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.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    "...a leading online resource for current teachers, and aspiring education students and student teachers."

    My title link is to their library of Teaching Resources & Articles. Most of those are about teacher training and teaching career resources.

    But also check out their blog, chock full of tips-n-tricks, tutorials, and more. For example, here's a list of titles in the August archives (so far):
  • 100 Awesome Classroom Videos to Learn New Teaching Techniques
  • 100 Best YouTube Videos for Teachers
  • 100+ Motivational Techniques to Take Learning to the Next Level
  • 101 Ways to Cope with Teaching Stress
  • 50 Ways to Use Wikis for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom

    And for you Blackboard users:
    The Ultimate Guide to BlackBoard: 100 Tips & Tutorials
  • Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    National Film Board of Canada - films now online!

    "We're opening our vaults! We have 70 years worth of groundbreaking documentaries and cutting-edge animated films and we're putting them on as fast as we can. These films are accessible to all Canadians and free of charge for home viewing. So far, you can watch over 300 films, trailers and clips; new releases and forgotten gems — available in three speeds (56k, 356k and 1000k)...We're adding new films, clips and trailers every week - so visit often. To keep posted on all the latest news, subscribe to our weekly newsletter, read our RSS feed or check out our blog."

    Urban Dictionary

    If you can't find the word anywhere else it might be in this one. Look up street lingo: words, images, sounds. Time magazine named it one of the 50 best websites of 2008. Here's their self-definition (on Facebook):
    "I am a dictionary with over a million definitions you wrote. I stand for free speech and having a good time. urban dictionary started in 1999 as a parody of, with definitions written by the people. in the last 7 years, people have written more than 2,000,000 definitions...wikipedia says it well: 'urban dictionary allows for many truths, rather than an authoritative guide.'"

    Saturday, August 2, 2008

    Creating Learning Environments for Educators

    The month-long book club discussion at begins tomorrow. Well actually that's not really true. It began a few weeks ago with the process of negotiating which chapters to read, which has been an interesting discussion in itself.

    The book selected for the discussion is a 2-volume set: Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators edited by Chris Kimble, Paul Hildreth, and Isabelle Bourdon. The editors and several of the chapter authors will be joining in.

    This event is free for CPsquare members, or a $50 registration if you aren't (yet) a member. As with most CPsquare events, it just makes more sense to join the community than to pay the fee.

    Since the conversation space opened we have been going through the ritual of introducing ourselves, sharing tips for how and where to buy the book, making plans for how to proceed, and declaring which chapters interest us most. From the list of top chapters we've begun to identify themes and to vote on top choices within each theme. As an outcome document we will be contributing as a group to a book review which will be made public.

    So far the tools used for this event are:
    • Facebook for promotion, Q&A, and a way for non-CPsquare members to connect
    • Members' blogs for spreading the word and probably for reflection throughout the month
    • Discussion forum where the planning and chapter discussions will take place
    • Frappr Map for plotting out locations and shouting out
    • Wiki for the book review
    • Polls for selecting chapters
    As with all CPsquare events the planning process is open and collaborative. I really appreciate that practice.