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! :-)