Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Graphing Calculator for the iPod

(The link opens your iTunes application, so won't work if you don't have that.)

My buddy/colleague Randy Decker teaches Math 11/12 (British Columbia schools). He says:
"There's a free download of a Graphing Calculator on iTunes Apps Store. I'm quite impressed with it. I would recommend this application for use in Math 11 in British Columbia. It can tackle almost everything in the curriculum. Its display is far better than the Ti-83 or Ti-84. One can easily compare graphs because each is a different colour. It lacks a TVM solver. However, one can use graphs to solve some financial problems such as finding the time required to double an investment. One feature I really like is the ability to take a screenshot of a graph and email it."

Wireless tools for education

The link above is to a new page on my resources site. Please post a comment if you know of any sites about wireless for education so I can add the links to my page.

Here's something my colleague/buddy Randy Decker just told me about.

iTunes is a source of FREE wireless educational applications! Yes, it's true. Here's what to do:
  • Open iTunes and click to the Store.
  • Then select App Store.
  • Then select Education.
  • Then select Top Free Applications.

    There are more than 90 listed today! Here's a screenshot of the top 21 I found, just as a sampler for you. (Sorry, seems to make it rather small; you'll just have to do the search yourself to see things clearly.)
  • Monday, December 29, 2008

    Excellent, online learning -- tons of topics! DISCOUNT code here.

    Where can you take a 6 week course for $25? [AND I have a discount deal to offer you at the end of this!]

    I've been a student at LVS Online for about 20 different courses. They have a wide range of topics to choose from, like a community center kind of thing. The instructors are knowledgeable and really friendly.

    The way it works is:
    - On Saturday (for 6 weeks in a row) a new lesson is posted online, along with homework assignments.
    - The homework is about 2 - 4 hours a week. There's no deadlines, though; if you can't get it done that week, it's OK to relax and enjoy the process.
    - When you're done your homework, you "hand it in" -- various classes have different ways you'd do this. They tell you how, so don't worry about not knowing how to do things online.
    - The "classroom" for each course is its own private discussion forum, where you can ask questions, chat with the instructor and/or fellow students, discuss each others' work, etc. It's fun!
    - You can request to get a certificate at the end if you want, or just do it for fun and learning.

    Warning! Once you start taking classes at LVS Online, you may not want to stop. I haven't stopped yet after nearly 10 years. I'm signed up for the January session to take the "Artist's Workshop" course. Returning students only pay $20 a course.

    Here's the discount code to get a 20% discount if you're a new student. When you register, use this code:


    LVS says: "Registration ends January 7th. However, we have a 2 week late registration period and the coupon code expires January 21st."

    At least check out their huge list of courses.

    Hope you enjoy it! If you want to ask any questions by adding your comment here, I could try to answer.

    Oh ya, it would be great if you give them my name (Kate Britt) when you register. They have a system where you can earn certificates to take courses by referring new students to them. Thanks!

    Sunday, December 28, 2008

    ePortfolios: Engaged Students Create Multimedia-Rich Artifacts

    Electronic Portfolios: Engaged Students Create Multimedia-Rich Artifacts: This paper discusses a required university-wide ePortfolio Program at Clemson University.
    "We believe that by getting students excited about the work they are doing in their classes, and the above examples certainly demonstrate excitement and motivation, and encouraging them to "show off" this work in their ePortfolios they will become engaged in the ePortfolio process. By helping students understand why they should create an ePortfolio, and by scaffolding them through the process of how to create an ePortfolio our chance for a successful implementation is greater."

    Effective Practices with e-Portfolios

    "Our infoKit covers the main drivers, purposes, processes, perspectives and issues around e-portfolios."
    You can select information depending on which "stakeholder" category you belong to:
    "learners, practitioners, employers, professional bodies and insitutions -- we've highlighted particular areas of interest for each to form tailored 'pathways' through the infoKit."
    Of particular interest to me was the PDF (or Word text) download entitled Effective Practice with ePortfolios, which "draws out key points from established and innovative examples."

    txtng is gd 4 lrng

    "Texting does not erode children’s ability to read and write. On the contrary, literacy improves. The latest studies (from a team at Coventry University) have found strong positive links between the use of text language and the skills underlying success in standard English in pre-teenage children. The more abbreviations in their messages, the higher they scored on tests of reading and vocabulary. The children who were better at spelling and writing used the most textisms. And the younger they received their first phone, the higher their scores."

    The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids

    New York Magazine article. A study was done on what kinds of praise to give kids, what works to encourage them, etc. I learned something....I've always thought it was a good idea to tell kids how smart they are. Not so much, apparently! Instead, the study indicates that we should "praise effort rather than intelligence" and that "giving kids the label of 'smart' does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it." Go figure!

    I found a link to this article on a webpage about education and "Things that make you go Hmmmm...."

    Gamers do better at math

    An article that describes a study (The Effects of Modern Math Computer Games on Learners' Math Achievement and Math Course Motivation in a Public High School Setting). But math teachers already knew this, right?

    Dictionarist: Online Talking Dictionary

    A free online multilingual and talking dictionary service for translations with audio pronunciation in English, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Greek, Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages.

    YouSendIt - file transfer application

    Send, receive and track large files. Unlimited 2GB files and folders. Advanced options like password protection and certified delivery.

    They have many free options as well as their Pro applications.
    - FREE browser interface
    - FREE YouSendIt Express desktop application for Windows or Mac
    - FREE add-on plug-ins for Acrobat, Corel Draw, Photoshop, Outlook, and others

    Thursday, December 25, 2008

    Top Web-Based Online Tools

    A huge selection of in-browser tools. No Download, No Install! A growing list, continually updated by author Deniz Akay.

    For example, the site pointed me to SumoPaint. Check out "the fastest, most creative paint application on the 'net".

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Feedback on the FOC08 course

    The Facilitating Online Communities course has wrapped up and Leigh has asked us for some feedback.

    1) What were the most enjoyable aspects of the course?
    • The Elluminate sessions I attended, which is odd for me to say because I don't always enjoy synchronous sessions.
    • The flurry of activity at the beginning. Leigh left a lot of decisions about how to proceed up to the participants. It's interesting to watch people self organize.
    • I've connected with new people through this course. I will continue to follow their blogs and their lives through twitter.
    • The Second Life tour with Jo Kay.
    • The mini-conference, even though I wasn't able to participate in many events except the one our team organized.
    • The wiki -- so easy to keep tabs on what's happening (or supposed to be happening, at least!)
    2) What were the most challenging aspects of this course?
    • Some of the Google Group discussions were a little difficult to follow, but that's to be expected when we come to the course with different learning needs.
    • Keeping up with the course-related blog posts. Actually this was more a challenge with zoning in on course-related blog posts. If I had organized this better from the beginning -- RSS feeds from individual blog searches on FOC08 -- it would have been more efficient.
    • Remaining engaged for so many weeks.
    3) Did the course meet your expectations? How or how not?
    This is a tough question. I think I adjusted my expectations as the course rolled out. From the beginning though I was pretty clear in my head that my interest in this course was as much about the process as it was about the content. I DID expect that there would be more active participation throughout the duration of the course though.

    4) What improvements would you suggest?
    A big part of learning to facilitate is through modelling. Leigh has a real gift with language -- clear, warm, and up beat. I was quick to open Leigh's messages and read blog posts because I was so curious about how he conducted himself as a facilitator. We can learn a lot by watching good facilitation in action. So I think the course could be improved by having more opportunities for facilitators to model their skills.

    I also think the topic of this course lends itself to being more reflexive, if that makes any sense. This recommendation is related to the above comment about modelling. Treat the course like it is an online community, even though this might involve a bit of role play.

    I think the course would have benefited from more of a rhythm -- perhaps a set schedule for synchronous sessions, a group email to launch each module/week and another to bring closure to a topic before moving on. Perhaps participants could sign up to take on that task. 

    It would be useful to have a more efficient way of managing the course communication through blogs. Or perhaps this could be incorporated into the first assignment.

    5) Any other comments?
    I wonder about the title of the course: Facilitating Online Communities. I'm not sure what it should be, but thinking back on the assignments and module topics it seems the course topic is much broader. Maybe it should be broken down into 2 courses?

    Wordle image by Amy Lenzo

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)

    An excellent article containing at least one tip for each of us who do any writing at all. "...most of the time the too close to the manuscript to make corrections. ...the 10 ouchies listed here crop up everywhere. They’re so pernicious that even respected Internet columnists are not immune."

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Gearing up for Moodle Moot 2009

    The Moodle Moot registration information has been posted. We've tried to keep registration fees as low as possible so your help in spreading the word is appreciated! Please mention Moodle Moot on your blogs and at your institutions. Circulating this flyer (PDF) is a quick and easy way to get the word out.

    The proposals are rolling in. If you're thinking about submitting a proposal for Moodle Moot I recommend doing it early. Unlike most conferences where a committee gets bogged down with reviewing submissions after a deadline, Moodle Moot proposals are dealt with as they are received. To view the proposals accepted so far check the database (You'll need to create an account on the site). This is a handy reference if you want to avoid duplicating session topics.

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    Wikis all around the world and all the way

    This CPsquare conference announcement from John Smith was sent to CPsquare members today. This is an edited version of what John sent out. There will likely be a registration fee for non-members, which is usually about the cost of a membership. :-)

    Wikis all around the world and all the way

    How does YOUR community use its wiki? Does it have one? Could it use a wiki more effectively? What would be the implications of adding a wiki or stimulating its use in various ways?

    CPsquare's January conference is about wikis and these very questions. In the tradition of all CPsquare activities, there are many ways to get involved. Each session needs a host and a summarizer so consider signing up for a job.

    "Wiki all around the world and all the way" will be a short, intensive internet based conference that's a follow-on to CPsquare's Long Live the Platform conference in January of 2008. We will look at wikis from the perspective of communities of practice and as tools for communities. How do wikis work as the principal platform for a community? as an add-on or auxiliary tool? What is the logic of a wiki as a tool for community use? Where did wikis come from and how are they evolving? What other tools work with wikis? What are some of the commercial and open source offerings? What kind of integration issues do communities experience when other tools are added on to a wiki or when a wiki is added on to another tool? Are there some communities that take more naturally to using wikis than others? Are there strategies for hastening wiki adoption in a wiki?

    Here's a tentative schedule. Only confirmed names are included. All teleconferences will be at 20:00 GMT.

    Jan 7 - conference opening: wiki videos and resources, open wiki sandbox - basic wiki resources
    Jan 9 - Wiki basics: KM4Dev? and Kehilliyot (Naava Frank / Caren Levine)
    Jan 12 - The wiki core and its evolution - Ward Cunningham
    Jan 14 - Wiki as community platform
    Jan 16 - Wiki as platform element: Moodle and Ecco (Sylvia Currie on SCoPE / Moodle & Eric Sauve Ecco's wiki, and how we integrate SharePoint wiki into our system)

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Lesson Corner: content creation tools for the K-12 teacher

    Check out these:

    "We are announcing a new suite of free vocabulary building tools for teachers. LessonCorner's Puzzle Makers allow teachers to find or create their own free custom word search, scramble or crossword puzzles...Teachers and Homeschoolers who want to make engaging handouts for vocabulary building exercises."
    Math Worksheet Maker:"Who are these worksheets for? Math teachers whose students need practice solving math problems. Homeschooling parents also find the worksheets useful."

    The Cheatability Factor

    A PPT presentation on cheating in Blackboard.
    "Could you be making it easy for students to cheat? What is your Cheatability factor?"
    Recommended in Ask Dr.C by Kevin Reeve.

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    100 Best YouTube Videos for Teachers

    A selection made by
    "With the increasing use of technology in classrooms, it’s no wonder that teachers have a growing interest in using YouTube and other online media sharing sites to bring information into their classrooms. Here are 100 YouTube videos that can provide supplementary information for the class, give inspiration, help you keep control of class and even provide a few laughs here and there."

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Web Hosting

    I hardly ever, EVER put advertising of any kind on my blog or website. It's the principle of the thing; there's enough of that out there. So consider this a hot tip instead, because it's not just any web host I'm telling you about, it's the one I've used for years and years.

    Today I can't NOT tell you about the deal they're having at the moment. A 6-for-6 promotion.... for all new one-year term sign-ups, you pay for 6 months and GET 6 MONTHS FREE.(regular $7.77/mo)

    Here's what I like about PowWeb:

  • UNLIMITED Disk Space
  • UNLIMITED Data Transfer
  • FREE Domain
  • Host Unlimited Domains
  • Point & Click Site Builder
  • Tons of website add-on tools, including Blogging, Photo Galleries, etc.
  • E-Commerce Included
  • SSL, FTP, Stats
  • $100 in Yahoo & Google Ads Credits
  • FrontPage/Dreamweaver ready
  • 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

    They keep adding new features all the time. For example, when I signed up there was already an outrageous amount of file space included, but now it's unlimited. Think about that!

    So if you just happen to be researching web hosts and plan to get one soon, please have a look-see at my host:
  • Monday, December 1, 2008

    Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines, and Effective Practice from Around the Globe

    This FREE (Creative Commons) eBook
    "contains a comprehensive collection of proven strategies and tools for effective online teaching, based on the principles of learning as a social process. It offers practical, contemporary guidance to support e-learning decision-making, instructional choices, as well as program and course planning, and development. Practical advice, real-life examples, case studies, and useful resources supply in-depth perspectives about structuring and fostering socially engaging learning in an online environment. A plethora of e-learning topics provide insights, ideas, and usable tools. Tips and evidence-based theory guide administrators, program and course developers, project teams, and teachers through the development of online learning opportunities."
    The book was developed and written collaboratively in
    "a unique interactive, collaborative research model based on the formation of online relationships among 50 contributors from around the world representing research, administration and business communities."

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Canadian Moode Moot

    This year I'm on the program planning committee for the 2009 Canadian Moodle Moot to be held in Edmonton. We have some excellent plenary speakers lined up:
    • Martin Dougiamas, Moodle founder and lead developer will be flying up from Australia. Yay! I sure enjoyed his participated in the 2007 Moot. I hope we can bring him some snow again in 2009.
    • Terry Anderson, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Distance Education at Athabasca University, and director of the Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research. All Canadian educators are familiar with Terry's great work, but if you haven't met him in person you really should attend the Moot!
    • Alec Couros, Professor of Educational Technology and Media Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Alec is one of my favourite edubloggers, a member of the popular podcast EdTech Posse, and probably one of the most helpful and interesting individuals to follow on twitter.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    FREE Flash Helper Applications

    1. SWF2mht:
    a FREE tool for embedding Flash files into HTML
    One of the biggest problems of Flash files is that they cannot be opened by a simple double-clicking in Windows Explorer. There are many solutions on how to workaround this problem, including converting them into another format, to self-executable files, or embedding them into HTML. swf2mht is a FREE tiny command line utility that performs embedding of SWF files into HTML. It creates just one file which is double clickable. When double-clicked it opens in MS Internet Explorer where you can see your Flash Movie as if it has been opened using File >> Open dialog.

    2. SWF Compress
    a FREE Flash Compression Tool
    Although most modern Flash production programs provide an MX Compression feature, there are many existing Flash files that still haven't been compressed using MX Compression algorithm yet. This tool solves this problem. Just specify source and target files locations and press Compress button. Generally, most Flash files are decreased by 40%.

    FireShot browser extension: screenshot, edit, annotate, save

    FREE screencapture tool, lets you annotate and do many things with your screenshot image, saves in various formats. You have to go to the site I've linked above and read about it to see how useful it would be -- especially to people who are creating lessons for students and want screenshot illustrations.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Abbreviations and acronyms dictionary

    "With more than 600,000 human-edited definitions, Acronym Finder is the world's largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms. New! You can also search for more than 850,000 US and Canadian postal codes."
    They also have a handy button you can add to your Google searchbar so that looking up an acronym is just one click from your search box.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    NinjaWords - a really fast dictionary

    In a forest of online dictionaries, here's a stand-out tree.

    I quote them:
    Why is this called Ninjawords?
    Ninjas are three things:
    >They're smart
    >They're accurate
    >They're really fast
    Ninjawords is based on these principles. Plus everyone likes ninjas.

    Look at their "Find Out More" page to see what you can do with your own dictionary searches.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    The Art & Science of CSS: FREE 208 page book

    No strings attached. :)
    Time limited offer.

    I just downloaded the book and had a quick glance through it. It doesn't just tell you the "how" of things, it explores CSS in the context of good website design.

    Here are a couple of snippets from their Preface and Intro:

    "Each chapter of this book will teach you how to style common web site components through practical examples. Along the way, you’ll learn many handy techniques for bringing complex designs to life in all modern browsers without needing to resort to messy hacks or superfluous presentational markup."

    "Who Should Read this Book? This book is ideal for anyone who wants to gain the practical skills involved in using CSS to make attractive web sites, especially if you’re not the type who likes to learn by memorizing a formal specification and then trying to work out which browsers implemented it completely (does anyone enjoy reading specifications?)."

    I'm looking forward to digging right in and reading every word!

    WebAIM: Resources

    WebAIM = Web Accessibility In Mind

    A rich list of resources under the headings Popular Resources, Tools, Keyboard Shortcuts, and Simulations. The sidepanel has a Getting Started "Introduction to Web Accessibility", plus Community links as well as links to the most recent articles on their blog.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    How to use PPT presentations in your online course

    November, 2008: People who regularly convert from PPT for use in online courses are currently almost-unanimously** recommending the following solutions:

    1. for simple VIEWING of the presentations: convert to FLASH.
    [One recommended free application that does this: iSpring See below for description.]

    2. to allow for easy PRINTING: convert to PDF. Use Adobe Acrobat.

    3. Best: Make BOTH versions available to students.

    ** Based on the listserves I'm reading.

    iSpring: Free PowerPoint to Flash Converter

    "Flash presentations from PowerPoint in one click! FREE converter creates web friendly Flash movies from your PowerPoint content keeping its visual parameters and animation effects. Generated Flash presentation will look as if it has always been a Flash movie. Keeps most of advanced PowerPoint features....With iSpring Free you can generate .html code ready to place an .swf file on your web page or blog. iSpring wraps Flash slideshows in the attractive Player for effective navigation. iSpring supports automatic and mouse click animation step advance and looped playback."

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    FOC08 mini-conference - time to reflect

    Search on our seminar URL using TouchGraph Google Browser

    The FOC08 mini-conference has come and gone. I spent most of the week during the conference either attending the Educational Technology Users Group Fall Workshop (an annual f2f event) or preparing for it, so I was unable to participate in the many synchronous events organized by participants in this course.

    Fortunately, many of these events were recorded and Leigh Blackall is encouraging us all to critique our events, so there are many other ways to engage in the conference. I've been busy catching up and commenting on some of the blog posts from our FOC08 group: Kay Lewis, Vida Thompson, Elaine Diddert have begun posting their reflections.

    Our event, already described in early posts, was a 2-week asynchronous discussion and a group facilitation effort. This didn't quite fit the format of the
    mini-conference but it suited our schedules, and we also believed that our discussion topic, Managing Multimembership in Social Networks, needed time and attention to unfold.

    Sue Wolff
    posted a great summary following our 2-week seminar, outlining the various themes and that emerged through our discussion, and highlighting the tools and strategies proposed by participants. I followed with this post that outlines some of our planning process. This wiki page also captures the planning steps and responsibilities we negotiated.
    It's fascinating to read not only the themes and highlights of our discussion together but also the strategies you used to organize all of the information coming at us from different directions: survey, voice thread, forum. And that's a clever use of Marginalia annotation tool -- creating public contextual summaries. We need to experiment with that some more here in SCoPE. It would be great if creating summaries could become more of a group effort and Marginalia could be just the ticket smile

    In a sense this seminar discussion has been a lesson in managing multimembership. We organized this event as part of the Facilitating Online Communities mini-conference, a "capstone" activity of sorts for the FOC08 course offered through Otago Polytechnic. Their courses are available on Wikieducator (if you haven't already joined!). Our efforts to spread the word about the seminar meant connecting with several communities. Here are a few: We also spread the word through our personal networks using email, twitter, blogs, public calendars, etc, prompting for participation in the survey and suggesting people mark their calendars. We decided on the multimembership tag for our seminar as a way to round up some of our contributions. This twemes page shows a few tweets and delicious bookmarks related to this event, for example. A Google blog search on multimembership yields a number of entries. The SCoPE Pageflake is another view our community activities, including the latest posts to this forum. I was really excited to see reference to our seminar discussion in other venues, such as these blog posts. These individuals did not contribute directly to our forum discussion or Voice Thread so we were not aware of their peripheral participation until they posted to their blogs. Now we can all benefit from their reflections that they share openly. I think these blog post examples really speak to the management strategies we have been addressing, especially one that Sue highlights: blog or write to make sense of all that we are taking in.

    Whew! That was a lot of linking smile

    I would like to thank members of the
    "facilitation team" for the fantastic experience! Sue Wolff, Jeffrey Keefer, Bronwyn Stuckey and I plan to do some debriefing about this event. It's definitely something we should write about! We had several planning meetings in advance, defined our roles quite carefully, and discussed our strategies to ensure all aspects were covered (forum facilitation, voice thread facilitation, promotion, survey design and analysis, wiki minder, etc).

    Perhaps our experiences with team planning and facilitation will become a useful resource for SCoPE and others communities. Part of that debriefing will be about next steps. Is this a seminar topic we should revisit next year? What about a special interest group? Questions to ponder. thoughtful
    Our facilitation group still needs to schedule the "debriefing" meeting I mentioned. I'm sure the how could the event have been facilitated better question will become clear once we have an opportunity to put our heads together.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    CPSquare Dissertation Fest

    Last week I was host/facilitator for Alice MacGillivray's session: Perceptions and Uses of Boundaries by Respected Leaders — a Trans-disciplinary Inquiry, one of several teleconference and asynchronous discussions organized as part of the the fall 2008 Research and Dissertation Fest.

    As a community coordinator I'm always amazed at how readily members say YES when I ask them to volunteer. I think I understand why they do. There are several reasons why I agreed to host Alice's session:
    1. John Smith asked me. A personal invitation counts for a lot!
    2. I have gained so much from this community that I am willing to give back.
    3. I was flattered to be asked. Do they really think I'm capable?
    4. I need PRACTICE with synchronous facilitation.
    5. I need the challenge.
    6. I admire Alice and have learned a lot from her over the years.
    7. The title of Alice's dissertation caught my attention. When I read the announcement I immediately posted a message in the conversations area of CPSquare (members only space) to indicate my interest.
    8. I was fairly clear on my role. An R&D wiki outlines the event logic and the roles for the event. This information continues to be fine-tuned by members. I have also participated in the R&D fest as a presenter and participant, so I was familiar with the format.
    I spent several hours preparing for the event. I:
    • read parts of the dissertation and skimmed the rest.
    • reviewed the event logic and roles wiki to make sure I understood what was expected of me, and that somebody else would be responsible for recording the Skype call.
    • reviewed past dissertation fest discussions
    • prepared a script of sorts: welcome, review of logistics (where to find presentation slides, location of chat room, notetaking), introduce Alice, round of introductions, presentation, discussion of focus topic, general questions, wrap.
    • posted a message in the forum to show Alice and others that I was present.
    Closer to the time I:
    • tested my microphone
    • printed my "script"
    • opened browser tabs to the pages I would be needing to refer to
    • filled my water glass to have handy for that inevitable dry cough that I get in teleconference meetings
    • gave my dog a chew toy to keep him from barking (it didn't work!) :-)
    During the teleconference I felt fairly calm. Even if it's not obvious to others how much effort you put into preparing, taking the time to get organized in advance really helps with jitters! Also, I knew that I was in good company.

    We had a total of 11 people on the call, some arriving late because of confusion with the recent time change to daylight savings time. I assumed that most participants were already acquainted so rather than a typical round of introductions I decided to start with an icebreaker that would help to draw out some information about individuals and keep the conversation light. I also like to have a little tid bit of information about each participant because it helps me to keep track of who is who in the absence of physical presence.

    I asked: What are you wearing on your feet?

    We had a few laughs over the responses. Most of us were in slippers or black socks. Alice MacGillivray told the story of her "black sheep" slippers, discovering that they were not really made from black sheep because the dye came off on her feet. John Smith reported wearing "clown" shoes -- brand new Keens with box toes. After several people mentioned that they were wearing black socks, Etienne Wenger removed his shoes so that he could also be in black socks.

    Over time members of CPSquare have established and interesting event practice, which we used in the dissertation fest discussion:
    • An asynchronous forum is set up in advance for the presenter and host to post welcome messages, bios, background reading, and an overview of the event. All members are encouraged to ask questions in advance, or at least indicate that they are interested in the topic and plan to attend the synchronous session.
    • We use a teleconference phone bridge service that can also be accessed through Skype. That way participants have a choice based on quality, cost, location, and internet access.
    • Presentation slides are distributed in advance. Rather than use a virtual meeting room to display slides we each have a copy and refer to them (slide 1, slide 2, etc) during the presentation. Again, this is convenient for those who are not connected to the internet, or prefer paper for notetaking.
    • We all gather in a text chat, either on Skype or in the CP2 conversation space. Occasionally guests are invited to these events, in which case Skype is a more practical for chat because passwords are not required.
    • Notetaking is done by all, and in the chat area. So as we are speaking there there is a flurry of posts to the text chat. Often the same information is posted several times, but that's okay because there might be slight variations that help to tell the story better than the last post. Occasionally you lose track of who said what. The main thing is to remember that it was likely not person who typed it. :-)
    • The audio is recorded and posted to the asynchronous forum immediately after the session in mp3 format, along with the text transcript.
    • There is a follow-on asynchronous discussion. Often questions from the teleconference are brought forward.
    • There is an understanding among CP2 members that these group artefacts (recordings, transcripts, etc) stay within the community.
    Overall, I felt that the session went well. Of course the job of the host is easy when the presenter speaks so eloquently and the participants pose such interesting questions! I appreciate having access to this community to to practice these skills, and I've connected with new and interesting people as a result of this event.

    I do feel like I left the asynchronous discussion in limbo though. There is no scheduled end date, so it's difficult to know if any more participants will be returning. Perhaps I'll pop in there to let everyone know that I've posted about the experience here as a way to bring closure.

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    Voice Thread

    For our current SCoPE seminar: Managing Multimembership in Social Networks, we set up a Voice Thread to collect stories from participants. A nice feature about Voice Thread is that you can embed it anywhere, so the contributions can be collected from any number of locations on the Web. The recent comments from Leigh Blackall prompted me to embed the VT here in my blog. Leigh says that his method for managing multimembership is to create something with the information he comes across -- for example he might embed a Voice Thread in a blog post. Hearing that comment I thought, hey, why haven't I embedded our Voice Thread in my blog? Sue Wolff posted it earlier on her blog as well.

    Please leave your story! Or just a quick comment is fine, too.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    ETUG Fall 2008 Workshop

    The steering committee for the BC Educational Technology Users Group plans 2 workshops each year: fall and spring. These 1-2 day events are held at a British Columbia post-secondary institution, so in addition to getting together with some really great people we also get to tour the province. This year's fall workshop will be held this week at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.

    The theme of the fall workshop is "Learning on the Edge: Exploring Our Boundaries". The program committee had fun working with this theme; it has so many possibilities! I will be facilitating a panel presentation where each panelist will speak and field questions about their international educational experiences in the context of "exploring out boundaries".

    The workshop tag is etugfall08.

    Connected Futures Workshop

    The second CPSquare Connected Futures: New social strategies and tools for communities of practice workshop begins on November 11, 2008. I participated in the first offering of this 5-week workshop and would highly recommend it! It is designed for anybody involved in a manager, designer, host, coordinator, convenor, steward type role. From the workshop description:
    At the end of this workshop, participants can expect to:
    • Become more confident in managing and combining tools to support a community’s orientation and ongoing activities
    • Develop a deeper understanding of how new tools enable one another, are adopted and supported in communities
    • Have productive and lasting social connections with other participants, leaders and community conveners.
    Check the full description and registration information. Hope to see you there!

    November MicroSCoPE

    The November issue of MicroSCoPE was posted on Sunday. The timing of that community update is always tricky. I call it a "monthly" newsletter but I've always had a hard time working out a schedule. It's good to send it to the 2,400+ SCoPE members prior to the beginning of a seminar. Also, there are always newsy tidbits that I want to include but it takes time to gather the details, or it's information that hasn't been released to the public. For this issue it got to be so close to the end of October that I decided to wait until November hit so I could change the name. Now I'm good 'till December! :-)

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    FOC08 miniconference

    The Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) course mini conference begins next week. The conference program is taking shape! There's a nice variety of topics, venues, and modes of communication.

    This mini conference is a it of a culminating project in FOC08. Early on in the course Sue Wolff, Jeffrey Keefer, Bronwyn Stuckey, and I identified "managing multimembership" as a topic deserving some attention. We found ourselves fumbling a bit trying to keep up with new ways to communicate and network, not to mention the tools that were popping up almost daily.

    Although the mini conference is schedule to run one week, we decided that our event should begin a week early because it is asynchronous. We felt that participants needed more time than a week to ease into the topic.

    In fact we began even earlier than that with a survey to gather some information about how people are coping with multimembership. Then after some careful planning the facilitation group decided to launch the event with a Voice Thread. Aside from offering a different way for people to contribute their stories, we believed that one of the "management" issues we face is the vast amounts of text we deal with on a daily basis. Technically the survey and the Voice Thread were meant to gather data and stories, then the forum discussion would really get going during week 2.

    We're now into day 4 of the SCoPE Managing Multimembership in Social Networks seminar. So far we've had 12 fabulous contributions to the Voice Thread, close to 60 respondents to the sruvey, and about 14 people contributing to the forum discussion. It's interesting to note that there isn't a huge overlap in participants who chose to use their voice and those who are using text. I guess that means our plan is working! The participants have shared some neat observations about their personal habits and strategies, and they've raised some excellent questions.

    Hopefully we've designed this event so that you feel welcome to join in any time, and participate as much as you can. At SCoPE we're all about informal learning and no pressure. Hope to see you there!

    iQity Learning Suite

    IQ + Acuity = iQity. Developed by Altair Learning Management Inc. of Columbus "with and for K-12 students."
    "The IQity Learning Suite includes virtual replicas of the Homeroom, Classroom, Gradebook, Teachers’ Lounge, Courses, Assessment tools and Enrollment reports. Exclusive features include the IQity LiveBoard, where students interact in real-time with a teacher (Web-cast video, live chats, interactive pop quizzes, polling and more); online high-quality, standards-aligned curriculum; graduation Practice Tests and Study Guides tailored to standards and benchmarks for many states; ReactorTM, the most comprehensive learning object repository in the world."
    What does it cost?
    "We offer the most competitive Pricing of any LMS on the market. For many schools, IQity’s Learning Suite will be offered at no cost. For curriculum and other exclusive feature’s we offer the most competitive pricing in the nation."

    Thursday, October 23, 2008


    Posterous - "The place to post everything. Just email us. Dead simple blog by email."

    This is so fun! Instantly post anything on the web by sending an email. Attach files (many types, including .pdf, .html, .doc, .txt, image, video, mp3s) and that content will be embedded in your post. No need for membership, login, or anything! Just send an email and voila. The resulting post page has your own instant URL and lots of common blog features: the entry is dated, comments, subscription, tags, download links for the files you attached to your email, and more.

    Here's a link to my own "prePosterous" first attempt, a quick email with attachments of a few file types. (I then signed up and created my own URL, but you do NOT have to do that!)

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    VLC media player

    Cross-platform media player and streaming server. "VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network." My partner says that VLC Media Player, a FREE open source tool, is the "best media player in the world. I use it all the time. Plays everything without plugins and fuss." VLC Media Player works on Mac, GNU/Linux and Windows.

    VLC Media Tutorials: If you're going to try out VLC, these tutorials might be a good way to start: "...a series of steps on how to convert video/audio, etc."

    Web 2.0 how-to (and how not to) Design Guide

    The author explains: "In this tutorial, I describe various common graphic design elements in modern web ("2.0") design style. I then attempt to explain why they work (i.e. why they have become common), as well as how, when and where you might use each element in your designs.... If I had to sum up "Web 2.0" design in one word, it would have to be "simplicity", so that's where we'll start."

    Tip of My Tongue: Dictionary

    A unique dictionary that helps you "find that word that you've been thinking about all day but just can't seem to remember." Various ways to find the word: partial word (starts with, contains, ends with), letters (unscramble, must have, can't have), look up by synonyms you know, length of word, or sounds-like.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    Converting to PDF

    I have a page on my Resources site devoted to file conversion resources. Here are a couple of new/updated entries today.

    CuteFTP: FREE. "Create PDF files on the fly. Save fillable PDF form using Reader. Add, delete, rotate, resize, reorder pages. Stamps, overlay, headers, footers, bates. Make compact PDF booklets. Digitally Sign PDF Documents."

    PrimoPDF: FREE. Recommended to me by several professionals. PrimoPDF becomes a "printer" on your applications' printer lists--instead of printing the document on paper, it puts it into a PDF. Any application that can print can make a PDF with this. "Convert to PDF from 300+ file types...optimize for print, screen, ebook, or prepress." OR you can purchase their nitroPDF Professional: "Create, edit, view, secure, form fill, annotate and sign PDF files; and do it all on-screen." (free 14 day trial) PrimoPDF gets good ratings on CNET.
    I just read that the older version 3 works better than version 4. Here's the link to version 3.

    The Pros and Cons of Uusing a LMS (Learning Management System)

  • 5 Advantages of using an LMS: An article from Microburst

  • Benefits of Instructional Technology/Learning Management Systems: from Wikibooks

  • Advantages and Disadvantages of E-Learning Management System: from
  • Monday, October 13, 2008

    History of Learning Technologies with Liz Burge

    This is our 2nd live session as part of the Building a Virtual Museum of Educational Technology discussion at SCoPE. Be sure to invite your colleagues!

    The History of Learning Technologies
    Facilitator: Liz Burge
    Moderator: George Siemens
    October 14th, 9:00 am (PDT) 16:00 UTC (see world clock)

    Liz Burge is a Professor of Adult Education at University of New Brunswick. No presentation this time! For this session we'll be using a Q & A format that will be much like a radio talk show. George Siemens, moderator, will field questions from the participants. If you have access to these articles it would be helpful for you to read them ahead of time. If you don't have access then be sure to come anyway!
    1. Burge, E. J. & Polec, J. Learning and teaching in practice: Where change and consistency interact. In Evans, T., Haughey, M. & Murphy, D. (Eds.) International handbook of distance education (pp. 237-258). Brighton, UK: Emerald Publishing. 2008
    2. Burge, E. J. Using Learning Technologies: Ideas for Keeping One's Balance. Educational Technology, v39 n6 p45-49 Nov-Dec 1999
    You'll see from the sweatshirt Liz is wearing in the photo on her faculty page that Liz might have some brain-burning questions for us as well! approve

    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Websites for word lovers & writers "Wordsmith is a worldwide online community of some half-million readers who share a love for words, wordplay, language, and literature." Visit their Scheduled Chats page, where word lovers from all over the world meet to chat with others about words, languages, literature, and ideas.

    World Wide Words: An etymologist's delight! "...a fascinating website ... All word buffs should pay the website a visit. They will be well rewarded." [Quote from University of the Third Age (March 2004)] Categories are numerous; to name a few: Articles, Q&As, Reviews, Topical Words, Turns of Phrase, Weird Words, Pronunciation Guide. Weekly newsletter by email subscription or feed.

    WORDS.ibritt.comPlease visit the Writers' Resources tab on my WORDS website for a huge, categorized list of resources.

    Thursday, October 9, 2008

    STUDENTS: A Study Community for Homework Help in Physics, Math, Science, and Engineering

    CRAMSTER is an online study community "centered on providing understanding to [your] questions, whether they're related to homework, exam preparation, or general learning." Cramster "...brings together students, educators and subject enthusiasts... With around-the-clock expert help and a community of over 100,000 knowledgeable members, you can find the help you need, whenever you need it." "...find real help from students, educators, and subject enthusiasts. Ask a homework question. Try a practice problem. View step-by-step solutions to your textbook problems. Submit study resources. Find study tips on our blog." "Cramster is the first social learning network of its kind focused on quantitative subjects including physics, math and engineering. We foster a similar environment to a study group whether you are the one asking for or providing help."

    Online Survey Tool at

    "Create custom surveys in minutes and view tallied graphical results." They have a FREE basic version and a Pro version.

    Students: find a teacher; Teachers: register so they'll find you

    At this site students can search for the best rated teachers/tutors worldwide. [Note: Currently their focus is on India, but they're hoping the international community will help them expand.] It's free, but you have to register to use it. See this page for their notes to teachers..."We're building findguru to help people find great local instructors and school in their cities and neighborhoods. ...Whether we add the class or you do, students will find it if they search in your area (and we'll help you be discovered in the major search engines). ...See why teachers will love findguru. ...We want to take things one step at a time and try to make the experience great in our first few cities before moving on to our international neighbors."

    Create a Wiki -

    (My link is to their Education category.) "Free and flexible Wiki service where users can drag and drop content, including text, graphics, and video. A focus on ease of use. Share information by building pages or starting discussions on your favorite subject." For an example how the platform is being used by students and professors see

    Sunday, October 5, 2008

    Affixes: the Building Blocks of English

    The Dictionary of Affixes: "It is based on Michael Quinion’s book Ologies and Isms: Word Beginnings and Endings, published by Oxford University Press in 2002. This work is now out of print and has been edited and presented here as a free service. These pages contain examples of all four of the types of affixes that appear in English: prefixes, suffixes, combining forms and infixes."

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Management of Multimembership

    We all seem to be so busy these days, but in a good way. There are so many excellent opportunities for professional development and to connect in new ways. I've noticed in the past couple of months a new topic has become disconnecting. People are finding it difficult to decide what and who to pay attention to and how to keep up with the activity in multiple networks and venues. Recently the topic of returning to the fray in open online courses like Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) and Connectivism and Connected Knowledge (CCK08) and activities like SCoPE seminars has emerged. The question Bronwyn Stuckey asks is:
    How do we allow people easy reentry into the hub of the learning when they have been absent (physically or mentally)?
    As a follow-up to Bron's post Nancy White offers some catch up strategies. I know I have found some of these tips useful, and like Bron, I found that attending a scheduled Elluminate session with Leigh Blackall brought me back in to the FOC08 course...temporarily. Then I sort of floated away again. This has nothing to do with the quality of the course, or my interest in the topic. What is my problem then?

    My disconnect has a lot to do with the fact that September is a crazy busy month, and I've had a few work-related trips that always seem set me back a few notches. But I think part of this is due to my lack of know-how in managing my participation in networks. I'm used to having one place to go. I'm used to seeing the participants gathered together, and having a sense of how they are participating, having the tools to track this in some way. For example in SCoPE I often go to a member's profile to view all posts by that individual, view activity logs, follow a link to a blog, etc. SCoPE as a platform just feels more...I don't know...packaged. In other words, it's more than just managing my own participation, it's that connection with the individuals who are participating in a particular event (course, seminar, workshop, conference) that give me a sense of involvement and commitment.

    We brought some of these returning to the fray ideas into the current SCoPE Next Steps seminar where community members are reflecting on the past and planning for the future. From the beginning SCoPE has been designed for busy people -- no login required to read along, no obligations to participate, lurkers, newcomers, latecomers, and passersby always welcomed, and no guilt allowed! Colby Stuart comments in the Next Steps discussion that so many SCoPE members are following along, but are just very busy. She asks:
    How can we make it easier for those people to contribute?
    What's unique in the FOC08 and CCK08 courses is that there are multiple ways to contribute. At SCoPE we have experiemented a bit with tagging resources and blog posts during a scheduled activity as a way to gather 'round the topic and at the same time expand our boundaries beyond the community "venue". Perhaps this is exactly what we need to work on -- keep exploring ways for people to contribute in new and different ways. We don't all have time to compose forum posts.

    Anyway, don't worry, all of this rambling is going to come together in some way! This week in the FOC08 course we are beginning to plan our miniconference. Sue Wolff, Jeffrey Keefer, Bronwyn Stuckey, and I have been exchanging email about working together on this project and this week had our first planning meeting. We're organizing a 2-week event (October 26 - November 9, 2008) and the topic is exactly what I've been rambling about: management of multimembership. Here is the description:
    How do you track and keep up with blog conversations? How do you manage your time as you engage in social networks? What are our limits as we integrate social learning into our work environments?

    Many of us confess to fumbling along and we engage in multiple networks. Yet, many networks are essential for the projects, sectors and people that we work with, and for staying abreast of hot issues. Multi-membership and multi-platform overload is becoming a BIG challenge!

    During this 2-week discussion we invite you to share tips for managing participation in social networks. This seminar is organized as part of the Facilitating Online Communities course.

    TAG: multimembership
    Best of all, having this major activity to plan has certainly brought me back into the FOC08 course...physically and mentally.

    Expect plenty more about our miniconference event. Meanwhile, I've been doing some research and found this gem from Nancy White's blog archives about multimembership. The title of the blog post is It's not me or the group, it's about multimembership.
    I've learned this idea of multimembership from Etienne Wenger and see the management of multimembership as one of the key technological and social issues of the online world today. There is quite a bit of interesting technological work happening in this area, from identity standards, pushes for interoperability and tools that help us collect all our digital interactions so we can make sense of them across all the groups, networks and even casual online interactions we engage in.
    Ahhh, yes. This is what we need help with.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    National Digital Media Day

    Curious to see what happens on National Digital Media Day! I've been following the build up to this event on at Ning and now this new site just sprouted, I guess as a central location for getting the latest update. It's been a bit of a challenge to figure out what this day is all about and how to get involved. There's nothing going on near my home, but I might just pucker up at noon (PDT) for my non-flash mob version of the "One Giant Smooch Across Canada". You are invited to upload your images to the Hopefully it will become obvious how to do that by tomorrow!

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    TED: Ideas worth spreading

    "Our mission: Spreading ideas." Just discovered this (free subscription) site, and wow!
    "TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader....The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 200 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted."
    Check out TED's theme site for How We Learn:
    "Teachers of all kinds can find fresh resources--and inspiration--in this batch of TEDTalks. Some talks may shake your worldview...others celebrate the extraordinary power of teachers and schools--and share ways you can help them. Look here for pointers to amazing classroom tools and techniques."

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    24 Killer Portable Apps For Your USB Flash Drive

    These aren't necessarily teaching resources (the theme of my links here), but I have to link to this anyway because it's a great idea, and what teacher can't use one more great idea!

    Web 2.0 is about giving up some control

    An article by Gerry McGovern. "Web 2.0 and social media mean that for teachers a declining part of their job involves telling. An increasing part is listening to the class and facilitating them in having conversations."

    Quiz Hub ~ K-12 Interactive Learning Center

    "If you join the Quiz Hub, you will get access to hundreds of educational quiz games for English language arts, math, geography, history, earth science, biology, and chemistry." Headings are Educational Quiz Games/Samples, Favorite Educational Websites, Practice Tests for State Exams.

    Teaching and Technology

    The site author, Michael Hall, says, "Here are some additional World Wide Web sites related to teaching and technology. Many of these were suggested to me by visitors to TwET, my Teaching with Electronic Technology page." The page is full to links to Instructional Technology sites, Higher Ed sites and courses, K-12 Teaching & Tech sites, Conferences & Workshops, and Directories. Also check out that other site he refers to, Teaching with Electronic Technology.

    iSpring: Free PPT to Flash Converter

    "Free PowerPoint to Flash converter creates web friendly Flash movies from your PowerPoint content keeping its visual parameters and animation effects. Generated Flash presentation will look as if it has always been a Flash movie. ...creates high quality Flash movies with vector representation of standard PowerPoint objects and keeps most of advanced PowerPoint features. can generate .html code ready to place an .swf file on your web page or blog. ...wraps Flash slideshows in the attractive Player for effective navigation. ...supports automatic and mouse click animation step advance and looped playback. ...All iSpring Free functions are accessible in your PowerPoint through the standard toolbar."

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Mathematics Glossary

    Canadian site "...a glossary of terms selected to support the learning outcomes identified in the Mathematics Program of Studies. The glossary is designed for teachers to use with their students. A term that appears in multiple grade groupings will have grade appropriate information to illustrate the term. Many of the terms in the earlier grades will have real world examples, and many of the terms at all grades will have applets and/or animations to support student learning."

    Note: At this point, there are a lot of "under construction" entries in the glossary. I hope they fill this out soon!

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    eLearning on a Shoestring

    As Stephen Downes said, "This doesn't look like much at first glance but if you keep following the links you'll find a wealth of practical information." I like their Tools, Uses & Software page--their graphic maps of tools and other elearning resources.
    You can find a 'big picture' view of a broad range of e-learning tools and their uses, in "Tools, uses and software". "Which tools to use and why" offers some ideas and recommendations for a set of particular tools for e-learning and software examples that work well.

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    A poem about SCoPE

    In our current seminar discussion at SCoPE, Developing a Professional Development Collaboratory, we are talking about the qualities of PD opportunities/sites that keep us coming back. This discussion is part of a preliminary design process to create an integrated service for individuals and institutions seeking or offering professional development opportunities and resources. I think we're often too quick to jump to the look, functionality, and efficiency of a site to serve up what we need. Look what we were treated to this week!

    Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers contributed
    this poem about SCoPE and I just had to pull it out and post it here. I think this is an example of what keeps people coming back.
    Willing to login, take a chance in the mix,
    Read, feel the thought, now what to write,
    Welcome even lurkers who respond here and there.
    "Scope Professional Development I now declare.
    Electrified by flow -- human flow appendage by appendage.
    Great online resource with wiki attached, go-writers-go
    Nurturing healthy online veins and arteries to the heart
    Of Polls and Scoopers on Scope, Yes we can!
    Some carry questions and curious creations to what end.
    Into the collective wiki, okay, that's good. Amen.
    Respond and collaboratively blend. Thank you and you.
    Redistributing opportunities for all to learn.
    Renewed back in the hearts of lifelong ... Scope friends.
    by Jo Ann
    The seminar runs until August 31st, and like all SCoPE events newcomers, latecomers, and passersby are always welcomed.

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Want to Know Everything About a Website? Try Quarkbase.

    I could tell you more right here, but this article at downloadsquad says it all, so just click my title and read, then give Quarkbase a try. Pretty amazing. QuarkBase is a non-commercial site with no advertisements.

    Facebook in Education

    It's one of the more popular social networking sites among students, so here are a few articles about using it in education settings.

    Teachers use Facebook to reach students: A brief article posted on, a site operated by The Canadian Press, in which a high school teacher in Halifax explains how he uses Facebook in his teaching.

    Blackboard Sync: "Blackboard Sync is an application that delivers Blackboard course information and updates through the Facebook interface to keep students in touch and engaged with their academic studies. CLASSMATES NETWORK: Blackboard Sync enables students to connect with their classmates through Facebook, thus creating social learning opportunities. SAFE SYNC: Blackboard Sync offers several options for participation to give the institutions as much control as they need."

    Will Colleges Friend Facebook? This article talks about Schools, a Facebook application for education, developed by Inigral. "Schools upends the traditional application framework. Rather than make it available to anyone with a Facebook account, the service is based on partnerships with individual colleges that pay to allow their students access. The colleges then provide Inigral with constantly updated data feeds that allow the application to stay current with courses, clubs and other activities that students can join.... Abilene Christian University, which is already in a private beta testing phase and is set to deploy the application over the fall semester, has already gained publicity by handing out free iPhones to its incoming freshman class and being one of the earlier adopters of Google’s Apps for Education program. Kevin Christian, the university’s director of strategic partnerships, says that the university is finding it can have the benefits of 'living within the Facebook world' without ignoring 'prudent concern to retain Facebook as a true social networking site.”'Much as the university is planning to do with its new army of iPhones, Christian said some faculty members were planning on making use of the newly adopted technology in their classrooms."

    Educational Uses of Facebook: That heading is for just one section of this excellent Wiki about Facebook at LTC (Learning Technologies Center). Ignatia Webs calls it "the superb wiki of George Siemens on Facebook and its benefits as a social network service. This wiki was one of the results of a workshop he did on facebook at the University of Manitoba. The wiki gives a nice overview of when which social network was started. After that he zooms into Facebook with a good analyses on pro's and cons if you want to use it in a corporate or other environment for educational reasons."

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Powerpoint to video: AVI, MP4, WMV, MPEG

    On request via a comment to yesterday's post about converting Powerpoint, here's an application that converts Powerpoint to video. Wondershare's application
    "...can convert the dynamic PowerPoint presentation to real video show that can be run unattendedly with continuous loops ... an all-in-one PowerPoint to video converter. It can convert PowerPoint presentations to almost all popular video formats such as MPEG-1,MPEG-2, AVI, MP4, WMV, MOV, 3GP. Ideal for trade show, digital signature, in-store displays and ready for video podcast. Benefits of converting PowerPoint slide show to video with PPT to Video: ready for burning to DVD; upload PowerPoint to YouTube; enjoy PowerPoint on iPod; view slides without PowerPoint."

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    PowerPoint to Flash

    Seems this is becoming a popular way to put PPT presentations online. Here are a few applications (I'm not endorsing, just listing; haven't tried anything but Impatica.)

    Wondershare PPT2Flash Professional: "PPT2Flash Professional converts PowerPoint to Flash with great accuracy through PowerPoint 2000 to 2007. With this PowerPoint to Flash conversion tool, presenters can preserve and reproduce important elements of their PowerPoint slides, such as animations, transitions, textboxes, bullets, formatting, pictures, background, sound, movie, WordArt, AutoShapes, callouts, SmartArt, and even slide master."

    PresentationPro's PowerCONVERTER: "PowerCONVERTER accurately converts your PowerPoint presentation to Flash and retains all of your special effects, including: NEW Player format or Single file output; NEW Batch Mode Converts Multiple PowerPoints At Once; Narration & Continuous Audio; Inserted Video & Flash; Entrance & Exit Animations; Transitions; Hyperlinks; Auto Advance or On Click. PLUS you will have all the benefits of Flash: Easy distribution on the Web or CD-ROM; Greatly reduced file size; Stream the presentation with Audio and Video; A secure and tamper proof format; Single File output option for easy management; Viewing Capabilities with or without Player."

    Impatica for PowerPoint: "...simply converts the PowerPoint file into a compressed format that is optimized for streaming over the Internet. The Impatica file is typically 95% smaller than the PowerPoint HTML files...supports most of the features of PowerPoint, including text, graphics, transitions, animation effects and, of course, narration." A reviewer says: "The good: A supremely simple packing tool for PowerPoint presentations.he bad: Too pricey for casual users."

    FlashDemo's Converter: Costs a little less than most other professional converters. "Create professional-look flash presentations and e-learning courses with PowerPoint knowledge. Retain the original animations, slide transitions, timings, callouts. Preserve narration, sound, animation sound effects. Create Flash movie in extremely reduced file size. Ideal for web distribution. Compatible with PowerPoint 2007® and Windows Vista®. Extreme fast Conversion speed and easy-to-use."

    Convert using Free applications: Marshall Feldman's forum post, describing a process for converting PPT to flash using a series of free applications.

    OpenOffice's Impress: If you don't use a lot of fancy graphics in your ppt. presentations, here is an alternative that may work for you and it's free: Impress, like PowerPoint, will allow you to export a presentation as a single flash file that works much more smoothly than the multislide plus html file that the other programs create. [quoting Daniel Rubin's discussion posting.]

    Robin Good's PowerPoint to Flash Conversion Tools - Mini-Guide, Part 1: When you get to the page, you don't immediately see the list of conversion tools or the Guide; googleAds are the biggest font. But look in the narrow grey-toned column for the Guide's Table of Contents. You can't tell by looking, but each item is a link. It's an extensive guide.

    Once you have a Flash file, you have to know how to put it into a webpage. Here's one tutorial, FLASH: embedding Flash, explained, written December 31/07. "There seems to be a lot of confusion about the code needed to properly embed Flash objects within a website: it's the most frequently asked question at this site's forum. The rise of social networking sites like Myspace (who filter lots of codes) and the Eolas patent enforcement have thrown quite some confusion into the mix. In this tutorial, I'll shortly align the best options to embed Flash."

    Quiz Maker

    Wondershare QuizCreator - Create Online Quiz, Quiz Creator, Make Flash quiz, Quiz Software, Online Assessment.

    "...enables users to easily create interactive Flash-based quizzes, tests and assessments in minutes without the need for difficult programming. Users can make Flash-based quizzes from 9 question types, with images, screenshots, sounds, narrations and Flash movies integrated, and then publish Flash quizzes to Web or AICC/SCORM compliant LMS systems. QuizCreator supports customizing quiz player templates, setting feedback based on takers' responses, and tracking test results online with Quiz Management System (QMS)." [description from William Peterson, Senior E-Learning Analyst]

    Phrases: a reference/resource site

    The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases
    Phrase thesaurus
    List of sayings
    Idioms: definitions, examples, origins, dictionary, meanings

    As well as an alphabetized index and a search engine, they're categorized under headings like Shakespeare's sayings, biblical, nautical, proverbs, euphemisms, the body, nonsense/fallacies, etc. There's also a discussion forum, a Phrases Thesaurus (kewl idea!), phrase quizzes, most-popular phrase links, 'a phrase a week'. If you're into words and phrases, this is a fun site!

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Organized Communication through Blogs

    During the first two weeks of the Facilitating Online Communities course the topic of blogging versus forums was raised by participants. This was one of the course "process" items I was curious about from the onset. How do you organize group communication through blogs? And why would you want to?

    First a bit of context. There are 71 individuals/blogs on the course list. There is a course blog which is where Leigh the facilitator posts reminders about what we should be focusing on as well as reflections the course itself. Also the course wiki contains the main course details, nicely organized so we always know where to check in. There is also a Google Group which is useful for Q&A and for day-to-day discussion. There are 107 members on that list, so obviously some people are following along without enrolling in the course. Leigh has been cross-posting his blog entries to the Google Group to make sure everyone receives them. We also have an open Elluminate room in case we want to drop in for more spontaneous synchronous interactions. The room is also used for scheduled meetings.

    So far this seems like a good choice of tools for the course. The breadth and depth of contributions to the course through personal blogs have been just excellent. I'm not sure we would have seen that using only a forum; a blog offers a space to post your very own reflections without being concerned with replies, finding the right thread, staying on topic, or missing an opportunity to contribute because the conversation has moved on. But having a forum is essential. I don't think we could survive without the Google Group as a way to connect and support one another, through the orientation at least. However, there are no organized forum/email discussions. Do the blogs replace that completely? If so, where is the facilitation?

    Some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues using the forum, others are posting to their blogs and commenting on other blogs. Some folks are doing a little of both, occasionally linking back to blog posts, so the forum discussion becomes an extension of the blog. Leigh has acknowledged individual contributions, sharpened the focus a bit, and advanced certain topics in the forum. But so far I haven't seen any direct references to content in blog posts brought back to the group. Come to think of it, in organized communication through blogs, where is the group? Where does the facilitator do the weaving, connecting, summarizing...encouraging deeper dialogue, if not speaking to a group?

    Maybe the fact that I'm asking these questions means that I'm stuck in teacher mode. During the next 2 weeks we will be examining the differences among facilitator, teacher, and moderator roles. Perhaps some of this will become a little clearer!

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Effective Practices | Sloan-C

    Sloan-C's Effective Practices site is worth checking out.
    "To help make quality online education accessible and affordable for anyone, anywhere, at any time, the Sloan-C community shares techniques, strategies, and practices in online education that have worked for them. All effective practices are peer reviewed to both insure quality and to give submitters some documentation for tenure and promotion files."
    They've built some good search categories for the site:
  • Search by Pillar allows you to search by the five Sloan-C pillars, the building blocks of quality online education – learning effectiveness, scale, access, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction – and/or subcategories within them.
  • Search by Context allows you to search by your perspectives (roles) in online learning, organizational type, or subject area domain, as well as by special cases of online learning (such as online collaboration, or large class size), and/or by subcategories within these.
  • Search by Technology allows you to search by particular technology categories – audio, video, synchronous, asynchronous, mobile, virtual, and digital resources – and/or by subcategories within them.
  • What's New returns the most recent effective practices added to the site.
  • Introduction to Second Life for Educators

    The Sloan Consortium has a few good upcoming workshops. This December 2008 workshop is just one of them.
    "Throughout this workshop participants will learn the basics of Second Life, and integrate learning theories in the use of virtual worlds. Participants will be encouraged to create activities that are student-centered and maximize the real potential of virtual worlds. A primary goal of the workshop is to get educators thinking about their classes and how the tools used in Second Life can be personalized for the learning environments that they create. The workshop will explore examples of good teaching in Second Life and move beyond PowerPoint, lecture, and passive learning. Participants will make use of asynchronous discussions, multimedia materials, reading assignments and live, interactive class sessions to collaborate, learn, and expand the range of instructional possibilities that are available to students. Registration will open soon."

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    You decide when it's a community

    It's been a busy couple of weeks in the Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) course while we explore the question: What is an online community? It seems like a simple enough question but it gets messy when you start looking closely at the terminology -- like what is the difference between a community of practice and a learning community?

    Bronwyn Stuckey asks an interesting question: When do you know its a community? I responded on her blog:
    Yes! I was asked this question in a job interview, and fumbled through the answer because there are so many little indicators. One that stands out is when you see evidence of people starting to give back. A community cannot be consumed (I’ve seen “communities” that do little more than push content). Another is when you see a feedback - feedforward trend — always seeking to improve the practice.
    This started me down memory lane. In 1999 I was a research associate with the TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence, a national research project led by Linda Harasim at Simon Fraser University. We started the Global Educators' Network as a means for researchers involved in TeleLearning NCE theme projects to share their progress and findings. However, word spread quickly and gradually more and more educators, researchers, administrators, software developers, consultants, and students joined in and appreciated the value of engaging in timely discussions. At one point in this evolution it struck us that we had become a community. We didn't call GEN a community at the beginning of the project. We didn't even set out with the idea that we would create a community. It happened.

    As GEN was winding down in 2003 (funding) Linda Harasim asked me to reflect on what made GEN a successful community. This was my summary:
    • GEN provides an environment for exploration and sharing of ideas, where learning is a collective and participatory process. GEN is unlike traditional teacher professional development which focuses on individual learning. Rather, individual learning is implied, and necessary, for the advancement of knowledge as a group.
    • GEN offers new opportunities for dialogue across disciplines, geographical borders, professions, levels of expertise, and education sectors.
    • GEN provides a connection to the everyday realities, current thinking, and practices of education professionals.
    • Participation in GEN is flexible and inclusive. As a web-based and platform-independent environment, members are able to log on from any location, and from shared computers. VGroups conferencing system is easy to use, allowing participants to focus on the discussion rather than the technology. There are no costs associated with membership and asynchronous discussion allows for members to participate according to their own schedule. There is no obligation to participate according to a set structure. Reading along is acceptable, and members are encouraged to join a discussion at any time that they have time, feel compelled, or feel comfortable. As such, there is an opportunity to become acculturated, and ease in gradually if that suits the individual.
    • GEN operates on a basis of shared goals and experiences. Facilitators volunteer their time because they are committed to the advancement of both online education and the GEN community itself.
    • The community has evolved according the needs of its members. GEN began as a means for researchers involved in TeleLearning NCE theme projects to share their progress and findings. However, GEN quickly evolved into an international learning community and ideas for discussions, format, special interest groups, etc emerged through participation.
    • New events are scheduled by topics that emerge through participation, so there is always something new and fresh to build expectations.
    Some of these indicators of success didn't even line up with our original goals.

    Now leap forward to 2005 when we began the research and planning phase for SCoPE. During the early days we struggled with a name for the community. Even when we decided on the name SCoPE we had several discussions about what it actually stood for... SFU's Community of Practicing Educators, SFU's Community of Practice for Educators, and so on. I didn't feel comfortable calling the project a CoP before we had even started. It felt like something you become rather than a starting point. We continue to have conversations about whether or not SCoPE is a CoP or a Learning Community. As an aside, I was reluctant to even have SFU (Simon Fraser University) in the name because I didn't want people to feel that the community was intended primarily for SFU, and anybody else a welcomed visitor.

    Through my participation in I've heard community leaders ponder these same questions. During one event I was sharing my story and Etienne Wenger put this label dilemma to rest, explaining that it no longer seems important to distinguish between the various types of communities. People do get wrapped up in the semantics, and communities do change -- they shift, grow, evolve, and dissolve -- and we continue to rethink our purpose together. Are we mostly bound together by common interests, to learn, to practice? Possibly all of these things at different stages.