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Random Thoughts on Instructional Design

Visual Learning


“Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a freely available teaching tool designed to be a student’s first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects.”

Download the software from

CMAP Tools

“The IHMC CmapTools program empowers users to construct, navigate, share and criticize knowledge models represented as concept maps. It allows users to, among many other features, construct their Cmaps in their personal computer, share them on servers (CmapServers) anywhere on the Internet, link their Cmaps to other Cmaps on servers, automatically create web pages of their concept maps on servers, edit their maps synchronously (at the same time) with other users on the Internet, and search the web for information relevant to a concept map.”


Prezi is an application that allows you to create non-linear presentation online for free  or on your desktop for a small software fee.

“By using Prezi from an internet browser, you can:

  • Easily share your prezis for collaborating with others
  • Easily send your prezis and show them to non-Prezi users
  • Log in from any computer, access your prezis and work on them
  • Our licenses include the ability to export a Portable Prezi, which can be used without internet access so you can safely hold your presentations anywhere

By using Prezi Desktop you can:

  • Work on your prezis without internet access
  • Quickly insert large media files – there is no limit to file size
  • Easily upload prezis to, so you can enjoy all the advantages listed above” (retreived from on 5/16/2011)

Starlogo TNG

“StarLogo TNG is modeling and simulation software that can be downloaded from MIT. It is free for educational use. Using StarLogo, students can study complex systems by creating elaborate 3D worlds for themselves. It is especially useful for studying decentralized systems – that is systems and patterns that arise from individual interactions between many different objects, rather than systems that are centrally controlled. An example of a decentralized system is erosion, where the larger patterns of erosion that we see have occurred because of many, many smaller interactions between water drops and grains of soil. As one piece of soil gets moved, that creates a pathway for the next drop of water to flow down, and so on until patterns of chasms develop. Another example is an ant colony, where there is no master ant controlling the colony, but a complex structure is built by individual ants interacting with each other and following certain rules within the system.”

The software and resources can be downloaded from

Timeline Creator

The Timeline Creator tool developed by Johns Hopkins University allows instructors, students and researchers without multimedia development skills to develop an interactive timeline for teaching or presentation purposes. The resulting timeline can be published on the web, integrated into Blackboard, or presented from a classroom computer.

Usage Ideas


  • Non-linear presentation of course materials
  • Research projects
  • Curriculum design
  • Lesson presentation


  • Assessment of student understanding
  • Collaborative activities: student-to-student, faculty-to-student, class-to-class
  • Project planning

Timeline Tool 2.0

“The Timeline Tool 2.0 is a web- based tool that allows an instructor to construct an interactive timeline with audio and visual effects. The new version is equipped with a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” interface and extremely user-friendly features. The finished timeline can be re-used and easily shared over the web.”
Recommended Uses

  • Timelines
  • Course Outline
  • Navigational System
  • Scientific Process Design
  • Project Phase Plan
  • Visual Gallery Index
  • Multimedia File Organizer

Timeline Examples

VUE (Visual Understanding Environment)

“The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University. The VUE project is focused on creating flexible tools for managing and integrating digital resources in support of teaching, learning and research.” VUE provides a flexible environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing information.

Usage Ideas

  • Faculty
    • Visual representation of assignments and how they fit into the course, program or discipline
    • Provide a picture of complex concepts
    • Develop non-linear presentations
    • Interactive syllabus
  • Students
    • Provides a method of assessing how well students understand a concept or theory
    • Peer facilitation

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