4 Tech Tools for the Accounting Classroom

Make your classes truly mobile.

June 14, 2016

No longer do your lectures have to be confined to the classroom. With mobile technology, students can now take your classes with them wherever they go. Here are three new apps and tech tools that can make it easier than ever to flip your classroom or simply allow your students to review in-class material on their own time. A fourth, Lucidchart software, helps you and your students create professional-looking flowcharts.

Livescribe

Livescribe smartpens, which can record your writing and speaking simultaneously, can help you create demos for students to watch on their own time. If you talk through a problem in class while you write, the pen captures everything. You can then download the recording to your computer and create a unique URL to send to your students where they can watch you write and hear you talk through the problem just as you did in class.

(View an example by Greg Prescott, CPA, CGMA, DBA, assistant professor of accounting at the University of South Alabama, here. Click on the notebook page and then press “play” to see it in action; there may be a slight delay before the "play" button becomes available. Users need Adobe Flash Player to view the demonstrations.)

Prescott said he uses the Livescribe pen to work through any problems in the textbook chapters that he doesn’t cover in class. “When I’m at home, I will work the problem just like I would in class,” he said. He then uploads the recordings. That way, students who learn best by repetition can watch him do the problem multiple times.

Another advantage of Livescribe is that, if a student has to miss class, she can still experience the class as if she’d been in the room and not fall behind, Prescott said.

He praises the pen’s ease of use. “It’s cheap to implement, it’s cheap to maintain, and the students really like it,” he said.

Pens start at $129.95 and require Livescribe dot paper, starting at $8.95. Compatibility varies by pen model.

Educreations

Whiteboard and screencasting app Educreations lets you create short instructional videos that include writing, audio, and graphics.

Educreations is only available on iPad; however, finished videos sync to your online Educreations account where they can be viewed on other devices. As with the LiveScribe pen, the app lets students see your handwriting take shape on the page while they hear your voice. You can also insert pictures or charts into videos and write in notes on them. (View an example by Gia Chevis, Ph.D., graduate accounting programs director and clinical associate professor at Baylor University.)

Educreations videos “help students prepare for class better and be more active and engaged versus just reading the chapter,” Chevis said.

In her introductory financial accounting class, for example, rather than just reading a textbook chapter before class, students can now watch a tutorial through Educreations on debt-to-equity ratios, then read the chapter and work on a practice problem in the book. If they don’t understand the problem, they can go back and watch the tutorial again.

Students are then up to speed when they enter the classroom and ready for more complex work.

“It’s making basic prep easier for them to do on their own,” Chevis said. “It frees up class time for the more difficult, but more important parts.”

Basic subscription is free. Pro Classroom subscription for a teacher and 40 or more students is $8.25/month. Pro School subscription for 10 or more teachers starts at $1,495/year.

Audacity

Since the majority of college students now own a mobile device, it makes sense that they be able to access content from their professors while they’re on the go. The app Audacity lets you create a podcast-style recording that students can listen to at home or even walking through campus. After you record through a microphone connected to your computer, you can use the app’s editing features to cut material or make corrections.

Podcasts, as Chevis noted, “are even more portable than video-based tutorials and still make it easy to navigate to review items of interest or confusion.” As with videos, podcasts can be used as the lecture portion of a flipped classroom or to allow students to review material outside of class.

Free. Compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and GNU/Linux, as well as other operating systems.

Lucidchart

Cloud-based diagramming software Lucidchart walks you through the creation of professional-looking flowcharts so you can document and/or model accounting systems without a lot of headaches.

“The ease of use is off the charts,” said Laura Rickett, CPA, Ph.D., assistant professor of accounting at Cleveland State University.

You can choose from one of the program’s templates or create your own custom diagrams. Once you pick a template, you drag shapes from a shape toolbox to begin, then use the mouse to “click and drag” to make lines within the chart. You can add images as well through an “upload” function.

Students can also use Lucidchart to share their documents and work collaboratively, with the final product synced among users.

“Students are advancing their systems documentation and modeling skills by having such an easy-to-use application for such purposes, which provides a very high-quality end product,” Rickett said.

Free subscriptions for educators and students. Works on almost any device that uses the internet.

Lea Hart is a Durham, N.C.-based freelance writer. To comment on this story, email lead editor Courtney Vien at academicnews@aicpa.org.

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