Multimedia and Blogging in the Classroom Strategies

Cross posted from,  from .

While I was preparing for a Multimedia and Blogging workshop, I came up with a list of strategies that professors can use to incorporate multimedia and blogging in the classroom:

1. Scaffolding:  Professors can use blog assignments to build up students’ skills in preparation for more formal assignments. As a form of low-stakes writing, blog entries can make students’ thought processes and inner debates more apparent.

2. Modeling:  When professors give students a blog or multimedia assignment, it is very helpful to model a successful example of the assignment, perhaps from a past semester.

3. Give Students Roles: Rather than treating blog comments as a free-for-all, why not give students specific roles? For instance, students could be asked to be Peer Reviewers of other students’ posts, or one student could be asked to post a Summary of topics that most often came up over a week’s worth of posts.

4. Set Expectations:  When professors give students an untraditional assignment, the expectations for fulfilling that assignment should be even clearer than those for a traditional assignment. Be clear concerning the style, tone, and format that you expect. Also, including a grading rubric can be helpful.

5. Awareness of Student Population: Professors should plan for the learning curve that they can expect from their students regarding the technologies involved in course assignments. Some students may need some individual assistance, and it would be wise not to overburden students with too many platforms in one semester. That being said, Baruch’s student population is quite tech savvy overall.

6. Learning Goals, Learning Goals, Learning Goals:  Learning goals come first, and the technology follows. Blogging and multimedia assignments must be driven by and fully integrated into the course’s purpose.

7. Use Media Repositories:  The U.S. Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and other institutions offer free and well-documented repositories of media. Working collaboratively as a class with a set group of primary sources can give students invaluable experience.

8. Ask Students to Critique and Curate Sources: An annotated bibliography can turn into a media-rich online annotated bibliography. Before students write their research papers, have them post an annotated bibliography online. If the annotated bibliography can contain popular as well as scholarly sources, then it might present a good opportunity for students to enunciate the differences between a wide variety of sources.

9. Work in a Lab Setting: Setting one or two classes aside for lab work can help you to work with students and give them feedback in real time.

10. Build a Critical Vocabulary: In-class discussions, modeling, and the online sharing of student work and the professor’s comments can all work toward building a critical vocabulary, both in terms of disciplinary knowledge and the competent critique of various types of sources.

11. Scale Your Expectations:  Dramatically switching topics (from gender issues to environmental issues, for example), assigning many untraditional assignments on top of traditional assignments, and using many different types of technology are all sure ways to frustrate and overburden students. Sometimes less is more.

As I think about the literature and composition courses that I’ve taught, these are the major mistakes that I’ve made:

1. Expecting non English majors to understand and effectively incorporate academic articles, especially without any in-depth class discussion.

2. Assigning too many small assignments.

3. Pacing the course too quickly and/or expecting to cover an unrealistic amount of content.

4. Not including enough specific guidelines on untraditional assignments.

5. Not thoroughly pretesting technology.

Blackboard’s Collaborate Web Conferencing Tool for Live Online Interaction

From Kevin Wolff

Blackboard Collaborate is a web conferencing tool (along the lines of GoToMeeting, Webex or Skype) that uses video and audio for synchronous, i.e., “live,” educational activities over the web. These activities might be online lectures, live online discussions with students, virtual office hours, or student peer-to-peer group work. The students would need to navigate to the appropriate area within Blackboard (from within a Blackboard course site on the left-hand course menu: click Tools > Blackboard Collaborate) and click to join a Blackboard Collaborate session at a designated time.

The sessions allow for live interactive audio communication as well as live video of you and your students (up to six video images at a time). Before joining a web conference (or “webinar”) that will involve audio, it is a good idea for instructors and students to have either (a) a microphone and headphones or (b) a headset (i.e., headphones with built-in microphone). In order to display his or her own video image, each participant would need a computer with either a built-in or an external web camera.

In the web conferencing session, you can use a digital whiteboard, give presentations using PowerPoint (or any other software program), show videos, and navigate to websites as part of your presentation to students. These live sessions can also be recorded so that the students in your class can access them from within the Blackboard course site at their convenience. The tool might even be used for exclusively asynchronous content, e.g., an instructor can set up a Collaborate session in which only he or she is present in order to record a lecture for later access by the students.

* Note: Blackboard’s Collaborate tool is similarly named but very different from Blackboard’s Collaboration tool.

More Resources for Using Blackboard Collaborate
Below are some useful resources for learning more about Collaborate:

General Resources:

* Collaborate Getting Started Quick Reference Guide (PDF)
* Collaborate Overview (Recording) (approx. 11 minutes; requires Java plugin to play)

Specific Collaborate Tools:

* Introduction to the Participants Panel (PDF)
* Using the Audio & Video Panel (PDF)
* Using Chat (PDF)
* Audio Setup Wizard (PDF)
* Loading a PowerPoint File (PDF)
* Using the Whiteboard (PDF)
* Introduction to the Whiteboard (Recording)
* Using the Polling Feature Wizard (PDF)
* Using Application Sharing (PDF)
* Introduction to Application Sharing (Recording)
* Using Web Tour (PDF)
* Introduction to Web Tour (Recording)
* Getting Started with Recordings (PDF)

For more assistance related to Collaborate, the following site has extensive support materials: Blackboard Collaborate Support Site.

You can also contact the Baruch Help Desk at 646-312-1010 or if you have any questions. We hope Collaborate will prove to be a useful tool to enhance yours and your students’ academic experience at Baruch.

Using VoiceThread

From Diogo Hildebrand.

Class discussions based on videos and PowerPoint presentations can be easily implemented using the website VoiceThread (free subscription).

VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that allows people to navigate slides and post comments. It is an ideal tool to deliver the content of your hybrid or online classroom asynchronously. The main features of VoiceThread are the following:

(1) in VoiceThread, you can not only record voice over videos, images, files, and PowerPoint slides, but also make notes and highlight specific points, all of which will be recorded as a video that students can watch online;

(2) in VoiceThread, each student in your class will be able to stop the slide show at any point and post comments in 5 ways – using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). By using this feature, your lecture (i.e., the slide show you created in VoiceThread) will be permeated with students’ thoughts and discussions throughout the presentation, creating a very dynamic asynchronous classroom environment.

To learn more about VoiceThread go to In the website you can find very helpful tutorials such as this short, 2 minutes video –

Embedding Slides

Share your slides (created in Power Point and other applications) on Blogs@Baruch using Scribd…

  • Go to If you already have an account, click Log In at the top right corner of the page. If you don’t have an account, click Sign Up and you can log in using your Facebook account or by creating a new Scribd account.
  • Once you’re logged in, click the blue Upload button in the top right corner of the page. If you’re uploading from your computer, use the standard “Select file” option at the top.
    • Note: If you do not want your document to be indexed by search engines, click the “Make this document private” checkbox underneath the blue Upload button. You will still be able to embed your document on your blog. You can also change this setting after uploading.
  • Now click the larger blue Upload button and locate the file you’d like to upload. Select it, then click the Open button. Click OK to acknowledge Scribd’s Terms of Service and Copyright Policy. Your upload may take a few minutes.
  • Once your file is uploaded, it will display all the slides in your presentation vertically down the page. Check to make sure it loaded all pages properly.
  • Click the Link button above the first slide. In the window that appears, “Link to Document” should be highlighted in blue. Click the blue Copy button to the right of it.
  • Now all you have to do is paste that link into the post editor on Blogs@Baruch and publish or update your post, and your presentation will be embedded on the page.

Thesis Development Workshop

From Cheryl Smith, workshop for a first-year writing class

By class time:

Post on your personal blog

  1. your developing thesis and
  2. 2-3 of your best supporting claims.

Writing Workshop on Prof. Smith’s Blog

  • Logical fallacies
  • counterargument
  • other claims-related issues for writers of researched argument essays

By 10 pm

  • Comment on the thesis and supporting claims of the people in your review group.
  • Offer suggestions, pose counterarguments, and point out potential problems—particularly if you see any of the logical fallacies we’ve discussed.

Click here to learn how to use categories on Blogs@Baruch to create groups.

Adding a Widget To Your Sidebar

If your theme allows Widgets, you will see a “Widgets” link in the menu under appearance. Widgets allow you to alter what appears in the sidebars and footers of your blog.

WordPress widgets are content elements that can be added to the sidebar of your blog or website. For example, there are widgets that include Delicious bookmarks, Flickr photos, etc. Depending on the theme, you can also further customize the look and feel of your blog/website. Some themes allow you to add a custom image header and other features.

By default, your right side bar will have items such as Recent Posts, Recent Comments, Archives and Categories. These sections will automatically populate as people begin posting and commenting on your blog. However, you may also find it useful to add other widgets to the sidebar, which you can do simply by dragging items from the “Available Widgets” box over to the “Primary Widget Area” box on the right side. You can also change the order that the widgets appear by dragging and dropping within the “Primary Widget Area” box.

Some widgets that you might find especially useful:

  • Authors – This widget gives a list of all the authors who are registered on the blog. It also allows you to quickly click on an author to see all of that author’s posts. This is useful if you have a class in which each student will post many items and you’d like to get a snapshot of an individual student’s work.
  • Links – Displays the items you’ve entered in the Links section.
  • Tag Cloud – Shows the tags that have been attached to posts on the blog, with more frequently-used tags appearing larger.
  • Text – This allows you to plug in any text or HTML code that you’d like to appear in the sidebar.

Adding a Custom Menu to Your Site

Most themes place all of your pages in your blog’s top menu by default, but custom menus allow you to override the default top menu settings of the blog or create secondary navigation sections that you can place in the sidebar with Widgets. You can create menus that will link to any page, post, category, tag, or outside link that you’d like.

These options can be found by clicking the Menus link under Appearance.


Start by giving your menu a name in the “Menu Name” field. Then use the Custom Links, Pages and Categories boxes to create new menu items.

  • Custom Links – This option allows you to create a link to anything on the web. Simply paste the URL from any web page into the “URL” field, then use the “Label” field to give a short designator that will show up in the actual menu, and click the Add to Menu button. You can also use this box to create links to specific posts from your blog, or to all the posts that fall under a specific tag. Just navigate to the item on your blog, copy the URL and paste it in like you would for an external link.
  • Pages – Use the checkboxes to select any page that you’ve created on your blog, and then click the Add to Menu button. The full title of the page will show up in the menu, so you may want to keep your page titles short. (You can also use the “Custom Links” option as a workaround.)
  • Categories – Use the checkboxes to select any category that you’ve added to your blog, then click the Add to Menu button. The title of the category will automatically show up in the menu.

IMPORTANT: Whenever you’re done editing a menu, be sure to click the blue Save Menu button or else your changes will not be saved.

Once you’re done, you can replace the top menu on your blog with your new custom menu by using the “Primary Navigation” dropdown menu in Theme Locations box in the top left corner of the page. You can also go to Widgets and drag your custom menus into any of the available widget locations.

Use Categories to Create Groups

By creating categories for each group, and then insuring that your students apply those categories to their posts as they go up, you can make it easy for students to locate and interact with the the work of their groupmates.

To create categories, go into the Dashboard, and click on the Posts->Categories menu.

Then, create your categories. When your students write their posts, they will show up on the right side of the post editor. Be sure to remind students to select the appropriate category for their group!

You’ll also need to make sure that navigation exists to the category archive for each group. You can add this in a variety of places — but the two best are via a custom menu and via adding a category widget to the sidebar of your site.

Paper Proposal Development Workshop

From Cheryl Smith, for a literature survey class, to be done on a blog the first Sunday of makeup classes:

By class time:

Proposal for Essay 2 Due to the class blog. Your proposal should be one page and cover the following points:

  1. What will your topic be?
  2. What authors and texts will you use?
  3. What do you imagine your thesis statement to be?
  4. How is it a good thesis (see the assignment sheet for a definition of a good argument thesis for this essay)
  5. What trajectory do you think your paper will take (what main points will you cover over 5-7 pages? How will these points contribute to proving your thesis)?

By 10 pm:

Comment on the proposals of the people in your proposal group. Pose questions, suggest good quotes or other materials to use as evidence, help the author refine his or her thesis toward a more argumentative stance, and/or state a potential counterargument to the author’s claims.

Click here to learn how to use categories on Blogs@Baruch to create groups.


Insert Audio Narration into PowerPoint Slides

From Linda Friedman:

For my STA 2000 class, I inserted narration into my Powerpoint slides. We only missed 2 classes, but I created 4 of these pseudo-classes. While you don’t have the interaction of a “real” class, the advantage here is that each student can play to the instructor’s explanation of difficult material as often as necessary and progress at his/her individual pace. I’m going to continue to use this technique even without the incentive of hurricane days.

To insert narration into slides…

  • Select the slide you’d like to add narration to.
  • Go to Edit –> Audio –> Record Audio… (or Audio from File… if you’re inserting audio that you’ve recorded previously).
  • Make sure the proper input device is selected (Built-in Microphone or any external microphone you have attached to your computer)
  • Click the red Record button to begin recording.
    • You can click the Pause button to pause your recording, then click it again to pick up where you left off.
    • When you’re done recording, click Stop.
    • Clicking Record again after clicking Stop will erase anything you’ve previously recorded to that slide and replace it with the new recording.
    • Click the Save button at the bottom of the window to save your recording.

A speaker icon will show up on the slide to let you know that it has been inserted. You can test the audio by clicking the speaker icon, then using the player that appears underneath it.

ppt audio