Blogging & Wiki

I started the Wiki activity by adding a post but I’ll need to wait a bit for a few others to add to it before continuing the evolution to discussions and summarizations. Right now the wiki is more like some type of rolling blog. In the meantime I moved onto the blogging assignment which will probably have a discussion forum open up next week. For now, here’s my thoughts.

At first I was nervous about commenting about this issue because I don’t have children nor do I teach children. However after watching the Fischbowl video and reading the Educause article about educational blogging I feel a lot more comfortable about the idea of grade school children blogging in a supportive environment. That is how Stephen Downes describes the environment in the Educational Blogging article. I was also swayed by the interviews in the Fischbowl video where the students listed the multitude of benefits like extending the classroom, having time to reflect, taking accountability for their writing because it will be read so publicly and they will need to be able to defend what they write.

Now, optimistic about the value of the exercise I ran the process and technology through Chickering and Ehrmann’s Seven Principles and the results were also encouraging:

☑  encourages contact between students and faculty,
☑  develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
☑  uses active learning techniques
☑  prompt feedback
☑  emphasis time on task
☑  communicates high expectations
☑  respects diverse talents and ways of learning

I do acknowledge that neither of the sources seemed to offer any critique or discussion of potential risks. However, based on my assessment using these materials, I will move onto the potential strategies.

First would be to have a discussion with the parents – possibly a dialogue with them and their children to hear out the concerns. I would recommend sharing the assessment about how powerful of a learning experience this is and to share the video with the parents. I think its a strong message in the voice of the ones that matter – the kids. I think another option is to look into having a semi-public blogging space that is only open to the educational community e.g. the whole school but not the whole world. I didn’t hear any specific statements by the students about the benefits of having ‘strangers’ comment on their work. The value for the students seemed to come from interacting with their peers in an extension from the classroom. However, this may limit the value of the exercise that allows the students to engage with the world at large in a supportive environment which seems to be a timely and necessary learning experience. I think that they made the right choice with selecting Livejournal given the policy, as stated in the Educause article, of only allowing new members who are recommended by existing members. It’s not completely controlled but it helps to foster a safer community environment. I also think that it would help to include regular discussions and reflective exercises about how the students feel and respond to negative and hurtful comments that appear in their blog. As a last resort I suppose you could allow students to opt out.

Chickering, A.W. & Ehrmann, S.C. (1996).  Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 49(2), 3-6.
http://www.aahea.org/bulletins/articles/sevenprinciples.htm

Downes, S. (2004).  Educational Blogging.  Educause Review.  September/October 2004 Accessed online 25 March 2009. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume39/EducationalBlogging/157920

Fisch, K. (2007). “Blogging: In Their Own Words,”The Fischbowl.  Accessed online 26 March 2009. http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/2007/06/blogging-in-their-own-words.html

Social Media

This week we’re starting on the social media component and I’ve decided to jump into the digital story component to get started on a first draft that I’ll continue to work on until we hit this module.

I’ve decided to tell a story about Communities of Practice which could be later incorporated into my Moodle site. I’ve started with a YouTube clip of an interview with Etienne Wenger.

And then I’ve used Prezi to explore the idea of a Community of Practice and to have the video as part of the explanation.

Educational Media Production – Design Process

After spending quite a bit of time in Flash trying to get various media components lined up properly within a time line as well as with effective transitions I realized I was not working in the best tool for this phase of the design process. I decided I wanted a product that would facilitate more of a storyboard approach. I’m a Windows user so my options are limited but I decided to try the Windows Live Movie Maker and was pleasantly surprised at how fast I was able to bring the components together.

It is very helpful to the creative process to be able to see a piece of work from start to finish – no matter how rough it seems. Once you have the storyboard complete it makes it much easier to go back to Flash to add the technical tweaks that will transform the product from draft to production ready.  Flash of course provides the additional capability of making the production interactive which is a definite bonus from an educational perspective.

Media Production – Video Editing

A key component to creating engaging learning experience these days is digital media. There are many options available for the Windows user even if you don’t own a professional editor like Adobe Premier. Currently, a popular video format is called a mash-up requires the producer to take bits of existing popular videos and ‘mash’ them together. There is plenty of material published on YouTube that can be used as raw material with a free extraction program called the Clip Extractor. This is a particularly valuable tool when you are creating educational videos and want to create a pop culture reference.  For my most recent project I wanted to do an extract from a school girl’s fashion tutorial in order to critique media manipulation of images and how it is impacting teenage girls. If you are using Windows Live Media then you can directly import the clip but if you, like me, are wanting to do some additional work in Flash then you will need to use the Adobe Media Encoder which has a wide range of conversion formats to choose from including formats for mobile devices. The nice thing about the encoder is that it even allows you to see a playback as it would look in your device of choice e.g. the Iphone.

Audacity

I tried out Audacity for the first time today and it was easier than I expected though the setup made me a little nervous. I’m not used to putting open source software on my computer and going to what seems like a private person’s site for the plug in to export MP3 files. I watched the tutorials on YouTube and thought ‘what did we ever do before YouTube’?

The whole process from start to finish was probably about an hour. I spent time recording a word and then repeating it and trying out different effects for a media project that I’m working on. I exported the sound file into an MP3 and imported it successfully into a Flash project. It looks like there is a few features that you can play with in this program but I’ll come back to them when I need them.

Web Design

I’m making progress as I continue to work through the E-Learning toolkit. I’m now working through the web design section and have completed the add video/sound to your website. I skipped directly to this section because once again I have a need for another class where I needed to add a video and sound to our website. While I’ve added many videos to WordPress blogs in the past, they have all come from sites where there was a feature to generate the code to embed the object, but the code was site specific. What’s nice about the code generator in the toolkit was that I can upload my video and sound to my personal web server and have it generate code that I can then reuse on any web page or blog in the future.

To do the activity I searched on the Creative Commons site for a free sound file and used a video from my course. Voila… Within minutes – success! Whew! The alternative was to upload my video file to YouTube which I really didn’t want to do and I really had no idea where to start for the sound file. If the project I was working on had been my own website it would have been ok because I could have used Dreamweaver. However, when working within automated web site generator tools, such as Weebly which we’re using for this particular project, I am very restricted in the code that I can access. Using this other code generator I can add a custom HTML block, cut and paste the code, modify the file name and I’m done. The progress in web automation tools continues to astound me. Building web pages is so much easier than a few years ago when you had to code these things from scratch. Now you can essentially have a comprehensive website in a day that looks completely professional.

I had a bit of a laugh at #5 under design issues. I know this from past experience but one of my courses has a splash page that breaks this rule – and it does drive me crazy!

Wandering through a World of Wikis

I’ve made it to the Wiki activity and worked through it as part of some work I’m doing for another class.

At first I was very concerned when my teammate suggested doing a Wiki for one our interactive activities. I had no experience and was a little overwhelmed with my current workload but in the end I volunteered to work on one.

It turned out to be so easy that I felt silly having resisted the idea. The time it took was really just to develop the content and determine how we would focus the topic. We also had to provide instructions to the students to engage in the interactivity. Surprisingly there was nothing challenging about creating and editing a wiki. Mind you I haven’t really gotten into it that deep – we’re just working with text.

In yet another class someone from Chile mentioned that Reggaeton was huge with the teenagers there. I had no idea what Regaeton was so I looked it up as part of this exploration exercise. I looked through the discussion pages and found it really interesting how the community knowledge grows using this format – especially for grassroots movements like this Reggaeton genre.

For my class module in E511, I think the Wiki is going to work out really well. We’re planning to have the students add to the Wiki and to the discussion area as part of their exercise for the week. I’m really interested in how it will turn out.

Too Many Choices?

The assignment for E565 is to create a DVD in your tool of choice. So should it be the Windows DVD Maker with a nice and simple interface where I just copy over files using an Explorer like window? Or do I take on the challenge of learning the basics of Adobe Encore CS5? There are lots of features in the latter option which will be overkill for this assignment. The training video for the basic features is 15 minutes long and starts with the promise that I’ll have my DVD made in minutes. The presenter then goes on to list the many features such as timelines, menues, and workflows. I realize having watched the introduction that I probably could have already created the DVD in the Microsoft tool.

This activity isn’t the only MET activity where I’m faced with these technology options. I’m doing a group project for another MET course and I’m finding it difficult to make choices when collaborating with a team spread out across the planet. To add to the geographic challenge, our team members cross the spectrum in terms of technological skill.

In this case I’m realizing that it is best to go with the simplest technology possible that gets the job done. This of course requires consensus across the team, yet another challenge, which reminds me of a Ted Talk aptly named ‘The Paradox of Choice’.

Back to the E565 DVD Exercise where I decided to use Encore because I would like to see what my options are for future projects. My fifteen minute exercise drags on for 2 hours as I explore the many options of the tool – guided by the introductory training video. So that’s 15 minutes to make the DVD – including making the content on the fly and 1 hr. 45 min to explore. The bonus is that I now know how to make an interactive DVD with buttons and by just changing one option I can create a version in flash.

Moodling along

I just completed my first foray into the world of LMS development to find that my trepidation of Moodle was a little unfounded. At least that’s the way I feel at this moment having successfully completed my first learning exercise.

I like the hands on approach to learning and to be able to see something tangible quickly. It gives me some level of confidence before jumping into the manual which likely has the potential to overwhelm me.

I did not find this exercise to be labour intensive. However, I did get a little lost at the Forum creation part because I wasn’t seeing the two options ‘resource vs. activities’. I thought that the forum must have already been setup so I jumped into trying to modify it. Luckily I checked out the ‘info’ button which explained that the news forum is automatically created for every site. This was a very short diversion and I still had everything done in a matter of minutes.

I really like the button to toggle between turning editing off and on to see the WYSIWYG view of the whole site. I think this is going to come in handy as the site becomes more comprehensive.

The GUI looks rather plain so I think I’ll be reviewing templates to spice it up a bit. I think I’ll leave the simple template in place until I’m more comfortable with the functionality and understand more about what my requirements are going to be for the project.

Open Source Technologies

For years I’ve been working in larger corporations where Microsoft technologies are ubiquitous. Undertaking the UBC Masters of Educational Technology program is giving me plenty of opportunities to investigate alternative collaborative technologies. Given that quite a number of my cohorts are from other countries it is critical to be able to find cheap or free options that are also easy to use. One of my favorites was Google Wave which is essentially a live forum concept where the transcripts are automatically saved and which works well with Google docs of course. The problem is that it’s already being shelved unfortunately. Google docs isn’t as elaborate but it does allow multiple users to be working on a document at the same time (other users see your changes in real time with your name highlighted at the same place you are making the changes. You can open a navigation bar on the right side and chat while you are making changes. Priceless for international collaboration. Another ‘must have’ is of course Skype for phone and video conferencing.