Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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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Jan 28 2010

A little test

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I am trying to see if I can get a post on any page I like.  Larry tells me I can if I change the settings for reading to static page.  Let’s see if this works.

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Jan 27 2010

Group rubric

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Here is the link to our document –

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Jan 27 2010

Pro-D case

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Professional Development or PD as  Ontario teachers call it.

The elements that seem important in this case is that a place to upload information and discussion is required.  The teacher has minimal resources and not much training in web design.  Connectivity is also an issue.  Dial up is slow.

This brings to mind my daughter’s problems with uploading information and photos to the internet while she was in Nicaragua.  The connection was way too slow to upload more than text.  Images, slide shows and videos were just not possible.  The one thing she could do was update her blog regularly and respond to comments.  She could also use MSN.

So here we enter the realm of social networking.  Discussions are important in advancing ideas.  They get the creative juices flowing.  So Lenora would like to not only share her ideas with colleagues near and far, but also gather new information from an exchange of ideas.  Buffy Ste Marie, author of the Cradleboard Project, seems to expose the problem of distribution of resources:

“Even with regard to local tribal curriculum, teachers in a faraway state can’t find the best of the best in a concise and usable form.”

The nature of the information is an important aspect here.  Lenora can share many ideas without having to use multimedia such as slide shows or videos.  I see her site as mostly text driven.  But of course, she most likely wants to make it more visual than that, recognizing that visual literacy is now included in the definition of literacy (Biebrich, p. 27).

She can certainly address all these needs with a wiki.  Creating a wiki is a small matter.  It costs nothing, it can be created in a short amount of time, especially with good instructions (available online as part of the help function) and it addresses all her needs, including the need for a collaborative space.  She can also set permissions to allow only certain people to collaborate (through a membership she approves).

Not only are the pages collaborative, she can also make use of the discussion function that is integrated in each page.

If she is concerned about commercials on the site, she can ask for a site that is used for education and have no ads show up at all.  Wiki sites can be shared with the world or kept private for members only if she is concerned about confidentiality.

As for formatting pages, this is very similar to a simple wordprocessor.  She can use templates to choose the look and feel of the wiki.

I have used wikis in my classes for over a year now and highly recommend them for their simplicity and ease of use.  You can view one of my class sites at  It took very little time to create the wiki, maybe 2-3 hours to start the initial pages (1 or 2 pages) and make design choices.  I used a model from another course I saw when I attended a workshop.  The workshop was definitely useful for advanced functions such as inserting a video file.  If Lenora can access a workshop on wikis through her school system or her professional organization, she might find it helps her get a head start.  If that is not possible, she can easily find a tutorial on the web or even go to the help function on the wiki site.  She can justify the cost of training to her administrators as a way to integrate further technology into her classroom.  For example, a wiki would be a wonderful way to preserve cultural information by creating a class project where her students are invited to interview their parents and grand-parents and then post the results (it could be something like the adult’s favourite anecdote from their childhood or bedtime story or family recipe).  The Cradleboard project has ideas that could certainly be adapted to a wiki space.

Once the wiki is up, she will be able to add content as easily as saving a file into this new space (uploading).  With text based files, she should not be impeded by the slow connection.  Adding slideshows or videos will also be quick as she can simply post a link on the wiki page.  There are more sophisticated ways to show multimedia, like embedding the files, but she can do quite well without those functions for now.  From then on, it’s a question of maintaining, adding to and administering the wiki (memberships and permissions).  She can spend as little as 2 hours a week on these tasks or more depending on the membership demands and how much discussion happens in the discussion area.

And of great importance, she must make people aware of her wiki.  She can simply announce its purpose and provide a link within her teaching circle or other social network areas she participates in.  Word of mouth is accomplished in many forms.

Lenora is best advised not to use a website at this time unless her school provides a place to host the site.  For example, my board has created a license to use google sites for all its teachers.  Google sites is very easy to use and I would certainly recommend it for its ease of use.  Google docs is another application that might suit Lenora.  The major reason I would recommend a wiki over a website is that she will not be required to learn html.  Having to learn a programming language would substantially add to her time investment in this project, keeping her from her true purpose.


Beibrich, J. L. (2006). Comics & graphic novels: seeing the meeting (Master’s thesis). Retrieved November 11, 2009, from

Capriccioso, R. (n.d.). Cradleboard Curricula | Connect for Kids / Child Advocacy 360 / Youth Policy Action Center. Welcome to Connect for Kids. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from

Marie, B. S. (n.d.). Cradleboard Project. AIPC Homepage. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from

One America – Cradleboard Teaching Project. (n.d.). Welcome To The White House. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from

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Jan 24 2010

Benoit’s dilemma

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Benoit’s decision about whether to use the university LMS (WebCt/Vista) or to migrate to Moodle as he changes his course to full distance delivery brings up the following questions:

  1. How much time will be spent making alterations to the course materials in order to make them compatible with the new delivery style?
  2. How much time will be spent learning the new LMS?
  3. How much time will be spent later on in administrative tasks, such as upgrading the course environment, course content and student information and content?

It seems that the key question is the relationship between time and quality of the deliverables.  Will Benoit have enough time to create a course of the caliber he is accustomed to in time for his anticipated deadline of September?

As an administrator or department head, I would council Benoit to concentrate his efforts on the course content, rather than the wrapper.  I would list the following reasons for that advice:

1.  Although innovation is the building block of academic work, it is best if that can be focused on the course content, rather than the delivery style.  Students have a right to expect a certain standard and experimentation with a new LMS (although Moodle has a reputable track record and some support in other university departments) may not be advisable.  The university does provide IT support and it is its responsibility to maintain it at the highest standard.

2. Standardization within an organization is easier to manage.  If each department starts to experiment with different systems, then transparency and content sharing (convergence) may not be possible, certainly not in an organized fashion.

3.  It makes no sense for a professor to be involved in the administration of student files, records and data on a large scale.  This would likely occur as a few semesters went by.  Benoit’s time would be ill used for this purpose.  If he decides to work with Moodle, he will find little support for these problems.  There is also the issue of confidentiality that would arise if Benoit decides to use a server that is located off site.

Therefore, I would advise that Benoit consider the trade off between time spent creating and loading a new course to an environment that is similar to his current work space and time spent in learning to navigate a new environment with the administrative challenges that will surely come up with an open-source LMS that the university is not fully supporting.  Benoit might consider learning Moodle as a job embedded professional development opportunity once his course is fully functional and he has had time to make any required accommodations for its new delivery style.  He should not see this as having to redo the same work twice as each innovation in technology requires adjustments to tried and true material.

This paragraph, where Panettieri quotes Ash Dyer, an MIT researcher, supports my response.

“A university-hosted system can draw on other administrative systems, which allows the course staff to focus on content and learning rather than managing registration lists and other issues,” adds Dyer. “It is also designed to assist course staff with issues unique to education, such as copyright protections for some replicated course materials or materials that will later be published.”

“Finally, a university-hosted content management system allows for the retention and reuse of the content with a minimum of effort. This feature is particularly important if course staff changes between semesters, or if the university has other programs that can reuse the course content.”

Panettieri, J. (2007). Addition by subtraction. University Business, August, 58-62. Accessed online 22 January 2010

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Jan 15 2010

Response to Sections

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I’d like to discuss two items in this article that are particularly pertinent to my classroom situation. For some background information you might read the post (actually a rant) on my blog

The first item under Student is Access. At one time I was the site admin for my school. One to the main goals we had was to ensure equity in terms of access to the equipment. Historically, the Computer and Business courses were taught in a lab. That left little availability for other classes such as English, History or even Science. The Enrichement students had a special program that allowed them full access to the lab for 1 or 2 periods per day but they were a small, select few. I don’t even want to mention how under-served the 7/8 classes were.

A lot of money is spent developing curriculum and activities and updating textbooks to reflect the use of technology, yet little consideration is given to the limited access afforded to the majority of students. By now most students in our community have personal computers and unlimited (often unsupervised) internet access. However, that does not help the teacher who is teaching all classes in a portable and can only access the computer lab by booking it weeks in advance. This lack of accessibility severely limits and certainly greatly affects the chosen method of curriculum delivery, evaluation and assessment.

The second item is ease of use and reliability. Referring back to my blog post, it is frustrating to students to be working with older, slower technology. Their frustration is so great that they tend to destroy equipment, call out inappropriate comments to the tech guy (who’s office is adjacent to my classroom) or do everything with the computer except the assigned task.

The problem does not lie uniquely with the equipment. The software is frequently the problem. Our board does not provide MSOffice products. We are using WordPerfect (it’s free) and OpenOffice for our Business applications. A software that won’t load, freezes or shuts you down in the middle of an assignment is never appreciated.

The decisions as to what software is being used are made at the board level, so the teacher has little input. A further frustration lies with the network constraints that keep innocent software such as locked because it is interpreted as a game.

And finally, there is the issue of the slow connection that makes certain uploads impossible (like Toondoo) or watching video streaming a painful experience.

It seems to me that the teachers need a bigger say in what technology is chosen for the board. I understand that we are in a great period of upheaval with web 2.0 tools being the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, I can only hope that many of the tools I will explore in this course will be compatible with my environment. Although they show great promise, any technology that doesn’t have the basic qualities of being accessible and reliable is better qualified as an experiment than an aid to learning.

I know some of you have a lot of experience getting teachers to integrate technology in the curriculum. I’d like to hear your views on access and reliability?

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Jan 13 2010

Section 2 readings

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I’ve just finished reading the seven principles of good practice as assigned in this section.  I haven’t got to the Bates and Poole reading yet.  Maybe it’s just that my day started of with finding my car had been vandalized or maybe it’s just that we are at the end of the semester and the rush is on to get as many students to catch up and get the credit, maybe it’s finding students continually disregard school property as they destroy school computers, bit by bit (because they are old and slow and kids today have little respect for what they don’t own or what is not the latest technology) but… I am not very excited about what I am reading so far.

On a day like this, it all seems irrelevant that I make every effort to ensure that students try new ways to express their work, that differentiated learning and experiential learning are the norm in my class, that feedback comes from me not just in the form of a mark on a test but also in questions on discussion boards and comments about their answers.  Never mind that I use the computer to show the latest episode of Dragon’s Den so the class can discuss relevant examples or that I use episodes of The Apprentice to model good (and bad) group dynamics.  And I won’t even mention the many, many little chats I have, outside the classroom (sometimes via email) with students about what they are trying to accomplish (either with their good or bad behaviour) and what I am trying to teach them in my own style (respecting curriculum expectations, of course).

On a day like today, when I find myself hurriedly printing off copied notes for them to memorize so they can pass the final (because they didn’t settle down enough to let me teach all the material or the blasted flu caused so many absences), I shake my head and think:  “Who cares about technology?  They don’t see it as educational, they see it as a way to pass the time until the bell rings and they can get out of there (with the credit, I might add).  Gaddddddd!!!!!!!

What I am trying to say is that I think I am missing something here.  I feel like I am reaching my students less and less every year.  Are the students changing?  Am I getting too old?  Is the technology in our school outgrown?  We all know that a child’s mind is like a sponge.  I am delivering the content using as many approaches as I know how, adapting as quickly as I can.  Yet I feel as if I don’t know the magic password for them to open their minds to this information.  Is it that their minds are too cluttered with the many stimuli they are receiving at any given moment? (Not to mention the effects of teenage hormones.)

Where and what is the key then?  I guess I’d better continue my reading.

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