Tweeting for Education

-By Ashley Canning, Educational Technology Instructional Designer

TwitterBirdLogoAccording to Pew’s Social Media Update 2014 edition, Twitter has seen a significant increase in user activity over the past year. As the popularity of the social tool continues to grow, many instructors are looking for ways to use Twitter to enhance their teaching arsenal and their students’ learning experience. Here are a few ways to get you started with using Twitter in education.

Expand your Knowledge and Teaching Toolkit with Hashtags

Hashtags are like the subjects of tweets. There are a ton of hashtags relevant to education. A few of the more popular ones include #edchat, #edtech, and #elearning. You can simply search Twitter for these hashtags to see what people are saying about a topic. This can help you find new ideas and learn about latest trends. You can find an extensive list of educational hashtags here.

Network with Other Educators

There are a lot of experienced educators out there that regularly post great teaching ideas to Twitter. Following these educators will allow you to stay up to date with what they are using in their classroom and, like hashtags, can give you new teaching ideas. Just a few of the educators that we follow in Ed Tech include Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom), Derek Bruff (@derekbruff), and Jamie Forshey (@edutech20).

Don’t forget to also follow colleagues at your own institution! It’s a great way to network and see what peers are using to enhance their students’ learning.

Learn from the Experts

Not only are there many experienced educators to follow, there are also experts in the areas in which you teach. You can do a quick Google search for “best [your field] Twitter” and find lists upon lists of suggested experts to follow. For example, when I did a search for “best biology Twitter” I came across an article from Teach Thought that listed 100 scientists by category to follow on Twitter. It also helps to look at who your colleagues are following. Remember to encourage your students to follow these experts too. This will help them continue the learning process outside of the classroom.

Many blogs and news outlets dedicated to education are also active on Twitter. Following them will keep you up to date with their latest stories. Just a few of the outlets you can follow include Edutopia (@edutopia), US News  Education (@USNewsEducation), and Inside Higher Ed (@insidehighered).

Share Your Knowledge

After you’ve felt your way around Twitter by following hashtags, fellow educators, and other experts, it’s time to start sharing your knowledge with your students and colleagues! Come across an interesting educational article, successfully try a new technique in class, or recently learn about something exciting or new in your field? Tweet it! And don’t forget to include hashtags so that others can find your tweets in a search!

If you’re going to put effort into sharing your knowledge, don’t forget to share your Twitter handle with your colleagues and students. You can do this by posting it to your course site, adding it to your email signature, or placing it on your syllabus, just to name a few.

Live Tweet during Class

We’ve talked a lot about how you can use Twitter outside of class time, but how can it be used during class? Live tweeting is one great way to use Twitter to engage students during class, whether you hold class in a traditional classroom setting or online.

Live tweeting is a popular conference activity. When we go to a conference, we’re often provided with a conference hashtag so that we can tweet as we learn. Why not try it during class? Create a unique class hashtag, something like #canningmath101, and provide it to your students. They can then use that hashtag to tweet as they learn. This is a great way to keep everyone engaged in the material and gauge student understanding. You can then follow up on any questions and revisit material as necessary. Students can also refer back to the hashtag to see what their peers are taking away from the course.

Exit Tweets

Exit tweets are just a digitized version of exit slips, which are sometimes used to gauge what students have learned during a class meeting. After class, ask students to tweet one thing that they learned during the meeting. Like live tweeting, exit tweets will allow you to gauge understanding and revisit topics as needed. Exit tweets offer a little more control than live tweeting since you are limiting the tweet time to the end of class. This can be a good way to introduce tweeting during class.

Things to Consider

When using Twitter in education, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. First, remember that Twitter is a public platform. Don’t post private student information (grades, class schedules, course feedback) that would violate FERPA.

Keep it professional. It’s okay to mix some fun things in with your professional tweets to make you more relatable. But, for the most part, you should limit your tweets to sharing information on teaching and your field of expertise.

When asking your students to tweet, it’s important that you set netiquette guidelines so that students know what’s appropriate to post.

Share your Ideas!

These are just a few ways to get started with using Twitter in education. If you have other ideas or recommendations for who to follow, share by leaving a comment!


Drake, P.E. (2014). Is Your Use of Social Media FERPA Complaint? Educause. Retrieved from

Duggan, M., Ellison, N. B., Lampe, C., Lenhart, A., Madden, M. (2015). Social Media Update 2014. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

100 Scientists on Twitter by Category. (2012). Retrieved from

Nettiquette for Online Learning. (n.d.). Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence. Retrieved from

The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags for Education (n.d.). Retrieved from

Highlights from the 2014 Northeast E-Learning Consortium Conference: Part 2

-By Ashley Canning and Nola Coulson, Educational Technology

Earlier this month, the Educational Technology Instructional Design team had the opportunity to attend the Northeast E-Learning Consortium Conference at Villanova University. This year’s theme was student engagement. Here are a few more highlights from the event (this is part two of a two-part series).

Synchronous Class Meetings

We attended two different sessions on synchronous class meetings. The presenters in each session discussed best practices of conducting synchronous class meetings via webinar. Features of a webinar include two-way audio, multi-point video, chat, hand-raising, polling, screen sharing and recording the sessions.

The lists below discusses best practices for instructors when preparing and conducting a session.

  • Be prepared. This includes spending time learning the webinar system and its capabilities and preparing your presentation material.
  • Avoid distraction. Sit in a quiet space.
  • Login to session early to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Welcome each student individually at the beginning of each session
  • Show webcam at the beginning of the session and have students show their webcams at the beginning of the session and talk informally to check their microphones and speakers and to promote a sense of community.
  • Make the session interactive. Use the polling, chat and whiteboard features.
  • Record the sessions, so students can review the webinar and revisit the topics covered at a later time.

Also discussed was the importance of preparing students.

  • Create a FAQ document, including system requirements.
  • Provide a video overview of how to access session and use the tools within the session.
  • Have students login to the system before the first session to perform a trial run on their computers.
  • Provide students with support contact information, should they encounter any technical issues.

By following the best practices above, you can help to ensure a successful and engaging synchronous webinar session.

Preparing and Engaging the Online Learner

This session discussed the importance of orienting students to the online environment and using interactive techniques to engage learners.

The presenters created a self-paced course that students were recommended to complete in order to prepare for taking an online class. Topics included how to navigate the online course management system as well as how to use the system’s learning tools.  The course also provided examples of how to complete tasks like posting to the discussion board, submitting assignments, taking tests etc.

The Duquesne Educational Technology Department has a Blackboard Student Orientation that is available to all students in Blackboard under their My Courses area. This orientation includes the following sections: navigation and course content, Blackboard tools (for example – submitting assignments, using the discussion board, sending email, viewing grades, and using collaborate web conferencing) and how to get technical help.

The presenters went on to talk about how faculty can engage students in an online setting by using the following techniques and tools.

  • Design the course in an organized manner, so students can easily navigate the course and stay on task. To do this, create folders that include weekly objectives, readings, and required and supplemental activities.
  • Create a sense of community within your course by using icebreakers. For example, have students introduce themselves in the discussion board or a blog post.
  • Use a variety of tools that help students reach learning goals, while being engaged.
  • Provide short video lectures on course topics.

By making an online course interactive and engaging you are helping students to connect with you, their peers, and the course content. These connections help them to reach higher levels of thinking and retain topics long after the course has ended.

What Do You Want to Learn More About?

Want to learn more about any of these topics? Select one or more topics below and we’ll blog about them in a future post!


Agresta, J., Dos Santos, M., Wagner, W. (2014, November) Real-time Students Engagement via the Web. Presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

Perun, S. (2014, November) Promoting Meaningful Student Engagement in Synchronous Classrooms. Presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

Simms, M., Darlington, S. (2014, November) Preparing and Engaging the Online Learner. PowerPoint presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

Highlights from the 2014 Northeast E-Learning Consortium Conference: Part 1

-By Ashley Canning, Educational Technology

A little over a week ago, the Educational Technology Instructional Design team had the opportunity to attend the Northeast E-Learning Consortium Conference at Villanova University. This year’s theme was student engagement. Here are a few highlights from the event.

Using Video for Assessment

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Using video in the classroom isn’t a new idea. However, it seems like instructors are always coming up with new ways to engage students through the use of videos. Presenter Ann Scheve, discussed how she uses a YouTube series called Caring for Walter in an online Health Assessment course. Students view videos within the series and perform functional assessments on one of the video’s stars, Walter, based upon how well he is able to function on his own. The presenter pointed out that YouTube creates greater and deeper learning as multimedia stimulates both sides of the brain, which results in student excitement and engagement.

The Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom has been a hot topic in education lately and there was no shortage on sessions devoted it. One session, led by Ross Lee and Mary McRae detailed how an Engineering program recently implemented the flipped classroom model. The idea behind implementing the model was to allow for more student engagement and less lecture in the physical classroom. Their approach was to have students view a mini-lecture (about 10-20 minutes long) during the week leading up to class. They were also given a pre-class assignment that asked them critical thinking questions based on the videos.

During class time, the instructor did still give a short lecture that built upon the pre-class video and assignment, but the class was focused more on question and discussion. Students also worked in groups to research topics that extended that extended their learning, and allowed them to practice and apply their new knowledge. Groups then shared their research and findings with the entire class.

Students were surveyed following their course. Feedback indicated that they enjoyed and learned from the pre-assignments.  Statistics pulled from the learning management system also indicated that students went back and reviewed the mini-lecture videos more than once to gain a better understanding. Students also stated that they were passionate about applying their knowledge and sharing information with the entire class.

While there were a lot of positives, one negative comment students made was that the course workload was a lot. Based upon this, the instructor is looking into ways that he can balance out-of-class and in-class activities so that students are engaged and reach their learning objectives without being overwhelmed.


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Gamification has been around for a while, but it seems to be gaining more steam in education lately. In its essence, gamification is applying game-design thinking to non-game applications in order to make them more fun and engaging.

Presenter Andy Petroski recently implemented gamification in his Learning and Technologies Solution course. Andy’s course was designed so that students worked on teams to complete quests (assignments) and earn experience points (grades). This course had a bit of a World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons feel, but you can tailor the design to your audience. One of the main tenants of Andy’s course was that students had a lot of choices. Students had to complete a variety of different quests in order to meet learning objectives and earn experience points. However, they were able to choose the quests they went on based upon their interests rather than completing the same assignment as everyone else in the class, which is common in traditional courses.

According to Andy and professor/researcher Lee Sheldon, gamification has a lot of upsides:

  • Learning is student-centered and individualized
  • There is a focus on student exploration
  • Gamified courses are immersive and collaborative
  • There are a lot of opportunities for students: when exploring, students can fail at things but learn from those failures in order to succeed
  • Studies show that students performed better and were more engaged and prepared when they came to live class sessions.

Andy also noted that it is important that faculty provide students with ongoing feedback and that you should sit back and look at how the course went to see if any tweaks are needed the next time around. One change that Andy plans on implementing in the future is to have a little more structure. Some students actually felt lost with all the freedom.

For more on gamification, check out Lee Sheldon’s book, The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a game. You can also visit the presenter’s website here.

What Do You Want to Learn More About?

Want to learn more about any of these topics? Select one or more topics below and we’ll blog about them in a future post!


Lee, R. & McRae, M. (2014, November). Flipped Classroom - On-line Hybrid Teaching. PowerPoint Presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

Petroski, A. (2014, November). Implementing a Multiplayer Classroom - Results from Designing a Class as a Game. PowerPoint Presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

Scheve, A. (2014, November). Using YouTube Videos as Standardized Patients. PowerPoint Presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

EDpuzzle: Engaging Students with Interactive Videos

-By Ashley Canning, Educational Technology Instructional Designer


The first thing you see when accessing EDpuzzle is “make any video your lesson.” That is a great summary of what this tool has to offer. In short, EDpuzzle is a video curation tool that allows you to turn videos into  interactive lessons by cropping them, adding audio, and embedding short quizzes and comments.

First, let’s take a look at EDpuzzle’s various tools and how to use them.

Selecting a Video

edpuzzle_videosearchEDpuzzle allows you to choose videos from a wide variety of sources, including YouTube, TED Talks, National Geographic, and Kahn Academy. You also have the option to reuse lessons created by  other EDpuzzlers.

To get started, simply log in to EDpuzzle as a teacher, click the Create button, and select New Video. From there, select the source you wish to search, enter a search term into the Find a video field and go! While searching, you are able to view the various video options, preview videos, save videos to your “My Videos” library for later use, and select a video to edit right away.

Editing a Video

Once you have selected a video for editing, the video editor will appear. Toggle between the various edit tools to crop, add audio, and embed quizzes. EDpuzzle allows you to:


edpuzzle_cropCrop the beginning/end of a video.

edpuzzle_audiointroAdd your own audio track over the video.

edpuzzle_audionoteAdd an audio note within the video.

edpuzzle_quizAdd open ended or multiple choice questions or comments within the video.

Anytime you select a tool, EDpuzzle provides little tips and reasons to use the specific tool along with a Show me how button that will walk you through the process of adding the tool to your video.

Creating an Assignment

Creating an Assignment allows you to assign your edited video to a class. While you do not have to create an assignment in order to share a video with your students, doing so does allow you to collect data and track student progress and understanding.

edpuzzle_createassignmentYou will be prompted to create an assignment as soon as you have edited and saved a video. Simply choose which class to assign it to (see below for how to create a class), select whether you want to prevent skipping, assign a due date, and save.

You can also create assignments later by selecting My Content from the menu bar located at the top of the page, hovering  over the settings icon (edpuzzle_settingsicon) of the video that you wish to assign, and selecting Assign video.

Creating a Class

edpuzzle_classesEDpuzzle allows instructors to create classes so that videos can be turned into assignments (see above) and student progress and understanding can be tracked.

You are given the option to Add a new class when you create an assignment. You can also create a new or manage an existing class by selecting My Classes from the menu bar located at the top of the page. When you create a class, you will be provided with a code that students can then use to sign up for the class.

Sharing a Video

EDpuzzle allows you to share videos with anyone by providing them with a link or embedding it within an LMS like Blackboard, or any other website. Note that sharing a video, as opposed to sharing an assignment (see above) does not allow you to track student progress.

edpuzzle_sharingTo share a video, select My Content from the menu bar located at the top of the page. This will take you to a list of all of your videos. Hover over the settings icon (edpuzzle_settingsicon) of the video that you wish to share and select Share video.  You will be provided with a weblink and embed code that you can copy and paste into a sharing location of your choice.

Sharing an Assignment

If you’ve created an assignment, you can share it with students in a similar way that you share a video, by either providing a link or embedding code into an LMS or webpage. Unlike sharing a video, sharing an assignment allows you to track student progress.

To share an assignment, sedpuzzle_sharingassignmentimply select My Classes from the menu bar located at the top of the page and select the class that contains the assignment you created previously (see above). Next, click the share icon (edpuzzle_shareassignmentbutton) of the assignment that you wish to share. You will be provided with a weblink and embed code that you can copy and paste into a sharing location of your choice.

When students view an assignment, they will be prompted to sign in (or sign up if they’re new to EDpuzzle) and join the class before they interact with it.

Analyzing Student Data

edpuzzle_studentdataEDpuzzle allows you to track students’ progress and understanding of shared assignments. You can view who has watched an assignment and how each student has done on the quizzes you added to an assignment. You also have the option to reset an assignment for an individual student in order to give them another opportunity to complete it.

To view student data for assignments, select My Classes from the menu bar located at the top of the page, and click the Progress button for the assignment you wish to analyze.

The Verdict

In short, EDpuzzle provides instructors with an easy way to turn a sit-and-watch video into something far more interactive. It takes only a few minutes to get signed up and is relatively easy to learn and use. EDpuzzle also provides a variety of options for sharing videos and assignments and gathering student data.

From the student side, EDpuzzle provides a more interactive learning opportunity than just watching a traditional video. It also allows students to check their own understanding by answering and reviewing embedded quiz questions.

If you’re looking for a fun, easy way to spice up your course, I’d say EDpuzzle is a great option!

To learn more or to give EDpuzzle a try, visit

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Fostering Communication in the Online Classroom

-By Ashley Canning, Educational Technology Instructional Designer

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I’ve had the opportunity to take several online and hybrid courses over the years. Some would simply have a syllabus, documents and assignments posted, and my peers and I would be left to figure out where to navigate, which activities to complete, and when to complete them. These courses, especially the ones that were 100% online, often left me feeling like I was completing an independent study with little interaction with my instructor or peers. I found myself thinking that maybe that was just what online courses were like.

My idea of what online learning is completely changed when I took an asynchronous, 100% online course that made me feel like I was attending class in a physical classroom, not like I was working on an independent study. So what was the big difference between this and other online courses that I had taken previously? In one word, communication.

Here are some of the activities I’ve learned, used, and witnessed firsthand over the years that can help you foster communication in an online class:

Welcome Email/Announcement

It sounds simple enough, right? By sending a welcome email or posting an announcement within Blackboard, you’re opening a line of communication right off the bat. Use the welcome email as an opportunity to tell your students a little bit about who you are and what to expect from the class. You should also provide them with instructions for getting started with their course work so  that they’re not left to explore and find where to begin on their own.

Icebreaker Activities

By having an icebreaker activity early on in the course, you are giving students an opportunity to get to know one another and, thus, making them more comfortable with communicating with each other. This also allows you to get to know a little more about your students.

One great yet simple icebreaker activity is to have students post profiles within a course blog. This gives everyone the opportunity to learn more about their peers. Students are able to make connections to others in the class that they may share interests with. Requiring students to include a photo of themselves in the blog is also a great idea. You’d be surprised at what putting a face with a name can do for opening communication lines. Another option would be to have students set up and explore eachother’s profiles in Blackboard’s Social learn tool.

Q&A Discussion Forum

Have you ever had several different students ask the same question about an assignment? If you have, then I’m sure you’ve wished you could just answer it once and have all the students see it. A Q&A discussion forum is a great way to help with this. Direct students to a Q&A forum as their first point of contact for course questions. It also helps to encourage them to check the forum to see if they are able to answer any questions. When one student posts a question that several may have, either you or another student can answer the question and it’s there for all to see. When using a Q&A forum, be sure you check it often (at least once daily) to make sure student questions are addressed in a timely manner.

One tip to encourage students who may be a little scared to ask a question is to allow anonymous posts.

Water Cooler Forum

When a course is online, students often don’t communicate with each other outside of asking questions about the coursework or working on group projects. Creating a water cooler discussion forum gives students the opportunity to discuss things outside of the curriculum. Being able to communicate in an informal setting about common interests or current topics opens students up to communicating about the course content itself.

 Weekly Updates

It’s easy for students in an online course to fall behind or lose track of what they should be working on at any given time. Providing them with weekly updates via email or course announcements can help keep everyone on track. Use your updates to let everyone know what they should be working on for the week along with what is coming up in the course. This is also a good way to let students know you’re still there and available should they need you.

 Virtual Office Hours

When a course is online, it’s not always easy for a student to stop by your office during office hours. A great alternative is to use a web conferencing tool like Blackboard Collaborate to hold virtual office hours. Give students a specified day and time that you’ll be available in an online session. Students can pop in to ask any questions they may have.

We Want to Hear from You!

Good communication in an online course can build a sense of community, engage students, and create a more comfortable and interactive learning environment. Above are just some of the ways in which you can foster communication in an online class. We’d love to hear other communication techniques you’ve used in your class! Leave us a comment with your experiences and ideas.

DuqEdTech goes to Pitt!

-By Lauren Oczypok, Educational Technology Instructional Designer

Two weeks ago, the University of Pittsburgh’s CIDDE (Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education) hosted Blackboard Day!  Naturally, being just across the way in Oakland, our team was excited to visit and learn from our colleagues and Blackboard representatives.

Blackboard day started out strong with the Blackboard Roadmap session.  We were excited to see some new features that will be added to Blackboard.  Some highlights include:

  1.  Drag and Drop Content Builder.   Can we just say, Thank goodness! This will allow you to create  a folder on your desktop and just DRAG it right in to Blackboard.  Same is true for single PDF, Word, PPT files.
  2. SafeAssign Integration- This one is actually coming very soon!  You will not need to create a separate SafeAssignment, you will now only need to create an Assignment and check a button to send student documents to SafeAssign.
  3. iOS and Android App for Grading- Another very exciting feature that will be coming SOON!  Now instructors will be able to grade assignments on the go from their mobile device!

The next session of the day focused on Designing an Exemplary Course according to Blackboard’s Design Rubric.  Here are some points from that session.

The three elements of an exemplary course, according to Blackboard, are:

  1. Course Design
  2. Interaction and Collaboration
  3. Assessment and Evaluation

Some quick tips to use when designing your course are to chunk your content into small pieces for viewing ease, add your objectives so students know what they will be learning, and also add some content variation (a mixture of YouTube videos, khan academy videos, images, and text).

Some quick tips for interaction and collaboration include adding an orientation discussion for students to get to know one another, mix up the collaboration between students by creating a wiki, or create a course blog assignment in Blackboard so that all students can post about a similar topic in a public place.

Finally, some quick tips for using assessments and evaluations include to have students assess themselves throughout the learning process, create rubrics to clarify expectations, and encourage students to complete a course evaluation both during and after the course has finished.

We hope that you enjoyed this summary of our experiences!  We thank CIDDE at Pitt and truly feel that it was a great learning experience for us.

Cellphones in the Classroom: Distraction or Learning Tool?

-By Megan Tomasic, Educational Technology Student Worker

We all know that students bring their cellphones to class no matter how many times they are asked not to. Well why not have them use their cellphones for their education rather than recreational use? With the invention of Smartphones, students now have access to the Internet and educational apps. Cellphone use can lead to flipping your classroom, submitting materials and handing out documents, and it allows students to have an instant response system for surveys. Not only will cellphone use in the classroom help students, but it will allow teachers to be able to view submitted assignments through apps like Dropbox and Evernote. To solve the controversy and concerns surrounding cellphones in the classroom, have students work in groups or start out by having them use phones for homework use. To read more, visit

Avoiding “Death by PowerPoint”

-By Lauren Oczypok, Educational Technology Instructional Designer

As we all know, as educators or leaders of professional development sessions, sometimes it may be easy to fall into a “PowerPoint funk” per say.  We would like to provide you with some ways that you can spice up your lectures/PD to prevent both you and your students from suffering “Death by PowerPoint”.

  1. Banish Bullets!  According to a recent article published by John Orlando with Faculty Focus and research by Mayer & Moreno,  bullet points can actually confuse the audience.  They are getting two messages from two competing channels (your voice, and the visual PowerPoint slides).  Because these channels are most likely moving at different speeds, the audience doesn’t know how to focus on one or the other and the important message you are trying to convey ends up lost in translation.
  2. Use more Images.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Instead of having your students read the same words that are coming out of your mouth, give them a complementary picture to go along with what you are talking about.  This will force students to listen to what you actually have to say instead of focusing on reading the words on your slides.
  3. Try a different tool, like Prezi.  If you are bored with PowerPoint, most likely you’re students are too.  Start out by switching a few of your PowerPoints lectures for Prezi presentations to get your students more engaged.  Prezi‘s features are unlimited and constantly growing.  With its more interactive interface; you will have more fun creating it, and your students will be more interested in the content being presented leading to success all around.  Check our Ed Tech Training Schedule for a session on Prezi!

Ed Tech joins the Blogosphere!

Duquesne University’s Educational Technology Center has decided to create a blog!  We are excited about this new avenue to share some of the great information that we come across day to day.

On this blog you will find:

  • Articles written by the staff of Educational Technology
  • Guest articles written by faculty in the various 10 schools at Duquesne
  • General tips and tricks about how to teach with technology

Who is Educational Technology?

  • At Ed Tech we strive to find the latest technology trends, tools and programs to help you to improve student outcomes and learning experiences.
  • We support instructors in their use of technologies such as: Blackboard, Turning Point (polling software), Camtasia & SnagIt, SMART and more!

Answer the poll below so that we can understand what you would like to see from this blog.