Monthly Archives: April 2011

To Screencast or not to Screencast ?

I have been looking for some screencasts programs to use for my upcoming summer workshop. Screencast are useful for tutorials, for illustrating powerpoints presentations, to explain a concept or document, for making short presentations, etc. It can also assist the instructor to add additional learning materials and extend the class time beyond the confines of the classroom. There are many tools one can use, like Jing, Camtasia, Screenr, Wink, ScreenJelly, etc. I want to share with the community a wikipedia site that compares all software for screencasts, from free to commercial ones. 

I tried a couple of these programs some are good, some are OK, some… not so useful.  These are the main problems I discovered: 1) once you record your screencast the time to upload the file into a server (also youtube) is infinite, it takes twice as much to upload it than to record it.  2) Some of the software lasts a very short time (the free versions) and records for only 5 minutes — in the case of Jing — and 3 minutes for ScreenJelly. 3) The other limit is that you can’t edit the sound, so if the phone rings after 10 min into your project you have to start all over !

I found a WIKI resource page for screencast, I hope you will find it useful enough to want to try some of these programs.

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The Italian Unification and TV ads

The Italian TV produced several TV ads in celebration of the 150 year since the Italian Unification (1861-2011), The first one revolves, of course, around soccer –one of the few unifying elements — that makes all Italians feel like one (the music underneath is of the Italian National Anthem). Happy Birthday Italy !

The other ads displayed in the clip below show all of the richness of the Italian dialects which are still being spoken throughout Italy today.  The ads make fun of the fact that if we still spoke to each other using the languages spoken 150 years ago we would not be able to understand a single word ! My dialect is not represented in the ad (Emilia Romagna), and therefore I do not understand anything of what people are saying here ! (just like the people in the ad) Not a word. “If we were still living 150 years ago we would all still speak like this…” the ad says at the end. EH?

Check out the ads no need to speak Italian.


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The Added Value of Teaching with Technology

In the last 10 days I participated at two technology conferences. One was about ePortfolios (AAEEBL) and one was about blended learning (Sloan C). At the first presentation I went with a colleague of mine, Dr. Kate Culkin. Both she and I presented separate powerpoint presentations in which we discussed how we were able to successfully integrate podcasting in teaching history and foreign languages. We both addressed the added value or using ePortfolios & Podcasting in our respective classes and how this has improved students’ learning. Dr. Culkin’s presentation argued how significant the use of podcasting has been in making students feel and act like public historians. Moreover, the other important point emphasized is that students were allowed to reflect about who acquires the right to talk about history and who is allowed to write it. Podcasts were presented which showed how the activities assigned to students allowed them to think in depth about the historical process.

My presentation discussed how valuable podcasting production is for foreign language teaching, in terms of improving oral and aural proficiencies. Furthermore, I provided concrete evidence of how the learning objectives, as well as the Gen Edu objectives, are aligned with the technology used. I showed the work of my students discussing topics that range from slow food vs fast food, personal narratives, recipes,  etc. The AAEEBL provides a resource page with some of the presentation offered at the conference, if interested; you can consult their website,

What are in conclusion the added values of ePortfolio & Podcasting?

  • Learn how to communicate in public about educational content
  • Keep track of progress overtime (ePortfolio does not go away, unlike Blackboard)
  • Be able to share information, knowledge with a community of learners
  • Decentralize learning which no longer comes exclusively from the teacher
  • Share resources among other sections of the same class.
  • Increase interest for subject matter: students are more willing to do the assignments if the class is more engaging.


At the Eporfolio conference we learned what other colleagues are doing and how ePortfolios can be used, from language placement (having high schools produce language artifacts as evidence of proficiencies), to open source ePorfolios such as WordPress and Mahara. We also learned about instruments and analytics used for assessment such as Pearson LearningStudio’s ePortfolio.

At the 8th Annual Sloan-C conference I met several people who are interested in making a difference in students’ education and listened to a very thought-provoking presentation from the keynote speaker, Josh Jarret (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) at the plenary address. Just as an aside — there were aspects about Jarret’s presentation that made me jump out from my chair. No one dares to address the fact that all of us (especially the top 1% of the richest people in America) should start to think about paying more taxes to fund public education (like Canada and Europe) if you want public universities and schools to be affordable for students. This is another topic for another day, but I believe that this is a big issue in the United States that no one wants to address. The panel which I enjoyed the most was “Social Media to Facilitate Community Building Engagement”. I reported some of the ideas we could implement to the director of OIT, since our college is moving along a proposal for an online degree. I take away the idea of how to better integrate social media (Facebook and Twitter) in the classroom and consult more often the following resources: Teacher youtube channel, TED/ED, Edu-Tastic which I gladly share with the CUNY Commons Community. I learned that you can send tweets as a text message, publish photos and use podcasting ,etc. Check it out,

The principal philosophy about using technology in the classroom is that pedagogy should drive the technology and not vice-versa. I heard Dr. Picciano drive home this point at the conference in Chicago during one of the plenary sessions. This type of conceptual rationale is somewhat lacking and it should be more visible in technology-based panels — ideally it should become the starting point of such conversations. Most of the social media session I attended did not sufficiently address this issue in detail, perhaps since the people speaking were not faculty members but for the most part administrators. I would like to offer some good reading on this topic to gain some perspective on this important issue, article I “Pedagogy-Based Technology Training” and article II, “At the Intersection of Technology and Pedagogy: Considering Styles of Learning and Teaching”, I look forward to more conferences. A presto ! Ciao!

Photo — Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) Bacchus.

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