Monday, November 30, 2009

Doodle for easy meeting coordination

As the organizer of many meetings with busy colleagues, life can be akin to “herding cats” when chasing down people and dates.

But Doodle, a polling tool I’ve been using of late, has made this task so much simpler. All you do is setup a Doodle poll with your dates and send participants the link. As creator of the poll, you are able to monitor responses and get the full tally on which date works best for most people. The meeting practically organizes itself. Then you have way more time to work on important matters like the agenda! I love this tool. Thanks to colleague Sylvia Currie for passing on the tip.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wordpress Multi-User

Ever dream of running hundreds of thousands of blogs with a single install of WordPress? WordPress MU, or multi-user, is designed to do exactly that.
Several post-secondary institutions in British Columbia are using WordPress MU -- UBC, UNBC, Langara, Camosun... (I've missed some, I'm sure.) What's interesting is to see WordPress MU being used for for variety of purposes. We think of it as blogging software, but in fact it is a very flexible content management system (CMS) and is being used at these institutions for developing professional e-portfolios (see UBC's Faculty of Education e-portfolios for teacher candidates), maintaining department websites (see Langara's iweb), and managing course content and discussions. In fact Clint Lalonde from Camusun has begun to document the process of piloting WordPress MU at Camosun College, and he offers this advice about referring to WordPress MU as a blogging tool:
I’ve avoided using the word blog when I refer to these sites. I’ve found that the term blog carries with it preconceived notions, both good and bad. So, in order to avoid the whole “I don’t want a blog, I want a website” circular logic wheel that I have witnessed when people talk about WP as a CMS, I have been using the term website when talking about our pilot sites.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The CUBE at BCIT uses 3D simulation technology and takes teaching and learning to new levels

From BCIT's Update Newsletter:

It’s not what it is, it’s what it does. The CUBE transforms the way instructors teach and the way students learn at BCIT. It will bring the workplace into the classroom and enrich curriculum – virtually.

Unique to BCIT, the CUBE initiative places 3D simulations of expensive, rare, and leading edge equipment into the hands of BCIT students, anytime, anywhere allowing learners to explore complex components and systems in a 3D virtual world before they touch the real thing.

Students will manipulate virtual objects from jet engines to knee joints and even disassemble, assemble, and cross-section them using computers.

With a US $1million grant from Lockheed Martin and $380,000 in software contributions from NGRAIN (Canada) Corporation, the CUBE transforms learning through the development of interactive 3D simulations which enhance the learner's experience. Watch the video to see the CUBE in action, and check out the BCIT news release for more info.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Stopwatch: Would you like to know how long it takes to load a webpage? This program will measure the time for you. Enter the URL to be measured and watch the top of the window.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Screencasting is a great way to demonstrate how to use various technologies or enhance a presentation. If you have tried screencasting in the past you know that although time consuming these a screencast can be an effective way to grab audience attention.

The site, Lifehacker, has put together a list of the five best screencasting tools. There are a couple of free tools highlighted that are definitely worth a try!

BCIT has recently developed a series of video tutorials, using Adobe Captivate, for Desire2Learn. The video tutorials were created for Instructors across the Institute and focus on how to use D2L. Check them out at: under Instructor Resources.


Active student engagement in large classes is a pedagogical topic that is a constant buzz at many meetings, workshops, and conferences. One solution to engaging students in a large class is to use Clickers. Both the Vancouver Community College and University of Victoria are introducing clickers to their institutions and Vancouver's Georgia Strait recently featured a Professor from the University of British Columbia on his use of Clickers in the class- check it out "Clickers give students incentive to go to class".

For more information about Clickers read Educause's article on "7 things you should know about clickers".

Friday, November 20, 2009


Gliffy is a fantastic tool for everything from planning how to organize the furniture in your classroom to collaboratively brainstorming and organizing ideas. Thanks to Grant Potter for introducing us to this tool during a working group meeting to rethink and redesign the Educational Technology Users Group community. Here's our spidergram (taken from this spidergram activity).
At Gliffy, we believe that communicating with visuals gets people to the same space a lot faster because a picture takes the thoughts in your head and makes them tangible.

With a tool that makes it easy to create, share, and collaborate on a wide range of diagrams, Gliffy users can communicate more clearly, boost innovation, improve decisions, and work more effectively.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Virtual Field Trip

CPsquare, the community of practice on communities of practice, and SCoPE are working together to organize virtual Quarterly Field Trips. The practice of visiting communities has a long history in and around CPsquare. We decided that the opportunity to visit communities with the help of a tour guide, and using a specific framework as a lens on the community, would be an excellent mutual exchange among community leaders and enthusiasts. Tourists (enthusiasts) can get ideas and insights from seeing other communities, and the tour guides (leaders) can benefit from the expertise of the enthusiasts.

Our next field trip is scheduled for November 16, 2009 20:00 GMT. This excursion will be to Cloudworks, an evolving, dynamic community for learning design developed and hosted by the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University. Grainne Conole, Professor of e-learning at OU, will be our tour guide. We are organizing the background information and details of the trip on the CPsquare wiki.

I will be co-moderating this session with John Smith. It's open to everyone so please spread the word!

When: Monday, November 16, 2009 12:00 PDT 20:00 GMT (your time zone)  
Where: SCoPE Community Enthusiasts Elluminate Room

Photo uploaded on October 1, 2009
by djdroga

The Complete Guide to Google Wave

The Complete Guide to Google Wave: How to Use Google Wave: "The Complete Guide to Google Wave is a comprehensive user manual by Gina Trapani with Adam Pash.

Google Wave is a new web-based collaboration tool that's notoriously difficult to understand. This guide will help. Here you'll learn how to use Google Wave to get things done with your group. Because Wave is such a new product that's evolving quickly, this guidebook is a work in progress that will update in concert with Wave as it grows and changes. Read more about The Complete Guide to Google Wave, and follow us on Twitter for updates and Wave tips."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How do YOU connect online?

ETUG member D'Arcy Norman is asking this question for his non-traditional assignment in a graduate level course he is taking on Technology & Society:
How do YOU connect online?
More information about the project and how to submit your contribution is available on the Connect Project site.


I've been following the work of Gráinne Conole from UK's Open University for some time. I believe the first time I corresponded with her was during the Shaping Our Future conference in May, 2008 at SCoPE where we invited her to provide an international perspective on e-learning research, policy, and practice. Then later that year I participated in her remote presentation on Cloudworks at the 2008 Tech It Up conference at Thomposon Rivers University in Kamloops.

That Coudworks presentation really sparked my interest. At that time the website was still in the very early phases of development, but the potential was obvious. It reminded me of some of our early 90s work done in the Virtual-U project lab at Simon Fraser University when we were busy mocking up designs that would provide a way for instructors to share their online course activities in a way that provided implementation and iterative design context.
Cloudworks is a site for finding, sharing and discussing learning and teaching ideas, experiences and issues. The aims are to:
  • enable people to find, share and discuss learning and teaching ideas
  • connect people with similar educational interests through social networking
  • provide inspiration on designing learning activities and developing resources
  • showcase the work of individuals and communities who want to reach existing but also new audiences
  • provide a place for different communities to discuss, collaborate and aggregate relevant materials, ideas and designs
  • encourage sharing, especially among people who have not shared learning and teaching ideas and experiences before.
The appeal of Cloudworks is that the focus shifts away from sharing course resources (repositories) to representing teaching designs, practices, and resources in a way that is context rich and reusable by others. Moreover, members' contributions are open and available for others to build on in a number of interesting ways.
Unlike many existing educational repositories, the emphasis is on building a dynamic collection of ideas and experiences; via a variety of educational content (learning designs, case studies, resources and tools) plus active discussions about the use and effectiveness of this content in different contexts. The voice of users of the site, their experience, reviews and reflections on the content of the site is a central feature.
Last month I had the pleasure of spending some time with Gráinne at the ETUG Fall 2009 workshop in Vancouver, on an unexpected road trip to Kamloops because our flight was cancelled, then briefly at the TechItUp conference where we live-blogged John Seely Brown's keynote together. I was able to get immersed in Cloudworks and also experience Gráinne's enthusiasm. It was a great combination.

First... the ETUG Fall workshop. Gráinne Conole treated participants to a full-day workshop and plenary talk on learning design. She was also an extremely active participant in the 2-day event overall, first by helping the planning committee by creating a workshop 'cloudscape' at Cloudworks ahead of time, then by continuing to populate the various clouds with links, live blogs of sessions, comments, and keeping workshop the #etugdesign twitter stream active.

Aside from helping us to build a fantastic online resource for our 2-day event that we can continue to revisit and build over time, Gráinne really modelled for our community how we can (and should!) collectively create artefacts of our activities, and find ways to involve members who are unable to travel to f2f events. And it was very interesting to see Cloudworks in action!

Second...the unexpected road trip. We had a very early flight out of Vancouver I was returning home after the ETUG Workshop and Gráinne was going on the the TechItUp conference. We caught a 5:30 a.m. cab to the airport only to find that the flight had been cancelled due to fog. We're actually still trying to figure out why the flight was so early! We thought it was because Gráinne needed to be at the TechItUp conference. Anyway, we retrieved our luggage then headed off to the car rental area. No cars left! We tried one company after another. Then in the last line-up we started chatting with Jarrod Bell from School District #60 in Fort St. John. It turned out he was also heading to the TechItUp conference AND we found out there was a car available. So we all drove up together. What a terrific experience! We felt like we were playing hooky -- stopping at coffee shops, checking out the views, fitting in a little fine dining, and having a fantastic conversation.

Third...John Seely Brown's keynote at the TechItUp conference. Thanks to Tara Murray from School District #73 (Kamloops/Thompson), one of the conference organizers, I was able to pop in on Saturday morning just for the keynote. By this time I was very familiar with Cloudworks, so was able to quickly find the cloud Gráinne had created and start live blogging within seconds of opening my laptop.

I think this last point is what will really contribute to the increase in Cloudworks membership and the growth in valuable resources and opportunities for dialogue. It is so easy to use, and there are many ways to contribute. The idea is to:
  • Ensure a low barrier to entry for new contributions. We believe that one of the main barriers to contribution to other repositories is the level of detail and metadata required, cumbersome quality control processes and issues around ownership.
  • Give the site a people-orientated focus. It is conversation and shared experiences that will draw people to contribute to the site and make it sustainable. Finding the right person to talk to is often as important as finding the right resource.
When I returned home after my few days with Gráinne I began to think about how Cloudworks could be used for other projects I'm involved in. One that came to mind was an Improving Conferences (and other events) project I've been hoping to get off the ground with colleagues in BC as we gather ideas and feedback from the events we organize. We have so much material, but it needs to be brought together somehow. And obviously this won't be a static resource; we need to continue to build on it. Cloudworks! I fired up an Improving Conferences Cloudscape and a few clouds to get going. The next day I noticed that Martin Weller had started a cloud called Changing nature of conferences so I snapped that into my Cloudscape. I'll continue to look for other clouds related to this theme. I'll also continue to get the word out that the cloudscape exists. I haven't even mentioned it to my colleagues, and they might not be as keen to jump in. But that's okay. Even if we end up with A MANUAL , it can still be included in the cloudscape. And hopefully I'll bump into new people in the clouds who interested in this topic. In any case, I'll just pick away at this project, adding #improveconf to relevant tweets, links to interesting resources, questions and new clouds as they come to mind. Suddenly creating a good resource on improving conferences feels very manageable. :-)

Interested in learning about Cloudworks in a community of practice context? Mark your calendars for a Virtual Field Trip organized by SCoPE and CPSquare, November 16
November 16, 2009 12:00 PDT 20:00 GMT (your time zone). More details will be posted soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

International Symposium on Wikis - conference report

This is a source of current academic research from the International Symposium on Wikis. The paper titled "Herding the Cats: The Influence of Groups in Coordinating Peer Production?" (pdf) by Aniket Kittur, Bryan Pendleton, and Robert E. Kraut caught the eye of several people on the Wikieducator mailing list. Looks like some good reading.