Teaching wikis, blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking

I want to pass on a great resource for instructors who need to explain wikis, blogs, RSS, Google Docs, social bookmarking and other such tools to their students. Common Craft have created some of the most effective, to-the-point, and entertaining instructional videos I’ve ever seen; many of the topics they address in their unique, short videos fall squarely under the ed tech category:

All of these tools are easy to use but, admittedly, can be hard to describe. Common Craft completely demystifies them. Have a look:

Pecha kucha and the end of death-by-PowerPoint

While it is probably too much to hope that pecha kucha (pronounced peh-chak-cha) will revolutionize the way slideware is used in the classroom, instructors and students should know that pecha kucha is great for keeping slideware presentations focused and the audience’s interest up — arguably two of the biggest challenges facing PowerPoint presenters.


Like haiku or the sonnet, pecha kucha imposes a strict form on the content. In this case the medium is the slideware presentation. Presenters must show twenty slides — no more, no less — and show each slide for twenty seconds; again, no more, no less. This permits you a mere six minutes and forty seconds to deliver your presentation.


The 20 x 20 format is not meant to restrict so much as to force you to be creative and to stay focused on what’s really important. There is no time for digressions. The pace is quick. The presenters I have seen tend not to read from their slides, thus eliminating redundancy. They say what they have to say then move on the next slide, which is always only seconds away. The audience, aware of the format, anticipates the next slide change, and is never left wondering, “when will this end?” Discussion should come afterwards to allow the presenter to flow uninterrupted. When you’re done, podcast it. Blog it.


Preventing death-by-PowerPoint is only one of pecha kucha’s advantages. The concise and brief format also means you can also rethink your class time. What to do with the leftover time? This is a nice problem to have. Perhaps the best reason to try giving a pecha kucha presentation yourself is you will have to rework — and rethink — your content.


Pecha kucha nights are now held in major cities all over the globe. Participants can present on any topic. The events are social, informative, fun and frequently licensed. That people voluntarily attend events in which they sit through as many as 15 PowerPoint presentations speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the form. Many of the examples on YouTube are well worth a look.

Facilitating Online Learning

This is a short and very readable article that provides tips and suggestions for facilitating online learning. Although it was written specifically as a set of guidelines and reflection of experience for a Science program, the suggestions are definitely relevant to other disciplines. What instructors might find especially useful are the sections on Steps for Composing a Good Facilitating Message, Giving Constructive Feedback, and “What does a group/individual need to move forward?”–many other resources providing tips for facilitation don’t seem to offer the level of pragmatic detail that this resource is providing.

Thinking about Technology in Teaching

Adding technology to a course is often a step that many of us are reluctant to take for a variety of reasons–time and the threat of technological hiccups for one. The Faculty of Dentistry here at UBC is fortunate to have a Technology Support Team (TST) that can help alleviate the time and technology pressures. But…where to begin in thinking about what tool is suitable to your course?

I like this set of resources from Penn State University because it offers some simple technology-assisted solutions to some common areas where many instructors would like improvement in their courses–adding cases, creating good online discussion questions, and even tips for managing emails with students.