The EdTech Blog at UMass Boston

“New technology is common, new thinking is rare.”

April 10, 2014
by brianwhite

This is the second of a regular series of tips, recommendations, and discussion starters that I will be sending out in my role as Provost Fellow for Education and Technology. They will be timely, useful, and brief. This post and my past posts, along with many other useful tidbits and announcements will be posted on the EdTech Blog.

It is textbook order season and I’ve just recently switched from a very expensive ($230) textbook to a free open-source on-line equivalent. It does not have all the polish and ancillaries of the hardcover book, but the price ($0) is right.

There is a growing movement to produce, review, and maintain free on-line textbooks. Although they vary in quality, there are some very good alternatives available for many courses. I have worked with people at OpenStax College and I am using their Biology book as the sole textbook for my Bio 111 class in the fall; OpenStax also has books on Physics, Statistics, Sociology, and Anatomy&Physiology. In the fall, you will be able to create your own custom versions of these books for free that you can edit at will.

Other sites with free on-line textbooks include Orange Grove TextsCollege Open TextsOpenEd from the University of British Columbia, and Google Books. Please let me know if you know of any other sources.

As with any textbook, you will need to look it over to be sure that it is suitable for your course, but it is hard to beat the price. Given the limited finances of our students, it may be worth a look.

Thanks for your time.


February 25, 2014
by brianwhite

This is the first of a regular series of tips, recommendations, and discussion starters that I will be sending out in my role as Provost Fellow for Education and Technology. They will be timely, useful, and brief.
From my conversations with many of you, it is clear that many have used or are planning to use video in the classroom. The article at this link lists 12 different ways to use video in class, including grabbing students’ attention, stimulating the flow of ideas, creating memorable visual images, and increasing understanding. It provides a nice framework for thinking about using video with your students.
You may find it useful to give your students access to these videos outside of class – either before or after class. The Instructional Support Team has several people who can help you put videos up on Blackboard for your students to watch at their leisure. Get in touch with them at, or drop by in person, to the Digital Learning Studio (Healey 3rd floor just past the IT Help Desk). 
When posting videos on the web, it is important to keep copyright issues in mind. This site has some useful information; for more information about Fair Use at UMass Boston, contact the UMB library at
Next, I have two calls for information that I will repeat in each of my e-mails: 
  • First, I am working with IT to create a “poster gallery” of different ways to use Blackboard. If you have an interesting, novel, or effective use of Blackboard that you’d like to share with others – it can be something cool or something practical and prosaic - let me know and we’ll work with you to put it up on UMB’s website. 
  • Second, if you have questions, suggestions, ideas, or issues for my next mailing, please let me know.
 Thank you for your time.


June 14, 2013
by eleanor.kutz

Conference Issue Overview

The June issue of the Edtech newsletter focuses, as it has in other years, on our May conference on teaching and technology, cosponsored by the Center for Innovative Teaching, IT/EdTech, and the University Libraries, and supported by the Office of Faculty Development, the College of Advancing and Professional Studies, and the Freshman English Program.  You’ll find recordings of most sessions on the conference proceedings site.
This year the regular conference day was preceded by an evening opening reception on May 15, at which Provost Winston Langley introduced the new Provost Fellow for Teaching and Technology, Professor Brian White (Biology), who gave the keynote address: “Helping a Thousand Flowers to Bloom: Teaching with Technology at UMass Boston.  Others gave greetings (Anne Agee for IT, Daniel Ortiz for the library, Denise Patmon for CIT, and Philip DiSalvio  for CAPS) and  faculty awards for innovative uses of technology in teaching were presented to Susan Mraz, Eileen Stuart-Shor, Linda Beith, and Gary Zabel.
A full day of presentations on May 16 illustrated the thoughtful work that UMass Boston faculty are doing. The day began with a plenary by Professor Stephanie Hartwell (Sociology and Graduate Studies), winner of the 2012
Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, who shared her experiences as “A Reluctant Early Adopter” of technology.
The sessions that followed focused on effective strategies for working with readers and writers and for supporting ESL learners; on helping students to learn the skills of self-assessment; on student, course and program assessment with eportfolios; on ebooks and library resources; on engaging with MOOC’s and collaborative learning; and on ways in which faculty are supporting their teaching with a number of tools and platforms, from Blackboard and social media resources, to Voicethread, to the Camtasia lecture capture system. One strand focused on this year’s iPads in the Classroom project and on what faculty across departments have discovered as they’ve explored ways of using iPads with their students.
The articles that follow will, I hope, give you a taste of the conference, including the provost’s remarks and some of Brian White’s thoughts as he takes on his new role, the work of faculty award recipients, and reports on
sessions on teaching in digital environments, teaching with Voicethread, and on what’s being learned from the iPads in the Classroom project. Conference proceedings with recordings from many sessions are available at .
On a personal note, the conference and this newsletter issue are my last activities in my role as IT Faculty liaison, as I really retire this time (after “failing” my retirement from the English department several years ago). I am grateful to Apurva Mehta who gave me the opportunity to build on my growing interest in using technology in teaching in ways that could further that work at UMass Boston, and to our provost, Winston Langley, for supporting my interest in and recommendations for faculty development, as well as to all my edtech and faculty development colleagues and and to all of the faculty I’ve worked with. I will follow with interest the work in these areas as it goes forward in very capable hands.