Don’t Use Technology Without a Backup Plan

Cathy and I promote and use a lot of technology on a daily basis. Whether we are on the road presenting at a conference or utilizing technology in our classrooms to engage our students, we ALWAYS have a Backup Plan for the unfortunate event of when our technology fails. The question is not “if” we will encounter technology issues, but “when” will our technology fail? For several years, Cathy and I have promoted technology use within the classroom to increase student engagement, but we always encourage an environment of being prepared for technology failure with a solid backup plan.

How would you react if technology failed in your classroom? Our philosophy is that “the show must go on”, therefore, having a paper backup copy or reverting to a group textbook exercise can insure that your classroom momentum is not stalled when technology fails. Typically, students do not demand instructors to be technology experts, but they do have an expectation that we will not panic, but rather adjust to unforeseen technology issues. Each time that Cathy and I enter a classroom or presentation situation, we always have a “Plan B” in our back pocket.

Cathy and I have had to react to technology failures within our classrooms (even once during a faculty evaluation classroom visit). In addition, we have had to respond to technology disasters when presenting at conferences. Throughout the years, internet failures, lack of cell phone / hot spot service, app crashes and equipment breakdowns have afflicted us. Having video clips downloaded and web screen shots imbedded into our presentation materials have aided in a smooth presentation. In addition, having a presentation file backup is a requirement before we hit the road or enter the classroom.

No one can fully anticipate every possible technology failure, but entering a presentation situation with a “Backup Plan” can provide you with the confidence to react quickly and deliver a great lecture.

© 2017 Teaching and Learning Toolbox



If you are looking for a great, interactive study tool that can reinforce basic concepts, both in and out of the classroom, Quizlet may be just the tool.  Quizlet is a gamification technology-based study tool that students can use anyplace, anytime.  Quizlet engages all types of learners, and its multi-language capability makes it the perfect study companion for ESL students.

Don’t have computers in your classroom?  No problem!  Quizlet provides six types of PDF printing formats (tables, glossary, small or large flashcard sheets and index cards), which lets you turn any Quizlet into a paper/pencil activity. You can even embed a Quizlet QR Code in your handouts, so that students can access the activity later from their smart phone, or tablet. Quizlet’s free IOS and Android mobile apps allow students to connect from anywhere, on any device, 24/7.

Best of all, Quizlet’s basic application is free.  The free version allows for the creation of study tools; including flashcards, learning activities, practice tests and games.  For instructors, Quizlet requires very little set up time, yet the adaptive learning technology provides students with hours of practice. Quizlet is also easy to share.  Simply embed the Quizlet URL or QR Code into your learning management system.

Getting started with Quizlet is as simple as 1-2-3.  First, create an account using your email, Facebook log on or Google account.  Second, create a learning set or import existing information from any Word, Excel or Google Docs file.  Third, establish your permissions and privacy settings, then your Quizlet is ready to use.

Don’t have time to create a Quizlet?  Then assign this task to your students.  Simply set up a class or groups, then give student participant’s permission to create or edit a Quizlet.

If you are looking to track student progress, or enhance a Quizlet with images or audio, then you can upgrade to the paid version of Quizlet for a slight fee.  The paid version also allows you to use Quizlet Live, which is an enhanced, collaborative learning tool.

For more information about Quizlet or to try it today, visit  To learn more about Quizlet Live, visit

© 2017 Teaching and Learning Toolbox



We encourage everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to better protect yourselves from identity theft.  The high tech internet and cloud based world in which we operate our personal and professional lives within exposes our private information to hackers on a daily basis.  It is no longer a question of “if our personal information will be stolen, but when?”  LastPass is a password protection tool that can help safeguard your personal data.

The “free” version of LastPass provides the following benefits:

  • Access on All Devices
  • Save & Fill Passwords
  • Password Generator
  • Secure Notes
  • Share Passwords & Notes
  • Security Challenge
  • Two-Factor Authentication

LastPass provides unlimited password storage for all your online accounts.  Once you save a password in LastPass, you’ll always have it when you need it, therefore, logging in is fast and easy.  In addition, LastPass works great in protecting your information when you shop online.  Furthermore, you can store insurance card information and membership account numbers in LastPass.

Getting started with LastPass is a simple process.  After installing the free app, you’ll be instructed to set up a new account.  It is recommended that you set up a strong master password that no one else could easily guess, and that you have not used for any other application.  Once your account is set up, you can begin adding your website usernames and have LastPass generate new safe passwords to all your online accounts.  Both, Cathy and I have been impressed with the ease of utilizing LastPass in protecting our information working in the online environment.

So make a 2017 resolution to protect your personal information by downloading LastPass today.  For more information visit

© 2016 Teaching and Learning Toolbox



Are you looking for an innovative way to be more productive and improve your student’s experience with office hours?  If so, Calendly may be just the technology tool for you!   Calendly is a great way to simplify scheduling office hour appointments with students or meetings with colleagues.  I use Calendly to manage my office hours and the results have been amazing.  Calendly is as easy as 1-2-3.  Simply set up your availability preferences, and provide students with your personalized Calendly web link. Students can easily check your availability, select the day and time that works best for them, then quickly schedule an appointment from any location, 24/7.

I offer appointments in 15-minute blocks, with a 5-minute buffer between.  Once students select an appointment day and time, my Calendly settings require them to provide some basic information (e.g. Name, Student  ID Number, Course Number/Section, and a brief description about the appointment topic, such as tutoring, advising, etc.), before confirmation.   Having this pre-appointment information helps me prepare for the appointment.

Calendly’s appointment window option, allows you to close the automatic appointment scheduling feature hours or even days in advance of the appointment.  For instance, I don’t allow students access to schedule appointments on Calendly within 12 hours of the appointment day/time.  Students know they are always welcome to stop by during my office hours on a walk-in/as-available basis, but the appointment feature guarantee’s them the one-on-one time slot.

Upon completion of the appointment process, students receive a confirmation email that can be added to their Google or Office 365 calendars.  At the same time, my calendar is automatically updated.

Not only is Calendly user-friendly, it also works with any device (e.g. smartphone, tablet, or computer).  Concerned about double-booking?  No worries, Calendly even checks for scheduling conflicts.

Calendly is by far one of my favor technology tools.  It provides students instant access to my availability, eliminates email or telephone tag, improves the student’s experience in my course, prepares me for the appointment, allows me to easily blackout time for other activities,  allows breaks between appointments, and best of all, for scheduling a single activity, such as office hours, it’s free!  For a nominal fee, Calendly can be upgraded to manage additional calendar activities or projects.

For more information about getting started with Calendly visit their Knowledge Library at  You may also want to view Calendly’s tips for managing office hours at

© 2016 Teaching and Learning Toolbox





Are you looking for a technology tool to help monitor tasks and checklists for classroom group assignments (or for your own collaborative projects)? Trello could be the free project management tool to help you.  Trello is a highly visual online tool that helps groups easily collaborate from a computer or by using a free app for iPhones, iPads, Kindle Fire or Android phones and tablets.

In Trello, you can create boards (projects) and within boards, cards (tasks) are created. In addition, the cards contain lists which can be used to categorize items or track the progress of any team project.  Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size.

You can invite as many people to your board (project), all for free.  You have the ability to add people to cards (tasks) and easily distribute the work load.  All team members see the same board (project) and the task progress (and what still needs to be completed) at the same time.

With Trello, comments, photos and attachments can be easily uploaded to the board (project). You have the option to mention a member in a comment and they can receive an instant notification.  Files can be uploaded from your computer, Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive.

Whenever something important happens, you can instantly be notified with Trello. You have the option to receive notifications from inside the app, via email, desktop notifications, or via mobile push notifications.  Notifications stay in sync across all your devices.

Trello is a great addition for instructors to keep track of projects. This tool allows instructors to create group project task templates and then share them with each team.  The templates are extremely helpful when students are introduced to class group projects for the first time.  The templates allow students to approach a group project in an organized manner and allow the instructor to monitor project progress.  Furthermore, students become familiar with how to organize projects using instructor templates, which teaches them how to organize future projects using Trello on their own.

Begin using Trello for free today and discover how easy it can be to track your collaborative projects.  For more information visit

© 2016 Teaching and Learning Toolbox




Looking for a versatile, collaborative technology tool you can add to your Teaching and Learning Toolbox?  Padlet may be just the tool.  Padlet is an electronic multimedia wiki that resembles post-it notes or “pinning” activities similar to Pinterest.  It is a great tool for your students to organize their thoughts about a topic, project or the course.  For the instructor, Padlet is simple you use.  You just set up a Padlet, share the link, and let the learning fun begin!

There are several ways you can use Padlet in your courses.  For instance, Padlet is great for ice-breaker activities, especially for online classes.  Students can post something about themselves on an electronic sticky note, add a picture and then other students can post reply comments by attaching an electronic sticky note to the original post.  I’ve also used Padlet in my courses to introduce a new concept.  Students can research the topic, and post additional information to the main topic note.  Padlet also works great for exam reviews.  The instructor can post review questions for students to answer or a student can post questions they may have about an exam topic for peer-to-peer tutoring.   If you assign group projects, Padlet allows students to easily mind map concepts and organize their project before getting started.  Sharing options include text notes, voice recordings, photos, documents and/or hyperlinks.  Sharing Padlets is exceptionally easy.  Students can connect through a shared web link or QR code embedded in your course.

Like many of the technology tools featured in this blog, Padlet has a free version available.  For $5.00 a month (or $45 a year), educators can upgrade to the premium “Padlet Backpack” account, which provides enhanced features and free, unlimited student access.  For more information about getting started with Padlet, visit the Padlet Virtual Tour at





Let’s Get Organized for the New Academic Year!

Toolbox  Welcome to a new academic year! This is a great time to reflect and utilize technology that can help organize yourself and your classroom for the upcoming year. Where should you start? Cathy and I think that this is the perfect time to share how we stay organized and to recap some of our favorite and most useful technology tools.

To maintain easy access to our documents from anywhere or any device, Cathy and I utilize Dropbox for document cloud storage. In addition, Dropbox allows us to easily share documents with anyone. Other cloud storage services that we recommend are Google Drive (, Microsoft One Drive and Apple iCloud.

In addition, a great note taking app is a must have for increasing productivity. Both Notability ( and Evernote ( are tools that we utilize on a weekly basis. Additional note taking tools that we recommend are GoodNotes, Notes Plus, Noteshelf and Apple Notes.

Furthermore, Cathy and I utilize technology to convert our typical classroom into an interactive whiteboard environment. Doceri ( allows our hand held devices to project images through the classroom overhead projector and to record our lectures. Additional whiteboard and/or lecture capture technology that we recommend are Explain Everything, Educreations, ShowMe, Notability, Splashtop, Scoodle Jam, Camtasia and Tegrity.

Other useful organization technology that we utilize and recommend are Future Me (, Remind ( and Group Me.

We hope that you take this opportunity to discover at least one technology that can help you become more organized throughout the upcoming year. We recommend checking with your institution to see if they currently provide any of these technologies at little or no cost to faculty. Many technologies provide similar benefits, therefore, we identified several tools within each organizational category listed above. We suggest utilizing tools that compliment your teaching style and that can be acquired for the least amount of resources. Good luck and have a great academic year.

© 2016 Teaching and Learning Toolbox


Notability Image


Are you looking for a versatile note taking app for your IPad or Mac computer?    If so, Notability might be the tool that you are looking for.  Notability enhances note taking and organization skills for both instructors and students.

I use Notability several times each week during meetings, in the classroom and when attending conferences.  Notability allows me to take my notes in an electronic format and then upload them to my “cloud” files.  Furthermore, Notability allows users to add hand written or typed notes, insert images and record audio.  I no longer have mounds of paper when I leave conferences or meetings.  I can easily retrieve my note files from my computer or hand held devices.  Having cloud access to all my note files allows me to retrieve information anywhere and anytime.

In the classroom environment, I post my PowerPoint note slides for students to access during class.  Some of my students utilize Notability to take notes during my class lectures.  As a result, I have experienced an increase in student note taking in my classes.  The electronic note taking options allow students an alternative to manual note taking.  This is especially helpful to those students who have poor handwriting skills.  Furthermore, I have utilized Notability to convert the overhead projector into an electronic whiteboard for classroom instruction.  Notability, with an overhead projector, makes it easy to annotate course note slides during class for students to view.

In addition, Notability documents are sharable and you can easily integrate your notes to and from Dropbox, One Note, Evernote and Google Drive.  The cost for the Notability app from the ITunes app store is $7.99 and it is supported by Ginger Labs.  Begin using Notability today to increase your productivity and organization skills.  For more information visit

© 2016 Teaching and Learning Toolbox


Kahoot Logo

Have you ever wanted to add Gamification to your courses?  Gamification has become popular in education and business as a way to use game design elements and concepts in areas that are not typically thought of in a game context.  Gamification is a way to encourage collaboration and team work as well as build leadership skills, jump-start a discussion or simply check-the-pulse of your class.  Gamification can include non-technology related activities, but there are technology tools, such as Kahoot! that make incorporating gamification into your courses easy!

Kahoot! is a free gamification cloud-based application (and the creators have promised it will always be free), which lets you set up  games (known as kahoots) in just minutes.  These kahoots work on any devices with an Internet connection and can be saved privately so they are available for your future use or you can share kahoots with other instructors.  Players do not have to set up an account and kahoots are simple to play, using a single click response.  Instructors have control over the response time, which makes this application useful for introducing a new concept as well as measuring understanding and mastery later in the course. Kahoots also let instructors insert videos and diagrams to make games dynamic and engaging.

Recently Kahoot! introduced their team-play concept, which works  great in a group learning environment.  The team-play concept also eliminates the need for every student to have a device.  Only one member of the team needs to respond for the group.  Additionally, the team-player application lets the instructor identify individual team members, which simplifies assigning points to a kahoot, if desired.  Points are assigned based on the correct answer and response time.  Therefore, if multiple teams respond with the right answer, the team with the quickest response time receives the most points.  This adds a fun/competitive element to the learning process.  The results for each kahoot can be exported and saved in a spreadsheet format, making future gradebook updates simple and convenient.

While Kahoot! is typically used in a classroom setting, you can also use Kahoot! with virtual meeting applications for your online classes. Create a kahoot for a live exam review and add a new dimension to your online courses.  Kahoot! works whether your students are in the same room or across the globe.

Are you excited about the possibilities of easily adding gamification to your courses with this application?  For more information about how to start creating your own kahoots or to search for existing kahoots you can use in your courses, visit:


Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

Are you looking for a free method to allow students to easily communicate with you during virtual office hours? Google Hangouts is a tool which allows students to connect to you through messaging, voice or video during scheduled office hours.

Google Hangouts provides the instructor the option to allow one-on-one or group chatting. In addition, Google Hangouts is already built into Gmail, Google+, and mobile apps are available for iOS and Android devices. The students choose which method to communicate with you during your virtual office hours.

Cathy and I have both used Google Hangouts as a virtual office hour communication option. This allows us to be available to our students during a specified time each week from anywhere. Typically, we can work on other items until a student connects to us in Google Hangouts. This flexibility enables us to remain productive during our office hours.

As a result of utilizing Google Hangouts, our students have responded favorably and they appreciate the easy access to their professor. For more information about Google Hangouts or to set up your free Google account visit: