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Many online educators are searching for platforms that are relevant and agile. In the end, agility is maintained via flexible management.  In other words, instructors should be allowed to choose from the tools they prefer in an e-learning ecosystem so that they can configure their own e-learning environment.  Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) may enable educators to have this flexible management in the e-learning environment.

LTI is designed to allow plug-and-play integration of instructional applications within educational platforms, such as LMS.  LTI is an open specification created by IMS Global Learning Consortium.  Before the introduction of LTI, connecting custom learning applications with a learning management system (LMS) was complicated and often expensive.  To accomplish this connection, an organization’s IT department had to assign or hire a developer to integrate each application with the LMS.  This process consumed a great deal of time and had to be revisited with each update of the application or LMS.  Conversely, it is easier to get the tools and platforms to work together (i.e., interoperability) if the LMSs and applications conform to the LTI specifications with their application programming interfaces (APIs).

Currently, most LMSs allow third-party applications to integrate with the platform, but the APIs used by each LMS are different (e.g., Blackboard versus Canvas).  For example, a vendor making an application for video editing would need to develop several APIs for their application so that it could connect with the various LMSs.  By contrast, LTI creates a common API that can be employed by any LMS or application developer.  This common API allows applications to be rapidly deployed within a LMS without hiring experts to make this connection.

More than 100 universities and colleges are actively engaged with LTI, and Western Governor’s University (WGU) is a prime example.  Initially, WGU tried to integrate a variety of learning tools with their LMS, and each tool required separate development.  After standardizing to LTI integration, WGU was able to write a single program to make all of the resources interoperable with their LMS.  The creators of LTI, IMS Global, offer a variety of applications that are certified as being compliant with LTI specifications, including hundreds of tools and 18 platforms.  The applications developed for integration include any tool created to connect to a LMS: library resources, subject-specific tools, authoring tools, etc….

The learning environment becomes more dynamic when learning tools are easily integrated into campus platforms, especially LMS.  Adopting a common approach to interoperability promotes faster integration and lowers the cost.  Ultimately, the LTI approach may allow instructors to build do-it-yourself learning environments that dramatically alter the role of and relationship with IT specialists.  LTI may be the first step toward allowing teachers to create a vibrant and rich ecosystem that is relevant and agile.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2013, August). 7 things you should know about learning tools interoperability. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7099.pdf

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The pedagogical model termed “flipped classrooms” refers to a scenario where homework and lectures are reversed. Typically, students come to class to hear lectures and then go home and complete the application of that lecture (e.g., homework).  In flipped classrooms, students watch a short video before coming to class, and when students come to class, they apply the lessons taught in the short video. This approach allows instructors to use time in class to build skills and for collaboration.

Educators are adopting this model anytime students watch or listen to lectures before coming to class and then do workshops in class. In one approach, teachers may actually set up a series of videos with intermittent quizzes to test knowledge acquisition. A series of videos may help to ensure that students have a certain level of knowledge before coming to class. While potentially helpful in all classes, this approach seems to have a great deal of potential for career and technical classes (CTE).

Career and technical instructors have struggled with e-learning because CTE classes demand that students spend time in workshops and laboratories to ensure they are applying theoretical knowledge. A hybrid approach seems to work well in CTE classes. Further, the flipped classroom is a technique that may help students be efficient and teachers be more effective.

In the traditional classroom, students often focus on transcribing lectures rather than understanding what is being said. A pre-class video format allows students to view the lecture material as many times as they need in order understand the material. Students that need extra time to understand material (i.e., accessibility issues) may find this approach very helpful. In addition, teachers may be able to detect errors more efficiently in this model because more class time is spent on the application of material. Collaboration and informal learning may also be facilitated in flipped classrooms.

The flipped model does require more preparatory work for both the teacher and student. Teachers must be very organized and sequential in this approach. Students must spend time viewing and reflecting on the videos before class. However, students may get frustrated if their technology equipment is slow or incapable of loading the videos (e.g., dial-up internet).

Moving the videos used in flipped classrooms to mobile devices makes this model even more attractive. Students could access lectures anytime, anywhere and just in time for training. Business and industry may actually begin to think about adopting this model for training incumbent workers. Ultimately, this model places more responsibility on students to learn material before class and affords them the opportunity to reflect on and apply this information on their own. Flipped classrooms allow students to master material rather than just being exposed to knowledge.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2010a, January). 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

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The following list was primarily derived from EDUCAUSE.  They produce a monthly publication that seeks to identify, compile, and review new technologies that show promise in education.  Below, I describe the emerging technologies that began to gain prominence in 2007.

  • Digital Storytelling.  Digital storytelling combines a narrative with sound, video, graphics, or other digital content.  The stories usually incorporate an emotional section and are often interactive.  Digital storytelling creates a bridge between purely technical content and fields of study that may not view technology as a natural fit in their programs.  Digital storytelling can improve information literacy, and this application offers a promising platform for e-portfolios (EDUCAUSE, 2007a).
  • Open Journaling.  Open journaling employs an open access model in which the publishing process is streamlined through online submission, review, publication, and archiving.  This approach serves as an alternative to traditional peer-reviewed publishing techniques.  Open journaling provides an infrastructure where students can learn the basics of publishing, communication with journals, the peer review process, and tagging (EDUCAUSE, 2007b).
  • Creative Commons.  Creative Commons is actually the name of a nonprofit organization that offers an alternative to traditional copyright.  From a legal standpoint, original works automatically maintain specific rights.  Creative Commons allows authors to maintain some rights while releasing others; the intent of the company is to increase the distribution of and access to intellectual property.  The freeflow of information has the potential to greatly enhance all aspects of education (EDUCAUSE, 2007c).
  • RSS.  Subscribers of a Real Simple Syndication (RSS) protocol can access online material using an “aggregator” or “reader.” The tendency of most Internet users is to choose primary sources of information.  RSS provides consumers the ability to generate a list of those preferred sources so that updates and information are automatically sent to the subscriber (EDUCAUSE, 2007d).
  • Wikipedia.  This online source is a free encyclopedia that allows anyone to contribute to or edit entries.  Wikipedia was initially launched in 2001, and is one of the most frequented Web sites in the United States.  College students are using Wikipedia as a primary research tool, with millions of articles in a multitude of languages.  Higher education faculty question this resource’s reliability as a research tool because entries are editable and are not subject to expert review (EDUCAUSE, 2007e).
  • Twitter.  This online technology is a hybrid mix of social networking, blogging, and instant messaging from a cell phone.  Users have 140 characters or less to depict their thoughts or convey what they are doing.  Interaction between students and educators can be fostered through Twitter in areas such as metacognition or ideas about an issue (EDUCAUSE, 2007f).
  • Cyberinfrastructure.  Cyberinfrastructure merges human resources, data and technology into one, and this technology is most often used in high power computer hardware and applications.  In education, this tool encourages students and faculty to share methods, tools, and experiences to enhance learning (EDUCAUSE, 2007g).
  • Haptics.  This technology allows users to feel what is happening on the computer screen.  Haptics applications present force feedback to consumers concerning the movements and physical properties of virtual objects displayed by a computer.  This technology allows users to move beyond traditional human-computer interactions, which have primarily been limited to images, data, or words (EDUCAUSE, 2007h).
  • Data visualization.  Data visualization illustrates information visually in a new format.  It is the visual approach that helps one discover relationships and trends that could be advantageous or significant.  This application allows students to process information quickly and see patterns that otherwise they might overlook (EDUCAUSE, 2007i).
  • Skype.  Skype allows consumers to make free phone calls between computers and low-cost calls between telephones and computers by using a voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP).  This technology allows educators to maintain contact between collaborators and colleagues in different locations at a minimal cost, if any.  An additional capability of Skype is to host videoconferencing from distant locations (EDUCAUSE, 2007j).

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007a, January). 7 things you should know about digital storytelling. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7021.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007b, February). 7 things you should know about open journaling. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7022.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007c, March). 7 things you should know about Creative Commons. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7023.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007d, April). 7 things you should know about RSS. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7024.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007e, June). 7 things you should know about Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7026.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007f, July). 7 things you should know about Twitter. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7027.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007g, August). 7 things you should know about Cyberinfrastructure. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7028.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007h, September). 7 things you should know about Haptics. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7029.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007i, October). 7 things you should know about Data Visualization. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7030.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007j, December). 7 things you should know about Skype. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7032.pdf

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This table of contents chronicles the reflections on various projects and assignments of IT 860, Emerging Technology in Instructional Technology.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.    Introduction to Blogfolio

II.  Reflection on Assignments

III. Reflection on Readings

IV.  Overall Reflection on IT 860

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Web 2.0 is now a technological juggernaut, and these technologies are revolutionizing the way people communicate, collaborate and accomplish basic tasks. The focus of IT 860, Emerging Technologies in Instructional Technology, was to explore the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools that show promise in education. Dr. Yuen exposed each student to the theoretical basis for each Web 2.0 tool through his book, “Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0: Implications of Web-Based Communities and Networking.” In addition, students were required to use each Web 2.0 tool that was discussed in order to gain knowledge through experiential learning.

The first generation of the Web was developed primarily by experts and aimed at merely sharing knowledge. Web 2.0 differs in that these tools are created and developed by a variety of users with the intent of collaboration and interactivity. This focus on collaboration and interactivity has facilitated a sweeping embrace of social media. For example, if Facebook was a country, then it would be the third largest in the world behind China and India.

The Web 2.0 applications covered in IT 860 can be divided into three categories: tools that connect people, tools that share knowledge and tools that connect people and share knowledge in virtual environments. A large portion of the readings focused on issues involved with connecting people, while the bulk of the Web 2.0 tools that were covered focused on the sharing of knowledge. It should be noted that while I discuss these ideas separately, the whole point of Web 2.0 is to provide environments that both connect people and share knowledge.

Tools that Connect People

The premise of collective intelligence is founded on the power of tools that connect people. A series of readings helped to shed light on the philosophical basis for the use of these connecting Web 2.0 technologies in education. A new paradigm in learning theories was introduced in 2004 with the birth of connectivism, which stems from the traditions of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. Our first reading was on connectivism and described the power of collective intelligence. Connectivists hold that learning takes place as networks of individuals share knowledge, and one powerful Web 2.0 tool covered that represents the power of human connection is Twitter.  For example, Twitter boasts 50 million Tweets per day; that is a lot of connecting!

As might be expected, this level of connectivity requires a good organizational infrastructure and can lead to a great number of legal concerns in education. Therefore, our second reading addressed the obstacles to implementing Web 2.0 in educational institutions. Further, educators need to consider the human and social issues involved with the implementation of Web 2.0 in the classroom, which was our third reading.

Synchronous Online Learning Environments (SOLE) represent an excellent example of synchronous online learning that is offered in an ethical and effective way. In SOLE, students have a chance to interact with peers and the teacher in a similar way to a traditional classroom, and multiple channels of media simultaneously connecting with learners enhance this interaction.

Tools that Share Knowledge

The power of Web 2.0 to share knowledge is robust; in fact, the number of tools is overwhelming. Dr. Yuen did an excellent job of weeding through the volumes of applications available and introducing students to the best of these tools. A reading that described the potential of Web-based video (e.g., YouTube) began this quest.

Following this reading, students dove into a myriad of Web 2.0 tools aimed at sharing knowledge. Social bookmarking (Diigo) is a Web 2.0 technology that allows users to bookmark Web sites and place tags on those bookmarks using keywords. Social publishing sites (Scribd) allow users to share and find written documents on the Internet or mobile devices, such as Word, PowerPoint or PDF. Screencasting (Jing or ScreenToaser) occurs when individuals capture a video of what happens on a computer screen over a span of time, and audio (e.g., narrative) is usually part of a screencast as well. File Sharing (Drop.io) is a powerful trend in Web 2.0 that facilitates collaboration, and users can create a “drop” by uploading an image, audio, video, document or other digital content. VoiceThread is a media aggregator that permits users to upload media to a website, and this tool also facilitates collaboration and feedback on such media.

Connecting and Sharing in Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds find their ancestry in video games. Therefore, our first reading on virtual worlds actually focused on a model of Game-Based Learning (VISOLE). Learning through games is gaining more attention from several educators. Perhaps an even more promising environment for learning is seen in virtual worlds. Our final reading focused on taking a Pedagogical Odyssey in Three-Dimensional Virtual Worlds (The SECOND LIFE Model). As a point of application, each student had an opportunity to make a presentation at a conference in Second Life.

Summative Thoughts

All of these tools described above promoted the sharing of knowledge. However, it would be misleading if I failed to highlight the intrinsic ability of each of these tools to also connect learners. A symbiotic relationship exists between connecting people and sharing knowledge in Web 2.0.

Dr. Yuen provided an incredible environment for learning these emerging tools. In fact, he taught the class through a platform (Mixxt) that closely resembled a social networking site (SNS) rather than through learning management software (LMS). Naturally, this approach led to more connectivity among students and facilitated the sharing of knowledge among the group.

This class has been an incredible journey of learning. I now feel confident to use Web 2.0 tools and design instruction around them appropriately.

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VoiceThread is a media aggregator that permits users to upload media to a website, and this tool also facilitates collaboration and feedback on such media. This free Web 2.0 tool has several unique strengths. Users can easily add a voice narrative on top of an uploaded media, and this media can be a video, photos, slide presentation or document. In response, viewers can add feedback to the uploaded media in the form of video, audio or text. The power of aggregation brings all of these elements together, so that the resulting page contains a Flash-based animation with the original media and related comments. Another strength of VoiceThread is that it is user-friendly, especially in posting comments.

Making a VoiceThread

Users need to sign up for a free account in order to start a project. Creating a VoiceThread begins by uploading media. Fortunately, VoiceThread allows subscribers to upload content from a variety of sources. You can upload from a local computer, URL, webcam or media source (Facebook, Flickr, New York Public Library and other VoiceThreads).

After the media artifact is uploaded, users have the option to comment on each slide. Comments can be made by a keyboard (text), audio file upload (audio), phone (audio), microphone (audio) or webcam (video). Each speaker (i.e., commenter) is identified by a small image that is interactive. In other words, a user can click each speaker’s image to retrieve his or her comment. Creators and commentators also have an option to doodle (i.e., lines, arrows, etc…) on the media as part of their comment.

Finally, VoiceThreads can be shared in a variety of ways: email, embedded in a Web page or through a URL link. Under the “Publishing Options,” creators can control how each VoiceThread is shared. You can make it closed to a group of friends or open to the public. You can allow anyone to comment or restrict commenting. You can also allow the VoiceThread to be searchable in search engines by clicking “Show on Browse Page.”

How can this tool be used in education?

VoiceThread allows students to post an artifact. The teachers and peers can then comment on this artifact. Students could also collaborate on projects in order to produce group presentations or oral histories. In addition, VoiceThreads could be used for digital storytelling and for communication. For teachers, this tool seems ideal for starting discussions. For example, a teacher could post an image or video and then ask the class to comment on the respective media.

Are there any disadvantages to VoiceThread?

VoiceThread might pose an accessibility problem for those students with low bandwidth. In addition, viewing the application on a mobile phone can be quirky because it employs Flash to deliver content. Finally, teachers will have to take a creative approach to assessment because this is a nontraditional tool.

Future trends

In essence, VoiceThread makes sharing visual media easy and accessible, much like tools such as SlideShare. Because VoiceThreads are so easy to make and post comments, users might embrace this technology more quickly than complex technologies. VoiceThread comes across as professional. The ease of use and high quality of VoiceThread makes it an ideal tool for collaboration and interactive presentations. Perhaps the greatest potential of VoiceThread is that it allows users to convey their own thoughts through media and contribute to other VoiceThreads.

You can view a recent VoiceThread that I made by clicking the image below. It is a presentation on “The Value of a Network” from the perspective of constructivism. Feel free to leave a comment!

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File sharing is a powerful trend in Web 2.0 that facilitates collaboration. Drop.io is one of the most popular file-sharing tools despite only being a few years old (founded in 2007), and this free online service is designed for real-time collaboration and private file sharing. In 2008, Drop.io formed a partnership with Scribd, a social publishing site. In this partnership, Drop.io adopted Scribd’s iPaper viewer that allows streamlined document viewing

Attributes of a Drop

Users can create a “drop” by uploading an image, audio, video, document or other digital content. Drop.io does not require an account, email or registration to create a drop. Each drop is given a unique URL so that users have a location to access the drop. In addition, each drop also has a unique voicemail phone number for messages, a unique conference phone number for collaboration and a unique email address.

Sharing a Drop

Once a drop is created, Drop.io makes sharing the content easy with many options. The various options are presented below in the illustration. For each sharing option, Drop.io automatically sends the content via the chosen medium. For example, if email is chosen, then users only need to type the email address of recipients and do not have to access their personal email account. The SMS option allows users to send the Drop.io link as a text message. Each Drop.io site can also be shared through social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Users can capture all of the content and voicemails from the drop site with the “Zip File” option.

Creating a Drop

In this assignment, students were asked to create a Drop.io site and invite others to collaborate on the drop. In order to get started, users should first access the Drop.io website. Creating a drop requires three easy steps and is exemplified in the following illustration.

  1. “Select Files” from your local computer and upload them.
  2. If you would like to personalize the drop URL, then you can click in the specified area and type an extension after “http://drop.io/….” Otherwise, the URL is automatically assigned for the drop.
  3. Click on “Create a Drop”

The next page that appears is the drop itself. The system automatically asks for an email so that a receipt can be sent of the drop’s creation. Providing this email will also allow users to edit the layout, design and parameters of the drop site. However, it is important to note that this confirmation is not required. Users can also join Drop.io, which grants them the ability to customize the drop site.

Collaborating Within a Drop

An important feature of each drop is the unique contact information that is automatically created. Each site is issued a unique voicemail so that others can leave a message on the drop site. If a user leaves a message, then it appears as an mp3 file that can be played by visitors. A unique conference phone number is also issued for each drop upon request, and this facilitates collaboration because everyone knows the point of contact. Finally, a unique email address is issued for each drop site.

Drop Potential

Drop.io is an excellent tool for peer-to-peer collaboration. The possibilities of this technology are far reaching. Students could use Drop.io to better collaborate on group projects. Faculty members and college committees could collaborate on pertinent information using this site. Businesses and industries could also use Drop.io for sharing information.

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