Posts tagged ‘media & technology’

November 5, 2012

Put the action back in interAction

by t.e.d.d.y.

There are many participants in an education process.  There are students, instructors, content, different types of media and technology.  These participants are in constant contact and they have their roles to play in order to achieve a certain goal.  The goal for all participants is common – student learning.  If everyone fulfills their role effectively, the common goal is something that happens naturally.  All roles must act together and in balance in order to reach that goal.  Often though, it seems that there is a discrepancy or imbalance that causes learning to suffer.

In an environment where there is lots of inter acting, is there enough interaction?

Have you ever attended a presentation or a webinar where you wondered why you were there?  Were you thinking of anything else but the subject of that session?  You are not alone.  Personally, I have experienced this a lot too.  So here’s the gist of interaction.

There are generally two types of interaction: passive & active.  Passive interaction is when the participants do not provide feedback to each other.  This was the prevalent type in the 19th and 20th centuries.  And unfortunately it can still be seen in many presentations and on/offline events.  To understand it better, imagine reading a book.  Communication is only one way.  You read the book and receive the information it contains.  You can’t talk back or change that information as you read.  In other words, passive interaction is literally the inability to argue with a radio.  It can only go one way.

Active interaction on the other hand, is exactly the opposite.  Communication flows freely between participants.  They constantly provide feedback to each other and the conversation evolves constantly rather than stall and stop.  Imagine a group project, in which all participants have their roles and they need to find a way to work together in order to complete the project.  Their interaction has to include constant discussion, feedback, and coordination.  Participants need to find resources and include them in the interaction, they need to share and evaluate together as a team.  Eventually they will create a final material full of information that is a result of their collaboration and active interaction.

Both types of interaction have their place at the right time and the right circumstances.  As I always remind my student-teachers: If you use a tool or method appropriately and in the right context, you can’t go wrong.  The overuse of anything is going to have a negative impact on the learning process.  Too much lecturing will limit the opportunity to hear from your students.  Too much active interaction without any straight-forward knowledge transfer, may prevent your students from learning and understanding the curriculum.  So the old cliche of “balance is the key” really is… key.

The picture below illustrates some tools and methods that create both passive and active interaction.  Combining a few of these tools will create a rich and comfortable environment both for you and your students.  Combinations I have used in the past:

1. Weekly webcast + class wiki + live chat + materials posted by me
2. Peer review + screencast + forum + social media + podcast
3. Read materials by me + webinar + wiki + presentations + live chat

What are your choices?

Types of interaction

March 26, 2012

Where to start when choosing technology

by t.e.d.d.y.

Image: chokphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When incorporating technology into your teaching, start by planning your content, audience, and learning goals, and then move to choose the technology you are going to use.  Adjust the technology to serve your goals, not the other way around.  Here’s how:

  1. What are you teaching?
  2. Who are you teaching?
  3. What are you going to accomplish with your lesson?
  4. What type of technology will best fit your goals?

Then start building your digital project.  Use your lesson plan as a plan for building your digital teaching tool.  This strategy will provide a direction and criteria for the end product.

November 17, 2011

You call this a webinar?

by t.e.d.d.y.

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am participating in a webinar as we speak.  I won’t say what the title is or who organizes it as it is not important.  All I will say is that the audience is training managers in companies.  The important thing here is that this webinar is exactly the same as the last five webinars I attended.  It’s a lecture.

While I’m listening, I am writing this blog post (talk about boring and not engaging enough) but I am also smiling and shaking my head because this webinar is the perfect example of ineffective presentation/training.  And believe it or not, it’s a trend – most webinars are the same.  So despite the huge push in education to move away from lecturing and to use technology as a tool providing interactivity, we are using a web-based platform to reach our audience and lecture them.  Isn’t that a controversy?!  The only interactivity I am seeing so far is a few questions with answers we vote on and then they show us the results.  You can also ask questions on the side which will be answered at the end of the webinar.  In other words, we are using a 21st century technology for a 19th century presentation style.

And yes, I do understand the restrictions… it’s hard to get many people to collaborate or interact in a certain time frame… it’s hard to take all feedback from everyone and respond to it… etc. etc.  But the very definition of a webinar (according to Webopedia) is that its key feature is:

its interactive elements – the ability to give, receive and discuss information.

If we are going to lecture or just transfer information to a large audience, then we need to have a Webcast.  Asking people to answer questions, show them the results to which your only comment is: “Oh these are interesting results!” and then go on with your lecture… is NOT interaction.  That is a survey – one way communication.  A webinar is a workshop – the medium is live online platform.  The medium for a traditional workshop is a classroom face-to-face interaction.

The so-called webinar is still going on… don’t ask me what I remember from this speech (that’s exactly what it is).  I couldn’t tell you to save my life.  There is a bunch of graphs and colourful charts… but still no interaction.  I don’t even know how many people are watching this.  The lecture is one hour long.

So I guess when planning a webinar, we should think about our audience and how we can engage them.  One question to ask is: “Would I do this if I was in a real classroom with everyone sitting in front of me?”.  If the answer is no, don’t do it.  Think about a conversation and how to excite your audience.  If there are too many people to include in a conversation, there are ways to manage that:

  1. Split the group into smaller groups and let them choose a “speaker” who will report back to everyone once they have completed a task
  2. Split the webinar into 2 or 3 sessions and repeat the content with different groups of a more manageable size.
  3. Consider doing a Webcast.

When considering a Webcast… there are a few things to take into consideration:

  1. If it’s too long, no one will listen. (people don’t have time for a 2-hour lecture, not even a 1-hour one)
  2. Think about the value of the information you are providing.  Will you be able to hold everyone’s attention for even 15 minutes.
  3. What are the take-aways from your Webcast?  Are you going to provide a recording in the form of a podcast for people to listen later?  Are you providing a handout they can download and use later?

Hm… the lecture is still going on… I’m 10 minutes from its end so I’d better check my email and go for lunch… Hey, at least I wrote a post for my blog. :)

November 13, 2011

Tech startups educators will love

by t.e.d.d.y.

Tech startup companies are known to be the sources of innovation.  As much as educators dread the “tech” word, they will like the concept behind the following startups which followed trends and needs in education and addressed them.

What is Skillshare? from Skillshare on Vimeo.

“Learn new skills.  Share new skills.”
Skillshare is a community marketplace to learn anything from anyone. We believe that everyone has valuable skills and knowledge to teach and the curiosity to keep learning new things. This means our neighbourhoods, communities, and cities are really the world’s greatest universities. Our platform helps make the exchange of knowledge easy, enriching, and fun.

Kaggle In Class

Kaggle is an arena where you can match your data science skills against a global cadre of experts in statistics, mathematics, and machine learning. Whether you’re a world-class algorithm wizard competing for prize money or a novice looking to learn from the best, here’s your chance to jump in and geek out, for fame, fortune, or fun.

  • Branch

Branch is a group blogging/debate platform.

Read about more innovative startups here.

October 25, 2011

Google SketchUp in the Classroom

by t.e.d.d.y.

I found this really interesting video from the Google SketchUp site on how it’s used in the classroom.  Teachers use the tool in their lesson plans to enhance their teaching and engage their students.  It encourages students to be creative and fully involved in the lesson.

Check it out:

October 17, 2011

Webinar Series with Kathy Schrock: “Resources for Information Literacy”

by t.e.d.d.y.

To join the webinar, click here.

September 30, 2011

Apple’s reaching into the future while PCWorld offers quick fixes for Windows

by t.e.d.d.y.

I took this funny picture at the Frankfurt International Airport last year. I’m not sure if the two magazines ended up next to one another by chance or the store owner was playing a prank on readers, but I thought it was a good illustration of what is happening in the technology world right now. :)

September 12, 2011

Looking for funding for your next education project? Talk to the crowd!

by t.e.d.d.y.

Crowdfunding: What it is and how it can help educators?

What is Crowdfunding?
According to crowdsourcing.org, crowdfunding is “an approach to raising capital for new projects and businesses by soliciting contributions from a large number of stakeholders”. Wikipedia defines crowdfunding as “the collective cooperation, attention, and trust by people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people and organizations”. In other words, crowdfunding provides a creative platform for you to get that brilliant project idea become reality by presenting it to interested people who will contribute financially to it. In short, this is an opportunity to spread the word, find sponsors, and complete your project.

The idea is really useful in education as budget is always limited especially to extra curricular projects and activities. There are many websites offering a platform for crowdfunding and I will mention a few of them below.

Choosing the type of funding depends on a few things:
1. Personal preference
You need to decide which one appeals to you the most

2. Scope of project
Some platforms are for small projects only so do your research before you post yours. If you need more substantial funding, posting on a website for small projects may not be a successful venture.

3. Type of project
Some websites are focused specifically on the arts. Others focus on business startups. You may find some to be more general than that or perhaps specifically dedicated to education. Again, if you do your research, you will find the right one for you.

So what are the types of funding? (from Crowdsourcing.org)

  • Donations, Philanthropy, Sponsorship

This type of finding does not require any return on investment and stakeholders do not expect financial gains by offering to help.

  • Lending

This is quite self-explanatory. People lend you money to complete your project and they expect you to return it.

  • Investment in exchange for equity, profit, or revenue sharing

In other words, this is sort of a barter. For example, if you invent a brand new instructional tool for teachers which has the potential to become super popular and you expect your profit to be millions of dollars, your investors may ask for a share of that profit in return.

How does crowdfunding apply in education and how can educators benefit from it? It’s simple. From school-wide projects to classroom projects, you can list anything you need extra funding for and see what you get. There are certain criteria, of course, on what constitutes a good project. Every crowdfunding website has terms and conditions as well as rules on how to present your project so it looks attractive. Whether it is an exhibition you are organizing and need to rent a hall, or it’s a field trip you want to take your student to… try the crowdfunding websites to get some additional funding. A great advantage to such an undertaking is that you can make it a class project and involve your students in it. you can literally watch the pledge grow by the numbers and your students will like the positive outcome. Once your project is posted, you can notify friends, family and coworkers about it and they can add money as well. If you decide to go with the donation type of funding, you can think of a gift you can mail to all your donors – a handmade “thank you” card made by your students, or something similar. It’s a nice gesture and you will teach your students a few lessons along the way.

Let’s take a look at some of the websites that offer crowdfunding:

Funding4Learning
This is a platform specializing in education projects. It was mentioned as an innovative idea on TED. Here’s how the creators describe their service:

Funding4Learning is a new and revolutionary way for people around the world to fund their studies and educational campaigns. F4L provides a simple online platform where anybody can raise money fast, with no hassles, and with a global reach.

Sponsume
This website is specializing in the arts, education, technology, writing, social enterprise, etc.

Thousands of people visit Sponsume each week. This is your chance to show your project to the world, gather support, and raise the funds you need to make it happen.

Kickstarter
Usually for small businesses, art, theatre, design, food, technology, writing & publishing, games, etc.

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects. We believe that: 1) A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide. 2) A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement. Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where project must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

IndieGoGo
This website offers project funding for writers, school builders, filmmakers, crafters, community builders, singers, animators, inventors, etc.

IndieGoGo is an easy online platform for anybody in the world to raise more money, from more people, fast. With IndieGoGo you can turn your passion into a funding campaign, promote your idea, engage a fan base, and get funded. We provide all the tools you need to build a campaign and share it with the world.

This is just a very short list of crowdfudning websites. You can explore more and find the one right for you.
Best of luck with your projects!

August 9, 2011

Choosing instructional tools for: student authoring

by t.e.d.d.y.

What better way to teach students how to responsibly share information than to incorporate an authoring tool into your teaching.  Getting students to create information and place their names as authors is a great way to address a few issues:

  • copyright
  • belonging and contributing to a community
  • sharing true information for the benefits of the community
  • writing skills
  • information literacy
  • digital literacy

…the list is long.  It’s a fantastic method in or outside of the classroom which will engage your students into a collaborative environment which everyone will enjoy.

There’s benefits to the teacher as well.  you will now have more free time and won’t necessarily have to constantly send individual notes with the same information to the whole class.  Think of all the feedback that you need to provide for every class; or instructions for next class.  You can now share links and useful information that your students will be able to access with one click.

So lets explore some options on how to incorporate student authoring into your teaching.

One option that has already been explored and proven successful is setting up a website.  On it you will create content for your students to access at any time.  However, the real benefit is providing the option for your students to blog in real time from the classroom and post their notes on the website.  That way if you have someone who missed a class, they can just go to the website and find all notes and content that they missed without you having to spend time individually with that each person.

Another great way to set up a blog.  Students can access the blog and contribute to posting you or other students made.  The discussion goes on…  You can reset the blog for each class of yours, or for the school year, or make it an ongoing project without erasing any of the notes posted.

Another collaborative tool which is also widely used is a Wiki.  This is a fantastic tool which allows your students to create their own Wikipedia for the class.  The idea is that students will not be just posting on it, but they will be adding and editing pages for the purpose of improving them.  At the end you will end up with the perfect page for the perfect topic that everyone will find useful because it was created based on students’ interests and preferences.

What I have used and find really helpful is setting up a class space on a cloud platform, such as Dropbox.  This space will give you an opportunity to have all course content in a familiar environment to your students as it it similar to a folder they would see on their personal computer.  The difference is, it does not live on a computer, but on a cloud server.  This allows you to share the folder with everyone you want to contribute to it.  So every time a student (or you) adds something, everyone can see it.

Now lets take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the above options.  I will start with the disadvantages because they are not that many.  For example, the first one that comes to mind is that we need to be connected to the Internet in order to access any of the tools.  Another disadvantage may be (I haven’t seen this too much) screening all posts to make sure that what students post is true and useful.  One way to solve this is to set strict rules for posting – sort of a template which everyone must follow.  If the post doesn’t follow the template, you can erase it.  Having these publishing rules will also discourage students from posting “just anything”…  One disadvantage is that students’ comments may make your website, blog or Wiki huge.  When you have people commenting on comments and posts, things can get out of hand.  One way to deal with this is to set restrictions for time and length of posts.  For example, you can close a discussion at 7pm on Friday because on Monday you will open a new topic for discussion.

These are just part of the small issues you may encounter.  However, you should focus on the advantages.  They definitely outnumber the disadvantages.  Here’s what to look forward to:

WEBSITE BLOG WIKI CLOUD
It looks like an official space for your course.  You can upload tons of your teaching materials, handouts, assignments, instructions, etc. in separate pages for your students to access and download.  It takes a bit longer to set up as you may have to use some HTML skills or make sure your template can accommodate the purpose of the website.  You don’t need to update the website that often once it’s set up. The likelihood of your students knowing how to use a blog is really high.  They probably already have their own.  You can upload materials on a blog but remember that its main purpose is to share information which provides for discussion.  Blogs are usually a bit more informal than a website.  They are dynamic and always changing and growing.  They also need to be updated regularly. One of the most favourite tools for educators.  You can share information, upload documents, spark conversation, edit and update regularly easily, your students will be able to edit and update, publish their content, constantly improve the content.  A Wiki is the perfect collaborative and sharing tool for education.  It’s dynamic and all participants are authors which increases the responsibility to share good information. This tool doesn’t take up space on your computer as it lives on a cloud.  Although it has storage limits, they are usually so big that you will never worry about going close to the limit.  Dropbox offers 2GB of space which for a course is more than enough.  This tool is the closest to what you would see on your own computer in terms of interface.  It looks exactly like a regular folder.  It’s very easy to upload materials as it’s a drag and drop function.
July 12, 2011

Learning on a Cloud, p. 2

by t.e.d.d.y.

There is so much talk about cloud computing these days.  It’s a direction which hugely impacts the way we store information and also access information.  What does this new trend mean for education and will it easily enter the lives of educators?

Well, for some educators clouds are the way to go already.  The technology has been around for some time.  The first time I used cloud technology was with a browser-based program for uploading files which started as a free service and had a “huge” amount of space – 512MB.  That was amazing back in 2001.  Then the service became paid and I stopped using it.  There have been numerous cloud-type services offered after that.  And then came Google.  Google docs took cloud technology to a different level.  Now you could not only store and share files on a cloud.  You could created them right there on that cloud and save them without any sync or without stuffing your computer hard drive with files.  Besides Google, we have also seen Microsoft offering their cloud as well.  Recently it was Apple that announced their iCloud to the world.  All these options stirred the waters of pros and cons of cloud technology.  How do we know what’s better than the rest?

I read an interesting article which provided a great comparison of the cloud technology offered by Google, Microsoft, and Apple.  Here’s the authors’ summary:

GOOGLE APPLE MICROSOFT
Cloud + Web(browser-based cloud technology) Cloud + Software(desktop software syncs with the cloud – the best of both worlds – the internet part is behind the scenes) Slogan: “Software Plus Services”(similar to Apple’s idea but MS failed to realize it the way Apple did)

In other words, it took Microsoft a long time to figure things out while Apple kept trying to take a share in the cloud business (MobileMe, .Mac).  Now we have a change of direction.  As a user it is pretty much up to you to decide which option is best for you: Google’s web=based cloud; or Apple’s combination of software and web; or Microsoft’s .  What would that mean for an educator?  Of course you are faced with the usual concerns that any other user will have – security and privacy of information (Can anyone access or edit my files?), ease of use (How easy is it to incorporate cloud technology into my teaching and my students’ learning?), reliability and accessibility (Will I be able to access everything easily from anywhere?  Do I need to worry about losing files and data?), etc.  These are valid concerns.  However, the security and maintenance of the cloud servers is almost 100% reliable nowadays.  Unless you set the permissions for someone to access and edit your files, they will not be able to do so simply because they don’t know if your files exist (unless you tell them so).  The technology is quite reliable.  As long as you have Internet connectivity, you’re good to go.  Accessibility is becoming easier and most providers of cloud technology have different access options – smart phones, laptops, web browsers, etc.

Cloud technology is starting to make its way into education and its use is gaining speed.  However, few educators understand cloud technology and how to use it effectively in their work.  Here’s a few of the benefits of using clouds for education:

Educational:

  • Enhanced collaboration and team work
  • Instructor involvement as a contributor to students’ projects and work
  • The technology is cheaper (most times free for end-users)
  • Exchange of content between educators and between educators and students

Technical:

  • Great opportunity for backup which happens instantly and automatically
  • You access your data and tools any time from anywhere and any device
  • It’s reliable as cloud systems have virtually indestructible security and run practically with no interruption

In other words, although some campuses are slow to embrace Web 2.0 and cloud technology, education will be hugely impacted by the development of the latter.  The truth is, once you start using clouds, you won’t be able to come back on the ground – transferring data and creating data on a cloud is so easy that there is no need for special preparation.  It’s a matter of diving into it.

Further readings and tools:

A Simple Way to Record and Publish Audio to the Web

GoogleDocs and Collaboration in the Classroom

Dropvox

Dropbox

Work Simple

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