Tuesday, July 28, 2009

HTML MailTo Link Generator

I was helping to migrate webpages for our campus website. For security reasons, we were temporarily doing away with an online forms-registration system and replacing it with a simple "email" which contained the necessary information. Well... making sure that the email contained all the needed information was a dice-shoot, so I stumbled upon a site which helps you generate a complex HTML mailto: tag - so that the body of the email is pre-filled with certain information. The website I used was http://www.cha4mot.com/t_mailto.html
It has a simple interface with options for TO:, CC:, BCC:, SUBJECT, and BODY. Great find!

Monday, July 27, 2009

ScreenJelly - Fun, Free Screen Recording

If you need to explain to students how to turn on "Track Changes" in a Word document, or to print PowerPoint slides as "handouts" (rather than one per page), or how to navigate an online website or database, sometimes "showing" works much better than "telling."

ScreenJelly.com is a website that allows you to create "show & tell" videos. Whatever is on your screen can get recorded into a Flash-based video. Link to the video or embed it in your courses or blog sites.

The application allows you to record up to 3-minutes at a time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blogs and Surveys Enhance Face-to-Face Course Commnication

Two professors at the University of Westminster in London have completed research which shows that face-to-face communications in classes can be made more efficient when supplemented by surveys and blogs.

The professors provided surveys after tests and assignments to get feedback from students. Students also post entries to online blogs about these assessments; the listings are then read by tutors who reply back to the student. Tutors are using RSS feeds to aggregate the blog postings, and this allows quicker individualized feedback to students. In the student, each student was assigned a specific tutor for the course (which allows the student to build a relationship with that tutor).

The communication processes are made more efficient while still providing the face-to-face contact that the students expect.

Federal Government Encourages Free Online Classes

As reported at InsideHigherEd.com, the Federal Education Department is planning a program to provide Federal funds to community colleges and high schools who are willing to create free, online courses. Part of the effort would be to support job training programs.

Colleges which participate would be responsible for tracking and reporting on student progress and outcomes, including employment-related outcomes.

Creating high quality online courses will enhance opportunities for learners in rural areas as well as those who are under-employed (and seeking career advancement). I am hopeful that these initiatives to offer free online courses will shift the pricing model of online deliver from one of premium/luxury pricing to one of "self-service/discount" pricing. Too few institutions are using strategic design and economies of scale to deliver skills and knowledge. After all -- how different is the course College Algebra from state-to-state and from institution-to-institution? Rather than having each institution re-invent the wheel, creating highly engaging content which receives ongoing and thorough peer review will lead to more consistent outcomes among learners.

Once the curriculum for the free courses is developed, the next vital step is to ensure they are being taught by highly talented and engaging faculty members who will provide the needed guidance, personalized feedback, and careful assessment which students need to be successful in their online learning environments.

Prezi.com Presentation Tool

Normally at conferences I’m already “up” on most of the Web 2.0 tools being shown, but I was surprised and happy to learn about a new one called Prezi.com.

It allows you to create more dynamic presentations, with the great application of doing “mind maps” which allow users to drill down into details.

After the webinar that I gave yesterday on “Student Readiness for Online” – I decided to build a Prezi.com presentation from my materials.

The result is at: http://prezi.com/134940/

Use the arrow keys in the bottom of the screen to navigate, or simply click your mouse on an object and use the mouse scroll-wheel to zoom in or out of objects.

The site provides 100MB of file storage at no cost (text is very tiny of course), and full year licenses are $39Euro for 500MB and $119Euro for 2GB of space. Even with the free site you can download your presentation to a ZIP package which has an Adobe Flash application (so you can off-load your content even if the site goes out-of-business).

Since it is a free tool – it would be useful for faculty and students alike.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Do It Yourself (DIY) Lighting

Martin Catt posted a great DIY article on how to create your own video lights out of aluminum cake pans. The advantage of the cake pans is that they can be grounded for safety. Also - they are light weight for easy mounting to light stands.

Richard Wright demonstrates how to rebuild "brooder" style clamp lights into video lights which can mount to traditional light stands.

Cool Lights provide a demonstration for adding barn-doors to outdoor halogen and clamp lights.

The site CreativityToSpare.com has posted a YouTube video on how to create easy DIY lighting.

Thinking Like an Innovator

I came across a great video from Brainpark.com which gives tips on "Thinking like an Innovator." The video should be mandatory viewing by all faculty and staff in higher-education.

The video is embedded below; I suggest that you use the Full-Screen toggle to view the video.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Online as Utility

I just replied to a Facebook question about the online / hybrid / face-to-face modes of teaching.

For those of us who grew up with computers from an early age, we just expect to have the information and resources available on-demand.

Online course sites will become a "utility" in the same way that we expect to have electricity to turn on the lights. It is something that all users will expect to be there - and the control will be more in their hands whether they want to "flip the switch" or not. Just like electricity - they will consume online course sites at different times and rates based on personal preferences -- and they will become instantly frustrated when they are missing or inaccessible. (Ever attempt a PowerPoint presentation with a blown-out bulb in the LCD projector? Multiply times 30 students in a section.)

We're over-thinking the questions relating to online education. There has always been distance education; the only things that have changed are the tools we use to accomplish the task. I think that the "trinity" is actually "on-site / off-site / independent." Instructors who are not willing to support the service of Online Course sites are basically removing the fuse and ensuring their students sit in the "virtual" darkness.

Plagiarism: Preventing or Punishing?

I stumbled across a great set of presentations from Douglas Johnson who serves as the Director of Media and Technology for Mankato Public Schools in Minnesota.

Of particular interest is a presentation titled "The Fence or the Ambulance: Are You Punishing or Preventing Plagiarism in Your School?" When you view the handout he has posted online you will see Doug's Qualities of LPP (Low Probability of Plagiarism) guidelines.
Here is the list:
  1. LPP projects have clarity of purpose and expectations.
  2. LPP research projects give students choices.
  3. LPP projects are relevant to the student's life.
  4. LPP projects ask students to write in a narrative rather than an expository style.
  5. LPP projects stress higher level thinking skills and creativity.
  6. LPP projects answer real questions (which students would ask).
  7. LPP projects involve a variety of information finding activities.
  8. LPP projects tend to be hands-on.
  9. LPP projects use technology to spur creativity.
  10. LPP projects use formats that use multiple senses.
  11. LPP projects can be complex, but are broken into multiple steps.
  12. LPP projects are often collaborative and produce results that are better than individual work.
  13. LPP projects have results that are shared with people who care and respond.
  14. LPP projects are authentically assessed.
  15. LPP projects allow the learner to reflect, revisit, revise, and improve their final projects.
  16. LPP projects are encouraged by adults who believe that given enough time, resources, and motivation, all students are capable of original work.

Each of these points is accompanied by a paragraph which gives context and strategies.

The presentation handout then goes on to present grading rubrics and assignment instructions which would be delivered to students.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bloom's Taxonomy updated for the Digital Classroom

I found a presentation by Joshua Coupal on Prezi.com which explains Bloom's taxonomy of learning as it relates to the digital classroom. If you haven't yet seen Prezi.com - it is a free way to create dynamic and interactive presentations (rather than the same old PowerPoints).

Joshua Coupal created a great presentation which also demonstrates extremely well how Prezi.com might be used.

Check out his presentation at: http://prezi.com/128821/

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

11 Reasons Why a Tablet is Better than a Whiteboard

I came across a great article written by Jim Vanides of HP in which he argues 11 Reasons Why a Tablet PC is Better than a whiteboard.

Three key points are the ability to continue without erasing, the ability to capture and share notes from your presentation, and the ability to face your audience (rather than facing the whiteboard).

Great article on points I've similarly argued in the past. (But... if an expert from HP says it, it might carry more weight. *grin*)