Sunday, August 8, 2010

Edmodo review - Jump right into teaching or training on the Web!

This week I reviewed edmodo as a Web 2.0 tool for Networking.

Here is my review done using a Voicethread:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Challenges and Rewards for students, instructors, and institutions

This reflection is a group project examining the challenges and rewards for all involved with Distance Education. Our group met first on Googlewave and worked on a Powerpoint presentation separately after discussing the project together. We then met again and added our voices in discussion on Voicethread.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Zotero - making research easy on the Web

Review for Web 2.0 tool, Zotero

Getting started:

Adding research to your Zotero folders:

Finding more help within Zotero:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Here is my review for Netvibes

Here is a list of helpful links that I refer to in my review:

Netvibes basic tutorial video:

An entire collection of helpful videos on how to setup your pages in Netvibes, how to customize them, and ways to use the widgets in Netvibes can be found here:

A link to the public page I created as part of my experimenting with the tool:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Twiddla - a Whiteboard tool with possibilities

I've toyed with a few Web collaboration tools that allow you to share documents, or have some kind of Whiteboard built into them. One of the most complex I had seen before Twiddla was Opera's Unite, which, although rich with features, requires the use of the Opera browser, requires sign-ups and downloads for everyone involved, and may require some use of security passwords.
Twiddla, requires no downloads, and you don't even have to sign-up for an account to get
started, and did I mention it's free? It's an excellent
tool for impromptu online meetings, allowing users to share documents that are viewable within Twiddla's interface, and mark them up with notes or edits right there. Users can also create flowcharts while brainstorming, do standard whiteboard
drawings, and share and mark-up Web pages. When you first sign-in to Twiddla, you will be given a generic user name
that you can edit on the spot. As you can see from the graphic, Twiddla also provides you with a
private link that you can use to invite others into your Twiddla session.
As other folks login. You will see them listed in the box with your name,
they will have the ability to edit their names as well.
The are just below your names functions as a chat screen. Twiddla has the ability to do voice
chat as well, but I was unable to try it as I was having difficulties with my connection the day I tested it with a friend.
One of the activities we attempted was a digital painting that the two of us are working on as a collaborative piece. We have done collaborative
work before, or given each other suggestions via email or chat. But Twiddla made this type of collaboration really great because of the ability to draw right on the artwork we were working on. We could talk
about the ideas we were suggesting to each other via the chat window, and it made communicating specific visual ideas so much more easy. I have signed up with the free trial account that Twiddla offers, which allows you to download any graphs or charts within Twiddla, however it does not save the images with the mark-up that you imported into Twiddla with your notes. You get only the mark-up that is native to the Twiddla environment. So, in other words, if I saved the Twiddla document that is the painting above, what I would see when I opened the document on my computer is just the sketches done in Twiddla with the hand-written on screen notes but no painting in the background. This wasn't a problem to me, because I can just take screenshots which I can paste into a Photoshop document and save for later. You could also paste a screenshot into a Word doc
or a variety of others that accept that kind of thing. But, it would be very convenient if they provided the same sort of thing. Their paid accounts might do just that but for large, power-using institutions, their price isn't cheap.
My friend and I shared a few documents via Twiddla, and found it very easy to do. It is very similar to many file sharing
programs in the way it works. There is a bar at the bottom of the
screen that lists your options, and there is a handy browse button to browse to and upload your document with. The documents will remain in the small collaspable document window for your session and available for you to 'drag' onto the main screen to collaborate on if you should need to. Once you drag or double-click the document, it will become viewable on the screen. And you can mark it up as you
would like to suggest edits or draw attention to certain areas. Word documents behave a bit differently in Twiddla than PDF documents. A word document, when double clicked on, will bring up a box that offers you the option of saving it to your computer or viewing it. A PDF will open up immediately, but can still be downloaded
and saved.
The ability to import Web pages is just as easy. Here is an example of NASA's Science page for educators pulled up in Twiddla:
One of the problems I did run into is that when importing a Web page it does not always handle the display of images and html code well, and sometimes you may end up with images missing, but this page worked beautifully.
After working with Twiddla for an hour or so, I can see what a useful tool it would be in distance education for online class meetings. I even found a lesson plan someone in the medical field had worked up using Twiddla, and I thought it was great. It definitely got me thinking about my days as a classroom art teacher, and how great it would have been to develop a lesson plan for art using Twiddler to allow students to collaborate and critique on a project.
All in all, for a free tool, Twiddla definitely rates high on my useful scale.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Of definitions and word bubbles

In trying to wrap my head around all the definitions for various modes of learning, and distance education, I used to create a diagram.
What I found in making the diagram was that many of the words were so interwoven in their meanings, and often used interchangeably that my bubble diagram somewhat resembled the web that poor spider created when they gave him a few drops caffeine.

Maybe if I'd had a few more cups of coffee it would have all been a bit clearer in my diagram.
In my searching about on the Web for all the definitions and ponderings on all things Distance Education is that it is something that has been about for quite some time, and from it's lowly beginnings in the 'Correspondence Courses' to the most technological cutting edge deliveries with all the flash and bang of todays most modern devices, Distance Education is simply the delivery of instruction to learners who are separated by distance which does not allow face-to-face interaction with each other or with their instructors in real time. Distance Education is the broad category with covers a variety of processes of this delivery.
When discussing Distance Education, invariably one comes across the term Transactional Distance, which is a term coined by Michael G. Moore to refer to more of a cognitive distance than a distance in time and space, his definition is “a psychological and communication space to be crossed, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner.” This idea is something all of us who are experienced netizens realize. It is so easy for ideas and interaction to be misunderstood when communication occurs from a distance.
Something else that occurs frequently now, and can prove a hindrance to effective Distance Education is something called Transactional Immediacy. This occurs more often now than in the early days of Distance Education because with the advent of social networks, mobile devices, twitters, etc., where feedback is rarely more than one click away, students today expect feedback immediately. Whether it be an email from their professors, or comments on their twits, or blogs, they look for that instant response. Not getting it can prove frustrating and possibly overwhelming when they find, themselves pressured to respond immediately to a preponderance of ideas, opinions, expressions, and happenings within the networks to which they belong.
Distance Learning is the system, mode, or process through which instruction is delivered to learners for Distance Education. To narrow that down a bit more, we can say that Online Learning is the dissemination of instructional material via the World Wide Web, and specifically not through a local network, or other type of distance education tool such as instruction given through compressed video, cable, or satellite delivery. This also includes virtual learning environments such as Second-Life. High Definition interactive video is also another category of online learning, along with webinars. Anything that utilizes data to carry content is online learning. Many times Online Learning is used interchangeably with E-Learning, but e-learning would be a broader definition as it refers to any instructional process that is delivered or supported through some electronic means to students. The use of networks, computers, electronic devices, e-learning applications and tools, computer based training, virtual classrooms or learning environments to deliver instruction. Instruction may be via the World Wide Web, DVD's, Teleconferencing, videos, podcasts, cd-roms, etc.
Web-based Learning is again a smaller category of Online Learning and E-Learning in that is instruction specifically delivered and viewed via a web browser. Any instructional material that would be delivered through any web browser such as IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera, etc., including the content on dvds or cds that would be viewed through a browser.
Many of the definitions referred more to philosophies of education both in traditional face-to-face environments as well as digitally or electronically delivered distance education environments. Flexible Learning, for instance, is all about the learners choice on when, where, and how instruction is received. It can employ online tools such as virtual learning enviroments, learning management systems, chat, discussion boards, or be blended with traditional face-to-face instruction. It is developed with the philosophy that individually directed learning occurs when the educational content is delivered in a way that allows the student to progress at their own pace and make their own decisions about their own interests.
Open Learning is similar in that it is learning that is driven by the students individual interests and pace. Learning occurs at the students own independent pace but is guided to success by the instructors. Distributed Learning is very close to that of Distance Education and is sometimes used interchangeably. However, it relates more to the Distributed Resources, or the fact that learning resources, the students, and instructors exist in a non-centralized location, and interaction and learning can occur at an individuals independent pace. Learning resources must be fully accessible, flexible, and reusable. The Distributed Model can work in many learning environments including the traditional classroom, online classroom, and hybrid learning environments.
When we talk about Distance Learning and instruction, we have to talk about tradition face-to-face instruction in contrast as well as Hybrid Learning which is the combination of traditional face-to-face instruction with online components as a part of the instruction material. Ideally, hybrid learning takes the best parts of face-to-face traditional courses, and adds or enriches them with the best tools and practices of online learning.
Blended Learning is the delivery of instructional content through both traditional face-to-face instruction, and a variety of e-learning tools, including emerging technologies such as mobile phones and other personal communication devices. A mixing of both synchronus and asychronus methods would be used.
Synchronous Learning - Occurs at the same time and the same place. Traditional face-to-face classes use mainly synchronous learning, but online classes can make use of live chat, webinars, web conferencing or web meetings, or teleconferencing using compressed video, satellite or cable delivery and interaction. This approach is instructor-centered. Asynchronous Learning - This approach is student-centered, and uses the centralization of online resources so that students can access them and learn outside of the time constraints of a regular classroom schedule. Peer interaction is emphasized and necessary to success.
And their you have it, my very own caffeinated Distance Education vocabulary. It's interwoven and a bit sticky and I'll attempt not to get too tangled in it as these blogs progress.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hello and welcome!

As a part of classes in the University of Houston's Instructional Technology Program, I will be discussing a variety of topics here. They will mainly be related to Web 2.0 tools and Instructional Design. For the next month or so the discussions will center around the following tools:
Other tools will be added to this list along the way, but this list will serve as a starting point of the discussions.