An Educator’s Dilemma: Designer or Off the Rack?

To “jazz things up” and to engage diverse learners, educators constantly seek innovative ways to introduce and reinforce content to students. YouTube, Prezi, and repositories are but a few locations to find ready-made content. While easily accessible, it takes time to research, preview, and select the right material. Although online material is abundant and will satisfy the learning objective, sometimes “Good enough” isn’t acceptable, thus creating one’s own content becomes a necessity. The distinct advantage of creating content is the product will be designed to  meet a specific need. Further, “settling” becomes a non-issue because when one creates his/her own content, the points will be presented as one wants and in the order desired. Also, the format and style will be exactly as one wants. While it takes time to select ready-made content, it takes time to develop and create content. Content, like clothing, becomes a choice between off the rack or custom-made. And like clothing, time factors such as “How long until I need it?” and “How long until I get it?” affect the decision whether to choose ready-made or designer content.


Multimedia Usage Enhances Student Learning

Give a couple examples in which multimedia (any combination of video, audio, graphics) would help the learning process. Give a couple examples in which you would NOT want to use multimedia.

As with any resource utilized in a class, careful selection is key.  In other words, multimedia should not be used for the sake of using multimedia. Rather, multimedia should be selected to compliment course materials.  As a result, effective multimedia selection will enhance student learning.

Most educators have utilized videos or DVDs in their classrooms. However, sometimes a clip from a film is all that is needed to convey the point needed in using this multimedia format. For example, there is a scene from the movie “U-571” which shows racial intolerance and compliments Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son. The visual representation depicts Wright’s ideals in a way that brings his literature to life. The video creates a reality for students in a way that they are able to connect.

Music is often overlooked as a multimedia format. I have played music as a journal assignment. I usually select something I know students are unlikely to have heard. I play it twice. Students are to respond on an emotional level on the first play, and then an intellectual level for the second play. A class discussion follows. Its purpose is to stimulate critical thinking skills where students are told, “No longer is a Yes/No response acceptable. You need to substantiate your viewpoint.” This activity helps students learn how to use critical thinking skills which they transfer to writing paragraphs or essays.

Audio recordings help students comprehend a difficult story or poem. As a side benefit to a literary audio performance, students are able to hear words that may be difficult to pronounce or dialects that may be difficult to imagine. This is as close to podcasts as I’ve utilized thus far; however, podcasts are now on my radar. According to Gardner Campbell in “There’s Something in the Air”, student podcasts provide a sense of connectedness and a forum for discussion.  Campbell introduces the term “profcasts” which is a podcast recorded by a professor. He suggests that a profcast will “plant seeds of interest” for the student. Dan Baltzer and Susan Manning in their podcast “Hearing Voices in Online Courses” (on which our instructor Norm Garrett is referenced) concur. Baltzer and Manning suggest that podcasts provide “contextual information to support the readings” and provides a forum to personalize the class and create a connection with the students.  Thus, podcasts are a technology I need to evaluate if and when I teach an online course.

Using multimedia addresses diverse learning styles and creates different types of opportunities for student learning. Other than a lack of unavailability, I’m unable to think of a scenario when I wouldn’t consider multimedia implementation if it would enhance instruction.

Using A Podcast: Critical Thinking Skills at the University Level

The following podcast defines critical thinking skills and how a student should apply them to university studies:  An audio transcript is provided. The first step of writing is brainstorming. This podcast addresses the issues of mind mapping, data chunking, and notetaking. The information in the podcast reinforces ideas presented in class, so I would assign listening to it for homework and have students take notes on the podcast. In class, I would allow students to use their notes to write a paragraph about the key points learned from the podcast. I found it difficult to find a podcast that I would use as a class assignment.

Repositories Offer Cross-Curricular Opportunities

I like to think of repositories as materials to use for cross-curricular activities. So often, one source material has multiple applications.  For example, offers a selection of materials that while organized by content areas are easily used in other content areas than intended. For example, the series, “Drama Based on Historical Characters: Angus Augustus Burleigh, Civil War Soldier” is found under the Social Studies area. However, if the course curriculum references the Civil War and includes readings about it, this particular video could bring the time period to life for the student. It could offer the same viewpoint, if the viewpoint is the Union, or it could provide an opposing viewpoint, if the reading is from a Southern perspective. Most importantly, the visual of the video will help put the course material in context. This piece could be used in a history class for the same reasons as in the English class. Here’s the link for this particular repository item:

Video Flick Depicts Student Concerns

I’ve been looking for a video to reinforce my introduction to the Comparison-Contrast essay. Because students analyze two pieces of literature, I teach them to write a Dual Text Analysis.  I found GoAnimate “Writing the Comparison-Contrast Essay” at This particular video will help students overcome the fear of writing in a new style and offers insight into the importance of the essay thesis.

Students will respond to this video because of its anime format. Further, the characters react just as students react when unclear about an assignment. The video will reinforce materials in a somewhat comical way, yet with serious undertones.

This video will be shown after students receive introductory materials about this style of writing. I will then show the video. Students will then react to the video in a reflection which will then be discussed.

And diigo is its name…


D = digest of   

I = Internet  

I = Information  

G = Groups and    

O = Other Stuff


According to, in its Diigo section, diigo “is a powerful free social bookmarking website with annotating capabilities”. At first I thought diigo was simply a place to house bookmarks. While it is just a place to collect resources, it is also a bit more. As an advocate of booknoting and old school in preferring books to online materials, diigo at least provides a compromise for me. Using diigo allows me to bookmark sites that interest me and then store the URL in a place other than on my computer. Since my bookmark list of favorites on my computer merely reflects sites of intermediate interest, diigo is a useful tool. Further, diigo allows me to store the site or article in My Library. Click here to see what I’ve stored so far:

At first, I was unhappy about adding additional software to my toolbar, yet the blue symbol (a cobalt blue box with the white outline of what looks like a lower case “d” missing part of its stem top or a musical note located in the upper right corner of my computer does not detract from or interfere with anything else I have loaded on my computer. If I’m on a site such as to learn about diigo 101 and I want to save the site for future reference, I click on the blue symbol. Next, when taken to the diigo site, I choose My Library, and click on the Add+ button. It’s that simple.  As a member of the MVCR Technology Group, I have the option of storing materials that I think others might find useful, in the group section.

As one who likes to underline, comment, question, and connect to literature when I read (hence I enjoy booknoting), diigo enables the user to highlight and save the highlight. Further, it allows the user to add a sticky note and make comments and ask questions on it, and then save it too. The annotated site, filled with highlights and sticky notes can then be added to My Library in diigo by clicking on the symbol just as I saved a site.

This site is one I could suggest to students who purchase online textbooks. In this way, they would be able to annotate and increase their comprehension and be able to easily access the remarks they made and placed in their library. I could establish a class library too and leave participation as optional or offer minimal extra credit to those who utilize diigo. Initially, I didn’t see diigo as a teaching tool; however, I now see some exciting and engaging possibilities.