Posts Tagged 'Technology'

My top tools for learning & design

I tend to explore tools and software selectively, but after I’ve discovered their uses, I like to work the heck out of them.  Christy Tucker inspired me to write a post on my favorite tools for learning and instructional design. The only ones that are new to my repertoire from over five years ago are Twitter & Storyline.

To enrich my own learning

Twitter – through hashtags & twitterchats I still am able to remain connected to new or trending conversations in my field. I also get to explore and hear other’s voices on topics I care about or am interested in. Yes, sometimes it seems that the chats provide a meeting ground for those who want to collect followers, but they do allow me to connect with others on Twitter who have similar interests.  While engaging in a few MOOCs I found the Twitter backchat most helpful in getting help or being directed to help during the class. The backchat also provided a great channel for starting conversation about topics.

I began using Twitter five years ago and I still seem to be engaged with it.  I have wondered what my choice in primary social media says about me, and apparently according to this article: “long-time Twitter users are found to use the site for cognitive simulation by uncovering information w/o much socialization.”  Considering my introversion this makes sense. Though to be frank, I have been attracted to the character restriction on Twitter because it forces you to be concise and pointed in your use of language. I imagine masters of literary wit from the past loving Twitter. How would Mark Twain or Dorothy Parker used it to hone their sharp observances or comebacks?

Dorothy Parker

What would Dorothy tweet?

Diigo

I still use Diigo to curate and organize resources I find on the Internet, especially when I’m trying to make a case for something I’ve tried using it to share resources with others, but I really only have one or two peers who gets the use of this tool, so I haven’t used it collaboratively.

LinkedIn

I’ve started using linked in more, to learn about what my professional peers and connections are interested in and sharing. I have used the discussion and participated in groups in the past, but not as much today.

For Design/Creativity

Articulate Storyline is my primary tool for developing online courses. The software itself allows me to easily create paths and experiences for learning content. It allows Instructional Designers like myself to focus more on design and delivery rather than programming functionality. Thankfully there’s a highly active learning community out there supported by Articulate and its users.

PowerPoint, like my former colleague, Christy Tucker, I use it for storyboarding course content. To some extent I’ve used it to create simple designs for online course backgrounds. I’m not a graphic designer by trade, but I appreciate the ability to create simple yet somewhat aesthetically pleasing backgrounds and containers for my content without a lot of fuss. No it’s not perfect by design standards, but it will do in a pinch and I can easily import into Storyline.

Sample of course page designed in PowerPoint

Sample of course page designed in PowerPoint

For Creativity Outside of Work

SlideShare – Slideshare allows me to port and share my presentations to the public and also apply audio to them. I also use the entire site as a resource for design inspiration in creating and developing presentation and course content visuals. And While Prezi seemed at first to have a slicker design & delivery, I eventually got tired of using it because the constant zooming left me a little motion sick. I never bothered to figure out a way around it.

Using cell phones creatively

SALT Presentation: More that Just Talk – An Experience Using Cell Phones for Education

Presenter: Lin Muilenburg/ St. Mary’s College of Maryland

My Mind Map for the Presentation:

http://www.simpleapps.eu/mindmaps/ASraRQJ1tj2oqxc5eDJ9rD84wwJN/mindmap.pdf

I really enjoyed this presentation. The presenter kept us all engaged despite the fact that it was the last show of the day.

If you have a cellphone with a camera, then you can develop learning activity that engages your students.

These activities can take the form of polls, scavenger hunts, photo logs, fone conferences, etc. The applications are almost limitless. I’m thinking of creating a scavenger hunt using QR codes, various clues, and web games, maybe even geo cache to have a treasure hunt teambuilding at work.

A few days later…..

Back at a ‘real computer,’  I’m still obsessed with QR Codes. In the United States, the codes can be read mainly by cell phones. In Asia, most of the phones are outfitted with a QR Code reader. I was able to visit the QR Code Generator site and create one for my blog.

There are endless possibilities for using QR Codes to empower mobile learning with smart phones. For example, students could create their own “Museum Exhibitions” complete with an interactive media tour. They create their exhibits with labels that include QR codes that provide links to web pages, videos, mp3 files, etc. FUN STUFF!!!!  Students could even design their own ‘educational’ treasure or scavenger hunts for their teachers, parents, and fellow schoolmates.

Here’s a really well put together presentation on using QR Codes for Teaching I found on slideshare. The design process is meant for creating learning experiences for students on the University level, but I can see many of the principles being adapted for younger students as well.

http://www.slideshare.net/andyramsden/qr-codes-mlearn08-presentation

SALT keynote – Think Future

SALT – Speaker- Massood Zarrabian – OutStart

My main takeaways:

  1. DON’T SLOG ALONG OR FOLLOW –>CREATE FOR THE FUTURE. Develop a future concept. Ahead of the curve. Don’t get stuck developing only for older generations. Also it pays to be ahead because you may be rewarded with simply having the reputation for being a visionary or a leader in your field.  I would add that this is more than doubly true for any companies that develop content, media or tools for education/educators.  I’ve been working in education for sometime and it’s my observation that if any field is slow to adapt, it’s just education,schools, and universities. Just because the teachers in the schools aren’t using a tool or technology… doesn’t mean that you want to avoid it with a hot potato. Instead,  look for alternatives, tools or learning experiences that are ‘secure’ but on the cheap. Provide consultation services to school districts and schools that demonstrate or show them the best methods and practices. Engage the teacher and parent community and challenge them to come up with creative uses for the tools and technologies.  For those teachers who are trying to engage in using new methods and tools. I say,  Ignore those people who might chide you because of jealously or incurable skepticism – do in your heart what you feel is right. The results will speak for themselves.
  2. MODULAR IS IN. Develop modular content. Or content in modular fashion so that you can easily repurpose and or repackage it later.  This speaks to the power of integrating CMS’s with LMS’s. (Content management system = Drupal, LMS=Sakai or Moodle).  Don’t develop tools or systems that are hard to take apart or redesign. This can be difficult if you’re working with a vendor to develop your tools.

Think Future…

Mind Map for This Presentation

Okay… so now I understand what Twitter is all about

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

I’ll admit the idea of telling people what you were doing at any given moment did not appeal to the side of me that adores my privacy. Also, being involved in conversations with others that absobed so much chatter didn’t spark the curiosity of that extremely methodical part of me.

Yet the side of me that has come to appreciate “Stream of Consciousness” really gets it.

But after first joining Twitter I can see what people like about it.

A few tricks I learned quickly to reduce the noise factor on twitter:

  • The more followers/followees you have the faster the pace of the conversation. It’s good to search for conversations using “key words.” You can also save the chat
  • You can easily save tweets you like by clicking the “Star” or favorites option.
  • Just accept that you’re not going to get every piece of information being shared. Twitter is pretty ephemeral and it embodies that life of ephemerality characteristic of some aspects of “Internet life.”
  • Make comments even ones that appear to have no point every now and then.
  • If you’re sharing something cool include the link (be forewarned… if the link is too long you may not be able to share it. Hopefully, web developers out there whose pages require long urls are noting this. Or the twitter people might be able to develop a feature that allows you to associate links to text so you don’t go over the 140 character limit).
  • Addressing someone directly requires including their Twitter ID (ie. @nlkilkenny) in your tweet or post.
  • If you must, you can search through the archive of a saved search. Depending on the volume of a conversation you may be searching for sometime till you get to the beginning.

I’ve actually learned a lot this weekend on Twitter. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but I get this way when I learn a good deal of new and fascinating stuff.  I saved a search for Arduino technologies because I’ve very interested in learning how to make clothing and knitwear use electronic features using the Arduino Lilypad.

Arduino Lilypad
Arduino Lilypad

Can you imagine having a purse that’s hooked up to your cellphone so that it blinks a certain way when different people call? I’d also like to make some kind of garment (even just wristbands) for my brother that plays different sounds. He’s a musician that tries to bring traditional and non-traditional sounds and instruments together: OO-Ray.  I was searching through Make.com’s site and found some very fascinating applications with Arduino tech including this Fabric Synthesizer. What a wonderful way to showcase ingeniuity and creativity.

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

Tech Tools for Working From Home

As promised I will briefly describe the tools we work with as a collaborative virtual team. I will also describe how we use these tools with some of our subject matter experts (SME’s) in the design process for our courses.

Aye, I have to say I work with very active and adventurous group. They’re really into trying all sorts of tools that help with virtual work and collaboration. I think it took us probably about 6 months before we found the combination that is working well for us right now:

  • Adobe Connect (Professional Version)
  • Skype
  • Google Docs

There are other tools that we use, but I think of the three above as our “Holy Trinity” of collaborative tools. They’re sort of like our Swiss army knife of virtual tech.  I’ll spend a little time here giving a summary or description of how we use each tool.

  • Adobe Connect (Professional Version) – helpful for sharing desktops and working out technical issues with each other. It allows us to be extremely productive during meetings because we can work with or on documentation and visuals as we talk. For example. I like using a visual like a  PowerPoint slide in a design meeting. I can always allow the other participants to manipulate the slide, including adding their own content or suggestions. The example below shows a visual outline I developed during a meeting with the help of a subject matter expert or SME. Adobe Connect allows you to visually share and grant control over items on your desk top. In this case, the SME could add or move any of the elements on the PowerPoint slide as long as I gave them control.
slide32

Example of a content map or visual used with a subject matter expert

Same image after learning objectives have been with content. Note, this was a course re-design project.

Same image after learning objectives have been aligned with content. Note, this was a course re-design project.

  • Skype – we use Skype for voice connection during meetings. The chat tool is also very user friendly as well.  Skype isn’t perfect. Sometimes the audio quality isn’t that great, especially when there are more than a handful of people using it for a conference call. For larger meetings we opt for using a conference call service where we can set up “bridge” calls.
  • Google Docs – Google offers a virtual office program that allows you to upload, create and share text or wordprocessing documents. You can also, develop simple PowerPoint-like slides and virtual spreadsheets using google docs. When we’re working on a document or want to share text content and sometimes images, we use Google docs to work on shared documents.  I really like the color coded commenting feature that’s available. It makes it possible to track changes, comments and contributions to any text file we’re working on together. Also, we’ve found that Google Docs is one of the most user friendly collaboration tools, and can be used when working on documents with SME’s who have even a limited experience with web technology. Also, I love the fact that they really don’t change the basic look and structure of the interface, so the user doesn’t get confused. In addition to the Skype Chat we teach SME’s to use the Google Talk as well. It’s an additional way to get a hold of us if they have a quick question or need to comment on work we have sent for review. For those who have never used web software like the Google tools, we send out a quick little guide (I whipped up) for using them.  It’s true that Google already develops fairly intuitively designed products, but some subject matter experts don’t feel facile enough with software or online tech to just dive in to experimenting and using the software, so we figured that we would give them a guide to help them learn the tools. I linked each page of the guide in the thumbnails below.

We’ve also used the simple survey tool available when you work with the Spreadsheets in Google docs to record data from usability tests.  Google makes it possible to create no-frills survey tools which are actually quite effective.

I did forget one more tool… we keep meeting and design minutes and notes in a Wiki Spaces website. The wiki is also used to document our business process and even complex sub processes. We’re currently using it right now to document our Learning Management System (LMS) conversion process.  Thank goodness for wikis! No one person is in charge of setting up the structure of the wiki, and for some reason, it works: we’re still able to find what we need.

Google Tools Guide:

Do you have to design learning experiences differently for Digital Natives?

From the Learning Circuits Question of the Month

  • Do you believe that we have to design, develop and deliver instruction differently for the so-called Digital Natives?
  • Are there differences in learning expectations and styles or can we just design good instruction and know that it meets all generational needs?
  • If you have an audience that includes natives and immigrants, how can you effectively design instruction without breaking the bank?

It’s probably best to design learning experiences from a Constructivist approach. Digital natives will become easily bored with traditional essays and quizzes. Why not have them create content in different media. I also believe that engaging more digitally savvy individuals with the less savvy digital immigrants is a good thing. Everyone should be coached to help each other learn and to ‘slow down’ or explain things when someone does not understand. This might help alleviate the feelings of frustration from the digital immigrants.

Some suggestions for learning experiences/projects:

(note this list will probably grow… this is just what I have off the top of my head)

Wiki

I love wikis because they teach people how to play nicely with each other when creating content in a virtual space.

  • Team built wiki (each group or individual is responsible for a different content area).
  • Media share – every week someone must share a media piece or link to content/info/resources for the class subject in a common wiki area. They provide information on why they chose the item and the classmates post comments on the items in the class discussion for this page.
  • Wiki story – students work together to write a story/narrative in the wiki
  • Virtual Art Gallery – students showcase their artwork (art, painting, video, music, etc.). Other students can provide feedback
  • Research Data – students can link to spreadsheets and text on data they’ve collected for experiments

Video/Media

  • Develop an interpretation or a satirical take on a book or television show
  • Produce a documentary or interview session on the topic of interest
  • Video sharing – have students create video responses to a topic and to each other’s views on a topic

Podcast/Audio

  • Write a regular radio show or drama that discuss or treats the content or subject. I love this idea!
  • Virtual audio responses – students can provide brief audio feedback on assignments and posts rather than written ones. This makes interaction with each other more personal in an asynchronous way.

Second LIfe

  • Develop a playground representative of a period
  • Develop an interactive story area where students can interact and act out a story. They can even create their own interpretation of events in a story and take snapshots in order to retell it
  • Develop a museum dedicated to a subject

Is Web 2.0 over complicating things?

Technology allows me to be an ‘on-the-fly’ sort of tourist. I don’t have things planned out before I get to a destination like my parents did. They had travel agents who got them packaged tours where everything from morning wake-up to afternoon snack and evening meals were all scheduled on a daily plan. I shudder to think of enjoying travel in this way. I might read extensively about a place and it’s neighborhoods before I go, but if I know that I can have Internet access when I’m there, I pretty much leave it up to the moment. When we were vacationing in San Francisco, I did my usual thing… went straight to Google maps and searched for places that I wanted to see or needed to visit: food, shopping, neighborhood historical spots, or the nearest Rite-aid to buy a replacement pair of pantyhose. When I was searching for eating places and boutiques, I noticed that a number of places had websites. A number of restaurants sounded good, but they just had too much ricketa-racketa (flash) on their websites. Come on! I just want a menu… or maybe even photos to look at. I want to know what you’re store, business or restaurant has to offer. A few sites required me to download a plug in. Others sites seemed like some design nightmare similar to some conceptual art experience designed by an irritating esoteric character from Nathan Barley. Worse, important information like ‘store hours’ or a phone number was often hidden under some cryptic heading other than the obvious ‘about us.’

Nathan Barley's Website -Bells and whistles and too much junk

I actually thought if their websites are this pretentious, then they must be pretty annoying. Ergo, I didn’t want to give them my business. The funny thing is some small mobile devices don’t play Flash very well. Often the information I needed could just be on a list. Yes, from a consumer’s point of view the web needs to be simple and easy to use. As Jakob Nielsen put it:

“Most people just want to get in, get it and get out….For them the web is not a goal in itself. It is a tool.”

Pushing bells and whistles or other advanced features may be too much if you’re forcing them on users. On the other hand, people should be restricted to just using the ‘tried and true’ methods. Mr. Nielsen argues that focus on Web 2.0 development and applications is causing many website builders to forsake good design. But I think there’s a growing market/audience of people who know how to take advantages and use the newer web technologies. To be fair to these pioneering web developers… they’re still trying to figure out what works and how to make it work well. Though many business successes have demonstrated the power of social networking through blogs, wikis and social networks/online community. A product or service can take off if a few connected users or mavens start talking about it on the web.

From a web educator’s point of view, the web has great potential to bring people closer together and these tools are more than just ricketa-racketa. Also, users can work collaboratively to develop content from written text, to music, podcasts. They can even build on concepts and enrich discussion with video sharing.

If you read this article… Nielsen sounds kind of like (excuse my words) an old fogy… who predicts that people’s use and behavior with and on the Internet will not continue as they grow older. He predicts that Internet use will go down as people age. For the sector of society who will become more involved in the ‘creative’ and ‘technology’ economies this will not be the case. And, of course their use of the technology will change because technology changes. Something just tells me that Mr. Nielsen or his perception and vision of things is sort of …. stuck. Maybe things will be this way for me when everyone is plugging directly into USB (or some kind of electronic) ports or even buying cyborg bio-add ons… I just won’t get it or understand. (Of course, you know I’m joking about the cyborg thing… well sort of).


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