.


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Before using wikis in your course read the Educause information sheet- 7 things you should know about Wikis.


Google Docs:

A Google Doc is a wiki of sorts; however it allows you to share a variety of file formats including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The positive thing about Google Docs is that it allows people to collaborate in a familiar format. The down side (for some anyway) is the logistics associated with setting up the collaboration (i.e. creating your account, getting others to create an account and managing the permissions associated with the documents).  While this may sound onerous, the collaborative benefits are worth the effort.


Watch the following video for a straight forward explanation of Google Docs in Plain English.


Google Docs is an excellent venue for students to collaborate on group projects and presentations. A majority of the students are likely to have gmail accounts, so gaining access to such a tool should not be a big issue. 


There are a variety of Help Videos created by Google to explain how to complete various tasks with Google Docs, so technical support should not be a concern.


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Check out the following archived webinar presentation to discover 32 uses for Google Docs in education.








Matching Technology to the learning

With so many types of technology available, it is often difficult for faculty to decide how to match the technology to the learning experience. When faced with this, you should keep Chickering and Gamson's
7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education in mind.


The "7 principles" have been used as a reference for many educational ideas, specifically in educational design and teaching. The TLT (Teaching, Learning and Technology) Group used these principles to present ideas of how technology can be used to build “good practices for teaching and learning.”


You can view the extensive list of ideas at TLT Group.


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Make a contribution to the 7 Principles page on the OL Teacher's Learning Community Wiki.  Share your idea for one or more of the principles presented in the TLT article noted above.


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Good Resources:

Faculty Focus Article:  Determining the Best Technology for Your Students, Your Course, and You by Tony Bates, highlights the SECTIONS approach to making technology decisions for your classroom.  Read this article before contributing to the wiki activity.


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Good Resources:

50 Free Collaboration Tools That Are Awesome for Education: a blog posting that highlights some web tools that the more technically savvy instructor can consider incorporating into their learning environment.  Reviewing this blog may also spark some creative ideas as to how you can increase interaction in your sites.






Discussion Boards:

The goal of incorporating discussions in your course not only encourage student interaction, but it also helps them become active contributors to the learning process.  Discussions give students an opportunity to reflect on the content and critically apply the knowledge learned. Discussions also help students build their communication skills as they converse in an online dialogue.


All LMS’s have a built in discussion board. While it is considered a primitive collaboration tool, it is the most widely used one in online learning.


When using discussions in your online course, be sure to:


  1. State the rules of "netiquette"; set clear expectations for how students are expected to participate.  
  2. Include a clearly defined question to start the discussion. 
  3. Provide information on how participation in discussions contributes to the overall grade of the course.


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Good Resource:

Keys to Facilitating Successful Online Discussions by Donna Raleigh, from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, provides some very practical information about using discussions in your online course.


Building Effective Discussion Activities

As the old adage goes, "Variety is the spice of life" - this holds true when building discussions into your course. Use your creativity to build discussion activities that will keep your students engaged. For example, if you have a large class, consider setting up smaller discussion groups or Study Buddies for the discussion topics. One suggestion is to always have the smaller groups report back to the main discussion area, so every student can benefit from the response/dialogue of the smaller group.


Below is a table of techniques adapted from the works of Chris Coleman, a retired Humber College professor. It highlights creative ideas you can use to keep online discussions focused, productive and interesting. It is important to note that these techniques can be used individually or together when creating a learning activity.


Click on the bars below to reveal the description and example.

Lounge , Value Add, Role Play
Technique Description Example of Activity


A student or a group of students are assigned a topic in which they are responsible for moderating or encouraging the discussion on the topic. Another group or individual can then be assigned the responsibility to summarize the discussion at the end of the module.

Depending upon the size of the class, assign a moderator for a module in advance. Ask that s/he create questions that will encourage discussion around the content of the module. The moderator will be responsible for encouraging the discussion for the duration of the module.

Assign someone else in the class the task of summarizing the discussion. This person is also expected to participate in the discussion.
Value Add An area where students can contribute additional resources relating to the course content. A student may post a link to a web site or book or article that has contributed to their understanding of the topic. Especially good activity when you are working with a topic that is a current event.
Role-play A student is assigned a role with specific characteristics and is expected to maintain this persona while participating in the discussion. A student takes on the role of a difficult customer and the other participants are expected to respond to the “customer” by applying the appropriate methods for dealing with difficult people.

Problem Solving, Critique, Group Report
Technique Description Example of Activity

Problem Solving

Students are presented with a particular situation in which they are expected to discuss potential resolutions to the problem.

Students are planning a special event in which the registrations for the event exceeded the room capacity. The group is expected to come up with a way to resolve this problem.


Students are asked to point out the strengths and weaknesses of a proposal and then suggest improvements. Students are asked to restrict their comments so that the critique is not exhausted before all students have contributed.

Post a link to a relevant web site and ask the student to identify one strength and weakness of the site.

Group Report

A group of students work in a private discussion area where they collaborate on an assigned project. They would then post their completed work in a public discussion for their classmates to review.

Case Study

Twenty Questions, Online Poll, Timed Disclosure
Technique Description Example of Activity

Twenty Questions

The moderator (instructor or student) acts as a client and asks students to narrow down the client's needs through an interview.

Mock Job Interview –
The moderator poses questions that a student may experience during an interview.

Online Poll

The moderator poses a question and asks the students to register their votes on the issue by e-mailing the moderator. You can also use the peer review tool to vote by ranking with one star, two stars etc.

Pose a question to the class and ask that they respond to you by a specified date. Post the results of the poll along with a link to relative article or web site. Ask the students to review the resource and then send a message a follow-up message to see if their opinion has changed.

Timed Disclosure

Students are asked to review an article and comment on an issue and post it to the teacher by private e-mail before a deadline. At a certain point in time, the teacher shares all the comments in the discussion area. This way a student can make a contribution without too much influence from dominant peers.

As a continuation of the above – Post a summary of the comments made as to why the student may have changed their mind or kept their original view.

Formal Debate, Free Association
Technique Description Example of Activity

Formal Debate

Students are assigned to affirmative and negative positions and are asked to debate an issue.

Debate on copyright laws: Should Canada legalize free downloading of music from the internet.

Free Association

Students are asked to express their thoughts and ideas on a subject without too much structure being imposed upon the discussion procedure.

Allow your students to freely engage in conversation as per the topic for the week. You may want to start them off with a question referencing material in the module and then let the conversation progress.

Hot Seat, Socratic Dialogue, The Shotgun
Technique Description Example of Activity

Hot Seat

Someone sits in the “Hot Seat” and the other students pose questions to him/her on a specific topic.

You may find some students willing to take the hot seat if they are comfortable with the topic, however, this would work really well with a Guest.

Socratic Dialogue

First the teacher asks a question. Then one student answers it. Then the teacher asks another question. This way every other comment is from the teacher.

Works well if you prepare the students in advance. Provide them with a list of questions that will be posed, but do not identify which question they will get.

The Shotgun

The teacher posts a number of related questions all at the same time. Then, the student has to answer whichever questions appeals to him or her.

Take a current event related to your course and pose at least three questions on the topic. Ask students to respond to one of the questions.

Go 'round the Circle, Guided Discovery, Blind Man's Bluff
Technique Description Example of Activity

Go 'round the Circle

Each student is asked to respond to the same question and when all the students have contributed, the topic is closed.

It's a good idea to ask the student to post their answer as a new thread. This way you can easily track you who posted the comment and responded. For example the subject line would read: John's Answer.
You can also ask students to reply to at least two of their classmates' postings.

Guided Discovery

The class is asked to pose questions about some material until the material is eventually revealed and becomes clear.

Students can ask questions about the practical application of a theory or practice.

Blind Man's Bluff

The moderator poses a purposefully misleading statement and lets the students discover the false premise through discussion.

This is very helpful when used as an introductory exercise in which you identify common misconceptions and present the lesson to refute them.

Fish Bowl, Brainstorming, Peer Evaluation
Technique Description Example of Activity

Fish Bowl

A small group interacts while others observe. Feedback on their behaviour is provided at the end of the exercise.

You and a guest speaker follow a script for interaction while the class is asked to observe based on specified criteria.


Students are encouraged to think creatively and to expand upon ideas of fellow group members. The primary purpose of brainstorming is to generate a pool of ideas on a topic.

Great way to create and fine tune a series of questions for a guest speaker.
Also very helpful when students are organizing a group project.

Peer Evaluation

In a private discussion area, two students can review the other's work and provide feedback.

Similar to the “Study buddy” activities used in this course.

Moderation / Summary
Technique Description Example of Activity


A student or a group of students are assigned a topic in which they are responsible for moderating or encouraging the discussion on the topic. Another group or individual can then be assigned the responsibility to summarize the discussion at the end of the module.

Depending upon the size of the class, assign a moderator for a module in advance. Ask that s/he create questions that will encourage discussion around the content of the module. The moderator will be responsible for encouraging the discussion for the duration of the module.

Assign someone else in the class the task of summarizing the discussion. This person is also expected to participate in the discussion.

Technique Description Example of Activity

For more ideas visit: Illinois Online Network: Specific Activities That Promote Online Discussion




While there was a lot of information covered in this module, in no way did it present an exhaustive list of the tools you can use to enhance your learning environment. Never lose sight of the student and the learning, as these should be the priority when adding technology to your teaching practice.


A good 21st century teacher should always be looking for ways to improve their teaching skills, and the effective incorporation of technology is certainly a must.



Next steps:


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Now that you have learned a few new things about teaching online and creating web content, take the Faculty Self- Assessment again and compare your results.


You are encouraged to continue to take advantage of the valuable content found throughout this website.  Also, please remain active in our learning community established through the Blog and Wiki tools.  Continue to share your experiences so we can continue to learn from each other.





Other Tools To Consider:

This section will cover tools such as Twitter, Social Bookmarking, Content Tools and Live Streaming/Archiving.



Twitter is gaining some traction in the education sector, but there is still much debate about its value.   Twitter is an online tool that allows a user to share brief (140 character) "tweets" or messages.


To learn more about the basics of Twitter watch the following video: Twitter in Plain English



This tool is used quite frequently at conferences when the organizers setup a back channel. The back channel allows all comments about a specific event to be posted in one area. This format, when used effectively is a great archiving tool. When use ineffectively, it can be very distracting.


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Before using Twitter in your course, read the Educause information sheet - 7 things you should know about Twitter ; it provides  additional insight into the educational uses for this tool.



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Good Resource:

If you are considering using Twitter in your course, you should read about the Twitter Experiment. Dr. Monica Rankin of the University of Texas - Dallas shares her experiences using Twitter in her class; subsequently a student posted a you-tube video to capture the student experience. This is very interesting! 



Twitter | Social Bookmarking | Content Tools | Live Streaming/Archiving

Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is an excellent way to build resource pages for your courses.  With the multitude of information on the web, it is a great idea to harness the collective powers of the class to come up with resources to help build depth in your course content.


Social bookmarking is a site where people can share their "Bookmarks" on a similar topic in a single location.  Watch the following video: Social Bookmarking in Plain English for more information.


Here are a couple of ideas of how you can incorporate social bookmarking into your courses:


  1. Reading lists: If you are teaching more than one section of a course, you can build reading lists using a social bookmarking application. You can link to this site within your course site, thus limiting the number of places you need to update if your reading list changes.
  2. Research projects/bibliographies:, you can ask students to use the site to create their source list for a final project. This gives you an opportunity to verify and check the resources and provide feedback and support before the final project is submitted.

Some common Bookmarking sites include:


  2. CiteULike
  3. Digg
  4. Diigo for Educators



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Again, Educause has prepared its "7 things to know about Social Bookmarking" article.  Be sure to read this article to gain a better understanding.



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Good Resources:

The Educause Learning Initiative compiled a report on Collaboration Tools. This report contains information about a variety of tools that are not discussed in this module. It is a must read!



Twitter | Social Bookmarking | Content Tools | Live Streaming/Archiving

Content Tools:



As a teacher, you have likely used PowerPoint at some point in your career.  Here is a funny video that effectively highlights the 'Don'ts" for PowerPoint creation.



If you are creating your course content using PowerPoint, you will need to convert it to a web format so that it can be viewed on the web. The following website explains how to convert the file directly within PowerPoint.


You can also download a free PowerPoint converter,that can convert the files to video files that can then be uploaded into your course site. The website above provides a link to such a converter.

Please note: MP4 format is most widely used across various systems.


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Good Resource:

The Community College of Allegheny County's DL Center has created an excellent list of resources to help Create Online Content using PowerPoint Online.



For a nominal fee, you can create an account on Quia and have access to tools and templates to build a variety of interactive drill and practice learning objects such as matching, drag and drops, flip cards, and more.


The Quia Directory  provides samples of educational activities that have been built using this tool. There is a free 30 day trial, where you can practice building your own activities, or modify existing ones to meet your needs.  

Crossword Builder

Eclipse Crossword Builder is a free online tool that allows you to easily create crossword puzzles that you can incorporate into your online course sites. This is an excellent way to help students learn terminology or simple concepts.



If you are looking to add a graphic (known as word clouds) that is visually representative of the content for a unit or module, then Wordle may be what you are looking for. By simply entering a group of words, the application creates a visual that can be added to any website.  Here's an example of what you can do with this tool.


Wordle: CollaborationTools


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Share a resource that you have used by adding the name of the tool, some information about how you used the tool and the link on the Resources page of  the OntarioLearn Online Teacher's Learning Community Wiki.

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Share a technology experience that was successful or one that didn't go so well.  Reflect on it and share what or if you would change anything about the experience under the heading Technology Wins and Losses


Twitter | Social Bookmarking | Content Tools | Live Streaming/Archiving

Live Streaming and Archiving:

If your LMS has a web-conferencing feature such as Wimba or Elluminate, you can host webinars within your course site. These interactive sessions require a little practice, but are a good tool for building online content. You can create an archive of the learning session that can be uploaded to your site for students who may not have been able to attend the session and for future reference.


You need to be organized when hosting such sessions as there are various tools and features that you can use, including:  VOIP, chat rooms, break-out rooms, application sharing, polling, etc.  If you have an opportunity to use these tools, it is strongly recommended that you do so.  You can start with informal sessions like office hours, until you build up your confidence to make an entire presentation.



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Review the archived session:  Success with Wimba Classroom to gain a better understanding of what can be done with a web-conferencing application.

You will be prompted to login, so simply click Participant Login. You do not need to enter the password.


Be patient, it may take a couple of minutes for the Archive to load and begin playing.

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How would you use a tool like WIMBA in your online course?  Share your views on our blog.