Monday, June 30, 2008

WebAnywhere: A Screen Reader On the Go

Launched June 27/08, a web-based screen reader for the web. "It requires no special software to be installed on the client machine and, therefore, enables blind people to access the web from any computer they happen to have access to that has a sound card. ...WebAnywhere's will run on any machine, even heavily locked-down public terminals, regardless of what operating system it is running and regardless of what browsers are installed." WebAnywhere reads aloud Web text on any computer with speakers or headphone connections.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 - David Le Blanc

Canada David LeBlanc's site has some good resources. David is a Burnaby, BC teacher who's completing his PhD at SFU on the topic of Instructional Design for Collaborative Learning in Distributed Environments, using Activity Theory. If you're curious about what that means, check out a 10 minute presentation, in which he uses video and slides to introduce the theoretical framework. David is also involved with a collaborative Moodle server community, Learning Together Apart, which offers some free-enrollment professional development courses for teachers.

Learning Together Apart

A Moodle site/server that "...has been established for professional educators and their learners. Courses are developed, delivered and maintained by individual instructors and supported by the collaborative participation of the members of this community." There are a few free-enrollment professional development courses, so have a look around. If you start with the first item on the menu when you get to the site, "Miscellaneous", you'll find Exploring Moodle Modules, a "Sample Course [that] will show examples of everything that you can do in Moodle".

Ten Tips and Tricks for the Online Student

This article is from 2004, but all the excellent tips are still relevant. I like the first one: "Read everything twice. Read everything twice." And the best one is probably #9, "Be your own guide." The author's reason for #9 is a good one -- there are still online facilitators/teachers who "have not [yet] adapted to this new classroom", whereas many students entering online learning now have been raised with the internet, with self-guidance online, and can adapt more readily to this style of learning.


"Filamentality is a fill-in-the-blank tool that guides you through picking a topic, searching the Internet, gathering good Internet links, and turning them into online learning activities. Support is built-in along the way through Mentality Tips. In the end, you'll create a web-based activity you can share with others even if you don't know anything about HTML or serving web pages."

"What about that crazy name? Filamentality combines the 'filaments of the web' with your 'mentality' allowing you to create a variety of formats that meet your personal or learner needs."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

iTunes U

"iTunes U puts the power of the iTunes Store to work for colleges and universities, so users can easily search, download, and play course content just like they do music, movies, and TV shows. ...iTunes U delivers easy, 24/7 access [via Mac or PC] to educational content from hundreds of top colleges, universities, and educationally focused organizations across the country....Students can sync iTunes U content with any iPod or iPhone."

"Beyond Campus is the iTunes U area that features a broad spectrum of audio and video materials from sources other than colleges and universities, such as American Public Media, PBS, the Museum of Modern Art, and Smithsonian Global Sound. ...From K–12 lesson plans to interviews with famous artists, Beyond Campus on iTunes U is constantly expanding content."

The Prime Directives for an e-Portfolio

10 essentials and features of ePortfolios.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ask the Experts: Educational Communities of Practice Event

I was invited to be an "expert" in the Ask the Experts: Educational Communities of Practice session at the Best Practice Models for Elearning Community on June 4, 2008. I was in great company! The other 2 experts were Etienne Wenger and Helen Walmsley.

Etienne doesn't need an introduction since he literally wrote the book(s) on communities of practice. I was first introduced to Etienne's work through his book co-authored with Jean Lave in 1991: Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. It's beside me right now on my bookshelf - full of stickies, highlights, and dog-eared pages. I continue to learn from Etienne through the CPSquare community activities and workshops.

I met Helen Walmsley during the CPSquare Long Live the Platform online conference. We were part of the Moodle team -- I was the platform spokesperson and Helen showcased the Best Practice community. We had never crossed paths before and were really taken aback by the parallels in our lives -- both involved in elearning, both managing an online community for educational practitioners supported by a university but open to the pubic, and both using Moodle. It was neat to compare notes and share ideas for activities and community site design. I've been meaning to ask her if she also has a 3-legged dog! ;-)

The Ask the Expert session had a very interesting format. Prior to June 4th Etienne posted a Best Practice Model for Cultivating Communities of Practice document, and Helen and I posted community cases as a way to provide a quick overview for the participants who were mostly very busy professionals. Here is my SCoPE overview (images removed):
- Launched in fall, 2005 as a “reinvention” of the discontinued Global Educators’ Network which ran 1999-2003
- Moodle platform + Marginalia, Twitter, Facebook, Pageflake, Delicious, etc
- Founded on a belief that a community grows by involving its members in a variety of activities of their own choosing, and by empowering the natural leaders that emerge.
- Launched with a discussion about the community and how to proceed
- Approximately 2,000 from 47 countries
- Primarily post-secondary educators and staff
- Also graduate students, consultants, administrators, researchers, software developers

How are we proceeding?
- Membership is free and open to everyone
- Most activities are accessible without logging in
- Scheduled, facilitated, topic-based seminar discussions. Ideas for topics emerge through participation in the community
- Invite requests for Special Interest Groups to forum public (encouraged) or private communication and workspaces
- Offer support to upcoming facilitators as needed
- Invite students, researchers, instructors, authors, and curriculum and software developers to use SCoPE for sharing and advancing their work

Community coordinator role
- Keep my finger on the pulse of the community
- Plan and facilitate community activities
- Keep up with housekeeping
- Look for opportunities, link members
- Work with volunteer facilitators to help them prepare for seminar discussions
- Follow up on issues, suggestions

A sampling of SCoPE resources
- Wiki: Our collection of podcasting resources
- Mindmeister Map: Learning the Art of Online Facilitation
- Discussion leads to collaborative project: Invitation to participate
- Seminar summary: The Value of Serious Games in Virtual Worlds (PDF)

A sampling of Scope seminar topics (open access to all)
- Viral Professional Development: June 2-22, 2008 (You’re all invited!)
- Rethinking Teaching in the Sciences: April 7-27, 2008 Subscriptions 447 – Posts 116
- Learning the Art of Online Facilitation: March 1-21, 2007 Subscriptions 287 – Posts 158
- Blogging to Enhance Learning Experiences. February 12-25, 2007: Subscriptions 280 – Posts 450
- Accessibility of eLearning: December 4 - 17, 2006 Subscriptions 276 – Posts 193
- Informal Learning: May 15 - June 4, 2006 Subscriptions 286 – Posts 340
- Panda Walks Into a Bar: January 17-February 5, 2006 Subscriptions 281 – Posts 46

A sampling of SCoPE SIGs (Special Interest Groups) and Events
- Shaping Our Future: Toward a Pan-Canadian Elearning Research Agenda – 3-week online conference
- Arranging the Virtual Chairs Research Project (to study pedagogically oriented online discussions - private)
- Online Community Enthusiasts (finished life cycle?)
- SFU Faculty of Education Field Programs
- University/College/Institute Professional Development (UCIPD) Committee
- Symposium on Innovative Teaching

How are we sustaining the community?
- Fully supported by Simon Fraser University for 2 years; now provide site hosting and technical support
- Community Manager position supported by BCcampus, British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education
- Form “collaborative partnerships” to share resources, use of software, promotion efforts, and expertise – a mutual exchange of services
- Volunteers! Lots of volunteers!

What are the indicators of success?
- Number of people actively participating
- Number of people accessing site
- Willingness of members to give back
- Demonstration of appreciation
- Blog buzz
- Recognized by peers – 2007 BC Innovation Award in EdTech

What contributes to success?
- Simple starting point
- Site has basic layout, essential tools
- Involve members in discussion about the community
- Wide open
- Topics generated through participation
- Ideal for busy professionals
- No obligation to participate
- Mix of experts and novices
- Create a rhythm and reasons to return
- Collaborate on events with other communities
- Networking opportunity, place to promote work and ideas

Quotes (public) from members:
- "I think I've become a SCoPE groupie." Derek Chirnside
- "I've been lurking in the SCoPE sessions for about a year & really enjoying the discussions." Carolyn Carillon (Second Life alias)
- "I've enjoyed many a SCoPE Seminar, so this time, I thought I better get off my duff, stop lurking and introduce myself!" Susan Lester
- "One good thing about being subscribed to everything going on here at SCoPE it the opportunity to be just lazily, vicariously learning from the examples of others, a sort of active reading along...." Sus Nyrop
- "So much intriguing insight surfaced during this dialogue that was appreciated -- as I've found it does in SCoPE dialogues generally." Sarah Haavind
- "I deeply appreciate the mentors, models, and Moodle resources that SCoPE provides." Paul Beaufait
- “Looking forward to the next seminar. SCoPE is such an amazing learning environment.” Ian MacLeod
Prior to the event Helen created a single forum and launched the discussion with an invitation to introduce ourselves and provide some details about our experiences with educational communities of practice. Some took advantage of that but most of the 25 or so registrants waited until the scheduled 2-hour event.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I mean how many of you have participated in a real-time event using an asynchronous forum tool? I logged in a little before 7:00 am (my time - PDT) and joined Helen and a few others in a chat room. There was time for a nice cup of tea which Helen served in fine china, and a couple logistical questions, then it was over to the forum to get started.

The rest is a blur. There were 143 forum messages generated in a 2-hr period! It was a fabulous edge-of-the-seat flurry of questions, lists, ideas, definitions, hypotheses, advice, ah ha moments, and laughs combined with multiple browser windows and constant reloading in an attempt to keep up. It was obviously a huge challenge to try to read everything, and impossible to respond to posts in a reflective, grammar-fied, spell checker-fied way. But it didn't matter; we were all in this together, although those who used all fingers to type definitely had an advantage!

The reflective part came later. Discussions remain available in the archives, and I had turned on my email subscription so I would have the messages in my gmail archive. A few volunteers later contributed nice summaries to the forum. Several participants said they would be blogging so I hope we can track down who and where through the forum which remains open for follow-up thoughts and questions.

Would I try this format again? Absolutely! The schedule works well for busy people. The expectation was that participants would review materials arrive with questions, so there was a little pre-event thinking going on. The intensity of the event meant complete focus -- not the usual multitasking that we're all guilty of during, say, webcasts. Everyone was fully engaged and had many opportunities to contribute to the discussion, yet there was no obligation to participate. Unlike a chat tool, the topics are threaded, and concurrent but not overlapping. It's much easier to follow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Geo Education site

"...helpful information on using Google Earth, Maps, Sky, and SketchUp in your K-12 classroom. For years, this suite of products has been identified as a powerful learning toolkit that can help your students conceptualize, visualize, share, and communicate information about the world around them. The Google for Educators team hopes these tools will empower you to bring the world's geographic information to your students in a compelling, fresh, and fun way."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Facebook grief

Facebook has been causing me grief recently. First I received this email message :
Hey Sylvia,

We have reset your Facebook account password for security reasons. You will need to use the link provided in this email to create a new, secure password for your account. Do not use your old password. In the future, please make sure that when you log in to Facebook, you always log in from a legitimate Facebook page with the domain. To reset your password, follow the link below: (link removed)
(If clicking on the link doesn't work, try copying and pasting it into your browser.)

Please contact with any questions.

The Facebook Team
Needless to say I was suspicious. My first thought was that this was somebody trying to get me to follow a link to confirm an active email address, or to provide private information. So I didn't follow the link. But sure enough I couldn't log into Facebook. My password had in fact been reset.

I went through the forgot password steps to get back in. Then I wrote this invitation and was blocked from posting. Content Rejected! Can you see anything nasty in this invitation?!

What's going on? Why is Facebook picking on me?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Viral Professional Development

The June seminar discussion at SCoPE is Viral Professional Development, facilitated by Heather Ross and Jennifer Jones. Catchy title! :-) As with all SCoPE activities, the seminar is free and open to everyone. Here is the full description:
Professional development is often accomplished through careful planning and implementation of strategic learning initiatives including formal training and workshops. Informal learning happens outside the classroom, in small groups, project teams, and casual conversations.

Viral Professional Development (VPD) occurs when informal learning spreads through the organization and beyond, like a virus. VPD promotes celebration of individual learning and provides support for sharing knowledge informally and on-demand. VPD is an organic concept that is currently being explored internationally and recognized as a valid professional development opportunity. There are no set rules for implementing VPD, but the heart of the concept is in the development of an active learning community.

This seminar will introduce you to the basics of VPD and help you discover examples of successful VPD within your own organization. You will have the opportunity to make connections with others and explore ways to share outside your organization. Several technology solutions will be presented and learners may participate in a live, synchronous session via Elluminate.

ETUG Spring Workshop MOMENTS

  • Awe: watching Steve DiPaola's plenary presentation
  • Belly laugh: Adding up scores during the game of 21 and Frank Fucile says "I'm not very good at primary numbers" then...pause..."I'm not sure what that means"
  • Normal: That I was good at the refreshments activity
  • Regret: Not having a chance to chat with every single ETUGer
  • Fun Chaos: Shooting "The Hair Rant" during Mike Minion's Grassroots Video session
  • Inspiring: How Michelle Kearns managed to get a room full of people to reflect, apply, share, dance, and laugh
  • Surprising: Amanda Harby can sing!
  • Fun to watch: The graffiti board
  • Grateful: That there are some artifacts of our great time together
  • Biggest Compliment: From Liz Wallace "You are a plastic thingy"