App Smackdown! A Battle Royale of Education Technology

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session Best in Track

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Brief Abstract

This quick-fire showcase will feature four lightweight apps to foster active, experiential online learning via a battle royale style competition! Four challengers from The University of Arizona will present a lightning demo each, followed by audience voting on who should be crowned the winner of this no-holds-barred app smackdown.



Janet Smith serves as an Instructional Designer leading quality assurance initiatives at the University of Arizona with the Office of Digital Learning. She manages a multitiered and collaborative quality assurance process to ensure that courses developed for UA Online are designed for student success and engagement. Janet works with partners across campus to integrate best practices around course design, copyright, UDL, and accessibility into the instructional design process and leads the Quality Matters program for the university. She received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona, her master's degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education from Northern Arizona University, and a graduate certificate in Educational Technology from Northern Arizona University. In her free time, Janet enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cooking, and practicing and teaching yoga.
Asst. Director for instructional design in support of the University of Arizona's fully online campus. Oversees the general education academy and UA Online's instructional design team. Currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. Areas of research interest include instructor presence and its impact of a sense of community and student success in online learning.
Cathy Russell has over 10 years experience working in higher education. Upon receiving her Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and her Master's degree in Educational Technology from Texas A&M University, she began her career. She started as an Instructional Designer for Blinn College, Lonestar College, and Pima Community College before arriving at the University of Arizona. She has worked with multiple Learning Management Systems, including WebCT, Angel, Blackboard, and D2L. Cathy is also in her 9th year of teaching online as an Adjunct for Lonestar College. Being an online student and online instructor has provided Cathy with invaluable perspective to aid in course design. She is interested in researching methods in online course design that will create higher rates of student success and is passionate about making online courses that enhance learning and are interactive.
Angela Gunder serves as Director of Instructional Design and Curriculum Development for the Office of Digital Learning at The University of Arizona. Angela came into instructional design rather circuitously, helming large-scale site designs as webmaster for The City College of New York, the honors college at ASU, and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).  Her over fifteen year career as a designer for higher education informs her instructional design practice, where she leverages her expertise in usability, visual communication, programming, and standards-based online learning. Angela holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Fine Art from Fordham University, and a M.Ed. in Education Technology from Arizona State University.  Prior to her position at UA, she was a member of NOVA’s instructional design team, supporting over 23,000 students in 550 unique courses.   Angela is an Associate Editor for the Teacher Education Board of MERLOT, and a Quality Matters certified peer reviewer and online facilitator.  Her research interests include technology for second language acquisition, open educational resources, and emerging technology to promote digital literacy. A voracious culinary nerd, Angela spends her free time composing, cooking and photographing original recipes for her food blog.

Extended Abstract

Implementing innovative uses of technology that foster active, student-centered learning can prove a challenge, particularly those that support differentiated learning in the online environment.  In this quick-fire, hands-on app showcase, four members of The University of Arizona’s Office of Digital Learning will spotlight several emerging technologies available at the UA for use in the digital learning environment.  In a head-to-head competition, they will share strategies and effective practices for use by both students and educators, and highlight innovative approaches to incorporating the tools into the classroom.

This session features a (mostly) friendly, competition style format that pits these apps and their supporters against one another in an effort to win over the hearts and minds of the participants. Participants will review each tool broadly in a lightning-style presentation, focusing on ease of use and wide applicability of the tool in a variety of teaching and learning contexts.  At the end of the session, they will play the role of judge and jury, casting a vote for the the most compelling tool, thereby selecting the next Smackdown Battle Royale Champion!

This session will benefit practitioners from all backgrounds and skill levels, particularly those seeking ways to foster learner autonomy over the educational process. It will be structured as an "app smackdown" where participants will be encouraged to join in on the discussion and share feedback through a live backchannel. Participants will leave with a bevy of effective practices that they might implement in their own teaching and learning or in supporting their colleagues in their efforts to support student engagement.  Participants will also gain experience with rapid-fire professional development techniques to drive the experimentation and implementation of new education technology tools. The Office of Digital Learning has held on-campus app smackdowns for the past three years, and previous battles have included tools that have gone on to be implemented across the institution, to include VoiceThread, Adobe Spark, and Playposit. The presenters seek to model the app smackdown format as a powerful faculty and staff development tool, and one that creates excitement and structure around the marketing and adoption phases of technology pilots at institutions.