Best New Tech for Use in the Classroom

Guest post by Dane O’Leary

Technology has grown beyond our wildest imaginations and now permeates just about every area of our lives. Our smartphones are basically an extension of our own bodies while we’ve started to adopt tablets and wearable technology that reinforce our connectivity. The main purpose of the technology we use is to make our lives easier and make us more efficient, to keep us informed of what our friends and loved ones are doing and what’s happening in the world around us, both near and far. And even though things like smart watches and home automation have brought us closer than ever to living in a Jetsons-like world, consumer technology is showing no signs of plateauing; just when you think you’ve seen it all, tomorrow there will be some new gadget to hit the market and a month later we won’t know how we ever lived without it.

In addition to making our lifestyles more convenient, technology even has the potential to make us better at our jobs. Educators and teachers in particular stand to make incredible gains by incorporating some of the new technologies available. Whether it’s to increase connectivity to students, make grading or assigning work faster and more efficient, or simply to streamline instruction in the classroom, here are some of the new classroom technologies available to make educators even better at educating.

The Software

The basis of much consumer technology that we use right now comes from mobile operating systems like Android, iOS, and the much-less-used Windows Mobile. It’s mobile operating systems that run mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and even the new Chromebook notebooks are a unique combination of a mobile device and a standard desktop operating system. As Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile became further refined and more powerful, the devices that run those operating systems began to offer more functionality, especially in the form of apps.

Apps are the packaged programs that run on mobile devices and may very well be the form of technology with the most to offer both educators and students alike. Most apps are free and some cost just a couple dollars from the operating system’s respective app store. Being that they’re available and accessible to just about anyone who owns a smart device—which is just about everyone these days—apps are very easy to incorporate into the classroom since there likely won’t be any expensive hardware that students are required to purchase in order to use the apps.

Google Classroom via the Google Play Store

Google Classroom is a free app for mobile devices—Android, Chromebook, iOS—and is a comprehensive classroom organization tool. Somewhere in between a personal organizer and social media, teachers create groups for each of their classes and simply add their students to the appropriate class group. The students in each classroom can then communicate with each other, exchanging notes or arranging study groups, as well as communicating with the teacher. The great thing about Google Classroom and similar apps is that it provides students a near-constant medium with which they can have their questions answer, either about a previous or upcoming lecture, an assignment, a due date, and so on. Additionally, teachers receive assignments more quickly and can grade them more efficiently while students can access important course materials in Google Drive.

There are a number of other great apps for educational and classroom use as well. An app called ClassDojo is a classroom management platform that provides educators with a convenient points system, allowing them to give points for and monitor things like participation and outstanding achievements or take points away; it also has a number of useful statistics and reporting functions that can be shared with parents and administrators. PowerSchool offers a way for educators to record and track attendance and grades while parents can can access and view this information from home anytime they wish. There are also larger, more powerful software available such as Knewton, which is a digital course supplement that provides instructors with an efficient way to offer differentiated, individualized instruction to each student while also providing a variety of metrics and tools to track student progress and promote student engagement.

The Hardware

It goes without saying that software is of little use without the hardware to run it on. Not long ago mobile technology was a nuisance in the classroom and the spike of students who were trying to sneakily use their cellphones in class was like an epidemic. Over time, the functionality of mobile technology for educational and instructional purposes has become more apparent as increasingly powerful mobile devices could run software that better simulates a desktop experience.

While the basic, non-smart cellphone still exists today, they’re all but obsolete as smartphones have not only become more rich in features, but there’s also a greater variety of smartphones available today and many of them cost very little. And since just about everyone—from teenagers to retirees—carries a smartphone, these gadgets are an ideal opportunity for the implementation of new technologies in the classroom using a variety of apps that are available. Tablets are another mobile technology with great a lot of potential for educational use as they offer a better media-viewing experience, are great for art programs as students can use styluses to create beautiful works of art, and cloud storage allows both students and educators to upload or download crucial classroom documents and files from anywhere.


Google’s Chromebook—a netbook-style laptop computer that runs its own operating system that focuses the user experience on internet access and web applications—is another newer technology with great potential for educational use. Being perhaps the least expensive computer on the market, public and private school schools up to colleges and universities can purchase Chromebooks for student use while paying a fraction of the price that they would for Windows and Mac computers. Additionally, since the Chrome operating system requires internet access for most functions, it seamlessly integrates with Google’s cloud-based storage and web apps. What’s more, the maintenance for Chromebooks is almost nonexistent as they automatically receive and install updates and, much like an Android smartphone or tablet, offer users a level of customization with desktop-like functionality while being simple to setup and use.

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Featured image via OMG CHROME

What Instructional Designing and Education Consulting is NOT

So, what does an instructional designer/education consultant do? Let’s start with what these roles are not in the list below.

1. NOT a graphic designer

It happens a lot. A subject matter expert creates a 100 slide PowerPoint, then hands it off to the instructional designer to make it look pretty, or a request is made for the instructional designer to create a neat cover page for a report or handout. There are people who are gifted and trained in graphics, but instructional design is not about making a PowerPoint slide look good. Having background knowledge in Mayer’s multimedia principles helps, but it does not mean that we will be able to create cool graphics for you. We would be able to tell a client whether a graphic is effective in reinforcing information or if it will be a source of distraction or confusion.

2. NOT a product salesperson

A great salesperson can act as a consultant for a company, however at the end of the day that kind of consultant’s true job is to sell a product and earn a commission. An instructional designer serving as a consultant would see if there are readily available tools that will help achieve learning outcomes, and gather information on whether it would be more efficient and effective to outsource rather than develop instruction in-house.

3. NOT a learning management system administrator

Developing a course would be a role of an instructional designer. However, an organization may see that same person as the guy you go to for password resets, course reassignments, and uploading course records. Some companies may be small enough where the ID guy is also the IT guy running information technology.

4. NOT a “good presenter”

“Oh, yeah, he’s a great presenter!” could be a qualifier added to the introduction of a designer in meetings. Instructional designers come from all walks of life like many other professions. Some started as corporate training facilitators like myself, others came from an IT background, while others gained their experience in the Kindergarden through 12th Grade arena. We could easily rely on those past skills if needed, but that is not the core skill set that an instructional designer brings to the corporate table.

So, what is an instructional designer?

In short, an instructional designer is in a sense an education consultant who uses needs assessment to help an organization identify learning needs, then implement the appropriate learning tasks that will help meet those needs if any are needed in the first place.

When used correctly, an instructional designer can help a company effectively and efficiently utilize its training dollars to improve the bottom line. Correct use includes focusing on identifying gaps in performance, applying the right instruction if needed, and keeping the end in mind at all times. It is about creating the desired outcomes even if that means not using that cool video we saw on YouTube or holding back from creating a PowerPoint to upload into your learning management system to check a box. Many times, your instructional designer will help you recognize that training is not needed at all, and that it requires a change in tools, or process, or simply using what is already available.

When neglected or misused, you wind up with one of the roles listed above and do not truly effect change within the organization’s culture towards excellence. Your company winds up with someone who makes a living by convincing you that you always have to spend money on the next big thing in technology or education. A true education consultant with an instructional design background will work alongside your quality management team when they utilize the PDSA process.

9 Actionable Presentation Tips That’ll Make You Stand Out

This guest post was written by Clemence Lepers from, a blog that helps people like you to build crisp, compelling presentations that get your message across, impress and convert. Clemence’s tips also greatly apply to PowerPoint use in education from an ARCS Model, attention-grabbing perspective, which is why I am more than happy to share her tips. Thanks, Clemence!

Too many presentations are focused on pitching people unimportant details that won’t fix their problems or help them accomplish something they want to. Does that sound familiar to you? Read on. Most of slide decks are designed to generate leads, close deals, educate people or get them to make a decision. The best way to create effective presentations is to define your objectives, build a clear message and offer real value to your audience. Easier said than done, right?

To help you create great decks that stand out, I’ve created an infographic that breaks down the essential steps you need to take. Follow them, and you’ll be set to build a compelling, attention-grabbing presentation that resonates.


Don’t throw your arrows in the dark and always start with asking yourself: “What are my goals, what are my audience goals and how can it all go in the same direction?” Answer that question and you’ll be set to deliver good presentations that make sense and create value for your audience.

Demo: Superimpose Images Using MS PowerPoint

I took some time to tinker with the ability to remove the background of a personal selfie image and superimposed it onto a photo from the LG HDTV meteor prank. You can see the demo above in the embedded YouTube video.

Side note: I decided to use this image for my LinkedIn profile.

Instructional Design Process That I Use

Instructional Design Process Jerry Dugan - New Page

Having a consistent process helps any instructor, facilitator, or public speaker create a lesson, workshop, or course that meets or exceeds the expectations of the audience.

I am sharing a diagram of the typical process I use when designing instruction or a presentation.

The core of the process is the A.D.D.I.E. Model, which stands for the following:

  • Analyze
  • Design
  • Develop
  • Implement
  • Evaluate

Interwoven in that model are the following pedagogy (learning theory), strategies, and other considerations:

Convert Your PowerPoint Slides into Exciting Visual Aids

We have all been there before. Someone has great information to present to a group, but poor PowerPoint slide design makes the presenter seem unprepared and un-knowledgeable.

It is even worse when the presenter uses those same slides as a crutch, turns his or her back to the audience and reads the slideshow to the audience until we have all fallen asleep.

While I can’t do anything to stop those presenters, this blog post can help you NOT BE one of “those people”.

3 Simple Tips to Remember About PowerPoint Slides:

  1. Slides are VISUAL AIDS, not speaker scripts! Speakers tend to use their PowerPoint slides as speaker scripts rather than as visual aids that support their talks and presentations. More graphics, less text. Visually speaking…THIS SLIDE
    Terrible before slide on money orders

    Terrible before slide on money orders.


    The original slide was broken up into three different, visually engaging slides.  This slide should help the message stick that a course is paid via money orders only.

    The original slide was broken up into three different, visually engaging slides. This slide should help the message stick that a course is paid via money orders only.


    CLICK HERE to see how the above slide was made.

    It’s okay to break up information from one slide into multiple slides. Remember, your slides are visual aids to make your points stick with the audience. Multi-modal presentations will present information verbally, visually, and kinetically as much as possible.

  2. If you have to convey a lot of text, or detailed graphs, use handouts and notes pages. A PowerPoint slideshow should be just one of many tools a presenter uses to convey a message.
    Untitled"Quite Possibly The World’s Worst PowerPoint Presentation Ever: A Demonstration of What NOT to do When Creating and Using PowerPoint Slide Shows" from Elmhurst.

    “Quite Possibly The World’s Worst PowerPoint Presentation Ever: A Demonstration of What NOT to do When Creating and Using PowerPoint Slide Shows” from Elmhurst.

    Something like this should be broken up into multiple slides with graphics if it is truly vital to the presentation, AND it should all be available in a handout that can be referenced in the presentation. Again, presenters should use the “Notes Page” function of PowerPoint if they have to remember a lot of text like this in the first place.

    Side Note: A little extra effort goes a long way. Rather than printing out your PowerPoint as “handouts”, take the time to create a high-quality two- or three-page handout. Includes some of the images from your PowerPoint for more stickiness of your points. Get extra kudos by leaving enough space in one margin for the note-takers in your audience.

  3. Know your stuff! If you appear prepared and can present off very little cues from your slides, you send a clear message that you know your stuff. Getting away from high-text, bullet-pointed slides benefits you as the presenter as much as the audience. You are freed up from having to remember what the next bullet point will say. Your images and graphics will help you tell a story that will stick. To get here, however, you have to take the time to rehearse a little. Close that office door, start the stopwatch, and run through your presentation a time or two.

Check Out These Great Examples

8 Best PowerPoint Presentations by Kasia Mikoluk on Udemy

Top 20 Best PowerPoint Presentation Designs by Cubicle Ninjas

Great Articles on Slideshow Design

Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule for Presentations – Makes sense since learning should be an active process for the learner. Limit the lecture as much as possible and allow time for interaction, reflection, and active learning. TED Talks are less than 20 minutes, and contain few slides for a reason. The format works!

Making Better PowerPoint Presentations from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching

Helpful Web 2.0 Tools – Where can you share those great slideshows? – Simple, free, and inspiring. I love receiving their e-newsletter with tips and examples of engaging slideshows. While I prefer Brainshark for the voiceover capability, Slideshare is easy-to-use, and easy-to-share. – Add voiceovers, give control to the viewer to skip to desired slides, include survey questions, quizzes, and integrate into your learning management system as a presentation, or embed into your website.

Wikimedia Commons – When I need something I can can’t create in my front yard, I can come to this website for a lot of Creative Commons content. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due.

PicMonkey – I just learned about this website, and I love it. PicMonkey is a free, easy-to-use photo-editing, web-based application. Did I mention it is free?! Here’s a sample of what I was able to create for my personal blog recently. Click here.

Got any questions? Comment Below and I’ll answer you through a future post. Thanks!

8 Characteristics of Effective Teams

“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” SEAL Team saying

The Wisdom of TeamsA team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, goals, and approach where there is
mutual accountability according to Katzenbach and Smith in their work titled The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization. Teamwork, therefore, is the process, dynamic, or activity of a team used to achieve a common end-game.


Teamwork is essential for instructors, training specialists and facilitators. Team members in the training and education environment include the organization itself (school, business, or community), the students who will participate in the education experience, and any subject matter experts and technical support.

Here are eight characteristics of effective teams:

  1. The team must have a clear, specific goal. Why have the training or instruction at all?
  2. The team must have a results-driven structure. What are your Bloom’s Taxonomy-driven objectives to achieve the training goal? (ABCD Objectives)
  3. The team must have competent team members.
  4. The team must have unified commitment. This is where having a clear, specific goal is important. It is the glue that holds the team together.
  5. The team must have a collaborative climate.
  6. The team must have high standards that are understood by all.
  7. The team must receive external support and encouragement. External support would include the management or leadership of an organization, but could include technical resources like the IT Department or maintenance or custodial team.
  8. The team must have principled leadership.

It is when teams have competent members with clear and specific direction that they are able to achieve more than what any one individual could have accomplished. Effective teamwork allows for synergy of skills and exponential results of the team’s efforts.

Competent Team Members

In order for teams to experience success, it is important that individual team members have the following characteristics: communication, commitment, and responsible decision-making skills.

Open, honest communication is vital both horizontally among other team members as well as vertically with leadership and subordinates. Communication allows teams to make adjustments as information and situations change, and align the team’s efforts towards the common purpose or goal.

Lack of communication results in a product that is merely a hodge-podge of poorly connected efforts, whereas effective communication creates a finished product that is seamless.

Commitment is required of team members who are willing to set aside individual gain for the sake of the greater good and success of the team. Team members who are committed to the team are able to keep their efforts and the efforts of other team members focused on the task at hand.

A team member’s effect on a team is only as good as that team member’s ability to make sound decisions. Good communication and commitment can be undermined by a member who consistently makes poor decisions and judgments in a project (Thornton, 2009.) One example of a good, sound decision, is to complete assigned tasks as early as possible so that other project components can come together in a timely fashion allowing for any necessary adjustments, or communicating with the rest of the team early when a delay is possible.

Works Cited

“Building Blocks for Teams.” Building Blocks for Teams. Ed. Elizabeth J. Pyatt. Penn State University. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>.

Larson, Carl E., and Frank M. J. LaFasto. Teamwork: What Must Go Right, What Can Go Wrong. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 1989. Print.


Thornton, Shane. “Effective Teamwork Skills.” EHow. Demand Media, 04 Sept. 2009. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>.


Relationship of Culture and Poverty in Education

Group presentation in a Masters Degree level course about equality in education. This slideshow is a summary of Chapter 1 from Closing the Poverty & Culture Gap: Strategies to Reach every Student by Donna Walker Tileston and Sandra K. Darling.

In short, there is a need to view education in terms of an asset-based instruction model where everyone in the classroom, whether virtual or face-to-face, brings assets to the group that can aid in learning.

The classroom environment is one that needs to be culturally sensitive to take advantage of the strengths of its students to achieve desired outcomes.

Therefore, a teacher, instructor, or facilitator needs to build a relationship and rapport with students in a learner-centered approach rather than a force-feeding of facts.

Uploading Files for Bay Area Fellowship LifeGroups Leaders

baf-logoI spend a few hours every weekend as the curriculum developer for Bay Area Fellowship’s LifeGroups Ministry. That volunteer role entails listening to the sermon each weekend taking copious notes in Evernote on my Motorola Lapdock. My notes are then converted into a 3-point discussion that fits onto one page if printed. Posting the sermon study in a way that group leaders can download the appropriate file takes some work with HTML, but not much. I demonstrate the steps it takes to post a PDF file onto the curriculum page for Bay Area Fellowship’s LifeGroups Ministry.

In this video you will observe the following:

  • How to read HTML code and know where you are on a webpage
  • How to copy & paste HTML, then tailor the content to your needs
  • How to test your new link, spacing, font, etc.
  • How to insert additional breaks via HTML



Fill out the form below if you have a question, comment, or instructional design need.