Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Interactive Biotechnique Tutorials

Ok, who’s the molecular biologist in the group? (*silence… nothing but the sound of distant crickets chirping*) Hmm. Ok, well, I’ll ask the question differently. Who would like to be a forensic investigator like those hot shots on CSI! (*dozens on hands go up*) Ok that’s better. (*smile*)

If you would like to try your hands at safe and fun interactive tutorials on how to conduct some standard molecular biology techniques then you will want to visit Genetics Learning Center of the University of Utah. I spent a couple of hours last night reviewing their website. Particularly interactive was their Biotechniques Virtual Laboratory where I conducted three experiments virtually.
  1. I extracted DNA from cheek cells of a person.

  2. I separated DNA species using gel electrophoresis.

  3. I used a fancy technique called DNA Microarray to show that cancer cells express different proteins than normal non-cancer cells.

I did all that stuff and had fun doing it. I found that the material presented in these Flash animations was excellent. Clearly these tutorials were well thought out. There is a good balance between underlying biochemical theory and laboratory practice; motion was used in the animation to show microscopic zooming and to give users a feel for operating scientific equipment; audio is used to augment the motion in the animations and to supply authentic sounds of scientific equipment; the combination of useful motion, audio and interactive tasks for the user gives these tutorial a game-based feel which clearly makes them fun; and the DNA Microarray tutorial even had some self-assessment questions at the end of it to ensure that users correctly understood how to interpret the results of their experiment.

Apart from the three excellent tutorials in the Biotechniques Virtual Laboratory, there are a plethora of other learning and teaching resources on this same website, including full lesson plans for modules on hot topics such as cloning, gene therapy, pharmacogenetics and stem cell research. (Note: primarily targeted for the K-12 demographic.)

If you are a rabid CSI fan or closet molecular biologist, you’ll want to bookmark this website!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Remote Controlled African Webcam

Q. What do remote control robotics, streaming webcam technology and Africa have in common?

A. Nothing I think.

However, when you mix the three together what you get is this very interesting webcam. It is a streaming live webcam to a water hole in South Africa. More precisely, as described on their website:

“Nkorho Pan is a natural water hole in the prestigious Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, in South Africa. Nkorho pan is named after Nkorho bush Lodge which gets it name from the Shangaan derivative for the call of the yellow-billed hornbill, a common and unusual looking bird from this area.”

A webcam is mounted here on a large termite mound. The camera is remote controlled by an operator. It has almost 360o panning capability, it can tilt up/down, it can zoom up to 18x, and it is even equipped with an infrared light for nighttime viewing. The aparatus is also fully wired for sound capture.

If you are teaching a unit on robotics, webcam technology or Africa, this addictive webcam should be on your list of resources!

There a lot more webcams websites out there these days (Just google search to your hearts content for them) but I was really impressed by this one due to the large number of features the camera has as well as the clarity of the feed. Very nice!

If you know of any other technologically avdanced webcam setups that you would like to share with the readership of this blog, please enter a comment below. Thanks!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Podcast usage in post-secondary settings is growing!

Do you work in post-secondary education? Are you an educator, teacher, instructor, teaching assistant, professor, subject matter expert, or instructional designer? Are you interested in Podcasts?

If you've answered Yes to any of the questions above, you need to send a thank you card to the people who author the Productive Strategies blog. If you go visit their site you'll see that one of there most popular postings is one where they list a whopping 134 sites containing academic podcasts. These are especially interesting and useful because each item on the list represents an entire academic term's worth of podcasts in one course. I think this is AWESOME! For example, pretend you are a professor that teaches a third year intro to biochemistry course. If you are interested in seeing exactly how they teach a similar course at University of California Berkeley then you now have easy access to podcasts of all 38 lectures in their course: General Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - MCB 110. Very useful indeed!!! Long live the Internet!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Plan to Learn: Case Studies in eLearning Project Management

I've never heard of the Canadian eLearning Enterprise Alliance (CeLAE). I think I'm embarassed by that first statement (*smile*), but I'll move on anyway. Via Stephen Downes' OLDaily, I found out that CeLAE has recently published an eBook (PDF Format) that will be interesting to all members of eLearning Course Development Teams. Especially those working in the higher education setting. Written by 29 authors from eight different countries, it has a strong Canadian compenent from various academic institutions such as Seneca College, University of British Columbia, Athabasca University, University of Saskatchewan, University of Calgary, and University of New Brunswick just to name a few. It's called Plan to Learn: Case Studies in eLearning Project Management. Definitely worth a look!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Q: Does group collaboration online work?


If you remain unconvinced, please take a look at the result of this group collaboration by distance at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania's Department of Instructional Technology. The fruits of their group collaboration have been posted for everyone to view and they may be of interest to you if you are reading this posting. They've created an e-Book entitled E-Learning Concepts and Techniques. It has 11 chapters and has some tidbits in there that are an interesting read.

Are you interested in seeing the actual assignment instructions that the students received? I was! And I was pleasantly surprised that the instructor(s) posted a link to the assignment for all of us to examine.

To me the strength of the assignment was that students had some choice as to which part of the e-book to contribute to. This allows students to gravitate towards an area of personal interest. This strategy often increases the relevance of the assignment to the student and thereby increases the intrinsic motivation of the student. Experienced distance instructors quickly recognize that motivation is the 'golden fleece' in distance education! One nice feature of the assignment is that it points the students in the direction of some collaborative work tools (i.e. Skype, Gizmo and GoogleTalk) as well as some software tools (i.e. Audacity and GarageBand for audio) that might facilitate the completion of the project.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Knee Replacement Surgery can be Fun!

A colleague of mine (actually he’s my boss… thanks Mark!!!), turned me on to this cool website by EdHeads which shows a virtual knee replacement surgery. It’s a Flash driven application that does a remarkably good job at giving the user a chance to experience the process of being an assistant orthopedic surgeon. I’ve gone through it and afterwards I have a much greater appreciation for how the process is actually done. When I put my Instructional Designer Hat on, I conclude that this piece of educational material is well constructed.

Here are some of the aspects I think they did well on:
  1. Navigational instructions are clear and intuitive and there is a sitemap so you can navigate quickly to a specific point in the activity if you are revisiting it.

  2. The use of audio augmented the use of the Flash animation. Clearly the audio was integral to the presentation. For hearing impaired students, the user can toggle subtitles for the presentation.

  3. Use of a cartoon character, in this case the surgeon, guides the user through all the steps really adds realism and humanism to the process.

  4. Each time the surgeon gives verbal instructions that require the user to perform an action a small textbox appears re-iterating the statement with text.

  5. The overall goal of the process is well known: total knee replacement.

  6. The objectives at every step of the process are presented, verbally.

  7. There are nine integrated multiple-choice questions at various points in the procedure. The questions directly target the task currently being performed and provide quick feedback.

  8. There are interactive steps that the use must take: e.g. writing initials on leg, washing leg, drilling bone, moving leg, etc.

  9. I like the associated image bank of real life knee surgery photos.

  10. The Teachers Guide is useful at showing the teacher what grade levels this material is geared towards as well as giving the correct answers to all the multiple-choice questions in the activity. It also points teachers to follow-up activities.

Here are some of the aspects I think they could improve upon:
  1. The feedback on multiple-choice is sparse. Most times all the user gets is a no/nope or fantastic/great comments. Elaborating on why the correct or incorrect answer was chosen by the user might help reinforce the concept being tested.

  2. In some cases, students can skip to the next step without successfully completing the last step. In my view, if your striving for some realism, every step should be completed successfully before moving on. However, this is just my view (*smile*)

Overall, I think this is a great learning activity. (If you have other pros and cons to contribute then please add your items by leaving a comment below.) EdHeads has developed other similar educational activities. Their Total Hip Replacement activity and the Weather Prediction activity are worth investigating as well. Have fun!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

ISBNs get even longer!

A colleague of mine (thanks Ann!!!) came across the fact that as of January 2007, all ISBNs will be changing from a 10-digit to 13-digit number. That's the first I've heard of this. Strange that publishers aren't advertising this more prominently? The Book Industry Study Group's website documents this new development with several resources including a nice recorded webinar hosted by John Abraham. (Be careful... it's detailled!!! hahaha) It's free to view the webinar but does require users to fill in an annoying form (joy!).

The Death of Thomson Learning?

A major player in the education market is selling off their educational unit: Thompson Corporation. In a recent press release on their website, they state that despite being a profitable unit, their educational unit is being sliced into several sections and these sections are being sold via a competitive bidding process. Lets hope that the result is not the expiration of many useful textbooks in the higher education market. Cross your fingers!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Are you a Teacher who needs more Google?

If so, then this will be right up your alley. Via Stephen Downes' OLDaily newsletter, I learned that Mark Wagner has published the entire first issue of the Google Teacher Newsletter on his blog. If you want to subscribe to future newsletters in the series, simply visit http://www.google.com/educators and they'll be delivered directly to your inbox. That way you can monitor what Google is doing to entice teachers to use its products (*smile*).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Google buys YouTube

A recent story on CBC's website shows that Google has purchased YouTube, the popular video hosting service, for a whopping $1.65 billion US. Is it just me or does this sound like a lot of money to buy such a small company that has not shown any profitability yet? Hmmm...Interesting. I've written about the potentially interesting pedagogical aspects of video file sharing services like Google Video and YouTube on this blog before. Obviously, the executives at Google also think YouTube has a huge upside. Will Google Video swallow YouTube? Or with they keep the widely publicized "YouTube" name? Stay tuned on what they do with YouTube and Google Video, and how they turn these video file sharing services into a money maker.

Hint: Yesterday YouTube stated it has recently signed deals with CBS, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment to distribute video content online. It signed a similar deal with Warner Music Group last month.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wikipedia for the classroom

I hope it's not a secret that I am a supporter of Wikipedia. This is not the first time I write about Wikipedia here (see this). I was reading Stephen Downes' OLDaily this morning and he writes about having come across a page on Wikipedia that offers guidance to teachers on how to use Wikipedia in the classroom.

The page is called Wikipedia: School and university Projects. It offers many useful learning activities that can be facilitated by Wikipedia and the aspect that I find most valuable is that it lists many current and past scholastic projects mediated by Wikipedia. Some of the participants are heavyweight schools too. (i.e. UofC Irvine, Penn State, U of Hong Kong, etc.).

There is one Canadian school on list (as of Sept 22nd, 2006), the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). In Fall 2005, "as part of BAI530, a Leadership course in the Bachelor of Applied Information Systems Technology program, students are required to participate in group community service projects of at least 10 hours of work [...] five students opted to use those 10 hours contributing to Wikipedia."

As regular Wikipedia user, I find that type of learning activity pretty neat!

Monday, August 14, 2006

YouTube and Google Video

Have you seen YouTube? It’s a site where anyone can freely upload a video file of up to 100 Mb in size and a maximum length of 10 minutes per video. In fact, a user can upload an unlimited number of these videos!!! The website freely hosts your video and visitors can come and view them. Similar services exist such as Google Video. Unlike YouTube, it has no size/length restrictions but it does require a Google account. These video hosting services work great. Try them. Just browse around serching for key words. You'll see some pretty informative, entertaining and creative examples of home made videos.

So why am I posting this to e-Learning Acupuncture? Well, digital storytelling has been an established learning activity for a couple of years now. With the arrival of free video hosting sites such as YouTube and Google Video, the hosting problem for Digital Storytelling files by students is technically solved. Students could create their videos and upload them to YouTube or Google Video easily. This hosting server relieves any server load pressures caused by large Digital Storytelling videos on a school’s LMS server. That’s a good thing. Still unconvinced? Check out one example of a lovely digital storytelling project created by grade 5 and 6 students at Saxlington Public School in England (make sure to turn on your speakers). After viewing the video consider how useful this free hosting site is for children at this school. They can share a simple URL with their parents, grandparents, cousins and friends, and everyone can see the fruits of their labour. Very cool!!! If you have any examples to share of your digital story projects and how they are freely hosted on the Internet, please leave a comment by clicking below.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Still wondering about Wikis?

When you hear the word “Wiki” are you still a bit confused? In Hawaiian “wiki” means “quick” and if you need to know more than that there are a lot of good tutorials available on the web. A useful one that I recently came across, that is available in QuickTime video, can be found here. Meredith Farkas, Distance Learning Librarian, Norwich University, does a great job at explaining wikis in general as well as demonstrating several different applications. The archived presentation carries a “library” focus but don’t let that dissuade you, Meredith does a good job showing you some best practices in wiki usage and discusses software choices. Definitely worth a look if you haven’t used a wiki before. Mederith has also posted her slides in PDF format.

The largest application of a wiki is Wikipedia.org and if you are interested in that check out a previous posting I’ve made on the topic.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

iPod as a training aid in sports

A colleague of mine sat down in my cubicle this morning and told me about a recent story where Major League Baseball pitchers are using the iPod Video to review video of opposing batters from previous games. A quick search found this article online. Why am I posting a baseball story on this e-learning blog? Because it is clear to me that the iPod is being used as a training aid in the case of the baseball pitchers and those using it say they like it as well. As this quotation from the article demonstrates, the same reasons why iPods are useful in distance education drive the reasons why iPods are useful in this sports setting:

"They can do it on their time, they don't have to be here or they don't have to be behind a desk watching a laptop. They can be at home, on the airplane or even in their locker," Rockies video coach Mike Hamilton said.

We’ve often heard reports of the iPod having numerous applications as an educational tool in formal education settings and it’s nice to see this overlapping into other areas such as training aids. This portable iPod technology has potential for future developments that are very relevant to distance education. Stay tuned to what they think of next! In the meantime, instructors should practice their podcasting skills (*grin*).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Case Studies in Science

Teachers, professors and instructional designers working in the science field are going to LOVE this resource. The State University of New York at Buffalo is maintaining a bank of Case Studies for Science. It's faily large and includes teaching notes for each case. Also, each case has an answer key that is accessible by registered instructors. It is definitely worth a look! I find this repository excellent! If you know of any other similar repositories for case studies please let us know by clicking "comments" below.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

TED Talks

I've seen this referred to on a few other blogs recently and I hesitated to post it here for fear of too much duplication for the edublog surfers out there; however, after watching a few TED Talks I decided that it’s too good to pass up. This is the first I hear of the TED conference: Technology, Entertainment and Design. Six TED talks/videos have been posted online from these speakers: Al Gore, Sir Ken Robinson, Tony Robbins, Majora Carter, Hans Rosling and David Pogue. Ken Robinson’s might carry the most appeal to readers of this blog because his talk is on education; however, they are all worth taking in. So book yourself some time, maybe on your lunch hour, put your feet up and watch these talks. They are great!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Assessments in web-enabled courses

As an Instructional Designer with an interest in technology-enabled courses, colleagues have often asked me: “What type of assessments can I use in my web-enabled courses?” Of course, there is no perfect answer to this question; however, there are a couple of good places to start exploring the issue. One spot worth visiting is the Journal of Learning, Technology and Assessment. This free online journal publishes refereed articles directly on this subject. Although less than prolific, it published only eight articles in 2005, many of the articles are useful.

For example, the most recent article is entitled: Computer-Based Assessment in E-Learning: A Framework for Constructing "Intermediate Constraint" Questions and Tasks for Technology Platforms. It gives a good overview of a taxonomy of assessment types for web-enabled use. I find it useful because it gives 28 different examples that instructors can relate to. It’s not a panacea; however, it certainly functions well as a seed for ideas. Be sure to check it out and if you know any other good sources of ideas on this subject then please leave a comment by clicking the 'comments' word below.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Concept Maping using CmapTools

I attended a great talk on June 7th entitled, Using Concept Mapping and Problem-Based Learning to Encourage Meaningful Learning (presentation archived here). It was delivered as part of the TeachU series offered through the Ohio Learning Network. The presentation was by Ellen Lynch, Tracy Herrmann, and Margaret Cheatham at the University of Cincinnati.

I really enjoyed the way the way they introduced the use of their concept mapping software of choice: cmap tools. I had never used this free software before and seeing it in action in this setting really peaked my interest. So I downloaded it the next day and I tried it for myself. It really is easy to use. Ellen and Tracy describe many ways in which they used concept mapping to create meaningful learning in their students. The one way that they described that I really liked was to use two concept mapping activities as a way for students to validate their own learning. Prior to a term beginning, or prior to a unit beginning, students are asked to a create a concept map describing what they know about the subject. At the end of the term, or unit, students create a new concept map depicting what they know about the subject. In the second concept mapping exercise, Ellen, Tracy and Margaret invariably see that students demonstrate far more knowledge and that they are able to show relationships between related topics. This rings true to me. I’ve never done a concept mapping exercise as they describe; however, I have used pre- and post-testing and I have seen dramatic results. One of my interests about concept mapping is that this thoughtful, and thought provoking, activity can demonstrate relationships between concepts. It’s not simply a regurgitation of facts. Students must demonstrate higher cognitive levels of thought by analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating the knowledge they have gained during the term or unit.

Just to prove it to myself, I have made two concept maps using the cmaps tools. By the way, they neatly export into JPEG format. Nice! The first concept map would be a typical concept map created by a 1st year university student on the first day of class. The class I taught last Fall was called Fundamentals of Teaching Adults. If I were to give them a short tutorial on what concept mapping was, then give them the title of the course, and then ask them to create a concept map covering the major areas in this course they might come up with something simple like this (click to enlarge):

And at the end of the course, if they were to repeat the exercise they might create concept maps that come closer to this more complicated map (click to enlarge):

Clearly a student who can prepare a complex concept map showing how parts of the course interrelates with each other is showing understanding of the concepts. It’s an excellent post-learning activity. Another facet of this that I like a lot is that there is an element of creativity built in. It is likely that if you conducted this activity with a large class, that you would get several creative designs to the concept map. As an instructor, examining some of the concept maps created by students might just open new ways of thinking about the material for myself. That can be a wonderful side effect! I’m going to try this in the Fall term with a Chemistry course I’m teaching. I’ll be sure to report back here on how the activity went.

If you have any interesting ideas about concept mapping, feel free to share them in a comment by clicking the ‘comments’ word below.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Web-based Objectives Builder

When I first started teaching at the post-secondary level I was introduced to Bloom's Taxonomy. It was a rocky relationship in the early days because I really didn't "get it." Once I started designing courses of my own, I realized more and more the importance of using a systematic approach to developing performance-based objectives (e.g., observable and measurable). James Basore from Golden Gate University in San Francisco has developed a Flash-based Tutorial and Web-based tool that can help instructors and course designers to understand how to formulate performance-based objectives using Bloom's Taxonomy. For those that are embarking upon their first course design project, or for those who need a little refresher,this is a great tutorial. Check it out and kudos to James!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

EduTechnology is Mainstream

Technology that is common to EduTechnologists has been entering the vernacular of mainstream society for years. If you are unconvinced, you could simply turn to these recent vocabulary winners. Do these sound familiar? (*grin*)
  • 2002 - Most Useful Word of the Year - by the American Dialect Society - "Google"

  • 2004 - Word of the Year - by the Meriam-Webster Dictionary - "Blog"

  • 2005 - Word of the Year - by the New Oxford American Dictionary - "Podcast"

People wouldn't bat an eye if they heard this sentence today: "Just Google me to find my Blog and you'll be able to check out my recent Podcast." (*smile*) Five years ago people would have looked at you like you were an alien from another planet if you said that! Things do change quickly don’t they!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pre-registration diagnotic testing

Diagnostic testing prior to registration into a credit course is not a new concept. It's probably most well known in the language arts. For example, testing a student on their oral abilities in their second language with a short interview can quickly allow the professor to recommend which level of course to enrol in. In distance education, one can still do this! There are many examples of this and they can vary in technical complexity from simple self-grading of text-based answers to fully automated graded testing including media such as figures and graphs. Either way works well and accomplishes the goal.

For example, visit the DCE050: Essential Writing Skills course description at the Royal Military College of Canada. On this page is a link to a text-based "threshold test" that students take at their own pace and then they download an answer key to self-grade the test. The course administrator then goes on to write: "If you score below 70% (35 out of 50) on this Threshold Test, we recommend that you enrol in DCE 050 – Essential Writing Skills." Simple to use, easy to understand and there is clear criteria that students can self-assess themselves against. The results are never communicated back to the school, are anonymous in every way and the responsibility for enrolling in the course resides with the student.

Another example can be found in the mathematics department of Athabasca University. Called the Mathematics Diagnostic Evaluation, it is an Authorware-based application that delivers three different difficulty categories of mathematics questions. Each question is multiple-choice, and some questions have visual aids such as figures and graphs, etc. Also, instead of guessing when the student doesn't know the answer they may simply click the skip icon. Like the text-based example at the Royal Military College, this test is simple to use (once you have Macromedia Authorware player installed on your machine). At the end of the test the program calculates a student's score and recommends which mathematics course they should begin with. Another strength of the test is that it then allows students to download all the correct answers if they are interested. One weakness I did notice was the lack of published criteria that students can self-assess themselves against. The algorithm of what score ranges result in what course recommendations would be nice to see. Again, like the text-based test discussed previously, the results in this test are never communicated back to the school, are anonymous in every way and the responsibility for enrolling in the course resides with the student.

In my view, although nothing replaces a useful academic counselling session with a real life body (whether face-to-face or on the phone), both of these tests are highly student-centered and can be valuable tools for the learner in planning their choice of courses at a distance.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Are you still in the dark about Del.icio.us?

Andy Carvin has written a very readable summary of what Del.icio.us is and how to use it. A must read if you're still in the dark about Del.icio.us. Check it out.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Yup.... we've heard of PODcasting... well.... welcome to Skypecasting. I've written about Skype before but there has been a new development. Previous versions of Skype have been limited to 5 users per teleconference; however, the new version is now limited to 100 simultaneous users all being able to access the microphone! WOW! What a mega-teleconference! This is ground breaking in my opinion because it's free. Yup. Free. You could certainly use this in distance education scenarios to host free office hours with the professor or to host a lecture even. Imagine the professor sends out a PowerPoint slide deck to the class and then sets a synchronous time of 10am to meet on Skype. He walks everyone through slide-by-slide using audio and people can ask questions on the fly. Beautiful... and inexpensive!

It's not completely free of bugs as Robin Good reports in a recent product test but the potential to impact distance education especially for small schools with limited budgets is certainly there.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

PODcasting on the Cheap!

I recently went to a talk offered y the University of Hio TeachU series on PODcasting and it really sparked some interest in me. They were DEMOing their PODcasting setup and they also took the opportunity to talk about iTunesU. I've written about that before. I'm going to try to test iTunesU over the summer.... maybe with Janet's help (*grin*) and I'll let people know how I make out. If it's a success I intend to PODcast all my lectures this Fall (*smile*);-)

In the meantime if you need some reading on PODcasting, here is a nice Wiki that contains some great information on the topic: PODcasting on the cheap! You can even join this Wiki and contribute material yourself. Fun!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

World Lecture Hall

I've written before on Open Courseware Resources and I've recently found a tool that is complimentary: The World Lecture Hall hosted by the University of Texas at Austin.

"World Lecture Hall publishes links to pages created by faculty worldwide who are using the Web to deliver course materials in any language.

Some courses are delivered entirely over the Internet. Others are designed for students in residence. Many fall somewhere in between. In all cases, they can be visited by anyone interested in courseware on the Internet — faculty, developers, and curious students alike."

Try it. It works!!!

Centre for History and New Media and George Mason University

The Centre for History and New Media and George Mason University is something that History experts probably know about; however, for non-history experts like me… it was a really gold mine to find! It’s loaded with interesting tools, resources and projects. It has tools like a Syllabus Finder search engine, timeline creators, and poll creators. It has resources like links to blogs, links to essays on special topics and a searchable database of history departments from around the world. The project section is also jammed packed with goodies. Links to the award-winning history matters site and the 911 Digital Archive are there just to name two.

So if you’re a non-history expert who wants some guidance on what history resources are on the web this is really a one stop shopping experience!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Boost: A private look into the lives of high school students at risk

I came across this interesting site at http://www.boostup.org that showcases the stories of several high school students at risk of dropping out. The mission of the Boost project is “to create an identity, support and encouragement for those whom might be at risk of dropping out.” The most interesting part of the website to me is the 10 video projects made by high school seniors. They are pretty raw in production and they do a great job of communicating to the viewer the personal challenges that each student faces in grade 12. Most of the students are in large urban centers such as Los Angeles, Miami and Brooklyn and some of their videos demonstrate that their environment is a significant detractor to their goals to be successful in school. If you’re an educator at any level, take the time to watch these short videos. They can really bring a dose of reality to your work. Note that you must have Flash Player installed to view the videos.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Canadian Public Domain Registry is conceived!

Access Copyright, formerly known as CanCopy, is the Canadian copyright licensing agency. In a collaboration with Creative Commons Canada and with the assistance of the makers of Wikipedia, they announced on March 3rd the development of a Canadian public domain registry. This project will create an online, searchable catalogue of published works that are in the Canadian public domain. In their press release, Access Copyright does not provide a target release date... so keeep your eyes peeled for the registry's arrival in the future! This registry will an invaluable resource to instructional designers and educators in Canada.

Friday, February 24, 2006

eLearning 2.0: what does the future hold?

Answer: I don't know.

But lots of people are talking about it. Tony Karrer recently asked me to take a peak at his blog located at http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/ and he's been talking about e-Learning 2.0 quite a bit!

For example, he states that e-Learning 2.0 is trending towards: “small pieces of content, delivered closer to time / place of work, and likely delivered in pieces over time as part of a larger program.” I think he is "bang on" in my view. This statement makes me remember back to what the manufacturing sector experienced in the 1980s where much of the sector transformed to a Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory model in order to maximize efficiency. In the future, I see training establishments now moving to more a more effective, e-Learning 2.0, model where staff are delivered training only at the moment they need it for their job performance (i.e. JIT!), that the training be in small pieces that are not intermingled with other less-relevant content, that they receive the training while on the job, via their own workstation, that there be permanent access to the training resources to act as a job aid and that this job aid be centrally updated for all employees in the future should any processes/policies change/improve. To me the job aid aspect of training is very crucial and I think the ease with which electronic materials can be updated centrally lends itself very well to this.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

Do instructional designers in the trenches really need to know about things like Web 2.0 right now?

Jay Cross suggested some web competencies that generalist instructional designers should have. A couple of them surprise me because they are very specific technology issues. For example, he lists "Web 2.0" as one issue. Personaly, I am not convinced a generalist instructioanl designer has to worry about Web 2.0 at this time. I think that generalist instructional designers should try to focus on general issues around instructional design and project management, and that they should strive to work within multidisciplinary teams where the computer technologists on the team are well versed on the more specific technology-ladden concepts. I've written about this before. If you'd like to check out Jay's list of competencies, here's the link. Many of them are quite good!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

iTunes U

Are you an educator that sees value in recording or taping your lectures or demonstrations and making them available to your students? Be it video or audio, you can now do it easily with Apple’s new service: iTunes U. It’s a no cost hosted service that allows educators to post their recorded media files and make them available over the Internet to their students. Students can listen or view the material directly on their computers, or if they have iPods, they can seamlessly download your media to their iPod using the Apple iTunes software. Note that only those lucky students with video iPod can view your video content on their portable device. From their iPod they can listen and/or view your material 24/7 anywhere they go! Now that scores big points for accessibility.

Some people reading this may note that any good LMS such as WebCT, D2L, or Sakai, can also host audio and video files, so what’s the advantage of using iTunes U if your educational institution has an LMS? The advantage is that the bandwidth requirement is displaced from your school’s LMS server to Apple’s server. That can make a big difference in server performance with large audio and video files. You can alleviate some of the bandwidth pressures on your local institution’s LMS server by displacing the bandwidth requirement to Apple’s server. Obviously, if your school doesn’t have an LMS, iTunes U looks very attractive indeed!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why Skype is getting lots of Hype

It was my Dad's birthday this week; he's 62 years old. He and I don't live in the same city and we see each other only a hand full of times each year. I spoke to him to wish him happy birthday and he's doing well. I called him from my home, I have no land telephone line and my cell phone was dead. So instead, I used Skype. It's a piece of software that allows free voice transmission over the Internet and it’s from the makers of the infamous KaZaa! But don’t let that dissuade you from trying it. It's incredibly easy to use... anyone with a high-speed Internet connection and a headset can use it. The clarity is phenomenal and far outweighs the audio transmission possible over other popular instant messaging services such as MSN or ICQ.

So what does this topic have to do with e-education? Well, I think Skype can be used as a no-cost method of increasing student-to-student interaction at a distance so that they can work collaboratively as a team. For those students who enjoy a bit of synchronous interaction with their team members that extends above and beyond conventional text-based chat, this could work very well. In fact, a teleconference with multiple participants can be undertaken with the newest versions of Skype. Because it's so easy to use, has no cost associated with it, and has excellent audio quality, Skype is getting lots of hype! Try it. You might just like the impact it has on your long distance bill as well.

5000+ Hits!

It's a new record! The last 1,000 hits only took 10 weeks to achieve! It took 15 weeks to move from 2,000 to 3,000 hits and 14 weeks to move from 3,000 to 4,000 hits. Nice!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Instructional Design Practitioners - what should they do to stay successful?

I am a practitioner in the field of Instructional Design. Currently the field is fast changing and Instructional Designers are focussing on melding their systematic methods of course design with project management theory in an increasingly online format. As budgets become progressively tighter and expectations for course design in the online modality become increasingly higher, new and innovative approaches that combine multidisciplinary educational teams strongly rooted in a practical project management framework will emerge in the future. With this being said, what should Instructional Designers do today to stay successful in the Course Development business in the future? They should seek out opportunities to work in multidisciplinary teams, continuously challenge themselves to think outside the box and always engage in life-long learning to be prepared to adapt to the future needs in the field. In addition, possibly obtaining formal project management experience would be something to consider strongly. Armed with these skills and attitudes, Instructional Designers will be able to contribute positively to the development of online courses well in the future.

What do you think? Leave a comment by clicking below.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Corporate Training and e-Learning Blog - New Blog to the Blogroll

Corporate Training and e-Learning Blog by Jenna Sweeny President of CramerSweeney Instructional Design has been added to the Blogroll on the right hand side of this page..