TED and Me

Technology, Education, Design and Me.

Archive for May, 2009

What LMS should I use?

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There is no question: the MET programme is teaching me a lot.

We are currently reviewing Learning Management Systems —  something that I am not completely foreign with, but have had only minor experiences with. I have used different LMSs as a student and as a course designer at my university. The exercises in the MET programme have us comparing LMSs (particularly WebCT/Vista and Moodle), discussing questions we may ask ourselves if we were in the position to choose a LMS, and creating a rubric according to a scenario given to us. It’s an interesting and thought provoking exercise. In some ways, thinking of the questions has been an eye-opener. The breadth and depth of issues that you should review when deciding what LMS to use is vast! I would like to provide some of the questions that have appeared in our discussions; ones that I think important for anyone shopping for LMSs. These questions are a mix that considers single courses to departmental and institutional issues.

  1. Will the courses have face-to-face lessons? Or are they entirely online? The answer to these would lead to different questions. Assuming that a course has less F2F interaction, which LMS  provides  the best and most intuitive communication tools (synchronous and asynchronous)? Are the tools easy to manage/moderate from both students’ and teacher’s perspective? What functions do the communications have (do they allow students to create groups? etc.)? Are statistical summaries available of discussions? In what form? These are important questions for various learning objectives, such as tasks that may require students to interact with one another and/or need to collaborate and create something online. Course, It may be important that students are give autonomy with how they organize there discussions. And, if these tasks are being assessed, management and moderation are important.
  2. Is the LMS easily accessible for students on/off campus (depending on how much traffic, size of files being shared, streaming videos, etc.)? Depending where students are, they may have bandwidth issues (or even lack a computer!).
  3. What tools allow for more student involvement? How much can students personalize their environment, create webpages, blogs, wikis, etcs. Again, some of these tools may have sound pedegogical value for certain courses. Can students create their own and personalize their learning needs?
  4. Cost (Financial issues)? This one should be obvious.
  5. What support/assistance (personnel & equipment, migration of course and content, ease of use by faculty and students) does your department/insitution have? This is imporatnt for a variety of reasons. Servers go down and someone will be needed to fix things. But it is also important because there is a strong possibiltiy that some teachers do not feel comfortable with technology in the classroom, and they will need more tehnical supprt than others.
  6. Can content be shared across courses and/or departments? If so, how easily?

These are just a few of the questions one should ask. Of course, there are many, many more. A good site for comparing LMSs is http://www.edutools.info. You an compare the learner tools, support tools and technical tools among numerous available LMSs (unfortunately, Moodle is not included).

Another note: keeping frameworks like SECTIONS in mind (mentioned in a previous post here)  is very useful.

Written by seanmcminn

May 22nd, 2009 at 7:02 pm

21st century schools — a video

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An inspirational video.


Written by seanmcminn

May 19th, 2009 at 10:51 pm

E is for ease of use

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Perhaps, one of the most common reasons why I see instructors (and students) at my university shun learning technologies is because the learning curve is too steep. Following that is the fact that some technologies are not tested enough, or they constantly need technical support. I can then understand the frustration and skepticism the arise from these problems.

I mentioned in my last post the SECTIONS model created by Bates and Poole, which is as follows:

S “Students: what is known about the students – or potential students – and the appropriateness of the technology for this particular group or range of students?

E Ease of use and reliability: how easy is it for both teachers and students to use? How reliable and well tested is the technology?

C Costs: what is the cost structure of each technology? What is the unit cost per learner?

T Teaching and learning: what kinds of learning are needed? What instructional approaches will best meet these needs? What are the best technologies for supporting this teaching and learning?

I Interactivity: what kind of interaction does this technology enable?

O Organizational issues: what are the organizational requirements and the barriers to be removed before this technology can be used successfully? What changes in organization need to be made?

N Novelty: how new is this technology?

S Speed: how quickly can courses be mounted with this technology? How quickly can materials be changed?”

Students, is, of course, extremely important. And the accessibility of a technology for students, and whether it is appropriate for their learning needs must be considered. But it is the Ease section that I see as important for lowering the learning curve and raising acceptability of technologies by teachers and students. one of the Web 2.0 applications that I mentioned in my last post was Jing. What I like about Jing is its ease of use. It’s simple, but it gets the job that I expect done. For example, here is a potential activity for ESL purposes: I can ask my students to capture a video using Jing of them operating or running another application on their computers, and, while doing so, cite instructions of how to use that application. This would be a great activity to practise technical English and give instructions for specified audiences and purposes. And, because Jing is quit intuitive, the technology does not overwhelm the learning object: to practise English for a specified task.

As I mentioned, I have seen how any lack of eas of use hinders a technology’s acceptance. One particular application (Check My Words) that we use at our university has undergone many tranformations because of this. When it was first released, it was confusing to some teachers and students. But after listening to their concerns or problems, the designers of the application found ways to make it more intuitive — it’s easier to use; what followed was that more people are using the application. And with good results, I think.

Bates, A.W., and Poole, G. (2003). Effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. 79 – 80.

Written by seanmcminn

May 13th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

The Joys and Dangers of MET

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Joys and dangers can arise from any MET forum discussion. The joys are the myriad of new tools I learn about. The danger — the amount of time I spend playing with those new tools. Within the first week of the MET course ETEC565A, I have been introduced to a few promising Web 2.0 applications. The time I spent play around with them … well … flew by. Here are a few of the things:

  1. JingSnap a picture of your screen, or record video of onscreen action. It’s free.
  2. zotero — A wonderful researching tool that assists with note taking, citing sources, and creating bibliographies. Just try it.
  3. voki — Create a speaking avatar. Not sure of how to use this one, yet. But it looks interesting.
  4. Adobe Buzzword — Visit Adobe’s Acobat.com. It’s all the buzz. Seriously. This may be better than Google Docs.

After playing with these, it may be interesting to see how each one fits into Bates and Poole’s SECTIONS framework. I’ll comment more about this later.

Bates, A. W. and Poole, G. (2003) Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education: Foundations for Success. New York: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated.

Written by seanmcminn

May 13th, 2009 at 1:15 am

My ETEC565 Flight Path

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About five years ago I was hired to teach an online ESL course for 1st year university students. Prior to that, my only experience with “contemporary” technology and education was email and Power Point – all of which was teacher-centred! It was a very steep learning curve for me. Since then, I have moved on from the online course (which I now realize was quite didactic, stagnant and lacking interactivity) to more interesting ways of embedding and incorporating technology into ELT, shifting to a more student-centered or social-centered practice.

As I teach and design more courses at the university (and continue my MET studies) I try to be more aware of how I can include technologies that encourage and enhance learning creativity, such as using asynchronous voice boards (GONG, which similar to Wimba) and podcasting (Campus Beat). The Campus Beat course at my university requires students to use Audacity and various online resources to produce a podcast about newsworthy events, which encourages students to explore current events. Meanwhile, I attempt to promote various Web 2.0 technologies that can assist students with their language learning. I am also currently trying to promote the “rip, mix, remix” approach to learning (considering the issues of copyright, of course), by having student produce video essays for a stylistics and rhetoric course. Wikis and blogs are my next thing.

My goals for 565 are to learn more about the pedagogical value of “digital-age” technologies and how I can make them “invisible” in the curriculum. A recent setback in introducing online social networks into the curriculum made me rethink my approach. This lack of invisibility was also a major problem with the online courses that I first taught at the university. I am also hoping that hands-on experiences in ETEC565 will give me more technological know-how, such as web designing. And, finally, there’s assessment. How can technologies be used for assessment, such as students assessing their own progress, peer evaluation, and formative assessments?

Written by seanmcminn

May 9th, 2009 at 10:11 pm

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Hello world!

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Welcome to TED and Me, a place where I’ll be discussing topics and issues related to education, technology an instructional design. (No relation to TED Talks.) I’ll also be using this blog as an e-portfolio (as required for the MET ETEC565 course that I’m currently enrolled). This should be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to interacting with everyone about the numurous topics related to this field, commercially, academically, and persaonlly.

There is a gigantic pool of technological resources out there just waiting to be used in education. While I know many people have diffeernt perspectives on educational technology (even its term is debated)  and that technology is not the only answer to effective teaching, educators need to accept the idea that current technologies are changing how we teach and learn. The possibilities of creating efficient and effective learning environments, communities of learners, and easy access to knowledge is grand!

Let the journey begin…

Written by seanmcminn

May 6th, 2009 at 12:21 am

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