Table of Contents


Information for specific audiences:

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality adds information and meaning to a real object or place. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not create a simulated reality. Instead, it takes a real object or space and uses technologies to add contextual data to deepen students’ understanding of it.


A blog (short for web log) is an online collection of personal commentary and links. Blogs can be viewed as online journals to which others can respond and are as simple to use as e-mail. Faculty are using blogs to express their opinions, promote dialogue in their disciplines, and support teaching and learning. Students increasingly use blogs for personal expression and to meet course requirements. Potential drawbacks: Blogs are unmediated and unhosted and may have accuracy issues.


Clickers or classroom response systems, along with well-designed questions, provide an easy-to-implement mechanism for enhancing two important learning principles: interaction and engagement. More colleges are turning to the clicker to help digital natives (a term coined by Marc Prensky in 2001 to describe the "native speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet) become more engaged with course content and achieve higher retention.

Collaborative Editing

Collaborative editing tools allow a group of individuals to simultaneously edit a document, see who else is working on it, and watch in real time as others make changes. As a functional hybrid of wikis and instant messaging, collaborative editing creates a new dynamic for group work and multitasking, two hallmarks of today’s learners.

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling involves combining narrative with digital content to create a short movie. Digital stories can include interactive movies with audio and visual effects or presentation slides with narration or music. Some learning theorists believe that, as a pedagogical technique, storytelling can be effectively applied to nearly any subject. Constructing a narrative and communicating it effectively require students to think carefully about the topic and the audience’s perspective.


E-books offer new ways for readers to interact with content. An e-book that abandons the notion of reading from front to back, for example, encourages readers to take an active, self-directed role in how they learn. E-books that incorporate audio, movies, and simulations facilitate deeper understanding of subject matter while annotation features let users customize a text.


Facebook, a leading social networking site, enables easy, spontaneous networking through dynamically linked user profiles. Facebook is also an example of the kind of information literacy (i.e., the ability to negotiate the opportunities and risks of the Internet age) challenges college students face. However, students may not recognize the potential consequences of submitting personal information to a public forum.

Google Earth

Google Earth is an interactive mapping application that allows users to navigate (or "fly") the entire globe, viewing satellite imagery with overlays of roads, buildings, and geographic features. Educators can use it to assess and bolster students’ visual literacy. Students can use it to develop a context for spatial and cultural differences globally.

Google Jockey

A Google jockey is a participant in a presentation or class who surfs the Internet for terms, ideas, web sites, or resources mentioned by the presenter or related to the topic. The jockey’s searches are displayed simultaneously with the presentation, helping to clarify the main topic and extend learning opportunities.

Grid Computing

Grid computing uses middleware (i.e. software that acts as a bridge between an operating system and applications, especially among networks or a distributed system) to coordinate disparate IT resources across a network, allowing them to function as a virtual whole. The goal of a computing grid, like that of the electrical grid, is to provide users with access to the resources they need, when they need them. Grids address two distinct but related needs: (a) providing remote access to IT assets and (b) aggregating processing power.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging (IM) or text messaging is a form of online communication that allows real-time interaction through computers or mobile devices. It has become such an integral part of students’ lives that many colleges and universities are working to move IM beyond the social sphere into teaching and learning.


Apple’s iPhone uses an interactive touch screen and combines a mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and Internet connection (i.e., e-mail, web browsing, maps, and searching) into one handheld device.

Machinima Clips

Machinima is a film made with computer-generated graphics originally developed for computer games. Unlike computer-generated imagery which has to animate each frame, Machinima makes film in real time.

Mapping Mashups

Mapping mashups use online mapping services, such as those offered by Google or Yahoo, to display customized, clickable markers showing points of interest and related information. In the classroom, they can place lessons in a rich geographical context and increase interactivity. They are also useful for displaying research data spatially or for enhancing information on campus web sites.


PDAs (personal digital assistants), such as Blackberry or Pepper Pad, can be used for accessing Internet, e-mails, and games; scheduling, note taking, collecting data, digital imaging, and sharing files (via Bluetooth technology) or data.


Podcasting refers to any software/hardware combination that permits automatic downloading of audio, photo, or video files to an MP3 (short for MPEG - Motion Picture Experts Group - an audio compression format) player, e.g., iPod, for listening at the user’s convenience. Podcasting allows learning to be more portable and gives educators another way to meet today’s students where they live and learn: online and on audio players (e.g., recordings of lectures or textbook podcasts). Potential drawbacks: Students need adequate bandwidth and hardware. Podcasting may be a disincentive to class attendance.

Remote Instrumentation

Remote instrumentation involves remote, network-based control of scientific instruments. The expense and complexity of specialized instruments limits some institutions’ access to them, and logistical issues may prevent institutions that have such instruments from fully using them. Remote instrumentation addresses these access and efficiency issues to improve educational quality and student opportunities.


RSS (Really Simple Syndication, previously known as Rich Site Summary) is a technology that scans headlines or blurbs on new content of a web site or weblog, using a news reader or aggregator. It is the Internet version of a news clipping service.


A screencast is a video recording of the actions on a user’s computer screen, typically with accompanying audio, distributed through RSS. Screencasts can be thought of as video podcasts. They provide a simple means to extend rich course content to anyone who might benefit from the material but cannot attend a presentation.

Social Bookmarking or Tagging

Social bookmarking involves saving bookmarks one normally makes in a web browser to a public web site and "tagging" them with keywords. The resulting community-driven, keyword-based classifications, known as "folksonomies," may change how we store and find information online.

Video Blogging

A videoblog, or vlog, is a web log (blog) that primarily uses video rather than text or audio. The ability to easily create video segments and post them online makes videoblogs a potential tool for recording lectures and special events. Videoblogs can also be used for personal expression and reflection. As a result, they are being incorporated into e-portfolios and presentations.

Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings are real-time interactions that take place over the Internet using integrated audio and video, chat tools, and application sharing. They offer a way to engage students in fully interactive, online learning experiences such as lectures, discussions, and tutoring. Many virtual meeting applications integrate with course management systems, providing students and faculty with a unified learning system including access to online meetings.

Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds are immersive online environments whose "residents" are avatars representing individuals who participate via the Internet, such as Second Life. Many institutions are experimenting with virtual worlds for educational purposes. They may foster constructivist learning by placing students in a context that challenges them to solve problems and make their own meaning in the process.


Wikis are web pages that can be viewed and modified by anyone with a web browser and Internet access. They support asynchronous communication and group collaboration online. Best-know example: Wikipedia. Wikis are also being used as e-portfolios, highlighting their utility as a tool for collaboration and reflection and increasing student involvement. Potential drawbacks: Wikis need monitoring to avoid inappropriate additions. Not everyone who contributes to wikis is an expert.


YouTube is a video-sharing service that allows users to post personally developed videos of nearly any variety online, from animations to personal recordings. YouTube is one of an emerging class of social applications that allows users to share and form communities around their content. It draws users into engaging content as commentators and creators, activities that heighten students’ visual literacy.

This Glossary of Technologies is courtesy of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. Copyright 2007 University of South Carolina. All rights reserved.

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