This past May, I attended the SUNY Conference on Instruction & Technology which is an annual meeting of faculty and technology professionals. The conference includes keynote addresses by SUNY administrators and education technology leaders, vendor exhibits and the chance to attend presentations by SUNY faculty and staff demonstrating innovative uses of instructional technology. The conference highlights below discuss several of the technologies that have possible applications within the Hudson Valley Center. & Voicethread

Michael Van Etten (Finger Lakes Community College) presented a series of talks on the technology he uses in his language classes. Two of the technologies provide ways for him to create audio/visual databases that students can use to look up an answer or to ask their own question. is a web-based application that uses a web camera to provide a simple and direct way to interact with students and add instructor “presence” to learning outside the classroom. While you can’t include text or computer screen images, you can use creative visuals such as hand written signs or diagrams or actual objects. The service is free and Vyou videos can be embedded directly into an Angel shell. Michael Van Etten’s site can be found at and his video feed is embedded above. His notes for the talk are available at:

Voicethread ( is another free web-based technology (Pro version is $60/year) that allows you to use a variety of media including images, videos, documents, and presentations in an asynchronous conversation. With VoiceThread your students can have conversations and make comments using any combination of text, a microphone, a web cam, a telephone, or uploaded audio file. Voice thread has the following features:

  • Can be embedded in Angel
  • Keep the students in Angel and use the Angel grade book, works with “pouring”
  • Has demo module for student practice
  • Can act as an interactive hub that has minimal technical requirements – useful for bringing independent study students togather
  • Recordings/comments can be played in sequence
  • It meets 501 Accessibility requirements
  • Can record audio controlled Powerpoint like presentations
  • Not a Youtube crowd – 90% use is by Education
  • IF it can be done in an Angel discussion, it can be done in a VoiceThread
  • There are privacy options including not being listed on VoiceThread main page
  • You can export an entire study thread to back up the class interactions
  • There is comment control

Access to a voice thread can be controlled (including the free account) – Van Etten’s Voicetreads for his classes are not shared, however, Penn State has an excellent site ( for learning more about using Voicethread in your studies. The following resources are excellent starting points:


Second Life

Susan Miller and Linda Smith from SUNY New Paltz had a very informative presentation on using Second Life ( for a fully online art class. Students were able to post work in a virtual gallery and conduct synchronous critiques within the virtual gallery.The instructors indicated that the online work retained sufficient information to determine the type of media and the techniques used – this allowed for a full critique of each piece. The final work was mailed to the instructors at the conclusion of the course.

Online Writing Service

Siu Ng and Tara Dolan of Schenectady County Community College talked about their experiences with using an Online Writing Service pilot that used DimDim and then later switched to Elluminate (when DimDim ceased operation). They discussed the potential problems associated with free Web 2.0 services and also talked about student perceptions that face-to-face consultations are more efficient (you can work on the entire paper). Students felt that the online environment works well for focusing on a single issue (citations, problem statements).

Avatars and Student Services

Trista Merrill and Brooke Baker of Finger Lakes Community College discussed how creating an online “Persona” called an Avatar  as the face of the writing center online has helped the eliminate stigma associated with asking for assistance. Each person staffing the online center would play the role of the Avatar to present a consistent “personality” or “character” to the students regardless of who was actually “behind the mask”. The service can be used anonymously by students to avoid any stigma and the Avatar prevents the student from possibly encountering someone that they know.

The creation of the Avatar involves making a personality definition, deciding how this “Persona” will react and answer questions and otherwise present a consistent personality. They used a student artist to design the graphic presentation,. A manual on conversational style and how to deal with issues like misuse of the service as a counseling or complaint line was developed.

Finally, there were many other presentations including several presentation by SUNY Empire State College faculty and professionals. Please contact me if you would like a complete listing of the presentations.