Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lookout Google Maps – Here comes Google Body!

Is there anything Google can’t do? That’s the question I asked myself yesterday after my first experience with Google Body. What Google has done for street maps, it is now beginning to do for the human body. Google Body is a virtual system that involves an anatomical human model where you can peel back the layers of the body to visualize everything from muscles, to organs, to nerves to bones (all labelled and all searchable!) – and the entire thing is web-based! Granted you have to install the most up to date version of Firefox or Chrome which supports the WebGL standard but that’s a very small price to pay to get a glimpse of this FREE tool. I learned about it from my friend Katia Hamati. She’s an Instructional Designer with Coll├Ęge militaire royal de Saint-Jean. In fact, she has gone on to create a short video that demonstrates some of the features of Google Body – so you can view this video before you dive into Google Body yourself.

For a first release, they have done a very respectable job. Some detail is missing and I really hope that Google continues to develop this tool to add more detail to it. I would love to see it slowly morph into a very robust and complete depiction of the physical structures in the human body. The fact that it is FREE for everyone to use is just fantastic. Do you teach Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, etc? If so, please leave a comment below about how you feel about this resource.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Transform YouTube into an ACTIVE learning tool for your students

Nina Arjarasumpun, from Knewton Inc., was kind enough to write me an email out of the blue earlier this week. In her email she wanted to introduce me to a novel way in which the GMAT Prep team at Knewton was leveraging YouTube’s free video hosting service. She likened their work to the classic ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books that are popular with kids. In fact, it is simple branching logic where the system presents different content based on the decisions made by the user. The staff at Knewton are translating this simple idea into practice in the context of multiple choice questions using video segments. It’s awesome. I tried a few of their questions while wearing my student hat and the logical branching system coupled with the videos really makes the learning active and fun. Next term I am teaching a distance course in chemistry, and I will try to make a few of these types of learning objects to try out on my students. I’m excited to see how it works for me.

Chris Black at Knewton has prepared a great blog post that describes how to make these interactive logical branching videos. It’s a great posting that explains all the details. Very cool! If you currently use a similar strategy in one of your courses or if you end up trying this out in your course, let us know about it by leaving a comment below.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No, No, NO! People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they see? It’s ALL wrong!

This is old news but it is news that some people in education still have not grasped. I was having a casual conversation with a professor on the weekend and he explained to me that people learn by doing and that well established research supports that people remember more about the task when they do it as compared to when the simply read or hear about it. The first part of his statement sat well with me. I fully understand that people learn by doing. However, the second part made alarm bells go off in my head. I know that this part of his statement is controversial. How many educators believe this statement to be gospel? Well, if you are one of them, then you have to read this great debunking article on the subject by Will Thalheimer written over 4 years ago. It’s the story of how non-existent research can change the world ;-)

Go read it now.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

5(+1) Biggest Mistakes in Online Education

Guillermo Ramirez from Politecnico Grancolombiano in Bogota Columbia has shared a provocative presentation on SlideShare that attempts to bring us back to the basics of what education is and what education is not. His presentation highlights that the primordial essence of the concept of education is strongly rooted in a relationship between teacher and learner. He goes on to caution us that 21st century technology should not replace the requirement for student-instructor interaction. The presentation is a good reminder that educational models that put the learner first, the instructor second, and the technology third are models that are congruent with long proven educational concepts. Conversely, models that put technology higher than 3rd on that list are in danger of producing unwanted outcomes. Have a look at the slides below. Do you agree with Guillermo’s argument? Why or why not? Leave a comment below.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Use Twitter to Increase your GPA!

Rey Junco, a professor at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, recently communicated the results of a research study where he showed that judicious use of Twitter infused into face-to-face classes in the Pre-Health Professional Program resulted in an increase in student GPA from 2.3 (Non-Twitter control group) to 2.8 (Twitter experimental group). Also, he showed a significant increase in student engagement (as measured by the National Survey of Student Engagement tool) in the Twitter experimental group when compared to the non-Twitter control group. Together these findings suggest that social media and technological supports for the classroom student may be beneficial to junior students. Check out his video summary of his study below. What do you think about these conclusions? Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Distance instructors need to be more Responsive!!!

Have you ever wondered about what instructor behaviours were considered valuable by post-secondary students? Have you ever wondered if the expectations are different between in-class students and online distance students? I think these are good questions. I have wondered about this issue and the possible differences based on the delivery mode of the course as well. I was fortunate to attend a good presentation by Albert Johnson, a Senior instructional Designer at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he described the findings of just such a study that was undertaken with data collected in 2008. The top 9 instructor behaviour characteristics actually matched in both in-class and online distance delivery modes; however, the order of priority is different. Here's a summary of the rankings as indentified by both in-class and distance online students:

Distance Online

When I examine the rankings and compare the two groups, I note that one instructor behaviour skyrockets from 7th place in-class to 2nd place in distance online courses: responsiveness. Shown below are four key quotations from distance online students which provide insights into their expectations on the subject of instructor responsiveness:

"If you have to wait WEEKS to get a response from a professor, it can be highly frustrating. Also helps gain trust between the student and instructor. After all, if I can never get a response, it leaves me with little faith that if I ever had a problem with something in the course, the professor would be of any use."
"Responding to postings and questions in a timely fashion is important for students in web courses. Waiting for days or sometimes even weeks to get a response or even worse no response is extremely frustrating. Thankfully there are sometimes other students that can help out."
"Students are online at different times and are completing course material at different rates. Receiving timely feedback on email requires that a professor be available more often than an on-campus professor would be."
". . . it is important that profs make themselves available for students to be able to contact them especially in key points of a term such as midterms, finals and papers. When it comes to web based courses e-mail and telephone comes in to play."
After attending this presentation and examining the study paper (found here), I think most of this is common sense. However, it serves to underline that responsiveness is a sensitive issue with distance students. The successful distance instructor will strive to be responsive and available to students in an above average fashion (and, possibly, in increasingly non-traditional timeframes such as weekends) when compared to the in-class instructor. With the popularity of online distance courses steadily rising, clearly, this will have long-term inplications for instructor work-load and work-balance. What do you think?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Try Teaching Science at a Distance

The October 2010 issue of International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning is out and what I like about this publication is that the full-text of the articles are completely open and accessible. You are not required to pay a membership fee for access. What is also interesting about this publication is that is does book reviews as well and in many cases it tries to choose books that are also completely open and accessible.

This issue has one particular book that is available in PDF format by a Creative Commons License: Accessible elements - Teaching science online and at a distance edited by Dietmar Kennpohl and Lawton Shaw of Athabasca University.

It is a topic near and dear to my heart because I teach post-secondary science courses in class and at a distance. I have written some blog posts in the past relating to this subject (here, here, here).

This online book is fantastic and covers several important issues: the student-centered aspects of learning science at a distance; hands-on laboratories at a distance whether they be ‘kitchen chemistry’ or remote control labs, or anything in between; the institutional logistics of offering science programs at a distance. This is all fantastic and relevant material to colleges and universities today.

If you get a chance to look at this document, let us know what you think about the subject by posting a comment below.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Take your students back in time with video!

In September 2010, the YouTube Time Machine (YTTM) was born. The concept is simple. Select a year anywhere from 1860 to today and this service cues up videos found on YouTube pertaining to that year. Everything from TV commercials, to news reports, to music videos, to sports and movies. It’s quite the trip down memory lane to dial in the year you were born for example. I was born in 1969, and the first thing that the YTTM played for me was a very disturbing TV Commercial for the International House of Pancakes. I can’t imagine what the marketing geniuses were thinking when they made that! Anyway, this fantastically simple service can have some very interesting applications to teaching and learning. The obvious examples of history or sociology courses come to mind. Want to know a bit about the culture of a particular year? Well then YTTM is a great place to spend 15 minutes of time. Check it out and let us know if you integrate this tool into your teaching or learning by leaving us a comment below.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Conversation starters with your students online?

Are you an online teacher in a sociology or psychology class? Do you sometimes scour the web for multimedia tidbits that you can use with your students to start a discussion? I think many teachers online are searching for those lovely tidbits that are inspirational, interesting and moving so as to spark learning and ultimately to fuel communication and discussion between students online.

Well, today I came across a neat website: StoryCorps. If you visit their About Us page, this is the first sentence:
"StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives."

I learned a long time ago that truth is often stranger than fiction so real life accounts of people’s lives can be a great spark for discussions in any humanities field. StoryCorps has conducted over 30,000 interviews many of which are available in audio files on their website. They are short stories which makes them digestible easily. Many are VERY interesting.

One of the latest ventures by StoryCorp is to create animated shorts from a small selection of their stories. Directed by Mike and Tim Raush, the first five shorts are fantastic. Check them all out! Humanities teachers will have a field day with these animated shorts. I am sure. Enjoy.

If you have an interesting way to integrate an animated short video into your online class, leave a comment below and let us know your tips and tricks!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

PLEs, Networks and Knowledge - FREE Course!

Building on the successes of the massive Connectivism course that Stephen Downes and George Seimens mounted in 2008 and 2009, PLENK2010 will be launching on Sept 15th. Source: and organized by the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute (TEKRI) at Athabasca University, PLENK stands for: Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge. Find out more here. If you want to learn more about the current trends and the bleeding edge of PLEs / PLNs / group-based learning then this will be the place to be in Fall 2010. It promises to be jammed packed with all kinds of progressive educators as well. So the connections you can make while participating in the group will be very valuable to your practice whether you are a teacher, instructional designer or educational administrator.

Given that Professional Development funds are scarce in almost every jurisdiction, this free opportunity is very attractive. See you there!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview me!

Last month, the kind folks at Udemy: The Academy of U asked me if I they could interview me for their blog. Of course I said 'yes'. They asked me some interesting questions about what inspired me to start this educational technology blog, about how the current generation of students differs from previous generations, about how technology can impact education, about obstacles in integrating technology in education, and about the possibilities of having 100% online classrooms. All great questions that we have all thought about at one point or another. If you are interested in my answers, please see their blog post here.
If you have any comments or your own answers about these same questions, please take a moment to post a comment below.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Online Social Networks Will Never Die!

Have you ever sat down and given some thought about using an online social network in your teaching? Or have you ever thought about adding one of your students as your Facebook friend? Or better yet, the parent of one of your students invites you to be their Facebook friend – do you Accept or Ignore?

picture Before online social networks were created questions like this really never came up. Humans have had non-online social networks since the beginning of time – many of these network relied upon face-to-face communication and the information shared within them was not ‘persistent’ (i.e. the information shared in the face-to-face exchanges were not archived so that they could be accessed 5 or 10 years later). Another feature of common human social networks is that one person could belong to multiple social networks and these network were independant of each other and rarely mixed/overlapped. For example, I have many non-online social networks that I belong to where the memberships do not overlap. My work friends rarely meet my road hockey friends, or my university buddies, or my neighbours on my street. Each of my social networks is separated from the other with very infrequent overlaps. Most humans have lived their social lives like this. It has an interesting side effect. You can represent your image differently in each social network. That’s a good thing. To my road hockey buddies I would like to appear like an immature blood thirsty puck-loving daredevil; however, naturally I would like to display a different image of myself to my work friends. Non-online social networks allow me to safely have different ‘persona’ in a socially-acceptable way while still making honest and genuine social contact with individuals in the multiple social-networks that I belong.

Now go back to the questions in the first paragraph of this blog post. Can you see the problem? For example, Facebook lumps all your friends together into one bucket so now the image I portray to my university buddies on Facebook will be the same image I will portray to the parents of my students. In addition, the image I portray online is ‘persistent’. Theoretically, my status updates on Facebook may be searchable for years into the future. So online comments like – “Boy those first year chemistry students are stupid this year. I hate teaching Thursday mornings!” could really haunt me in the long run. This is very different than most non-online social networks where that comment only lives as long as someone can remember it. These differences could be dangerous – they are yellow-flags. The increased efficiency and effectiveness of online social networking brings with it this negative side effect.

Research is being undertaken right now to build more sophisticated online social networking concepts that mimic more closely non-online social networking phenomena while still providing the efficiency and effectiveness that we have come to expect of the Internet cloud. The Internet guarantees that as long as there are humans on Earth that online social networks will never die; however, how they are structured and how they operate will evolve.

Recently Paul Adams, a User Experience Researcher for Google in San Francisco, has published a useful presentation on SlideShare that outlines the problems and opportunities in designing the future of the online social network. Check out his presentation and let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. Also look for Paul Adams’ new book called Social Circles: How Offline Relationships Influence Online Behavior and What it Means for Design and Marketing. It’s due out in late summer 2010.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dissection: What's a PLN?

Have you heard this term - PLN? Personal Learning Network. It's becomming a mainstream word in the field of education. Skip Via, an Instructional Technology professor at the University of Alaska, has createda nice 5 minute video that thoroughly explains the purpose of a PLN, what a PLN is, and he outlines exactly the tools he uses to make his PLN. Watch the video and then scroll down afterwards and I will describe how I make my PLN.

So Skip did a great job of disssecting his PLN and showing us the components. I'll do the same for you here. At the heart of my PLN are 2 aggregating tools for bringing information to me, 3 communication tools for interacting with my colleagues and 3 archiving tools for saving information. They are:


1. Pageflakes. I use this to aggregage RRS feeds for my favourite blogs and news feeds. I set it as my Firefox homepage; therefore, I have one stop shopping of all my news everytime I open up Forefox. It's all there for me and I no longer go out to look for it.(I've written about Pageflakes a few times before.)

2. TweetDeck. It's my Twitter client. I have a dual display computer system and the background of one monitor is full-screen Tweetdeck. I try to follow as many isntructional designers and educators as I can, I also filter out for useful hastags like *edtech and #elearning. The result is that my Tweetdeck is constantly filled with a steady stream of great tidbits of topics that interest me.


3. My primary email client (Thunderbird). Email is a must.

4. Facebook. Facebook is my secondary email client and a great way to keep tabs on what my colleagues are doing.

5. Meebo. An instant messenger client that aggregates all my instant messenger accounts into a one-stop-shop for MSN, GTalk, YahooMessenger, (even facebook chat), etc. So chatting live with any of my colleagues is easy.


6. Delicious social bookmarking. Saves my bookmarks and makes them available anywhere I go (library, friend's house, work, home, iPhone, etc.)

7. Evernote. It's just flat out fantastic for saving anything on the web and for taking notes. All my notes are available to me everywhere including my iPhone.

8. Blogger. I write this blog, eLearning Acupuncture, as a way of archiving my thoughts and at the same time giving back to my PLN.

What does your PLN look like? Share its components with us by writting a comment below.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Transform BORING into FANTASTIC: the death of talking-head videos

Have you ever tried to watch a 10 minute talking head video online? It’s boring. The challenge is to resist checking your email or Facebook while faced with the speaker’s droning voice for the entire 10 minutes. It’s a challenge I usually lose.
Yesterday, I came across a 10 minute ‘talking head’ video that employed a clever technique to transform the experience from boring to Fantastic! I weathered the entire 10 minute experience without losing focus, without checking my email or Facebook, and I retained the material as well! I want you to check it out.
Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts (RSA) has produced this fantastic animation that overlay’s a recent talk from Dan Pink on the subject of Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us. The animation has several strengths that I feel really contribute to its ability to hold the viewer’s attention for the entire 10 minutes.
  1. The animation is hand drawn with the artist’s hand visible. Most people can appreciate craftsmanship when they see it and watching the animator draw out the material by hand is truly spectacular.

  2. Many people are visual. Watching an animated visual landscape unfold during the 10 minute talk instead of a ‘talking-head’ at a podium has far more attention grabbing power. It has impact.

  3. The animation frequently embeds words and phrases into the visual drawings. This serves as a pseudo-closed captioning method and it allows the viewer to integrate images, written words and spoken words together during the presentation. I feel that because these multiple methods of information as so tightly linked in this case that it contributes positively to the degree of comprehension, and retention, of this material by the viewer.

Can you think of any other aspects of this presentation that contribute to its success? If so, leave a comment below.

PS: the message in this video is also fantastic. If you want to build a great organization then be sure to set it up such that you treat people like people instead of horses. Give them autonomy and self direction. Be sure they can challenge themselves and cultivate the urge to get better at stuff (i.e. mastery). Ensure there is a purpose behind their work and foster the idea that they are making a contribution - preferably a contribution that is publicly visible. Great stuff!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The power of Voice in online classrooms

Consider this scenario.

You are an art history teacher and you are assigned with teaching a distance course. In the classroom, you have had great success with a teaching approach that involves showing photos on the big screen and building teaching moments by discussing with students the important elements of the image. You want to translate this teaching method to the distance realm. Of course, you have several challenges:
  1. The students are geographically distributed and, therefore, using an audio-enabled online synchronous presentation room (such as Elluminate Live!) would be difficult for scheduling reasons.

  2. You could write down an accompanying piece of text to go with an image where you describe the concepts and then you can ask students to engage in a text-based discussion around the concepts. But somehow the mechanics of this activity sound so ‘artificial’. It lacks that intangible quality of a face-to-face discussion while being able to point to parts of the image. It’s a poor substitute for what you have become accustomed to in the classroom: exchanging ideas both student-to-instructor and student-to-student while talking together, etc.

  3. Your department has given a very small budget to help with the creation of your course – $100.

Does this sound like a daunting scenario?

Welcome to Voicethread. It’s a tool for having conversations around media. It’s a way to share with a group of people one or more images placed into a VoiceBook. Together you can make a series of audio comments on the images that everyone can hear and playback more than once. These voice comments can also be augmented with annotations to the images that highlight areas of interest – much like pointing to a section of a slide while talking in class. The power of this service becomes fantastic when you realize that students *and* instructors can both leave audio comments on the same image. So assembling together the audio commentary from a group of students is a great thing to experience. You can definitely feel the collective energy of the class much more intensely than you can with a written discussion forum. It gets much closer to providing that intangible feeling of face-to-face discussion while being completely asynchronous. For about $100 you can use it with a class of 50 students and it's entirely online with no software to install.

Do you want to see it in action? Michelle Pacansky-Brock, an Educational Consultant, has put together a few demonstration images into a Voicebook so you can experience the power of this tool.

If you want more info on Voicethread be sure to watch the intro video from the makers of Voicethread themselves. Also, visit (and contribute to) the Voicethread page on the classroom 2.0 wiki for additional resource related to Voicethread.

Do you have any exeprience with Voicethread or do you see an application for it in your field? Share your ideas with everyone by leaving a comment below.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Do you care about Web 3.0?

Have you heard the buzzwords: Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web? Are you clueless as to what exactly these are? Do you even care? Well, if you don't care then you can stop reading now (*smile*).

If you have continued reading then I must share with you a little tidbit I recently found. A mini-documentary by Kate Ray called A Story about the Semantic Web. It will give you some glimpses into the 'bleeding edge' of this idea and how the experts are struggling to make the Semantic Web become a reality.

Do they know what it will look like? No.
Do they know what is will require to build? No.
Do they know what it will do? No.
Do they know what we will be able to do with it? No.
Do they invest a lot of time thinking about it because they can sense the potential? YES!

Take look into their world by watching this 14 minute video.

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

What do you think about this video? Leave a comment below.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Technology in the Classroom – Hindrance or Help?

I know the title of this post may seem inappropriate considering the times we live in. Our world would come to a standstill without technology, so why are we even asking the question if it would be more of hindrance than help in a classroom? The fact is that technology is good when used in the right way, but when you don’t know how to use it or if you use it for the wrong purposes, then it is more a destructive weapon than a constructive tool.

When it comes to the school classroom, there’s a reason why technology should be restricted. Consider a scenario where children are allowed to use their notebook computers and iPods to take notes or augment their study sessions, where they can access the Internet during lessons to look up difficult words or find simple answers to complicated subject matter, and where they can use technology to communicate their responses to their teacher instead of having to raise their hand (i.e. like clickers which are a boon for shy students who are silent in class because they are too inhibited to raise their hands and speak when a question is asked – students can type in their answer and receive instant responses as to whether it is right or wrong).

While this enhances the learning experience and broadens the horizons of students, it could also prove to be distracting for some. The Internet offers too many distractions, some of which are downright dangerous for kids who don’t know better. Also, with student-teacher interaction being relegated to technological realms, are we not turning real classrooms into virtual ones? Why not allow students to take online classes from their homes if we are going to use technology to communicate inside the classroom?

Again, the answer to these questions lies with the people who use and benefit from (or lose through) this technology. Students need to be mature enough to be trusted with technology, and the right age to do this is perhaps when they’ve moved on to college and are more responsible when it comes to using the Internet. At the school level however, they need more supervision and levels of control.
While there’s no doubting the fact that technology can be a huge help in the classroom, it’s up to the educators to see that it is used responsibly. Otherwise, what is definitely an advantage turns out to be more of a disadvantage.

This guest post is contributed by Shannon Wills, she writes on the topic of Internet Providers. She welcomes your comments at her email id:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cheating in Online Courses

A recent study in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (Spring 2010) by George Watson and James Sottile at Marshall University in West Virginia, provides some interesting insight into cheating at the post secondary level. They collected data from 635 post-secondary students who were asked about their dishonest behaviours, their knowledge of others dishonest behaviours, and their perception of others' cheating. To allow for a comparison between face-to-face classrooms and online classes, students were asked to provide data on their experiences in both of these settings. Some interesting findings were found:
  1. The data showed that face-to-face students more frequently engaged in various academically dishonest behaviours when compared to students in online courses.

  2. However, students perceive that the likelihood of cheating occurring in online courses to be much higher than in face-to-face courses (over 4 times higher!).

So why do online courses have a bad reputation for cheating when the actual data on cheating does not support this? Is this bad reputation purely anecdotal in nature?

What do you think about this issue? Let us know what your experience is on this topic by leaving a comment below.

Friday, April 16, 2010

50,000 Hit Friday!

Back in the early days of this blog in 2005 and 2006 I had documented that it took sometimes as many as 14 weeks to get 1,000 hits. Today the blog crossed over the 50,000 hit mark! I back calculated and during the last 4 years and 4 weeks it has taken on average 4.9 weeks to get 1,000 hits. That's three times faster than the early days. Nice!

Happy 50,000 Hit Friday to all the bloggers out there! May your hits come fast and furious!

Friday, April 09, 2010

STOP and THINK: What inspires you?

Have you ever had the kind of busy week that can be characterized by an overflowing email inbox? I've got emails that I haven't even read from 3 days ago! That's what my week has been. Well, one of them was a question from a colleague that made me STOP and THINK:

What about education inspires you? Why do you blog about it?

For me it's simple. I like seeing a student get excited about learning. That's it in a nutshell. That is my inspiration.

I've been in the business long enough to know that students rarely get excited anymore with standard lectures where all they do is watch the instructor at the front of the class. Students need to learn by doing. Teachers have a challenge here though because many teachers do not fully appreciate how the students of today *do* things. For example, how they are attached to their cell phone, how they text message with their friends/family fifty times a day, how they use online social networks and how they do 'research' and 'multitask' on the Internet. Therefore, the logical response to this situation is that teachers need learn how the students of today do things. Many teachers need to learn more about the ever-changing realm of instructional technology so that they can better formulate ways to leverage it as a motivating factor for students. If a teacher motivates a student to get excited about their own learning then everyone wins! I'm inspired by that almost every day - that's why I write my blog. It's an online chronicle of some of the tasty tidbits that inspire me from an educational technology perspective.

What do you think? What inspires you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let the world changing online video games begin!

Are you a gamer? Have you played Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games like World of Warcraft? Maybe you've anwered 'yes' to one or both of these questions. Now how about this question: have you played Massively Multiplayer EDUCATIONAL Games? Well, Jane McGonigal from the Institute of the Future argues in her recent TED talk entitled 'Gaming Can Make a Better World' that the world needs people to play more video games and specifically the world needs more people to play games that have goals that relate to solving real life problems. Real life 'Epic Wins'!

If her name sounds familiar then it might be because you may of heard of one of the games she has designed: EVOKE. I wrote about it on this blog just 10-day ago.

Check out her TED talk and let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brainstorming with Web 2.0

There are MANY ways to brainstorm. But how do you brainstorm with a team of people that are geographically dispersed? How do you brainstorm with a group of people when you are alone at your desk? It’s impossible right?


Welcome Wallwisher. It’s basically a free online page (aka. wall) that anyone can post a note to. When you look back on Bruce Tuckman's 1965 model for team development of Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing, then I think Wallwisher is a great Web 2.0 tool for the 'Storming' phase. This phase is the time for members of the team to share ideas, to propose a method of working together, to divide and assign tasks to individual team members. Wallwisher works well for this because it will easily and quickly allow team members to post multiple short notes (max of 160 characters) to a common wall as well as post links to other web-hosted pages or files. Team members can move these notes around on the wall and organize them in whatever way they wish. For example, similar notes could be grouped together, notes outlining a process could be placed in a hierarchy to better illustrate the start and the end of the process, some notes that are proposed for deletion could be segregated to a specific area of the wall until all team members agree that they can be removed. Combined with a wiki, which could best serve the team in the 'Performing' phase, Wallwisher is definitely a useful tool for teams working together at a distance.

It’s catching on to. Last week I attended a series of CUE presentations and Wallwisher came up. Also, eCollegeFinder has recently written about Wallwisher as well.

Try it out! Let us know if you have any creative and innovative use for it!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Educational Games are a BIG SCAM!

Have you heard someone say that educational games are a big scam? They are just a way to generate a new revenue stream for game designers? That some of them have more entertainment value then educational value? I have heard conversations where some of these sentiments were expressed. While in some specific cases these arguments may be valid, in general I believe they are false. If you DO NOT feel the same way as I do then I have a challenge for you.

Watch this trailer and then take this 10-week crash course on saving the world:

EVOKE trailer (a new online game) from Alchemy on Vimeo.

Evoke is a Massively Multiplayer Online Educational Game! It’s free and in some cases if you want to take on a Mentor Role in the game, the game makers will PAY YOU! Over 7000 people from around the world have signed up to play in the first 3 days. Wow! It is 'student-to-student engagement' at the largest scale!

I am playing. The question is: will you? The world may depend upon it!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chat + Roulette!

Yup. Chat + Roulette = Chatroulette. You probably haven’t tried it and maybe you haven’t even heard of it yet. Now that laptops and netbooks come with built-in webcams, Internet innovators are thinking outside the box and finding new ways for people to connect. Welcome Chatroulette. Casey Neistat does a fantastic job at explaining Chatroulette and how it works in a wonderfully produced 6 minute video that he has made. I just love the types of analyses he does as well. Watch the video and then think about it from an educational context.

As an educational practitioner, I have to ask myself 'Could Chatroulette be used for learning or teaching?' I better give it a try. I spent 30 minutes randomly connecting to chat partners at between 8:30am and 9am Eastern Standard Time on a Friday morning. My experience was not so positive. I connected with 60 random chat partners during that period of time. 10 of them fell into the category of 'pervert' (as described in Casey Neistat's video) and that is pretty distracting. You sure wouldn't want these 'perverts' to flash up on the screen in front of your grade 6 class! Of the other 50 non-perverts that I clicked through a grand total of TWO people decided I was worthy to chat with. The first was a man from England smoking a cigarette. His audio was poor and he had a thick middle eastern accent. The combination made it also very difficult for me to communicate with him. So after trying for about 30 seconds I gave up and went in search of my another chat partner. The second person to talk to me was a man in his mid 20's in Germany named Harry. I chatted with him about about 3-4 minutes. Nice guy. We joked about the fact that no one on Chatroulette actually wants to chat. Overall it was a good conversation and we said farewell. So after this somewhat disappointing investment of 30 minutes, I must say that I do not see Chatroullette as having much application to education at this time.

But what if it changed? What if you could pre-designate yourself into a 'category' like 'Clean chat for education' and then be connected randomly to other people who self-selected the same category. Maybe that would work better? Maybe perverts would select the 'dating' category and leave the educators and the learners alone (*laugh*). What do you think? If you have a neat idea about Chatroulette, please post a comment below.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Are you better than Steve Carell at using technology in the classroom?

Most people have seen at least one episode of Steve Carell’s hit show, The Office. If you haven’t seen an episode then please go here to check one out. It’s very funny stuff!

Lynn Schofield Clark in collaboration with her Innovation in Mass Communications class at the University of Denver have produced a very witty video as part of a class mini-project. It’s a parody video based on The Office. Only this time it’s not ‘The Office”, it’s “The Class”. Specifically, it is a class on the topic of integrating technology into the face-to-face classroom. There’s a beautiful write up about this video on Mike Wesch’s Digital Ethnography blog.

From an instructional design and teacher point of view there are so many little tidbits in this video that make me chuckle.

Some Lessons Learned for Teachers:
  1. Know your students; know your target market. Then respond to the needs of your students.

  2. Be cautious about using technology in the classroom; do not use technology for technology’s sake. Be sure that the use of technology in the classroom serves a specific goal to move you towards accomplishing a course or lesson objective.

  3. Don’t go to class un-prepared and without a plan – it might backfire.

  4. Let students participate in their own learning and let them take an active role in the class.

  5. Know that floppy disks are useless as of 2010!

Can you think of any other lessons learned after watching this video? If so, please leave a comment below.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Are you a Tech-Savvy Teacher?

Have you ever been asked if you are a tech-savvy teacher? Probably not. Have you ever wondered to yourself if you are a tech-savvy teacher? If you answered 'yes' then this link I am providing below was meant for you. In November 2009, Staff at Rasmussen College in the United States have compiled what they believe are the Top 100 Apps (50 for the Web and 50 for the iPhone) for Tech-Savvy Teachers. After looking it over, I must say it is a pretty good list.

I consider myself a Tech-Savvy Teacher and I have used some of the applications on this list. My top four favourites from this top 100 list are:Tech-Savvy Teacher in Action!
  1. Flickr: I've used it as a graphics repository for classes. I also routinely use it to obtain Creative Commons licenced graphics for use on this blog and in my powerpoint slides.

  2. TeacherTube: Not all the great educational videos are found on YouTube. Always check TeacherTube out as well.

  3. Wikipedia: I can't say enough about it. If you are a Wikipedia-lover then you know where I am coming from. If you are a Wikipedia-hater then I give the following challenge to you: if you find an article on Wikipedia on a topic related to your subject matter expertise and you feel the article is innacurate then PLEASE take the time to fix it. YES! *YOU* can fix Wikipedia. Stop hating Wikipedia and start fixing it instead. Your children will thank you for this when they grow up.

  4. Facebook. If you are a teacher and you are not on Facebook then you are out of the loop. Get into Facebook if you want to be Tech-Savvy and you want to learn how your students use digital communication. Let your students contact you on Facebook mail or chat with you using instant messages on Facebook chat. You'll be amazed at how many quick questions can can answer for them in an evening. This definitely promotes their learning!

Every Tech-Savvy Teacher will have applications that they love that are not on this Top 100 List. So my Top 4 favourites that are NOT on this Top 100 list are:
  1. Blogger: I've been writing this blog, eLearning Acupuncture, using Blogger since 2004. It's a great blogging tool that's easy to use and stable.

  2. Twitter: I have learned so much by watching other people's Twitter post on the subject of Educational Technology. If you want to be Tech-Savvy get into Twitter.

  3. Delicious: It organizes all your Internet bookmarks (you can check mine out here) and it serves as a sharing tool for information on the web. I love looking at what web pages people in the field of Educational Technology are bookmarking. I have found some hidden gems this way.

  4. PollEverywhere: If you are doing presentations and you want to engage the crowd with a 'clicker question' then get them to use their personal cell phones or laptops to participate on the fly. Fantastic tool that has wow-factor every time.

I could go on and on but I promissed myself I would stop at my Top 4 (*smile*)

Are you a Tech Savvy Teacher? What are some of your favourite apps? Leave your ideas in a comment below.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do *more* with clickers to engage students

It’s the beginning of term and I am planning against to use an audience response system in my class (i.e. clickers). If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I like to use the student’s own cellphones as their clickers (see here). They love it!

My twitter feed has brought me a few good tips and tricks about best practices for writing clicker questions, most of them from Derek Buff. He’s the author of Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments. He recently wrote two good blog posts on the subject. The first is a collection of resources from others and the second is a synthesis of Derek’s own 9 best practices for writing clicker questions.

I’ve got another ‘potential’ best practice that I am trying out this term. I am offering bonus marks to my students to formulate a clicker question for me. What I ask them to do is to formulate a potential clicker question for me when they are doing their readings for the week and then to post their suggested question to a public discussion forum on the class website. I explicitly ask them not to divulge the answer in their posting. Every student who submits a question will earn 0.2 bonus marks that week. I will then select one (or more) of the student submissions and use it in class. If I use a student’s question in class, they will get triple the bonus marks for that week!!! I will run this bonus mark program for 12 weeks so each student has a potential of 2.4% bonus (or more if any of their questions are selected for use in class).

I feel this activity gives students a lot of incentives to promote their learning in a positive environment:
  1. It gives students yet another incentive to do their readings before they come to class.

  2. It builds a question bank of multiple choice questions on the class website which could serve as a useful study-tool for test preparation.

  3. It engages the student. It gives them a feeling that they are contributing to the classroom learning community.

  4. It shows students that the instructor values their contribution to the class - especially when student authored questions are formally used in class.
What do you think about my ‘potential’ best practice in using clickers in class? Do you have one of your own? Please leave a comment below.