Freshmen and their top uses of mobile technologies

smartphonewithappsIt’s a year since I last taught the Freshman Odyssey here at UGA on mobile technologies. Things have changed, but then again, things really haven’t. I asked last year’s group to create a “top five” list to describe the technologies they use and how they use them (see  I’ve got my students working on that again this year (in fact, they are right here working on it).

SO the 2013 list of things that freshmen do with mobile technologies looks like this:

  1.  The UGA app (or whatever college/university you attend). It may not be accurate at all times, but it helps coordinate bus schedules and routes and more! Dining halls, maps, directories, Bulldog Bucks, sporting events. Look for one of these and use it!
  2. Emoji (Design?). Go download these and put them on your settings. Texts without emoji are boring. These help convey a message – especially with sarcasm, which is difficult to convey over text.
  3. Security. First, secure your device. Lookout can pinpoint location of phone, or set a siren off if you cannot locate it. Second, security in social media. Manage your settings! Just Delete Me to find out if and how to do it).
  4. Organization. Essential as incoming student. Procrastination is  a big deal. Color Note is really good. Color coding each subject helps Word of advice: Sit at beginning of semseter and enter dates, and/or continue with weekly updates. iCal is still great because it can sync to the Cloud and with other tools like Gmail.

    Organization includes storing and organizing files. Google Drives, and Dropbox are essential. Copy and Box are other tools that offer free space. So does iCloud.

  5. Communicate. Group Me is still a popular tool but word of warning – it drains your battery to have push notifications all the time. You’ll need to be selecting about what you allow to notify you.

That’s all! I hope you’ve found this list helpful. Stay tuned next Fall when we do this activity again with another great group of students here at UGA!

Go Dawgs!


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Dr. Kopcha on NPR

Image of nook technology

Pre-kindergarteners at the Rebecca Blaylock Child Development Center in Rome are adding Nook tablet computers to their books, finger paints, pencils and blocks in the classroom. (Photo Courtesy of Michael Nienaltowski via Flickr.)

Yes it’s true. You may not of heard this yet but GPR (Georgia Public Radio) has finally recognized the genius that I am. They put me on the radio!

Now don’t get too excited. My sound byte lasts about four seconds. But that’s four more seconds than a lot of people I know have had on public broadcast, some I’m pretty proud of it!

You can read about it and hear my sound byte on the NPR site:

Don’t want to take the time to listen to it?

Yeah I can’t blame you – I wouldn’t either. Even though it’s only four seconds, it’s four seconds of me going on about how great technology is. Who wants to  listen to that nonsense?

Here’s what I said: Technology is only good when (and because) it can improve the way students and teachers interact. I was trying to keep the human element in the conversation.

Here’s why I said it: There’s a lot of rhetoric these days about how computers can take the place of teachers. There’s even more evidence of that rhetoric when you look at ideas like personalized learning and the like – now don’t get me wrong, those strategies and technologies might be successful someday. But if they are or ever will be, it will only be because it helps strengthen the way that students and teachers interact.

Take that out of the equation, and you get this…

Image of learning machines from 1900's

Image of learning machines from 1900’s

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Immersive Overlays

Hey folks, I’m here to talk to you today about something very exciting that I’ve been thinking about with regard to technology integration. What is it, you ask?

Immersive Overlays

The idea of immersive overlays draws on the power of mobile technology. With mobile technology we have the opportunity to transform the surroundings of any point in time in any point space using caches of digital content. I am calling those pockets of digital information a “digi-cache” (A google search suggests that I am first to stake claim to this term! Woo-hoo!)

A digi-cache is a pocket of digital information and content that has been stored out on the cloud for someone to access. The digi-cache is assembled in way that a person or learner can experience information related to a specific location at a specific point in time.  That digital content could be text, but with recent advances in digital technology will also include video or audio (or any other form of media from which we learn or acquire information, really).

By placing digi-cashes out in the cloud, we can provide our learners with access those caches later via a mobile device. In doing so, we enrich the experience of being in a particular place with content that comes from a particular point in time. That time could be current time or it could be a point in the past.

An Example

I’m going to start with the example of a scavenger hunt. There are number of apps available that allow you to create virtual scavenger hunts that can be accessed through mobile device. These apps (e.g. Scavenger Hunt with Friends, SCVNGR, etc.) allow you to lay digital content in the cloud so that it maybe accessed later. Imagine this in downtown Athens (I am a Dawg after all – GO DAWGS!). You can take photos of specific objects or locations on your scavenger hunt. With a mobile device, these can be assembled online for you or your learners to go and interact with a later point in time. The nature of this type of experience, then, changes the way you interact with that point in space at this particular point in time.

An Immersive Experience in Time

If part of your scavenger hunt was to find historical objects and location (e.g. double-barred cannon and the Civil War, Georgia Theater and REM, the UGA arch and Civil Rights) then you can immerse someone more heavily into content associated with the history of those points and locations. In this way we have the ability to transform how someone interacts with their current environment and immerse them more heavily in that environment and the history of that environment in a very unique way.

Sounds Like a Gimmick – Where’s the Learnin’?

Glad you asked. Yes, this is sort of gimmicky. It has the potential to stay technology-focused and lose novelty quickly. Unless… (queue the sinister transition music).

You guessed it. Unless we can find a way to elevate the quality of content so that the experience is immersive in a way that tickles our curiosity and invites us to dive more deeply into the information surrounding a location in a specific point in time. I’ll have more on this in the near future…but hint hint – it has to do with instructional design!

Did I pique your interest?

Good. I cannot do justice to the full magnificence of this idea and the reality of it (which I am currently working on) in a single post. (Well, I could, but it’d be a long and painfully boring post…)

Instead, my goal is to explore the idea of Immersive Overlays™ over several posts. I want to give real examples. I want to give you a chance to experience immersion. I want you to see how this connects strongly to key cognitive theories about learning, like conceptual change and situated learning. I know you want to know more…

All in good time. For now, let this idea marinate.

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Top 5 Ways to Improve the Freshman Experience with Mobile Technologies

I’m currently teaching a First Year Odyssey at the University of Georgia.  I’m working with a small group of freshman as they learn more about using mobile technologies to improve their personal and academic lives.  So far, they’re doing a great job.  Both they and I are learning a lot about what life is like with mobile technology, and how to actively pursue ways to improve learning with mobile.

In a recent activity, we hammered out a ‘Top 5’ list about the top 5 ways mobile technologies can improve or have improved their lives.  Here’s our final list:

  1. Communicate.  Using tools like IM/Text, Facebook, and GroupMe, students can easily coordinate study sessions, share study guides, and talk about course topics.
  2. Organize.  This is where many students are focused right now.  Tools like iCal, iStudiez Pro, and Google Calendar offer lots of great tools for setting up reminders, color coding events, and organizing due dates. With iCloud and Google Drive, it’s easy to sync these across devices so that you have your information at all times.
  3. Study Aids.  Study Blue allows you to take notes, make flash cards, and pull flash cards all in the cloud.  There’s lots of Flash Card apps out there that pull from sites like Quizlet and Flashcard Exchange but also allow you to build your own. Great for those classes with lots of new content and language to master!
  4. Design/Performance Tasks.  Have to design something? Try searching Pintrest for ideas about decor, architecture, or other things. Use community sites like Diigo to see what others are tagging out there.  I personally love the Diigolet that installs quickly into my Safari browser – it makes tagging on the go very easy and simple!

Ok. #4 there actually counts as two things, but the idea is similar so I grouped them. Thus, we’ve got the Top 5 things these freshmen are doing with their mobile technology.

Remember, these come straight from the students – I did not make this up!  These students have got a lot more going on, but this brief summary provides a nice overview of our work to date.  Looking forward to seeing how this semester ends with these students.  It’s been fantastic so far!

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Improving End-of-course Presentations with Technology

Here I am speaking with Dr. Lloyd Rieber about a little innovation we’ve implemented to address those dreadfully boring end-of-course presentations. It’s about 20 min long, and is done in a ‘car talk’ style of chatting. Enjoy!


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Why I don’t blog more (but really, really should)

Do you blog? When was your last blog post — Days? Weeks? Months?

I blog about instructional design and technology, so the points made in this post refer to that topic specifically. My last serious set of posts was nearly two years ago. That’s a long time; if I were a dog, that’d be over 10% of my life that I wasted on activities other than blogging. Why? I’ll list my top few excuses; I bet your excuses are similar if not identical.

  • I don’t have time.
  • I have nothing new to say.
  • I’m not a good writer.
  • Blogs are for narcissists who want to hear themselves talk and be some sanctimonious windbags.

Let me address each excuse, one by one, and explain why I’ve now come to realize that I really, really should be blogging more often (and perhaps you should too).

  1. I don’t have time. Time is about priorities. If I want something, I can make it happen. For example, let’s say I want to work out. Instead of sleeping until 7:30am each morning, I could get up an hour earlier and work out. Which won’t happen until I decide that working out is more important than sleep.Same here. You won’t blog until you decide it’s more important that something else. Which means it ought to get you something. If you can figure out how blogging helps you get something you value, then you’ll do it.For me, the practice of writing — organizing thoughts, articulating them, illustrating them with images — is value added to my life. I’m a professor, so I am rewarded for writing. If there is a reward for writing in your world, blogging is for you (some blogs, like Blogger, post ads and share profits with you; money is another great motivator and offsets the loss of time nicely).
  2. I have nothing new to say. Yes, you do. Especially if you are a technology specialist who is ‘in the trenches’. I want to know what you do, why, and how. I want to know how you use technology with K12 students. Because my life is dedicated to researching that. And your blogs help me figure out what questions you want answers to.I promise others want to know your thoughts and practices. So share them. Be brief; be direct; be great. Share. I and others like me want to know.
  3. I’m not a good writer. Neither were the good writers. Until, that is,  they wrote (and wrote, and wrote, and wrote). If you teach kids to write, then you’ll be modeling excellent skills by blogging. If you want to learn to write better, most research says you need to write more to get better.Plus, writing for public consumption is a whole new ballgame. You’ll be told if you suck (And you will bet told that. Often. And it will help you get better.)
  4. Blogs are for narcissists. Umm…well…I, ah…Ok, you got me. I’ve no argument there. I love seeing how many people visit my blog each day, why they are here, and what search terms got them here. But feeding my ( and your) ego is only a small percentage of the benefits of blogging. And it’s a healthier way to feed your ego than, say, belittling everyone you interact with. Keep in mind that the biggest contributing factor to the success of most blogs IS the personality that comes through them. So letting yourself — your true self — out to the world every so often this is not entirely a bad thing…

Yes, there are hundreds of blogs out there written by folks who think their own personal Existential Crisis (and emotions that go with it) are both unique and at the same time profoundly interesting to the rest of the world. Let’s not knock them — perhaps the catharsis that comes from blogging is healing for them, and I’m on board with helping anyone who wants heal do so. (In fact, I did just that, a few times. Then I learned how self-indulgence does not an engaging blog make and moved on. See it here:

I do know that when I follow bloggers who write about what I like, I’m a better person for it. I have more ideas, I see more perspectives, and I think more broadly about the things I’m interested in. If I can do the same for someone else through my own blog entry, then I’ve just found another great reason to blog.

sign language of the word 'blog'I hope you find a great reason soon, if you haven’t already.

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eSupervision prepares teachers 21st century style


The problem? Imagine you are a teacher educator.  Your Dean (or whomever) says to you, “We have to train our student teachers better than we are now. We also have to cut our budget by 10%.” What would your answer be?

Traditional supervision commonly involves having a student teacher work closely with a cooperating teaching in the field. A supervisor from the University will observe the student teacher periodically and monitor progress. The quality of mentoring varies from placement to placement. More often than not, student teachers are rewarded for imitating their cooperating teachers (who often use traditional lecture-style strategies) and learn little about teaching in new or innovative ways.

eSupervision model

eSupervision technology bridges student teachers with other novices and experts

Our solution? At San Diego State University, my colleague Dr. Christianna Alger and I developed eSupervision ( as our answer to that dilemma. With initial input and support from Drs. Nancy Farnan and Allison Rossett (to whom we owe a debt of gratitude), we developed an online system that improves the supervision of our student teachers while in the field (i.e. clinical experience).

What did we do? Using the open-source course management tool called Moodle, we developed a technology-driven cognitive apprenticeship. Cognitive apprenticeships consist of a number of elements that technology has the potential to support, including modeling, scaffolding, coaching, reflection, and community. With technology, the benefits of social constructivism and distributed cognition (see also computer-supported collaborative learning) can be more fully realized.

Supervisors engage in less face-to-face observation and more online coaching, support, and guidance. A lot more. Online discussion boards. Video. Modularized, self-paced instruction. Just-in-time support. Individualized feedback. Participation in a community of learners. We took the well-known, research-based uses of technology and pedagogy that improve student teacher supervision and blended them together in an online environment.

The results? Awesome. eSupervision students perform as well, if not better, on average than students who receive traditional supervision [we used a quasi-experimental design with matched control group]. Many eSupervision students report larger gains in self-efficacy that those who receive traditional supervision, and attribute it, in part, to greater coaching and feedback from a wider variety of experts and peers.

If you are thinking about moving towards eSupervision at your own institution, or with your own group of student teachers, please let me know how I can help. We’ve been honing eSupervision and our research on it for the better part of the last four years; I’m happy to consult or share my thoughts in greater detail.

Related publications

  • Alger, C., & Kopcha, T. J. (in press). Technology Supported Cognitive Apprenticeship Transforms the Student Teaching Field Experience. The Teacher Educator.
  • Alger, C., & Kopcha, T. J. (2009). eSupervision: A Technology Framework for the 21st Century Field Experience in Teacher Education. Issues in Teacher Education, 18(2), 31-46.
  • Kopcha, T. J. (accepted 2011). Technology as a tool for increasing self-efficacy knowledge during the field experience. Paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.
  • Kopcha, T. J., & Alger, C. (accepted 2011). The impact of technology-enhanced student teacher supervision on student teacher knowledge, performance, and self-efficacy. Paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

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