Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Google Earth now includes the Sky!
August 27, 2007, 9:02 am
Filed under: Articles

There is just no stopping Google is there? 🙂 They have recently added the Sky into their Google Desktop application. There seems to be a lot of potential here for courses that teach topics related to Astronomy!


According to an article I read in the Grand Rapids Press, an associate professor at the University of Washington serves as a Google visiting faculty member. I’m happy to see that Google sees accuracy as part of the requirement to developing their applications.

The slick part of this tool is that you can quickly and easily move around the sky – day or night! In fact you can view the sky from anywhere on the planet. You can also easily zoom in and view actual Hubble Telescope images from NASA.


Check it out at:

I was able to easily find the constellation the “Big Dipper” which is often challenging for me! 🙂


Hi I’m a Blackboard!
August 21, 2007, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Articles, Work Activities

With the new Fall semester f-a-s-t approaching and new faculty coming to GRCC, I was thinking that a video clip could help illustrate the value of using Blackboard in teaching and learning. I came across this video and found it funny, yet I thought it presented some good points!  🙂


First Users Conference – Wimba Connect 2008
August 17, 2007, 10:19 am
Filed under: Conferences, Work Activities

I was excited to see (on the Wimba Blog) that the first ever, users conference for Wimba was announced. It will take place in Orlando, Florida from March 2-5.There is currently a call for proposals at:

Wimba offers a wide array of teaching technologies that can enhance and extend the classroom. For example, faculty can easily incorporate audio for discussions, live interactions with whiteboard technology, podcasting, instant messaging, and develop unique coursware with a variety of technologies. Best of all, these features are nicely integrated into Blackboard.

Here are GRCC, several instructors are connecting with each other and students using Pronto. If you haven’t seen it, it is an instant messaging (and audio voip) tool that is integrated with Blackboard. It provides an easy way for faculty to stay in touch with students and for students to easily contact each other.

GRCC is also using the Voice Tools product to create unique and interactive lessons for students. Several faculty are using the Voice Boards, Voice Announcements, and Voice Content to enhance and easily add audio to their courses. The Wimba Podcaster also has some potential for allowing faculty to quickly create a course podcast.

The Wimba Connect 2008 Conference should be an excellent opportunity to gather together to share best practices in leveraging the unique capabilities that Wimba offers in teaching and learning!

How Bb is Impacting Student Success! – YouTube Video Contest
August 7, 2007, 10:38 am
Filed under: Articles

I came across a Blackboard Educate Innovate blog entry about a K-12 contest that was offered by Blackboard. In this contest, your school was to create a YouTube video about how Blackboard was being used to promote student success. If selected you could win a free trip to Washington DC!
Congrats to Minnetonka Public Schools, located in Minnesota, for winning this contest! Here is their winning video clip on YouTube. (What a great city by the way, Lake Minnetonka is fabulous for boating, fishing, and water sports!)

I was impressed to see 5th graders doing podcasting, extending conversations through discussion boards, using StudyMate (which is available at GRCC) for studying on their iPods, and using the assignment tools and digital drop box for electronic assignments. And finally, parents can participate and check on their children’s progress.

Alert! These types of experienced students are coming to GRCC soon! In fact, many are already here!

Closer to home, I have heard that the KENT ISD has made a decision to offer Blackboard use to teachers and students for all the schools in the district. The potential here is that students that come to GRCC after their high school experience will likely have had experience using Blackboard.

In addition, in the Fall 2006, the State of Michigan put in place a new graduation requirement. The following excerpt describes the new online learning requirement:

“Online Learning Experience–Students must take an online course or learning experience; OR have the online learning experience incorporated into any of the required credits of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.”
– Source: Center for Educational Networking

This new requirement will require all high school graduates to take an online class, therefore, students will also be accustomed to learning online. Likely many students will choose to continue learning online which will place more emphasis on GRCC’s Distance Learning courses. In fact, the Michigan Virtual High School, who will be delivering the online experience for the high school graduation requirement, also uses Blackboard. Again, this will allow a large number of students to seamlessly move to GRCC without relearning a new course management system.

What are your thoughts? Are we ready for a new breed of students here at GRCC?

Dude… your cell phone could get you suspended! Say what?
August 2, 2007, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Articles

Back in April, Garry Brand, an instructor at GRCC, posted in his blog about the potential uses for cell phones in a classroom. His blog post: “Cell Phones ON in Class Please!“. In his post he talks about the potential for using cell phones for student response and surveys. My reply to his post was as follows:

Eric said…
XLNT Garry! Or in non-txt messaging terms… Excellent.This is innovative and out of the box thinking as most instructors are 180 degrees in the opposite direction. How to prevent students from using cell phones in class. Better yet, as you say, let’s use technology that students are already comfortable with IN class and IN teaching.
4/13/2007 1:28 AM

I think the key to any new technology is not to over react or take the position that it will by default be a negative force in the classroom. The key, instead is to make an attempt to understand the technology and discover it’s potential in delivering instruction. If cell phones are a problem, and ipods, what about laptops? In my view, a cell phone is just another tool that teachers and students have available to help create the best learning environment possible.

A perfect example of this was illustrated well in a Blackboard Faculty Support Group podcast interview by Bill Vilberg of the University of Miami. In the interview, Garry Brand mentioned a real world example of how the Internet and a laptop was used by a student for a “teachable moment” that could not have been possible without technology.


Fast forward to today. I came across another excellent blog post by Tony Vincent. His post caught my eye, because it was a Michigan school that was mentioned in this USA Today article.

This article details that a student who uses a cellphone or iPod in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools will be suspended for one day if they are caught.

On Tony’s blog, there was a very good comment that I wanted to pull out and highlight:

Christine Tomasino, said…
Hmm…I think back to some tactics used in my classroom for sharing “ideas” during at test before mobile devices….they were notes written using a pencil or pen….refresh my memory, did pens and pencils get banned in schools or were students suspended for using one?Here is a thought…change instruction so that students need the devices to gather data but to “answer” they need to process that data in such a way that each would have a unique answer that shows deep understanding!

The main reason that the school district implemented this policy was… cheating. Not that I’ve done it, 🙂 , but cheating can take place without cell phones in class or other electronic tools. I enjoyed reading Christine’s comment because it refocuses the problem of cheating into the realm of instructional design. Assessment and evaluation of student performance can be done in a variety of ways, and it is up to us, as educators to create an assessment system that truly validates what a student has LEARNED, and not the student’s ability to memorize.

Cell phones have been in the press a lot lately, from the iPhone buzz, to the crisis communication use at schools and universities, to a recent ABC News article that Doug Kaufman, from clearTXT Inc. and Mobility in Education, forwarded to me about how a kidnapping victim was rescued because of the use of text messaging.

clearTXT Inc., for example, offers a powerful and unique capability for using text messaging in teaching and learning. Their Ubiquity software enables teachers to communicate with students via text messaging. Students can sign up to receive timely announcements, events, items, and grades. This capability provides students with information that comes to THEM rather than the other way around. This communication can happen at anytime, extending the boundaries of the classroom.

In addition, iPods have all kinds of uses in and out of the classroom.  There have been an enormous amount of sessions at various educational technology conferences such as EDUCAUSE, NECC, MACUL, and many others that have highlighted sessions on podcasting  and the use of mp3 players in the classroom.  From learning languages to listening to an important lecture, mp3 players offer another unique capability for teaching and learning.

Finally, as a parent in this day and age, I believe it is crucial to have the ability to communicate quickly and easily. From a quick message saying “my football practice is canceled, can you pick me up” to “we have a family emergency, I’m picking you up now” and so on so forth.

While I’m a believer in technology and it’s use in classrooms, I’m not suggesting that a classroom should be a technology free for all. I believe faculty and teachers should exercise authority in a classroom so that the classroom environment is conducive to effective learning. That doesn’t mean banning all electronics, however, it means leveraging the use of technology when and where appropriate. It also means that often students need to be taught how to use technology appropriately and with good etiquette.

What are your thoughts about this topic?