Posted by: | 18th Jun, 2009


This week, I check out weblogs for the E-learning Toolkit activity. Although I do have some experience with weblogs, both as readers and as a publisher, I welcome the opportunity to learn more about them. I was most surprised and impressed to visit the link to the ETEC 522 course site, which appears to host and manage most or all of the course content. Makes sense, I suppose because weblogs are much more than personal journals, but I had never really stopped to think about how many people or agencies are using blogs to manage their content.

I’ve never used Blogger as a weblog application, so I created an account to check things out a little. This was pretty much the standard sign-up procedure for web services, no surprises here. The Blogger interface is very similar to that of WordPress, which I use quite often. Blogger makes publishing very easy and I was also able to change my template with no trouble at all.

While I understand that Blogger and WordPress are very popular in educational settings, I still prefer using Class Blogmeister with my students. I feel comfortable and in complete control over postings because I am able to preview and approve entries and comments before they are published. This is an important feature if you’re a grade eight teacher.

I did however try out Google Blog Search to locate some great NHL blogs that I added to my Google Reader. I want to teach my students how and why to do this during units of study. I’m also trying to locate a nice student blog evaluation rubric that I can use next school year. I suppose I could make one myself, but I’d prefer not to re-invent.

Posted by: | 10th Jun, 2009

Synchronous Communication Tools

I’m really liking the E-learning toolkit activities. This week, I’ve spent several hours tinkering with various synchronous communication tools including Skype and Wimba. It is quite easy to recognize the value of these tools, especially in light of this week’s Anderson (2008) reading where the key attributes of online learning were discussed. As a learner in the MET program, I can attest that a good online learning design needs to incorporate synchronous communication tools in order to foster appropriate interactions between teacher-learner, learner-learner, learner-knowledge, and learner-community. Selfishly, I am most interested in using these tools to increase interactions between learners and the community outside of my school. One of my professional goals is to go outside the confines of the school walls in order to tap into the vast network of outside expertise and knowledge. I had planned on using synchronous tools to enable me to do so. I just think it’s silly to try to be a teacher know it all these days when there are others who are more capable and who don’t mind helping out. For example, recently my class and I started to study about the Holocaust. I know very little about the Holocaust, but managed to put a decent unit together. This is fine, but I can’t help but think that I could have been joined by an expert in the field. Bringing an expert in by Skype or Wimba might just be what the doctor ordered.

And so I tried out Skype…..

The download was quick and it installed on my Mac with no trouble at all. After that the sign-up process took minutes and I was all set to test things out. With no contacts, or no knowledge of Skype etiquette, I was hesitant to make a call. I used the search function to locate a number of a pizza delivery service in Brazil that guaranteed delivery in 45 minutes or less. I clicked on the green phone icon, and heard the call going through. The following transcribes my call:

Pizza Guy : something in Portugese

Me: Hi, can I make a delievery order?

Pizza Guy: What?

Me: I want to order a pizza and I wonder if your 45 minute guarantee applies to me?

Pizza Guy: You have to be kidding me

Pizza Guy: hangs up

The point is that the call worked and it was free, opening up a huge world of possibilities for my teaching practices. What I do worry about, however, is how to support my guest experts who may not be familiar with Skype. Perhaps they aren’t skilled with technology at all. I wonder if someone has designed a tutorial for this purpose. I’m going to check!


Posted by: | 7th Jun, 2009

LMS Proposal

Mr. Smith
Regina Public Schools
1600 4th Avenue
Regina, SK
S4X 4S5

Dear Mr. Smith,

Please find enclosed a proposal for an exciting and innovative project that has the potential to transform learning and keep our school division on the cutting edge of instruction.

I respectfully ask you to read my project proposal and consider the possibility of giving your support. I have included a brief description of the project goal, a rationale, the method used to select the required technology tools, and the resources I will need.

I am available and willing to expand on or answer further questions about any components of the project proposal. Please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

Yours truly,

Erik Van Dusen
Regina Public Schools

Background and Rationale

Each year, middle years students in our division are treated to novel The Outsiders, a timeless classic by S.E. Hinton. The novel supports many of the learning objectives found in the provincial curriculum and is usually enjoyed by students. Traditionally, teachers use a variety of activities and assessment tools with the novel study. The emergence of the Internet, however, has provided new opportunities for teaching and learning and I am confident that technology can be used to enhance The Outsiders novel study.

To be more specific, the use Learning Management Systems (LMS), are becoming a popular way to deliver units of study because they can improve and enhance student performance through better communication and the incorporation of online learning activities (Perkins & Pfaffmen, 2006).


Harness and exploit the affordances of the LMS Moodle to enhance teaching, learning and communication during The Outsiders novel study.

Method of Selection

Moodle is certainly not the only LMS platform that can used to deliver the novel study. For example, Blackboard and WebCT are also popular options. My decision to choose Moodle as my project’s LMS was made after great consideration. First, I reviewed sources of academic literature to gain a broader understanding of LMS and what they have to offer. I also had the opportunity to experiment with Moodle, Blackboard, and WebCT platforms. Additionally, as part of a grad class I’m taking (ETEC 565 – UBC), I helped to develop a rubric that aids in the evaluation and selection of LMS.

Above all, however, I used a trusted framework and a set of criteria to facilitate my decision regarding LMS platforms. The SECTIONS model (Bates and Poole, 2003) considers many of the factors associated in the selection and use of technology in student learning. I have included below a snapshot of the SECTIONS model and some of the factors, integral to my proposed project, that I had to consider. I hope this also helps to shed some light on the project’s objectives as well.

S (Students)

My students spend a great deal of time on the Internet, mostly playing online games and connecting to their friends via social-networking sites. Engaging these students in traditional learning activities is a difficult task because they crave social experiences and opportunities to use the same types of technology they are using away from school. An opportunity to integrate some technology into a novel study would likely interest my students and they certainly possess the required skills to participate in online activities.

E (Ease of use and reliability)

With very little training a user new to Moodle will find it easy to navigate and post content to its interface. Students or instructors do not need knowledge of sophisticated programming code. Additionally, students need not be at school in order to access the Moodle course as long as they have access to an Internet browser. I am not aware of glaring deficiencies in Moodle’s reliability, but, as with any forms of technology, there is always a possibility for issues to arise. While I can’t foresee running into an issue that would delay the project for a significant amount of time, I have planned for some flexibility to be built into the course should I encounter difficulties.

C (Costs)

One of the more attractive benefits to Moodle is that it is a free, open source, web-based application with no licenses or fees (Perkins & Pfaffmen, 2006). The existing division server is all that is needed to host the Moodle platform. The computer hardware and Internet access needed to use Moodle is already in our school and will not require any upgrades or further costs.

T (Teaching and learning)

Constructivist learning designs are being encouraged by the ministry and by our school division. Moodle was designed and created in order to facilitate constructivist teaching and learning. An opportunity to discover how Moodle can be used as a mechanism for delivering constructivist-based learning designs would many of our teachers and students. Moodle appears to be the correct tool for the job.

I (Interactivity)

Moodle provides several tools to facilitate interactivity on various levels. (Ex. Learner to learner; Learner to instructor).

• Chat rooms and discussion forums
• Surveys
• Calendar of events
• Wikis and glossary pages
• Evaluation tools and instructor feedback
• Lessons and resources
• Assignments

Moodle also has the ability to use tools and resources from outside the platform.

O (Organizational issues)

Regarding my project, I don’t foresee any organizational changes that need to be made. Having one of the division’s IT technician assigned as a support would be a huge bonus, especially if others plan to use Moodle for future projects.

N (Novelty)

Moodle has been a stable platform for nearly a decade. Updates and new versions are readily available. LMS are widely used in a variety of educational settings and appear to be gaining in popularity (Panettieri, 2007).

S (Speed)

Moodle can be downloaded and hosted on a server within minutes by one of our experienced IT technicians. Course content can be added with a click of a button, although sound instructional course design does take time. New courses can added within seconds and materials can easily be changed by the course instructor himself and does not require the help of a webmaster/IT technician.

Resources Needed

While it is possible to complete the project at no cost, experience tells me that certain obstacles impeding progress can be avoided through proper training. Two of the most prevalent barriers to technology integration are lack of time and lack of skills (Cuban, 2001; Groff & Mouza, 2008). In order to overcome these barriers and for my project to be a success I am respectfully requesting the following:

• Substitute teacher coverage for my regular classroom duties to allow for some time to design and develop my Moodle course. 1 day of coverage/week for a total of 12 weeks = 12 days of coverage x $220 = $2640
• Funds to attend a Moodle workshop for professional development = $500
• Funds to purchase resource materials if needed = $200

Total Funding Requested = $3340

Additional Caveats

• Once the course has been developed, other teachers are free to become instructors of the course and use the learning design in their own classrooms.
• I am willing to share my resources and expertise with other professionals within our division.
• The project supports our division’s goals to increase achievement in literacy.


Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Chapter 4: a Framework for Selecting and Using Technology. In Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education: Foundations for Success. (Pp. 77-105). San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers.

Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: computers in the classroom. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Groff, J. & Mouza, C. (2008). A Framework for Addressing Challenges to Classroom Technology Use. AACE Journal. 16 (1), pp. 21-46. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Panettieri, J. (2007). Addition by subtraction. University Business, August 58-62. Accessed online 11 March 2009

Perkins, M., Pfaffman, J. (2006). Using a Course Management System to Improve Classroom Communication. Science Teacher, 73(7), 33-37.

Posted by: | 24th May, 2009

First Impressions of Moodle

I enjoyed my first toolkit activity on LMS. I chose to explore Moodle over WebCT/Vista because my division runs its own Moodle server, so the opportunity is there for me to perhaps develop a few courses and use them with my students. Always excited to engage in practical assignments that can easily be transfered to my professional life.

I spent roughly 60 minutes on the toolkit exercises, opening a new course, adding a ice breaker message, and then setting up a graded discussion forum. None of this was very difficult at all. In fact, I was surprised at how easy it was to edit my new course. As usual though, I became interested in Moodle and spent several hours on the Moodle page, playing with features and pondering what I might add to my course. Lots of potential here, indeed. Because I teach face to face, I will have to consider whether a blended course would really benfit my students before I invest a great deal of time designing a course. Nonetheless, I think distance learning has a HUGE future, so any chance to develop the associated skills will likely be of value.

Stay tunes as I try to decide on a unit to build for ETEC 565. After all, if I have to design a course to pass the class, I might as well make something I can use in the future!

Posted by: | 10th May, 2009

My Flight Path

Airplane wing (2005)

A Little About Myself

I’ve been employed by Regina Public Schools for nearly nine years now. Half of those years were spent teaching Kindergarten, the other teaching grade eight. I cherish my work and the relationships I have managed to create with students, staff, and community members.

Personally, I’m a pretty busy guy with work and grad studies, but I do manage to do some of my favorite activities now and then. If I’m not hanging out watching sports, you can find me wandering around the great outdoors or swimming a few laps (Phelps’ records are very safe).

My Experience

I began tinkering around with computers at a young age, but I never have, and likely never will, describe myself as a “computer guy”. I use computers the way many others use computers, for convenience and fun. A few years ago, however, it became apparent to me that technology and education were converging at a rapid rate and I knew that I had better invest some time and effort into the field of educational technology. After making an attempt to understand how to integrate technology into my teaching practices, I realized that I would need some outside help. This is when I decided that the MET program would be a good choice for me. I’m really hoping that completing the MET will help open some doors for me in terms of career opportunities.

On ETEC 565

I was very excited to see ETEC 565 added to the list of MET electives because, as a middle years teacher on the front line, I am always looking for new ways to use technology to engage my students, improve teaching and learning, and open connections to the real world. I know firsthand that mastering new tools and learning to leverage them in an appropriate way is difficult and takes time. ETEC 565 just might be the perfect course for me then because I’ll be introduced to some new tools that I can add to my kit and receive credit towards my degree as I invest the time required to familiarize myself with new technologies.

What I Want to Know

The ETEC 565 course introduction includes a quote that resonates with me,

“…teachers or educational administrators making decisions about educational technology should have some theoretical model or framework that guides the choice of media and technology. If not, they will be constantly driven by the latest technology development, whether or not they are appropriate” (Bates & Poole, 2003, p. 80).

I have to admit that I am somewhat guilty of diving headfirst into new web 2.0 tools without really evaluating the technologies using a theoretical model or framework. For this reason, my first goal is to develop skills in evaluating technology tools and media and assessing their potential benefits. This will help me to make informed decisions about which tools, of a virtual buffet, to select and implement in my classroom. Although ETEC 565 has only just begun, I have already been introduced to two frameworks that will help me to accomplish my goal.

My second goal is to learn how to develop courses or units of study using LMS. I know very little about using Moodle for example, but I recognize that many teachers are using it in f2f environments like mine and swear by it. Why? I’d like to find out. For me, learning to use LMS or CMS will allow me to shell my learning designs and make them usable from year to year.

Lastly, I really want to discover how to incorporate video-conferencing into my lessons. I have played around with Skype and Ustream, but not enough to say I have mastered the tools. Perhaps they are not even the tools I should be using. I want to significantly increase the amount of class visitors and presenters to my classroom and I need to be prepared to make this easy for them to do so.

What Resources Will I Need?

Inside ETEC 565, I know I’ll be provided with support and expertise of and my instructor and my fellow students. I’m hoping that the course readings and activities will also help me. Outside of the course, I’ll likely have to modify my PLN by adding some RSS feeds and by following other teachers and experts with similar interests and knowledge. Some resources that provide technical help will also be valuable here. I’m sure I’ll park myself on a Chapters couch now and then in order to skim some tech guides relating to LMS and CMS.


Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Chapter 4: a Framework for selecting and using technology. In effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for success. (pp. 77-105). San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers.

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