I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as part of this class and I feel I am walking away from it with a much higher level of confidence surrounding the broad wide world of Web 2.0. I feel I have a greater understanding of the potentialities of Web 2.0 to enhance learning and instruction and I’m excited to have learned how to utilize a number of tools that I’m already incorporating into my teaching and learning. A synopsis of the best tools I’ve found and used this semester can be found here at this blog post I wrote earlier in the semester.

I am also really glad to be taking this course on the heels of the EC&I 831 course I took the previous semester with Alec Couros. In that class I was introduced to Web 2.0 and a variety of open education and social learning models but it was in this course that I was able to expand upon these initial forays and to really “dig my hands (and tools) into the sand.”

I’ve learned that online instruction can be a totally immersive way to learn, that learner to learner interactions can be terrifically beneficial to the process and that a great deal of depth can be experienced by learners and instructors alike. I’ve always been more of a loner type, honestly, even though I appear to most to be outgoing. Inside me is a more quiet and sometimes shy person that most people wouldn’t guess to live beneath the surface. I’ve come out of that shell to a large degree during these online classes and I’ve learned so very much from sharing with my peers and reading about their experiences, successes and challenges alike.

I will most definitely be keeping this blog going (though I won’t set “deadlines” for myself honestly… I want to enjoy this process and not have it be mandatory participation or anything) and I will visit other’s blogs too in order to keep the ties I’ve made flourishing. I’m playing around with ideas of how to incorporate more learner-learner interactions in the online courses I’m developing and delivering for my college. It’s a challenge though because the course delivery method doesn’t lend itself naturally to these sorts of interactions. The courses I teach are 100% asynchronously delivered and there is a continuous intake, so assigning students to groups won’t work. I’ve started with the inclusion of some Forum discussions in each course and requiring students to post their thoughts, opinions, etc. to them and then comment on 2 other points of view, regardless of whether or not that student is still registered in the class or not. Then I work as a moderator to try to keep the conversations flowing. It’s early yet to know if this is beneficial for students or not, but I’ll persist in it!

There are lots of other changes I’ve made to my course delivery this semester as well. For example, the inclusion of the orientation Moodle module will ease things quite a bit (see the blog post explaining this project here). Already I’ve had a number of students opt out of a personalized session and they’ve given me some positive comments about the orientation process. They like the fact that it’s available 24/7 if they have any questions and the inclusion of the Jing screen captures is handy as well.

I’m also excited because I’ve gained knowledge on how to pursue PD online as a result of this course. I don’t need to travel in order to learn new things or to network with other professionals in the field. This is a tremendous comfort to me, especially since I could be making an overseas change of address in the next couple of years. I love the just-in-time availability of professional development opportunities. With a simple search or a well-placed Twitter, I can have a host of PD opportunities pop up on my screen. I totally love that flexibility.

In short… I’ve learned so much and even now, after completing 5 years of course work toward my Master’s degree, I still feel as though I’m a newcomer into the sandbox in a lot of ways. I really love that there is so much to learn about all of the time. I am really grateful to have been given the opportunity to practice some online networking skills that will see me through all of the challenges and exciting possibilities that still lie ahead of me. Thank you, one and all for all of your support and know that you have mine in return šŸ™‚

Talk to you all soon in the days, weeks, and (hopefully) years to come!


Project Proposal:

The project I have elected to do is to create an electronic Moodle orientation course, using (surprise surprise) Moodle as the platform delivery mechanism. So in essence, what I’ve done is create a Moodle based course that explains and demonstrates how to use the various features of Moodle.


I have been instructing online courses that use Moodle as the delivery method for a number of years and to familiarize students when they first begin the course, I have traditionally relied on a mixture of fixed face-to-face orientation sessions (where I would travel to a campus on a given date and time to meet with a group of enrolled students) and over the phone orientations (students would call me at their convenience to do a verbal orientation). Neither one of these methods on their own were completely satisfactory for a number of reasons.

In the face-to-face orientation sessions I was limited to the number of computers available and student attendance at the pre-scheduled session was not always guaranteed to be at a 100% level. During the phone orientation sessions, I was limited to orienting one student at a time, and while this was beneficial in terms of being able to address individual questions, it also took up a significant chunk of my time during the day. (We currently have 189 registered online students. Imagine trying to do all of those initial orientations over the phone at 20 – 30 minutes per session.) It had become obvious to me that an alternative way of orienting students needed to be created.

I decided to create this orientation course to address these needs. A hands-on practical application and practice session of the exact skills learners would need to master “Moodling” practices is, in my opinion, an ideal way to do this. The online orientation session is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the instructional materials are presented in a number of differing modalities in an effort to suit as broad a spectrum of learning styles as possible. There are video files with audio sound captured using Jing that demonstrate precisely how to accomplish various tasks in the online course environment as well as written documentation with detailed information provided.Ā I hope that the use and inclusion of the various tools I have provided on the orientation course will meet the needs of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners alike.

I also believe that the online orientation matches up very well with the principles of constructivism and applied learning. Because learners are learning and practicing Moodling skills in the same environment that they will need to Ā apply them, the context is built-in and transfer of learning is more likely to occur.

Learning Objectives of Participants: It is hoped that by the end of the orientation course learners will:

  • Have become familiar with various features of Moodle (such as how to open, edit, save and upload assignments, participate in an online forum discussion, take an online quiz, utilize the on-site messaging communication system, complete a journal entry, etc.).
  • Practice using the various features of Moodle (not every course will require all of the orientation skills be used).
  • Pass along any questions or concerns to their instructor regarding their learning experience within the Moodle environment.

It should be noted that learners are also offered an opportunity to meet with their online instructor over the phone, through email or the Moodle messaging system or through web conferencing (using Skype) at any point in the process, whether it be to conduct a more personalized and individualized orientation session, or to answer specific course questions. Some learners come to an online class with a high degree of prior knowledge (either about online learning, Moodle or they may possess computer skills that enable them to complete the orientation session with ease) so a personalized orientation session is one of several options available for learners.

Giving learners a high degree of choice in what and how they will learn is a centralĀ tenetĀ of adult education principles and it’s one I’ve tried deliberately to incorporate and honour in all of the online courses I have designed for the college.

You are welcome to view the project itself here at this website. You will need to log in using practice.student as the user name and password as the password (all letters in lower case for both the user name and password). I have also created a Student Tools and Download center that all of the online learners are welcome to use, either for completing various assignments in their courses or just for personal interest.

Enjoy and I hope you have fun! Please feel free to offer any critiques/feedback on the project here in the comments section of this blog.

So during this class I’ve had an opportunity to explore and play with a variety of Web 2.0 tools and I’ve been impressed with the quality and the potentialities of all of them! Well.. at least all of the ones that appear here in this post anyway. I still can’t really get into Twitter, no matter how I try to think about it. I know it’s useful, I know I can get some really great resources from it and if I were to ever Tweet a question, I’d likely get some really great responses. But I still can’t get into it despite being able to see the potential of its usefulness for me and my PLN. However, I still do have an account and I’ll keep it in case I do have a burning question I need to Tweet one day.

#1. Skype: This is hands-down the BEST Web 2.0 tool ever created! I really love it, not only for the purposes of talking with my classmates and my students, but personally as well. My boyfriend lives halfway around the world from me (in France) and Skype saves us hundreds and thousands of dollars in long-distance charges. I love to use Skype at work too with my students. I teach online courses and chatting on Skype with the students frees my hands to be able to use my computer to help walk them through different things. I learned about Skype several years ago and I didn’t use it for years. I don’t know why not, except that I felt shy (and still do to some extent) about talking over the computer. I don’t even use a webcam even though my computers come equipped with it! I’m just too self-conscious I think. I love it now though and I can’t imagine living without it. Maybe one day I’ll feel the same about Twitter as I do about Skype!

#2. Blogs: I really like the blog tools available. There are several and this WordPress one is my first foray into blogging anywhere on the Internet. I love that there is a whole community of teaching professionals with blogs and that help for practically anything I can think of is just a search away. I love that I’m able to contribute little tidbits here and there too, even though I don’t think I have anything particularly profound to share with anyone. I feel as though I’m just puttering along at my own pace, doing my own thing and while I find what I do to be important and worthwhile, I’m not sure others would perceive it the same way šŸ™‚ I still appreciate the chance and opportunity to share what I’m doing, to reflect on it in a meaningful way, even if the meaning is limited to myself.

#3. Google Docs: I have started to use Google Docs at work to keep track of online student enrollments as well as other sorts of Ā information (such as exam specifics and MarkBook reports). There are currently 167 online students registered from all over the province with us (and some are out of province too actually. There is one student who is living and working as a nanny in France and she is taking a couple of online courses with us at the same time. There is another student in the Yukon also working and taking classes part time too. It’s really quite amazing!!) and they are taking a variety of courses. We have 10 different courses we are running concurrently and some of them have departmental exam sittings, some don’t; some require the shipping of textbooks to students while others don’t; there are three online instructors, aĀ counselorĀ and several other support staff involved with delivering the program; and we also have a mix of adult basic education students as well as 58 high school students from around the province. The tracking of information becomes critical for our success as an online education provider and Google Docs plays a critical role in that. Everyone involved has access and editing rights to the documents we use to keep track of the students. It’s really wonderful that there exists such a comprehensive collaboration tool. I have no idea how we’d manage to do what we do without this particular Web 2.0 tool.

#4. Animoto: I loved PowerPoint when it first came out by Microsoft and indeed, in my Information Processing class, I still have a unit that I use with the students that utilizes that program. After being introduced to Animoto, however, I’m thinking I may be making some fundamental changes to the Information Processing class I provide online to my students. I love Animoto. It is a truly wonderfully easy program to use and I can see the applications of it for my practice as an instructor as well as seeing the possibilities of the program for my own personal use. I’ve created a couple of Animoto shows using images I captured from my Second Life experiences and these shows can be viewed in a previous post I made on this blog site. The only thing I’d like to see changed about the Animoto application is the length of text allowed on a slide. I find it to be too short for somethings I’d like to use. I realize that a highly visual medium like this is meant to show images first and text only as a distant second, but for teaching purposes, it’s nice to be able to have the ability to explain things in more detail once in awhile. I also would like to be able to increase the length of my movie if I wanted to.. and not have it limited to the length of the soundtrack I used. It’d be GREAT to be able to link together a couple of sound tracks actually.. to have the music change with the mood, etc. Oh well! It’s still a great little tool to use and it’s especially wonderful that educators can get an account for free, not only Ā for their use, but for their class as well.

#5. Jing: I’m just starting with this little gem really. I’m going to be using Jing to capture my Second Life educational video tour clips for my final project in one of my classes. I have to do some more playing with the program but so far I’m SO impressed with it! It’s really quite simple to use and they have made some very helpful video tutorials that I’m able to watch time and again. I also really appreciate the idea suggestions and success stories that can be found on the website. Often it’s not a case of not being able to use a tool, but not being able to see the use of a tool. I will most definitely be using Jing frequently in my work and personal life, there is no doubt! I will likely end up buying the Pro version, just so I can link the videos I create to YouTube as well. YouTube is a tool I didn’t mention!! I LOVE YOUTUBE! If there are school administrators out there who are considering banning YouTube from your school, please, please, please!! I implore you!! Don’t do it!! There is a wealth of resources there and sooo many opportunities for students to create digital projects and demonstrate their learning in a vast array of modalities. I could not do half so good a job as an instructor without being able to have access to YouTube videos.

Well.. I seem to have snuck in an extra tool here and there are SO many other really wonderful Web 2.0 tools out there. These are the ones that are shaping and changing my practice as an instructor and these are the ones that I value the most. There are many others out there that I find useful too, such as wikis, Wordles, Prezi, Smilebox, Voicethread, and the list just goes on and on. One piece of advice my instructor Marnie gave me on another post in a comment she wrote was to use a filter of some kind when searching for Web 2.0 tools .. something that had recommendations for various sites. There are an immense array of tools out there and some will inevitably be more useful than others. I think the key thing to keep remembering with any of these tools is that they should be serving an identifiable purpose. They need to enhance the learning or the professional or personal goals one might have. It’s notĀ advisableĀ to add a technological component just for the sake of adding technology. I know for me, when I consider the different tools out there, I’m always weighing and judging the value added to the costs of learning how to use the technology. Not only for myself, but for my students as well, if it’s a tool that I expect them to use to showcase or deepen their learning. Some things just aren’t worth the investment of time, frankly. Fortunately all of the tools listed here are worth the investment, however, and I know there are many others out there just waiting for me to discover them!

Edit: Ā I just found this really neat blog about different Web 2.0 tools that has a slideshow that showcases a number of different applications. I’m quite gratified to see the tools I recommended and several others that I use (but forgot to mention here) also made her list!

During the Skype conversation I had this evening with a group of classmates, I told them about a metaphor that I found useful and reassuring from a previous class I had taken. One of the presenters last semester gave the very good advice to think of technological tools and possibilities as a river. The waters are running swiftly past us all as we stand on the shore and many of us can feel intimidated by the vastness and wildness of the currents that are whipping their way downstream. Imagine you are on the side of that immense river and you are thirsty.. you want to take a drink from the river, but the waters are fast and there is no telling how deep they run.

Also imagine that you are holding a cup in your hand. When you are thirsty, when you are ready to test the technological waters, then simply dip your cup into the stream. You don’t need to fling yourself into the deepest part of the river.. in fact that’s a really good way to get in over your head and drown!

I’ve been reading some blogs and I read over and over again that people feel completely overwhelmed by the vastness of the possibilities for exploration out there. And they are right. The possibilities are immense. The river of Web 2.0 tools is vast and there are unknown depths and perhaps submerged rocks that can be dangerous to us or our students. Just like any water cycle though, the river of technology is always there. The water is always flowing. You can dip your cup when you are ready. Will you miss things? Will parts of the river pass you by? Yes.. it’s inevitable. The number of technological tools available to any task is overwhelming for sure. Does that mean you won’t find the tool that will work for you? No.. in fact, to my way of thinking, the sheer number of tools out there means there IS one that will suit my purposes. It may take a bit of trial and error for me to find the tool to fit my needs, but I’m confident it exists, even if it happens to be a little bit further upstream than I am at this particular moment in time šŸ˜‰

I’m following Karl Fisch as my edublogger of choice and he posted a really interesting critique and critical reflection regarding the usefulness of Google Apps for students. He raises some really thought provoking questions in his blog. The comments at the end of the blog are also very worthwhile reading. One thing that astounded me with regard to this person’s blog is the massive following of people he must have. He wrote his blog yesterday and already it has generated 44 comments.


Hello Everyone!

As most of you know (if you’ve read my intro that is, hehe) I’m a bit familiar with Second Life, having been a virtual resident for nearly 2 years now. I have been doing some exploring in-world lately with more of an educational focus in mind and I’ve got some things lined up that I’m exploring and I’ll share those with you once some other pieces have fallen into place for me. (I’m touring a medical facility on Saturday and I’ll take some pictures and post them here in a video for you later!) For now, though, I thought I’d show you my island home, or at least a very short 30 second video of some pictures of it anyway. I piggy-backed on Michelle vanGinneken’s idea of creating an Animoto video with the images. It was super easy to do! Thanks Michelle for the excellent tip!

I do find, however, that the free version of this won’t be sufficient for me. Sigh. 30 seconds is just too short! But $30 a year isn’t a bad deal to purchase the upgrade I guess šŸ™‚ I wish there were more freebies for instructors really. It can get expensive fast to sign up for a lot of different tools. Anyway… I hope you like the video I have created here and I’ll be making some more very soon!

PS. All of the landscaping and the positioning of things (some of them built, many things purchased in-world) was done exclusively by me and my love and SL partner. He did a lot of the landscaping and terraforming parts of the sim and I did the bulk of the interior decorating. Unfortunately with THIS video you only get flash glimpses of the exterior of the island. It was only when the video was done that I realized I had tried to cram WAY too many images into a 30 second slot, haha. Oh well. It’s a steep learning curve I’m on, but at least I AM learning šŸ˜‰

Updated! New full length video clip: Ā 

It’s the start of a new class (or in my case this semester, two new classes) and thus a new set of reflective posts will be forthcoming in the next few months to this site. Just as housekeeping information, I’ll use the title as well as tags and categories to differentiate between the different reflective pieces written for each course.

This past week in EC&I 832, we read an article :

The Song Remains the Same: Looking Back to the Future of Educational Technology
Punya Mishra, Matthew J Koehler, Kristen Kereluik.Ā TechTrends.Ā Washington: Sep/Oct 2009. Vol. 53, Iss. 5; p. 48 (6 pages).

The reflective question posed for this article is:

What do you think needs to happen in your context that would allow educators to ā€œforge a new path that does not merely retrace the pastā€ (p.48)?

Answering this question requires that I first give you an idea of what my particular instructional context is šŸ™‚

I work as an adult educator, one whose day to day activities consists of utilizing educational technologies in the delivery of content to adult learners. I design and deliver online courses for Adult Basic Education students throughout the province of Saskatchewan and beyond. I even have a student who is living and working in France this year who is taking a couple of online courses with the college I work for. The courses are delivered completely asynchronously and each student progresses through their work at their own pacing (with lots of encouragement from me, of course). The online delivery of adult basic education courses started 6 years ago when I was first hired by the college. Our initial foray into utilizing distance educational technologies was using email to send andĀ receiveĀ student work for an Information Processing class. We’d meet a couple of times a week online using Elluminate, a web-based conferencing tool. All of the students I had in the class were at a location remote from me (they were in Yorkton and I was in Esterhazy) and the class would occur at a set time each day of the week. The students also had a tutor in the room to assist them for at least part of the week, as the technological skills of the students were quite low at the time (a couple of students had never used email and one of them was confused when keyboarding, not understanding that there was such a thing as a spacebar he should use to stop all of his words from running together into one big jumble).

Things have progressed quite rapidly since those early days for the college and now we are able to deliver a full Adult 12 certificate online. Our courses use Moodle, an open-source content management system that is quite user friendly, both for the students as well as the instructors, and as I said earlier, all of the courses now run asynchronously. The introduction of Moodle as a way to organize and house the content was a pivotal turning point for us and we’ve never looked back. There are many ways of delivering online courses and there are challenges inherent in each of those ways.

The authors of this article have pinpointed the crucial issue when it comes to thinking about and utilizing educational technologies. They write: Ā “Teachers with flexibility of thought, a tolerance for ambiguity, and willingness to experiment can combine traits that perfectly design and tailor their own educational content, pedagogical, and technological environments” (pg. 52).

I agree with that statement 100%. No matter the methods chosen to instruct and help others learn with, there will be inherent challenges and obstacles to overcome. The biggest challenge I see for education in terms of being able to address these challenges and obstacles is to provide instructors with the TIME and the supports they need to become confident and proficient experimenters with technology. I don’t feel that a lot of instructors feel safe enough to DO a lot of exploration, really.Ā It took a lot of trial and error and experimentation with different learning and instructional technologies for my college to progress to where it is today in terms of online learning. It’s sort of like being on a circular track, though. There was a beginning but there isn’t really an end in sight. Things keep on changing, new technologies are introduced, and programs that were effective once have been updated and so the instructional materials created need to change as well. (I never ever purchase a textbook for in-class use that doesn’t come with electronic supports anymore as an example.) I personally like the cyclical nature of it all. I find I am rejuvenated and excited by the developments which are emerging.

I find that spreading that enthusiasm to others to be challenging sometimes, however. Many of my colleagues in the college I work for have been working in their positions for 20 years or more and while most of them are tolerant of the changes in educational technology, not a lot of them have embraced the changes.

I have read in some of my fellow student’s blogs that they feel there needs to be a certain accountability for instructors to keep up with the changes that are happening so rapidly around them. I agree, but I think too that it’s not fair to just throw a computer at them and say “Here! Develop something innovative and challenging and exciting for your students.” I believe they need someone to be a mentor and a guide, to be encouraged to take some risks and further, to be given time to do it all in. Teachers are under pressure so much of the time, it’s scarcely a wonder that many of them feel resentful and threatened about the technological developments that come along.

I’m lucky. I’ve been on an evolutionary journey, one that is still continuing as I expand my zone of comfort and as I add things into my toolbox, using new programs and experimenting with various instructional materials and methods. The thing that makes my situation different from so many others though, is that I’ve been given time and support to do this. The quality of what I’ve done is something I’m proud of and enthused about. In an ideal world, this same set of lucky circumstances would be the norm for all teachers out there.

Another thought I had had while reading the article pertained to the following section of it. The authors write:

“We wonder how far current teacher preparation programs are telling pre-service teachers what an educational technology is rather than empowering them to experiment and create their own. A new focus needs to take root, one characterized by creativity and flexibility of thought and experimentation by educators with their own educational technology designed to meet specific, immediate needs. If technology is truly to be beneficial to education, the power and potential of educational technology must be acknowledged to reside within educators and not within objects. We must foster in future educators new skills designed to harness the potential of our “unbounded” world.” (pg. 52)

Again I would completely concur with this statement. As far as the question they ask goes, I can only write about my personal experiences. I was trained as an elementary teacher with a specialization in educational technology for my undergraduate degree. We were exposed to many different educational technologies and I found that we were encouraged to do a lot of experimentation and play with different tools to see what potentials we could unearth and harness for our purposes. I created my very first online course in that final specialization year using a content management system very similar to Blackboard. This educational training I had occurred 10 years ago, which, when you consider how rapidly technological advances occur today, is quite remarkable. The same pedagogical concerns that were an issue for me back then are still concerns for me today. I would hope that the current generation of instructors working toward their undergraduate degrees today experience the same level of encouragement and support that I did 10 years ago and that the opportunities for the creation of educationally enriched media has increased as well.

Captivate Your Audience!

December 17, 2009

Hello Everyone!

I thought I’d do a brief post on the wonders of Captivate software by Adobe. It’s not a freebie, I’m afraid, (though they do offer a free trial period) but it’s a really terrific program for demonstrating how to do different computer-based things to an audience and it is especially suited for my purposes, when there are a lot of technicalities that need to be communicated to my online distance learners.

I have had Captivate installed for some time on my computer and I have used it before, but haven’t really UTILIZED it up until now in a really meaningful way. I put together this demonstration tutorial to show my students how to use an online graphing tool and then how to save the image of their graph, convert it to a JPEG and then insert it into a document that they would then submit to me for marks.

I tried a million ways from Sunday to upload this into YouTube and then realized that I can’t load a .swf file successfully onto YouTube so I tried about a billion and one different .swf to video conversion tools and struggled to find one that preserved the audio and everything else I needed for it. I finally did!! I went to Swf to Flv Converter and downloaded the freebie version of the software. There is a watermark on the video, but it’s not a big deal and I think I might one day buy the licensed version should I see the long term need for it.Ā Ā Sigh.. so many technicalities and so few technically minded brains in my head! Anyway… I hope you enjoy the video and can see potential for using Captivate (or another similar software tool) for your own classroom needs.

Happy Holidays!

PS. As I view the show here the picture is fuzzy because it has been shrunk to fit the YouTube window. So it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing I guess! It is a lot clearer if you actually go to YouTube and watch the video there full screen.