Open Sandbox

by HJDeW ~ July 25th, 2011

My investigations into the Terms of Service (TOS) for several social media products was an eye opening experience. I had never taken the time to read the details behind the ‘click to agree’ button when I signed on for any one of these services. In my haste, I now realize, I have signed off on certain rights and privileges that could impact my future. Is this a big deal? Maybe. My investigations will continue but have already connected to other ideas I am exploring on this topic.

My interest in this particular topic connects to a book I have been reading titled “Open Leadership” by Charlene Li. It’s premise is an investigation into how social technologies can transform the way leadership can be open while retaining control. This is not a ‘how to’ book on accessing, establishing or creating accounts within social media sites. This book focuses on how to harness the power of social media to lead in the times of Twitter and Facebook. The ten defining characteristics outlined in the opening chapters include

Information Sharing: explaining, updating, conversing, open mic, crowdsourcing, and platforms

Decision Making: centralized, democratic, self-managing, and distributed.

A subsequent chapter establishes some measures of how to control the openness of social media when structures are needed, by using ‘sandbox covenants’. This examines the policies, processes, and procedures needed to manage social media in the workplace. This brought to mind the guidelines recently created for educators in Ontario as outlined by the College of Teachers. These are important controls to ensure the intentions and actions of members of the company or profession behave in social media environments in an appropriate manner.

The key mind-sets of open leadership, according to Li, are optimism and collaboration. These two dimensions will impact how open and active a leader will be within a social media environment. The one example from the field of education that comes to mind is Chris Kennedy’s blog “The Culture of Yes“. Within this social media outlet, the ten characteristics outlined by Li for open leadership can be identified as being present.

One thing not mentioned in Charlene Li’s book is the connection to T.O.S. for each of the social media tools that an open leader may utilize. Privacy is not mentioned in the subject index. Once you look at the fine print for Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites, I wonder – Are the leaders losing control of their content, message and meaning? What happens when they click the ‘I agree’ button when creating their open, social media accounts, despite the sandbox covenants established internally? And if so, how can this be used to advantage? How does this apply to educational leadership?


Li, Charlene (2010) Open Leadership: how social technology can transform the way you lead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishing. (see also:


by HJDeW ~ July 22nd, 2011

image of cubes with asian charactersSynchronous communication tools have developed rapidly into mainstream use. For the sake of saving long distance phone charges, web based tools have become this ‘poor man’s calling card’. The ease of use and cost of use have ensured that these tools will find their place into my personal toolbox and perhaps that of the toolbox of educators around the world.

My personal experience with Skype and have ensured that I have real-time conversations with my own children in far-away places. Text provides almost synchronous communication if the phone is on, charged up and within reach., a recent addition to my collection, has added the voice message capability to my iphone where texting was the first ‘almost synchronous’ tool. Skype unfortunately needs to be on, available and sometimes scheduled to ensure that it is ‘synchronized’ with the parties involved.

Skype has provided the affordance of having group video chat as well as chat capture, which certainly adds the element of capturing minutes for group online meetings. This has been a handy tool to hold meetings for group projects for MET courses, particularly when several time zones are involved.

My recent experience with Wimba Pronto has exposed me to another synchronous communication tool. For educational purposes, I can see these tools being used as a means of communication between students in diverse locations around the globe, possibly for online language learning opportunities -voice pals vs. email or pen pals.

My experience with Wimba live classroom exposed me to the potential of learning anywhere and anytime. With this particular tool, the classroom teacher can be located in one place and providing instruction to students in diverse locations around the world. Again, the potential for e-learning to be conducted in a fully interactive online classroom in synchronous time is quite incredible. This goes a step beyond the concept of webinars (on line seminars) or screencasts which are primarily one way or with limited interactivity. The live classroom has the potential of opening the doors and walls of classrooms everywhere. My first thought was for the many teachers in this province who are currently looking for permanent teaching positions close to home and family and those many children in countries around the globe looking for teachers to instruct children in the English language. Wimba live classroom is a tool that could bring them together in synchronous relationship and communication. That’s synchronicity!

LMS – Learning My Style

by HJDeW ~ July 21st, 2011

“My style determines my course design.” 

image of hand holding soap bubble
My Style


This was my big ‘AHA’ moment when working through the investigations and explorations into learning management systems. WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle, or other LMS (learning management systems) all have features, affordances and related applications that make the online learning experience available, interactive and engaging. What makes each product work in the best way for the students, be they young learners, higher education learners or adult life long learners, is a course designer, or team of designers, who have learned their style.

This can mean two things.

  1. The designer knows who they are as a designer. They are aware of their unique style in their design, aren’t afraid to try new things but keep true to who they are as individuals and as course creators. They design with intention. The LMS used is not so much irrelevant as being secondary to their course design mission. The affordances of the tools used will be made to fit their vision of the design or they will find another way to make it work.
  2. The designer knows who they are designing for. They are aware of the learners’ unique styles and bring those elements to the forefront when they are designing. Again, the LMS  is secondary to this process since the tools selected will fit the style of those using them because those are the ones the designer will select.

So with this newly found insight, I delved into the comparisons and work of creating elements in WebCT and in Moodle. I discovered that I have learned a lot about my style. I select tools and ways of doing things that fit my style. I have found resources (print, people and web based media), to help me create what I needed to do. They were there when I got stuck and couldn’t get something to work the way the instructions or design vision dictated. My style of persistence and problem solving ensured that I would succeed when it was important to maintain my design vision.

My course creation, in both WebCT and Moodle, were seriously impacted, in a good way, by the course instructor who strongly encouraged but did not require that I create content outside of the LMS. This one small ‘suggestion’ has opened a world of possibility in my design capability and vision. Yet again, my personal style and my design style were enhanced by the choices I am able to make as I work toward creating course content. My style and selection of affordances will influence the selection of the best fit for the style of the students of my proposed course.

Ah, enlightenment leads to self discovery!  I guess you could say I’m still learning my style, LMS style!

‘M’ -mobile and moving

by HJDeW ~ July 18th, 2011
image of two lane highway going off into distance

Learning on the highway

Mobility and movement are markers of the current world reality. My weekend was one of mobility and movement so it was an excellent time to test and learn about m-learning technologies.

My first task, to get into the UBC MET course on WebCT was accomplished without any difficulty. I was able to read, respond and post without any challenges. Once I reached the part of my journey where wireless cell service was a little less stable, I experienced dropped pages and error messages. That’s when I began to wonder about cell service to remote parts of the world. This is the issue, as well as WIFI service, that will change the availability of m-learning for people around the globe. If my service to a fairly populated area of Ontario wasn’t stable, what about remote regions of the province or country. M-learning is not an option for those areas yet.


My second task was to try my various mobile tools – laptop, iPad, iphone. Since I am able to access wireless cell service through my phone by tethering my laptop to access the internet while travelling, it was fairly easy to access both WebCT and Moodle to complete work online. The load time was not as fast as my home location, but it was manageable. Again, the challenge occurred as a result of pockets of weak and unstable signal strength. My efforts to post to this blog using my iphone and ipad were a success. I was not able to upload an image but was able to insert an image from the media library.

I reviewed some of the links available through the Educause article and discovered a wealth of resources relating to the topic of mobile learning. I had not been aware of the difference between e-learning and m-learning.  I also discovered that some of the effective web site design techniques applicable to accessibility are also effective for mobile learning needs.

Wagner (2005) reported that catalysts for mobile learning include:

  1. growth of wireless networks, availability of wireless services, prevalence of wireless devices
  2. consumer demand for wireless service that is accessible, reliable, flexible, interactive, efficient and secure
  3. demand for access anywhere and anytime

These catalysts are ever more present in the area of educational technology in current times. This is one area that will receive more of my attention as I move through the MET program.



Highway image retrieved July 13, 2011 from Photo #a6bc277281bb299072624118fbf3370f

Wagner, Ellen D. (2005)  Enabling Mobile Learning. Educause Review Volume 40, No. 3, May/June 2005, p. 40-53 Retrieved July 16, 2011 from


Design and Style

by HJDeW ~ July 15th, 2011

My investigations into web  design and HTML authoring tools has been an interesting and puzzling one.

I began this investigation early in the course and have extended my familiarity with html coding to the point where I keep some handy guide sheets at my side. It still puzzles me that the string of code results in such interesting images, actions or results.


<object type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” style=”outline:none;” data=”” width=”300″ height=”225″><param name=”movie” value=””></param><param name=”AllowScriptAccess” value=”always”></param><param name=”wmode” value=”opaque”></param><param name=”bgcolor” value=”FFFFFF”/></object>



The application of Cascading Style Sheets still eludes me, but I will continue to read and investigate this element of design since I try to make my pages have a consistent look and simple appearance.

I have downloaded web page development software (Amaya) and have been using this to create pages. It is fairly easy to use but I did have to remember to save  files to the same locations, particularly when images are involved. I made the mistake of moving items from one location to another and this caused some problems. Once I figured out where my error was, it was a lesson learned and remembered.

My challenge in planning and storyboarding was solved by searching the web for some editable, downloadable templates. These have come in handy during the planning of the Moodle course modules as well as the digital storybook that needed to be planned. I have decided that the simple stories, elements and appearances create the best style in web design. Then adding some interesting elements where appropriate and applicable give the design some interest and variety.

The Zen of Design

I can’t leave this exploration without referencing  Garr Reynolds and his concepts of design, presentation and branding have become integrated into my personal sense of design and style. My investigations into the many style and design challenges found on the Websites that Suck list certainly extended my understanding about how not to design websites.

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