Archive for February, 2010

Feb 28 2010

Moving to online content

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I went to a workshop today at school.  The Business teachers in our board gathered to present best practices.  One presented her course as uploaded to Blackboard, another showed how he used google sites and I demonstrated the use of a wiki for similar purposes.  It was an interesting comparison of different tools for the same purpose.

My wikis are the least structured in the sense that they are collaborative spaces, whereas the other two examples were strictly administered by the teachers who authored them.  The Blackboard course was designed by an Accounting teacher.  She liked the way she could create assessments that were self-correcting.  She worried that her students could pass computerized assignments to each other, thus allowing plagiarism.  Her idea was to block all email transmission and shut off the shared drive to the students.  That seems to me a little like locking the door to keep the residents inside, rather than the crooks out.

The google sites example was used more as a repository for resources attached to a calendar.  It provided no interactivity yet, but that was to be included later.  No assessment was present, nor any discussion area.

My wiki provides a space for students to contribute their work and research and to discuss.  The other teachers complained that it did not have a provision for assessment and it opened too many doors to nonsense content being uploaded, not to mention cyber-bullying.

Agreed, and this is what has got me thinking.  I know from my brief experience with wikis that using collaborative spaces is new to students and that a period of adjustment is required.  Yes, students will post stupid things but eventually they learn that they are accountable for all content and start to improve the quality of their work.  Of course, there will always be students who are not serious and need a lot of feedback from the teacher (read disciplining).

I’ve only just started reading the Anderson article and it brings to light the fact that we do indeed need to look at the theory of education, and online education in particular, as we start to move our content online.  And more importantly, we need to recognize that there is a difference between uploading content and creating an online course.  Clearly, the Blackboard example today was not meant for fully online learning but rather for blended delivery.  The author of the course did not consider the needs of the learner (Anderson, p.50) but rather saw this as a step towards using technology in the classroom and compiling a great number of resources in a permanent medium.  The impression I got from the assessment in the course was more a case of “this is what I need to teach you”, rather than “this is what you need to learn”.  There is a difference there. Granted, when dealing with high school students, they don’t always know what they need to learn.  It’s a very different situation from teaching adult, who bring prior learning into the equation (Anderson, p.47).

Anderson makes a strong point when he states that “the challenge of online learning is to provide very high quantity and quality of assessment, while maintaining student interest and commitment”.  This has been my biggest challenge as I’ve moved to online course development.  My early experiments with Blackboard for quizzes was disastrous as the answers had to be case sensitive or the computers would freeze up and a timed assessment was locked much to the dismay of the learner.  I gave up on using Blackboard for that purpose years ago.  And judging from today’s comments, I think some of those frustrations are still present, hence the need for teacher intervention during timed quizzes.

Anderson, T. (2008). Towards a Theory of Online Learning.  In: Anderson, T. & Elloumi, F. Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Athabasca University. Accessed online 3 March 2009

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Feb 07 2010

Adventures with Moodle

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I started the Moodle toolkit assignment last night.  Actually, I logged into the Moodle site and created a course.  Then this morning, I read the actual instructions (I had forgotten about the Moodle toolkit) and realized I hadn’t named my course properly.  A little searching later, I managed to make the necessary changes.

I did the rest of the assignment, created a welcome page and a discussion forum.  I even added a reply.

So far, I can contrast Moodle to Blackboard in that it has a lot more icons  than Blackboard did when I was using it about 8 yrs ago.  The WYSIWYG editor is more sophisticated by far.  I don’t think Blackboard really had an editor.  If we wanted coloured text, we had to create it in MSWord and copy and paste it into Blackboard.

Moodle has a complicated display page so far.  Maybe once I’ve had a chance to create more content, it will start to look familiar.  I like simplicity and an appearance that is intuitive.  I want to explore how to insert slide shows, images and include a wiki next.  So far, it took less than an hour to follow the assignment as described.

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Feb 06 2010

Catching my breath

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I wrote a comment on Clare Roche’s blog this morning.  It’s more self-reflective than a reply.

Hi Clare. I am reading other blogs this morning, trying to get my ideas together for the proposal assignment we have due this Sunday.

I know what you mean about wishing you could spend more time experimenting but work is always waiting to be completed in the meantime.

I suppose we will have a little reprieve during the 2 week reading break. It’s funny but I have found that the 4th week of classes in MET have been the most difficult to get through. I get disoriented and start to search all over Vista because I feel like I’ve forgotten something. Once this big assignment is out of the way, I think I will find a flow and be able to enjoy myself more. Reading discussion posts is also my favourite way to learn in this environment. As adult learners, we need a place to discuss and get feedback, a place where we can bring our own experiences into the discussion and try them on within the framework of the new information we are trying to understand.

It’s been a difficult week as I started a new semester on Monday and hoped my new classes would be so much smoother. Unfortunately, I am left scratching my head, trying to figure out how to improve the class dynamic by using technology for differentiated learning. In other words, I am trying to engage the students so I spend less time disciplining and more time enjoying teaching and watching them learn.

I am preparing to leave Ottawa this coming Wed for a short trip to Key West, Florida.  I am eloping!  Unfortunately, I don’t have much time away with my new husband.  But I want to provide some interesting activities for my students while I am gone.  So not only am I trying to work on this proposal, read and respond to discussion posts, but now I am trying to see how to use all that I have learned so far to engage some very disinterested students.  I know some of them are in their last semester of high school and have little interest in being in class.  Some have formed negative opinions about using technology based on past experiences.  Some have found a way to avoid technology all together in the school setting and they are feeling cornered as they will have to use the class wiki to get their notes, respond to discussion questions and create work using all types of text and visual technologies.  And of course, there are the students who are thrilled to be in my class because they figure they won’t have to work and will basically be able to watch Youtube and play video games for the next 15 weeks!  And finally, the last small group, the ones who are taking this course because they genuinely want to learn more about Marketing and Business and they know the course content will allow them to reach their own academic goals.  This is the challenge, melding all these diverse groups together and taking them to the culmination with, hopefully, more than a moderate amount of success.

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Feb 03 2010

Creating a DVD

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Last week I tried the dvd toolkit and recorded my first dvd using the burning software that came with MSVista.  It was a very easy task to accomplish.  It was done in minutes.  I didn’t have a video on hand, so I just used a sample video that came with the operating system combined with a few pictures I took along the same theme.

I didn’t manage to follow all the instructions from the toolkit, namely in the naming for the files and folders.  I would hope there are more options available to me with this software but I haven’t found many so far.

This takes me to the case study for the Diabetes DVD.  As the friend/teacher I would certainly suggest using a dvd as a teaching tool.  Essentially, in this case, the dvd will be used to reinforce the lessons taught face to face.  The main need identified in this case is that of second language learners who have not mastered English in its written form.

Firstly, burning the dvd will be the easiest task.  I see the recording and mostly the editing of the video footage as the more challenging task.  I would suggest that Anju use many versions of the video to produce the final product (she needs to record 2-3 presentations).  That way, she will be able to choose the best lessons for the final video.  When we teach, we have a way of explaining things in a slightly different way each time, as we adapt our explanations to the audience.  Such is the nature of oral communication.  In terms of time, it will take maybe 2 to 3 hours of teaching to get the required footage.

Editing the footage down to manageable segments should take about 30 hours.  I’ve based my estimate on learning how to use a basic software such as Movie Player, which comes with her Vista operating system.  There are more sophisticated applications, but let’s assume she doesn’t want to invest time and money in learning video editing.  It should take her roughly 10 hours to learn Movie Player and then another 20 to produce a good quality video.

This part is important – in order to make the video easier to navigate, I would suggest chucking the various parts of the lesson into short segments that can be called up through the dvd menu.  That way the audience can watch the parts that they need to reinforce rather than watch the whole lesson, over and over.  I see navigation as a key component in this video.  And the menu items should be clearly labelled, with simple titles, for easy access.

In addition, I would add still shots that can be either photos of a demonstration, such as how to test for blood sugar, or text based slides for further reinforcement.  She can also use Movie Player to create text slides and titles.

The final step will be the distribution of the dvd.  It can be given out after training sessions or distributed to community centers, doctor’s offices or even through libraries.  This could help her increase her client base and possibly help cover the cost of production and distribution of the dvds.

I estimated the time needed to complete this project based on my experience with the dvd burning software on my own computer, my own experiences with using Movie Player and a conversation with our school tech teacher.  I have never used or edited video, so I tried to approach this case from the point of view of a novice.  Anju should be able to cope easily with her project, as long as she gives herself the benefit of trial and error.  The fun is in the experimenting.  Later on, she might even try adding subtitles in the language of her clients…

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