Monday, December 14, 2009

Learning in 140 characters?

140 characters? Can learning really occur when you are limited to just 140 characters to express your view(s)? A simple answer is yes, the key being the synthesis of the vast knowledge and information you have and condensing it to only 140 characters or less.

Speaking from my experience of using Twitter for sometime now. Whenever I engage in a Twitter discussion I have really had to find a balance of what I am trying to put across to others following me. Finding the balance requires a great deal of thinking, self-critic and consciousness, planning, analysing exiting knowledge and acquired knowledge (other resources available on the net and elsewhere), reflection (knowledge and self-experience) and synthesis (construct).

Micro-blogging in education

One may not have these skills to begin with but the use of a tool like Twitter and the nature of it's use will surely enable one to work on it. The important question being how to use a tool such as Twitter effectively with students? My though on this is, rather then looking at Twitter as a teaching tool, look at it as a tool for nurturing community of learners, facilitating and creating an environment that enables students to collaborate and communicate. The fallout from this process is likely to be the skills outlined in the diagram. The approach is likely to take a long time to establish before it starts yielding some results.

For a short time use in classroom maybe for a semester or a short course, I just came across a good case of Twitter in learning (Problem-based learning scenario), refer to this link: http://langwitches.org/blog/2009/12/04/csi-twitter-crime-scene-investigation/. In a nutshell, a skeleton is found on school grounds and students now have to find what animal it came from. Three options of achieving this is outline in the blog post, the last being putting it to the Twitter community. The result, within 3 hours there were over 50 Twitter responses with pictures linking to Flickr and other resources to justify the animal of choice. A GREAT learning opportunity for students. They would have learned more then just this animal in the process!

Twitter could also be encouraged as a back-channeling mechanism for activities in class or outside. A classic example, my colleagues are attending a conference in Auckland that I couldn't be a part of, but the back-channeling from the event has kept me informed, topped off with discussions and critique on Twitter, refer to the images below:


Twitter in action
Twitter in action

The twits have a good dose of questions, humour, good mix of images and videos from the events, and links to appropriate research that may have been done elsewhere.
Here is a rubric for assessing students on Twitter: http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/ksmith/2009/10/21/assessing-learning-with-web-20-twitter/

A good read, SMS and Twitter in education: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210162224.htm

Off the herald this morning: Twitter shows it power: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/technology/news/article.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=10615430

Another good read with links to possible use of Twitter in education: http://www.collegeathome.com/blog/2008/05/27/twitter-for-librarians-the-ultimate-guide/

Updated 5/11/2010

Study finds Twitter improves student engagement (http://mashable.com/2010/11/04/twitter-student-engagement/):

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Moodle vs Ning

A question was asked earlier this week by a staff member here at Unitec.

Why use Ning over Moodle? Is there an expectation on the staff to use Ning with the students as well

The context:

We are trying to implement a strategy and it will be done through a community of practice approach.

Response to the question:

There is no expectation for staff to use Ning or similar platforms with their students however we have found staff using LMS (Blackboard/Moodle and others) take a blended approach (Moodle and Ning) this allows a for a formal space for core course content, showcasing, and assessment on Moodle and Ning allows for development, group work, sharing and co-construction (informal space).

Why we chose Ning on this occasion:

The whole notion behind a Community of Practice is equality, shared, flexibility, respect, collaboration, communication, co-construction ......... keeping this in mind Ning was chosen over Moodle. Moodle is more hierarchical and this is not in keeping with the notion of community of practice.

The current Ning site (unitec-ccs.ning.com) will feature a blended approach (with Moodle) as we move into the workshops early next year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

eLearning and Web 2.0 tools for schools/teachers/students

A great collection of tools:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blackboard 9.0

Having spent in access of 9 hours (webinar included) on the new Bb 9 platform the impression I got is not very compelling.

It’s apparent after logging into the new platform that Bb has done some work around user interface. Unlike the old platforms the system is not so click heavy. The claim on Bb website a “Web 2.0 look-and-feel” is to an extent justified; they have made the interface customizable, engaging with a drag and drop mechanism. The problem for me here is that users can only customise the front page once logged into the system.

If I understand Web 2 correctly then web 2 is about empowering the users in as many ways possible. The latest release of Bb 9 fails to provide users with the ability to personalize any page at a course level. Unlike Moodle, users have the choice of giving course page a colour and feel to their liking. The concept of having a Web 2 feel (drag and drop interface) is not new and is something that has come to light in the past few years. Good website designers have been using this successfully for quite sometime, what surprises me is it took Bb this long to release such a feature.

The new release has tagging and bookmarking functionality. Also added in this release is the ability to feed updates from Bb to individual user Facebook profile. There are issues related to using Facebook which students may unknowingly fall victims to. Accounts on Facebook maybe be “deleted” upon request, these accounts are actually not deleted but are “deactivated” meaning all user content/information is still stored on the server for an unknown period (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Facebook). Use of Facebook in education is still arguable. Would students want course notifications published onto their profile?

Discussion Boards in Bb has been a tool that I think needed some work and it is a shame to see it remain the same. The discussion board by default misses the “social element”. Emails from a discussion board won’t be sent out to the students unless they subscribe to it. It is arguable, to have emails sent out to student inbox or not. Students enrolled in a class by default form a social community and for it to function properly the teacher is responsible of finding ways to make it engaging and a functioning community. Going by social constructivist pedagogy then emails from a discussion board would be a must, RSS feeds would makes things easier. Bb 9 doesn’t even have RSS capability at a forum level. The lack of use of basic social networking tools again highlights the flaw in design and platform pedagogy (Is there a pedagogy which was kept in mind while designing Bb, I still sometimes struggle to answer this question). I can see an effort on going towards a social environment but again not enough evidence to classify it as one. The lack of student-teacher, student-student co-construction is also missing. If we look at the way glossaries work in the latest version on Bb, it can only be edited and updated by the teacher (unlike in Moodle, it could be students or teacher or both).

For me Bb has always been and still is more inclined towards being a teacher-centred platform.

Blog tools V8 vs V9. David Hopkins in this blog does a direct comparison of the blogging tools in Bb 9 and Bb 8 with the Learning Objects plug-in installed. He concludes that he would rather stick with the Learning Object blogging tool (V8) due to some design issues in Bb 9 (http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/camtasia/BB9-blog/BB9-blog.html). Bb also made this comment on the V9 website “… working in course/unit groups just became more powerful: now students can really take ownership of their group work. Students can customise the look-and-feel of their Groups within a course/unit, assign tasks to individual members, collaborate through blogs and create group assignments”. What’s new here, we have had blogs and wikis in V7 & V8 for quite sometime now. I think what they meant to say was “it is available for use for free now”. It comes pre-installed in V 9!

Bb 9 on iPhone. My question is why on iPhone only while some LMS’s are able to function smoothly on any phone as long as it is connected to the net and has a compatible browser. You’ll need to download a plug-in to your iPhone/iPod to be able to use this feature. Some comments left on David’s twitter page about this tool ““students can’t find stuff in BB on a 17? monitor - let alone an Itouch screen”. People who have tried this tool say that the Bb server needs to be configured correctly in order to use the iPhone/iPod plug-in otherwise it is blocked.

Gradebook in V 9 is mostly unchanged, contrary to the comments made on the site “… from a single place educators can view tasks to be completed, assignments to grade, and new discussion board postings to review. They can monitor ‘at risk’ students and receive course/unit notifications”. Tools referred to in this claim have been on Bb for quite sometime now. They are referring to the Early warning system and the overall Gradebook function. Bb 9 has given these tools a common place hence is centralised and is more visible unlike before.

On a positive note Bb 9 and even the older versions have a more flexible Gradebook when compared with other systems. The ability to create individual reports for students would be handy for teachers (Bb 9). The Gradebook tools in Bb 9 remains the same with a bit of streamlining and polishing.

The virtual collaboration tools (Virtual classrooms) in V9 appears to the same as V8 that were unstable.

The news is not all bad, according to the readings I have done; Bb V 9 upgrade is free (now I am not sure, maybe it is only if you are moving from V8 to V9). It comes with some useful tools like “conditional activities” – students can only progress to the next stage having successfully met the criteria set by the teacher (this feature should also be available in Moodle 2.0 to be released soon). The level of notification and the ability for a student to monitor their own progress has been taken to another level. The Dashboard in V9 is apparently a one-stop-shop for students looking for deadlines, test assignment schedules, and other task. Bb 9 has a built-in feature that can support student portfolios (there are issues around portability and the degree of integration with other portfolio systems). The mash-up feature in Bb 9 is said to be a good addition. It allows for easy integration (import and export) with other systems namely, Sakai and Moodle. Bb V9 comes with an enhanced group tool that now offers (1) ability for students to form own groups or (2) system can randomly assign students to a group. The group tool also offers more collaborative tools for example blogs, journals, tasks and ability for a group to personalise the group space (ability to add extra modules if needed). I am however disappointed to see that there is only one type of Group possible, separate group, meaning groups can’t collaborate or see what the other has done. Group in Bb is still viewed as a separate unit with its own space, and not an intricate part of the wider group (class).

Blackboard has done some work around central storage. Teaching staff can now upload files and contents and these are accessible through “My content” menu that is available across the platform.

I also noticed that Bb 9 has done considerable amount of work in developing an interface that cares for the disabled students. All pictures upload now can have Alt tags; sadly this field is not mandatory unlike in Moodle (it kind of defeats the purpose).

To sum it up briefly: They have done some good work around usability and in including Web 2 tools but the lack of cohesion and consideration of any pedagogy in particular lets it down. The lack of creative ideas seems to have limited Bb to deliver almost the same product (almost the same as V7 and V8) with lots of hype around it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

GDHE session

Yesterday I did a session on 'LMS and beyond' for the GDHE programme. I was under the impression that I'll have 3 hours as all the other sessions did. I found out late Tuesday afternoon that I only had 2 hours. It was a bit too late by then. I had already planned for a 3 hour session. I knew going into the session that I'll be struggling against time hence I dropped the first (online pedagogy) and the last part (online course design) and just focused on the middle section which was looking at the tools in Moodle and it's use in class.

I was initially asked to do a 'show and tell' session but that's something I have struggled with for sometime now. It only takes 30 minutes and you have a problem in your hand. The attendees are not always (well never are) at the same level, by the first 30 minutes people are all the place, some struggling and some would have already given up. Another problem with the show and tell approach is people only retain probably the first 10-20 minutes of the learning ...... the rest is @#$%^^****())(&^%, yes you are right garbage ....... you loose their attention and engagement (well there is never any engagement to begin with in show and tell approach).

So for the GDHE session I planned my lesson with a twist. I was going to 'teach' to bunch of teachers, so it had to be something tasteful and engaging!!!! Here's what a started with: What I wanted these teachers to do with their students having attended my session? I just didn't want them to use the LMS but also wanted them to harvest the power of the internet. I did not want to stand in front of the class and deliver. I guess my goal was, if I can get these teachers to realise that going online wasn't simply just about uploading pdf's, doc files etc and using forum and blog rather it is an opportunity to revisit the pedagogy. And that if you want to harvest the true power there is a bigger change that needs to occur, that is moving away from stand, package and deliver to getting students to co-construct, and making the process a student centred approach. In a nutshell I was planning for a session that would model student centred approach and moving from being a 'teacher' to becoming a 'facilitator'. A socio-constructivist approach.

I was actually delighted to see the feedback after the session. Reading the feedback off people's blog was the first thing I did. I got the attendees to reflect on the whole session:


  • What did you think of the session?

  • What did you learn?

  • What did you think was the role of the 'teacher' in this session?

  • What improvements would you recommend to this session?


Here are some of the feedback I got:

Participant 1:

"Getting directly into moodle use with Vickel. An interesting session that was crammed full of great ideas for social engagement of students. In this session I find myself continually refining my knowledge of what moodle can achieve, and how to go about many of the tasks I need.

I found other people's ideas and 'take' on quizzes, wikis and lessons of considerable interest as these are newer areas for me. I would particularly like to see a lot more ideas on quizzes, and I am confident that we will get many more resources than we can cope with from Vickel, and the moodle community.

Thanks Vickel, I will have a lot more questions for you, that was a good session despite the crimp on time."

Participant 2:

What I thought of today's session
Very interesting and interactive session by Vickel in the afternoon.

What I have learned
This was my first interaction with much of this material and much of what I heard and saw was very useful and informative.

The role of the "teacher" in today's session
The role of the coach was well demonstrated - particularly in the afternoon where the session time was shortened.

Participant 3:

  • The session was good and very creative. The course materials were well prepared.

  • I learned things I never learnt before in this IT era.

  • The teacher's role in this session should be a facilitator as well as tutor simultaneously.


Participant 4:

The session was very good....... but would like to have much more time.... Double the time!
Have learned many uses in Moodle, improvements have experienced so much.
A facilitator who has been able to sped up the hic-cups where at reached barriers, sped easily to find the useful tips.
Improvements.... constantly yearly updates.... more such workshops.

Talking to a colleague before the session, I stated that if I walked out of the session with 1 person identifying my role as a facilitator I would say the session was a success. The word facilitator poured through the feedbacks I had received.

It was an awesome experience for me. I enjoyed the interaction and discussions we had. I am especially proud of the fact that attendees really enjoyed the learner centred approach :-) and also identified some positives, like "This afternoon I had trouble with dead mouse and missed logon. However as we worked in group it didn't matter. While we were working in groups teacher had opportunity to show me how to log in or catch up.".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Google Sidewiki - Rocks!!!!

Released recently Google Sidewiki gives blogging and web surfing a whole new meaning. It is located as the name suggests on the side of any website you are visiting (you have to install a plugin in order for it to work). If you want to make a new entry, all you have to do is slide open Sidewiki and start typing.

Cool, if you highlight a word on the website it's added to the wiki and you can then start talking about it. How many times have you forgotten something you thought was important while reading?

So if you are reading something on a site and so are your friends or any one for this matter, all the entries made about the page will be displayed to everyone (Kind of open wiki for the web page). Quite powerful I'd say for students and teachers who venture out on the net to seek information. Now you can make meaning, collaborate and gather feedback. A powerful tool to encourage students.

If you want you can plug the entries you create using Sidewiki to your blog (Blogger only).

If you are visiting a site and someone has already started a wiki on it, Sidewiki will automatically pick it up and will appear on the left hand side of the page. If the page has none, you can start one.

Here is what people had to say about Wikipedia:

wiki

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Twitter v Facebook -- FB wins, it 'enhances your intelligence', Twitter doesn't :-(

A study done at University of Stirling in Scotland shows Twitter may not be good for your brain as it 'weakens the working memory'. The argument is justified by the researcher by concluding that Twitter needs no decoding of information hence the mind is not working to build new nerve connections. Facebook on the other hand requires your mind to think because it has apps like Sodoku and others. (You can read more about this here)

Well for me having used Twitter for the last year or so and Facebook for more then 2 years, it is exactly the opposite.

I think the sample in the research done at University of Stirling were making minimal use of Twitter, not exactly the way I have been using it. For me it gets me thinking every time a read a twit. People I am following have similar interest to me in the field of education. News, publications and blogs are frequently posted, just yesterday in 1 hour I received about 200 twits from a person attending a conference in US on Virtual worlds in education. Twitter has evolved over the years. It is no longer just 140 characters. Twitter has become a powerful tool with the ability to link out to pictures, videos, audios and almost all the popular apps used on the net. It creates a very rich multimedia environment. Twitter for me generates curiosity, helps build critical thinking skills, builds networks, helps me keep up to date with the happenings around the world and area of my interest and is instant.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mum, six year old and dial up

My colleague brought in her 6 old year daughter to work today; she had to stay behind from school because of some ‘unknown’ illness (I am sure we all have been there with our parents). I’ll call the little one Mia. Mia is just like any other 6 year old, she is full of energy, loves to run and play, enjoys pie and donut, she also as I found out loves to play games online.

You must be thinking where am I going this is, right?

Well today at morning tea something life changing happened for Mia’s mum. We were talking to Mia and she was telling us how she loves little kid stories and somehow we ended up talking about Internet. So Mia’s mum goes:

Mum: so Mia would you like broadband?
(Mia without any hesitation goes)
Mia: Yap (with quite a lot of energy and enthusiasm)
Mum: what do you think about dial up?
(Mia with a sad face but in a funny tone)
Mia: Boooooooo!!!! I can’t play Disney games, Mum!

Now we all here at work have been telling Mia’s mum to get rid of painful dial up and to get broadband but No!!!!

Moral of the story!!!

Get broadband Mum for God sake. The kid knows more then you!!!
And also that times have changed, you wouldn't fine many 6 year olds who haven't used a computer. They have been on the net and from a very early age realise the benefits.

Monday, September 7, 2009

100 essential tools for teachers :-)

A list of 100 tools for teachers to empower, engage/motivate and interact/collaborate.

View the list here.

Google Wave – how will it change the online learning landscape?

That is Google Wave – in a nutshell having read few postings online (since Google Wave is not out yet):

• Has real time components, mainly that you’ll be able to see what the second person is typing character by character
• Openness, ability to embed your blogs, website, twitter and video etc
• Google applications and others – similar to Facebook, you’ll be able to use apps put out by third party developers since Google Wave is Open source.
• Google Wave Wiki
• Playback, apparently you’ll be able to play back any part of Google Wave to trace the progress.
• Drag and drop file sharing
• Social presence - networking and collaboration. Google Wave is said to even have a project management tool.

Now putting Google Wave together with the already impressive collection of Google tools (Calender, Blogger, iGoogle, Google Reader, Groups, Google Docs, Google Talk, Google Map …. you get the picture), where does it leave the ‘primitive’ LMS systems as education and mainly blended learning approach and Personal Learning Environment gathers momentum.

Google Wave will probably change the online learning landscape, as we know it. On every investment, one expects at least some positive return. As far as LMS’s go the students actually get none! All the work they do in a course over the semester is lost as the courses on LMS’s are recycled for use next semester. As far as the notion of ePortfolios go, Google Wave will have a huge impact upon selection of what tool to go with and a positive spin for the students who’ll be able to showcase all of three years work to prospect employees.

Highly networked students ready to tackle anything that is thrown at them. I wish I had an eportfolio when I finished my undergraduate degree. I find myself going through boxes of paper when looking for information (well I have moved on from it now, LOVE Google search and to some extent Youtube).
If learning is social then the networks we build along the way is critical. Nurturing the relationship and learning from each other at the same time should be a life long process. ICT plays a very important role in this process, critically the skills needed and the need to instill it in the learning process is equally important.

Google Wave provides all the tools needed and more for free. Do institutes need to look deeper at what is it they want from delivering courses online?

If a teacher-controlled environment in needed then LMS is the way to go. On the other hand a learner-centred, engaging and truly preparing a students for what the future may throw at them is needed then handing the power to students is important. The power to reflect, critic their won work and at the same time that of the peers, to collaborate and to start a never ending journey that of Life long learning then a platform that is not institutionally controlled, is readily accessible and reliable is needed.

Youtube seek-peek at Google Wave:



Shorter version (10 mins only - highlights)



The revolution begins: EDUPUNK!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How the LMS market stacks up.



[Source: http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/lms_market.png]

Amazed to see that Bb still has a huge hold on the market. I am sure things will take a turn in a few years time as Open Source establishes itself further.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mind mapping - 100 reasons why you should do it.

I have been asked many times by people who have not used or are thinking of using mind maps, why they should use/create one. This website outlines 100 reasons why using a mind map is handy.

[http://www.mindmapinspiration.com/100-reasons-to-mind-map-paul-foreman/]

Monday, August 24, 2009

Assessment Design ;-)

exam question

Problem with the answer or the question, you be the judge.

Friday, July 31, 2009

It's official - 'The Most Effective Teachers Are In A Class Of Their Own'

According to a latest research done in UK at School of Education in University of Nottingham over a 2 year period shows that teachers who are 'doing it right' are a cut above the rest!

Quote:

"Knowledgeable, innovative, skilful, fun-loving, caring, supportive, task and pupil centred – it’s official – the most effective teachers are in a class of their own. They stimulate a pupil’s imagination, challenge their views, encourage them to do great things and motivate them through tailored teaching practices to ensure that every pupil feels a sense of achievement and valued as part of the class community."

According to the principle researcher Professor Christopher Day the research gave them an idea of the skill set needed to be an 'effective teacher':

“ability to create a positive climate for learning by challenging pupils’ ideas, inspiring them, being more innovative in their practice and differentiating amongst pupils according to their abilities and interests where appropriate”

Source:

(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090707210802.htm)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Educational uses of SL

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Alice - a new way to learn programming

If you have done any programming papers, you'd know what I am talking about. The 'make it or break it' case eventuates when you do the first paper, if you find it hard you'll probably quit the major and choose something else.

Having done a major is programming, I at times wondered in my first year, why was I wasting my time, learning the rigid programming syntax. In the first semester of the major, I ended up programming a basic calculator and a wage calculator, it didn't make sense. Why was I reinventing the world? Not mentioning the boring moments I had to put up with almost everyday while working on the computer doing my assignments. You are stuck with a black screen (Borland C++) that had a miserable interface and very basic help library.

Black screen

The thought of quitting the major had crossed my mind so many times but I persevered and finished my major.

Teaching programming to year 12 and 13's would probably be the biggest challenge I faced quite early in my career. I did struggle at times and so did my students. Reflecting on my struggle while finishing my major, I could understand what my students were going through. The process of 'doing' and 'learning from it' was disjointed. The process fell apart because the students were not keen on 'doing' hence the latter never eventuated. Some of the reasons for not 'doing' - not fun, boring and nothing to conceptualise. I managed to work around some of these issues by making the class more game oriented and getting students to reflect at the end of every session. However the problem of teaching the rigid syntax or for students to remember these syntax always proved difficult. Somewhere down the line I discovered Alice, invented by the late Randy Pausch (watch his video: The Last Lecture).



Alice is a 3D platform for students to learn programming. Students learn the concept and logic for programming by controlling Alice and what she does inworld. The students can make her dance, walk, run, jump and many other complex maneuvers meaning rising the level every time and with it the need to learn complex programming skills. The immersive nature of Alice appears to have broken the barrier of 'not doing'. You are not just writing codes but you are actually getting Alice (Avatar) to do something. It's fun, it is easy (possibly because the pain of remembering the rigid syntax is outweighed by the enjoy students get out of using it) and best of all it works!

According to ScienceDialy a research done at Duke University, students were


  • highly engaged (unheard comments in a classroom like: ""'Oh, wow, look!' they told each other. 'Come here. Show me. Look at this!'" ). The students were creating stories with Alice.

  • keen on asking for more time to finish their work (students having spent 5-6 hours on Alice were still keen on continuing).


It also helped balance the male to female ratio in class, programming classes are mostly male dominated. It also created a very good platform for students hence the student turnover for the next class was good.

By the time I discovered Alice it was too late for my high school students but I had an opportunity to try it with my students in 2007. The feedback I received from my students were very similar to what's stated by Duke University. Students loved the fact that they actually created something, and that they could control what happened inworld. The understanding of key programming concepts became more apparent and easier to understand. I also noticed that students were highly engaged in the process and that they were willing to invest huge amount of time developing their world.

Second Life is another platform that could be used but has a steep learning curve. It maybe more suited at a university level. Second Life is more developed and has it's own scripting language (very similar to java) and is not free unlike Alice.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

ClickHeat | Clicks heatmap

ClickHeat is an OpenSource web application that helps monitor the behaviour of the visitors on your website. ClickHeat shows the 'hot' and 'cold' areas on the page.
ClickHeat

Read more about ClickHeat.

Friday, June 26, 2009

eAssessments

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wordnik

Wordnik
Wordnik
An ongoing project devoted to discovering
all the words and everything about them

Wordnik includes definition, examples of the word in use, images, pronunciation, related words, users can leave notes and tag, and a summary page.

Good tool for vocabulary and general use.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From eLearning to Social Learning

Jane Hart from the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies has done some great work around social learning. The 3 series presentation she has done are awesome. You can have a look at them here. Or click on the links below.










VoiceThread

What is VoiceThread?

VoiceThread is a voice forum.
Let me call it 'second generation' discussion forum and I'll call the text discussion boards present in Moodle, Blackboard and websites 'first generation'. Unlike the first generation discussion forums that are mainly textual, VoiceThread takes 1st gen discussion forum to another level. You can now have online discussions without even typing a word! You can post a video, picture or simply a small introductory voice message to get the discussion going. People posting replies to your forum can do it either by posting a voice message or typing in a response. The VoiceThread environment offers you all the tools necessary to do this, meaning you don't need to open or install any additional application, all you need is a mic and a speaker on your computer to get started and these are standard in almost all computer.

7 things you should know about VoiceThread (EDUCAUSE article (pdf)) does a great job on explaining what VoiceThread is all about and its implications for teaching and learning.

Below is an example VoiceThread is use:

Social eLearning

Created using Stripgenerator.

Social eLearning

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Need more than 140 characters on your twit?

Write4net

Write4net is a separate service to twitter, it allows you to compose a blog, meaning you can insert pictures, videos etc. It publishes it to your twitter account by converting the blog url into a small url (something like TinyURL), your followers receive the twit as a link which when linked takes the users through to the original posting on Write4net.

Write4net is a free service and is very easy to use. Basically when you link through to the Write4net website, you land on the compose page. You type whatever you want and then click on the publish link. It will then ask you for your twitter username and password, allow access and you are ready to go.

It's like blogging in micro-blogging, I like that!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Moodle tutorials

For all your Moodle needs go to this one-stop Moodle tutorial shop --> http://www.moodletutorials.org/index.php

It has video tutorials on Moodle for almost all Moodle modules and more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Google image labeler

I came across this new feature in Google called Google Image Labeler.

What it does?

It throws a series of pictures and finds you a partner online to work with. What you have to do is label the image with as many words as possible in 2 minutes and your partner will do the same (you and your partner see the same image). Google then scores you and your partner. At the end of the 'game' Google will display the source of the image and the words that were attached with it.

Possible use with students

A fun way to practice vocabulary.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poll Everywhere (Twitter App works with PPT/websites)

Poll everywhere is a 3rd party Twitter application that works with PowerPoint, you can also embed it in a web page. It could be used realtime with your students. You can create multi-choice questions and get feedback right there in the classroom or you could be more creative and set activities outside of the classroom. The thing I love about this application is it can be used anywhere as the name suggestions. It takes the learning outside of the classroom.

It's a pay service but offers a free version for use with up to 30 participants. I thought this was a very generous offer. Students can SMS the answers but it may not be free. It is free in Australia but I couldn't find anything which said SMS service in NZ was free.

3.05 pm update: Sorry spoke to soon, if you haven't read my previous post Twitter update (SMS) from Vodafone network is now free in New Zealand. This means you can send and receive 200 sms/month from twitter for free. This also means Poll Everywhere is then free and to send your response to any Poll Everywhere Multichoice poll send it to this number 8987 with the message @poll CODE

Poll Everywhere also allows you to create short answer quiz/poll, of course this is limited to 160 characters (same as sms). Again you respond to any Poll Everywhere Short Answer poll by sending a sms to 8987 with the message @poll CODE Answer

Link to the main page: Poll Everywhere

Using Poll Everywhere



Try it out!
Text a code (one of 38101, 38102 or 38100) to 8987. Wait for a while and the graph should update.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The start of a new beginning

Robot teacher for kids in classroom?!?

She can't move on her own, she can talk but it feels like she is choking.

I am actually lost for words!!! I have no idea how to categorise this, creepy, innovative, enabling in some ways, "things not to try in class" ..... not sure. To an extent I agree with the comment made by its creator "there are children who don't have an opportunity to come into contact with technology".

Kids seem to be fascinated by it :-).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Next Gen search engine

Wolfram (alpha) is online now. Try it out http://www59.wolframalpha.com/

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wolfram .... Some say it is the next big thing on the web!

What is it?

It is a search engine for finding/manipulating factual data. Stephen Wolfram (creator) and his team call it “computational knowledge engine” for the web. Unlike Google it doesn’t only return a collection of links and information in other format. Wolfram actually goes a step further and tries to understand the question and then computes the answers to answer a wide range of questions that may arise from your original.

For example “What is the population of New Zealand”, pause for a while and think about the types of questions that can arise here. Wolfram does exactly this and then computes the answers and provides a detailed view. A good example of the intelligence of this system is: “GDP France/Italy”, the system is smart enough to figure that I have information about both these places and hence I can perform this mathematical operation. Wolfram doesn’t have a predefined database that has all the information like Google does, rather it goes a mile extra in trying to make sense of this information.

Another example from blog.wolfram.com:

“To give an amusing example, every school child has at one time or another written a report on the moon, and they probably included the wrong figure for how far the moon is from the earth. Why wrong? Because the distance from the earth to the moon is not constant: it changes by as much as a mile a minute. If you ask Wolfram|Alpha the distance to the moon, it tells you not only the conventionally quoted average distance, but also the actual distance right now, which can at times be well over ten thousand miles off the average. The actual distance is a figure that can be arrived at only by computation based on the moon’s known orbital parameters.”

In a nutshell a search engine for factual data with computational power. I have this information, what can I do with it.



Wolfram goes live sometime this month, exact date is unknown (I couldn’t find anything on Google.).

Visit: http://www.wolframalpha.com/

Monday, April 27, 2009

Second Life



Second Life (SL) for those who are already familiar with SL please bear with me.

SL is a 3D virtual environment, it is really not a game (as many people perceive) rather it is an environment left upto its users to “create”, it could be anything, users have the freedom. It has a potential of being tailored into a game (may I say there are some really good games in SL) possible through SL scripting (Linden scripting language). According to SL statistics for March 2008, SL had well over 13 million subscribers, who spent a staggering 28 million hours for the month of January (2008) alone. It is this that got me thinking about SL as a potential educational tool. 28 million hours spent in one month alone, wow, this has to be a very highly engaging platform right?

If you haven’t had a SL experience, I would recommend that you create a login and just visit a few islands to get an idea. You’ll be able to visit a virtual Taj Mahal, a NASA museum of spacecrafts (from the early days), a “Second World” (virtual Earth), you’ll even find Dell’s online shop (Toyota and IBM), refer to these links to view pictures of some interesting places to visit in SL http://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/sets/72157594417463338/ or http://www.uncp.edu/home/acurtis/NewMedia/SecondLife/SecondLifeGreatPlaces.html.

I have always believed in the equation FUN + PLAY = LEARNING, this equation is applicable at so many levels in education. It has a potential to create a good social environment, a good platform to engage with others and to interact and can provide learners an opportunity to explore and create. It is these possibilities present in SL that has me and other educators around the world wrapped around its finger. I attach this video from Youtube to highlight some of the educational potential of SL.



Still early days I would say hence lots of skepticism and questions about SL. SL is a tool which takes a lot to get started, investments cost etc still Harvard amongst other universities are using it already.

The SLENZ (Second Life Education in New Zealand, http://slenz.wordpress.com) project has embarked on a journey to further evaluate the potential of SL in education. It will be interesting to see what the outcomes are. From what we already know, there is a steep learning curve for both teachers and students to begin with. There is a huge upfront investment in developing the learning resources and environment and to do this you need to own/lease a piece of virtual land and money (Linden dollars) to buy stuff and have knowledge of how to operate and create on the system. There are technical issues, issues around reliability and other issues may arise as the virtual world draws closer to replicating the real world and consequently creating real issues in a virtual world (example copyright, ownership, social issues, law and order etc).

Few thoughts to finish with, is something similar to SL the future of the web? There are obvious issues here but if something more open and with almost the same or more features as SL comes along, the web might just take a turn to a 3D approach. Browsing the web will become something like taking a work or ride to a destination with your friends. Further uptake of this technology will unravel more potential and acceptance. The younger generations now accustomed to powerful games and graphics are set to welcome this environment with open arms. Where does this leave us with the future of education?

Flickr

Flickr in 3D

Finally a 3D search engine for Flickr, have a play here.
All you need to do is enter a tag as the search criteria.

Really cool :-)!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Visual guide to Twitter

Ways Twitter can be helpful, in business or for personal use. Click here.

9 reasons to use Twitter in schools. Click here.