Easy Collaborative Learning – Crowdsource With Your Students

It’s often said that students learn better by teaching others. I was contacted last week by a student wishing to build a SmashFact activity for his study group– SmashFact.com is a free site that helps teachers transfer course content into a mobile study app. The student complained that the course content contained a lot of difficult information, and the class itself was a bit dry. The students were looking for a fun way to study “boring course stuff.” Then it hit me. Why not increase student engagement and collaboration by having the students build a SmashFact activity to test their peers? I know that a faculty member’s time is often split between service work,  research, a ton of writing, publishing AND not to mention teaching and advising. So often there’s little time left for enhancing one’s course to make it more engaging. This way, each student spends just a few minutes creating a handful of multiple-choice questions to stump their peers, and the activity builds itself in time for midterm exams.

So here’s how to quickly get the students up and running after creating a free account on SmashFact.com…
  1. Save a copy of our pre-formatted spreadsheet template from Google Docs Templates. Share the “Student Collaboration Activity” form URL with students. Instructions are included in the template.
  2. Divide students into teams. Each team gets assigned a chapter or unit of the course prior to midterm exam. Each student on the team has to enter 3-4 unique multiple-choice questions about the unit designed to ‘stump’ their peers. Have them enter the questions in the form at the URL you send them. All answers will be compiled on an easy to read spreadsheet. See images below.
  3. Review and approve their questions and answers to make sure they are teaching their peers the proper info. This also offers an opportunity to gauge student understanding on topics to date.
  4. Share the document with support(at)smashfact.com when you are ready. Our support team will upload the questions into your SmashFact activity database and prep the activity for your students. We’ll send you all the information they will need to get the study app on their device.
DONE with a custom aligned activity in time for midterms!!!
The Template form students use to add questions and answers to the activity

The Template form students use to add questions and answers to the activity

Google Template Spreadsheet

The instructor’s view of the first student’s effort in the collaborative activity

Google Sheet Result iPad

A preview (on SmashFact.com) of how the study app looks on a student’s device.

The students can repeat this process through the second half of the semester for Final exams. Once the content is shared with the SmashFact support team, SmashFact loads in fresh content every time the student starts the app. Teachers never have to touch it again. And, future students can use the activity for as long as the class is taught!
When we created SmashFact.com, we set out to make the interface as easy to use as we could at the time. But, in effort to further streamline making an activity, we’ve created a few more solutions. We offer to personally help faculty by converting old tests to study activities (reach out to us below), and, I’ve also created a Google Docs Spreadsheet Template that is pre-formatted to help teaching or grad assistants enter activity questions quickly, and efficiently, whether on teams or working alone. These are good solutions. But, an important one that was missing was student collaboration.
We’re baking more serious collaboration into Version 2 of SmashFact. But, using the Google Docs Template is an easy way to get there until then.

Students, no sign up needed to use SmashFact


Getting the SmashFact app is easy for students–just download it from any app store.

One of the best things about the SmashFact app is that it is designed for mobile devices. Students can play SmashFact activities on-the-go with the app installed on their phone or tablet. There is no signing up necessary, just tell them to head to one of the app stores listed below:

For Apple users, visit the App Store to download SmashFact for iPhone or SmashFact HD for iPad.

For Android users, visit the Google Play Store to download SmashFact for phone or SmashFact HD for tablet.

Android users can also visit the Amazon App Store to download SmashFact for phone or SmashFact HD for tablet.

If a student prefers to play SmashFact on their desktop, or if you are interested in purchasing the SmashFact app for your classroom computers, visit our Britt Carr Interactive Learning Shop to download SmashFact Student Version for Desktop.

Photo credit: PhotoAtelier under CC BY-2.0

Preparing for Midterms with SmashFact


It’s officially Autumn now and already time to start thinking about midterm exams

How do you help your students prepare for midterms? Do you provide practice tests? A list of the vocabulary terms? Do students dread studying from these types of aids?

With SmashFact you can easily turn these static documents into fun, interactive mobile games that help your students study. They will love racing the clock and advancing levels, all while experiencing greater retention of the important information.

Smashing Suggestion: If you have a static study aid that you think would be a great SmashFact game, but don’t have the time to make it, contact us. Our team can help get it into your students’ hands in time to study for midterms.

Photo credit: John Morgan under CC BY-2.0

SmashFact Now Supports Longer Questions & Answers


SmashFact v.1.2 now supports longer questions and answers as well as Spanish characters

We heard many requests from Educators, like yourself, to increase the number of characters allowed per question and answer in a SmashFact activity. So, we have spent the past couple months researching and testing ideal font sizes for mobile devices (since we have seen that most students play SmashFact on their tablet or phone). Now, when you edit your activities, you will notice that a question can be up to 90 characters and the answer/distractors up to 95 (we have included a handy character counter to help keep track).

We have not only expanded the questions and answers, SmashFact now supports Western character sets for foreign languages. We have found that the audio feature in SmashFact makes it a great tool for studying foreign language, and the image feature makes Asian and Arabic languages possible as well.

Photo credit: Libby Levi under CC BY-SA 2.0

Virtual Audience 2.0

Photo by Nighthawk7

I’m creating a new version…

I’ve been receiving a LOT of emails recently, from teachers, students, musicians, Toastmaster members and even a few psychologists asking for the link to be able to download the Virtual Audience.

Unfortunately, the existing version of the Virtual Audience has been removed from he server and is no longer available for download. BUT, I’m creating a new, better version, using HD Video with more features. The new product will meet different kinds of user’s needs rather than just being a generic audience. During the creation process I’ll be inviting users in to help me test, and to provide feedback. If you are interested please email me:
britt_carr (at) advancedauthoring (dot) com

Vote for Advanced Authoring in Mission: Small Business

Advanced Authoring is entering the Chase/Living Social Mission: Small Business grant competition. The competition awards 12 small businesses $250,000 each to help further their small business along. Advanced Authoring will use the funding to complete development of the mobile game The American Dream.

Voting takes 30 seconds and is done in 3 easy steps:

  1. Visit www.missionsmallbusiness.com and sign in (you can use your Facebook Acct too).
  2. Search for “Advanced Authoring”.
  3. Click the VOTE! button.

The American Dream is a personalized mobile/tablet/desktop game designed to teach necessary topics of personal finance. It’s targeted to high school and college students. Think: “The Game of Life” meets “The Sims” meets “Survivor”. In the game players have to constantly balance a budget while dealing with unexpected “Life Events”. The game will have both a commercial version, for individuals.  And, educational versions for institutions which involve teachers and parents.

Possible Life Event in the game

Syracuse U’s Access SU Mobile Site

Enjoyng the 1st year of success from helping create iAdvocate, Advanced Authoring begins working on its second venture with Syracuse University. AccessSU will be a mobile website designed to provide accessible resources and information available on and around the Syracuse campus for individuals with disabilities. Among the resources, a map showing accessible areas of campus such as parking, restrooms, elevators and building access ramps. Plans are also being laid to provide direct routes, and allow the Syracuse community to share comments and tips to help others.

iAdvocate now on iTunes

iAdvocate app

A screen from iAdvocate

We were pretty excited to lend a hand to Syracuse University to help them complete and release iAdvocate. iAdvocate is an iPhone app designed to help parents work with their school officials to improve their child’s education. The application provides parents with resources, case studies and strategies to advocate their child’s educational needs.

iTunes approved the app and as of today it is available for free in the Education section of iTunes.