16 October, 2009

Resources to Help You Start Using New Tools in Teaching and Learning

I think that a really good way of learning about the area of Technology Enhanced Learning, and understanding the tools you might want to use, is to follow a selection of blogs and other resources written by practitioners and thinkers. It might be a bit of a chaotic way of learning, but it enables you to explore and find a range of people and ideas that interest and inspire you.

I've created a list of some resources below, which be followed easily using a feed reader like Bloglines or Google Reader. To subscribe to them and many others, download my OPML file [right click the link and choose 'Save link as...' or 'Save target as...'] and import it into your feed reader [Google Reader help] [Bloglines help]. The feed reader will inform you as new posts are added. Glance through these each day and read any articles that catch your eye. Delete some feeds and add other ones that you find.

General Learning Technology blogs:

  • George Siemens talks about overarching issues to think about when using technology for learning. His ideas are interesting and his blog is called elearnspace.
  • Stephen Downes works quite closely with George Siemens and talks a lot about making education open to all. His newsletter is at OLDaily.

People and organisations with a more specific focus:

  • danah boyd's area of expertise is in how young people use the web socially. She's got a lot to say that feeds into how we use technologies like social networking in HE. Her blog is called Apophenia and a list of her best posts is available.
  • Clay Shirky writes about social media, and his ideas are helpful when we think about how the web affects the world we live in, including education. His web feed is available.
  • Garr Reynolds writes Presentation Zen which is relevant to educators as so much of what we do is presenting, however that might be done. As a non-designer, I learn a lot from this blog and get a lot to think about.

15 October, 2009

What is Google Wave Good For?


There's been a lot a talk about Wave, even though it isn't properly released yet. But is the hype justified? What is it best used for? Does it replace any other tools that we use?

Well, as noted in the video below, Wave was designed to help people move from using email on occasions where there is perhaps a group having a long scale conversation.

Many people have given their views on what Wave is, or isn't, good for. For example:

However, it is difficult to know how valid these opinions are until you use it yourself. I got my invite to Wave on Wednesday and have had chance to set up a 'Wave', that is, a conversation containing synchronous and asynchronous text conversation, maps, images, etc. On the face of it I like the way it pulls together a lot of the media that might be involved in a conversation, making all of the 'artefacts' from a conversation accessible to a large number of people.

My Wave was public, and a few other interested people got involved. One interesting thing in Wave is seeing people type in real time. This means you can see people type spelling mistakes, and change their minds about things, which might sound annoying but I much preferred synchronous chat working like this. AndrĂ¡s Beck, who was involved in the Wave put it well, saying that "its more close to real life conversations than usual chat programs. I mean... if a friend talks to u, u usually know what he wants to say after 50-60% of the sentence [and so] you can start to put ur thoughts together while they type. Usual chat means u type, and wait, then type, and wait...".

Sadly I can't yet embed the Wave in this blog yet, but it will be a possibility in the future. This would make it easier to make conversations public.

In conclusion, Wave is a complicated tool, and like any tool it is for certain purposes and not everything. Regarding my question about if and how it should be used, it looks like an improvement on email message boards from some perspectives, and I'd like to use it with a group as a place to store thoughts and conversations about a project instead of using a blog, or a group of students to use it to explore a topic together.

As for my experiences, I had an enjoyable conversation (about Wave itself), with people who were interested in the topic. Perhaps if the tools you use allow your students to connect with a range of people like this, precisely which tool you use matters less.

Finally, here are two views on whether Wave will actually take off: Ryan Carson says yes it will, Anil Dash says it won't.

02 October, 2009

Using Delicious for Managing Your Bookmarks

Back in the olden days everyone stored bookmarks in their web browser. In Internet Explorer you'd click on Favourites or in Firefox you'd select Bookmarks.

Many people are now using Social Bookmarking tools to store bookmarks. I use Delicious.com as this allows me to:

  • Search through everyone's bookmarks on a certain topic, to see what other useful sites and articles are out there.
  • Access your bookmarks from anywhere, home or work.
  • Annotate your bookmarks to remind yourself why you saved them.
  • Subscribe to a feed of another person's bookmarks, if you find that you have similar interests.
To get started with Delicious
There are certain things to think about when you are using social bookmarking.
  • Your online identity - Are you sharing your page/feed with other people - perhaps students? I use my delicious account for both work related and personal bookmarks with out worrying who can see what. However if privacy is more important to you, you might just want to mark all your personal bookmarks as Private.
  • Backing up - When you collect useful personal data in any service you want to know that you can back it up. Delicious isn't likely to loose your data, but you never know. You can backup your bookmarks by choosing Settings > Export / Backup Bookmarks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Blackboard CE8: Just-In-Time Support Screencasts

Anyone building or teaching a section in Blackboard CE8 (the VLE that we are using at Edge Hill University) can use our Blackboard screencast videos to remind themselves of how to do various things, for example if you want to give a student access to your section.

By the way, if you are interested in creating screencasts yourself, you have several options. I use Camtasia Studio, which costs about £80 for an educational licence with a £30-£40 headset to ensure good quality sound. Camtasia is great if you are creating a large number of videos as it allows you to do this very quickly. It also allows the addition of simple pan and zoom effects and editing if required. The generated videos can them go on the University's video server and you can pass on the web address to your audience. A while ago I put together a series of videos that might help you get started with screencasting using Camtasia Studio.

If you are only creating a few simple recordings, you are probably better off using a free web based service like Screenr, which also hosts the video and will post it to your Twitter account if you want to distribute it that way.

[Image by Sarahnaut]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.