Technology and Blended Learning

There appears to be an upsurge of interest in the use of technology in blended learning, even I am engaged in a MOOC at this time and whilst it may not be high on the list of staff development for many, I thought it appropriate to refresh my page of ‘tools’  to see if former favourites remain so and I am pleased to say, they are.

These are just a few of the dozens of examples of software tools which meet my essential criteria to stand a chance of being used. They must be free or low cost, need little or no ICT skills to create content and appropriate to use alongside current Teaching and Learning practices. Including the essential ‘board and chalk’.

Please note: The list is by no means comprehensive and  this selection is simply to raise awareness and for readers to ‘try out’ and as always I suggest that they should be used within the framework of a Staff Development Programme or strategy.

Classroom Based Tools

Creating engaging learning resources of your own is made easy with Triptico. Interactive quizzes in game format to which add classroom management such as timers, creating class groups etc. All the tutor has to do is type in the questions, answers and choose a theme. Very much a class engagement tool.  Triptico is the brainchild of a former teacher, little wonder the results look so professional and actually work.

Quote from a former colleague: ‘Triptico is the best resource I have ever used for creating classroom content.  It can really bring a lesson to life.  It’s what Interactive whiteboards were made for.  All the resources are very easy to create and have a very small learning curve.  If you can type you can create a resource in Triptico’.

I manage but don’t deliver much staff development any more, but was involved in a demonstration to a room full of engineering lecturers coerced into staff development and made it obvious that they had ‘better things to do’. That is until about 15 minutes in and they started comparing ideas as to how they could use it and they did.

You can sign up for a free Triptico account on their home page. The free account will also give you a free 30 day trial of Triptico Plus following which you can then decide if you would like to subscribe or simply use your account to access the free resources. For the full resources pack a UK subscription is about £15/pa or just over the price of a box of A4 paper (handouts) printed out repeatedly.

Quizlet is a free website providing learning tools for students, including flashcards, study and game modes. Create one set of questions in flashcards and Quizlet replicates the information in a variety of other ways for different applications. Run sessions in a classroom or online. Created in 2005 by a 15 year old high school sophomore it now contains over 40 million study sets and is used by over a million students around the world every day. Use your own images, type or copy and paste in your own questions and answers and its ready to use in 5 or 6 different ways. You can do a lot with the free version, not least of which trialling it without the constraints of the usual 14 days. But the premium versions, which I am sure you will want, still appear to be good value for money.

I appreciate that the 15 year old author is a genius, but during a CPD workshop recently it only took half an hour demonstration to 15 technical tutors followed up an hour hands-on for each of them to transform a selection from their own resources, far better than they had been using or tried before. Simply engaging and effective.

is a blended learning platform with a lot to offer, enabling the non-technical tutor or trainer to create a dynamic learning game in minutes. Made from a series of multiple choice questions, add videos, images and diagrams to your questions to enhance engagement. Works on any device with an internet connection and shared with learners in the same room or the other side of the world. Kahoot and others claim that it fosters social learning and deepens pedagogic impact.
Be that as it may, colleagues and practitioners show me that it does what is says on the tin very well and anyway how much better has it got to be than what is currently being used by most.
And it’s Free – want to play?

Zaption transforms video-based learning with interactive content and tools that engage learners, deepen understanding, and track progress. Teachers, trainers and instructional designers use Zaption to quickly add images, text, and questions to existing online videos. With Zaption’s Analytics, instructors get immediate feedback on how viewers interact with content and understand key concepts.

In my opinion, Zaption is one of the best Learning Technology tools to evolve in recent times and ideal for an almost instant ‘wow’ to classroom or online courses. The biggest plus is that it doesn’t need a software genius to use effectively, the creator just needs to know their own subject which few software genius’s will.  

You don’t even have to use bought in or off the shelf videos either, providers can produce their own, which when ‘Zaptioned’ makes a bespoke package, unique to a teacher or department and if  branded for your own organisation should be of particular interest to those ‘sharing’ with other providers.
Once again the basic version is free and more than adequate for trialling, but once hooked, the premium version has lots of bells and whistles and is ideal to place on a VLE or You Tube channel, making a dynamic resource available 24/7.   I would argue that it is also cost effective at under £60 per instructor, per year and obviously you don’t need a licence for every instructor.  Wow?


Classroom and accessible online

makes it very (very) easy to create engaging eLearning courses without the need for technical knowledge or training. The user-friendly interface allows rapid course authoring based around a sound instructional framework. nimble®Author is cloud-based, allowing courses to be built individually or collaboratively
Being cloud-based means students have access to courses 24/7 and can complete assessments in a variety of ways and get instant feedback. though nimble®Author courses can be easily uploaded onto Moodle or any other makes blended learning and flipped classrooms easy to achieve.

Not free or as low cost as the individual packages mentioned here, but this does come with it’s own platform, so no hosting or managing, just creating.

FlipSnack is a relatively user friendly tool to transform pdfs into online flipbooks, enabling the educator to turn a crude document that may be used as reference into a far more engaging resource  and of course, unlike the paper handout, accessible 24/7.  

There are two forms of Flipsnack, the regular version and Flipsnack Edu.
In both you are able to create Flipbooks from your own PDFs and JPGs, in the regular version you can also use their pre-designed layouts as a shortcut to get results, you can also add links, video and audio.  The free version of Flipsnack limits you to three Flipbooks up to 15 pages long and without the ability to add multimedia. It’s worth noting too that you have to make some effort to find information to get started.
In my opinion, even the premium versions are not an exorbitant price to pay when considering the benefits, especially when set against the cost of paper etc. which would of course be printed every time a resource was required and not necessarily made best use of.

I have always been a fan of animation if like Powtoon it’s relatively easy to use and low cost. Well according to their website ‘it’s free and it’s awesome’. I would say that it’s pretty good and there is a free version and no question can be an ideal supplement to what might be a boring presentation or text filled learning resource. And once you get over the oddities of managing a timeline, it’s not too challenging to able to create an attention grabbing video quite quickly and unlike some software, the tutorials are quite good, you just have to follow them. Otherwise it’s a bit like assembling a flat-pack piano. You may end up with the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order, disappointment will follow. For example begin with a ‘script’ and narration then fit the slides and animation to the audio track. Not the other way around. There, I have just saved you the hours of frustration that I wasted.

Animation is great and can be used in a classroom or online, but I believe they should be short, no longer than a few minutes and then used sparingly or the novelty value may wear thin. The watchword(s) is ‘blended learning’ so perhaps an attention grabber. Great for putting an important message over in an exaggerated way. I have seen it used for Safeguarding, H & S and ‘Why do I need to learn Maths and English.’ All very effective and were created using the ‘free’ version (not a trial). But if you choose to move up to the premium versions don’t forget to ask for the ‘education’ price, as with most software there is a significant discount.

Screen capture is such a useful tool to have available and whilst it has been around for some time, it is usually expensive and not simple to use. But for sheer simplicity to learn and quick results VC REC is what I use without a second thought of how long it will take.

For example, a learning provider asked how they could create a video demonstration of software that had to be implemented across departments. Within an hour I had produced an example of what she had described, with me talking to a webcam against a demonstration of managing screens of live data etc. packaged up into an MP4 movie and emailed back, which when she put it to the test would have saved endless hours of CPD and accessible 24/7.

Screen capture, plus narration and text can equate to a movie, which can then be made available online, anywhere, anytime. Oh yes the cost: It’s Free.

So whilst there are dozens of ‘whizzy’ software packages that can transform your learning resources with endless possibilities to engage with the learner, these are simply an example of different tools, which would definitely complement one another and greatly enhance any lesson plan.  In any staff development strategy, I would always recommend that teaching staff be ‘shown’ these or other examples, have them choose just one to adapt a few of their own resources to try out and ideally share the experience with others.

If you have used any of these tools, do please share your experience and if you have a few of your own ‘favourites’, just drop us a line through the contact page and/or leave a comment below.

Colin Gallacher
Learning Technology Consultant


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