Is Google Classroom right for you?

A team of Notre Dame staff and faculty recently reviewed Google Classroom to see if this new learning management system has potential.  We we were encouraged how Classroom tries to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments paperlessly and how it ties many of Google’s products (but not all) together.  However, there were many more things that discouraged us than encouraged us about Classroom.

For example, Classroom has no gradebook, no tests and quizzes, no discussion forums, no calendar, no way to connect Classroom to our student information system to automatically create and populate classes with students, and no way to connect to other systems like Piazza or Kaltura using the Learning Tools Operability (LTI) standard used by all the major learning management systems.  We really wanted to like Classroom, but this lack of basic tools made us decide that Classroom was not right for us at this time.

We will continue to monitor Classroom’s development and possibly revisit this decision at a later date depending on the progress of Classroom’s tool set.

If you would like to read our review of Google Classroom, please visit this link to our report in Google Docs:




You may be thinking this article is about the ins and outs of living at college in a dorm. Or you may be thinking it has something to do with snowboarding.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), this article is actually about a teaching tool called StoryboardThat.

StoryboardThat storyboarding website

StoryboardThat is a free (freemium version allows you to create two storyboards per week), quick, and easy way to create storyboards.  What is a storyboard?  Well, according to, a storyboard is “a panel or panels on which a sequence of sketches depict the significant changes of action and scene in a planned film, as for a movie, television show, or advertisement.”  A storyboard can be very useful when trying to engage students in thinking through the flow of a story or a great way for students to be creative with their stories.  And, it can help to communicate an idea via a story enabling students to visualize it themselves.

StoryboardThat even provides a resource of curated storyboards on a wide range of topics that is easily searched by tags.  You can find storyboards that range from Shakespeare to the Hunger Games (you can also scroll to the bottom of the homepage and find a listing of categories of storyboards).  So, if you are wanting to present a topic in a new and different way to engage your students, then just go to their curated storyboards and see if someone has already created a storyboard so you won’t have to.

You can communicate your storyboard by printing it, exporting it as an image, exporting it directly into PowerPoint, embedding it into a webpage, or sharing it with others through email, Facebook, or Twitter.

The next time you are looking for another way of helping your students visualize a topic, then you might want to just StoryboardThat.


Got Brain Activity Update

We ran an experiment yesterday with the Neurosky Mindwave Mobile Headset and used the Puzzlebox Orbit helicopter for a portion of the experiment.  Our goal was to better understand how the headset worked with live participants in an experiment situation.  We are still gathering the data at this time, but will publish the unscientific results on this blog in the near future.

Our experiment consisted of 3 separate tasks set to test whether certain activities would enhance the attention/focus of the participants.  Each task involved a memory test (the word test) and two of the tasks had brainwave information recorded for the participants using NeuroSky’s Recorder app.  We used the iPad for each task — two of those tasks were for recording brainwave data and the other for operating the Orbit helicopter.

We found five willing participants who had never used the Neurosky headset nor the Orbit helicopter.  So, for our N=5, we won’t be able to derive too much from the results, but we will be able to learn how to set up experiments for the headset and helicopter in the future which will be invaluable.

So, stay tuned for our unscientific results!

Got Brain Activity?

Ever wanted to see if you really had activity in your brain?  I know, sometimes your friends might wonder.  But you do.  The U.S. Archery Team uses brain activity to track their team’s focus and relaxation levels.  You can use it to fly a helicopter (okay it is just a toy helicopter).

You are probably thinking — hey I would like to be able to do that and actually convince my friends I have brain activity.  Well, you can.  Just buy a brain-computer interface and connect it to your computer or smartphone.  You may be thinking that sounds a bit complicated.  Not really.  You can do it yourself.  Just buy a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile headset (see image below) and download some apps from NeuroSky’s store and start proving your friends wrong!

NeuroSky MindWave Mobile Headset

Katie Dickerson (Computer Applications & Poverty Studies) has been testing out the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile headset for us with the Puzzlebox Orbit helicopter.  She has found the helicopter to be a bit hard to control.  Not because she doesn’t have any brain activity!  Quite the contrary.  She is having a hard time using the controls on the app to maneuver the helicopter.  She can get the helicopter to go up and down, but she just can’t get it to go anywhere else.  I’m sure it is just a matter of time until she gets that figured out.

We plan to use the headset to research how well the device can help people to focus.  Think of students and homework.  Employees and projects.  Faculty and their research.  You get the idea.  Anyway, stay tuned to our blog for an update of our research on the headset.  We hope to have something more to report back to you by the end of spring semester (maybe some pictures of Katie flying the Orbit too!).