Thursday, May 29, 2008

ETUG 2008 Spring Workshop

I always look forward to the annual spring workshop organized by the British Columbia Educational Technology Users Group. This year's theme is CREATIVITY
It will be really difficult to decide which sessions to participate in. Notice I said participate in rather than attend. With this group it's impossible to be passive; it's a roll your sleeves up kind of deal.

During the keynote presentation Liane Gabora left us with some very relevant advice for fostering creativity:
Some spaces scream out I'm perfect the way I am; don't touch me. Find spaces that invite you to wonder, play, and experiment.

Seek out people that put a new spin on things, get you thinking

Technology can be gratuitously creative or inspired; it can genuinely reconfigure people's worldviews
The setting is perfect for putting some of this into action over the next 2 days. The venue workshop is Emily Carr University where we are surrounded by art, spaces where art is created, and people thinking about art. Now add 110 or so educational technologists to the mix and who knows what we'll come up with!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How to Motivate Your Students

"...the reality of distance learning is that this rarely, if ever, happens across the board. You will, in fact, always find one or more students whose motivation is just lacking. Without motivation in an online class that student will do poorly, and you'll feel pretty bad about it as well. You can't be a cheerleader every moment, but you can present your course so that the material becomes understandable, real, and exciting! Once this happens, students will suddenly take notice because they have discovered that the subject of your course talks to and about them. Here's how."

Tips for Delivering a Successful Online Experience

The focus of the article is on synchronous online conferencing. "If you're new to presenting online or you're simply considering introducing it into your training repertoire, here are a few things to consider before your next presentation."

eLearn Magazine: Education and Technology in Perspective

I just discovered this site, chock full of Very Interesting reading that will keep my busy for a long while. Topics are very current and relevant. Categories include: Best Practices, Case Studies, Tutorials, Reviews, Research papers. Articles are grouped by Design, Technology, Usability, Business, Culture. The site "offers a community hub for e-learning professionals on the Web, providing a wealth of public forums for the free exchange of ideas. Our targeted readership includes both providers and consumers of online learning, with a special emphasis on teachers, managers, and administrators working to develop educational programs or classes on the Web." I investigated the "about us" page and discovered that one of my eLearning gurus, Stephen Downes, is on the Editorial Advisory Board, and another (more recent) personal guru, Lisa Neal, is the Editor-in-Chief. Yay for the online version of 6 degrees of separation.

Moderating to the Max (book)

Author Jean Bystedt. (My link is to Lisa Neal's commentary on the book.) The book's title made me think it was about moderating online discussions (online learning being my focus). The book's subtitle implies otherwise: A Full-Tilt Guide to Creative Insightful Focus Groups and Depth Interviews. However, Lisa Neal comments on some of the content of the book are very apropos for moderators of online discussions and indeed for online instructors: " I never consciously thought about how many of the skills for teaching, moderating, and presenting overlap. The introduction to the book...says that moderators need to know how to lay the ground rules for participation, help people feel comfortable, encourage responses, ask questions, probe for clarification, segue between topics, and stay on course. This is the same as teaching and presenting."

Ten Things You Can Do in Ten Minutes To Be a More Successful e-learning Professional « Lisa Neal

Lisa Neal addresses the question: "You need a break and, instead of heading to the coffee pot, what can you do in 10 minutes that will refresh and energize you and increase your job satisfaction and career success?"

Serious Games for Serious Topics

The authors, Lisa Neal & Clark Quinn, are "addressing if the design of a game, or even the fact that a game is being used, induces a sense of frivolity that lessens the impact of the learning for serious topics." Their answer is no: the article points out that "Properly done, serious games are highly effective for serious topics. While the notion of a game may seem frivolous, the design and content are not. In fact, a serious game can introduce tension and crises to simulate the realistic experience of practicing a particular skill, or depict consequences, more easily than other types of learning."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When individual identities become community identities

Yesterday the Connected Futures Workshop group had a fantastic teleconference/skype chat. It was moderated by Nancy White and the purpose was to kick off week 4 of the workshop and bring forward our big questions. We were encouraged by Etienne Wenger to be flexible and creative in how we engage others in our topic. Some participants chose to post to their blogs so I thought I would follow suit. I had two questions but this topic seems most suited for posting to a blog and inviting comments.

Here's my dilemma...I find as a community coordinator every time I create an account these days I pause while I run these questions through my head:

  • Will I use this for my own work?
  • Am I creating this account for a community?
  • If so, what should I call it?
  • Which email address should I use?
  • Should I create 2 accounts -- one for myself and one for the community"
  • Is that redundant?
In my role as community coordinator for SCoPE I've created a few accounts for the purpose of organizing community resources and conversations -- an account called "community" at Technorati for adding SCoPE members' blogs as favourites to then feed back into the SCoPE site; a twitter account to broadcast announcements and also to create a feed of followers; several separate blog accounts created and abandonned as a way to post announcements and highlights, etc. This is just to name a few; I seem to have accounts everywhere. Of course all of these accounts require an email address and I have simply used one of my own email accounts.

I recently had the task of uploading presentations from the Shaping Our Future conference that were not my own to slideshare. I felt a little stumped. Do I use my own account? Do I create a new account? I ended up creating a separate community account called "BCcampus". The conference is sponsored by BCcampus and is held at SCoPE, and I'm now manager of BCcampus online community services which now includes SCoPE. So that made sense...sort of. Then I started to get notifications that people were following me (the community) and marking me (the community) as a favourite. I thought now what? Do I reciprocate?

Recently I checked a pagecast that I created for the SCoPE community and was alarmed to see that it was called "sylvia"! Good grief, did I just quickly make the pagecast public and as I clicked away it added my username to the URL? I'm working to rename it. Or should I start over with a separate community account?

At SCoPE we use Moodle which doesn't have a site wide feed. So as an easy work around I simply labeled all of my feeds from public SCoPE forums in Google Reader as "scope-sitewide" then made that tag public. The problem with that strategy is that the public page is called "scope-sitewide" via Sylvia. That doesn't feel very community like, does it? On the other hand, does it make sense to create a separate account and repeat the process of adding and organizing RSS feeds ing Goggle Reader? Not really! Hmmm, this is getting a little sloppy!

A social network where individuals share and reciprocate is managed by the individual members. That's the whole idea. When associating a network with an existing community it gets a little complicated. I'm now managing several communities. Does it make sense to have my own identity tied so closely with each community identity? I worry about what will happen if I leave my community coordinator role. It could become quite a task to tease all of this apart!

The line between individual and community identities is becoming blurry. Hey all of you community stewards out there, how do we manage this?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blackboard Sync for Facebook

"...delivers Blackboard course information and updates through the Facebook interface
to keep students in touch and engaged with their academic studies." See also this explanatory blog posting by Karen Gage.

The Blue Book: A Consumer Guide to Virtual Worlds

Stephen Downes describes the resource better than I can:
"This is a very useful resource, not simply because it makes clear that 'virtual world' means much much more than 'Second Life', but also because of the glossary and categorization system that informs this list of 250 virtual worlds. Descriptions are brief (not surprisingly) and contain links to the world web site. The document is PDF, but you have to download a zip file and extract it."

italki - Language Exchange and Learning Community

"...where you can find everything you need to learn a language. italki is a social network and an online resource for learning foreign languages."

Copyright in Higher Education

"Why arrange copyright? What is the importance for me? What is arranged by law? What do I need to do myself? Copyright: easier than you think! This website provides answers to the above questions. ...There are a few basic rules, which we aim to explain. The website also provides background information and suggests practical ways of dealing with copyright issues."

10 facts about learning that are scientifically proven and interesting for teachers

"The problem I had was whittling it down to ten!" says author Donald Clark. He concludes that "Many teaching practices are in direct opposition to the psychology of learning."

26 Learning Games to Change the World | Mission to Learn

The author's list of educational games that are geared towards making a difference in the world. The emphasis is on FREE games; includes browser-based games & desktop games.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dancing with the devil: a view from Blackboard’s European conference

What's new & coming soon in the Blackboard systems? See this blog post written by Niall Sclater, a Moodle proponent who attended the Spring '08 Bb European Conference.

IEEE Professional Communication Society

For Engineering & other technical professionals & students: the IEEE Professional Communications Society.
"The PCS field of interest includes the study, development, improvement, and promotion of effective techniques for preparing, organizing, processing, editing, collecting, conserving, teaching, and disseminating any form of technical information by and to individuals and groups by any method of communication. It also includes technical, scientific, industrial, and other activities that contribute to the techniques and products used in this field."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I have homework!

I made a decision in April NOT to participate in the first offering of the 5-week CPsquare  Connected Futures workshop. The only reason was lack of time. This workshop offers everything I want and need right now -- a lively group of people involved in online communities eager to roll up their sleeves and experiment with social strategies and Web2.0 tools. When I started to notice tweets from colleagues who were participating, some which were posted during their first telephone conference, it became too difficult to be on the outside! So late last week I knocked on John Smith's door...please, is there room for one more? I'm so glad I did!

I spent a few days catching up on forum posts, adding a few of my own, getting myself set up with the "core tools". So far I already have accounts on most of these sites or at least have experience with the bag of tools we're using for the workshop. But seriously, they weren't kidding when they said the workshop is
not for beginners nor the faint-hearted.
On the other hand, one of the 32 participants will probably respond to any newbie questions within seconds so we're all feeling well supported!

In the workshop we're using tables in wikis to provide an at-a-glance view of our community experiences, sector experiences, and treasured resources. This is a strategy I will definitely use in future workshops and gatherings as an alternative to the usual post-your-intros routine. 

Today we have a conference call to check in and prepare for this week's field trips. I missed the first call, and feel like I need to fill in a few more blanks before the 2nd one -- wikis to contribute to, profiles to update, pictures to upload, chapters to read, tweets to catch up on, friends and followers to become more acquainted with, and blog posts to write (check!).