Technology! Oh My!

Applying technology to online learning (when it is appropriate).

Podcast: Instructor Spotlight Episode #1
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Hello, readers. I'm reviving this blog for the time being to announce the pilot episode of a series called "Instructor Spotlight". This was recorded on April 14, 2009 using Skype and the Skype MP3 recorder. I am interviewing Shirley Hensch, Professor of Psychology about topics relating to online pedagogy.. Enjoy!

Instructor Spotlight Episode #1

Wrap Your Mind Around Copyright
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As an online educator, if you're wondering about how copyright and fair use apply to the materials you are using in your classroom, here are some resources I would recommend:


Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Overview

Copyright Advisory Network Wiki


This has less to do with Distance Education and Copyright, but is one of my favorite readings that highlights the absurdities of Copyright Law. It is more entertaining than informative. Enjoy!
 Letter to Warner Brothers: A Night in Casablanca

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Review: Web-Conferencing Tool: WiZiQ
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This week I looked as WiZiQ, a free Web Conferencing tool that was recommended to me by one of my readers. It does the same thing Adobe Connect (formerly known as Breeze) does, but it is free and does not require software installation (it does require Flash). I was pretty impressed with how easy it was for me to join a session and interact with the session leader (instructor or teacher).

Some things you can do with WiZiQ (all free):
  • Invite students to a live, synchronous session (great for office hours or orientation)
  • Share files - documents, video, audio, even embedded YouTube videos
  • Text chat
  • Live video from a web cam
  • Talk to your students with a microphone/headset
  • Write on a "whiteboard"- great for teaching math
  • Record sessions to share later
  • Embed sessions in various types of social media (Facebook, Livejournal, link through Twitter, etc).
Here are a couple of screenshots of the interface, which is bright and clean. You can click on the images (there are 2) for a bigger view, and click the back button to return to this post.
whiteboardchat window

You can see that there are basically 2 parts to the WiZiQ interface: There is the "whiteboard", which you can have several of (and can toggle between them). You can display documents on the whiteboard, show videos, or simply draw on it like you would on a physical board. To the right, there is the chat/video window. Here, you can chat with your students and they can ask you questions. You can also show yourself with a web cam for a more personalized presentation. In this window, you can adjust all your audio/video settings.

The session I experienced was pretty smooth. There was a slight lag in the drawings on the whiteboard and the audio from the instructor varied in volume (from clear to faint). The audio quality can easily be remedied, however, by checking your audio settings and either purchasing a quality microphone or a headset (the instructor could hear me loud and clear. I had previously optimized my audio settings and I was using a headset). The program never froze, and text chat worked seamlessly.

The biggest problem with using WiZiQ that I can think of is getting students into the session. It was easy for me to get in because I was already a member and I got an invite to the session. You can do the same with your students but you have to do some coordination (make sure they all get WiZiQ accounts). Once your audience is on your "Contacts", you can easily invite them when you schedule a session.

I believe you can also do all of these things with Adobe Connect, which we support at UWC Online. After using WiZiQ, we did a brief test of it and could accomplish all the same tasks. The biggest difference to most people is that Adobe can be costly, but if you teach at UWC Online we can support you.

You should consider web-conferencing tools if you want to have the ability to talk with your students in a synchronous environment. Adobe Connect or WiZiQ are ideal for holding office hours or perhaps a "welcome to the class" session to kick things off. If students are working in groups and need to communicate through a live session, any one of them could schedule a session (with WiZiQ) to communicate. There really are a lot of possibilities. 

Finally, there is a fair amount of material on the web of people who have reviewed WiZiQ. Here are some of the articles I've collected. You can hover over the links for a preview: 

http://wiziq.typepad.com/wiziqcom/2007/12/adobe-connect-a.html
edtec550.wordpress.com/2007/12/12/project-wrap-up/
http://tesl-ej.org/ej47/m1.html
http://www.openalternatives.org/site/2008/07/dimdim-vs-wiziq-the-free-web-meeting-conferencing-and-online-classroom-tools/
http://www.kirstenwinkler.com/review-public-session-on-wiziqcom/

If you are interested in using web-conferencing (either Adobe Connect or WiZiQ) in your classes, tell me about your ideas! Remember that you can try WiZiQ out for free any time.

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Article: Make Better Slides
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4 Multimedia Learning Principles That Will Improve Your Slides/
I found this article on making slides very interesting. It reminds me of how educators need to take into account how the brain works, and how blocks of text are enough to send anyone snoozing! The principles in this article are very valuable to instructional design. Enjoy!

This Just In: Embed YouTube Videos Into Your Powerpoint Presentations With Slideshare
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For the same reason technology is overwhelming, it is great. Something new happens every day, so there are exciting new possibilities every day. Take, for instance, the ability to embed YouTube videos in your presentations on SlideShare. 

If you are not familiar with SlideShare and Powerpoint presentations are a part of your course, it really is a great way to share your presentations. Your students can view them in gorgeous full-screen mode, and this is great for detailed images such as maps, photographs, or art.

The new feature, available today, is great because it is now possible to share multimedia presentations. Imagine a presentation about the Frost/Nixon interviews - You could have a slide or two, and then a slide with a video of the actual interview! Imagine using movie clips to illustrate a topic in sociology, or even a video you create yourself!

Both SlideShare and YouTube accounts are free to use and are great resources for putting together creative presentations.  Here is a presentation that uses a video about Creative Commons in slide number 7. To advance the slides, just use the arrow buttons at the bottom.

Supplement to the Review: Twitter Resources
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After my review of Twitter, you might be interested in these:

If you're just getting started, check out the Newbie's Guide To Twitter.

I like to follow c4lpt news. They have useful "tweets" daily about excellent resources such as 10 online learning tools for students or youtube videos inside slideshare.


Here is a list of education professionals you might be interested in following on Twitter:


If you want some help finding people to follow on Twitter, here is an article from CNET that lists several ways to do that.


There are so many things you can do with Twitter, so if you have any questions don't hesitate to comment or send me a message!

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Review: Twitter
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                                                                             twittering otter

I use Twitter daily in my personal life. When I heard a friend of mine was Twittering for class, it made me think about how this real-time short messaging service could be used in the online classroom. My immediate thought is that outside of discussion boards and other classroom participation, it is hard to create that sense of community in the asynchronous learning environment.

Twitter: Articles on the Web
The best way to explain how to create a sense of community with Twitter is to refer you to the article "Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense".  You may be skeptical on how making posts that are limited to 140 characters can be beneficial, and Clive's article is an answer to that. It as also an explanation of how something as "experiential" as Twitter can be misunderstood at first glance, and I tend to agree.

If you like the idea of using Twitter for connecting with your class, check out "Ways to use Twitter in Academia" on the academHacK blog. The author of this blog entry was skeptical of Twitter at one time, and after reading Clive Thompson's article, decided to give it a try. For comments from other instructors who use (and picked Twitter as one of their Top 10 Tools in 2008), see Top Tools: Twitter from the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies.

As you can see, there is so much out there on the web about using Twitter in education that it makes my head spin. I pulled out a couple of the more helpful articles for you.

The Review
As for my review, it will not be long because Twitter is a simple tool and only does a couple of things : You can post messages, follow people and read their messages, and other people can follow you. The possibilities of what you can do with this free service are much larger, however. I see Twitter as very useful for classes that deal with current issues, such as Political Science. Not only can you subscribe to your friends' Twitters, but to news networks and important figures (Barack Obama, for instance).

An example of how you could use Twitter (and it is being used this way by educators) is to post links to articles you find when you are surfing the web that your students might find interesting. You could post reminders, or pose questions, or simply post what you were doing that day. That is a great way to reach out to your students, and for you to learn a bit about them. It is a matter of having to remember to do something else, but if you get your students engaged with Twitter I doubt that would be a problem.

Bottom line: Twitter is available, it is free, highly mobile, and fun. If you want to create a sense of community in your class and have fun getting to know your students, try it out.

I started a new Twitter, and if you'd like to follow me to start trying it out, please do so!

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Review: VoiceThread
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My first review is of an application I learned about at a New Media Consortium (NMC) conference.  I've been excited about VoiceThread and its application in the online learning environment ever since I saw a presentation on it.  It is so exciting because it takes something like a Powerpoint presentation - something students will download and read (hopefully) but not interact with- and turns it into a group conversation. Imagine posting a slide about anything and asking students to discuss what they see on the slide. They can type in their comments, send in their comments via web cam, speak their comments, and even phone in their comments. In an asynchronous class, this is a great way for students to interact with the material and each other, to include different learning styles, and to connect the students with the instructor.

voicethread voicethread

Click on the image for a larger view.

VoiceThread: The Details

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How easy is it to use?
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Creating Content
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Private Content
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Comment Moderation
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Limitations of the Free Account
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Help and Documentation
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Applications for the Online Classroom
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I Made a VoiceThread
I made a short VT to show you how it works and to teach you about another tool that I've put together for you . For a VoiceThread presentation on how to use my delicious bookmarks page, click here.

VoiceThread is a fantastic tool
. There are not a lot of downsides to using it. It is free, easy to use, and fun to use. If it can fill the needs of your course better than what you are using right now, or if you are inspired to add it to your course, feel free to share your ideas with me! Thanks for reading my first review. It was overwhelmingly positive because this is the tool I am most excited about and could not wait to bring it to your attention. I welcome your comments!

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Voicethreads for Education
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Below is Michelle Pacansky-Brock's presentation on an indispensable tool for the online learning environment. I embedded the original VoiceThread presentation below. For a full-screen view (and to try out VoiceThread yourself), click here. This presentation is spoken, so turn your sound up or put on your headphones.

I will be reviewing VoiceThread this week as well. Enjoy the presentation-  there are a lot of ideas for application in the online classroom!


Welcome!
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Technology! Oh my!  It is everywhere, but we do not need to be overwhelmed or afraid of it.

This blog is about me following the adivce I gave in the line above. I am going to review web tools using these two criteria:

  • The tool must have the potential to be used in an online learning environment
  • The tool must be free
In other words, this is a review blog of free tools on the web with a focus on application in the online classroom. I will also share other ideas with you that I come across in my search (such as articles, presentations, etc.). I will also share supplemental materials on the tools I review.

I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you want something to be pushed to the top of the review list, don't hesitate to comment or send me a private message. You can post comments without being a member of livejournal. 

Thanks,
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