Thursday, January 27, 2005

What is Wikipedia!

Have you ever taken a look at Wikipedia? I have over the last couple years. In the beginning I thought it was a big joke. I thought the premise was noble but that it would never work in a practical sense.

For those that are unfamiliar with Wikipedia, it’s basically an encyclopedia but with one major feature that makes it different than any other encyclopedia you have ever seen: YOU can write for it! Yes, that was not a typo… you (*Eric points directly at you through the screen*) can write and edit any entry in the encyclopedia. You don’t need permission, you don’t need approval, you don’t need to have a PHD, and all you need to have is a keyboard.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written in it a few times… just for kicks. I’ve tweaked a few entries to include something interesting that I know about, or to make a linkage between two entries. For example, I’m a big music buff so on the entry for my city (Kingston, Ontario, Canada), last year I added a couple of sentences listing a few of the good music bands that have grown out of my city.

Another neat feature is that you can examine the edits that people make to any particular page. The entire history of the changes is kept! Very cool!

What is created from this is a “public good” type of information repository: a place where no one polices except the users themselves. However, when I think of other “public goods,” like the air around us for example, everyone thinks it’s great for breathing and for diluting pollutants in, but no one wants to be responsible for cleaning it up and keeping it in a high quality state. I thought the same would apply for the Wikipedia: it’s a nice place to visit but it’s likely to be vandalized seriously and populated with loads and loads of inaccurate or irrelevant content. Boy was my gut feeling wrong. Check out the Wikipedia and let me know what you think.

Before you do that, check out this nice Flash movie with audio commentary created by Jon Udell that documents the changes in one particular entry in the Wikipedia over the past couple years. It’s great.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Storyboarding Resources

I came across some lovely storyboarding resources hosted at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) that were created by Lorraine Stanton and Sam Eneman (from UNCC), and Stephen Rehberg and Jeanne McQuillan (from Georgia State University). They have a detailed worksheet for building your online course, storyboard examples and an associated PowerPoint Presentation.

How to Begin Storyboarding your Course:
(If you are prompted for a password, click Cancel.)

Creating a Storyboard: Multiple Methods:

Course/Storyboard Master Worksheet:

The section I think is most valuable is Section III of the worksheet: Matching the Tool to the Task. It has great stuff in it relating to communication tools, content presentation tools, student presentation tools, and assessment tools. One by one it lists Internet tools/features and then outlines their uses and advantages as well as the associated good teaching principles. I really like this list. The information is really good and is useful for the instructional design process.

Effective Flash Objects

I've been playing around with Flash for a short time, since last September, and I have a lot to learn. One of the ways to learn is to look at what other people are doing. I thought I would bring forward one particular example that I found interesting to examine.

Check out the Excess All Areas flash object hosted by the BBC.

The target audience is likely young teenagers and therefore, I found this object made very effective use of integrated video and sound. The mouse rollovers were nice and the action escalated as I progressed through the object, and that naturally pulled me through the navigation of all parts of the object. This is excellent.

I also liked the splash screen which gave good explanations of the icons and the functions available to the user throughout the navigation.

One tiny thing that was missing was a universally accessible Quit button.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Podcasting and pull technologies

I have seen some buzz in recent weeks and months about Podcasting... so I figured I better read one or two blog posts about it to get myself up to date. This is how I see it. Podcasting is the production and syndication of audio clips that are listened to either on an MP3 player, like Apple's iPod (hence the name Pod-casting I think!)or even on your simple desktop computer). Much the same way that blog posts can be syndicated. (If you'd like a more comprehensive treatment of this definition see this link in the Wikipedia.) It's neat because you get to "hear" the presenter; however, I don't think it's better than blog postings. Blog postings can have hyperlinks in them or pictures in them and they can have the comment feature enabled where visitors can contribute to a discussion around the posting. What I love about this is the reader-to-content interaction (i.e. text, hyperlinks and pictures) and the reader-to-reader or reader-to-author interaction (i.e. adding comments to blog posts). I really love the interactivity here. It's a multi-layered pull technology where visitors construct their learning. They decide to read text, click links for other related info and write comments to share their ideas.

Now switch your brain back to the podcasting idea. The reader ... or rather listener... listens to the audio. If that's all it is, then it is a simple, and unidimensional, pull technology. Now don't get me wrong here ... there is lots of value in hearing someone speak. You can learn from someone's thoughtful insight even if it's unidimensional audio. (Unfortunately, can can't easily search audio for specific terms in the same way as you can search for specific text.)

All that being said... a better way to use podcasting would be to integrate it into a framework of a blog. This way people could still have the multi-layered pull technology where audio is simply another layer in addition to the text, hyperlinks and picture information.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Sofia Open Courseware Project

In the same vein as the MIT Open Content initiative, the recently released Sofia initiative (by Foothill College's Distance & Mediated Learning program in California) is now publishing open content courses. Under a Creative Commons License, other institutions may re-purpose the work published by the Sophia project for non-commercial use.

This type of "content sharing" is an interesting and noble idea in my opinion. The most important aspect to me is that it offers a glimpse into how other people design online courses (or onsite classroom courses). It gives people ideas on how to design, develop and deploy online courses that may differ significantly from the way in which online courses are presented at their institutions. With this field still rapidly evolving, the process of examination of other people's work is a very valuable tool in the online curriculum development process.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

WebCT Compile Demo: Now audio enabled!

I spent 20 minutes this morning putting audio on top of the WebCT Compile Tool Demo that was made with Macromedia Captivate. (See the Dec 15th posting below). I ran out of hosting space on my Queen's server so I have hosted this new audio-enabled Flash movie on the RMC password protected WebCT server. Use EricGuest as both the userid and password at the login screen. (Note the userid and password are case sensitive.) Also, remember to turn on your speakers or plug-in your headphones(*grin*).

Ok, the techies will be glad to note that the output file size only grew 82 kb with the addition of audio (from 303 kb to 385 kb ... only a 27.1% increase). That's amazingly reasonable after audio was added!!! The larger audio-enabled Flash movie is still reasonably short to download even at slow speeds (55 sec @56Kbps and 2 sec @cable).